And Absalom dwelt two full years in Jerusalem but did not see the king’s face. Therefore, Absalom sent for Joab, to send him to the king, but he would not come to him. And when he sent again the second time, he would not come. So, he said to his servants, “See, Joab’s field is near mine, and he has barley there; go and set it on fire.” And Absalom’s servants set the field on fire. Then Joab arose and came to Absalom’s house and said to him, “Why have your servants set my field on fire?” And Absalom answered Joab, “Look, I sent to you, saying, ‘Come here, so that I may send you to the king, to say, “Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me to be there still.” ‘ Now therefore, let me see the king’s face; but if there is iniquity in me, let him execute me.” So, Joab went to the king and told him. And when he had called for Absalom, he came to the king and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king. Then the king kissed Absalom. (2 Samuel 14:28-33)
Set The Field On Fire
King David had more than twenty children. His son Absalom, whom he bore by Maacah, daughter of the king of Geshur, was one of his most troubling sons. Much of the conflict in the family of David came as a consequence of the sin with Bathsheba. Absalom’s trouble with his father was pride and arrogance as he sought to overthrow his father from being king. He was a remarkable specimen of a good-looking man, praised by others and recognized for his beautiful long hair. He only cut his hair once a year, and when he weighed it out, it weighed nearly five pounds.
Absalom had a sister, Tamar (the only named daughter of David). One of David’s sons by his second wife, Ahinoam, had raped Tamar and cast her out. His name was Amnon. David was very angry at what Amnon had done but took no action against him. After two years, Absalom arranged with his servants to kill his half-brother when the men were gathered for the shearing of the sheep. Absalom fled to Geshur, home of his mother’s people, where he remained for three years. After this time, David allowed Absalom to return to Jerusalem, but the king did not want to see his face. For two years, Absalom lived in Jerusalem and never saw his father. He had three sons and a daughter whom he named Tamar.
After two years, Absalom desired to see the king. He sent a message to Joab to seek an audience with the king. Joab refused. Absalom sent a request a second time, and Joab again refused. After the second denial, Absalom instructed his servants to burn Joab’s field of barley, which was next to his own. The plan worked as Joab came to Absalom seeking answers for the burning of his field. Joab went to David, and Absalom was allowed to stand in the king’s presence when David forgave his son. All of this was a ruse to allow Absalom to return to the graces of his father so he could overthrow him. The treason of Absalom deeply grieved David and caused the king to flee Jerusalem. Absalom’s attempt to overthrow his father failed, and he was killed by Joab when his long hair was caught in the boughs of a terebinth tree, and he was unable to free himself.
There is much to be said about Absalom and his vain attempts to find glory among men. His intense vanity would lead to his death. But Absalom understood the nature of men and how to get their attention. A small part of the story is when he burns Joab’s barley field. Joab had a good reason is ignore the son of the king. David had forbidden Absalom to come into his presence. Joab’s actions were probably not noble or devoted to his king, but he refused the request of Absalom on two occasions. It was not until Absalom burned his field of barley that Joab acted.
Whether for good or bad, sometimes it takes the burning of a barley field to get the attention of men. Barley was a much-desired commodity, and burning the field would have substantial economic consequences. It would also demonstrate the resolve of Absalom. The story revolves around the vanity of Absalom and his pride, but there are lessons from the burning field. Joab refused to acknowledge Absalom until the field was burned. That event sent Joab into action. There are times in life when nothing short of a field burning will men turn and see the message of God. But not always. Some have experienced life-changing events that should lead them to the Lord, but it does not.
Everyone needs a few fields burned in their lives. While there is a high cost to losing a barley field, some good can come from it. Life can be filled with things that challenge the soul. There are stories of great men and women of God who faced insurmountable odds and made their faith stronger. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah faced a furnace of fire and stayed faithful to God. Peter faced his barley field and failed when he denied the Lord three times. However, the experience did not destroy him as it did Judas. Peter grew from his barley field and became one of the most devoted saints of the early church. Saul of Tarsus thought he was doing the will of God until the Lord set his field on fire. Then Saul set the world on fire as an apostle of Jesus Christ. What fields are burning in your life? They are difficult trials, but God wants us to use our fields to draw closer to Him. Sometimes God calls His people with a gentle voice, and then there are times when the barley field is lit. Trust God. He loves you.