Skeptics Annotated Bible A Response

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#7 - How many sons did Absalom have?

Response by Wendell Leahy

Absalom had no sons
2 Samuel 18:17-18 17
They took Absalom, threw him into a large pit in the forest, and piled a huge mound of stones over him. And all Israel fled, each to his tent. When he was alive, Absalom had erected for himself a pillar in the King's Valley, for he had said, "I have no son to preserve the memory of my name." So he gave the pillar his name. It is still called Absalom's Monument today.

Absalom had three sons
2 Samuel 14:27: And unto Absalom there were born three sons.

Absalom's three sons had all died before him, so that he was left with only a daughter, Tamar, who became the grandmother of Abijah.

I have difficulty finding the 3 names (a work in progress).... However, we know that Tamar was Absalom's daughter. The evidence given indicates his sons all died before him, having significance in his life and death.

Much of the claims being made concern issues that are irrelevant to the claim, yet are in fact, relevant to the context of the books in which they are quoted. In many cases, the Skeptic will leave out major portions of these verses, which normally would give the correct answers.

From these historical books (Kings, Chronicles and Samuel) the true meanings of these text are lost with the Skeptics. In truth, much of this section with Absalom is directly related to his father, King David and the importance of Israel's spiritual condition of that day. In fact, if can be said that The Book of Kings is written from man's view of Israel's history while Chronicles is Gods view towards Israel at this critical time of their history. Each book are equal to each other as far as history is concerned, which is why they are called, the Historical books. To understand this importance, I offer a few quotes from Dr. J. Vernon McGee concerning Kings and Chronicles.
The major theme:
Kings: "The standard of the kingdom: "as David his father" (repeated 9 times in 1Kings) It was human standard, but man failed to attain even to it. This book is a continuation of the narrative begun in 1 & 2 Samuel. Each of these four books can be view as one book. From these four books the history of the nation is traced from the time of its greatest extent, influence, and prosperity under David and Solomon to the division and finally the captivity and exile of both kingdoms"
Chronicles: Written during the Babylonian captivity. It could have been a compilation, assembled by Ezra, of diaries and journals of the priests and prophets. These two Books of Chronicles not only constitute one book in the original, but apparently also include Ezra and Nehemiah. This lend support to the authority of Ezra and supports the Jewish traditions. Scholars have noted a similarity in the Hebrew of all four books. Chronicles does not record David's sin - when God forgives, He forgets. The temple and Jerusalem are prominent in Chronicles. In Kings, the history of the nation is given from the throne; in Chronicles, it is given from the alter.
  • The palace is the center in Kings; the temple is the center in Chronicles.
  • Kings records the political history; Chronicles records the religious history.
  • Chronicles is an interpretation of Kings - hence the constant references in Kings to Chronicles.
  • Kings gives us man's point of view;
  • Chronicles gives us God's viewpoint
(note this well as you read Chronicles; it will suprise you).
Indeed, Skeptics Annotated Bible has it's value, in that, it causes those who wish to examine the importance of Old Testament history and dig deeper to present the facts. The 'Skeptics' simply misinterpret these scriptures, and in most cases, what is presented is irrelevant to the claim being made, yet the importance is based in the spiritual precepts which are prescribed throughout the Biblical writings, such as we have presented with, Absalom. His history is important to understand.

It is valuable to understand Absalom's death and the why he was fatherless upon his death. Because of this, I have included several links to review, which give a wider picture of this son of David.

Absalom’s Pillar or Place Smiths Bible Dicitonary
A monument of tomb which Absalom had built during his lifetime in the king’s dale, i.e. the valley of the Kedron, at the foot of Mount Olivet, near Jerusalem, (2 Samuel 18:18) comp. with 2Sam 14:27 for his three sons, and where he probably expected to be buried. The tomb there now, and called by Absalom’s name was probably built at a later date.
Matthew Henry:
His body is disposed of disgracefully (v. 17, 18): They cast it into a great pit in the wood; they would not bring it to his father (for that circumstance would but have added to his grief), nor would they preserve it to be buried, according to his order, but threw it into the next pit with indignation. Now where is the beauty he had been so proud of and for which he had been so much admired? Where are his aspiring projects, and the castles he had built in the air? His thoughts perish, and he with them. And, to signify how heavy his iniquity lay upon his bones, as the prophet speaks (Eze. 32:27), they raised a great heap of stones upon him, to be a monument of his villany, and to signify that he ought to have been stoned as a rebellious son, Deu. 21:21. Travelers say that the place is taken note of to this day, and that it is common for passengers to throw a stone to this heap, with words to this purport: Cursed be the memory of rebellious Absalom, and cursed for ever be all wicked children that rise up in rebellion against their parents. To aggravate the ignominy of Absalom’s burial, the historian takes notice of a pillar he had erected in the valley of Kidron, near Jerusalem, to be a monument for himself, and keep his name in remembrance (v. 18), at the foot of which, it is probable, he designed to be buried. What foolish insignificant projects do proud men fill their heads with! And what care do many people take about the disposal of their bodies, when they are dead, that have no care at all what shall become of their precious souls! Absalom had three sons (ch. 14:27), but, it seems, now he had none; God had taken them away by death; and justly is a rebellious son written childless. To make up the want, he erects this pillar for a memorial; yet in this also Providence crosses him, and a rude heap of stones shall be his monument, instead of this marble pillar. Thus those that exalt themselves shall be abased. His care was to have his name kept in remembrance, and it is so, to his everlasting dishonour. He could not be content in the obscurity of the rest of David’s sons, of whom nothing is recorded but their names, but would be famous, and is therefore justly made for ever infamous. The pillar shall bear his name, but not to his credit; it was designed for Absalom’s glory, but proved Absalom’s folly.

Response by Dave Marr Dan of Israel

The skeptics cite these verses

Absalom had no sons:

"Now Absalom ... said, I have not son to keep my name in remembrance." 2 Sam.18:18

Absalom had three sons.

"And unto Absalom there were born three sons." 2 Sam.14:27


The key part of verse 2 Samuel 18:18 is ”to keep my name in remembrance.”, which is a conditional statement. The passage does not say that “Absalom had no son”, but that he had no sons who would “keep [his] name in remembrance”. This address by Absalom is mentioned in the verse because it is giving the reason why Absalom erected a pillar to himself. Unfortunately, a date, or point of reference, is not given for this event in his lifetime.

In the line for David’s throne, Amnon was first (2 Sam. 3:2), but he was killed by Absalom. It would seem that this scandal severely limited the chances for Absalom to become the next king(God anointed future kings in Israel by a prophet). Absalom was killed in a battle against his father David, so Abinijah gathered men of Israel together for his coronation. However, Solomon, who was born later, ultimately won the throne over him. Chileab was the second-born(right after Amnon), so it would seem logical that he should have had the crown over the others. (2 Sam. 3:3)

Notwithstanding, he was not even considered, which means that either 1.) he died before David's death, or 2.) some condition was reasoned deeming him unfit.

Therefore, there are three possible reasons why the three sons would not keep Absalom’s name in remembrance. First, they could have all died before Absalom erected the pillar; however, this situation is most unlikely. The next possibility is that perhaps Absalom perceived that he would not receive the kingdom, at the time that he made the statement. This condition would mean that future generations would likely not be familiar with Absalom’s name, since it would not be his dynasty.

The most likely reason is that these sons had no respect for their father, and did not support him. The precedence of this disrespect was already found in Absalom, in his impudence against David. In 2 Sam. 14:27, Absalom’s sons are born. None of their names are mentioned(highly unusual in a Biblical account), and we do not hear about them again. That fact is incredibly strange, considering that the next four chapters focus primarily on Absalom’s actions: his conspiracy and revolt against his father David, and the battle which ensued- where he was killed. This omission from major events would, in all probablility, also confirm that Absalom did not have any confidence in his sons.

What all of this really concludes is that Absalom did indeed have three sons, but he postulated some unknown reason pertaining to why his sons would not keep his name in remembrance in future generations.