Useful Bible Studies > 2 Samuel Commentary > chapter 18

Absalom’s terrible death

2 Samuel 18:14-16

The author describes Absalom’s death as if it happened several times. He described Saul’s death like that, too (1 Samuel 31:3-6; 2 Samuel 1:6-10). He seems to describe it like that to show that these were truly awful deaths.

So, firstly, Absalom hung in a tree, like a criminal who was waiting only to die. That was how people punished the worst criminals. Sometimes they killed them first and then hung up the bodies. Deuteronomy 21:22-23 refers to this; it is a sign of God’s judgment against that criminal. So, it was shameful to die in this way.

The second cause of Absalom’s death was the three sharp sticks that Joab put through Absalom’s heart. That was, of course, the medical cause of death – but it was not enough to satisfy Joab’s anger against him.

There were ten guards with Joab. Joab ordered them all, together, to attack and to kill Absalom. That completed the process. Absalom was clearly dead, and his body was in a terrible state. In life, Absalom’s body was beautiful (14:25); in death, it was truly awful.

That was the end of the battle, and the war. There was no reason why David’s army should continue to chase Absalom’s army. Joab gave the order – he sounded the trumpet, the loudest musical instrument. David’s men heard, and they returned to rest after their great efforts in the battle. The men who had supported Absalom escaped back to their homes.

However, 20,000 men never returned home. They died in the forest, and their families were unable to bury them. The families only knew about their deaths when they failed to return home. That was the result of Absalom’s selfish ambitions (18:8).

Next part: The grave of Absalom (2 Samuel 18:17-18)


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