Updated: Nov 5, 2021
Summary: Absalom was the son of King David of Israel and led a 11th Century revolt against his father
Date: Probably Lived during the 11th and 10th Centuries BC (Perhaps 1009 BC to 978 BC)
Location: Israel, the Middle East
Family: Father: King David; Wife: Maacah
Absalom was the third child of the famous Israelite king, David (1 Samuel 16). He likely lived during the 11th Century B.C. and was eventually slain by David's commander, General Joab.
I can already hear you asking the question: 'Why would his own father's general kill him?!'
Well, it seems that Absalom had some serious family problems. (As a side note for those Biblical nerds out there, Absalom's grandfather on his mother Maacah's side was the King Talmai of Geshur (2 Samuel 3:3). His great grandfather on his father's side was Obed the son of Boaz and Ruth (Ruth 4:17; Matthew 1:5), both notable Biblical figures.)
Just to set the context, Absalom was born in the Israelite city of Hebron, the same place where, centuries earlier, the patriarch Abraham had bought a special cave to be his family's very own cemetary! Before Absalom was born, David had defeated the barbarian occupants of Jerusalem and moved into the city with his family. Imagine owning your very own family city! As a result, Absalom spent a good deal of his life, living the luxurious life of a prince. Now Absalom had an action packed life, but not all of what he did was particularly admirable - as we will see soon. Family-wise, his mother's name was Maacah. Maacah had a daughter named Tamar who was the only full-blood sibling of Absalom (from what we know, at least). He also had many half brothers, here are a few of the notable ones:
Amnon - a really, really horrible character, it turns out
Chileab - in contrast to Amnon, apparently Chileab was pretty upstanding (his name means, 'perfection of the father'
Adonijah - Adonijah later led a rebellion against David and crowned himself king
Shephatiah - his name means 'judged of the Lord' (which is probably why you see hardly any Shephatiahs walking around today - that, and it is awfully hard to pronounce)
Ithream - Ithream means 'excellence of the people'
Now, here are some of the things that Absalom is famous for:
Early on in his life, Absalom had his brother, Amnon, murdered for some of the really, really horrible things that Amnon had done. On the same day, Absalom fled quickly to the town of Geshur, fearing the wrath of his father, King David. He stayed there with his grandfather, the aforementioned Talmai, son of Ammihud.* Hence, beginneth the really strange family troubles! After three years of Absolom's exile had passed, David's commander, Joab, was sent to bring Absalom back. Not long after Absalom's return, he decided to lead a rebellion against his father. Clearly, he was very greatful that the king had allowed him back into the country. During the desperate fighting that ensued, General Joab found Absalom caught by the hair in a tree and killed him.** This was despite a command from David stating that no one should hurt Absalom. As you can see, Absalom had an incredibly wise, forgiving and godly father; however, Absalom seems to have turned into an absolutely terrible man. Why is this? The main reason seems to be that David didn't spend much time getting to know his sons and disciplining and training them. As a result, quite a few of his sons grew up to be, for lack of a better word, ratbags! Despite his horrible character, Absalom clearly somehow found a wife. He had three sons and three daughters of his own. One of his daughters was named after his sister Tamar (apparently because Tamar was quite beautiful, as was Absalom's daughter). To summarise, Absalom was apparently a man of exceptional charm who succeeded in stealing the hearts of many people. However, he clearly used these abilities primarily for evil, and he was eventually killed (under rather humiliating circumstances) by his father's captain. Researched and Written By Ladine and Cody Mitchell
* The convention [Name], son of [Name] is very common in the Bible. As strange as it sounds today, people did not have surnames at the time, they distinguished each other based on their father's name.
** Apparently Absalom had extremely long hair. He was riding his mule when his hair got caught in a low-hanging branch! Read 2 Samuel 18 for the full story.
The only source we have for Absalom is the Bible (which is a collection of scores of ancient primary sources). If you want to read more, check out 2 Samuel.