1 Samuel 18:1 to 1 Samuel 19:8. Defeat and Death of Absalom. David's Grief (J).
2 Samuel 18:1-8. Absalom's followers are defeated with great slaughter. Nothing is known as to the battle-field, "the Forest of Ephraim," beyond what may be gathered from this story. Many fugitives lost their lives by falling headlong in the broken, rocky country; some perhaps, especially the wounded died of hunger and exhaustion in these inhospitable tracts, with which they were not familiar. "Forest" here, as often in England, e.g. Ashdown Forest, denotes the kind of country described above, and not a continuous mass of trees (cf. Budde).
2 Samuel 18:9-18. Absalom, fleeing, was caught by his head in an oak and left hanging there, while his mule galloped away. Nothing is said about his hair, and, in spite of the familiar pictures, it is difficult to imagine how he could be caught by the hair so that he could not extricate himself. Budde suggests that, riding headlong on uneven ground, he was carried with force into an oak, that his head stuck in a fork between two branches, and he perhaps lost consciousness. Tidings of his plight being brought to Joab, he and his attendants slew Absalom, and buried him in a neighbouring pit. The existing text seems to contrast this with the arrangements Absalom himself had made. But it is not clear what these were. The Heb. as it stands would naturally mean that Absalom took a mebh (p. 98), or sacred pillar, which was standing in the King's Dale, and removed it and set it up somewhere else as a memorial to himself. In view of the sacred character of the pillar, Absalom probably founded a sanctuary where family rites for the dead would be celebrated; something roughly corresponding to a Romanist memorial chapel in which masses are said for the departed. As, however, such rites were performed by sons or descendants, it is curious that his action is explained by the fact that he had no son. Possibly the more enlightened religion of later times objected to both the sanctuary and the ritual; and the narrative was modified accordingly in order to transform the sacred pillar into a purely secular monument. The ritual may possibly have been originally derived from ancestor-worship (p. 83); though religious rites in connexion with the dead need not have involved ancestor-worship in ancient Israel any more than in modern Italy. In 2 Samuel 14:27 Absalom has three sons. LXX differs from Heb., and Klostermann adduces reasons for supposing that, in the original, David erected the pillar to the memory of Absalom.
2 Samuel 18:18. the king's dale: Genesis 14:17.
2 Samuel 18:19-23. Ahimaaz and the Cushite race to Mahanaim to carry the news of the victory.
2 Samuel 18:24-33. David, sitting between the inner and outer gates of the city is waiting for tidings. Ahimaaz arrives first and salutes the king with the usual greeting, "Shalom," "Peace"(not "All is well"); he announces the victory but evades the king's question about Absalom. But this is answered by the Cushite, who comes up soon afterwards. David, overwhelmed with grief, secludes himself.
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Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Lent