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The conflict between appearance and reality is the theme of our story today. As we’ll see, what appears to be wisdom and repentance is not.
The events in 2 Samuel 14 occur three years after the events of chapter 13 end and 5 years after the rape of Tamar. 2Samuel 13:23 tells us Absalom murdered his brother Amnon two years after the rape. 2Samuel 13:38 tells us Absalom was in Geshur three years. The chapter contains 2 major scenes.
- 2 Samuel 14:1-22 — the scheming that secures Absalom’s return from exile.
- 2 Sameul 14:23-33 — the scheming that secures his return to David’s presence.
The key word is this chapter is “face”, though it is not always translated “face”. The English phrases translated “ in the King’s presence” is literally “see the king’s face”. The word occurs in verses 4, 7, 20, 22, 24, 28, 32, 33.
Amnon, David’s oldest son and presumed heir to the throne, lusted after his half-sister, Tamar who was Absalom’s full sister. With the help of his crafty cousin Jonadab, he gets Tamar alone in his house where he rapes her and then tosses her out. Tamar publicly proclaims the wrong done to her. While both Absalom and David are angry David fails to act, so Absalom can do nothing.
Absalom waits two years. He then invites his brothers to a sheep shearing festival where his servants murder Amnon. The rest of David’s sons flee back the palace and Absalom goes into exile. Absalom, the son of a foreign princess, finds sanctuary with his grandfather the neighboring king.
For David to take military action against Absalom would provoke war with Geshur. As David’s top military general, Joab acts to reconcile father and son so that the nation may be spared another war. The irony is that while his actions avert war with Geshur, they ultimately lead to civil war when Absalom tries to take the throne.
- The legal facts of the case necessitate that the king must rule between two conflicting principles in Israelite justice. The first is the right of the family clan to exact justice or blood revenge; the second is the survival of the house of a father. Which principle will win out, justice or mercy?
- David promises to issue a decree of protection, but the wise woman of Tekoa is not satisfied. David’s promise is too vague.
- In vs 9-10 she presses him for something more concrete. The king promises to personally intervene if anyone threatens her life. Still she is not satisfied and she presses him further.
- In vs 11 she presses the king to take an oath, to invoke the name of the Lord in to prevent revenge against her remaining son. The king gives her his vow and now she has him in her trap.
- Now that she has moved him to her side of the argument, she brings up the issue of Absalom.
- Essentially, she’s saying doesn’t God himself grant mercy over justice? Remember the story of Cain and Abel? Doesn’t the Lord God take any initiative to bring a banished one home?
- At this point David realizes that Joab is behind the matter.
- Is her wisdom really wisdom? The cases are not parallel.
- The widow’s sons acted on the spur of the moment in passion. Absalom’s actions were premeditated murder and revenge.
- From Absalom’s perspective, his planned worked beautifully. He secured revenge for his sister and removed the brother that stood between him and the throne.
- The reconciliation appears to have been a great success, but just like the woman’s wisdom was not really wisdom, this reconciliation is not really reconciliation.
- He spends two more years in this state of being home but not reconciled.
- On the outside Absalom appears the handsome, young virile king, but he is not God’s chosen one.
- While David will not look upon Absalom, everyone else in the kingdom admires his physical attraction.
- The story is subtly raising the question: What kind of king do we need? The young, gorgeous Hollywood-type hunk or the decrepit, wrinkly king who follows God’s heart?
Absalom “reconciles” with David
- Absalom takes a calculated risk. He says if there is iniquity in me let the king put me to death. He says, basically receive me or execute me. After all this time, he can reasonably expect that David will not execute him.
Appearance vs. Reality
- The wisdom of a parable from the woman of Tekoa is not really wisdom.
- The young, physically perfect king is not the right king.
- The return from exile is not really restoration.
- The reunion of father and son s not really a reunion. Notice in vs 32-33 David is referred to 6 times as “the king” and 0 times as “father.”
- Compare this return to the return of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15.
- True reconciliation requires more than removing the external legal consequences.
- Repentance is recognizing your own unworthiness and accepting grace.
For more detail and explanation, please listen to the podcast.
Next: 16 2Samuel 15 Absalom’s Conspiracy
Previous: 14 2Samuel 13 The rape o
Also: 2Samuel: David as King
Scripture quotes are from the English Standard Version of the Bible.
Photo used here under Flickr Creative Commons.