Thursday, April 28, 2011

1 Kings 4 - 7: Joyful שָׂמֵחַ Israel

Solomon and the Plan for the Temple, as in 1 K...Image via Wikipedia
From dinner table discussions to congressional debates, people always find fault with their government.  There is always some perceived injustice or something about which to be unhappy.  Yet, 1 Kings 4:20 states:
“The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank, and they were happy.” 
Through God’s miraculously bestowed wisdom, Solomon ruled a nation in which everyone was content.  While David’s reign was beset with conflict from all quarters, both within his kingdom and without, Solomon enjoyed peace ruling over a kingdom that extended from “the River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt” (1 Kings 4:21).  Solomon’s empire extended to the boundaries promised to Abraham.

By blessing Solomon with wisdom, God effectively blessed all of Israel with peace.  Even though the nation had to work diligently to construct the temple; to construct Solomon’s palaces; to create all of the furnishings for the temple; to provide all of the food for Solomon’s household and guests, Israel was not disgruntled.  Scripture states that Israel was happy.   Hard work does not create unhappiness.  Injustice and arbitrary tyranny foster discontent, unruliness, and revolt.

The word “happy” is a loose translation of the Hebrew שָׂמֵחַ (sameach), which means rejoicing and being joyful.  The emotional state of Israel at that time was joy. 

Because the word “joy” is so commonly used, the actual meaning might be misconstrued.  In the Collins English Dictionary, joy is defined as the emotion of great delight or happiness or keen pleasure caused by something/someone that is exceptionally good, satisfying or greatly valued. 

During Solomon’s reign, when God’s wisdom abounded, the nation was joyful.  It’s a pointed illustration showing that when a man will rule through accepting God’s wisdom, his nation will prosper and his people will be happy and content.  Because God granted peace, Israel was free to build and create aesthetically pleasing furnishings for the temple.  People could think about decorations rather than about warfare.

Through King Solomon, God showed Israel how beautiful life could be when God was truly Sovereign.  Wisdom, from God just naturally evokes joy from man.

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for sameach (Strong's 8056)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 28 Apr 2011. < http://
Strongs=H8056&t=KJV >

joy. Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. (accessed: April 28, 2011).
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Friday, April 22, 2011

1 Kings 3, 4 Solomon's Wisdom

Judgement of SolomonImage via Wikipedia
Essentially, David's last directive to Solomon was to observe God's law so that all would go well with him.  Solomon understood that  he had to "unzip" this "file" of condensed counsel.  By observing how his father ruled, Solomon understood that the key to David's success was his relationship to God.  

Solomon understood that he, too, would have to develop his own special relationship with God.  As he sought to apply David's instruction by consolidating the support of his monarchy, Solomon must have pondered extensively on how to effectively rule over Israel. During his first years, as he was tying the loose ends from his father's reign,  he may have anticipated that some "loose ends" of his own might develop over the years.  Though David said that you rule by staying close to God, Solomon may have wondered how to apply that in practice.  How does the spiritual manifest itself  in routine life?  

God gave Israel a set of laws by which they were to live.  One set of laws directed human interaction and the other described how man is permitted to approach God.  Disobedience 
to either group of laws resulted in broken or fractured relationships.  Restoration of relationships usually was accomplished through principles demanded by justice.  

After having squashed the dissidents David warned him about and thanking God for all that He had done, Solomon had  a dream in which God appeared to him and asked him to make a request of Him.  God said that He would give him anything he wanted.  

In the dream, Solomon answered God by first acknowledging and thanking God for His kindness and faithfulness to David.  Solomon told God that he recognized just how much He blessed David.  After he thanked God for placing him on the throne,  Solomon also told God just how bewildering, overwhelming, and practically impossible it would be for him to rule effectively in his own strength.  Solomon confessed before God that Israel belonged to Him and required an enlightened King to rule over them.  Solomon then asked for wisdom, בִּין (biyn), so that he could judge between right and wrong.  God granted his request.

In Hebrew,  בִּין (biyn), means to discern as in to rationally and objectively  see through circumstances or events.  Solomon understood that his job as king to not only entailed making  treaties, leading military campaigns, managing national resources, but also effecting a respectable justice department.   Because he asked God for godly discernment, Solomon made justice the highest priority of his administration.  And it still stands true today that if constituents do not sense that justice is being upheld,  they revolt. 

Solomon wanted a stable reign, so he asked for the wisdom needed to be able to govern the people of Israel.   God gave the Law to Israel and Solomon wanted to properly share this wealth with the nation so that everyone would know that God, who anointed David and appointed his heir, was just.  Solomon ruled by God's appointment and as such he wanted to reflect God's will in Israel.  By judging according to the Law, Solomon helped his people to see that they worshipped a holy God.  By extending mercy, where justice demanded punishment, Solomon helped his people see God's love.

By asking God to enable him to better understand the Law, Solomon aligned himself with his Creator, thus taking his father's advise to heart. 

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for biyn (Strong's 995)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 22 Apr 2011. < http://
Strongs=H995&t=KJV >
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Monday, April 18, 2011

1 Kings 2: David's Final Advise to Solomon

David's dying charge to Solomon, as in 1 Kings...Image via Wikipedia
Often, just before people die, they have the opportunity to impart final advise or thoughts to their loved ones.  Shortly before my Dad's death, my husband and I were visiting him in the hospital.  Dad knew that his time was drawing to a close so he told my husband, "Take care of Kitty and Sarah, because that is important."  To me he  said, "I love you."  As it turned out, those were Dad's final words to my husband.

Anticipating his own imminent death, David counseled Solomon about how to live and how to rule.  David knew grief, heartache, betrayal, joy, success, victory, and disappointment.  But, most importantly, David knew God.  Throughout all of the vicissitudes of life,  David's anchor was always his relationship with God.  Everything that he did, both right and wrong, was ultimately filtered through his knowledge of God, Sovereign King of Israel, Creator of the world.  David understood that the success of his reign was tied to how closely he adhered to God's Word.

So, it's not surprising that the first part of David's final words are:

    "I go the way of all the earth: be strong therefore, and show yourself a man; And keep the charge of  the Lord you God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, and His commandments and His   judgements, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all that you do and where ever you turn yourself ."  
(1 Kings 2: 2, 3)

In Hebrewthe word strong, which is used in the quoted verse above, is  חָזַק (chazaq).  חָזַק implies firmness of resolution and courage, drawing from the illustration that  muscles have more strength when firmly bound together.  David was saying that to show oneself a man one needed to be bound to God's Word, particularly when it's easier to compromise; when it's more pleasant to follow one's own inclination.  Strength, or חָזַק , also implies a type of courage which doesn't come easily for man. This type of strength is a decision which entails commitment, similar to marriage.

So David was saying that being a man of God, was not for wimps or for the weak or for the spiritually compromised.  National strength is developed when nation correctly assesses its weaknesses and rectifies them.  Similarly, when a person correctly sees that he is but a  finite being, born into a world he did not create; when he sees that his abilities are limited; when he sees that his perceptions are flawed; when he understands that his power is relative, he can become wise when he looks to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to see how to live a prosperous life.  In Hebrew,  prosper is שָׂכַל (sakal), which means prudent, wise, and circumspect.  It does not necessarily mean material wealth.  To live a good and satisfying life, requires courage to place your faith in God's faithfulness to His covenant with you. When God made a statement about His character, in Numbers 23:19,  it is to be understood as true over all time.  

In light of his own life, David was really counseling Solomon to seek God's wisdom so that Solomon might be able to avoid some of the problems David had.   God's Word gave Israel a road map for living; it flagged sin which always only brings heartache and disappointment; which always and only engenders discouragement and defeat.  Though David received God's forgiveness for his sin, he knew only too well that the consequence for sin was not removed from his life.  He wanted his son Solomon to be spared some of the heartaches he himself could easily have avoided.

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for chazaq (Strong's 2388)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 18 Apr 2011. &lt; http://
Strongs=H2388&t=KJV >

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for sakal (Strong's 7919)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 18 Apr 2011. &lt; http://
Strongs=H7919&t=KJV >
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Thursday, April 14, 2011

1 Kings 1 Nathan: A Politically Savy Prophet

Abishag at the bed of David, with Bathsheba, S...Image via Wikipedia
During his reign, God had promised David that his descendants would always sit on Israel's throne. No doubt all of his sons coveted the position of a seemingly guaranteed  dynasty.  First Absalom incited a revolt against his father.  Then, toward the end of David's life, another son, Adonijah, attempted to seize the throne.

Though both of these sons were pro-active, had dreams, had plans for improving Israel's administration, neither of them had their eyes on God.  Nathan, the prophet who delivered God's Word to David, God's promise to establish the throne of David's kingdom forever (2Samuel 7:13), also understood that God would guide David to choose his successor.  No son was to usurp the throne.  God created the nation of Israel; God instituted the first dynasty in Israel; God spoke through prophets to the leaders He selected.  Israel was to reflect God's hand, not man's machinations.  Nathan also knew that David had chosen Solomon to be the next King of Israel.

Though Adonijah excluded Nathan from his inauguration party,  the prophet knew of the imminent coup and understood  that Solomon, his mother, David's closest advisers, and maybe even David himself were in mortal danger.  Through God's wisdom, Nathan choreographed exactly how this news was to be delivered to the weary and aged David who probably didn't want to hear of any more family problems or political schemes.  After Nathan alerted Bathsheba of the conspiracy, he instructed her to remind David of his promise to appoint Solomon as King.  Then, she was to inform David of the news of Adonijah's inaugural feast.  Nathan planned to arrive immediately afterwards to corroborate this information and to support David in acting decisively by installing Solomon on the throne immediately.

As an aging monarch, David was simply tired of fighting and tired from grieving for the untimely death of his sons for which he may have felt guilty.  Though he was only 70 when he died, it seems as though he felt a lot older than his years.  The emotional toll of being at least partially responsible for the murder of his sons could have drained him of his desire to live.  

It appears that though David had chosen Solomon, the court felt that David made a poor decision which he could not defend against opposition. A large number of important officials and military leaders rallied around Adonijah.    David may have felt that he did not have sufficient strength to oppose yet another son.  

So God sent Nathan to help David protect his prayerful choice of Solomon as the next King.  I wonder, if Nathan didn't come forward with the disclosure of Adonijah's plans, what would have been?  Would David have simply allowed Adonijah to rule so that there would be "peace" in the house?  It's ironic because only Solomon, Hebrew שְׁלֹמֹה (Shĕlomoh), which means peace could have brought peace to David's house.

By not inviting Solomon to his inaugural feast, Adonijah demonstrated that he already knew that David, with God's help, had chosen Solomon as King.  So, Adonijah also showed that he had no particular respect for God or for his father.  Adonijah was a young man impatient with his father's slow pace and apparent inaction; he really had no use for God because he felt confident in his own ability to rule.  As such that would have made him into a dreadful king for the fledgling nation.

During David's final years, Nathan stood firmly on God's revelation to David; he stood by David's relationship with God, knowing that David desired to do God's will.  So, he acted to help avert a compromise which would ultimately have grieved David more than all of the family conflicts of the past.

When David took a firm stand on his choice of Solomon, the opposing forces dissipated.  Knowing David's desire to avoid conflict and confrontation, God sent the prophet Nathan to support David in making the decision for his family and for Israel.  Nathan knew that David's house needed  שְׁלֹמֹה , peace.

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for Shĕlomoh (Strong's 8010)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 14 Apr 2011. < http://
Strongs=H8010&t=KJV >

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Monday, April 11, 2011

2 Samuel 22 - 24: David's Song of Praise to God יְהֹוָה

Symbolic model of King David's harp (or lyre) ...Image via Wikipedia
Years ago,  a college friend brought me a recording of David Oistrach playing Brahm's Violin Concerto in D.  I fell in love with the soaring notes; with the affirming orchestra; with the plaintive cry of the violin  that echoed my discouragement;  with the brass which urged me to move on.  Needless to say, I played this piece so many times that I nearly wore out the record.  The music spoke to me in a way that  neither friends, nor family, nor books could.

Music is rational and yet transcends reason.  I think that if music were our only evidence of God, the Creator, it would have been sufficient.  There is no evolutionary necessity in music or in beauty.  But anyway, back to King David.  Initially, David came before Saul's throne because he was a skilled musician.  When David played the harp, the evil spirits besetting Saul would flee.  Maybe some music expresses God's soul.

Throughout his life David composed music and songs, known as psalms.  In the concluding chapters of 2 Samuel, the author inserted one of David's psalms to summarize David's heart and monarchy.  When I read those verses I felt that these were David's truest epitaph - his legacy.  While it was true that he was a God-fearing king who valiantly lead his troops into battle, he was also a man who sought God's will.  Though a sinful man,  David never committed the biggest sin -  the sin of neglecting to repent for wrongdoing before God.  When David sinned, he brought it before God: he confessed and received forgiveness.  While God did not remove the consequences of sin from him, God did assure David of renewed fellowship with Him.

For all of his achievements and victories,  David, in his song of praise, exalted God who had been faithful to him.  David had a sense of who God was and treasured Him above all else.  David knew God as One who protected him from danger; as One who went ahead of him in battle to assure victory; as One who directed his life so that he might avoid moral pitfalls.  For all that God was to him, David sang praises.

The harp sculpture stands at the entrance of the City of David in Jerusalem.  With his harp, David sang "The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer;  my God is my rock in whom I take refuge." 2 Samuel 22:2.   How fitting a reminder it is to all who live in Jerusalem, that God is indeed the deliverer.
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is the God of David, is the God of all who treasure and accept His Word.

David closed his life affirming God.  2 Samuel 22: 47 :
"The Lord ( Hebrew יְהֹוָה Jehovah) lives; and blessed be my Rock! Exalted be God (Hebrew אֱלֹהִים ('elohiym)), the Rock of my salvation (Hebrew יֵשַׁע (yesha`)!

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for yesha` (Strong's 3468)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 11 Apr 2011. < http://
Strongs=H3468&t=KJV >

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for 'elohiym (Strong's 430)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 11 Apr 2011. < http://
Strongs=H430&t=KJV >

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

2 Samuel 20, 21: Honoring a Covenant Made in God's Name

"Jonathan Lovingly Taketh His Leave of Da...Image via Wikipedia
If two sons were born to me today, I would name them Jonathan and David to memorialize and invoke a bond of friendship that transcended time and circumstance.  When David, son of Jesse, and Jonathan, son of Saul, became friends,  their spirits connected more deeply than blood.  They remain soul mates for all eternity.  The covenant of friendship they made before G0d (1 Samuel 20) cemented their desire to protect each other and their descendants.  Jonathan, who embraced God's will, understood that David was G-d's anointed leader over Israel.  Even though he had to honor his father King Saul, he vowed to protect David.

Some time after the deaths of King Saul and and his son Jonathan, Israel suffered a drought that lasted for three successive years.    When David  inquired of God, he learned that Israel was being judged for violating the covenant Israel made in God's name, with the Gibeonites (Joshua 9).  King Saul had wrongly attacked and nearly exterminated all of the Gibeonites.

Since this was an affront to His Name, to His very character,  God instructed David to avenge those massacred. David was to do what the Gibeonites requested in order for God to arrest the judgement against Israel.  When the Gibeonites asked that seven men of the descendants of Saul be released to them for execution, David spared Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan.

Here God showed how seriously He took vows made in His Name by men He appointed as leaders before Him.  When a leader of Israel made a vow or covenant in God's Name,  he declared God as party to the it.  Since God will not be shown to lie or to deceive, any covenant made by His representative had to be honored.   God's Word is absolute to all to whom it is given.

If David violated the vow he made with Jonathan,  Israel would probably have been judged because David, as the anointed King, represented Israel.  If it weren't for the covenant David and Jonathan made, David's advisers would probably have prevailed upon David to give Mephibosheth, a likely contender for the throne, up to the Gibeonites.  So, this covenant of love protected David from being forced to act on a political expediency that would have broken his heart.  In this victory over man's wisdom, David had much
about which to praise God.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

2 Samuel 19, 20, 21

Statue of King David by Nicolas Cordier in the...Image via Wikipedia
King David straddled a politically tumultuous landscape of Israel.  Numerous citizens still wanted Saul's family to be the monarchs; Absalom had incited so a large portion of the population against David, that a bloody battle had ensued. King David rode this tsunami of unrest with relative composure without  loosing his balance.  

This cluster of chapters depict events in David's life which serve to remind Israel that David, though a king of mythic proportions, was a fallible human being whose only redeeming quality was that God Himself had chosen him and filled him with His Spirit.   Though his reign was wrought with problems, David kept God's Word in his heart and trusted in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  

After Absalom's attempted coup, David eventually returned to Jerusalem.  Shimei, a supporter of Saul, who openly scorned and cursed David when he was fleeing Absalom,  prostrated himself before David upon his return to Jerusalem.  Shimei wanted to be forgiven and peacefully reinstated.  However, his offenses must have been so egregious that Abishai, one of David's generals, wanted to summarily kill him immediately.

David stopped him by saying, " ...Should anyone be put to death in Israel today?  Do I not know that today I am king over Israel?  So the king said to Shimei, you shall not die." ( 2 Samuel 19: 22, 23)

This one vignette demonstrated that David had his eyes and his hope fully focused on the God of Israel, who anointed him to be king.  Although Shimei's betrayal was worthy of death, David chose not to take vengeance.  Rather, his destiny was linked to God's will.  As such, David trusted God to avenge any wrongs done to him.   Meanwhile, David again saw that God's promise to him, that his would be a lasting monarchy, was reaffirmed.  On a day in which God's Word was celebrated, how could a man be executed for slighting the king?

David's spiritual orientation  allowed him to trust God with righting wrongs; to perceive of God as Sovereign over the destiny of Israel; to rest in the mighty God of Israel who promised to protect His people.

Maybe on that day David had an opportunity to reflect on Numbers 23:19 (KJV):
God [is] not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent: hath He said, and shall he not do [it]? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?

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Monday, April 4, 2011

2 Samuel 14, 15 Absalom: Peace vs Silence חָרַשׁ vs אֲבּישָׁלוֹם

AbsalomImage via Wikipedia
Absalom's life seems to have revolved on such a cruel play on his name which means "my father is peace". On events that really mattered to Absalom, his father was quiet;  a double entendre peace?  So, what is this peace?

From the Strong's concordance, the Hebrew word שָׁלוֹם (shalom) or peace means safety, tranquillity, contentment, friendship, and generally sound relationships.  

During his earlier years, David trusted in God to resolve the conflicts and troubles in which he was embroiled. So, the quiet and peace David demonstrated in his earlier years was the outworking of his trust in God's Sovereignty.

When Tamar was violated, it would appear that David was quiet more out of resignation and habit than in actively trusting in God to work things out for the good.  He kept the form of being still, but without the power of God working through circumstances.  David's quiet was an empty shell that could bring no comfort or solace to his children, Absalom and Tamar.  They saw their father as weak and ineffectual.

Initially, Absalom, in Hebrew, אֲבּישָׁלוֹם ('Abiyshalowm), sought peace through justice, which his father, King David, was unwilling to dispense.  Can peace ever exist unless both parties feel that justice is served?  As the injured party, Absalom's disenchantment with his father and his family,  caused him to drift away from whatever understanding he may have had of the God of Israel.
Though David had endured much injustice at the hand of King Saul, he clung to his faith in the Sovereign God of Israel.  Because he trusted in God's Sovereignty and in God's justice, he himself never sought vengeance on King Saul.  For several years, King David avoided all military conflict with King Saul, because Saul was God's anointed ruler over Israel.  David seemed to subscribe to the command in  Exodus 14:14  "The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be quiet  חָרַשׁ ."  In Hebrew חָרַשׁ (charash), means quiet as in silent or still.  This implies that you can be calm or quiet, because God will fight for you. David trusted that God would take up his cause.

Possibly David just expected his son to behave in the same way.  Because Absalom was described as being unusually handsome with luxurious hair, David too may have just assumed that he was also blessed with the knowledge of God.  The people of Israel took Absalom's appearance to be a sign of majesty.  

Maybe the real failure here was that David did not adequately teach his son Absalom about the God of Israel who would hear Absalom's prayers.  Or maybe, because Absalom was the son of a mixed marriage, his mother was the daughter of the King of Geshur, he never really learned about the God of Israel.  

Since two years passed before he exacted revenge on his brother Amnon by murdering him,  Absalom did not act on impulse.  He probably explored other avenues of justice before taking matters in his own hands.  Even though David knew just how angry Absalom was, he didn't do anything to make peace between the brothers.

Over time,  David may have come to think that the avoidance of conflict was the same as having no conflict or grievance.  It seems that David erronueously equated the avoidance of conflict as the way of peace.   David could also have equated silence with peace.

Absalom stayed with his grandfather, the King of Geshur, for three years before being permitted to return to Jerusalem.  Through all of this, King David is portrayed as a passive party.  During the two years preceding Amnon's murder, David never censured or punished his son Amnon for his violence against his very own daughter.  David's inaction caused frustration, anger, bitterness, and an escalating sense of injustice to grow in the hearts of  Absalom and Tamar.  Surely, as children of the King,  justice should have been afforded them.  

 During his years of exile, Absalom no doubt nursed his grievances against his father.  Perhaps he didn't feel as valued as his step-brothers.   Possibly the King of Geshur himself counseled Absalom on what steps to take to effect justice, not just for his grand-daughter Tamar, but also for the people of Geshur.  It could be that Absalom saw the unavenged rape as a crime against his mother's people.

 After Absalom's three year absence, Scripture states that David's spirit longed for Absalom.  He missed him and loved him.  In the same way that David didn't know how to take a stand on the violence perpetrated against his daughter, he didn't know how to bring his exiled son Absalom back to Jerusalem.  Joab contrived a scenario which allowed Absalom to return to Jerusalem.

 Even though Absalom returned to Jerusalem, David refused to see him .  There was no feast celebrating Absalom's return; there was no attempt to justify Absalom's murder of Amnon; there was no public affirmation of Absalom; there was just no communication at all.  An additional two years of silence passed before Absalom briefly met with his father.  But that was too little too late.   Absalom's sense of injustice had reached a critical mass.  

 Eventually, Absalom acted on his highly developed sense that his father was unjust and therefore unfit to be King.  Where David so revered God that he did not presume to fight against Saul,  God's anointed, Absalom did not care about God's anointing of his father.  Absalom simply saw David as an ineffectual, foolish, flawed human being who needed to be retired.  Forgetting that it was God who chose Israel's Kings, Absalom decided that he himself would be the best choice for Israel.  

 While  Absalom sat at the city gates, where justice was dispensed, for four years, he counseled Israel that they wouldn't find justice with King David.  Since Absalom acquired a huge following, it appears that his experience of injustice at the hand of his father reverberated in the hearts of Israel.    Absalom promised Israel that he would be a far better judge than his father.  He called on Israel to crown him the new King.

 Over twenty thousand men lost their lives in the revolt that Absalom led against his father.  During this battle, Absalom's thick hair ensnared him in the low lying branches of a tree, thus trapping him and making him an easy target for David's men.  As soon as Absalom was killed, the battle ended.

David however, first publicly and then silently mourned the death of his son.  Silence colored every aspect of David's relationship with this son.  Sometimes peace is confused with silence, but the two are not the same.  

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for charash (Strong's 2790)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 4 Apr 2011. < http://
Strongs=H2790&t=KJV >

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for shalowm (Strong's 7965)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 4 Apr 2011. < http://
Strongs=H7965&t=KJV >

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