father of peace; i.e., "peaceful" David's son by Maacah (2 Sam.
3:3; compare 1 Kings 1:6). He was noted for his personal beauty
and for the extra-ordinary profusion of the hair of his head (2
Sam. 14:25,26). The first public act of his life was the
blood-revenge he executed against Amnon, David's eldest son, who
had basely wronged Absalom's sister Tamar. This revenge was
executed at the time of the festivities connected with a great
sheep-shearing at Baal-hazor. David's other sons fled from the
place in horror, and brought the tidings of the death of Amnon
to Jerusalem. Alarmed for the consequences of the act, Absalom
fled to his grandfather at Geshur, and there abode for three
years (2 Sam. 3:3; 13:23-38).
David mourned his absent son, now branded with the guilt of
fratricide. As the result of a stratagem carried out by a woman
of Tekoah, Joab received David's sanction to invite Absalom back
to Jerusalem. He returned accordingly, but two years elapsed
before his father admitted him into his presence (2 Sam. 14:28).
Absalom was now probably the oldest surviving son of David, and
as he was of royal descent by his mother as well as by his
father, he began to aspire to the throne. His pretensions were
favoured by the people. By many arts he gained their affection;
and after his return from Geshur (2 Sam. 15:7; marg., R.V.) he
went up to Hebron, the old capital of Judah, along with a great
body of the people, and there proclaimed himself king. The
revolt was so successful that David found it necessary to quit
Jerusalem and flee to Mahanaim, beyond Jordan; where upon
Absalom returned to Jerusalem and took possession of the throne
without opposition. Ahithophel, who had been David's chief
counsellor, deserted him and joined Absalom, whose chief
counsellor he now became. Hushai also joined Absalom, but only
for the purpose of trying to counteract the counsels of
Ahithophel, and so to advantage David's cause. He was so far
successful that by his advice, which was preferred to that of
Ahithophel, Absalom delayed to march an army against his father,
who thus gained time to prepare for the defence.
Absalom at length marched out against his father, whose army,
under the command of Joab, he encountered on the borders of the
forest of Ephraim. Twenty thousand of Absalom's army were slain
in that fatal battle, and the rest fled. Absalom fled on a swift
mule; but his long flowing hair, or more probably his head, was
caught in the bough of an oak, and there he was left suspended
till Joab came up and pierced him through with three darts. His
body was then taken down and cast into a pit dug in the forest,
and a heap of stones was raised over his grave. When the tidings
of the result of that battle were brought to David, as he sat
impatiently at the gate of Mahanaim, and he was told that
Absalom had been slain, he gave way to the bitter lamentation:
"O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died
for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!" (2 Sam. 18:33. Compare Ex.
32:32; Rom. 9:3).
Absalom's three sons (2 Sam. 14:27; compare 18:18) had all died
before him, so that he left only a daughter, Tamar, who became
the grandmother of Abijah.