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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 15

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2980. B.C. 1024.

Absalom steals the hearts of the people, 2 Samuel 15:1-6 . He conspires against David, 2 Samuel 15:7-12 . David flees from Jerusalem, 2 Samuel 15:13-18 . He confers with Ittai, and passes over Kidron, 2 Samuel 15:19-23 . Sends back Zadok with the ark, 2 Samuel 15:24-29 . His prayer on this occasion, 2 Samuel 15:30 , 2 Samuel 15:31 . He concerts with Hushai, 2 Samuel 15:32-37 .

Verse 1

2 Samuel 15:1. Absalom prepared him chariots, &c. When he thought he had established himself in his father’s good affection, he began to take great state upon him, set up, as we now speak, a splendid equipage, and was royally attended, as being the king’s eldest son, (now Amnon was dead,) and next heir to the crown. For it seems Chileab, who was elder than he, 2 Samuel 3:3, was either dead also, or, through some cause, was incapable of the government. Absalom undoubtedly designed, by taking this course, to draw the eyes of the people to himself, who, as they were much in love with his beauty, so were doubtless mightily taken with this fine sight of chariots and horses, especially as it was unusual, not being allowed by the law. David was, however, so indulgent that, it seems, he took no notice of it. And fifty men to run before him An honour this such as his royal father had neither had, nor thought of. These, though attendants in appearance, were, in effect, guards.

Verse 2

2 Samuel 15:2. Absalom rose up early He accustomed himself to rise betimes in the morning, that he might make a show of solicitude for the good of the public, and of every private person. When any man came to the king for judgment The king, it appears, reserved all weighty causes for his own hearing; and appeals were made to him from the other courts. Absalom called to him Preventing him with the offers of his assistance. And, as if he were ready to make particular inquiry into the state of his cause, and intended, to take peculiar care of his interest, kindly inquired concerning his city, family, situation in life, and the place of his abode.

Verse 3

2 Samuel 15:3. Absalom said, See, thy matters are good and right Upon some very slight hearing of any man’s cause he approved of it, that he might oblige him; flattering all that they had right on their side, so that, if their causes should go against them, they might conclude, if Absalom had been judge, it would have been otherwise. There is no man deputed of the king to hear thee None that will do thee justice. The other sons and relations of the king, and the rest of the judges and rulers under him and them, are wholly corrupt; or, at least, not careful and diligent as they should be, and my father, being grown in years, is negligent of public affairs. So Absalom said, or insinuated. And it is always the way of turbulent, aspiring men, to reproach the government they are under. Even David, we see, one of the best of kings, could not escape the worst of censures, and that even from his own son; for what could be worse than that which is here thrown out against him, that he neglected to administer true and impartial justice and judgment to his people? It is marvellous that David did not observe and nip this growing insurrection in its bud. But Delaney is of opinion that he was dangerously ill at this time, and that therefore Absalom seized this as a fit opportunity to take the steps here mentioned to increase his popularity, and draw the people after him.

Verses 4-6

2 Samuel 15:4-6. Absalom said, O that I were made judge in the land! Though he was admitted to come to court, and see the king, he had no office there, as, it seems, the rest of the king’s sons had. This he took ill, and endeavoured to bring the people to do so too, by persuading them that, if he were in authority, he would take speedy care to do them justice. When any man came nigh to do him obeisance To fall prostrate before him as the king’s son. He put forth his hand and took him That is, prevented him from prostrating himself, and condescended even to salute him with a kiss. In this manner did Absalom to all Israel Robbed his father of the affections of the people, and possessed himself of them; some admiring his beauty and gallantry; others his courtesy and civility; and others being taken with his magnificent promises of the noble things he would do if he were their king.

Verse 7

2 Samuel 15:7. After forty years That is, as some say, from the change of the government into a monarchy, which change took place about ten years before David began to reign. So that this fell out about the thirtieth year of his reign. But the Syriac and Arabic, whom Houbigant follows, read, After four years; that is, from the time of his father’s reconciliation with him. Josephus, Theodoret, the manuscripts mentioned in the Benedictine edition of Jerome’s version, the canon of the Hebrew verity, (supposed to be made about the ninth century, and altered by some correcting hand,) the reading of the famous Latin Bible of Sextus, the Latin manuscript in Exeter college library, marked C. 2. 13., and the ancient Latin manuscript written in Gothic characters, the variations of which are published in Blanchini’s Vindiciæ, all have it, four; so that Grotius, and, after him, Patrick, were well supported in having pronounced so decisively, that it would admit of no doubt that an error had crept into the text, and that instead of ארבעים , arbagnim, forty, should be read ארבע , arbang, four. See Kennicott’s Dissert., vol. 2. p. 358, and Houbigant’s note. Let me go and pay my vow which I have vowed to the Lord in Hebron To wit, to perform there by some solemn sacrifice. As Delaney is of opinion that a very grievous sickness of David gave Absalom occasion to take the forementioned steps, so he thinks that his father’s unexpected recovery, perhaps through God’s extraordinary influence, broke Absalom’s measures for some time, and made him postpone his wicked purpose. In the mean time, his popularity had all the field he could wish. As all the people of Israel resorted to Jerusalem thrice in every year, on the three solemn festivals, he had so often an opportunity of paying his court, and insinuating his poison, till the infection spread through the whole body of the realm, and wanted nothing but a fair occasion to display itself in all its malignity, which Absalom sought by going to Hebron.

Verses 8-9

2 Samuel 15:8-9. If the Lord shall bring me again to Jerusalem, &c. This vow, we see, of Absalom is conceived exactly in the style of the patriarchal piety; and plainly implies, that however he was tempted by his grandfather to serve the gods of Geshur, yet he continued steady to the true religion, and determined against idolatry. This, we may be sure, David was highly delighted to hear, and therefore gave a ready consent to the performance of his vow, saying, Go in peace. So he arose and went to Hebron This place he chose as being an eminent city, and next to Jerusalem, the chief city of the tribe of Judah. It was also the place of his birth, the place where his father had begun his kingdom, which he took for a good omen, and where the seat of government had been several years. Here, likewise, they were wont to sacrifice till the temple was built. It was at a convenient distance from Jerusalem, and, no doubt, he had here secured many friends. He therefore thought it the most commodious place for his purpose, next to Jerusalem.

Verse 10

2 Samuel 15:10. Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes Before he left Jerusalem he took care to send his emissaries into all parts; doubtless under colour of inviting persons of distinction to the sacrifice; but in reality to carry the watchword and signal, before agreed on between them. As soon as ye shall hear the sound of the trumpet, &c. This was the signal which was to be given for the people’s taking up arms, their hearing the sound of the trumpet, which Absalom took care should be blown in all the tribes at the same time, by persons purposely placed in the towns and villages, at such a distance from one another as that each trumpet could be heard by the person appointed to blow the next. The spies, or emissaries, immediately upon hearing the sound of it, were to proclaim that Absalom was crowned king in Hebron. Upon this being done, all his partisans, it is likely, shouted, God save King Absalom.

Verse 11

2 Samuel 15:11. With Absalom went two hundred men that were called That is, that were invited by him to feast with him on his sacrifice, and were such as he had picked out as fit for his purpose; principal persons of the city, no doubt, and of some reputation with the king and people. These he took with him that they might give a countenance to his undertaking, and cause the people at first to think that he was acting in all this by his father’s consent and approbation, as being now aged and infirm, and willing to resign the kingdom to his son. They went in their simplicity, and knew not anything Of his design, but only went to attend him, and pay him respect as the king’s son, who did them the honour to invite them to a holy feast. It is no new thing for good men to be made use of by designing men, to put a colour on ill practices.

Verse 12

2 Samuel 15:12. Absalom sent for Ahithophel, David’s counsellor None are more capable of doing mischief to kings than those who have been of their privy council, and know their secrets. It is supposed by the Jews that Ahithophel was incensed against David for his conduct to Bath-sheba, who they think, was his grand-daughter, being the daughter of Eliam, 2 Samuel 11:3, and Eliam the son of Ahithophel, 2 Samuel 23:34. It doubtless must have been matter of great surprise and inexpressible affliction to David, to find the two men, whom of all others he seems to have most loved and confided in, combining against him, and compassing his death, Absalom and Ahithophel, his son and his counsellor. While he offered sacrifices Or, rather, after he had offered sacrifices: for it seems he sent for him while he sat at dinner. And the conspiracy was strong Ahithophel was too cunning to discover himself till he saw all things favourable and prosperous on the part of Absalom: and they both very well judged that his accession to the conspiracy, in those circumstances, was the likeliest means to ensure its success. For the people increased continually Most of whom, it is probable, intended no harm at first, perhaps not even to divest David of his crown and dignity, much less to take away his life; but only to substitute Absalom as a coadjutor to him, for the executing of the royal authority during David’s life, and to be his successor after his death. However, it is evident they did proceed so far, at last, as to design to kill David for their own greater security. For so Ahithophel advised, and they all consented to it, 2 Samuel 17:2; 2 Samuel 17:4; which shows how dangerous it is to go out of the right way; for we do not know down what horrid precipices we may fall afterward. And it may serve as a warning to us never to begin any thing that is wrong, which may lead us to commit that in the issue which we abhorred at the first, when we find we cannot be safe in one wickedness, unless we commit a greater.

Verse 13

2 Samuel 15:13. There came a messenger to David It is probable some of the two hundred men who went innocently with Absalom from Jerusalem sent this messenger, who, however, did not go immediately on the first appearance of the conspiracy, but after it became manifest, through a great concourse of people openly thronging to him.

Verse 14

2 Samuel 15:14. David said, Arise, and let us flee As soon as he had received information of what had passed, he saw the danger was instant, and took his measures accordingly. He knew Absalom would lose no time to accomplish his design, and that the nature of it required him to strike home at once. David therefore orders his servants, soldiery, and friends, to depart from Jerusalem immediately. For, though the fort of Zion was strong, and he might have defended himself there for some time, yet he had not laid in provisions for a long siege; and, if he had been once besieged there, Absalom would have got speedy possession of his whole kingdom, whereas, if he marched abroad, he might raise a considerable army for his defence. Besides, the greatest part of Jerusalem could not be well defended against an enemy. And if it could, “he did not care to expose a favourite city, built by himself, and the residence of the tabernacle of God, to all the evils incident to sieges, and almost inseparable from them. Nor, perhaps, did he incline to trust the inhabitants of a place so long exposed to the taint of Absalom’s temptations.” This, some think, appears from the 55th Psalm, which, they suppose, was meditated and poured out in prayer to God upon the discovery of Absalom’s conspiracy. And from thence it is evident that he had discerned the seeds and workings of a conspiracy in the city, and that Ahithophel was at the bottom of it: and not only so, but that David foresaw his sudden and sad end. Delaney. For we shall not else escape from Absalom He was well acquainted with the young man’s impetuosity, and the madness of the people, and therefore judged that the only method to be pursued, in order to safety, was to give way to the fury of the flood, and not attempt to stem it in the fulness of its overflowing.

Verse 16

2 Samuel 15:16. The king went forth, and all his household after him Or, as the Hebrew, ברגליו , berag-laiv, rather means, on foot: which the king probably chose to do, that he might humble himself under the hand of God; might encourage his adherents in this hard and comfortless march; and might move compassion in his people toward him. The king left ten women Supposing that their sex and quality, and especially their relation to him, being his concubines, would be a sufficient protection to them, and gain them some respect, or, at least, safety from his son. What became of his wives is not here related; but it is probable they went along with him, to take care of him; as the other women were left to take care of the house.

2 Samuel 15:17-18 , The king went forth, and all the people after him That is, all those of Jerusalem who were well affected to him. And tarried in a place that was far off At a good distance from the city, where, it is likely, he put the people, that had come out in a confused state, into good order, and waited to see what other friends would join him. And all his servants passed on beside him His household servants, or body-guards, marched probably on both hands of him. And all the Gittites, six hundred men These marched in the front of his little army; but who they were it is hard to say; for we read nothing of them before. Some take them to have been proselytes, born in Gath of the Philistines, and think they came with Ittai to David, being attracted by the fame of his piety and happy success. Others take them to have been Jews, who had fled to David in his exile, when he was at Gath, and accompanied him ever after, not only in the time of Saul’s persecution, but after he came to the crown of Israel and Judah.

Verses 19-20

2 Samuel 15:19-20. Then said the king to Ittai the Gittite, &c. He seems to have been the commander of those six hundred men before mentioned. And the Jews make him the son of Achish, king of Gath, who, they say, out of religion and friendship came to David. Return to thy place To Jerusalem, where thy place of residence is. And abide with the king

With Absalom, king by usurpation. For thou art a stranger and an exile Not much concerned in our affairs, and therefore thou oughtest not to be involved in our troubles. And, as a stranger, thou mayest hope to be civilly treated by Absalom. Whereas thou camest but yesterday That is, very lately; should I this day make thee go up and down with us? Should I unsettle thee again so soon? Seeing I go whither I may Or, I know not whither, having now no certain dwelling-place. Take back thy brethren Thy countrymen the Gittites. Mercy and truth be with thee Since I am now unable to recompense thy kindness and fidelity to me, my hearty prayer to God is, that he would show to thee his mercy, in blessing thee with all sorts of blessings, and his faithfulness in making good all these promises which he hath made, not to Israelites only, but to all true-hearted proselytes, such as thou art.

Verse 21

2 Samuel 15:21. Ittai answered, Surely in what place, &c. Admirable and noble fidelity this in a stranger, when a son was a rebel against the father! He is a friend indeed, who loves at all times, and will cleave to us in adversity. Thus should we cleave to the Son of David, so that neither life nor death may separate us from him. Reader, is this the resolution of thy heart? Dost thou belong to Christ, and is it thy disposition never to leave him?

Verse 22

2 Samuel 15:22. Ittai the Gittite passed over The brook Kidron, as it follows in the next verse. And all the little ones that were with him This shows that his whole family were come to sojourn in Judea. And being so deeply engaged for David, he durst not leave his little ones to Absalom’s mercy.

Verse 23

2 Samuel 15:23. All the country wept All about Jerusalem, and the generality of the people by whom they passed, being extremely afflicted to see their king, under whom they had lived in great peace and prosperity, reduced to such extremities. It must be considered, that Absalom’s friends and partisans were gone to him to Hebron, and the rest of the people thereabouts were either well-wishers to David, or at least moved with compassion at the sad and sudden change of so great and good a king, which was sufficient to affect a heart of stone. All the people passed over All that continued faithful to David in those parts. The king also passed over the brook Kidron Or Cedron, which was near Jerusalem. The very same brook which Christ passed over, when he entered upon his sufferings, John 18:1. Toward the way of the wilderness Which lay between Jerusalem and Jericho.

Verse 24

2 Samuel 15:24. Zadok also, and all the Levites were with him They knew David’s great regard for them and their office, notwithstanding his failings; and the arts which Absalom had used to gain the people’s affections had made no impression upon them. They saw that he had little religion in him, and therefore they steadily adhered to David. Bearing the ark of the covenant of God As a pledge of God’s presence and assistance. And they set down the ark of God Either in expectation of drawing forth more people to David’s party, if not from their loyalty to their lawful king, yet from their piety and reverence to the ark; or, that all the people might pass along, and the ark might come in the rear of them, for their safeguard and encouragement. Abiathar went up From the ark to the city, which was on higher ground; that so he, being high-priest, might use his authority with the people, to persuade them to do their duty; and there he stayed until all those whom he could persuade were gone forth.

Verses 25-26

2 Samuel 15:25-26. The king said unto Zadok, Carry back the ark This he ordered, 1st, Through his care of and reverence for the ark, which, though it might be carried out to a certain place, yet, he might justly think, ought not to be taken about from place to place, he knew not whither. And, 2d, Lest, if he had carried it about with him everywhere, he should seem to trust in that which was but the token of God’s presence, more than he did in God himself, who had preserved him in the persecution of Saul, when he had not the ark with him. But was he not exposing the priests to the violence of the usurper, by thus sending them back to Jerusalem; especially as they had just given such evidence of their fidelity to their king? To this it may be answered, that David hoped the sacredness of their character would be a security to them against all violence. If I find favour in the eyes of the Lord, &c. If he shall be pleased to pardon the sins for which he is now justly, although so severely, chastising me. He will bring me again, and show me both it and his habitation Will restore me to the enjoyment of the privileges of his house, and the ordinances of his worship, which I shall consider one of the greatest evidences of the return of his favour, and one of the greatest blessings his goodness can confer upon me, even greater than the being restored to my palace and throne. But if he say, I have no delight in thee I will not receive thee into my favour, nor restore thee to thy throne and city, and to the enjoyment of my ordinances. Here I am Ready to obey him, and to submit to his will and pleasure concerning me. David saw plainly that God, according to his threatening, had raised up this evil to him out of his own house, and was punishing him for his sins, and he receives the chastisement with resignation. “I imagine,” says Dr. Delaney, “I now hear him taking up the same lamentation which Alphonsus the Wise, king of Arragon, afterward did upon a like occasion: ‘I wonder not so much at my people’s ingratitude to me, as at my own to God.’ Hence, in this spirit of humiliation, David would not presume to have the ark, the symbol of the divine presence borne before him in that war: that was an honour of which he deemed himself utterly unworthy. And, therefore, referring himself and his affairs to the disposal of the Divine Providence, he remanded Zadok and Abiathar back to the city with the ark.” Let him do with me as seemeth him good I have nothing to object; it is all well that God doth. Thus ought we cheerfully to acquiesce in the will of God, whatever befalls us. And that we may not complain of what is, let us see God’s hand in all events. And that we may not be afraid of what shall be, let us see all events in God’s hand.

Verse 27

2 Samuel 15:27. Art thou not a seer? Return into the city in peace “It should seem from hence,” says Delaney, “that Zadok was a prophet: however, as a priest, he was a teacher; and as such, bound to stay with his people in the greatest exigencies, and instruct them in their duty: besides that, by staying to do his duty to his people, he might also do good offices to his prince.” Indeed, the word ראה , roeh, here rendered seer, means also a seeing, discerning and observing man: an interpretation which suits well with the present state of David’s mind and affairs. As if he had said, Thou art a wise man, fit to make observations on what is passing in Jerusalem, and to give me information thereof. Accordingly David concerted a plan, both with Zadok and Abiathar, of corresponding with him, and sending him intelligence of all his enemies’ measures by their sons, Ahimaaz and Jonathan.

Verse 30

2 Samuel 15:30. David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, and wept as he went up To think that one who was the offspring of his own body should thus lift up the heel against him, and reflecting on his own conduct in the matter of Uriah, as the cause of this calamity. And had his head covered Through shame and confusion. And he went up barefoot In testimony of his deep sorrow and humiliation for the sins whereby he had procured this evil to himself; for these were the habits of mourners; and to take a holy revenge upon himself for his former delicacy and luxury. “A more memorable event, surely, was never recorded in history, nor a more moving spectacle exhibited to mortal eyes! A king, venerable for his years and victories; sacred in the characters, both of his piety and prophecy; renowned for prowess, and revered for wisdom, reduced to the condition of a fugitive! to a sudden and extreme necessity of fleeing for his life, from the presence of his own son, his darling and delight; and a whole country loudly lamenting his fate! In this condition, David went up the mount, and when he reached the summit of it, fell down prostrate before God. Josephus tells us, that when David reached the top of the mountain, he took a view of the city, and prayed to God with abundance of tears. The reader will perhaps think it worth his notice, that Josephus should tell us, that David wept and viewed the city in the same spot from which, the evangelist informs us, our blessed Saviour wept over it.” Delaney. And is this the glorious king of Israel, the beloved of God, the wise, the victorious David, who slew his ten thousands? Strange change indeed! What has produced this sad reverse? Sin alone has wrought all this! These are its baneful effects: he forgot the commandment of the Lord his God, and from hence has flowed all this evil! You that plead an excuse for sin, because David, the man after God’s own heart, fell into it; remember, likewise, what bitter and grievous punishments he underwent for it. Are you willing to pay such a price for sin? And yet, be assured, the inviolable laws of God require you to pay it in one way or other.

Verse 31

2 Samuel 15:31. One told David Or, David told; that is, being informed that Ahithophel was among the conspirators, he mentioned it to his friends, to excite them to join with him in the following prayer against him. Turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness. Either infatuate him, that he may give foolish counsel; or let his counsel be contemned and rejected as foolish; or let it miscarry in the execution. Thus David’s constant recourse, in all his dangers and difficulties, was unto God by prayer.

Verse 32

2 Samuel 15:32. The top of the mount, where he worshipped Looking, doubtless, toward Jerusalem, where the ark and tabernacle, which he had made for it, were. Hushai, the Archite came to meet him Probably he was from Archi, a city in the tribe of Ephraim, (see Joshua 16:2,) and coming to Jerusalem, was made one of David’s privy council because of his wisdom; otherwise, it is not likely that Absalom would so readily have entertained him, and admitted him to his secrets. The coming of Hushai just at this time seems to have been ordered by God’s peculiar providence, in answer to David’s prayer mentioned in the preceding verse. With his coat rent, and earth upon his head In token of his great sorrow on David’s account.

Verse 33

2 Samuel 15:33. If thou passest on with me, thou shalt be a burden, &c. For he was not provided, it seems, with sufficient support for his own family; and Hushai, though famous as a counsellor in the cabinet, being unpractised in the camp, and no soldier, could not be so useful to him in the army as he might be at court. David therefore, conceives the idea of employing him in endeavouring to defeat or render abortive the counsel of Ahithophel.

Verse 34

2 Samuel 15:34. Say unto Absalom, I will be thy servant, O king, &c. This crafty counsel of David to Hushai, advising him to use such great dissimulation, cannot be justified. It must, of necessity, be reckoned among his sins, as being a plain violation of the law of truth, and only intended to deceive. Nevertheless, as this was with David the hour of temptation, and this evil advice was suggested by his present and pressing straits, God was mercifully pleased to pardon and direct it to a good end. Thou mayest for me defeat, &c. That is, by advising different measures, which, considering the great reputation that Hushai had for wisdom, David judged Absalom would be inclined to hearken to, rather than to those proposed by Ahithophel.

Verses 36-37

2 Samuel 15:36-37. They have there with them their two sons Not in Jerusalem, but in a place near it, to which they could easily send upon occasion. So Hushai came into the city Where, it is likely, he waited for the coming of Absalom. And having got thither before him, he so ordered his affairs that it was not known to Absalom’s party that he had been with David to offer him his services. And Absalom came into Jerusalem How soon do royal cries and royal palaces change their masters! But we look for a kingdom which cannot be moved.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 15". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/2-samuel-15.html. 1857.
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