Absalom was the third son of King David by Maacah as we read in 2 Samuel 3:2-3, “And unto David were sons born in Hebron: and his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess; And his second, Chileab, of Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur.”  Absalom was known for his beauty and his long, luxurious hair as we read in 2 Samuel 14:25-26, “But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. And when he polled his head, (for it was at every year’s end that he polled it: because the hair was heavy on him, therefore he polled it:) he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels after the king’s weight.”

Absalom killed his brother, Amnon, for raping their sister, Tamar.  2 Samuel 13:10-14, “And Amnon said unto Tamar, Bring the meat into the chamber, that I may eat of thine hand. And Tamar took the cakes which she had made, and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother. And when she had brought them unto him to eat, he took hold of her, and said unto her, Come lie with me, my sister. And she answered him, Nay, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not thou this folly. And I, whither shall I cause my shame to go? and as for thee, thou shalt be as one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, I pray thee, speak unto the king; for he will not withhold me from thee. Howbeit he would not hearken unto her voice: but, being stronger than she, forced her, and lay with her.”  2 Samuel 13:28-29, “Now Absalom had commanded his servants, saying, Mark ye now when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say unto you, Smite Amnon; then kill him, fear not: have not I commanded you? be courageous, and be valiant. And the servants of Absalom did unto Amnon as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king’s sons arose, and every man gat him up upon his mule, and fled.”

Out of fear of David, Absalom ran away.  We read in 2 Samuel 13:38, “So Absalom fled, and went to Geshur, and was there three years.”  After the three years, Absalom returned to Jerusalem, but he was forbidden to come into his father David’s presence.  He set himself up as judge in Jerusalem and gave out promises of what he would do if he were king.  He began to undermine David’s rule and began to win over those in Jerusalem.  We read in 2 Samuel 15:4-6, “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! 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. 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.”  It was because of this allegiance to Absalom that David fled from Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 15:13-17).

Absalom’s death was a result of his long, flowing hair.  Eventually, David returned to Jerusalem to reclaim his kingdom.  I encourage you to read this account of Absalom’s death when his hair got caught in tree branches in 2 Samuel 18:9-16.

To answer the enquirer’s question, let’s now read 2 Samuel 15:7, “And it came to pass after forty years, that Absalom said unto the king, I pray thee, let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed unto the LORD, in Hebron.”  It is debatable whether Absalom actually reigned for forty years.  Many believe that this number is on account of a copyist’s error and Absalom ruled for only four years.  We know that David ruled for forty years for we read in 1 Kings 2:10-11, “So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David. And the days that David reigned over Israel were forty years: seven years reigned he in Hebron, and thirty and three years reigned he in Jerusalem.”  Since David ruled before and after Absalom’s time of reign (he was still the legitimate king during Absalom’s reign), we see that Absalom could not have ruled for forty years.  Many translations say that he reigned for four years, not forty.  For example, the Amplified Bible translates that verse as “And after four years, Absalom said to the king, “Please let me go and pay my vow which I have made to the Lord at Hebron [my birthplace].”” (370.4)