Day 23 finds me in 2 Samuel where I am confronted once more with the sordid tale of Amnon, Tamar and Absalom. I will spare this audience the more graphic details of debauchery found in this narrative except to say that incest is involved. But, what I want to talk about is a verse that I have always missed in previous readings. First, let me set it up...
Ok, Amnon is Absalom’s brother, both are sons of King David. They have a sister, Tamar who is described as beautiful. Amnon commits premeditated rape against her. Absalom takes in his sister after the shameful assault. Then this from 2 Samuel 13:22...
...But Absalom spoke to Amnon neither good nor bad, for Absalom hated Amnon because he had violated his sister.
The very next verse descibes a plot that Absalom launches to kill Amnon...a full two years later.
I had never noticed this particular detail of the story before. Here, Absalom goes along for two long years quietly enduring family dinners, and other casual encounters with his rapist/brother, all the while burning with hatred, plotting his revenge. Two years is a long time to carry around such a heavy weight. No wonder Absalom eventually goes off the rails. Hatred, especially private hatred, is a deadly thing. Hatred, so meticulously groomed and nursed, can become perhaps the most lethal force in the universe. In Absalom’s case, the trajectory of his life was altered by his hatred to the point where it costs him his life and provoked the famous cry from his anguished father, Absalom, Oh Absalom!!
Reading the story this morning made me examine my own life. Is there anything or anyone that I hate as much as Absalom hated his brother? Thankfully, the answer is no. I’ve never had cause to hate anyone with anything approaching this sort of passion and intensity. There have been plenty of people who I haven’t cared for, people who I would prefer not to be around, people who get on my nerves. There are famous people who I don’t know personally who I truly can’t abide...mostly politicians and entertainers, but even those people don’t arouse Absalom level hatred. But, honestly, when I read through my Facebook feed some mornings, I wonder about the hatred I encounter there. How much of it is real and how much is just bandwagon jumping or virtue signaling? I remember some of the vile things I used to read about George W. Bush. I remember the endless stream of invective poured out towards Barack and Michelle Obama. And now, it’s Trump’s turn.
I understand. I get it...politics can be intensely personal. People can get worked up and carried away. Political beliefs run deep, along with the passionate assurance of our own righteousness, our own exclusive possession of the truth. But, the story of Absalom’s burning hatred and it’s deadly result should serve as a wake up call to all of us. This is especially true considering the fact that Absalom had every right to be angry, after all, his brother had raped his sister! But, even when we are right about something, that doesn’t grant us a license to hate. Hatred ultimately leads to bitterness and resentment, and these two burdens can turn us into the very people we claim to stand against.