Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
4. DAVID’S WEAKNESS TOWARDS JOAB AND ABSALOM. ABSALOM’S RETURN AND RECONCILIATION WITH DAVID THROUGH JOAB’S INTERCESSION
2 SAMUEL 14:1–33
1Now [And] Joab the son of Zeruiah perceived that the king’s heart was toward1 Absalom. 2And Joab sent to Tekoah and fetched thence a wise woman, and said unto her, I pray thee feign thyself to be a mourner,2 and put on now [om. now3] mourning-apparel, and anoint not thyself with oil, but [and] be as a woman that had [has] a long time mourned for the dead; 3And come to the king, and speak on this manner unto him. So [And] Joab put the words in her mouth.
4And when [om. when] the woman of Tekoah spake [came4] to the king, she [and] fell on her face to the ground and did obeisance, and said, Help O King. 5And the king said unto her, What aileth thee? And she answered [said], I am indeed [In truth, I am] a widow woman. And mine husband is dead [died]5; 6And thy handmaid had two sons, and they two strove together in the field, and there was none to part them, but [and] the one smote6 the other and slew him. 7And behold, the whole family is risen [rose] against thine handmaid, and they [om. they] said, Deliver him that smote his brother, that we may [and we will] kill him for the life of his brother whom he slew; and we [they7] will destroy the heir also, and so they shall quench [and quench] my coal which is left, and shall [will] not [or in order not to] leave to my husband neither [om. neither] name nor remainder upon the earth. 8And the king said unto the woman, Go to thy house, and I will give charge concerning thee. 9And the woman of Tekoah said unto the king, My lord, O king, the iniquity be on me and on my father’s house, and the king and his throne be guiltless. 10And the king said, Whosoever saith aught unto thee, bring him to me, and he shall not touch thee any more. 11Then said she [And she said], I pray thee, let the king remember the Lord [Jehovah] thy God, that thou wouldest not suffer the revengers of blood to destroy any more, lest they destroy my son [that the avenger of blood multiply not destruction, and that they destroy not my son8]. And he said, As the Lord [Jehovah] liveth, there shall not 12one hair of thy son fall to the earth. Then [And] the woman said, Let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak one [a] word unto my lord the king. And he said, Say on. 13And the woman said, Wherefore, then, [And why] hast thou thought such a thing against9 the people of God? for the king doth speak10 this thing as one which [that] is faulty, in that the king doth not fetch home again [bring back] 14his banished. For11 we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again; neither doth God respect any person [and God takes not away the life], yet doth he devise means [and thinketh thoughts] that his 15banished be not expelled [banished] from him. Now therefore [And now] that12 I am come to speak of this thing unto my lord the king, it is because the people have made me afraid; and thy handmaid said, I will now speak unto the king; it may be that the king will perform the request of his handmaid. 16For the king will hear, to deliver his handmaid out of the hand of the man that would13 destroy 17me and my son together out of the inheritance of God. Then [And] thine handmaid said, The word of my lord the king shall now be comfortable [May the word, etc., be for rest14]; for as an angel of God, so is my lord the king to discern [hear] good and bad; therefore the Lord thy God will be [and may Jehovah thy God be] with thee.
18Then [And] the king answered and said unto the woman, Hide not from me, I pray thee, the thing that I shall ask thee. And the woman said, Let my lord the king now [om. now] speak. 19And the king said, Is not [om. not] the hand of Joab with thee in all this? And the woman answered and said, As thy soul liveth, my lord the king, none can turn to the right hand or to the left from aught that my lord the king hath spoken; for thy servant Joab, he bade me, and he put all these words in the mouth of thine handmaid; 20To fetch about this form of speech [To change the face of the thing] hath thy servant Joab done this thing; and my lord is wise, according to the wisdom of an angel of God, to know all things that are in the earth.
21And the king said unto Joab, Behold, now, I15 have done this thing; go, therefore 22[and go], bring the young man Absalom again [back]. And Joab fell to the ground on his face, and bowed himself, and thanked [blessed] the king; and Joab said, To-day thy servant knoweth that I have found grace in thy sight, my lord 23O [the] king, in that the king hath fulfilled the request of his16 servant. So [And] Joab arose and went to Geshur, and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. 24And the king said, Let him turn to his own house, and let him not see my face. So [And] Absalom returned [turned] to his own house, and saw not the king’s face.
25But [And] in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty; from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. 26And when he polled his head (for [and] it was at every year’s end [from time to time] that he polled it, because [for] the hair was heavy on him, therefore [and] he polled it), he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels after the king’s weight. 27And unto Absalom there were born three sons, and one daughter, whose name was Tamar; she was a woman of a fair countenance.
28So [And] Absalom dwelt two full [om. full] years in Jerusalem, and saw not the 29king’s face. Therefore [And] Absalom sent for Joab, to have sent [to send] him to the king; but [and] he would not come to him; and when [om. when] he sent 30again the second time, [ins. and] he would not come. Therefore [And] he said unto his servants, See, Joab’s field is near [beside] mine, and he hath barley there; 31go and set it on fire. And Absalom’s servants set the field on fire. Then [And] Joab arose and came to Absalom unto his house, and said unto him, Wherefore have thy servants set my field on fire? 32And Absalom answered [said to] Joab, Behold, I sent unto thee, saying, Come hither, that I may send thee to the king, to say, Wherefore am I come from Geshur? it had been good for me to have been there still [better for me that I were still there]. Now therefore [And now] let me see [I will see] the king’s face, and if there be any iniquity in me, let him kill 33me. So [And] Joab came to the king, and told him. And when he had called for [And he called] Absalom, [ins. and] he came to the king, and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king; and the king kissed Absalom.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
2 Samuel 14:1–24. Joab by a stratagem procures Absalom’s return to Jerusalem without punishment.
2 Samuel 14:1. Though David’s soul was comforted for Amnon’s death, and he had consequently desisted from the pursuit of Absalom, his anger at the latter’s fratricide had nevertheless not disappeared. This supposition is psychologically necessary, since otherwise David would appear as an extremely weak man; and it is supported by the fact that he would not see Absalom for two years after his return [2 Samuel 14:28]. For this reason the latter clause of this verse is to be explained as indicating not David’s returning inclination to Absalom (as Vulg., Sept., Syr., Arab. [Eng. A. V.], Joseph., Cleric., and most modern expositors), but his enduring disinclination towards him. [Erdmann renders: “Joab perceived that the king’s heart was against Absalom.”—TR.] It might have been supposed from the discontinuance of the pursuit that David’s heart had turned to him; but Joab, who had exact knowledge of court-affairs, observed that the king’s heart was against him. How the word “perceived” is contrary to this view (Maur., Then.) does not appear, since it contains the simple statement that David was still hostilely disposed towards Absalom. And “in the only other place where this construction (without substantive verb) occurs, Dan. 11:28, the Prep. means against” (Keil). [The Prep. (על) is often used, however, in the general sense of “towards,” sometimes with favorable meaning, and the absence of the subst. verb is not important. The whole connection (somewhat disguised by the division of chapters) seems to favor the rendering of Eng. A. V. In the last verse of the preceding chapter David’s heart goes forth towards Absalom (see annotations on that verse), and here Joab is said to perceive it, so that he devises a scheme to remove the king’s judicial objections to recalling Absalom. The understanding of the narrative, however, is not affected by the rendering of the Prep. In either case Joab appears as a shrewd man. Possibly he was influenced by a genuine feeling of kindness towards David and Absalom; it is more likely perhaps that he wished to ingratiate himself with them and the people (Patrick). A. P. Stanley (in Smith’s Bib. Dict.): “Joab combines with the ruder qualities of the soldier something of a more statesmanlike character, which brings him more nearly to a level with his youthful uncle, and unquestionably gives him the second place in the whole history of David’s reign.” Wordsworth: “Joab is the impersonation of worldly policy, and temporal ambition practising on the weakness of princes for its self-interests.” Bib. Comm.: “He ever appears wily and politic and unscrupulous.”—TR.]
2 Samuel 14:2. Tekoah, now Tekua, about five [Eng.] miles south of Bethlehem, the native place of the prophet Amos. See Robins. II. 406 [Am. ed. I. 486 sq.; and see Dr. Hackett’s Art. in Am. ed. of Smith’s Bib. Dict.—TR.]. As Bethlehem was Joab’s native place, it is not strange that he was acquainted with Tekoah. He knew this “wise woman” as one fitted by her readiness of speech, boldness, shrewdness, and adroitness, to act the part he wanted.17 That it cost Joab so great pains to gain his end is evidence moreover against the supposition that David’s heart was already turned to Absalom.
2 Samuel 14:4. “And the woman came,”18 etc.; for so we must read instead of the first “said” [Eng. A. V.: “spake”] of the Hebrew text. Böttcher supposes that here by similar ending (homœoteleuton) two lines have fallen out, in which is given the answer of the woman before she goes to the king; but there is no sign in any ancient version of such an omission.
2 Samuel 14:5. Here begins the lively, flowing narration of the feigned misfortune. Though Joab had “put the words into the woman’s mouth,” yet considerable readiness was required in order to bring them out so skilfully in her assumed character, and to make such an impression on the king as to lead him to the desired definite resolution. [Read: I am a widow. And my husband died, and I had two sons, etc.—TR.]
2 Samuel 14:6. The fratricide. “And he smote him, the one the other,” a pleonasm arising from the circumstantialness and liveliness of the narration.19 [A slight change in the text will give the reading: “one smote the other,” as in Eng. A. V.—TR.]
2 Samuel 14:7. The demand for the survivor. “And we will destroy the heir also.” Instead of this, Michaelis, Dathe and Thenius propose to read (after Syr. and Arab.): “and they will destroy,” etc.20 But these authorities [the versions] are not sufficient to warrant this emendation. Thenius urges that if the woman had put these words also into the mouth of the kinsmen, she would have represented them as diabolically wicked; but it does not follow that it is really so bad, simply because she expresses her opinion of what they wish to do. These words [“we will destroy the heir”] are added to the preceding “we will kill him” (to indicate the purpose of the kinsmen) by reason of the second thought that characterizes 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 kinsmen 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. [Wellhausen: “The woman does not really intend to represent the unavoidable result [killing the heir] as the purpose [of the kinsmen], but is carried on by the connection of the discourse; not till she has uttered the word does she correct herself.” Yet the third person seems more natural here, especially as the whole thing is feigned, and the woman had carefully prepared her words beforehand.—TR.] So that they quench.—The power of the discourse lies in the fact that they are represented as already doing what their words show to be their purpose. “My coal,” the burning coal (ζώπυρου) with which fire is kindled. “In order not to set (permit, grant) to my husband name and remainder (posterity).”21 [The law in the case is given in Numb. 35:18, 19. Blood-revenge was no doubt an ancient pre-Mosaic custom. The whole family was against the fratricide. “This indicates that all the king’s sons and the whole court were against Absalom, and that the knowledge of this was what hindered David from yielding to his affection and recalling him” (Bib. Comm.).—TR.]
2 Samuel 14:8. I will give charge concerning thee in thy behalf. David grants her request and protects her son because, as the homicide was committed in the heat of conflict, a purposed murder was out of the question.
2 Samuel 14:9. On me be the iniquity.—That is, if it be wrong not to carry out the blood-avenging. The woman is not yet satisfied with the somewhat indefinite statement of the king that he would fulfil her request. She proceeds to work on him still further.
2 Samuel 14:10. She gains the end that she had in her remark in 2 Samuel 14:9, namely, to bring the king to say definitely that no one should further molest her or demand her son for blood-vengeance.
2 Samuel 14:11. Third stage of the woman’s address. She wishes to bring the king to swear before God, and that not in the “character of a talkative woman” (Thenius), but rather to gain her end as surely as possible, and to bind the king by his own words to reconciliation with Absalom. “That the avenger of blood (cause) no more destruction” (De Wette); literally: “let the king remember the Lord thy God from the avenger’s increasing22 to destroy;” that is, “so that the avenger shall not more destroy”—the phrase “let him interpose” being understood (Thenius). The woman brings the king to the point of assuring her son’s safety by an oath. [Patrick: “Others think she only prays him to remember how merciful and gracious God is, and had been to himself, even in pardoning the murder of Uriah”—not so well.—TR.]
2 Samuel 14:12. Transition in the woman’s discourse to a reference to David’s relation to Absalom by the request to be permitted to say something farther. [“The woman proceeds cautiously and hence obscurely” (Bib. Comm.).—TR.]
2 Samuel 14:13. “Why dost thou contrive (think, proceed) thus against the people of God?” The “thus” refers to the following words: “that the king does not bring back his banished.” She goes on as if she now advanced to a second object of her coming; in reality, however, she now comes to the principal matter, though sure of success from what the king (led on by her skilful talk) had granted her. “Now she is to make the application to the king’s own case, and this is hard, because she cannot speak openly and boldly like a prophet, but only slightly, and, as it were, in passing, yet must make the allusion to Absalom intelligible” (Ewald). The woman intimates that David’s hostility towards Absalom is directed “against the people of God,” since the people would suffer in the suffering of the heir, who would some time become their king. Having thus softly represented his conduct as blameworthy from the point of view of the people (among whom there was certainly a party for Absalom, as appears from the following history), she proceeds to entrap him in his own words (spoken in reference, to her feigned case) for Absalom’s advantage. And by the king’s speaking23 this word (that is, 2 Samuel 14:11, the oath that her son’s blood-guilt should not be avenged) he is as one in fault (against God’s people as against Absalom), in that the king brings not back his banished.—He must show his son the mildness he has shown hers. And, as for Absalom there was only the question of punishment for a homicide, not of release from the demand of the avenger, the woman, having gained grace for her son, might the more surely expect it for Absalom. She calls Absalom his banished because the latter, though he had banished himself by flight, had not since received permission to return. Dathe [“why resolvest thou thus in a cause pertaining to God’s people?”] and Thenius [“why thinkest thou thus in relation to God’s people?” (thy subjects)] refer the question to David’s protection of the woman and her son, while, according to his own words, he appears as blame-worthy towards Absalom; but the meaning of the Heb. (עַל = against) and the connection do not permit this. [Bishop Patrick remarks that the woman’s reasoning here was weak, her son’s case being very different from Absalom’s, but the king, inferring that the people were well disposed towards Absalom, concluded to overlook the differences, without saying any thing to her of the defects of her argument. Probably the king was glad of an excuse to recall Absalom. Though an absolute monarch, he had to attend to the wishes of the people, who liked the young prince, and would be offended if he were kept in banishment. It seems less likely that there is a reference in the words “people of God” to Absalom’s deprivation of religious privileges (Bib. Comm.), though the phrase is intended to include Absalom.—TR.]
2 Samuel 14:14. The reasons that should determine David to forgiveness: 1) for we must die, and are like water poured out on the ground that is not gathered again.—Thenius refers these words to Amnon’s death, with the meaning: “he had to die some time, and all you can do against the murderer will not bring him to life;” but the connection shows that the woman is referring not to Amnon, but to Absalom, as the “banished one,” her meaning being: “Absalom (like all men) may die in banishment, and, as the dead (like poured out water) do not return, it would then repent thee not to have recalled him; take him back before it is too late.” Possibly, however, the reference is to David himself, a warning that he may soon die, and must, therefore, not delay to be reconciled to Absalom. [The sense seems to be: “As life is fleeting and perishable, let not these enmities engage your mind, but put away unkindness and forgive your son.” According to any of these explanations, the woman’s argument is false, since it leaves the justice of the case out of view; but see the quotation from Philippson below at the end of this verse.—TR.] 2) And God takes not away a soul, but thinks thoughts not to banish a banished one.—An argument from God’s procedure towards the sinner. He does not take away the soul [life] of one that is banished, condemned for sin, so as thus to banish him forever, but “thinks thoughts not to banish him;” such mercy show to thy banished son. These words must have brought to David’s recollection God’s mercy towards him banished from God’s presence as adulterer and murderer. [Philippson: “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 (נֶפֶשׁ), but has the holy purpose to receive again the banished, the sinful.” This 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 that makes the first half a separate argument. Patrick sees here a reference to the cities of refuge, for which, however, the language is too general. The argument (appeal to the divine mercy) is powerful, though false; the human judge cannot set aside the demands of justice, though God may pardon the sinner. The woman’s view of death is a general one, neither denying nor affirming a future state: her statement is simply that the dead do not return to earthly life. It is therefore inadmissible to press her simile, and represent it as meaning that, as the spilt water passes in vapor to the clouds and returns as rain to the earth, so human life is to return in the raised body. This may be an allowable simile now, but it is not the teaching of this passage.—TR.]
2 Samuel 14:15. The wise woman skilfully turns David’s thoughts again to her own affair, in order to remove the suspicion that she came merely to plead for Absalom; she is content to have lodged a sharp thorn in David’s heart. And now that I am come.—A natural mode of return to her first subject. Her design is to append a further explanation of her boldness in troubling the king with such a personal affair. The occasion of her coming is, she says, that the people [her kinsfolk] frightened her by demanding her son, so that she had to appeal to the king. This, therefore, is not a mere repetition of what she has already said (Thenius).
2 Samuel 14:16 expresses 1) joyful assurance that her request will be heard, and 2) the evil from which the king will save her and her son, “destruction from the inheritance of God;” the cutting off24 of posterity by slaying the heir is so dreadful in her eyes, because it is excision from the people belonging to the Lord. Comp. 1 Sam. 26:19; Deut. 32:9.
2 Samuel 14:17. Further, she says, the king’s word was to be to her for rest—that is, for herself. “The king hears (judges) as” the angel of God—the angel that God sends to impart His manifestations of grace to His people, the covenant-angel, the mediator of grace for the peculiar people [the people that is God’s private property]. [Rather the woman here praises the king’s wisdom as being like that of one of the higher intelligences (so Achish speaks of David in 1 Sam. 29:9), a proof that the Israelites were then familiar with the idea of angels. Her praise is here skilfully introduced to mollify him; she does not mention Absalom’s name, but leaves the king to reflect on what such a high character requires of him.—TR.] To hear the good and the evil.—This affirms two things: 1) in every case brought before him the king will impartially and justly hear both sides, the good and the bad, Vulg.: “unmoved by benediction or malediction 2) He helps the oppressed. And the Lord thy God be with thee! (not “therefore be” (De Wette)); with this blessing she concludes, touching the king’s heart in its innermost relation to his God and Lord. [Patrick: “There is a great deal of artifice in all this. For to presume upon the kindness of another, and to expect gracious answers from their noble qualities, is very moving; men being very loath to defeat those who think so highly of them, according to that saying of Aristotle (Rhet. 2, 4, 19): ‘We love those that admire us.’ ”—TR.]
2 Samuel 14:18 sq. From the cleverly put discourse of the woman the king perceives that there is something else in hand than her private affair; and surmising at the same time that she is only the instrument of another, he thinks of Joab from the confidential relation in which the latter stood to Absalom. “Is the hand of Joab with thee in all this?” The woman frankly answers in the affirmative [in the form of a compliment to the king’s sagacity]: There is nothing on the right or the left of25 what the king says, he always says the right; “you always hit the nail on the head” (Thenius). Joab, she says, arranged this to turn the face (form) of the thing [not “fetch about this form of speech,” as in Eng. A. V.—TR.] These words do not refer to the clothing of the request for Absalom in this story about her sons, as if she meant: “that I should turn the thing so” (Luther), or “to disguise the thing in a skilful way” (Keil), or “to set before thee a figurative discourse” (Vatablus), or “that I should transfer to myself and my sons what pertains to the king and his sons” (Clericus), but the thing is Absalom’s relation to his father. In order to change this relation in its present unhappy form, that is, to bring about a reconciliation, has Joab done this, sent me to thee with the words I have spoken. The woman concludes (looking back to her comparison of David to the “angel of God” in 2 Samuel 14:17) with the words: My lord (the king) is wise according to the wisdom of the angel of God—anxious by this appeal to the king’s wisdom to secure a favorable decision for Absalom. [Here again render: “an angel of God,” as in 2 Samuel 14:17. “To know all things that are in the earth,” better, perhaps: “in the land,” all the affairs of the land of Israel. The mingling of flattery and boldness in the woman’s discourse is skilful and striking.—TR.]
2 Samuel 14:21–23. Joab’s request fulfilled by permitting Absalom to return to Jerusalem. Behold, I have done this thing (according to thy word).—The margin has (through misapprehension): “thou hast done;” but the text is to be retained. The Perfect is used because the thing is an accomplished fact = I have fulfilled thy request. Go and bring Absalom back.—These words refer merely to the execution of what had been already determined and accomplished.
2 Samuel 14:22. Joab thanks and blesses David for granting his request. To judge from his words here, he had often before made this request, but hitherto in vain. Read: “his servant,” as in the text, against the marginal reading: “thy servant.” Joab himself brings Absalom back to Jerusalem.
2 Samuel 14:24. Absalom’s pardon, however, was not a full one; it consisted only in the permission to return to Jerusalem. He remained banished from the royal court. My face shall he not see, says David. 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; there is not the slightest hint of his doing so. Let him turn to his own house.—These words suggest that Absalom was not merely banished from court, but also confined to his own house. Otherwise (as Thenius points out) he would not have been obliged to send for Joab (2 Samuel 14:28 comp. with 2 Samuel 14:31.) [David’s banishing Absalom from court was just and wise, since his crime deserved punishment, and it was right that the people should know the king’s abhorrence of the crime (Patrick). Perhaps this half-forgiveness was an impolitic measure (Keil), since it may have merely vexed and embittered Absalom. It is not necessary to suppose that the king was angry with him; his conduct may have been determined by his regard for law and justice while his heart desired complete reconciliation. Bib. Comm. suggests that Bathsheba’s influence may have been exerted to keep Absalom in disgrace for the sake of Solomon.—TR.]
2 Samuel 14:25–33. Absalom’s person and family.—By defiant obstinacy he secures his recall to court through Joab’s mediation.
2 Samuel 14:25 sqq. Absalom’s beauty.—He was the handsomest man in Israel. Literally: “and as Absalom there was not a handsome man in all Israel to praise much.” There was no spot, no bodily blemish in him. From year to year26 he polled or cut his hair. The weight of the polled hair here given, 200 shekels, is certainly too great, being about six pounds, if the royal shekel = the sacred shekel; and if it be taken as = one half the sacred shekel, the weight is still too great. There is no doubt an error of text here. Perhaps we should read 20 instead of 200 (כ may have passed into ר); “for 20 shekels (= 9 or 10 ounces) would suppose a very heavy, but not incredibly heavy, head of hair” (Thenius). [Others read four shekels—(ד instead of ר). But as all the ancient versions (except the anonymous vers. quoted in Montfaucon’s Hex. as giving “one hundred”) agree with the Hebrew, any such change of letters must have been made early, when probably not the present square characters, but the old Phenician were in use; so that we must go to them to discover possible changes of this sort.—There is doubt as to what particular weight is meant by the “king’s shekel.” It cannot be the Babylonian shekel, says Thenius, for this would point to a postexilian origin for this passage, which is impossible. The king, says Wellhausen, is the Persian Great King, and this verse betrays a postexilian origin. Nothing more definite can be said than that 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 the two hundred shekels is not more than this, it is a possible weight. It is evidently intended to represent the hair as extraordinarily heavy and strong, in order to explain 18:9. The ancients were accustomed to bestow much care on the hair, see Jos. Ant. 8, 7, 3, and Bp. Patrick in loco.—TR.].
2 Samuel 14:27. Absalom’s children. Only one is mentioned by name, a daughter Tamar, probably called after Absalom’s unfortunate sister. The sons (contrary to custom) are not named, probably because they died young. This would explain Absalom’s erecting a monument (18:18) to perpetuate his name. Concerning Tamar the Sept. adds: “and she becomes the wife of Roboam the son of Solomon and bears him Abia.” Now 1 Kings 15:2 certainly describes the wife of Rehoboam and mother of Abijah as a daughter of Absalom, but calls her Maacah. The Sept. has here (as elsewhere) evidently introduced an explanation from that passage, confounding, however, Tamar with another later-born daughter of Absalom, who was Rehoboam’s wife. Thenius remarks: “Rehoboam’s wife is certainly a granddaughter of Absalom (daughter of his daughter Tamar) named after her great-grandmother Maacah (iii. 3);” where “perhaps” ought to stand instead of “certainly.”
2 Samuel 14:28 sqq. As Absalom was not permitted for two years to enter the king’s presence, and Joab declined to visit him though twice sent for (evidently because he did not wish to have any thing more to do with the matter since the king’s displeasure continued), it is clear that 2 Samuel 14:1 cannot be rendered: “the king’s heart was toward him.” [David’s conduct may be explained by supposing that, while his heart was with Absalom, his regard for justice led him to punish his crime by keeping him at a distance.—TR.].
2 Samuel 14:30. Joab’s “piece, parcel,” that is, field (as we also use the word). Sept. has: “the portion in the field of Joab,” but there is no reason to change the Heb. text accordingly.—The Heb. text reads: “I will set it on fire;” but all the versions adopt the marginal reading: “set it on fire.”27 The phrase “at my hand” = “alongside of my ground, beside me.” This confirms the view that Absalom occupied himself with tilling the soil even in Jerusalem. That Absalom fired Joab’s barley because he knew it would bring Joab to him (Keil) is not probable. It was rather an act of angry revenge in keeping with Absalom’s haughty and passionate nature. In 2 Samuel 14:30 Sept. and Vulg. add: “and the servants of Joab came to him with garments rent, and said: Absalom’s servants have set the field on fire.” It is possible that these words belonged to the original text, and fell away by similar ending, two consecutive sentences ending with the word “fire” (Then.). But the narrative is perfectly clear without this addition.
2 Samuel 14:31. Joab came to Absalom’s house, because the latter was shut up, a prisoner, as it were, in his own house.
2 Samuel 14:32. The message sent by Absalom through Joab to his father contains 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, and 4) a defiant challenge: if there be iniquity in me, let him kill me.—These words mean neither: “if the king can and may not forgive me,” (Thenius), nor: “if he remember my iniquity” (Vulg.). Absalom rather defiantly challenges his father to proceed with strict justice, if he has done wrong; this, however, (from the tone of his speech) he does not allow, but relies on the rights he thinks he has against his father, who had been too indulgent to Amnon, having also the support of a considerable party, who would the more approve his act of bloody vengeance, because David had let Amnon go unpunished. Absalom gives no sign of repentance; there is rather a savage defiance in his words, and, instead of confessing his guilt, he challenges his father to kill him, if he is guilty, that is, he denies his guilt. David has already shown weakness in permitting Absalom to return without penitent confession; and by this halfway-procedure (letting him return, yet banishing him from his presence two years) had given occasion to the defiance and bitterness that appears in these words. He is now guilty of a still greater weakness in receiving Absalom into favor when he shows the very opposite of penitence.
2 Samuel 14:33. The words: he bowed himself on his face to the ground by no means show penitence with humble request for forgiveness, but merely exhibit the usual homage paid to the king. David was soon to taste the bitter fruits of all this faulty weakness towards Absalom.
HISTORICAL AND ETHICAL
1. David, weakly yielding to ungodly influence on his mind (the woman of Tekoa), on his will (Joab) and on his feeling (Absalom), sinned against the Lord in failing to punish Absalom (as he had failed to punish Amnon) for his crime, and in receiving him into favor, on his return, without penitence. As God does not forgive sin, without confession and prayer for pardon, so men must observe this law in their relations to one another. This is demanded both by truth and by justice, neither of which may be set aside by expiating and pardoning love.
2. He who in unholy, weak love confounds the disposition to forgive one’s neighbor with the act of forgiveness itself, and pardons when the condition is not complied with, sins not only against God’s holy ordination of love, but also against his neighbor, since the hard, impenitent heart is the more hardened by such weak love, and led into further evil, as Absalom’s example shows.
3. Moral weakness makes one unforesighted and unwise, and often leads to the destruction of the moral ordinances of life, on which rests the welfare of private and public life. David, by his weakness towards Absalom, became guilty of the further dissolution of the theocratic rule of life in his house and in his kingdom; the breaking up of the royal family thereby produced was the cause and the starting-point of the breaking up of the theocratic kingdom by Absalom’s revolt.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
2 Samuel 14:1–3. CRAMER: The children of the world are wiser in their generation than the children of light, Luke 16:8. WUERT. B.: The greatest rogues have, commonly the best patrons, who take interest in them and try to help them through.—[HALL: Good eyes see light through the smallest chink. The wit of Joab hath soon discerned David’s renewed affection, and knows how to serve him in that which he would, and would not, accomplish.—TR.]
2 Samuel 14:4–11. STARKE: To represent something wisely is also a gift of God; for thereby much good is accomplished and much evil hindered, Prov. 18:15.—[HALL: We love ourselves better than others, but we see others better than ourselves: whoso would perfectly know his own case, let him view it in another’s person. Parables sped well with David: one drew him to repent of his own sin, another to remit Absalom’s punishment.—TR.]—SCHLIER: Foresight is profitable in all things, and doubly so when others wish to accomplish something with us. There are cases where certainly the first impression is the most correct, but as a rule it is better not to yield to the first momentary impression, but to prove everything. 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.
2 Samuel 14:13 sqq. SCHLIER: If thou hast something against a person, forget not how soon thy adversary may die, how soon thou thyself also mayst perhaps have to pass away, and besides think of what God does to us, how rich is His mercy towards us.
2 Samuel 14:21 sqq. CRAMER: It is easily done, to let loose an outrageous offender and a murderer, but not so easily is it excused before God: for thereby blood-guiltiness is brought on the land, and other great misfortunes caused; Ezek. 7:23.—J. LANGE: Wilful sinners also are not permitted, so long as they continue impenitent, to come into blessed communion with God, although instead of the well-deserved punishment they enjoy God’s long-suffering.—SCHLIER: If thou wilt pardon, do it wholly, take out of thy heart everything thou hast against another person, forget also the injustice done thee, and make it thy concern again to show the other a whole and full heart.
2 Samuel 14:25. STARKE: Ungodly men often receive from God the fairest gifts, 1 Sam. 9:2; 17:4.—SCHLIER: A fair body is also a gift of God, but what does all physical beauty help, if there does not also dwell therein a fair soul? A deformed and ugly man who has beauty of soul is worth more in the sight of God. The Lord looks at the heart.
2 Samuel 14:30. LANGE: Friendship that has self-interest for its ground, does not commonly last long.
2 Samuel 14:33. SCHLIER: David is propitiated, but it does not occur to him to work for a thorough reconciliation in Absalom’s heart also; he brings to meet his son the old, full love; but he does not observe whether his son is in condition really to receive such love.—Chastisement without love is an outrage, no father is at liberty to plague or torture his child; but a love that cannot chastise is no love, and reaps a poor reward. A child that does not at the proper time feel the father’s rod, becomes at last a rod for his father.
[2 Samuel 14:1–20. The wise woman of Tekoah. Her previous reputation for worldly wisdom, known to Joab. Her skilful employment, at Joab’s instance, of a parallel case, yet not too obviously similar. I. Observe the motives to which she appeals. Knowing David’s character, she makes good motives most prominent. 1) His course impolitic and unpopular (2 Samuel 14:13). 2) We are all mortal, and enmities should not be perpetual. 3) God is forgiving (2 Samuel 14:14). 4) She flatters him, a) as impartial (2 Samuel 14:17), b) as knowing everything (2 Samuel 14:20). II. Contrast this address with that of Nathan, 2 Samuel 12. In certain respects similar; but 1) One sent by Joab, the other by the Lord. 2) One designing and unscrupulous, the other sincere. 3) One mingling bad motives, the other employing only the good. 4) One flattering, the other humbling. 5) One giving the king an excuse for what he wishes to do, the other arousing him to what he ought to do. 6) One bringing upon David great temporal trouble, the other great spiritual blessing.
2 Samuel 14:14. Two great reasons for forbearance and forgiveness. 1) Both we and those who have wronged us must die, and so our enmities should not be undying. 2) God forbears, and is disposed to forgive.—TR.]
[2 Samuel 14:25. Causes which spoiled the character of Absalom. 1) The personal gift of extraordinary personal beauty. 2) Great power of bending others to his will (2 Samuel 14:30; 13:28; 15:6). 3) A doting father, weak through consciousness of his own great and well-known sins (2 Samuel 14:1). 4) A good excuse for indulging revenge and selfish ambition (13:22–29). 5) Resentment at what seemed neglect by his father and by Joab (2 Samuel 14:28, 29). 6) Success in reckless and defiant measures (2 Samuel 14:30–33). 7) Apprehension that the son of Bathsheba (12:24, 25) might supplant him as heir to the throne.—TR.]
1[2 Samuel 14:1. Erdmann renders: “against” and gives his reasons therefor in the Exposition. The versions generally and most commentators favor the rendering of Eng. A. V. The translation of this preposition depends on the view taken of the whole connection, on which see the notes on 2 Samuel 13:39.—TR.]
2[2 Samuel 14:2. The Hithpael in the so-called hypocritical sense, a derivation from the reflexive or reflexive-declarative sense. See Conant’s Gesen., § 54. Ewald, Gr., § 124 a.—TR.]
3[2 Samuel 14:2. The Eng. “now” is sometimes a proper rendering of the Heb. cohortative particle נָא (rendered just before by “I pray thee”), but would here have too much the effect of an adverb of time.—TR.]
4[2 Samuel 14:4. The reading “came” (וַתָּבֹא, or, as in one MS. of Kennicott, וַתֵּלֶךְ) is now generally adopted, and is required by the sense. Bruns (in De Rossi) thinks that the date of the introduction of the corrupt reading (ותאמר) may be fixed in this way: The correct reading is found in all the ancient versions (not excepting the Chald., the text of which in the London Polyglot is corrupt here, and should be ואתת); but David Kimchi had the present reading (ותאמר) before him, while Cod. 154 has ותבא, whence it may be concluded that the corruption in question came between A. D. 1106 (date of Cod. 154) and 1190 (date of Kimchi’s commentary). This is a very interesting fact for Old Testament text-criticism, if it be true, for it then shows that our text exhibits very recent changes. It depends on the assumption that all codices in the beginning of the twelfth century had the same reading; but it is possible that Cod. 154 and Kimchi’s Cod. had different genealogies.—TR.]
5[2 Samuel 14:5. The rendering: “I am a widow, and my husband is dead,” presents a useless tautology; Böttcher therefore suggests a relative force for the ו: “inasmuch as my husband is dead;” but it may be better (with Thenius) to connect this latter clause with the following verse: “and my husband died and I had two sons,” that is, when my husband died, I was left with two sons.—TR.]
6[2 Samuel 14:6. For וַיַּכּוֹ read וַיַּךְ. The suffix is hardly allowable here; the text-form may have been originally plural, so written because the two brothers formed the subject in the mind of the writer.—TR.]
7[2 Samuel 14:7. So Syr. and Arab. It is more probable that this is the expression of the woman than that she should put it into the mouth of the kinsfolk (against Erdmann and Wellhausen). A ה may easily have passed into a נ. Böttcher proposes to read: “we will kill, etc., and destroy (נשמיד); even (הֲגם) the heir will they destroy,” etc., which puts the expression about the heir into the woman’s mouth, but seems unnecessarily involved.—TR.]
8[2 Samuel 14:11. The Inf. (חרּבת) has for its subject the Goel, and not “the king” as in Eng. A. V The word goel also is Sing., while in the succeeding clause the indef. Plu. construction is used, so that it might be rendered: “and that my son be not destroyed.”—TR.]
9[2 Samuel 14:13. Instead of “against,” Thenius renders the Prep. (על) by “in respect to,” on the ground that David had expressed no thought contrary to the well-being of God’s people. But the woman covertly refers to his procedure towards Absalom as something against the people of God.—TR.]
10[2 Samuel 14:13. The מִדַּבֵּר is better understood as a participle, either as Hithpael with assimilation of ת (as in Num. 7:89; Ezek. 2:2; 43:6) or as Piel (as Böttcher insists) with dagesh forte emphatic (as in Isa. 52:5; 2 Chron. 36:16). Only in this way can the כְּאָשֵׁם (“as a faulty man”) be easily construed, for, if the above form be taken as Infin. (“from the king’s speaking this word”) we should more naturally expect הוּא after כאשם; or possibly we might render (with the Sept.): “from the speaking (στόματος) of the king this thing is as a fault,” where אָשָׁם is read instead of אָשֵׁם.—TR.]
11[2 Samuel 14:14. Böttcher: “when we die it is as (with) water,” etc. The “needs” of Eng. A. V. represents the Infinitive Absolute (emphatic).—The difficulty in this verse lies partly in the translation of the second half, partly in the relation of thought between the two halves. The thought of our text is: “The king has declared himself faulty, in that he does not restore his banished. We die and pass away; God does not take life, but devises means not to banish his banished.” Here the expression: “to banish one already banished,” is hard, but may be perhaps understood in the pregnant sense of keeping banished the banished. So the representation of God as thinking thoughts or devising means to gain an end is somewhat rudely anthropomorphic, but is not wholly out of keeping with the times and with the terse and obscure address of the wise woman. Then, the reference to human mortality (allusion to Amnon, Absalom or David?) is to quicken the king to haste or to mercy, and the exhortation is enforced by a reference to the divine mercifulness.—Various alterations have been proposed to get rid of supposed difficulties. Ewald (Gesch. Isrl. III. 236) changes וְחָשַׁב to חוֹשֵׁב and renders: “God takes not away the soul of one that thinks not to leave in banishment one banished by Himself.” Here the “devising” and the “banishing” are transferred to the man; but the resultant thought (that God will not slay a merciful man) is not specially striking or appropriate. Wellhausen (reading הֵשִׁב for חָשַׁב) translates: “We must die, etc., and when God takes away a soul, does He give it back?” in which the second clause simply repeats the thought of the first. The attempts at alteration are all unsatisfactory, and the ancient versions help little or nothing. Sept.: and God will take life, even devising to thrust from Him an outcast; Theodotion: as water, etc., and the soul hopes not in it; Syr.: God takes not away the soul, but deviseth means that no one may wander from Him (or, perish through Him). The Vulg. is a tolerably literal rendering of the Heb.—Houbigant (in Chandler) proposed to insert 2 Samuel 14:15–17 in 2 Samuel 14:11 after the word “son;” but there is no ground for this change nor advantage in it. There seems nothing better than to retain the present text.—TR.]
12[2 Samuel 14:15. The word “that” (אשׁר) is omitted in several MSS. and printed EDD., and in Syr., Arab., Vulg., perhaps because it seemed superfluous (Sept. ὅ).—Patrick: though the people make me afraid. Philippson: when I came, etc., the people made me afraid. Better (if the אשר be retained) as Eng. A. V.—In the last clause one MS. of De Rossi has ישמע (hear) instead of יעשה (do), correction for the sake of propriety of expression.—TR.]
13[2 Samuel 14:16. Something has here fallen out of the Heb. text, perhaps הַמְּבַקֵּשׁ (Böttcher). Vulg. takes the word האישׁ as collective (de manu omnium qui volebant). Syriac (as not infrequently) gives a condensed rendering: “I will speak to the king; perhaps he will deliver his handmaid from the hand of men, that they destroy not me and my son,” etc. Yet the diffuse language of the Heb. is more in keeping with the character of a glib-tongued woman assumed by the speaker.—TR.]
14[2 Samuel 14:17. Syriac: “the word of my lord the king shall be sure, and shall be an offering (מִנְחָה),” misunderstanding the text.—Wellhausen reads at the beginning: “and the woman said” (after the Sept.), as the common formula introducing the conclusion of a long discourse. This is rendered somewhat probable by the voluntative form of the following sentence; but this form is not decisive for a change of text.—TR.]
15[2 Samuel 14:21. So the Kethib (text). Qeri (margin) has second person: “thou hast done,” on which De Rossi says that many of his MSS. and printed EDD. have not this Qeri; and he quotes R. Jacob Chayyim and Norzi, the former of whom says that not more than one MS. in a thousand has this Qeri, and the latter that it is not found in the correctest Spanish MSS. The ancient, VSS. also follow the Kethib, for which, therefore, the external authority is complete. Böttcher, however, defends the Qeri on the ground that it better suits the initial: “behold, now,” and that a change from it to the Kethib is more easily explicable than the converse. But, as the text gives a good sense, these considerations (even if they were unquestionable) cannot avail against the external evidence.—TR.]
16[2 Samuel 14:22. Kethib (his) in all the VSS. except Vulg.; Qeri (thy) in Vulg., and some MSS. and EDD. The text is properly retained by Erdmann and Eng. A. V.—TR.]
17[According to the Talmud (Menachoth, 85, 2) there were important oil-plantations near Tekoah, and the women there were noted for their shrewdness (Philippson).—TR.]
18The error in the Heb. text may easily be accounted for by supposing that in the manuscript to be copied the וַתָּבֹא [came] stood immediately over the following וַתּאמֶר [said] (Thenius).
19There is no reason for changing יַכּוֹ to יַכּוּ (Ewald, § 252 a; Then.), since, the suffix וֹ with verbs ל׳ה, though infrequent, is not unexampled; nor does the Plu. suit here (Keil).—[By reading יַךְ we avoid the intolerable repetition of the Hebrew text, and the inappropriateness of the plural.—TR.]
20 יַשְׁמִידוּ [or הְשִׁמידוּ] instead of the text-word נַשְׁמִידָה.
21[Bishop Patrick points out how cleverly the woman’s story was put, so as essentially to include Absalom’s case, while yet it was different enough from it to avoid rousing the king’s suspicions at the outset.—TR.]
22Instead of the Kethib הַרְבִּית read Qeri הַרְבַּת—an unusual form of the Infin. Absolute. Comp. Ew. § 240 e. [Or, הַרְבּוֹת Inf. Construct may be read.—TR.]
23Instead of מִדַּבֵּר [Inf. with מִן], Vulg., Chald., Syr. read the Participle מְדַבֵּר, which does not change the sense. [So Eng. A. V. See “Textual and Grammatical.”—TR.]
24There is no need to write (with Thenius) הַמְּכַקִשׁ before לְהַשְׁמִיד (after Sept. and Vulg.), since אֲשֶׁר הָיָה (“the man that was, had in mind, to destroy”) is naturally supplied (Gesen. § 132, 3, Rem. 1). [On this comp. “Text. and Gramm.” Eng. A. V. supplies “that would.”—TR.]
25 אִשׁ is later softer form for יֵשׁ, Mic. 6:10; Ew. § 53 c.
26 יָמִים וְיָמִים = יָמִים לַיָמִים [“from time to time”].—TR.].
27 וְהַצִּיתוּהָ (ordinary Hiph. of יָצַת, 2 pers. plu.) instead of וְּהוֹצִיתִיהָ (Hiph. according to בּ״ו, 1 pers. sing.).
Now Joab the son of Zeruiah perceived that the king's heart was toward Absalom.