Absalom and Abishalom (1 Kin. 15:2, 10) [father of peace].
1. The third son of David, king of Israel. He was born in Hebron, and had for his mother Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur, in Aram (2 Sam. 3:3).
He was of faultless form, and had long, fine hair, of which he was inordinately vain. His beauty was shared by his sister Tamar, who so fascinated her half-brother Amnon that he criminally dishonored her, for which two years afterwards he was treacherously assassinated at the instance of Absalom, whose guest he was at the time. Though Absalom was his father's favorite, his crime was too gross to be overlooked even by his indulgent parent. He had to go into exile, and remained three years with his maternal connections in Geshur, and two more at Jerusalem, before he was allowed to return to the court or see his royal father.
He soon afterwards deliberately set himself to win the hearts of the people away from the king his father, and when the plot was ripe, repaired, under false pretences, to Hebron, and raised the standard of rebellion. The perfection of his bodily frame marked him out for rule of the highest kind. Probably he had heard that Solomon was to succeed David, and considered the arrangement unfair to himself, as he was the elder of the two brothers, and, unlike Solomon, was by the mother's as well as the father's side of royal blood. Whether or not he was aware that it was by the divine choice, as recorded in 1 Chrou. 22:7-10, that Solomon was designated to the sovereignty, is less certain; if he did know it, then in a theocracy like the Jewish, the enormity of his rebellion was further heightened. It is noticeable, in connection with this point, that the priests and Levites sided with David, and brought him much moral as well as material support; but the mass of the people seem to have gone against him, and he had to escape with a few faithful followers from Jerusalem to save his life. Of David's two chief counselors, the abler one, Ahithophel, had gone over to Absalom; the other, Hushai, was faithful to David, and went after the fugitive king. David sent him back to Jerusalem to pretend adherence to Absalom, and thwart the counsel of Ahithophel. When the time arrived for offering advice to Absalom, Ahithophel astutely recommended that he should be allowed to take 12,000 men that very night and follow David before David recovered from his depression. He would kill only the king, and the people would then come over to Absalom. Before the scheme was carried out, Hushai was asked if he adhered to it, and of course he raised objections, and proposed a rival scheme of his own, so preposterous that it does not say much for Absalom's penetration that he did not see it was meant to effect his ruin. Hushai counseled long delay, a course which would really tend to make Absalom weaker and David stronger. He flattered Absalom's self-conceit by proposing that he should be commander, which would give the army a poor leader. When victory was achieved, which he assumed to be a certainty, he provided that there should be extensive and unnecessary bloodshed, a serious political blunder as well as a great crime. Hushai's absurd scheme, however, recommended itself to Absalom and the people, and Ahithophel, seeing that it was all over with the rebellion, went home and committed suicide. Hushai, understanding that the danger was not yet over, sent David counsel immediately to cross the Jordan, which he did. Absalom and the rebel army were beginning to revert to the policy of Ahithophel; and ultimately a compromise was made between his plan and that of Hushai, i.e. hostilities should be immediate, but Absalom should be the commander-in-chief. The battle took place in the wood of Ephraim, apparently near Mahanaim, where David was then residing. The rebel host, undisciplined and badly led, went down at once before David's veterans, handled by three skillful commanders. When the rout took place, Absalom, riding furiously on a mule, got his head entangled among the spreading branches of an oak, great disservice being done him by the long hair of which he was so vain. The animal ran away, leaving him hanging helplessly, but alive. Joab, one of the three commanders, thrust three darts through the heart of the unhappy prince, and ten of Joab's immediate followers surrounding him completed the slaughter. David had given express directions that Absalom should not be injured, and on hearing of his death he gave himself up to excessive grief (2 Sam. 13:1-19:8). Abjsalom was buried near the place where he died, in a pit under a great cairn of stones. He had reared for himself a pillar at Jerusalem to keep his name in remembrance (18:17, 18). What is now called Absalom's tomb is in the valley of the Kidron. The decorations date from the Greco-Roman period, but the chamber itself may be older. According to the title, Ps. 3 was composed by David during Absalom's rebellion; perhaps also Ps. 7.
2. Father of Mattathias and probably of Jonathan, captains of the Jewish army under the Maccabees Jonathan and Simon (1 Mac. 11:70; 13:11; Antiq. 13:5, 7; 6, 4).