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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 15

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him.

Prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him, [ raatsiym (H7323)] - running footmen. Persons of quality, who ride on horseback, and still more those who are conveyed in splendid vehicles, are preceded by one servant, or by several, who run before their masters, carrying a stick or baton, which they constantly wave about them, and strike right and left to clear the way, especially in the streets of Oriental cities, which are always narrow and crowded. These avant-couriers are called sais in Egypt. They are accustomed to run, and can keep on at a rapid pace with the equipage which they precede, for many miles without stoppage, their feet covered with dust, and frequently bleeding from wounds. In ancient times fifty of these runners formed the usual attendance upon royalty (see the notes at 1 Kings 1:5; 18:48 ). Absalom's engagement of this number of attendants was assuming the state and equipage of a prince. The chariot, since the Hebrew [ merkaabaah (H4818)] indicates, was of a magnificent style; it is the word commonly applied to vehicles used by persons of rank and dignity (Genesis 41:43; Genesis 46:29; 1 Samuel 8:11); and the horses, a novelty among the Hebrew people, only introduced in that age as an appendage of royalty (Psalms 32:9; Psalms 66:12), formed a splendid retinue, which would make him 'the observed of all observers.'

Verse 2

And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel.

Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate. Public business in the East is always transacted early in the morning-the kings sitting an hour or more to hear causes or receive petitions in a court held anciently, and in many places still, in the open air at the city gateway; so that as those whose circumstances led them to wait on king David required to be in attendance on his morning levees, Absalom had to rise up early and stand beside the way of the gate. Through the growing infirmities of age, or the attack of a malignant sickness (Psalms 38:1-22; Psalms 39:1-13; Psalms 41:1-13), and the occupation of his government with foreign wars, many private causes had long lain undecided, and a deep feeling of discontent prevailed among the people. This dissatisfaction was artfully fomented by Absalom, who addressed himself to the various suitors, and after briefly hearing their tale, gratified everyone with a favourable opinion of his case.

Verse 3

And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee.

There is no man deputed of the king to hear thee [ wªshomeea` (H8085) 'eeyn (H369) lªkaa (H3807a) mee'eet (H853) hamelek (H4428)] there is none made (appointed) to hear thee from (by) the king. Studiously concealing his ambitious designs, he expressed a wish to be invested with official power, only that he might accelerate the course of justice, and advance the public interests. His professions had an air of extraordinary generosity and disinterestedness; and, together with his fawning arts in lavishing civilities on all, made him a popular favourite. Thus, by forcing a contrast between his own display of public spirit and the dilatory proceedings of the court, he created a growing disgust with his father's government, as weak, careless, or corrupt, and seduced the affections of the multitude, who neither penetrated the motives nor foresaw the tendency of his conduct [ wayªganeeb (H1589) ... 'et (H854) leeb (H3820), he deceived the men of Israel; Septuagint, idiopoieito, appropriated, gained over to himself, the hearts of the men of Israel].

Verses 4-6

Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice!

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 7

And it came to pass after forty years, that Absalom said unto the king, I pray thee, let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed unto the LORD, in Hebron.

After forty years. It is generally admitted that an error has here crept into the text, and that instead of [ 'arbaa`iym (H705)], "forty", we should read, with the Syriac and Arabic versions, and Josephus [ 'arba` (H702)], 'four years' - i:e., after Absalom's return to Jerusalem, and his beginning to practice the base arts of gaining popularity.

My vow, which I have vowed unto the Lord - during his exile in Geshur; and the purport of it was, that whenever God's providence should pave the way for his re-establishment in Jerusalem, he would offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Hebron was the spot selected for the performance of this vow, ostensibly as being his native place (2 Samuel 3:3), and a famous high place, an ancient sacred place (Genesis 13:18; Genesis 18:1-33; Genesis 23:1-20), and a city of the priests (Joshua 21:11), in presence of whom the vow was to be paid (Leviticus 27:1-34), where sacrifices were frequently offered before the temple was built; but really as being in many respects the most suitable for the commencement of his rebellious enterprise. David, who always encouraged piety, and desired to see religious engagements punctually performed, gave his consent and blessing. What a black heart must Absalom have had when he could not only plot the ruin of his father, but pursue his treasonable designs under the mask of religion!

Verses 8-9

For thy servant vowed a vow while I abode at Geshur in Syria, saying, If the LORD shall bring me again indeed to Jerusalem, then I will serve the LORD.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 10

But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, As soon as ye hear the sound of the trumpet, then ye shall say, Absalom reigneth in Hebron.

Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel. These emissaries were to sound the inclinations of the people, to further the interests of Absalom, and exhort all the adherents of his party to be in readiness to join his standard as soon as they should hear that he had been proclaimed king. Since the summons was to be made by the sound of trumpets, it is probable that care had been taken to have trumpeters stationed on the heights, and at convenient stations-a mode of announcement that would soon spread the news over all the country, of his inauguration to the throne.

Verse 11

And with Absalom went two hundred men out of Jerusalem, that were called; and they went in their simplicity, and they knew not any thing.

Two hundred men ... that were called - from their quality, reputation, and high standing, such as would create an impression that the king patronized the movement, and, being aged and infirm, was willing to adopt his oldest and noblest son to divide with him the cares and honours of government.

Verse 12

And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counsellor, from his city, even from Giloh, while he offered sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom.

Absalom sent for Ahithophel - who he knew was ready to join the revolt, through disgust and revenge, as Jewish writers assert, at David's conduct toward Bath-sheba, who was his granddaughter.

Giloh - near Hebron [ mi-Giloh (H1542)]. [The nomina Gentilia, Giyloniy (H1526), 'Iyloniy. (1 Kings 11:29; 1 Kings 12:15), lead us from the supposed form to the substantive termination -own-which liquids may drop, and express the remaining waw (w) vowel by he (h) (Ewald, sec. 163).]

The conspiracy was strong. The rapid accession of one place after another, in all parts of the kingdom, to the party of the insurgents, shows that deep and general dissatisfaction existed at this time against the person and government of David. The remnant of Saul's partisans, the unhappy affair of Bath-sheba, the overbearing insolence and crimes of Joab, negligence and obstruction in the administration of justice, were some of the principal causes that contributed to the success of this widespread insurrection (cf. Psalms 3:1).

Verse 13

And there came a messenger to David, saying, The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom. No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 14

And David said unto all his servants that were with him at Jerusalem, Arise, and let us flee; for we shall not else escape from Absalom: make speed to depart, lest he overtake us suddenly, and bring evil upon us, and smite the city with the edge of the sword.

David said ... Arise and let us flee. David, anxious for the preservation of the city which he had beautified, and confiding in a greater support throughout the country, wisely resolved on leaving Jerusalem.

Verses 15-17

And the king's servants said unto the king, Behold, thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my lord the king shall appoint.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 18

And all his servants passed on beside him; and all the Cherethites, and all the Pelethites, and all the Gittites, six hundred men which came after him from Gath, passed on before the king.

All the Cherethites, and all the Pelethites, [ ha-Kªreetiy (H3774) wªkaal (H3605) ha-Pªleetiy (H6432)] - executioners and couriers; the designation of a part of David's body-guards [sooma to fulakes: Josephus, 'Antiquities,' b. 7:, ch. 5:, sec. 4], whose duty it was both to execute punishment and to convey the king's commands as speedily as possible to his officers, (Gesenius) (see the notes at 2 Samuel 8:18, etc.) [The Septuagint and Vatican; pas Chelethi kai pas ho Felethi; Alexandrine, pas ho Chereththei kai pas ho Feleththei.]

All the Gittites, six hundred men. These were a body of foreign guards, natives of Gath, whom David, when in the country of the Philistines, had enlisted in his service, and kept around his person. Addressing their commander, Ittai (who, according to Jewish tradition, was the son of Achish, king of Gath), he made a searching trial of their fidelity in bidding them (2 Samuel 15:19) abide with the new king.

Verses 19-21

Then said the king to Ittai the Gittite, Wherefore goest thou also with us? return to thy place, and abide with the king: for thou art a stranger, and also an exile.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 22

And David said to Ittai, Go and pass over. And Ittai the Gittite passed over, and all his men, and all the little ones that were with him.

Ittai ... pass over ... and all the little ones that were with him. It is characteristic of Oriental people that they carry their whole family along with them in all their migrations. These formed all the army of David. The monthly quota of militia were not in attendance, in consequence of the disorganized state of affairs. Perhaps he dispensed with them from suspicions of their fidelity.

Verse 23

And all the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people passed over: the king also himself passed over the brook Kidron, and all the people passed over, toward the way of the wilderness.

The brook Kidron - a winter torrent that flows through the valley between the city and the eastern side of the mount of Olives.

Verse 24

And lo Zadok also, and all the Levites were with him, bearing the ark of the covenant of God: and they set down the ark of God; and Abiathar went up, until all the people had done passing out of the city.

Zadok also, and all the Levites ... bearing the ark. Knowing the strong religious feelings of the aged king, they brought it to accompany him in his distress. But as he could not doubt that both the ark and their sacred office would exempt them from the attacks of the rebels, he sent them back with it, not only that they might not be exposed to the perils of uncertain wandering (cf. Psalms 132:14) - or he seems to place more confidence in the symbol of the divine presence than in God himself-but that, by remaining in Jerusalem, they might render him greater service by watching the enemy's movements.

Verses 25-27

And the king said unto Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find favour in the eyes of the LORD, he will bring me again, and shew me both it, and his habitation:

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 28

See, I will tarry in the plain of the wilderness, until there come word from you to certify me.

I will tarry in the plain of the wilderness [ bª`arbowt (H6160) hamidbaar (H4057)] - in the plains (Arabahs) of the wilderness. Stanley (Smith's 'Dictionary,' article 'David') renders it, 'at the ford or bridge' [as if the original word were 'ªbaaraah; Kethibh]. But the Qeri' will not permit his meaning.

Verse 29

Zadok therefore and Abiathar carried the ark of God again to Jerusalem: and they tarried there.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 30

And David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot: and all the people that was with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up.

The ascent of mount Olivet - so called from its olive groves. Its situation is east of Jerusalem, from which it is separated by the valley of Jehoshaphat and the brook Kidron. Josephus reckons the distance at five stadia ('Antiquities,' b. 20:, ch. 6:), and Luke (Acts 1:12) says it was a Sabbath day's journey, namely, to the top. The same pathway over that mount has been followed ever since that memorable day.

Had his head covered - with a mourning wrapper (cf. 2 Samuel 19:4; Esther 6:12; Ezekiel 12:6). The humility and resignation of David marked strongly his sanctified spirit, induced by contrition for his transgressions. He had fallen, but it was the fall of the upright; and he rose again, submitting himself meekly in the meantime to the will of God (Chalmers). See examples of king Darius having his head covered, Q. Curtius, lib. 4:, cap.

10., sec. 33; and lib. 5:, cap. 12, sec. 8.

And he went barefoot. Walking barefoot was a token of profound distress-all the more significant that the barefooted pedestrian was of high rank. Anciently persons of station and opulence wore shoes formed of very costly materials, ornamented with gold, silver, or jewels. On the occurrence of some calamity, public or private, the mourners divested themselves of all their ornaments, down to their shoes, and walked barefoot (see Bynoeus de Calceis. 'Hebraeorum,' lib. 2:, cap. 5; Braunius de Vestitu, 'Sacerd. Hebr.,' pp. 45, 46; Guier, 'De Luctu,' cap. 15:, sec. 4).

Verse 31

And one told David, saying, Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom. And David said, O LORD, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.

O Lord ... turn the counsel of Ahithophel. This senator being the mainstay of the conspiracy, his defection stung David most acutely (Psalms 40:1-9).

Verse 32

And it came to pass, that when David was come to the top of the mount, where he worshipped God, behold, Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat rent, and earth upon his head:

Top of the mount, where he worshipped - looking toward Jerusalem, where were the ark and tabernacle.

Hushai the Archite - a native of Archi, on the frontiers of Benjamin and Ephraim (Joshua 16:2).

With his coat rent, [ kutaanªtow (H3801), his tunic; Septuagint, chitoon (G5509)] - worn usually with sleeves, and reaching to the knees; the proper dress of priests and Levites (Exodus 28:4; Exodus 29:5; Nehemiah 7:70-72); but in later times generally adopted by persons of rank. Comparing the prayers against Ahithophel with the counsel to Hushai, we see how strongly a spirit of fervent piety was combined, in David's character, with the devices of an active and far-seeing policy.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 15". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/2-samuel-15.html. 1871-8.
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