The BibleTexts.com Glossary of Terms

Absalom

Young People's Bible Dictionary

by Barbara Smith (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965)

Absalom. A son of David who revolted against his father and tried to take the throne from him. 2 Sam., chs. 13 to 18.


Harperís Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

You are strongly recommended to add to your library the excellent revised edition of Harper's Bible Dictionary titled, The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition [book review], edited by Paul J. Achtemeier, with the Society of Biblical Literature (NY: Harper Collins, 1996). It is currently the best one-volume Bible dictionary in English, and it is available at Border's Books, Christian Science Reading Rooms, http://www.borders.com, or http://www.christianbook.com.

Absalom, one of the sons of Israelís greatest king, David. Because he was handsome and ambitious, Absalom was the most conspicuous of Davidís sons; his mother was Maachah, princess of the neighboring vassal state of Geshur. The story of Absalom is told in 2 Samuel 13-20. When his half-brother Amnon raped his full sister Tamar and David took no action, Absalom took the law in his own hands and killed Amnon, after which he spent three years in exile in Geshur. Laborious mediation on the part of Joab brought Absalom back to the court, but David refused to see him for another two years. This filled Absalom with such anger and resentment that he harbored the idea of a coup díétat. It took him four years to prepare for an uprising that stood a good chance of success. He directed and capitalized upon the resistance felt by many people who saw the spectacular growth of Davidís empire, court, and administrative machinery, but who could not accept or keep up with the concomitant changes that took place in social patterns and values. In his rebellion Absalom won the support of the royal counselor Ahithophel, whose authority was above all criticism.

Absalom gave the signal for the revolt from Hebron, the selfsame town in central Judah where David himself had risen to national power. His march to Jerusalem forced David to leave the country. Ahithophel advised Absalom to pursue and isolate David forthwith, but Absalom was deceived by the flattery of Husai who acted as a spy for David and who gave the opposite advice. Thus, David was able to escape across the Jordan and start the organization of a military comeback. A few weeks later the dramatic denouement followed in the Transjordan, not far from Mahanaim. Aided by the rough terrain, Davidís experienced regular army, which had remained loyal to him, defeated Absalomís militia. Though David had ordered his generals to spare the prince, Joab, who found Absalom entangled in the branches of an oak, had him slaughtered as an archrebelóa realistic military choice but one that cost him a good relationship with the mourning father. In the end, it was intemperate ambition that became fatal for Absalom and brought him down.


Oxford Dictionary of the Bible

by W.R.F. Browning (NY: Oxford University Press, 1996)

Absalom. A son of David, good-looking and ambitious; he gathered round himself a band of disaffected people who were prepared to overthrow David. He set up headquarters in Hebron and marched towards Jerusalem, which David hastily abandoned. Across the River Jordan, David arranged for secret intelligence from the capital through Hushai (2 Sam. 15:34-35), who gave misleading advice to Absalom. This allowed time for David to regroup his forces which were still loyal, and Absalom was defeated. Explicit instructions to spare the life of David's son were ignored by Joab, and Absalom, who had become entangled in an oak tree, was stabbed in the heart. David's lament for his rebellious son is one of the most poignant passages in the OT (2 Sam. 18:33).


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