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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 14

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Verses 1-3

Joab Calls a Wise Woman

Here we see Joab appearing on stage again, the man who, as always, also here pursues his own goals. He chooses party for Absalom, because for him that is the crown prince. Solomon plays no role for him. He sees how David’s heart is inclined toward Absalom. The mother of Joab, Zeruiah, is a half-sister of David. Joab is therefore a cousin of Absalom. It is possible that the family ties also play a role for him. What does not matter to him, here again not, is the law.

David cannot come loose from Absalom. Joab notices this and hires a wise woman whom he sends to David to tell an invented event. She must put on mourning clothes and behave as if she were in mourning. Her story must be covered by her appearance. The wise woman is a good actress and is a good storyteller.

It turns out that Joab knows David well. He can tell the woman exactly what to say because he knows how David will react. Joab uses this knowledge to manipulate him. Manipulation means to take advantage of the knowledge you have of someone to let them do or say things you want, without the person noticing it and being able to resist it. It goes too far to go into that in greater depth, but it is a common evil in the world and also among believers. If you feel you are a victim of manipulation, talk to someone about it. It has to be broken. This can be done with the help of others who know God’s Word and apply it in their own lives.

Verses 4-7

The Story of the Woman of Tekoa

There is a similarity between the story of the woman and the story Nathan tells David after his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uria (2 Samuel 12:1-Numbers :). There is also a difference and that is greater than the similarity. The similarity is that the woman tells a history that has not happened. Its purpose is to persuade the king to make Absalom come home again. The difference is that Nathan wanted to reach the conscience of David to bring it into the light of God, while the woman wants to persuade David to turn his conscience off by letting Absalom come back again without justice being done. He just has to accept him as his son again.

The woman presents herself as someone in great need and therefore appeals to the king. She is a widow and had two sons. Those two sons were important for the continuation of the family name. However, one of them has been killed by the other. The story does not show that this manslaughter was deliberate. In the situation of Absalom, to which this story refers, there is talk of deliberation. He has deliberately killed his brother Amnon.

Now the remaining son is threatened with death, because the whole family has turned against him. They want to avenge the manslaughter. The only son who is surviving, is her only hope. If he is killed, there is no heir anymore. That also goes beyond reality. David has more sons. In addition, Absalom is not the heir.

Verses 8-11

Reaction of David

David is impressed by the story and promises her protection. However, she is not satisfied with that. If she were to go home now with this message from the king, the chance is great they wouldn’t believe her at home. That is why she continues to ask questions. She wants to have more. In so doing, she assumes any iniquity of the matter and acquits the king and his throne. Her words are nothing, but they are pleasant for David to hear.

Her approach ensures that David gives her his personal protection. People who want to do her harm, she may refer to him. Then he will make sure that these people will no longer have the opportunity to do her further harm. But she is not satisfied with that either. She wants him to swear by the LORD that no evil will happen to her son. He does.

The whole history is lied, but she makes David swear. It is a great danger to bring believers to a pronunciation or action that one wants by drama. That is manipulation.

Verses 12-17

The Woman Explains the Story

The woman now comes to the matter itself. She asks if she can tell what her intention is. She does so in the same devious way in the line of her story, without mentioning the name of Absalom. She accuses David of robbing the people of a valuable man by sending Absalom away. In doing so, he acted “against the people of God”. In other words, she says to David what Nathan also said to him: ‘You are the guilty one.” This guilt is evidenced by the fact that he does not bring back “his banished one”, that is Absalom.

Absalom seems popular among the people. She wants David to prove mercy, but she has no other ground for it than his popularity. She does not say a word about his repentance for his sin. This shows that she leaves God outside this matter and especially that Joab leaves God outside. God does not prove to man the grace of forgiveness if he does not first confess his sin. God forgives only when sin is confessed. David is deceived by Joab through this woman to show grace without righteousness.

She adds that Absalom can no longer return to him when he dies. The death of a human being is like pouring water on the earth. That water cannot be gathered up again. It has disappeared into the earth. And isn’t it true that God is also working on bringing back someone who has been rejected? She uses a pious argument and presents God as that loving God who also wants Absalom to return. It is true that God brings the banished one, but through the way of repentance and conversion. He proves mercy on the basis of righteousness. But if there is no repentance, there is no grace. For us here is the lesson that we learn to prove in the way of God that He does not take away life, but seeks ways that a banished person does not remain banished from Him (2 Samuel 14:14).

After the arguments that should persuade David to make Absalom return, she does not wait for an answer from the king. She talks directly on, and she comes back to her example. She reminds him of her fear for her family in regard to her son. She wants to force him with the necessary drama to a decision.

After the drama she suddenly switches to flattery. It’s all part of the rhetoric she uses. None but he, king David, can bring about a change for the better in the impending death of her son. He is “as the angel of God” and like no other able to listen to a problem and make the right distinction between good and evil. Finally she wishes him that the LORD his God will be with him.

Verses 18-20

David Discovers the Hand of Joab

The king seems to go up the light. He begins to realize that it is a play, behind which is Joab. When he asks, she acknowledges that this is the case. Then she flatters him for the second time by calling him “the angel of God”.

Verses 21-24

Absalom Returns to Jerusalem

Without mentioning the departure of the woman, suddenly Joab stands before the king. David will have called him immediately after the matter has become clear to him. He orders him to bring back Absalom, whom he calls a young man although he is married and has children. His fatherly weakness leads him to this decision. David sees nothing of the real intention of Absalom. He allows Absalom to return to Jerusalem, but without contact with his son. However, that is only a matter of time. The first steps towards a full return have been taken because David’s resistance to it has already been broke.

By accepting his request Joab concludes that David is well-disposed towards him (2 Samuel 14:22). Joab must have had a great interest in Absalom coming back, that he shows himself so thankful. His approach is selfish and that of a flatterer. He speaks of David’s affection, while he has used a trick to get that permission.

Affection expresses itself not only in getting something. God does not want us to think of Him like this. What would it be worth if we were only convinced of God’s grace or love toward us if He gave us everything we ask. We don’t always give our children everything they ask for, do we? Sometimes we refuse to show our love by doing so. Surely we are not giving them things that they might want to have, but which are dangerous for them, do we?

From this whole history it seems clear that David’s insight into the real intentions is virtually absent and that he has become a toy of his feelings. Joab, and also Absalom, responds to this. David is weak and is always persuaded. He is no longer a king who seeks and maintains justice. He is no longer in control of himself and his family is in disorder. How then can you govern a country well?

Verses 25-27

Beauty of Absalom

Before more is said about Absalom, his appearance is first discussed. This happens more often, as with Saul and David. His external beauty, without any discernible defect, his radiance, will also have exerted great attraction-power on David. The people will also ‘fall down’ for this man. In the same way, the antichrist will be a man who does not seem to be short, so that he can take all the apostates for himself. Absalom’s hair gets a special mention. What is a sign of devotion to the LORD, as with the Nazirite (Numbers 6:5), serves here to his own glory. Thus, this special feature of his beauty later becomes the cause of his death. He remains caught fast with his head, possibly with his hair, in the branches of the trees (2 Samuel 18:9).

His beautiful appearance can also be seen in his daughter Tamar. She may have been named after her handsome aunt Tamar (2 Samuel 13:1), her father’s sister. With this Absalom honors his sister. It is part of his character give as many compliments as possible with the aim of winning people over or holding them on his hand.

Verses 28-33

Absalom Forces Access to David

Absalom is a hard man. He must and will force his father to accept him again. The background is the coup he has in mind. Possibly this also played a role in the murder of Amnon, whom he slew with tricks. To reach his goal he wants Joab to come to him. He has to work for him. If Joab doesn’t want to listen to him at will, then he’ll do it against will. He sets the barley on Joab’s piece of land adjacent to his own on fire.

The life of a neighbor and the proceeds of the land of God mean nothing to Absalom. He is full of Himself. He is the self-confident man who knows that he is beautiful and can therefore impress. He also has power as a king’s son. He also knows his father’s weakness, which he manipulates. He’s the ‘killer’ who does away with everything he encounters as an obstacle on his way to the goal he has set himself. That goal is he himself.

His performance here shows his character, the character of the spoiled crown prince. He destroyed part of the country to get his way. He does not count on the property of another person. Amnon had the same character. He was not interested in what Tamar thought. He wanted her, so he took her. That’s how it goes with children who grow up without discipline and are spoiled. What the children are and what they do is largely determined by the behavior of the parents. It is largely their responsibility. Their words do not play the biggest role in this, but their example. What Absalom was, was not only a character problem, but also an educational problem. David, the great king in public, is the weak father at home.

When Joab to Absalom with a claim, he is not impressed. He does not apologize, let alone speak of compensation, which he was obliged to give according to the law (Exodus 22:6). Joab should have been directly come, then the burning of his land would not have been necessary. It’s that simple. Absalom also manipulates Joab. Joab is in the power of Absalom and therefore Absalom does not speak of compensation. When Joab later gets the chance to avenge himself, he does so.

Absalom denies his crimes although they are well known. He does not want to know of any iniquity that would be in him. On the contrary, he thinks he has been dishonestly harmed by blocking his way back to Jerusalem. To Joab he defies the righteousness of the king by saying that he should kill him if there is guilt in him. He knows David won’t do that because he, as his father, loves him too much for that. He knows his father’s predilection for him and knows how to use it for his purpose.

When Absalom comes to his father David, David kisses him. However, it is not the kiss that the prodigal son gets from his father who is waiting for him. The prodigal son says he has sinned (Luke 15:20-Ecclesiastes :). From Absalom we do not hear a word in that direction. We do not hear a word from his mouth at all. Poor David is blind to the condition of his son.

We may pray that the Lord will give us an eye for our weaknesses, so that we do not become the plaything of others or of our feelings. This requires that we live in a living relationship with the Lord Jesus. Then we will see through what others would like to achieve with deceit.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 2 Samuel 14". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/2-samuel-14.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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