Because Absalom coveted and temporarily usurped the kingdom, David and the faithful subjects were forced to flee Jerusalem.
A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son:
LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah. But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah. I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about. Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah (Psa. 3).
As Absalom was growing up, he must have been a delight to both his father and his mother. The scriptures say he had physical beauty and personal charisma far beyond anyone else in the kingdom.
But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. And when he polled his head, (for it was at every year’s end that he polled it: because the hair was heavy on him, therefore he polled it:) he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels after the king’s weight (2 Sam. 14:25-26).
His mother was Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur (2 Sam 3:3). What a delight it would be for any parent to envision the potential of such a child as Absalom. However, it appears that Absalom allowed himself to become proud of his ability or his appearance and that pride eventually destroyed him.
The first glimpse we have of Absalom is when he seeks vengeance for the defilement and rejection of his beautiful sister Tamar (2 Sam. 13:1-39). Another son of David had fallen in love with Tamar and longed for her so much that an evil friend arranged that he should entice her to commit fornication with him. Tamar was not to be enticed by such immorality, so Amnon forced her—afterward casting her away with more vehement feelings of hatred than his first passion for her. Her life was ruined because she was no longer a virgin daughter of the king. The Mosaic Law would have provided punishment for her attacker if only Absalom had obeyed the law and let his father and the priests have time to do their work.
The law made clear that what had been done to Tamar was wrong (see Lev. 18:9-11; compare with Lev. 20:17), but what Amnon did was still not punishable by death because Tamar had not been betrothed to anyone. If he had done the right thing according to the law, he could have married her. No doubt King David as well as the whole nation of Israel were waiting to see whether Amnon would repent and marry the virgin whom he had defiled.
But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die: But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbor, and slayeth him, even so is this matter: For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her. If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days (Deut. 22:25-29).
When Amnon thrust her away after committing his evil act, Tamar tore her clothes and put ashes on her head to show her grief. She begged Amnon to cover the shame by making her his wife.
And I, whither shall I cause my shame to go? and as for thee, thou shalt be as one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, I pray thee, speak unto the king; for he will not withhold me from thee (2 Sam. 13:13).
But Amnon did not do his duty by Tamar, nor did Absalom wait for the law to take its course. He took the law into his own hands and killed his brother. Afterward he fled to the protection of his maternal grandfather for the next three years.
But Absalom fled, and went to Talmai, the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son every day. So Absalom fled, and went to Geshur, and was there three years. And the soul of King David longed to go forth unto Absalom: for he was comforted concerning Amnon, seeing he was dead (2 Sam. 13:37-39).
David’s beautiful son did not follow the law, and thus he became a murderer. Who would ever have dreamed that a beautiful son whom David had loved could cause such grief? No doubt David wept for his soul. Not only would David want to be with this son, but most of all he also would want to see him obey the Heavenly Father in order to save his soul. No doubt David mourned more for the folly Absalom had committed than for his absence.
When our children go astray, nobody in the world grieves as much as we do. Nights and days are consumed with tears and thoughts of despair. There is never as much pain over a lost soul as there is for a son or daughter who goes astray.
The next time we see Absalom, is after Joab tricks David into bringing him back into the kingdom. Joab actually pulled a series of tricks to force David to be reconciled with Absalom whether he had repented or not. And once David had given his word (even though he had been deceived), he did not go back on it. David allowed Absalom to return to Jerusalem, where he was able to carry out his treacherous plans.
And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him. And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel. And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee. Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice! And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him. And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel. And it came to pass after forty years, that Absalom said unto the king, I pray thee, let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed unto the LORD, in Hebron. For thy servant vowed a vow while I abode at Geshur in Syria, saying, If the LORD shall bring me again indeed to Jerusalem, then I will serve the LORD. And the king said unto him, Go in peace. So he arose, and went to Hebron (2 Sam. 15:1-9).
Finally, the day came when the situation was ripe for Absalom to carry out a coup to take the kingdom away from his father. Even though David had done nothing worthy of such treatment, nor was he an unrighteous king, Absalom obviously despised his father and coveted his position. Perhaps it was envy. Maybe it was pride combined with jealousy, but whatever it was, Absalom was totally wrong to have the loathing for David that he had. Little did he know that God would kill him for his evil against his father.
And there came a messenger to David, saying, The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom. And David said unto all his servants that were with him at Jerusalem, Arise, and let us flee; for we shall not else escape from Absalom: make speed to depart, lest he overtake us suddenly, and bring evil upon us, and smite the city with the edge of the sword. And the king’s servants said unto the king, Behold, thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my lord the king shall appoint. And the king went forth, and all his household after him. And the king left ten women, which were concubines, to keep the house (2 Sam 15:13-16).
David mustered his men and sent out three groups to put down the rebellion. David commanded his soldiers not to harm Absalom. He obviously wanted to spare his life so that there could be time for him to repent. David loved Absalom deeply, and his love caused him to accept shame at Absalom’s hand rather than retaliate. David could easily have put down the rebellion by having Absalom killed, but he would rather suffer wrong at his hand than to cause him to lose his soul in death. Finally, when the news of victory was brought to David, the first thing he asked was for the welfare of his traitorous son.
And the king said unto Cushi, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Cushi answered, The enemies of my lord the king, and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt, be as that young man is. And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son! (2 Sam. 18:32-33).
The death of Absalom was no comfort to David, because he knew that Absalom was not in a right relationship with God. David would far rather have given up his own life and left Absalom to live, because in life there is hope. In Absalom’s death, there was no hope for his repentance.
What does God think of a child who lifts his hand against his father or mother? For further study, read: Lev. 20:9; Deut. 5:16; Deut. 21:18-21; Deut. 27:16. Finally, consider the very plain New Testament teaching on the topic of respect for the parents God has given us.
For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death (Matt. 15:4; Mark 7:10).