The Absalom Spirit

II Samuel 14-15

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
January 2022

We have been studying the life of David.  We have seen his successes and his failures.  He was successful as a leader.  He was successful as king.  He was Israel’s greatest king.  He was successful at defeating Philistines.

He was not as successful at parenting.  He was a permissive parent.  He did not discipline his kids.  He let them do whatever they wanted.  He failed as a father.  He failed as a husband.  He did not keep his marriage vows.  He had affairs.

We can be a complete success in one area of our life and a complete failure in another area.  He was a success on the throne but was a complete failure in the home.  As Max Lucado says, “If you do not succeed at home, you do not succeed at all.”[1]

Two Sinful Princes

Last week, we looked at the life of one of David’s sons, Amnon.  Amnon was David’s firstborn son.  He was the oldest.  He was the heir to the throne.  Today, we focus on another son of David, named Absalom.

Both were sons of the king.  Both were royal princes.  Amnon was the perverted prince.  He was the incestuous prince.  Absalom was rebellious prince.  He was the treasonous.  He was the traitorous prince.

Both came to a tragic end.  Both died violent deaths.  Both Amnon and Absalom had no way to defend themselves.  Amnon was drunk when he was killed and Absalom was hanging from a tree by his hair, completely defenseless.

Historical Background

Let’s do a little review.  In II Samuel 13, Amnon commits a brutal rape.  Two years later, his brother, Absalom, killed him and then he fled the country for safety.  He fled to his grandfather in Geshur, which today is in the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria.  It is east of the Jordan River.

David has now lost two sons, one to murder and one to exile.  The heir to the throne was killed and now the next heir is living in another country in exile.  Absalom stayed there for three years (II Samuel 13:38).

Then, Joab stepped in.  Joab was David’s general.  He decided to reconcile father and son.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”  Joab wants to make peace between David and Absalom.

He used a woman who pretended to be a grieving widow who lost a son.  He had her use a fictitious story against him to trap him.  Those were the tactics of the Prophet Nathan.  They worked before.

This wise woman of Tekoa got David to take an oath that he would intervene in the situation. She got David to act one behalf of her son. She got David to do the same thing for his own son.  She said, “Why will you do this to help my son but not your own?”

David agreed to let Absalom to return to the country.  Joab finds him and tells him that he has found favor before David but when he gets back home, David would not see him.  He would not see him for two years (II Samuel 14:28).

At the end of two years, he does have a meeting with David, because Absalom forces a meeting.  He has to start some fires to get people’s attention (II Samuel 14:30-31) but eventually, he gets an audience with King David.  The old preacher Joseph Parker used to say that sometimes God has to do that to us.  He has to do something drastic to get our attention.

At the end of II Samuel 14, David and Absalom finally meet.  David kisses him (II Samuel 14:33).  They reconcile but things are never quite the same.  The real Absalom finally comes out.  We see who he really is.

Prodigal Son of the OT

Absalom is the prodigal son of the OT.  Most people do not know it but there are two prodigal son stories in the Bible.  There is one in the OT and one in the NT.  There are a lot of similarities between the two.

Both were sons.  Both were young.[2]  Both came from wealthy families.  Both rebelled against their father.  They displeased their father.  Both went to another country.

Absalom went to Geshur and the prodigal son in the NT also went to a distant country.  Both finally went home.  Both had a reunion with their estranged father but there were some important differences.

One came back completely humble, not worthy to be a son.  He only wanted to be a servant.  The other came back and wanted to take over the throne.  He did not want to be a servant.  He wanted to be king.

One repented and the other did not.  One came back from the dead and the other ended up dead. Absalom died a complete failure.  He had all kinds of promise.  He had plenty of potential.  He was heir to the throne.  He even looked the part, but he completely wasted his life.

What is an Absalom Spirit?

Today, we are going to talk about the spirit of Absalom.  There are many people like Absalom today.  There are many modern-day Absalom’s in the world and some even in the church today.

The spirit of Absalom is in the world today.  It is a sign of the last days. It is a sign of the end-times. What is an Absalom Spirit? Do we have one?  How much of Absalom is in you today?

Let’s spend some time looking at what this spirit is, by looking at some of the key qualities of Absalom.  As we go through this list, we can see if any of these describes us.

1) An Absalom Spirit is a SPIRIT OF VANITY

In all Israel there was not a man so highly praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the top of his head to the sole of his foot there was no blemish in him. 26 Whenever he cut the hair of his head—he used to cut his hair once a year because it became too heavy for him—he would weigh it, and its weight was two hundred shekels by the royal standard. (II Samuel 14:25-26 NIV)

Absalom was not only a prince; he was a good-looking prince.  Two verses are devoted to his physical appearance.  He was attractive, the most attractive man in Israel.  We are told that “From the top of his head to the sole of his foot there was no blemish in him.”  He was physically flawless. 

There is nothing wrong with being attractive.  Our society values physical attractiveness.  The problem is that Absalom looked great on the outside but not so good on the inside.  Absalom focused on the outside.

Absalom took great pride in his hair.  Hair is important to women.  They spend a lot of time in the morning on their hair.  The Apostle Paul said that a woman’s hair is her glory (I Corinthians 11:15).  Apparently, it was also Absalom’s glory.  Absalom did two rather strange things with his hair.

The first strange thing that he did is he cut it once a year (II Samuel 14:26).  Most people do not get one haircut a year. Most people might get it cut five or six times a year.  Absalom got it cut once a year.  He must have liked long hair.

The second strange thing that he did is to weigh his hair after it was cut.  We do not do that after we get haircuts.  Does this describe us?  Are we vain?  A vain person is someone who is excessively proud of or excessively concerned about his or her appearance.

What is true of men is also true of women.  I Timothy 2:9 says, “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” (NIV)

The irony is that the very thing he took pride in, his hair, is what led to his downfall.  It got tangled up in a tree and hung him.  He was hung in an oak tree by his hair (II Samuel 18:9).

2) An Absalom Spirit is a SPIRIT OF ANGER

Absalom was an angry man.  He was full of rage.  He knew how to hide it.  He could control it.  He did not show how he felt about Amnon for two years (II Samuel 13:22).  Amnon had many reasons to be angry.

He was angry at his brother for raping his sister.  He was angry at his dad for not doing anything about it.  He was angry that nothing was done about this monstrous crime.  David did absolutely nothing.  Each day that he waited, nothing was done, so Absalom took care of the problem.  He kills Amnon.

Amnon was dead.  He could no longer bother Tamar or anyone else anymore.  He seems to be doing society a favor.  There is one less rapist on the streets.  There is one less sex offender and one less child molester on the planet.  He did the world a favor.

Instead of being rewarded, he has to flee for safety.  He has to flee to another country.  His grandfather Talmai in Geshur protected him for three years (II Samuel 13:37).

When he is allowed to come home, he is not allowed to see his father (II Samuel 14:24).  He is basically put under house arrest.  David lets him come home but completely ignores him.  It is clear that David has not forgiven him.

David gives Absalom mixed signals.  He allows him to come home but will not see him.  This was even more reason for Absalom to be angry.  That is why the Bible says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4 NIV).  That is exactly what David did for two years.

Are we angry?  Do we have an anger problem?  Anger is not wrong.  There are times that we should be angry.  How do you deal with your anger?  Do we deal with it appropriately?  Do you turn it over to God or live with uncontrollable rage?

3) An Absalom Spirit is a SPIRIT OF POLITICS

In the course of time, Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him. 2 He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, “What town are you from?” He would answer, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.”

3 Then Absalom would say to him, “Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you.” 4 And Absalom would add, “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice.”

5 Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him. 6 Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the people of Israel. (II Samuel 15:1-6 NIV)

Absalom was a clever politician.  He was a master politician.  He did the same things that politicians do today.

First, politicians campaign for office.

They try to build a political base at the grass roots level. That is exactly what Absalom did.  He stood by the side of the road early in the morning, talking to people.  He was out on the street campaigning for four years.  While he was campaigning, he was pretending to be interest in the needs of people, flattering them.  Politicians pretend to care about people, like Bill Clinton who said, “I feel your pain.”  That is what Absalom did.

Second, politicians focus on problems.

They focus on everything that is going wrong in the country and every country has problems.  There are real problems.  No leader is perfect.  Even King David was not perfect.  There was injustice.  Look what happened to Tamar.  She did not get justice from the king.  There was injustice going on in the country and Absalom was glad to point it out.

Third, politicians criticize the incumbent.

They make fun of the person in power.  There is a little ironic because the person in power in this case was Absalom’s own father.

Absalom did not support his dad.  He did not defend him.  He did not try to make his administration better.  Instead, he undermined him.  Politicians create political division.  They create discontent.  They cater to people’s fears.

Fourth, they promote themselves.  They promote themselves as the solution to the problems. “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice.” (II Samuel 15:4 NIV)

Absalom said, in essence, “Elect me and I will solve all of your problems.  Things will get better once the person in power is gone.”  Politicians always make big promises they can’t keep.

Fifth, politicians try to improve their image.

It is important to have a good image while you are campaigning. How you look affects what people think of you.  You want to look presidential. Absalom used a chariot, horses and fifty men to run ahead of him.  That made him look important to have fifty men running before him.

It did absolutely nothing, but it looked good.  It was flashy.  It was extravagant and it worked.  Absalom was popular.  People liked him.  We are told that the hearts of the people were with Absalom (II Samuel 15:6).  We are also told that he “STOLE the hearts of the people of Israel.” (II Samuel 15:13 NIV).

That shows the power of persuasion.  A smooth-talking, good-looking, greasy politician can deceive a lot of people.  It works in the political realm.  It works in the religious realm.  Preachers that don’t preach the Word often have big churches.

Absalom convinced people to leave the Lord’s Anointed king. The people liked Absalom so much that some on David’s side switched over to Absalom’s side and joined the political bandwagon.  He had all of the momentum.  Everyone wants to be with a winner.

Absalom was a thief.  He was like the devil who is also a thief.  He comes to steal, to kill and to destroy (John 10:10).  Apparently, there is more than one way to steal.

Some steal people from churches.  It is called “sheep stealing.”  They do not evangelize to get more converts; they just try to get more members from another church to leave their church and switch churches.

4) An Absalom Spirit is a SPIRIT OF HYPOCRISY

Absalom was a complete hypocrite.  What is a hypocrite.  A hypocrite is someone who says one thing and does the exact opposite.  A hypocrite is someone who has rules for other people but not for themselves, like the politicians who insist that everyone wear a mask for safety and then they do not wear one.  What are some examples of Absalom’s hypocrisy?

So Joab went to the king and told him this. Then the king summoned Absalom, and he came in and bowed down with his face to the ground before the king. And the king kissed Absalom. (II Samuel 14:33 NIV)

To his face, Absalom is very respectful, bowing down to the ground, face on the dirt.  Behind, his back, he is talking bad about David, undermining him and trying to take the throne from him.  David talked about people like this.  He said, “His talk is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords.” (Psalm 55:21 NIV)

Absalom returns from exile in Geshur.  He meets David two years later and bows his face to the ground in respect.  Just a few years later, he is trying to kill him.

7 At the end of four years, Absalom said to the king, “Let me go to Hebron and fulfill a vow I made to the Lord. 8 While your servant was living at Geshur in Aram, I made this vow: ‘If the Lord takes me back to Jerusalem, I will worship the Lord in Hebron.’” 9 The king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he went to Hebron. (II Samuel 15:7-9 NIV)

Absalom asks David to go to Hebron to worship.  It was a ruse.  The real reason he wanted to go to Hebron was to start a rebellion.  He did not want to go there to worship.  He could have done that in Jerusalem.  He wanted to go there to start a revolution.

Absalom used worship as an excuse to overthrow the government of his own father.  He used religion to commit evil.  Muslim terrorists do this all of the time.  They invoke the name of God and use it to justify some atrocity.  That is the worst possible sin, to not only sin but to involve God in your sin.

5) An Absalom Spirit is a SPIRIT OF REBELLION

Absalom was a picture of total rebellion to authority.  He was a rebel at heart.  That is something that we can all relate to.  We are Americans.  We have a history of rebellion.  We have rebellion in our past.  That is how the country began.  The thirteen colonies rebelled against the King of England and we are proud of it.

There is a crisis of rebellion in the nation right now.  Some actual think that rebellion is a good thing.  They look at rebels at the good guys.  We have rebellion against parents, rebellion against teachers, rebellion against law enforcement officers, rebellion against the government, rebellion against law and order, rebellion against God’s laws regarding marriage, sexuality and gender.

There is a difference between peaceful protest and flat-out rebellion to authority, looting, rioting, burning down police stations, smash and grab robberies.  The Bible says that God HATES rebellion.  Rebellion is rooted in pride.

Rebellion is not only sinful; it is demonic.  People who rebel against authority repeat Satan’s sin[3]  Satan was the original Rebellious Prince.  The Rebel Prince Absalom followed the path of Satan.  Satan tried to knock God off His throne.  Absalom tried to kick David off his throne and murder him.

Rebellion to God-given authority is one of the worst sins you can commit.  God compares it to idolatry.  

Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. (I Samuel 15:23 NLT).

We think idolatry is bad.  We think witchcraft is bad.  Rebellion is just American.  God says that rebellion to authority is just as bad.  When Absalom rebelled against David, he was rebelling against God.

Absalom did not just rebel against his father.  He did not just rebel against the king.  He rebelled against God, who chose David to be King, who made him to be the Lord’s Anointed and who made a covenant with him.

Next week, we will look at how this rebellion ended.  It did not go well for Absalom.

[1] Max Lucado, Facing Your Giants, 154.

[2] David called Absalom a young man in II Samuel 18:5, 12.

[3] Dave Williams, The Imposter: Unmasking the Absalom Spirit (Decapolis Publishing. Kindle Edition).


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