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Thursday, May 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 18

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

Verse 1

And David numbered the people that [were] with him, and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them.

And David numbered the people. — Which seem to be by this time not so few as four thousand, as Josephus reporteth them, or seven thousand, as Comestor, but many more; so that he was confident of the victory, and gave charge concerning Absalom, that his life should be spared.

Verse 2

And David sent forth a third part of the people under the hand of Joab, and a third part under the hand of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, and a third part under the hand of Ittai the Gittite. And the king said unto the people, I will surely go forth with you myself also.

I will surely go forth with you myself also. — If he had done so when Joab went against Rabbah of the Ammonites, he had done well: for

Quaeritus Aeysthus quare sit factus adulter

In promptu causa est, desidiosus erat. ”

Nero, Commodus, Galienus, and other cowardly and voluptuous princes, are blamed for idling and rioting at home, when their armies were against the enemy. But it may well be thought, that this motion of David’s to go in person, was in favour of Absalom, and to see that he were not cut off by any of the army.

Verse 3

But the people answered, Thou shalt not go forth: for if we flee away, they will not care for us; neither if half of us die, will they care for us: but now [thou art] worth ten thousand of us: therefore now [it is] better that thou succour us out of the city.

But now thou art worth ten thousand of us. — Christ, of whom David was a type, is "the chief of ten thousand": and so every good heart holdeth him. When David was in danger of being slain by Ishbibenob the giant, Abishai interposed and rescued him. 2 Samuel 21:17 When our Henry II was in imminent peril of his life at the siege of Bridgenorth, A.D. 1155, Hubert de St Clare preserved his sovereign’s life with the loss of his own. Speed, 501. When Mauricius, the young Saxon prince, valiantly charging the Turks at the siege of Pesth, had his horse slain under him, and was in danger to have been there lost himself, Nicholas Ribische, one of his own followers, covered him with his own body, till such time as he was rescued by others, Ribische himself presently dying of his wounds. Turk. Hist., 730. A commen soldier at Musselburgh field, in Edward VI’s time, finding the Earl of Huntly assaulted by the English, and without his helmet, took off his own headpiece, and put it on the earl’s head. The earl was therewith taken prisoner, but the soldier, for want thereof, was presently struck down. Life of Edward VI, by Sir J. Heywood. John Careless, martyr, in a letter to Mr Bradford in prison, writeth thus, ‘Oh that my life, and a thousand such wretches’ lives more, might go for yours! Oh, why doth God suffer me and such other caterpillars to live, that can do nothing but consume the alms of the Church, and take away so worthy a workman and labourer in the Lord’s vineyard! But woe be to our sins and great unthankfulness,’ … Act. and Mon., 1744. A public spirited man is all for Christ; and can drown all self-respects in his glory. Vivat et regnet Christus, Let Christ live and rule, is his motto. He is also much taken up with the care of community, and will venture his own particular good for the general: as heavy things will ascend to keep out vacuity, and to preserve the universe.

Therefore now it is better that thou succour us out of the city.Si fueris nostra causa, pervigil, so Tremellius rendereth; Si fueris nobis praesto civitate, so Piscator. Thou thence shalt help us, or cause us to be helped; thy prayers shall prevail with God for our assistance, - so others, - that God may send us in the supplies of his Spirit, Philippians 1:19 and thou also may help us with fresh supplies of men and victuals, as there shall be occasion.

Verse 4

And the king said unto them, What seemeth you best I will do. And the king stood by the gate side, and all the people came out by hundreds and by thousands.

What seemeth you best I will do. — So meekly doth David submit himself to the will of his men. Affliction and meekness grow both on the same root in the holy tongue. "A man of understanding is of an excellent" - or, of a cool - "spirit." Proverbs 17:27

Verse 5

And the king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, [Deal] gently for my sake with the young man, [even] with Absalom. And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains charge concerning Absalom.

Deal gently for my sake. — Heb., Leniter propter me, sc., agite. Though he hath deserved no favour, yet do something for me, who cannot grow out of kind, though he doth, who cannot choose but love him after all the unkindness, and am much afraid lest he should die in his sins. This is said to be the best line in all Terence,

Pro peccato magno paulum supplicii satis est patri.

A little punishment for a great offence seemeth to a father to be enough. It doth so surely to our heavenly Father. Laudent alii pietatem Dei, ego misericordiam. August.

And all the people heard. — But no man ever heard David threaten, that if they slew Absalom, he would slay himself, as Josephus falsely saith that he did.

Verse 6

So the people went out into the field against Israel: and the battle was in the wood of Ephraim;

And the battle was in the wood of Ephraim. — So called, because it was opposite Ephraim; or because forty-two thousand Ephraimites there once lost their lives. Judges 12:5-6

Verse 7

Where the people of Israel were slain before the servants of David, and there was there a great slaughter that day of twenty thousand [men].

Where the people of Israel were slain. — For a just reward of their unjust rebellion: besides a great sort of them who having tasted of the sweetness of war, dulce bellum inexpertis, threw down their arms, and ran home ad beatos rastros, benedictura aratrum, sanctamque stivam, Bucholc. as the divine chronologer saith of the seditious boors of Germany beaten by the princes, together with Munzer, their general, who was taken and executed according to his deserts.

Verse 8

For the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country: and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.

And the wood devoured more people that day. — While in running from death, they ran to it; sive in stipites impegerint, sive in arbores illisetint, sive in scrobes, praecipitia aut etiam feras inciderint; whether they fell upon the stubs, or fell into the ditches, or were hanged in the trees, or devoured by wild beasts, or were slain there in the pursuit, or knocked on the head by the country people; quod arguit hanc divinam esse vindictam, saith Jerome.

Verse 9

And Absalom met the servants of David. And Absalom rode upon a mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth; and the mule that [was] under him went away.

And his head caught hold of the oak. — His head was catched in a crotch or forked branch of the oak, Henry, grandchild to William the Conqueror, while he hotly pursued the chase in New Forest, was struck by a bough into the jaws, and, as Absalom, left hanging until he died. - Speed, l45. and so he hung by the neck between heaven and earth, as rejected of both.

Abslon Marte furens pensilis arbore obit.

By that head he hanged, which had plotted treason against so good a father; and by the hair of his head twisted and wound about the boughs, as most expositors hold. God making his hair his halter: those tresses that had formerly hanged loosely dishevelled on his shoulders, now he hangs by them. He had wont to weigh his hair, and was proud to find it so heavy: now his hair poiseth the weight of his body, and makes his burden his torment. But what meant Gretser, the Jesuit, to call this oak a cross, and a manifest figure of Christ’s cross? in qua Absalom pendens Christum praefiguravit? Lib. i., De Cruce, cap. 6. Was the man in his right mind?

And the mule that was under him went away. — False hopes of God’s mercy will one day serve men as Absalom’s mule did his master: when those that are rightly grounded, will do as Bucephalus, Alexander’s great horse, of which Gellius reporteth, that though deeply wounded in both neck and sides in a battle, yet he carried his master with great speed from out the danger of his enemies, and when he had set him in safety, fell down and died.

Verse 10

And a certain man saw [it], and told Joab, and said, Behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak.

Behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak. — Which oak, by the just judgment of God, this new king had for a throne, his twisted hair for a crown. He shall shortly have three darts in his heart for a sceptre, and Joab’s ten armourbearers for a guard: but this in the text dared not meddle with him, because of the king’s command to the contrary. 2 Samuel 18:5

Verse 11

And Joab said unto the man that told him, And, behold, thou sawest [him], and why didst thou not smite him there to the ground? and I would have given thee ten [shekels] of silver, and a girdle.

And I would have given thee. — And will do still, if thou wilt yet do it: for though Joab wished Absalom slain as a public pest; yet he had rather it should have been done by another, than by himself, or by his command. Politicians use to put others before them in dangerous actions, and, with the ape, to take nuts out of the fire with the paw of the cat.

Ten shekels of silver, and a girdle,i.e., A purse, as Mark 6:8 , or a military belt, as an ensign of honour.

Verse 12

And the man said unto Joab, Though I should receive a thousand [shekels] of silver in mine hand, [yet] would I not put forth mine hand against the king’s son: for in our hearing the king charged thee and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Beware that none [touch] the young man Absalom.

Yet would I not put forth mine hand. — Because it would be as much as my life is worth. How mad, then, are they who for a few paltry shillings part with their precious souls!

Hoc Ithacus velit, hoc magno mercentur Achivi.

Verse 13

Otherwise I should have wrought falsehood against mine own life: for there is no matter hid from the king, and thou thyself wouldest have set thyself against [me].

And thou thyself wouldst have set thyself. — Or, Wouldst have kept aloof off from helping me. Satan is ever accusing the saints after that he hath drawn them to sin: so that one may say to him, as this man here doth to Joab, Thou thyself, …

Verse 14

Then said Joab, I may not tarry thus with thee. And he took three darts in his hand, and thrust them through the heart of Absalom, while he [was] yet alive in the midst of the oak.

And thrust them through the heart of Absalom. — In which execution of this arch-rebel, contrary to David’s charge, whether Joab did well or ill, the doctors are divided. I think he did well for the main; though he might have some mixed motives in it. Absalom was incorrigible, a great murderer, and a parricide, whom though he had now escaped, yet vengeance would not have suffered long to have lived. Selymus, the great Turk, struck with a most loathsome and incurable disease, ended his days at Chiurbus with an untimely and tormenting death, where he had joined battle with his own father, Bajazet, A.D. 1511; God in the same place with revenging hand taking just punishment for his detestable disloyalty towards his aged father. Turk. Hist.

Verse 15

And ten young men that bare Joab’s armour compassed about and smote Absalom, and slew him.

And ten young men. — As he had defiled his father’s ten concubines, so by these ten youngsters he hath that little breath that was left in him beaten out of his body. En admirandum Dei iudicium. See 2 Samuel 18:10 .

Verse 16

And Joab blew the trumpet, and the people returned from pursuing after Israel: for Joab held back the people.

For Joab held back the people. — From pursuing the rebels, as pitying their seduction: he knew as well how to use victory, as to get it, which Hannibal did not.

Verse 17

And they took Absalom, and cast him into a great pit in the wood, and laid a very great heap of stones upon him: and all Israel fled every one to his tent.

And laid a very great heap of stones upon him. — Other disobedient sons were by the law to be stoned alive; so was Absalom when dead: and still, as Adrichomius reporteth, every one that goeth by throweth a stone to add to the rest; in detestation of that horrid sin, saying, Cursed be the parricide Absalom.

Verse 18

Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a pillar, which [is] in the king’s dale: for he said, I have no son to keep my name in remembrance: and he called the pillar after his own name: and it is called unto this day, Absalom’s place.

Had reared up for himself a pillar. — A pyramis, a triumphal arch, or rather a sepulchral monument; to make him a name, which yet would not be. God crossed him in his pride: for it proved a κενοταφιον , as the Greeks call it; and he as a dead beast was cast out of the way.

Which is in the king’s dale. — As hoping one day to be a king amongst them: and pity but he had been served as that false Earl of Athol was, who, having murdered James, king of Scots, in hope to attain the crown, as his witches had promised him, was indeed crowned, but it was with a crown of red-hot iron clapped upon his head; being one of the tortures wherewith he ended at once his wicked days and desires. Hect. Boeth.

For he said, I have no son. — His sons all died similiarily, after he came from Geshur. God would not allow him to live in his children, who had so wicked a heart toward his father.

And he called the pillar after his own name. — But took no care at all whether his name were "written in the Book of life." See Trapp on " Judges 9:54 " Erasmus telleth us of some of his time who being at last gasp, would give a great sum of money for a cardinal’s hat, that they might have the title of cardinals engraven upon their tombs.

And it is called unto this day, Absalom’s place. — Heb., Absalom’s hand: or, as Martyr hath it, The work of Absalom. It was a marble pillar with his statue upon it, saith Adrichomius. Il Mercur. Italico. It might afterwards have been called, as that near Rome is, Colonne infame, the infamous pillar.

Verse 19

Then said Ahimaaz the son of Zadok, Let me now run, and bear the king tidings, how that the LORD hath avenged him of his enemies.

And bear the king tidings. — Who could not but much long to hear the issue of the battle.

Verse 20

And Joab said unto him, Thou shalt not bear tidings this day, but thou shalt bear tidings another day: but this day thou shalt bear no tidings, because the king’s son is dead.

Because the king’s son is dead. — Not by a fever and a flux, with excoriation of his bowels (as died Henry, son of our Henry II - crowned by his father, but rebelling against him - after floods of tears, and a most sorrowful confession of his sin; which being by some good Ahimaaz afterwards related to his father, who hearing before of his penitency, had sent him his ring in token of forgiveness, the king fell upon the earth weeping bitterly, and mourned very sore); Speed, 522. but by a most sad stroke of divine justice in the flagrancy of his rebellion, which he had neither space nor grace to regret, that we read of. This would be heavy news to good David, as Joab well knew; and therefore, out of his love to Ahimaaz, was loath to send him with it.

Verse 21

Then said Joab to Cushi, Go tell the king what thou hast seen. And Cushi bowed himself unto Joab, and ran.

Then said Joab to Cushi.Non est nomen proprium. - Vat. Cuidam Aethiopi; so Tremellius rendereth it; to a certain blackamoor, some slave that belonged to David’s house, 2 Samuel 18:31 whose acceptance before the king Joab did not so much regard; and, because of his blackness, he might be the fitter messenger of such doleful tidings, as he knew it would be to David.

Verse 22

Then said Ahimaaz the son of Zadok yet again to Joab, But howsoever, let me, I pray thee, also run after Cushi. And Joab said, Wherefore wilt thou run, my son, seeing that thou hast no tidings ready?

But howsoever, let me, I pray thee, also run. — For he resolved to be first there, and to report the best only, and let Cushi tell the worst of the news. It is discretion to put off the relation of ill news to others, where we are not urged by necessity.

Verse 23

But howsoever, [said he], let me run. And he said unto him, Run. Then Ahimaaz ran by the way of the plain, and overran Cushi.

Then Ahimaaz ran by the way of the plain. — Which was the nearest way, though farthest about.

Verse 24

And David sat between the two gates: and the watchman went up to the roof over the gate unto the wall, and lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold a man running alone.

And David sat between the two gates. — Where he hung in suspense, and waited for the next news.

Verse 25

And the watchman cried, and told the king. And the king said, If he [be] alone, [there is] tidings in his mouth. And he came apace, and drew near.

If he be alone, there is tidings in his mouth. — Tidings of victory likely; for if an army be beaten they flee by troops; and it is seldom seen that the newsbearer hath cause to say, "I only am escaped alone to tell thee," as Job 1:15-16 .

Verse 26

And the watchman saw another man running: and the watchman called unto the porter, and said, Behold [another] man running alone. And the king said, He also bringeth tidings.

Behold another man running. — He ran first, but was outrun by Ahimaaz; so was Peter by the beloved disciple. John 20:4 A ready heart maketh riddance.

Verse 27

And the watchman said, Me thinketh the running of the foremost is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok. And the king said, He [is] a good man, and cometh with good tidings.

He is a good man. — We should have the same good esteem of God’s faithful ministers, whose "feet," if they be not "beautiful" to us, how much more their faces! - it is a sign that our hearts are foul with infidelity and secure worldliness.

Verse 28

And Ahimaaz called, and said unto the king, All is well. And he fell down to the earth upon his face before the king, and said, Blessed [be] the LORD thy God, which hath delivered up the men that lifted up their hand against my lord the king.

All is well. — Heb., Peace; or, There is peace, the daughter of war, εχηρος πατρος φιλτατον τεκνον , as the Romans said of Pompey, The lovely daughter of an ugly mother. By "peace" the Hebrews signify all prosperity and happiness.

Verse 29

And the king said, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Ahimaaz answered, When Joab sent the king’s servant, and [me] thy servant, I saw a great tumult, but I knew not what [it was].

Is the young man Absalom safe? — Heb., Is there peace to Absalom? q.d., I reckon it no peace if Absalom partake not of it.

But I knew not what it was. — But he did know, as appeareth in 2 Samuel 18:19-20 , … This, therefore, was a lie, and it was the product and punishment of his rashness in running, though Joab had dissuaded him.

Verse 30

And the king said [unto him], Turn aside, [and] stand here. And he turned aside, and stood still.

And he turned aside, and stood still. — Till Cushi came. Meanwhile David was held in suspense; and fearing the worst, was the better prepared to hear and bear the sad news of his son’s death. At the siege of Buda, A.D. 1541, Eckius Raschachius, a German captain, having the dead body of his son presented to him unexpectedly, was so surcharged with inward grief, that after that he had stood a while speechless, with his eyes set in his head, he suddenly fell down dead. Turk. Hist.

Verse 31

And, behold, Cushi came; and Cushi said, Tidings, my lord the king: for the LORD hath avenged thee this day of all them that rose up against thee.

And, behold, Cushi came. — Who was the king’s servant, 2 Samuel 18:29 and likely one of his footmen; but outrun by Ahimaaz, who left him the worst of the news to tell; as knowing that sick men do naturally loathe the very cup out of which they drink bitter potions.

Verse 32

And the king said unto Cushi, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Cushi answered, The enemies of my lord the king, and all that rise against thee to do [thee] hurt, be as [that] young man [is].

Is the young man Absalom safe?Omnis in Ascanio, … See still his excessive love and unbounded affection to this untoward son of his, in whom there was nothing good but only his name. Such unmortified affection is as soon wounded, as a scald head broken.

Be as that young man is, — viz., Dead; not damned, as some, both ancient and modern writers, conclude that Absalom was. But who can tell that?

Verse 33

And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!

And the king was much moved. — A great deal more than was justified. Many heathens have better borne the death of their dear children; as he who, bearing his son’s death, said only this, Novi me genuine mortalem. Pulvillus, when he was about to consecrate a temple to Jupiter, and news was brought to him of the death of his son, would not desist from his enterprise, but with much composure of mind gave order for decent burial. Now is it not a shame that nature should outstrip grace? - that David, hearing that Absalom was dead, should thus inconsolabiliter lamentari et victoriam funestare, lament so unreasonably and intempestively now, to the endangering of all his people, who, it might be feared, would hereupon have forsaken him, and set up a new captain over them? But it is like it was the fear lest he died in his sin, and so perished for ever, that so much troubled David, and then, - Lugeatur mortuus; sed ille quem gehenna suscipit, quem Tartarus devorat, in cuius poenam aeternus ignis aestuat, saith Jerome; in that case there is great cause of mourning indeed. Howbeit est modus in rebus, there is reason in all things; and all immoderations are to be avoided, as offensive to God and prejudicial to the soul.

And as he went thus he said, O Absalom, … — The poet saith, Res est ingeniosa dolor, Grief is a witty thing; nevertheless the excess of it maketh a man foolish, as it did David here; and as Alexander the Great, who, bewailing the death of his favourite, Hephaestion, not only clipped his horses’ and mules’ hair, but plucked down also the battlements of the walls of the city, that they might seem to mourn too. Plutarch.

Would God I had died for thee! — Thus he could now cry out ill natural sorrow. But who ever heard David cry out in godly sorrow, O Uriah, would God I had died for thee! But that is more rational, the other more passionate.

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/2-samuel-18.html. 1865-1868.
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