Forgiveness and reconciliation is like being pregnant. You cannot really sort of be forgiven or reconciled. You either are or you aren’t. I was reminded of this recently when I came across these words from Pete Wilcox concerning the faux reconciliation between David and Absalom in 2 Samuel 14:1–33. Wilcox writes:
“There are three bowings before David in this episode: first the wise woman (verse 4), then Joab (verse 22) and finally Absalom (verse 33) prostrate themselves before David and do obeisance. The series is climactic and only Absalom is received with a kiss.
“Yet the reconciliation described in the final verse of the episode is threadbare. Statutory categories take precedence here over personal ones. This is the king becoming formally reconciled to a troublesome subject rather that David becoming reconciled to a wayward son. There is no dialogue (which, in Hebrew narrative, is always a mark that what transpires is somehow superficial and fails to engage the emotions). There is no real meeting of minds or hearts here even when Absalom gets the face to face meeting with the king that he has waited two years to achieve. No forgiveness has truly been offered by David or received by his son.
“The consequences of this will be tragic. Absalom will dominate the next few chapters, and his actions will plunge the kingdom of Israel into costly civil war.”
Pete Wilcox, Talking the Talk: The Fall of King David for Today: A Dramatic Exposition of 2 Samuel 5:11 to 1 Kings 2:11 (Cambridge: Lutterworth, 2011), 95–6.