Absalom

Absalom or Avshalom ( _he. אַבְשָלוֹם "Father/Leader of/is peace" or "Salem is my Father", Standard Hebrew Avšalom, Tiberian Hebrew ʾAḇšālôm), in the Bible, is the third son of David, king of Israel. He was deemed the most beautified man in the kingdom (2 Samuel 14: 25).

His sister Tamar had been raped by David's eldest son, Amnon, who was in love with her. Absalom, after waiting two years, avenged her by sending his servants to murder Amnon at a feast to which he had invited all the king's sons (2 Samuel 13):

"18. "Now she had on a long-sleeved garment; for in this manner the virgin daughters of the king dressed themselves in robes. Then his attendant took her out and locked the door behind her."

19. "Tamar put ashes on her head and tore her long-sleeved garment which was on her; and she put her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went."

20. "And Absalom her brother said unto her, Hath Amnon thy brother been with thee? but hold now thy peace, my sister: he is thy brother; regard not this thing. So Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom's house"....

22. "But Absalom did not speak to Amnon either good or bad; for Absalom hated Amnon because he had violated his sister Tamar."

23. "Now it came about after two full years that Absalom had sheepshearers in Baal-hazor, which is near Ephraim, and Absalom invited all the king’s sons."

28. "Absalom commanded his servants, saying, “See now, when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon,’ then put him to death. Do not fear; have not I myself commanded you? Be courageous and be valiant.”" [ [http://nasb.scripturetext.com/2_samuel/13.htm 2 Samuel 13 New American Standard Bible ] ]

After this deed he fled to Talmai, "king" of Geshur (see Joshua 12:5 or 13:2), his maternal grandfather, and it was not until three years later that he was fully reinstated in his father's favour (see Joab.)

Four years after this he raised a revolt at Hebron, the former capital. Absalom was now the eldest surviving son of David, and the present position of the narratives (15-20)--after the birth of Solomon and before the struggle between Solomon and Adonijah---may represent the view that the suspicion that he was not the destined heir of his father's throne excited the impulsive youth to rebellion.

All Israel and Judah flocked to his side, and David, attended only by the Cherethites and Pelethites and some recent recruits from Gath, found it expedient to flee. The priests remained behind in Jerusalem, and their sons Jonathan and Ahimaaz served as his spies. Absalom reached the capital and took counsel with the renowned Ahithophel (sometimes Achitophel). The pursuit was continued and David took refuge beyond the Jordan River. However, David took the precaution of instructing a servant, Hushai, to infiltrate Absalom's court and subvert it. To that end, Hushai convinced the prince to ignore Ahithophel's advice to attack his father while he was on the run and instead to better prepare his forces for a major attack. This gave David critical time to prepare his own troops for the coming battle.

A battle was fought in the Wood of Ephraim (the name suggests a locality west of the Jordan) and Absalom's army was completely routed. He himself, having long hair, was caught by his hair in the boughs of an oak-tree, and, as David had strictly charged his men to deal gently with the young man, Joab was informed. What a common soldier refused to do even for a thousand shekels of silver, the king's general at once undertook. Joab thrust three spears through the heart of Absalom as he struggled in the branches and his ten armour-bearers came around and slew him. Despite the revolt, David was overwhelmed with grief and ordered a great heap of stones to be erected where he fell, whilst another monument near Jerusalem (not the modern "Absalom Tomb" - "Yad Avshalom" which is of later origin) was erected by Absalom in his lifetime to perpetuate his name 2 Samuel 18:

"18. "Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a monument, 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 monument"."

Allusions to Absalom

*Josquin Desprez composed the motet "Absalon, fili mi" on the occasion of the death of Juan Borgia.
*Leonard Cohen's poem "Prayer for Sunset" compares the setting sun to the raving Absalom, and asks whether another Joab will arrive tomorrow night to kill Absalom again.
* Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585-1672) composed "Fili mi,Absalon" as part of his Sinfoniae Sacrae, op.6
*"Absalom and Achitophel"--a political satire in verse by John Dryden
*Rainer Maria Rilke alludes to Absalom in his two poems "Absalom's Rebellion" and "Absalom's Abfall."
*The single verse, 2 Samuel 18:33, regarding David's grief at the loss of his son, is the setting of several pieces of choral music, usually entitled "When David Heard" (Such as Eric Whitacre's "When David Heard") although this does not appear in the actual scripture.
*"Absalom, Absalom!" is the title of a novel by William Faulkner, and refers to the return of Thomas Sutpen's son.
* "Absalom, Absalom" is the title of a song on the 1996 Compass CD "Making Light of It" by singer/songwriter Pierce Pettis, incorporating several elements of the biblical narrative.
*During the finale of the song "Distant Early Warning" by Canadian band Rush, Geddy Lee sings, "Absalom Absalom Absalom." Lyrics written by drummer Neil Peart.
*David Olney's 2000 CD "Omar's Blues" includes the song "Absalom." The song depicts David grieving over the death of his son.
*Absalom was also the name of Stephen Kumalo's son in the Alan Paton novel "Cry, the Beloved Country". Like the Absalom of yore, Absalom Kumalo was at odds with his father, the two fighting a moral and ethical battle of sorts over the course of some of the novel's most important events. Absalom kills and murders a man, and also meets an untimely death.
*The story of Absalom is referred to several places in folk singer Adam Arcuragi's song "Always Almost Crying."
*Anglo-Jewish war poet Isaac Rosenberg alludes to Absalom in the poem 'Chagrin.'
*Absalom is the name of the commander of the zombies with the face of a lion and a composed body in the manga and anime series One Piece. He, however, doesn't bear any resemblance to the Biblical Absalom.
*The San Francisco-based band Om [http://www.omvibratory.com/] mentions Absalom in their song "Kapila's Theme" from their debut album "Variations on a Theme".
*The garage folk band David's Doldrums [http://www.myspace.com/davidsdoldrums] references Absalom in their song, "my name is Absalom." The song alludes to Absalom's feelings of solemnity and abandonment of love and hope.
*In "Every Kind Word" by Lackthereof, Danny Seim's project parallel to Menomena, Seim sings "...and your hair is long like Absalom."
*In the Ahrens and Flaherty musical The Glorious Ones (based on the historical novel by Francine Prose), Francesco Andreini sings a song called "Absalom", as a metaphor for his relationship with Flaminio Scala.
*The story of Absalom and King David's lament was referenced in Ender's Shadow
*"Barach Hamelech" an Israeli song by Amos Etinger and Yosef Hadar.
*The grindcore band Discordance Axis references Absalom at the end of the track entitled 'Castration Rite'.

References


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