Joab sent “a woman from Tekoa” (II Samuel 14:1b, NLT) to King David, telling her exactly what to say to him. She told him a fictitious tale about having two sons, one of whom killed the other during an argument. “Then she said, ‘Please swear to me by the Lord your God that you won’t let anyone take vengeance against my son. I want no more bloodshed’” (II Samuel 14:11a).
David gave her his words that her son wouldn’t be killed: “‘As surely as the Lord lives,’ he replied, ‘not a hair on your son’s head will be disturbed!’” (II Samuel 14:11b).
And that’s when the woman revealed the truth of her mission: “‘Why don’t you do as much for the people of God as you have promised to do for me? You have convicted yourself in making this decision, because you have refused to bring home your own banished son’” (II Samuel 14:13). In other words, do as much for your own son as you were willing to do for mine.
It’s important to note here precisely what Joab had instructed the woman to say: “I want no more bloodshed.” Joab wasn’t suggesting that Absalom’s murder of Amnon be ignored; he was simply saying that, considering Absalom had meted out punishment David should have issued for Amnon’s crime, he shouldn’t have to die for Amnon’s murder – there were less severe ways of disciplining Absalom for his actions.
So how does David respond? “‘I must know one thing,’ the king replied, ‘and tell me the truth. Did Joab put you up to this?’” (II Samuel 14:18a, 19a).
“And the woman replied, ‘Yes, Joab sent me and told me what to say. He did it to place the matter before you in a different light’” (II Samuel 14:19b, d; 20a).
“So the king sent for Joab and told him, ‘All right, go and bring back the young man Absalom’” (II Samuel 14:21).
“Then Joab went to Geshur and brought Absalom back to Jerusalem. But the king gave this order: ‘Absalom may go to his own house, but he must never come into my presence.’ So Absalom did not see the king” (II Samuel 14:23-24).
David, the man who committed adultery; the man who committed murder; the man whose crimes were worthy of death; God had given full pardon. As David himself had written, “All my guilt is gone” (Psalm 32:5c). But David didn’t extend this same forgiveness to Absalom. Note what he called him when he sent Joab to get him: “the young man,” not “my son.”
Absalom may have been brought back to Jerusalem at his own father’s instructions, but he was still in exile. An outcast. And everybody knew it.
We saw from Tamar’s rape and Amnon’s murder how quickly news – and gossip – spread. Tamar didn’t have to tell Absalom what had happened; he came to her, asking “Is it true that Amnon has been with you?” (II Samuel 13:20a). The news of Amnon’s murder even beat the rest of the king’s sons back to Jerusalem. There was no way every person living under David’s rule didn’t know Absalom was forbidden to see his own father.
Aren’t you glad God doesn’t extend partial forgiveness? This is why the Bible repeatedly warns us not to do it, either. Just one example: “Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us” (Jesus speaking, The Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:12).
I don’t want my sins partially forgiven, do you? Jesus says they’re forgiven to the same degree “as we have forgiven those who sin against us.”
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates