2 Samuel 14

Absalom Returns to Jerusalem(14:1–33)

15–17 In these verses, the woman goes back to her made-up story, and again asks the king to protect her from the man (avenger of blood) who was trying to put her son to death (verse 16). She ends with a word of praise for David (verse 17).

18–20 By this time, David realized that the woman’s purpose was to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem. It’s possible that Joab had been present or nearby while the woman was telling her story. David directly asked the woman if Joab had been the one who sent her. The woman said, “Yes.” She then praised David’s wisdom and knowledge (verse 20), and said that no one could turn to the right or to the left from anything he said (verse 19)-by which she meant that David had understood the situation exactly.

21–24 David agreed to bring Absalom back, and sent Joab to do it (verse 21). But even though the woman had praised David’s wisdom (verse 20), he did not act wisely in the matter of Absalom. He brought him back but he did not forgive him or reinstate him—“he must not see my face” (verse 23)—and the worst possible consequences ensued. Absalom remained angry, but now he was living in Jerusalem where he could stir up trouble for his father—which he proceeded to do (2 Samuel 15:1–12). If David had not brought Absalom back, he wouldn’t have been able to cause trouble; if David had brought Absalom back and also forgiven him, he wouldn’t have wanted to cause trouble. Of the three choices, David chose the worst: to bring Absalom back and not forgive him. David’s dealings with his own family were characterized by half-measures and vacillation. As a king he was strong; as a father he was weak.

25–27 In these verses, the writer gives a brief description of Absalom. Like Saul, he had a handsome appearance (verse 25). But the physical attribute that gave Absalom the greatest pride was his hair; it was so abundant that whenever he cut it, the cuttings weighed two hundred shekels—over two kilograms! (verse 26). In the end, Absalom’s abundant hair would contribute to his downfall (see 2 Samuel 18:9–15).

28–33 For two years Absalom lived in Jerusalem without seeing his father; we can assume that during that time Absalom’s anger grew and grew. Twice Absalom asked his cousin Joab to come to him so that he could send Joab with a message to the king on his behalf; twice Joab refused. Finally, in order to get Joab’s attention, Absalom burned up Joab’s barley field (verse 30).

Then Joab came to Absalom, and Absalom told him to go to the king and ask the king to either punish him or forgive him. Absalom likely expected that David would forgive him; with his status as crown prince restored, Absalom would then be in a position to gain support for his attempt to seize David’s throne.

Absalom’s prediction was correct: the king summoned him and kissed him, thus signaling his forgiveness and his acceptance of Absalom back into the royal family. However, Absalom never repented, and King David never administered justice. The stage was thus set for the events described in the next chapter.

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