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Absalom Returns to Jerusalem
Now Joab son of Zeruiah perceived that the king’s mind was on Absalom. 2Joab sent to Tekoa and brought from there a wise woman. He said to her, “Pretend to be a mourner; put on mourning garments, do not anoint yourself with oil, but behave like a woman who has been mourning many days for the dead. 3Go to the king and speak to him as follows.” And Joab put the words into her mouth.
4 When the woman of Tekoa came to the king, she fell on her face to the ground and did obeisance, and said, “Help, O king!” 5The king asked her, “What is your trouble?” She answered, “Alas, I am a widow; my husband is dead. 6Your servant had two sons, and they fought with one another in the field; there was no one to part them, and one struck the other and killed him. 7Now the whole family has risen against your servant. They say, ‘Give up the man who struck his brother, so that we may kill him for the life of his brother whom he murdered, even if we destroy the heir as well.’ Thus they would quench my one remaining ember, and leave to my husband neither name nor remnant on the face of the earth.”
8 Then the king said to the woman, “Go to your house, and I will give orders concerning you.” 9The woman of Tekoa said to the king, “On me be the guilt, my lord the king, and on my father’s house; let the king and his throne be guiltless.” 10The king said, “If anyone says anything to you, bring him to me, and he shall never touch you again.” 11Then she said, “Please, may the king keep the Lord your God in mind, so that the avenger of blood may kill no more, and my son not be destroyed.” He said, “As the Lord lives, not one hair of your son shall fall to the ground.”
12 Then the woman said, “Please let your servant speak a word to my lord the king.” He said, “Speak.” 13The woman said, “Why then have you planned such a thing against the people of God? For in giving this decision the king convicts himself, inasmuch as the king does not bring his banished one home again. 14We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up. But God will not take away a life; he will devise plans so as not to keep an outcast banished forever from his presence. 15Now 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; it may be that the king will perform the request of his servant. 16For the king will hear, and deliver his servant from the hand of the man who would cut both me and my son off from the heritage of God.’ 17Your servant thought, ‘The word of my lord the king will set me at rest’; for my lord the king is like the angel of God, discerning good and evil. The Lord your God be with you!”
18 Then the king answered the woman, “Do not withhold from me anything I ask you.” The woman said, “Let my lord the king speak.” 19The king said, “Is the hand of Joab with you in all this?” The woman answered and said, “As surely as you live, my lord the king, one cannot turn right or left from anything that my lord the king has said. For it was your servant Joab who commanded me; it was he who put all these words into the mouth of your servant. 20In order to change the course of affairs your servant Joab did this. But my lord has wisdom like the wisdom of the angel of God to know all things that are on the earth.”
21 Then the king said to Joab, “Very well, I grant this; go, bring back the young man Absalom.” 22Joab prostrated himself with his face to the ground and did obeisance, and blessed the king; and Joab said, “Today your servant knows that I have found favor in your sight, my lord the king, in that the king has granted the request of his servant.” 23So Joab set off, went to Geshur, and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. 24The king said, “Let him go to his own house; he is not to come into my presence.” So Absalom went to his own house, and did not come into the king’s presence.
David Forgives Absalom
25 Now in all Israel there was no one to be praised so much for his beauty as Absalom; from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. 26When he cut the hair of his head (for at the end of every year he used to cut it; when it was heavy on him, he cut it), he weighed the hair of his head, two hundred shekels by the king’s weight. 27There were born to Absalom three sons, and one daughter whose name was Tamar; she was a beautiful woman.
28 So Absalom lived two full years in Jerusalem, without coming into the king’s presence. 29Then Absalom sent for Joab to send him to the king; but Joab would not come to him. He sent a second time, but Joab would not come. 30Then 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. 31Then Joab rose and went to Absalom at his house, and said to him, “Why have your servants set my field on fire?” 32Absalom answered Joab, “Look, I sent word to you: Come here, that I may send you to the king with the question, ‘Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me to be there still.’ Now let me go into the king’s presence; if there is guilt in me, let him kill me!” 33Then Joab went to the king and told him; and he summoned Absalom. So he came to the king and prostrated himself with his face to the ground before the king; and the king kissed Absalom.
2Sa 14:1-21. Joab Instructs a Woman of Tekoah.
2-21. And Joab sent to Tekoah, and fetched thence a wise woman—The king was strongly attached to Absalom; and having now got over his sorrow for the violent death of Amnon, he was desirous of again enjoying the society of his favorite son, who had now been three long years absent. But a dread of public opinion and a regard to the public interests made him hesitate about recalling or pardoning his guilty son; and Joab, whose discerning mind perceived this struggle between parental affection and royal duty, devised a plan for relieving the scruples, and, at the same time, gratifying the wishes, of his master. Having procured a countrywoman of superior intelligence and address, he directed her to seek an audience of the king, and by soliciting his royal interposition in the settlement of a domestic grievance, convinced him that the life of a murderer might in some cases be saved. Tekoah was about twelve miles south of Jerusalem, and six south of Beth-lehem; and the design of bringing a woman from such a distance was to prevent either the petitioner being known, or the truth of her story easily investigated. Her speech was in the form of a parable—the circumstances—the language—the manner—well suited to the occasion, represented a case as like David's as it was policy to make it, so as not to be prematurely discovered. Having got the king pledged, she avowed it to be her design to satisfy the royal conscience, that in pardoning Absalom he was doing nothing more than he would have done in the case of a stranger, where there could be no imputation of partiality. The device succeeded; David traced its origin to Joab; and, secretly pleased at obtaining the judgment of that rough, but generally sound-thinking soldier, he commissioned him to repair to Geshur and bring home his exiled son.
7. they shall quench my coal which is left—The life of man is compared in Scripture to a light. To quench the light of Israel (2Sa 21:17) is to destroy the king's life; to ordain a lamp for any one (Ps 132:17) is to grant him posterity; to quench a coal signifies here the extinction of this woman's only remaining hope that the name and family of her husband would be preserved. The figure is a beautiful one; a coal live, but lying under a heap of embers—all that she had to rekindle her fire—to light her lamp in Israel.
9. the woman said … O king, the iniquity be on me—that is, the iniquity of arresting the course of justice and pardoning a homicide, whom the Goel was bound to slay wherever he might find him, unless in a city of refuge. This was exceeding the royal prerogative, and acting in the character of an absolute monarch. The woman's language refers to a common precaution taken by the Hebrew judges and magistrates, solemnly to transfer from themselves the responsibility of the blood they doomed to be shed, either to the accusers or the criminals (2Sa 1:16; 3:28); and sometimes the accusers took it upon themselves (Mt 27:25).
13-17. Wherefore then hast thou thought such a thing against the people of God, &c.—Her argument may be made clear in the following paraphrase:—You have granted me the pardon of a son who had slain his brother, and yet you will not grant to your subjects the restoration of Absalom, whose criminality is not greater than my son's, since he killed his brother in similar circumstances of provocation. Absalom has reason to complain that he is treated by his own father more sternly and severely than the meanest subject in the realm; and the whole nation will have cause for saying that the king shows more attention to the petition of a humble woman than to the wishes and desires of a whole kingdom. The death of my son is a private loss to my family, while the preservation of Absalom is the common interest of all Israel, who now look to him as your successor on the throne.
2Sa 14:22-33. Joab Brings Absalom to Jerusalem.
22. To-day thy servant knoweth that I have found grace in thy sight—Joab betrayed not a little selfishness amid his professions of joy at this act of grace to Absalom, and flattered himself that he now brought both father and son under lasting obligations. In considering this act of David, many extenuating circumstances may be urged in favor of it; the provocation given to Absalom; his being now in a country where justice could not overtake him; the risk of his imbibing a love for heathen principles and worship; the safety and interests of the Hebrew kingdom; together with the strong predilection of the Hebrew people for Absalom, as represented by the stratagem of Joab—these considerations form a plausible apology for David's grant of pardon to his bloodstained son. But, in granting this pardon, he was acting in the character of an Oriental despot rather than a constitutional king of Israel. The feelings of the father triumphed over the duty of the king, who, as the supreme magistrate, was bound to execute impartial justice on every murderer, by the express law of God (Ge 9:6; Nu 35:30, 31), which he had no power to dispense with (De 18:18; Jos 1:8; 1Sa 10:25).
25, 26. But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty—This extraordinary popularity arose not only from his high spirit and courtly manners, but from his uncommonly handsome appearance. One distinguishing feature, seemingly an object of great admiration, was a profusion of beautiful hair. Its extraordinary luxuriance compelled him to cut it "at every year's end;" lit., "at times," "from time to time," when it was found to weigh two hundred shekels—equal to one hundred twelve ounces troy; but as "the weight was after the king's shekel," which was less than the common shekel, the rate has been reduced as low as three pounds, two ounces [Bochart], and even less by others.
28. So Absalom dwelt two full years in Jerusalem, and saw not the king's face—Whatever error David committed in authorizing the recall of Absalom, he displayed great prudence and command over his feelings afterwards—for his son was not admitted into his father's presence but was confined to his own house and the society of his own family. This slight severity was designed to bring him to sincere repentance, on perceiving that his father had not fully pardoned him, as well as to convince the people of David's abhorrence of his crime. Not being allowed to appear at court, or to adopt any state, the courtiers kept aloof; even his cousin did not deem it prudent to go into his society. For two full years his liberty was more restricted, and his life more apart from his countrymen while living in Jerusalem, than in Geshur; and he might have continued in this disgrace longer, had he not, by a violent expedient, determined (2Sa 14:30) to force his case on the attention of Joab, through whose kind and powerful influence a full reconciliation was effected between him and his father.