An Imperfect Reconciliation
“Absalom lived two full years in Jerusalem, without coming into the king’s presence” (v. 28).- 2 Samuel 14
Sin makes us foolish, or at least oblivious, as David’s life illustrates. After David committed adultery and murder (2 Sam. 11), his discernment suffered a marked decline, particularly with respect to his family. David did not notice the lust of Amnon for his sister Tamar. David did not punish Amnon for raping Tamar. He did not see the hatred of his other son Absalom for Amnon, and he was tricked into sending Amnon to his death. David mourned for Amnon but not for his negligence or for Tamar’s suffering. Then, David lost Absalom to his son’s self-imposed exile, and he did not go after him even after he longed to see him again (ch. 13).
The discord between David and Absalom threatened the stability of the royal dynasty, so Joab sought to reconcile father and son. As we see in today’s passage, Joab enlisted the help of a woman from Tekoa, a village about ten miles from Jerusalem. She told David a story about how one of her sons killed his brother, prompting the avenger of blood to seek the killer’s life. She pleaded for David to declare that her son’s life not be taken lest she suffer and her husband’s name die out (14:1–11). Ordinarily, the individual who committed manslaughter could find safety in a city of refuge, and it appears that the killing in the woman’s story was accidental (Num. 35:9–34). She was asking for an exception to the manslaughter law so that her son could remain with her outside one of these refuges and not be killed.
David agreed to this request, and when the woman applied it to David’s own situation with Absalom, the king relented and had his son brought back to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 14:11–23). Absalom, of course, was guilty of premeditated murder, so it is questionable whether David’s act was lawful. In any case, David and Absalom did not enjoy a full reconciliation. David did not see Absalom for two more years, forcing him to live away from the palace. Absalom had to burn a field to get Joab to secure his restoration to the royal household (vv. 24–33).
This failure to reconcile fully with David doubtless meant that Absalom would continue to nurture bitterness toward his father. Given what we see in 2 Samuel 15:1–6, we are not speculating much to say that Absalom certainly had thoughts that went something like this: “My father does not care about justice for my sister, justice with respect to Amnon, or justice with respect to me, the only one who acted to vindicate my sister. Something has to be done.” And sadly, what Absalom would do was a cure worse than the disease.
Would a complete reconciliation between David and Absalom have prevented the problems that ensued later on? It is hard to say for certain. What we do know is that when reconciliation is partial or incomplete, other problems often arise. If we are pursuing reconciliation with a willing party, let us make sure that the reconciliation is as full as possible.
Passages for Further Study
1 John 4:7–8