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Who Was Absalom in the Bible?

Who Was Absalom in the Bible?

Refusing to get a haircut can sometimes lead to death, as we learn in the case of King David’s son Absalom. Absalom has a rather short history of attempting to usurp his father’s throne, getting chased out of town, having his hair caught on a tree branch, and, in doing so, losing his life through decapitation (2 Samuel 18).

Nevertheless, David still mourns the death of his son, even after his son had conspired against him. Composer Eric Whitacre captures this moment in his song “When David Heard.”

Where had David gone wrong in his parenting that his sons ended up committing acts of rape, treason, and, in the case of Solomon, marrying 1000 wives and concubines and straying away from the Lord?

What do we know about Absalom from Scripture? And what can we learn from his mistakes?

Let’s dive into these questions and more.

Was David a Bad Parent?

In short, yes. But like all parents who are reading this know, children are not easy to take care of. We can pour all our hearts into caring for them, and they may still rebel or do not choose the paths of righteousness in which we hoped.

With that said, let’s analyze some verses of David’s parenting in action to see where neglect and a lack of discipline led to his sons’ destruction.

David’s son Amnon starts crushing on his stepsister Tamar, and by faking a sickness, manages to isolate her and rape her. “When King David heard all this, he was furious” (2 Samuel 13:21).

But he does nothing other than getting angry.

Two years later, Absalom (David’s son and Amnon’s stepbrother) kills Amnon, likely tired of waiting around for David to do something about the situation.

Secondly, let’s analyze the example of Absalom.

After Absalom kills Amnon, he flees in fear and hides out in Geshur for three years. Even though David wants to see him, he decides not to. Even when David’s general brings Absalom back, David doesn’t allow his son to come into his presence (2 Samuel 14).

This likely builds up heaps of resentment for Absalom. And as we see in a moment, Absalom makes a decision to overthrow David and take the throne of Israel for himself.

We could analyze David’s other children and how they turned out, but we can see a clear pattern. David’s passivity leads to the ruin of his children. He may get angry about what happens to Tamar and upset when Absalom flees, but he does nothing about either situation. Because of this, his sons die prematurely.

What Happens to Absalom?

After Absalom returns to Jerusalem, he conspires against David. He starts to turn David’s people against him (2 Samuel 15) and manages to woo the people into helping him vie for power.

David flees when he hears that Absalom has won over a great number of the Israelites (2 Samuel 15). Although Absalom gains power over a short time, David’s armies counterattack (David not amongst them).

Even though David asked that they be gentle with Absalom (2 Samuel 18), when Absalom gets his hair caught in a tree, the commander of the army, Joab, takes advantage.

Joab kills Absalom, and thus ends his short-lived reign.

3 Things to Learn from Absalom’s Example

Of course, with a story like this, we can learn the obvious lesson such as, “Don’t usurp God’s chosen leaders.” But let’s dive into some deeper implications of Absalom’s story.

1. We need to analyze how we rebel against our parents’ mistakes. Absalom hated David’s passivity. So, he swung to the opposite end of the spectrum. He decided to take action in every sense of the word. This ultimately leads to his demise.

All children try to do things differently than their parents had. Perhaps if we grew up in a strict household, we decide to be more lenient with our kids. But we need to make sure to seek the Lord’s guidance in our actions.

2. We need to discipline correctly. Absalom got fed up with David’s inaction when it came to Amnon. So, he took matters into his own hands and killed Amnon.

Although Absalom was right to be indignant about what happened to his sister, he took vengeance in his own hands, something the Bible strictly tells us not to do (Deuteronomy 32:35).

3. Absalom teaches us not to try and manipulate God’s plan. God appointed David over Israel. Absalom tried to win over the people and even slept with David’s concubines to solidify his rule. But in the end, he only ruled for a short period of time, and God reinstated David on the throne of Israel.

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/anthonyjhall

Hope Bolinger is an acquisitions editor at End Game Press, and the author of almost 30 books. More than 1500 of her works have been featured in various publications. Check out her books at for clean books in most genres, great for adults and kids.

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