2 Samuel 18:17 – And they took Absalom, and cast him into a great pit in the wood, and laid a very great heap of stones upon him: and all Israel fled every one to his tent.
2 Samuel 18:32 – And the king said unto Cushi, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Cushi answered, The enemies of my lord the king, and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt, be as that young man is.
Hello all, back with a new blog today, and looking somewhat at the life of Absalom today, particularly in the context of his relationship to his father, king David. Absalom’s life is covered in 2 Samuel between chapters 13 – 18. We learn a great deal from these chapters, and as I go on, I will assume some level of familiarity with the story, it would be best to read these chapters. David was the father of Absalom, and the father of Amnon, they were half brothers. Tamar was Absalom’s sister. All the trouble in David’s family can be traced back to his sin with Bathsheba. Nathan the prophet said by the word of God that the sword would not depart out of his house because he had taken another man’s wife, and also slain that man. It was a terrible sin for which David repented and was forgiven, but just because we are forgiven, we still often have to live with and bear the consequences of the sin. David reaped what he sowed, and his sin affected not just him, but others around him. Sin is never done in isolation, it affects others, it is selfish. Absalom was bitter at David for not dealing with Amnon, his half brother, who raped his sister Tamar. David was a great king of Israel, but he failed in the family, he failed his duties as a parent. None of this excuses Absalom’s personal responsibility and actions. He was to blame, his father was to blame. We all should look at ourselves first and foremost. And he is lost in the wood forever, never to escape, his life ended in complete entanglement in sin. He was buried in the woods, in an anonymous and nameless grave, sealed in the dark pit forever. He is in hell today, and we would do well to learn some lessons and see how this son of a great king turned into such a monster and rebel.
We learn that all Israel fled after Absalom was killed. His death signaled the end of the battle, the end of the rebellion. Every man fled to his tent.God does not rejoice in the death of the wicked. 2 Peter 3:9 says that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Ezekiel 18:23 says that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. And this was the heart of king David, he grieved and was immensely upset at Absalom’s death. It was an empty victory, it was a victory that was a defeat. A soul in hell. A king’s son gone forever. There was none to save him. None to deliver him. There was no more grace, no more mercy, no more life. As Absalom hung between heaven and earth, his soul hung in the very balance, on the precipice of a Godless, dark, eternity. And he found no mercy at the hands of Joab, the merciless, murderous, vengeful captain of David’s army. We will see in this story why David was such a greater man than Joab. It is often easy to side with Joab, he seems such a great character in the Bible, but Joab did not have a heart after God’s own heart that David had. When we read the Bible with the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, we begin to see the heart of the king. Joab disobeyed king David’s order not to kill Absalom, and when we ignore authority, when we disobey God’s word, we can end up killing king’s sons, costing souls. Maybe Absalom would have repented? How many people have gone to hell because of us? When David received news of Absalom’s death, David was incredibly moved and cried, O Absalom, my son, my son! He was inconsolable. He loved his son, who hated and abhorred him in return, who was after his life, his throne, who had raped his concubines, who was full of rebellion, bitterness, and hate. David said, would to God I had died for thee Absalom! This is just one thing that separated David from Joab. Joab killed Absalom despite the king’s order. David had so much respect for authority and God’s order, God’s very anointed, and consistently spared king Saul’s life. He let God deal with Saul. Whereas Joab disregarded the king’s command and did it his own way. David had a heart for the soul of his son, he knew how finite this physical earthly life is. But it was too late.
David cared for Absalom more at the end than at the beginning. The whole thing had snowballed, and David too late began to see the need to take care of his home first and the kingdom second. There is no greater responsibility than your own home, your own family. David was a great king, but he failed in the home. His sin with Bathsheba compromised his family. He lost respect, he lost his place in the eyes of Israel, in the eyes of Joab – there are sins which can destroy our witness. Lot was mocked by his sons in law that he was trying to save in Sodom. David didn’t deal with Amnon who deceived and raped and devastated Tamar, and this had massive consequences, as Absalom never got over this incident, and David’s inaction in response to it. The Bible says David was very wroth when he heard what Amnon did to Tamar, but he didn’t do anything about Amnon! What a mistake! He was the king of Israel and the father, it was his job to deal with Amnon, but instead it was Absalom who did. Absalom did what David should have done, and that would have been the right way, as God’s way is the right way. And Absalom nursed this hatred over what happened for years. He did not blame just Amnon, but he also blamed his father, and the fires of hatred, anger and bitterness destroyed his soul. Because no matter how much our flesh wants to or is justified in avenging a wrong, vengeance is God’s, God will repay, when we take vengeance and God’s business upon ourselves, we only harm ourselves, because we can’t do it, we can’t take it. It doesn’t make it better. Sin has to be dealt with the right way. It was David’s job to deal with Amnon. Absalom got it done, but he was out of order, we cannot handle the fires of revenge ourselves, it destroys us. Absalom did not feel better when he finally killed Amnon. He had to flee. He was further alienated from his father.His anger at his father grew and grew, because it was his father who had sent Tamar to her fate, albeit unknowingly, and his father did not do his father’s duty of dealing with Amnon. Because Amnon was also his son, perhaps the fact Amnon was his son clouded his judgement. But judgement has to be true and righteous, even if it is close to home. The priest Eli did not deal with his sons, and look what happened. Throughout history there are many examples of Godly men who compromised when it came to their home life and dealing with their children. The last verse of the Old Testament deals with turning the hearts of the fathers to the children. It is a serious issue.
We sometimes use the phrase “in the woods” to denote being in trouble, to being in mortal danger. “He’s not out of the woods” indicates a person’s life may be in the balance as he lies sick or critically ill in a hospital bed. Absalom’s life was a journey to the wood of Ephraim. His life ended in the wood of Ephraim. And Absalom would never leave the woods. He never got out the woods. Absalom was lost in the woods forever. He was killed and buried in the woods, and his body was cast into a great pit and buried under a great heap of stones. That’s where bitterness, anger, rebellion gets us – no matter how validated or justified we feel or even may be. We all may end up in a battle fought in the woods in our lives. We need God to deliver us. Our life can be hopelessly entangled in the woods of sin. The Bible says the wood devoured more than the sword that day. In life many people do not even get to the real battle. Men can be destroyed by their lusts, by their sin before even fighting the Lord’s battles. Paul was careful not to become a castaway. He did not want to become useless in the Lord’s service.
David cared so much for Absalom, but got involved too late. He wasn’t even in the battle, the result was out of his control. He had let it go too long. The story had developed so far. Absalom’s fate was now in the hands of Jaob, the captain who bore a grudge, who disrespected the king, who showed no mercy. His son was in the hands of a murderer himself. Absalom had been thrown to the world, he had been left to his own devices, and was no longer at the mercy of the king that could and would spare him. When God offered David for Israel to be destroyed by God or by the enemies for sinning, David wisely chose God. Because God is of great mercy and compassion. But Joab had no mercy. Why didn’t David go to the battle and make sure of his son’s fate himself? Instead he listened to the people. His son’s soul in the balance in the battle and he wasn’t there himself. There was a man that saw Absalom hanging in the oak, and this man was more noble than Joab. He did not kill him, but he did not save him either. This man told Joab, and Joab was displeased with the man who had seen him but not killed him. Joab then went and killed Absalom.
Joab thrust three darts through the heart of Absalom. These three darts represent all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. And Joab’s ten armor bearers surrounded him and smote him. The ten armor bearers represent the law. The Bible says the strength of sin is the law. In his lifetime Absalom had gloried in his shame. He gloried in his immense beauty and his long hair. He gloried in vanity. Physical beauty comes and goes, and really means nothing. The Bible says there was no blemish in him, but God sees the heart, there was plenty wrong in his darkening heart. Furthermore, Absalom gloried in his hair. The Bible says it is a shame for a man to have long hair. Absalom gloried in his shame. Many, many people today glory in their shame. Sodomites glory in the shame of their despicable sin today in their gay pride parades. They not only live in and do wickedly, but they are proud of it, they glory in their shame. Absalom did not glory in the God of his father David. His beauty was a snare to himself. It is fine to be beautiful, but that should not be where your glory is. We know from Isaiah 53 that Jesus had no beauty nor comeliness. Glory in the cross, not in your own beauty. To glory in your own beauty is to glory in vanity, because beauty is vain. It changes, it only lasts a short while, it is meaningless, then vanishes away. Absalom’s own beauty deceived him. And it not only deceived him, but he deceived the nation with his beauty. He stole the hearts of Israel deceitfully. He was manipulative, he knew what buttons to press, what moves to make. He identified with the people who came with a controversy, he kissed them, he agreed with them, he played on their pride and ego. He won their simple, gullible hearts to himself. But sin always gets the sinner in the end.
There were many stones laid upon Absalom in the dark pit. Stoning in the Bible was done against sinners under Moses’ law. There was no mercy involved. The soul that sinneth, it shall die. His blood was upon his own head. His sins shut him in. His sin sealed his own fate. Sealed in. Snowed in. Shut in. He had no Saviour. No grace. No mercy. It was all available, but he hadn’t taken it. We all must receive the forgiveness that the Lord Jesus Christ gives, and gives freely. Otherwise it is useless to us. Absalom hung in the tree by his head, and the Bible says cursed is every man that hangs on a tree. Jesus became that curse for us, so we need not be cursed. But will you be cursed forever as Absalom was? Absalom will never see the light of day again.
In his life time Absalom had had reared up a pillar for himself in the kings dale. He had made a beautiful sepulchre to honor himself, for his own rememberance. And his sepulchre was never filled. Instead, he lay in a dark, anonymous, nameless, unknown pit in the wood. It is God that establishes us as a pillar in his temple. Revelation 3:12 – Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. Overcomers in the Bible are those who are saved by faith. Who live by faith. We cannot establish ourselves as our own pillar. It will not stand. The empty sepulchre that Absalom had made was called Absalom’s place, and let Absalom’s place remind us that no matter how hard we try and make a name for ourselves, it will not stand. Absalom died a death he needed not die. He went to hell he needn’t have gone. If Christ doesn’t establish you, you won’t be established. You won’t be remembered. We are only pillars when we believe in the gospel. The true church of God is a pillar for truth. Whether or not you are a pillar, will depend on whether you are saved. Being saved gives you stability, you are founded on the rock, your house is not upon the sand. Let Jesus make you a pillar. You can’t make yourself a pillar. Absalom did this because he had no sons at that time (we later see that he had two sons). But our names live on through what we do with Jesus. Your relationship with God is what counts. Isaiah 56:4,5 – For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.
Absalom had a mule. After he had Amnon killed he fled on a mule. And it was a mule that carried him to his death. He rode on his mule during the battle. What a strange choice! A mule was not a great choice for him to riding during war. He was ill prepared and over confident of victory. The battle for his soul which he was so under equipped for. Without Christ, the battle for our soul is hopeless and a lost cause. The mule carried him under a great oak which caught his head and lifted him up off the mule. And then the Bible says that the mule went away. The mule went away. The mule went away. The mule left him for dead and went on his way. Mules are sterile animals that carry burdens. They are a hybrid between a horse and a donkey. And this describes Absalom’s heart. Absalom had a burden in his heart that carried him to his death. He never could let go of what happened between Amnon and Tamar, and his father’s role and inaction during the whole incident. Absalom had even called his only daughter Tamar, he had taken care of Tamar after she was raped, and had looked after her as she pined and drifted away in solitude and sorrow. The mule of anger, bitterness, resentment, revenge carried him to that tree. The tree on which he hung as a curse. The mule carried him to a cursed end. Absalom was sterile in his heart, his heart was full of vanity, his heart was full of his own beauty, and became filled with vanity and aspirations of glory. His heart was filled with a mixture of hatred, anger, bitterness and the vanities and lusts of this life. And they all carried him to a certain death. They were a burden to him. A burden that grew and grew. Jesus said, My yoke is easy and my burden is light. And the mule went away. His sin betrayed him. The mule forsook him. Satan will forsake you. He leads you to hell and then leaves you there. Your lusts will forsake you. They look good, they fell good, but then they depart from you. The vanities of this life will forsake you. James says, Sin when it has conceived, bringeth forth death. The problem with Absalom, was although he was justified in his anger over the incident, he did not handle it and deal with it God’s way. And he was not saved either, he had no faith in God, he could only deal with it his way.
David desperately waited for news of his son. Is the young man Absalom safe? Is the young man Absalom safe? David had been comforted when Absalom had taken revenge on Amnon. It was David who should have dealt with Amnon and maybe all this would have been averted. But David surrendered his role in the family as head of the home. Imagine Absalom’s hatred for a dad who did not do what needed to be done. It is no wonder that when Absalom was executing his plan to win the hearts of Israel that he said – O that I would be made a judge! He did not rate his dad at all. He saw the hypocrisy and inadequacy and short comings of a father that had failed in the home versus the king who reigned in righteousness. David lost the home at the expense of his righteous reign in Israel. Absalom thought he was better than his father, and knew more. And this thinking had been fostered as he did what his dad did should have done but did not do.
David had also made the terminal mistake of not teaching Absalom the reality of his faith in God. Rather he just taught Absalom religion. And Absalom had learned how to play the game. Absalom put a religious veneer over his dealings. He knew what David wanted to hear. When he went to Hebron with plans to take over the kingdom, he told his Dad he was going to sacrifice to the Lord. David said, Go in peace my son. David had a son with profession but no reality. Everything looked okay on the outside. Amnon was dead, it looked like Absalom had found some peace with God, and Absalom’s beauty further disguised the sorry state of his heart. How superficial we can be! Finally, David had also compromised with Absalom by bringing him back and kissing him before there were fruits of repentance. He kissed a son that had a hard, unrepentant heart. We must be careful in bringing Absalom back before the time is right. It was Joab who by his own reasoning had convinced David to fetch Absalom from exile. In retrospect it would have been good to leave him there. Like the father and the prodigal son, David should have waited for repentance before he brought him back. But Joab fetched Absalom. He should have let God bring Absalom back to him, instead he brought Absalom back to him. He was trying to make Absalom to be what he was not in his heart. Beware bringing back people to force them to live how you want.
We have critiqued some of David’s parenting errors which helped contribute to the monster Absalom was, but we also see that David had a true heart for the soul of his son. He wanted his son to know God. He wanted Absalom to live. He knew the importance of eternity. David said, would to God I had died for thee! We are nothing without love. The greatest of faith, hope, and charity is charity. David loved his son. The last verse of the Old Testament is Malachi 4:6 – And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. Sadly, David’s heart was not turned to Absalom when it mattered. There was a disconnect between him and his son that grew and grew. There was nothing more important than sorting his family out first. His family should have come before the kingdom. But although Absalom had certain events in his life which led to the man he was, he still made his own decisions. He is still responsible for his own actions. Everyone has bad things happen to them, some more than others, some way more than others, everyone has unique situations and God knows. But what is your heart like? Joab had terrible things happen to him, yet his heart was toward God. It is each person’s personal responsibility to get saved. Absalom could’ve surrendered his hatred and bitterness and anger at Amnon and David, but he held on, and it turned him into a monster.We must cast all our cares before the Lord Jesus Christ. He can deal with it all.
And Absalom became Amnon. He became what he hated. We read that he went into his father’s concubines. They were not his, yet he went in. He raped them to show how much he abhorred his father. Absalom’s life ended in the woods. As he physically hung between heaven and earth, so his soul hung in the balance. He was weighed in the balances and found wanting. The battle that ensued was without the king that could spare him. His father had no more say in the outcome, his father unable to save him. He did not realize the eternal danger as he fatefully rode on his mule in the woods. He did not realize his soul was hovering over an eternity in hell as he confidently rode the mule. The false confidence that we all can have in this life! Unless our confidence is in Christ, we have false confidence. Bitterness, resentment, anger, revenge, lust, pride, vanity conquered Absalom. The kings son went to hell. Absalom, who never got out the woods. Entangled in sin, and cast into a pit, and secured there under a very great heap of stones. The Lord Jesus Christ said in Matthew 21:44 – And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. Absalom was ground to powder, he never was broken before the Lord in repentance and faith, he obtained not the grace, forgiveness, mercy and eternal life that is given freely. What a waste, what a sad story. Is the young man Absalom safe? Is the young man Absalom safe? No, he is gone, and gone forever.
2 Samuel 18:33 – And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!