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Bible Commentaries

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

2 Samuel 14

Verses 1-20

The Wise Woman of Tekoah

v. 1. Now, Joab, the son of Zeruiah, perceived that the king's heart was toward Absalom, or, more exactly, against Absalom; David continued in his aversion to the slayer of the crown prince.

v. 2. And Joab, either from genuine goodness of heart or with the shrewdness which sought to get into the good graces of Absalom and the people, sent to Tekoah, some fire or six miles south of Bethlehem, and fetched thence a wise woman, one known for the readiness of her speech, for her boldness and shrewdness, and said unto her, I pray thee, feign thyself to be a mourner, and put on now mourning apparel, and anoint not thyself with oil, but be as a woman that had a long time mourned for the dead, one whose greatness of sorrow caused her to continue her mourning for a very long time;

v. 3. and come to the king and speak on this manner unto him. So Joab put the words in her mouth, giving her exact and detailed instructions concerning her behavior and speech.

v. 4. And when the woman of Tekoah, in accordance with the instructions received, spake to the king, she fell on her face to the ground and did obeisance, her great humility serving to draw the king's attention to her, and said, Help, O king!

v. 5. And the king said unto her, What aileth thee? Her feigned distress caused him deep concern. And she answered, I am indeed a widow woman, and mine husband is dead, the double statement being intended to arouse sympathy.

v. 6. And thy handmaid had two sons, and they two strove together in the field, and there was none to part them, to act as arbitrator and deliverer between them, but the one smote the other and slew him.

v. 7. And, behold, the whole family, the entire relationship, is risen against thine handmaid, and they said, Deliver him that smote his brother that we may kill him for the life of his brother whom he slew, according to the law of blood-vengeance; and we will destroy the heir also, namely, the remaining son, whose death would make the other relatives the heirs; and so they shall quench my coal which is left, a figurative expression for the one son through whom her house could be built up, and shall not leave to my husband neither name nor remainder upon the earth. "The woman's purpose was not only to bring out the design of the kinsmen in their blood-avenging as harshly as possible, but also, with reference to David's hostile feeling to Absalom, to emphasize the point that the latter was the heir to David's throne, and to save him as such from his father's anger. "

v. 8. And the king said unto the woman, in granting her request, Go to thine house, and I will give charge concerning thee, to protect her son from the pursuing relatives.

v. 9. And the woman of Tekoah said unto the king, My lord, O king, the iniquity be on me and on my father's house, namely, in case some wrong should be connected with the fact that the unintentional murder was not avenged, and the king and his throne be guiltless, no blame should be attached to David's government.

v. 10. And the king said, Whosoever saith aught unto thee, bring him to me, and he shall not touch thee any more. The matter was to be adjusted so that no one would dare to annoy the woman any more.

v. 11. Then said she, pursuing the advantage she had gained till now, I pray thee, let the king remember the Lord, thy God, she pleaded with the king for his interference to the point of assuring her son's safety by an oath, that thou wouldest not suffer the revengers of blood to destroy any more, lest they destroy my son. The destruction already wrought should not be increased. And he, David, said. As the Lord liveth, there shall not one hair of thy son fall to the earth. As her appeals grew in fervor, so his assurances in emphasis.

v. 12. Then the woman said, Let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak one word unto my lord the king. She acted as if she had another matter to present. And he said, Say on.

v. 13. And the woman said, Wherefore, then, after voicing such sentiments as she had just obtained from him, hast thou thought such a thing against the people of God? She has some difficulty in making the application to the king's own case, because she cannot speak openly, but may only, in passing, allude to Absalom. Her implication was that on account of the attitude of David toward Absalom at least some of the people were suffering. For the king doth speak this thing, in announcing the decision in her own case, as one which is faulty, in that the king doth not fetch home again his banished. To be just, he must apply the same mildness in the case of Absalom which he decided for in her case.

v. 14. For we, men in general, and Absalom in particular, must needs die and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again, which fate may come upon Absalom before David is aware of the fact; neither doth God respect any person, in calling him away by death at the time appointed by Him; yet doth he devise means that His banished be not expelled from Him, literally, "And not takes away God a soul but He thinks out plans not to banish a banished one"; He does not cut off the life of the sinner outright, but is merciful and changes His sentence of rejection in the case of a repentant sinner.

v. 15. Now, therefore, that I am come to speak of this thing unto my lord the king, it is because the people have made me afraid, namely, by their demand to deliver her son to the avenger of blood; and thy handmaid said, I will now speak unto the king; it may be that the king will perform the request of his handmaid. Thus she skillfully returned to her own case.

v. 16. For the king will hear to deliver his handmaid out of the hand of the man that would destroy me and my son together out of the inheritance of God. This was the point which was so awful in her sight, that of being cut off from the people of the Lord.

v. 17. Then thine handmaid said, The word of my lord the king shall now be comfortable, serve for her reassurance; for as an angel of God, the great Angel of the Covenant, so is my lord the king to discern good and bad, to hear the crying of his oppressed subjects and to come to the assistance of those who were in trouble; therefore the Lord, thy God, will be with thee.

v. 18. Then the king answered and said unto the woman, since he had drawn his own conclusions from the skill with which she presented her matter, Hide not from me, I pray thee, the thing that I shall ask thee. And the woman said, Let my lord the king now speak.

v. 19. And the king said, Is not the hand of Joab with thee in all this? The entire manner in which the case had been presented and handled reminded him of his general. And the woman answered and said, with a sincere acknowledgment of the king's sagacity, As thy soul liveth, my lord the king, none can turn to the right hand or to the left from aught that my lord the king hath spoken, David, according to her praise, always hit the nail on the head; for thy servant Joab, he bade me, and he put all these words in the mouth of thine handmaid.

v. 20. To fetch about this form of speech, literally, "to turn about entirely the face of this matter," to change the relation then obtaining between David and Absalom, to bring about a reconciliation, hath thy servant Joab done this thing; and my lord is wise, according to the wisdom of an angel of God, to know all things that are in the earth. The woman certainly made use of fine tact and wisdom. It is a noble thing to act as advocate for another and to intercede where this will bring about better relations. Where such sagacity succeeds in convincing others, it is well-pleasing to God.

Verses 21-33

The Reconciliation Effected

v. 21. And the king said unto Joab, Behold, now, I have done this thing, in fulfilling the request preferred through the woman of Tekoah; go, therefore, bring the young man Absalom again.

v. 22. And Joab fell to the ground on his face, and bowed himself, and thanked the king; and Joab said, Today thy servant knoweth that I have found grace in thy sight, my lord, O King, in that the king hath fulfilled the request of his servant. His intercession had finally succeeded.

v. 23. So Joab arose and went to Geshur, and brought Absalom to Jerusalem.

v. 24. And the king, still unable to forget the crime which Absalom had committed, said, Let him turn to his own house, and let him not see my face. David's forgiveness was not yet perfect, it lacked sincerity. So Absalom returned to his own house, and saw not the king's face; he was, to all intents and purposes, still banished.

v. 25. But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty, there was no other man physically so perfect as he; from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him.

v. 26. And when he polled his head, when he had his hair cut, (for it was at every year's end that he polled it; because the hair was heavy on him, therefore he polled it,) he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels after the king's weight (about six pounds).

v. 27. And unto Absalom there were born three sons and one daughter, whose name was Tamar bearing the same name as her father's sister; she was a woman of fair countenance, very beautiful.

v. 28. So Absalom dwelt two full years in Jerusalem, and saw not the king's face. David persisted in punishing him by keeping him at a distance.

v. 29. Therefore Absalom sent for Joab to have sent him to the king, to have this unbearable relation terminated; but he would not come to him, probably in order not to incur the king's displeasure: and when he sent again the second time, he would not come.

v. 30. Therefore he said unto his servants, See, Joab's field is near mine, alongside of his own ground, a parcel of land which he cultivated near the city, and he hath barley there; go and set it on fire. And Absalom's servants set the field on fire.

v. 31. Then Joab arose and came to Absalom unto his house, as the latter had foreseen, and said unto him, Wherefore have thy servants set my field on fire?

v. 32. And Absalom answered Joab, Behold, I sent unto thee, saying, Come hither that I may send thee to the king to say, Wherefore am I come from Geshur? It had been good for me to have been there still, he would have fared far better if he had remained there, as circumstances were now. Now, therefore, let me see the king's face; and if there be any iniquity in me, let him kill me. Instead of showing sorrow and confessing his guilt, he denies it and challenges his father to punish him at this time. It was a defiant and bitter spirit which spoke here. David had made a mistake in the first place by letting Absalom return without a penitent confession.

v. 33. So Joab came to the king and told him; and when he David, had called for Absalom, he came to the king, and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king, as a token of the usual homage paid to the sovereign, but not as a mark of penitence; and the king kissed Absalom. So the matter was patched up, sincerely enough on the part of David, but without this spirit on the part of Absalom. Even believers find that it is altogether against their sinful nature really to forgive and to forget any wrong that has been done. But the fear of God will gradually overcome the evil with good, conquer hatred and revenge, and be reconciled to the person who has done wrong.

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Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 14". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/2-samuel-14.html. 1921-23.