The Spirit of Absalom
Robert Wurtz II
“After this Absalom got himself a chariot and horses, and fifty men to run before him. And Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way of the gate. And when any man had a dispute to come before the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, “From what city are you?” And when he said, “Your servant is of such and such a tribe in Israel,” Absalom would say to him, “See, your claims are good and right, but there is no man designated by the king to hear you.” Then Absalom would say, “Oh that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a dispute or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice.” And whenever a man came near to pay homage to him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him. Thus Absalom did to all of Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.”
(2 Samuel 15:1–6 ESV)
I’ve entitled this entry “The Spirit of Absalom” as a follow-up to “The Spirit of Jezebel.” Both Absalom and Jezebel wanted power and were willing to stop at nothing to get it. This is clear evidence of demonic activity as the enemy seeks to infiltrate God’s Kingdom. As I said previously, I believe it is more of a diabolical strategy than a specific name for a demon spirit. The enemy fills peoples’ hearts to do his will and they don’t realize it until the deed is carried out (Acts 5:3, 1 Chronicles 21:1, James 3:15). We have examples of enemy tactics and must identify them when they manifest.
Absalom fled to Gesher after murdering his half-brother Amnon, King David’s oldest son, for raping his sister Tamar. He remained there for three years before Joab orchestrated his return to Jerusalem to reconcile with his father. It is significant to note that Absalom was the son of Maachah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur (2 Samuel 3:3). This meant that both his father and mother were royalty. He groomed himself to be king literally and figuratively for people who judged worthiness based on outward appearance (2 Samuel 14:25-26).
Absalom was no sooner restored to his father that he turned his sights to take the throne. He wasn’t content to be both the son and grandson of kings, he wanted to be king, and he wanted it now. With royal blood flowing in his veins (as it were) and having survived murdering his half-brother, he became insufferably proud and destructively rebellious. He had no regard for God’s word and didn’t hesitate to “go off script.”
It’s evident from the storyline that Absalom lost respect for his father, King David, because he wouldn’t severely punish or kill his oldest son Amnon when he raped his daughter Tamar. Absalom failed to realize that David deeply loved all of his children, including him, and he also knew the temptation to sexual misconduct that Amnon was moving in because he had taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite. Moreover, David was aware that because of his adultery with Bathsheeba and the murder of Uriah, the sword would not depart from his house (2 Samuel 12:10).
Dividing the Kingdom into Parties
Absalom was a shrewd politician who utilized his charming powers of influence to steal the people’s hearts. He undermined his father by insinuating he was derelict in his kingly duties. This party-inducing political strategy is standard practice in democratic societies, but Israel was not a democracy. Like a page straight out of Dale Carnegie, “Oh, that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a dispute or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice.” Absalom knew how to win friends and influence people. His method of “giving justice” and “kissing the people” was more like a black hand or mob boss than a God-fearing King in Israel.
Absalom’s most significant error was failing to realize that Israel was not Gesher. Israel was God’s unique possession. It was God’s prerogative alone to appoint and anoint kings in Israel. It wasn’t as simple as winning a popularity contest with the sitting king and then forcing him out. In a democracy, this may have worked, but in Israel, Heaven has the rule (Daniel 4:26). To fight against King David was to fight against God. He couldn’t gain the throne without touching the Lord’s Anointed (1 Samuel 24:6, 26:9).
Foolish pride, high-handed rebellion, and blind ambition are an explosive mixture that erupts spectacularly. It’s almost a replay of the fall of Lucifer, who said in his heart, “I will ascend…” (Isaiah 14:13). Each of these ingredients is deadly by itself, but adding them together is sure to make a person notorious. Such was the case with Absalom. He was in mortal danger and didn’t have the wisdom or foresight to see it. Some years later, his half-brother Solomon penned the words, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18 ESV) I wonder if he had Absalom in mind?
“And the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom.” (2 Samuel 15:12 KJV)
Like others in history who have killed a parent to gain or retain power, Absalom led an insurrection to destroy his father and take the throne. Imagine how pitiful and disgraceful it was to see a man fleeing for his life from his own son. Then, in an attempt to provoke his father to hatred, Absalom committed the unconscionable deed of setting up a tent and having sexual relations with his own father’s concubines (2 Samuel 16:22). All these distractions meant David couldn’t function as king. Psalm 3 explains his mindset just trying to survive from day to day.
The “spirit of Absalom” brings kingdom progress to a standstill by putting leadership in survival mode. Of course, it’s hard to lead when you’re on the run, literally or figuratively. But, no matter what method is used, the objective is the same; distract and attack until the leader fails.
Absalom stole the hearts of the Israelites to overthrow the man after God’s own heart. Let that sink in. He had popularity and strategy. David knew this and prayed that God would “break the teeth” of Absalom’s counselor Ahitophel who is personified as a “mouth.” Like a roaring lion, the enemy fills the mouths of men to challenge God’s Kingdom. God answered David’s prayer, Absalom ignored Ahitophel’s counsel, and he committed suicide in disgrace. Sooner or later, God always has the last word.
Yet David the king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom.” (2 Samuel 18:5 KJV)
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If there was a symbol of Absalom’s rebellion, it was his hair. Jewish tradition, though not authoritative, suggests that Absalom was caught in the brush by his hair and would have pulled his sword and cut it to free himself but saw hell open up below him and feared falling into the Abyss (L. Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, 1906). Despite David’s clear instructions, Joab said to the man who found Absalom,” ‘I will not waste time like this with you.’ He took three spears in his hand, and thrust them into the heart of Absalom, while he was still alive in the oak. And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him.” (2 Samuel 18:14-15)
David wept bitterly for Absalom, but what was done was done. All that’s left is a warning to those who would move in the “spirit of Absalom.”
“Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11 ESV)