Absalom's Defeat and Death

So the king stood beside the gate, and all the people went out by hundreds and by thousands. Now the king had commanded Joab, Abishai, and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains orders concerning Absalom.

So the people went out into the field of battle against Israel. And the battle was in the woods of Ephraim. The people of Israel were overthrown there before the servants of David, and a great slaughter of twenty thousand took place there that day. For the battle there was scattered over the face of the whole countryside, and the woods devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.

Then Absalom met the servants of David. Absalom rode on a mule. The mule went under the thick boughs of a great terebinth tree, and his head caught in the terebinth; so he was left hanging between heaven and earth. And the mule which was under him went on. Now a certain man saw it and told Joab, and said, “I just saw Absalom hanging in a terebinth tree!”

So Joab said to the man who told him, “You just saw him! And why did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have given you ten shekels of silver and a belt.”

But the man said to Joab, “Though I were to receive a thousand shekels of silver in my hand, I would not raise my hand against the king’s son. For in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, saying, ‘Beware lest anyone touch the young man Absalom!’ Otherwise I would have dealt falsely against my own life. For there is nothing hidden from the king, and you yourself would have set yourself against me.”

Then Joab said, “I cannot linger with you.” And he took three spears in his hand and thrust them through Absalom’s heart, while he was still alive in the midst of the terebinth tree. And ten young men who bore Joab’s armor surrounded Absalom, and struck and killed him…

Just then the Cushite came, and the Cushite said, “There is good news, my lord the king! For the Lord has avenged you this day of all those who rose against you.”

And the king said to the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”

So the Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise against you to do harm, be like that young man!”

Then the king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept. And as he went, he said thus: “O my son Absalom—my son, my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!”

–2 Samuel 18:4-15, 31-33


  1. Now all king’s sons might be said to work in loss prevention.

  2. Now in all Israel there was no one who was praised as much as Absalom for his good looks.

  3. From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him.

  4. And when he cut the hair of his head—

  5. at the end of every year he cut it because it was heavy on him—

  6. when he cut it, he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels according to the king’s standard.

  7. Now if Absalom’s heavy hair were caught in the limbs of the terebinth tree, he would have only to cut it to free himself.

  8. Now loss prevention is a set of practices designed to preserve profit in retail.

  9. Now “one test that is helpful in determining whether or not a person was negligent is to ask and answer whether or not, if a person of ordinary prudence had been in the same situation and possessed of the same knowledge, he would have foreseen or anticipated that someone might have been injured by or as a result of his action or inaction.” (from Retail Crime, Security, and Loss Prevention: An Encyclopedic Reference, ed. Charles A. Sennewald, John H. Christman)

  10. Now all king’s sons might be said to work in loss prevention in the interest of the king.

  11. Now a person of ordinary prudence found themselves caught in the thick boughs of the terebinth tree, pursued by the king’s men, he might have foreseen or anticipated that someone might have been injured by or as a result of his action or inaction.

  12. Now that someone who might have been injured would be himself;

  13. Now that the act of cutting heavy hair might take place only once a year;

  14. Now that a king might have to weigh the loss of a son against the loss of an army in rebellion;

  15. Now that such a son might weigh heavier than his hair;

  16. Now that the weight of such beautiful hair might trap him between heaven and earth.

  17. Now that beautiful hair is not prudent.

  18. Now that a king’s son unwilling to relinquish his beautiful hair might be struggling in a tree between heaven and earth.

  19. Now that a king’s son whose hair is a publicly traded resource,

  20. Who is not permitted to see the king’s face,

  21. Who struggles between heaven and earth,

  22. Who the king’s men may look at but fear to touch,

  23. Who is the subject of two conflicting orders,

  24. Who is worth a thousand shekels that may not be paid out,

  25. Who is uncut but cut-down,

  26. Who is not hidden from the king,

  27. Must remain between the heavens and the earth, beautiful and wriggling,

  28. So that the king may both mourn for him and seek him out.

  29. So the king has many sons in the further interest of loss prevention.

  30. So a king’s son must be killed unlawfully.

  31. So Absalom might have been assigned female at birth,

  32. and therefore hesitates before the cut,

  33. and therefore lives in the king’s house but does not see the king’s face,

  34. who goes into his father’s concubines,

  35. who burns the king’s fields,

  36. Who the king warns no one to touch;

  37. Who the king loudly mourns;

  38. So that the king may kill him first, and regret thereafter;

  39. So the king’s son Solomon replicates;

  40. So there are many Solomons, none in trees,

  41. So Solomon, whose hair is light, gets a trim every four weeks;

  42. So Solomon sits lightly on the throne,

  43. So Absalom struggles heavy in the tree,

  44. And the king says, Do not touch that one,

  45. Do not look,

  46. Have you killed him?

  47. So are all king’s sons assigned female at birth,

  48. There being room for only one king at a time,

  49. and a second thereafter.

  50. Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up a pillar for himself, which is in the King’s Valley. For he said, “I have no son to keep my name in remembrance.” He called the pillar after his own name. And to this day it is called Absalom’s Monument.

  51. “Four elements are necessary for a successful loss prevention plan: 1) Total support from top management, 2) A positive employee attitude, 3) Maximum use of all available resources, 4) A system which establishes both responsibility and accountability for loss prevention through evaluations that are consistent and progressive.” (Sennewald & Christman.)

  52. Before beginning your shift, answer the following questions:

  53. Did Joab have total support from top management?

  54. Did the Cushite have a positive employee attitude?

  55. Did King David maximize his available resources?

  56. Who is accountable for son-loss prevention?

  57. One more thing:

  58. Go out to to the terebinth tree and collect Absalom’s dark heavy hair.

  59. Now evaluate it.

  60. Have you disgraced all the servants who saved your life?

  61. Is Solomon a comfort to you?

  62. Once you walked out of the men’s room as your father was walking in. He was startled. He was thinking: What is my daughter doing in the men’s room? Go back and answer him.

  63. Struggle halfway between heaven and earth.

  64. How would you look with three javelins to the heart?

  65. Would they tug you closer to earth, or closer to heaven?

  66. Were the javelins made of terebinth wood?

  67. When was the last time you checked the family inventory?

  68. How many sons does your father have?

  69. And who will be father after him?

  70. What would have been different if you had cut your hair sooner?

  71. If you found your father in the terebinth tree, could you have hidden from him?

  72. Set up a pillar in your lifetime.

  73. What do you have in common with your father’s enemies?

  74. Struggle,

  75. anticipate injury,

  76. weigh action against inaction,

  77. take the spear-shot like a king’s son,

  78. make way for Solomon,

  79. Welcome Solomon,

  80. Move over for Solomon,

  81. Set up Solomon as king over you,

  82. Assign yourself a hairstyle at birth,

  83. Let my lord King David live forever!