Poor Absalom.  His very name has become synonymous with being a deceiver and a corrupt usurper of authority.  It’s gotta be like having the name Judas or Jezebel. You pretty much have a bad-rap from the get-go.

Absalom was the third son of King David. 2 Samuel 14:25 refers to him as the most handsome man in the Kingdom. A virtual Fabio. Oddly, Absalom’s name means “Leader of Peace.”

Absalom ultimately was killed during the Battle of Ephraim Wood, but prior to that he was the point-man for a rebellious coup. 2 Samuel 15 gives us a birds-eye view to this rebellion. We see in vs. 13 that “the hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom.”

How did this happen?  Let me show you.  Verses 1-12 gives us the Anatomy of an Absalom.

1.  Special Allowances (vs. 1)

Absalom “provided himself with a chariot and horses and fifty men to run ahead of him.” This was quite an allowance. Notice that he provided himself. It wasn’t given, but rather, taken. I think big deceptions begin with small decisions. Like John Wooden says, “It’s the small things that make the big things come together.” He said this in reference to the care that basketball players are to give to putting on their socks and shoes. This sounds like a seemingly small issue, but it becomes BIG when the blisters are forming!

Be careful of the small, special allowances that lead to blisters…of the soul.

2. Gathering Disgruntled People (vs. 2)

Absalom would get up early in the day and stand by the side of the road that led to the city gate. It was here that he would catch people on their way to complain to the King. Before David could hear their complaint, Absalom would gather them up and lend a listening ear. Was he being helpful?  Nope. Not whatsoever!

3. Coddling Disgruntled People (vs. 3)

Not only did Absalom listen, but he would give license. Catch what vs. 3 says: “Look, your claims are valid and proper…”  In other words, “I hear you and I agree with you. I’m your man. No need to go to the King, cause he’s so busy.”

Are you starting to see where this is going?

4. Wishful Thinking & Hollow Promises (vs. 4)

Now an Absalom will start to show her/his hand. “If only I were appointed a leader in the land! Then everyone with a complaint or case could come to me and I would make sure he gets justice.” Ouch.

This is full of wishful thinking (if only) and hollow promises (then).  It sounds like the sort of rhetoric that we hear from politicians trying to wrangle our votes, only to not deliver upon their bold declarations.

5. Undue Affection (vs. 5,6)

When I say “undue affection” I really mean “butt-kissing” (just saying it like it is!). In vs. 5 and 6 people would approach Absalom – they would bow – but Absalom would reach out his hand, take ahold of them, and pull them in for a kiss. He gave undue affection in order to “steal the hearts of the men of Israel.”

6. Long-Term Scheming (vs. 7,8)

The text says that “after four years Absalom said (he didn’t ask) to the King, ‘Let me go to Hebron….”  Some Septuagint manuscripts and writings of Josephus have translated the length of time not as “four” but as “forty.”  That’s a big difference. I’m not sure which one is accurate, but I am certain of this:  whether four or forty, Absalom was a long-term schemer! He knew that his plan to dismantle and usurp the throne was gonna be a slow and systematic one.

7. Secretiveness (vs. 10)

Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the land to declare that he was the King of Hebron. Their secret cue was the sound of trumpets. Secretiveness is a common trait in the Anatomy of an Absalom. Private meetings. Winks. Nods. Cryptic emails. Conversations that begin with “Let’s keep this between ourselves.”

If it’s hush-hush then it’s probably no-no.

8. Recruitment of Innocent bystanders AND Insiders

The final characteristic that I noticed in 2 Samuel 15 has to do with the variety of people that Absalom recruited as his coup gained strength. First he enlisted 200 men from Jerusalem that went innocently and “knew nothing about the matter.”  This is classic. Some people don’t have an clue what’s going on, but they are smitten with charismatic leadership.  Then there was a key insider that was recruited. It happened to be one of David’s close counselors from his hometown. Most likely, a friend.


Each of above points form the Anatomy of an Absalom – a person who seeks to deceive, divide and conquer. Should we be suspect of every person with a desire for influence?  No. Every team needs plenty of capable leaders with initiative. But we must be aware of those that seek to take control and function unsubmitted to authority. This is unhealthy for any and all organizations.

God’s heart is for unity in His Body. He wants everyone to lead together for PEACE.



3 Responses

  1. Thanks for posting Becky. I found the length of time astounding as well – four, forty…frankly, four minutes feels like a long time to me!  

  2. interesting. He really was in it for the long haul, the amount of planning that would require is amazing.  Thanks for posting this, I needed something to ponder today.

  3. Great comments for all of us in leadership under others…which of course is all of us. It is usually a long road of bad decisions that lead to such deviant events.. 

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