Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Absalom's Rebellion Against David and the Northern Tribes of Israel

Absalom's Rebellion. 

As later events quickly proved, however, the unity of the Hebrew Empire was chiefly dependent upon the personal charm and ability of the man who built it up. The discordant elements were still present and only required an opportunity to break forth into a flame of civil war. Absalom, inspired by a treasonable ambition, succeeded in winning away the affections of the southern tribes and in stirring up the rivalry between the north and the south. This rivalry was traceable not only to racial differences, but to the fundamental variations between the physical environment and contour of Northern and Southern Israel. It was natural that Absalom's rebellion should be launched in Hebron, the old capital of David's kingdom. In fleeing from the rebels David aimed to put between himself and them that great natural barrier, the Jordan valley, which separates Palestine into its two great divisions. Among the hills and deep wadies of the land of Gilead he felt most secure. Here he was in the midst of a prosperous people, intensely loyal to a ruler whose wars and victories had at last given them immunity from the attack of their strong foes. This part of Palestine was least swayed by the passions of the hour and most loyal to its deliverer. Here also David could rally his followers, without identifying himself with the tribes of the north, as opposed to those of the south.

David East of the Jordan. In fleeing from Jerusalem, David did not follow the line of the modern carriage-road down to the Jordan, but went farther north, over the Mount of Olives, avoiding the barren wilderness of Judea, which lay immediately to the east. According to the Targums, Bahurim, the home of the Benjamite Shimei, is to be identified with Almon, the present Almit, one mile beyond Anathoth. By continuing a[161] little farther north it was possible to reach the direct highway from Michmash to the Jordan by way of Jericho. David probably crossed the Jordan at the upper of the two southern fords. From this point many roads led northeastward into Gilead (cf. p. 81). At Ishbaal's capital, Mahanaim, somewhere north of the Jabbok, he made his head-quarters. The forest of Ephraim was doubtless either immediately north or south of the Jabbok, not far from the Jordan, among the wild hills and deep ravines still clad with great groves of oaks, whose spreading branches often reach down to only a few feet from the ground. The traveller through that region to-day has little difficulty in picking out in imagination the great oak whose extended branches he can picture catching and holding the head of the fleeing Absalom.