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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

2 Samuel 17

Verses 1-2

Moreover Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Let me now choose out twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue after David this night:

Moreover Ahithophel said unto Absalom. The success of the measure was certain, and the many evils of a civil war entirely avoided.

Let me now choose out twelve thousand men ... His proposal was to take, out of the vast multitude who had joined the standard of the insurgents, 12,000 picked men; and if the command of this select cerium were entrusted to him, he would undertake to pursue the royalist party, to attack that small handful, aiming only at the life of the king, and thus, by his fall, complete a sudden revolution, through which Absalom would succeed to the vacant throne. The recommendation to take prompt and decisive measures before the royalist forces could be collected and arranged evinced the deep political sagacity of this councillor.

Verse 3

And I will bring back all the people unto thee: the man whom thou seekest is as if all returned: so all the people shall be in peace.

I will bring back all the people ... the man whom thou seekest is as if all returned. [The Septuagint, apparently reading lª'iyshaah (H582), for haa'iysh (H376), renders the latter words as: hon tropon epistrefei hee numfee pros ton andra autees, as the spouse returns to her husband.] The adoption of his advice would have extinguished the cause of David; and it affords a dreadful proof of the extremities to which the heartless prince was, to secure his ambitious objects, prepared to go, that the parricidal counsel "pleased Absalom well, and all the elders of Israel." It was happily overruled, however, by the address of Hushai, who saw the imminent danger to which it would expose the king and the royal cause. He dwelt upon the warlike character and military experience of the old king-represented him and his adherents as mighty men, who would right with desperation, and who, most probably secured in some stronghold, would be beyond reach, while the smallest loss of Absalom's men at the outset might be fatal to the success of the conspiracy. But his dexterity was chiefly displayed in that part of his counsel which recommended a general levy throughout the country, and that Absalom should take command of it in person-thereby flattering at once the pride and ambition of the usurper. The bait was caught by the vain-glorious and wicked prince.

Verses 4-11

And the saying pleased Absalom well, and all the elders of Israel.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 12

So shall we come upon him in some place where he shall be found, and we will light upon him as the dew falleth on the ground: and of him and of all the men that are with him there shall not be left so much as one.

We will light upon him as the dew falleth on the ground. No image could have symbolized the sudden onset of an enemy so graphically to an Oriental mind as the silent, irresistible, and rapid descent of this natural moisture on every field and blade of grass.

Verse 13

Moreover, if he be gotten into a city, then shall all Israel bring ropes to that city, and we will draw it into the river, until there be not one small stone found there.

Then shall all Israel bring ropes to that city. In besieging a town, hooks or cranes were often thrown upon the walls or turrets, by which, with ropes attached to them, the besiegers, uniting all their force, pulled down the fortifications in a mass of ruins.

Verse 14

And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel. For the LORD had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the LORD might bring evil upon Absalom.

The counsel of Hushai ... is better than the counsel of Ahithophel. The reasons specified being extremely plausible, and expressed in the strong hyperbolical language suited to dazzle an Oriental imagination, the council declared in favour of Hushai's advice; and their resolution was the immediate cause of the discomfiture of the rebellion, although the counsel itself was only a link in the chain of causation held by the controlling hand of the Lord.

Verse 15

Then said Hushai unto Zadok and to Abiathar the priests, Thus and thus did Ahithophel counsel Absalom and the elders of Israel; and thus and thus have I counselled.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 16

Now therefore send quickly, and tell David, saying, Lodge not this night in the plains of the wilderness, but speedily pass over; lest the king be swallowed up, and all the people that are with him.

Send quickly, and tell David. Apparently doubting that his advice would be followed, Hushai ordered secret intelligence to be conveyed to David of all that transpired, with an urgent recommendation to cross the Jordan without a moment's delay, lest Ahithophel's address and influence might produce a change on the prince's mind, and an immediate pursuit be determined on.

Verse 17

Now Jonathan and Ahimaaz stayed by Enrogel; for they might not be seen to come into the city: and a wench went and told them; and they went and told king David. By En-rogel, [ bª-`Eeyn-Rogeel (H5883)] - 'The fuller's well,' or 'fountain of the scout' (known in modern times as Nehemiah's or Job's well, Bir-ayub) in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, below the junction of the valley of Hinnom with that of Jehoshaphat. Williams ('Holy City') calls it a stream. 'It is about 130 feet deep. It yields a supply of about 3,600 gallons of water in a day' (Robinson's 'Biblical Researches,' 1:, p. 492; Bonar's 'Land of Promise,' p. 160; Lewin, 'Sketch of Jerusalem,' p. 39).

A wench went and told them. Women frequently repair to that spot for the purpose of washing clothes.

Verse 18

Nevertheless a lad saw them, and told Absalom: but they went both of them away quickly, and came to a man's house in Bahurim, which had a well in his court; whither they went down.

They went ... away quickly, and came to a man's house ... which had a well in his court. The court was that of the house, and the well an empty cistern. All the houses of the better class are furnished with such reservoirs. Nothing could more easily happen than that one of these wells, in consequence of a deficiency of water, should become dry; and it would then answer as a place of retreat, such as David's friends found in the man's house at Bahurim.

Verse 19

And the woman took and spread a covering over the well's mouth, and spread ground corn thereon; and the thing was not known.

The woman ... spread a covering over the well's mouth [ hamaacaak (H4539)] - the covering. It is used specially for the veil or curtain before the entrance of the tabernacle and of the court (Exodus 26:36, etc.; 35:17; 39:40) - generally for a door hanging curtain. The meaning of the clause therefore is, 'the woman took the mesek, the door hanging, which, as the most convenient at the moment, she had taken down, and spread it upon the mouth of the well; and to give a greater air of naturalness to the appearance of the place, she threw upon the covering a heap of bruised grain.' Josephus says, 'she laid fleeces of wool over them' ('Antiquities, b.

vii., ch. 9:, sec. 7). Thus the kind providence of God, who watched so wondrously over the interests of David, protected the imperilled lives of the two messengers until they carried Hushai's important message to the fugitive king. Following the counsel given him, not to stop all night in the wilderness, he went down the steep mountain pass by which the Israelites first penetrated into the interior of Palestine (Joshua 7:1-26) to Jericho and Gilgal, then hastened to cross the river (the mode of transit is not described), and by dawn of the following day the whole party had gotten safely over. The circumstances of that distressing flight, aggravated by the lone hour of midnight, and the roar of the numerous cataracts of the Jordan, are graphically depicted in Psalms 42:1-11; Psalms 43:1-5, which, although bearing the name of the sons of Korah, represent vividly and fully the feelings of the disconsolate but pious monarch. The spreading of a covering over the well's mouth for the drying of grain is a common practice.

Verses 20-22

And when Absalom's servants came to the woman to the house, they said, Where is Ahimaaz and Jonathan? And the woman said unto them, They be gone over the brook of water. And when they had sought and could not find them, they returned to Jerusalem.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 23

And when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his ass, and arose, and gat him home to his house, to his city, and put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died, and was buried in the sepulchre of his father.

When Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed - his vanity was wounded, his pride mortified, on finding that his ascendancy was gone; but that chagrin was aggravated by other feelings-a painful conviction that, through the delay which had been resolved on, the cause of Absalom was lost. Hastening home, therefore, he arranged his private affairs, and knowing that the storm of retributive vengeance would fall chiefly upon him, as the instigator and prop of the rebellion, he hanged himself. It may be remarked that the Israelites did not at that time refuse the rights of sepulture even to those who died by their own hands. He had an imitator in Judas, who resembled him in his treason as well as in his infamous end.

Verse 24

Then David came to Mahanaim. And Absalom passed over Jordan, he and all the men of Israel with him.

Then David came to Mahanaim - in the high Eastern country of Gilead, the seat of Ish-bosheth's government.

Absalom passed over Jordan. It is not said how long an interval elapsed; but there must have been sufficient time to make the intended levy throughout the kingdom.

Verse 25

And Absalom made Amasa captain of the host instead of Joab: which Amasa was a man's son, whose name was Ithra an Israelite, that went in to Abigail the daughter of Nahash, sister to Zeruiah Joab's mother.

Amasa. By the genealogy it appears that this captain stood in the same relation to David as Joab, both being his nephews. He seems to have been an illegitimate son, his father, Ithra, being an Israelite, and his mother an Ammonitess (see the notes at 1 Chronicles 2:16-17), and of course Amasa was Absalom's cousin.

Verse 26

So Israel and Absalom pitched in the land of Gilead.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 27

And it came to pass, when David was come to Mahanaim, that Shobi the son of Nahash of Rabbah of the children of Ammon, and Machir the son of Ammiel of Lo'debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite of Rogelim,

When David was come to Mahanaim. The necessities of the king and his followers were hospitably ministered to by three chiefs, whose generous loyalty is recorded with honour in the sacred narrative. That three persons should be in circumstances, at their own expense, to furnish adequate supplies of food and other necessaries to the royal fugitives can be no matter of surprise, when it is considered that the owners of so immense flocks as are reared on the extensive pasture lands of the East are far wealthier than the cultivators of land.

Shobi - must have been brother of Hanun. Disapproving, probably, of that young king's outrage upon the Israelite ambassadors, he had been made governor of Ammon by David, on the conquest of that country. [See Josephus, 'Antiquities,' b. 7:, ch. 9:, sec. 8, where he is called Siphar: Septuagint, Naas, the Vatican has: Abigaian thugatera Naas adelfeen Sarouias, Abigail, daughter of Naas and sister of Zeruiah; and the Alexandrine has-daughter of Naas, adelfon Sarouias, Naas, brother of Zeruiah.]

Machir - (see the notes at 2 Samuel 9:4.) This chief is supposed by some to have been brother of Bath-sheba, but without foundation (cf. 1 Chronicles 3:5 with 2 Samuel 11:3 of this book). His locale cannot be exactly determined, in our ignorance of the site of Lo-deber, which is known only to have been in the nomad region east of the Jordan.

Barzillai - a wealthy old grandee, whose great age and infirmities made his loyal devotion to the distressed monarch peculiarly affecting. The supplies they brought, which, besides beds for the weary, consisted of the staple produce of their rich lands and pastures, may be classified as follows:-Edibles: wheat, barley [ sª`oriym (H8184), plural, barley in grains after threshing], flour [ qaaliy (H7039), parched grain (see the notes at Ruth 2:14; 1 Samuel 17:17; 1 Samuel 25:18)], beans, lentiles, sheep, and cheese [ uwshpowt (H8194) baaqaar (H1241), and cheeses of kine], slices of coagulated milk. [The Septuagint, as if not knowing what was meant, has retained the original word, Safooth booon]. Potables: 'honey and butter,' or cream [ chem'aah (H2529), curdled milk], which, being mixed together, forms a thin diluted beverage, light, cool, and refreshing. Being considered a luxurious refreshment (Song of Solomon 4:11), the supply of it shows the high respect that was paid to David by his loyal and faithful subjects at Mahanaim.

Verse 28

Brought beds, and basons, and earthen vessels, and wheat, and barley, and flour, and parched corn, and beans, and lentiles, and parched pulse,

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 29

And honey, and butter, and sheep, and cheese of kine, for David, and for the people that were with him, to eat: for they said, The people is hungry, and weary, and thirsty, in the wilderness.

In the wilderness - spread out beyond the cultivated table-lands into the steppes of Hauran.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 17". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/2-samuel-17.html. 1871-8.