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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

2 Samuel 14

Verses 1-24


2Sa . "Now Joab," etc. Most commentators attribute Joab's action in this matter to motives of self-interest. It appears highly probably that Absalom was now the heir to the throne (see on 2Sa 13:29), and Joab was therefore anxious to secure his goodwill by being of service to him. "Toward Absalom." Most scholars, in accordance with the Syriac, the Septuagent, and the Vulgate versions, sustain the English reading here, but Erdmann and Keil contend that the preposition here used has the sense of against in this place. The latter says לֵב, written with צַל and without any verb, only occurs again in Dan 11:28, where it means against. He further remarks that, "if Joab had noticed the re-awakening of David's good feeling towards Absalom, there would have been no necessity for him to bring the cunning woman from Tekoah to induce him to consent to Absalom's return. Moreover, David would not in that case have refused to allow Absalom to see his face for two whole years after his return."

2Sa . "Tekoah." Now Tekue, about five miles south of Bethlehem and the home of the prophet Amos. "According to the Talmud, there were important oil plantations in the neighbourhood, and the women there were noted for their shrewdness." (Philippson.)

2Sa . "The heir also." "These words are added to the preceding (we will kill him) by reason of the second thought that characterises the blood-revenge, namely, that while they kill him for blood-vengeance, they wish at the same time to destroy the surviving heir. The woman's purpose is not only to bring out the design of the kinsman 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 is the heir to David's throne, and to save him as such from his father's anger." (Erdmann.) "Quench my coal." "The burning coal with which one kindles a fresh fire to denote the last remnant." (Keil).

2Sa . "Go to thine house," etc. This declaration on the part of the king was perfectly just. If the brothers had quarrelled and one had killed the other in the heat of the quarrel, it was right that he should be defended from the avenger of blood, because it could not be assumed that there was any previous intention to murder. This declaration, therefore, could not be applied as yet to David's conduct towards Absalom." (Keil.)

2Sa . "The Iniquity be on me," i.e., "If it be wrong not to carry out the blood-shedding." (Erdmann.)

2Sa . "Let the king remember the Lord," etc. Either she desires David to confirm his promise by an oath or she reminds him of the great mercy which God had extended to Himself in pardoning the murder of Uriah.

2Sa . "Against the people of God." The ambiguity of this phrase has led some to render it, "Why dost thou propose suck things towards the people of God," i.e. such protection towards me and my son." But most critics reject this rendering. Erdmann understands by the people of God, the nation who would suffer by the rejection of one who would one day be their King.

2Sa . "We must needs die," etc. Thenius refers these words to Amnon's death with the meaning, "he had to die sometime, and all you can now do against the murderer will not restore him to life." But most writers understand the woman to mean "Absalom may die in banishment and then your pardon may come too late," or "As life is so short and uncertain do not embitter it by enmity." "Neither doth God respect," etc. Rather. "God doth not take away any soul, but thinks thoughts, not to banish a banished one." "An argument from God's procedure with the sinner. He does not take away the soul (life) of one that is banished, condemned for sin, so as thus to banish him for ever. These words must have brought to David's recollection God's mercy towards himself." (Erdmann.) "This is one of the noblest and profoundest declarations of the Scripture. God, who has determined us to death, nevertheless does not deprive us of life, of personality, but has the holy purpose to receive against the banished, the sinful." (Philippson.) "This (last) explanation makes the first half of the verse merely introductory to the thought in the second, merely a relative sentence containing an affirmation about God; this is not so probable as the view which makes the first half a separate argument. The argument, though powerful, is false; the human Judge cannot set aside the demands of justice, though God may pardon the sinner." (Translator of Lang's Commentary.)

2Sa . "The people have made me afraid," i.e. Her kinsfolk who demanded her son. "The woman returns again to her own affairs, to make the King believe that nothing but her destress led her to speak thus." (Keil.)

2Sa . "Comfortable," literally, for rest, i.e., shall give me rest. "Angel of God." "The angel of the covenant, the mediator of divine grace to the covenant nation." (Ked.) "To discern good and bad." "This affirms two things.

1. In every case brought before him, the king, he will impartially hear both sides.

2. He helps the oppressed." (Erdmann.) "There is a great deal of artifice in all this. For to presume upon the kindness of another and expect gracious answers from their noble qualities is very moving." (Patrick).

2Sa . "None can turn to the right," etc., i.e. The king always hits the right point. She compliments the king on the sagacity which enabled him to penetrate the secret.

2Sa . "To fetch about this form," etc. Erdmann translates this, "To turn the face of the thing, i.e., to change the relation of Absalom to his father." Keil renders, "To turn the appearance of the king," understanding thereby, to disguise the affair in the finest way.

2Sa . "Hath fulfilled the request." These words are generally understood to indicate that Joab had repeatedly pleaded for Absalom's return.

2Sa . "Let him not see my face." "This was no real pardon. David's anger still continued. It is a natural surmise that this was because Absalom showed no repentance and did not ask for forgiveness." (Erdmann.) "His own house." His being obliged to send for Joab suggests that Absalom was confined to his house.



I. The most mischievous reasoning is that which is a compound of truth and falsehood. When an argument is wholly founded on an untruth, the conscience not entirely blinded can pass sentence upon it without hesitation, and if a man yield to such an argument, he does so with his eyes wide open. But where, as in the case before us, many undeniable facts are pleaded in favour of acts which at best are of doubtful character, only the most honest and unprejudiced can see through the delusion. The assertions of this wise woman were perfectly true. Those who grant mercy abroad should begin at home, and enmity ought to die before those who are at enmity die. The long forbearance and abounding mercy of God are also blessed and undeniable facts, and all these considerations might have been lawfully urged upon David in relation to any private act in which Absalom had sinned only against his father. But he had transgressed that Divine law which it was David's special duty to uphold, and against which the king sinned when he permitted it to be violated with impunity. No human executor of law is actuated by a feeling of personal enmity, but is simply a representative of laws, which, if they are just, are necessary safeguards of society, and as such, are approved and even commanded by God. Such a man fails in his duty both to God and man if he allow personal feelings to influence his conduct either for or against the offender. We cannot gather from the history (see Critical Notes) what David's real feelings were in relation to his son, and therefore cannot tell what effect the argument of this parable had upon him; but it is an excellent sample of many of the sophistries by which people in all ages and under all circumstances seek to justify what is contrary to justice when it is agreeable to their inclinations and likely to promote their interests.

II. Those who are conscious of having committed great sins are not fit to deal with other offenders. The immediate result of this parable was a half-measure which made matters worse than they were before, and leave us in as much doubt as ever as to David's real motives and feelings. It was more trying and irritating to Absalom to be banished from his father's presence in Jerusalem than in Geshur, and if his message to him was defiant there was reason in it, for it seemed mockery to recall him merely to make him a prisoner or keep him in disgrace at home. But all David's weakness and unsteadiness of purpose in dealing with his sons arose from the consciousness that when one became an adulterer and the other a murderer, they were only following his example. Such a man is as unfit to deal rightly with a transgressor as he who is smitten with paralysis is unable to administer corporal chastisement.


2Sa . It is by right of this apt beautiful saying that the wise woman of of Tekoah holds an earthly immortality. Ah, how God must have bound us each to each; what subtle far-reaching links must bind all the children of Adam into one; how solemn and mysterious an influence the humblest of us may exert on all, when the obscure prophetess of that dark age and distant land can still touch our hearts and shape our thoughts … The larger and more general application, the principle of the words I take to be, "Don't fret over the inevitable, the irreparable. The past is past and cannot be recalled; therefore be more intent on a wise use of the present. Instead of crying over spilt water or trying in vain to gather it up from the dust, betake you to the fountain of living water, drink of the untainted perennial spring. Let your feet wear a track that shall guide other feet to its pure waters. Let your example be a standing invitation to your neighbours, that they also may repair to the fountain which no dust can defile, and drink of the clear life-giving waters which flow on for ever."

1. Apply this principle to the limited facts of death and bereavement … Fretting will not alter the inevitable. We must accept it whether with our will or against it. Let us then accept it with a patient cheerfulness which will take the sting out of it. 'Tis weak, 'tis useless, to sit down and weep over spilt water, when we have yet a long steep path to climb, and many around us who look to us for guidance and refreshment.… But it is not difficult to understand how many might say, "Why remind me that it is of no use to cry over spilt water?" I know it, and hence my tears. I weep the more because I weep in vain." … But we may find in the wise woman's words a larger and more consolatory meaning than any of which she was conscious.… For, observe; this spilt water of hers—what after all becomes of it? Though we cannot raise it up again, it nevertheless does rise again; no particle of it is lost. For a little while it lies in the dust and helps to make that fruitful. But it will be gathered up again; it must be. It will be drawn up into the skies to form a gracious cloud, which by and bye will fall in enriching showers and will be again lifted to the skies, again to fall, again to rise—so passing into a life of perpetual service.… And God, our sun, will shine upon our departed ones and will raise, purify, and ennoble them, consecrating them to an eternal service.… II. If we bring the more general application of this principle home to our experience, we shall find it has instruction for all, and not only for the bereaved.… As we recall the past, and as the years pass, and the inevitable changes ensue, we are too apt to spend time in crying over spilt water and in trying to gather it up again, and when we are haunted with the ghosts of lost opportunities and past sins, we are filled with a regret singularly like the sorrow of bereavement, and like that it is very apt to weaken us still more, and to interpose between us and the duties we have still to discharge.… It is vain to mourn that we are what we are. The weaker we are the more need to husband our strength; the more frequent and ample the opportunities we have missed, the more we should strive to improve those which are still open to us.… We are assuredly to repent of our sins and mistakes, but the true cleansing virtue of repentance does not lie in the tears we shed but in the amendment which, trusting to a higher strength than our own, we hopefully attempt. And in nothing perhaps is the healthy bracing spirit of the gospel more conspicuous than in this, that when we are truly sorry for our sins, we find that it is a sorrow that worketh life; that while we are still mourning over our manifold offences it virtually says, "Leave all those with Him who has made an atonement for the sin of the world.".… Nay, more, though we cannot gather up the spilt water, God can and does. The sun of His love shines down on the earth on which it has fallen, and lo, it rises from the earth in new and purer forms! All the useful and helpful elements of our past experience are gathered up by Him, and detached from the polluting dust with which they were blent, and the very tears we have shed are drawn up into the spiritual heaven, to fall in fertilising showers on ground barren but for them; and as they fall the Sun of Righteousness shines full upon them, and lo, a new bow of hope stretches across our brightening heaven, giving us the welcome assurance that, unfruitful as we have been in the past, henceforth seed-time and harvest shall never fail us.—(Samuel Cox, abridged).

Verses 25-33


2Sa . "He polled his head," i.e., cut his hair. "Two hundred shekels after the king's weight." The king's shekel is probably a different weight from the sacred shekel, and probably less than that. Kitto mentions reading of a lady's hair that weighed more than four pounds; and, if two hundred shekels is not more than this, it is a possible weight. The ancients were accustomed to bestow much care on the hair." (Erdmann.)

2Sa . "Three sons." From the fact that, contrary to custom, the names of these sons are not given, and from chap, 2Sa 18:1 it is concluded that they died in infancy.

2Sa . "Set the field on fire." Some commentators regard this act of Absalom as an expedient to bring him face to face with Joab; and others look upon it merely as an act of angry revenge.

2Sa . "Let me see the king's face." Rather, "I will see," etc. "Being sure that if he could do that all would be gained; such was his confidence in the tender-heartedness of David." (Wordsworth.) "The message sent by Absalom through Joab to his father contain—

1. A reproach. ‘Why am I come from Geshur?' Why didst thou send for me if I am not permitted to appear before thee?

2. A repudiation of the indulgence shown him in the permission granted him to return home: ‘It were better for me that I were still there.'

3. A self-willed demand, ‘and now I will see the king's face.'

4. A defiant challenge. ‘If there be iniquity in me, let him kill me.' From the tone of his speech he does not allow that he has done wrong, but relies on the right he thinks he has against his father, who had been too indulgent to Amnon." (Erdmann.)



I. The difference between the godly and the ungodly is manifested by the different light in which they regard their sins. This truth becomes very apparent if we compare the behaviour of Absalom at this time with that of his father after his great fall. We cannot say that the sin of the ungodly son was greater than that of his godly parent—indeed we are compelled to admit that the opposite was the case. Although no rightful excuse can be found for any wrong deed, Absalom could plead some extenuations of his crime and might even have invested it with a show of justice. But nothing can be said which can in any degree make David's guilt look less. And it must be confessed that in later days the godly man sometimes falls into more gross sin than his ungodly brother. But the grand line of demarcation is found in the difference in their conduct in relation to it. The one acknowledges and mourns over his fault, and perhaps, like David, goes with broken bones all the rest of his days, while the other either fails to see that he has done anything wrong or else excuses it on the plea of necessity or expediency. While all the acts of David, after his great sin, are pervaded more or less by a consciousness of his own unworthiness, we find in Absalom no trace of any regret that he was guilty of his brother's blood. On the contrary, all his subsequent actions are marked by the same unscrupulousness. The same regard for his own supposed interest and entire disregard of what he owed to other men or to God are displayed in every deed that is recorded of him, and make him a striking example of the radical difference which exists between the natural and the spiritual man even when the latter falls sadly below the moral standard we might reasonably expect him to maintain.

II. To restore a wrong-doer to favour unconditionally, is a sin against the person forgiven. The prodigal whom the father welcomed back returned with a confession upon his lips and such contrition in his heart as showed that his restoration to his old place in the home would be a blessing to himself and others. But if he had been re-instated without any acknowledgment that he had sinned, it would have been not only useless but injurious to him. If he had not felt the sinfulness of the past, he would have wandered again into the far country if a tempting prospect had been held out to him, and his last state would have doubtless been worse than the first. The elder brother might have justly complained at such an unconditional blotting out of the past, and would have rightly urged that it did harm both to the sinner and to the innocent man. This is not God's method. With Him it is—"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive" (1Jn ). "Repent and be converted (turn to God) that your sins may be blotted out" (Act 3:19). For it is only the repentant to whom God's forgiveness can be of any use. In Absalom's case we see the consequence of his restoration to favour without any acknowledgment of his guilt—it gave him ample opportunity to organise and complete those rebellious designs which resulted in his downfall and ruin, and was therefore not only unjust but unkind.

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 14". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.