7 minutes reading time (1304 words)

The Absalom Spirit


2 Samuel 15

After this, Absalom bought a chariot and horses, and he hired fifty bodyguards to run ahead of him. 2 He got up early every morning and went out to the gate of the city. When people brought a case to the king for judgment, Absalom would ask where in Israel they were from, and they would tell him their tribe. 3 Then Absalom would say, "You've really got a strong case here! It's too bad the king doesn't have anyone to hear it. 4 I wish I were the judge. Then everyone could bring their cases to me for judgment, and I would give them justice!"

5 When people tried to bow before him, Absalom wouldn't let them. Instead, he took them by the hand and kissed them. 6 Absalom did this with everyone who came to the king for judgment, and so he stole the hearts of all the people of Israel.

When we study the bible, certain characters' stories carry traits that become recognised as the mode of operation of certain spirits that will work through the lives of people. You may well have heard of the "Jezebel" spirit. While Jezebel was a woman in the Old Testament, she is also mentioned as being at work in the Church in Revelation. Obviously, Revelation is not referring to the same woman who lived a thousand years earlier, but s referring to a spirit that was at work in the Church. Another easily identified spirit is the one that was at work in Absalom.

The Absalom spirit gathers others around him to uphold his importance

Absalom was already a prince but it was not enough. He had to have 50 men going ahead of him to show to others how important he was. The Absalom spirit draws others around him who fulfil the function of lifting up the importance of the Absalom spirit. An Absalom will usually have a band of "die-hard" followers who are convinced of the "specialness" of Absalom.

The Absalom spirit will be on the fringes of what God is doing

Absalom went to the gates, or the entry point of the city that had been established by his father. He was jealous of his father's authority. He would not go to the palace – the centre of what was taking place in the city. He went to the edges of it – away from the true place of authority.

In the same way, the Absalom spirit is jealous of the authority or ministry or blessing of another. Because of the jealousy, they do not draw into the middle of fellowship, and will not come into close relationship with leadership or community. But instead stays on the edges of that community or ministry that they are jealous of.

The Absalom spirit subverts divine authority in an attempt to establish its own

Absalom set himself up near the gate of the city – the traditional seat of authority. Suggesting his own authority without making in bold (and treasonous!) statements. Absalom's plan was never to be a bridge or an agent of reconciliation between the complainant coming to the city and the king. Instead it was his intention to draw the person away from the king.

In the same way, the Absalom spirit will seek to draw people away from those who have been put in recognised spiritual authority within a body of believers. They will seek to get the individual to recognise their own authority and suggest that the established authority is somehow illegitimate. They will seek to cast aspersions on the quality of leadership, the level of care, or anything else that will tear down the rightful spiritual authority within a body of believers.

The Absalom spirit gathers the offended and complainers around it

Absalom waited near the gate and sought to speak to anyone who was coming to David with an offence or complaint. It is interesting to note that nothing is said about others who were coming without a complaint (despite the fact the story would suggest there were those who followed Absalom without coming with an issue or complaint). I believe the narrative points to those with a complaint that spoke to Absalom help to highlight another spiritual principle.

The Absalom spirit will gather around him the disgruntled, the complainers and the offended. As noted, Absalom does not seek to reconcile such people and resolve the issue at hand. Instead, he will nurture the offence. By legitimizing the offence, Absalom is then able to point at "David" and make an attack on his authority.

Unlike David at Adullums cave, who gathered men around him who were not satisfied with the "old anointing" of Saul and were seeking after the new thing that God was doing and became his "mighty men"; Absalom is only able to gather offended complainers as his authority is not legitimate. Thus he only manages to gather to himself "unfruitful" offended people who have not been fruitful in the past nor will be in the future. But for the offended, Absalom is a seen as blessing because he receives, legitimizes and nurtures their offence and complaint.

The Absalom spirit wants to be thought well of by those around it.

Just as Absalom told those coming to David whatever he thought they needed to hear, and welcomed and kissed them, the Absalom spirit wants to be thought well of by others. It lusts for the praises and admiration that legitimate spiritual authority receives so it will say and do whatever it feels it needs to in order to gain favour from those around it.

Absalom has a "silver tongue"

Absalom subverted David's authority by making clever remarks and statements to those who were coming to David with an issue or complaint. The words themselves were not lies but the inferences made by Absalom drew people away from the authority that had been set in place (that is David's) and drew people to Absalom. While Absalom did not necessarily lie, he loaded his communications to benefit himself rather than the kingdom.

In the same way, the Absalom spirit will always have very clever answers and statements that will sound very spiritual and noble, but in the end Absalom is not seeking to build the Kingdom of God and will not following divine authority. Everything he does and everything he says is loaded to ultimately get people to follow him. Because he wants to be "king".

What to do with an Absalom spirit.

Firstly, pray for the person who is under the influence of such a spirit. Remember that the person is not your enemy, nor the enemy of your church. Despite the fact that person in question may have some personality traits that bend in this direction, they are in fact under the influence of a demonic power.

Secondly, in order for this spirit to be broken, there must be a recognition of sin and repentance. The person in question needs to be urged to lay down their offences and the offences of others they are carrying to legitimize they claim to authority. Holding such offences is actually sin and they need to repent of it.

Thirdly, the person needs to be willing to come under spiritual discipline and a time of restoration. The unwillingness to do this is a sign that rebellion is still present. Such rebellion is unrepentant sin and 1 Corinthians is clear about how such sin must be handled – the breaking of any fellowship with such a person.

Those who have been affected (or more to the point "disaffected") by someone with an Absalom spirit will also need to be shown the error of holding their offence and not seeking to resolve it with person in accordance with the scriptural and spiritual practice of forgiveness, and to reset their thinking with regard to correct divine authority. 

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