Absalom, the son who led the insurrection (2 Samuel 13-18)

Absalom, The Son Who Led the Insurrection (2 Samuel chapters 13-18)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on September 22, 2019 

We are going to be going to 1 Samuel chapter 13 if you would like to turn there while I setup the passage.

I am not one who cries in public. I can be pretty stoic and hold my emotions in check pretty well. It is not to say that I do not have emotions, I just keep them in check. Given my thoughts on tears I found the following article humorous:

GQ had a humorous analysis on when guys should or should not be allowed by society to shed tears. “Male crying is not new,” the female author notes. “It’s been happening for as long as men have had eyeballs. But it was almost always done behind at least three closed doors.” Here are some of GQ’s rules about public crying for men:

  • It is okay to cry if you’re in extreme pain, like, say, a piano were dropped from a fifty-story window on your foot. If you’re gonna cry from pain, it has to be at least an eight on the pain scale.
  • It’s okay to cry at certain works of art or film. For instance, if you don’t get misty-eyes atToy Story 3, you are a monster.
  • It’s almost weird if you don’t sob the first time you hold your newborn baby. No shame in that, bro.
  • It’s definitely weird if you sob during a sports event, although you can cry if you are actually one of the athletes out there on the field. But even then, you should cry only if you win. And if you’re just a fan, the rule here is much simpler: never, ever cry.
  • Never, ever cry during an argument. As the woman who wrote the article notes, “Sorry, guys, but crying during an argument is kind of our thing.”[1]

As we look at Absalom, we see two people who were quite emotional about each other, but they could not deal with each other. David loved Absalom and he cared for him, but he would not tell him that. Absalom wanted his father’s respect and relationship, but David did not let that happen.

Let’s look at 1 Samuel chapters 13-18 as we talk about Absalom. I will read parts of the chapters as we summarize Absalom’s life.

My theme: Absalom, The Son Who Led the Insurrection

  1. Allow me to put this in context.
    • We are in 2 Samuel chapter 13.
    • This means that David has risen to the throne. David has expanded Israel’s borders conquering many local city-states.
    • David has taken many wives and fathered many children.
    • Two chapters before this David had an affair with Bathsheba and had her husband killed in battle.
    • 1 chapter before this, in 2 Samuel 12, David was rebuked by the prophet Nathan for his sin with Bathsheba.
    • This is the context in which we look at 2 Samuel 13.
    • However, we also need to set the table and consider Absalom’s birth.
    • 2 Samuel 3:3 tells his birth.
    • …and his second, Chileab, by Abigail thewidow of Nabal the Carmelite; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur
    • Absalom was the grandson of another local king.
  2. First episode of Absalom.
    1. Starting at 2 Samuel chapter13:1-17: the rape of Tamar by Amnon. Amnon would be Absalom’s older brother, really a half brother. Amnon loved, or thought he loved his half sister Tamar. So, Amnon develops a ruse in order to get Tamar with him and he rapes her. But Tamar is the sister of Absalom. Absalom hears about it and he is angry.
    2. David hears about this and he is angry, but he does not do anything.
    3. So, after two years Absalom develops a plan and in 2 Samuel 13:18-29: Absalom has Amnon killed.
    4. One writes: Absalom took his dejected sister into his own house, expecting his father, David, to punish Amnon for his incestuous act. After two years of suppressed rage and hatred, Absalom plotted his own revenge. He gave a feast for King David and his princes at his country estate. Although David did not attend, Amnon did and was murdered by Absalom’s servants after Absalom got him drunk. Then, afraid of King David’s anger, Absalom fled across the Jordan River to King Talmai of Geshur, his mother’s father (2 Sm 13:21–39).[2]
    5. In 2 Samuel 13:30- 39: Absalom flees to Geshur for 3 years, the home of his maternal grandfather (2 Sam 3:3).
    6. David cared about Absalom but did nothing. Look at 2 Samuel 13:37-39:

Now Absalom fled and went to Talmai the son of Ammihud, the king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son every day. 38 So Absalom had fled and gone to Geshur, and was there three years. 39 The heart of King David longed to go out to Absalom; for he was comforted concerning Amnon, since he was dead.

  1. In 2 Samuel 14:1-24: Joab, David’s military commander works with a woman from Tekoa to tell a story to David and get Absalom recalled.
  2. Absalom is recalled, but David says he does not want to see him.
  3. David does not restore the relationship, David does nothing.
  4. In 2 Samuel 14:25-33: we have some extra detail about Absalom’s family. We hear about Absalom’s hair and that is important later. Look at 2 Samuel 14:25-26:

Now in all Israel was no one as handsome as Absalom, so highly praised; from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no defect in him. 26 When he cut the hair of his head (and it was at the end of every year that he cut it, for it was heavy on him so he cut it), he weighed the hair of his head at 200 shekels by the king’s weight.

  1. However, the Bible says the king would not see Absalom.
  2. Look at 2 Samuel 14:24: However the king said, “Let him turn to his own house, and let him not see my face.” So Absalom turned to his own house and did not see the king’s face.
  3. So Absalom manipulated things to see the king, his father.
  4. David and Absalom see each other, but it is just going through the motions.
  5. Look at 2 Samuel 14:28-33: Now Absalom lived two full years in Jerusalem, and did not see the king’s face.29 Then Absalom sent for Joab, to send him to the king, but he would not come to him. So he sent again a second time, but he would not come. 30 Therefore he said to his servants, “See, Joab’s field is next to mine, and he has barley there; go and set it on fire.” So Absalom’s servants set the field on fire. 31 Then Joab arose, came to Absalom at his house and said to him, “Why have your servants set my field on fire?” 32 Absalom answered Joab, “Behold, I sent for you, saying, ‘Come here, that I may send you to the king, to say, “Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me still to be there.”’ Now therefore, let me see the king’s face, and if there is iniquity in me, let him put me to death.” 33 So when Joab came to the king and told him, he called for Absalom. Thus he came to the king and prostrated himself on his face to the ground before the king, and the king kissed Absalom.
  • Now, the insurrection begins.
    1. Now, let’s see what this leads to, in 2 Samuel 15:1- 6: Absalom meets with people who wanted to meet with the king and stole away the hearts of the people.
    2. One writes: Within four years of his reinstatement, Absalom sought to assert his claim of succession and cunningly prepared to revolt against his father’s throne, probably during the thirty-second year of David’s reign.[3]
    3. In 2 Samuel 15:7-12: We see Absalom’s plan to take over the kingdom.
    4. Next, in 2 Samuel 15:13-37: David flees Jerusalem, Absalom comes into Jerusalem. Psalm 3 is written about this time in David’s life.
    5. In 2 Samuel 16:1- 14: David is cursed by Shimei, a member of Saul’s family as he flees.
    6. How amazing is this, the mighty king of Israel is fleeing because of his own son.
    7. In 2 Samuel 16:15- 23: Absalom enters Jerusalem and sleeps with David’s concubines on the roof of the palace. By the way, this was suggested by Ahithopel who gave council to David, but then switched allegiance to Absalom. Ahithopel was the grandfather of Bathsheba. 2 Samuel 11 says that David went on the roof of the palace and say Bathsheba taking a bath. He then had an affair with her and killed her husband. Now, on that same roof, Absalom shows all Jerusalem he has taken the kingdom. This is because taking the concubines shows that you have taken the kingdom. But this insurrection is not over yet.
    8. In 2 Samuel 17:1- 14: Hushei is used to counter Ahithopel’s council to Absalom and this leads to Ahithopel killing himself.
    9. In 2 Samuel 17:15-29 there are preparation for the battle.
      1. We have The Relay(17:15–23): Hushai sends news of Absalom’s plan to David, who now has time to mobilize his army.
      2. We have TheReplacement(17:24–26): Absalom appoints Amasa to command the Israelite army in place of Joab.
  • We have TheRendezvous(17:27–29): Three friends of David—Shobi, Makir, and Barzillai—bring him and his soldiers food in the wilderness.[4]
  1. The battle:
    1. In 2 Samuel 18:1- 5: After urging, David agreed not to lead them in battle. David asked Joab to deal gently with Absalom.
    2. Now, let’s read about his death.
    3. 2 Samuel 18:9-15:

Now Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. For Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. And his head caught fast in the oak, so he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him kept going. 10 When a certain man saw it, he told Joab and said, “Behold, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak.” 11 Then Joab said to the man who had told him, “Now behold, you saw him! Why then did you not strike him there to the ground? And I would have given you ten pieces of silver and a belt.” 12 The man said to Joab, “Even if I should receive a thousand pieces of silver in my hand, I would not put out my hand against the king’s son; for in our hearing the king charged you and Abishai and Ittai, saying, ‘Protect for me the young man Absalom!’ 13 Otherwise, if I had dealt treacherously against his life (and there is nothing hidden from the king), then you yourself would have stood aloof.”14 Then Joab said, “I will not waste time here with you.” So he took three spears in his hand and thrust them through the heart of Absalom while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak. 15 And ten young men who carried Joab’s armor gathered around and struck Absalom and killed him.

  • In 2 Samuel 18:16- 33: News reaches the king that Absalom is dead.
  • Once again, king David did love him, look at 2 Samuel 18:33: The king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And thus he said as he walked, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom!Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

Let’s make some applications:

  1. David did not discipline his son, or children, he ignored the problem(s). We must discipline our children when there is a problem (2 Samuel 13 and 14). We must stand for truth and justice even with adults as much as we can.
  2. It seems that David was likely an absent father. He has so many children by different women and he likely was not present.
    • As Chuck Swindoll writes: Twenty years transpired between 2 Samuel 3 and 13. David’s kingdom grew, and the friends who remained loyal to him during his humble days in the wilderness began to reap the rewards of their devotion. The Bible calls them “the thirty,” as you may remember from our first chapter. Eliam gave his beautiful daughter in marriage to Uriah, a fellow member of this elite “band of brothers.” And David gave Uriah an estate just behind the palace. He also gave Eliam’s father an important role as one of his chief advisors—secretary of state in his royal cabinet, if you will. His name was Ahithophel. (Another name to remember.) During these twenty years, David remained exceptionally busy. He defeated the Philistines, conquering Moab, Edom, Ammon, and Aram. He also wiped out a number of massive invading armies.
    • And when David wasn’t conquering or building, he was lost in the endless affairs of state. Much of his time was spent in secret council chambers making decisions concerning war, diplomacy, building, taxation, administration.
    • The remainder was spent in travel, on parades, giving speeches, and making appearances in one venue after another.
    • He had too many wives and too many children to have much of an influence on any of them—except by accident. He helped conceive lots of children, but he helped rear none of them. I count eight wives who are named, a number of unnamed wives who bore him children, and no fewer than ten concubines. Then each of the named wives has at least one child, though Michal had none. She had her father’s (King Saul) temperament, which may explain her remaining barren (2 Samuel 6:20–23).[6]
  3. We must be present as parents and servants of Christ. We must be present with other important relationships.
  4. David was reluctant to pursue restoring the relationship with Absalom. We must try to restore relationships (Matthew 5:23ff; 18:15-17).
  5. Absalom tried to bring about justice on his own. We must never try to take the law into our own hands (2 Samuel 13:24-29; Romans 13)
  6. There are other lies, deceit and sexual immorality in this passage and we must beware of all of them.

This illustration comes from Chuck Swindoll:
I once had the unfortunate task of trying to counsel a family very much like David’s. The father was extremely busy making a lot of money. His girls and his one boy soon sensed that his business meant more to him than they did. And so they began to live cheap, sensual, compromising lives that they didn’t even bother to conceal. The behavior of the children became so notorious that the testimony of the church came under criticism by the community, so I had to visit the family at their home. At one point I had to break up a fistfight between two of the girls after they brought down the dining room chandelier and knocked a shutter off the window. The mother sat there wringing her hands, muttering, “I just don’t know what I’m going to do with these children.” Obviously the relationships between each member of this family had been broken for a very long time, if ever there were any to begin with.

At the age of forty-two, the father’s heart stopped beating long enough to cause significant brain damage. By most standards, he was dead, although his body lingered for some time at the veteran’s hospital. As the children visited, hoping for some sign that there might be a chance for reconciliation, the grief mounted as his condition declined. Finally, he died. The dismal atmosphere of remorse and profound heartache that filled the mortuary made it almost impossible to breathe.
This father had departed emotionally long before his tragic end. He left his children with no moral guidance. He left his wife to fill the role of both parents. He left his family with no reason to think that they were important and loved. And he left them with no way to heal the deep, emotional wounds they both suffered and inflicted. Ultimately, he left them to make it on their own.
For years, the lingering wounds have continued to afflict the man’s children. I don’t know that they will ever enjoy a normal relationship with a mate or their children or anyone intimate.

I urge you to make the effort now to repair those broken relationships. Trust me, it’s worth it. Again, I repeat: It’s never too late to start doing what is right! Make contact today. Begin with these words: “I have been wrong. I love you, and I want a close relationship with you. Please forgive me and tell me how we can make it happen.”
Tough words, I know. But they’re easier than, “If only I had . . .”
I remember memorizing a very short poem by John Greenleaf Wittier in grammar school with all my classmates. It was an assignment required by a very wise teacher. She knew that those in her class were too young for it to make much sense then . . . but someday it would register. I cannot name the times I have repeated these words to myself and others during my adult years. Because they fit so perfectly the tragic story of this well-known father and his rebellious son, I leave them for you to ponder:

“For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!” (Poem: John Greanleaf Whittier, The Complete Poetical Works of John Greenleaf Whittier (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and company, 1884, (151))

Confess, Believe, trust, commit: Firmly make the decision to be with Him in order to become like Him and to learn and do all that He says and then arrange your affairs around Him.




[1]Adapted from Lauren Bans, “Bawl So Hard,” GQ (June 2015)

[2]Walter A. Elwell and Philip Wesley Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Tyndale Reference Library (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 8.

[3]Allen C. Myers, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 14.

[4]H. L. Willmington, The Outline Bible(Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), 2 Sa 17:5–29.

[5]M. G. Easton, Easton’s Bible Dictionary(New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893).

[6]Swindoll, Charles R.. Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives (Great Lives Series) . Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

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