WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS
© by Ross Cochrane
The slaughter was horrendous. At battle’s end, 20,000 men lay dead. Because of the strategic positions of Joab’s men, more of Absalom’s forces died in the forest that day than in open combat by the sword. David’s careful strategy and many years of guerrilla warfare in rugged terrain such as this had taught Joab how best to use the geography of the country to full advantage in battle.
His long hair flying in the wind, Absalom rode his mule towards the thickest part of the forest he could find, Abishai’s men in pursuit. As his mule veered sharply, careering under the thick branches of a great oak, there was no time to lower his head, and crossed branches were thrust under his chin.
The shuddering halt caused extreme trauma to his pharynx. His head caught fast in the oak and his neck was almost broken. As the momentum of his body swung, its full weight wrenched on his spinal column and Absalom momentarily lost consciousness. A tingling sensation ran down his spine from his head and the impact left him temporarily unable to move his arms or legs.
Growing his hair had made him a further victim of his vow against David. Now it was caught around the branches so that he was left hanging awkwardly between heaven and earth. Balanced precariously, in shock and fear, he waited for the end to come.
The man who had followed Absalom saw that he was unable to move. He sheathed his sword and sent word immediately to Joab. When Joab arrived he was furious, “You saw him and you didn’t strike him down! I would have given you ten pieces of silver and a belt as a reward.”
The soldier was defensive. “Even if you gave me a thousand pieces of silver, I would not have killed him. He is the king’s son. You heard what the king said. He told you to protect him. We all heard the command. Besides, I am sure that if I had killed him you would not have supported me before the king.”
“Don’t waste my time.” I’ll deal with your insolence later. He pushed the man out of the way.
For a fleeting moment Absalom saw Joab moving towards him with a spear but then as he slipped once again into the ethereal world of semi-consciousness, he seemed to hear his father’s voice say, “He is my son.” Then the strong hands of his father were reaching up to free him. Father, spare my life again!
Searing, throbbing pain pierced through his body, singing with increasing volume in his head. Absalom saw himself seated on the throne of David’s kingdom with his father now lying prostrate before him, begging him for mercy. Will I send you into exile or keep you under house arrest for the rest of your natural life?
“Bring me my dagger”, he said, but his voice seemed to be deep and gravelly. One of the soldiers nearby brought a dagger to him. It had strange carvings on the handle of a lion and a wolf in mortal combat.
David was tied, hands outstretched, suspended from the branches of a tree. You will pay! He raised the dagger and thrust it toward his father’s heart. As the dagger moved closer he looked on with the delight of insanity written into the features of his face.
But the face changed. Instead of his father, the face that looked at him was now the face of Amnon. As the dagger continued its journey and in the flickering filtered light, the face changed again and again.
Eternity was opening its doors and he saw the face of Ahithophel just before he hanged himself and many of the faces of the soldiers wide-eyed in the terror of certain death. In the array of faces that appeared was a man whom he did not recognise with a crown of thorns on His head and nails in His hands His feet.
The dagger had reached its destination as the face changed for one final timeless moment. My own face! To his horror, he realised that he was executing himself. “No! Stop!” he yelled.