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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

2 Samuel 14

Verses 1-10

Second Samuel - Chapter 14

The Woman of Tekoa, vs. 1-10

Joab, the captain of the host, soon noticed the deep grief and concern of David for his son. It is implied that his anxiety interfered with his governmental functions. For this reason Joab concluded that David must be persuaded to recall Absalom from his exile. The problem for David was that Absalom was guilty of murder, and under Israel’s law he should have been executed. Only God could set aside the penalty and that only in respect of His mercy when the guilty confessed as in the case of David himself. There may have been those in the kingdom clamoring for Absalom’s execution.

In order to persuade David to grant pardon to his son and permit his return to Israel Joab devised a scheme, using an actress called a wise woman, from Tekoah. This town was near Jerusalem, about twenty straight-line miles to the south. She dressed to play the part of a widow in mourning, leaving off anointing oil so as to present the careless aspect of one in deep grief. Joab told her what to say when she gained an audience with David. Thus she came before him and fell on her face to the ground, asking for help.

Permitted to speak the woman told a story of how her husband had died leaving her with two sons. But the sons had quarreled, and one had slain the other in an unpremeditated moment of passion. Other family members demanded the full penalty of the law for murder, but she would not give him up. If they should execute her surviving son it would leave her husband without heir, and she herself without material sustenance. It was a very distressing dilemma she presented.

The king tried to dismiss her while he pondered her case, but she pleaded for prompt judgment. Let not the burden of the judgment be on him, but let it be she who would be guilty of an aberration of the law, if such there should be. So the king agreed that any who questioned her protection of her son would have to answer to him.

Verses 11-20

The Ruse Found Out, vs. 11-20

The woman of Tekoah seems to plead the law of the city of refuge on behalf of her son. There were "revengers of blood" seeking his death, and perhaps she leaves the impression that he had sought safety in the city of refuge. In "remembering the Lord God" there seems to be a reference to this law. The revengers were clamoring for his death even though he was temporarily sheltered there. The law provided that the guilty be given up even from the city of refuge. The law stated in Numbers 35:22-24 would cover his case. Though the brothers were quarreling it could be argued that the one did not intend to kill the other.

David finally promised the woman that her son would not be given to the avengers. When he had so done the woman then asked him why he was guilty of doing contrary to his own sentence, to go against the desires of the people in not recalling his own banished. It seems from her words that the people believed Absalom had the right to avenge the wrong done Tamar without suffering the penalty of the law against him. Her argument also implied that Amnon is dead, and his life cannot be restored, that all must die, and God has devised a law whereby the one banished can be restored. Thus she intends to apply the law of the city of refuge to the case of Absalom.

There is a good analogy in the woman’s words from verse 14. Man’s life is uncertain, and cannot be renewed after death. But the one banished can be restored to the Lord, for He is no respecter of persons. Whosoever will can be returned to Him (John 6:37). This is the means by which the banished by sin "be not expelled from him."

The woman continued to flatter David as she prepared further to spring the trap which Joab was setting by her words. The people, she said, had made her afraid, but she knew the king would perform her request if she could speak to him. He would give her a comfortable word, for he was as an angel of God to discern good and bad. At this point the king perceived another motive in the woman’s words, and immediately suspected the connivance of Joab.

Her last argument, "that the Lord thy God will be with thee," is intended to persuade David that the law of the city of refuge is on his side with respect to Absalom. So David asked her if Joab’s hand was not with her in this scheme. She admitted that Joab had given her the words to say, but again flattered the king, that one cannot hide anything from him, and that he "is wise according to the wisdom of an angel of God, to know all things that are in the earth."

Verses 21-27

Absalom Recalled, vs. 21-27

David called Joab and admitted that he had inadvertently commit­ted himself to the recall of Absalom, and that Joab should therefore go and bring him again to Israel. Joab appears to be almost overcome with joy that the king will recall his son. He fell on his face and thanked him that he had found grace in his sight. In the light of what followed it is somewhat hard to understand Joab’s behavior at this time. There must have been something about his conduct of the affairs of government which was very much affected by the king’s distress for Absalom.

Joab went up to Geshur and brought Absalom back to Jerusalem. But David refused to receive him, sending word that Absalom should go to his own house. Absalom must have been much disappointed by his father’s refusal to accept him. It implies that David knew that the law had been handled carelessly in Absalom’s case, and he Was not ready to forgive him. It is probable, in the light of later occurrences, David hoped Absalom would repent and seek forgiveness. Absalom was per­sonally very handsome and attractive. He had a lot of charisma, and was received graciously by many people of Israel. His hair was a glori­ous mass of beauty. There was no blemish in him, from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head, say the Scriptures. His description re­minds one of that of the bridegroom (Song of Solomon 5:10-16). His thick, luxuriant hair he polled, or cut, once a year, at which time he re­moved an amount weighing two hundred shekels (or about five pounds).

Absalom’s family consisted of three sons and a daughter named Tamar, likely for her lovely aunt. She herself was "a woman of fair count­enance." Absalom was destined for tragic events. Before his ultimate, despicable end he suffered the loss of his sons also (2 Samuel 18:18)

Verses 28-33

Absalom Accepted, vs. 28-33

For two more full years Absalom was restricted by the king to his own house and denied admission to the king’s court. David must have been still smarting under the guilt of his sin with Bathsheba and hoping still to influence his wayward son to repent and not to follow in his foot­steps David had failed the New Testament admonition against fathers provoking their sons to wrath (Ephesians 6:4).

Meanwhile Absalom chafed under his restriction and blamed Joab for not continuing through in getting him restored to the favor of his father,

Absalom sent several times for Joab to come to him so he could implore him to intercede with David for him. But Joab refused to go, perhaps thinking to let well enough be. Absalom was back, David was better satisfied, and the country seemed content with the state of affairs.

Finally, however, Absalom took desperate means to get Joab’s attention. Next to Absalom’s field Joab also had a field of ripening barley, and Absalom commanded his servants to burn it. This was another serious infraction of the law (Exodus 22:6), showing Absalom’s continued disregard for God’s will.

So Joab was compelled to go to Absalom to protest the burning of his field of barley, and perhaps to seek restitution under the law. Absa­lom demanded to know for what purpose Joab had got the king to bring him back to the country if he could have no part in affairs.

If David still regarded him guilty under the law, thought Absalom, he should have him put to death. Otherwise he wanted to be restored to his father’s good graces. So Joab went to David and persuaded him to see Absalom, who behaved himself, contrary to his character, humbly when he came before the king. He bowed in submission all the way to the ground. The king received him and kissed him in forgiveness and acceptance. David would rue his restoration of Absalom to a position of influence.

Lessons from chapter 14: 1) The Devil can contrive seemingly innocent means to deceive one into making a wrong move; 2) flattery should not be allowed to sway one in his decisions; 3) it is better to admit a wrong than to give in to a decision acquired by false pretense; 4) a handsome physique often covers a fool’s heart, and men ought not be deluded by it; 5) filial feelings should not deter one from insisting on following God’s ordinances.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 14". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/2-samuel-14.html. 1985.