“During his lifetime Absalom had taken a pillar and erected it in the King’s Valley as a monument to himself, for he thought, “I have no son to carry on the memory of my name.” He named the pillar after himself, and it is called Absalom’s monument to this day.” 2 Sam 18:18
Often the passages your eyes glaze over in scripture can be the most revealing. Honestly, I have read this passage many times and have never given it much thought. Yea, yea, he stacked up some rocks in his name…Perhaps it is the convergence of the sting of the Panthers SuperBowl loss, the sad display of character during the post-game interview, my current book I am reading and my doctoral research that has given me fresh eyes to see this passage and the sad life of Absalom.
Quick who’s who: Absalom is the son of King David–“as David’s house grew stronger, his rival Saul’s grew weaker.” So, Absalom as the third son to David, would have felt a growing sense of strength but also seen a widening chasm between his chances to be king with 2 older brothers.
David’s oldest son, Amnon, however, rapes his sister, which affords Absalom the opportunity to kill his older brother. This leads to him being estranged from his father (2 Sam 14:28), plotting a coup against David and driving him from Jerusalem. Of course, Absalom had never fought in battle and fell for the flattering advice of a spy (2 Sam 17:11) that led to Absalom’s death.
In case one cannot see the growth of Absalom’s ego, his death portrays the inflated sense of self–“He was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absalom’s head got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going.” (2 Sam 18:9).
That is the story of a man whose head became so big it got him stuck. So no wonder his epitaph was in reference to the monument he erected instead of his leaving a generational legacy.
All the other details are far juicer than this seemingly small footnote in 2 Samuel 18:18.
Yet, as I read it this morning, it made me wonder how many men are laboring, manipulating, and conspiring in order to build a monument with their name attached to it. We are told that because Absalom was so fixated with himself, he left “no son to carry on the memory of my name.”
However, that is not entirely true. Absalom did have three sons (2 Sam 14:27)! What Absalom did was fail to invest into them. He wanted someone or something to carry on a memory of his name. He was not interested in equipping and empowering and investing in them. The problem was Absalom never nurtured those relationships. He was focused on building his name.
Therefore, though he did have children, Absalom had to manufacture a legacy by stacking some stones on top of each other down in the King’s Valley.
So what are you building? Are you investing in a rock pile or people?