Shmuel 2-Chapter 14: A plan is devised to return Avshalom to the palace

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Chapter 14: A plan is devised to return Avshalom to the palace

1. Yoav hires a woman to connivingly convince Dovid to return Avshalom to the palace:

  • Yoav the son of Tzruya was aware that the heart of the king was on his son Avshalom [i.e. that he began feeling feelings of closeness and love towards him and therefore decided to devise a plan to reinstate Avshalom to the palace.[1]].
  • So Yoav sent a messenger to [the city of] Takoa [which had an abundance of olives, and therefore its inhabitants were incredibly wise due to their consumption of olive oil[2]] and he took a wise woman from there.
  • Yoav told the woman as follows: “Please enter yourself into a state of mourning and wear garments of mourning and do not anoint yourself with oil and act like a mourning woman for several days, as if you are mourning over a dead relative. You shall then travel to meet the king and tell him the following words that I will tell you.” Yoav then told her precisely the words that she should tell the king.

2. The woman tells Dovid a fake story of the death of her husband and murder of her son by his brother:

  • The Tekoite woman [then traveled to the king and in an audience with him] spoke to the king [the common words of greeting that one says when first meeting the king such as “long the king”[3]]. She fell on her face to the ground and prostrated herself and exclaimed, “May the king save me.”
  • The king then asked her as to what she wants, and she said to him, “I am a widow, as my husband has died, and your maidservant has two sons which entered into a fight while in the field and there was no one present to save them from each other, and so it was that one of them hit the other one and killed him. Now, my entire family has risen upon your maidservant and they have told me that I should hand them my son who killed his brother, and they will put him to death [under the law of Goel Hadam which allows and instructs the relatives to avenge the death of the relative by killing his murder, and thereby they will also inherit all my husband property.[4]], in vengeance for the soul of his brother which he killed. Now, they are in essence asking me to annihilate my only heir, and they will extinguish my only remaining coal and my husband will be left with no name and continuity on the face of the earth.” [They do not have the status of Goal Hadam which allows them to seek vengeance from the murderer being that there were no witnesses to the murder and therefore it is up to the hands of heaven to take vengeance.[5]]

3. Dovid advises the woman:

  • Dovid tells the woman that he will take care of the issue: The king responded to the woman that she should go home and that he will give instructions regarding her [i.e. I will instruct your relatives not to touch him and kill him[6] being that there were no witnesses to the murder[7]].
  • The woman rejects his response: The Tekoite woman said to the king, “My master the king, the sin is upon me and on the house of my father, and the king and his chair is clean.” [I.e. What she really meant to say is that she doesn’t really trust what the king is saying and that the blood of her son will be on his hands, however she stated it in the opposite way out of respect to the king.[8]]
  • The king swears and reassures her that nothing will happen to her son: The king responded to her saying, that she should bring to him whoever is the one that is speaking to her [and threatening to kill her son] and he will no longer be able to touch her [or him, as I will instruct him not to do so[9]]. She responded to the king, “Please my king, remember Hashem your G-d [who has warned you in the Torah to try to save the life of the murderer from the vengeance of his Goal Hadam[10], and swear by His name that no one is allowed to harm my son[11]] as there are many relatives who can fill the position of the Goal Hadam to kill my son [and hence it does not suffice to simply instruct one person[12]].” The king responded and said, “I swear by the life of G-d that not one hair will fall from your sons head.”

4. The woman confesses the plot to Dovid:

  • The woman then said to Dovid, “Let your maidservant speak with my master the king,” [in order to hint to him that her entire story is a mere metaphor for him to learn how to act with his son Avshalom[13]] and he responded that she could speak. The woman then told Dovid as follows: “Why did you suspect the Jewish people [of doing something so wrong as killing someone even though there were no witnesses[14]]. Now, [in truth my entire story was made up as a metaphor regarding your two sons[15]] and now don’t tell me that what you answered me was a mistake and therefore you will continue to not allow the one who you cast away [i.e. your son Avshalom] to return to you. In the end of the day we all die [and hence what Avshalom did should not be viewed so severe that you have to kill him even though there were no witnesses in which case the Torah does not allow one to kill him]. Death is like water that has went down the slope and is no longer gathered [i.e. and thus if you decide to kill Avshalom you will no longer see him, and likewise by you killing him it will not bring back the soul of your other son[16]]. G-d will save no one from death [or punishment[17]] and therefore you should think of an idea of how not to cast away your son. Now, I have [in essence] come to speak to the king my master these words [that he should return his son Avshalom] as the nation instilled fear into me not to speak of this matter directly and therefore I mentioned it in a metaphor of a story, as perhaps through this metaphor I will get the king to do my bidding. As I said to myself, when the king agrees to save me and my child from the vengeance of the relative who desire to remove me and my son from the inheritance of G-d [perhaps he will then also rethink his position with his own son Avshalom and will bring him back into the palace]. So, my master, let the words of your maidservant be of comfort for you, as my master the king is like an angel of G-d who hears good and evil, and Hashem your G-d will be with you.”
  • Dovid requests to know who was behind sending her to him: The king then responded to the woman and said to her, “please do not refuse me that which I will ask from you.” The woman responded, “please let my master the king speak.” So, the king said to her, “Is the hand of Yoav behind all this?” The woman responded, “I swear by the life of my master the king that everything the king has said is correct, as indeed it was your servant Yoav who instructed me all this and told your maidservant what to say and Yoav did so in order so the matter reach the king regarding his son. Now I see that my master the king is as wise as an angel of G-d and knows everything that’s happening on the earth [as he figured out that Yoav was behind this].”

5. Dovid has Avshalom return to the city:

  • Dovid instructs Yoav to return Avshalom: The king said to Yoav, “I have done your bidding [to agree for Avshalom to return], now go and return the lad Avshalom.” Yoav fell on his face to the ground and prostrated and blessed the king. Yoav then said, “Today your servant has recognized that he has found favor in the eyes of the king, being that the King has agreed to do my request.”
  • Yoav got up and traveled to Geshura and he brought back Avshalom to Jerusalem.
  • Avshalom returns although does not get to see the king: The king instructed Yoav that Avshalom should be brought back to his house through a roundabout way, and he should not see the face of the king. So, indeed Avshalom was led to his home from the back way and did not see the king.

6. Details of Avshalom:

  • The beauty of Avshalom: Avshalom was the most handsome man amongst all Israel and there was no one like him. From his feet until his head he had no blemish.
  • The hair of Avshalom: From year to year, he would shave the hair of his head, as his hair grew very long, and it became a burden on him to carry. His hair weighed the equivalent of two hundred silver coins.
  • The children of Avshalom: Avshalom had born to him three sons and one daughter. The name of the daughter was Tamar and she was a very beautiful woman.

7. Avshalom instructs his servants to burn the field of Yoav and finally receives a meeting with the king:

  • Avshalom remains two years without seeing the king: Avshalom had remained in Jerusalem for two years and had yet to see the king.
  • Avshalom summons Yoav who refuses to show up: Avshalom summoned Yoav to have him request from the king for an audience with him although Yoav refused to come to Avshalom. Avshalom summoned Yoav a second time but he still refused to go.
  • Avshalom instructs his servants to burn the fields of Yoav: Avshalom said to his servants, “See, there is a portion of a field that belongs to Yoav which is next to me and he grows barley there. Go light it on fire.” And so, the servants of Avshalom lit the portion of the field on fire.
  • Yoav goes to speak with Avshalom: Yoav got up and came to the house of Avshalom and confronted him saying, “why did your servants burn the portion of my field?” Avshalom replied to Yoav that he did so because he had summoned him to receive a message to give to the king. “Now, please tell the king the following in my name: Why was I brought home from Geshur if I can’t see the king? It was better for me to simply remain there. Now, I would like to see the face of the king and if he finds with me iniquity he could put me to death.”
  • Avshalom finally meets the king: Yoav arrived to the king and he told him the message of Avshalom. So, Avshalom was summoned to the king and he prostrated himself on his face in front of the king and the king kissed Avshalom.


[1] Metzudos Dovid 14:1-2

[2] Rashi 14:2; Metzudos Dovid 14:2; Menachos 85b

[3] Metzudos Dovid 14:4

[4] See Radak 14:7

[5] Radak 14:7

[6] Radak 14:8

[7] Pirush Rav Yeshaya 14:8

[8] Rashi and Radak 14:9; See however Metzudos Dovid 14:9 for an alternative interpretation.

[9] Radak 14:10

[10] Rashi 14:11

[11] Radak 14:11

[12] Rashi and Radak ibid

[13] Radak 14:12

[14] Rashi 14:13

[15] Rashi 14:13 

[16] See Metzudos Dovid 14:14 and Pirush Rav Yosef Karo 14:14

[17] See Metzudos Dovid 14:14

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