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What is Absalom’s Monument?

translate Absalom’s Monument

Absalom was the son of King David who attempted to overthrow his father and take the kingdom for himself. For a while it looked as if Absalom might be successful, but in the end, Absalom was killed and the throne was restored to David. The whole story is told in 2 Samuel 15—18. Absalom’s Monument is mentioned in 2 Samuel 18.

Absalom was killed in battle in the forest of Gilead. His body was thrown into a pit and covered with a large heap of rocks. Scripture then gives us this note: “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 Samuel 18:18).

Today in Israel, there is a structure that is called “Absalom’s Monument” or sometimes “Absalom’s Tomb.” Based on the record of 2 Samuel 18:17, Absalom’s burial place was not memorialized. According to verse 18, “Absalom’s Monument” was still standing at the time of the writing of 2 Samuel. The monument was erected by Absalom during his lifetime as a tribute to himself, but there is no mention of his being buried there.

The monument in Israel today called “Absalom’s Monument” or “Absalom’s Tomb” is in the Kidron Valley (which most people identify as the ancient “King’s Valley”). The bottom of the monument is carved out of a hillside from solid rock, and the conical roof is also carved, but not out of the same piece of rock. However, as with many sites in the Holy Land, Absalom’s Monument is probably not what it is billed to be. The structure’s design was inspired by Greek architecture, and archeologists have dated it to the first century. As a tomb, it does not seem to fit the description given in the biblical record. Absalom was buried under a pile of rocks. Unless his body was later moved to the location of his monument, the “Absalom’s Tomb” in Israel today cannot be Absalom’s true resting place. But then we have the problem of the structure’s design. The Bible says the monument Absalom built for himself was a pillar, which seems to be an odd way to describe the present “Absalom’s Monument,” which is roughly an 8ˈ x 8ˈ square room (tomb).

Despite the discrepancies, it had been a tradition for many years for people to throw rocks at the Absalom’s Monument to show their distaste for Absalom’s rebellion. It was also the practice of parents to take their unruly children to view the monument to help remind them of the ultimate destiny of disrespectful children.

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Questions about 2 Samuel

What is Absalom’s Monument?
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This page last updated: February 7, 2022