by Wayne Blank
King David was a brilliant and successful warrior (see David And Goliath), God's chosen leader for that stage in Bible History. But his family life was one disaster after another. The situation with David's numerous wives and concubines created a highly competitive environment among all of the children - after all, there could only be one successor to the throne.
The troubles began when Amnon, David's oldest son, assaulted his half-sister Tamar, Absalom's sister (2 Samuel 13-1-22). Absalom bided his time, and when the opportunity arose two years later during the sheep shearing time at Baal Hazor, he had his brother Amnon killed (2 Samuel 13:23-29). Thinking that it was the start of a general massacre of competitors to the throne, all of the king's other sons fled for their lives back to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 13:29-33). Absalom then took refuge with his mother's father at Geshur, northeast of The Sea Of Galilee, where he remained for three years (2 Samuel 13:37-38).
King David mourned for his dead son, Amnon, and also for the fugitive Absalom, although guilty of fratricide (2 Samuel 13:39). Eventually, David permitted Absalom's return to Jerusalem, although two more years would go by before the king agreed to meet with him. Although David mourned Absalom's absence, the king still couldn't stand the sight of him. (2 Samuel 14:28).
Absalom then made his move, not merely to succeed his father as king, but to replace his father while he was still reigning. Through scheming politics, he managed to gain the support of a large portion of the people. Absalom then moved to Hebron, the previous capital city of Judah, and declared himself king - thereby triggering a civil war between himself and his father. (2 Samuel 15:1-12)
The attempted coup was successful at the beginning, so much so that David found it necessary to flee from Jerusalem to Mahanaim, across the Jordan. In one of the darkest times of David's life, Absalom then took over the throne in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 15:13-37). It seemed like the end for David, except for one undefeatable reality - God had already decided who would succeed David, and the choice wasn't the vain and disloyal Absalom.
The matter was settled on the battlefield where Absalom and his followers proved to be no match for David, the commanders who remained loyal to him - and the will of Almighty God. Absalom lost 20,000 of his troops, and the rest were put to flight. Absalom himself, while making a hasty retreat riding a mule, got his head caught in the branches of an oak tree. Joab, one of David's commanders, then ran Absalom through with 3 javelins. His body was then thrown into a pit in the forest (2 Samuel 18:1-18). The rebellion, and Absalom's life, were over.
Fact Finder: Did David's grief over the death of the rebellious Absalom almost cost him the kingship?