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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

2 Samuel 14

Verses 1-33

Absalom’s Return (14:1-33)

Joab divined the state of David’s mind and with the help of a wise woman from Tekoa devised a stratagem. We have here the first appearance of a group which, by Jeremiah’s time, had become a professional class ranking alongside the prophets and the priests (Jeremiah 18:18). These people, "the wise," were nearer the common folk than the other two classes. Most of them were men. They were noted for their practical shrewdness, which was regarded as a divine gift. Resort was made to them for counsel in the practical details of life, and they appear to have assembled a body of shrewd wisdom noted for its utilitarian flavor and enshrined in our Bible, especially in the Book of Proverbs. Never possessing the authority of the priests and the prophets, the word of "the wise" nevertheless was thought to have a divine quality. In David’s reign this group began to gain prominence (see later 2 Samuel 16:23; 2 Samuel 20:16-22).

Joab and the wise woman planned a dramatic approach to David. The woman went to David, disguised as a widow in mourning and pleading a case which she could rightfully take to the supreme court of appeal. In a parabolic presentation, of which later wisdom was fond, she told of two sons who had quarreled, one killing the other and thereby according to law forfeiting his own life also. But if the remaining son were killed for his crime, she would be left destitute and the family name would be wiped out. The significance of the latter plea lies in the fact that men could live on only in their posterity. If both sons perished, then her husband’s "name," a word equivalent in Hebrew thought to "personal substance," would have no extension down through time in his descendants. In the plea there is also the implication that other members of the family were anxious to see the law of retribution carried out in order that the inheritance might pass to them.

As with Nathan, so here. David finally gave a judgment that stayed the hand of the avenger of blood and suspended the operation of retributive justice in the case of the son. The woman then turned the parable on David himself. It was his sons who had quarreled, and, by his judgment, the king was convicting himself. He ought to call home the son he had banished, for in banishing Absalom he was depriving the Israelite people of its royal heir. Once more the speech reverts to the Hebrew view of the nature of death. Dying is like water spilt on the ground. Life is dissipated. That had been the fate of Amnon. In bringing back Absalom, David would be serving God. The extent of the Lord’s jurisdiction explains this reference. Absalom in banishment would no longer serve the God of Israel as he ought. He was an outcast, not only from his own land but also from the worship of the Lord. At the end of this appeal, the woman protected herself by returning to her own parabolic case and by speaking as if it were actuality.

David guessed that Joab was behind the plea, and when this was confirmed by the wise woman, he agreed to allow Absalom to return. Joab received instructions to bring back Absalom, although the latter was not to be allowed in David’s presence.

There is a digression dealing with Absalom’s striking appearance and including a description of Absalom’s family.

Two years after his return to Jerusalem, Absalom resolved to seek David’s presence. After his summons to Joab for help had failed twice, he set Joab’s barley field on fire. This soon brought results, and Joab told the king, who summoned Absalom. David was apparently reconciled to his son, although Absalom’s attitude remains open to question.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 2 Samuel 14". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/2-samuel-14.html.