The Expository Files.

The Absalom Complex

2 Samuel 14:25 - 18:18


It is a remarkable thing how our culture's heroes are treated when they fall. It seems as if these idols, whether musicians, athletes, artists, actors or politicians, can do no wrong when it comes to their admirers. Oh, and we must include preachers in that list as well! I can hardly believe that anyone would continue to send money to proven scoundrels, but many do.

Many of these people become tragic figures. They make a mess of things by immoral and unwise behavior, but because they could run with a football or sing(?) or act or gain favors for their constituents on capitol hill they are still thought of as heroes to be admired. I do not mean to diminish from their accomplishments, its just that being a celebrity brings a greater responsibility to behave morally, decently and honestly, not less. Jesus said that greater potential brings greater responsibility
(MATTHEW 25:14-30).

Whether drug overdoses, alcoholism, suicide, fraud, adultery, wife-beating or even murder, it seems as if many are willing to say, "Its O.K.; look at all those past accomplishments." Its not O.K. It never has been. Consider the Scripture's account of Absalom, the son of David.


"Now in all Israel there was no one as handsome as Absalom, so highly praised; from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no defect in him." (II SAMUEL 14:25). Physically, Absalom was blessed. He was admired by all; everyone wanted to "be like Absalom." He had all the things people in those positions usually have when others look longingly at them with wonder and awe and wish they could switch places.

In addition to his good looks, Absalom was smart; a very clever fellow; cunning and crafty. He was very good at persuasion, and had a likeable personality and great charm (15:6). He had authority, being the son of the king. He had material wealth.

So, what could possibly go wrong? Plenty! There was a sharp contrast between Absalom's physical beauty and his spiritual poverty. His blessings were not his downfall, but rather his lack of spirituality was. He did not have what it takes within, and it is what is within that the Lord considers most important (I SAMUEL 16:7).


"And Absalom commanded his servants, saying, 'See now, when Amnon's heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, 'Strike Amnon,' then put him to death. Do not fear; have not I myself commanded you? Be courageous and valiant." (II SAMUEL 13:28). Amnon deserved what he got. He was not an innocent man. He was guilty of forcing himself upon Tamar, Absalom's sister and his own half-sister.

But note that Amnon's murder took place two years after the deed. For two years Absalom planned, not speaking one word to Amnon, good or bad. He waited, plotted his revenge, arranged the circumstance and then gave the order. To look at him, no one would guess what he was harboring within his vengeful heart.

Absalom was not what he seemed to be. On the outside he was a sight to behold. He pretended also to be something on the inside which he was not. He was a great pretender. He willingly manipulated others to get what he wanted (II SAMUEL 15:2-5). Absalom's first priority was to make you think that he was interested in you, when really he was only interested in himself.


"So when Joab came to the king and told him, he called for Absalom. Thus he came to the king and prostrated himself on his face before the king, and the king kissed Absalom." (II SAMUEL 14:33). Absalom had been in hiding in a foreign land because of his murder of Amnon. He wanted to go back home. Would King David forgive Absalom, his son, for the murder of Amnon, also David's son, and receive him back ? Absalom sent Joab to David to inquire, and David invited Absalom to come home.

As Absalom enters into King David's presence, he humbles himself bowing face down to the ground. It is a time of reckoning. Is his repentance genuine? Is he ready to become the productive son he could be? Is he ready to be faithful to God, the king, and Israel? He can. It is his choice.

Sadly, Absalom has no intention of living like he ought. All this was simply another show, with Absalom's ultimate goal being to overthrow his own father. He let this opportunity of a fresh and honorable start slip by, seemingly hardly noticing it at all. Just like far too many today, who insist on continuing on the path that leads to destruction (MATTHEW 7:13,14).


"Now it came about that after this that Absalom provided for himself a chariot and horses, and fifty men as runners before him." (II SAMUEL 15:1). This man knew how to make an entrance! Absalom began to undermine his father's authority while advancing his own (15:1-6). David's love, patience and mercy for Absalom was not at all appreciated. Absalom was blinded by his ambition. He was full of pride and his thirst for glory could not be satisfied.

Our heavenly Father is also patient. Often, men take his patience as a license to live in rebellion against Him. Such stubborn unrepentance will only result in wrath and judgment, tribulation and distress (ROMANS 2:4-11).


"But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel saying, 'As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then you shall say, 'Absalom is king in Hebron." (II SAMUEL 15:10). Absalom had asked his father for permission to go to Hebron and worship the Lord. He said that he had made a vow to serve the Lord. This, no doubt, made David very happy. But it was a lie. Absalom's lies had sunk to a new low (15:7-10). Absalom was going to Hebron not to worship God, but to rebel against God's anointed one, the King of Israel. Events transpired quickly, and Absalom, through intrigue of various sorts, amassed enough power to drive David from Jerusalem and into hiding (15:13,14). But already David was gathering his supporters who were scattered and caught by surprise. Absalom, for all his plans, had gained a temporary upper hand. But it was only temporary, for men of such natures can build nothing that is worthwhile or lasting.


"Now Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. For Absalom was riding on his mule, and his mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. And his head caught fast in the oak, so that he was left hanging between heaven and earth, so that the mule that was under him kept going... Then Joab said, 'I will not waste time here with you.' So he took three spears in his hand and thrust them through the heart of Absalom while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak." (II SAMUEL 18:9,14). The battle had gone bad for Absalom. He had not forseen that. He met up with servants of David on his escape route. He hadn't forseen that, either. Nor had he forseen getting his head caught in the tree. Nor that his old friend, Joab, would run him through with three spears.

There are many things that people like Absalom do not see. They do not see that there are awful consequences for living godless lives. They do not understand that those who rebel against God cannot win. Oh, to be sure, they may enjoy temporary gains, but they cannot win.

Absalom could have accomplished so much. What a waste! How often it happens today. Serving God is the only reasonable alternative to this kind of utter failure.

"Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up for himself a pillar which is in the King's Valley... he named the pillar after his own name, and it is called Absalom's monument to this day." (II SAMUEL 18:18). He could have left so much more. Just like those today who are exalted to celebrity status in our own nation while living lives of degradation and ruin. Whatever monuments they leave to us when they pass from the scene, it could have been so much more.

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 1.9; September, 1994