December 09, 2002 Copyright © by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- When Joab, son of Zeruiah, observed how the king felt toward Absalom,
- he sent to Tekoa and brought from there a gifted woman, to whom he said: "Pretend to be in mourning. Put on mourning apparel and do not anoint yourself with oil, that you may appear to be a woman who has been long in mourning for a departed one.
- Then go to the king and speak to him in this manner." And Joab instructed her what to say.
- So the woman of Tekoa went to the king and fell prostrate to the ground in homage, saying, "Help, your majesty!"
- The king said to her, "What do you want?" She replied: "Alas, I am a widow; my husband is dead.
- Your servant had two sons, who quarreled in the field. There being no one to part them, one of them struck his brother and killed him.
- 1 Then the whole clan confronted your servant and demanded: 'Give up the one who killed his brother. We must put him to death for the life of his brother whom he has slain; we must extinguish the heir also.' Thus they will quench my remaining hope and leave my husband neither name nor posterity upon the earth."
- The king then said to the woman: "Go home. I will issue a command on your behalf."
- The woman of Tekoa answered him, "Let me and my family be to blame, my lord king; you and your throne are innocent."
- Then the king said, "If anyone says a word to you, have him brought to me, and he shall not touch you again."
- But she went on to say, "Please, your majesty, keep in mind the LORD your God, that the avenger of blood may not go too far in destruction and that my son may not be done away with." He replied, "As the LORD lives, not a hair of your son shall fall to the ground."
- The woman continued, "Please let your servant say still another word to my lord the king." He replied, "Speak."
- So the woman said: "Why, then, do you think of this same kind of thing against the people of God? In pronouncing as he has, the king shows himself guilty, for not bringing back his own banished son.
- 2 We must indeed die; we are then like water that is poured out on the ground and cannot be gathered up. Yet, though God does not bring back life, he does take thought how not to banish anyone from him.
- And now, if I have presumed to speak of this matter to your majesty, it is because the people have given me cause to fear. And so your servant thought: 'Let me speak to the king. Perhaps he will grant the petition of his maidservant.
- For the king must surely consent to free his servant from the grasp of one who would seek to destroy me and my son as well from God's inheritance.'"
- 3 And the woman concluded: "Let the word of my lord the king provide a resting place; indeed, my lord the king is like an angel of God, evaluating good and bad. The LORD your God be with you."
- The king answered the woman, "Now do not conceal from me anything I may ask you!" The woman said, "Let my lord the king speak."
- So the king asked, "Is Joab involved with you in all this?" And the woman answered: "As you live, my lord the king, it is just as your majesty has said, and not otherwise. It was your servant Joab who instructed me and told your servant all these things she was to say.
- Your servant Joab did this to come at the issue in a roundabout way. But my lord is as wise as an angel of God, so that he knows all things on earth."
- Then the king said to Joab: "I hereby grant this request. Go, therefore, and bring back young Absalom."
- Falling prostrate to the ground in homage and blessing the king, Joab said, "This day I know that I am in good favor with you, my lord the king, since the king has granted the request of his servant."
- Joab then went off to Geshur and brought Absalom to Jerusalem.
- But the king said, "Let him go to his own house; he shall not appear before me." So Absalom went off to his house and did not appear before the king.
- In all Israel there was not a man who could so be praised for his beauty as Absalom, who was without blemish from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.
- When he shaved his head--which he used to do at the end of every year, because his hair became too heavy for him--the hair weighed two hundred shekels according to the royal standard.
- Absalom had three sons born to him, besides a daughter named Tamar, who was a beautiful woman.
- Absalom lived in Jerusalem for two years without appearing before the king.
- Then he summoned Joab to send him to the king, but Joab would not come to him. Although he summoned him a second time, Joab refused to come.
- He therefore instructed his servants: "You see Joab's field that borders mine, on which he has barley. Go, set it on fire." And so Absalom's servants set the field on fire. Joab's farmhands came to him with torn garments and reported to him what had been done.
- At this, Joab went to Absalom in his house and asked him, "Why have your servants set my field on fire?"
- Absalom answered Joab: "I was summoning you to come here, that I may send you to the king to say: 'Why did I come back from Geshur? I would be better off if I were still there!' Now, let me appear before the king. If I am guilty, let him put me to death."
- Joab went to the king and reported this. The king then called Absalom, who came to him and in homage fell on his face to the ground before the king. Then the king kissed him.
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1  Hope: literally, "glowing coal." The image is similar to that of the lighted lamp, e.g., Psalm 89:17 to keep alive the ancestral name.
2  How not to banish: a possible allusion to the religious institution of cities of refuge for involuntary murderers; see Numbers 35:9-15
3  A resting place: cf Psalm 95:11; Hebrews 3:7-4, 11. The reference here is to a return home for Absalom to Israel.
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