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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 16

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



The rebellion at first looked like a great success. With King David out of the city and fleeing toward the Jordan River, Absalom found it easy to occupy Jerusalem, seize the palace, have sex relations with the ten concubines of the king which David had left in charge of the palace, and to set up his government without any opposition whatever. At that point, it certainly looked like the rebellion had turned into a revolution.

Verses 1-4


“When David had passed a little beyond the summit, Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth met him, with a couple of asses saddled, bearing two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred bunches of raisins, a hundred of summer fruits, and a skin of wine. And the king said to Ziba, `Why have you brought these?’ Ziba answered, `The asses are for the king’s household to ride on, the bread and summer fruit for the young men to eat, and the wine for those who faint in the wilderness to drink.’ And the king said, `And where is your master’s son?’ Ziba said to the king, `Behold, he remains in Jerusalem; for he said, “Today the house of Israel will give me back the kingdom of my father.”’ Then the king said to Ziba, `Behold, all that belonged to Mephibosheth is now yours.’ And Ziba said, `I do obeisance; let me ever find favor in your sight, my lord the king.’“

“One inevitable result of troubled times is that unscrupulous men use them for selfish purposes, aided by the fact that those in danger have no time for careful examination and are unable to make calm and impartial judgment, but act on first impressions.”(F1) This timely gift from Ziba completely deceived David, and he promptly gave Ziba all of Mephibosheth’s property, which must have pleased Ziba immensely. He had achieved his purpose completely. Later, when David heard Mephibosheth’s account of what happened, he was ashamed of his decision. “He did not know whom to believe and offered half the possessions to each man.”(F2) Understandable as David’s decision is, “He had pronounced a rash and unrighteous judgment, inflicting a great injury upon the character and interests of a devoted friend.”(F3)

“Two asses saddled” These had most likely been saddled for Ziba and for Mephibosheth; but the crafty Ziba left his crippled master behind and took them to David.

“A skin of wine” “This was a large goat-skin vessel.”(F4)

“Today,… Israel will give me back the kingdom of my father” That Mephibosheth actually said anything like this is extremely unlikely. “Ziba, for the purpose of advancing himself, made unfounded and false accusations against his master.”(F5) This is the opinion, not only of current scholars, but also of those in other generations. “The explanation later given by Mephibosheth sufficiently accounts for his remaining in Jerusalem, and we must suppose that Ziba’s accusations were slanderous.”(F6)

Verses 5-8


“When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera; and as he came, he cursed continually. And he threw stones at David, and at all the servants of King David; and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. And Shimei said as he cursed, “Begone, begone, you man of blood, you worthless fellow! The Lord has avenged upon you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your ruin is upon you; for you are a man of blood.”

“When King David came to Bahurim” “This tiny highway village some distance east of Mount Olivet is the place where Phalti turned back from following Michal as she was returned to David (2 Samuel 3:15-16), where Shimei’s cursing of David occurred, and where the sons of the priests (Jonathan and Ahimaaz) were hidden in a well (2 Samuel 17:18) during their mission of carrying information to David.”(F7)

“There came out a man… of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei” Cook identified this character as “Cush the Benjamite,”(F8) the person who is mentioned in the superscription of Psalms 7.

“Begone, you man of blood” “This expression `man of blood’ was applied to David by God Himself (1 Chronicles 22:8); and here, Shimei who probably knew what the Lord said, casts the same words into David’s teeth.”(F9)

H. P. Smith’s paraphrase of Shimei’s words here is: “Get thee gone, get thee gone, vile and cruel man! Yahweh has brought back upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul.”(F10)

“The blood of the house of Saul” Shimei’s sentiments were probably the same as that of many other people in the tribe of Benjamin. They no doubt blamed David for the death of Saul and his sons on Mount Gilboa (1 Samuel 31:1-6), Abner (2 Samuel 3:22-39), Ishbosheth (2 Samuel 4:5-12), and particularly, “The seven descendants of Saul whom David handed over to the Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21:1-14).”(F11)


David continued on his way to the fords of the Jordan River, with Shimei following him for some distance, cursing all the way. Shimei maintained some distance away from the company, throwing stones from hillsides.

Verses 9-14

“Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.” But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord has said to him, `Curse David,’ who then shall say, `Why have you done so’“? And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjamite! Let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord has bidden him. It may be that the Lord will look upon my affliction, and that the Lord will repay me with good for this cursing of me today.” So David and his men went on the road, while Shimei went along on the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went, and threw stones at him and flung dust. And the king, and all the people who were with him, arrived weary at the Jordan, and there he refreshed himself.”

“Abishai the son of Zeruiah” It is of interest that David addressed Abishai a moment later as, “You sons of Zeruiah,” thus classifying all three of them, Asahel, Joab and Abishai, as men of a different temperament from himself. These sons of David’s sister wanted to solve every problem violently. If one says something distasteful, go over and take his head off!

“Let me go over and take off his head” David would not allow Abishai to take vengeance on Shimei; and, perhaps, as Tatum suggested, “David left vengeance to the Lord,”(F12) according to Deuteronomy 32:35, the prior existence of that commandment being quite evident in David’s honoring of it in this episode.

“The Lord has bidden him” It is remarkable that David took this view of Shimei’s actions; and Jamieson’s explanation of it is probably correct. “David was guiltless of the crimes of which Shimei accused him, but his conscience reminded him of other flagrant sins in his lifem and he therefore regarded the cursing of Shimei as a chastisement from heaven.”(F13)

“The king… arrived… at the Jordan; and there he refreshed himself” The first part of his flight from Absalom was concluded. David would rest and refresh himself there and wait until word arrived from Jonathan and Ahimaaz concerning the intentions of Absalom.

Verses 15-19


“Now Absalom and all the people, the men of Israel, came to Jerusalem, and Ahithophel with him. And when Hushai the Archite, David’s friend, came to Absalom, Hushai said to Absalom, `Long live the king! Long live the king!’ And Absalom said to Hushai, `Is this your loyalty to your friend? Why did you not go with your friend?’ And Hushai said to Absalom, `No; for whom the Lord and this people and all the men of Israel have chosen, his I will be, and with him I will remain. And again, whom should I serve? Should it not be his son? As I have served your father, so I will serve you.’“

Right here is where Absalom lost his chance to be king of Israel. Conceited though he was, he was completely taken in by Hushai’s deceitful flattery. Hushai was in Absalom’s presence upon David’s specific orders with the sole purpose of defeating the counsel of Ahithophel; and once he gained Absalom’s confidence, the rest of his assignment was easy. It must not be thought that Hushai’s lying flattery of Absalom was approved by the Lord. The deeds of sinful people are frequently used and overruled by the Providence of God in the achievement of his eternal purpose.

Hushai’s deception of Absalom was a masterpiece. “He was naturally suspect (being David’s friend), but he cleverly ingratiated himself; the (deliberate) flaw in his appeal was the suggestion that Absalom, in any sense whatever, was `chosen’ (2 Samuel 16:18) by `all the men of Israel.’“(F14)


Incredible as it may seem, the man who murdered his brother for the rape of a half sister was now guilty on ten counts of incest, a capital offense, because the Lord had commanded that. “Any man who lies with his father’s wife… shall be put to death” (Leviticus 20:11). The apostle Paul spoke of this particular sin as so detestable that it was not even named among the Gentiles (1 Corinthians 5:1). “The entire history of the East affords only one parallel to the infamous outrage by Absalom.”(F15)

Verses 20-23

“Then Absalom said to Ahithophel, “Give your counsel; what shall we do?” Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Go in to your father’s concubines, whom he has left to keep the house; and all Israel will hear that you have made yourself odious to your father, and the hands of all who are with you will be strengthened.” So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof; and Absalom went in to his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel. Now in those days the counsel which Ahithophel gave was as if one consulted the oracle of God; so was all the counsel of Ahithophel esteemed, both by David and by Absalom.”

We are astounded that any scholar would diminish the guilt of Absalom’s actions here with the claim that, “It was not a mere act of wantonness.”(F16) However, as Matthew Henry more accurately understood it:

“Absalom’s immediate compliance with the Devil’s counsel as spoken by Ahithophel entirely suited Absalom’s lewd and wicked mind. Absalom even went beyond the evil counsel of Ahithophel who had advised that shameful action so that `all Israel might hear of it’; but, as if that were not enough, so completely lost to all honor and virtue was Absalom that he will do it under a tent on top of the palace so that `all Israel will see it.’“(F17)

Yes, of course, Absalom’s ravishing ten of his father’s concubines was also a political action, corresponding to the ancient pagan dictum that a succeeding king was entitled to the harem of his predecessor, but that in no manner whatever changed that type of debauchery from its inherent nature as a vulgar gratification of animal lust.

“Give your counsel; what shall we do” Willis tells us that, “The word “your” in this passage is plural,”(F18) indicating perhaps that Hushai himself might also have been among the counselors addressed.

“Israel will hear that you have made yourself odious to your father” This action by Absalom forever removed any possibility of David and Absalom being reconciled. The attitude of David toward Absalom was such that, without this, in case events had gone against him, Absalom might have appealed to his father for clemency and have received it, but following this, such was an impossibility. Ahithophel alone was served by Absalom’s compliance with his advice, because it committed Absalom to prosecute his rebellion to the end. Ahithophel was shrewd enough to know that, if things became difficult for Absalom, he might have called the rebellion off and pleaded for forgiveness from David, in which case Ahithophel would surely have been executed. Now, Ahithophel had secured himself against that eventuality. “For his own selfish purposes, therefore, Ahithophel led Absalom into a crime that made a reconciliation with David impossible.”(F19)

“So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof” This was the roof of the palace, as conspicuous a place as there was in Jerusalem. “This tent was the `wedding tent’ common to all Semitic peoples. It is mentioned in Psalms 19:5 and in Joel 2:16, and still survives in the Jewish wedding canopy.”(F20) “This public deed was the greatest possible insult to David.”(F21)

Of course, this public violation of David’s wives had been specifically prophesied by Nathan who gave the Word of God as saying, “I will take your wives… and give them to your neighbor; and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun” (2 Samuel 12:11). This blazing example of predictive prophecy and its exact fulfillment runs the radical critics crazy, so they try to get rid of it by making Nathan’s prophecy an interpolation. And what is their proof of such a preposterous proposition? Here it is: “The author of Second Samuel cannot have known that part of Nathan’s prophecy which alludes to this event (2 Samuel 12:11), or he would have mentioned it here. Thus, our verdict of an interpolation in that passage (2 Samuel 12:11) is confirmed.”(F22) Of course, the omission of any reference to Nathan’s prophecy here most emphatically does not confirm anything. It was simply unnecessary to mention it, because even a fool can see the fulfillment of Nathan’s prophecy here without any additional mention of it!

This claim regarding “no mention” of Nathan’s prophecy here is more than a century old, having been made by H. P. Smith back during the 1800’s,(F23) but all radical critics just keep on shouting their old, outmoded so-called “proofs” no matter how often they have been exposed and discredited.’

“The counsel which Ahithophel gave was as if one consulted the oracle of God” Smith called this, “A public panegyric (laudation, or praise)”(F24) of Ahithophel’s evil counsel, but it is no such thing. It is plain enough that this is not an expression of divine approval of Ahithophel’s counsel, but a statement of the way it was received “in those days” (2 Samuel 16:23), particularly a report of the way in which David and Absalom received it. Actually, Ahithophel’s counsel, from the worldly viewpoint was indeed wise, but in reality it was the counsel of Satan himself as it regarded Absalom’s outrageous incest. In that particular, “Ahithophel’s cursed counsel was an oracle of the Devil, not of God.”(F25)

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 16". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/2-samuel-16.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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