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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 14

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-20

Joab’s scheme to secure Absalom’s pardon 14:1-20

Evidently Joab (David’s commander-in-chief and nephew by his half-sister, Zeruiah; 1 Chronicles 2:16) concluded that it would be politically better for David and Israel if David brought Absalom back to Jerusalem from Geshur (cf. 2 Samuel 14:7; 2 Samuel 14:13-15). Absalom was, of course, now David’s heir to the throne by custom, though Yahweh had designated Solomon to succeed his father. David had a great love for Absalom even though he was a murderer (2 Samuel 14:1; cf. 2 Samuel 13:37; cf. 2 Samuel 13:39). David had a large capacity to love; he loved God and many other people greatly. Often people who love greatly find it difficult to confront and discipline.

The story Joab gave the "actress" from Tekoa (10 miles south of Jerusalem) to tell duplicated David’s own problem with Absalom (cf. the story that God had put in Nathan’s mouth, 2 Samuel 12:1-4). By putting the murderer to death, the woman’s hostile relatives would have deprived her of her means of support (2 Samuel 14:7; cf. the story of Cain and Abel, Genesis 4:1-8). By putting Absalom to death, David would have deprived himself of his heir, which Joab evidently perceived Absalom to be. Since David promised not to execute the woman’s son (2 Samuel 14:11), it would be inconsistent for him to refrain from pardoning Absalom (2 Samuel 14:13). The wise woman urged David to remember the LORD his God, specifically, His mercy (2 Samuel 14:11).

"David’s reference to the ’hair’ of the woman’s ’son’ is both ironic and poignant: The hair of his own son Absalom was not only an index of his handsome appearance (cf. 2 Samuel 14:25-26) but would also contribute to his undoing (cf. 2 Samuel 18:9-15)." [Note: Youngblood, pp. 978-79.]

The woman’s references to "the people of God" (i.e., Israel, 2 Samuel 14:13; cf. 2 Samuel 14:14-15; 2 Samuel 14:17) point to popular support for Absalom and a common desire that David would pardon him and allow him to return to Jerusalem.

David had personally experienced God’s mercy and had escaped death for his adultery and murder (2 Samuel 12:13). The woman appealed to David to deal with Absalom as God had dealt with him, or the nation would suffer (2 Samuel 14:14). 2 Samuel 14:14 is a key verse in this chapter. The wise "actress" reminded David that God does not take away life, that is, He does not delight in punishing people. Rather He plans ways by which guilty people can enjoy reconciliation with Himself. The Cross of Christ is the greatest historical proof of this truth. Judgment is God’s "strange" work (Isaiah 28:21); mercy is what He delights to display. Thus, David should be godly and make a way to show mercy to Absalom, rather than punishing him with death, according to Joab.

David knew that Joab wanted him to pardon Absalom. He sensed that the woman’s arguments had come from him (2 Samuel 14:18-19). Joab had written the script for the skit that she had performed (2 Samuel 14:19-20).

"Ironically, Joab’s demise begins at precisely the point where another woman (Bathsheba) is sent to the king by a thoroughly self-interested [?] statesman (Nathan) in order to foil the succession of the next in line after Absalom (Adonijah) and so to secure the crown for Solomon (1 Kings 1:11-31)." [Note: George G. Nicol, "The Wisdom of Joab and the Wise Woman of Tekoa," Studia Theologica 36 (1982):101.]

There are parallels between this incident and Abigail’s appeal to David in 1 Samuel 25:24. [Note: See J. Hoftijzer, "David and the Tekoite Woman," Vetus Testamentum 20:4 (October 1970):419-44.]

Verses 21-33

Absalom’s return to Jerusalem 14:21-33

Joab’s masquerade proved effective. David agreed to allow Absalom to return to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 14:21). However, even though he did not execute him, neither did David restore Absalom to fellowship with himself (2 Samuel 14:24). His forgiveness was official but not personal. This led to more trouble. Thankfully God both forgives us and restores us to fellowship with Himself.

2 Samuel 14:25-27 give information about Absalom that helps us understand why he was able to win the hearts of the people. He was not only handsome but also a family man.

"A strong growth of hair was a sign of great manly power . . ." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, p. 411.]

"What Absalom proudly considers his finest attribute will prove to be the vehicle of his ultimate downfall (cf. 2 Samuel 18:9-15)." [Note: Youngblood, p. 985.]

How often this proves to be true. Two hundred shekels (2 Samuel 14:26) equal five pounds in weight. Absalom was attractive physically, but not correspondingly attractive to God spiritually, because he put his own ambitions before God’s plans. In these respects he was similar to Saul.

Absalom then lived in Jerusalem for two years, about 982-980 B.C. (2 Samuel 14:28; cf. 2 Samuel 13:38). During these years he resented David’s treatment of him. He regarded himself as a prisoner in Jerusalem. He was willing to suffer death for his murder of Amnon or to receive a true pardon, but the present compromise was unbearable (2 Samuel 14:32). When Absalom pressed for a personal reconciliation with his father, David finally conceded (2 Samuel 14:33), which David should have done at least two years earlier.

I believe David handled Absalom as he did partly because David’s conscience bothered him; he himself had sinned greatly. This seems clear from 2 Samuel 14:1-20. David’s approach offended Absalom and contributed to his desire to seize the throne from his father.

The entire chapter is the story of a father and king caught between his responsibilities to be both just and merciful. Every parent and leader eventually finds himself or herself in David’s position. God Himself had to find a solution to this dual responsibility. The chapter deals with how to discipline. David’s solution was to compromise. He tried to punish Absalom by keeping him in exile but not executing him. Then he allowed him to return to Jerusalem but not to have fellowship with himself. Both of these compromises failed and only made the relationship worse. God’s solution is to be merciful, to forgive and welcome back warmly and quickly (cf. 2 Samuel 12:13; Matthew 6:12; Matthew 6:14-15; Luke 15:11-24). Perhaps David was reluctant to pardon Absalom because his son did not repent. At least the text says nothing about his doing so. Nevertheless, David’s lack of true forgiveness bred a bitter attitude in Absalom that resulted in his organizing a coup to overthrow his father (ch. 15). The law demands justice, but "mercy triumphs over justice" (James 2:13). A police officer who pulls you over for speeding can give you justice (a citation) or mercy (a warning). A murderer on death row can receive justice (execution) or mercy (a governor’s pardon). The offender’s attitude plays a part in the decision in every case, but ultimately the choice belongs to the person in power. A godly person will plan ways so the estranged may come back into fellowship (2 Samuel 14:14).

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 14". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/2-samuel-14.html. 2012.
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