Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up for himself a pillar that is in the King’s Valley, for he said, ‘I have no son to keep my name in remembrance’; he called the pillar by his own name. It is called Absalom’s Monument to this day.
2 Samuel 18:18
Last month I stood on the Mount of Olives to the east of Jerusalem and looked down on the Kidron Valley. There in the Valley I saw “Yad Abshalom”, or, Absalom’s Monument. It is an ancient stone monument with a conical top, built by Absalom in his own honor. Ironically, the monument has become a monument to futility. That is because for centuries every passerby — Jew, Christian and Muslim — pauses to hurl a stone at the monument Absalom built to honor his name. Residents of Jerusalem still bring their children to Absalom’s monument to curse and throw stones at his memory.
As I gazed at Absalom’s Monument I thought of how most of us long to make our mark on the world, to be remembered. We dare to hope that our name will live on. Absalom did. His story reads like a Hollywood script of lust, rage, revenge, deceit and rebellion. He was the pampered son of Israel’s greatest king, David. He was born into privilege and a title, with the highest of hopes placed on him by his father.
Outwardly Absalom seemed to have it all as he went about a charmed and enviable life. The Scriptures say of Absalom “in all Israel there was no one to be praised so much for his beauty as Absalom; from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him” (2 Kings 14:25).
But, while adored by a fawning public Absalom ran with a fast crowd and plotted against his father. Absalom eventually succeeded in turning the nation against his father and drove him from his throne in a temporary palace coup. He even went so far as to have a monument built in his honor. Absalom wanted to be remembered. But what a memory of treachery and betrayal he left us!
Now think of a different memory other than Absalom’s. Take a bus from Jerusalem and ride about 35 miles north to the West Bank city of Nablus. There on the eastern part of the city you will see what for millennia people have known as Jacob’s Well. It is the well built by Jacob on a bit of land that he bought for “one hundred pieces of money” (Genesis 33:19). There Jacob rolled up his sleeves, got down in the dirt, and dug a well for his family and flock. This is, by the way, the same well that centuries later provided water for a thirsty Jesus as he talked with the ‘woman at the well’ (John 4:12). Still today, 4,000 years after Jacob dug the well, it provides water to a thirsty traveler.
I often think about Absalom and Jacob. I think of their two very different lives. One was spent in self-promotion, even raising a monument to himself; the other spent in serving God and serving others. One is scarcely remembered, except to be cursed; the other remembered by a God who forever is pleased to be called “the God of Jacob”.
What a blessed and eternal memory is left by those who serve God and others! The ancient proverb told in Israel needs to be told today: “The memory of the righteous is a blessing” (Proverbs 10:7). A life worth remembering! And a life worth pursuing!
A fellow traveler,