A few points: the text says that וַיִּקָּרֵא Avshalom, which is generally translated as “happened”:
But וַיִּקָּרֵא literally means “to be invited or summoned”.
The נביא is telling us that the story as it will unfold is not happenstance. It is part of ה׳'s plan for David and Avshalom.
And he is riding a פרד, a mule. Not just any mule, but הפרד, the mule. In תנ״ך, mules are signs of royalty. Ordinary people ride donkeys (horses are weapons of war).
And this mule, הַפרד, presumably was David’s personal animal (David escaped Jerusalem on foot: (שמואל ב טו:יז) ויצא המלך וכל העם ברגליו); Avshalom is demonstrating that he is the king.
And we will see this royal mule later, when Shlomo is officially allowed to ride it:
And then, Avshalom gets stuck in the tree by his head (presumably because of the long hair he is so proud of), and is left hanging, again emphasizing the divine nature of his fate:
And as he is hanging there, he is found:
And this is a particular worry for this איש אחד in the eyes of the Midrash, as we will see. So Yoav takes matters into his own hands:
And with Avshalom dead, the civil war is over:
While we’ve seen Yoav as bloodthirsty, eager to kill his enemies, we’ve also seen before that his purpose in always patriotic; he never wants to hurt his king and country. When the fight is over, the fight is over.
And so we will end on a positive note:
And then Avshalom is ignomiously buried:
The irony being highlighted here is that Avshalom prepared this glorious monument for himself but his actual grave marker was a pile of rocks on the other side of the Jordan. And there is a problem here: Avshalom did have children:
I think the לא היה לו בן הגון למלכות was from Avshalom’s perspective: the qualification for being king was being tall, strong and beautiful. His daughter would qualify: היא היתה אשה יפת מראה. But in his eyes his sons were failures; they were not יפה מראה and so could not be מלך ישראל. This yet again shows Avshalom’s failure, and why David was right to reject him for the מלכות.
David, of course, is still in hiding in Machanayim, so he doesn’t know the outcome of the battle. We will deal with that next time. But I want to look at a פרק תהילים that is clearly relevant to Avshalom:
That perek is familiar to us; we say it in פסוקי דזמרא on שבת:
And it is interesting because it apparently does not have a כותרת, an introductory title or attribution. That makes it unusual in תהילים as a whole, and unique in the first book of תהילים:
In the case of other perakim without titles (like פרק ב), we have assumed that they are actually not a new psalm, but a continuation of the previous one. And there are similarities between the start of פרק לג and the end of פרק לב:
But the overall context is very different; פרק לב is about תשובה:
and our perek is about glorifying ה׳. So I will take a different approach, and say that our perek does have a כותרת. רננו is a title (similar to הללו).
There are a number of sources with varying lists of what those ten מאמרות של שבח are, but I will go kabbalistic and look at the list in תקוני זהר:
The תקוני זהר associates each מאמר של שבח with one of the ten ספירות, the ways that ה׳ manifests in the world. The “lower seven” take their names from a verse in דברי הימים, from David’s prayer dedicating the plans of the בית המקדש:
As I have said many times before, I do not think David was a kabbalist in the modern sense, but that the kabbalists looked at תהילים and David’s other poems for inspiration. ספר תהילים deals with theological concepts and the kabbalists put those into organized, strictly defined terms.
The ninth ספירה we call יסוד (see the list in ספירת העומר; it’s the sixth of the “lower seven”); in the pasuk above it is כֹל בַּשָּׁמַיִם וּבָאָרֶץ. It is the idea of G-d’s immanence, that there is in some sense a spark of the divine in everything that exists.
Part of the תקוני זהר‘s point is that מִתַּחְתָּיו יִצְמָח, that יסוד gives rise to the tenth ספירה, מלכות. ה׳’s rule over the world derives from His creation and ongoing presence in the universe. Ramban discusses this on the pasuk, (בראשית כד:א) וַה׳ בֵּרַךְ אֶת אַבְרָהָם בַּכֹּל:
This is a difficult concept, one that I can’t claim to understand, but is developed in chassidut as “panentheism” (not “pantheism”, that nature as a whole is G-d, but that the universe exists as an aspect of “the mind of G-d”).
That is the Zohar’s concept of the ספירה of יסוד. The manifestation of the divine in the universe is the holiness that pervades everything. This perek, I think, is saying something different; not so much the metaphysical concept that everything has an element of the divine, but that ה׳'s חסד pervades everything, and that everything is holy because ה׳ created everything.
relevant to our study of David because יסוד is the source of מלכות. The ספירות are not just divine attributes, they represent human מידות as well. Our purpose in life is imitatio Dei:
This applies not only to חסד and דין, but to מלכות as well. Any authority that we have is an imitation of ה׳'s authority, and as such, it derives from our sense of יסוד, that we are part of the כל, the community. The מלך in that sense is the representative of the people as a whole, not the ruler. מלכות comes from כל. This was Avshalom’s mistake.
So let’s look at this רננו.
And, as we’ve said before, שיר חדש refers to a song of the infinite potential of the eschatological future, the time of אחרית הימים, the end of history. ה׳ will be the acknowledged ruler of all humanity and we will live in a perfectly just society.
מלאה הארץ is what תקוני הזהר sees as the ספירה of יסוד, G-d’s lovingkindness that is immanent in the world. And it goes back to creation:
And that involvement continues throughout history:
It’s interesting (though I don’t know what to make of it) that this pair of psukim is parallel, not chiastic.
And then we move from the universal to the particular
And this is summarized in the idea of Divine Providence, השגחה:
(Note that this is not the question of free will vs. omniscience, but of knowledge that changes in time.)
Alshich understands יצר יחד לבם as referring not to humanity as a whole, but to each individual. We are driven by multiple inclinations, forced together, and ה׳ judges us based on that.
And then we get to the key line for our purposes: if ה׳ knows and controls everything, then we can’t fight ה׳'s decisions with force. אין המלך נושע ברב חיל.
And therefore our only path to salvation is through Him:
And בו ישמח לבנו, parallel to the רננו צדיקים בה׳. It is not that the צדיקים sing to הקב״ה, but בה׳, with הקב״ה. We rejoice because we feel ה׳'s presence throughout the world. And that is why David succeeded.