“And the king said unto Joab, Behold now, I have done this thing: go therefore, bring the young man Absalom again. And Joab fell to the ground on his face, and bowed himself, and thanked the king: and Joab said, To day thy servant knoweth that I have found grace in thy sight, my lord, O king, in that the king hath fulfilled the request of his servant. So Joab arose and went to Geshur, and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. And the king said, Let him turn to his own house, and let him not see my face. So Absalom returned to his own house, and saw not the king’s face. But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. And when he polled his head, (for it was at every year’s end that he polled it: because the hair was heavy on him, therefore he polled it:) he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels after the king’s weight. And unto Absalom there were born three sons, and one daughter, whose name was Tamar: she was a woman of a fair countenance. So Absalom dwelt two full years in Jerusalem, and saw not the king’s face. Therefore Absalom sent for Joab, to have sent him to the king; but he would not come to him: and when he sent again the second time, he would not come. Therefore he said unto his servants, See, Joab’s field is near mine, and he hath barley there; go and set it on fire. And Absalom’s servants set the field on fire. Then Joab arose, and came to Absalom unto his house, and said unto him, Wherefore have thy servants set my field on fire? And Absalom answered Joab, Behold, I sent unto thee, saying, Come hither, that I may send thee to the king, to say, Wherefore am I come from Geshur? it had been good for me to have been there still: now therefore let me see the king’s face; and if there be any iniquity in me, let him kill me. So Joab came to the king, and told him: and when he had called for Absalom, he came to the king, and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king: and the king kissed Absalom” (2 Samuel 14:21-33).
We understand from our previous study that Joab engineered the return of Absalom to Israel; nevertheless it could not happen until the king decided to give his approval. He was cunning enough to cover any argument that could be raised and so was confident that Absalom would come home.
The opening verses of the text inform us that there was a compromise reached between David and Joab over Absalom; he may return from exile but he was not allowed into the palace, that is, David did not want to catch sight of him. David had already compromised himself with regards to the law and allowed Absalom to live, so this second compromise must be seen as a further watering-down of the first. “In granting this pardon, he was acting in the character of an Oriental despot rather than a constitutional king of Israel” (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary). Because of his leniency he laid the pathway to the coming civil war in which twenty-thousand men died (2 Samuel 18:7). Can we not hear the devilish laughter as Joab flatters David for making the right decision? Though Joab got his wish he was not satisfied until David compromised further and brought Absalom into the palace.
The writer of 2 Samuel gives us a description of Absalom’s appearance to indicate why he was so popular in Israel. He charmed people, not with his wisdom and knowledge, but with his looks. This is very much part of modern politics too, for people still tend to judge by appearances rather than worth. Almost everyone saw the handsome and charismatic Absalom but ignored his wicked character traits. Absalom only cut his hair once a year; therefore it grew long and could have weighed up to five pounds [2.27 kilograms]. It seems that he was so proud of his hair that he made sure people knew what it weighed. We can only imagine that he must have suffered for his hair fashion because it had to be a burden during summer months, but his hairstyle got him noticed, which he obviously delighted in. Is this any different from the foolish fashions of today? The is a suggestion that the two-hundred shekels were not merely the weight of his hair but its value too, “Others understand this not of the weight, but of the price of his hair” (John Wesley).
Absalom’s children are mentioned to show that everything did not go well for him. He had three sons, but it appears that they died at an early age, for we read in 2 Samuel 18:18, “Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a pillar, which is in the king’s dale: for he said, I have no son to keep my name in remembrance: and he called the pillar after his own name: and it is called unto this day, Absalom’s place.” His daughter Tamar, who he had named after his sister, inherited her father’s good looks, but did she also inherit her aunt’s wisdom and piety?
Absalom was not satisfied with the decision of his father, so after enduring it for two years he called Joab to talk with him about getting David to make further concessions. David was ignoring him, Joab was ignoring him, which must have angered him, so he thought up a way to get everyone’s attention by burning Joab’s barley field. The fact that Absalom called for Joab reveals that he was still very close to the king and could influence him. He got what he wanted, but he would pay the price later at the hands of Joab (2 Samuel 18:14-15). Absalom’s words about wishing he had never returned to Jerusalem come from a heart full of self-pity, but without realising it he was speaking the truth, for it would have been better for all if he had stayed in exile. He claimed that his present situation was unbearable and so might as well be dead.
Joab did intercede with David on behalf of Absalom and was allowed into the king’s presence for the first time in five years. Absalom feigned obeisance to his father but rebellion was in his heart, and despite his sins he was accepted by David with a kiss. This kiss is a sign that the past is forgiven and forgotten even though there is no a word of repentance from Absalom’s mouth. David’s love for his son got in the way of justice and righteousness, so he was willing to overlook his many faults and character flaws. Do we see how a child’s temper tantrum often gets him what he wants from his parents?
David’s compromise regarding Absalom would solve nothing, but in fact it would make matters worse in the not too distant future. David may have forgiven Absalom, but Absalom never forgave David for the way he had been treated. His son would prove to be ungrateful and unruly, so he would learn his lesson he hard way. We know that all of the problems that David would face were part of the chastisement that the prophet Nathan had prophesied about.