Containing The Interval Of Forty Years.
From The Death Of Saul To The Death Of David.
How Absalom Murdered Amnon, Who Had Forced His Own Sister; And How He Was Banished And Afterwards Recalled By David.
1. WHEN the king was returned to Jerusalem, a sad misfortune befell his house, on the occasion following: He had a daughter, who was yet a virgin, and very handsome, insomuch that she surpassed all the most beautiful women; her name was Tamar; she had the same mother with Absalom. Now Amnon, David's eldest son, fell in love with her, and being not able to obtain his desires, on account of her virginity, and the custody she was under, was so much out of order, nay, his grief so eat up his body, that he grew lean, and his color was changed. Now there was one Jenadab, a kinsman and friend of his, who discovered this his passion, for he was an extraordinary wise man, and of great sagacity of mind. When, therefore, he saw that every morning Amnon was not in body as he ought to be, he came to him, and desired him to tell him what was the cause of it: however, he said that he guessed that it arose from the passion of love.
Amnon confessed his passion, that he was in love with a sister of his, who had the same father with himself. So Jenadab suggested to him by what method and contrivance he might obtain his desires; for he persuaded him to pretend sickness, and bade him, when his father should come to him, to beg of him that his sister might come and minister to him; for if that were done, he should be better, and should quickly recover from his distemper. So Amnon lay down on his bed, and pretended to be sick, as Jonadab had suggested. When his father came, and inquired how he did, he begged of him to send his sister to him.
Accordingly, he presently ordered her to be brought to him; and when she was come, Amnon bade her make cakes for him, and fry them in a pan, and do it all with her own hands, because he should take them better from her hand [than from any one's else]. So she kneaded the flour in the sight of her brother, and made him cakes, and baked them in a pan, and brought them to him; but at that time he would not taste them, but gave order to his servants to send all that were there out of his chamber, because he had a mind to repose himself, free from tumult and disturbance. As soon as what he had commanded was done, he desired his sister to bring his supper to him into the inner parlor; which, when the damsel had done, he took hold of her, and endeavored to persuade her to lie with him. Whereupon the damsel cried out, and said,
"Nay, brother, do not force me, nor be so wicked as to transgress the laws, and bring upon thyself the utmost confusion. Curb this thy unrighteous and impure lust, from which our house will get nothing but reproach and disgrace."
She also advised him to speak to his father about this affair; for he would permit him [to marry her]. This she said, as desirous to avoid her brother's violent passion at present. But he would not yield to her; but, inflamed with love and blinded with the vehemency of his passion, he forced his sister: but as soon as Amnon had satisfied his lust, he hated her immediately, and giving her reproachful words, bade her rise up and be gone. And when she said that this was a more injurious treatment than the former, if, now he had forced her, he would not let her stay with him till the evening, but bid her go away in the day-time, and while it was light, that she might meet with people that would be witnesses of her shame, - he commanded his servant to turn her out of his house.
Whereupon she was sorely grieved at the injury and violence that had been offered to her, and rent her loose coat, (for the virgins of old time wore such loose coats tied at the hands, and let down to the ankles, that the inner coats might not be seen,) and sprinkled ashes on her head; and went up the middle of the city, crying out and lamenting for the violence that had been offered her. Now Absalom, her brother, happened to meet her, and asked her what sad thing had befallen her, that she was in that plight; and when she had told him what injury had been offered her, he comforted her, and desired her to be quiet, and take all patiently, and not to esteem her being corrupted by her brother as an injury. So she yielded to his advice, and left off her crying out, and discovering the force offered her to the multitude; and she continued as a widow with her brother Absalom a long time.
2. When David his father knew this, he was grieved at the actions of Amnon; but because he had an extraordinary affection for him, for he was his eldest son, he was compelled not to afflict him; but Absalom watched for a fit opportunity of revenging this crime upon him, for he thoroughly hated him. Now the second year after this wicked affair about his sister was over, and Absalom was about to go to shear his own sheep at Baalhazor, which is a city in the portion of Ephraim, he besought his father, as well as his brethren, to come and feast with him: but when David excused himself, as not being willing to be burdensome to him, Absalom desired he would however send his brethren; whom he did send accordingly. Then Absalom charged his own servants, that when they should see Amnon disordered and drowsy with wine, and he should give them a signal, they should fear nobody, but kill him.
3. When they had done as they were commanded, the rest of his brethren were astonished and disturbed, and were afraid for themselves, so they immediately got on horseback, and rode away to their father; but somebody there was who prevented them, and told their father they were all slain by Absalom; whereupon he was overcome with sorrow, as for so many of his sons that were destroyed at once, and that by their brother also; and by this consideration, that it was their brother that appeared to have slain them, he aggravated his sorrow for them. So he neither inquired what was the cause of this slaughter, nor staid to hear any thing else, which yet it was but reasonable to have done, when so very great, and by that greatness so incredible, a misfortune was related to him: he rent his clothes and threw himself upon the ground, and there lay lamenting the loss of all his sons, both those who, as he was informed, were slain, and of him who slew them.
But Jonadab, the son of his brother Shemeah, entreated him not to indulge his sorrow so far, for as to the rest of his sons he did not believe that they were slain, for he found no cause for such a suspicion; but he said it might deserve inquiry as to Amnon, for it was not unlikely that Absalom might venture to kill him on account of the injury he had offered to Tamar. In the mean time, a great noise of horses, and a tumult of some people that were coming, turned their attention to them; they were the king's sons, who were fled away from the feast. So their father met them as they were in their grief, and he himself grieved with them; but it was more than he expected to see those his sons again, whom he had a little before heard to have perished. However, their were tears on both sides; they lamenting their brother who was killed, and the king lamenting his son, who was killed also; but Absalom fled to Geshur, to his grandfather by his mother's side, who was king of that country, and he remained with him three whole years.
4. Now David had a design to send to Absalom, not that he should come to be punished, but that he might be with him, for the effects of his anger were abated by length of time. It was Joab, the captain of his host, that chiefly persuaded him so to do; for he suborned an ordinary woman, that was stricken in age, to go to the king in mourning apparel, who said thus to him: - That two of her sons, in a coarse way, had some difference between them, and that in the progress of that difference they came to an open quarrel, and that one was smitten by the other, and was dead; and she desired him to interpose in this case, and to do her the favor to save this her son from her kindred, who were very zealous to have him that had slain his brother put to death, that so she might not be further deprived of the hopes she had of being taken care of in her old age by him; and that if he would hinder this slaughter of her son by those that wished for it, he would do her a great favor, because the kindred would not be restrained from their purpose by any thing else than by the fear of him. And when the king had given his consent to what the woman had begged of him, she made this reply to him: -
"I owe thee thanks for thy benignity to me in pitying my old age, and preventing the loss of my only remaining child; but in order to assure me of this thy kindness, be first reconciled to thine own son, and cease to be angry with him; for how shall I persuade myself that thou hast really bestowed this favor upon me, while thou thyself continuest after the like manner in thy wrath to thine own son? for it is a foolish thing to add willfully another to thy dead son, while the death of the other was brought about without thy consent."
And now the king perceived that this pretended story was a subornation derived from Joab, and was of his contrivance; and when, upon inquiry of the old woman, he understood it to be so in reality, he called for Joab, and told him he had obtained what he requested according to his own mind; and he bid him bring Absalom back, for he was not now displeased, but had already ceased to be angry with him. So Joab bowed himself down to the king, and took his words kindly, and went immediately to Geshur, and took Absalom with him, and came to Jerusalem.
5. However, the king sent a message to his son beforehand, as he was coming, and commanded him to retire to his own house, for he was not yet in such a disposition as to think fit at present to see him. Accordingly, upon the father's command, he avoided coming into his presence, and contented himself with the respects paid him by his own family only. Now his beauty was not impaired, either by the grief he had been under, or by the want of such care as was proper to be taken of a king's son, for he still surpassed and excelled all men in the tallness of his body, and was more eminent [in a fine appearance] than those that dieted the most luxuriously; and indeed such was the thickness of the hair of his head, that it was with difficulty that he was polled every eighth day; and his hair weighed two hundred shekels (15) which are five pounds.
However, he dwelt in Jerusalem two years, and became the father of three sons, and one daughter; which daughter was of very great beauty, and which Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, took to wife afterward, and had by her a son named Abijah. But Absalom sent to Joab, and desired him to pacify his father entirely towards him; and to beseech him to give him leave to come to him to see him, and speak with him. But when Joab neglected so to do, he sent some of his own servants, and set fire to the field adjoining to him; which, when Joab understood, he came to Absalom, and accused him of what he had done; and asked him the reason why he did so. To which Absalom replied, that
"I have found out this stratagem that might bring thee to us,while thou hast taken no care to perform the injunction I laid upon thee, which was this, to reconcile my father to me; and I really beg it of thee, now thou art here, to pacify my father as to me, since I esteem my coming hither to be more grievous than my banishment, while my father's wrath against me continues."
Hereby Joab was persuaded, and pitied the distress that Absalom was in, and became an intercessor with the king for him. And when he had discoursed with his father, he soon brought him to that amicable disposition towards Absalom, that he presently sent for him to come to him; and when he had cast himself down upon the ground, and had begged for the forgiveness of his offenses, the king raised him up, and promised him to forget what he had formerly done.
(15) Of this weight of Absalom's hair, how in twenty or thirty years it might well amount to two hundred shekels, or to somewhat above six pounds avoirdupois, see the Literal Accomplishment of Prophecies, p. 77, 78. But a late very judicious author thinks that the LXXX meant not its weight, but its value, was twenty shekels. Dr. Wall's Critical Notes on the Old Testament, upon 2 Samuel 14:26. It does not appear what was Josephus's opinion: he sets the text down honestly as he found it in his copies, only he thought that
"at the end of days,"
when Absalom polled or weighed his hair, was once a week.