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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 18

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



David viewing the armies in their march, giveth them charge of Absalom, 2 Samuel 18:1-5;

whose men are smitten: he hanging by his hair on an oak, is slain by Joab, and cast into a pit: his pillar and monument, 2 Samuel 18:6-18.

David hearing hereof, 2 Samuel 18:19-32, mourneth for Absalom, 2 Samuel 18:33.

Verse 1

The people that were with him; which flocked to him thither, so as to make up a small army.

Verse 2

Under the hand of Joab, to wit, for his especial conduct and management in the battle: otherwise Joab was the general of all the forces; nor had David yet taken away that power from him, nor was this a time to do it. But such distributions of forces are usual in battles.

I will surely go forth with you myself also, that by my presence I may put life and courage into my soldiers; and because it is fit I should run the same hazards with you, which you do for my sake.

Verse 3

Thou shalt not go forth; for this was Absalom’s great error, into which he was drawn by a Divine infatuation, and by Hushai’s craft, to go to battle in his own person, which was the utter ruin of him and of his cause.

Thou art worth ten thousand of us; not only for the dignity of thy person, but also for the importance of our common cause and concern, which, if thou art slain, is irrecoverably lost.

That thou succour us out of the city, by sending us supplies of men, and provisions of all sorts, as we have occasion; and by securing our retreat, if we be defeated. Or thus, Not go along to the battle with us, but only go out with us, or accompany us out of the city, (to encourage the company,) slid then retire for thy own safety. And so it seems by the next verse.

Verse 4

By the gate side, i.e. between the two gates of the city, as it is expressed below, 2 Samuel 18:24.

Verse 5

Deal gently with Absalom; if you conquer, (which he presaged they would by God’s gracious answer to his prayer for the turning of Ahithophel’s counsel into foolishness,) take him prisoner, but do not kill him. Which desire proceeded, partly, from his great indulgence towards his children; partly, from David’s consciousness that he himself was the meritorious and procuring cause of this rebellion, Absalom being given up to it for the punishment of David’s sins, and therefore did indeed deserve some pity from him; partly, from the consideration of his youth, which commonly makes men foolish, and heady, and violent, and subject to ill counsels; and partly, from his piety, being loth that he should be cut off in the act of his sin without any space or means for repentance, whereby both his soul and body would be in danger to perish for ever. All the people, to wit, the citizens and others who stood with the king in the gate when the army marched forth.

Verse 6

So called, not from its situation in the tribe of Ephraim, which was on the other side Jordan, as is evident; but from some memorable action or occurrent of the Ephraimites beyond, Jordan; whether it was their killing of Oreb and Zeeb there, Judges 7:25; Judges 8:3, or their slaughter by Jephthah, Judges 12:5,Judges 12:6, or some other not mentioned in sacred Scripture.

Verse 7

The people of Israel, i.e. the soldiers of Absalom; so called, partly to note that all Israel (some few excepted) were engaged in this rebellion, which made David’s deliverance more glorious and remarkable; and partly in opposition to David’s men, who, as to the main body, or most considerable part, were of the tribe of Judah, or had followed him from Judah.

Verse 8

The battle was there scattered, i. e. the warriors being beaten in the fight, fled, and were dispersed; the abstract being put for the concrete, as poverty is put for poor men, 2 Kings 24:14, and deceit for the deceiver, and dreams for dreamers, Proverbs 12:24; Proverbs 13:6.

The wood devoured more people, i.e. more people died in the wood, either through hunger, and thirst, and weariness; or by the wild beasts, whereof great numbers were there, which, though they were driven away by noise and clamour from the place of the main battle, yet might easily meet with them when they fled several ways, which also might be directed and sent to them by God’s providence and just judgment to punish them for their rebellion; or by falling into ditches and pits, which were in that place, 2 Samuel 18:17, and probably were covered with grass or wood, so as they could not see them till they fell into them; or by being hanged in trees, as Absalom was, 2 Samuel 18:9; and especially by David’s men, who pursued them, and killed them in the wood: and the wood is rightly said to have devoured them, because it gave the occasion to their destruction, inasmuch as the trees, and ditches, and pits, entangled them, and stopped their flight, and made them an easy prey to David’s men, who followed them, and slew them in the pursuit, being therein directed and assisted by the people of that country, who, after the manner, fell in with the victorious side.

Than the sword devoured, to wit, in the main battle; the sword being put for the battle, by a common metonymy.

Verse 9

Absalom met the servants of David, who, according to David’s command, spared him, and gave him an opportunity to escape.

His head caught hold of the oak; in which probably he was entangled by the hair of the head, which being very long and thick, might easily catch hold of a bough, especially when the great God directed it. Either he wore no helmet, or his helmet was such as left much of his hair visible; or he had thrown away his helmet as well as his other arms, to hasten his flight, or because of the heat of the season. Thus the matter of his pride was the instrument of his ruin, as also Asahel’s swiftness, 2 Samuel 2:18, and Ahithophel’s policy, 2 Samuel 17:23, were the occasions of their destruction.

The mule that was under him went away; which might easily happen, because being in flight the mule passed along very swiftly.

Verse 11

Why didst thou not smite him down from the oak, and with thy spear nail him to the ground?

A girdle; a military belt of more than ordinary price, as a testimony of thy valour and good service. See Poole on "1 Samuel 18:4".

Verse 12

Or, take heed what (for so the Hebrew pronoun mi is sometimes used, as Judges 13:17) ye do with the young man. He expresseth David’s sense, though not his words.

Verse 13

Either, first, I should have been guilty of false and perfidious dealing against the king’s express injunction, and that with the manifest hazard of my own life. Or, secondly I should have betrayed my own life. I should not only have deceived myself with false hopes, either of concealing my fact from the king, or of obtaining a reward, yea, or a pardon, from him or thee for it; but also have destroyed myself thereby, and laid a plot against my own life.

There is no matter hid from the king; this, as all other things, would certainly come to the king’s ear.

Thou thyself wouldest have set thyself against me; thou wouldst have been my adversary and accuser; partly because it was thy duty to be so; and partly to vindicate thyself by casting the blame upon another. Or, thou wouldst have stood afar off, as this phrase is used, Psalms 38:11. Thou wouldst not have stood to me to intercede for my life or reward, but wouldst keep at a distance from me.

Verse 14

I may not tarry thus with thee; I must not lose time in contending with thee till I let the occasion slip.

Through the heart of Absalom; not properly so called, for he was yet alive after these wounds, and was slain, 2 Samuel 18:15; but through his middle, as the word heart is oft used, as Psalms 46:2, and that too not exactly, but more largely understood, as Deuteronomy 4:11; Ezekiel 27:4; Matthew 12:40; or through his body; which might be, and yet the wounds not mortal.

While he was yet alive, or, yet he continued alive, i.e. the darts did not despatch him, and therefore they smite him again, and kill him, 2 Samuel 18:15.

Verse 15

Judging that there could be no safety to the king, nor peace to the kingdom, nor security to himself, and all David’s friends and loyal subjects, and good men, if Absalom had lived, as may seem probable from 2 Samuel 19:10, and yet perceiving that the king’s heart was reconcilable to Absalom, notwithstanding his abominable crimes of lying with his father’s concubines, and of horrid and unnatural rebellion; both which were capital crimes by the law of God; he adventured to save David’s life against his will. But whether Joab did well in this, all things considered, I shall not here determine.

Verse 16

Who otherwise were highly incensed against the rebels, and hotly pursued them. But the head of the rebellion being cut off, and the danger thereby past, be puts a stop to the effusion of Israelitish blood.

Verse 17

Laid a very great heap of stones upon him, as a lasting monument of Absalom’s sin and shame, and of the righteous judgment of God upon him. Compare Joshua 7:26; Joshua 8:29; Joshua 10:27. He was first hanged, after a sort, which was an accursed death, Deuteronomy 21:23; and then thrust through with darts and swords; and, after all, in a manner stoned, which was the proper punishment of a rebellious son, Deuteronomy 21:21.

Every one to his tent; to their houses and dwellings, to avoid the shame and punishment of their rebellion.

Verse 18

A pillar, to preserve his name in memory; whereas it had been more for his honour if his name had been buried in perpetual oblivion. But this was the effect of his pride and vain-glory.

The king’s dale; a place near Jerusalem so called. Genesis 14:17.

He said, I have no son.

Object. He had three sons, 2 Samuel 14:27.

Answ. Either they were all now dead; or if one of them was left alive, he thought him unfit and unworthy to keep up his name and honour; or he erected this pillar before his sons were born. But the first opinion seems most probable; and it was a remarkable judgment of God, that he who struck at his father’s life, should be punished with the death of all his sons.

Absalom’s place, Heb. Absalom’s hand, i.e. his work, made though not by his hand, yet for him and his glory, and by his procurement.

Verse 20

And thou shalt not be a messenger of evil tidings, which will be unwelcome to him, and prejudicial to thee.

Verse 21

To Cushi, or, to an Ethiopian; so he might be by birth, and yet by profession an Israelite.

Verse 22

My son; so he calls him with respect both to his younger years, and to that true and tender affection which he had for him.

Verse 23

The way of the plain was the smoother and easier, though the longer way.

Verse 24

Between the two gates; for the gates of the cities then were, as now they are, large and thick; and, for the greater security, had two gates, one more outward, the other inward. Here he sat, that he might hear tidings when any came into the city.

Unto the wall; unto the top of the wall or tower upon the gate, where watchmen used to watch. Compare 2 Kings 9:17; Ezekiel 33:2.

Verse 25

There is tidings in his mouth; he is sent with some special message; which was a very probable conjecture; for if he had run or fled from the enemy, many others would have followed him.

Verse 27

He loves me well, and therefore would not afflict me with evil tidings.

Verse 28

Into thy hand and power; or, to destruction. Compare 1 Samuel 24:18; 1 Samuel 26:8.

Verse 29

The king’s servant, Cushi.

I knew not what it was; he seems to tell an untruth, as is evident from 2 Samuel 18:20, because he now plainly perceived what Joab foretold him, that such tidings would be very unwelcome to David. But he made a bad choice, to offend God with a lie, rather than to displease the king with a truth. Yet thus far it might be true, that though he had reason to think Absalom was dead, yet was not able to give account of the particulars which concerned it, wherewith Cushi was intrusted.

Verse 32

May they perish and be cut off, as he is.

Verse 33

Went up to the chamber over the gate; retiring himself from all men and business, that he might wholly give up himself to lamentation.

David might speak thus from a deep sense of his eternal state, because he died in his sins, without the least testimony of repentance, and because David himself had by his own sins been the unhappy instrument and occasion of his son’s death.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/2-samuel-18.html. 1685.
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