Absalom's flight & his rebellion against David

2 Sam 13:1-22    In c.993BC, David’s son Amnon rapes his half-sister Tamar. Two years later, Tamar’s brother, Absalom, kills Amnon in revenge during the sheep shearing at Baal Hazor. Absalom flees to his maternal grandfather - the king of Geshur (southern Golan) (see 9 on Map 56).

2 Sam 14:1-33    After three years in exile, Absalom returns to Jerusalem. After a further two years, he is granted an audience with King David in c.989BC.

2 Sam 15:1-12    Absalom uses the next four years to gain popularity among the people of Israel. He goes to Hebron (where David became King of Judah) to plot a coup and overthrow his father. In c.985BC, Absalom declares himself king at Hebron and marches towards Jerusalem (see 10 on Map 56).


Remains of ancient city wall at Hebron (Eman)

Remains of ancient city wall at Hebron  (Eman)


2 Sam 15:13-23    David hears about Absalom’s rebellion and flees from Jerusalem across the Kidron Brook (see 11 on Map 56).

2 Sam 15:24-37    David orders Zadok the priest to stay in Jerusalem with the Ark of the Covenant. David weeps over the city as he reaches the Mount of Olives and sends Hushai back to Jerusalem to act as an informer.

2 Sam16:1-14    Ziba, Mephibosheth’s servant, provides donkeys and food for the royal party to escape from Jerusalem. Shimei, a descendent of Saul, curses David at Bahurim on the road to Jericho. David and his party reach the fords of the River Jordan, to the east of Jericho.

2 Sam 16:15-23    Meanwhile, Absalom has taken over Jerusalem. He lies with his father’s concubines (as Nathan prophesied – see 2 Samuel 12:11) to demonstrate publicly his contempt for his father.

2 Sam 17:1-14    Ahithophel advises Absalom to pursue David immediately with a small force and kill him. Hushai, however, persuades Absalom to consolidate his position before attacking David with a large army.

2 Sam 17:15-20    Hushai asks Zadok the priest to send a message secretly to David, urging him not to spend the night at the fords of the Jordan. Meanwhile, Zadok's son Ahimaaz and Abiathar's son Jonathan are waiting at the spring of En Rogel (the ‘well of the fuller’) on the outskirts of Jerusalem, to receive the message. They are spotted by a boy who informs Absalom and are forced to hide in a well in the courtyard of a house at Bahurim. Eventually, they escape and take the message to David.

2 Sam 17:21-29    David immediately crosses the River Jordan and reaches Mahanaim on the north bank of the River Jabbok, where he is able to gather reinforcements around him (see 12 on Map 56).

2 Sam 18:1-33    Absalom then pursues David and the two armies clash in the Forest of Ephraim in c.984BC (see 13 on Map 56). Absalom is killed by Joab.


River Jabbok near Mahanaim  (Dr.Meierhofer)

River Jabbok near Mahanaim  (Dr Meierhofer)


Absalom’s Rebellion and the Battle of Ephraim

King David had many wives and sons (see 2 Samuel 3:2-5, 5:13-16, 11:27 &12:24) and as the principle of primogeniture (inheritance by the eldest son) had not been adopted in David’s day, the controversial issue of his successor was far from clear.

David favoured his youngest son, Solomon, the child of Bathsheba, but his third eldest son Absalom (who had already killed David’s eldest son Amnon – see 2 Samuel 13:23-33) had other ideas. Absalom was the grandson of the King of Geshur (the area covering the southern Golan, later known as Gaulanitis).

After spending three years in exile in Geshur for killing his half-brother Amnon (who had raped Absalom’s sister Tamar - see 2 Samuel 13:1-38), Absalom was brought back to Jerusalem by David’s general, Joab (see 2 Samuel 14:23). But it was two more years before David summoned Absalom to grant him a pardon (see 2 Samuel 14:28 & 33).

Resentful of his father, Absalom moved to the southern capital of Hebron, where he stirred up considerable opposition to David. Declaring himself king at Hebron, Absalom then marched on Jerusalem to depose his father (see 2 Samuel 15:7-12).

Caught by surprise, David fled from Jerusalem with his court retinue and his personal bodyguard of six hundred mercenary soldiers from Gath. Persuaded by Hushai, a trusted advisor of David who had been left behind in Jerusalem, Absalom failed to pursue David immediately. So David escaped across the River Jordan to the well-defended city of Mahanaim, where he was able to re-group and summon assistance (see 2 Samuel 17:1-28).

In the ensuing Battle of Ephraim, Absalom got caught up in the boughs of an oak tree as his donkey rode past, and was killed by Joab. David returned to Jerusalem, where what was once believed to be Absalom's tomb can still be seen today in the Kidron Valley (see 2 Samuel 18:1-18). In fact, the distinctive bottle-top shaped Absalom’s Monument, actually dates from the 4th or 5th century BC - some 500 years after Absalom's death.


Absalom's Tomb

'Absalom's Tomb' in the Kidron Valley, Jerusalem


When David lay dying in 971 BC, the succession was still uncertain, and David’s fourth son, Adonijah, attempted to claim the throne with the support of David’s general, Joab. Only quick thinking by Nathan, the prophet, ensured that David’s favourite son, Solomon was anointed and proclaimed king by Zadok the High Priest (see 1 Kings 1:1-53).


2 Sam 19:1-43    David returns to Jerusalem. The men of David’s tribe – Judah – come to Gilgal to meet the king and bring him back across the River Jordan (see 14 on Map 56).

2 Sam 20:1-26    Sheba plans a further rebellion at Gilgal. Joab pursues him to Abel Beth Maacah (meaning ‘meadow of the house of oppression’) where the inhabitants kill Sheba to save their city from destruction.

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