Narcissist Case Study – Absalom

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In the case of Absalom, there is not a clear statement in the Bible about his insolent pride / narcissism.  However, there are clues regarding Absalom’s drive for self-aggrandisement, which ultimately led to his own death.   Absalom’s quest for exaltation resulted in his destruction, and in the process was a tool used by God to chasten David for his sin in the case of Bathsheba and Uriah.

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Absalom was the 3rd son born to David in Hebron (before David became king over all Israel), and as the grandson of the king of Geshur was the only one of David’s original sons who came from royalty.

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2 Samuel 3:2-4

Sons were born to David at Hebron: his firstborn was Amnon, by Ahinoam the Jezreelitess; and his second, Chileab, by Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur; and the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital;

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Absalom was very handsome, which is inherently neutral on the pride scale.  However, a clue to his narcissistic pride came through how he viewed and treated his hair.

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2 Samuel 14:25-26

25 Now in all Israel was no one as handsome as Absalom, so highly praised; from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no defect in him.26 When he cut the hair of his head (and it was at the end of every year that he cut it, for it was heavy on him so he cut it), he weighed the hair of his head at 200 shekels by the king’s weight.

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It takes a pretty vain man to weigh his hair for the presumed purpose of boasting to everyone how lush his hair is.

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Another clue as to Absalom’s narcissistic pride was in his haughtiness in punishing Joab (by burning down his field) for ignoring him when Absalom wanted Joab to go to the king on his behalf.  Being banned from the king’s presence, Absalom was not in a position to dictate to others.  Joab had already gone out of his way to advocate for Absalom’s return to Jerusalem, for which Absalom should have been grateful.  Absalom may have outranked Joab in the royal court, but in light of his situation Absalom’s actions were quite insolent.  These action were not normal, but rather the mark of a haughty person with insolent pride.

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2 Samuel 14:28-33

28 Now Absalom lived two full years in Jerusalem, and did not see the king’s face. 29 Then Absalom sent for Joab, to send him to the king, but he would not come to him. So he sent again a second time, but he would not come.30 Therefore he said to his servants, “See, Joab’s field is next to mine, and he has barley there; go and set it on fire.” So Absalom’s servants set the field on fire. 31 Then Joab arose, came to Absalom at his house and said to him, “Why have your servants set my field on fire?” 32 Absalom answered Joab, “Behold, I sent for you, saying, ‘Come here, that I may send you to the king, to say, “Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me still to be there.”’ Now therefore, let me see the king’s face, and if there is iniquity in me, let him put me to death.” 33 So when Joab came to the king and told him, he called for Absalom. Thus he came to the king and prostrated himself on his face to the ground before the king, and the king kissed Absalom.

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Absalom thought he should be king.  He started by giving himself the trappings, which can be a typical tip-off of someone acting out of insolent pride / narcissism.  Narcissists often will take the trappings of “greatness” as a kind of self-congratulatory symbol before actually achieving it.

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2 Samuel 15:1

15 Now it came about after this that Absalom provided for himself a chariot and horses and fifty men as runners before him.

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Proverbs 27:22 admonishes against just this kind of self-congratulation or self-exaltation…..

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Proverbs 27:2

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
A stranger, and not your own lips.

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After taking the trappings fitting for a king, Absalom went further by beginning a devious process with the intent of actually becoming king

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2 Samuel 15:2-7

Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way to the gate; and when any man had a suit to come to the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, “From what city are you?” And he would say, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.” Then Absalom would say to him, “See, your claims are good and right, but no man listens to you on the part of the king.” Moreover, Absalom would say, “Oh that one would appoint me judge in the land, then every man who has any suit or cause could come to me and I would give him justice.” And when a man came near to prostrate himself before him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him. In this manner Absalom dealt with all Israel who came to the king for judgment; so Absalom stole away the hearts of the men of Israel.

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This was an example of Proverbs 31:30’s statement that “charm is deceitful”.  Absalom was deceitfully attempting to charm the people of Israel, for the purpose of winning them to his side for the time when he would make his play to take over the throne.  His statements were obviously manipulative:

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  •  “Your claim is good and right”
    • ……Absalom made this bold statement even though it might not have been true, because at the end of the day he actually did not need to do anything about it – just empty words on his part.
  • “The king doesn’t listen to you”
    • ……..Absalom made this statement while the people were on their way to the king, which made it a fabricated smear against King David since David had not even yet had the chance to hear the case
  • “If only I were appointed judge (aka king), I could give you justice”
    • ……..This is a classic statement of a scoffer / narcissist:  “So and so has messed everything up, but I could do much better if I had the chance”.

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While it may appear on the surface that Absalom had genuine interest in the welfare of the people, his haughtiness and self-exaltation makes that highly doubtful.  Instead of caring for the people coming to him, he was carefully manipulating them toward himself and away from King David.

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Proverbs 28:25

25 An arrogant man stirs up strife,
But he who trusts in the Lord will prosper.

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Finally, Absalom was ready to make his big move.

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2 Samuel 15:7-12

Now it came about at the end of forty years that Absalom said to the king, “Please let me go and pay my vow which I have vowed to the Lord, in Hebron. For your servant vowed a vow while I was living at Geshur in Aram, saying, ‘If the Lord shall indeed bring me back to Jerusalem, then I will serve the Lord.’” The king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he arose and went to Hebron. 10 But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then you shall say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’” 11 Then two hundred men went with Absalom from Jerusalem, who were invited and went innocently, and they did not know anything. 12 And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, from his city Giloh, while he was offering the sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong, for the people increased continually with Absalom.

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God used the pride and ambition already residing in Absalom’s heart as a means of of judging David for David’s sin with Bathsheba and Uriah……

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2 Samuel 12:9-11

Why have you [David] despised the word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon. 10 Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’11 Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight.

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……..but at the same time did not let Absalom “get away with” his pride and treachery.

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2 Samuel 17:14

14 Then Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.” For the Lord had ordained to thwart the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the Lord might bring calamity on Absalom.

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Absalom’s pride led him to attempt to become king in place of his father David, and this attempt resulted in his death.  This was truly a case of Proverbs 16:18 coming true.

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Proverbs 16:18

18 Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling.

 

Absalom was an example of a narcissist used as a tool by the hand of God for a specific purpose, with God subsequently allowing the narcissist to fail as a direct result of his insolent pride.

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Putting “Biblical Perspectives On Narcissism” Into Perspective

 

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