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Deeper Commentary


2Sa 14:1 Now Joab the son of Zeruiah perceived that the king’s heart was towards Absalom-
We wonder at Joab's motives. Did he do this because he wanted David to get what he wanted, which was Absalom's return? Or because he wanted Absalom to be king? Men seek for power. Some want to be the king who is crowned (Absalom would be a parade example). Others like Joab want to be the kingmaker, rejoicing that their power gave power to others. Biblical history is designed to help us realize that all the types of characters we meet have been around before, and we are to learn from how the Bible records their behaviour. But the Biblical record is often purposefully open, inviting us to imagine the possible situations and motivations. Hence the word translated "towards" is intentionally ambiguous. It can also mean "against", as in 2 Sam. 14:13; Dan. 11:28. In which case, Joab is seeking to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem and to manipulate David concerning Absalom. Such are the games people play, to this day; see on :24.   

2Sa 14:2 Joab sent to Tekoa and fetched there a wise woman and said to her, Please act like a mourner, and please put on mourning clothing and don’t anoint yourself with oil, but be as a woman who has mourned a long time for the dead-
This continues the theme of subliminal suggestion in the previous chapter; see on 2 Sam. 13:6. This chapter is all about that. We get the impression that after the sin with Bathsheba, the once strong man David became the subject of all manner of manipulation.   

2Sa 14:3 Go in to the king, and speak like this to him. So Joab put the words in her mouth-
As noted on :2, the situation here recalls how Jonadab manipulated Absalom and put words and ideas in his head. Here Joab manipulates a woman in order to pursue his own agenda regarding Absalom.

2Sa 14:4 When the woman of Tekoa spoke to the king, she fell on her face to the ground, showed respect and said, Help, O king!-
This recalls how David had fallen with his face to the ground begging God somehow for a way forward after he had heard that all his sons had died (2 Sam. 13:31). This is another connection with the events of 2 Sam. 13.

2Sa 14:5 The king said to her, What ails you? She answered, Truly I am a widow, and my husband is dead-
Immediately David would have thought of how he had made Bathsheba a widow by murdering her husband.

2Sa 14:6 Your handmaid had two sons, and they both fought together in the field, and there was no one to part them, but the one struck the other and murdered him-
"Strove / fought" is the word used by Solomon in Prov. 13:10: "Pride only breeds quarrels, but with ones who take advice is wisdom". This is true, but so many of Solomon's Proverbs   include some self justification. "Quarrels" is the word used here in the parable about the strivings between David's sons. He is implying that all the quarrels about his being the one to have the throne merely came from pride, and the wise will accept Solomon's kingship. He harnesses Divine truths in order to justify himself, and this is a warning for all who claim to hold Divine truth.

2Sa 14:7 Behold, the whole family has risen against your handmaid and they say, ‘Deliver him who struck his brother, that we may kill him for the life of his brother whom he murdered, and so destroy the heir also’. Thus they would quench my coal which is left, and would leave to my husband neither name nor remainder on the surface of the earth-
It would appear that the legislation about the cities of refuge wasn't being practiced at this time. The parallel in David's family would suggest that "the whole family" wanted to kill Absalom, although it could be that they felt likewise about Amnon. The woman is arguing that the Mosaic laws about the avenging of blood didn't take into account her feelings as the mother of the brother who had to be slain. And further, the principle of keeping the name of the dead alive would be broken. She correctly argues that principles are in conflict in this case; and this is often the situation when any legal code, including the Mosaic, is applied. Thus the Lord brings out the point that priests "worked on the Sabbath" to circumcise a child. The reason for these clashes of principle within Divine law was in order to force people to perceive the spirit of the law, and follow that and not the letter. The very structure of the Mosaic law was therefore actually designed to guard against legalistic approaches to it.

2Sa 14:8 The king said to the woman, Go to your house, and I will give a command concerning you-
The slayer of innocent blood was to be slain without pity: "you shall put away the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, that it may go well with you" (Dt. 19:13). But David seems to have stepped up to a higher level when he told the woman of Tekoah that he would protect her son from revenge murder, after he had slain another man. The woman pointed out that if her son was slain, the inheritance would be lost in her husband's name. Here was a case where two principles seemed to be at variance: the need to slay the guilty, and the need to preserve the inheritance. The higher level was to forgive the slayer of innocent blood, even though the Law categorically stated that he should be slain. The Law of Moses is full of such examples of where different levels of response are offered. Thus in the case of adultery, a man could apply the trial of jealousy (Num. 5), kill his wife, divorce her- or, forgive her, as Hosea did. The very existence of these different levels of response is designed, as they are today, to elicit our maximum level of response. For it surely is always a case of "my utmost for His highest", and a minimalist response to His grace is self evidently inappropriate.

2Sa 14:9 The woman of Tekoa said to 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-
"The iniquity" in view would perhaps refer to the disobedience which she was suggesting to the laws about the avenging of blood. She wanted more than what David had said, she wanted a concrete pronouncement from him as it were abrogating obedience to that law. And she said she would bear the iniquity of doing so. But this is not how guilt for sin or abrogating God's law is to be dealt with. David was being provoked to consider taking upon himself the "sin" of not demanding Absalom's blood be shed, and indeed restoring him.

2Sa 14:10 The king said, Whoever says anything to you, bring him to me, and he shall not touch you any more-
So David is waiving the Mosaic law concerning bloodguiltiness, as he did the need to stone rapists (2 Sam. 13:21). When others tried to do these kind of things, they were severely punished by a God who insisted upon serious obedience to His Law. Consider how Saul was condemned for offering sacrifice instead of a priest (1 Sam. 13:10-13); and Uzziah likewise (2 Chron. 26:16-19). When the woman of Tekoah basically suggested that the Mosaic laws about the rights of the revenger of blood be repealed, David seems to agree. When Amnon seeks to rape his sister Tamar, she suggests that he ask David to allow them to marry- and surely, she says, he will agree. Yet this too would have been counter to the spirit of the Law about marriages to close relatives. Yet David went beyond the Law so often; and it is this which perhaps led him to commit the sin of presumption in his behaviour with Bathsheba. Right afterwards he comments about the man who stole his neighbour’s sheep, that it must be restored fourfold; whereas the Law only stipulated double, David felt he so knew the spirit of the Law that he could break the letter of it- in any context. And this was his [temporary] downfall.  

As we go through the life of David, it is evident he went along roads few others have travelled. For example, who else would offer his sacrifice upon the altar and then start strumming his harp in praise as he watched the animal burn (Ps. 43:4 Heb.)? This was a new paradigm in Israelite worship. Like Job, David had no precedents in past spiritual history from which he could take comfort (Job 5:1). David knew God well enough to act like the High Priest even when he was not a Levite (2 Sam. 6:13-20; and 2 Sam. 19:21 = Ex.22:28), he came to understand that God did not require sacrifices, he came to see that the Law was only a means to an end. David’s sons, although not Levites, were “priests” (2 Sam. 8:18 RV). He could say that the Lord was his inheritance [a reference to how he as the youngest son had lost his?], and how he refuses to offer the sacrifices of wicked men for them (Ps. 16:4,5; 119:57)- speaking as if he was a Levite, a priest, when he was not. He knew that the ideal standard for married life was one man: one woman, and yet he was somehow able to flout this and still be a man after God's own heart. He broke explicit Mosaic commandment by marrying Saul's wives and also his daughter.

2Sa 14:11 Then she said, Please let the king remember Yahweh your God so that the avenger of blood destroy not any more, lest they destroy my son. He said, As Yahweh lives, not one hair of your son shall fall to the earth-
As explained on :10, this is David waiving parts of God's law, and yet doing so from an understanding of grace and pity. And of course the whole situation was designed to lead him to agree to apply these principles to Absalom.

2Sa 14:12 Then the woman said, Please let your handmaid speak a word to my lord the king. He said, Say on-
The woman isn't prepared to leave things at the level of subliminal appeal. Perhaps now she speaks on her own behalf, and no longer following the script Joab had given her. The next verses appear to be her own more spiritual argument, at the end of which she basically admits she has been set up to say the script she just has; but despite that, in spiritual terms, she can see a good case for having Absalom back.

2Sa 14:13 The woman said, Why then have you devised such a thing against the people of God? For in speaking this word the king is as one who is guilty, in that the king does not bring home again his banished one-
The woman understood the implications of the promise in Eden when she tells David that “neither doth God respect any person: yet doth he devise means, that his banished be not expelled from him” (2 Sam. 14:14 AV). Whom did God banish? Adam, and all his children. But God ‘devised means’ through the promises of Gen. 3:15 so that this banishment was not permanent expulsion. The means devised was the death and resurrection of His Son, the seed of the woman. But the woman’s point was that therefore, David ought to restore his sinful son, whom he had banished- for “the king does not fetch home again his banished” (2 Sam. 14:13). Her point was that as God sought to restore His banished sons, through the pain and cost to Him of the blood of His Son, so we ought to likewise be inspired to win back the banished. And so we look to those banished from ecclesial life by disfellowship, church politics, personal animosities of past decades, or simply their own outright sins; or those marginalized by poverty, education, disability, health, geography… these are the banished whom we ought to be winning back. And the power in all this arises from the implications of those promises in Eden. Truly the woman of Tekoah was, as she is described, a “wise woman”.


2Sa 14:14 For we must die, and are as water split on the ground, which can’t be gathered up again; neither does God take away life, but devises means that he who is banished not be an outcast from him-
Her point was that as God in some sense breaks His own laws, e.g. that sin leads to permanent death, so surely David likewise could have the same spirit of grace and bring about the salvation of someone rightly appointed to death. See on :13. It could be argued that her logic is wrong, for the wages of sin is indeed death and God in that sense does take away life. But perhaps her point is that God indeed told Adam that in the day he sinned he would die; but in His grace, He didn't carry out that sentence immediately. Just as Nineveh wasn't destroyed in 40 days as God had stated. Instead, God gave more time- in the hope that Adam would not have to be outcast, and His purpose was to bring Adam back into Eden. That was why God didn't make Adam die "in the day" that he ate of the fruit. And so, the woman reasons, if God's attitude to death and punishment shows such grace, we surely ought to not insist upon His law of death for sinners being immediately obeyed. We should follow His example of letting His grace and hope for our restoration be stronger than the need to punish sin with death.

2Sa 14:15 Now therefore seeing that I have come to speak this word to my lord the king, it is because the people have made me afraid: and your handmaid said, ‘I will now speak to the king; it may be that the king will perform the request of his servant’-
The woman has now totally departed from the script Joab had given her, contrasting positively with how in the previous chapter, Absalom followed Jonadab's script exactly. She admits she has been put up to what she has done. And she seems to be saying that despite this, she does indeed see the logic in the request. See on :12.

2Sa 14:16 For the king will hear, to deliver his servant out of the hand of the man who would destroy me and my son together out of the inheritance of God-
I  suggested on :12,15 that she admits she has been set up with her story. So I think here she means "the king would have heard me, had I really been in such a case as I presented to him".

2Sa 14:17 Then your handmaid said, ‘Please let the word of my lord the king bring rest; for as an angel of God, so is my lord the king to discern good and bad. May Yahweh your God be with you’-
See on :20. Adam's choice in Eden was that of everyman in every sin; it was a choice between a total "yes" or a total "no" to God. The desire was to know "good and evil"; and this term is used as an idiom for "everything" (Gen. 24:50; 2 Sam. 14:17,20), the whole area in between good and bad / evil is in this sense "everything" (cp. Gen. 31:24; 2 Sam. 13:22). Adam and Eve were attracted by the possibility of experiencing everything, of having the total knowledge, the omniscience, which is with God alone. Their failure was more than simply eating a fruit; it involved rebellion and pride, a desire to be equal with God.

In this context, the woman means that she recognizes David's great sensitivity and wisdom, and knows that he would see through her story as a put up situation. But she truly respects him and wishes Yahweh to be with the king. Indeed it seems David was well known for his sensitivity and the ability to hide things from him (see on 2 Sam. 18:13). His wide life experience mixed with his spirituality led to this sensitivity.

2Sa 14:18 Then the king answered the woman, Please don’t hide anything from me that I ask you. The woman said, Let my lord the king now speak-
David uses the words of Joshua to Achan (Josh. 7:19), possibly implying he thinks she has sinned and needs to repent for her part in this ruse to manipulate him.

2Sa 14:19 The king said, Is the hand of Joab with you in all this? The woman answered, As your soul lives, my lord the king, no one can turn to the right hand or to the left from anything that my lord the king has spoken; for your servant Joab, he urged me, and he put all these words in the mouth of your handmaid-
The woman's honesty is commendable, and she contrasts well with Absalom in the parallel situation of the previous chapter, who was manipulated by Jonadab. "Urged" is the usual word "commanded", as if Joab had in some way ordered or even manipulated this women to in turn try to manipulate David.

2Sa 14:20 to change the face of the matter has your servant Joab done this thing-
AV "to bring about this form of speech", in other words, the entire performance from her had been designed to David pronounce that the law about the avenging of blood could be suspended in her case; and thereby set a legal precedent for the return of Absalom.

My lord is wise, according to the wisdom of an angel of God, to know all things that are on the earth-
David's soul was broken as a result of his own mistakes and his general experience of life. David's depression resulted in him manifesting all the classic characteristics of the highly strung person. But it led him to his great sensitivity and almost telepathic ability to enter into other's problems was legendary throughout Israel, and this was one of the things which endeared him to his people (1 Sam. 22:22; 2 Sam. 14:17,20; 18:13)- and there is a powerful similarity here with our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.  

The woman thought that Angels know everything and therefore David was like an Angel. Angels don’t know everything. Yet the woman’s immature concept isn’t corrected. This is not the style of God's engagement with us through the Bible, and it explains why the wrong ideas about demons aren't corrected specifically in the New Testament.


2Sa 14:21 The king said to Joab, Behold now, I have done this thing. Go therefore, bring the young man Absalom back-
"Bring... back" is the word also used for the return of the exiles. I have suggested that all the historical records were rewritten with the exiles in view. This theme of those who deserved to stay in exile being restored by grace was appropriate to them; although most refused to accept they had done anything wrong, and preferred the life in exile.

2Sa 14:22 Joab fell to the ground on his face, showed respect, and blessed the king. Joab said, Today your servant knows that I have found grace in your sight, my lord O king, in that the king has performed the request of his servant-
"Performed the request of his servant" uses the very words of :20 "Your servant Joab has done [s.w. "performed"] this thing [s.w. "request"]". Joab absolutely accepts he had manipulated the woman, and we sense he is ecstatic that he has got his way. There is no record of any contact between him and Absalom at this stage. As discussed on :1, we are still left wondering whether Joab wants this because he wants David to get what he wants; or whether he wants to play the kingmaker in making Absalom king, although he later falls out with Absalom and turns against him.

2Sa 14:23 So Joab arose and went to Geshur, and brought Absalom to Jerusalem-
Joab was certainly enthusiastic for Absalom's return, personally going to Geshur to escort him. It was a round trip of 500 km., a major journey. See on :1 and :22 as to his motives.

2Sa 14:24 The king said, Let him return to his own house, but let him not see my face. So Absalom returned to his own house, and didn’t see the king’s face-
If David was indeed still longing to see Absalom as he was in 2 Sam. 13:39, we wonder why he would say this. I discussed on :1 how the word translated "towards" is intentionally ambiguous. It can also mean "against", and we are left guessing whether David's heart is towards or against Absalom; and that affects how we understand Joab's game plan. The narrative creates suspense and has all the elements of a good story, as the readership is left wondering about these things. This was a paradigm in literature far ahead of its time in contemporary writings. David may have changed his feelings about Absalom when he perceived that in fact Absalom wanted the throne from David. Or perhaps the ambiguity in the narrative reflects David's own mixed feelings. Part of him indeed wanted to see Absalom (2 Sam. 13:39), and he shared the argument of the woman of Tekoah about showing him grace. But another part of him recognized that Absalom wanted to kill him as he had Amnon, in order to take the throne for himself.

2Sa 14:25 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-
Absalom is presented as similar to Saul- externally attractive to Israel, and apparently the man born to be king according to his appearance. "No blemish" is the language of how the High Priest and sacrifices were to be. His "crown" of hair would then be associated with the High Priest's mitre, imitated by the uncut hair of the Nazirite. All this suggests that potentially he could indeed have been a priest-king. There were many potential ways forward for the promises to David to be fulfilled, and perhaps he was one of them. And yet they all came to nothing, Solomon especially, until they came to full term in the work and person of the Lord Jesus.

2Sa 14:26 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-
Immediately we sense his vanity, cutting his own hair and weighing it. LXX "two hundred shekels according to the royal shekel", GNB "about five pounds according to the royal standard of weights" David had apparently standardized the weight of a shekel. This would have been the equivalent to the "shekel of the sanctuary" often mentioned in the law of Moses. The priests were intended to have a standard shekel which was kept in the sanctuary; but it seems David did this priestly work by creating such a shekel. This is yet another example of David acting as priest and spiritual leader of Israel, effectively as High Priest.

2Sa 14:27 To Absalom there were born three sons and one daughter, whose name was Tamar: she was a woman of a beautiful appearance-
This woman was named after Absalom's sister whom Amnon had raped. LXX adds “and she became the wife of Roboam the son of Solomon, and bare him Abia" although that contradicts 1 Kings 15:2; 2 Chron. 11:20-22. According to 2 Sam. 18:18, Absalom had no sons. Perhaps his three sons of 2 Sam. 14:27 had died in their youth or childhood. for infant mortality was high in those times. Or maybe he had fallen out with them, and they had disowned each other.

2Sa 14:28 Absalom lived two full years in Jerusalem; and he didn’t see the king’s face-
To see a king's face implies acceptance by him. So as discussed above, David's longing to see Absalom in 2 Sam. 13:39 had changed. Something had changed, and I suggest that may have been because he perceived that Absalom wanted him dead because he wanted the throne.

2Sa 14:29 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-
Joab had clearly promised Absalom that he could get him an audience with the king. But something had changed; perhaps Absalom had made clear his plans to kill his father and become king. Or there had been some personal fallout between Absalom and Job. Or maybe Joab decided that his own pride and power could not or would not be best served by being a kingmaker to Absalom, but would be better served by continual loyalty to David.

2Sa 14:30 Therefore he said to his servants, Behold, Joab’s field is near mine, and he has barley there. Go and set it on fire. Absalom’s servants set the field on fire-
We note how the ruling classes of Israel had their own forms of livelihood. Saul still retained his farm, Absalom had sheep, Joab grew barley. There was no very developed system of taxation for the ruling classes to live off. Again, the record has absolute internal consistency. Likewise in 2 Sam. 23:11,  Shammah defended a field of barley because it was valuable to the Israelites. And in this we have a corroboration of this record with how Absalom had burnt Joab's field of barley. We may wonder why Joab slew Absalom. It could have been that to lose a field of barley was to lose food for many months or even a year. It was therefore a major loss to Joab. As Shammah defended a field of barley with his life, so Joab was so vengeful at the loss of his field of barley that he later slew Absalom.

2Sa 14:31 Then Joab arose and came to Absalom to his house and said to him, Why have your servants set my field on fire?-
The plan of getting Joab to come to him certainly worked, although it was a desperate one.

2Sa 14:32 Absalom answered Joab, Behold, I sent to you saying, ‘Come here, that I may send you to the king to say, Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me to be there still. Now therefore let me see the king’s face; and if there is iniquity in me, let him kill me’-
Job had had a change of mind as to how Absalom could best serve his own interests of pride and power, and the result of that was that Absalom was left in limbo. There certainly was iniquity in Absalom because he had slain his brother Amnon. We see here how conscience for sin so easily declines over time, and the passage of the years works a kind of pseudo atonement. But God's dealing with sin is not like this. We may forget about past sins or the wonder of having been forgiven them, but God doesn't (2 Pet. 1:9).

2Sa 14:33 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
We are not told the content of their discussion or whether David formally extended forgiveness to Absalom. The next we read in 2 Sam. 15 is that Absalom is moving freely in Jerusalem and garnering support for his putsch. The depth of coverage of the record varies; we are given detailed descriptions of Tamar kneading the dough for the cakes she made Amnon, whereas here, when we would love to know what David and Absalom said to each other- there is nothing. Did Absalom repent? Did David forgive? What was the role of Joab? I suggest that this is intentional, because these records are designed to promote our reflection and imagination, so that we might enter deeper into the characters portrayed.