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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 17

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-23

2. Absalom in Jerusalem. His Evil Deed through Ahithophel’s Evil Counsel. The Designs of the Latter against David thwarted by Hushai’s Counsel

2 Samuel 16:15 to 2 Samuel 17:23

15And Absalom and all the people the men of Israel4 came to Jerusalem, and Ahithophel with him. 16And it came to pass, when Hushai the Archite [Arkite] David’s friend5 was come unto Absalom, that Hushai said unto Absalom, God save [Long live] the king, God save [Long live] the king. 17And Absalom said to Hushai, Is this thy kindness to thy friend? why wentest thou not with thy friend? 18And Hushai said unto Absalom, Nay;6 but whom the Lord [Jehovah] and this people and all the men of Israel choose, his will I be, and with him will I abide. 19And again [in the second place], whom should I serve? should I not serve in the presence of his ?Song of Song of Solomon 7:0 as I have served in thy father’s presence, so will I be in thy presence.

20Then said Absalom [And Absalom said] to Ahithophel, Give [ins. ye] counsel among you [om. among you8] what we shall do. 21And Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Go in unto thy father’s concubines, which [whom] he hath left to keep the house; and all Israel shall hear that thou art abhorred of [art become loathsome to9] thy father, then [and] shall [om. shall] the hands of all that are with thee 22[ins. shall] be strong. So [And] they spread Absalom a tent upon the top of the house [on the roof], and Absalom went in unto his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel. 23And the counsel of Ahithophel, which he counselled in those days, was as if a man had inquired at the oracle [of the word] of God; so was all the counsel of Ahithophel both with David and with Absalom.

2 Samuel 17:1 Moreover [And] Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Let10 me now choose out twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue after David this night; 2And I will come upon him while he is weary and weak-handed, and will make him afraid, and all the people that are with him shall flee, and I will smite the king only; 3And I will bring back all the people unto thee; the man whom thou 4seekest is as if all returned;11 so [om. so] all the people shall be in peace. And the saying pleased Absalom well [om. well], and all the elders of Israel. 5Then said Absalom [And Absalom said], Call now Hushai the Archite [Arkite] also, and let us hear likewise [om. likewise] what he [ins. too] saith. 6And when Hushai was come [And Hushai came] to Absalom, [ins. and] Absalom spake [said] unto him, saying, Ahithophel hath spoken after this manner; shall we do after his saying? if not, [after his saying, or not?]12 speak thou.

7And Hushai said unto Absalom, The counsel that Ahithophel hath given is not good at this time [hath given this time13 is not good]. 8For, said Hushai [and Hushai said], Thou knowest thy father and his men, that they be [are] mighty men, and [ins. that] they be [are] chafed in their minds, as a bear robbed of her whelps in the field;14 and thy father is a man of war, and will not lodge With the people. 9Behold, he is hid now in some pit [in one of the ravines] or in some other place [in one of the places15]; and it will come to pass, when some of them be overthrown [fall16] at the first, that whosoever heareth it will say There is a slaughter among the people that follow Absalom. 10And he also that is valiant, whose heart is as the heart of a lion, shall utterly melt; for all Israel knoweth that thy father is a mighty man, and they which be [that are] with him are valiant 11men. Therefore [But] I counsel17 that all Israel be generally gathered unto thee from Dan even [om. even] to Beersheba, as the sand that is by the sea for multitude, and that thou go to battle in thine own person. 12So shall we [And we shall] come upon him in some place [in one of the places] where he shall be found, and we will light upon him as the dew falleth on the ground,18 and of him and of all 13the men that are with him there shall not be left so much as one. Moreover [And] if he be gotten into a city, then shall all Israel bring19 ropes to that city, and we will draw it into the river [brook], until there be not one small stone found there. 14And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, The counsel of Hushai the Archite [Arkite] is better than the counsel of Ahithophel. For the Lord had appointed [And Jehovah appointed] to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the Lord [Jehovah] might bring evil upon20 Absalom.

15Then said Hushai [And Hushai said] unto Zadok and to Abiathar the priests, Thus and thus did Ahithophel counsel Absalom and the elders of Israel, and thus 16and thus have I counselled. Now, therefore [And now], send quickly and tell David, saying, Lodge not this night in the plains [at the fords21] of the wilderness, but speedily [om. speedily] pass over, lest the king be swallowed up and all the 17people that are with him. Now [And] Jonathan and Ahimaaz stayed by [were stationed at] En-rogel, for they might not be seen to come into the city; and a wench [the maid-servant] went and told them, and they went and told king David [And Jonathan and Ahimaaz were stationed at En-rogel, and the maid-servant came and told them, and they were to go and tell king David; for they might not 18be seen, etc.22]. Nevertheless [And] a lad saw them and told Absalom; but [and] they went both of them away [om. away] quickly, and came to a man’s house in Bahurim, which [and he] had a well in his court, whither [and thither] they went down. 19And the woman took and spread a [the] covering over the well’s mouth, and spread ground corn thereon; and the thing was not known [nothing 20was perceived]. And when [om. when] Absalom’s servants came to the woman to the house, they [and] said, Where is Ahimaaz and Jonathan? And the woman said unto them, They be [are] gone over the brook23 of water. And when they had [And they] sought and could [did] not find them, they [and] returned to Jerusalem.

21And it came to pass, after they were departed, that they came up out of the well, and went and told king David, and said unto David, Arise and pass quickly over 22the water, for thus hath Ahithophel counselled against you. Then [And] David arose, and all the people that were with him, and they passed over Jordan; by the morning-light there lacked not one of them that was not gone over Jordan.

23And when [om. when] Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed [ins. and] he saddled his ass, and arose and gat him home [and went] 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.


2 Samuel 16:15-23. Absalom in Jerusalem. He is greeted by Hushai. Ahithophel counsels an evil deed.

2 Samuel 16:15. And Absalom, comp. 2 Samuel 15:12, to which this narration attaches itself, the account of David’s flight (2 Samuel 15:13 to 2 Samuel 16:14) being interposed.—And all the people of the men of Israel [literally: all the people, the men of Israel.—Tr.]. Thenius: “Very significant: The old malcontents (2 Samuel 2:8-9).”

2 Samuel 16:16. Hushai, comp. 2 Samuel 15:32. He was to be the instrument for bringing to naught the designs of Ahithophel (2 Samuel 15:31).

2 Samuel 16:17. That David’s trusted friend and counsellor should come to him with the greeting: “may the king live,” must have astonished Absalom. But instead of expressing this feeling, he answers (in his double question) with a scornful fling (as his nature was) at Hushai’s friendly relation to David. [Patrick: Absalom did not reflect that one might have said to him: “Is this thy duty to thy father?”—Tr.].

2 Samuel 16:18 sqq. Hushai in his answer assumes the role of crafty dissimulation, suggested by David (2 Samuel 15:34). His first word is the answer to Absalom’s question: “why wentest thou not with thy friend?” It is therefore not to be rendered: “Nay, but” (De Wette, [Eng. A. V.]), but: “Not (i.e., I went not with David), because, etc.” Vulg.: nequaquam quia. [The rendering of Eng. A. V. here seems more natural and appropriate. See “Text, and Gram.”—Tr.]. Whom the Lord has chosen, that is, as the event has shown: I follow him who is king by God’s choice. As I served before thy father [so will I be before thee, 2 Samuel 16:19], i. e., it is self-evident that, my service with the father having ceased by God’s will, I must attach myself to the son. By the clever use of this double argument, the divine and the human, he easily imposes on the inconsiderate Absalom the delusion that he means honestly. [Hushai’s two reasons: 1) the voice of the people is the voice of God (Patrick); 2) former fidelity to the father is ground and pledge of present fidelity to the son.—Tr.].

2 Samuel 16:20. Brief statement of a council held by Absalom with Ahithophel and other counsellors (so the plural: “Give ye”) on the means of announcing and securing his usurpation. The Dativus commodi (לָכֶם) gives the sense: “it is your affair to counsel me” [literally: “give ye you counsel,” Eng. A. V. wrongly: “among you.”—Tr.].

2 Samuel 16:21. Ahithophel’s counsel was that he should publicly take to himself his father’s concubines (2 Samuel 15:16); this would indicate definite dethronement of the father, and complete assumption of royal authority. Comp. 2Sa 3:7; 2 Samuel 12:8. All Israel will hear, etc.—Ahithophel’s purpose Isaiah , 1) to make the breach between Absalom and his father irreparable, and 2) to infuse energy into Absalom’s followers, and confirm their defection from David.—Cornelius a Lapide: “That they may know that thy hatred against thy father is implacable, and so all hope and fear of reconciliation may be cut off, and they strengthened in thy conspiracy.” So also Ahithophel hoped to secure his own position [i. e., he feared that, if a reconciliation were effected, he would be sacrificed.—Tr.]. Absalom’s deed was the grossest insult to his father (comp. Genesis 49:4), and made reconciliation impossible. [Here again Ahithophel was perhaps avenging the wrong done to Bathsheba. So Blunt.—Tr.].

2 Samuel 16:22. They spread the tent; the Article [so the original, but it may properly be omitted in an English translation, because the definiteness is not obvious—Tr.] indicates that it was the tent designed for the roof, used by the king and his family for protection against sun, wind and rain. Thenius: “the expression: the tent is an evidence that the author is relating events of his time.” On the roof, the same where David’s look at Bathsheba led him into the path of sin, whose evil results for him are completed in this deed of Absalom. Thus is Nathan’s threat (2 Samuel 12:11) fulfilled; as he sinned against Uriah’s house, so is he punished in his own house.

2 Samuel 16:23. Explanatory remark attached to 2 Samuel 16:22. The immediate execution of Ahithophel’s counsel is explained by the fact that it had almost the weight of a divine oracle with both David and Absalom. It is thus intimated that they both put too much confidence in this bad man, the bitter fruit whereof David is now reaping. In 1 Chronicles 27:33 he is expressly called the king’s counsellor.24 To inquire of God’s word = to inquire of God. Comp. Judges 1:1; Judges 18:5; Judges 20:18; Judges 20:23; Judges 20:27; 1 Samuel 10:22; 1Sa 14:37; 1 Samuel 22:10; 1 Samuel 22:13; 1 Samuel 23:2 [comp. Genesis 25:22, where, however, the verb is different.—Tr.]

2 Samuel 17:1-23. Defeat of Ahithophel’s counsel through Hushai’s, and suicide of Ahithophel.

2 Samuel 17:1-4. Ahithophel’s counsel against David: To surprise him by night and kill him. Against the opinion of the older expositors that Ahithophel wished to avenge the wrongs of his granddaughter Bathsheba, Isaiah 1:0) that this relationship is not proved, for, though Ahithophel had a son named Eliam (2 Samuel 23:34), it is not shown that this man is the same with Eliam, the father of Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:3); 2) granting, however, that Ahithophel was Bathsheba’s grandfather, it is hard to see how an ambitious man, like him, should have sought revenge, when he saw his granddaughter raised to the highest honors of the realm.—His advice is to fall on David quickly, that same night, with a chosen body of 12,000 men, and get possession of his person. Absalom having publicly and solemnly mounted the throne, there was needed a securing of his usurped power against David and his followers. “This night” is the night that followed David’s flight and Absalom’s entrance into Jerusalem. In favor of this is 2 Samuel 17:16, and also 2 Samuel 17:2 compared with 2 Samuel 16:14; for David’s exhaustion, on which Ahithophel counted, could only come from the haste and exertion of the day’s flight. The sudden night-attack with superior force (the march required was only about four geographical miles) was to throw David’s followers into panic and flight, and, while they were thus scattered, Ahithophel was to kill the king “alone,” that is, while he was alone (לְבַדּוֹ) He reckons on the king’s weariness; in the phrase “weakhanded” the “hand” is the symbol of strength, comp. Isaiah 8:11.

2 Samuel 17:3. And I will bring back all the people to thee, that is, all the people now gathered around David. Ahithophel regards Absalom’s government as the only lawful one, to which those fugitives must submit; their flight is in his eyes an act of insubordination, from which they are to be brought back.—In the following difficult phrase [Eng. A. V. and Erdmann: “the man thou seekest is as if all returned”] the first question is whether we shall (with Thenius) adopt the reading of the Septuagint: as the bride returns to her husband; only the life of one man thou seekest, (and all the people will be uninjured”). But, apart from the fact that no other ancient version has a trace of such a text, why may not the translation of the Sept. come (as Keil supposes) from a wrong reading of our Hebrew?41 For the rest, Böttcher (against Thenius) rightly objects that we cannot speak of the “husband” of a bride; “where and when,” he asks, further, “was the bride brought back to her husband?” Böttcher himself renders: “as her wooer leads back the bride, etc.” [where “wooer” is the person sent to propose for the bride, as Eliezer for Rebecca, Genesis 24:0.—Tr.]; against which is the fact that the word he proposes (אֹרֵשׂ) is never found in this sense of “wooer,” and also the unsuitableness of the adverb “back.” The rendering: “if all return, [only] the man that thou seekest [will be killed]” (Mich., Schultz) is to be rejected on account of the aposiopesis and consequent supplements. S. Schmid and Clericus translate: “when all the men that thou seekest return, all the people will be at peace” [so Philippson and Luther]; but this contradicts the connection, according to which the word “seekest” can only refer to David, and the word “man” (אִישׁ) must be in the Singular referring to him. Maurer proposes two renderings, one: “then I will bring back to thee all the people, as if the man that thou seekest brought back all,” where the understanding of the Qal (שׁוּב) as causative, though possible (Numbers 10:36; Psalms 85:5 [4]; Micah 2:13), is here improbable, as he says, since two forms [Qal and Hiphil] having the same meaning would not stand so near together; the other: “then I will bring back to thee all the people, as if all returned, would the man return (כְּשׁוּב) whom thou seekest” (i. e., as if David, the man that thou seekest should be brought back with all his men) is to be rejected, (with Thenius) as unintelligible. The translation of the Vulgate: “and I will bring back all the people, as one man is accustomed to return (for one man thou seekest”) gives no clear sense. Ahithophel’s words are to be taken strictly according to their connection with the preceding 2 Samuel 17:2, where he sets the one man, David over against all the people with him, and announces it as his plan to kill him alone, so as then to bring back all the people (2 Samuel 17:3) that had gone out with him. That is, the one man that thou seekest is equivalent to the return of the whole people. Peter Martyr (Vermigli): “one, says he, will perish, the multitude will be spared.” Dathe: “it is the same as if all returned, when he that thou seekest is killed” [so nearly Chald.]. De Wette: “the man that thou seekest is equivalent to the return of all.” Bunsen: “the return of all that have not yet joined thee, depends on the removal of David; his fall brings peace to the whole nation.”—Literally: “the whole people will be peace,” = “in peace,” adverbial use, as in 2 Samuel 20:9; 1 Samuel 25:6.

2 Samuel 17:1-4. “The saying was right in the eyes of Absalom, etc.,” pleased him (2 Samuel 19:6; 2Sa 18:20; 2 Samuel 18:26; 1 Kings 9:12; Jeremiah 18:4, etc.).

2 Samuel 17:5-14. Hushai’s counsel against Ahithophel.

2 Samuel 17:5. Though Ahithophel’s counsel had been generally approved, Absalom sends for Hushai in order to hear his opinion. There is no need to read the Plural “call ye” (Sept., Vulg., Syr., Then.) instead of the Sing, “call thou” (of the Heb.), since Absalom, as king, might give such a command even to Ahithophel, instead of to the servants. As he had accorded full confidence to Hushai (2 Samuel 16:18-19), he wished at this decisive moment to hear his advice also.42

2 Samuel 17:6-7. Hushai, being asked, pronounces Ahithophel’s counsel “not good” [“Not good is the counsel that Ahithophel counsels this time,” that is, his former advice was good (2 Samuel 16:21), but not this.—Tr.].

2 Samuel 17:8 sq. Hushai gives his advice in elaborate and skilful style. Against Ahithophel’s opinion that David was “exhausted” (2 Samuel 17:2), he first affirms the contrary, observing that Absalom knew his father and his men to be valiant heroes, and that they were embittered in spirit, as a bear robbed of her whelps (comp. Judges 18:25; Proverbs 17:12; Hosea 13:8). So he would not stay at night with the people, where he might be surprised. Böttcher and Thenius render: “and lets not the people lodge for the night” (יָלִין as unusual Hiphil); but there is no ground for this, [it does not agree with 2 Samuel 17:9 (Keil)].

2 Samuel 17:9 sqq. Description of how David, as a genuine military man, would be on his guard during the night, and, at the approach of Absalom’s troops, would rush forth from his caverns43 and strong positions, fall on the enemy’s advanced guard and defeat the whole body. “In the falling on them,” where from the connection David is the subject,=“when he falls on them.” [Eng. A. V.: “in the falling among them,” = when some of them fall. See “Text. and Gramm.”—Tr.]. The “them” refers from the context to Absalom’s men, and it is unnecessary to read “the people” (בָעָם Dathe). “In the beginning,” since David would begin the fight by falling on the approaching enemy. [Or, according to Eng. A. V., the fall of some of Absalom’s soldiers at the beginning of the battle would create a panic and flight, there being general fear of the military skill and prowess of David and his generals. Bib.-Com.: “It is likely that Absalom was not a man of courage, and Hushai, knowing this, adroitly magnified the terror of the prowess of David and his men.”—Tr.].—And the hearer hears and says, etc.—picture of the spread of a report of defeat by those that are first attacked.

2 Samuel 17:10. Though the hearer be lion-hearted, he will melt in fear, because it is known in all Israel what heroes David and his men are. This explains how the report of an attack by David would lead to a general everthrow. To Ahithophel’s proposal to surprise David Hushai replies that on the contrary David would surprise them.

2 Samuel 17:11. Therefore his counsel is that Absalom should summon a great force from all Israel, and lead it against David in person. Properly: “but44 (or, rather) I counsel.” It is unnecessary to read “in their midst” (Sept., Vulgate, Arab., Thenius) instead of “into battle,” since a change in the Hebrew from the latter to the former would be easy.

2 Samuel 17:12 sq. Hushai explains to Absalom how he could with so great an army easily annihilate David’s band. “We shall come unto him in one45 of the places.” The next sentence is rendered in two ways: either: “so we on him,” that is, so we fall on him (Vulg.: irruemus super eum), spread over him, as the dew falls on the earth;46 or, “we light47 on him” [so Eng. A. V.], as the phrase is used of an encamping army (Isaiah 7:2; Isaiah 7:19), and of a lighting swarm of flies or locusts (Isaiah 7:19; Exodus 10:14), and elsewhere (with עַל “on”) in the sense of “lighting” (2 Samuel 21:10; Genesis 8:4; Exodus 10:14; Numbers 11:25-26); not: “we encamp against him” (De Wette). The second translation [“we light on him”] answers better to the figure of the dew, which falls quietly and unperceived on the earth at night, with which (as before with the sand on the sea) Hushai compares Absalom’s army, settling quietly in its overwhelming power on David. On the other hand the emphatic “we” at the beginning of the sentence [as in the first translation] is without ground, and does not correspond to the verb “we come” in the preceding clause; while to this latter properly corresponds the verb “we light” (as indeed all the ancient versions have a verb in this place). Böttcher further remarks that this form of the Heb. Pers. Pron. is everywhere else used in a depreciatory sense: “we insignificant, very poor persons,” which would here be against the connection. Böttcher, however, would read “locust”48 instead of “dew,” and render: “and sink (rush) on him, as a swarm of locusts falls on the earth;” but this is too remote a conjecture (having no support in any ancient version or in any rendering), and unnecessary besides, since the figure of the dew, together with that of the sand, fitly sets forth the swift and quiet settling of the huge host on the enemy. And with this accords perfectly the statement of the success of the attack: “not even one will be left.”

2 Samuel 17:13. Hushai, assuming that the imagination of his hearers would be carried from one conception to the other, here passes in a wordy discourse, skilfully adapted to gain his end, to the supposition (which would appear natural to a military man) that David, defeated as above described, should “concentrate to the rear,” and throw himself into a strong city. Then all Israel set ropes to this city. Vulgate: “all Israel put ropes around that city.” Hushai is not speaking of ropes thrown over the walls by which the latter are thrown into the ditch (Michaelis, Dathe, Niemeyer), for nothing is said of a ditch and walls; but in his exaggerated mode of expression, which he forces to a hyperbolical climax (all intended for momentary effect), he shows how easily even then David could be captured, all Israel laying ropes about the city and dragging it into the neighboring brook or river. We are not here with Ewald to understand a city-fosse (נַחַל), “for the fosse was close by the city” (Then.), but the brook or river on which the city is built, “because fortified cities are almost always on the declivities of brooks or rivers” (Then.). “Till not even a small stone be found,” so the ancient versions;49 comp. Amos 9:9 : “a little grain.”—The meaning is: “Your powerful army will easily destroy the fortified place, where David may seek refuge, and leave not one stone on another.” Cornelius a Lapide: “we will collect so great a force that we shall be able to put ropes around the city (so to speak), and drag it down to ruin.”

2 Samuel 17:14. To this advice of Hushai Absalom gives the preference over Ahithophel’s. The boldness and highflown extravagance of Hushai’s words accorded with Absalom’s character and with his wish to secure his throne in brilliant fashion by overpowering the force opposed to him. Clericus: “The counsel seemed good, and at the same time was full of a certain boastfulness, that pleased the young man.” The statement about the bravery of David and his men was true; the deceit in Hushai’s counsel was only the advice to make a levy of all Israel. Absalom deluded himself with the belief that this could be easily raised, not considering that only the discontented part of the people formed the kernel of the insurrection, that no small portion still remained true to David, and that another part, now for the moment fallen away, would return after the first fit of revolution had passed. For this reason it was an important consideration (to which Hushai slyly had regard) that David gained time while Absalom was preparing to summon all Israel. P. Martyr: “to what does Hushai look in this counsel? to delay; delay, he knows, makes for David’s cause.”—And the Lord had appointed. In all this the narrator sees a divine appointment or ordination, the aim of which was thus to bring on Absalom the evil (that was determined on). The verb (צִוָּה) is used in the signification “appoint, ordain,” also in Ps. 48:29 [psa 48:28]; Psalms 111:9; Lamentations 1:17; Isaiah 45:12; the object of the verb is apparent from the connection. Ahithophel’s counsel is called good, because it was to Absalom’s interest to attack David immediately.

2 Samuel 17:15-22. Hushai promptly sends word to David.

2 Samuel 17:15. He first informs the two high-priests, Zadok and Abiathar, of the council that was held. Comp. 2 Samuel 15:27-28. [Bib. Com.: “It is remarkable how persistently Zadok is named first.”—Patrick: “Herein Hushai betrayed Absalom’s counsels.”—Tr.]

2 Samuel 17:16. He directs them to send information to David as speedily as possible by their sons, and to convey his advice concerning his next movement. Grotius: “David’s plan, above mentioned (2 Samuel 15:35-36), succeeded well.” Lodge not to-night at the fords of the wilderness (2 Samuel 15:28), that is, stay not this side the Jordan, but cross over. The necessity of the passage of the Jordan for David’s safety is shown by the following (variously understood) words: That it (namely, the transit) be not swallowed up (defeated, rendered impossible) to the king and to all the people that are with him. So (with Böttcher) the sentence is best understood from the connection and from David’s dangerous situation, the noun “crossing over” [transit] being taken as the subject of the verb (עבוֹר immediately preceding). It was important that David should get away from this side the Jordan, where the masses were to be called out against him, and meantime, since a hasty expedition might be sent against him, when it was found that he was on the west side (especially if Absalom should change his mind and adopt Ahithophel’s counsel), he must pass immediately to the east side, where he might hope to find many followers, as actually happened. To the phrase “that it be not swallowed up” other interpretations are given: that of Maurer and De Wette: “lest destruction be prepared for the king” is untenable because the meaning of the verb (“swallowed up”) makes the introduction of such a verbal subject [“destruction”] impossible; that of Gesenius: “that the king be not swallowed up” [so Eng. A. V.] is equally untenable, because then the text should have “the king” as Nominative [in the Heb. it is preceded by the Prep, “to”—Tr.]. Of Ewald’s rendering (Gram. 295 c): “that it (misfortune) be not swallowed by the king,” that is, that the king may not have to suffer it, Böttcher rightly says: “a very unnatural rendering, with a very remote verbal subject, for which the verb would at least better be Feminine.” [It seems allowable here to take the verb as impersonal, and render (with Eng. A. V., Ges., Philippson, Cahen): “lest it be swallowed (destroyed) to the king,” i. e., lest the king be destroyed. So all the ancient versions50 understood it. The construction adopted by Erdmann requires a somewhat difficult supply of a subject to the verb.—Tr.]

2 Samuel 17:17. “And Jonathan and Ahimaaz were standing” [= were stationed], where the Participle “were standing” expresses their readiness to go as messengers to David at any moment, according to the arrangement in 2 Samuel 15:28; 2 Samuel 15:36. To this end they were stationed outside the city at the Fuller’s Fountain [En-rogel] for the purpose of receiving information. En-rogel (comp. Joshua 15:7; 1 Kings 1:9) is the “present very deep and abundant Fountain of Job, Bir Eyub (Von Raumer, p. 307), or of Nehemiah, south of Jerusalem where the vallies of Kidron and Hinnom meet, Rob. II. 138 sqq. [Am. ed. I. 331–333]; Tobler, Top. II. 50 sqq.” (Knobel). [See in Smith’s Bible-Dictionary, Art. “En-rogel,” Bonar’s argument for identifying En-rogel with the “Fountain of the Virgin,” and Dr. Wolcott’s reply (Am. ed.) in favor of Bir Eyub.—Tr.]—The maid, not “a maid,” since the Article [of the Heb.] denotes the particular maid-servant belonging to the high-priest’s house. And they went, an anticipatory remark, the narrator desiring to mention immediately the chief fact, namely, that they carried the information to David. [See “Text and Gram.,” where the inversion of Eng. A. V. is pointed out, and a slightly different translation proposed.—Tr.] For they could not let themselves be seen to come into the city—appended explanation of the fact that they were outside the city, and the maid-servant had to go to them. Her going out to the spring would not seem strange, while their entrance and return would have excited suspicion, since it was known (2 Samuel 15:25 sqq.) that they were on David’s side.—From 2 Samuel 17:18 it seems that Absalom closely watched them: A lad saw them and told Absalom. Seeing that they were observed, and expecting to be followed, they hastened off in order to get the start of their pursuers, and then to hide somewhere. They went to Bahurim, where Shimei met David (2 Samuel 16:5), whose counterpart is the man in whose house the two young men found refuge. It is again a woman (the man’s wife) whose presence of mind and cunning did David’s cause a great service. The messengers descended into the empty well in the court.

2 Samuel 17:19. And she spread the covering, which (as the Art. shows) was at hand, or was designed for the well (Thenius), over the well, and spread thereon the grain-corns (Proverbs 27:22) with which (so the Art. indicates) she was occupied. Vulg. (explanatory rendering): “as if she were drying barley-groats.”

2 Samuel 17:20. Absalom’s servants come in pursuit, are misdirected by the woman, find nothing and return to Jerusalem.51 [Patrick: “It seems to have been a common opinion in those days that these officious lies for the safety of innocent persons had no hurt in them.”—Tr.]

2 Samuel 17:21 sq. The messengers hastened to David, who, in consequence of the information they brought, crossed the river immediately, so that by the morning light not even a man more was on the west side. The situation of affairs was now favorable to David’s cause.

2 Samuel 17:23. Ahithophel betakes himself to his city, leaves Absalom’s court, that is, out of chagrin at the rejection of his counsel, anger at the frustration of his ambitious plans, and also from fear of the fatal results that David’s victory would have for him, the contriver and furtherer of the insurrection. A self-murder52 from baffled ambition and despair. Not only is David’s prayer (2 Samuel 15:31) answered, but Ahithophel falls under God’s judgment for his unfaithfulness and treachery.


1. Absalom’s insurrection and the establishment of a new kingdom with public dishonoring of the royal house, is the completion of the judgment on David’s deep fall and weakness towards his sons’ crimes, the purpose of which was to purify him (after penitential self-humiliation on his part), and to subject him to the test of faith, without which he could not rise by God’s hand from this deep abasement. On the other hand, the success of the godless rebel shows a lack of a true theocratic feeling in the mass of the people, who, in abandoning God’s government, were guilty of opposition to the government of God. At the same time in Absalom’s conduct (adopted through Ahithophel’s evil counsel) is exhibited the general truth that God permits evil to work out its own consequences, and the wicked to entangle themselves in their own snares, that He may reveal His justice and holiness in the self-condemnation and self-destruction of the power of evil, and thus lead the wandering and apostate, when they will hear His voice, to reflection and conversion, as happened here to the people, after the wickedness of Absalom and Ahithophel had completely worked itself out.

2. The divine justice is anew revealed in and on the house of David through Absalom’s publicly committed crime. The answer to the question why God brought on David’s house this deed of shame of His own son, is given in the Lord’s word through Nathan (2 Samuel 12:11-12). The sins of the fathers are visited not only on the children, but through them. “Absalom’s deed was another chastisement for David from the Lord, not, indeed, a sign of the divine anger, but a wholesome paternal discipline, that was meant for his good. In such earnest does God deal with His children, even after He has taken them into favor” (Schlier).

3. Absalom’s rejection of Ahithophel’s good counsel for Hushai’s destructive counsel sets forth the truth that evil punishes itself by itself, and especially pride and vanity blind man, so that he errs in the choice of means for his sinful ends, and secures not only their frustration, but also his own destruction. But this occurs in the course of the moral government of the world, under the guidance of the divine justice and wisdom, which takes human sin, blindness and foolishness into its plans as a factor, in order to frustrate its wicked aims and to effect its own holy aims.


2 Samuel 16:15. Schlier: Poor, deluded fool, that strives after popular favor, and when he has found it, consoles himself therewith. There is nothing more changeable than popular favor—nothing more transitory than what is called public opinion.

2 Samuel 16:16-19. Cramer: Remain faithful to thy friend in his poverty, that thou mayest again enjoy thyself with him when it goes well with him (Ecclus. 22:28, 29).—The saints of God do many a thing with good intentions, and yet we are not on that account to take part in it all. Meantime God lets it happen, and knows how thereby to carry out His work (Isaiah 28:21; Isaiah 28:29).—Schlier: What we say should be true, not merely that it shall contain no lie, but also that it be free from all double-meaning. In the times of the Old Testament, God the Lord could overlook such double-meaning; with us, in the times of the New Testament, that is no longer the case, but it holds always and every where that the Lord will make the upright prosper.

2 Samuel 16:20 sq. Hedinger: Worldly wisdom and spiritual gifts do not always dwell under one roof.—S. Schmid: He must be extremely ungodly who can openly do that of which nature has a horror even in private.—Schlier: David certainly thought anew upon his old sins, was ashamed and humbled himself, and in his son’s sin again recognized his own sin, and anew repented before the Lord.

2 Samuel 17:1-4. Cramer: God blinds the ungodly, and confounds them through giddiness, so that they can neither see nor know what in human wise is wholesome and good for them; for He puts to shame the wisdom of the wise (Isaiah 29:14; Job 12:17).—[Taylor: This plan was worthy of Ahithophel’s reputation. If it had been energetically followed, it would have been completely successful, and would have changed the entire color and complexion of Jewish history.—Tr.]

2 Samuel 17:5-14. Large talking and grand schemes are a means whereby young and inexperienced persons are often deceived (1 Kings 12:10).—The Lord ensnares the ungodly in their cunning, so that they are deceived by that very thing on which they most relied.—S. Schmid: If God does not open and rule the eyes of the mind, even the most sensible men are blind (Psalms 119:18).—Starke: God does not leave His enemies to manage as they will, but appoints them a limit, how far they shall go. When they take hold most shrewdly, yet God goes another road (Psalms 33:10; Isaiah 8:10; Job 5:12).—[Hall: First, to sweeten his opposition, Hushai yields the praise of wisdom to his adversary in all other counsels, that he may have leave to deny it in this; his very contradiction in the present insinuates a general allowance. Then he suggests certain apparent truths concerning David’s valor and skill to give countenance to the inferences of his improbabilities. Lastly, he cunningly feeds the proud humor of Absalom, in magnifying the power and extent of his commands, and ends in the glorious boasts of his fore-promised victory. As it is with faces, so with counsel; that is fair that pleaseth.—Tr.]—Schlier: A good cause always goes the way of truth, and does not need scoffing and self-important words, but goes on soberly and simply. Absalom gave heed to Hushai’s bad counsel, because Hushai knew how by means of his vanity to bring him to a fall.—The Lord is with us and lets nothing happen to us; He also knows how to turn the wickedness of our enemies into a blessing to us. And if all the world is hostile and persecutes us, the Lord takes in hand even our persecutors, and does with them as He pleases.

2 Samuel 17:15-22. Schlier: Let us recognize the Lord’s hand in the things of common life also, but let us always honor His hand and thankfully accept what it gives. Circumstances are God’s messengers, and well for him who in these circumstances recognizes and honors the hand of his Lord. It was God’s hand that through all these littlenesses and casualties caused the news of Ahithophel’s counsel to come safe to David.

2 Samuel 17:23. Cramer: Ungodly men fall into the pit which they make for others (Psalms 7:16 [Psalms 7:15]; 1 Samuel 9:16 [1 Samuel 9:15]; Proverbs 26:27). [Hall: What a mixture do we find here of wisdom and madness! Ahithophel will needs hang himself; there is madness: he will yet set his house in order; there is an act of wisdom. … How preposterous are the cares of idle worldlings, that prefer all other things to themselves, and while they look at what they have in their coffers, forget what they have in their breasts.—Taylor: This is the first recorded case of deliberate suicide. And the feelings which led to it and which we can easily analyze, were very similar to those which have impelled many in our own times to commit the same awful iniquity. Chief among them was wounded pride. Then, besides this, there was the conviction that Absalom’s cause was now hopelessly ruined … Perhaps also there was a mingling of remorse with those other emotions of pride. He had left a master who loved and valued him, and had transferred his services to one who, as he now discovered, had not the wisdom to appreciate his worth, but preferred the gaudy glitter of empty rhetoric to the substantial wisdom of unadorned speech. This contrast, thus forced upon him, might awaken his conscience to the value of the friendship which he had forfeited when he turned against David, until remorse and shame overwhelmed him.—Tr.]

[2 Samuel 17:5. It was not unwise in Absalom to seek the advice of another experienced counsellor also (Proverbs 24:6); his fault was that he did not know which advice to follow, and was misled by high-sounding and flattering words. In choosing counsellors, and in judging of their counsel, lies great part of the wisdom of life.—Boldness is often true prudence; and “delays are dangerous.”

2 Samuel 17:14. Hushai’s treacherous craft and Absalom’s silly vanity are overruled to the accomplishment of the Lord’s purpose. Few things are so consoling as the frequency with which we perceive how God brings good out of evil; and doubtless this is often true where we do not yet perceive it (Psalms 76:10; Isaiah 13:7).

2 Samuel 17:23. Ahithophel 1) A model of worldly wisdom (2 Samuel 16:23). Excellence of his advice to Absalom (2 Samuel 16:21; 2 Samuel 17:1-3). 2) An example of worldly wisdom failing because it ignores God (2 Samuel 17:14; Psalms 14:1). 3) A suicide; a) probable causes; b) folly and guilt.—Tr.]


[4][2 Samuel 16:15. This phrase, in which the “all the people” is put in apposition with “men of Israel” (not: “all the people of the men of Israel.” as Erdmann renders), is peculiar, and is variously changed by the versions: Sept.: “all the men of Israel;” Syr., Arab.: “all the people that were with him, and all Israel;” Vulg.: “all his people.” Sept. and Vulg. may have omitted half the expression for simplicity (and they retain different halves), and the Heb. text itself may be a duplet, arisen from a marginal explanation. Thenius: “Instead of these words (אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל) MS. Cantab. 1 has אֲשֶׁר אִתּוֹ (added by Syr. and Arab.), which came from the fact that in some MS. that was copied, the words א׳ ישׂ׳ (men of Israel) stood under the אֲשֶׁר אִתּוֹ (that were with him) of the preceding verse (Kennicott, sup. rat. text. Heb., 449).”—Tr.]

[5][2 Samuel 16:16. Sept.: ἀρχιεταῖρος (as above 2 Samuel 15:32) = ’Αρχὶ ἑταῖρος.—Hushai’s address to Absalom is literally: “live the king! live the king!” given once only in Sept. and Arabic.—Tr.]

[6][2 Samuel 16:18. Thenius and Erdmann render: “Not (i. e. I go not with David), because,” etc. But it is not likely that Hushai would make his negation with one word, and usage establishes the sense of the phrase given in Eng. A. V.: “nay, but,” or, “nay, for,” see Ges. Lex. s. v. לֹא 2.—The Kethib לֹא in this verse is approved by De Rossi against the Qeri לוֹ, which seems to be adopted by all the versions, even by Syriac and Arab., which make the sentence interrogative. The Kethib (לא) would be interrogative, and would require a preposition before אֲשֶׁר.—Tr.]

[7][2 Samuel 16:19. Arab.: “And ’tis not my business to be forever the servant of one man;” Syr.: “whose servant I shall be is not in my power.” Instead of בנו Syr. had ידי (אידי), which Arab. read as אחד.—Tr.]

[8][2 Samuel 16:20. This Dativus commodi (לכם) cannot be here given well in English. The phrase: “give ye you counsel,” is awkward, and in “give you counsel” the pronoun would be understood as Nominative.—Tr.]

[9][2 Samuel 16:21. The verb means: “to be in bad odor.” The אֵת is the Prep. “with,” not the sign of the Accus., as Sept. and Vulg. take it. Chald paraphrases: “that thou art stirred up against thy father.” Syr. and Arab. explain: “that thou hast gone in to the concubines of thy father.” Josephus interprets: “the people will believe that a reconciliation with thy father is impossible.”—Tr.]

[10][2 Samuel 17:1. Or: “I will now choose … …and will arise.” Sept. and Vulg.: “I will now choose me.” Arab.: “choose thou … and let them go forth to seek David.”—Tr.]

[11][2 Samuel 17:3. So Erdmann, Cahen, Wordsworth, Bib.-Com. Various other renderings are discussed by Erdmann in the Exposition. In addition to what he says it may be mentioned that Chald. renders nearly (as to the sense) as Eng. A. V.: “they will all return when the man that thou seekest is killed,” = “as the return of all is [the killing of] the man,” etc. (so Cahen). Syr.: “as if all the men that thou seekest returned,” as if reading כָּל־תָאִישׁ; so Philippson: “at the return of all the men thou seekest.” The translations proposed all either do violence to the text, or fail to suit the connection and give a good sense, or require a bold insertion (as of the phrase: “the killing of” in Chald. and Eng. A. V.).—Tr.]

[12][2 Samuel 17:6. Eng. A. V. renders according to the accents, and so Erdmann; but it is better (with Vulg., Cahen, Wellhausen) to take the sentence as a double question. Sept. inserts וְ (εἰ δὲ μή), which may easily have fallen out (from the preceding ו), and is almost necessary for the rendering of Eng. A. V. It is found in some MSS. and EDD.—Instead of the more usual לֹא, we here have אַיִן, literally: “is there not” = “is our doing (according to Ahithophel’s counsel) not?”—Tr.]

[13][2 Samuel 17:7. פַּעַם, the numeral, not the simple substantive “time” (עֵת). Sept.: τὸ ἅπαξ τοῦτο; Vulg.: hac vice; Cahen: cette fois; Erdmann: dieses Mal.—Tr.]

[14][2 Samuel 17:8. Sept. here inserts: καὶ ὡς ὗς τραχεῖα ἐν τῶ πεδἰῳ, “and as a fierce sow in the plain,” which addition is adopted by Ewald, Thenius and Böttcher on the ground of its appropriate poetic character, and as not likely to have been inserted by the Greek translator. To this Wellhausen replies that the two words ἀγρῶ and πεδίῳ of the Greek point to the same Heb. word (שדה), making the double figure improbable, and further that an Israelite would naturally think of the hog only as an unclean animal, and would not put it alongside of the bear.—Tr.]

[15][2 Samuel 17:9. The word “place” is here used in the sense of “locality” (Bib.-Com.) or “camping-place” in distinction from the “ravine” or “cleft,” not as a mere adverb, see 2 Samuel 17:12.—Instead of אַחַד some MSS. and EDD. have אחת, and Wellhausen remarks that the two numerals here seem to have changed places.—Tr.]

[16][2 Samuel 17:9. Or: “when he falls on them at the first” (so Erdmann and Sept.], and some would therefore supply the personal suffix וֹ to the Infinitive: but the present text permits either rendering, and that of Eng. A. V. seems to agree better with the context.—Tr.]

[17][2 Samuel 17:11. Sept.: “Thus I counsel,” ὂτι οὕτως συμβουλεύων ἐγὼ συνεβούλευσα = כִּי כֹה יָעץ יָעַצְתִּי, preferred by Wellhausen, on the ground that the similar words might easily have fallen out. The fullness of the expression would also be in Hushai’s manner.—Some MSS. read: “as the sand on the shore (שפת) of the sea,” an expansion of the original.—Böttcher’s objection to the last word in this verse, קְרָב, “battle,” is that it elsewhere occurs only in poetry (Ps., Job, Eccles., Zech.), and he proposes בְּקִרְבּוֹ, “in their midst.” This reading is strongly supported by the fact that all the versions have it (Chald.: “at the head of them all”), and is in itself more congruous with the general context; against it is Hushai’s inclination to use pompous and unusual words.—Tr.]

[18][2 Samuel 17:12. “On the face of the ground” in some MSS. and EDD., a scribal expansion, as in the preceding verse.—Tr.]

[19][2 Samuel 17:13. Vulg., Thenius, Philippson, Erdmann render: “all Israel shall lay ropes at (= about) that city,” on the ground that pulling a city stone by stone into the brook by ropes was an unheard of and impossible thing (Bp. Patrick also suggests the same difficulty). But Hushai seems purposely to put his proposal in the most recklessly exaggerated form, as an appeal to Absalom’s vanity, and says expressly that the city will be drawn into the brook. This meaning will be gotten if we render the Hiphil (הִשִּׂיאוּ): “lay to, apply to,” and the text shows a double Accusative. The Hiphil may also mean: “cause to bring.” Wellhausen remarks that we should here expect הֵשִׂימוּ, which is, however, according to the above view, not necessary.—Tr.]

[20][2 Samuel 17:14. Literally: “to,” אֶל. All the versions and some MSS. and Edd. have עַל, “upon.”—The Pisqa in this verse is wanting in some MSS.; its effect is merely partially to isolate and bring out in relief the succeeding solemn statement.—Tr.]

[21][2 Samuel 17:16. Eng. A. V. again adopts the Qeri, which is found in many MSS. and EDD. (De Rossi) and in all the versions. Kethib is here preferred as in 2 Samuel 15:28, which see.—The “speedily” of Eng. A. V. is meant as translation of the Infinitive Absolute, but introduces too different a substantive idea from that of the verb (עבר); the sense is rather: “actually pass over.” The rendering: “lest the king be swallowed up” (so Philippson, Wellhausen) seems to be the best; the phrase is discussed by Erdmann, who adopts the translation: “lest it (transit over the river) be swallowed up (= snatched away).”—Tr.]

[22][2 Samuel 17:17. Eng. A V. here inverts the order of the Heb, in order to avoid the contradiction of making the statement: “they might not be seen to enter the city,” follow the statement that they “had gone to tell the king” (rendering the verb ילכוּ as Aorist). Erdmann says that this last statement is anticipatory. But the Imperfect is here better taken in the future sense: “and they were to go and tell,” which avoids the somewhat hard anticipation. Philippson renders not substantially differently: “the maid told them that they were to go,” etc.—Tr.]

[23][2 Samuel 17:20. The word מִיכל is as yet unexplained. Rashi says that its meaning can only be inferred from the context. Sept.: μικρόν, “little” (perhaps from similarity of sound); Chald. takes the phrase as meaning “the Jordan.” Syriac renders: “hence,” as if it were מִן־כֹּה or מִפֹּה; Arab. omits it; Vulg.: “having tasted a little water,” after the Sept. J. D. Michaelis and Gesenius compare Arab. makil, “a dry pit,” mimkal, “a pit containing water,” but this does not agree with the form of the Heb. word. Others assume a root יכל (Fürst takes this stem to mean “contain,” whence our word = “water-ditch”). Wellhausen would drop מיכל from the text, or supply some such word as דּרך: “the way of the water.”—Tr.]

[24]“And the counsel of Ahithophel … days”—the construction is interrupted, and completes itself in the כַּאֲשֶׁר ... כֵּן. Qeri and all versions supply אּישׁ after יִשְׁאַל; but, if one is not disposed to accept this as necessary (Keil), the verb may be taken impersonally.

[41] הַכַּלָּה אִישׁ for הַכֹּל הָאִישׁ [with interpolation of “only the life of one man” (Keil). The Sept. text was בְּשׁוּב הַבַּלָה לְאִישָׂהּ אַךְ נֶפֶשׁ אִישׂ אֶחַד אַתָּה מְבַקִּשׁ. It is suggested that the three words following הַכַּלָּה may have fallen out, because the eye of the scribe passed to the following אִישׁ, to which the ה in כלה was then prefixed, and the אחד made into אשר. This is possible, but the sense of the Sept. rendering is doubtful.—Tr.]

[42]The גַם־הוּא strengthens the suffix in פִּיו. Ewald, § 311 a.

[43] פְּחָתּים, natural hiding-places, מִקוֹמות, artificially strong positions; in these David would pass the night.

[44]So כּי after a negation, expressed or understood, Ges. § 155, 1, e—פָּנֶיךָ = “thy person, thyself,” the Plu. noun here accompanied by a Plu. Particip,—Instead of בַּקְרָב Thenius would read בְּקִרְבָּם.

[45]The fem. numeral (though the subst. is found as fem. in Genesis 18:24; Job 20:9) is probably (since the masc. is used in 2 Samuel 17:9) to be regarded as scribal error for masc. (Maurer).

[46]Taking נַחְנוּ = “we,” as in Genesis 42:11; Exodus 16:7-8; Numbers 32:32; Lamentations 3:42.

[47] נַחְנוּ as 1 plu. Perf. Qal of נוּחַ, Sept. (παρεμβαλοῦμεν), Syr., Arab.

[48] חָסִיל or חָסִל for הַטָּל.

[49] צוּר = צְרוּר.—On the masc. אֹתוֹ referring to the fem. עִיר see Ew. § 174, 6 a.

[50][Sept. (Alex.): “lest one swallow up the king;” Vulg.: “lest the king be swallowed up;” Syr.: “lest thou perish;” Chald.: “lest profit be gotten front the king,” i. e., lest he be betrayed (Walton’s Polyg. incorrectly: “lest the king perish”).—Tr.]

[51] מִיכַל הַמָּיִם a ἅπ. λεγ. = a small brook in the vicinity. [See “Text. and Gram.”—Tr.]

[52][There is an old opinion (see Patrick in loco) that Ahithophel died of quinsy brought on by violent passions, grief, chagrin, hatred, and Then. (Comm. in loco) mentions that the same view (as to the disease) is maintained by Steuber (1741). In Dryden’s “Absalom and Ahithophel” the latter personage represents the Earl of Shaftesbury.—Tr.]

Verses 24-29

3. The Civil War

2 Samuel 17:24 to 2 Samuel 18:33 [2 Samuel 19:1]

a. David at Mahanaim. 2 Samuel 17:24-29

24Then [And] David came to Mahanaim. And Absalom passed over Jordan, he and all the men of Israel with him. 25And Absalom made Amasa captain of the host instead of Joab, which [and] Amasa was a man’s son,13 whose name was Ithra, an Israelite [the Ishmaelite], that went in to Abigail the daughter of Nahash, sister 26to Zeruiah, Joab’s mother. So [And] Israel and Absalom pitched in the land of Gilead. 27And 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 28Ammiel of Lo-debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite of Rogelim, Brought14 beds, and basons, and earthen vessels, and wheat, and barley, and flour, and parched corn, and beans, and lentiles, and parched pulse [corn], 29And honey, and butter [curds], and sheep, and cheese of kine, for David, and for the people that were with him, to eat; for they said, The people is [got15] hungry, and weary, and thirsty in the wilderness.

b. The battle in the forest of Ephraim. 2 Samuel 18:1-8

1And David numbered [mustered] the people that were with him, and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them. 2And David sent forth [gave16] a third part of the people under [into4] the hand of Joab, and a third part under [into] the hand of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, and a third part under [into] the hand of Ittai the Gittite. And the king said unto the people, 3I will surely [om. surely] go forth with you myself also. But [And] the people answered [said], Thou shalt not go forth; for if we flee away, they will not care for [pay attention to17] us; neither [and] if half of us die, will they care for us [they will not pay attention to us]; but now thou [for thou5] art worth ten thousand of us; therefore [and] now it is better that thou succour us out of the city. 4And 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 [went forth] by hundreds and by thousands. 5And the king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with [om. even with] Absalom. And all the people 6heard when the king gave all the captains charge concerning Absalom. So [And] the people went out into the field against Israel; and the battle was [or, took place] 7in the wood of Ephraim. Where [And] the people of Israel were slain [smitten there] before the servants of David, and there was there18 a great slaughter that day 8of twenty thousand men. For [And] the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country; and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.

c. Absalom murdered by Joab. 2 Samuel 18:9-18

9And Absalom met19 the servants of David. And Absalom rode [was riding] upon a [the] mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a [the] great oak [terebinth], and his head caught hold of the oak [terebinth], and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth, and the mule that was under him went away 10[passed on]. And a certain man saw it, and told Joab, and said, Behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak [the terebinth]. And Joab said unto the man that told 11him, And behold, thou sawest him, and why didst thou not smite him there to the ground? and I would have given thee ten shekels [pieces] of silver, and a girdle. 12And the man said unto Joab, Though20 I should receive a thousand shekels [pieces] of silver in mine hand, yet would I not put forth my hand against the king’s son; for in our hearing the king charged thee and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Beware 13that none touch the young man Absalom. Otherwise21 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. 14Then said Joab [And Joab said], I may not tarry thus with thee. And he took three darts22 in his hand, and thrust them through [into] the heart of Absalom, while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak [terebinth]. 15And ten young men that bare Joab’s armour compassed about and smote Absalom, and slew him. 16And Joab blew the trumpet, and the people 17returned from pursuing after Israel, for Joab held back23 the people. And24 they took Absalom, and cast him into a [the] great pit in the wood, and laid a very great 18heap of stones upon him; and all Israel fled, every one to his tent. Now [And] Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a [the] pillar,25 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 [monument].

d. The tidings of joy and grief. David’s lament over Absalom. 2 Samuel 17:19-29 [2 Samuel 19:1]

19Then said Ahimaaz, the son of Zadok [And Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said], Let me now run, and bear the king tidings how [om. how] that the Lord [Jehovah] hath avenged [delivered] him of [from] his enemies. 20And 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, because26 the king’s son is dead. 21Then said Joab to Cushi [And Joab said to the Cushite], Go, tell the king what thou hast seen. And Cushi [the Cushite] bowed himself unto Joab and Romans 2:0; Romans 2:02Then said Ahimaaz the son of Zadok [And Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said] yet again to Joab, But, however, let me, I pray thee, also run after Cushi [the Cushite]. And Joab said, Wherefore wilt thou run, my son, seeing that thou hast no tidings ready.27 23But howsoever, said he,28 let me run. And he said unto him, Run. Then [And] Ahimaaz ran by the way of the plain, and overran Cushi [the Cushite].

24And David sat [was sitting] between the two gates; and the watchman went up to the roof over [of] the gate unto the wall, and lifted up his eyes, and looked 25[saw], and behold a man running alone. And the watchman cried [called] 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 [he came nearer and nearer]. 26And the watchman saw another man running; and the watchman called unto the porter,29 and said, Behold, another [om. another, ins. a] man running alone. And the king said, He also bringeth tidings. 27And the watchman said, Methinketh 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. 28And Ahimaaz called, and said unto the king, All is well [Peace!] And he fell down to the earth upon his face before the king, and said, Blessed be the Lord [Jehovah] thy God, which hath delivered up the men that lifted up their hand against my lord the king. 29And the king said, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Ahimaaz answered [said] When Joab sent the king’s servant and me [om. the king’s servant and me30] thy servant, I saw a great tumult, but I knew not what it was. 30And the king said unto him [om. unto him], Turn aside, and stand here. And he turned aside and stood still. 31And behold, Cushi [the Cushite] came; and Cushi [the Cushite] said, Tidings, my lord the king, for the Lord [Let my lord the king receive the tidings that Jehovah] hath avenged [delivered] thee this day of [from] all them that rose up against thee. 32And the king said unto Cushi [the Cushite], Is the young man Absalom safe? And Cushi answered [the Cushite said], The enemies of my lord the king, and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt [for evil] be as that [the] young man is [om. is]. [Heb. 19:1]. 33And 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 [O that] I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!


a. 2 Samuel 17:24-29. David at Mahanaim

2 Samuel 17:24. To Mahanaim, east of the Jordan (which he had crossed in the night, passing through the Jordan-valley, 2 Samuel 17:22), probably a fortified place, north of the Jabbok, suitable for a rendezvous for gathering an army, whence it was chosen by Abner as Ishbosheth’s capital-city. See on 2 Samuel 2:8. [A well-provisioned country, friendly to David (Bib.-Com.).—Tr.]—Absalom’s passage over the Jordan took place when he had had time to gather (according to Hushai’s counsel) “all the men of Israel,” that is, all the military force of the country (comp. 2 Samuel 17:11 sq.). 2 Samuel 17:25. Whether Amasa, appointed by Absalom captain in place of Joab (who remained faithful to David), is the same with the Amasai of 1 Chronicles 12:17-18 (Ewald, Bertheau), must be left undetermined. “If this conjecture were correct, the man, so cordially received by David (1 Chronicles 12:17), would have committed grave wrong in attaching himself to Absalom” (Then.). Elsewhere the phrase “son of a man (or woman)” is defined by a following appositional word or genitive (Böttcher); but here the defining phrase is introduced by “and” [“and his name was Ithra”], so that we have the independent assertion: “son of a man,” which is meaningless. Perhaps the text originally had: “whose name was” (אֲשֶׁר שְׁמוֹ), and the relative pronoun has fallen out (from the following אשׁר). Böttcher conjectures that “foreigner” (גֵר) stood after “man,” comp. 2 Samuel 1:13 [it would then read: “Amasa was the son of a foreigner, and his name was Ithra.”—Tr.].—With this would agree that Ithra was an Ishmaelite, for so we must here read instead of “Israelite,” after 1 Chronicles 2:17, where Jether is shortened form of Ithra (Sept.: “the Jezreelite,” Joshua 19:18, so David’s wife Ahinoam, 1 Samuel 28:3). The designation of Ithra as an “Israelite” would be superfluous; but the statement that he was an “Ishmaelite” serves to illustrate the fact that Amasa was an illegitimate son of Abigail. If Nahash be taken as a man’s name, and the word “sister” in apposition with Abigail, then Zeruiah and Abigail are daughters of David’s mother by her first marriage with Nahash, step-daughters of Jesse, and on this side step-sisters of David (so the older expositors, Michaelis and Schultz). But Nahash may, with Movers and Thenius (who refers to 1 Chronicles 4:12, where it is the name of a city), be taken as a woman’s name, here a second wife of Jesse. In this case also the two, Zeruiah and Abigail, would be David’s step-sisters. Clericus supposes Nahash to be another name, or a surname of Jesse; Capellus would read “Jesse” instead of “Nahash” (after a variant of the Sept.); Böttcher puts “sister” in apposition with “Nahash,” which he regards as a woman’s name. [It is an old Jewish view that Nahash is another name of Jesse. For many persons, says Kimchi, had two names, and this (Nahash) signifies “a serpent.” From whence it is that when Isaiah (2 Samuel 14:29) saith: “out of the serpent’s root (or, the root of Nahash) shall come forth a cockatrice or basilisk,” the Chaldee paraphrase expounds it, “out of the root of Jesse shall come forth the Messiah;” who was typified by the brazen serpent in the wilderness (Patrick). This would be baseless allegorizing, even if Nahash were proved to be another name of Jesse, which is not probable. The omission of the name Nahash in 1 Chronicles 2:16 is against the view that it belongs to a daughter of Jesse; more probably it is the name of the otherwise unknown father of Abigail. See “Text. and Gram.”—Tr.]

2 Samuel 17:26. Absalom pitched his camp in Gilead. Nothing is said of a siege (Ewald) of Mahanaim. Against this view is the fact that David, as appears from what follows, here got supplies of men and provisions, formed an army, and organized it in three divisions, which required time. It is hence evident that David was able to establish himself strongly at Mahanaim without being attacked by Absalom’s army.

2 Samuel 17:27-29. David receives reinforcements and provisions. Shobi, the son of Nahash, from Rabbah, the capital of the Ammonites; this last statement “guards against the possible error that Shobi was a brother of Abigail” (Thenius). Rabbah, on the lower Jabbok (2 Samuel 12:26-31), belonged to David’s empire, and now remained true to him. Shobi, if not an Israelite, was perhaps a son of the deceased Ammonite king Nahash and brother of the Hanun (2 Samuel 10:1 sqq.) conquered by David (Keil), or a member of the royal house of Ammon favored by David (Ewald). [Shobi was hardly tributary king of Ammon (Bib.-Com.), else he would have been called king.—Tr.]—Machir, son of Ammiel of Lodebar, who had received Jonathan’s lame son Mephibosheth into his house (2 Samuel 9:4).—Barzillai, a Gileadite of Rogelim, an otherwise unknown place, mentioned besides here only in 2 Samuel 19:32. The Sept. (alone among the ancient versions) inserts “ten” before “beds” and before “basons;” but this does not agree with the connection, since the articles mentioned were brought by several persons for “the people” (2 Samuel 17:29), and therefore certainly in considerable quantities. Ten would have been too few for David’s “court and army” (Ew.); the insertion of this number in the Sept. was perhaps suggested by 1 Samuel 17:17-18. Whether they were “fine mattress-beds” (Ew.) must be left undecided. “Basons,” metallic vessels for preparing food. “Parched food” (קָלִי), comp. 1 Samuel 17:17. As not only corn-grains, but also pulse-beans were roasted (Bochart, Hier. II. 582, Harmar, Beobacht. I. 255 sq.), the second word may refer to pulse, of which, as well as of corn, two kinds are named; and therefore the omission of the second (קלי) as an error (Sept., Syr., Arab.) is unnecessary [Eng. A. V. retains it, and renders: “parched pulse”]. The last term in the list (שְׁפוֹת נָּקָר) is variously translated; Vulg.: “fat calves;” Theod.: “sucking calves;” Chald., Syr., Rabbin.: “cheese of kine (cows)” [so Eng. A. V.]. The last sense agrees better with the preceding words [Eng. A. V. incorrectly: “butter”]; the first sense accords with the “sheep” (small cattle). Sept. transfers the Heb. word: “saphoth of oxen.” The meaning of the Heb. phrase is doubtful. The verb in this sentence (“brought”) stands strangely and unnaturally after the long list of articles; it is therefore better, with Sept., Vulg., Syr., Arab., to supply a verb-form (partcp.) at the beginning of 2 Samuel 17:28, and then to insert “and” before the verb in 2 Samuel 17:29 : “they brought beds, etc., and gave them to David.” [Eng. A. V. simply transfers the verb to the beginning of 2 Samuel 17:28. On the reading see “Text. and Gram.” Patrick calls attention to the food of the times (only one sort of meat) as indicated by the list in 2 Samuel 17:28-29, and Bib.-Com. remarks that God’s care for David was evident in the kindness of these people.—Tr.]



[13][2 Samuel 17:25. Probably we should read: “the son of a stranger (foreigner)” (אִישׁ נָכְרִי, or אִישׁ גֵּר). Instead of “Israelite” editors now generally read: “Ishmaelite” (1 Chronicles 2:17). The old Jewish view is that Ithra or Jithra or Jether (another name for Jesse) was an Israelite by birth, but had lived long among the Ishmaelites, or was an Ishmaelite by birth and an Israelite by religion (a proselyte), and that the phrase “son of a man” = “a man of distinction” (so Philippson); but this is less probable than that our text is corrupt. Wordsworth supposes that the name “Israelite” may be used in distinction from ‘Judahite,’ to show that Jithra did not belong to the tribe of Judah; but Cahen remarks that this designation (Israelite) seems not to have come into use till after the division of the kingdom.—Wellhausen thinks that “daughter of Nahash” is for “son of Nahash,” and is an insertion from 2 Samuel 17:27. a not improbable supposition; the statement would then be: “Amasa was the son of a foreigner named Jethra the Ishmaelite, who went in unto Abigail, sister to Zeruiah, Joab’s mother.” Abigail and Zeruiah would then be full sisters to David, and Amasa illegitimate son of Abigail, and cousin of Joab.—The reading of Sept. and Vulg.: “Jezreelite” is less probable than the “Ishmaelite” of 1 Chronicles 2:17, because our text indicates (by the maimed phrase: “son of a man”) that Jethra was a non-Israelite. The Arabic reading is noticeable: “and Absalom made his lance-bearer in place of Ahithophel, a man named Amsa, son of a rich man named Jether.”—Tr.]

[14][2 Samuel 17:28. The verb does not occur in the Heb. till 2 Samuel 17:29, whence it is proposed to insert (with the versions) a verb or participle (מְבִיאִים) at the beginning of 2 Samuel 17:28. The verb in 2 Samuel 17:29 may be retained, and would, indeed, serve to govern the nouns in 2 Samuel 17:28, but for the phrase “for the people to eat,” since the things mentioned in that verse are not all eatables. The difficulty, however, still exists if (with Erdmann) we supply the copula before the “brought” of 2 Samuel 17:29; we may then say that the word “eat” is used of the principal part of the things brought (in which case it will not be absolutely necessary to supply the verb at the beginning of 2 Samuel 17:28), or, we may suppose that the articles last mentioned (2 Samuel 17:29, together with the קָלִי “parched corn” at end of verse 28, the repetition of which would thus be explained) were brought ready for immediate eating, the others (2 Samuel 17:28) as a store of provisions.—The word “corn” is retained in its proper sense = “grain,” though liable to be misunderstood by American readers for maize.—Tr.]

[15][2 Samuel 17:29. The people were not at Mahanaim, and had gotten hungry during the march through the wilderness.—Tr.]

[16][2 Samuel 18:2. The verb does not mean “sent forth,” nor had the army yet begun its march (2 Samuel 18:6); the phrase שׁלח ביד means either: “to send by the hand of some one,” or: “to give over to some one,” here the latter.—The adverb “surely” is too strong for the signification of the Infinitive Absolute.—Tr.]

[17][2 Samuel 18:3. Literally: “set heart on us.”—אַתָּה “thou” instead of עַתָּה “now” is read by Sept., Vulg., Sym., and by one or two MSS.—Syr. has “now;” its text here (followed by Arab.) is badly maimed.—Instead of “out of the city” Sept., an anonymous Greek version and Vulg., have “in the city,” which is perhaps merely an explanatory rendering. The absence of the Art. in מֵעִיר creates a difficulty. Bib.-Com., taking מֵעִיר as Hiph. participle of עוּר, proposes to render: “that thou be to us a stirrer-up in helping us,” i.e., that thou help us by stirring us up. But the construction here does not favor this rendering; the verb (Hiphil) is followed by the Acc. of the person or thing roused, and frequently by עַל (“against”) with the person against whom it is roused; the Infin. here also would from the construction rather have for its subject the roused than the rouser. It is better to supply the Art. מֵהָעִיר, or else to read בָּעִיר.—Kethib לַעֲזִיר for לְהַעֲזִיר Hiph. Infin.; Qeri לַעֲזוֹר Qal.—Tr.]

[18][2 Samuel 18:7. Omitted by Sept. as unnecessary. The first “there” in this verse is retained in Sept. (not omitted, as Wellh. says).—Tr.]

[19][2 Samuel 18:9. Wellhausen: “from the connection with לִפְנֵי [‘in the presence of’] and from 2 Samuel 18:10 it appears that the text וַיִקָּרֵא is incorrect; read perhaps וַיִּירָא [‘and Absalom feared’].” But the construction is supported by Deuteronomy 22:6 (Bib.-Com.), and the statement of 2 Samuel 18:10 is properly explained by this statement that Absalom in his flight “met,” accidentally came across some of David’s men.—Tr.]

[20][2 Samuel 18:12. Read the Qeri לוּ or לֻא (= לוּא).—“Though I should weigh (שֹׁקֵל) into (upon) my hand;” instead of the Act. Particip. Wellhausen reads the Pass. שָׁקוּל: “though there were weighed into my hand,” but the man might easily conceive of the weighing as done by himself.—Tr.]

[21][2 Samuel 18:13. Eng. A. V. here follows the Qeri (“my life,” Kethib “his life”). The whole verse is difficult in text and meaning. The line of thought seems to favor the marginal reading בְּנַפְשׁוֹ “against his life; but it is then difficult to see whether the man presents two reasons for not killing Absalom: 1) his regard for the king’s command (2 Samuel 18:12), 2) his fear of the consequences to himself (2 Samuel 17:13), or only the former. Moreover whether the last phrase in the verse is to be rendered “thou wilt have to stand before him” (to give account, or testimony), or “thou wilt stand (appear) against me” is uncertain; the latter is more probable. In the first part of our verse the Sept. had a different text from the Heb.: “guard me the young man Absalom, not to do wrong against his life,” which would simplify the man’s address. We may adopt the reading (מֵעֲשׂוֹת instead of אוֹ־עָשִׂיתִי), or keep the Heb. text and render: “or if I acted falsely against his life, then nothing is concealed from the king, and thou wouldest take stand against me.”—Tr.]

[22][2 Samuel 18:14. The word (שֵׁבֶט) not “dart,” but “staff,” and is contrasted with the word “spear” (חֲנִית) in 2 Samuel 23:21. Either, then, we must suppose Joab to have used an uncommon weapon (Erdmann) or we must change the text. Erdmann states the objections to Thenius’ proposed reading שְׁלָחִים, and it would be hard to account for an alteration of חניתים or חםיתות into שבטים.—Instead of: “in the heart (בלב) of the terebinth.” Thenius proposes to read after Syr. and Vulg.: “hung in (תָּלוּי) the terebinth,” for which there seems no necessity; the renderings of these two versions are merely interpretations.—Tr.]

[23][2 Samuel 18:16. Sept., Vulg., Thenius, Keil, Erdmann render: “Joab wished to spare the people,” but the rendering of Eng. A. V. seems better because the idea of “wish” is not contained in the Hebrew, and the phrase “the people” in connection with Joab more naturally refers to David’s army.—Tr.]

[24][2 Samuel 18:17. Wellhausen objects to the order of 2 Samuel 17:14-17, because it represents Absalom, already half-dead from hanging, as surviving Joab’s stabbing with the staves or darts, and finally meeting his death from the young men. He would make the last word of 2 Samuel 18:15 and 2 Samuel 18:16 follow 2 Samuel 18:14, and then insert 2Sa 18:15; 2 Samuel 18:17, so as to read: “14, Joab took three darts, etc., … in the terebinth, and killed him, 16 and blew the trumpet, and held back the people. 15 and ten young men compassed about Absalom, 17 and took him, etc.” Though this is ingenious, it is not required by the text. Joab’s wounds did not kill Absalom, and the zealous armor-bearers finished him; then Joab called in his soldiers, and they (indef. subject = Passive) took Absalom and cast him into the pit.—Tr.]

[25][2 Samuel 18:18. This word has the sign of determination (את), and yet is not followed by a determinative noun; whence Wellhausen would supply אֲשֵׂרָה (in place of following אשר), and render: “took the pillar of the Asherah [idol-image] in the king’s dale and set it up.” But (apart from the fact that אֲשֵׁרָה does not occur after a construct מַצֶּבֶת, in 1 Kings 14:23; 1 Kings 17:10 the two words are used co-ordinately) this is an example of a word determined by a relative clause, as in Genesis 40:3. See Ew. § 277 d, 2), and Ges. § 116.—At the end of the verse ידַ = “monument,” a different word from that rendered “pillar.”—Tr.]

[26][2 Samuel 18:20. Eng. A. V. here adopts the Qeri עַל־כֵּן: “for the king’s son is dead.” Syr. and Chald., omitting the כֵּן, render: “thou wilt not announce except that the king’s son is dead,” which, however, the present Heb. will not bear.—עַל־בֵּן usually means “therefore,” but here = “because” (= כִּי עַל־כֵּן).—Tr.]

[27][2 Samuel 18:22. Eng. A. V. takes לְבָה = “to thee,” and מֹצֵאת Qal. Act. Particip. fem. of מָצָא, = “finding, ready:” Erdmann renders the Particip. “reward-finding,” Philippson: “profitable;” Wellhausen takes it as Hoph. of יָצָא (מֻצֵאת) = “brought out, paid out” (Genesis 38:25); Bib.-Com.: “sufficing,” which commends itself as appropriate.—According to Böttcher, it is only when the pronoun is emphatic that we can render לְכָה “to thee;” and here it is better = “go thou” (= “and if thou go”). But the pronoun may be emphatic here.—Tr.]

[28][2 Samuel 18:23. Insert וַיֹּאמֵר at the beginning of the verse.—Tr.]

[29][2 Samuel 18:26. Instead of שעֵר “porter” Erdmann, Then., Böttcher, Wellhausen (after Sept. and Syr.) read שַעַר “gate,” which, however, is not necessary, and this statement is not in conflict with 2 Samuel 18:25, where the watchman seems to speak directly to the king.—After the second אִישּׁ Thenius and Wellhausen (Sept., Vulg., Syr.) insert אַחֵר “another;” but Böttcher properly remarks that this would naturally be inserted by the versions (so Eng. A. V. inserts it) from the preceding part of the verse, while its omission could not so well be accounted for.—Tr.]

[30][2 Samuel 18:29. Erdmann renders as Eng. A. V., but the construction, as it stands, is awkward and improbable. The simplest procedure seems to be that of Wellhausen, to omit אֶת־עֶבֶד הַמֶּלֶךְ (though it is not easy to account for its insertion). Some (so Bib.-Com.) prefer the Vulg. rendering, on which see Erdmann in the Exposition. Related questions, such as the person of “the Cushite,” will there be referred to.—Tr.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 17". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/2-samuel-17.html. 1857-84.
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