It was a trying time in Israel. Due to David’s sin, troubles developed in his family and in the nation. Absalom, one of David’s sons, took advantage of the turmoil to promote himself and his own agenda. Absalom was a man of great ability and tremendous potential. Sadly, his choices revealed a self-serving personality. Absalom was, indeed, a man who was “all about” himself.

The Bible says, “Now in all Israel there was no one who was praised as much as Absalom for his good looks” (2 Samuel 14:25). We should never confuse character with an appealing outward appearance. Absalom had one, but lacked the other. Let us not allow outward appearance to cloud our judgment about ourselves or others.

In my Bible, the heading before 2 Samuel 15 says “Absalom’s Treason.” Here is part of that passage:

(2) Now Absalom would rise early and stand beside the way to the gate. So it was, whenever anyone who had a lawsuit came to the king for a decision, that Absalom would call to him and say, ‘What city are you from?’ And he would say, ‘Your servant is from such and such a tribe of Israel.’ (3) Then Absalom would say to him, ‘Look, your case is good and right; but there is no deputy of the king to hear you.’ (4) Moreover Absalom would say, ‘Oh, that I were made judge in the land, and everyone who has any suit or cause would come to me; then I would give him justice.’ (5) And so it was, whenever anyone came near to bow down to him, that he would put out his hand and take him and kiss him. (6) In this manner Absalom acted toward all Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel . . . (8) . . . ‘If the LORD indeed brings me back to Jerusalem, then I will serve the LORD’ . . . (10) Then Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, ‘As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then you shall say, ‘Absalom reigns in Hebron’ . . . (12) . . . And the conspiracy grew strong, for the people with Absalom continually increased in number. (13) Now a messenger came to David, saying, ‘The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom.’

Absalom was a pitiful schmoozer (15:3-5). He wanted the people to think he was interested in their welfare, but he cared only about himself. He said he had a heart that wanted justice (15:4), but he was a liar. With his lips, he claimed he would serve the Lord (15:8), but his heart was far from Him (Mark 7:6).

Absalom was a schemer/conspirator. He instigated a conspiracy against King David, his dad, and the forces behind Absalom were strong (15:12). Admit this: the shrewd man knew what he wanted, he formed a plan, and he was willing to work toward his goal. What did he seek? The throne (15:10).

In order to achieve his goal, what did Absalom do? He would rise up early to carry out his activities (15:2). He connected with the people by going to where they were (15:2). He communicated with people (15:2,3). He listened to people (15:2). He was not partial – he reached out to all Israel (15:6). In some aspects, Absalom’s approach showed wisdom and practicality which we could use, if we would apply them properly in wholesome endeavors.

It is undeniable that Absalom showed leadership skills. No, he was not a godly one, but he was a leader. He was influential with people, as seen in this truth: “The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom” (15:13). Folks followed him and did what he wanted, meaning he was their leader.

As a leader, Absalom’s tactics revealed that he was a phony. He had a false humility, portraying himself as a servant of the people (15:2). Absalom was anything but a servant. He was as slick as some modern-day politicians who care only about their own selfish interests. He made great promises (15:4), but his life showed that he was a hypocrite. He kissed people, but he did not really care about their needs (15:5). He was deceitful – he used spies, and his real motive was concealed (15:7-10). In general, Absalom was disrespectful to his father, his family, his nation, and the Lord Himself.

Absalom was a stealer. He “stole the hearts of the men of Israel” (15:6). With no visible sense of shame, he stole his father’s throne (15:10). He also stole the country’s joy: “And all the country wept with a loud voice” (15:23). Absalom served his own belly.

Absalom also was a destroyer. He was a traitor to his family and his nation. He broke his father’s heart. He destroyed his family’s unity (Mark 3:25). He destroyed the unity of God’s people, as he enticed many to follow his lead while others remained loyal to the God-ordained king, David (Mark 3:24). He did not seem to care how his actions might affect the lives of others. Absalom was “all about” Absalom, period.

What did Absalom have going in his favor? He had his father’s love. He possessed ability, potential, and committed followers. Sadly, he used his blessings for his own glory and not for the good of God’s people. Our challenge is to do more than point a finger at Absalom and observe, “Man, he sure made some serious mistakes!” We each need to look at Absalom’s heart and actions and ask ourselves, “Is that me? Am I more like Absalom than I want to admit?”

— Roger D. Campbell