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Is there a contradiction between 2 Samuel 14:27 and 18:18?

There were born to Absalom three sons, and one daughter whose name was Tamar. She was a beautiful woman. (2 Samuel 14:27 ESV)

Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up for himself the 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 after his own name, and it is called Absalom's monument to this day. (2 Samuel 18:18 ESV)

The two texts certainly might appear to contradict one another. Is it that Absalom had three sons or he had no son to keep his name in remembrance. In other words how many sons did Absalom have?

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  • He could easily have had 3 sons who died. – Ruminator Nov 19 '18 at 12:16
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    My guess is as good as yours. – Ernest Abinokhauno Nov 19 '18 at 21:48
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Several early commentators grappled with this potential contradiction, and they suggested a number of possibilities.

  • Gersonides in his commentary to 18:18 suggests that Absalom's children mentioned in 14:27 may have already died. In his commentary to 14:27 he uses this to show that God punishes the wicked.

  • David Kimhi in his commentary to 18:18 also states that the children from 14:27 had predeceased Absalom.

  • David Altschuler suggests the same in his commentary to 18:18.

  • Malbim in his commentary to 14:27 argues that based on 18:18 they must have died.

  • Joseph Kara suggests in his commentary to 18:18 that Absalom's sons were not similar to him in stature, so he made the pillar to be similar to him in stature and thereby cause himself to be remembered.

  • The ancient Aramaic translation of Jonathan Ben Uziel translates 18:18 as "I have no surviving son".

  • The Talmud records a dispute about this in Sotah 11a:

    For he said: I have no son. Had he, then, no sons? Behold it is written: And unto Absalom there were born three sons and one daughter! — R. Isaac b. Abdimi said: [His meaning was] that he had no son fit for the kingship. R. Hisda said: There is a tradition that whoever burns his neighbour's produce will not leave a son to succeed him; and he [Absalom] had burnt [the produce] of Joab, as it is written: Therefore he said unto his servants, See, Joab's field is near mine, and he hath barley there; go and set it on fire. And Absalom's servants set the field on fire.

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I think the answer may be that his children were not counted legitimate, if they were possibly the offspring of his father's concubines(2 Samuel 16:21-22). Otherwise maybe they died before he did, but this seems baseless. Or as others may say, they were his grandsons(2Ch 11:20), but I doubt it.

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  • Please quote the verses in your answers rather than just providing the address so no one has to look it up. Thanks. – Ruminator Nov 19 '18 at 12:14
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Studying through the Bible, one can deduce that in the late part of Absalom life he has no son to inherit him or serve as remembrance of him and he erected a tower as a remembrance of himself in reference to Number 32:42 which is a custom in Israel:

[Num 32:42 CSB] 42 Nobah went and captured Kenath with its surrounding villages and called it Nobah after his own name.

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  • Hi Kolawole! Welcome to Hermeneutics.SE. You might take the tour if you have not already to get an idea of what constitutes a thorough answer. – colboynik Oct 20 '18 at 13:32
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    Please quote the verses in your answers rather than just providing the address so no one has to look it up. Thanks. Please explain why 2 Samuel says he has 3 sons. Thanks. – Ruminator Nov 19 '18 at 12:10
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2 Samuel 18:18 is about Absalom "pillar" and how and why it was built. But 2 Sm 14:27 is about Absalom's children/family.

These two verses "do not contradict" each other merely because at the time Absalom built his pillar he had no son yet?

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I think that Absalom had three sons as it clearly says he did in chapter 14. There is no contradiction. It’s not like they died or rebelled against their father or refused to carry on his legacy. I think it’s exactly what Absalom says

“Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up for himself a pillar which is in the King's Valley, for he said, "I have no son to preserve my name." So he named the pillar after his own name, and it is called Absalom's Monument to this day.” ‭‭2 Samuel‬ ‭18:18‬ ‭NASB‬‬

‘ayin ben abur zakar shem

He doesn’t have any son (singular) that bears his name. Literally he didn’t name any of his sons Absalom so therefore he named the pillar after himself. What was the name of the pillar Absalom!

He wanted his name to be preserved, Absalom.

Anyway that’s how I read it and make sense of both texts. I see no contradiction. Maybe some dissonance at first because it makes one think, did he or didn’t he have sons? Fact is his sons are not named in the Bible but according to their father not one of the three was named Absalom.

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    Not sure why this was voted down. It's certainly not the standard way we'd take "preserving a name", but it's a valid thought considering the only children/grandchildren of Absalom explicitly named are, notably, named after close family members -- his daughter Tamar, after his sister (2 Sam. 14:27); his daughter (or granddaughter) Maacah, after his mother (2 Chron. 11:20). Preserving literal given names was a theme with him/his house. – user28665 Mar 18 '19 at 11:58
  • It was voted down because I have no sources cited, and I don’t have citations because this is my personal opinion that I came up on my own from reading the Hebrew text (and praying for some insight). I am fine with being wrong, and downvotes don’t upset me, I’m not here for points, I’m here for discussion and learning. I don’t understand where I went wrong. Also thank you @S.E. for your contribution, it actually strengthens my argument further, even if just slightly. Question: Was erecting pillars and naming them after yourself a standard means of preserving a name? – Nihil Sine Deo Mar 18 '19 at 12:54

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