Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament2 SAMUEL 14
ABSALOM FORGIVEN AND BROUGHT BACK TO JERUSALEM
This chapter and through 2 Sam. 19 relate the tragic account of Absalom's rebellion against David, which ended in Joab's killing the evil rebel as he hung by that gorgeous head of hair tangled in the branches of a tree. Following his murder of Amnon, Absalom had fled to Geshur where he remained three years, and King David would have done very well to let him rot in Geshur, but one of the weaknesses of the great king was his sentimental attachment to his children, whose sins he would not punish and whose lives he refused to discipline. Joab detected the longing in David's heart for the return of Absalom and actually achieved it by the ruse described in this chapter.
JOAB ENLISTED THE HELP OF A WOMAN OF TEKOA
Now Joab the son of Zeruiah perceived that the king's heart was toward Absalom. And Joab sent to Tekoa, and fetched thence a wise woman, and said unto her, I pray thee, feign thyself to be a mourner, and put on mourning apparel, I pray thee, and anoint not thyself with oil, but be as a woman that hath a long time mourned for the dead: and go in to the king, and speak on this manner unto him. So Joab put the words in her mouth.
Joab's motivation here was very likely personal. "Absalom had the best prospect of succeeding David to the throne; and Joab thought that this action on his part would be the best way to secure himself against the punishment which he deserved for the murder of Abner."F1 Joab's procedure was similar to that of Nathan who brought before David an alleged court case, but which was actually a parable. A significant fact which emerges here is that any wronged person in the entire kingdom had the right to appeal to the king himself for judgment.
The king's heart went out to Absalom
(2 Samuel 14:1). The KJV reads, The king's heart went out toward Absalom, but, The proposition here does not really mean either TO or TOWARD, but AGAINST, and it is so rendered in 2 Sam. 14:13.F2 Furthermore, David's refusal to see Absalom's face for two whole years after his return to Jerusalem is very difficult to reconcile with the common translations of this verse.
Joab sent to Tekoa
(2 Samuel 14:2). Tekoa is the modern Khirbet Taqua about ten miles south of Jerusalem. Since Joab was reared near Tekoa, he probably knew the wise woman whom he asked to help him, at least by reputation.F3 Tekoa was famous as the residence of the great prophet Amos.
Pretend to be a mourner
(2 Samuel 14:2). Adam Clarke believed that, The principal facts in the wise woman's story could have been real and that Joab found a person whose circumstances conformed to that which he wished to present.F4 Such opinions appear to be unacceptable because of Joab's instructions to the woman that she should PRETEND to be a mourner. We believe that her entire story was a clever fabrication.
THE STORY THAT THE WOMAN TOLD THE KING
And when the woman of Tekoa spake to the king, she fell on her face to the ground, and did obeisance, and said, Help, O king. And the king said unto her, What aileth thee? And she answered, Of a truth I am a widow, and my husband is dead. And thy handmaid had two sons, and they two strove together in the field, and there was none to part them, but the one smote the other, and killed him. And, behold, the whole family is risen against thy handmaid, and they say, Deliver him that smote his brother, that we may kill him for the life of his brother whom he slew, and so destroy the heir also. Thus will they quench my coal which is left, and will leave to my husband neither name nor remainder upon the face of the earth.
Now the whole family has risen against your handmaid
(2 Samuel 14:7). This indicates that all the king's sons and the whole court were against Absalom, and that the knowledge of this was what hindered David from yielding to his affection and recalling him.F5
DAVID GRANTED HER PETITION WITH AN OATH
And the king said unto the woman, Go to thy house, and I will give charge concerning thee. And the woman of Tekoa said unto the king, My lord, O king, the iniquity be on me, and on my father's house; and the king and his throne be guiltless. And the king said, Whosoever saith aught unto thee, bring him to me, and he shall not touch thee any more. Then said she, I pray thee, let the king remember Jehovah thy God, that the avenger of blood destroy not any more, lest they destroy my son. And he said, As Jehovah liveth, there shall not one hair of thy son fall to the earth.
On me be the guilt
(2 Samuel 14:9). This request of the woman recognized the guilt that rested upon any person avoiding the just punishment of murderers, but here, she stated her willingness to assume that guilt upon herself in order that it might not rest upon David and upon his throne. The woman was here pleading for full forgiveness for the living son who had murdered his brother, which, of course, would be a violation of Levitical law. Anything less than full forgiveness would not help her plea for Absalom.F6
Pray let the king invoke the Lord your God
(2 Samuel 14:11). The woman was not satisfied with David's mere promise, she requested that he reinforce it with an oath, which he did.F7 The reason for the woman's demanding made up, before her application of the story to the case of Absalom.F8
That the avenger of blood slay no more
(2 Samuel 14:11). The avenger of blood was the nearest of kin to the murdered man; and his duties are outlined in Num. 35 and Deut. 19.F9 The forgiveness of such a murderer was a violation of God's commandment, a fact which the woman frankly admitted here in volunteering to accept the guilt upon herself.
THE WOMAN APPLIED HER STORY TO DAVID HIMSELF
Then the woman said, Let thy handmaid, I pray thee, speak a word unto my lord the king. And he said, Say on. And the woman said, Wherefore then hast thou devised such a thing against the people of God? for in speaking this word the king is as one that is guilty, in that the king doth not fetch home again his banished one. For we must needs die, and are as water split on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again; neither doth God take away life, but deviseth means, that he that is banished be not an outcast from him. Now therefore seeing that I am come to speak this word unto my lord the king, it is because the people have made me afraid: and thy handmaid said, I will now speak unto the king; it may be that the king will perform the request of his servant. For the king will hear, to deliver his servant out of the hand of the man that would destroy me and my son together out of the inheritance of God. Then thy handmaid said, Let, I pray thee, the word of my lord the king be comfortable; for as an angel of God, so is my lord the king to discern good and bad: and Jehovah thy God be with thee.
Let your handmaid speak a word to my lord the king
(2 Samuel 14:12). David at this point had already decided the woman's case and confirmed his decision with an oath; and it was therefore incumbent upon her to get the king's permission to continue speaking to him. Only at this point did she have David in just the right position to spring on him the personal application of her fictitious story.F10
Why then have you planned such a thing against the people of God
(2 Samuel 14:13)? Cook's paraphrase of this verse is: If you have done right as regards my son, how is it that you harbor 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.F11
"The last half of 2 Sam. 14:14 here is obscure";F12 and there is no certainty that the RSV in this place is correct. The KJV reads, "God doth not respect any person"; and the alternative reading in the margin is that, "God does not take away life" (in the case of every sin that deserves death). David himself was a conspicuous example of that very truth.
The king is like the angel of God to discern good and evil
(2 Samuel 14:17). David deserved this compliment, as proved a moment later when he discerned the hand of Joab in this woman's appeal. David's ability as a judge were God-given and God-like; Absalom's complaint (at a later time in 2 Sam. 15:4) was not leveled at David's ability but at his lack of time.F13
DAVID DISCERNED JOAB'S HAND IN THE CASE
Then the king answered and said unto the woman, Hide not from me, I pray thee, aught that I shall ask thee. And the woman said, Let my lord the king now speak. And the king said, Is the hand of Joab with thee in all this? And the woman answered and said, As thy soul liveth, my lord the king, none can turn to the right hand or to the left from aught that my lord the king hath spoken; for thy servant Joab, he bade me, and he put all these words in the mouth of thy handmaid; to change the face of the matter hath thy servant Joab done this thing: and my lord is wise, according to the wisdom of an angel of God, to know all things that are in the earth.
Is the hand of Joab. in all this?
(2 Samuel 14:19). Willis suggested that David's suspicion that Joab might have been behind this appeal might have been due to the fact that, Joab probably had attempted to accomplish this in other ways on previous occasions.F14
My lord has wisdom. like that of the angel of God
(2 Samuel 14:20). The woman made effective use of flattery as she heaped compliment after compliment upon the king. This appeal was not only in line with what David actually wanted to do; but it was reinforced and enhanced by every possible device. No wonder that he granted it.
KING DAVID GRANTED JOAB'S PETITION
And the king said unto Joab, Behold now, I have done this thing: go therefore, bring the young man Absalom back. And Joab fell to the ground on his face, and did obeisance, and blessed the king: and Joab said, To-day thy servant knoweth that I have found favor in thy sight, my lord, O king, in that the king hath performed the request of his servant. So Joab arose and went to Geshur, and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. And the king said, Let him turn to his own house, but let him not see my face. So Absalom turned to his own house, and saw not the king's face.
And the king said to Joab. I grant this
(2 Samuel 14:21). It appears from this that Joab was present for this interview, and that the king at once transferred his attention from the woman to Joab, as Joab was the actual petitioner.
I grant this
(2 Samuel 14:21). In this act, David acted in the character of an Oriental despot rather than a constitutional king of Israel. His feelings as a father triumphed over his duty as a king, who, as the supreme magistrate over Israel, was bound to execute impartial justice on every murderer, according to the express commandment of God in Gen. 9:6; Num. 35:30-31, and which David had utterly no power to dispense with (Deut. 18:18; Josh. 1:8; and 1 Sam. 10:25).F15 There is no doubt whatever that David's consenting to bring Absalom back from exile was as stupid as it was sinful and contrary to God's law. He paid in full the bitter price of this sinful indulgence of his affection for Absalom.
He is not to come into my presence
(2 Samuel 14:24). This prohibition is hard to explain. It nullified the principal reason for David's bringing Absalom back to Jerusalem. Cook explained it as due: Possibly to Bathsheba's influence, which may have been exerted to keep Absalom in disgrace for the sake of her son Solomon.
STATEMENT REGARDING ABSALOM
Now in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. And when he cut the hair of his head (now it was at every year's end that he cut it; because it was heavy on him, therefore he cut it); he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels, after the king's weight. And unto Absalom there were born three sons, and one daughter, whose name was Tamar: she was a woman of a fair countenance.
This little paragraph was apparently included here as preparatory to the account of Absalom's death when that tremendous head of hair provided the opportunity for Joab to kill him!
As for the weight of that hair, scholars give different figures. Payne gave it as "Three and one half or four pounds";F16 Cook estimated it as, "About 6 pounds."F17 He also suggested that the figure of two hundred shekels should probably be read as "twenty shekels." Caird gave the weight as "About three and one-half pounds";F18 and Josephus gave it as "five pounds."F19 From all this, it is perfectly evident that the scholars do not know what it weighed; and we can think of no better comment than that of R. P. Smith who said, "Undoubtedly Absalom's hair was something extraordinary"!F20 The reason for all the uncertainty arises from the lack of knowledge concerning the shekels mentioned here. Another possible explanation by Keil alleges that, "There is an error in the text."F21 We also found a suggestion that shekels were also used as units of monetary value, and that the 200 shekels might have indicated the price rather than the weight of Absalom's hair.
There were born to Absalom three sons and one daughter
(2 Samuel 14:27). Absalom later set up a pillar and stated that he had no sons (2 Samuel 18:18). This does not contradict what is written here, because, as Keil said, All of Absalom's sons died in infancy, so their names are not given here.F22
And one daughter whose name was Tamar
(2 Samuel 14:27). This might have been mentioned here as proof of Absalom's love for his sister Tamar who had been violated by Amnon. The Septuagint (LXX) states that this Tamar became the wife of Solomon's son King Rehoboam; but Maachah is mentioned as the favorite wife of Rehoboam and the mother of Abijah in 1 Kings 15:2 and 2 Chr. 11:20-22. Cook solved the problem by understanding Tamar's daughter as Rehoboam's wifeF23 and another solution supposes that Tamar was also called Maachah. The problem, to us, appears to have little importance.
ABSALOM AND DAVID WERE FINALLY RECONCILED
And Absalom dwelt two full years in Jerusalem; and he saw not the king's face. Then Absalom sent for Joab, to send him to the king; but he would not come to him: and he sent again a second time, but he would not come. 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. Then Joab arose, and came to Absalom unto his house, and said unto him, Wherefore have thy servants set my field on fire? And Absalom answered Joab, Behold, I sent unto thee, saying, Come hither, that I may send thee to the king, to say, Wherefore am I come from Geshur? it were better for me to be there still. Now therefore let me see the king's face; and if there be iniquity in me, let him kill me. So Joab came to the king, and told him; and when he had called for Absalom, he came to the king, and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king: and the king kissed Absalom.
The two-year confinement in his own house had been very effective, because even Joab was afraid to call on Absalom, but it galled the impatient Absalom. As long as he was prohibited from seeing the king's face, people would shun him, avoid him, and refuse to have anything to do with him. Absalom decided that he would rather die than to continue to live in that circumstance. He very properly concluded that the king would not have the guts to do his duty and execute him, as God had commanded. And, sure enough, the king restored him to his full position of trust and honor, as indicated by the king's kissing him. This was a shameful act on David's part!
As Matthew Henry noted:
"Three years in Geshur and two years in Jerusalem Absalom had been an exile from the presence of the king; yet his spirit was not humbled, his pride was not diminished. He was not grateful that his life had been spared, but only angry and frustrated that his honored place at court had not been restored. He pretended to love his father the king and to desire the privilege of again coming into his presence; but his pretensions were a base lie. He only wanted his honors restored in order to promote his campaign to replace his father as king of Israel."F24
If there is guilt in me, let him kill me
(2 Samuel 14:32). How could Absalom have believed that there was no guilt in himself? His cold-blooded premeditated murder of Amnon cried out to God for punishment, but Absalom admitted no crime, accepted no feeling of shame or guilt for himself and had the audacious arrogance to present himself to David as one worthy of his full confidence and trust. From the human aspect of it, David was a fool to have trusted him.
And the king kissed Absalom
(2 Samuel 14:33). It must have been a kiss of treachery on the part of Absalom. He never intended to keep the peace with his father.F25 This in another important particular in which David stands in the O.T. as a type of that Holy One, Jesus Christ himself, who was also betrayed by a kiss.
Footnotes for 2 Samuel 14
1: C. F. Keil, Keil and Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries, Vol. 2b, p. 406.
2: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 4c, p. 344
3: John T. Willis, p. 362.
4: Adam Clarke, Vol. 2, p. 344.
5: Albert Barnes, Samuel, p. 100.
6: The Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., p. 344.
7: International Critical Commentary, Samuel, p. 334.
9: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 308.
10: John T. Willis, p. 364.
11: Albert Barnes, op. cit., p. 100.
12: International Critical Commentary, op. cit., p. 335.
13: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 308.
14: John T. Willis, p. 365.
15: Albert Barnes, op. cit., p. 101.
16: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 309.
17: Albert Barnes, op. cit., p. 101.
18: The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 2, p. 1120.
19: Flavius Josephus, Antiquities, p. 220.
20: The Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., p. 346.
21: C. F. Keil, Keil and Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries, op. cit. p. 412.
23: Albert Barnes, op. cit., p 101.
24: Matthew Henry's Commentary, p. 518.
25: The Interpreter's Bible, op. cit., p. 1121.