An Absalom spirit refers to a rebellious and deceitful spirit, similar to the biblical Absalom who rebelled against his father King David. Absalom was King David’s son who tried to overthrow his father’s kingdom through lies, deception, and turning people against David (2 Samuel 15). An Absalom spirit manifests through rebellion, distrust of authority, division, pride, and seeking control. Here is a more in-depth look at the characteristics of an Absalom spirit from a biblical perspective:
Rebellion Against Authority
Just as Absalom rebelled against his father’s authority as king, an Absalom spirit also rebels against and undermines God-given authority. Those with this spirit often have a distrust of leadership and struggle to submit to any type of authority figure in their lives, whether that be parents, bosses, or church leaders. There is a spirit of independence, stubbornness, and refusing to obey or heed wise counsel (1 Samuel 15:23).
Pride and Self-Promotion
Absalom was consumed by his pride, vanity and ambition. He put himself on display, exalting himself and seeking fame and recognition from men (2 Samuel 15:1-6). An Absalom spirit is marked by a focus on self-promotion, vanity, and seeking the praises of people over obedience to God. There is an inflated sense of self-importance and arrogance.
Deception and Manipulation
To steal the hearts of the people from David, Absalom used lies, flattery and deception (2 Samuel 15:1-6). An Absalom spirit will also use manipulation, smooth words, gossip and slander to divide relationships and gain control. There is a sowing of discord, mistrust, and confusion between people and an undermining of leadership through crafty speech and lies. They may appear winsome and charismatic, yet are subtly deceptive.
Seeking Control and Power
Absalom undermined his father’s kingdom because he selfishly wanted power and control for himself. His rebellion was rooted in pride and ambition. In the same way, an Absalom spirit seeks to have authority and influence over other people or situations through divisive and ungodly means. There is a grasping for power out of a wrong motive of self-promotion.
Sowing Discord and Division
One of the major fruits of an Absalom spirit is disunity, discord, and division, especially within the church. Through lies and manipulative speech, Absalom divided the people’s loyalty away from David and stole their hearts from David’s kingdom. An Absalom spirit often divides people against leadership, stirs up grumblings against authority, and fans the flames of discord among brethren. They sow seeds of bitterness, resentment, and backbiting.
Withdrawal and Isolation
Absalom eventually withdrew himself and lived in isolation as part of his rebellion against David’s rule (2 Samuel 15:12). He removed himself from being under the king’s authority. Sometimes an Absalom spirit leads to withdrawal, isolation, and refusal to reconcile broken relationships. There is an avoidance of accountability and removing oneself from the community of believers.
It is possible that Absalom’s rebellion stemmed in part from unresolved anger and bitterness in his heart towards David, since David did not initially punish Amnon for what he did to Absalom’s sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13). An Absalom spirit flows from a bitter and resentful heart that has nursed wounds rather than practicing forgiveness. Bitterness leads to rebellion and severing relationships.
Insecurity and Need for Validation
Some scholars speculate that deep down Absalom was an insecure man who tried to prove himself and win his father’s approval through his acts of rebellion. An Absalom spirit is sometimes rooted in insecurity, the need for validation from others, and fear of failure or rejection. Their self-promotion masks a deep longing to be accepted and affirmed.
Unrepentant and Hard-Hearted
Even after Absalom’s death, David grieved deeply for him, yet Absalom never repented of his rebellion. An Absalom spirit persists in stubborn, unrepentant rebellion and refuses to yield or seek restoration. They continue to justify their actions rather than humbling themselves and reconciling with others.
How Does an Absalom Spirit Gain Entry?
So how does a spirit of Absalom gain access into someone’s life? Here are some potential open doors:
- Unresolved anger, bitterness, and wounds from the past
- Pride and the need for self-exaltation
- Rejection of spiritual authority and unhealthy responses to past leadership failings or abuses
- Independence, stubbornness, and refusal to submit to God or others
- Charismatic, deceitful false teachers who model these behaviors
- Generational curses from ancestral rebellion against authority
- Envy, jealousy and ambition for power and control
- Severed family ties and broken relationships
Overcoming an Absalom Spirit
If you discern that you may be struggling with an Absalom spirit, here are some keys to overcoming it through God’s power:
- Repent before God for all rebellion, bitterness, deception, and independence.
- Forgive those who have wounded or offended you.
- Submit to all God-given authority with a humble, teachable spirit.
- Walk in integrity and avoid manipulation or control of others.
- Focus on cultivating the fruit of the Spirit, not self-promotion.
- Pursue close relationships of accountability and spiritual counsel.
- Renounce any generational curses from ancestral rebellion.
- Receive inner healing for any hurts that fed the rebellious mindset.
- Worship God daily and focus on serving His kingdom, not your own.
The good news is that we all have access to the love of the Father through Christ, who models perfect submission and obedience for us. As we surrender our hearts and lives to Him, the Holy Spirit empowers us to walk in freedom from every rebellious, divisive tendency. God graciously helps us root out any Absalom tendencies that have infiltrated our hearts when we humbly submit to Him.
Example of an Absalom Spirit
The Bible gives us not only the example of Absalom himself, but also others who demonstrated this divisive, rebellious spirit in the early church. A key example is Diotrephes, who the apostle John mentions in his third epistle:
I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. (3 John 1:9-10 ESV)
Diotrephes refused to submit to apostolic authority, spoke maliciously and divisively about John, rejected members of the wider church body, and expelled believers from his local assembly. This displays the same self-promoting, divisive Absalom tendencies.
How to Handle Someone With an Absalom Spirit
When confronting someone who displays these Absalom characteristics, here are some tips:
- Pray for them fervently, asking God to expose the root issues driving their behavior.
- Set boundaries around manipulative, divisive or slanderous speech.
- Confront them about specific sin patterns gently but firmly.
- Call them to repentance and reconciliation, not retaliation.
- If unwilling to repent, limit contact and involvement in leadership.
- Focus on protecting unity and godly order in the church body.
- Continue praying for their heart to turn back to the Lord.
An Absalom spirit can wreak havoc in families, churches, teams and organizations if left unaddressed. But through prayer, wise leadership, and God’s grace, this spirit can be overcome as relationships are reconciled and rebellious hearts softened to the Lord again.