Thursday, June 4, 2015

He plunged them into Absalom’s heart

“Oh, it was terrifying!” cries the soldier. “And yet, Absalom looked more magnificent than ever! He was beginning to look like a tree himself, with his hair pulling at its roots, branching out, twisting every which way in that light, that dim light that slipped here and there through the leaves, dappling him.”
Nathan utters a sigh, which is immediately echoed by the soldiers around him. 
Meanwhile, the soldier goes on to say, “Then I called Joav. I told him, ‘I just saw Absalom hanging in an oak tree.’ And Joav cried out, ‘What! You saw him? Why didn’t you strike him to the ground right there?’”
“And? What did you say to that?”
“At first, nothing. So he said, ‘Ha! If you had killed him I’d have had to give you ten shekels of silver and a warrior’s belt.’ To which I said, ‘Even if a thousand shekels were weighed out into my hands I wouldn’t lay a hand on the king’s son.’ Joav glanced at me shrewdly, as if to ask, ‘Why not?’ So I responded by asking, ‘Don’t you remember? As we headed out of town for this battle, the king made a point of asking you and everyone else, for his sake, to be gentle with the young man Absalom.’”
“Even so, weren’t you tempted?” asks the old scribe. “I mean, it’s not every day that a soldier gets a chance to win ten shekels of silver and a warrior’s belt!”
“For that I had to put my life in jeopardy,” says the soldier, “because nothing’s hidden from the king.”
“Come now, how would he find out?”
“To remove blame from himself, Joav would’ve pointed me out to him. Ignoring the fact that Joav gave me a direct order, he would’ve accused me of slaying Absalom.”
“So,” says the scribe, “When Joav saw that you wouldn’t do what he asked of you, what did he do then?”
“He shrugged, saying, ‘I’m not going to wait like this for you.’ Then he rode out to the oak tree, from which Absalom was dangling.”
“And when he got there, what happened?”
“Joav raised his eyes to the king’s son, who shuddered to see him, and asked, ‘Why should I spare you? Give me one good reason to do so!’ And Absalom said, in a husky voice, pleading for his life, ‘Because we’re family!’ To which Joav said, ‘Ha! I thought so too, until the day you dared touch what’s mine and burn it!’ And he took three javelins in his hand and plunged them into Absalom’s heart while he was still alive in the oak tree.”

Absalon, son of David, was known to be the most handsome man in Israel. Here are two maids chatting about his beautiful hair, his best asset, which in the end caused his demise when he was caught by the hair in an oak tree:

“In all Israel,” says the old maid, “there’s not a man so highly praised for his looks as Absalom.” 
“So handsome,” says the young one, with a little chuckle. “Cute, too!”
“From the top of his head to the sole of his foot there’s not a blemish in him.”
“Perfect, is what he is!”
“When his hair gets long, all the king’s wives envy him for it—”
“And so do I! So shiny, so luxurious!”

David in The Edge of Revolt

My three novels about the life and time of David are greatly inspired by art of all ages. This moment in his story is described by several artists. They put us in awe at their depiction of Absalom getting his hair caught in an oak tree, an easy prey for his assassins.

In the first piece, Death of Absalom by Albert Weisgerber, we happen upon Absalom in the uncertain, foggy light, seeping in through the trees of the forrest. At first glance he seems to be dancing like a clown, until we realize that he is falling desperately about, trying to find his footing. In the second piece, Death of Absalom by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, we face the drama head on, and there is little doubt that Absalom is doomed, because of the dramatic clarity of the artist's strokes.

Death of Absalom by Albert Weisgerber

Death of Absalom by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld 

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