2 Samuel 14
by Pastor David Groendyk
Another case of sexual sin, another tragic murder, and another parable meant to teach David a lesson. Stop me if this sounds familiar. The prophet Nathan had been sent to David earlier in order to teach him a lesson through a parable to point out his sin, and it looks as though the same thing is happening again. However, if we take a closer look, something is just a little twisted about this episode.
It’s a little difficult to understand the emotions of David in 13:39–14:1. The Hebrew is tricky, and you might have a footnote or two in your Bible with alternate translations for these verses, but it’s likely that they’re saying, as Ralph Davis says, that “David had little enthusiasm for Absalom’s return from exile” rather than that David deeply cared for Absalom. Absalom had been in a self-imposed exile, and David was fine with that. Joab, however, was not, so he devised a plan for the woman of Tekoa to teach David a lesson.
On the face of it, the woman of Tekoa seems to be teaching David the biblical principle of forgiveness, mercy, and bringing in the outcast, which is something God himself does (v. 14). That seems noble and godly, right? The problem is that Absalom has nowhere shown any sign of regret or repentance over his murdering Amnon. This is not a case of the prodigal son returning home to his father, but rather more like Cain killing Abel and then showing zero remorse when God confronted him. Justice should’ve been the proper response here instead of mercy. Take a closer look at the woman’s story of her two sons and notice the differences between her story and Absalom’s. The woman’s two sons fight, and murder is committed in the heat of the moment, whereas Absalom schemed and plotted for two years to find a way to kill Amnon. The woman’s son had no intent to kill, but Absalom did, and that difference is crucial. Numbers 35:9–34 offers mercy and refuge for the former, but it demands justice and vengeance for the latter. Now we can see that this episode is very much the opposite of 2 Samuel 12. Nathan had provoked David to see his sin, mourn, and repent; Joab and the Tekoan woman are manipulating David to overlook Absalom’s sin and ignore God’s law.
We’re continuing to see the fruits of David’s sin with Bathsheba as Nathan had said would happen (12:10–11). David’s folly in this case will give his wicked, rebellious son the occasion he needs to stage a coup and make a play for the throne. More tragedy for David and his family. In fact, Absalom is being set up as another Saul figure. Notice verses 25–27. They feel quite out of place in a chapter like this, and yet they quite importantly tell us how Absalom began stealing the hearts of the men of Israel (15:6). He was a worldly man winning a crowd by worldly means, and his rebellion actually succeeds for a brief period. Here’s lesson number one from this chapter: be forewarned that your sin will lead to misery. As good and attractive and beneficial as sin might look, don’t be seduced by it. The misery might not come immediately, and it might not even come at all in this life, but in the end sin always leads to tragic consequences.
Here’s lesson number two: true forgiveness, mercy, and reconciliation cannot be given to anyone without repentance. David got caught in limbo, neither demanding repentance from Absalom and thus forgiving him nor truly condemning him for his sin. Absalom remained lukewarm, and David simply overlooked his sin for the sake of keeping the family together. What happens next? Absalom’s wickedness runs rampant throughout Israel, and the kingdom is nearly ruined. Sin cannot go unrepented of. It’s not enough to simply “forget the past” or “let bygones be bygones.” That mindset will lead to more harm than good, because it allows sin to fester and not be dealt with. The Lord is seeking, like David himself confessed in Psalm 51 after his own sin with Bathsheba, a broken spirit and a broken and contrite heart. True brokenness and humility is what leads to cleansing, restoration, and joy. Let us all be bold enough to seek true repentance so that in the end we can find true grace from God.