David Bruce: George Peele’s DAVID AND BATHSHEBA, AND THE TRAGEDY OF ABSALOM: A Retelling — Scene 11

— Scene 11 —

In the palace in Jerusalem were Absalom, Amasa, and Achitophel, along with the concubines of David. Others were also present. Everyone was very well dressed, and Absalom had been crowned.

Amasa wasKing David’s nephew; he was the son of David’s sister Abigail. He was also the captain of Absalom’s army.

Absalom said, “Now you who were my father’s concubines, liquor to his unchaste and lustful fire, have seen his honor shaken in his house, which I possess in the sight of all the world. I bring you forth as foils to my renown, and to eclipse the glory of your king, whose life is with his honor fast enclosed within the entrails of a jet-black cloud, whose dissolution into rain shall pour down in showers the substance of his life and swelling pride.”

A foil is a thin piece of metal put under a jewel to show it off to better effect.

By taking possession of King David’s concubines, Absalom was showing off his power.

He continued, “Then shall the stars light earth with rich aspects, and Heaven shall burn in love with Absalom, whose beauty will suffice to chase away all mists, and clothe the sun’s sphere with a triple fire, sooner than his clear eyes should suffer stain, or be offended with a lowering day.”

Absalom was saying that his beauty outshone the fire of the Sun by three times.

King David’s concubines quickly showed that they remained loyal to him.

The first concubine said, “Thy father’s honor, graceless Absalom, and ours thus beaten with thy violent arms, will cry for vengeance to the Host of Heaven, whose power is always and forever armed against the proud, and will dart plagues at thy aspiring head for doing this disgrace to David’s throne.”

The Host of Heaven is the armies of angels under God.

The second concubine picked up where the first concubine left off:

“— to David’s throne, to David’s holy throne, whose scepter angels guard with swords of fire, and sit as eagles on his conquering fist, ready to prey upon his enemies.

“So then don’t think that thou, the captain of his foes, even if thou were much swifter than Azahell was, who could outrun the nimble-footed roe, to escape the fury of their thumping beaks or the dreadful reach of their commanding wings.”

Azahell, the brother of Joab and Abisai, had died in the Battle at Gibeon.

Achitophel advised, “Let not my lord the King of Israel be angry with a silly woman’s threats, but with the pleasure he has earlier enjoyed, let him turn them back to their private quarters again until David’s conquest becomes their overthrow.”

Absalom said, “Into your bowers, you daughters of disdain, begotten by the fury of unbridled lust, and wash your couches with your mourning tears, for grief that David’s kingdom is decayed and ruined.”

The first concubine said, “No, Absalom, King David’s kingdom is chained fast to the finger of great Jacob’s God, Who will not loosen it for a rebel’s love.”

The concubines exited.

Amasa said to Absalom, “If I might give advice to the king, these concubines should buy their taunts with blood.”

He was advising that the concubines be killed.

“Amasa, no,” Absalom replied, “but let thy martial sword empty the veins of David’s armed men, and let these foolish women escape our hands to recompense the shame they have sustained.”

As concubines, they served the king’s lust.

2 Samuel 16:22 states, “And so they spread a tent upon the top of the house, and Absalom went in unto his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel” (1568 Bishop’s Bible).

Absalom continued, “First, Absalom was by the trumpet’s sound proclaimed throughout Hebron King of Israel, and now he is set in fair Jerusalem with complete state and the glory of a crown. Fifty fair footmen by my chariot run, and to the air whose rupture rings my fame, wherever I ride, they offer reverence and veneration.

“Why shouldn’t Absalom, who in his face carries the final purpose of his God, which is to work him grace in Israel, endeavor to achieve with all his strength the magnificence that most may satisfy his joy, keeping his statutes and his covenants pure?”

So Absalom said. One wonders whowould work himgrace in Israel. Was Absalom going to work God grace in Israel, or was God going to work Absalom grace in Israel? Would Absalom serve God, or would God serve Absalom?

Absalom continued, “His thunder is entangled in my hair, and with my beauty is His lightning quenched.”

Absalom was vain.

He continued, “I am the man he made to glory in, when by the errors of my father’s sin David lost the path that led into the land with whichour chosen ancestors were blessed.”

Cusay, whom King David had sent to be his undercover agent, entered the throne room and said to Absalom, whom he called “king” without meaning it, “Long may the beautiful King of Israel live, to whom the people do by the thousands swarm!”

Absalom asked, “Why does Cusay so greet his foe? Is this the love thou show to David’s soul, to whose assistance thou have vowed thy life? Why do thou leave him in this emergency?”

Cusay replied, “Because the Lord and Israel have chosen thee. As I have previously served thy father’s turn with counsel acceptable in his sight, so likewise I will now serve and obey his son.”

Absalom said, “Then welcome, Cusay, to King Absalom.”

He then said, “And now, my lords and loving counselors, I think it is time to exercise our arms and do battle against forsaken David and his army.

“Give counsel first, my good Achitophel, and say what times and orders we may best observefor the prosperous management of these high exploits.”

Achitophel said, “Let me choose out twelve thousand valiant men, and, while the night hides with her sable mists the close endeavors cunning soldiers use, I will assault thy discontented sire, and, while with weakness of their weary arms, overwhelmedwith toil, David’s people flee in huge disordered troops to escape from the sudden attack of thy armyin order tosave their lives, and leave the king alone, then I will smite him with his last and final wound, and bring the people to thy feet in peace.”

His advice was good. He would quickly raise twelve thousand soldiers and attack King David and his weary soldiers in a surprise attack at night. These twelve thousand soldiers would be enough to rout David’s army, and in the confusion, when David was not protected, Achitophel would kill him.

Absalom said, “Well has Achitophel given his advice. Yet let us hear the counsel of Cusay, whose great experience is well worth hearing.”

King David had sent Cusay to Absalom to give him bad advice that would counter the good advice of Achitophel.

Referring to Absalom as his “king,” Cusay said, “Although wise Achitophel is much more fitting to purchase hearing with my lord the king, on account of all his former counsels, than myself, yet, not offending Absalom or him, this time is not good for nor worth pursuit of David, for, as well thou know, thy father’s men are strong, and they are as enraged as she-bears are that have been robbed of their cubs. Besides, the king himself is a valiant man,trained and educated in the feats and stratagems of war, and he will not, in order to prevent the worst that could happen — his death — lodge with the common soldiers in the field.

“But now, I know, his accustomed policies have taught him to lurk within some secret cave, guarded with all his bravest soldiers, who if the forefront of his army grow faint, will yet give out that Absalom flees,and so discourage thy soldiers.”

Even if Absalom’s soldiers were to defeat those of David’s soldiers in the front ranks, David’s bravest soldiers would spread the false news that it was Absalom’s soldiers who were being defeated. This would help rally David’s soldiers and could cause Absalom’s soldiers to grow faint.

Cusay continued, “David himself, also, whose angry heart is as a lion’s annoyed in his walk, will fight, and all his men to a man will fight, before a few shall vanquish him by fear.

“My counsel therefore is, with trumpet’s sound to gather men throughout Israel, from the settlement of Dan in the north to the town of Bersabe in the south, so that they may march in numbers like those of sea-sands that nestle close to one another’s neck. So shall we come upon him in our strength, like the dew that falls in showers from Heaven, and we will leave him not a man to march with.”

Cusay advised gathering a vast army of soldiers — as numerous as the grains of sand — from the men throughout Israel and then attacking David with overwhelming force.

Cusay’s advice would help David by keeping him from being attacked and defeated quickly. At this time, twelve thousand soldiers would be enough to defeat him with a surprise attack at night.

Cusay continued, “Besides, if any city succor David, the numbers of our men shall fetch ropes for us, and we will pull the city down the river’s stream, so that not a stone is left to keep us out.”

Absalom asked Amasa, the leader of his army, “What says my lord to Cusay’s counsel now?”

Amasa said, “I fancy Cusay’s counsel far better than the advice that Achitophel gave us, and so, I think, does every soldier here.”

The soldiers present said, “Cusay’s counsel is better than Achitophel’s.”

Absalom said, “Then march we all after Cusay’s counsel: We will follow his advice.

“Sound trumpets through the territory of Israel, and muster all the men to serve the king, so that Absalom may glut his longing soul with the sole possession of his father’s crown.”

Achitophel thought, Ill shall they fare who follow the military expeditions of you, who scorn the counsel of Achitophel.

Everyone except Cusay exited.

Cusay said to himself, “Thus has the power of Jacob’s jealous God fulfilled his servant David’s plan through me, and brought Achitophel’s advice to scorn.”

Sadoc, Abiathar, Ahimaas, and Jonathan entered. All of these served King David, although like Cusay, they pretended to serve Absalom.

Sadoc the high priest said, “God save Lord Cusay and direct his zeal to obtain David’s conquest against his son!”

Abiathar the priest asked Cusay, “What secrets have thou gleaned from Absalom?”

“Sacred priests that bear the Ark of God, I have learned about this secret plot:

“Achitophel advised Absalom to let him choose twelve thousand fighting men, and he would come on and attack David in the night while he was unaware and was weary with his violent toil.

“But I advised Absalom to get a greater army and gather men from Dan to Bersabe to come upon him strongly in the fields.

“Now send your sons Ahimaas and Jonathan to deliver these secrets to the king. Let them advise him not to stay this night out in the open field, but to get over the Jordan River immediately, lest he and all his people kiss the sword and die.”

Sadoc said, “Go, Ahimaas and Jonathan, and immediately convey this message to King David.”

Ahimaas replied, “Father, we will, if Absalom’s chief spies don’t stop us and keep us here.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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