Verse 30. "Go and set it on fire" - This was strange conduct, but it had the desired effect. He had not used his influence to get Absalom to court; now he uses it, and succeeds.
ADDITIONAL observations on ver. xxvi. - "And at every year's end, he (Absalom) polled his head; and he weighed the hair at two hundred shekels." The very learned Bochart has written a dissertation on this subject (vide Bocharti Opera, vol. iii., col. 883, edit. Lugd. 1692) in a letter to his friend M. Faukell. I shall give the substance in what follows.
There is nothing more likely than that corruptions in the Scripture numerals have taken place. Budaeus de Asse (lib. ii., p. 49 and 51, also lib. iii., p. 67 &c.) complains loudly of this.
This might easily have happened, as in former times the numbers in the sacred writings appear to have been expressed by single letters. The letter r resh stands for two hundred, and might in this place be easily mistaken for d daleth which signifies four; but this may be thought to be too little, as it would not amount to more than a quarter of a pound; yet, if the two hundred shekels be taken in the amount will be utterly incredible; for Josephus says, (Antiq. lib. vii., cap. 8,) siklouv diakosiouv, autoi de eisi pente mnai, i.e., "Two hundred shekels make five minae," and in lib. xiv., cap. 12. he says, Ęh de mna parĘ hmin iscei litrav bĘ kai hmisu; "And a mina with us (i.e., the Jews) weighs two pounds and a half." This calculation makes Absalom's hair weigh twelve pounds and a half! Credat Judaeus Apella! Indeed, the same person tells us that the hair of Absalom was so thick, &c., wv moliv authn hmeraiv apokeirein oktw, "that eight days were scarcely sufficient to cut it off in! "This is rabbinism, with a witness.
Epiphanius, in his treatise Deuteronomy Ponderibus et Mensuris, casts much more light on this place, where he says, siklov o legetai kai kodranthv tetarton men esti thv ougkiav, hmisu de tou stathrov, duo dracmav ecwn; "A shekel, (i.e., a common or king's shekel, equal to half a shekel of the sanctuary,) which is called also a quarter, is the fourth part of an ounce, or half a stater; which is about two drachms." This computation seems very just, as the half- shekel, (i.e., of the sanctuary,) Exod. xxx. 13, which the Lord commanded the children of Israel to give as an offering for their souls, is expressly called in Matt. xvii. 24, to didracmon, "two drachms:" and our Lord wrought a miracle to pay this, which the Romans then exacted by way of tribute: and Peter took out of the fish's mouth a stater, which contained exactly four drachms or one shekel, (of the sanctuary), the tribute money for our Lord and himself.
The king's shekel was about the fourth part of an ounce, according to what Epiphanius says above; and Hesychius says the same: dunatai de o siklov duo oracmav attikav; "A shekel is equal to, or worth, two Attic drachms." The whole amount, therefore, of the two hundred shekels is about fifty ounces, which make four pounds two ounces, Troy weight, or three pounds two ounces, Avoirdupois. This need not, says my learned author, be accounted incredible, especially as abundance of oil and ointments were used by the ancients in dressing their heads; as is evident, not only from many places in the Greek and Roman writers, but also from several places in the sacred writings. See Psa. xxiii. 5; Ecclesiastes ix. 8; Matt. vi. 17.
Josephus also informs us that the Jews not only used ointments, but that they put gold dust in their hair, that it might flame in the sun; and this they might do in considerable quantities, as gold was so plentiful among them. I must own I have known an instance that makes much for Bochart's argument: an officer, who had upwards of two pounds of powder and ointments put on his head daily, whose hair did not weigh a fourth part of that weight. And Absalom, being exceedingly vain, might be supposed to make a very extensive use of these things. There are some, however, who endeavour to solve the difficulty by understanding lq shakal to mean rather the value than the weight.
Bochart concludes this elabourate dissertation, in which he appears to have ransacked all the Hebrew, Greek, and Roman authors for proofs of his opinion, by exhorting his friend in these words of Horace:- - Si quid novisti rectius istis, Candidus imperti; si non, his utere mecum.
To me the above is quite unsatisfactory; and, with due deference to so great a character, I think I have found out something better.
I believe the text is not here in its original form; and that a mistake has crept into the numeral letters. I imagine that l lamed, THIRTY, was first written; which, in process of time, became changed for r resh, TWO HUNDRED, which might easily have happened from the similarity of the letters. But if this be supposed to be too little, (which I think it is not,) being only seven ounces and a half in the course of a year; let it be observed that the sacred text does not limit it to that quantity of time, for µymyl µymy Åqm mikkets yamim laiyamim signifies literally, "From the end of days to days;" which Jonathan properly renders, d[l d[ mzm mizzeman iddan leiddan, "at proper or convenient times," viz., when it grew too long or weighty, which it might be several times in the year.
Besides, this was not all his hair; for his head was not shaved but polled, i.e., the redundancy cut off.
But how was it probable that these two numerals should be interchanged? Thus; if the upper stroke of the l lamed were but a little impaired, as it frequently is both in MSS. and printed books, it might be very easily taken for r resh, and the remains of the upper part of the lamed might be mistaken for the stroke over the r , which makes it the character of two hundred.
But how could µytam mathayim, two hundred, in the text, be put in the place of µyl sheloshim, thirty? Very easily, when the numbers became expressed by words at length instead of numeral letters.
The common reading of the text appears to me irreconcilable with truth; and I humbly hope that what I have offered above solves every difficulty, and fully accounts for all that the sacred historian speaks of this vain-comely lad.
Ver. 27. "Absalom had a daughter, whose name was Tamar."