Absalom - Marks of An Usurper
By Mary Stephens
In reading 2 Samuel, I came to the notorious story of Absalom's conspiracy to take the throne from his father, David. This all starts in chapter 15 where we are given a description of his initial tactics and then verse 6 says, And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel. (2Samuel 15:6) A look at his methods might prove profitable to us today when there are so many who would usurp the Lord and the authorities He has set in place in the New Testament.
1. His first step was to make himself appear important - actually more important than he was. 2Samuel 15:1 And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him. Beware of men and women who make themselves more important than they really are. There are many "experts" these days who want us to think that they are essential to our understanding because they are very important people with a very important message. Self-aggrandizing behavior is not the basis for real usefulness or respectability. Doug Phillips, recent leader of the late Vision Forum, is a prime example of this. He put himself often into the place of honor, when in reality he was making himself an alternate authority, usurping the authority of Jesus Christ and God's word. Psalms 49:16-20 Be not thou afraid when one is made rich, when the glory of his house is increased; For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him. Though while he lived he blessed his soul: and men will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself. He shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light. Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.
2. He was very zealous in his pursuit of this. He worked hard to accomplish his goal. 2Samuel 15:2 And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate... Early and often is the key deception here. This can be very seductive and mind turning. We are inclined to mistake zeal and diligence with usefulness and being "right". Paul warned the Galatians, They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them. Gal. 4:17.
3. He put himself in a positions of importance. The gate of the city was an important place in old Israel. It was there that the old men and leaders of the community sat and made decisions (Ruth 4:1-2). It was there that the enemies were confronted (Ps. 127:5). Beware of those who will put themselves in or near a position that is associated with power or wisdom who have not earned the right to be there, or who have earned it through methods that are not clearly biblical. Proverbs 25:6-7 Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men: For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.
4. Absalom associated himself with the cause of the people. 2 Samuel 15:2 ...and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel. This has been a prime tool for Communists, patriotic zealots and many other political trouble makers. The confidence of the people is won by a man who appears common and important at the same time. Many will claim that they are seeking what is "good for the people" when in reality they are seeking their own advancement. This is very deceptive because we all want someone who is "on our side". Jesus said, "He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth." Luke 11:23 If the "glory person" is not being faithful to Jesus Christ's clear teachings to His church think again!
5. In this verse we also see that he placed himself between the people and the authority. Notice that these men were coming to see the king, and he had found a way to get to them first. This is SO important. There are so many teachers and preachers who put themselves between "the people" and the Lord! Pastors who tell us to follow them and they will follow Jesus are usurpers who have placed themselves between us and our King. 1Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; People who have special teachings, inside information that you can only get from them, or who make a big deal about "God given authorities" that don't line up with New Testament scripture are seeking to put themselves between you and God. The implication that you can't really serve the Lord properly without them and their special materials and teaching is the mark of a usurper! You can count on that. And this means the Patriarchy Movement, modern apostles, pastors of local churches, and many "denominations" (Mormonism, the Roman Catholic church, International House of Prayer, etc.) 1 John 2:26-27 These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
6. He justified men so that they would owe him a favor. 2Samuel 15:3 And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee. Those who wish to usurp authority justify men because it gives them leverage. Once the person has accepted the justification from the usurper he (or she) "owes him (or her) one." He also feels like the usurper is his friend. Kids will be told their parents are either too strict or unspiritual. Wives and husbands will be told their spouse is not spiritual or no good. Pastors will allow or even help their people to do unbiblical things in order to put them in bondage to themselves. People will be told that by following their extremist tendencies they are "pleasing God" (tax rebellion, patriarchy, patriotism, Torah keeping, etc.).
7. At the same time in this verse he plays on human fear that they won't get what they think they deserve. The implication of what Absalom said is that they aren't going to be heard. With verse 4 where he laments that he isn't able to judge the matter for them, he is leading them to believe that they won't get justice, which is playing heavily on their fears. This is a powerful and subtle tactic. If a usurper can make his/her target afraid and then lead them to think that he/she is the only one that can solve this problem, he/she will have a tremendous amount of power over the target. This is very distinctly displayed in the "Biblical Patriarchy" movement where people are threatened with the fear that their family won't "turn out well" and "serve God faithfully" like they should if x, y, or z should happen. The solution, of course, is to follow the teachings of "Biblical Patriarchy" and its leaders very carefully and then the results will be "wonderful". Michael Pearl is a master of this method, as is Bill Gothard and ATI. They feed the fear in order to gain authority/control over the victim and then retain his allegiance (and usually his wallet). Proverbs 29:25 The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe. 2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
8. At the same time here we see he questions the king's wisdom. ...there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee. This is the subtle sort of implication we find in the mouth of Satan in Genesis 3:1, Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said... It is designed to cast doubt upon the authority that is under attack. This will play itself out in various ways. When clear scripture passages get the "what this really means..." treatment, you need to take a second look. That is likely to lead to subverting God's authority. ("If the plain sense makes good sense don't look for any other sense.") Questioning and redefining the meaning of the word of God is in effect questioning His wisdom and authority.
Absalom then proceeds to set himself up as a viable alternative to the authority
through the power of suggestion. 2Samuel 15:4 Absalom said
moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any
suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice! The implication
of this statement is that there were no good judges available, and that justice
was not going to be done since he wasn't a judge. This casts
10. He exercised false humility. 2Samuel 15:5 And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him. This is very deceptive. Absalom made himself appear to be "just one of the guys" to the men of Israel. The common touch (here actually physical) invites people to feel like someone is really their friend and "one of us." We need to stop and realize that the motives and methods are not in keeping with the actions. Absalom appeared humble, but in reality he would not have even been in that situation if he had been humble. He obviously thought a lot of himself, which we saw in verse one, or he would not have been trying to usurp the throne! Paul speaks of those who ...serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. Romans 16:18 Such was Absalom, and so are all those that would usurp authority. They know they have to do and say "good" things in order to deceive those who profess godliness.
11. He flattered them. In verse 3 he says, "See, thy matters are good and right;" and in verse 5 we see that he kissed the man. (This was a form of Middle Eastern greeting, not a homosexual act. I have to insert that because there are people out there on both sides of that issue who make nonsensical claims.) This was flattering to the man he was trying to deceive. Here was the king's son showing him preferential treatment! This is very enticing. Men like Bill Gothard, Doug Phillips, Jack Hyles, and many others use flattery to gain people's confidence. We humans have a tendency to like people who say good things to us and about us and who treat us well. This is also a method that is used by the devil. Daniel 11:32 appears to be speaking of the Anti-christ and says, And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. The book of Proverbs warns repeatedly about flattery. It is a very subtle and powerful tool for those who wish to do evil, and is particularly useful for those trying to usurp biblically defined authorities. Proverbs 29:5 A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet. The object lesson use here is that of a trap. The flatterer is trying to trap the person and ensnare them for their own wicked purposes.
2Samuel 15:6 And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.
In conclusion, we find that Absalom built up a rapport with the men of Israel which he used as the basis for overthrowing his father, David, and taking the throne by force. He literally stole the hearts of these people, as the word of God tells us.
There are many today who would usurp authority in our lives. Marriages are attacked this way when someone wants to take a man's wife or a woman's husband. Children are enticed with these methods to rebel against their parents or to reject their upbringing. Victims can be groomed by predators with similar methods, especially predators who are in places of spiritual leadership. Pastors who want people to follow them instead of Christ and His word will do this. Tax rebels, Reconstructionists, Libertarians and nationalistic rabble rousers will suggest that they should be followed if we want a "good country." Leaders in various movements use these methods to gain power over people and "steal their hearts".
Those who attempt to steal hearts do not have people's best interests in mind. They are rebels seeking to displace real God-given authority! They are seeking their own glory at the expense and shame of others.
Proverbs 14:7 Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge. 8 The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit.
3John 1:9 I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. 10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. 11 Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.
Proverbs 4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
& graphics by Mary Stephens