At the foot of the Mount of Olives is Kidron Valley separated from the Old City walls by a single road. Most tourists visiting Jerusalem will travel along this road and look down into the valley where three monumental stone tombs stand. One of these is the Tomb of Absalom. The rock-cut tomb is traditionally associated with King David’s rebellious son, Absalom (C.1000 BC), but experts have dated it to the 1st-century AD so in all likelihood it was not Absalom’s final resting place.
The tomb stands alongside the Tomb of Zechariah and the Tomb of Benei Hezir and is adjoined to the Tomb of Jehoshaphat. Absalom’s tomb stands out because of its conical roof. The upper section served as a funeral monument and the lower section was the actual tomb. The burial chamber could only be accessed via an entrance and staircase from the upper section.
The lower section of the Tomb of Absalom is a 6-meter square block cut from a freestanding solid piece of rock. Together with the upper section, it reaches about 20-meters high. The exterior has stone-carved decoration including a Doric frieze and Ionic columns. The monument is believed to be referred to in Samuel II 18:18 as Absalom’s Monument or Absalom’s Pillar.
Who was Absalom?
Absalom was the third son of King David of Israel and Maacah, daughter of the King of Geshur. He was loved by his father and the people and known as a handsome, charming man who loved the pomp and ceremony of his royal title. But his character changed. He eventually rebelled against his father and claimed he would make a better leader. He declared himself king, slept with his father’s concubines, and eventually died in the Battle of Ephraim’s Wood fighting against his father’s forces.
Who is Buried in the Tomb of Absalom?
Over the years several theories have arisen as to who is buried in the tomb. Although it is traditionally associated with Absalom who lived in the 1st-century BC, experts believe the tomb was built about 100 years later. Carved into the stone of Absalom’s tomb are the words “This is the tomb of Zachariah, the martyr, the holy priest, the father of John.” This leads us to believe that the tomb holds the remains of the 1st-century Temple priest Zachariah, father of John the Baptist.