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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

2 Samuel 17

Verses 1-29

Ahithophel discerned clearly that if Absalom was to gain any victory over David he must strike quickly. Satan knows that the only way to establish the anti-christ in power is to destroy the true Christ. So Ahithophel urges that he be allowed to take with him 12,000 men (in contrast to the few hundred who had gone with David) and immediately the same night pursue David. He well reasons that such an attack would scatter David's men and leave David unprotected, so that they could kill him alone. Thus he says, "I will bring back all the people to you," as though the people had left Absalom! (v.3). Wickedness can succeed only by striking quickly: it cannot afford to wait for calmly judicious deliberation. This counsel pleased Absalom and his men, for this was the plan most likely to succeed.

However, Absalom considered it an advantage to have another counsellor also, and he called for Hushai and told him what Ahithophel had counselled, asking him if he concurred with this or not. Of course Hushai knew it was the best thing from Absalom's point of view, but he was there to serve David. He therefore tells Absalom that Ahithophel's counsel "is not good at this time." He gives reasons that were convincing to Absalom, first, that David and his men were men of war and at the time enraged in their minds like a bear robbed of her cubs, so that their resistance would be furious. But also, that David would be hidden somewhere apart from the people, for he knew how to survive alone in rugged circumstances. Then if at first there was slaughter of some of Absalom's men, the people would hear the report of it (v.9), and tend to become apprehensive and fearful. He pressed the fact that, all Israel knew David's reputation for powerful conquest and that he was surrounded by valiant men (v.10).

Then he uses his most convincing argument so far as Absalom was concerned, giving his counsel that Absalom should take time to have all Israel gathered in subjection to him, the whole country from Dan to Beersheba being persuaded that Absalom was the best choice for king (v.11). Then when the kingdom was in this way established, they would have no difficulty in eventually apprehending David (vs.12-13). Hushai embellishes this with some details of how they would complete the matter, since by then Absalom would be in undisputed authority over the country.

Hushai knew perfectly well that this time delay would benefit David rather than Absalom. But he also knew that Absalom was proud enough to think that all Israel would gladly welcome him as king when they had considered the matter. Thus Absalom's pride was his downfall. He and all his men accepted the counsel of Hushai. The self-confidence of Absalom and his followers stands in sharp contrast to David's humble confidence in God. it is added also the Lord had purposed to defeat the wise counsel of Ahithophel in order that Absalom might be brought down to ruin.

Hushai then gave information to Zadok and Abiathar as to the counsel of Ahithophel and his contrary counsel, so that David would be urged to put as much distance as he could between his company and Absalom, rather than hiding in a nearby proximity. The message then was to be relayed to Jonathan and Ahimaaz by a girl. No doubt this was considered safer than using a man. Jonathan and Ahimaaz had remained outside the city to avoid any kind of suspicion (v.17). However, a boy saw them as they started on their way to meet David, and he told Absalom.

They apparently knew they had been seen, and when they came to Bahurim considered it necessary to hide. A woman was friendly, and had them go down a well, which she covered over, spreading grain on top of the covering. This of course was very effective, so that when Absalom's servants came, it was plain to them that the young men were not there. When they asked, the woman told them they had gone over the water brook. Of course their search was fruitless, so they returned to Jerusalem.

When all was clear, Jonathan and Ahimaaz came up out of the well and made their way to David, who by this time had descended to the Jordan valley. They urged him to cross over the Jordan, for Ahithophel had counselled immediate pursuit and the killing of David. But Hushai's counsel had delayed this, therefore there was time for David to cross over if Absalom and his men had immediately pursued, they might have caught them as they were crossing the river and therefore would be unable to conceal themselves. They took advantage of the respite therefore, and all had crossed over the river by daylight of the following morning.

Ahithophel was clear thinking enough to realize that, since his counsel had been refused, the cause of Absalom was totally lost. He knew that Absalom could succeed only if David were killed, and David's having time to regroup would be fatal to Absalom's cause, for the people generally would not be persuaded to follow Absalom in preference to David, in spite of the pride of Absalom in expecting this. Therefore Ahithophel returned to his home, put his affairs in order and committed suicide by hanging himself (v.28). Tragic end for an intellectual man!

David went on north to Mahanaim. No doubt some time had elapsed before Absalom and his army crossed the Jordan also and encamped in the area of Gilead, not far from David. Verse 25 tells us that Absalom made Amasa captain of his army, a man who had a certain relationship with Joab.

From areas east of the Jordan there was time given for three friends of David to bring supplies to him. Shobi was of the people of Ammon, the nation David had subdued with much slaughter. They must have had servants with them, for they brought beds, basis, earthen vessels, wheat, barley, flour, parched grain and beans, lentils and parched seeds, honey, curds, sheep and cheese (vs.27-29). This consideration of the needs of David's men was most commendable and must have been deeply appreciated by David.

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Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 17". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/2-samuel-17.html. 1897-1910.