ABSALOM


ABSALOM
ABSALOM (Heb. אַבְשָׁלוֹם, אַבְשָׁלֹם, אֲבִישָׁלוֹם), third son of david , born during his reign in Hebron, probably about 1007/06 B.C.E. -In the Bible Absalom was the son of Maacah, the daughter of King Talmai of Geshur. When his half brother Amnon dishonored his full sister Tamar (II Sam. 13:1–20), he considered himself the avenger of her honor and ordered Amnon killed at a shearing feast on his estate, to which he had invited all the king's sons (ibid. 13:23–29). Fearing David's wrath, he took refuge at the court of his grandfather, probably a vassal-king of David by that time (c. 987 B.C.E.). Meanwhile, joab took up his cause with the king and obtained David's permission for Absalom to return to Jerusalem without fear of punishment; later a full reconciliation was effected between the two (ibid. 14:33; c. 983 B.C.E.). Probably David's second son, Chileab (II Sam. 3:3) or Daniel (I Chron. 3:1), either died young or was mentally or physically handicapped, because it was Absalom, the next oldest son of David, who was the most obvious candidate for the succession. He was a handsome man of prepossessing appearance, a glib tongue, and winning manners (II Sam. 14:25; 15:2–6), and seems to have gained a great deal of popularity among the common people as well. Though strong headed and willful, he knew how to bide his time in order to achieve his desires (cf. ibid. 13:20) and how to work for that end (cf. ibid. 14:28–30). Considering these qualities, it is difficult to understand what induced him to plot a revolt against his father (c. 979 B.C.E.); but since there was no strict law that David's successor must be his oldest living son, perhaps Absalom was worried by the influence of David's favorite wife Bath-Sheba and the possibility that David might, as he eventually did, proclaim his oldest son by her his successor. Be that as it may, the plot was carefully planned at Hebron (cf. II Sam. 15:7). The revolt seems to have enjoyed wide support in Judah, which was perhaps offended by the old king's refusal to show any palpable preference for his own tribesmen, as well as among other Israelite tribes, who were dissatisfied with the gradual bureaucratization of the kingdom and the curtailment of tribal rights. David retreated with his immediate entourage – bodyguards (the gibborim), foreign mercenaries (the Cherethites and Pelethites), 600 Gittites, and some of the people who remained loyal to him – to Transjordan. At the same time, he took care to leave a "fifth columnist" in Jerusalem in the person of hushai the Archite, and with him two intelligence messengers, ahimaaz and jonathan , the sons of the two high priests. Hushai succeeded in persuading Absalom to reject his adviser ahithophel 's sensible proposal to pursue the old king and defeat him before he could find further support. In the subsequent battle in Transjordan (in the forest of Ephraim) Absalom's tribal levees proved no match for David's veteran mercenaries under Ittai the Gittite, who was supported by the loyal Israelites under Joab and Abishai. Absalom was caught by his head in a thick tree and killed on Joab's orders, which contravened the express command of David to spare his life (II Sam. 18:9). The king's mourning for his son almost cost him the support of his loyal troops (ibid. 19:1–9). Absalom had no son, which prompted him to erect a memorial monument for himself (ibid. 18:18; cf. however ibid. 14:27); he apparently had a daughter, Maacah, who was named for his mother and who later married her cousin rehoboam and became the latter's favorite queen and mother of the heir-apparent abijam . (Encyclopaedia Hebraica)   -In the Aggadah Although the Bible stated that it was by his head and not specifically by his hair that Absalom was caught, the rabbis assume that it was by his hair and make of his death a homily on false ambition, unfilial conduct, and poetic justice. Of the perfect physical qualities ascribed to Adam, Absalom is regarded as having inherited his hair (Pirkei Rabbenu ha-Kadosh, in L. Grueenhut, Likkutim, 3 (1899), 72). It grew so luxuriantly that although he had taken the Nazirite vow prohibiting the cutting of the hair, he was permitted to trim it from time to time (Nazir 5a). It was his hair, in which he gloried, which brought about his death (Sotah 1:8). He was caught "in the heart of a tree" (II Sam. 18:14). "But did one ever hear of a tree having a heart. This turn of phrase teaches that when a man becomes so heartless as to make war on his own father, nature takes on a heart to avenge the deed" (Mekh. Shirata 6). So unforgivable was his conduct that he is enumerated among those who have no share in the world to come (Sanh. 103b). In Exodus Rabbah 1:1 he is cited as one of the exemplars of "spare the rod and spoil the child." His abode is in hell where he is in charge of ten heathen nations (A. Jellinek, Beit ha-Midrash, 2 (1938), 50) but David's lament saved him from the extreme penalties of hell (Sot. 10b). (Louis Isaac Rabinowitz) -In Folklore In Jewish folk sayings and in Palestinian legends clustered around the Pillar of Absalom (Yad Avshalom) in the Kidron Valley of Jerusalem, rebellious Absalom serves as an example of punishments inflicted upon sons transgressing the Fifth Commandment. According to the report from Jerusalem (1666) of a French Christian pilgrim (Bernardin Surius), the inhabitants of Jerusalem used to bring their children to the tomb of Absalom to shout and throw stones at it, stressing the end of wicked children who did not revere their parents. (Dov Noy) -In the Arts In Western literature Absalom has been regarded as a symbol of manly beauty. The subject inspired a medieval mystery play and several Elizabethan dramas. George Peele's The Love of King David and Fair Bethsabe (1599) deals at length with Absalom's rebellion, which is blamed on David's illicit love affair with Bath-Sheba, and in tune with the bloodthirsty taste of the era shows the unfortunate prince, suspended by his hair from a tree, being done to death by Joab. John Dryden's Absalom and Achithophel (1681), a political satire in verse, presents Charles II as David, Charles' illegitimate son the Duke of Monmouth as Absalom, and Lord Shaftesbury as the false counselor Ahithophel. Some 20th-century works based on this theme are Absalom (1920), a translation of a Japanese play by Torahiko Kōri; Howard Spring's novel O Absalom (1938; later reissued in the U.S.A. as My Son, My Son); and William Faulkner's novel Absalom, Absalom (1936). Some artists in the late Middle Ages interpreted Absalom's death as a prefiguration of the Crucifixion. Parts of the story occasionally appear in illuminated manuscripts, such as the Winchester Bible, a French Bible moralisée (1250) now in Toledo, and the 14th-century Anglo-Norman Queen Mary's Psalter (British Museum), which illustrates most of the biblical narrative. Absalom's end also appears in an Italian 15th-century pavement mosaic in Siena Cathedral. The Reconciliation of David and Absalom (1642) was painted by rembrandt . The Pillar of Absalom (Yad Avshalom), which stands on the traditional site of Absalom's burial place, is one of several sepulchral monuments in the Kidron Valley, Jerusalem, that date from the Second Temple and Roman periods. The monument is executed in the late Hellenistic style, however, and its link with Absalom does not predate the 16th century. David's lament for Absalom has inspired a number of composers, notably Heinrich Schuetz, whose motet for bass solo and trombone quartet Fili mi Absalon (in Symphoniae Sacrae vol. 1 (1629), no. 13) is a masterly work. No less poignant is Lugebat David Absalon: Absalon fili mi, a four-voice motet by Josquin des Prés, written a century earlier. In the 16th century Jacob Hand (Gallus) arranged a notable setting of the lament. A number of oratorios, mainly of the 18th century, describe Absalom's rebellion and death. A recent composition is David Weeps for Absalom (1947), a work for voice and piano by david diamond . The Judeo-Spanish song "Triste estaba el Rey David" (arranged for choir by Joaquín Rodrigo, 1950), tells the story of Absalom's rebellion in romantic form. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: BIBLE: S. Yeivin, Meḥkarim be-Toledot Yisrael ve-Arẓo (1960), 196–7, 236–9; Tadmor, in: Journal of World History, 11 (1968), 49–57; Bright, Hist, 187–90; E.Auerbach, Wueste und gelobtes Land, 1 (1932), 201–2, 232–6, 273; Noth, Hist Isr, 199–200, 219–220; Alt, Essays on Old Testament History and Religion (1967), 318, 329; 297 ff. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: A Rofé, in: E. Blum (ed), Mincha: Festgabe fuer Rolf Rendtdorff zum 75. Geburtstag (2000), 217–28. AGGADAH: Ginzberg, Legends, 4 (1947), 94–5, 104–7; 6 (1946), 266 ff. FOLKLORE: Z. Vilnay, Legends of Palestine (1932), 107–9. ARTS: L. Réau, Iconographie de l'art chrétien, 2, pt. 1 (1956), 125–38; T. Ehrenstein, Das Alte Testament im Bilde (1923), 577–601; The Bible in Art (1956), 173; EM, 1 (1965), 68–69.

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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  • Absalom — (hebr., d.i. Vater des Friedens), Sohn Davids von der Maecha, Tochter des Königs Talmai von Gesur. Durch die Ermordung seines Stiefbruders Amnon, welcher A s rechte Schwester Thamur geschändet hatte, hatte sich A. Davids Zorn zugezogen u. war… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Absălom — (hebr., »Vater des Friedens«), drittgeborner Sohn Davids, ein schöner Mann, wegen seiner Leutseligkeit beim Volke beliebt, rächte die Schmach seiner Schwester Thamar an seinem ältesten Bruder Amnon durch dessen Ermordung und ward deshalb von… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

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