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David Permits Absalom to Return to Jerusalem

14 Now Joab son of Zeruiah realized that the king longed to see[a] Absalom. So Joab sent to Tekoa and brought from there a wise woman. He told her, “Pretend to be in mourning[b] and put on garments for mourning. Don’t anoint yourself with oil. Instead, act like a woman who has been mourning for the dead for some time.[c] Go to the king and speak to him in the following fashion.” Then Joab told her what to say.[d]

So the Tekoan woman went[e] to the king. She bowed down with her face to the ground in deference to him and said, “Please help me,[f] O king!” The king replied to her, “What do you want?”[g] She answered, “I am a widow; my husband is dead. Your servant[h] has two sons. When the two of them got into a fight in the field, there was no one present who could intervene. One of them struck the other and killed him. Now the entire family has risen up against your servant, saying, ‘Turn over the one who struck down his brother, so that we can execute him and avenge the death[i] of his brother whom he killed. In so doing we will also destroy the heir.’ They want to extinguish my remaining coal,[j] leaving no one on the face of the earth to carry on the name of my husband.”

Then the king told the woman, “Go to your home. I will give instructions concerning your situation.”[k] The Tekoan woman said to the king, “My lord the king, let any blame fall on me and on the house of my father. But let the king and his throne be innocent!”

10 The king said, “Bring to me whoever speaks to you, and he won’t bother you again!” 11 She replied, “In that case,[l] let the king invoke the name of[m] the Lord your God so that the avenger of blood may not add to the killing! Then they will not destroy my son!” He replied, “As surely as the Lord lives, not a single hair of your son’s head[n] will fall to the ground.”

12 Then the woman said, “Please permit your servant to speak to my lord the king about another matter.” He replied, “Tell me.” 13 The woman said, “Why have you devised something like this against God’s people? When the king speaks in this fashion, he makes himself guilty, for the king has not brought back the one he has banished. 14 Certainly we must die, and are like water spilled on the ground that cannot be gathered up again. But God does not take away life; instead he devises ways for the banished to be restored.[o] 15 I have now come to speak with my lord the king about this matter, because the people have made me fearful.[p] But your servant said, ‘I will speak to the king! Perhaps the king will do what his female servant[q] asks. 16 Yes![r] The king may[s] listen and deliver his female servant[t] from the hand of the man who seeks to remove[u] both me and my son from the inheritance God has given us!’[v] 17 So your servant said, ‘May the word of my lord the king be my security, for my lord the king is like the angel of God when it comes to deciding between right and wrong! May the Lord your God be with you!’”

18 Then the king replied to the woman, “Don’t hide any information from me when I question you.” The woman said, “Let my lord the king speak.” 19 The king said, “Did Joab put you up to all of this?”[w] The woman answered, “As surely as you live, my lord the king, there is no deviation to the right or to the left from all that my lord the king has said. For your servant Joab gave me instructions. He has put all these words in your servant’s mouth. 20 Your servant Joab did this so as to change this situation. But my lord has wisdom like that of the angel of God, and knows everything that is happening in the land.”[x]

21 Then the king said to Joab, “All right! I[y] will do this thing. Go and bring back the young man Absalom!” 22 Then Joab bowed down with his face toward the ground and thanked[z] the king. Joab said, “Today your servant knows that I have found favor in your sight, my lord the king, because the king has granted the request of your[aa] servant!”

23 So Joab got up and went to Geshur and brought Absalom back to Jerusalem. 24 But the king said, “Let him go over[ab] to his own house. He may not see my face.” So Absalom went over[ac] to his own house; he did not see the king’s face.

25 Now in all Israel everyone acknowledged that there was no man as handsome as Absalom.[ad] From the soles of his feet to the top of his head he was perfect in appearance.[ae] 26 When he would shave his head—at the end of every year he used to shave his head, for it grew too long[af] and he would shave it—he used to weigh the hair of his head at three pounds[ag] according to the king’s weight. 27 Absalom had[ah] three sons and one daughter, whose name was Tamar. She was a very attractive woman.[ai]

28 Absalom lived in Jerusalem for two years without seeing the king’s face. 29 Then Absalom sent a message to Joab asking him to send him to the king, but Joab[aj] was not willing to come to him. So he sent a second message to him, but he still was not willing to come. 30 So he said to his servants, “Look, Joab has a portion of field adjacent to mine and he has some barley there. Go and set it on fire.”[ak] So Absalom’s servants set Joab’s[al] portion of the field on fire.

31 Then Joab got up and came to Absalom’s house. He said to him, “Why did your servants set my portion of field on fire?” 32 Absalom said to Joab, “Look, I sent a message to you saying, ‘Come here so that I can send you to the king with this message:[am] “Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me if I were still there.”’ Let me now see the face of the king. If I am at fault, let him put me to death!”

33 So Joab went to the king and informed him. The king[an] summoned Absalom, and he came to the king. Absalom[ao] bowed down before the king with his face toward the ground and the king kissed him.[ap]


  1. 2 Samuel 14:1 tn Heb “the heart of the king was upon.” The Syriac Peshitta adds the verb ʾethreʿi (“was reconciled”).
  2. 2 Samuel 14:2 tn The Hebrew Hitpael verbal form here indicates pretended rather than genuine action.
  3. 2 Samuel 14:2 tn Heb “these many days.”
  4. 2 Samuel 14:3 tn Heb “put the words in her mouth” (so NASB, NIV).
  5. 2 Samuel 14:4 tc The translation follows many medieval Hebrew mss in reading וַתַּבֹא (vattavoʾ, “and she went”) rather than the MT וַתֹּאמֶר (vattoʾmer, “and she said”). The MT reading shows confusion with וַתֹּאמֶר later in the verse. The emendation suggested here is supported by the LXX, the Syriac Peshitta, some mss of the Targum, and Vulgate.
  6. 2 Samuel 14:4 tn The word “me” is left to be inferred in the Hebrew text; it is present in the Syriac Peshitta and Vulgate.
  7. 2 Samuel 14:5 tn Heb “What to you?”
  8. 2 Samuel 14:6 tn Here and elsewhere (vv. 7, 12, 15a, 17, 19) the woman uses a term which suggests a lower level female servant. She uses the term to express her humility before the king. However, she uses a different term in vv. 15b-16. See the note at v. 15 for a discussion of the rhetorical purpose of this switch in terminology.
  9. 2 Samuel 14:7 tn Heb “in exchange for the life.” The Hebrew preposition ב (bet, “in”) here is the so-called bet pretii, or bet (ב) of price, defining the value attached to someone or something.
  10. 2 Samuel 14:7 sn My remaining coal is here metaphorical language, describing the one remaining son as her only source of lingering hope for continuing the family line.
  11. 2 Samuel 14:8 tn Heb “concerning you.”
  12. 2 Samuel 14:11 tn The words “in that case” are not in the Hebrew text, but may be inferred from the context. They are supplied in the translation for the sake of clarification.
  13. 2 Samuel 14:11 tn Heb “let the king remember.”
  14. 2 Samuel 14:11 tn Heb “of your son.”
  15. 2 Samuel 14:14 tn Heb “he devises plans for the one banished from him not to be banished.”
  16. 2 Samuel 14:15 tc The LXX (ὄψεταί με, opsetai me) has misunderstood the Hebrew יֵרְאֻנִי (yereʾuni, Piel perfect, “they have made me fearful”), taking the verb to be a form of the verb רָאָה (raʾah, “to see”) rather than the verb יָרֵא (yareʾ, “to fear”). The fact that the Greek translators were working with an unvocalized Hebrew text (i.e., consonants only) made them very susceptible to this type of error.
  17. 2 Samuel 14:15 tn Here and in v. 16 the woman refers to herself as the king’s אָמָה (ʾamah), a term that refers to a higher level female servant toward whom the master might have some obligation. Like the other term, this word expresses her humility, but it also suggests that the king might have some obligation to treat her in accordance with the principles of justice.
  18. 2 Samuel 14:16 tn Or “for.”
  19. 2 Samuel 14:16 tn Or “will.” The imperfect verbal form can have either an indicative or modal nuance. The use of “perhaps” in v. 15b suggests the latter here.
  20. 2 Samuel 14:16 tn Heb “in order to deliver his maid.”
  21. 2 Samuel 14:16 tn Heb “destroy.”
  22. 2 Samuel 14:16 tn Heb “from the inheritance of God.” The expression refers to the property that was granted to her family line in the division of the land authorized by God.
  23. 2 Samuel 14:19 tn Heb “Is the hand of Joab with you in all this?”
  24. 2 Samuel 14:20 tn Heb “to know all that is in the land.”
  25. 2 Samuel 14:21 tc Many medieval Hebrew mss have “you” rather than “I.”
  26. 2 Samuel 14:22 tn Heb “blessed.”
  27. 2 Samuel 14:22 tc The present translation reads with the Qere “your” rather than the MT “his.”
  28. 2 Samuel 14:24 tn Heb “turn aside.”
  29. 2 Samuel 14:24 tn Heb “turned aside.”
  30. 2 Samuel 14:25 tn Heb “Like Absalom there was not a handsome man in all Israel to boast exceedingly.”
  31. 2 Samuel 14:25 tn Heb “there was not in him a blemish.”
  32. 2 Samuel 14:26 tn Heb “for it was heavy upon him.”
  33. 2 Samuel 14:26 tn Heb “two hundred shekels.” The modern equivalent would be about three pounds (1.4 kg).
  34. 2 Samuel 14:27 tn Heb “and there were born.”
  35. 2 Samuel 14:27 tc The LXX adds here the following words: “And she became a wife to Rehoboam the son of Solomon and bore to him Abia.”
  36. 2 Samuel 14:29 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Joab) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  37. 2 Samuel 14:30 tc The LXX adds here the following words: “And the servants of Absalom burned them up. And the servants of Joab came to him, rending their garments. They said….”
  38. 2 Samuel 14:30 tn The word “Joab’s” is not in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.
  39. 2 Samuel 14:32 tn Heb “saying.”
  40. 2 Samuel 14:33 tn Heb “he.” Joab, acting on behalf of the king, may be the implied subject.
  41. 2 Samuel 14:33 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Absalom) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  42. 2 Samuel 14:33 tn Heb “Absalom.” For stylistic reasons the name has been replaced by the pronoun (“him”) in the translation.