2 Samuel 14


In the previous chapter we read about Absalom ordering the murder of his brother Ammon because he had raped his half-sister Tamar, 2 Samuel 13:14 / 2 Samuel 13:28-29. In this chapter, we read how Joab hires a woman to confront David with a parable about Absalom, in an effort to encourage David to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem.

Absalom Returns To Jerusalem

‘Joab son of Zeruiah knew that the king’s heart longed for Absalom. So Joab sent someone to Tekoa and had a wise woman brought from there. He said to her, ‘Pretend you are in mourning. Dress in mourning clothes, and don’t use any cosmetic lotions. Act like a woman who has spent many days grieving for the dead. Then go to the king and speak these words to him.’ And Joab put the words in her mouth. When the woman from Tekoa went to the king, she fell with her face to the ground to pay him honour, and she said, ‘Help me, Your Majesty!’ The king asked her, ‘What is troubling you?’ She said, ‘I am a widow; my husband is dead. I your servant had two sons. They got into a fight with each other in the field, and no one was there to separate them. One struck the other and killed him. Now the whole clan has risen up against your servant; they say, ‘Hand over the one who struck his brother down, so that we may put him to death for the life of his brother whom he killed; then we will get rid of the heir as well.’ They would put out the only burning coal I have left, leaving my husband neither name nor descendant on the face of the earth.’ The king said to the woman, ‘Go home, and I will issue an order in your behalf.’ But the woman from Tekoa said to him, ‘Let my lord the king pardon me and my family and let the king and his throne be without guilt.’ The king replied, ‘If anyone says anything to you, bring them to me, and they will not bother you again.’ She said, ‘Then let the king invoke the LORD his God to prevent the avenger of blood from adding to the destruction, so that my son will not be destroyed.’ ‘As surely as the LORD lives,’ he said, ‘not one hair of your son’s head will fall to the ground.’ 2 Samuel 14:1-11

It appears that Joab, who was commander of David’s army, knew that David longed to see his son Absalom, 2 Samuel 13:39. He goes ahead and hires a woman from Tekoa to go to David to tell him a parable about a brother who murdered his brother. The purpose of the parable is to encourage David to sympathise with Absalom.

Like we saw earlier, when Nathan the prophet, came to David and shared a parable with him, David pronounced just judgment on the ruthless rich man, 2 Samuel 12:1-6. The result of the woman coming to David and sharing her parable has the same result, David pronounces just judgment. David again, unknowingly pronounced judgment against himself.

The avenger of blood was the nearest relative to the murdered man, Numbers 35:16-28 / Deuteronomy 19:11-13. The forgiveness of such a murderer was a violation of God’s commandment, a fact which the woman admitted here in volunteering to accept the guilt upon herself.

The parable the woman shared was basically a plea for God’s mercy and so, David responds by declaring that mercy should be extended in the case of the offending brother.

‘Then the woman said, ‘Let your servant speak a word to my lord the king.’ ‘Speak,’ he replied. The woman said, ‘Why then have you devised a thing like this against the people of God? When the king says this, does he not convict himself, for the king has not brought back his banished son? Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him. ‘And now I have come to say this to my lord the king because the people have made me afraid. Your servant thought, ‘I will speak to the king; perhaps he will grant his servant’s request. Perhaps the king will agree to deliver his servant from the hand of the man who is trying to cut off both me and my son from God’s inheritance.’ ‘And now your servant says, ‘May the word of my lord the king secure my inheritance, for my lord the king is like an angel of God in discerning good and evil. May the LORD your God be with you.’ 2 Samuel 14:12-17

After sharing the parable with David, and hearing his judgment upon it, she asks David for permission to continue to speak to him. With permission given, the woman now has David exactly where she wants him to be, she can now apply the parable to David himself.

Cook in his commentary, paraphrases what she said to David in this way.

‘If you have done right as regards my son, how is it that you harbour such a purpose of vengeance against Absalom as to keep him, one of God’s people, an outcast in a heathen country, far from the worship of the God of Israel? Upon your own showing, you are guilty of a great fault in not allowing Absalom to return’.

Those who were banished by banished by law but not banished because of grace. Grace is the motivation by which mercy sets aside the just punishment of the law. The banished ones can be brought back only if they forsake their rebellion, otherwise, they must remain banished if they remain rebellious.

Notice the women gives David a huge compliment, she tells him he is ‘like the angel of God in discerning good and evil’. David’s ability to judge came from God and his judgments were God-like, as we shall see in the next few verses with Joab.

‘Then the king said to the woman, ‘Don’t keep from me the answer to what I am going to ask you.’ ‘Let my lord the king speak,’ the woman said. The king asked, ‘Isn’t the hand of Joab with you in all this?’ The woman answered, ‘As surely as you live, my lord the king, no one can turn to the right or to the left from anything my lord the king says. Yes, it was your servant Joab who instructed me to do this and who put all these words into the mouth of your servant. Your servant Joab did this to change the present situation. My lord has wisdom like that of an angel of God—he knows everything that happens in the land.’ The king said to Joab, ‘Very well, I will do it. Go, bring back the young man Absalom.’ Joab fell with his face to the ground to pay him honour, and he blessed the king. Joab said, ‘Today your servant knows that he has found favour in your eyes, my lord the king, because the king has granted his servant’s request.’ Then Joab went to Geshur and brought Absalom back to Jerusalem. But the king said, ‘He must go to his own house; he must not see my face.’ So Absalom went to his own house and did not see the face of the king.’ 2 Samuel 14:18-24

After hearing what the woman had to say, it appears that once again David judged wisely, for he knew that Joab was behind this whole thing. She tells him that it was Joab who planned this whole event and so, it’s not surprising that she tells him he has ‘the wisdom of an angel of God’.

It appears that Absalom has now gained the approval of the people but more importantly he’s gained the approval of Joab, David’s commander of the army. It’s possible that David was aware of some kind of conspiracy in Absalom that no one else noticed but to honour the request of his nephew, Joab, David gave the order that Absalom could return to Jerusalem.

David set out the terms and conditions for Absalom to come back, which were basically restrictions on where he could live. Absalom wasn’t permitted to live in the king’s court, he was to live in his own house away from the royal family.

It appears that David’s feelings as a father overtook his duty as a king, Numbers 35:30-31. As we shall see later, David allowing Absalom to return to Jerusalem was going to be a bad mistake. We know later that Joab would regret encouraging David to bring Absalom back as this would eventually lead to Joab killing Absalom because he rebelled against David, 2 Samuel 18:15.

‘In all Israel there was not a man so highly praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the top of his head to the sole of his foot there was no blemish in him. Whenever he cut the hair of his head—he used to cut his hair once a year because it became too heavy for him—he would weigh it, and its weight was two hundred shekels by the royal standard. Three sons and a daughter were born to Absalom. His daughter’s name was Tamar, and she became a beautiful woman.’ 2 Samuel 14:25-27

There’s no doubt that being handsome in appearance runs in the family, just like his father David, 1 Samuel 16:12, Absalom is also very handsome. Much like what happens in today’s world, being handsome brings its perks, in Absalom’s case it appears he used it to win people over to follow him.

His hair was a big part of his features and he only cut it once a year, the weight of his hair was over two kilograms. Absalom had three sons and it also appears that his daughter Tamar was also very beautiful in appearance. Later in 2 Samuel 18:18, we read that Absalom had ‘no sons’, this implies that all of his sons died when they were very young, that’s why their names are not mentioned here.

‘Absalom lived two years in Jerusalem without seeing the king’s face. Then Absalom sent for Joab in order to send him to the king, but Joab refused to come to him. So he sent a second time, but he refused to come. Then he said to his servants, ‘Look, Joab’s field is next to mine, and he has barley there. Go and set it on fire.’ So Absalom’s servants set the field on fire. Then Joab did go to Absalom’s house, and he said to him, ‘Why have your servants set my field on fire?’ Absalom said to Joab, ‘Look, I sent word to you and said, ‘Come here so I can send you to the king to ask, ‘Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me if I were still there!’ Now then, I want to see the king’s face, and if I am guilty of anything, let him put me to death.’ So Joab went to the king and told him this. Then the king summoned Absalom, and he came in and bowed down with his face to the ground before the king. And the king kissed Absalom.’ 2 Samuel 14:28-33

Absalom lived and Jerusalem for two years but never saw David, he tries twice to get Joab to come to him but this failed. He’s clearly looking for some kind of attention, and so he orders his men to set fire to Joab’s field.

Notice that Absalom pleads his innocence, how on earth he can plead his innocence after he ordered the murder of Ammon is beyond anyone’s understanding, 2 Samuel 13:28-29.

This shows us what kind of character he is; he was devious and ungrateful when it came to dealing with others, therefore he was unfit to be the king of Israel. David should never have trusted him and given him permission to return to Jerusalem.

It appears that Joab didn’t fully understand what Absalom’s long terms plans were, he didn’t fully understand that Absalom was planning a rebellion against David in an effort for him to become king himself. After bowing down to David, David kisses Absalom.

We can only imagine what was going through Absalom’s mind at this moment, because he never wanted peace with his father, like when Jesus was betrayed with a kiss by Judas, Luke 22:48, David here was being betrayed by Absalom.

Go To 2 Samuel 15