The king asked her, “What is troubling you?” She said, “I am a widow; my husband is dead. I your servant had two sons. They got into a fight with each other in the field, and no one was there to separate them. One struck the other and killed him. Now the whole clan has risen up against your servant; they say, ‘Hand over the one who struck his brother down, so that we may put him to death for the life of his brother whom he killed; then we will get rid of the heir as well.’ They would put out the only burning coal I have left, leaving my husband neither name nor descendant on the face of the earth.” The king said to the woman, “Go home, and I will issue an order in your behalf.” But the woman from Tekoa said to him, “Let my lord the king pardon me and my family, and let the king and his throne be without guilt.” The king replied, “If anyone says anything to you, bring them to me, and they will not bother you again.” She said, “Then let the king invoke the Lord his God to prevent the avenger of blood from adding to the destruction, so that my son will not be destroyed.” “As surely as the Lord lives,” he said, “not one hair of your son’s head will fall to the ground.” Then the woman said, “Let your servant speak a word to my lord the king.” “Speak,” he replied. The woman said, “Why then have you devised a thing like this against the people of God? When the king says this, does he not convict himself, for the king has not brought back his banished son? Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him. “And now I have come to say this to my lord the king because the people have made me afraid. Your servant thought, ‘I will speak to the king; perhaps he will grant his servant’s request. Perhaps the king will agree to deliver his servant from the hand of the man who is trying to cut off both me and my son from God’s inheritance.’ “And now your servant says, ‘May the word of my lord the king secure my inheritance, for my lord the king is like an angel of God in discerning good and evil. May the Lord your God be with you.’ ” Then the king said to the woman, “Don’t keep from me the answer to what I am going to ask you.” “Let my lord the king speak,” the woman said. The king asked, “Isn’t the hand of Joab with you in all this?” The woman answered, “As surely as you live, my lord the king, no one can turn to the right or to the left from anything my lord the king says. Yes, it was your servant Joab who instructed me to do this and who put all these words into the mouth of your servant. Your servant Joab did this to change the present situation. My lord has wisdom like that of an angel of God—he knows everything that happens in the land.” The king said to Joab, “Very well, I will do it. Go, bring back the young man Absalom.” – 2 Samuel 14:5-21
This passage requires a little more context. Absalom is David’s son who killed David’s other son Amnon because he had raped his sister Tamar. Although this sounds like a Hollywood movie gone overboard to get an audience this is David’s family. It is really messed up. I have to conclude that his family dysfunction is part of the collateral damage from his very poor choices with Bathsheba and Uriah. Joab is trying to deceive David into reconciling with Absalom by using the woman in this passage. David ultimately sees through the thinly veiled story and realizes that she is talking about Absalom and that Joab put her up to it. The messiness and dysfunction between David and Absalom will get worse in the future and I am sure I will have opportunity to reflect on this in later passages so let’s get back to the water reference in this passage.
I find the water imagery in this passage very intriguing…”Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die”. This concept and language was used back in 1 Samuel 7:2-6 when the Israelites were asked by God to turn back and pour out. I think in that reference, and in this passage, God may be using water to refer to more than just H2O.
Humans seem somewhat obsessed with death and dying. I explored some of this territory in a previous post about crossing over. I suppose this is because there are so many mysteries surrounding it and it evokes such strong emotions in us. I have been present at the deaths of my father, my mother, and my oldest brother. Each of their deaths was different. One thing all deaths have in common is that it is a one way trip. Very few people come back from death, with a few rare exceptions like Jesus. In this way the description here is very apt. Once you pour water onto the ground it is very difficult to “un-pour” it and get it back into whatever container it came from. In a sense this is like our souls, which are “poured out” of our bodies when we die.
As we grow older, and nearer the end of our earthly lives, it is natural to think more about what is to come. It is easy to become preoccupied with death to the point where we fail to live. I think this is where the water imagery in this passage is helpful. God is likening death (and I think the lives leading up to our death) to water being spilled on the ground…..dust to dust…ashes to ashes.
It seems to me there are at least two ways one could look at this “spilling out” at the end of our lives. One could see the statement as confirmation that everything in life is meaningless…a chasing after the wind. What is the point of anything in life if in the end we are to be lost in a pile of dirt? This would be close to my understanding of the view of existentialists. I reject this perspective and interpretation of life and death.
The second option, which I favor, is the view that the transition from life to death described as “water spilled out” is when our souls are spilled out of our earthly containers, our physical bodies. Our spirit then joins the ocean of the spiritual realm with God. This final “pouring out” can be the culmination of a life of “pouring out” in which case there may not be much left to pour out. Each time we love one another and faithfully follow God we are choosing to share part of our living water. Considered in this way the final “spilling out” onto the ground at the end of our life could be very anticlimactic. If we are pouring ourselves out our entire life…there might be little left to pour out onto the ground. This would be sort of like climbing up a mountain and at some point realizing you have already arrived at the top.
Prayer: God help us to be so preoccupied with pouring out our souls for You here on earth that we hardly notice when we reach the end of our earthly life.