30 Acceptance of Absalom
Acceptance of Absalom
2 Samuel 14
David received more chastisement for his adulterous sins through the conduct of Absalom than from all other people combined. The chastisement of David began when David’s infant son died whom Bathsheba had borne to David. Next came the rape of David’s daughter Tamar by David’s eldest son Amnon. Then Absalom came on the scene in David’s chastisement by murdering Amnon for raping Tamar who was Absalom’s full sister (and Amnon’s half-sister). The murder forced Absalom to flee into exile to the country of Geshur where his mother’s family lived and ruled (2 Samuel 3:3) which made it a logical place for Absalom to be in exile. Though in exile, Absalom was still popular in Israel unfortunately. So eventually the acceptance of Absalom by David back in favor in the land was demanded—the world is always trying to get us to accept that which we ought to reject. Finally David unwisely yielded to pressure and accepted Absalom back into the land. This unwise acceptance of Absalom laid the groundwork for some very serious problems for both David and Israel in the years that followed Absalom’s return, and these problems provided much painful chastisement for David for his sins involving Bathsheba and Uriah.
In this chapter we will study some of the significant details concerning David’s acceptance of Absalom back into the land of Israel. In our study of this acceptance of Absalom, we will consider the promoter of the acceptance (vv. 1–3), the pretender in the acceptance (v. 2), the parable for the acceptance (vv. 4–20), and the person being accepted (vv. 21–33).
A. THE PROMOTER OF THE ACCEPTANCE
Joab was the person who led the way in promoting the acceptance of Absalom by David. It was through his action that David finally accepted Absalom back in the land of Israel. To examine Joab’s work of promoting the acceptance of Absalom, we note Joab’s perception, power, purpose, and plan.
1. His Perception
“Now Joab the son of Zeruiah perceived that the king’s heart was toward Absalom” (v. 1). After Absalom had been three years in exile (2 Samuel 13:38), Joab perceived that the time was ripe to begin promoting the acceptance of Absalom by David to bring Absalom back into the land in good favor. Timing is important in the success of any endeavor, especially in touchy endeavors as the promoting of the acceptance of Absalom. Absalom’s murder of Amnon caused some serious wounds and problems in the royal family especially with David. Time was needed to heal the wounds and to cause people, especially David, to not be so upset about Absalom’s bloody deed. Timing was also important regarding the political picture (in regards to Joab) as we will see shortly. And so after three years, Joab “perceived that the king’s heart was toward Absalom” and so decided it was “now” the right time to start promoting the acceptance of Absalom. Joab was better able to perceive the right time for promoting the acceptance of Absalom than about anyone else, for few knew David as well as Joab did.
2. His Power
Because of his position (he was head of Israel’s army and had easy access to the king) and his knowledge of David’s evil (Uriah’s death), Joab had much power in influencing David. No one in Israel outside of the prophets had such powerful influence over David. And Joab would not hesitate to use his power to promote an evil cause such as the acceptance of wicked Absalom. How shameful it is to use one’s position and knowledge to promote evil. But many are those who follow this shameful path in life. And many of those, like Joab, are government bigwigs. If God gives us position and knowledge, let us use these things to promote good causes instead of evil causes.
3. His Purpose
The primary purpose of Joab in promoting the acceptance of Absalom was self-interest. Joab was a selfish man whose main interests and motivations in life were generally prompted by self-interest. Joab would, therefore, be concerned about Absalom’s situation primarily because it could greatly affect Joab’s own future. Joab’s self-interest would cause him to be ever watchful of the attitudes of the people and especially of David regarding Absalom. Though Absalom was in exile, Joab could see that Absalom still had much political appeal; and thus Absalom must be considered a very viable prospect to follow David as king. With Absalom’s prospects of becoming the next king looking better, Joab wanted to get on the good side of Absalom (which promoting his acceptance would do) so that Joab could keep his position as head of the army. Furthermore, Joab would prefer Absalom over the other sons of David to be the next king; for in view of Absalom’s murder of Amnon, Absalom, if he became king, would not be as likely to slay Joab for his murder of Abner (and later Amasa [2 Samuel 20:8–10]) as the other sons of David would be if they became king. That this slaying of Joab by the other sons of David was a strong possibility is proven by the fact that after Solomon became king, he did in-deed order the slaying of Joab for the murdering of these two men (1 Kings 2:5,6,29–34). Hence, as far as selfish Joab was concerned, Absalom was the best one to be the next king; for he would be more sympathetic to Joab’s murderous ways than the other sons of David. They, as Solomon proved later, would not think kindly of Joab’s evil nor of his remaining in high position.
Many folk in this world are like Joab. They are looking out chiefly for themselves. Their conduct is not guided by principles of holy character but by what will contribute to their personal advantage. Friendships, favors, and loyalties are all primarily based on gain for themselves, not on godly principles of high character. Such folk will help promote your cause if they see personal gain for themselves in so doing. But if your cause cannot be used by them to boost their own personal interests and if it becomes a hindrance to their personal interests, then they will not hesitate to thrush deadly darts into your heart and life and career as Joab did to Absalom (2 Samuel 18:14) when Absalom was no longer of any help or advantage to Joab.
4. His Plan
Joab resorted to a crafty plan to bring about the acceptance of Absalom by David. We note the design of the plan and the duplication in the plan.
The design of the plan. Absalom had committed murder in his killing of Amnon; and, therefore, David by law was obligated to execute Absalom. This presented a very serious problem for the acceptance of Absalom by David. Therefore, the design of Joab’s plan was to provide David with a very good excuse for David to justify—at least in appearance—his acceptance of Absalom without being obligated to execute Absalom for his crime as the law demanded. Basically Joab had to provide David a way for circumventing the law without appearing to be a lawbreaker. Being the guileful person that he was, Joab would be skilled at making the breaking of the law look acceptable as his plan will evidence.
Joab is typical of the men who by hook or crook try to circumvent the law without looking like a lawbreaker. They devise clever schemes and employ crafty lawyers who can talk a good line and confuse the issues so that breaking the law will not look like evil. They twist and pervert situations in order to make circumventing the law look commendable, charitable, and even necessary. They can pervert the interpretation of the law to make it appear to contradict what it was really intended to say and do. Much evil results from such beguiling behavior, however, as will be seen plainly in the case of Absalom.
The duplication in the plan. “And come to the king, and speak on this manner unto him. So Joab put the words in her mouth” (v. 3). The plan which Joab used to try to persuade David to accept Absalom back into the land in good favor craftily duplicated the plan which God used to get David to repent of his evil regarding Bathsheba and Uriah. That plan (which is recorded in 2 Samuel 12) involved sending to David a person with a parable to denounce David for his evil. In that chapter the person was Nathan and the parable was about a stolen lamb. In Joab’s crafty plan, as recorded in our text, the person was the woman of Tekoah (whom we will learn more about shortly), and the parable was about a calamity in a family which was to mirror David’s situation and indict him for not accepting Absalom (we will study the parable in detail later).
The crafty duplication of God’s method here emphasizes the fact that the devil is the great imitator. And the guile of Joab in this duplication emphasizes that the devil’s imitations are always corrupt. God’s plan was to promote righteousness (David’s repentance), but the devil’s plan (Joab’s plan) was to promote unrighteousness (circumvent the law about Absalom). In trying to duplicate God’s method, the devil tries to make people think that he is doing the same thing as God; when, in fact, the devil is actually doing just the opposite. This deceitful imitation of God’s ways is to beguile people into sinning. Christ warned of these devilish duplications when He said, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15).
B. THE PRETENDER IN THE ACCEPTANCE
“Joab sent to Tekoah, and fetched thence a wise woman . . . [and sent her] to the king” (vv. 2, 3). Joab could not go to David himself about Absalom without quickly prejudicing David against accepting Absalom (vv. 18, 19). So, as we noted above, he sent a woman instead. When he sent her to David, Joab had her pretend that she was a widow with a great problem (v. 5). Thus her role in this endeavor to get David to accept Absalom was that of a pretender. Here from verses 2 and 3 which introduce her, we note the choice, character, and city of the woman.
1. The Choice of the Woman
As we noted earlier, Joab was endeavoring to duplicate the plan God used when trying to get David to repent of his adulterous sin. In that plan God sent a man, Nathan, as the messenger to David. But Joab’s plan (the devil’s plan) sent a woman in-stead of a man. This is typical of the devil’s program. It does not want to recognize Divine callings; and so, as an example, it forever tries to put women in men’s place. We see it here in our text in this woman of Tekoah; and we see it today in woman preachers, bossy wives, and the despicable feminist movement.
2. The Character of the Woman
This woman was of bad character. We discover this fact in the word “wise” in this verse about her. The Hebrew word translated “wise” here is the same word which is translated “subtil” in 2 Samuel 13:3 to describe Amnon’s wicked friend Jonadab. As we noted at that text, the word’s meaning is determined by the context. It can mean wise in a good sense or in an evil sense. Here it means wise in an evil sense as it did in Jonadab’s case. She used her genius and skills not to detect and protest evil but to disguise and promote it. She was, therefore, the type of person Joab needed to help him with his evil plan. Her kind today are the ones who invent clever arguments to promote and justify abortion, homosexuality, evolution, and gambling in our land and to oppose and stop Bible reading and prayer in our schools. They can make good sound evil and evil sound good. They make vice sound like virtue and virtue sound like vice. They are the “experts” whom the news media interviews during any crisis over the issue of evil, and these “experts” always argue cleverly on behalf of evil. People of the character of this woman of Tekoah and of Amnon’s friend Jonadab are a curse to society. They lead many folk astray and compound the problems of the land while all the time they are perceived as “wise’’ people.
That Joab employed this woman to help him accomplish his plan tells us that his plan was a bad one from the very beginning. When you have to employ unholy people to reach your goal, you are aiming at the wrong goal. God seeks godly men to advance His work, but the devil seeks the ungodly. When God wanted to speak to David about his adulterous sin, He sent the godly Nathan to David. But when Joab (the devil’s agent) wanted to speak to David about his sin (sin only in Joab’s eyes, not in God’s eyes) of not accepting Absalom, Joab sent the ungodly woman of Tekoah. Churches can learn here. The high character qualifications for church office, as stated in Scripture, are needed because of the high character of the work involved.
3. The City of the Woman
This unholy woman came from the city of Tekoah. Tekoah is located south of Jerusalem not too far from the Hebron area. It is a small city of little account which gained its fame from two people of the Bible who lived there. These two people were this woman in our text and the prophet Amos (Amos 1:1) who lived there several centuries later. This woman was certainly a different soul in character than Amos. She promoted evil; but he lifted up the standard of righteousness and exalted Jehovah God in the land. Amos was the one who gave Tekoah its greatest fame. Would that godly men gave all cities and countries their greatest fame.
C. THE PARABLE FOR THE ACCEPTANCE
The parable in Joab’s plan, which the woman of Tekoah was to convey in word and deed to David to try to persuade David to accept Absalom, takes up a considerable portion of our text for this chapter. To study the parable and the action resulting from it, we will note the depiction in the parable, the distortions in the parable, the denunciation in the parable, the doctrine in the parable, the discrimination in the parable, the deference with the parable, the discernment about the parable, and the decision after the parable.
1. The Depiction in the Parable
The parable depicts a tragedy in a family which was causing much dissension in the family. The parable can be divided into three main parts: the widow, the wickedness, and the woes.
The widow. “Help, O king. And the king said unto her, What aileth thee? And she answered, I am indeed a widow woman, and mine husband is dead” (vv. 4, 5). In the conveying the parable to David, the character the woman of Tekoah was to pretend to be in coming to David was that of a “widow.” David was known as a compassionate man—his Psalms indicate he was a man of much compassion—though, of course, he did not show much compassion in the killing of Uriah. But generally, compassion was one of the hallmarks of David’s personality. Therefore, to get David to listen sympathetically to her, this woman of Tekoah presents herself as one who was in the pathetic situation of a “widow.” Being a “widow” was a very sad plight for women in that day. Unlike today, widows in those days could not collect helpful payments from their husband’s life insurance policy or collect Social Security benefits or get a job to maintain themselves materially. Widowhood generally put women in dire straits. Her “Help, O king” would gain much more sympathy from David when she said she was “indeed a widow.”
Approaching David through his compassion shows how evil likes to influence us through our emotions rather than with facts (there were no facts in the parable). It knows how influential our emotions can be; and since evil is not interested in facts and righteousness, it goes after the emotions. Evil does not want us making decisions on the basis of facts and solid principles. It wants us to make decisions on the basis of our emotions and feelings. Therefore, let us beware that we do not get caught in this crafty snare of evil by letting our emotions, to the exclusion of facts and holy principles, dictate our actions.
The wickedness. “Thy handmaid had two sons, and they two strove together in the field, and there was none to part them, but the one smote the other, and slew him” (v. 6). The problem invented by Joab in the life of this “widow” involved the murder of one of her sons by another son. Murder is indeed great wickedness. This would obligate David to listen. Murder gave importance to what the “widow” had to say to the king. Her story made her problem to be great, not trivial; for murder is a very serious matter indeed, a matter the king could not ignore.
The story has some holes in it, however, as all such trumped up stories generally do (David did not discern them, but his discernment had been poor ever since his sin). The holes in the story had to do with how the “widow” and others knew so much about the details of the murder. If no one was there to try to stop the fighting, then how did others come to know the details of the tragedy? The son who did the murdering certainly is not going to tell the details of the story. This discrepancy in her story creates a problem regarding necessary witnesses to execute the sentence upon the guilty one. Without valid witnesses, the crime cannot be proven nor can anyone be sentenced for the crime. Thus, her complaint about others insisting on the death sentence, as we will see next, is also flawed; for how did they know the accused committed the crime? How did they know the killing was not in self-defense? They needed at least two witnesses to execute the murderer, only one witness would not be sufficient (Deuteronomy 17:6). So the story is really flawed. But liars always have trouble with their stories, and Joab’s parable verifies that fact.
The woes. “And, behold, the whole family is risen against thine handmaid, and they said, Deliver him that smote his brother, that we may kill him, for the life of his brother whom he slew; and we will destroy the heir also; and so they shall quench my coal which is left, and shall not leave to my husband neither name nor remainder upon the earth” (v. 7). In the parable, the widow’s woes from her son’s murder were threefold. They concerned the severity of the sentence, the selfishness of the slayers, and the stopping of the seed. These woes were used craftily to try to discredit capital punishment and, thus, encourage David to accept Absalom though Absalom was a murderer.
First, the severity of the sentence. The widow’s relatives demanded justice for the murder. This meant that they demanded that the murderer be put to death as the law prescribed. This is a severe sentence, but it is the proper sentence for this bloody crime. However, in this parable the death sentence is put in a bad light by making it appear that it is too cruel (“quench my coal . . .”). It is presented as a sentence that will cause more problems than it will solve and as a sentence that lacks compassion not only for the criminal but for his near of kin. Those who oppose God’s law about capital punishment today talk the same perverted line. They argue that capital punishment is cruel, inhumane, and lacking in compassion.
Second, the selfishness of the slayers. Not only does this parable try to make the idea of capital punishment look bad by the cruelty of the punishment but also by the poor character of those who advocate the punishment. This is seen in the statement, “We will destroy the heir also.” With this statement, the “widow” tries to makes it sound like the real purpose of those who insist on the law being followed is that they wanted to get the inheritance of the murderer (she repeats the charge in verse 16). This backhanded charge is typical of corrupt story telling. Such stories have righteous causes, virtue, and wisdom em-braced and promoted by people of reprehensible, irresponsible, greedy, uncaring, and unwise character. This, of course, subtly and effectively biases the hearer or reader into taking a stand against righteous causes, virtue, and wisdom. In like manner the same story will subtly promote evil causes by having the people in the story who advocate the evil causes being people of compassion and wisdom (like the “widow” here) so the hearer or reader will be beguiled into taking a stand for an evil cause. This corrupt trick is practiced frequently in fiction books, in radio dramas, in TV and Hollywood films, and even in political cartoons and comics. As an example, these various media will portray a fundamentalist, Bible preacher as a dishonest, defiled, and demented individual while they portray an atheist or a homosexual as a wise, compassionate, and noble person. Evil is subtle. But the Bible, such as our text, exposes evil’s subtle ways. Study the Word faithfully, and evil will not beguile you.
Third, the stopping of the seed. The third argument of the “widow” for exempting her murderous son from capital punishment was that if capital punishment was carried out according to the law, then it would stop the continuation of her husband’s name and heritage. Today, we do not appreciate the importance of continuing a man’s heritage. But in those days it was a very important matter. For a man to die without any male heirs was considered a great tragedy. The argument of the “widow” here is that the law of capital punishment should be set aside in order to provide for the very important continuation of the seed of the murderer’s father. This was a very corrupt argument, however; for it would make the end justify the means of breaking the law. But evil likes to twist situations around to advance arguments against obeying God’s commands. Evil likes to insist that circumstances justify breaking the law. It is this principle that is embodied in the evil “situation ethics” philosophy, a philosophy which tries to justify sin by circumstances. Beware of the clever philosophies of the world which try to make sin appear as noble and necessary conduct because of the circumstances.
2. The Distortions in the Parable
Nathan’s parable had very accurately mirrored the case of David and his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah. But Joab’s parable showed its corruption by greatly distorting the case of Absalom and his murder of Amnon. It distorted the case of Absalom and Amnon in four significant aspects of the case. They involved the fighting, the field, the family, and the future.
The fighting. In Joab’s parable, two brothers were fighting which resulted in one killing the other (v. 6). But Absalom and Amnon certainly were not fighting when the murder occurred. They were doing just the opposite—they were merrymaking at a sheepshearing celebration. Absalom’s murder of Amnon was planned long in advance. It was not a result of a fight that got out of hand. But evil parables ignore the facts.
The field. In Joab’s parable, the two brothers were in a “field” (v. 6) far away from others with “none to part them” (Ibid.). But in Absalom’s murder of Amnon, the two were certainly not alone in a field. They were together with many servants and all of David’s other sons at a sheepshearing celebration. There were many who could have opposed the killing. Distortion of the facts, however, is necessary when you want to promote a cause which the facts will not support.
The family. In Joab’s parable, “the whole family” (v. 7) gave the widow a bad time about not putting to death the son who killed the widow’s other son. But this is a distorted comparison of the real case, too; for no family member—let alone “the whole family”—was pressing David to put Absalom to death. Only the law insisted on Absalom’s death. And the law was just and right. But Joab’s parable conveniently left out the demand of the law, for the law was the very thing Joab wanted David to overlook.
The future. In Joab’s parable, the seed of the “widow’s” husband would be entirely cut off if the murdering son was executed which meant there would be no future for her husband’s name. But that was certainly not the circumstance of the murderer Absalom. Absalom was not the only son. In fact he was not even the heir to the throne. Chileab was next in line for the throne as far as the birth order of David’s boys was concerned (2 Samuel 3:3). Also even if Absalom was the only son left, he still had a living father (unlike the murdered son in Joab’s parable) as well as a living mother which could produce more seed (unlike the case in Joab’s parable). Indeed, this parable really distorted the circumstances of the case it purported to mirror. But the devil’s mirrors are all distorted. They are like those strange mirrors at carnivals and circuses. God’s mirror, however, is accurate; for God majors on truth.
3. The Denunciation in the Parable
“The king doth speak this thing as one which is faulty, in that the king doth not fetch home again his banished” (v. 13). This denunciation of David from the parable was very crafty. We note this in when it was made, who it charged, and what it charged.
When it was made. Before the “widow” made this denunciation of David, she made sure that she had David really committed to exempting her guilty son from execution. Three times she got David to affirm his exemption (vv. 8, 10, 11); and the last time she even got David to make a sacred oath—“As the Lord liveth” (v. 11)—that he would protect her son from the law. The oath made the exemption very strong. After he had affirmed the exemption of her son three times, David was so ensnared by evil that he gave in quickly to accepting Absalom.
There is a lesson here about commitment and dedication. Evil knows that when we are repeatedly committed to evil that we will do evil in spite of the opposition. It is time many people woke up to this fact about serving God. Dedication must be continually avowed if we are to serve God successfully. We must study the Word and pray repeatedly in order to strengthen our commitment to God.
Who it charged. In contrast to Nathan’s parable which charged the criminal (David) with fault, Joab’s parable charged the judge (David), not the criminal (Absalom), with fault. This is typical of the world. They often charge those who are involved with the arrest and punishment of the criminal rather than charge the criminal.
What it charged. Joab’s parable charged David with failure to accept—that is, forgive, and restore—Absalom. This charge said David was not being tolerant enough in dealing with Absalom. But the truth of the matter was that David was too tolerant in dealing with Absalom. Absalom should have been executed. But David failed to do justice regarding the murder by Absalom. So the charge was backward. It accused David of not being tolerant enough when in fact David was too tolerant. The prophet Nathan did not make such a stupid and faulty charge. He charged David correctly. He did not confuse the issues—only evil does that. Evil tries to get us to call good evil and evil good. This is what the world does, so the world condemns the godly because they do not stoop to the wicked deeds of the world. The world criticizes Christians because they refuse to lie at work, cheat at school, and speak falsehoods about others. Evil distorts right and wrong every chance it can.
4. The Doctrine in the Parable
“Yet doth he [God] devise means, that his banished be not expelled from him” (v. 14). The important doctrine addressed in this parable is the doctrine of forgiveness. If David is going to accept Absalom back into the land, David will have to forgive Absalom of his murder (and thus exempt him from capital punishment) or Absalom cannot be restored back into the land in good standing. To encourage and justify this forgiveness of Absalom, the “widow” told David that God devises means to forgive His banished (sinners). It is true that God does indeed “devise means that his banished be not expelled from him.” This is what the Gospel is all about! But God’s forgiveness is based on entirely different reasons than the reasons the “widow” gave for David to forgive. The appeal of the “widow” for forgiveness was not based on God’s way of forgiveness but on the world’s way of forgiveness—such as sympathy and circumstances. She, of course, did not elaborate on what God’s reasons for forgiveness were, for that would ruin her appeal. We note here two very important matters in which forgiveness in Joab’s parable was different than God’s forgiveness. They are the commandments of God and the contrition of the sinner.
The commandments of God. God’s forgiveness never breaks God’s laws. “Do we then make void the law through faith [for forgiveness in salvation]? God forbid, yea, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31). God’s forgiveness satisfies the law and thus satisfies the claim of justice. This is done through the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. He died for our sins which satisfied the demands of the law about our sins. The law demands death for sin. Christ, Who was innocent of our sin, paid that death penalty for sinners; otherwise God could not forgive us and still be just. The forgiveness in Joab’s parable made no provision for the due punishment of the evil of Absalom. Therefore, the forgiveness advocated in Joab’s parable was not in accordance with God’s commands and so was not just, either.
It is instructive to note that when God forgave David of his adulterous sins, the commands of God were duly respected; for the just punishment for David’s sins was reflected in the death (substitutionary) of the innocent child who was born to David and Bathsheba. This pictured the satisfying of the law of a holy God which demanded death for David’s sins. The forgiveness in Joab’s parable was nothing more than a winking of the eye at sin. That is the attitude of most people about forgiveness. But it is a great travesty against God to equate His forgiveness of man’s sin as being nothing more than a winking of the eye at sin. Christ’s death on the cross was necessary for God to forgive sinners, and that death is hardly a winking of the eye at sin.
The contrition of the sinner. God’s forgiveness involves repentance by the sinner. God desires to forgive all men, for the Bible says “The Lord is . . . not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9), but multitudes do perish in their sins because they do not “come to repentance” (Ibid.). The appeal from Joab’s parable, however, did not require Absalom to repent at all. Nothing was said in it regarding Absalom’s change of attitude about his bloody sin. In contrast, the forgiveness of David for his great sins regarding Bathsheba and Uriah was accompanied by a most sincere and fervent repentance (2 Samuel 12:13, Psalm 51).
5. The Discrimination in the Parable
In Joab’s parable there was a most unequal and unjust concern for the parties involved in the murder in that there was no concern shown for the victim. The concern in the parable was about sparing the criminal. This was a very evil discrimination against the victim, and this discrimination says one is not concerned about justice. That was the attitude of Joab, of course; and it is the attitude of our land today regarding the punishment of criminals. As an example, when the death sentence is carried out, there are generally protesters at the prison area to protest the death sentence. They talk about capital punishment being inhumane and cruel and unproductive. But they do not lament about the terrible killing of the victim. The protesters say nothing about the great inhumanness and cruelty done to the victim when he or she was murdered. Nothing is said about the fact that the criminal had opportunity to make many appeals to courts to stay his sentence while the victim had no such opportunities to try to stay the murder and prolong his life but was murdered without mercy. Those opposed to capital punishment show this evil discrimination of concern very pronouncedly. And it shows how their call for compassion and mercy is so despicably, inexcusably, and cruelly hypocritical.
6. The Deference With the Parable
In declaring Joab’s parable to David, the woman of Tekoah showed great deference to David. Outwardly, in deeds and words, she gave much appearance of honor to David. In deeds, when she came to David she “fell on her face to the ground, and did obeisance” (v. 4). In words, she used the title of “king” and “lord” frequently (2 Samuel 14:4, 9, 11, 12, 13, etc.), referred to herself often times as David’s “handmaid” (2 Samuel 14:6, 7, 12, 15, 17, 19), and she exaggerated David’s wisdom by describing David as “an angel of God, so is my lord the king to discern good and bad” and as one who “is wise, according to the wisdom of an angel of God, to know all things that are in the earth” (vv. 17, 20). All of this deference was nothing but flattery, and flattery is foul behavior. “Commendation is often proper and beneficial . . . But flattery (false, partial, or extravagant praise) is always improper and pernicious . . . It is commonly designed by those who employ it to serve some interest of their own [as it was by the woman of Tekoah] . . . It blinds those who listen to it to their defects, ministers to their vanity, and fills them with perilous complacency . . . It also induces them to pursue erroneous and sinful courses, which they might otherwise have avoided” (Dale). In contrast to the woman of Tekoah, Nathan did not flatter David. There were no obsequious bowings, no fawning titles and compliments. This does not mean Nathan was disrespectful, but rather that he was not being a disgusting sycophant like the woman of Tekoah. Nathan was interested in truth. Therefore, he spoke forth forceful charges of sinfulness to David that only humbled, not honored, David. You do not get people to repent by praising them. Emphasizing a person’s self-esteem does not help convict them of sin. The sinner must be shown his sinfulness, or he will not see his need of a Savior.
7. The Discernment About the Parable
“Then the king answered the 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 speak. And the king said, Is not the hand of Joab with thee in all this? And the woman answered . . . thy servant Joab, he bade me, and he put all these words in the mouth of thine handmaid” (vv. 18, 19). David’s discernment is not surprising, for the stamp of Joab was all over this appeal by the woman. David knew Joab was a very crafty man, and the parable reflected his craftiness. Furthermore, because of Joab’s compliance in David’s evil with Uriah, David knew Joab could be very bold in criticizing David as Joab was here concerning David’s conduct about Absalom.
David accurately discerned Joab’s involvement in this sinister plot to have Absalom recalled back to the land, but unfortunately he did not discern the evil of Amnon’s request to have Tamar come to his apartment or the evil of Absalom’s request to have Amnon come to the sheepshearing celebration or the peril of the request to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem. The problem with David’s discernment, as we noted in our last chapter, was that his sin had dulled his discernment. Because of his adulterous sin, he was no longer able to cut through much deception. Discernment is a very vital weapon against evil. But sin will greatly dull the sharpness of discernment, and it will take considerable time to get it sharpened like it used to be.
8. The Decision After the Parable
“And the king said unto Joab, Behold now, I have done this thing; go therefore, bring the young man Absalom again . . . And the king said, Let him turn to his own house, and let him not see my face” (vv. 21, 24). The decision David made after the parable to accept Absalom was a decision filled with compromise. Compromise was evident in the repeating, in the recalling, and in the restricting in the decision.
The repeating in the decision. David was in a bind about Absalom. He had already exempted the murderer in the parable from the law (vv. 8, 10, 11); now, because of that exemption, he is pressured into repeating the exemption by exempting a real murderer from the law, namely, Absalom. The repeating of David’s bad decision reminds us that once we compromise with evil, we will be pressured into doing it again and again. Once we allow evil to get its foot in the door, we will soon open the door wider for the whole body of evil to get in. You may think that you have to compromise “only once.” But that is a trick of the devil. “Only once” is a mirage. Once you start compromising, you will be ensnared into compromising with evil more and more. Compromise has a repeater built in it.
The recalling in the decision. “Go therefore, bring the young man Absalom again” (v. 21). This recalling of Absalom was a compromise in that David had to sacrifice justice to do it. Recalling Absalom meant that David would not execute Absalom according to the law. This was wrong and was a compromise that would haunt David the rest of his life. This compromise regarding the law opened the way for Absalom to eventually revolt against David and cause a civil war in which 20,000 men died (2 Samuel 18:7) and in which Absalom was killed much to the grief of David (2 Samuel 18:33). In the last paragraph, we learned about the duplication (repeating) in compromising. Here we learn about the delusion in compromising. Evil compromise promises to bring peace, but it only brings war. It promises to improve our relations with others, but it only makes our relations with others worse.
The restricting in the decision. “Let him turn to his own house, and let him not see my face” (v. 24). Here again is compromise in David’s decision. He tried to do business on both sides of the street. To appease Joab, David accepted Absalom’s return to Jerusalem. But to appease his conscience about keeping the law, David restricted Absalom from seeing David. This is a no-win policy, for mixing right and wrong is never right and only results in wrong. Here we learn that compromise does not satisfy. So to the problem of duplication and delusion in compromise, we add dissatisfaction here. Absalom was not satisfied with this compromising arrangement and will cause much prov-ocation because of it as we will see shortly. David would in the near future not be satisfied with this compromising arrangement, either, because of all the trouble it would eventually cause.
If you would deal satisfactory with sin, you must deal with sin faithfully and forcefully. It is either “yes” or “no.” There is no middle ground. The compromising policy with right and wrong does not bring success in one’s fight against evil; it does not build character or promote righteous causes It may sound compassionate and get high marks from politicians and the news media, but it does not help the cause of truth anywhere. This compromise, no-win policy advocates such things as “moderate” drinking and “legalized” gambling. In church it schedules two services—a “modern” service for the younger generation that appeals to their carnal tastes, and a “traditional” service for the older generation that appeals to their spiritual interests which the church ministry used to honor. This compromise policy tries to put gospel words to guileful rock music. “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau” (Genesis 27:22) is another example of this compromising policy which never helps the cause of truth and righteousness.
D. THE PERSON BEING ACCEPTED
The report in Scripture of the acceptance of Absalom by David is followed by additional and significant details regarding the person of Absalom. These details do not compliment Absalom but emphasize that he was not a good person. Noble character was not part of Absalom’s makeup. That fact has already been evidenced in his conduct regarding Amnon; but in our text, it is further evidenced. To examine the person of Absalom as he was after he returned to Jerusalem, we will note his popularity, polling, progeny, pique, protest, presumption, and pardon.
1. His Popularity
“But 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” (v. 25). Absalom’s popularity in Israel was not based on noble character or worthy achievements. It was mostly based on his looks. But folk make a great mistake to give fame and favor to someone just because of their looks, for “many a polluted, deformed soul dwells in a fair and comely body” (Henry). The moral and spiritual condition of a land can be quickly discerned by simply observing who are the popular people in the land. Therefore, the popularity of Absalom was an indictment upon Israel. Esteeming Absalom highly “reveals the low state of the nation at that time! Absalom was not esteemed for his moral worth, for he was utterly lacking in piety, wisdom, or justice. His handsome physique was what appealed to the people. His abominable wickedness was ignored . . . How sad it is to observe our decadent generation [also] valuing physical beauty and prowess more highly than moral virtues and spiritual graces” (Pink). The fame of movie and television stars in spite of their wretched moral life is a present day example of the popularity of Absalom. Many “Absalom” athletes are also idolized by our society regardless of the fact that they possess little character. Furthermore, many politicians are acclaimed great popularity and win important elections though they live very wicked lives. The popularity of the vile reveals the low set of values that prevails in our society.
2. His Polling
“And when he polled his head, (for it was at every year’s end that he polled [cut] it: because the hair was heavy on him, therefore he polled it) he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels after the king’s weight [estimated at about four to five pounds our weight]” (v. 26). Absalom’s infrequent polling of his hair and his ostentatious weighing of what he polled manifests his detestable pride. Letting his hair grow till it was very weighty meant that it was obviously hot and uncomfortable to wear. But pride kept letting it grow that long anyway. As Matthew Henry said, “Pride feels no cold, so it feels no heat, and that which feeds and gratifies it is not complained of, though very uneasy.” So it is with the latest styles in our day. If it is an “in” style or attracts favorable attention, it does not bother us though it is hot, cold, heavy, or scratches. Most people will suffer more to feed their vanity than they will suffer to protect their virtue. But it is virtue that matters, certainly not vanity. Absalom not only needed to poll his hair more often, but he also needed to do some frequent polling of his pride. If he had been diligent about polling his pride, he would have polled his hair more often.
3. His Progeny
“And unto Absalom there were born three sons, and one daughter, whose name was Tamar; she was a woman of a fair countenance” (v. 27). Absalom’s sons evidently died early in life, for later it is said that “Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a pillar, which is in the king’s dale; for he said, I have no son to keep my name in remembrance; and he called the pillar after his own name” (2 Samuel 18:18). His daughter Tamar, however, did live into her adult years. The Septuagint says Tamar became the wife of Rehoboam and mother of Abijah (Rehoboam’s son who became king after Rehoboam). But according to the Hebrew texts (1 Kings 15:2 and 2 Chronicles 13:2), it was more likely Tamar’s daughter who was Rehoboam’s queen. This daughter of Absalom had the outward beauty (“of a fair countenance”) of her namesake aunt whom Amnon raped. But Scripture does not encourage us to believe she had the inward beauty of her Aunt Tamar. She certainly received no encouragement for piety from her father Absalom.
4. His Pique
“Absalom dwelt two full years in Jerusalem, and saw not the king’s face. Therefore Absalom sent for Joab, to have him sent to the king; but he would not come to him; and when he sent again the second time, he would not come. Therefore he said unto his servants, See, Joab’s field is near mine, and he hath barley there; go and set it on fire . . . Then Joab arose, and came to Absalom” (vv. 28–31). Absalom was quickly piqued over Joab’s ignoring of Absalom’s request. This caused Absalom to retaliate with some evil behavior. We note the inspiration of the evil, the incineration from the evil, the insolence in the evil, and the ingratitude in this evil action that occurred as a result of Absalom becoming piqued over Joab’s snub of him.
First, the inspiration of the evil. After two years of being in Jerusalem and yet not seeing the king, Absalom lost patience and decided he wanted to see the king—seeing the king would indicate Absalom’s full acceptance and restoration. “Therefore Absalom sent for Joab” (v. 28) to intercede for him with the king. Joab had arranged for Absalom’s return to Jerusalem through interceding with David, so it was logical that Joab be approached to intercede again. Joab had the inside track to David, and Absalom knew this was the way to get something from David. But when Absalom sent for Joab, Joab refused to come. This is not surprising, however; for Joab had his finger in the air politically and saw that Absalom was not being groomed by David as David’s replacement. David had made no move in the two years Absalom had been back in Jerusalem which would indicate that Absalom was the choice of David to follow David as king. Therefore, Joab lost interest in pacifying Absalom; for Absalom no longer had a position which promised advantage to Joab. But that did not justify Joab’s refusal to give Absalom a response. And Joab’s refusal did not justify Absalom’s evil action of burning Joab’s barley field, which action we will note next. Absalom and Joab simply were two of a kind, so you could expect them to act as they did. Neither based their behavior on pious principles but rather on selfish interests.
Second, the incineration from the evil. Absalom was a spoiled child. If he did not get his way, he would be mean and nasty. He will throw a temper tantrum to get his way. The temper tantrum that he threw here was to burn Joab’s barley field. This, of course, got Joab’s attention; for when the field was burned, “Then Joab arose, and came to Absalom unto his house” (v. 31). People who resort to such unsavory action to get attention and get their way are not good people. We have some of this kind in church unfortunately. These people will resign from a church office or from some other task at church or they quit coming to church or stop giving their offerings all in an effort to get attention and get their way about some matter. A church who gives in to such malcontents makes a big mistake that will result in increasing the church’s troubles, not decreasing them.
Third, the insolence in the evil. Absalom’s action toward Joab was a very insulting action. It did not show respect for Joab’s rank in the government. Joab was the captain of David’s army and merited more respect than that. But people like Absalom do not demonstrate much respect for authority. They esteem themselves the great ones and all others as peasants.
Fourth, the ingratitude in the evil. Burning Joab’s field showed that Absalom had little gratitude for the work which Joab had done to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem. But Absalom is an unrepentant sinner, and such people are not good at showing gratitude. Failure to show gratitude can be costly, however, as Absalom discovered later on. Joab was not a man you wanted to treat poorly. So later when Absalom was caught in a tree in the civil war against David, Joab saw his opportunity and had Absalom killed (2 Samuel 18:14,15) in spite of the king’s orders to spare Absalom (2 Samuel 18:5).
5. His Protest
“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; now therefore let me see the king’s face” (v. 32). After Joab finally responded to Absalom’s request and came to Absalom, Absalom protested to him about David’s unwillingness to see Absalom. Absalom’s protest was not surprising considering David’s inconsistency. As we noted above, if David is going to bring Absalom back to the land, then Absalom should be allowed to see David. But David’s actions in bringing Absalom back to the land were inconsistent—as compromise with evil always is. He tried to appease Absalom and Joab by recalling Absalom, but he also tried to appease his conscience about the law by refusing to let Absalom see him. But as we noted earlier, compromise does not satisfy. Rather, it eventually brings trouble as it did in this case.
Absalom, though speaking vainly, spoke more truth than he realized when he said, “It had been good for me to have been there still (Geshur).” Staying in Geshur would have stopped his revolt opportunities and added to his life span. But David’s compromise changed all of that. Let this be a warning to us about the perils of trying to please both the world and the Lord.
6. His Presumption
“If there be any iniquity in me, let him [King David] kill me” (v. 32). Though Absalom had murdered Amnon and had just burned Joab’s barley field, Absalom presumes his innocence. It is a disgusting, self-righteous attitude that prevails among people who do not repent of their sin. However, those who see themselves properly certainly do not boast about their innocence. Scripture says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us . . . If we say that we have not sinned, we make him [God] a liar [because He has said we are a sinner]” (1 John 1:8,10). The great emphasis on self-esteem today does not help to convince people they are indeed a sinner and need Christ or they will go to hell. The self-esteem business is a doctrine from hell which aims at attacking the truth about the depravity of man. Absalom had lots of self-esteem. That was one of his big problems!
7. His Pardon
“So Joab came to the king, and told him; and when he had called for Absalom, he came to the king, and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king; and the king kissed Absalom” (v. 33). We note the feigning and the fault in the pardon.
The feigning in the pardon. Absalom’s bowing down before David was quite a show in hypocrisy. His actions after this scene confirm this very forcefully. He feigned respect for David in order to gain complete acceptance so he could use his improved standing to revolt against David’s government. Absalom’s actions in bowing before God’s anointed one (David) represent the worship of many before the Great Anointed One of God, Jesus Christ. They go through the form, but their heart is not in it. They worship not to honor God but to gain some earthly advantage. Form appeals to hypocrites, for it does not demand a change of heart. Churches with a great emphasis on outward ritual only encourage hypocritical faith.
The fault in the pardon. David had no justification for this pardon. Absalom had done nothing to justify his pardon. There was no genuine repentance, as his later action verifies. He was a murderer and deserved the death sentence, not restoration, from David. In pardoning Absalom, David sacrificed justice for his affections. He set the law aside in order to pamper his feelings. His fondness for Absalom ignored the faults of Absalom which were many, great, and increasing. David not only was wrong in pardoning Absalom’s murder, but he was also wrong in pardoning Absalom’s deed of burning Joab’s field. Nothing was done about that mean and unjustified evil. When Absalom threw a temper tantrum and burnt Joab’s field, David should have punished Absalom. But instead of punishment, David gave Absalom his way. This is the way many parents act; for when their child throws a temper tantrum, they simply give the child what the child wants. Great is the folly of such action.
You cannot let lawbreakers go unpunished or they will become worse lawbreakers. Letting the criminal off easy does not endear you with the criminal; it only emboldens the criminal to deal meaner with you. David found out all these truths the hard way when Absalom rebelled against him, split the nation’s affections, and caused a bloody civil war in Israel. And all of these troubles for David were part of his chastisement for his great sins. This fact is seen in that these great troubles fulfilled some of the prediction made by Nathan about the chastisement (2 Samuel 12:10–12). How greatly David suffered for his sin. Though forgiven, David paid dearly through chastisement. God’s forgiveness never encourages sin.