Collection: Palazzo Publico, Siena/Photo: Scala/Art Resource, NY

A brilliant statesman as well as a brilliant general, Joab (far left) wielded great influence at David’s court. In this painting by the 17th-century Sienese artist Domenico Manetti, the “wise woman of Tekoa” goes before King David, pretending to be in mourning: One of her two sons, she says, has killed the other and been driven into exile—leaving her entirely bereft. When David sympathizes and offers to pardon her surviving son so that he can return home, she asks why David doesn’t do the same: forgive his exiled son Absalom, who fled from Jerusalem after killing his half-brother Amnon, and allow him to return to Jerusalem.

David immediately senses that Joab has put the story into the woman’s mouth. He is right. Joab seems to recognize that Absalom is a potential threat to the throne and wants to have the king’s handsome son home in Jerusalem, where he can be watched. Recognizing Joab’s hand in the reconciliation, David “reinstates” Absalom, allowing him to come home.