The prophet, Nathan, confronted David about his adultery and murder of Uriah. More and more miserable David’s life now becomes. His son, Amnon, becomes smitten with his half-sister, Tamar, and decides to have sex with her, which did not turn out well (2 Samuel 13:1-22). Absalom, Tamar’s brother, soon found out what Amnon did, waiting for David to deal with it. He didn’t, so Absalom bides his time, two years, and kills Amnon in an outing with all of David’s sons.
We find a tragic irony in these tragedies. Two royal sons mimic the iniquity of their father, one commits sexual sin (Amnon, 13:11-14) and the other murders (Absalom, 13:28-29).
The Cast of Characters
Absalom: The third son born to David (2 Sam 3:3). Though dear to David (2 Sam 18:33), Absalom turns out to be the most troublesome, causing David the greatest grief (2 Sam 13-18).
Tamar: A virgin daughter of David (2 Sam 13:2), who becomes the victim of incestuous rape (13:10-14).
Amnon: The first-born son of David (2 Sam 3:2). He is the crown prince who would normally succeed David as king (2 Chronicles 21:3). His death (2 Sam 13:29), however, will open the way for the younger sons of David to contend for his throne, such as Absalom (2 Sam 15-28) and Adonijah (1 Kings 1).
The Aftermath of Absalom Killing Amnon
Read 2 Samuel 13:30-33
- What rumor spreads to David and his court?
Read 2 Samuel 13:37-39
Talmai: Absalom’s grandfather on his mother’s side, who is the ruler of a small kingdom, Geshur, east of the Sea of Galilee. For Absalom to seek refuge in such a place is no surprise, since his mother, Maacah, is the daughter of Talmai and a princess of Geshur (2 Sam 3:3).
- What does Absalom do?
- For whom does David grieve?
Another Story Enters David’s Life
Joab: David’s nephew and chief military officer (2 Sam 8:16). Uriah delivered the order for his own death from David to General Joab.
Read 2 Samuel 14:1-7
- What does the woman pretend to be?
- How is the story she tells similar to the events of Absalom and Amnon?
Read 2 Samuel 14:8, 11
- What does she cause King David to do?
The woman then links her story to David and his two sons, Absalom and Amnon. She tells David about Joab, who asked her to come to David and petition for Absalom.
Read 2 Samuel 14:21
- Is Absalom restored?
Like Nathan’s parable in 2 Samuel 12:1-4, the woman’s story also brings David to swear an oath to God. The safe return of Absalom from exile is now secured, including legal protection for his life. By indicating the surviving son is his father’s “heir” (2 Sam 14:7), the story assumes Absalom is next in line to be king, which he is not. David’s second son, Chileab (2 Sam 3:3) is.
Read 2 Samuel 15:1-6
- How did Absalom to subvert his father’s rule and win over many of the people?
- How long did Absalom do this?
We now come across Ahithophel, the grandfather of Bathsheba (2 Sam 11:3; 23:34) and possibly the trusted friend whose betrayal of David is lamented in Psalm 41:9 and 55:12-14. He now sides with Absalom. Perhaps, his loyalty to David weakened when David committed adultery with his granddaughter, Bathsheba, and arranged the death of his grandson-in-law, Uriah (2 Sam 11:2-25).
Read 2 Samuel 15:12-17
- What does David do?
- Whom does he leave behind? What are the implications of this?
“left ten concubines”: This shows us David plans to return to Jerusalem once the rebellion is over. He, without thinking, sets the stage for Nathan’s earlier prophecy to be fulfilled. Another man will “lie with [David’s] wives in the sight of the sun” (2 Sam 12:11) when Absalom has sex with the king’s royal harem in full view of Israel (2 Sam 16:21-22).
Absalom may have lost all respect for his Father David when he did nothing about the rape of his sister, Tamar. So, he began to plot to take the kingdom from David. First, Absalom stole the hearts of David’s subjects by promising a better system of justice if he became king. Next, he mounted a military coup against his father. He marched on Jerusalem, forcing David to flee and usurping his throne.
Nathan’s prophecy comes true. God’s tool to chasten David comes from within David’s household. Absalom’s rebellion and treason tears the fabric of David’s household, just as David’s adultery destroyed Uriah’s household.
Absalom as the Illegal King
Absalom, now on the throne, seeks advice on how best to deal with his father, David.
Read 2 Samuel 17:1-4
- What does Ahithophel advise? Why?
Hushai, the Archite: An advisor of David (1 Chron 27:33), titled the king’s “friend” (2 Sam 15:37). Hushai is a Canaanite name, so he may be from west of Bethel (Joshua 16:2). He pretends to support Absalom, often counteracting the influence of Ahithophel, a true supporter of Absalom (2 Sam 15:34).
Read 2 Samuel 17:5-10
- Why does Hushai say Ahithophel’s advice is bad?
Read 2 Samuel 17:11-14
- What does he advise instead?
- How is Hushai’s advice “over the top” and plays on Absalom’s vanity?
Pretending to support Absalom, Hushai seeks to buy more time for David to flee to safety, regroup, and establish his forces to repulse an attack. David and Absalom later meet in battle, with David’s forces much outnumbered “against Israel.”
Read 2 Samuel 18:6-8
- Who won the battle?
- What is meant by “the forest devoured more people that day than the sword”?
“the forest of Ephraim”: located northwest of David’s command center, Mahanaim (2 Sam 17:24). An unusual place for a battle, but David took full advantage of the terrain to separate Absalom’s soldiers and reduce the effects of their numerical advantage.
Read 2 Samuel 18:9-13
- What happened to Absalom as he was riding on his mule in the forest?
- What two reasons kept the man from killing Absalom?
Read 2 Samuel 18:14-15
- What does General Joab do?
- Why do you think the others also take part in killing Absalom?
Now left is to inform David of Absalom’s death.
Read 2 Samuel 18:31-33
- How intense is David’s grief?
- In what way do Absalom’s actions point to us and David’s words point to the promised Messiah?
David’s grief that day was so much that General Joab came to advise David.
Read 2 Samuel 19:5-8a
David follows his general’s advice. Now showing himself to be king once more, we learn what happens to those who supported Absalom.
Read 2 Samuel 8b
We find three psalms dealing with this period of David’s life. Psalm 41 (41:9) and 55 (55:12-14) are lament psalms that mention betrayal, in this case, Ahithophel. Psalm 3 is about David’s flight from Absalom.