6 Then the people went out into the field against Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. 7 The people of Israel were smitten there before the servants of David, and the slaughter there that day was great, 20,000 men. 8 For the battle there was spread over the whole countryside, and the forest devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.
2 Samuel 18:6-8
When Absalom catches up with his father, David has divided his company in three. Those three companies go out and defeat those who have sided with Absalom. In fact, 20,000 die on the battlefield that day. Absalom’s long hair got tangled in some low-hanging tree branches as he rode underneath and left him dangling. He could have been taken prisoner — and would have been, if David had been on the battlefield — but Joab knew that David would extend mercy and there would be even more war. So Joab grabbed a few spears and stabbed Absalom to death. Without their upstart king, those who had been backing the coup scatter.
Where my attention was drawn is the statement that the forest devoured more people that day than the sword devoured. This is a piece of mercy on the part of God, Who spared the loyalists — those who had remained faithful to the king that God had chosen — from having to kill many of their kith and kin. The forest itself seemed to become a weapon of war and those who opposed God’s anointed were in bad shape.
The episode reminds me of Jesus’ statement that the rocks would cry out if His disciples stopped praising Him. The created world is often given anthropomorphic characteristics in this way. Paul writes of creation groaning for redemption and the psalmist writes of the trees of the fields clapping their hands in God’s praise. I am not one to put much stock in the idea of the Earth being alive in the same sense that I am alive, but I admit that there is more between Heaven and Earth than is dreamt of in my philosophies. And I have read, more than once, of God using creation as a weapon against those who oppose Him and His. The ground swallowed those who tried to set themselves up in opposition to Moses as God’s chosen representative. A bear came out of the woods and mauled young men who mocked a prophet. The lions in the den sat quietly and left Daniel alone until morning, then tore his accusers to pieces before they touched the ground.
If God can so use the rest of His creation, how much more could He do through me if I would be completely yielded to Him?
Father, thank You for this quiet reminded, tucked away in the midst of a battle between men, that You use anything and everything to accomplish Your goals. Please fill me with Your Spirit of submission that I might yield more fully to You and be of greater use in showing the world what You can do in and through a yielded life.