Absalom: Renegade Son of King David
When David ruled in Hebron for seven and a half years, six children were born to him from six different wives. The sons were Amnon, Daniel, Absalom, Adonijah, Shephatiah, and Ithream.
David ruled as king in Jerusalem for thirty-three years, and more children were born to him like Ibhar, Elishua, Elpelet, Nogah, Nepheg, Japhia, Elishama, Eliada, and Eliphelet. He also had other sons by his concubines.
The love of his life, Bathsheba bore him four sons. They were Shimea, Shobab, Nathan, and Solomon.
David had also a daughter named Tamar, the sister of Absalom.
As time went by, David’s son Amnon fell in love with his half-sister Tamar, and he became obsessed with her. Amnon had an adviser named Jonadab, the son of David’s brother. He was a shrewd man and advised Amnon to trick his father to allow Tamar to come to him so that he would be alone with his sister.
David sent Tamar to Amnon’s house because he pretended to be ill and wanted his sister to prepare food for him. So Tamar went to her brother’s house and there she was raped by Amnon.
Then Amnon was filled with hatred for Tamar and sent her away. Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the robe she was wearing. She went away weeping aloud.
Absalom consoled her and she lived in her brother’s house, a desolate woman.
King David was furious when he learned of Amnon’s treachery. Absalom remained quiet about the incident but he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister.
Two years quickly passed but Absalom had not forgotten what Amnon did. On one occasion, he invited all the king’s sons to his place but he was more interested in Amnon’s presence.
Amnon had been drinking wine and while he was in high spirits, Absalom’s men struck him down and killed him. It was an order from Absalom himself. The rest of the king’s sons fled immediately.
Absalom also fled and went to the king of Geshur. He stayed there for three years.
Joab, King David’s general knew that his heart longed for Absalom so he devised a way to compel the king to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem.
Joab went to Geshur and brought back Absalom but King David said, “Absalom must go to his own house and not see my face.” Absalom did as he was told.
Absalom had been described as a handsome man, blemish-free from head to toe and possessed thick hair. He spent two years in Jerusalem without seeing his father, the king.
He felt that it was time for him to see the king and he sought Joab’s help but when Joab refused to see him, he ordered his men to set Joab’s barley field on fire.
Absalom knows how to get what he wants. When Joab came to him, he told Joab, “I want to see the king and if I am found guilty of anything, then the king can put me to death.”
Joab went to King David and the king summoned Absalom who came in and bowed before the king with his face on the ground. King David kissed his son.
In time, Absalom would ride his chariot and horses and went around with fifty men running ahead of him. He would stand by the road which leads to the gate of the city. He would intercept those with issues that needed the king’s attention and tell them that there was no representative of the king to hear their cases. Then he would tell them that if he were appointed judge in the land, then everyone could come to him and he would see that they received justice.
Before long, Absalom had stolen the hearts of the people of Israel. After four years, Absalom started to execute his plans by asking his father to let him go to Hebron to fulfill a vow he made to the Lord while he was in Geshur. He promised that if the Lord would take him back to Jerusalem, he would worship the Lord in Hebron.
The king sent him to Hebron in peace. When he was in Hebron, he sent messengers secretly to all the tribes of Israel telling them that when they hear the sounds of trumpets, they should say that Absalom is king in Hebron.
There were two hundred men from Jerusalem who went with Absalom as guests and knew nothing of his plans but his conspiracy gained strength and Absalom’s followers have increased.
When David was told that the hearts of the people of Israel were with Absalom, he decided to flee and leave the city to escape from Absalom. King David set out with his entire household. He left ten concubines to take care of the palace.
Most people loyal to King David marched out of the city with him. The ark of the covenant of God was carried by Zadok and the Levites but King David asked Zadok to take the ark of God back into the city.
He said, “If I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, He will bring me back to see the ark of God again. But if God is not pleased with me, then I am ready. Let God do to me whatever seems good to Him.”
Zadok and Abiathar and their sons returned to the city with the ark of God.
King David was weeping as he continued up to the Mount of Olives. His head was covered and his feet were bare. All the people with him wept and covered their heads, too. When David was told that Ahithophel was one of Absalom’s conspirators, David prayed, “LORD, turn Ahithophel’s counsel into foolishness.”
When David arrived at the top, Hushai the Arkite met him with his robe torn and dust on his head. David asked him to return to the city and serve as a spy for him. David told him, “Go to Absalom and tell him you will be his servant. You can help me by frustrating Ahithophel’s advice. When you hear anything, tell Zadok and Abiathar so they can send their sons to relay the information to me.”
Hushai, David’s confidant, arrived at Jerusalem as Absalom entered the city. Hushai was able to gain the confidence of Absalom and when it came to choosing which advice to follow, Absalom followed Hushai’s advice because it was the Lord’s will to thwart the good advice of Ahithophel to bring tragedy to Absalom.
So when Ahithophel found out that Absalom followed Hushai’s advice and not his, he hanged himself and died.
Absalom pursued his father and crossed the Jordan with all the men of Israel. They camped in the land of Gilead.
David prepared his men for battle against Absalom and his troops, “I myself will march out with you.”
But his men decided it was not right that he go to battle with them. The king agreed but commanded his generals, “Be gentle with Absalom for my sake.”
David’s army marched out to fight Israel. The battle took place in the forest of Ephraim where David’s men routed Israel’s troops.
Absalom met David’s men and as he was riding his mule under the thick branches of a large oak, his hair got caught in the tree and he was left hanging in midair while his mule kept on going.
One of the men told Joab, “I saw Absalom hanging in an oak tree.”
No man would strike Absalom because they heard King David’s command not to lay a hand on Absalom but Joab took it upon himself to plunge three javelins into Absalom’s heart as he was hanging from the oak tree. Then his armor-bearers struck and killed the son of David.
Joab sounded the trumpet to stop his men from pursuing the fleeing troops of Israel. Absalom’s body was thrown into a big pit in the forest and was covered with large heaps of rocks.
David wept when he heard about Absalom’s death. He cried out, “O my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you. O Absalom, my son, my son!”
Joab then told King David, “Today you have humiliated your army. They have saved your life and the lives of your family. You have made it clear that your men mean nothing to you. You would have been pleased to see Absalom alive and all of us dead.” Joab asked David to go out and encourage his men or they would go away and not one would be left with him by nightfall. It would be worse than all of the adversities he had suffered since he was young until that day.
So King David got up and took his seat in the gateway. When his men realized that he was at the gateway, they all came before him. The threat of Absalom came to an end and King David would eventually return to Jerusalem to rule for many more years.
"During his lifetime Absalom had taken a pillar and erected it in the King’s Valley as a monument to himself, for he thought, “I have no son to carry on the memory of my name.” He named the pillar after himself, and it is called Absalom’s Monument to this day."
-2 Samuel 18:18 -
For centuries, it was the custom among passersby, Jews, Christians and Muslims, to throw stones at the monument. Residents of Jerusalem would bring their unruly children to the site to teach them what became of a rebellious son.