The Return of Absalom
Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PRCS in Walker, MI
II Samuel 14
Joab wants Absalom to return to Jerusalem. Joab has his own hopes for Israel’s future. He notices that “the king’s heart was toward Absalom.” Joab developed an elaborate plan to justify David’s allowing Absalom’s return.
Joab contacts a woman from Tekoah and gives her a story to tell David. She pretends to be a widow who now depends upon her sons to provide for her. However, her sons fell into an angry dispute which resulted in one murdering the other in the heat of the moment. The family now wants to kill the surviving son for murder. This will leave her with no means of support, as well as bringing her family line to an end. This whole fabrication is to cause David to judge that the family will not kill the surviving son, though strict justice demands it.
The woman then claims that David is not consistent in his judgment. If the son in her fictitious story is not to be put to death for killing his brother, then Absalom should not be executed or banished for killing Amnon. David must overlook the differences in the two situations to reach the decision Joab wants. Absalom’s killing of Amnon was well-thought out and not done in the heat of the moment. Absalom used deceit to lure Amnon to his death. David is willing to be convinced that Absalom should come back to Jerusalem and not face the death penalty for taking the law into his own hands.
David recognizes the hand of Joab in all of this. David feels he can have Absalom return to Jerusalem and that there would be enough people in Israel who support this decision. The general population of Israel probably had differing opinions about Absalom. However, David reckoned there would be no uproar among the people if Absalom returns since he enjoys some level of support from them.
Joab goes to the city of Geshur, where Absalom had fled to his maternal grandfather’s house. David wants to show to Israel that Absalom does not have his full approval. Absalom “returned to his own house.” This does not mean Absalom returned home and could go about his life in a usual fashion. This was house arrest. Absalom was not free to move about Israel as he pleased. Also David showed his disapproval of Absalom by not allowing him to see David face-to-face. This did not sit well with Absalom. Absalom must reconcile with David for Absalom to reach his ultimate goal of becoming Israel’s next king.
Absalom has many factors working in his favour. His mother was born a princess and is wife of a king. She had been royalty all her life. Absalom feels this sets him above his half-brothers, most of whom had mothers who were not royalty. He was handsome. One could inspect him from head to toe and not come up with a suggestion on how to improve his looks. He had a healthy head of hair. Out of vain curiosity, he weighed his hair when it was cut. An estimate of the “two hundred shekels after the king’s weight” is about four pounds. He is a family man, having three sons and a beautiful daughter whom he named Tamar after his sister. (His sons must have died young for we read later in II Samuel 18:18 that Absalom erected a pillar to keep his memory alive since he had no sons.)
Absalom lived for two years in Jerusalem under the shadow of David’s disapproval. Absalom felt it was time for that to change. Since he could not go to Joab himself, being under house arrest, he sent for Joab to come to him. Joab did not come. Absalom sends another request for a meeting with Joab. Joab still does not come. Absalom now uses a more severe measure so Joab understands that Absalom will not be denied. Absalom has his servants set Joab’s barley field on fire.
That gets Joab’s attention. Joab comes quickly to Absalom’s house. He has no doubt as to who is responsible. When Joab appears, Absalom does not apologize. He isn’t afraid of Joab retaliating. Remember, this is Joab. Joab is not a man to hesitate taking action when he feels wronged or threatened. Shedding blood is not something which causes Joab to lose any sleep. How many men in Israel would dare to do such a thing to Joab? Absalom does.
Perhaps that is why Joab approves of Absalom. Joab does not like it that he has lost the work invested in his barley. He must have been upset. At the same time, he admires Absalom’s daring. Absalom is a man of action. He does not back down, even when face-to-face with a man such as Joab. Joab has to give Absalom credit for being aggressive and taking bold action. Joab admires such qualities and deems them necessary qualifications for a king.
Absalom declares that since he still may not see David and the people understand this as a sign of David’s disapproval, he would have been better off staying in Geshur. He says that if he really is worthy of death, then David should execute judgment against him. David calls for Absalom who shows obeisance by bowing with his face to the ground. David kisses his son. They have reconciled.
Does David hope that Absalom’s heart will undergo a change? Although the rearing of his children must have fallen mostly to their mothers and teachers in the palace, David must have known something of the characters of his children. Did he think that by having Absalom in Jerusalem, the place where God had placed His name, there would be an opportunity for Absalom to change spiritually? Is David hoping for Absalom to take a step toward spiritual life? David will be disappointed for Absalom is not seeking to approach God’s holy dwelling place. The next step in his rebellious plan to usurp David as king.