The Word Made Fresh
1Joab son of Zeruiah saw that the king was pining for Absalom. 2He sent to Tekoa for a wise woman who lived there. She came to him and he said, “Dress in clothes that you would wear if you were in mourning. Don’t use any oil on your skin but present yourself like a woman who has been grieving a long time for someone who has died. 3Then go to the king and tell him this.” And Joab told her what to say.
4The woman of Tekoa went to the king and fell face down before him and pleaded for him to help her. 5The king said, “What is troubling you?”
“My husband has died,” she said, “and I am just a poor widow. 6I had two sons, but while they were working in the field they got into a fight. No one was there to break it up and one of them killed the other. 7Now all of my relatives are pressing me to give up the one who survived. They want to kill him also, to punish him for killing his brother. They say that must be done, even if it leaves no heir to my husband’s property. They want to take away my one remaining son and let my husband’s name disappear from the earth!”
8The king told her to go home, and he would issue a decision about her situation. 9The woman said, “Whatever you decide, the guilt will rest on me and my family will bear the blame. The king and his kingdom can do no wrong.”
10“If anyone bothers you about this,” said the king, “let me know, and I promise he won’t bother you again.”
11She said, “Please, may the king remember the LORD your God, and see that the blood avenger does not add to the violence, so that my son will not be slain.”
“As the LORD lives,” the king replied, “your son will not lose a single hair from his head.”
12Then the woman said, “Please, my lord; may your servant ask you something?”
13“Why,” she said, “have you made such a ruling against some of the people of God? This decision you have given convicts the king, does it not? For the king has not brought back into his house his own son who has been banished. 14All of us will die, and like water poured on the ground we cannot be gathered up again. God will not reject a life forever. God will find a way for one who is outcast to be restored. 15I say this to my lord because the relatives have made me afraid. I thought, ‘I will speak to the king. Perhaps the king will hear me and do what I ask. 16Surely the king will rescue me and my son from the man who would take away our God-given heritage.’ 17That is why I thought that your ruling would give me relief, for I know the king is like an angel of God who can discern between good and evil. May the LORD your God be with you!”
18The king said to her, “Now, don’t refuse to answer what I have to ask you.”
“Let my lord the king speak,” she said.
19The king asked, “Did Joab put you up to this?”
“As sure as you are standing there, my lord the king, no one would dare to deceive you,” she replied. “Yes, your servant Joab sent me to you and told me what to say. 20He did this to bring about a change in the present situation. But my lord is as wise as an angel of God and is aware of everything that happens in Israel.”
21The king summoned Joab and said to him, “Very well, I will authorize it. Go and bring Absalom back.”
22Joab bowed face down before the king, and said, “Today I know that you honor me, my lord the king, because you have granted my request.” 23Then he left and went to Geshur, and returned to Jerusalem with Absalom. Â Â Â Â
24The king said, “He is allowed to return to his own house, but he must not come to me.” And that is what Absalom did.
25No one else in Israel was as handsome as Absalom. His appearance was perfect from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head. 26He would cut his hair from time to time whenever it became heavy, and it would weigh on the official government scales as much as five pounds. 27Absalom had three sons and a daughter. His daughter grew to be a beautiful young woman. He named her Tamar.
28Absalom stayed in Jerusalem for two years without seeing the king even once. 29He sent for Joab, thinking Joab could approach the king for him, but Joab refused to come. He tried again, but still Joab would not respond. 30He called some of his servants and told them, “Joab has a field of barley next to mine. Go set it on fire.”
31That got Joab’s attention. He came to Absalom and demanded an explanation. 32Absalom said, “I wanted you to come here so that I could send you to the king and ask him why he brought me from Geshur. I should have stayed there. Arrange for me to come before the king, and if I am guilty of anything he can have me executed.”
33Joab went to the king with Absalom’s request, and the king sent for Absalom. Absalom entered the king’s presence and bowed low before him. And the king kissed Absalom.
1-3: Joab, seeing that David is pining over Absalom’s exile, recruits a woman from Tekoa, a town about 10 miles south of Jerusalem. This is the first time in the Bible Tekoa has been mentioned; it will become known mostly as the birthplace of the prophet Amos. Joab tells her to dress as if she were in mourning and gives her careful instructions of what to say when she is admitted into the presence of King David.
4-7: She tells David that her two sons have fought, and one has killed the other. We are immediately reminded of Cain and Abel. She says the family wants to kill the son who lives, thus depriving her of both her children.
8-11: There ensues a discussion difficult to follow. David apparently defers judgment at first, telling her to go home until he decides what to do. She presses for an immediate judgment, hinting that he may be incurring some guilt by not giving her an immediate answer. She alludes to an avenger of blood, implying that an active hunt for her son is already under way. David then promises her that her son will be protected.
12-17: Now she comes obliquely to the point. If David will protect her son who murdered his brother, why should he not protect hisÂ ownÂ son who murderedÂ hisÂ brother? God will not let an outcast be banished forever, she says, and we again recall the story of Cain with the protective mark.
18-20: David, always an expert at reading people’s motives, guesses that Joab has something to do with this, and the woman confirms his suspicions.
21-24: David summons Joab and tells him to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem, but that he must go to his own house and stay out of David’s sight. Joab seems to me to be a little too grateful.
25-27: We get a character snapshot of Absalom at this point. He is a handsome man, with particularly striking hair. The hair will come into play later, by the way. We are told that he has three sons who are unnamed here, and one daughter whose name is given. Her name is Tamar; she is named after her aunt, Absalom’s sister who was raped by Amnon — the very event that started this gathering disaster.
28-33: Absalom is up to something. He will not allow Joab to ignore him, going to the extreme of burning one of Joab’s barley fields to get his attention. He sends Joab to the king with a challenge: kill me or reinstate me as your son. If David reinstates his palace privileges, he knows that will be tantamount to a full pardon. If David kills him — but he knows his father David will not kill him.
He is right. David kisses him and removes the curse. Absalom knows that his father David has never lifted a hand against blood kin. Absalom, on the other hand…
Absalom’s hair was apparently quite spectacular. So was Samson’s. In both cases the hair will turn out to be the turning point. Read on.