David's Downside


Copied from the sermon notes of Pastor Don Elmore

April 21, 2024

Scripture Reading: Psalm 55:12-14:

12) “For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it; neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him:

13) But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance.

14) We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.”

King David is one of the great heroes of Israel. He was a shepherd, who as a boy and young man, killed a bear and a lion, protecting his flock. As a teenager, he slew the giant Goliath when there was no one in Israel’s army who would even attempt to fight him. He was a loyal subject of King Saul who refused to murder him when he had the chance, for he refused to kill the Lord’s anointed.

Then who is this Psalm referring to in these verses? It was not a foreign enemy; it was not one that hated King David; but it was one,at one time, who took sweet counsel together with him and one who walked in the house of God in company with Him. Who was this enemy that David couldn’t have tolerated. Was it someone from his own family?

But first we must get some background information on King David.    


Did King David have one, two or three wives? Most Christians know of the wife that he stole from one of his generals but know little else about who his wives were. But King David had many wives.

Deuteronomy 17:17: “Neither shall he [the kings of Israel] multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.”

Although King David had a multitude of wives, according to the Bible, only eight of them are named. Of the eight, five are mentioned only once. The other three wives figure prominently in the story of King David.

David’s first wife was Michal, the daughter of King Saul. Her story begins in 1 Samuel 18 and 19. Saul gave Michal to David to marry after David defeated a hundred Philistines. But Saul, always fearful of young David’s popularity with the people, planned to kill his new son-in-law. However, Michal, who loved David, warned him of the plot and helped him escape.

After Michal successfully spoiled her father’s plans, she was given to another man. But after David became king of Israel, Michal was given back as his wife the second time (2 Samuel 3). She later despised David when she saw him dancing before the Lord (2 Samuel 6:14–22). Michal had no children, perhaps in punishment for mocking the servant of the Lord (verse 23). Or maybe it was for violating God’s law of marriage, divorce, and remarriage.

The story of David’ssecond wife, Abigail, is told in 1 Samuel 25. She was originally the wife of Nabal, an evil man who disrespected David. In his anger, David planned to attack and kill Nabal and all his household. Abigail, a wise and prudent woman, met David as he and his men were approaching. She bowed down to him and convinced him not to seek revenge and cause bloodshed. David recognized that her good judgment was a gift to him from God. Abigail returned to Nabal and told him how close he had come to death. Nabal’s “heart diedwithin him, and he became as a stone” (verse 37). Ten days later, God struck Nabal, and he died, and Abigail then became David’s wife.

The sad story of David’s third wife Bathsheba is well-known (2 Samuel 11:1–17). She was originally the wife of Uriah, a trusted soldier in David’s army. While Uriah was away at war, David saw Bathsheba bathing in her courtyard one night. David should have been with his armed forces, but he made the mistake of staying behind.

Bathsheba was beautiful, and David lusted after her. Even knowing she was another man’s wife, David summoned her to his palace and slept with her. When she found that she was pregnant, she informed David, and the king, rather than repent over his sinful actions, tried to cover his sin up.

David ordered that Uriah be placed on the front lines of the battlefield where he was to be abandoned by his fellow soldiers and killed by the enemy. Then David married Bathsheba, but their child died shortly after birthbecause of David’s sin. David chronicled his sin and repentance over these evil acts in Psalm 51.

David and Bathsheba had four more children, other than the child that died less than eight days old;Shimea, Shobab, Nathan and Solomon (1 Chronicles 3:5). Their son Solomon ruled as King of Israel after his father’s death.

The other five named wives of David were Ahinoam, Maakah, Haggith, Abital, and Eglah (2 Samuel 3:2–5; 1 Chronicles 3:1–3). According to 2 Samuel 5:13, David married more wives in Jerusalem, but how many is unknown.


These are the named children, plus a little information about each of them:

1) Amnon. David’s firstborn by his wife Ahinoam was a man of low character and driven by lust. He became obsessed with his half-sister Tamar (daughter of Maakah) and lured her to his room on false pretenses so he could rape her. He was later murdered in revenge by Tamar’s full brother, Absalom (2 Samuel 13).

2) Daniel. Nothing is known of David’s second son, born to his wife Abigail.

3) Absalom. Third in line, Absalom is one of David’s most notorious sons. A son of David’s wife Maakah, Absalom was hot-tempered and power-hungry. He planned out the murder of his half-brother Amnon to avenge the rape of his sister, and then he plotted to steal his father’s throne. He drew a following in Jerusalem, and David was forced to flee the city. To help complete his coup, Absalom had sex with David’s concubines in view of everyone. He died in battle when Joab, commander of David’s army, killed him as he helplessly hung by his long hair in a tree.

4) Adonijah. David’s fourth son, by his wife Haggith, was handsome and undisciplined (1 Kings 1:6). He is known for a failed attempt to become king of Israel after his father died (1 Kings 1:9). Adonijah was eventually executed by his half-brother Solomon, the rightful king, for continued insurrection and attempts to steal the throne (1 Kings 2:23–25).

5) Shephatiah. Nothing is known of David’s fifth son, born to his wife Abital.

6) Ithream. Nothing is known of this son by David’s wife Eglah.

7) Shimea (Shammua). A son of Bathsheba, David’s seventh son was born in Jerusalem, but nothing else is known about him.

8) Shobab. Another son of Bathsheba; nothing else is known about him.

9) Nathan. David’s eighth son was also Bathsheba’s, and nothing else is known of him. We can surmise that Nathan was named after the prophet Nathan, who had a long-term association with David.

10) Solomon (also called Jedidiah). David’s most famous son, whose mother wasBathsheba. God chose Solomon to become the next king of Israel. God offered to grant Solomon anything he asked for. Solomon asked for wisdom to rule the people well (1 Kings 3:4–15). God was so pleased with Solomon’s request that He granted the wisdom and gave him unmatched wealth and a long life. Solomon was the author of most of the Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, and the book of Ecclesiastes.

David’s remaining children were born in Jerusalem, but we don’t know much else about them:

11) Ibhar

12) Elishama

13) Eliphelet

14) Nogah

15) Nepheg

16) Japhia, another

17) Elishama

18) Eliada, another

19) Eliphelet

20) Tamar. We do not know Tamar’s position in the birth order but do know she was the daughter of Maakah. We are told of her rape at the hands of her half-brother Amnon and that afterwards she lived in isolation at her brother Absalom’s house (2 Samuel 13:20).

21) Jerimoth. David had a son, who is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 11:18. It’s not clear whether he is one of the sons mentioned above (using another name) or if he was one of David’s sons by a concubine.

22-?) It is likely that David had many more sons and daughters who are not recorded in Scripture, as he had more wives and concubines than the ones who are identified (1 Chronicles 3:9).

1 Chronicles 3:9: “These were all the sons of David, beside the sons of the concubines, and Tamar their sister.”

David, one of the greatest kings of Israel, if not the greatest, had more than eight wives, an unknown number of concubines and over twenty-two sons and daughters. Was he a good husband to his many wives and was he a good father to all his children?

Does the high number of wives, concubines, and children that David had surprise you? How do you think his many relationships with his wives and his relationships with his children were? Do you think that he had as much success as he did in his military and political escapades?

Do you think that you had more success or less success than David had in his marriages and children? Is your marriage better than any of one of David’s? Is the relationship you have with your children better or worse than the relationship David had with his many children?

Do you think that your wife was better than any wife David had? Do you think that your parents did a better job of raising you than David did? Was your home life better or worse than what David provided?

Have any of your children committed incest with another one of your children? How would you handle that situation if it occurred? What if one of your children murdered the son who raped your daughter? How would you handle that situation? What if one son raped all the concubines, if you had any, that you had and stole your position? How would you handle that situation?

King David's farmily treeChildren don’t stay young. They grow up. They don’t automatically believe what you have learned throughout the years. They must be taught and experience the consequences of sin. David let his job and his many wives, and many children take away from his responsibilities of raising and teaching his children the law of God.

Do you know how many wives one of David’s sons, Solomon, had? First Kings 11:3 states that Solomon “had seven hundred wives…and three hundred concubines...”

Obviously, God “allowed” Solomon to have all these wives, but allowance is not the same as approval. Solomon’s marital decisions were in direct violation of God’s Law, and there were consequences.  But he is recorded in the Bible inas having only four children. Why? He could have had as many as 5000 children. Were they sacrificed according to Molech? It doesn’t give a reason.

One of his sons, Rehoboam,had 18 wives and 60 concubines. They bore him 28 sons and 60 daughters.

Today’s sermon will concentrate on two of David’s sons and one of his daughters: Amnon, Absalom, and Tamar. Amnon’s mother was Ahinoam, who came from the region of Jezreel. Absalom’s and Tamar’s mother was the daughter of the king of Geshur.

Jezreel:  where Ahinoam came from

Jezreel - Where Ahinoam came from

Geshur, where Absalom and Tamar's mother come from

Geshur:  Where Absalom and Tamar’s mother came from.

Amnon became determined to commit the awful sin of incest with his half-sister, Tamar. Tamar was “fair”which meant that she was very beautiful (2 Samuel 13:1).

2 Samuel 13:1: “And it came to pass after this, that Absalom the son of David had a fair [very beautiful] sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her.”

How many a young woman has grieved because she was not physically good-looking. Many girls make themselves as attractive on the outside as they possibly can but leave their insides in a deplorable mess. But good looks often prove to be a fatal snare. Many who are endowed with these attributes need to be doubly cautious. For they are targeted more often by lustful men than the average looking girl.Men need to look for a woman, who has strong Christian values on her inside, rather than her uncontrollable outside.

Amnon was the king’s oldest son (2 Samuel 3:2) and therefore the one in immediate line for the throne, and probably the one David loved the most.

2 Samuel 3:2: “And unto David were sons born in Hebron: and his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess:”

But Amnon had a strange desire. He was full of lustfor the great beauty of his half-sister. He had the huge desire to sleep with her.

But how was he to accomplish this? How would he get his half-sister in bed with him? It was a nephew of David who devised a cunning plan for Amnon to achieve his evil plan of incest. Amnon would first pretend to be sick and ask David for his half-sister to help him through his illness by serving him. This David did.

God not only withheld from David, Amnon’s evil desire, but it was David, the father of both parties, who set them up for the eventual rape; for it was he who sent for Tamar. Sin’s payment was just: As poor Uriah had been deceived by King David; now it was the king who was deceived by his own son!

So, Amnon, pretending to be ill, was served by his very beautiful half-sister. After a time, Amnon requested everyone to leave his room and to stay out, except for Tamar. They were finally alone. Amnon had his opportunity. It was then that Amnon got up from his supposed illness, overpowered the virgin Tamar, and violently raped her.

But this was only his first evil (II Samuel 13:1-22) that Amnon did. The second was his refusal to take responsibility for his actions. Per God’s law, Amnon would have been required to pay the bride price for his actions (Exodus 22:16-17), but instead, he treated his half-sister, a princess, as a common woman and forced her from his presence (2 Samuel 13:17).

2 Samuel 13:15-17:

15) “Then Amnon hated her [Tamar] exceedingly; so that the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her. And Amnon said unto her, Arise, be gone.

16) And she said uno him, There is no cause: this evil in sending me away is greater than the other that thou didst unto me. But he would not hearken unto her.

17) Then he called his servant that ministered unto him, and said, Put now this woman [Tamar] out from me, and bolt the door after her.”

After this incident, Absalom comforted his sister, Tamar, and took financial responsibility for her (what Amnon should have done). He would even name his daughter after her. While her brother initially kept his feelings about the incident to himself, his heart was clearly calculating revenge (2 Samuel 13:22).

After the rape incident, King David was enraged (II Samuel 13:21), but did nothing to correct his son Amnon. No doubt, that only sparked a hatred towards King David, not only for failing to reprimand Amnon but for allowing Tamar to serve Amnon in the first place. As the King, he was ultimately responsible for bringing order within his household, but while decisive on the battlefield, King David was irresolute among his sons.


Since David withheld his reproof, Absalom took matters into his own hands. After two years of brewing in his anger, Absalom used the same cunning approach as his brother Amnon to lure him to his death. He convinced King David to encourage all his brothers to attend the festivities of sheep shearing, which was usually a time of unbridled hospitality and merriment.

With all his brothers at the sheep-shearing festivities, including his older half-brother, Absalom had instructed his men to kill Amnon. The plan was to get them all the brothers drunk, and then finally get revenge on Amnon for the rape of his sister.

After “his men” killed Amnon, Absalom’s brothers fled in fear. This detail also demonstrates the nature of the execution. These men were running from a gruesome scene where trained warriors just took out David’s firstborn. After the incident, Absalom flees and seeks refuge from his grandfather the king of Geshur, Talmai the son of Ammihud (2 Samuel 13:34-39).

Map of David and Absalom's travels in 2 Samuel 13:34-392 Samuel 13:34-39:

34) “But Absalom fled. And the young man that kept the watch lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold, there came much people by the way of the hill side behind him.

35) And Jonadab said unto the king, Behold, the king’s sons come: as thy servant said, so it is.

36) And it came to pass, as soon as he had made an end of speaking, that behold, the king’s sons came, and lifted up their voice and wept: and the king also and all his servants wept very sore.

37) But Absalom fled, and went to Talmai, the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son every day.

38) So Absalom fled, and went to Geshur, and was there three years.

39) And the soul of king David longed to go forth unto Absalom: for he was comforted concerning Amnon, seeing he was dead.”

Being the offspring of a political marriage had its advantages. While Geshur was likely a tributary of Israel, under King David’s control, it does not seem that David demanded Talmai to hand over Absalom. Absalom was sheltered there for three years. Joab, the commander of David’s Army, convinced King David through a ruse to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem (II Samuel 14).


King David had three zealous nephews, his sister Zeruiah’s sons:

  • Asahel,
  • Abishai, and
  • Joab.

Renowned as three of David’s mighty men, they were known for their fierce loyalty to Israel and strong will. Joab was the closest to David of the three, leading the Israelite army from the early days of David’s reign up until his death.

The life of Joab coincides with King David’s and is recorded in Second Samuel and First Kings. His name means “my father is God.” As a young man Joab fought alongside David as one of his mighty men. After defeating the Jebusites and gaining control of Jerusalem, David appointed him as the commander of his army.

Joab was an excellent military leader as both a skilled fighter and tactful strategist. It is believed he never lost a battle and played a key role in establishing Israel as a powerful kingdom. Joab was loyal to his king and often counseled David on major decisions. He was one of few who could stand up to David and call him out when he was making poor decisions. However, Joab was ambitious and headstrong, causing him to disobey David’s orders and on various occasions make selfish decisions.

Joab’s power-hungry ambition was evident from early on. After his brother Asahel was killed by Abner in battle, he wanted revenge. However, Abner sought an alliance with David, so Joab was commanded to let him live. But Joab murdered him in cold blood (2 Samuel 3). Later on, Joab killed his cousin Amasa, and did so while greeting him with a kiss (2 Samuel 20). Also, as David was on his deathbed Joab conspired to put his son Adonijah on the throne instead of Solomon whom David had chosen (1 Kings 1 and 2).

Yet despite his flaws, Joab demonstrated commitment to protecting his king. When King David instructed him to have Uriah killed in battle, he did not question the king’s motives, but strategically set up the battle so that the king’s plan would be fulfilled (2 Samuel 11). In addition, he warned David his desire to do a census was sinful. However, David did not listen to him, so Joab obeyed his king and carried out the census. Seventy thousand men died because of David’s sin (2 Samuel 24).


The sorrow of losing Absalom was affecting the King’s demeanor, but it may have also affected his ability to govern effectively. That might have driven Joab to push the king to bring his son back to Jerusalem. We will see Joab intervene again later when the King’s grief after Absalom’s death puts at risk the loyalty of his men.

King David allows Joab to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem but does not want him in his presence. Absalom is not satisfied with the arrangement and after two years he summons Joab on two separate occasions. Joab ignores Absalom and in response, Absalom orders his men to burn Joab’s fields. Absalom’s actions were brazened, considering Joab was not a man many would cross. But he probably felt secure in his father’s protection who up to this point had not pursued any kind of punishment for Absalom’s actions.

The burning of the fields did indeed get Joab’s attention who subsequently arranged a meeting with the king. As a result, Absalom was welcomed back into the king’s court. In chapter 15, Absalom’s true intentions are revealed. His desire to return to court was not born out of love for his father, but to pull the kingdom from right under his feet.

The first verse in 2 Samuel 15 shows us just how self-absorbed Absalom was.

2 Samuel 15:1: “And it came to pass after this that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him.”

Horses and chariots were not common in King David’s army. The surrounding terrain was not conducive for chariot warfare because it lacked open plains. So, for Absalom to acquire a chariot and horses was clearly more for pomp and circumstance. It could have also been part of his plan to gain favor among the people. It was against God’s law for the king to have many horses.

Deuteronomy 17:16: “But he [the king of Israel]shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.”

A handsome prince (2 Samuel 14:25) riding on a chariot might have helped to elevate people’s perception of Absalom. (The Bible specifically mentions Absalom’s good looks in 2 Samuel 14:25).

2 Samuel 14:25: “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.”

At the center of his political maneuvering, was building popular support by directly engaging with the people. The growth of the kingdom and David’s preoccupation with other matters likely led to a degradation in the daily administration of justice.

Absalom seems to take advantage of the lack of justice at the town halls in ancient Israel. Through these daily interactions, he could feel the pulse of discontent among the common people and distrust of the king and his administration. The king’s son-built alliances with the tribe’s elders. The presence of the king, or at least his loyal subjects, would have been expected at the gates. For Absalom to have been politically successful means that David and his men were regularly absent.

At worst, David was aware but thought his son was working in the best interest of his kingdom and his reign. Regardless, Absalom was successful. So, Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel. While Absalom was able to build political alliances right under the nose of David in Jerusalem, building a formidable army from Jerusalem would have been more difficult. He would have had to contend not only with David, but with David’s loyal mighty men, particularly Joab and Benaiah.

This is probably why Absalom, after building his political network for four years, decides to move operations to Hebron, the location where David began his reign. Under the guise of fulfilling a vow, Absalom obtains permission from King David to go to Hebron (2 Samuel 15:7-9). While doing so, he sends secret messages to key figures throughout the tribes of Israel, people he hand-picked during his political maneuvering in Jerusalem.

2 Samuel 15:7-9:

7) “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.

8) 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.

9) And the king [David] said unto him [Absalom], Go in peace. So he arose, and went to Hebron.”

They were to proclaim his kingship in Hebron at the appointed time. In addition to the secret messages, Absalom makes two strategic decisions. The first was to invite 200 men to Hebron, which we can only assume were men of importance within David’s kingdom.

The men innocently accept the invitation. With this move, Absalom is further isolating David by stripping him of key players. He is also isolating these men so that at the point of rebellion, they are unable to help David, and likely forced to help Absalom for fear of their own lives.

The second decision was to call for Ahithophel from his home city Giloh. Ahithophel had been a trusted counselor to David and would have had an insider’s view of how David and his men operated. For him to join Absalom means he had ultimately betrayed his friend and king, David.

When David was briefed on the level of support Absalom had throughout Israel, he fled from Jerusalem. Absalom took Jerusalem without bloodshed which is almost unbelievable considering the level of support David had from the Army (2 Samuel 15:13-14). Joab, the army commander, was still loyal to David.


So how exactly was Absalom able to achieve such a feat? The clue may lie in 2 Samuel 16:15.

2 Samuel 16:15: “Now Absalom and all the people, the men of Israel, came to Jerusalem, and Ahithophel with him.”

The phrase, “all the people,” is used a few times in the records about David.

Based on the evidence we have on how David’s military was organized, “all the people,” may be referring to the militia. This would have been David’s reserve force. It was not centrally controlled like the regular army under Joab. The militia was trained at the tribal level and their allegiance would have been to their local commanders.

When Absalom was making allies at the gates, these local commanders and tribal leaders would have been natural targets for his political campaign. If Absalom had gained the support of the militia, a much larger force than the regular Army, it would be easier to see how it was not in David’s favor to stand and fight within the walls of Jerusalem. The level of Absalom’s depravity reached its peak when he not only slept with (or rather raped) David’s concubines, but he did it in a very public manner.

On the same rooftop where David had lusted after Bathsheba, Absalom pitched a tent and violated David’s concubines. In doing so and by violating God’s law, he guaranteed a permanent rift between himself and David. (2 Samuel 16:15-23) But the one who advised Absalom to commit such a heinous act was Ahithophel.

What would have caused David’s trusted advisor Ahithophel to turn so viciously against David? Biblical evidence suggests that Ahithophel might have been Bethsheba’s grandfather (See 2 Samuel 23:34 and 2 Samuel 11:3).

2 Samuel 11:3: “And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?

2 Samuel 23:34b: “…Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite,”

In the end, Absalom and Ahithophel were two men wronged by David. Ahithophel’s granddaughter, Bethsheba, was abused by David, and Absalom’s sister was abused by David’s first-born son who was never held accountable by his father. Absalom’s defeat begins at the hands of David, his father.


2 Samuel 16:5-8:

5) “And when king David came to Bahurim, behold, thence came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera: he came forth, and cursed still as he came.   

6) And he cast stones at David, and at all the servants of king David: and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left.

7) And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial:

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.

This is one of the most untrue and unjust accusations in human history. Shimei knew full well that:

  • David had never shed one drop of blood of the house of Saul, nor was
  • His reigning in King Saul’s place; and above all,
  • God had nothing to do with delivering the kingdom of Israel to Absalom.

Map of the Jerusalem areaDavid had spared the blood of King Saul on two occasions. He had never deliberatelydamaged the house of Saul. And even in the case of Shimei’s cursing, which deserved death, the king had mercy on him and kept him from dying on this and other occasions. David could only be considered a bloody man in the death of Uriah and shedding much blood in war.

2 Samuel 16:9-10:

9) “Then said Abishai the son of Zeruiah [one of the three mighty men, who were nephews of David] unto the king, Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head.

10) And the king said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? So let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, Curse David, Who shall then say, Wherefore has thou done so?

This well-meant but fleshly suggestion of David’s devoted follower reminds us of that request of Christ’s disciples concerning those who “did not receive Him,” namely, “Lord, wilt Thou that we command fire to come down from Heaven, and consume them, even as Elija did” (Luke 9:54). As Christ answered “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of,” so David restrained Abishai—clear proof he was not the “bloody man” Shimei had called him!

David refused to return railing for railing, reminding us of “when He (Christ) was reviled, He reviled not again” (1Peter 2:23). He left us this example for us to follow.


While Absalom had obtained Ahithophel’s allegiance as counselor, David sent his friend Hushai to infiltrate Absalom’s inner circle (II Samuel 15:32-37). Absalom did initially question Hushai, yet his over-confidence in his ability to turn so many against his father probably blinded him to Hushai’s true intentions (2 Samuel 16:16-19). This error, in an otherwise brilliant political maneuver, would cost Absalom the war and his life.

When Absalom asks Ahithophel for next steps, he advises Absalom to pursue King David and his men at once. Ahithophel wanted to take 12,000 men to overtake David. It was a sound strategy as David and his men would be weary, weakened, with little access to provisions (II Samuel 17:1-4). They were on the run and Absalom had the initiative, but Absalom insisted on hearing Hushai’s counsel as well.

Hushai naturally countered Ahithophel’s advice. He played on the reputation of David and his mighty men’s experience living and fighting on the run. He convinces Absalom that if he would send men, they would be on a fool’s errand searching aimlessly for men who knew how to run and hide. And at the first moment that Absalom’s men would fall to a surprise attack, it would demoralize his forces (2 Samuel 17:9-10). Instead, he suggests that Absalom build up his forces and hit David with overwhelming power. Absalom played right into his hand.

While Absalom gathered his forces as advised by Hushai, King David was able to obtain provisions, refresh and organize his men (2 Samuel 17: 25-18:2). They were also able to choose the place of battle, the forest of Ephraim, an ideal location when going up against a larger force. The rough terrain was not suited for shoulder-to-shoulder fighting common in ancient warfare. The scripture (2 Samuel 18:8) itself says, “and the forest devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.” But it would have played in the favor of David’s more experienced men. In the fog of war, the handsome and prideful Absalom met a humiliating end.

While riding his donkey, probably on the run from David’s men, his hair got caught on the branches of a great oak tree (2 Samuel 18:9). The donkey fled, leaving Absalom hanging from his locks. Now, David had given orders that his son was to be spared. However, Joab, probably knowing full well David’s inability to see things clearly when it came to his children, disregarded David’s orders. It was not the first time (and it wouldn’t be the last).

Joab speared Absalom three times where he hung (2 Samuel 18:10-15). Few men are both great politicians and great warriors. King David was one of those men, and Absalom aspired to be one as well. Absalom, through political schemes and deceit, was able to pull the kingdom from right under his father’s feet. It is difficult to ascertain if his initial success was because he was the better politician or because David was blinded by his sons.

Regardless, in the end, King David proved to be the more cunning leader, outwitting his son in the end, and thoroughly defeating his forces in battle. Absalom learned a hard lesson. One can’t win a war if God is not on his side.

Poetically, Absalom’s hair, a visible representation of his vanity, was also his undoing. As he hung from that oak tree, the uselessness of his pride was on full display. With no mercy, Joab speared the helpless Absalom. With the same callousness that Absalom used to kill Amnon and rape innocent women, he too was cut down. Justice found him in the thick woods of Ephraim.


David was a man after God’s own heart. But, after a good beginning, he faltered along the way. His many wives and many children proved a downfall in many cases. How he repented of his sins; how he understood the consequences of his sins, was what made David an unusual man.

Who would want to trade places with David? Who would want to learn all the hard lessons that he learned? A few might, but most of us would rather live our own lives, without all the drama that David had. To be a great hero of Israel, one must experience a lot of disappointment and hardships. He had to experience the consequences of his sin(s).

He experienced a lot of great victories when he was young. He killed Goliath, the giant, when no one else would take on the champion of the Phillistine army. He withheld his chance to murder the king, after he was anointed as the next king, because he did not want to touch the LORD’s anointed. He led Israel into many glorious military victories.

But his life parallelled events like the life of the patriarchs. For example, in the life of Jacob:

  • His twin brother, Esau, despised the covenant and interracially married,
  • He received the covenant blessing, instead of his twin brother, given by his father by deceit,
  • He had to go about 500 miles to find a woman to marry of his own kind,
  • His wedding night, his wife’s older sister, Leah, was secretly substituted in place of his wife,
  • He had to serve another seven years before he was allowed to marry his true wife, Rachel,
  • He was gone 20 years in his wife’s country, during which time his mother, Rebecca died,
  • He was attempted to be murdered by his twin brother when he returned home,
  • His daughter, Dinah, was raped,
  • He had been angered by the rash decisions in which Simeon and Levi had avenged their sister,
  • His son, Judah, had runoff and taken residence with a Canaanite woman and had three sons with her,
  • His son, Judah, was then deceived by a pretending prostitute, which gave him two more sons,
  • His eldest son, Reuben, sinned against him by sleeping with one of his concubines, Bilhah,
  • His favorite wife, Rachel, shortly after she had given birth to his youngest son, Benjamin, died.
  • His oldest son, Joseph, by Rachel, was esteemed to have been killed, and he never knew that his other sons had lied to him about what had happened,
  • His whole family, despite his great wealth, ran out of food during a severe famine and were about to starve to death,
  • His whole family eventually, when he was old, moved to Egypt where he died.

David committed a gross sin. And he suffered the rest of his life over the result of this sin, which led to other sins. His family life was lacking in the love and instruction that should have been given to his children and wives.

Modern Christians should take note of this and consider what Jacob and David had suffered when they themselves agonize and languish, because having the promises of God obviously does not make anyone immune to suffering. None of us are better than Jacob and David, who continued to trust in God regardless of their suffering.

Blessed be the LORD God of Israel.

But he committed a gross sin. And he suffered the rest of his life over the result of this sin, which led to other sins. His family life was lacking in the love and instruction that should have been given to his children and wives. Did you learn anything from David’s downside?

Blessed be the LORD God of Israel.