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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

2 Samuel 17

Ahithophel and Hushai (16:15-17:14)

Meantime Hushai the Archite had arrived at Absalom’s headquarters and offered his services to Absalom, who knew him to be David’s friend. The latter fact cast doubts on Hushai’s sincerity, for friendship meant covenant and Hushai was apparently breaking with his steadfast covenant love to David. Hence the question, "Is this your loyalty [covenant love] to your friend?" Hushai’s nattering reply apparently reassured Absalom.

The pretender now sought advice from Ahithophel. The latter advised that David be dishonored. Absalom was to show that he had assumed the kingship by appropriating that part of the royal harem which had been left in Jerusalem. We have to remember that every new monarch took over by right his predecessor’s harem. Absalom’s act would make the breach between himself and David final. He pitched a wedding tent on the roof of the palace and publicly manifested his possession of his father’s harem. The advice of Ahithophel, the wise man, is compared at this point to the oracular advice of seer or priest, so perceptive was it assumed to be.

Ahithophel further advised Absalom to gather an army speedily and pursue David, arguing that the king could then be overtaken and slain while he was weary and discouraged. Absalom, however, was suspicious of this sound advice and turned to Hushai, who had been sent by David with the very purpose of upsetting the plans of the rebels. Hushai countered Ahithophel’s advice of speedy pursuit by emphasizing David’s experience in campaigning. His bodyguard was so trained that Absalom could not expect to catch David napping. Rather his own untrained men would likely be caught in a trap and a great slaughter would ensue, the effect of which would be bad on the morale of his followers. Hushai therefore counseled that time be taken to gather an army from all Israel, large enough to ensure victory. Only superior numbers could defeat the experienced troops of David. Absalom was immediately convinced, and Hushai’s ruse succeeded. The narrator sees a divine overruling here in the fact that Absalom ignored Ahithophel’s good advice (vs. 14).

Verses 15-29

David Crosses the Jordan (17:15-29)

Hushai hastened to get word to David concerning his counsel to Absalom. Through the priests he advised David to cross the River Jordan. David apparently had a system of relays whereby the messages from Jerusalem could reach him. Unfortunately the presence of David’s couriers at En-rogel was reported to Absalom by a lad, and they were compelled to take refuge in the well of a house in Bahurim which, in spite of Shimei, appears to have had also some inhabitants friendly to David’s cause. Absalom’s servants, hot in pursuit of the messengers, were misdirected by the woman of the house, and the couriers made their way to David, who by daybreak had crossed Jordan with all his party.

Ahithophel, finding his advice rejected, was shrewd enough to see that David now had the advantage and thus to read his own doom, knowing how David would deal with a treacherous counselor. He went home and hanged himself.

David was now established across Jordan around the old center of Mahanaim, with Joab commanding his army. Absalom, with his headquarters at Jerusalem, had given the command of his army to Amasa, whose family tree seems mysteriously involved, for it relates him both to the Ammonites through Nahash and to Joab through Zeruiah (vss. 25 and 27) . The battle line was formed in Gilead, David’s army being well provisioned by tried and trusted friends. This was the area in which Ish-bosheth had set up his kingdom, and it is a testimony to David’s personality and attractiveness that he should have such support. Of significance, too, is the fact that help came from the Ammonites against whom he had campaigned.

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"Commentary on 2 Samuel 17". "Layman's Bible Commentary".