Here are some of my notes for Sunday, November 23, 2008 based on the Lifeway’s Explore the Bible curriculum
Reference works cited include:
1)IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament by Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas
2) 1, 2 Samuel New American Commentary by Robert D. Bergen
3)The David Story by Robert Alter
4)International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915): Studylight online edition; Esword dictionaries module download page
5) American Tract Society Bible Dictionary (1897): Studylight online edition ; E-sword dictionary module download page
2 Sam 13:1
Amnon…loved her or …was infatuated with her: The HCSB interprets a Hebrew word usually simply translated “loved”. Subsequent events show that Amnon was indeed infatuated or sexually obsessed with Tamar. Still, there is a use in translating this “love” lost in the HCSB. (Alter)
2 Sam 13:2
impossible to do anything to her: Virgins were well-guarded, secluded even from their own family in many ways, and the Law proclaimed very strong penalties for molestation of virgins. (Alter)
2 Sam 13:3
The Hebrew re’a is usually translated “friend”, but Robert Alter suggests “companion”, even “counselor”, especially since the verse emphasizes Jonadab’s intellect. One wonders at his motivation, for here he is the friend of Amnon, yet two years later he seems to know for certain the details of Absalom’s assassination of Amnon beforehand. (Alter)
2 Sam 13:4
Apparently Amnon looked ill already, giving Jonadab a clue as to the plot he hatches.(Alter)
Jonadab might not have expected a rape, but he clearly planned an uncommonly intimate meeting between Amnon and Tamar. (Alter)
2 Sam 13:8-9: cakes, bread- the word here, lebiba, has a root in leb, “heart”, and suggests to some “heart-shaped” bakery, a poignant detail considering what happens in the story.
That Amnon insists on seeing the food made seems to indicate his stomach is very delicate and he wants to smell and see the food so he can tell if he can eat it.
Amnon sends the servants away under the false reason of being unable to rest with all these servants about (BBCOT)
2 Sam 13:12-13
There are four points to Tamar’s plea against Amnon molesting her:
1. It was unacceptable among Israelites, who considered rape and forced marriage a foreign crudity.(Gen 34:7, Deu 27:22)
2. Such a thing would destroy her chances in life.
3. Amnon would survive, but would be considered an evil man.
4. Finally, she attempts delay and escape by suggesting she would marry him with David’s approval.(BBCOT, Alter)
2 Sam 13:15
Having gotten what he wanted from Tamar, Amnon now has no use for her, and no desire to face the consequences of his act. Sending her away is presumably a way to attempt not facing the consequences. The Law doesn’t clearly provide for this sort of incident (Deu. 22:28-29, but again, Deu 27:22), but plainly both Amnon and Tamar’s lives would be ruined by public scandal. (Alter, Bergen)
2 Sam 13:18-19
Tamar’s robe, perhaps a multi-colored garment, signified her status as a royal virgin. By tearing it, Tamar not only shows her grief but also her unfitness to be proud virgin of the royal household. (BBCOT)
2 Sam 13:19
The hand on her head is a sign of mourning, like the torn clothes and ashes. Ancient artwork usually shows mourning women with both hands on their heads (BBCOT, Alter)
2 Sam 13:20
Be quiet for now: Because nothing can be readily done. Amnon is the royal heir, and cannot simply be brought to justice or be revenged upon. (Alter)
a desolate woman in the house of her brother Absalom: Evidently Tamar was considered unfit as a royal bride after the rape, and was condemned to be a single woman surviving on her brother’s care. One act has ruined her whole life.(BBCOT)
2 Sam 13:21
David heard of this family tragedy, was outraged, but did nothing. As noted before, the case is hardly provided for in the Law, so David had no obvious solution. To do much of anything must disgrace his children and his royal authority. But to do nothing as he did only laid the foundation for the sequel events. (Alter, Bergen)
2 Sam 13:22
Absalom played it cool, as it were, doubtless biding his time for his moment to exact revenge. Depending on the exact meaning of Jonadab’s statement about Absalom’s plans, either Absalom had plotted the assassination with his servants and intimates pretty much from the day Tamar was raped, or else he did speak openly to some about his desire to kill Amnon.(Alter)
2 Sam 13:23
Baal Hazor: The place may be identified with Tell ‛Aṣūr, a mountain which rises 3, 318 ft. above the sea, 4 miles Northeast of Bethel, roughly fifteen miles north of Jerusalem. (ISBE)
sheep shearing: The wool industry was big business in the ANE. Large numbers of tablets found in the Sumerian city of Nippur concern the wool trade. The shearing was done in early summer, generally near the weaving and dyeing centers and required a large labor force. Thus doing it during a holiday helped keep the laborious work going.(BBCOT)
2 Sam 13:27
Why did David send all his sons, when Absalom asked for Amnon the second time in 13:26? Did David suspect foul play, and send the other brothers to protect Amnon? Or did David merely some resent the event being used to elevate Amnon as royal heir, and thus undermine David’s own authority, and thus sent the other brothers to make Amnon one among the many?(Alter)
2 Sam 13:28
Absalom makes the plan clear: get everyone drunk, in order to make the assassination easier.(Alter)
2 Sam 13:29
In the ANE, mules were customary mounts for royals. (Alter)
2 Sam 13: 37
“GESHUR, GESHURI, GESHURITES: The name of a district and people in Syria. Geshur lay upon the eastern side of the Jordan between Bashan, Maachah, and Mount Hermon, and within the limits of the Hebrew territory; but the Israelites did not expel its inhabitants, Jos 12:5; 13:13. They appear to have been brought under tribute, 1Ch 2:23, but to have retained their own kings. One of David’s wives, Maachah the mother of Absalom, was daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; and it was here that Absalom found refuge after the murder of Amnon, and remained three years with his grandfather, 2Sa 3:3; 13:37; 15:8. The word Geshur signifies bridge; and in the border of the region, where, according to the above data, we must place Geshur, between mount Hermon and the lake of Tiberias, there still exists an ancient stone bridge of four arches over the Jordan, called Jisr-Beni-Jakub, that is, the bridge of the children of Jacob. There seems to have been here an important pass on the route to Damascus and the East.”(ATSBD)
2 Sam 13:39
HCSB and KJV have David pining to see Absalom. This contradicts 2 Sam 14:24. The traditonal Masoretic text has a feminine verb at this point but no noun for its subject. Traditionally interpreters have assumed a noun such as nefesh, “soul” went here, making it “David’s soul went out to Absalom”. The Dead Sea Scrolls version of Samuel is incomplete here, but seems to suggest another noun such as ruah, “spirit, urge, impulse”. This and the 14:24 contradiction leads Robert Alter to translate here “And David’s urge to sally forth against Absalom was spent…”, indicating David no longer wanted to punish Absalom, not that he desired to see him. (Alter)
2 Sam 14:23
ISBE: “Joab jō´ab (יואב, yō’ābh, “Yahweh is father”; Ἰωάβ, Iōáb):(1) Son of Zeruiah, David’s sister. He was “captain of the host” (compare 2Sa_19:13) under David.
1. Joab and Abner:
(a) Joab is first introduced in the narrative of the war with Abner, who supported the claims of Ishbosheth to the throne against those of David (2 Sam 2:8 through 3:1). The two armies met, and on Abner’s suggestion a tournament took place between 12 men from each side; a general engagement follows, and in this Joab’s army is victorious. Asahel, Joab’s brother, is killed in his pursuit of Abner, but the latter’s army is sorely pressed, and he appeals to Joab for a cessation of hostilities. Joab calls a halt, but declares that he would not cease had Abner not made his plea.
(b) 2 Sam 3:12-29. Abner visits David at Hebron, and makes an alliance with David. He then leaves the town, apparently under royal protection. Joab is absent at the time, but returns immediately after Abner’s departure, and expostulates with David for not avenging Asahel’s death, and at the same time attributes a bad motive to Abner’s visit. He sends a message, no doubt in the form of a royal command, for Abner to return; the chief does so, is taken aside “into the midst of the gate” (or as Septuagint and commentators read, “into the side of the gate,” 2Sa_3:27), and slain there by Joab. David proclaims his own innocence in the matter, commands Joab as well as the people to mourn publicly for the dead hero (2Sa_3:31), composes a lament for Abner, and pronounces a curse upon Joab and his descendants (2Sa_3:30 is regarded as an editorial note, and commentators change 2Sa_3:39).
2. The Ammonite War: Death of Uriah:
(a) 2Sa_10:1-14; 1Ch_19:1-15. David sends ambassadors with his good wishes to Hanun on his ascending the throne of the Ammonites; these are ill-treated, and war follows, David’s troops being commanded by Joab. On finding himself placed between the Ammonites on the one hand, and their Syrian allies on the other, he divides his army, and himself leads one division against the Syrians, leaving Abishai, his brother, to fight the Ammonites; the defeat of the Syrians is followed by the rout of the ammonites.
(b) 2Sa_10:15-19; 1Ch_19:16-19 describes a second war between Hadarezer and David. Joab is not mentioned here.
(c) 2Sa_11:1 narrates the resumption of the war against the Ammonites; Joab is in command, and the town of Rabbah is besieged. Here occurs the account of David’s sin with Bathsheba, omitted by Chronicles. David gets Joab to send Uriah, her husband, to Jerusalem, and when he refuses to break the soldier’s vow (2Sa_11:6-13), Joab is used to procure Uriah’s death in the siege, and the general then sends news of it to David (2Sa_11:14-27). After capturing the ‘water-city’ of Rabbah, Joab sends for David to complete the capture and lead the triumph himself (2Sa_12:26-29).
3. Joab and Absalom:
(a) The next scene depicts Joab attempting and succeeding in his attempt to get Absalom restored to royal favor. He has noticed that “the king’s heart is toward Absalom” (2Sa_14:1), and so arranges for “a wise woman” of Tekoa to bring a supposed complaint of her own before the king, and then rebuke him for his treatment of Absalom. The plan succeeds. David sees Joab’s hand in it, and gives him permission to bring Absalom to Jerusalem. But the rebel has to remain in his own house, and is not allowed to see his father (2 Sam 14:1-24).
(b) Absalom attempts to secure Joab’s intercession for a complete restoration to his father’s confidence. Joab turns a deaf ear to the request until his field is put on fire by Absalom’s command. He then sees Absalom, and gets David to receive his prodigal son back into the royal home (2Sa_14:28-33).
(c) Absalom revolts, and makes Amasa, another nephew of David, general instead of Joab (2Sa_17:24 f). David flees to Mahanaim, followed by Absalom. Joab is given a third of the army, the other divisions being led by Abishai and Ittai. He is informed that Absalom has been caught in a tree (or thicket), and expostulates with the informer for not having killed him. Although he is reminded of David’s tender plea that Absalom be kindly dealt with, he dispatches the rebel himself, and afterward calls for a general halt of the army. When David gives vent to his feelings of grief, he is sternly rebuked by Joab, and the rebuke has its effect (2 Sam 17 through 19:8a).
4. Joab and Amasa:
2Sa_19:8-15. On David’s return to Jerusalem, Amasa is made “captain of the host” instead of Joab (2Sa_19:13). Then Sheba revolts, Amasa loses time in making preparation for quelling it, and Abishai is bidden by David to take the field (2Sa_20:6). The Syriac version reads “Joab” for “Abishai” in this verse, and some commentators follow it, but Septuagint supports Massoretic Text. Joab seems to have accompanied Abishai; and when Amasa meets them at Gibeon, Joab, on pretense of kissing his rival, kills him. He then assumes command, is followed by Amasa’s men, and arranges with a woman of Abel beth-maacah to deliver to him Sheba’s head. The revolt is then at an end.
5. Joab’s Death:
Joab subsequently opposed David’s suggestion of a census, but eventually carried it out (2Sa_24:1-9; 1Ch_21:1-6), yet 1Ch_21:6 and 1Ch_27:24 relate that he did not carry it out fully. He was one of Adonijah’s supporters in his claim to the throne (1Ki_1:7, 1Ki_1:19, 1Ki_1:41). For this he had to pay the penalty with his life, being slain at the altar in the “Tent of Yahweh” (1Ki_2:28-34) by Benaiah, who acted upon Solomon’s orders. His murderer became his successor as head of the army. 1Ki_2:5 makes David advise Solomon not to forget that Joab slew Abner and Amasa, and 1Ki_11:14-22 contains a reference to the dread of his name in Edom. 1Ch_11:6 makes him win his spurs first at the capture of Jerusalem, but 2 Sam 2; 3 are previous in time to this event (compare 2Sa_5:6-10), and 1Ch_11:8 makes him repair the city, while 1Ch_26:28 refers to a dedication of armor by him.
6. Joab’s Character:
In summing up Joab’s character, we must remember the stirring times in which he lived. That he was a most able general, there is no doubt. He was, however, very jealous of his position, and this accounts for Amasa’s murder, if not partially for that of Abner too: if he was afraid that Abner would supplant him, that fear may be held to be justified, for Amasa, who had not been too loyal to David did take Joab’s place for a time. But blood revenge for Asahel’s death was perhaps the chief cause. Yet even when judged in the light of those rough times, and in the light of eastern life, the murder of Abner was a foul, treacherous deed (see Trumbull, Studies in Oriental Social Life, 129-31).
Joab opposed the census probably because it was an innovation. His rebuke of David’s great grief over Absalom’s death can only be characterized as just; he is the stern warrior who, after being once merciful and forgiving, will not again spare a deceitful rebel; and yet David shows how a father’s conduct toward a prodigal, rebellious son is not regulated by stern justice. Joab’s unswerving loyalty to David leads one to believe that no disloyalty was meant by his support of Adonijah, who was really the rightful heir to the throne. But their plans were defeated by those of the harem, and Joab had to pay the price with his life.
Taken as a whole, his life, as depicted in the very reliable narrative of 2 Sam and 1 Ki, may be said to be as characteristic of the times as that of David himself, with a truly Homeric ring about it. He was a great man, great in military prowess and also in personal revenge, in his loyalty to the king as well as in his stern rebuke of his royal master. He was the greatest of David’s generals, and the latter’s success and glory owed much to this noblest of that noble trio whom Zeruiah bore.”(ISBE)
2 Sam 14:28
Absalom lived in a virtual exile from David’s court for two years, even though he lived in the same city of Jerusalem. This plainly affected his status as royal heir, so Absalom determined to do something about it, one way or another.
2 Sam 14:29
Joab won’t see Absalom, even though he had tricked David into bringing Absalom back from Geshur (2 Sam 14:1-22). Joab was the sort who dedicated himself to David’s cause, even to the point of acting in ways David disliked when he felt David was not thinking clearly. Thus Joab’s likely reasons for bringing Absalom back from Geshur were:
1. Absalom now the royal heir
2. Better to have Absalom, a proven schemer, close at hand to be monitored, than off in Geshur free to operate on his own.(Alter)
2 Sam 14:30
Absalom finally determines a cruel and costly way to force Joab to see him: he burnt Joab’s crop field. Exodus 22:6 required Absalom to repay Joab for the loss, but Absalom never seems at a loss for money, and he knew Joab would likely come himself for the money, giving Absalom his desired interview. How selfish Absalom was in choosing this course of action is open to debate. (Bergen)
2 Sam 14:32
Absalom gives Joab an ultimatum for David: Condemn Absalom formally, or restore him to the court. It is a calculated demand, for surely David wouldn’t condemn him now, if he hadn’t before.
2 Sam 14:33
Note the verse says “the king” kisses Absalom. One infers perhaps that David restored Absalom grudgingly, for the kingdom’s sake, not because he had forgiven or trusted Absalom. (Alter)
2 Sam 15:1
Interestingly, Absalom is the first Israelite mentioned to possess his own chariot and horses. Yet his example is then followed by Adonijah (1 Kgs 1:5), with the intention made clear “I will be king”.(Bergen)
2 Sam 15:2-6
Absalom gets out in front of the people and tells them all exactly what they want to hear. Another biblical story that shows that people, including politicians, haven’t really changed in three thousand years, for all our vaunted “progress”.
2 Sam 15:3
David is a proper king now, with courts, officials, taxes, and duties. Absalom exploits people’s resentment of the government, another sign that “the more things change, the more they stay the same”.