There is no doubt that Absalom deserved to die. He gained the allegiance of the people through his good looks and smooth talk. Once he had an adequate following, he orchestrated a violent takeover of the throne, sending the king and his closest followers running for their lives. In a creative combination of insult and injury, he then systematically raped each concubine in the harem, doing so in a tent pitched atop the house so that all Israel could see what he was up to. No government would willingly tolerate such shenanigans.
Still, King David was Absalom’s father. A clear view of character or justice was lacking in this case. Love had something to do with it. So, when David heard that his son had been killed in battle, caring nothing for the fact that his own army and he himself were the ones under attack, the king responded with the sorrow of a parent rather than the sobriety of a king:
Then the king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept. And as he went, he said thus: ‘O my son Absalom-my son, my son Absalom-if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!'” – 2 Samuel 18:33 (NKJV)
“If only I had died in your place.” Absalom, despite his glaring guilt, was precious enough in David’s eyes to die for. And such is the love of God for you and me. Forget getting what you deserve. The Father and the Son both look upon you with a love that says you’re to die for.
David’s love couldn’t help Absalom –
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. – Romans 5:8-9 (NKJV)