1 - 3 Joab Calls a Wise Woman
1 Now Joab the son of Zeruiah perceived that the king’s heart [was inclined] toward Absalom. 2 So Joab sent to Tekoa and brought a wise woman from there and said to her, “Please pretend to be a mourner, and put on mourning garments now, and do not anoint yourself with oil, but be like a woman who has been mourning for the dead many days; 3 then go to the king and speak to him in this manner.” So Joab put the words in her mouth.
Here we see Joab appearing on stage again, the man who, as always, also here pursues his own goals. He chooses party for Absalom, because for him that is the crown prince. Solomon plays no role for him. He sees how David’s heart is inclined toward Absalom. The mother of Joab, Zeruiah, is a half-sister of David. Joab is therefore a cousin of Absalom. It is possible that the family ties also play a role for him. What does not matter to him, here again not, is the law.
David cannot come loose from Absalom. Joab notices this and hires a wise woman whom he sends to David to tell an invented event. She must put on mourning clothes and behave as if she were in mourning. Her story must be covered by her appearance. The wise woman is a good actress and is a good storyteller.
It turns out that Joab knows David well. He can tell the woman exactly what to say because he knows how David will react. Joab uses this knowledge to manipulate him. Manipulation means to take advantage of the knowledge you have of someone to let them do or say things you want, without the person noticing it and being able to resist it. It goes too far to go into that in greater depth, but it is a common evil in the world and also among believers. If you feel you are a victim of manipulation, talk to someone about it. It has to be broken. This can be done with the help of others who know God’s Word and apply it in their own lives.
4 - 7 The Story of the Woman of Tekoa
4 Now when the woman of Tekoa spoke to the king, she fell on her face to the ground and prostrated herself and said, “Help, O king.” 5 The king said to her, “What is your trouble?” And she answered, “Truly I am a widow, for my husband is dead. 6 Your maidservant had two sons, but the two of them struggled together in the field, and there was no one to separate them, so one struck the other and killed him. 7 Now behold, the whole family has risen against your maidservant, and they say, ‘Hand over the one who struck his brother, that we may put him to death for the life of his brother whom he killed, and destroy the heir also.’ Thus they will extinguish my coal which is left, so as to leave my husband neither name nor remnant on the face of the earth.”
There is a similarity between the story of the woman and the story Nathan tells David after his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uria (2Sam 12:1-4). There is also a difference and that is greater than the similarity. The similarity is that the woman tells a history that has not happened. Its purpose is to persuade the king to make Absalom come home again. The difference is that Nathan wanted to reach the conscience of David to bring it into the light of God, while the woman wants to persuade David to turn his conscience off by letting Absalom come back again without justice being done. He just has to accept him as his son again.
The woman presents herself as someone in great need and therefore appeals to the king. She is a widow and had two sons. Those two sons were important for the continuation of the family name. However, one of them has been killed by the other. The story does not show that this manslaughter was deliberate. In the situation of Absalom, to which this story refers, there is talk of deliberation. He has deliberately killed his brother Amnon.
Now the remaining son is threatened with death, because the whole family has turned against him. They want to avenge the manslaughter. The only son who is surviving, is her only hope. If he is killed, there is no heir anymore. That also goes beyond reality. David has more sons. In addition, Absalom is not the heir.
8 - 11 Reaction of David
8 Then the king said to the woman, “Go to your house, and I will give orders concerning you.” 9 The woman of Tekoa said to the king, “O my lord, the king, the iniquity is on me and my father’s house, but the king and his throne are guiltless.” 10 So the king said, “Whoever speaks to you, bring him to me, and he will not touch you anymore.” 11 Then she said, “Please let the king remember the LORD your God, [so that] the avenger of blood will not continue to destroy, otherwise they will destroy my son.” And he said, “As the LORD lives, not one hair of your son shall fall to the ground.”
David is impressed by the story and promises her protection. However, she is not satisfied with that. If she were to go home now with this message from the king, the chance is great they wouldn’t believe her at home. That is why she continues to ask questions. She wants to have more. In so doing, she assumes any iniquity of the matter and acquits the king and his throne. Her words are nothing, but they are pleasant for David to hear.
Her approach ensures that David gives her his personal protection. People who want to do her harm, she may refer to him. Then he will make sure that these people will no longer have the opportunity to do her further harm. But she is not satisfied with that either. She wants him to swear by the LORD that no evil will happen to her son. He does.
The whole history is lied, but she makes David swear. It is a great danger to bring believers to a pronunciation or action that one wants by drama. That is manipulation.
12 - 17 The Woman Explains the Story
12 Then the woman said, “Please let your maidservant speak a word to my lord the king.” And he said, “Speak.” 13 The woman said, “Why then have you planned such a thing against the people of God? For in speaking this word the king is as one who is guilty, [in that] the king does not bring back his banished one. 14 For we will surely die and are like water spilled on the ground which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away life, but plans ways so that the banished one will not be cast out from him. 15 Now the reason I have come to speak this word to my lord the king is that the people have made me afraid; so your maidservant said, ‘Let me now speak to the king, perhaps the king will perform the request of his maidservant. 16 For the king will hear and deliver his maidservant from the hand of the man who would destroy both me and my son from the inheritance of God.’ 17 Then your maidservant said, ‘Please let the word of my lord the king be comforting, for as the angel of God, so is my lord the king to discern good and evil. And may the LORD your God be with you.’”
The woman now comes to the matter itself. She asks if she can tell what her intention is. She does so in the same devious way in the line of her story, without mentioning the name of Absalom. She accuses David of robbing the people of a valuable man by sending Absalom away. In doing so, he acted “against the people of God”. In other words, she says to David what Nathan also said to him: ‘You are the guilty one.” This guilt is evidenced by the fact that he does not bring back “his banished one”, that is Absalom.
Absalom seems popular among the people. She wants David to prove mercy, but she has no other ground for it than his popularity. She does not say a word about his repentance for his sin. This shows that she leaves God outside this matter and especially that Joab leaves God outside. God does not prove to man the grace of forgiveness if he does not first confess his sin. God forgives only when sin is confessed. David is deceived by Joab through this woman to show grace without righteousness.
She adds that Absalom can no longer return to him when he dies. The death of a human being is like pouring water on the earth. That water cannot be gathered up again. It has disappeared into the earth. And isn’t it true that God is also working on bringing back someone who has been rejected? She uses a pious argument and presents God as that loving God who also wants Absalom to return. It is true that God brings the banished one, but through the way of repentance and conversion. He proves mercy on the basis of righteousness. But if there is no repentance, there is no grace. For us here is the lesson that we learn to prove in the way of God that He does not take away life, but seeks ways that a banished person does not remain banished from Him (verse 14b).
After the arguments that should persuade David to make Absalom return, she does not wait for an answer from the king. She talks directly on, and she comes back to her example. She reminds him of her fear for her family in regard to her son. She wants to force him with the necessary drama to a decision.
After the drama she suddenly switches to flattery. It’s all part of the rhetoric she uses. None but he, king David, can bring about a change for the better in the impending death of her son. He is “as the angel of God” and like no other able to listen to a problem and make the right distinction between good and evil. Finally she wishes him that the LORD his God will be with him.
18 - 20 David Discovers the Hand of Joab
18 Then the king answered and said to the woman, “Please do not hide anything from me that I am about to ask you.” And the woman said, “Let my lord the king please speak.” 19 So the king said, “Is the hand of Joab with you in all this?” And the woman replied, “As your soul lives, my lord the king, no one can turn to the right or to the left from anything that my lord the king has spoken. Indeed, it was your servant Joab who commanded me, and it was he who put all these words in the mouth of your maidservant; 20 in order to change the appearance of things your servant Joab has done this thing. But my lord is wise, like the wisdom of the angel of God, to know all that is in the earth.”
The king seems to go up the light. He begins to realize that it is a play, behind which is Joab. When he asks, she acknowledges that this is the case. Then she flatters him for the second time by calling him “the angel of God”.
21 - 24 Absalom Returns to Jerusalem
21 Then the king said to Joab, “Behold now, I will surely do this thing; go therefore, bring back the young man Absalom.” 22 Joab fell on his face to the ground, prostrated himself and blessed the king; then Joab said, “Today your servant knows that I have found favor in your sight, O my lord, the king, in that the king has performed the request of his servant.” 23 So Joab arose and went to Geshur and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. 24 However the king said, “Let him turn to his own house, and let him not see my face.” So Absalom turned to his own house and did not see the king’s face.
Without mentioning the departure of the woman, suddenly Joab stands before the king. David will have called him immediately after the matter has become clear to him. He orders him to bring back Absalom, whom he calls a young man although he is married and has children. His fatherly weakness leads him to this decision. David sees nothing of the real intention of Absalom. He allows Absalom to return to Jerusalem, but without contact with his son. However, that is only a matter of time. The first steps towards a full return have been taken because David’s resistance to it has already been broke.
By accepting his request Joab concludes that David is well-disposed towards him (verse 22). Joab must have had a great interest in Absalom coming back, that he shows himself so thankful. His approach is selfish and that of a flatterer. He speaks of David’s affection, while he has used a trick to get that permission.
Affection expresses itself not only in getting something. God does not want us to think of Him like this. What would it be worth if we were only convinced of God’s grace or love toward us if He gave us everything we ask. We don’t always give our children everything they ask for, do we? Sometimes we refuse to show our love by doing so. Surely we are not giving them things that they might want to have, but which are dangerous for them, do we?
From this whole history it seems clear that David’s insight into the real intentions is virtually absent and that he has become a toy of his feelings. Joab, and also Absalom, responds to this. David is weak and is always persuaded. He is no longer a king who seeks and maintains justice. He is no longer in control of himself and his family is in disorder. How then can you govern a country well?
25 - 27 Beauty of Absalom
25 Now in all Israel was no one as handsome as Absalom, so highly praised; from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no defect in him. 26 When he cut the hair of his head (and it was at the end of every year that he cut [it], for it was heavy on him so he cut it), he weighed the hair of his head at 200 shekels by the king’s weight. 27 To Absalom there were born three sons, and one daughter whose name was Tamar; she was a woman of beautiful appearance.
Before more is said about Absalom, his appearance is first discussed. This happens more often, as with Saul and David. His external beauty, without any discernible defect, his radiance, will also have exerted great attraction-power on David. The people will also ‘fall down’ for this man. In the same way, the antichrist will be a man who does not seem to be short, so that he can take all the apostates for himself. Absalom’s hair gets a special mention. What is a sign of devotion to the LORD, as with the Nazirite (Num 6:5), serves here to his own glory. Thus, this special feature of his beauty later becomes the cause of his death. He remains caught fast with his head, possibly with his hair, in the branches of the trees (2Sam 18:9).
His beautiful appearance can also be seen in his daughter Tamar. She may have been named after her handsome aunt Tamar (2Sam 13:1), her father’s sister. With this Absalom honors his sister. It is part of his character give as many compliments as possible with the aim of winning people over or holding them on his hand.
28 - 33 Absalom Forces Access to David
28 Now Absalom lived two full years in Jerusalem, and did not see the king’s face. 29 Then Absalom sent for Joab, to send him to the king, but he would not come to him. So he sent again a second time, but he would not come. 30 Therefore he said to his servants, “See, Joab’s field is next to mine, and he has barley there; go and set it on fire.” So Absalom’s servants set the field on fire. 31 Then Joab arose, came to Absalom at his house and said to him, “Why have your servants set my field on fire?” 32 Absalom answered Joab, “Behold, I sent for you, saying, ‘Come here, that I may send you to the king, to say, “Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me still to be there.”‘ Now therefore, let me see the king’s face, and if there is iniquity in me, let him put me to death.” 33 So when Joab came to the king and told him, he called for Absalom. Thus he came to the king and prostrated himself on his face to the ground before the king, and the king kissed Absalom.
Absalom is a hard man. He must and will force his father to accept him again. The background is the coup he has in mind. Possibly this also played a role in the murder of Amnon, whom he slew with tricks. To reach his goal he wants Joab to come to him. He has to work for him. If Joab doesn’t want to listen to him at will, then he’ll do it against will. He sets the barley on Joab’s piece of land adjacent to his own on fire.
The life of a neighbor and the proceeds of the land of God mean nothing to Absalom. He is full of Himself. He is the self-confident man who knows that he is beautiful and can therefore impress. He also has power as a king’s son. He also knows his father’s weakness, which he manipulates. He’s the ‘killer’ who does away with everything he encounters as an obstacle on his way to the goal he has set himself. That goal is he himself.
His performance here shows his character, the character of the spoiled crown prince. He destroyed part of the country to get his way. He does not count on the property of another person. Amnon had the same character. He was not interested in what Tamar thought. He wanted her, so he took her. That’s how it goes with children who grow up without discipline and are spoiled. What the children are and what they do is largely determined by the behavior of the parents. It is largely their responsibility. Their words do not play the biggest role in this, but their example. What Absalom was, was not only a character problem, but also an educational problem. David, the great king in public, is the weak father at home.
When Joab to Absalom with a claim, he is not impressed. He does not apologize, let alone speak of compensation, which he was obliged to give according to the law (Exo 22:6). Joab should have been directly come, then the burning of his land would not have been necessary. It’s that simple. Absalom also manipulates Joab. Joab is in the power of Absalom and therefore Absalom does not speak of compensation. When Joab later gets the chance to avenge himself, he does so.
Absalom denies his crimes although they are well known. He does not want to know of any iniquity that would be in him. On the contrary, he thinks he has been dishonestly harmed by blocking his way back to Jerusalem. To Joab he defies the righteousness of the king by saying that he should kill him if there is guilt in him. He knows David won’t do that because he, as his father, loves him too much for that. He knows his father’s predilection for him and knows how to use it for his purpose.
When Absalom comes to his father David, David kisses him. However, it is not the kiss that the prodigal son gets from his father who is waiting for him. The prodigal son says he has sinned (Lk 15:20-21). From Absalom we do not hear a word in that direction. We do not hear a word from his mouth at all. Poor David is blind to the condition of his son.
We may pray that the Lord will give us an eye for our weaknesses, so that we do not become the plaything of others or of our feelings. This requires that we live in a living relationship with the Lord Jesus. Then we will see through what others would like to achieve with deceit.