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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 17

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-14

Second Samuel - Chapter 17

Hushai Versus Ahithophel, vs. 1-14

Ahithophel moved to take charge of the rebellion, with a plan to bring it to a swift conclusion. His proposal was logical and would have likely been a wise one had it been in the will of God. He wished to take twelve thousand men and follow David and his men that very night, while they were very near the city and exhausted from their flight. The sudden appearance of a large army would throw them into great fright, so that the people would be likely to flee, hopefully to save their lives, leaving the king undefended. Ahithophel would then slay David, round up the people, and return with them to Jerusalem. So the rebellion would have succeeded and Absalom become king.

Absalom and all the leaders of the rebellion were very well pleased with the scheme of Ahithophel. However they remembered that Hushai was the intimate friend of David and would likely be able to advise them in things of which they would not ordinarily be aware. So they called him to hear the proposal of Ahithophel and to pass his judgment on it. Hushai used subtlety in his reply, for he knew that Ahithophel’s counsel was good and could be calculated to succeed if carried out. So he began by admitting that it was a good plan, but not for immediate use.

In making his response Hushai reminded the elders and Absalom of some well-known facts which required further consideration. First 1) David and his men would be angry and spoiling for a fight; 2) David being a man of war would not be among the people, but hidden against just such a contingency as Ahithophel had proposed; 3) vigorous fighting by the able men around David would surely result in overthrowing a great number of Absalom’s men with the result that others would be disheartened and afraid; 4) all the mighty men, the Cherethites and Pelethites, and the Gittites were with David, and were men of renown, proven on the field of battle, and able to withstand many times their own number.

There was certainly logic on the side of Hushai also, but many of his conclusions were based on speculation only. Actually such was not the case with David in his camp. Thus Hushai hastened to put forth a counter-plan which might be thought more feasible than that of Ahithophel by Absalom and the men of Israel. He proposed that David could be overcome by sheer numbers. Absalom had cause to believe that Israel was turning to him completely, that David would have so few followers he could not hope to hold out. Hushai suggested they would fall upon David wherever he was, like dew on the grass, and overwhelm him so that he would have none left. If he should succeed in getting inside a walled city there would be so many of Absalom’s followers they would be able to go there and take it apart stone by stone, until the defense was removed.

Hushai had presented a plan which seemed to involve less risk, and it appealed to Absalom and his men. Thus they concluded that the counsel of Hushai was better than that of Ahithophel. Logically compared it is really not hard to see that Ahithophel’s counsel was much more likely to succeed than that of Hushai. But the pride of Absalom and his men blinded them in the self deceit that ail of Israel would without fail acclaim him king and that David’s following would melt away. God used this weakness of Absalom to cause his fall, in making him and his captains conclude the superiority of Hushai’s counsel over that of Ahithophel.

Verses 15-23

Hushai’s Counsel Prevails, vs. 15-23

Hushai did not know whether his advice would be followed rather than that of Ahithophel. In his role as spy and informant he now sent a message to David by the two priests’ sons, Ahimaaz and Jonathan. These young men had been concealed at En-rogel, just outside Jerusalem. It was a spring near the juncture of the valleys of Hinnom and Jehoshaphat, less than five hundred yards southeast of the city. Ahimaaz and Jonathan were to tell David what Ahithophel had counselled Absalom and what Hushai had counselled. As a precautionary move, should Absalom finally act on the counsel of Ahithophel, David was instructed not to remain in his camp in the wilderness through the night. Rather he was to move with speed to get himself and his people across the Jordan River before the coming day. Thus Hushai was aware that David was probably not sufficiently strong to resist the force which Ahithophel proposed sending against him.

A young servant girl was chosen to carry Hushai’s message to the priests’ sons. Absalom had his spies watching also, and in spite of all caution, the move was jeopardized when a young boy discovered the young priests hiding at En-rogel and reported it to Absalom. It does not seem that he found out about the message they were conveying from Hushai. He sent some of his men to apprehend them.

Ahimaaz and Jonathan passed over Olivet to Bahurim, where David had first encountered Shimei, and there sought concealment with friends of the place. The woman hid them in the well which was in the courtyard. Many such wells were equipped with descending steps to the level of the water, so that the water carrier could descend and take out the water for domestic use. This must have been the condition of the well of Bahruim. When they were in the well, the woman took a covering which she put over the mouth of the well, and spread it with drying grain flour, so that the well would not be identified, or suspect.

Absalom’s men traced Ahimaaz and Jonathan to the house and inquired of their whereabouts. The woman told the men they had passed on over the brook, and when they had searched for them unsuccessfully they returned to Jerusalem empty handed. When they had gone the young priests came out of the well and proceeded on their way to inform David. He was urged to decamp at once and to cross the river. This David proceeded at once to do, so that by the next day none of his people remained west of the JorDa

When Ahithophel saw that Absalom would not follow his counsel he knew that Absalom’s cause was hopeless and that he was ruined. Consequently he arose, saddled his donkey, and proceeded to return to his home in Giloh. There he put all his affairs in order and committed suicide by hanging himself, and was buried in the tomb of his father.

Verses 24-29

David Finds Refuge at Mahanaim, vs. 24-29

Mahanaim was located in Gilead, east of the Jordan, in the valley of the Jabbok not far from where Jacob wrestled with the angel (Genesis 32). In fact Jacob named the place when he was returning from his long sojourn with his uncle, Laban. It meant "two hosts" and was so named because Jacob was given the vision of God’s host encamped alongside his own host. It was the same area where Saul’s family sought refuge after his death in battle at mount Gilboa. Here Mephibosheth had resided for many years until brought to Jerusalem by David.

Absalom soon followed David with his army seeking to complete his subjugation of the land by overrunning his father’s stronghold. He had placed Amasa as captain over the host in the stead of Joab. Joab and Amasa were cousins, the mother of Amasa being Abigail, the sister of Zeruiah, Joab’s mother. His father was a man named Ithra, but called Jether in 1 Chronicles 2:17, where he is also called an Ishmaelite. Some scholars say "Ishmaelite" is the correct rendering. Absalom pitched his army here in Gilead awaiting a final showdown with David.

Meanwhile David had his needs well supplied by friends in the area, who brought to him bedding, utensils, and a variety of food supplies. Among the chief suppliers was Shobi, the son of Nahash the former king of Ammon, who was now subject to Israel. Hanun had succeed his father as king of Ammon, but his insult had provoked a disastrous war with Israel, in which he was deposed (2 Samuel 10:1 ff). Shobi was evidently a younger prince who was placed over the conquered country by David.

Others were Machir of Lo-debar, who had nourished and cared for the exiled Mephibosheth for may years, and Barzillai a rich Gileadite of Rogelim. This place was some fifty miles north of Mahanaim, in upper Gilead, which had been allotted to the half-tribe of Manasseh. These men recognized the need of the fugitive king and came to his aid.

A few lessons include 1) Wise counsel from man’s standpoint is often very foolish in God’s view; 2) foolish proposals that cater to a person’s pride will usually be accepted by the proud; 3) God will overrule the attempts of men to frustrate His will; 4) sadly many wise men go to their deaths tragically because they left God out of their plans; 5) God will provide for His children the things they need.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 17". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/2-samuel-17.html. 1985.
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