2 Samuel 14:1-33 – The Wise Woman of Tekoa


2 Samuel 14:1-33


Reconciliation between David and Absalom (vv. 21-33) is brought about through the use of a subterfuge, masterminded by Joab and carried out by an accomplished actress from the village of Tekoa, outside of Bethlehem.


In order to bring about reconciliation with Absalom, Joab makes use of a “wise woman” from Tekoa to trick David into allowing Absalom’s return. The story is structured concentrically:

A Joab knows (yada) David’s situation (v. 1)
B Joab’s scheme (vv. 2-3)
C The wise woman’s parable (vv. 4-10)
D The wise woman pleads for her son’s life (v. 11a)
D′ David grants her request (v. 11b)
C′ The wise woman’s parable applied (vv. 12-17)
B′ Joab’s scheme discovered (vv. 18-19)
A′ David knows (yada) all (v. 20)

As the structure makes clear, the story revolves around a parable put forth by the wise woman (vv. 4-9). Just as Nathan had done earlier (12:1-4), she weaves a narrative that is similar to but not identical with the actual facts in order to hoist David on his own petard. In addition, she is a talented actress who acts out the tale and dresses accordingly. David is no match for the conspiracy. He agrees to bring Absalom back. In a subtle stroke of genius, the author has refrained from using the name “David,” referring to David as “the king” throughout the chapter. This suggests that David, though duped into allowing the return of his son, is functioning as “the king” and not as “David” or as a parent. The reconciliation is purely formal and testifies to his parental weakness in this half of the book, a weakness that will have political repercussions.