Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 14

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary

Verse 2

2 Samuel 14:2. Joab sent to Tekoah, &c.— Tekoah was a city in the tribe of Judah, and lay about twelve miles south of Jerusalem. Joab's conduct in this affair was remarkably artful: he chose a widow, because her condition of life was more proper to move compassion; one who lived at a distance from Jerusalem, as her case might not be so readily inquired into; and a woman advanced in years, as Josephus asserts, that her application might have the more weight. She appeared in a habit of mourning, to heighten the idea of her distress, and that her circumstances, her mournful tale, her dress, and her person, might make one united impression on the king, and secure her his attention. The whole design of her speech was to frame a case similar to that of David, in order to convince him how much more reasonable it was to preserve Absalom. But there was great art in not making the similitude too plain and visible, lest the king should perceive the intention of the woman's petition, before she had obtained a grant of pardon for her son, and came to make the application to the king.

Verse 7

2 Samuel 14:7. So they shall quench my coal which is left The expression is singularly beautiful and expressive. Heathen authors seem to have borrowed it from hence. Plato and Lucian call the few men who survived the deluge ζωπυρα, live coals, who were to re-kindle the vital flame, and continue the human race: and in Scripture a man and his successors are often called a lamp or light: see chap. 2 Samuel 21:17. Psa 132:17 and Calmet and Le Clerc.

Verses 9-11

2 Samuel 14:9-11. My lord, O king, the iniquity be on me, &c.— The king having told the woman that she might return to her house, and leave the care of her business to him, she adds, with great address, that if she had pressed his majesty to any thing in itself unjust, or any way misinformed him, or misrepresented the state of the case, she wished all the iniquity of that guilt, or misrepresentation, might fall upon her own head, and upon her family: My lord, O king, &c. The king then bade her, 2Sa 14:10 if any molested her further, to bring them before him, and he would take care to stop any further proceedings against her. She then begged, 2Sa 14:11 that, in making that promise to stay the avenger of blood from causing any further destruction in her family, he would remember the Lord his God; i.e. remember that he made that promise in the presence of God; drawing him thus distantly and insensibly into the obligation of an oath; and her address had its effect: as the Lord liveth, said he, there shall not one hair of thy son fall to the earth. Houbigant thinks that the woman in the ninth verse insinuates, that she is less concerned for her own son and her family, than for the son and the family of the king.

Verses 12-17

2 Samuel 14:12-17. Then the woman said, &c.— The woman, having so far gained her point, begged leave to say one word further; and, having obtained permission, immediately proceeded, 2Sa 14:13 to expostulate with the king upon his own conduct, and his unkindness to the people of GOD, in not pardoning his own son, and bringing him back from exile. His mercy to her son made him self-condemned in relation to his own. She then added a very natural and seasonable reflection, 2Sa 14:14 that death was the common lot of all men, some by one means, some by another; that in that state we are like water spilled upon the ground, which cannot be gathered up again; that God, if he pleased, could strike the offender dead; but inasmuch as he did not, it was because he would leave room for mercy; that he had devised means in his own law to arrest the avenger of blood, and in his appointed time to recall the man-slayer from his exile in the city of refuge: Numbers 35:25. But here, apprehending that she might have gone too far, and made too free with majesty, in expostulating so plainly upon a point of such importance, she excused this presumption, 2Sa 14:15 from the force put upon her by her people, who had so severely threatened her, that in this extremity she plainly saw she had no resource or hope of relief, but in laying her son's case before the king; which she, 2Sa 14:16-17 confiding in his majesty's mercy, and assuring herself that he would hear her with his wonted clemency, at length adventured to do; hoping that it might be a means of saving both herself and her son from being destroyed out of the inheritance of God, insinuating that her own life was wrapped up in his. We may here observe, that the single design and address of this device are sufficient proofs, if there were no other, to evince the Jewish people to have been neither unpolite nor uninformed. The clause in the 13th verse, for the king doth speak this thing, &c. is thus rendered by Houbigant, for the king's purpose not to recall his exile is a kind of fault. The words in the 14th verse, neither doth God respect any person, may be rendered according to the ancient versions, but the Lord doth not take away the life.

Verse 22

2 Samuel 14:22. Joab fell to the ground on his face, &c.— There cannot be a greater refinement of flattery and address. Joab places that obligation entirely to his own score, which he knew was the greatest that he could lay upon his master.

Verse 24

2 Samuel 14:24. Let him turn to his own house, &c.— This discountenance and rebuke, which Absalom received from his father, was certainly little enough to signify the king's abhorrence of his late cruel revenge upon his brother; yet not more than was necessary to mortify his pride and repress his popularity, which now in all probability began to blaze out upon the news of this reconciliation to his father: and this appears to be the reason why the sacred historian immediately subjoins to this account of the king's discountenance, a particular description of Absalom's beauty, 2Sa 14:25-26 which is a frequent foundation of popularity; and then acquaints us with his having three sons and one fair daughter, 2Sa 14:27 whom he named after his unhappy sister, Tamar, which was probably another fountain of pride, popularity, and presumption.

Verse 26

2 Samuel 14:26. And when he polled his head, &c.— Houbigant remarks, that it is a mistake to suppose that Absalom polled his head every year: the Hebrew, ימים מקצ mikkets yamim, which we render at every year's end, signifies only at the return of a certain season, and he renders the passage, for there were certain seasons when he polled it, that he might deliver himself from the weight; and when he polled it, the weight was two hundred shekels. This seemingly prodigious weight of hair, according to Bochart, if computed by the Jewish shekel, amounted to three pounds and two ounces of our weight.

But Bishop Patrick remarks, that when the books of Samuel were revised after the Babylonish captivity, such weights were mentioned as were then known to them; and therefore, when the historian speaks of this weight of Absalom's hair, he adds, by way of explanation, that it was after the king's weight; i.e. after the weight of the king of Babylon, whose shekel was only one-third of that of the Jews; and therefore this large quantity of hair, which has given so much occasion to the enemies of revelation to ridicule the sacred text, is reduced so as not to seem at all enormous. Besides, we should recollect, that the hair, being in those days reckoned a great ornament, was perfumed with large quantities of fragrant oils, which would make it more heavy than otherwise it would have been: and further we should remark, that it is very evident from the peculiar manner in which it is mentioned in the sacred text, that there must have been something extremely singular, even at that time, in this large quantity of Absalom's hair. Those, however, who are desirous to enter further on the subject, which has been very thoroughly examined, may find full satisfaction in Michaelis's Comment. Gotting. tom. 2: or in Stackhouse on the place.

Verse 29

2 Samuel 14:29. Absalom sent for Joab The reader who is little versed in courts will naturally be surprised to see Joab so zealous to get Absalom recalled from exile, and to observe him afterwards so cold and indifferent about having him re-established in his father's favour. The truth is, when Joab had greatly gratified the king, and gained credit with him, by bringing back Absalom to Jerusalem, he had little reason, as a minister, to be solicitous to bring him about the king's person, and restore him to full favour; because in that case he might naturally apprehend, that Absalom's interest with his father might impair his own. This the young man's ambition could but ill endure, and therefore he took this extraordinary step to be set right with his father; a step, indeed, which shewed him determined to go any lengths, rather than fall short of his ambitious aims. He that could set his friend's field on fire barely to be admitted to court, would little scruple to set his country in a flame (if I may be allowed the expression) to be raised to a crown: although, possibly, this injury to Joab might have been an artifice to prevent the king's suspicion of their combination, and Joab's too great attachment to the interest of his son.

REFLECTIONS.—Joab is prevailed upon to intercede with David, and he at last consents to receive him. Absalom is introduced; the king, with paternal tenderness, seals by a kiss his reconciliation; and, believing his son's professions real, reinstates him in all his former honours. Note; (1.) A parent's fondness often makes him blind to his children's ill designs: he fain would hope the best, even against hope. (2.) How much more tender is the reception which the returning prodigal meets with from his heavenly Father, when by the Spirit his pardon is sealed!

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 14". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.