Keil and Delitzsch
Amnon’s Incest. – 2Sa_13:1-14. The following occurrences are assigned in a general manner to the times succeeding the Ammonitish war, by the words “And it came to pass after this;” and as David did not marry Maacah the mother of Absalom and Tamar till after he had been made king at Hebron (see 2Sa_3:3), they cannot well have taken place before the twentieth year of his reign.
Amnon, the eldest son of David by Ahinoam the Jezreelite (2Sa_3:2), loved Tamar, the beautiful sister of his step-brother Absalom, so passionately that he became ill in consequence, because he could not get near to her as she was a virgin. 2Sa_13:1 and 2Sa_13:2 form one period. וַיֵּצֶר is a continuation of אַהֲרֵי־כֵן וַיְהִי; and the words from וּאַבְשָׁלֹום to בֶּן־דָּוִד are a circumstantial clause. וַיֵּצֶר: literally “it became narrow (anxious) to Amnon, even to making himself ill,” i.e., he quite pined away, not “he pretended to be ill” (Luther), for it was not till afterwards that he did this according to Jonadab’s advice (2Sa_13:5). הִתְהַלֹּות: to make one’s self ill, here to become ill, in 2Sa_13:5 to pretend to be ill.
The clause הִיא בְתוּלָה כִּי is to be joined to the one which follows: “because she was a virgin, and it seemed impossible to him to do anything to her.” The maidenly modesty of Tamar evidently raised an insuperable barrier to the gratification of his lusts.
The history here, down to the end of 2 Sam. 23 (excepting a few particulars), is omitted in the Book of Chronicles.
2Sa 13:1 And it came to pass after this,…. After the sin of David with Bathsheba, his repentance for it, and pardon of it, and the birth of Solomon as a token of reconciliation; yet after all this the divine threatenings must take place; they had begun already in the death of the child begotten in adultery, and others here follow:
that Absalom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; she was his sister both by father and mother’s side; the mother o, f them was Maacah, the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; she was a very comely person, her name signifies a palm tree:
and Amnon the son of David loved her; not in an honourable way, to make her his wife, but in a lustful manner, to make an harlot of her; he was David’s eldest son by Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, 2Sa_3:2.
2Sa 13:2 Her. He had seen her on some solemn occasions, when virgins were allowed to go out, well attended. At other times they were so strictly guarded, that Amnon thought it almost impossible to gratify his passion, (Calmet) which made him grow pale. He afterwards feigned himself to be more sickly than he really was, ver. 6. (Haydock)
2Sa 13:2 And Amnon was so vexed,…. Distressed, straitened, and perplexed in his mind through unruly and unbridled lusts that raged in him:
that he fell sick for his sister Tamar; as Antiochus son of Seleucus did for his mother in law Stratonice, who, to cure him of it, was delivered to him by his father (s):
for she was a virgin; and so kept very recluse from the company of men, that he could not come at her; so Philo (t), speaking of the Jewish women, and particularly virgins, says, that they were shut up in their chambers, and through modesty shun the sight of men, even those of their own house; hence they are called עלמות, from a word which signifies to hide; and Phocylides (u) the poet advises to the shutting of them up in like manner:
and Amnon thought it hard for him to do anything to her; that it was difficult to have access to her, almost impossible, what he despaired of, and what, if attained to, would be wonderful and amazing; he was at his wits’ end how to contrive any scheme to get at her, and obtain his desire.
(s) See the Universal History, vol. 3. p. 519. Ed. fol. (t) In Flaccum, p. 977. (u) Poem. admon. v. 203, 204.
Shimeah – Called Shamma (marginal reference), was Jesse’s third son.
Subtil – literally, wise. The word is generally used in a good sense, but here, and in Job_5:13, it means crafty.
2Sa 13:3 But Amnon had a friend,…. Though in the issue his friendship proved his ruin:
whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David’s brother; so that they were own cousins, the same with Shammah, 1Sa_16:9,
and Jonadab was a very subtle man; a very penetrating man into the dispositions of men, and could judge by their countenances what they were, and the affections of their minds, and had a talent in forming schemes; he was wise to do evil and was wickedly cunning.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
my brother Absalom’s sister — In Eastern countries, where polygamy prevails, the girls are considered to be under the special care and protection of their uterine brother, who is the guardian of their interests and their honor, even more than their father himself (see on Gen_34:6-25).
2Sa 13:4 And he said unto him, why art thou, being the king’s son,
lean from day today?…. Or “morning by morning”, (w); he was the king’s eldest son, heir to the crown, fed at his table, had everything to make him gay and cheerful, and yet pined away; his flesh wasted (x), his countenance waxed wan and pale, and especially in the mornings; in the daytime he met with diversions which, in some measure, took off his thoughts from the object his mind was impressed with, but in the night season they were continually employed about it; so that he could have no rest and sleep, which made him look ruefully in the morning; and this man had a suspicion of his case, and therefore put this and the following question to him:
wilt thou not tell me? who am so nearly related to thee, and who have such a particular value and affection for thee:
and Amnon said unto him, I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister; he does not call her his sister, but Absalom’s sister, to lessen his sin of unlawful love to her, which, being thus closely pressed, and by a friend, he could not conceal.
בבקר בבקר, “in mane in mane”, Montanus. (x) “Fecit amor maciem —–“. Ovid Metamorph. l. 11. Fab. 11. v. 793.
Keil and Delitzsch
“Why art thou so wasting away (דַּל, thin, spare, here equivalent to wasting away, looking miserable), king’s son, from morning to morning?” i.e., day by day. “The morning” is mentioned because sick persons look worst in the morning.
The advice given in 2Sa_13:5, – viz., “Lay thee down upon thy bed, and pretend to be ill; and when thy father comes to visit thee, say to him, May my sister Tamar come to me, and give me to eat?” etc., – was very craftily devised, as Amnon’s wretched appearance would favour his pretence that he was ill, and it might be hoped that an affectionate father would gratify him, since even if the wish seemed a strange one, it might easily be accounted for from the marvellous desires of persons who are ill, particularly with regard to food-desires which it is often very difficulty to gratify.
2Sa 13:10 And Amnon said unto Tamar, bring the meat into the chamber,…. An inner chamber, at a greater distance, where they might be more secret, and out of the reach of the hearing of any of his domestics:
that I may eat of thine hand; this he pretended, though his design was of another kind:
and Tamar took the cakes which she had made, and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother; being quite innocent herself, and having no suspicion of a brother having any ill design upon her, she made no scruple of going into an inner chamber alone with him.
2Sa 13:11 And when she had brought them unto him to eat,…. Not only into the chamber, but to the side of the bed or couch where he had laid himself, or sat, in a proper position to answer his purpose:
he took hold of her; by the arm, or threw his hands about her:
and said unto her, come, lie with me, my sister; one would think the relation he observes she stood in to him would have checked him from making so vile a motion.
2Sa 13:12 Folly, or impiety, so directly contrary to the law, Leviticus xviii. 6. and 9. and 11. (Haydock)
2Sa 13:12 And she answered him, nay, my brother,…. Which carried in it a reason sufficient for her denial, that he was her brother, and she his sister, and therefore should not offer such an indignity to her:
do not force me; which was another forbidding expression, signifying she would never freely yield to his will; and to force her, to defile her against her will, to commit a rape upon her, would be very criminal indeed:
for no such thing ought to be done in Israel; among God’s professing people, who were better taught and instructed; and to give into such impure practices would bring a dishonour upon them, and upon the religion they professed; she urges the honour of religion, and the reputation of Israel, and the glory of the God of Israel:
do not thou this folly: as all sin is, especially such an impure and indecent action as this.
Keil and Delitzsch
Tamar attempted to escape by pointing to the wickedness of such a desire: “Pray, do not, my brother, do not humble me; for they do not such things in Israel: do not this folly.” The words recall Gen_34:7, where the expression “folly” (nebalah) is first used to denote a want of chastity. Such a sin was altogether out of keeping with the calling and holiness of Israel (vid., Lev_20:8.). “And I, whither should I carry my shame?” i.e., shame and contempt would meet me everywhere. “And thou wouldst be as one of the fools in Israel.” We should both of us reap nothing but shame from it.
What Tamar still further said, “Now therefore, I pray thee, speak to the king, for he will not refuse me to thee,” is no doubt at variance with the law which prohibits marriage between step-brothers and sisters (Lev_18:9, Lev_18:11; Lev_20:17); but it by no means proves that the laws of Leviticus were not in existence at the time, nor does it even presuppose that Tamar was ignorant of any such law. She simply said this, as Clericus observes, “that she might escape from his hands by any means in her power, and to avoid inflaming him still more and driving him to sin by precluding all hope of marriage.”
(Note: Josephus adopts this explanation: “This she said, as desirous to avoid her brother’s violent passion at present” (Ant. viii. 8, 1).)
We cannot therefore even infer from these words of hers, that she really thought the king could grant a dispensation from the existing hindrances to their marriage.
2Sa 13:13 And I, whither shall I cause my shame to go?…. She desires him to consider hey reputation, which would be lost; was she to go into a corner, into a place the most private and retired, yet she would blush at the thought of the crime committed; and still less able would she be to lift up her face in any public company; nor could she ever expect to be admitted into the matrimonial state; in short, her character would be entirely ruined:
and as for thee, thou shalt be as one of the fools in Israel; as the vilest and basest and most abandoned in the nation; who ought of all men to be most careful of his reputation, being a prince in Israel, and heir apparent to the throne:
now therefore, I pray thee, speak unto the king: to give me to thee in marriage:
for he will not withhold me from thee; this she said, either as ignorant of the law, which forbids such marriages, or as supposing the king had a power to dispense with it, and, rather than he should die for love, would; though she seems to say this, and anything that occurred to her mind, to put him off of his wicked design for the present, holding then she should be delivered from him; besides, she was not his sister by the mother’s side, and, as the Jews say, was born of a captive woman before she was proselyted and married to David, and so was free for Amnon (z); and others say (a) she was the daughter of Maacah by a former husband, and not by David.
(z) Maimon. Hilchot Melacim, c. 8. sect. 8. Kimchi in 2 Sam. xiii. 1. (a) R. Moses Kotzensis, pr. affirm. 122.
2Sa 13:14 Howbeit, he would not hearken unto her voice,…. His lust was so inflamed and enraged, that he could not attend to any arguments, though ever so forcible, that were offered to him:
but being stronger than she, forced her, and lay with her; whether she cried out or not, as the law directs in such cases, Deu_22:25; is not said; she might, and nobody hear her and come to her assistance; or she might not choose to expose her brother to his servants.
Keil and Delitzsch
Amnon had no sooner gratified his animal passion, than his love to the humbled sister turned into hatred, which was even greater than his (previous) love, so that he commanded her to get up and go. This sudden change, which may be fully explained from a psychological point of view, and is frequently exemplified still in actual life, furnishes a striking proof that lust is not love, but simply the gratification of the animal passions.
2Sa 13:15 Then Amnon hated her exceedingly,…. Having gratified his lust, his conscience stung him for it, that he could not bear the sight of the object that had been the instrument of it; and it may be the sharp words she had used, representing him as one of the fools in Israel, and perhaps she used sharper words still after he had abused her, filled him with hatred to her:
so that the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her; a like instance of love being changed into hatred, after the gratification of lust, we have in Honorius towards his sister Placidia (b):
and Amnon said unto her, arise, be gone; without calling her by her name, or owning the relation she bore to him, using her as the basest and vilest of creatures. This conduct was very brutish, as well as imprudent, and foolish to the last degree; had he had any regard to his own reputation, he would never have turned her out of doors so soon, and in such a public manner; but so it was ordered by divine Providence, that his sin might be made known, and so the murder of him for it by Absalom was brought on, and both were suffered as a correction and chastisement to David for his sins of adultery and murder, 2Sa_12:11.
(b) Olympiodorus apud Grotium in loc.
2Sa 13:20 And Absalom her brother said unto her,…. Either meeting her in the street, or rather when come to his house:
hath Amnon thy brother been with thee? been rude with thee, and lain with thee, which is the meaning of this modest expression; which he guessed at, having heard of her being sent to his house, and knowing his lustful disposition, and seeing her in such a forlorn condition: he calls him Aminon, for so it is in the Hebrew text, and not Amnon, by way of contempt, as Kimchi observes:
but hold now thy peace, my sister; be silent, take no notice of this matter, say nothing of it to the king, nor any other, keep it in thine own breast, and make thyself easy:
he is thy brother, regard not this thing; it is thy brother that has done it, and not so disgraceful as a meaner person, done in the heat of lust, and a youthful one, and should be forgiven; besides, to divulge it would bring disgrace upon the whole family, and no recompence would be obtained by telling the king of it, since he was his son, his firstborn, and heir to the crown; this he said not out of love of Amnon, but as desirous of gratifying private revenge upon him for it when opportunity should serve.
So Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom’s house; not seeing any company, being filled with grief and shame, and none applying to her as a suitor, knowing she was vitiated; how long she continued here, or lived after this, is not certain; no mention is made of her afterwards.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Tamar put ashes on her head, and rent her garment of divers colours … laid her hand on her head, and went on crying — that is, sobbing. Oriental manners would probably see nothing beyond a strong sense of the injury she had sustained, if Tamar actually rent her garments. But, as her veil is not mentioned, it is probable that Amnon had turned her out of doors without it, and she raised her hand with the design to conceal her face. By these signs, especially the rending of her distinguishing robe, Absalom at once conjectured what had taken place. Recommending her to be silent about it and not publish her own and her family’s dishonor, he gave no inkling of his angry feelings to Amnon. But all the while he was in secret “nursing his wrath to keep it warm,” and only “biding his time” to avenge his sister’s wrongs, and by the removal of the heir-apparent perhaps further also his ambitious designs.
So Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom’s house — He was her natural protector, and the children of polygamists lived by themselves, as if they constituted different families.
2Sa 13:21 But when King David heard of all these things,…. Of Amnon’s ravishing Tamar, and turning her out of doors in that inhuman manner he did, and of her distress upon it:
he was very wroth; with Amnon; but we read not of any reproof he gave him, nor of any punishment inflicted on him by him. Abarbinel thinks the reason why he was not punished was because his sin was not cognizable by a court of judicature, nor was punishable by any way, or with any kind of death inflicted by the sanhedrim, as stoning, burning, &c. nor even by scourging, because there were no witnesses; but the punishment of it was cutting off, i.e. by the hand of God. The Jews say (e) a law was made on this, that virgins or unmarried persons should not be alone; for if this was done to the daughter of a king, much more might it be done to the daughter of a private man; and if to a modest person, much more to an impudent one.
(e) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 21. 1.
The Septuagint adds, what is a good explanation, “but he did not vex the spirit of Amnon his son, because he loved him, because he was his first-born.” This want of justice in David’s conduct, and favoritism to Amnon, probably rankled in Absalom’s heart, and was the first seed of his after rebellion.
2Sa 13:22 And Absalom spake unto his brother Amnon neither good nor bad,…. That is, said nothing at all to him about the rape of his sister; not that he was sulky with him, and would not converse with him at all; for then Amnon would have mistrusted that he was meditating revenge, and therefore would have been upon his guard; but on the contrary he talked freely, and in appearance friendly, on other things, the better to conceal his hatred of him, and his design to avenge the injury of his sister:
for Absalom hated Amnon; or, “though” (f) he hated him, yet he behaved in this manner towards him:
because he had forced his sister Tamar: who was so by father and mother’s side, and so near and dear unto him, and therefore resented the injury done her.
(f) כי, “quamvis”, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Pool, & Patrick.
2Sa 13:23 And it came to pass after two full years,…. Two complete years after the rape was committed; so long Absalom kept it in his mind, and was contriving how to avenge it; he let it alone so long, that it might be thought by the king and Amnon, and all the family, that it was quite worn out of his mind, and entirely forgotten by him, and therefore might the more safely confide in him:
that Absalom had sheepshearers in Baalhazor, which is beside Ephraim; though a prince, the son of a king, he had his flocks, and attended to the care of them, and had shearers to shear them at the proper time of the year, which it now was. The Chinese shear their sheep three times a year, the spring, summer, and autumn; but the first time of shearing yields the best wool (g). The place of shearing them was, no doubt, near where they were kept in Baalhazor, in the plain of Hazor, as the Targum, and so some versions; which was a city in the tribe of Judah, Jos_15:25; and near to Ephraim; not that it was a city in the tribe of Ephraim, as Josephus says (h); but it was near to another city called Ephraim, perhaps the same as in 2Ch_13:19 and in Joh_11:54; it lay to the northeast of Jerusalem, as you go to Jericho, and is thought by Reland (i) to lie between Bethel and Jericho; and, according to Eusebius (k), it was eight miles from Jerusalem; though Jerom (l), through mistake, says twenty; and both these places, according to Bunting (m), were eight miles from Jerusalem; it seems to be the same place that was spoken of in the Misnah (n), called Ephraim in the valley, and which is said to be the second place in the land of Israel for fine flour, and might have its name from its fruitfulness:
and Absalom invited all the king’s sons; to the sheepshearing: that is, to the feast which was usually made at such times, and still is; see Gen_38:12.
(g) Semedo’s History of China, part 1. ch. 3. (h) Antiqu. l. 7. c. 8. sect. 2. (i) Palestina Illustrat. tom. 1. p. 377. (k) Apud Reland, ib. & p. 490. & tom. 2. p. 765. (l) De loc. Heb. fol. 91. A. (m) Travels, &c. p. 143, 363. (n) Menachot, c. 8. sect. l.
2Sa 13:23 Two. Hebrew, “full years.” He waited so long, that he might put his murderous designs in execution with less suspicion. (Haydock) —
Sheep. It was esteemed the best husbandry, “to have fine flocks;” bene pascere: (Cato) even for the nobility. —
Ephraim, or Ephrem; (John xi. 54.) probably near Bethel. (Josephus, Jewish Wars v. 33.) (Calmet) —
Nabal had made a feast on a similar occasion, 1 Kings xxv. Absalom invites his father to avoid suspicion; (Menochius) though he would be glad at his refusing to come, unless perhaps he would not have hesitated to order his brother to be murdered in his very presence, in order to punish both. (Haydock)
2Sa 13:27 But Absalom pressed him,…. Which one would think would have increased his suspicion, if he had any, or have raised it in him; but his mind was blinded, that Amnon’s incest might be punished and the threatening to David and his house be fulfilled on account of the affair of Uriah and Bathsheba:
that he let Amnon and all the king’s sons go with him; if he had any suspicion at all, he might choose they should all go, that they might protect and defend him, if any attempt was made upon him; or, as others think, that no exceptions might be taken, as might be, if Amnon had gone alone.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Absalom had commanded his servants, saying … when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine … kill him, fear not — On a preconcerted signal from their master, the servants, rushing upon Amnon, slew him at the table, while the rest of the brothers, horror-struck, and apprehending a general massacre, fled in affrighted haste to Jerusalem.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
every man gat him up upon his mule — This had become the favorite equipage of the great. King David himself had a state mule (1Ki_1:33). The Syrian mules are, in activity, strength, and capabilities, still far superior to ours.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Absalom fled, and went to Talmai — The law as to premeditated murder (Num_35:21) gave him no hope of remaining with impunity in his own country. The cities of refuge could afford him no sanctuary, and he was compelled to leave the kingdom, taking refuge at the court of Geshur, with his maternal grandfather, who would, doubtless, approve of his conduct.
2Sa 13:38 So Absalom fled,…. This is the third time it is mentioned, and the reason of it here Abarbinel thinks is, that when he first fled to his grandfather, he used to stand openly in the court of his palace, and go with him wherever he went from place to place; but when he understood that his father mourned so for the death of Amnon, he was afraid he would send some person to lay hold on him, and take vengeance on him; and therefore he would go no more with the king from place to place, but went and abode in Geshur always, which was a fortified city, as it follows:
and went to Geshur, and was there three years: and never went out of it, until he was fetched by Joab, as 2Sa_14:23 relates; nor is there anything in 2Sa_13:37 disturbed and mutilated, as Spinosa (r) intimates, but the whole is very expressive and emphatic.
(r) Tractat. Theolog. Politic. c. 9. p. 176.
2Sa 13:39 And the soul of King David longed to go forth unto Absalom,…. In like manner it is supplied and paraphrased in the Targum, because the word rendered “longed” is feminine; though it may be used to denote the effeminateness of David’s disposition and carriage on this occasion. Aben Ezra thinks the word “wife”, should be supplied, and then the sense is, that the wife of King David, the mother of Absalom, made supplication to him to send forth one of the young men to fetch Absalom, and that by her importunity to him she stirred up a longing desire in David after him.
Abarbinel observes, from another writer of theirs, that all the three years David was mourning for his son, he went out continually to seek to take vengeance on Absalom; but after that time, the mother of Absalom, or Tamar his sister, or his daughter, was importunate with the king, and restrained him from going forth to seek vengeance on Absalom; and when he was comforted concerning Amnon, that woman found means to restrain him from going out, and he restrained his servants from going forth against Absalom; and so he observes the word is used for withholding or restraining in Psa_40:10; and this agrees with several ancient versions, as the Vulgate Latin,”King David ceased to persecute Absalom;”and the Septuagint,”King David ceased to go out to Absalom;”and the Syriac version,”and King David abstained from going out after Absalom:”
for he was comforted concerning Amnon, seeing he was dead; and could not be brought back from the grave, though Absalom might be from his exile, to which he had an inclination; but he knew not how to do it, consistent with justice and his own honour.
Keil and Delitzsch
“And it (this) held king David back from going out to Absalom, for he comforted himself concerning Amnon, because he was dead.” In adopting this translation of the difficult clause with which the verse commences, we take וַתְּכַל in the sense of כָּלָא, as the verbs כלה and כלא frequently exchange their forms; we also take the third pers. fem. as the neuter impersonal, so that the subject is left indefinite, and is to be gathered from the context. Absalom’s flight to Geshur, and his stay there, were what chiefly prevented David from going out to Absalom. Moreover, David’s grief on account of Amnon’s death gradually diminished as time rolled on. אֶל־אבש צֵאת is used in a hostile sense, as in Deu_28:7, to go out and punish him for his wickedness. The כִּי before נִחַם might also be rendered “but,” as after a negative clause, as the principal sentence implies a negation: “He did not go out against Absalom, but comforted himself.” There is not only no grammatical difficulty in the way of this explanation of the verse, but it also suits the context, both before and after. All the other explanations proposed are either at variance with the rules of the language, or contain an unsuitable thought.
The old Jewish interpretation (adopted in the Chaldee version, and also by the Rabbins), viz., David longed (his soul pined) to go out to Absalom (i.e., to see or visit him), is opposed, as Gusset has shown (in his Lex. pp. 731-2), to the conduct of David towards Absalom as described in 2 Samuel 14, – namely, that after Joab had succeeded by craft in bringing him back to Jerusalem, David would not allow him to come into his presence for two whole years (2Sa_14:24, 2Sa_14:28).
Luther’s rendering, “and king David left off going out against Absalom,” is not only precluded by the feminine תְּכַל, but also by the fact that nothing has been said about any pursuit of Absalom on the part of David. Other attempts at emendations there is no need whatever to refute.
2Sa 14:24 And the king said,…. Very probably to Joab, when he informed him of Absalom’s being come to Jerusalem:
let him turn to his own house; depart from the king’s palace, where Joab had brought him, and go to his own house, which was in Jerusalem; for here he had one before he fled to Geshur; see 2Sa_13:20,
and let him not see my face; which he ordered, partly to show his detestation of the crime he had been guilty of, and some remaining resentment in his mind at him on account of it; and partly for his credit among some of the people at least, who might think it was a crime so great as not to go unpunished, though others were of a different mind; and also for the greater humiliation of Absalom, who, the king might think, had not been sufficiently humbled for his sin, or had not truly repented of it:
so Absalom returned to his own house, and saw not the king’s face; in obedience to his father’s orders.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
So Absalom dwelt two full years in Jerusalem, and saw not the king’s face — Whatever error David committed in authorizing the recall of Absalom, he displayed great prudence and command over his feelings afterwards – for his son was not admitted into his father’s presence but was confined to his own house and the society of his own family. This slight severity was designed to bring him to sincere repentance, on perceiving that his father had not fully pardoned him, as well as to convince the people of David’s abhorrence of his crime. Not being allowed to appear at court, or to adopt any state, the courtiers kept aloof; even his cousin did not deem it prudent to go into his society. For two full years his liberty was more restricted, and his life more apart from his countrymen while living in Jerusalem, than in Geshur; and he might have continued in this disgrace longer, had he not, by a violent expedient, determined (2Sa_14:30) to force his case on the attention of Joab, through whose kind and powerful influence a full reconciliation was effected between him and his father.
2Sa 14:29 To him. Joab, like a crafty courtier, would neither disoblige the king nor the prince, and therefore wished not to meddle in this affair; as he might either excite the suspicions of the own, or the resentment of the other. (Calmet)
John Gill 2Sa 14:30
Therefore he said unto his servants,…. That did his business for him in the field, in keeping his flocks, and tilling his ground:
see Joab’s field is near mine: for great personages in those days attended to husbandry:
and he hath barley there, go and set it on fire; it being ripe, and so capable of being fired, and therefore must be some time in March or April, when barley harvest began; he served Joab as Samson did the Philistines, Jdg_15:4; which shows him to be a bold, and revengeful, and ungrateful man, to use his friend, and the general of the king’s army, after this manner:
and Absalom’s servants set the field on fire; as their master had bid them, and which is no wonder; for as they murdered Ammon at his command, they would not stop at burning Joab’s field, when he bid them do it; see 2Sa_13:28.
John Gill 2Sa 14:31
Then Joab arose, and came to Absalom unto his house,…. Provoked at what he had done, and to know the reason of it; and which was answering Absalom’s end:
and said unto him, wherefore have thy servants set my field on fire? which was not only injurious to his property, but a malicious action.
John Gill 2Sa
14:32 And Absalom answered Joab,…. Neither denying the fact, nor being ashamed of it, nor asking pardon for it; but endeavouring to vindicate it, by giving a reason as he thought sufficient for it:
behold, I sent unto thee, saying, come hither, that I may send thee to the king; which was assuming great authority over a person in such an high office as Joab was; had he been king, he could not have used more, to send for him, and command his attendance, and send him on what errand he thought fit, as here:
to say, wherefore am I come from Geshur? why did the king send for me? why did not he let me alone where I was? to what purpose am I brought hither, since I am not admitted to court?
it had been good for me to have been there still; and better, where he lived in a king’s court, and had honour and respect shown him, suitable to his rank; and where he had his liberty, and could go where he pleased; and where this mark of his father’s displeasure, not suffering him to see his face, would not be so manifest as here, and so less disgraceful to him:
now therefore let me see the king’s face; that is, speak to the king, and intercede for me, that I may see his face; which he was so importunate for, not from affection to the king; but that being at court, he might be able to ingratiate himself among the courtiers and others, and carry the point which his ambition prompted him to, supplant the king, and seize the crown:
and if there be any iniquity in me, let him kill me; signifying he chose to die, rather than to live such a life he did: but of being put to death he was not much afraid; presuming partly upon his innocence, thinking that the killing of his brother was no crime, because he was the aggressor, had ravished his sister, and for it ought to die; and since justice was delayed, and not done him, he had committed no iniquity in putting him to death; and partly on his father’s affection to him, which he was sensible of; at least he had reason to believe he would not now put him to death; for had he designed that, he would have ordered it before now, since he had had him so long in his hands.
Keil and Delitzsch 2Sa_14:31-33 When Joab came to Absalom’s house in consequence of this, and complained of it, Absalom said to him, “See, I have sent to thee, to say to thee, Come hither, and I will send thee to the king, to say to him, Wherefore have I come from Geshur? it were better for me that I were there still: and now I will see the king’s face; and if there is any iniquity in me, let him put me to death.” This half forgiving was really worse than no forgiveness at all.
Absalom might indeed very properly desire to be punished according to the law, if the king could not or might not forgive him; although the manner in which he sought to obtain forgiveness by force manifested an evident spirit of defiance, by which, with the well-known mildness of David’s temper, he hoped to attain his object, and in fact did attain it. For (2Sa_14:33) when Joab went to the king, and announced this to him, the king sent for Absalom, and kissed him, as a sign of his restoration to favour.
Nothing was said by Absalom about forgiveness; for his falling down before the king when he came into his presence, was nothing more than the ordinary manifestation of reverence with which a subject in the East approaches his king.
Before him. Romulus instituted the 300 guards, whom he called Celeres, for the like purpose. (Calmet) —
Absalom’s ambition could not wait patiently for the death of his father, who was not yet sixty years old, and had been first anointed forty years before, ver. 7. He looked upon himself as the heir apparent, Amnon being now slain, and Cheliab (or Daniel) either dead, as it is thought, or unfit for government, while Solomon was only eight years old. (Salien) —
The quality of his mother, and his own personal qualifications, made him despise his brethren, and he began to assume the equipage of a king. (Calmet) —
David considered this as only the effect of juvenile vanity, and he had not a mind to irritate him, without the utmost necessity. (Salien) —
Hebrew, “Absalom prepared for himself a chariot, (Protestants, chariots) and horses,” &c. (Haydock) —
It is not certain whether he had any other horsemen but those who mounted the chariots. Horses were then very scarce in Israel. (Calmet) —
Adonias afterwards imitated his brother’s ambition, during his father’s life; (3 Kings i. 5.) so that evil was continually raised up against David, out of his own house, chap. xii. 11.
And it came to pass after this,…. After the reconciliation of David and Absalom, and the latter was admitted to court again:
that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses; to make himself look grand and respectable among the people; perhaps he got these from his grandfather at Geshur in Syria:
and fifty men to run before him; which added to his pomp and magnificence; and such great personages in later time have had; Nero the Roman emperor never went on a journey with less than a thousand calashes or chariots, and a great number of men that ran before him (c): and this was tacitly setting himself up for king, at least preparing for it, as Adonijah afterwards did in the same way and manner, 1Ki_1:5.
(c) Suetonius in Vit. Neron. c. 30. Vid. Senecae, Ep. 87. & 123.
And Absalom rose up early,…. Every morning, to show how diligent and industrious he should be, and closely apply himself to business, was he in any office trader the king, and especially when he should be king himself; this he did to ingratiate himself into the affections of the people:
and stood beside the way of the gate; either of the king’s palace, so Josephus (d), or of the city, where courts of judicature are held: the former seems most probable by what follows:
and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment; that had a controversy with another man on any account, and came to the king to have it decided according to law, or the rules of justice and equity:
then Absalom called unto him, and said, of what city art thou? which question he asked, only to lead on to some further discourse:
and he said, thy servant is of one of the tribes; that is, of one of the cities of the tribes of Israel, and not of a city of another nation. (d) Antiqu. l. 7. c. 9. sect. 1.
John Gill 2Sa 15:3 And Absalom said unto him,…. After some further talk, and finding he had a suit at law to bring on, and either seeing it drawn up in writing, or hearing his account of it, at once declared, without hearing the other party:
see, thy matters are good and right; thy cause is a good cause, and if it could be heard by proper persons there is no doubt but things would go on thy side, and thou wouldest carry thy cause:
but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee; the king is grown old himself and his sons are negligent, and do not attend to business, and there are none besides them appointed to hear causes; and he suggested, as appears by what follows, that he was not in commission, but if he was, or should he appointed a judge, he would attend to business, and people should not go away after this manner, without having justice administered unto them,
To flatter each man by pronouncing a favorable verdict in his case, to excite a sense of grievance and discontent by censuring the king for remissness in trying the causes brought before him by his subjects, and to suggest a sure and easy remedy for all such grievances, namely, to make Absalom king; all this, coupled with great affability and courtesy, which his personal beauty and high rank made all the more effective, were the arts by which Absalom worked his way into favor with the people, who were light and fickle as himself.
Absalom said, moreover,…. To the same persons, at the same time:
oh that I were made judge in the land; by which it appears that he had no office under the king; partly either because of his crime, and so not thought fit, and partly because he appeared to be an ambitious aspiring man, and so it was thought not safe to put him into any office:
that every man that hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice; at once, without any further trouble, or coming often, and in vain, and to no purpose.
And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance,…. To pay his respects, and bow to him, as being the king’s son, a prince of the blood, and heir to the crown, as was supposed:
he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him; he put out his hand and shook hands with him, or took him about the neck and kissed him, and by this free, familiar, affable, and courteous manner, strangely won upon and gained the affections of the people, as follows. Fortunatus Schacchus (e) thinks he put forth his hand to be kissed by them, and then kissed them, which was more than was usual.
(e) Eloeochrism. Myrothec. l. 3. c. 34. col. 964.
So Absalom stole the hearts – His manner of doing this is circumstantially related above. He was thoroughly versed in the arts of the demagogue; and the common people, the vile mass, heard him gladly. He used the patriot’s arguments, and was every thing of the kind, as far as promise could go. He found fault with men in power; and he only wanted their place, like all other pretended patriots, that he might act as they did, or worse.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate — Public business in the East is always transacted early in the morning – the kings sitting an hour or more to hear causes or receive petitions, in a court held anciently, and in many places still, in the open air at the city gateway; so that, as those whose circumstances led them to wait on King David required to be in attendance on his morning levees, Absalom had to rise up early and stand beside the way of the gate. Through the growing infirmities of age, or the occupation of his government with foreign wars, many private causes had long lain undecided, and a deep feeling of discontent prevailed among the people. This dissatisfaction was artfully fomented by Absalom, who addressed himself to the various suitors; and after briefly hearing their tale, he gratified everyone with a favorable opinion of his case. Studiously concealing his ambitious designs, he expressed a wish to be invested with official power, only that he might accelerate the course of justice and advance the public interests. His professions had an air of extraordinary generosity and disinterestedness, which, together with his fawning arts in lavishing civilities on all, made him a popular favorite. Thus, by forcing a contrast between his own display of public spirit and the dilatory proceedings of the court, he created a growing disgust with his father’s government, as weak, careless, or corrupt, and seduced the affections of the multitude, who neither penetrated the motive nor foresaw the tendency of his conduct.