This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
2 Samuel 14:1-20
Good News Translation (GNT)
Joab Arranges for Absalom’s Return
14 Joab knew that King David missed Absalom very much, 2 so he sent for a clever woman who lived in Tekoa. When she arrived, he said to her, “Pretend that you are in mourning; put on your mourning clothes, and don’t comb your hair. Act like a woman who has been in mourning for a long time. 3 Then go to the king and say to him what I tell you to say.” Then Joab told her what to say.
4 The woman went to the king, bowed down to the ground in respect, and said, “Help me, Your Majesty!”
5 “What do you want?” he asked her.
“I am a poor widow, sir,” she answered. “My husband is dead. 6 Sir, I had two sons, and one day they got into a quarrel out in the fields, where there was no one to separate them, and one of them killed the other. 7 And now, sir, all my relatives have turned against me and are demanding that I hand my son over to them, so that they can kill him for murdering his brother. If they do this, I will be left without a son. They will destroy my last hope and leave my husband without a son to keep his name alive.”
8 “Go back home,” the king answered, “and I will take care of the matter.”
9 “Your Majesty,” she said, “whatever you do, my family and I will take the blame; you and the royal family are innocent.”
10 The king replied, “If anyone threatens you, bring him to me, and he will never bother you again.”
11 She said, “Your Majesty, please pray to the Lord your God, so that my relative who is responsible for avenging the death of my son will not commit a greater crime by killing my other son.”
“I promise by the living Lord,” David replied, “that your son will not be harmed in the least.”
12 “Please, Your Majesty, let me say just one more thing,” the woman said.
“All right,” he answered.
13 She said to him, “Why have you done such a wrong to God’s people? You have not allowed your own son to return from exile, and so you have condemned yourself by what you have just said. 14 We will all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which can’t be gathered again. Even God does not bring the dead back to life, but the king can at least find a way to bring a man back from exile.[a] 15 Now, Your Majesty, the reason I have come to speak to you is that the people threatened me, and so I said to myself that I would speak to you in the hope that you would do what I ask. 16 I thought you would listen to me and save me from the one who is trying to kill my son and me and so remove us from the land God gave his people. 17 I said to myself that your promise, sir, would make me safe, because the king is like God’s angel and can distinguish good from evil.[b] May the Lord your God be with you!”
18 The king answered, “I’m going to ask you a question, and you must tell me the whole truth.”
“Ask me anything, Your Majesty,” she answered.
19 “Did Joab put you up to this?” he asked her.
She answered, “I swear by all that is sacred, Your Majesty, that there is no way to avoid answering your question.[c] It was indeed your officer Joab who told me what to do and what to say. 20 But he did it in order to straighten out this whole matter. Your Majesty is as wise as the angel of God and knows everything that happens.”
Once more someone comes to David with a story that invites a response; once more his natural generosity of spirit seems to pass judgment on his own behaviour, in this case, towards Absalom. It’s hard to see that Joab has any ulterior motive in the return of Absalom; thug as he is, he is sensitive to David’s yearning for his son and he may feel that if he speaks after the king’s own heart, he will gain credit. But it’s by no means clear that Joab and his messenger bring wise counsel to the king. The woman’s grasp of the issue is a little unsure (does her story really match the situation of David and Absalom?), and David sees behind it the hand of Joab.
Joab appeals to David’s weakness for his own family, and to his need to keep Joab as his enforcer. Neither of these are good reasons for allowing the killer of one of his sons back into the royal presence, but David will find it impossible to resist the desire of his on heart when it is presented to him by others. The responsible use of power is not easy, as it involves not merely decisions about right and wrong, but also decisions about wise and foolish. In this case David is being urged for reasons that sound morally right (forgiveness after punishment) to do something very foolish which will bring trouble on himself and his people. He does not have the strength to resist this temptation.
Jesus was sympathetic to this kind of frailty and taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”