2 Samuel 14 English Standard Version (ESV)
Absalom Returns to Jerusalem
14 Now Joab the son of Zeruiah knew that the king's heart went out to Absalom. 2 And Joab sent to Tekoa and brought from there a wise woman and said to her, “Pretend to be a mourner and put on mourning garments. Do not anoint yourself with oil, but behave like a woman who has been mourning many days for the dead. 3 Go to the king and speak thus to him.” So Joab put the words in her mouth.
4 When the woman of Tekoa came to the king, she fell on her face to the ground and paid homage and said, “Save me, O king.” 5 And the king said to her, “What is your trouble?” She answered, “Alas, I am a widow; my husband is dead. 6 And your servant had two sons, and they quarreled with one another in the field. There was no one to separate them, and one struck the other and killed him. 7 And now the whole clan has risen against your servant, and they say, ‘Give up the man who struck his brother, that we may put him to death for the life of his brother whom he killed.’ And so they would destroy the heir also. Thus they would quench my coal that is left and leave to my husband neither name nor remnant on the face of the earth.”
8 Then the king said to the woman, “Go to your house, and I will give orders concerning you.” 9 And the woman of Tekoa said to the king, “On me be the guilt, my lord the king, and on my father's house; let the king and his throne be guiltless.” 10 The king said, “If anyone says anything to you, bring him to me, and he shall never touch you again.” 11 Then she said, “Please let the king invoke the Lord your God, that the avenger of blood kill no more, and my son be not destroyed.” He said, “As the Lord lives, not one hair of your son shall fall to the ground.”
12 Then the woman said, “Please let your servant speak a word to my lord the king.” He said, “Speak.” 13 And the woman said, “Why then have you planned such a thing against the people of God? For in giving this decision the king convicts himself, inasmuch as the king does not bring his banished one home again. 14 We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God will not take away life, and he devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast. 15 Now I have come to say this to my lord the king because the people have made me afraid, and your servant thought, ‘I will speak to the king; it may be that the king will perform the request of his servant. 16 For the king will hear and deliver his servant from the hand of the man who would destroy me and my son together from the heritage of God.’ 17 And your servant thought, ‘The word of my lord the king will set me at rest,’ for my lord the king is like the angel of God to discern good and evil. The Lord your God be with you!”
18 Then the king answered the woman, “Do not hide from me anything I ask you.” And the woman said, “Let my lord the king speak.” 19 The king said, “Is the hand of Joab with you in all this?” The woman answered and said, “As surely as you live, my lord the king, one cannot turn to the right hand or to the left from anything that my lord the king has said. It was your servant Joab who commanded me; it was he who put all these words in the mouth of your servant. 20 In order to change the course of things your servant Joab did this. But my lord has wisdom like the wisdom of the angel of God to know all things that are on the earth.”
21 Then the king said to Joab, “Behold now, I grant this; go, bring back the young man Absalom.” 22 And Joab fell on his face to the ground and paid homage and blessed the king. And Joab said, “Today your servant knows that I have found favor in your sight, my lord the king, in that the king has granted the request of his servant.” 23 So Joab arose and went to Geshur and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. 24 And the king said, “Let him dwell apart in his own house; he is not to come into my presence.” So Absalom lived apart in his own house and did not come into the king's presence.
25 Now in all Israel there was no one so much to be praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. 26 And when he cut the hair of his head (for at the end of every year he used to cut it; when it was heavy on him, he cut it), he weighed the hair of his head, two hundred shekels[a] by the king's weight. 27 There were born to Absalom three sons, and one daughter whose name was Tamar. She was a beautiful woman.
28 So Absalom lived two full years in Jerusalem, without coming into the king's presence. 29 Then Absalom sent for Joab, to send him to the king, but Joab would not come to him. And he sent a second time, but Joab would not come. 30 Then he said to his servants, “See, Joab's field is next to mine, and he has barley there; go and set it on fire.” So Absalom's servants set the field on fire.[b] 31 Then Joab arose and went to Absalom at his house and said to him, “Why have your servants set my field on fire?” 32 Absalom answered Joab, “Behold, I sent word to you, ‘Come here, that I may send you to the king, to ask, “Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me to be there still.” Now therefore let me go into the presence of the king, and if there is guilt in me, let him put me to death.’” 33 Then Joab went to the king and told him, and he summoned Absalom. So he came to the king and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king, and the king kissed Absalom.
2 Samuel 14 The Message (MSG)
14 1-3 Joab son of Zeruiah knew that the king, deep down, still cared for Absalom. So he sent to Tekoa for a wise woman who lived there and instructed her, “Pretend you are in mourning. Dress in black and don’t comb your hair, so you’ll look like you’ve been grieving over a dead loved one for a long time. Then go to the king and tell him this . . .” Joab then told her exactly what to say.
4 The woman of Tekoa went to the king, bowed deeply before him in homage, and said, “O King, help!”
5-7 He said, “How can I help?”
“I’m a widow,” she said. “My husband is dead. I had two sons. The two of them got into a fight out in the field and there was no one around to step between them. The one struck the other and killed him. Then the whole family ganged up against me and demanded, ‘Hand over this murderer so we can kill him for the life of the brother he murdered!’ They want to wipe out the heir and snuff out the one spark of life left to me. And then there would be nothing left of my husband—not so much as a name—on the face of the earth.
15-17 “So now I’ve dared come to the king, my master, about all this. They’re making my life miserable, and I’m afraid. I said to myself, ‘I’ll go to the king. Maybe he’ll do something! When the king hears what’s going on, he’ll step in and rescue me from the abuse of the man who would get rid of me and my son and God’s inheritance—the works!’ As your handmaid, I decided ahead of time, ‘The word of my master, the king, will be the last word in this, for my master is like an angel of God in discerning good and evil.’ God be with you!”
8 The king said, “Go home, and I’ll take care of this for you.”
9 “I’ll take all responsibility for what happens,” the woman of Tekoa said. “I don’t want to compromise the king and his reputation.”
10 “Bring the man who has been harassing you,” the king continued. “I’ll see to it that he doesn’t bother you anymore.”
11 “Let the king invoke the name of God,” said the woman, “so this self-styled vigilante won’t ruin everything, to say nothing of killing my son.”
“As surely as God lives,” he said, “not so much as a hair of your son’s head will be lost.”
12 Then she asked, “May I say one more thing to my master, the king?”
He said, “Go ahead.”
13-14 “Why, then,” the woman said, “have you done this very thing against God’s people? In his verdict, the king convicts himself by not bringing home his exiled son. We all die sometime. Water spilled on the ground can’t be gathered up again. But God does not take away life. He works out ways to get the exile back.”
18 The king then said, “I’m going to ask you something. Answer me truthfully.”
“Certainly,” she said. “Let my master, the king, speak.”
19-20 The king said, “Is the hand of Joab mixed up in this?”
“On your life, my master king, a body can’t veer an inch right or left and get by with it in the royal presence! Yes, it was your servant Joab who put me up to this, and put these very words in my mouth. It was because he wanted to turn things around that your servant Joab did this. But my master is as wise as God’s angels in knowing how to handle things on this earth.”
21 The king spoke to Joab. “All right, I’ll do it. Go and bring the young man Absalom back.”
22 Joab bowed deeply in reverence and blessed the king. “I’m reassured to know that I’m still in your good graces and have your confidence, since the king is taking the counsel of his servant.”
23-24 Joab got up, went to Geshur, and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. The king said, “He may return to his house, but he is not to see me face-to-face.” So Absalom returned home, but was not permitted to see the king.
25-27 This Absalom! There wasn’t a man in all Israel talked about so much for his handsome good looks—and not a blemish on him from head to toe! When he cut his hair—he always cut it short in the spring because it had grown so heavy—the weight of the hair from his head was over two pounds! Three sons were born to Absalom, and one daughter. Her name was Tamar—and she was a beauty.
28-31 Absalom lived in Jerusalem for two years, and not once did he see the king face-to-face. He sent for Joab to get him in to see the king, but Joab still wouldn’t budge. He tried a second time and Joab still wouldn’t. So he told his servants, “Listen. Joab’s field adjoins mine, and he has a crop of barley in it. Go set fire to it.” So Absalom’s servants set fire to the field. That got him moving—Joab came to Absalom at home and said, “Why did your servants set my field on fire?”
32 Absalom answered him, “Listen, I sent for you saying, ‘Come, and soon. I want to send you to the king to ask, “What’s the point of my coming back from Geshur? I’d be better off still there!” Let me see the king face-to-face. If he finds me guilty, then he can put me to death.’”
33 Joab went to the king and told him what was going on. Absalom was then summoned—he came and bowed deeply in reverence before him. And the king kissed Absalom.