2 Samuel 15:6. Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel— Dr. Delaney is of opinion, that Absalom took this occasion to increase his popularity, during the time that his father David lay confined with a very grievous sickness. See the 38th, 39th, and 40th Psalms.
REFLECTIONS on 2 Samuel 15:1-6.—No sooner is Absalom restored to favour, than we find him plotting to dethrone his father, and seeking, for that purpose, to alienate from him the love of his subjects, and attach them to himself. For this purpose,
1. He prepares a grand equipage and retinue. His chariots, his horsemen, and fifty footmen to clear the way, afforded a degree of magnificence which Israel had not seen before, and which dazzled vain minds, as some great thing. Probably David himself was proud of the figure his son made, and, by connivance, encouraged his ambitious views. Note; (1.) Parents who indulge their children in pomp and pride, know not the injury they do them and themselves. (2.) The vanity of making a figure in the world, is the rock on which more young persons split than on any other.
2. He pretends great zeal for Israel's good, is seen constant and early at the gate, as if longing to have business dispatched; and kindly enquires into every man's cause, as if solicitous to do them justice. On a slight hearing, when one party only represented his case, he flattered him with certain success in his cause, if there were but any one deputed to hear him, but insinuates the negligent administration of justice, and how much the land suffered for want of an active and upright magistrate; intimating how happy it would be for the people, if he were judge, when every man might expect speedy redress, and equitable decisions. Such pretensions easily sunk down into unthinking minds, and flattered them with halcyon days under his administration: and his familiarity and condescension to the lowest of the people soon won their hearts; for he shook them by the hand, embraced them as if a friend or a brother, and scrupled not to stoop, however low, in order to climb into the throne. Note; (1.) Zeal for the public good, and redress of grievances, is often the dust thrown into the eyes of the populace to conceal the projects of ambition. (2.) The best of kings, and the most upright administration, must never expect to escape the malignant aspersions of a discontented faction. (3.) They who are most eager to get into the seat of judgment, are often least qualified for the trust: the deserving know the difficulty, and modestly decline it. (4.) They who court popularity by low condescensions are no sooner in power, than they throw off the mask and play the tyrant over a deluded people.
2 Samuel 15:7. After forty years— Or rather, after four years. The Syriac and Arabic, whom Houbigant follows, read after four years. As there is no event from which the forty years can be dated, very great has been the distress of the advocates for that reading. But 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 Samuel 2:13 and the ancient Latin manuscript written in Gothic characters, and the variations of which are published in Blanchini's Vindiciae, all have it four. See Kennicott's Dissert. vol. 2: p. 358 and Houbigant's note.
2 Samuel 15:8. Thy servant vowed a vow— This vow is conceived exactly in the patriarchal style, and, if true, shews, that however he might have been tempted by his grandfather to serve the gods of Geshur, yet he continued determined against idolatry; which David, we may assure ourselves, was highly delighted to hear, and accordingly gave a ready consent to the performance of his vow.
2 Samuel 15:10. But Absalom sent spies— Before he left Jerusalem, Absalom took care to send his emissaries throughout all the tribes; 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.
2 Samuel 15:11. With Absalom went two hundred men— But there followed Absalom two hundred men, who, called from Jerusalem, went after him with a simple heart, and who were entirely ignorant of the whole affair. Houbigant.
2 Samuel 15:12. Absalom sent for Ahithophel— Ahithophel's junction with Absalom seems to have given the finishing stroke to the rebellion. He was too sagacious 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 secure its success.
2 Samuel 15:13. The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom— Some reason may be assigned for this. In every nation there are always turbulent and discontented spirits, who promise themselves some benefit from a change. Saul's party was not yet entirely extinct, and Joab, who was David's prime minister, behaved with an insufferable pride and insolence. His crimes, which were very black, and which David was afraid to punish, reflected upon the king himself; and David's other ministers might have grown insolent in times of uninterrupted success. But what gave the fairest pretence of all, was, probably, the obstruction of the civil administration of justice; for had there not been something of this, Absalom, I think, could have had no grounds for making such loud complaints. See 2 Samuel 15:3-4 and Grotius on the place.
2 Samuel 15:14. Arise, and let us flee— As the danger was instant, David took his measures accordingly. The city was not in a condition to sustain a siege; and if it were, 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 care to trust the inhabitants of a place so long exposed to the taint of Absalom's temptations; see Psalms 55. Well acquainted with the young man's impetuosity, and the madness of the people, David judged it much better to give way to the fury of the flood, than attempt to stem it in the fullness of its overflowing.
2 Samuel 15:19. Ittai the Gittite— The Jews say, that this Ittai was the son of king Achish, and that, being obliged to quit Gath on account of his attachment to David, he came to offer him his services at the head of the six hundred men mentioned in the foregoing verse, who, as well as himself, had embraced the Jewish religion; an opinion which seems as probable as any other. It is very certain, however, that they came but the day before, 2 Samuel 15:20.; and David, from a principle of generosity, knowing them fatigued with their journey, would have had them turned back, which Ittai gallantly refused to do, vowing that wherever David was, in death or in life, there would he, his servant, be also; 2 Samuel 15:21.
2 Samuel 15:25-27. The king said,—Carry back the ark of God— David sent back the high-priests, as knowing that their character was too sacred to suffer any violence from the usurper, though he knew their fidelity to himself; and for the rest, he wholly submitted himself to the divine disposal. He besought God, as Alexander Severus told his soldiers a generous and a wise man should, praying for the best things, and bearing what should befal. David saw plainly that God had raised this war against him in punishment of his guilt; that God had raised up this evil to him out of his own house: find I imagine that I now hear him taking up the same lamentation which Alphonsus the wise, king of Arragon, afterwards did upon a like occasion: "I wonder not so much at my people's ingratitude to me, as at my own to GOD." In this spirit of humiliation, David would not presume to have the ark, the symbol of the divine presence, borne before him in the war: that was an honour of which he deemed himself utterly unworthy; and therefore, referring himself and his affairs with entire resignation to the disposal of the Divine Providence, he remanded Zadok and Abiathar back to the city with the ark. When David had given the reasons relating to himself, why he would not have the ark carried before him into the field, he then adds a reason personal to Zadok, Art not thou a Seer? Return in peace. It should seem from hence, 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. And, accordingly, David concerted both with Zadok and Abiathar a method of corresponding with him, and sending him intelligence of all the enemies' measures by their sons, Ahimaaz the son of Zadok, and Jonathan the son of Abiathar.
2 Samuel 15:30. And David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, and wept, &c.— A more memorable event surely was never recorded in history, nor a more moving spectacle ever exhibited to mortal eyes: a king, venerable for his years and victories, sacred in the character both of his piety and prophesies, renowned for prowess, and revered for wisdom, reduced to the condition of a fugitive, to a sudden and extreme necessity of flying for his life, and from the presence of his own son, his darling and delight. In this condition he went up the mount, and, when he reached the summit of it, fell down prostrate before God. Josephus tells us, that when he reached the top of the mountain, he took a view of the city, and prayed to God with abundance of tears. It may be thought worth 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.
2 Samuel 15:32. Behold, Hushai the Archite came— When David heard that Ahithophel was among the conspirators, he saw his danger in all its strength. A hot-headed young man, high in vanity, extravagant in hope, and easily overset with success, was not an object of much terror to a man of David's great experience and consummate wisdom; but the prowess, popularity, and numbers of such a man, conducted by the calm skill and prudence of an Ahithophel, was sufficient matter of just fear. David, however, sunk not under it; but had recourse, as usual, to the protection of that God who only could relieve him, and who had never failed him in distress; beseeching Him, who leadeth counsellors away spoiled, and maketh the judges fools, to confound and infatuate the counsel of Ahithophel. God, in answer to his prayers, sends him a friend; Hushai met him on the top of the hill, with expressive signs of sympathetic sorrow, willing to join his suffering king: but David has more useful employment for him at Jerusalem; by pretending to serve Absalom, he might defeat the advice of Ahithophel, and, getting into the secrets of the Cabinet, by Zadok's sons, inform David of them. The dissimulation of Hushai, and the advice of David, in this case, will hardly admit of excuse. Thus far we may say, that David, with respect to Absalom, was not only a king, but a father attacked by his own son; that he always preserved a great affection for him, and did not design to injure him in the least, but rather proposed to hinder him from doing more mischief, and to bring him to his duty again. But we are to follow no man any farther than as he corresponds with the great copy of all morality given us in the Gospel. Nothing can justify deceit, lying, or treachery.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 15". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany