Absalom – A Study in Bitterness

One person who was born with a golden spoon in his mouth was Absalom. Handsome, the third son of the king, Absalom was destined for greatness. But something went radically wrong. Something over which he developed a bitterness that consumed his life.

Absalom was raised in a blended family. His father, King David, had five other wives, as well as at least ten concubines (mistresses). One of his step-brothers, Amnon, raped Absalom’s sister, Tamar. That violation set everything in motion. The entire episode and its ramifications are recorded in 2 Samuel 13-18.

It begins with Amnon making himself sick over his infatuation with Tamar. We would say he allowed his hormones to direct his life. He thought he loved her, but it was really lust, not love. We know it was lust for two reasons: one, he forced her to bed against her will, and two, after raping her he threw her out of his house and locked the door.

Absalom found Tamar sobbing, and he said, “Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.” Don’t take it to heart?! What terrible advice. Tamar never got over this violation. Since his father never did anything to punish Amnon, Absalom resolved that he would bring his brother to justice. For two full years he fumed and plotted how to kill Amnon.

After murdering his brother, Absalom escaped to his mother’s family and stayed there for another three years. When he finally came back to Jerusalem, he organized a coup to overthrow his own father, King David. It was during this coup that Absalom was killed.

Such a sad story. All of it could have been avoided if Absalom had not stuffed his anger and determined to handle justice himself. Bitterness starts out as unforgiveness. It may involve an offense as serious as rape. It can even be a matter as trivial as an insensitive comment. I’ve seen people become bitter due to an overbearing boss or parent, or someone lying about them. Others have become bitter over someone scamming them, or being overlooked for a promotion. We may not actually murder anyone, but we replay the incident in our mind and we want to hurt them back.

The cure for bitterness is forgiveness. I’m not saying that forgiveness is easy in any of these cases, but bitterness is like a cancer that eats you from the inside. It can remain hidden for a while, but it will eventually kill you and your relationships. The Bible says, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15)

Again, I’m not saying forgiving someone is easy, but it is necessary for our own well-being. As a Christ-follower I am urged to forgive others as, because of Christ, God has forgiven me of my offenses against Him. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)                

Marlon Furtado

I regularly went to church as a boy, but I was not exposed to the Gospel until I was nearly twenty years old. Hearing that God loved me in spite of my behavior was new to me. In response, I received Jesus Christ and became one of His followers on September 12, 1971. I practiced chiropractic for eight years before becoming a pastor from 1986 to 2018.

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