The wise woman of Tekoa, though nameless, has a place in scripture because she wisely listened to Joab, approached the throne with tact and sensitivity in a delicate situation and helped to reunite the king with his son. She did not hold back in speaking the truth, even to a king. Read on to hear her story!
“Joab son of Zeruiah knew that the king’s heart longed for Absalom. So Joab sent someone to Tekoa and had a wise woman brought from there. He said to her, “Pretend you are in mourning. Dress in mourning clothes, and don’t use any cosmetic lotions. Act like a woman who has spent many days grieving for the dead. Then go to the king and speak these words to him.” And Joab put the words in her mouth.
When the woman from Tekoa went to the king, she fell with her face to the ground to pay him honor, and she said, “Help me, Your Majesty!”
The king asked her, “What is troubling you?”
She said, “I am a widow; my husband is dead. I your servant had two sons. They got into a fight with each other in the field, and no one was there to separate them. One struck the other and killed him. Now the whole clan has risen up against your servant; they say, ‘Hand over the one who struck his brother down, so that we may put him to death for the life of his brother whom he killed; then we will get rid of the heir as well.’ They would put out the only burning coal I have left, leaving my husband neither name nor descendant on the face of the earth.”
The king said to the woman, “Go home, and I will issue an order in your behalf.”
But the woman from Tekoa said to him, “Let my lord the king pardon me and my family, and let the king and his throne be without guilt.”
The king replied, “If anyone says anything to you, bring them to me, and they will not bother you again.”
She said, “Then let the king invoke the Lord his God to prevent the avenger of blood from adding to the destruction, so that my son will not be destroyed.”
“As surely as the Lord lives,” he said, “not one hair of your son’s head will fall to the ground.”
Then the woman said, “Let your servant speak a word to my lord the king.”
“Speak,” he replied.
The woman said, “Why then have you devised a thing like this against the people of God? When the king says this, does he not convict himself, for the king has not brought back his banished son? Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him.
“And now I have come to say this to my lord the king because the people have made me afraid. Your servant thought, ‘I will speak to the king; perhaps he will grant his servant’s request. Perhaps the king will agree to deliver his servant from the hand of the man who is trying to cut off both me and my son from God’s inheritance.’
“And now your servant says, ‘May the word of my lord the king secure my inheritance, for my lord the king is like an angel of God in discerning good and evil. May the Lord your God be with you.’”
Then the king said to the woman, “Don’t keep from me the answer to what I am going to ask you.”
“Let my lord the king speak,” the woman said.
The king asked, “Isn’t the hand of Joab with you in all this?”
The woman answered, “As surely as you live, my lord the king, no one can turn to the right or to the left from anything my lord the king says. Yes, it was your servant Joab who instructed me to do this and who put all these words into the mouth of your servant. Your servant Joab did this to change the present situation. My lord has wisdom like that of an angel of God—he knows everything that happens in the land.”
The king said to Joab, “Very well, I will do it. Go, bring back the young man Absalom.”
Joab fell with his face to the ground to pay him honor, and he blessed the king. Joab said, “Today your servant knows that he has found favor in your eyes, my lord the king, because the king has granted his servant’s request.” 2 Samuel 14: 1-22
The wise woman of Tekoa was willing
The king’s son was estranged from his father for killing his brother who raped his sister Tamar (to read the account of this dramatic story, read 2 Samuel chapter 13!) Joab knew that the king missed his son and so he summoned the wise woman of Tekoa to speak the words the king needed to hear.
Her willingness to help the king in this delicate situation is a credit to her attitude of servanthood to the king. We can learn from the wise woman of Tekoa to be willing to serve in whatever capacity we need to serve our King.
This woman was asked to change her appearance, tell a tale and then boldly give a word to a great and powerful king. There was no gain for her except to help him to see the truth and reunite him with his banished son. That’s devotion!
May we serve our King with such willingness!
The wise woman of Tekoa was tactful
Her sensitivity in delivering the message of the Lord to him was tactful. We know from scripture that Joab put many of the words in her mouth for the king, but we also see where the king called her to a truthful answer as well.
“As surely as you live, my lord the king, no one can turn to the right or to the left from anything my lord the king says. Yes, it was your servant Joab who instructed me to do this and who put all these words into the mouth of your servant. Your servant Joab did this to change the present situation. My lord has wisdom like that of an angel of God—he knows everything that happens in the land.”
She answered him truthfully, boldly and with honor. She showed her king the respect he deserved in a very emotional family circumstance.
We can learn from the wise woman of Tekoa to be ever considerate of the delicate situations in life that are brought before us and that kindness, compassion and showing honor to whom it is due has the power to turn hearts and change lives, even among kings.