Tomb of Absalom

Tomb of David's Son Absalom

The traditional site of Absalom's Tomb is located on the eastern slope of the Kidron Valley, on the east side of Jerusalem. Josephus wrote about this tomb, which existed in the first century A.D. (Antiquities vii. 10, 3). It stands twenty feet high and twenty-four feet square. (See Sketch of 1st Century Jerusalem).

Archaeologists have determined that the shrine can be dated back to the first century A.D. It has been traditionally identified as the tomb of Absalom, the son of King David who led a rebellion against him.

Rebellious Children were taught in Judaism to throw stones at "Yad Avshalom" the shrine of Absalom to learn what rebellion leads to, ""if any one in Jerusalem has a disobedient child, he shall take him out to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, to Absalom's Monument, and force him, by words or stripes, to hurl stones at it, and to curse Absalom; meanwhile telling him the life and fate of that rebellious son."

"Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a pillar, which [is] in the king's dale: for he said, I have no son to keep my name in remembrance: and he called the pillar after his own name: and it is called unto this day, Absalom's place."
- 2 Samuel 18:18

" 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 Samuel 14:25-26

2 Samuel 16:8 - The LORD hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the LORD hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son: and, behold, thou [art taken] in thy mischief, because thou [art] a bloody man.

2 Samuel 18:17 - And they took Absalom, and cast him into a great pit in the wood, and laid a very great heap of stones upon him: and all Israel fled every one to his tent.

Heart Message

How Absalom Turned A Nation Against King David (Part 1)

"LORD, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, "There is no help for him in God." Selah. But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head." Psalm 3:1-3

The above passage was penned by David when his son Absalom led a popular rebellion and drove him from the throne.

We sing many praise songs using Psalm 3, the pained faith of David, crying from the wilderness with his few & faithful followers. Reading back with futuristic omniscience, we know that the flawed hero is David, the villain is Absalom, and God, though disciplining David, for his own sins, kept His promises and restored David to his throne. Had we been there, would we have chosen to stand with David, or sided with the great majority who supported the rebel Absalom? How did Absalom steel the affection of Israel?

The Power of Offense

Absalom skillfully used the power of the offense, a great force of evil on fallen earth. The battle cry of sinful man is “You have done me wrong, I am a victim, and I demand justice!”

Only by the pure grace of God can any of us withstand the unforgiving grip of the offense. When we are offended, we can feel hurt, put-off, judged, condemned, manipulated, used, trashed, diminished, invalidated, humiliated, overlooked, shamed, cut off on the freeway, and insulted, to name a few. Action demanding emotions can bring us to combat, launch bitter words, split a relationship or a church. When sufficiently offended, we are all capable of great evil. Sealed tight, areas of our hearts can forever become a willing partner with the most bitter hatred, or a distant withdrawal of all love. We can become an Absalom.

The Hurtful Chronology

A grave sin - 2 Sam. 13

  • Absalom’s sister Tamar raped, rejected and shamed by his half brother Amnon
    Tamar receives no justice from King David
    2 years later Absalom conspires and kills Amnon
    Now a murderer, Absalom flees and remains banished.
    David mourning Amnon and Absalom, calls for his return after 3 years
    David still divided in heart, remains distant for 2 more years without seeing Absalom

Fighting For Forgiveness - 2 Sam 14

  • Absalom burns down General Joab’s field to gain the King’s attention.
    Absalom’s tantrum gains David’s attention and they are reconciled - somewhat...

Absalom Still Holds A Grudge - 2 Sam 15

  • Absalom conspires to overthrow David
    Absalom exploits the hurts of Israel’s citizens
    Absalom steals their allegiance

In the course of time, Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him. He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, "What town are you from?" He would answer, "Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel." Then Absalom would say to him, "Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you." And Absalom would add, "If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that he gets justice." Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him. Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the men of Israel. 2 Sam 15: 1-6

When chronic injustices have not been addressed, and suddenly a beautiful and charming rescuer appears willing to listen, oh how we can fill their ears with our complaints! How we can bond immediately with someone skillful enough to tap our reservoir of rage. David was an absentee ruler in certain ways, remote in his castle, while seething trouble boiled over in his family and kingdom.

We however, must learn to be careful and submit to the Holy Spirit, our cause may seem just, but we could be backing Absalom.

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. Rom. 12:19

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Mat. 6:12

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Col. 3:13

Heart Message #2

How Absalom Turned A Nation Against King David (Part 2)

Absalom murdered his half brother for the rape of his sister Tamar. He fled Israel. Returning after 3 years, he waited 2 more to see his father in what appears to be reconciliation. Soon after, however, Absalom began his plot to take over the kingdom from his father King David by a cunning plan of amassing political and military strength.

Though David’s sin allowed the “sword” to enter his household, the methods Absalom used to manipulate a population are worth studying.

Jesus said before his crucifixion that the prince of this world is coming and he has no hold on me. John 14:30 As Absalom began to manipulate the population of Israel, there were many worldly holds for him to exploit, ripe & ready to be manipulated.


We are attracted to beauty. If someone has the look, they start off with favorable ratings, having done nothing more than to appear.

In all Israel there was not a man so highly praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the top of his head to the sole of his foot there was no blemish in him 2 Sam. 14:25


We (fallen humans) are attracted to confidence and displays of power.

Now it came about after this that Absalom provided for himself a chariot and horses and fifty men as runners before him. 2 Sam 15:1


We love people who seem to validate our claims of justice and victim-hood.

Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way to the gate; and when any man had a suit to come to the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, "From what city are you?" And he would say, "Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel." Then Absalom would say to him, "See, your claims are good and right, but no man listens to you on the part of the king." 2 Sam. 15:2,3


Absalom was shamelessly ‘using’ the suffering within others for his own purposes, implicitly promising relief “if only he had the power”.

Moreover, Absalom would say, " Oh that one would appoint me judge in the land, then every man who has any suit or cause could come to me and I would give him justice." 2 Sam 15:4


We like people who compliment and build us up, and there is nothing wrong with giving honor to whom honor is due, but Absalom became an over the top smooth talker.

And when a man came near to prostrate himself before him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him. 2 Sam 15:5


Absalom exploited a void of justice left by David, who was absent, and not providing any leadership to deal with the civil concerns of his people.

In this manner Absalom dealt with all Israel who came to the king for judgment; so Absalom stole away the hearts of the men of Israel.


Absalom did anything but ‘go in peace’. Like the Pharisees, he put on a religious show to impress others. Perhaps he was trying to out-righteous his father.

Now it came about at the end of forty years that Absalom said to the king, "Please let me go and pay my vow which I have vowed to the LORD, in Hebron. "For your servant vowed a vow while I was living at Geshur in Aram, saying, ' If the LORD shall indeed bring me back to Jerusalem, then I will serve the LORD.'" The king said to him, "Go in peace." So he arose and went to Hebron.
1 Sam 15:7-9


Absalom used the fear of man to persuade others to go along. He created a sudden sense of finality about seizing power by making noise and hiring bold persuasive loud mouths to proclaim the seizing of power in the past tense.

Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel to say, "As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, then say, 'Absalom is king in Hebron.' " 2 Sam 15:10


In our fallen world, numbers bring credibility to any endeavor; it is a strong temptation to judge God’s approval based on how many others are present. Of course many people can be deceived, and God save by many or by few. The amount of people involved in anything means only that those people are there. It is never proof of the justness of any cause.

Then two hundred men went with Absalom from Jerusalem, who were invited and went innocently, and they did not know anything.


And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counselor, from his city Giloh, while he was offering the sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong, for the people increased continually with Absalom. 1 Sam 15:12

While Absalom was showing off his piety, he called for the man who was closest to King David, his trusted and wise counselor Ahithophel. This was decisive since the reputation of Ahithophel was spotless.

Now in those days the advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God. That was how both David and Absalom regarded all of Ahithophel's advice. 2 Sam 16:23

But if Ahithophel was so wise, why did he join Absalom’s rebellion? Perhaps his wisdom was clouded by deep & bitter resentments, privately held against the man of God he served. Perhaps Ahithophel could not keep his own heart clean but bore a secret rage. Compare 2 Sam 11:3 & 2 Sam23:34 for one possible source of abiding unforgiveness.


In the end however, the first cause of this rebellion was David’s sin, which brought a sword into his household 2 Sam 12:10,11 Yet, David was repentant (Psalm 51) and the call of God remained upon his life. The Messiah Jesus will still sit upon the throne of David. God did not abandon him but redeemed the sin of David and used it to show the power of his forgiveness.

Absalom was overthrown, his plot was destroyed, and he died in disgrace.

When an Absalom is stirring up strife and manipulating the unfinished business in the hearts of people, it is our own responsibility to guard our hearts with all diligence and not be taken in by shameless exploitation of worldly desires. It is also our responsibility to hold our leaders accountable. Many might not confront a gifted leader for fear of being an Absalom. None of us need be an Absalom by stirring up strife in secret. None of us need be manipulated by an Absalom, listening to divisiveness in secret.

It is our responsibility to walk in the light, to confront in the light, and to also cleanse our hearts of bitter resentments by walking in forgiveness.

Church splits happen. But we don’t have to be a part of it.

Also see:

Sketch of 1st Century Jerusalem

Josephus Description of Jerusalem