2 Samuel 18.1-18
Absalom’s Defeat and Death
18 David now mustered the men who were with him and appointed generals and captains[a] to lead them. 2 He sent the troops out in three groups, placing one group under Joab, one under Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and one under Ittai, the man from Gath. The king told his troops, “I am going out with you.”
3 But his men objected strongly. “You must not go,” they urged. “If we have to turn and run—and even if half of us die—it will make no difference to Absalom’s troops; they will be looking only for you. You are worth 10,000 of us,[b] and it is better that you stay here in the town and send help if we need it.”
4 “If you think that’s the best plan, I’ll do it,” the king answered. So he stood alongside the gate of the town as all the troops marched out in groups of hundreds and of thousands.
5 And the king gave this command to Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: “For my sake, deal gently with young Absalom.” And all the troops heard the king give this order to his commanders.
6 So the battle began in the forest of Ephraim, 7 and the Israelite troops were beaten back by David’s men. There was a great slaughter that day, and 20,000 men laid down their lives. 8 The battle raged all across the countryside, and more men died because of the forest than were killed by the sword.
9 During the battle, Absalom happened to come upon some of David’s men. He tried to escape on his mule, but as he rode beneath the thick branches of a great tree, his hair[c] got caught in the tree. His mule kept going and left him dangling in the air. 10 One of David’s men saw what had happened and told Joab, “I saw Absalom dangling from a great tree.”
11 “What?” Joab demanded. “You saw him there and didn’t kill him? I would have rewarded you with ten pieces of silver[d] and a hero’s belt!”
12 “I would not kill the king’s son for even a thousand pieces of silver,[e]” the man replied to Joab. “We all heard the king say to you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘For my sake, please spare young Absalom.’ 13 And if I had betrayed the king by killing his son—and the king would certainly find out who did it—you yourself would be the first to abandon me.”
14 “Enough of this nonsense,” Joab said. Then he took three daggers and plunged them into Absalom’s heart as he dangled, still alive, in the great tree. 15 Ten of Joab’s young armor bearers then surrounded Absalom and killed him.
16 Then Joab blew the ram’s horn, and his men returned from chasing the army of Israel. 17 They threw Absalom’s body into a deep pit in the forest and piled a great heap of stones over it. And all Israel fled to their homes.
18 During his lifetime, Absalom had built a monument to himself in the King’s Valley, for he said, “I have no son to carry on my name.” He named the monument after himself, and it is known as Absalom’s Monument to this day.
18:1 Hebrew appointed commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds.
18:3 As in two Hebrew manuscripts and some Greek and Latin manuscripts; most Hebrew manuscripts read Now there are 10,000 like us.
18:9 Hebrew his head.
18:11 Hebrew 10 [shekels] of silver, about 4 ounces or 114 grams in weight.
18:12 Hebrew 1,000 [shekels] of silver, about 25 pounds or 11.4 kilograms in weight.
I often wonder what is it about leadership that draws others not to follow? More often than not, people are asked to lead, voted into place, or otherwise chosen to be a leader. And yet most do not follow their direction.
Here we clearly see King David wanting to join the warring party, yet he is discouraged to do so. Instead he is left behind and therefore has even less influence on the battlefield. Before his men leave to fight in his stead, he gives the direct command to go easy on his son, for he is young and vulnerable, still loved deeply by his father.
When the time comes, Absalom ensnares himself in a tree in the forest and is seen by others. Although some stand back and remember the orders they were given by the king, others lung forward. Without the ability to fight back, Absalom's life is taken... three daggers and then a mob ensues. Not even his body was brought back for proper burial. A king's love for his son is thrown down in that pit and covered with rocks... along with all dignity and respect. For it seems Joab and others have none for their leader.