Absalom was the third son of David, born to Maacah, one of the kings several wives and concubines. The number of children David had was a recipe for trouble, as several of them vied for the throne.
Trouble first brewed with David's eldest son, Amnon fell in love with Tamar, Absalom's half sister. She didn't reciprocate his feelings, but despite her protests, Amnon made love to her. Absalom determined to take revenge and two years later, he invited Amnon to a banquet, where he had him slain in the middle of the feasting.
Fearing that David would kill him, Absalom fled to his grandfather at Geshur where he stayed for three years before David permitted him to return home. Soon after the reconciliation, half hearted at best, Absalom plotted to seize the throne for himself. He made himself popular with the people and once he had won them over, he declared himself king of Hebron.
He then marched against Jerusalem, forcing David to flee the capital. He disregarded the counsel of Ahithophel to pursue the small forces of David, listening instead to the advice of David's friend Hushai, who counselled him to mobilise his army before continuing the pursuit. This gave David time to reorganise his forces and get ready for a decisive encounter that took place in the forest of Ephraim. Absalom lost 20,000 of his troops, and the rest were put to flight. As Absalom fled, his long hair became tangled in the branches of an oak, trapping him. When Joab, one of David's commanders, found him he killed him where he hung. He was buried like a criminal in a large pit in the wood, and a big heap of stones was erected over his grave.
When David heard the news, he wasn't happy and uttered the now classic expression of a father's grief.
The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: "O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you - O Absalom, my son, my son!"
(2 Samuel 18:33)