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Absalom ( meaning,"{my} father is {at} peace") was the third son of David and his wife Maacah.[1]. He was noted for his personal beauty and for the extraordinary profusion of the hair of his head.[2]. However, though he was predeceased by the two half-brothers between him and the throne, he would never rule over the land.

Due to a traumatic assault on his full sister Tamar by the presumed heir, and their half brother Amnon, a revenge killing by henchmen sent from Absalom vacated that seat. When later insurrection failed, he was killed by Joab, his father David's chief of staff.

Biography

Name and background

David had lived a hard life, despite his status as a hero in battle. Finally, he had been crowned king, but Saul's son Ishbosheth had maintained the support of the northern tribes. Determined to peacefully coexist with his enemy for a while, he had made the city of Hebron in his home tribe of Judah. He reigned there for 7½ years with his six wives. It was there that his wife Maacah gave birth to a son, who was given the name Absalom (or Abishalom).

In such a mixed household, Absalom had grown up under very little supervision. He and his sister Tamar had grown close as they shared the same parents. As royal children, the siblings bonded with their mother, more than their father. This led to disastrous results later in life.

Family

About the time Absalom was weaned, two men had assassinated King Ishbosheth of Israel, hoping to impress David. However, the rightful king of the united kingdom was not pleased. Nonetheless, with a new home in Jerusalem, Absalom and his siblings were now free from outside harassment. The oldest of them, Amnon, stood out with his aggressiveness. He was assumed to be the heir to the throne from an early age.

Things got complicated after the family moved to the new capital. David took more wives and concubines. From these women, many more children were born. It would turn out that the right to the throne was not to be a birthright.

Adult Life

The first public act of his life was the blood-revenge he executed against Amnon, David's eldest son, who had basely wronged Absalom's sister Tamar. This revenge was executed at the time of the festivities connected with a great sheep-shearing at Baal-hazor. David's other sons fled from the place in horror, and brought the tidings of the death of Amnon to Jerusalem. Alarmed for the consequences of the act, Absalom fled to his grandfather at Geshur, and there lived for three years [3]

David mourned his absent son, now branded with the guilt of fratricide. As the result of a strategy carried out by a woman of Tekoah, Joab received David's sanction to invite Absalom back to Jerusalem. He returned accordingly, but two years elapsed before his father admitted him into his presence [4]

Absalom was now probably the oldest surviving son of David, and as he was of royal descent by his mother as well as by his father, he began to aspire to the throne. His pretensions were favored by the people. By many means, he gained their affection; and after his return from Geshur [5] he went up to Hebron, the old capital of Judah, along with a great body of the people, and there proclaimed himself king.

The revolt was so successful that David found it necessary to leave Jerusalem and flee to Mahanaim, beyond Jordan; where upon Absalom returned to Jerusalem and took possession of the throne without opposition.

Ahithophel, who had been David's chief counsellor, deserted him and joined Absalom, whose chief counsellor he now became. Hushai also joined Absalom, but only for the purpose of trying to counteract the counsels of Ahithophel, and so to advantage David's cause. He was so far successful that by his advice, which was preferred to that of Ahithophel, Absalom delayed marching an army against his father who thus gained time to prepare for the defense.

Absalom eventually marched out against his father, whose army, under the command of Joab, he encountered on the borders of the forest of Ephraim. Twenty thousand of Absalom's army were slain in that fatal battle, and the rest fled. Absalom fled on a swift mule; but his long flowing hair was caught in the bough of an oak, and there he was left suspended till Joab came up and pierced him through with three darts.

His body was then taken down and cast into a pit dug in the forest, and a heap of stones was raised over his grave. When the tidings of the result of that battle were brought to David, as he sat impatiently at the gate of Mahanaim, and he was told that Absalom had been slain, he gave way to the bitter lamentation:

Absalom's three sons;[6] had all died before him, so that he left only a daughter, Tamar, who became the grandmother of Abijah.

Verses

  1. 2 Sam. 3:3 (Link)
  2. 2 Sam 14:25,26 (Link)
  3. 2 Sam 3:3,13:23-38 (Link)
  4. 2 Sam. 14:28 (Link)
  5. 2 Sam. 15:7 (Link)
  6. 2 Sam. 14:27 (Link)
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