There’s that expression used by the Yoruba race of West Africa. The phrase is “Omoburuku!” The equivalence in English would be “bad boy” but that’s so tepid. It’s weak and inadequate. Yoruba words have a narrative structure. They do not have strait laced dictionary meanings. The words convey illustrative ideas. For example “omoburuku” suggests a terrible and mold infested offspring on a spectrum of demonic recalcitrance, a sorrowful and sad reality in the life of a parent. The word suggests anger and sadness in measured proportions – anger at impotence about your child, sadness at fate. David’s son Absalom was omoburuku.
Absalom was a persistent issue for everyone. He was a problem child. David spoilt his kids, didn’t discipline them, especially the first four. Save Daniel the second born, Amnon, Absalom and Adonijah generated enormous grief. Likely the children that turned out okay were trained by their mums. We know for example that Solomon was trained by his mum. It’s what Solomon was referring to in Proverbs 31. This is how it opens: “The words of King Lemuel, the strong advice his mother gave him…” Lemuel was another name for Solomon. Probably a pet name from his mum. “Oh son of mine…child whom I bore! The son I dedicated to God!…” she began. Then she laid out advice on women, self-control, leadership, social justice and equity.
The problem was, those kids were born as princes. They weren’t born in the hardy days, when David roamed the wilderness. David began to bear in Hebron, after he had ascended the throne. Amnon the first born was debauched. He raped his half sister, who unfortunately was Absalom’s sister. You don’t rape Absalom’s sister. Absalom was a stubborn and difficult kid. Very capable of schemes. He was the most famous of the sons, a reality TV star. He cut his hair once every year and when he did it was televised live on Entertainment TV. It didn’t hurt that the guy was wickedly handsome. Not a pimple on his face. Good genes.
When Amnon raped Tamar David didn’t rebuke or punish him. He would pay a price for that. Amnon was the crown prince, the eldest son. Absalom plotted revenge for two years. In those two years he never said a word to Amnon. Not even good morning. He cooked up a ruse to murder Amnon. He invited the princes to a party and then struck. He killed Amnon and ran into exile, shacking up with his maternal grandfather, Talmal King of Geshur. 2 Samuel 13:8. He was in exile for three years. He found his way back but his dad wouldn’t see him. For two years he wasn’t admitted to court. He sought to enlist the help of General Joab but Joab rebuffed him. What did Absalom do? He cooked up a scheme. He set fire to Joab’s farm to get Joab’s attention. It worked. Soon he was back in his father’s good books.
But remember Absalom is omoburuku and he soon came up with a scheme to supplant his father. As with most of his schemes this one was long term too. It was a four-year program. Stage 1 of the scheme required buying the affection of the populace. But first he had to create a celebrity spectacle. So, Absalom ordered a stretch chariot limousine, and hired, wait for this…fifty bodyguards and dispatch riders!
Ancient kingdoms had consultative assembly points. It’s where kings attended to the requests of the people. Absalom usurped that function telling everyone they had a strong case but unfortunately the king was not available. If only HE could officially attend to the people! He de-marketed his father. He would refuse obeisance and instead shook hands with the people. A hand-shaking royal was a novelty. You bow to royals you don’t shake hands with them. He was selling the idea of a “modern” monarchy. Out with the old, in with the new.
We can of course indict the head of internal security for all these. He was careless with Absalom’s scheme but in fairness who could have imagined! Absalom created an NGO network to work along with secret agents. He would later deploy them but in the meantime he kept poisoning the mind of the people through them against his father.
On a fateful day he asked for the king’s permission to go to the old capital, Hebron to sacrifice. Using propaganda he declared himself king in Hebron. The symbolism of Hebron should not be lost. Absalom was into symbolism and messaging. Hebron means “unite”, “colleague” or “friend”. And his father was originally crowned at Hebron. He was in essence recreating the path of ascendance followed by his father; but unlike in that period when the country was divided and was only united by bloodshed he was appealing for unity on the basis of goodwill and egalitarianism.
As the conspiracy gained momentum David fled Jerusalem. Omoburuku had struck! Omoburuku secured the support of Ahitophel. Ahitophel was the foremost political consultant. He was David’s principal adviser but he switched sides. Ahitophel laid out a tactical blueprint. According to the blueprint, Absalom first had to show he was committed to the revolution and there was no going back. He needed to demonstrate there was no chance of reconciliation with his father, and the way to do this was for him to sleep with his father’s concubines. Under the law that was dishonoring your father. Leviticus 18:8. He needed to do it live on TV. And so they set up a tent on the palace roof, did a press release and Absalom slept with ten of his step mums.
The next stage in the plan was the elimination of his dad. There was some going back and forth but a plan was eventually agreed upon. And so Absalom mobilized the army to capture his father. He personally led the campaign. At the other end David also mobilized for war. But he strangely informed his commanders to be gentle on Absalom. “For my sake protect the young man Absalom!” 2 Samuel 18:5,12. At the end of the misadventure 20,000 soldiers lost their lives, a monumental sacrifice to Absalom’s folly. But that battle would be end of Absalom. As befitting a reality TV star he died a spectacle. He had run into David’s men during the battle and as he fled on his mule his hair, the symbol of his vanity was caught in a tree branch. He was left dangling between heaven and earth. His vanity thus held him up but at the same time made him vulnerable. Vanity always leaves us vulnerable to attack. Joab took three daggers and plunged them into the heart of Absalom. Absalom thus watched himself die. He became one with his audience. He was hacked to death and unceremoniously thrown into a pit in the forest. They piled a heap of stones on him. Unmarked stones became his monument in death. Which is an irony considering this was a guy who erected a statue in his own honour.
And what did David do on being told Absalom was dead? He burst into tears crying, “O my son Absalom! My son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son.” Yeah, you read that right! It was deeply annoyingly, and troubling. He made the army feel ashamed they won a war. Like Joab told him, “You seem to love those who hate you and hate those who love you.” It was only after Joab’s rebuke that David rose to congratulate the army. The weakness of David was his children. But the lesson is simple: If you don’t discipline your child you will produce omoburuku.
If you’ll like to receive Jesus into your life please pray this prayer: “Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Father please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.”
© Leke Alder | firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vanity always leaves us vulnerable to attack. Click To Tweet The lesson is simple: If you don’t discipline your child you will produce omoburuku. Click To Tweet