Rebellion of Absalom

2 Samuel 15. 1-6.

When the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was first exiled, he vowed that that he would one day return to rule the country of France. When the opportunity eventually came, he acted quickly to effect his ambitious plan. He launched his daring strategy by first approaching the king’s troops. Initially they jeered and railed at him — a check to his brash effrontery. But through his artful persuasion and inflated promises, Napoleon successfully turned their loyalties, winning them to himself and effectively staging a nationwide rebellion against the ruling monarchy. As a result, ‘the Little General’ would be known after that as ‘the Great Usurper’.

The work of Absalom, this handsome and talented son of King David, in attempting to overthrow the kingdom of his father, provides us with a picture of the strategy of the enemy in the world today.

After killing his half-brother Amnon for the rape of his sister Tamar, Absalom was exiled to Geshur in Syria for three years, 2 Sam. 13. 38. Joab, sensing that the heart of David was toward his son, arranged for the return of Absalom to Jerusalem, albeit without court privileges, 2 Sam. 14. 23-24. But the restrictions took their toll and the embittered Absalom, who should have been grateful to Joab for effecting his return, instead vengefully set fire to his field for not responding to his requests to visit him, 2 Sam. 15. 29-32. This is sad evidence of the destructive consequences of a bitter spirit.

With so clear a manifestation of his true heart and character, scripture unfolds for us Absalom’s modus operandi — his plan and programme was to undermine the kingdom of his father David. Thus, we are provided with insight into the work of our enemy, Satan, in his efforts to undermine the work of the Lord in the hearts of men and women today.

His Attraction

In chapter 14 verses 25 and 26, we read that ‘there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty’ and that from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was ‘no blemish in him’. Without question, Absalom used his good looks to his advantage as he sought a following among the people. Ezekiel chapter 28 tells us that the devil before his fall was ‘perfect in beauty’ and ‘the anointed cherub’ until iniquity was found in him. He is an attractive being and not like the unbiblical caricatures in which he is often depicted. Had Satan approached Eve in the Garden in a hideous form other than that of a cunning serpent, she might have been repulsed by his appearance and thwarted his plan. But instead, through his attractive manner, he first drew her in, engaged her in conversation and caused her to sin as he does with many people. The devil knows this is powerfully effective as he deploys his deceitful workers who transform themselves into ‘ministers of righteousness’ to deceive the simple and unwary. Knowing that many people make their judgements based on outward appearance, especially an attractive one, is one means by which the devil is able to hoodwink the public in general and gain a following against the true King. Certainly, to follow someone who ‘looks’ the part, just as the people did with Saul, is far easier to do than with one who does not. In addition, by emphasizing the attractive side of sin and not the final price tag the devil causes many to follow his insidious programme of rebellion. Without question, he is a master of disguise and deceit and his program is pictured well by Absalom’s attraction.

His Approach

Another key element in Absalom’s effort to undermine David’s kingdom is seen in his approach to the people. It had an air of arrogance and haughtiness to it. In chapter 15 verse 1 we read that he ‘prepared him chariots and horses and fifty men to run before him’ as messengers. As he approached Jerusalem he appeared as if he were king, though he was only a prince. But his approach to the people made it appear that he had a special authority evidenced by the entourage that preceded him. He did not come in on a mule, as did his father, but on stately horses. In the same way, the prince of the power of the air makes a similar approach to people today. He approached in the same manner to Eve when he said. ‘Yea, hath God said . . ?’, Gen. 3. 1, and ‘You shall not surely die?’, v. 4. His authoritative tone served to instil doubt in Eve’s mind.

In Jehoshaphat’s day, the false prophet Zedekiah made horns of iron and ostentatiously proclaimed, ‘with these shalt thou push the Syrians!’, 1 Kgs. 22. 11. It was a calculated strategy to impress the crowd and authenticate his false claim. In the same way, Satan is at work in the world today operating through his ‘ministers’ and others who, under his influence speak with an air of authority as to the best course of action to follow, often theirs, and away from the things of God. And where and when does this take place? At the same time and place that Absalom did it — early in the morning and standing ‘beside the way of the gate’, v. 2, the place where major decisions were made. Satan acted early in man’s history in the Garden to introduce sin into the human race. He did it early in the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus when he tempted Him in the wilderness and offered Him an alternative course of action to bypass the cross. He does it early in young people’s lives to compromise them as they launch into adult life. He does it in the early stages of a trial to urge people to solve difficulties without the Lord’s help; and he does it every time he has an opportunity. If he is allowed to influence early he knows he can usually win the day! No wonder the apostle Paul warned. ‘Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil’, Eph. 6. 11.  vv. 3-4, he further endeared himself when ‘he put forth his hand and took him and kissed him’, v. 5. What a picture this is of the enemy of men’s souls! In no way omniscient but clearly opportunistic, he seizes people at a moment and place of their greatest vulnerability. He appeals to their base desire of greed, selfishness and ambition, making inflated promises to gain their allegiance and win them to his side. Blind as they are they become easy targets to his stealth.

His Aftermath

The result of Absalom’s strategy to undermine David’s kingdom was highly successful. Verse 6 tells us that Absalom was able to steal effectively ‘the hearts of the men of Israel’. Through his programme of cunning and deceit he was able to mount a concerted conspiracy against the true and rightful king — his father David. Later, he arranged, under the guise of sacrificial worship, to have it announced that ‘Absalom reigneth in Hebron’, v. 10, a calculated move to solidify his rebellion. Afterwards, David had to flee Jerusalem in rejection. As he crossed over the brook Kidron he was accompanied by a small company who identified with him and were unaffected by the devious designs of his usurping son. So it is in the world today, the ruler of this age, the prince of the power of the air is able to steal the hearts of men and women who should be subject to the true and rightful King — the Lord Jesus. Through his efforts, he is able to make them bow in obeisance to him without realizing that his doom is sure. But sadly, they follow to their own demise.

At first, it seemed that Absalom’s rebellion would go on forever. Brazenly he committed sin in the sight of all Israel, 2 Sam. 16. 2-23, glorying in his power and authority among the people. But his end came in time and quickly, for at the apex of his power he was slain by Joab after being caught in the branches of an oak tree and he was then buried in a pit under a heap of stones.

But the story does not end here, nor do the parallels. For in the rejection of the king and those who followed him, and the demise of Absalom, we see yet more similarities to the events of our day. Satan it would seem is enjoying the apex of his power even now. The whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. He has caused the way of righteousness to suffer through the centuries and has successfully stolen the hearts of men and women and turned their allegiances against the Lord. With his tail, he has drawn a significant number with him, Rev. 12. 4. Yet his doom is sure and will come quickly as proclaimed in prophetic scripture. Thankfully, there will always be a faithful remnant that will delight to follow the Lord Jesus identifying with Him in His rejection and eventually reigning with Him in glory, Rev. 20. 6. The same path that David took over the brook Kidron, 1 Sam. 15. 23, was the same path that the Lord Jesus took with His disciples a thousand years later, John 18. 1. And it is the same path in principle that all believers should take in following their Lord in His sufferings now. Like Ittai the Gittite, who proclaimed his undying allegiance to David, 2 Sam. 15. 21, we, as believers should do the same for the Lord Jesus, knowing that one day events will be reversed and righteousness will rule and we shall reign with Him forever.