2 Samuel 18

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Read 2 Samuel 18

1 David mustered the men who were with him and appointed over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. David sent out his troops, a third under the command of Joab, a third under Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and a third under Ittai the Gittite. The king told the troops, “I myself will surely march out with you.”

But the men said, “You must not go out; if we are forced to flee, they won’t care about us. Even if half of us die, they won’t care; but you are worth ten thousand of us.It would be better now for you to give us support from the city.”

The king answered, “I will do whatever seems best to you.”

So the king stood beside the gate while all his men marched out in units of hundreds and of thousands. The king commanded Joab, Abishai and Ittai, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.” And all the troops heard the king giving orders concerning Absalom to each of the commanders.

David’s army marched out of the city to fight Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. There Israel’s troops were routed by David’s men, and the casualties that day were great—twenty thousand men. The battle spread out over the whole countryside, and the forest swallowed up more men that day than the sword.

Now Absalom happened to meet David’s men. He was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absalom’s hair got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going.

10 When one of the men saw what had happened, he told Joab, “I just saw Absalom hanging in an oak tree.”

11 Joab said to the man who had told him this, “What! You saw him? Why didn’t you strike him to the ground right there? Then I would have had to give you ten shekels of silver and a warrior’s belt.”

12 But the man replied, “Even if a thousand shekels were weighed out into my hands, I would not lay a hand on the king’s son. In our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘Protect the young man Absalom for my sake.’ 13 And if I had put my life in jeopardy—and nothing is hidden from the king—you would have kept your distance from me.”

14 Joab said, “I’m not going to wait like this for you.” So he took three javelins in his hand and plunged them into Absalom’s heart while Absalom was still alive in the oak tree. 15 And ten of Joab’s armor-bearers surrounded Absalom, struck him and killed him.

16 Then Joab sounded the trumpet, and the troops stopped pursuing Israel, for Joab halted them. 17 They took Absalom, threw him into a big pit in the forest and piled up a large heap of rocks over him. Meanwhile, all the Israelites fled to their homes.

18 During his lifetime Absalom had taken a pillar and erected it in the King’s Valley as a monument to himself, for he thought, “I have no son to carry on the memory of my name.” He named the pillar after himself, and it is called Absalom’s Monument to this day.

David Mourns

19 Now Ahimaaz son of Zadok said, “Let me run and take the news to the king that the Lord has vindicated him by delivering him from the hand of his enemies.”

20 “You are not the one to take the news today,” Joab told him. “You may take the news another time, but you must not do so today, because the king’s son is dead.”

21 Then Joab said to a Cushite, “Go, tell the king what you have seen.” The Cushite bowed down before Joab and ran off.

22 Ahimaaz son of Zadok again said to Joab, “Come what may, please let me run behind the Cushite.”

But Joab replied, “My son, why do you want to go? You don’t have any news that will bring you a reward.”

23 He said, “Come what may, I want to run.”

So Joab said, “Run!” Then Ahimaaz ran by way of the plain and outran the Cushite.

24 While David was sitting between the inner and outer gates, the watchman went up to the roof of the gateway by the wall. As he looked out, he saw a man running alone. 25 The watchman called out to the king and reported it.

The king said, “If he is alone, he must have good news.” And the runner came closer and closer.

26 Then the watchman saw another runner, and he called down to the gatekeeper, “Look, another man running alone!”

The king said, “He must be bringing good news, too.”

27 The watchman said, “It seems to me that the first one runs like Ahimaaz son of Zadok.”

“He’s a good man,” the king said. “He comes with good news.”

28 Then Ahimaaz called out to the king, “All is well!” He bowed down before the king with his face to the ground and said, “Praise be to the Lord your God! He has delivered up those who lifted their hands against my lord the king.”

29 The king asked, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”

Ahimaaz answered, “I saw great confusion just as Joab was about to send the king’s servant and me, your servant, but I don’t know what it was.”

30 The king said, “Stand aside and wait here.” So he stepped aside and stood there.

31 Then the Cushite arrived and said, “My lord the king, hear the good news! The Lord has vindicated you today by delivering you from the hand of all who rose up against you.”

32 The king asked the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”

The Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up to harm you be like that young man.”

33 The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”

Go Deeper

Chapter 18 begins with David preparing his troops to enter into battle with Absalom, the rebellious son, dividing the nation of Israel for his own glory. As God’s chosen leader, David should have been focused on strategy and prayer to reunite Israel in accordance with God’s command; instead, we see him preoccupied with the well-being of Absalom. In verse 5, he orders the commanders, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.”

Gentle?! Absalom is the superstar who believed his own hype, sought his own glory rather than God’s glory, and caused chaos among Israel; David wants everyone to be “gentle” with him?! This plea comes not from a strong leader’s heart seeking the best for his people but from a guilty father’s heart seeking absolution from his son. David loses sight of his purpose, and it costs him the respect of his men.

After the soldiers kill Absalom (not gently!) and win the battle, they send messengers to deliver the news to the king. Does David anxiously ask about his thousands and hundreds of loyal subjects valiantly fighting to reunite Israel? No. His concern remains with Absalom. Instead of congratulating the men and celebrating God’s protection, David withdraws, overcome with grief upon hearing of Absalom’s death, and wishes for himself to die in the rebellious son’s place.

David is called a man after God’s own heart, but in this situation, David is more concerned with his own heartache than with God’s desires. How often do we devote our attention, energy, and efforts to things of our own interest rather than those of God’s interest? Perhaps the things themselves aren’t necessarily bad, but they cause us to stumble because we place them as priority in our lives over the things of God. Maybe it’s friends, work, video games, sports, or even family – these are not inherently wrong. But we must be careful not to allow them to consume our thoughts and attention in a way that leads us to lose sight of God’s goodness.

While David cried out, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!” (v. 33), Jesus cried out “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). While David was willing to give up God’s plan and his own life to save his son, God was willing to give up His own son to fulfill His plan to save our lives.


  1. Is there anything you set as a priority over God’s command in your life?
  2. Are you willing to set aside those things that overtake your time and thoughts so you may refocus on the things of God?
  3. David’s commander, Joab, recognized David’s distraction and disobeyed him. Who, in your life, do you allow to lovingly question you and your motives? Pray that your heart may be softened when they speak truth to you. If you don’t have someone who speaks the truth in love to you, pray for God to lead such a person into your life.

By the Way

Absalom’s hair served as one of his most well-known attributes. 2 Samuel 14:25-26 states, “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. Whenever he cut the hair of his head—he used to cut his hair once a year because it became too heavy for him—he would weigh it, and its weight was two hundred shekels by the royal standard.” Long luxurious hair was a sign of strength and this became a source of pride for Absalom. However, in Chapter 18, we see how this most prized quality becomes the means of his destruction. This serves as a warning to the reader to resist pride as it may be the source of our downfall.

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3 thoughts on “2 Samuel 18”

  1. Ella Snodgrass

    As I read today’s chapter & reflection these verses came to mind, “The one who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; the person who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Anyone finding his life will lose it, and anyone losing his life because of Me will find it.” (Matthew 10:37-39)
    I’m reminded that family ties can work against faithful discipleship, and that God must be our clear and first loyalty.

    1. Andrea Kingery-Martinez

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I have never thought about how family ties, even ones with good intentions, can be a distraction from God.

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