2 Samuel 14
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
2 Samuel 14:1-20. - (JERUSALEM.)

1. In David "the king" we hero see that fatherly affection may come into conflict with regal justice. He must have perceived the ill effects of sparing Amnon, and felt constrained to punish Absalom. But his grief and resentment were mitigated by the lapse of time (2 Samuel 13:39). Nevertheless, though prompted by natural affection to recall his son, he was deterred from doing so by political and judicial considerations. And to overcome his reluctance a stratagem was devised, which, as the sequel shows, was only too successful. For by his weakness towards Absalom "he became guilty of the further dissolution of the theocratic rule in his house and in his kingdom" (Erdmann).

2. In Joab "the son of Zerniah" (2 Samuel 3:39) we see that a man may promote another's interest out of regard for his own (2 Samuel 3:22-30; 2 Samuel 11:16-21). "He may have been induced to take these steps by his personal attachment to Absalom, but the principal reason no doubt was that Absalom had the best prospect of succeeding to the throne, and Joab thought this the best way to secure himself from punishment for the murder which he had committed. But the issue of events frustrated all such hopes. Absalom did not succeed to the throne, Joab did not escape punishment, and David was severely chastised for his weakness and injustice" (Keil). "Joab formed a project by which the king, in his very capacity of chief judge, should find the glimmering fire of parental love suddenly fanned into a burning flame" (Ewald).

3. In the "wise woman" of Tekoah we see that skilful persuasion may so work upon natural feeling as to induce a course which is neither expedient nor just. The cleverness, insight, readiness of speech, tact, boldness mingled with caution, and perseverance, which she displayed (under the direction of Joab, who perhaps "stood by at some distance whilst she addressed herself to the king," ver. 21) are remarkable. Such qualities may be employed for a good or an evil purpose. In contrast with the reproof of Nathan, her persuasion

(1) was inspired, not by God, but by man;

(2) was addressed, not to conscience, but to pity and affection;

(3) aimed, not to manifest the truth, but to obscure it;

(4) and "to give effect, not to the convictions of duty, but to the promptings of inclination" (Blaikie);

(5) sought to do this, not sincerely and openly, but insincerely and insidiously;

(6) and not by proper motives alone, and honest, though unpleasant speech, but by improper motives and "with flattering lips;" and

(7) produced, not a beneficial, but an injurious effect. In her persuasive address we notice, more particularly -

I. AN AFFECTING BUT FICTITIOUS APPEAL. (Vers. 4-11.) "And the woman of Tekoah came to the king," etc., making her appeal for help in an acted parable, like that of Nathan (2 Samuel 12:1-4). "Parables sped well with David; one drew him to repent of his own sin, another to remit Absalom's punishment" (Hall). This parable of the hapless son, or the avengers of blood, was intended, adapted, and employed:

1. To excite compassion toward the unfortunate: a son who had slain his brother "unawares" Numbers 35:11) in the field, and whose life was imperilled by the avengers, "the old family" (ver. 7); and his widowed mother, whose only stay and comfort he was, whose "live coal which is left" would be quenched, and whose husband's "name and posterity" would be destroyed. "The power of the discourse lies in the fact that they are represented as already doing what their words show to be their purpose."

2. To procure protection against the avengers; who, according to ancient custom, sought to take his life (2 Samuel 3:22-30); their conduct being portrayed as persistently pitiless (ver. 11), "and actuated, not so much by a wish to observe the Law, as by covetousness and a desire to share the inheritance among themselves" (Kirkpatrick); obscurely suggestive of the hostility exhibited toward Absalom. "Her circumstances (as a widow and living at some distance from Jerusalem, which rendered the case difficult to be readily inquired into), her mournful tale, her widow's weeds, her aged person, and her impressive manner, all combined to make one united impression on the king's heart" (A. Clarke). "In all this she intended to frame a case as like to David's as she could do; by determining which in her favour, he might judge how much more reasonable it was to preserve Absalom. But there was a wide difference between her case and his, however plausible soever their likeness might appear" (Patrick).

3. To obtain assurance of preservation from the king; which was given at first as an indefinite promise (ver. 8), afterwards (through her importunity) in a more definite engagement (ver. 10), and finally confirmed by an oath (ver. 11). "Had David first proved and inquired into the matter which with cunning and deceit was brought before him, he would not have given assurance with an oath" (Schlier). "We should learn from David's example to be more guarded over all our feelings and affections, even such as are in their proper degree essential to a religious character" (Lindsay). "Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause" (Exodus 23:3).

II. AN EFFECTIVE BUT FALLACIOUS ARGUMENT (vers. 13, 14); based upon the assumed resemblance between the case of the hapless son, of whom she had spoken, and that of Absalom, to whom she alluded as fully as she might venture. For her appeal had "a double sense," or twofold purpose - one clear, immediate, feigned, subordinate; the other dark, ultimate, real, supreme; and to the latter she now comes. "And why dost thou think [devise] such a thing as that of which I am now permitted to speak] against people of God? And by the king's speaking this word ['As Jehovah liveth,' etc., ver. 11] he is as one that is guilty [or, 'self-condemned'], in that the king does not bring back his banished one." "My banished one!" he must have thought, as the main object of the woman's appeal flashed upon him. But she went on: "For we must die ['shall surely die,' Genesis 2:17], and are as water poured out on the ground that is not gathered up. And God takes not away a soul [nephesh, equivalent to 'individual life'], but thinks thoughts [devises devices] to the end that he may not banish from him [utterly] a banished one." She thus sought to persuade the king to recall his son by:

1. The obligation of his oath, in which "he had acknowledged the possibility of an exception to the general rule of punishment for murder;" sworn to save her son, who had killed his brother under severe provocation; and was consistently bound to spare and restore his own son in similar circumstances. But the difference between them, here kept out of view, was fatal to the argument. Absalom's crime was deliberately planned, executed by his servants under his order, and seen by many witnesses.

2. The welfare of the people of God, involved in the preservation and return of the heir to the throne. Although the king's sons and the whole court were against Absalom (ver. 7), a large party of the people was in his favour. But the general welfare would have been more promoted by his just punishment, or continuance in exile, than by his restoration, as the subsequent history shows.

3. The mortality of men - the inevitable and irreparable decease of Amnon, Absalom, the king himself; the consideration of which should induce compassion and speedy help, lest it should be too late. But "even compassion, amiable as it is, will not justify our violation of the Divine Law, or neglecting the important duties of our station" (Scott).

4. The clemency of God; in forbearance and long suffering toward sinful men, and devising means for their restoration to his presence; such as David himself had experienced (2 Samuel 12:13; Psalm 51:11). His example should be imitated. But his forbearance is limited - he pardons only those who repent, and punishes the guilty; and for the king to spare the guilty on insufficient grounds, or pardon the impenitent, would be to harden the wicked in their wickedness, and to act contrary to the purpose, for which he is made "an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil." The reasons assigned, though excellent in themselves, were inapplicable and fallacious. The noblest truths may be perverted to a bad purpose. A weak argument appears strong to one who is already disposed to accept its conclusion; and is a sufficient excuse for a course which he is inclined to pursue. By the manner in which her words were received by the king, the "wise woman" perceived that her point was practically gained; enough had been said, and leaving it to work its effect on his mind, she returned to the ostensible occasion of her petition for help; and "now she would go home happy (she said), as if this reference to the king's behaviour had been only the casual chatter of a talkative woman" (P. Thomson).

III. AN APPROPRIATE BUT FLATTERING APOLOGY for intrusion on the king (vers. 15-20); expressive of:

1. The anxious fear and hope with which she had been impelled to make her request (ver. 15).

2. The joyful anticipation and grateful assurance of rest which she now felt (vers. 16, 17).

3. Devout admiration and praise of the king, on account of his wisdom in judgment; with a prayer for his prosperity: "May Jehovah thy God be with thee!" Fully acknowledging that, as the king surmised, she had acted under the direction of Joab," in order to bring round the face [aspect] of the matter" (to alter Absalom's relation to his father), she again commends the discernment of the king: "My lord is wise," etc. (vers. 18-20). "When we are most commended for our discernment we generally act most foolishly; for those very praises cloud and pervert the judgment'" (Scott). "And the king said unto Joab, Behold now, I have done this thing: go and bring the young man Absalom back" (ver. 21). "The feelings of the father triumphed over the duty of the king, who, as supreme magistrate, was bound to execute impartial justice on every murderer, by the express Law of God (Genesis 9:9; Numbers 35:30, 81), which he had no power to dispense with (Deuteronomy 18:18; Joshua 1:8; 1 Samuel 10:25)" (Jamieson). Although neither the end of the woman's address nor some of the means are employed can be approved, yet much may be learnt from it concerning the art of persuasion; e.g. the importance of

(1) knowing the character and sentiments of those who are addressed;

(2) having a definite aim in view;

(3) arresting attention and awakening interest and sympathy;

(4) earnestness and fervency of manner;

(5) using argument and illustration adapted to present the matter in the most attractive light;

(6) saying enough and no more, especially on a difficult and delicate subject;

(7) advancing step by step with a]persistent determination to succeed. - D.

Let the king remember the Lord thy God. This passage occurs in a singular bit of history, which illustrates, inter alia, the carefulness which even the most favoured and powerful of the subjects of an Eastern monarch must at times exercise in seeking to influence him; and, on the other hand, the accessibility of such a monarch to the meanest subject desirous of his interposition. Perhaps, however, this "wise woman" may have belonged to a class which, like prophets, could (or would) take special liberties with royal and other great persons (comp. 2 Samuel 20:16-22, the only other passage in which the phrase, "wise woman," occurs in the same sense). This woman showed herself "wise" in her management of the case which Joab had entrusted to her. It was after she had succeeded in making a favourable impression upon David, that, desirous of a more solemn and specific assurance, she addressed him in the words of the text. This appeal had the desired effect: the king declared with an oath that no harm should be done to her son, whom she had represented as in danger of death from having killed his brother. The exhortation is over suitable and seasonable.


1. His existence and perfections.

2. His relation to the universe and to ourselves - Creator, Sustainer, Ruler, Redeemer, Father of spirits, etc.

3. His revelations and commands.

4. His goodness to us. What he has done, is doing, and has promised to do.

II. WHEN WE SHOULD REMEMBER HIM. When should we not? The remembrance should be:

1. Habitual. "I have set the Lord always before me" (Psalm 16:8); "Be ye mindful always of his covenant" (1 Chronicles 16:15).

2. At stated times. Without special remembrances the habitual will not be maintained. Hence the value of the hours of devotion, private and public.

3. At times of special need. When duty is hard, temptation urgent, trouble pressing.

III. WHO ARE REQUIRED TO REMEMBER HIM. All - kings as well as subjects. The higher men are raised above their fellow men, the more they need to keep in mind him who is higher than they, and who will call them to account. The greater the trust God has committed to any, and the more they are independent of others in discharging it, the more they need to look to God for help in discerning and practising what is right. In an unlimited, or only. partially limited, monarchy, the king has peculiar reason to keep the King of kings in mind, that he may be preserved from injustice, partiality, and oppression. But people of all classes are bound to remember God, and live as in his sight.


1. It is our duty. From our relation to God, and from his commandments. And it is no less absurd than impious to forget him "with whom we have to do" (Hebrews 4:13) more than with any and all others.

2. It is greatly for our profit. It will be productive of:

(1) Piety and holiness. These spring from the knowledge of God, but only as it is kept in mind. To have God in our creed, but not in our memory, is much the same as to have no God at all. It is thought which stirs emotion and nourishes moral principle.

(2) Strength and safety under temptation.

(3) Happiness. In ordinary life, and in times of trial and suffering. Remembrance of God will sanctify all things, heighten all innocent pleasures, turn duties into delights, afford consolation and support when all else fails.

3. It will save from the pangs of too late remembrances on earth or in hell. (See Proverbs 5:11-14; Luke 16:25, "Son, remember.") Mindfulness of God is universal in the eternal world, for joy or sorrow.

V. THE NEED THERE IS TO REMIND MEN OF THIS DUTY. "Let the king remember," etc. Men are apt to forget God, even when the memory of him is most desirable and incumbent. Such forgetfulness may spring from:

1. Negligence.

2. The pressure of other thoughts. The worldly. The anxious and troubled. It is often a great kindness to remind troubled Christians of their God.

3. Dislike of God. Unwillingness that he should interfere with life and action.

4. Love of sin. The pleasure of sin, if not sin itself, would be impossible if God were thought of.

5. Pride and self satisfaction (Deuteronomy 8:10-19). Finally:

1. Remembrance of God, spontaneously and lovingly cherished, is a good evidence of sincere piety.

2. The compatibility or incompatibility of it with any act or habit furnishes a safe guide when distinct precepts are wanting. - G.W.

Water is a gift of God, very precious, especially in lands where it is scarce, and often longed for as a means of quenching thirst, renewing strength, and preserving life (2 Samuel 23:15; Psalm 63:1). But it may be thrown away, poured out and lost, by design or accident, through the overturning or fracture of the vessel in which it is contained. Human life, also, is a Divine gift, precious beyond all earthly possessions. But it is contained in "a body of fragile clay" 2 Corinthians 4:7), which is sooner or later destroyed like "the pitcher shattered at the well" Ecclesiastes 12:6); and thus "we are as water," etc. We have here -


1. It must take place in all, without exception. "It is appointed," etc. (Genesis 3:19; Romans 5:12; Hebrews 9:27).

2. It may occur to each of us at any moment (1 Samuel 10:3).

3. It puts an end to the useful service which might have been rendered. Only while the water remains in the vessel can it be of immediate use.

4. It cannot by any possibility be repaired, or "gathered up again." "As the waters fail from the sea," etc. (Job 14:11; Job 7:10); "as waters melt away," etc. (Psalm 58:7; Psalm 39:13; Psalm 49:7-10; Psalm 103:16). "Death is of all things the most terrible, for it is the end" (Aristotle).

"What is your life? 'Tis a delicate shell,
Cast up by Eternity's flow;
On Time's bank of quicksand to dwell,
A moment its loveliness show.

Returned to its element grand
Is the billow that brought it on shore;
See, another is washing the strand,
And the beautiful shell is no more."


1. Restrain immoderate indulgence in sorrow, "the grief that saps the mind, for those on earth we see no more." No weeping, anger, nor endeavour can bring back Amnon (2 Samuel 12:23). Accept calmly what cannot be altered.

2. Repress improper feelings of resentment toward others. Even though it he just, it should not be perpetual (Ephesians 4:26). They and you alike must die and pass away. "Be reconciled."

3. Regard all around you with sympathy and kindly affection. Before tomorrow they may be gone.

4. Redeem the rest of your time "in the flesh," by prompt, diligent, zealous use of every opportunity of serving God and doing good, according to the pattern of long suffering and benevolence which he has set before you, in "not taking away a soul," etc. (latter part of the verse). Consider:

1. The death of the body is not the end of the man. He disappears here only to appear elsewhere as water in the cloud; gathered "with sinners" (Psalm 26:9; Matthew 13:30) or with saints (Genesis 25:8; 2 Kings 22:20; 2 Thessalonians 2:1).

2. The life which a man leads "in the body" determines his condition in the unseen and eternal world.

3. The conviction of these things makes the view of death more impressive, and should make the course of life more just, merciful, and devout. - D.

It is hardly possible for a father to be so completely estranged from his child as to lose all affection for him. He may have just cause to feel angry with him; but, with absence and the lapse of time, his anger dies away, and his natural affection springs up afresh. It was thus with David in relation to his son Absalom. Yet he hesitated to give way to his parental feelings, to set aside the claims of public justice, and exercise his royal prerogative of showing mercy toward the guilty. And to induce him to do this it was urged (among the means devised for the purpose) that God, who has ordained that men should die, permits them to live, and even devises means for their restoration. Was not this an indication that Absalom should be spared? Was not this an example which the king should imitate? It bus been supposed that there is allusion to the cities of refuge (Numbers 35:9-34; Deuteronomy 19:6; Joshua 20.), where the manslayer, "though banished from his habitation for a time, was not quite expelled, but might return again after the death of the high priest" (Patrick). The argument used was not properly applicable to the particular instance, but the truth expressed is profound and striking. Notice -

I. THE ALIENATED CONDITION OF MAN. "Banished;" estranged, separated, "cast out of God's presence," away from his sanctuary, fellowship, and inheritance (ver. 16), in "a far country" (Luke 15:13). That this is the moral and spiritual state of man (naturally and generally) is not only testified by the Scriptures, but also by his own heart and conscience; his aversion and dread with respect to God. It is:

1. Voluntary. By his own free act Absalom broke the Law, incurred the displeasure, fled from the face of his father, and continued in exile. So has it been with man from the first.

"The nature with its Maker thus conjoin'd,
Created first was blameless, pure, and good;
But, through itself alone, was driven forth
From Paradise, because it had eschew'd
The way of truth and life, to evil turn'd?

(Dante, 'Paradise,' 7.) Of his own accord he departs from God and seeks to hide himself from him.

2. Unhappy. Absalom found friendly associates and material comforts in Geshur, but he could not have been at home there, and must have carried in his breast a restless and troubled heart. And it is impossible for him who departs from God, and tries to live without him, to possess inward rest and peace. The soul is made for God: how can it be satisfied with anything short of him? Oh the misery that multitudes at this moment endure because they have forsaken the "Fountain of living waters," and seek their happiness where it can never be found!

3. Perilous. The sinner is under condemnation. The "avengers of blood" are on his track. Life is precarious and must soon terminate, with all its alleviations, privileges, and possibilities; "and after that the judgment," when voluntary exile becomes involuntary, partial unhappiness complete wretchedness, temporary estrangement "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord" (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

4. Not hopeless. Absalom was still a son, though a disobedient one; still "in the land of the living;" and might entertain the hope that, through his father's affection, his banishment would not be perpetual. However far man may have wandered from the Father's house, he is still an object of the Father's love. "Behold, all souls are mine," etc.; "I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth" etc. (Ezekiel 18:4, 32; Ezekiel 23:11); "Turn you to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope" (Zechariah 9:12).

II. THE MERCIFUL MEANS DEVISED FOR HIS RESTORATION. Man's misery is from himself, but "salvation is of the Lord" (Psalm 3:8; Jonah 2:9). It is effected by and through:

1. The long patience and forbearance which he shows toward the transgressor; restraining the outgoings of wrath (Luke 13:7), sparing forfeited life, affording space for repentance, "making his sun to rise," etc. (Matthew 5:45). "The long suffering of our Lord is salvation" (2 Peter 3:15; Romans 2:4).

2. An extraordinary provision, whereby the way of his return is opened, consistently with the requirements of eternal righteousness, and his fatherly love is revealed in the highest degree. By restoring Absalom without due regard to the demands of justice, and even without repentance, David weakened his own authority as king, contributed to a popular rebellion, and well nigh lost his throne and life. But in the method which God in infinite wisdom has "devised" for the restoration of man, justice and mercy are alike manifested, an adequate ground or reason for forgiveness is furnished, sinners are "put in the capacity of salvation" (Butler), and the Law is magnified and "established" (Romans 3:19-31). "God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8); "redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13); "suffered for sins once, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18).

Man in himself had ever lacked the means
Of satisfaction .... Then behoved
That God should by his own ways lead him back
Unto the life from whence he fell, restored;
By both his ways, I mean, or one alone.
But since the deed is ever prized the more,
The more the doer's good intent appears;
Goodness celestial, whose broad signature
Is on the universe, of all its ways
To raise ye up, was fain to leave out none.
Nor aught so vast or so magnificent,

Either for him who gave or who received,
Between the last night and the primal day,
Was or can be. For God more bounty show'd,
Giving himself to make man capable
Of his return to life, then had the terms
Been mere and unconditional release.
And for his justice, every method else
Were all too scant, had not the Son of God
Humbled himself to put on mortal flesh."

(Dante, 'Paradise,' 7.)

3. Numerous messages, efficient motives, and gracious influences, in connection with that provision, to dispose him to avail himself thereof: the Word, with its invitations, warnings, appeals to reason, affection, conscience, hope and fear; messengers (ver. 31) - ministers and teachers of the Word; above all, the Holy Spirit, striving with sinners, convicting of sin, etc. (John 16:8), and renewing the heart in righteousness.

4. The end of all is reconciliation (ver. 33), filial fellowship, perfect,, holiness, and endless blessedness in God. "Return;" "Be ye reconciled to God."


1. How wonderful is "the kindness of God our Saviour, and his love toward man" (Titus 3:4)]

2. How entirely is man his own destroyer (Hosea 13:9)!

3. "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another;" and to devise means in order that no "banished one" may be utterly banished from him.

"Oh let the dead now hear thy voice;
Now let thy banished ones rejoice." D.

The "wise woman," having succeeded in that which she pretended to be her object in coming to David, skilfully approached the real purpose of her visit. She insinuates, in general and guarded language, that he was cherishing thoughts which were "against the people of God," and that the decision he had given in favour of her son was inconsistent with his not fetching home again his own banished one. Then, in our text, she presents, still in a general and indefinite way, reasons why the king should restore his banished one.

1. The universal mortality of mankind. "We must needs die," etc. This may contain a hint that it was useless longer to be grieved or angry about Amnon's death - nothing could restore him to life. Or, just as likely, it may be mentioned as a reason for doing rightly (in this case, exercising mercy) while we may, since we and those we can benefit will soon be alike in the grave; and for doing nothing to embitter this brief life to any while it lasts, or to shorten it needlessly by our conduct. Or it may be intended to soften the king's heart and prepare him to exercise compassion, as God is said to pity us because "he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust" (Psalm 103:13, 14).

2. The long suffering of God. "Neither doth God take away life" (Revised Version); i.e. He does not usually strike down the sinner at once in his sins, but bears long with him, and gives him space for repentance. This may be a skilful allusion to the mercy shown to David himself (2 Samuel 12:13, "Thou shalt not die").

3. The provision which God makes for the return of sinners to himself. "He deviseth means, that he that is banished be not an outcast from him" (Revised Version). In this also there may be an allusion to God's treatment of David, in sending to him Nathan to rouse his conscience, bring him to repentance, and then assure him of pardon. Or the woman may have in her mind the provisions of the Mosaic Law for restoring to the congregation and the temple services those who had been separated from them through contracting some uncleanness or committing some sin (see Leviticus 4; Leviticus 5; Leviticus 6:1-7). Or she may, by a flash of inspiration, have had a glimpse of the great principles underlying these legal and ceremonial appointments, and which are more fully made manifest in Christ. We, at least, can hardly err in interpreting her words in the light of the gospel. Thus regarded, they suggest to us -

I. THE CONDITION OF SINNERS. That is, of mankind apart from Christ. They are "banished," and in danger of being "expelled," from God, and becoming utterly outcast.

1. "Banished;" self banished, like Absalom.

(1) Sin separates between man and God; severs from the Divine friendship and favour; from the Father's home, society, and blessing; from the family of God, its occupations, privileges, and joys. Men may be externally associated with the godly in worship and service, yet banished spiritually, cut off from real communion. Two persons may sit side by side in the same church, one holding converse with God and having fellowship with his people in their worship, the other having no real participation in these exercises, far from God even in his house. Of the banished there are two classes - those who have never known God, and those who, having known him, have turned away from him. The case of the latter is the saddest (2 Peter 2:20, 21).

(2) Sin ever tends to produce increased separation from God. In heart, and also outwardly. When the heart is alienated from God, distaste for the forms of worship, and all that reminds of him, increases; and often ends in the entire abandonment of them. As the prodigal son went "into a far country" (Luke 15:13). "Banished." It is a wretched condition. To depart from God is to commit great sin; to be destitute of the highest blessings and exposed to the worst miseries. To be without him is to be without true life, solid happiness, and well grounded hope.

2. "Banished," but not yet utterly outcast.

(1) Although they have forsaken God, he has not quite forsaken them. He does the good continually in his providence; and, by the blessings he bestows upon them, protests against their unnatural conduct, and urges them to return to him.

(2) They are in constant peril of becoming entirely cud hopelessly outcast; for the practice of sin hardens the heart increasingly, and threatens to obliterate in the sinner's nature whatever might leave a hope of repentance and reconciliation. And "the wrath of God" ever "abideth on him" (John 3:36), and may at any moment banish him "into the outer darkness" (Matthew 8:12, Revised Version).

II. THE PURPOSE OF GOD. To secure "that his banished be not expelled from him;" but be brought back, reconciled, restored to himself, his family, and service. To "fetch home again his banished." Whence this purpose?

1. The Divine knowledge of the nature and consequent worth of man. That he is not as the brutes, but was "made after the similitude of God" (James 3:9). That, though he "must needs die" and become as spilt water, he must needs also live after death. Hence he is worthy of much Divine expenditure in order to his salvation. The spiritual nature and the immortality of man render him an object of intense interest to his Maker, and to all who recognize them.

2. The desire of God that his purpose in the creation of mankind should not be frustrated.

3. The abounding love of God. Though the sinner is banished from his favour, he is not from his heart. He yearns over him while he expresses his displeasure with his conduct. He expresses his displeasure as one step towards his restoration. He desires the happiness of the sinner, but knows he cannot be happy apart from himself. He is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).


1. The incarnation and work of his Son Jesus Christ. He came "to seek and save the lost" (Luke 19:10). By his personal manifestation of God, his teaching, example, and especially his death, he became the Way to the Father (John 14:6). He "suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18).

2. The gospel. Which is God's message to his banished ones, calling them back to him, and showing the way of return.

3. The Church, its ordinances anal ministries. One main business of the Church, its ministers, yea, of all its members, is to labour to "fetch home again" God's banished ones.

4. The events of life. The providence of God is subservient to his grace. The Lord Jesus is "Head over all things," that all may further the accomplishment of the purposes for which he lived and died on earth, and lives and reigns in heaven. Hence providential events, on the wide scale and in individual life, are often rendered effectual unto salvation.

5. The gift of the Holy Spirit. To render all other means effectual in the hearts and lives of men. To convince, incline, persuade, convert, sanctify, save.

IV. THE IMITATION OF GOD IN THIS RESPECT TO WHICH WE ARE CALLED. The woman thus spoke that she might induce David to recall his banished son, Absalom. So we are called to imitate God:

1. By a readiness to forgive and restore our own banished ones; those who have forfeited our favour by misconduct. Some are implacable even toward their own children, however penitent they may be; but this is contrary to Christ, and quite unbecoming those who owe their own place in God's family to his forgiving mercy.

2. By hearty cooperation with God in the work of restoring those who have departed from him. This is the most glorious purpose for which we can live, the Divinest work in which we can engage. In this work we must bear in mind that to be successful we must conform to the methods which God has devised and furnished; as, in fact, in all departments of life, success springs from learning the Divine laws, and acting in harmony with them. There is no room for our own inventions, no possibility of independent action. In such imitation and cooperation we should be impelled to faithfulness and diligence by the consideration that both ourselves and those we are to benefit "must needs die" (see John 9:4). And let the same consideration lead those who have departed from God to return with all speed (see John 12:35; 2 Corinthians 6:1, 2). Let not all the Divine thoughts and methods of mercy be, in your case, in vain. For all had respect to you individually. This we may be aided to realize by the singular number used here, "his banished one." "It was for me that all this movement of Divine love took place, add all these wonderful means have been employed. For me the Saviour died; to me the Divine message is sent," etc. Let not your return, however, be like Absalom's, in outward act only, but in heart. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55:7). - G.W.

The Lord thy God be with thee (Revised Version). The "wise woman," in closing her address to David and taking leave, as she thought, of him, pronounces this blessing upon him. It was a usual form of salutation amongst the Israelites; and, like our similar forms ("Adieu," equivalent to "to God [I commend thee];" "Good-bye," equivalent, perhaps, to "God be with thee"), was doubtless often employed without thought or feeling as to its significance. But in its full meaning it is the best blessing we can pronounce on our friends, the most comprehensive prayer we can offer for them. "The Lord Jesus be with thy spirit" (2 Timothy 4:22) is a similar benediction.

I. IT IS A PRAYER OF TRUE FRIENDSHIP. We can desire nothing more or better for our friends than what these words express. For consider:

1. What is included in God being "with" men. Not simply his nearness, but:

(1) His favour. His presence as a Friend with friends. Not merely as he is near to all men, the Upholder of their being and the Source of whatever they enjoy; but as he is near to those who are reconciled to him, whom he has forgiven and received into his spiritual family, who love him and delight in his love.

(2) His constant help. To defend, uphold, guide, supply with all needed and real good, temporal and spiritual; to impart to them wisdom, holiness, strength, and happiness.

(3) His converse with them. The manifestation of his presence and loving kindness; so that they discern his nearness, are conscious of his love and care and cooperation.

2. Whose friendship is thus invoked. That of "Jehovah thy God." The living God, the Eternal, the Almighty, the All-wise, the All-good, etc. Better to have him with us than all the world, all the universe. In fact, if God is with us, all things are really with us (see Romans 8:28, 31-39; 1 Peter 3:13).

II. IT IS A PRAYER NATURAL TO A PIOUS MAN. Springing from his personal experience of the blessedness of those who have God with them, and his desire that all, and especially those in whom he feels the deepest interest, should be partakers of the same blessedness.

III. IT IS A PRAYER ESPECIALLY SUITABLE TO BE OFFERED ON CERTAIN OCCASIONS. To express feelings of friendship, gratitude, benevolence, affection:

(1) To benefactors, whose kindness we feel we cannot requite. "I cannot repay you, but God can. May he be with you!"

(2) To needy persons, whose necessities we feel we cannot meet. Whether the need be temporal or spiritual. The poor, the sick, the perplexed; friends engaged in difficult enterprises or going into perilous circumstances; such as are leaving home or country; friends from whom we are parting, not knowing what may befall them or us.

(3) To dying friends, or those near us when we die." I die, but God shall be with you" (Genesis 48:21). It is a prayer that gives comfort and peace to him who presents it, quieting the tumult excited by the combination of strong desire with conscious helplessness.

IV. IT IS A PRAYER WHICH WILL BE FULFILLED TO THE RIGHTEOUS. The unrighteous can only secure the blessing for themselves by becoming righteous (see 2 Chronicles 15:2), through repentance and faith in Immanuel (equivalent to "God with us"). - G.W.

My lord is wise, according to the wisdom of an angel of God, etc. Commendation is often proper and beneficial (2 Samuel 2:5-7). But flattery (false, partial, or extravagant praise) is always improper and pernicious. This language was not mere Oriental compliment, but a flattering speech, intended to make the king pleased with himself in doing what he was urged to do.

1. It is agreeable to most persons when skilfully administered. "Flattery and the flatterer are pleasant; since the flatterer is a seeming admirer and a seeming friend" (Aristotle, 'Rhetoric').

"When I tell him he hates flatterers,
He says he does; being then most flattered."

(Shakespeare.) We believe that we hate flattery, when all which we hate is the awkwardness of the flatterer (La Rochefoucault).

2. It assumes various forms, and is usually obsequious and disingenuous; is direct or indirect; is shown in praising personal qualities, advantages, achievements, etc., giving "flattering titles" (Job 32:31-32), "good Master" (Mark 10:17; Mark 12:14), "my Lord," etc. Making or suggesting favourable comparisons, it may be, by detracting from the good name of others (2 Samuel 4:8). It is sometimes sincere; but "people generally despise where they flatter and cringe to those they would gladly surpass."

3. It is commonly designed by those who employ it to serve some interest of their own (ver. 22). Hence it is so frequently used to gain the favour of kings, and such as possess authority, influence, or wealth (Jude 1:16). When Alexander the Great was hit with an arrow in the siege of an Indian city, and the wound would not heal, he said to his flatterers, "You say that I am Jupiter's 'son, but this wound cries that I am but man."

4. It blinds those who listen to it to their defects, ministers to their vanity, and fills them with perilous self-complacency, "It's the death of virtue."

5. It also induces them to pursue erroneous and sinful courses, which they might otherwise have avoided. "A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet" (Proverbs 29:5; Proverbs 26:28). "Ah! how good might many men have been who are now exceedingly bad had they not sold their ears to flatterers! Flatterers are soul murderers. Flattery is the very spring and mother of all impiety. It put our first parent on tasting the forbidden fruit. It put Absalom upon dethroning his father. It blows the trumpet and draws poor souls into rebellion against God, as Sheba drew Israel to rebel against David. It makes men call evil good and good evil, darkness light and light darkness" (T. Brooks).

6. It is only less culpable in those who listen to it than in those who employ it. They are willing captives. "As a wolf resembles a dog, so doth a flatterer a friend. Take heed, therefore, that, instead of guardian dogs, you do not incautiously admit ravening wolves" (Epictetus).

7. Its folly and guilt are sometimes discovered too late; when its ruinous consequences cannot be repaired (2 Samuel 15:13; Psalm 12:3; Acts 12:23). - D.

And in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty, etc. (see 1 Samuel 16:7, 12; 2 Samuel 11:2; 2 Samuel 13:1; ver. 27).

"Of all God's works, which do this world adorn,
There is no one more fair and excellent
Than is man's body, both for power and form,
Whilst it is kept in sober government;
But none than it more foul and indecent,

Distempered through misrule anti passions base;
It grows a monster, and incontinent
Doth lose its dignity and native grace:
Behold, who list, both one and other in this place"

(Spenser, 'The Faerie Queens,' canto IX.) It is -

I. AN ADMIRED ENDOWMENT; involuntarily conferred, without personal effort and beyond human control (Matthew 5:36; Matthew 6:27); yet one of the most personal and enviable of human possessions. "Beauty is a thing of great recommendation in the correspondence amongst men; it is the principal means of acquiring the favour and good liking of one another, and no man is so barbarous and morose that does not perceive himself in some sort struck with its attraction" (Montaigne). "Beauty is, indeed, a good gift of God; but that the good may not think it a great good, God dispenses it even to the wicked" (Augustine).

"A beautiful and fair young man is he;
In all his body is no blemish seen;
His hair is like the wire of David's harp,
That twines about his bright and ivory neck;
In Israel is not such a goodly man."

(Geo. Peele, 'The Tragedy of Absolom:' 1599.)

II. A SUPERFICIAL DISTINCTION; shadowing forth, indeed, beauty of mind and character; and heightened by the latter, when present; but often, in fact, disassociated from it; and covering, "skin deep," dreadful moral deformity (Proverbs 11:22). Absalom was beautiful externally, but not "beautiful within," Wisdom, truth, humility, modesty, purity, patience, meekness, piety, mercy; charity, - these constitute inward, substantial, spiritual beauty, "the beauty of holiness," the product of the grace and the reflection of the beauty and glory of the Lord (Psalm 90:17; Psalm 149:4); in which he delights, and which all persons may acquire (Ephesians 4:24; Galatians 5:22; Philippians 2:5). "Whatsoever things are lovely, etc. (Philippians 4:8). "The graces of the Spirit are the richest ornaments of the reasonable creature."

III. A DANGEROUS INFLUENCE; on its possessors, making them vain and presumptuous, and exposing them to many temptations; on its beholders, directing undue attention to "the outward appearance," disposing to excuses for mental and moral defects, alluring to evil (2 Samuel 15:1-6). The beauty of Absalom was a snare to the people. "His hair was his halter" (2 Samuel 18:9).

"Where is the virtue of thy beauty, Absolon?
Will any of us here now fear thy locks,
Or be in love with that thy golden hair,
Wherein was wrapt rebellion 'gainst thy sire,
And words prepared to stop thy father's breath?"

(Geo. Peele.)

IV. A TRANSIENT POSSESSION. Precarious, short lived, inevitably turning to dust (ver. 14); "a fading flower" (Isaiah 28:4; Isaiah 40:8; Psalm 39:11), whose "root is ever in its grave."

"A doubtful good, a gloss, a glass, a flower,
Lost, faded, broken, dead, within an hour." So have I seen a rose newly springing from the clefts of its hood, and at first it was fair as the morning, and full with the dew of heaven as a lamb's fleece; but when a ruder breath had forced open its virgin modesty, and dismantled its too youthful and unripe retirements, it began to put on darkness, and to decline to softness and the symptoms of a sickly age; it bowed the head, and broke its stalk, and at night, having lost some of its leaves and all its beauty, it fell into the portion of weeds and outworn faces. The same is the portion of every man and every woman (Jeremy Taylor, 'Holy Dying'). But goodness is immortal; it "fadeth not away" (1 Peter 1:4). "Beauty belongs to youth and dies with it, but the odours of piety survive death and perfume the tomb."

"Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in the dust." D.

This remark, thrown in by the way, has more to do with the main course of the narrative than at first appears. The personal beauty of Absalom accounts in part for the excessive fondness of David for him, for his vanity and ambition, and for his powerful influence over others; and, so far as it consisted in abundance of fine hair, appears to have been the immediate occasion of his miserable end. It may serve us as the starting point of some remarks on beauty of person.


1. It is in itself good as a fair work and gift off God. A sober divine (Manton) calls it "a beam of the majesty of God."

2. It is pleasant to look upon.. Beautiful people are so many pictures moving about in society for the innocent gratification of beholders, with this superiority to other pictures, that they are alive and present continual variety.

3. It may be off great advantage to its possessor. It attracts others; makes it easier to secure friends. A comely face and form are an introduction to notice and favour.

4. It may be a power for good to others. In a ruler, a preacher, any leader in society, it is an element of influence. Is not, therefore, to be despised either by its possessor or by others;


1. It is apt to excite vanity and pride - themselves the parapets of many sins.

2. When overvalued, it leads to the neglect of higher things - the culture of mind, heart, and character.

3. In children it may awaken in their parents a foolish fondness which hinders parental discipline. (Comp. 1 Kings 1:6.)

4. It attracts flatterers and seducers, and thus often occasions moral ruin. It was Tamar's beauty that kindled Amnon's lust (2 Samuel 13:1). It is a very perilous endowment to young women, especially among the poor.

5. It may lead its possessor to become a tempter of others; and renders his (or her) temptations all the more seductive. Lord Bacon (in his essay 'On Beauty') says, "For the most part it makes a dissolute youth, and an age a little out of countenance; but yet certainly again, if it light well, it maketh virtues shine and vices blush."

III. ITS INFERIORITY. In comparison with mental, moral, and spiritual beauty.

1. In essential nature. The latter belong to a far higher region, are a far more valuable product of the Divine hand. The beauties of holiness are the features of the Divine Father appearing in his children, and manifesting their parentage.

2. In appearance. Moral loveliness is far more beautiful than physical in the sight of God and the good (comp. 1 Samuel 16:7), and it has the power of rendering very plain faces interesting and attractive, if not beautiful.

3. In value to its possessor and to others. Beauty of character is a priceless treasure (1 Peter 3:4), indicating one still more precious - the character itself; it excites the deepest and best kind of admiration and commendation (Proverbs 31:30); and it gives those in whom it appears a power over others for their good which incalculably surpasses the influence of mere beauty of person; and which "adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour" (Titus 2:10) - the chief instrument of good to men - wins for it a readier acceptance.

4. In facility of attainment. Beauty of person, if not a gift of nature, cannot be acquired; but that of the soul can. The Lord Jesus came to earth to make it possible for the ugly and deformed to become lovely; he lives to effect this great transformation. Those who are in him become the subjects of a new creation: "Old things are passed away; all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Holy Ghost adorns the soul with heavenly grace and attractiveness (Galatians 5:22, 23). And when the process is complete on the whole Church of Christ, he will "present it to himself" as his beauteous bride, "a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but... holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:27). Faith in, and habitual converse with, him who is "altogether lovely," is the way to experience for ourselves this wondrous change. "Beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18). Even the body will at length be beautified (Philippians 3:21).

5. In duration. The beauty which is of earth fades and passes away, but that which is of heaven abides evermore. The former may vanish even in youth through the ravages of disease; will almost certainly in afterlife, unless heightened and ripened by sense and goodness; and certainly will turn to corruption after death. But the latter will survive the decay and destruction of all things, and adorn the "Father's house" forever. In conclusion, this subject appeals especially to the young. Let them seek with all their heart the beauty which is spiritual and everlasting; and regard as of small account that which is in itself of little value, and at best of short duration; and which, if separate from moral excellence, is like the beauty of a sepulchre, covering death and corruption. - G.W.

Wherefore am I come from Geshur? it were better for me that I were there still; and now I will see the king's face; and if there be any iniquity in me, let him put me to death (ver. 31). While in Geshur Absalom showed no repentance for his crime; sought no forgiveness of it; rather justified himself in its commission. On this account, perhaps, David would not permit him, when recalled, to see his face, but ordered him to remain at his own house (ver. 24); testifying his abhorrence of the crime, and desiring "to carry further the discipline of approval, to wait till his son was more manifestly penitent." If Absalom had been in a proper frame of mind, it might have been beneficial; as it was, "this half forgiveness was an imprudent measure, really worse than no forgiveness at all, and bore very bitter fruit" (Keil). "The end showed how fatal the policy of expectation was, how terribly it added bitterness to the sense of alienation that had already been growing only too strong within him" (Plumptre)."A flash of his old kingliness blazes out for a moment in his refusal to see his son. But even that slight satisfaction to justice vanishes as soon as Joab chooses to insist that Absalom shall return to court. He seems to have no will of his own. He has become a mere tool in the hands of his fierce general; and Joab's hold upon him was his complicity in Uriah's murder. Thus at every step he was dogged by the consequences of his crime, even though it was pardoned sin" (Maclaren). Yet immediate and full forgiveness might have failed to subdue the heart of Absalom, and win filial confidence and affection. "Let favour be showed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness," etc. (Isaiah 26:10). In his spirit and conduct we observe:

1. Ingratitude for the favour shown toward him. He estimated it lightly (knowing little of the fatherly love from which it proceeded), save as a means to his own honour and advancement. Than ingratitude nothing is more odious.

2. Impatience, fretfulness, discontent under restraint and chastisement; which a true penitent would have endured humbly and cheerfully; increased as time passed away (two years) and no further sign of royal favour appeared.

3. Presumption on account of the privilege already granted to him, but which be repudiated as worthless, unless followed by other privileges, such as became his royal birth and involved his reinstatement in his former dignity. He looked upon himself as rightful heir to the throne. He may, however, have suspected a rival in the youthful Solomon (now six or eight years old), and feared the influence of Bathsheba on behalf of her son.

4. Resentment and revenge for the neglect, contempt, and wrong which (as he conceived) he suffered (ver. 29). "See, Joab's field is beside mine, and he has barley there; go and set it on fire" (ver. 30). This appears to have been an act of passion rather than of policy. Joab's slackness, in contrast with his former zeal (ver. 23), was doubtless due to his desire to make the most of his influence with the king, to constrain Absalom humbly to entreat his intercession, and so to increase his feeling of dependence and obligation; it was only when he perceived that he had to deal with "a character wild, impulsive, and passionate," that he deemed it necessary again to alter his tactics.

5. Wilfulness in seeking the attainment of his ambitious aims. "I will see the king's face." His presence at court was essential to the accomplishment of the daring design upon the crown, which he may have already formed; and he would brook no denial. Possibly his bereavement (ver. 27; 2 Samuel 18:18) intensified his determination. "The strongest yearning of an Israelite's heart was thrown back upon itself, after a short-lived joy, and his feelings towards his own father were turned to bitterness and hate."

6. Defiance of conviction of guilt. "If there be any iniquity in me," etc. "The manner in which he sought to obtain forgiveness by force manifested an evident spirit of defiance, by which, with the well known mildness of David's temper, he hoped to attain his object, and in fact did attain it" (Keil). He also doubtless relied on the support of a party of the people, dissatisfied with the king's severity toward him, and favourable to his complete restoration. Even Joab yielded for the present to his imperious and resolute demand.

7. Heartless formality. "He bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king: and the king kissed Absalom" (ver. 33). His heart was not humbled, but lifted up in pride; yet he openly received the pledge of reconciliation; and herein David's blindness and weakness reached their culmination. "He did not kiss the ill will out of the heart of his son" (Krummacher). "When parents and rulers countenance such imperious characters, they will soon experience the most fatal effects." (Here is another "meeting of three remarkable men," 1 Samuel 19:22-24, Joab, Absalom, David.) Remarks.

1. No hard and impenitent heart is prepared to receive and profit by forgiveness.

2. Such a heart is capable of turning the greatest benefits into means of further and more daring rebellion; and "treasures up for itself wrath against the day of wrath."

3. Whilst "God is good and ready to forgive," he grants forgiveness only to those "who call upon him" in humility and sincerity, confessing and forsaking their sins (Psalm 86:5; Psalm 138:6; Psalm 32:5; Psalm 51:17). - D.

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