Good news, bad news

On the day David was told that Absalom was dead, two messengers greeted him. The first messenger said, “All is well” (2 Samuel 18:28). The word translated well is shalom which means peace (7965), indicating that peace had been restored to David’s kingdom. This was good news for David.

When the second messenger arrived, David was told, “the LORD hath avenged thee this day of all them that rose up against thee” (2 Samuel 18:31). And when asked specifically about Absalom, the messenger said, “The enemies of my lord the king, and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt, be as that young man is” (2 Samuel 18:32).

David’s reaction to the second message indicates he perceived it to be bad news. “And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept” (2 Samuel 18:33). The word translated moved, râgaz (raw – gaz´) means “to quiver (with any violent emotion, especially anger or fear)” (7264).

Although it is possible that David was deeply saddened by Absalom’s death, it is more likely that David was angered by the news  because Joab had disobeyed his order. In 2 Samuel 18:5, it says, “And the king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom.”

The good news that peace had been restored to David’s kingdom was overshadowed by the bad news that David’s army was no longer under his command. Joab’s disobedience was the equivalent of treason and a sign that David’s authority had been greatly undermined by Absalom’s rebellion. Corruption was beginning to permeate David’s kingdom and there was little he could do to turn the tide.

In a state of despair, David said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom: would God I had died for thee” (2 Samuel 18:33). David may have been saying that he wished things had gone the other way, that Absalom had prevailed and taken his place as king, or David may have been expressing a desire to sacrifice himself, so that Absalom’s sins could be forgiven.

Because God had pardoned David when he sinned with Bath-sheba and killed her husband Uriah, everyone probably perceived that he got away with murder. David deserved to die for his sins like everyone else, but he didn’t, therefore, the people of Israel began to test the limits of the boundaries God had established for them, and like Joab, they were willing to sin because they thought the end justified the means.

In the New Testament of the Bible, a good message, or what was referred to in 2 Samuel 18:22 as tidings, is the word gospel (2098). When Jesus said he came to preach the gospel, it meant that he had good news to share with God’s people. The good news being that the Messiah had come and salvation was available to everyone.


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