Journey Through The Scriptures

David, Part III

Lesson 4: Defeat and Death of Absalom

(Scripture to Read: 2 Samuel 17:24–18:33)

It is impossible to read this account of Absalom’s defeat and death without feeling the depths of David’s utter grief. He was of such value to his troops that they refused to let David go out with them to battle Absalom and his rebel army, lest something happen to the king. We must not overlook the great sadness of the reality that all the casualties of battle that day were Israelites— brother against brother, as so often happens in civil war. The battle took place in thick growth, so it is not surprising that Absalom became caught by a low-hanging branch. The popular idea that he was caught by his long hair does not come from Scripture, but it would have been poetic justice in one sense!

The soldier of David’s army who reported Absalom’s plight to Joab had heard David pointedly order his men not to harm his rebel son. But true to form, Joab did not hesitate at all to kill Absalom. The curious mixture of cruelty and compassion in Joab came out again as he sought to make sure that the news of Absalom’s death was broken to David gently. Absalom was buried in a pit in the forest with nothing but a pile of rocks to mark his grave, a stark contrast to the monument he had built to himself. As everyone knew would happen, David was immediately plunged into inconsolable grief by the news that Absalom was dead.

Study Questions

  1. How did the men mentioned in 2 Samuel 17:27 show their love and loyalty to David?
  2. Why were David’s men so fearful that something might happen to him if he went with them into the battle?
  3. What happened to Absalom’s rebellion after his death?
  4. Why did Joab insist that a Cushite servant, a foreigner, be the one to deliver the news of Absalom’s death to David?

Something to Think About

This story of David and the sorrow that attended him occurred years after his affair with Bathsheba—but was still the result of God’s judgment on him and his family (2 Samuel 12:11).

A sobering reminder that our actions can have serious consequences!