The mule ran off, leaving Absalom hanging in the air, helpless. Joab, one of David's generals, took three javelins and thrust them into Absalom's heart. Then ten of Joab's armor-bearers circled Absalom and killed him. To his generals' surprise, David was heartbroken over the death of his son, the man who tried to kill him and steal his throne.
He loved Absalom dearly. These episodes raise disturbing questions. Was Amnon inspired to rape Tamar because of David's sin with Bathsheba? Did Absalom murder Amnon because David had failed to punish him? The Bible does not give specific answers, but when David was an old man, his son Adonijah rebelled in the same way Absalom had. Solomon had Adonijah killed and executed other traitors to make his own reign secure. Absalom was charismatic and easily drew other people to him.
He possessed some leadership qualities. He took justice into his own hands by murdering his half-brother Amnon. Then he followed unwise counsel, rebelled against his own father and tried to steal David's kingdom. He had one daughter and three sons, all of whom died at an early age 2 Samuel ; 2 Samuel Absalom imitated his father's weaknesses instead of his strengths.
He allowed selfishness to rule him, instead of God's law. When he tried to oppose God's plan and unseat the rightful king, destruction came upon him. Absalom's story is found in 2 Samuel and chapters He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son! Share Flipboard Email. Mary Fairchild is a full-time Christian minister, writer, and editor of two Christian anthologies, including "Stories of Cavalry. Updated March 05, Continue Reading.
- Absalom's Mother
Following the Prophet Nathan's example 2 Sam , Joab David's nephew and army commander uses an imaginary judicial case to set before David to get the king to reconcile with Absalom and to bring him back from exile. He uses a "wise woman," an expression that probably refers to a woman who is skilled in rhetoric as in 2 Sam The key word in this narrative is the Hebrew verb "speak" that is used nine times verses 3 , 10 , 12 twice, 13 , 15 twice, 18 and 19 in the Hebrew text and which demonstrates that the entire episode involves manipulation through the use of language.
Notice that Joab gave the woman the outline, but she brilliantly improvises in her responses to David's comments to move forward the plan. And one of them struck the other one and killed him. Give up the man who killed his brother,' they say, so that we can put him to death, to atone for the life of the brother whom he has murdered; and thus we shall destroy the heir as well. May the guilt be on me and on my family; the king and his throne are innocent of it. It was the king's duty to be available to hear judicial cases that were referred to him by Israelites seeking justice.
He had the power to overturn decisions made by lower, local courts, and he could grant royal pardons even in death penalty cases. We use the same formula when we call out to Yahweh, "Hosanna in the highest. Joab is attempting to make a case for Absalom by using the fictitious story of a widow whose one son was killed by the other; however, there are a number of differences between the murder of Amnon by Absalom and the scenario in the woman's story.
Question: What are the differences that should be taken into account in the woman's case as opposed to what happen in Amnon's murder ordered by his brother Absalom? Question: The fictitious story that Joab told the woman to use is very similar to what other story of the murder of one brother by another from the Book of Genesis and what was the outcome of God's justice in that case?
See Gen Answer: It is similar to the murder of Abel by his brother Cain that took place out in the field. In God's judgment, Cain is banished but not sentenced to death, and is he is given a sign to protect him from blood vengeance. David would not have missed the comparison and the woman's subtle point is: if God, the Divine King, can pardon a man who killed his brother and protect him from blood vengeance then David who is Israel's king can also pardon her "son" to protect him from blood vengeance. Of course the flaw in her comparison is that the death penalty wasn't established for homicide at that time.
God commanded the death penalty for intentional murder after the Flood in Genesis and the penalty is repeated in the Law of the Sinai Covenant: Anyone who by violence causes a death must be put to death. If, however, he has not planned to do it but it comes from God by his hand, he can take refuge in a place which I shall appoint for you.
But should any person dare to kill another with deliberate planning, you will take that person even from my altar to be put to death Ex ; also see Lev ; Num It is only in the case of unintentional homicide that the perpetrator is to be protected from the kinsman blood avenger: If, however, he has manhandled his victim by chance, without malice, or thrown some missile at him not meaning to hit him or, without seeing him, dropped on him a stone meant for killing and so killed him, so long as he bore him no malice and wished him no hard, then the community will decide in accordance with these rules between the one who struck the blow and the avenger of blood, and will save the killer from the clutches of the avenger of blood Num Unlike our laws in the United States in which only the state takes the responsibility for seeking justice in a homicide, under the Law of the Sinai Covenant the family was very much involved.
However, the Law of the Covenant took into account that sometimes a Go'el Haddam might not wait for a trial and attempted to avenge a death himself and in those cases six cities of refuge were established in which an accused person could seek asylum until his case could be brought to trial see Joshua Lesson 9 Handouts.
The woman's point is that her son needs to be protected because she cannot get a fair trial for her one remaining son whose death "will extinguish the ember still left to me" and will be the end of her family line. Her kinsmen in her village are covetous of his inheritance which will revert to them since she had no other son to inherit her ancestral lands.
She says the motive of the Go'el Haddam for killing her son is not justice for the dead brother but greed. From the vagueness of David's reply in verse 8 that leaves the issue unresolved until some future date, she infers that he is hesitant to intervene on her behalf because by doing so he, and his throne, would take on the guilt of allowing the killing to go unavenged. Her declaration that she and her father's house will bear the guilt for allowing the killer to live encourages David to declare that he will absolutely protect her against the vengeful kinsmen who are intent on killing her only surviving son and he responds: 10 [Whoever speaks to you] Bring me the man who threatened you ," the king replied, "and he shall never hurt you again.
Question: What were the responsibilities of a Go'el Haddam? See Lev ; Num ; ; Dt Answer: Those responsibilities included:. The Go'el in her clan is not acting in her interests but his own. If her only son is killed, since there is apparently no widow, the lands would pass to the Go'el and she will lose her ancestral lands. A woman could only inherit ancestral lands if her father had no sons and if she married within the tribe or clan Lev ; Num The assurance David gave in verse10 is still not enough for the woman because he only mentioned the threat and did not mention her son.
Question: What does she ask David to do in verse 11? Answer: The woman wants to extract an explicit declaration from David that he will protect the life of her son. She asks David to bind himself to saving her son by swearing an oath in God's name, which he does. With David's oath in the Divine Name to protect the life of the fictional son, she now has what she wants and is prepared to shut the fictional trap by linking her story to David and his son Absalom, just like Nathan with the parable of the poor man's ewe in chapter 12 see the previous lesson: Samuel 2 Lesson 4.
Now the woman releases the rhetorical trap by asking David why gave her this verdict that her son deserves to live and yet is prepared to condemn the son who is his heir with the right to inherit the throne and whose banishment is not in the interest of Israel. The key concept is "inheritance. She then speaks about human destiny.
The split water is an image of human mortality and is an effective counter point to her earlier image of the death of her son as extinguishing "the ember" still left to her verse 7. Her point that noting more can be done for David's dead son and that "God does not raise up a corpse" is reminiscent of David's statement about the death of his son with Bathsheba in She urges David not to wait but to bring back his living son.
She implies that God will not want to punish the father who brings back his banished son even though blood guilt remains unavenged. Having risked the subject of the king's son, the woman now retreats back to fictitious story. She seems to be talking about peace within her clan but she is really speaking about peace in Israel being restored through resolving Absalom's exile.
Finally, she resorts to flattery by comparing David's wisdom to the Angel of God. The "Angel of God" is God Himself in visible form in which He appears to men on earth as in Scripture passages like Gen ; ; ; Ex She is according David the gift of divine wisdom. The woman replied, "As you live, my lord king, I cannot escape what my lord the king speaks , either to right or to left. Yes, it was your servant Joab who gave me my orders; he put all these words into your servant's mouth. Go and bring the young man Absalom back. Your servant Joab did this to approach the matter indirectly, but my lord has the wisdom of the Angel of God; he knows everything that happens on earth!
The woman admits the plan was Joab's but for all the king has spoken, she says, using the verb "to speak" a ninth time, David, "with the wisdom of the Angel of God," has committed himself by his own speech to protecting his fratricidal son and he cannot now permit himself to continue his son's banishment.
She flatters David but the irony is that David will demonstrate a lack of wisdom in bringing Absalom back and making him the crown prince and David's heir. The woman's fictitious judicial case gives David what he needs to justify allowing himself to bring Absalom back from exile. However, he will resist full reconciliation and it will lead to greater troubles for David's family.
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He sent for him a second time, but still he would not come. Better for me to have been there still! He then summoned Absalom, who prostrated himself with his face to the ground before the king. And the king kissed Absalom. Notice the connection between David's oath to the woman from Tekoa in concerning the royal pardon for her fictitious son: "As Yahweh lives," he said, "not one of your son's hairs shall fall to the ground! A full head of hair was considered a sign of health and beauty.
Absalom's beauty was one of the reasons David loved him and found it hard to discipline him. Absalom's beauty will also be part of the reason he "stole the hearts of the people of Israel" 2 Sam However, Absalom was denied real reconciliation with his father for two years. During that time he lived with his family in Jerusalem; he had three sons and a daughter he named after his sister.
Absalom tried to enlist Joab's support to bring about a full reconciliation with his father which would mean David would acknowledge him as his heir, but Joab evidently felt he had done his part and did not want to push his luck by interceding at court on Absalom's behalf if David was not prepared to receive him. Absalom burnt Joab's fields to get his attention. It is another example of manipulation in the game of power and it demonstrates that Absalom is willing to use violence to achieve his objectives. He then summoned Absalom, who prostrated himself with his face to the round before the king.
Absalom has submitted himself to the king his father and his father as king has pardoned him and welcomed him back into the family which also implied that Absalom is now recognized as David's heir and the future king. As we shall see the reconciliation is only on David's part. Absalom has other plans.
Six, therefore were born to him in Hebron, where he reigned for three years and six months. David became king of Judah at Hebron when he was 23 years old. Six sons were born to David and his wives at Hebron. Absalom was the third son but David's son Daniel probably died in childhood since he is never mentioned again which made Absalom the second son in line for the throne after Amnon. David became king of Israel when he was 30 years old and took his family to Jerusalem after he conquered the city. In Jerusalem he had four sons by Bathsheba 1 Chr and nine other sons by other wives. When the rape of Tamar occurred, David was probably at least 45 years old and he was at least 52 years old when Absalom began to formulate a plan to take his father's throne two years after the return from his three years of exile in Geshur.
David has failed to discipline his sons because he loved them, but Absalom only sees David's failure to discipline not as love but as weakness. Then anyone with a lawsuit or a plea could come to me and I should see he had justice! Absalom begins to use his position at court to ingratiate himself with the people of Israel. The flamboyant use of chariot and outriders is to remind whoever saw Absalom of his royal status as the crown prince of Israel and to encourage the people to think what a fine figure of a king he will make.
The city gate was where the marketplace was located, where official business was conducted, and where the leaders of the city met to hold court. The city gates of larger cities had several rooms where the city elders met to decide civil cases or where kings held audiences and heard petitions. Absalom is standout outside the city gate on the road to intercept Israelites with petitions and lawsuits.
Why is this significant? Answer: He does not care about the Gentile residents of Israel who have legal cases and are provided the same protections under the Law; he only cares about Israelites. It is significant because it demonstrates he has no real interest in justice but in only securing influence for himself with Israelites who will support him and increase his influence with other Israelites. Absalom is telling all the petitioners that if he had supreme judicial authority that he would rule in their favor. He is acting like the typical politician enlisting support by flattering the people's special interests, promising to cut taxes, to increase their benefits, etc.
He is also undermining confidence in David's government by telling the people "but not one of the king's deputies will listen to you" and that he would see that they had justice if he had the power.
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He has a sympatric audience with all the changes David is making in taking Israel from a loose confederation of tribes and forming, for the first time in Israel, a strong centralized government that imposes taxes and corvees as well as military conscription like their neighbor states and is imposing its authority over the tribal elders. Absalom's strategy is to win the hearts and minds of the people. The heart was considered to be the seat of intellect as well as the center of emotions and the true moral content of the person.
Rather than simply winning the affection of the Israelites, Absalom "stole the hearts" of the people by duping their minds. The conspiracy grew in strength, since Absalom's supporters grew in number. The four years in Jerusalem plus the three years spent in Aramaean Geshur in exile means seven years had passed since Absalom murdered his brother Amnon. Jewish Biblical scholar Haim Gevaryahu proposes that the vow Absalom made is to offer an exculpatory sacrifice for the killing of his brother. There is some evidence to support this theory from other ancient documents that suggest a period of seven years of penance might have applied to the crime of manslaughter Alter, Anceint Israel, page The other possibility is that a high priest has died which also releases all men charged with manslaughter from exile in a city of refuge and allows the return to ancestral lands, which for Absalom was probably near Hebron Num Another suggestion by Haim Gevaryahu is that since Absalom hadn't completed his penance for manslaughter in the murder of his brother that he was not permitted to worship at Yahweh's Sanctuary in Jerusalem Alter, Anceint Israel, page If that was the case, the next best place then to fulfill a vow was the capital city of his father's tribe of Judah at Hebron.
Of course, the whole plan is not to fulfill a vow but to start a revolution and civil war. He has ties to Hebron as the capital of the tribe of Judah and his birthplace 2 Sam , and the Judahites of Hebron may resent that David has abandoned Hebron, his capital for seven and a half years 2 Sam , to make his capital in Jerusalem. Absalom shrewdly enlists two hundred men to accompany him to fulfil his vow in Hebron. The two hundred men who accompanied Absalom to Hebron did not know his intentions, but their very presence with him encouraged others to assume Absalom has a large following and to encourage them to join the revolt.
As for the two hundred their participation, innocent or not, will mark them as rebels. The offering of sacrifices outside of the Sanctuary in Jerusalem is problematic. Question: Who is Ahithophel? See 2 Sam ; and 1 Chr Answer: He is probably the same Ahithophel who is the father of David's commander Eliam, the father of Bathsheba, which would make him Bathsheba's grandfather and one of David's most trusted advisors.
Leave as quickly as you can, in case he mounts a sudden attack, overcomes us and puts the city to the sword. All the Cherethities and all the Pelethites, with Ittai and all the six hundred Gittites who had come in his retinue from Gath, marched past the king. Go back and stay with the king, for you are a foreigner, indeed an exile from your homeland. Hebron is only twenty miles south-southwest of Jerusalem. The danger of a sudden attack by Absalom's rebels makes the situation extremely serious.
Abandoning Jerusalem may simply have been good strategy on David's part.
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If he and his supporters came under siege in the city, he would lose the mobility of his army and would not be able to secure additional support. It was wiser to stay mobile and out of reach of Absalom's forces. David leaves the city by crossing the Kidron Valley to the east of the city. The Valley and its stream separate Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. It is twice mentioned that David left "on foot," emphasizing his hasty departure. The mention of ten of David's concubines being left behind in verse 16 looks ahead to the events in 2 Samuel The Cherethities and Pelethites are Philistine mercenaries who served as David's royal bodyguard and whose families David rescued from the Amalekites 2 Sam , The Gittites are citizens of the Philistine city of Gath who are now vassals of Israel.
David may have won their loyalty when he was a young outlaw in the service of the king of Gath 1 Sam 27 ; Ittai is probably the Gittite commander. The exchange between David and Ittai in which David tries to convince him to return and Ittai's profession of covenant loyalty to David and insistence on remaining with David is reminiscent of the dialog between the Gentile Moabites Ruth and her Israelite mother-in-law Naomi in Ruth