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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
2 Samuel 17

 

 

Verse 1

2 Samuel 17:1. I will arise and pursue after David — It seems he was a soldier as well as a counsellor. Or, at least, he thought his counsel so sure of being successful that he offered himself to put it in execution. He was probably afraid, also, that if Absalom should command the men himself, natural affection might prevail with him to spare his father, and not take away his life; or, perhaps, even work an agreement between them, and so leave him in danger of being called to account for his rebellion.


Verse 2-3

2 Samuel 17:2-3. I will come upon him while he is weary — Before he has had time to breathe from the fatigues he has just gone through; and weak- handed — Before he has collected more forces. I will make him afraid — Strike a terror into him by this sudden attack, made in the night, when he is ill-provided. I will smite the king only — And proclaim pardon to all the rest. And I will bring back all the people — By this means I shall easily bring over their allegiance to thee. The man whom thou seekest is as if they all returned — The killing of David will effectually end the contest, and the whole nation will come in to thee, there being no other to whom they will submit, he being dead. So all the people shall be in peace — The single circumstance of taking and killing him will restore peace, and preserve both the people who are with thee, and those that are with David. They shall all be saved, and he alone destroyed. “The attentive reader will easily perceive that this advice well justifies the character given of Ahithophel in the Scripture; it was, in its several parts, admirably fitted both to the inclinations and interests of his pupil; he consigned him to his pleasures, and took all the danger to himself; and at the same time he relieved his little remains of humanity (if he had any) from the necessity of imbruing his hands in his father’s blood. His incest was, for the present, personal guilt enough; that act of outrage would make Abslom’s reconciliation with his father desperate; and while he indulged his evil appetite, Ahithophel, with a chosen band, would pursue and surprise David. Nothing could be more worldly wise, or more hellishly wicked; it was indeed, as the advice of an oracle, but very different from that dictated by the Spirit of God; and yet, horrid as it was, it pleased that vile son and his associates.” — Delaney.


Verse 4

2 Samuel 17:4. The saying pleased Absalom well, and all the elders of Israel — That such a wretch as Absalom should aim at his father’s throat is not strange. But that the body of the people, to whom David had been so great a blessing, should join with him in it, is amazing. But the finger of God was in it. Let not the best of parents, or the best of princes, think it strange if they are injured by those who should be their support and joy, when they (like David) have provoked God to turn against them.


Verse 5

2 Samuel 17:5. Then said Absalom, Call now Hushai — A wonderful effect of Divine Providence, influencing his heart, that he could not rest in Ahithophel’s counsel, though it was so evidently wise, and approved by the general consent of his whole party; and that he should desire Hushai’s advice, though neither his reputation for wisdom was equal to Ahithophel’s, nor had he yet given any one proof of his fidelity to Absalom. But there is no contending with that God who can arm a man against himself, and destroy him by his own mistakes and passions.


Verse 7-8

2 Samuel 17:7-8. The counsel of Ahithophel is not good at this time — Though he generally gives most wise and admirable counsel, yet he seems now to be under a mistake, and not sufficiently to consider all the present circumstances of this business. Thou knowest thy father and his men — Hushai, setting himself to oppose all the articles of Ahithophel’s advice, some openly, and others covertly, begins with giving a lively and dreadful description of the enemies Absalom had to deal with. That they be all mighty men — Of approved courage and strength, and not so easily vanquished as Ahithophel supposes. At all times they are terrible to the bravest foes, but much more so at this time; when they are chafed in their minds — Hebrew, bitter of soul, inflamed with rage; desperate, and therefore resolved to sell their lives at a dear rate. Being driven from their families, they are as so many enraged bears robbed of their whelps in the field — In the first furious efforts of their rage they will not fail to strike a terror into their assailants, and the panic will be easily diffused through the rest of the pursuing army, and will intimidate the bravest of them. Thy father is a man of war — A wise as well as brave prince and general, who, knowing of what importance it is to secure his person, and that your chief design is against his life, will, doubtless, use extraordinary care to keep out of your reach, which he may easily do.


Verse 9-10

2 Samuel 17:9-10. Behold, he is now hid in some pit — Having been often accustomed to that course, and well acquainted with all hiding-places from Saul’s time. In one of them, unknown to us, he will lurk with some of his chosen men, and lie in ambush for us; and when they see a fit opportunity, they will suddenly come forth and surprise some of our men, when they least expect it, and probably at first put them to flight. When some of them be overthrown — Namely, of Absalom’s men sent against David. At the first — Implying, that their good success at first would mightily animate David’s men to proceed vigorously in the fight, and intimidate Absalom’s army, and consequently would be both a presage and an occasion of their total defeat. Whosoever heareth it will say, &c. — They who first hear these ill tidings will propagate them, and strike terror with them into the rest of the army, whose fear will make them think the slaughter greater than it is. He also that is valiant shall utterly melt — For men, even the most valiant, are apt to form conjectures of the final issue by the beginning; and it is a great encouragement to men to fight, when they prosper at the first onset, and a great discouragement when they are worsted. All Israel knoweth that thy father is a valiant man, &c. — The known fame of the prodigious valour of thy father and his followers will easily gain credit to the report of their being victorious, and strike the stoutest of our men with dread, even Ahithophel himself, if he should go with them.


Verse 11

2 Samuel 17:11. Therefore I counsel that all Israel be generally gathered unto thee — As Ahithophel proposed all imaginable advantage to the evil cause he was engaged in, from expedition, upon the principle mentioned by Tacitus, that nothing determines civil discords so happily as despatch, Hushai, on the contrary, laid himself out to protract and to delay. His design was to gain David more time, that he might increase his army and make better preparation for the battle; and that the present heat of the people for Absalom might be cooled, and they might at last bethink themselves of their duty to David, and return to their former allegiance. For delay, as the same Tacitus observes, gives ill men time to repent, and the good to unite; with a view, therefore, to gain this delay, his advice to Absalom was, that he should wait till he had collected a far larger and more complete army. That all Israel be generally gathered unto thee, from Dan even to Beer-sheba — An army made up of the bravest men of all the tribes, to which every thing must yield; and thereby to make sure though slow work. And that thou go to battle in thine own person — Intimating that his presence would put life and courage into his soldiers, who would be ambitious to show their skill and courage in defending his person, when they knew that all their actions were observed by him, who had the distribution of rewards and punishments in his hands; and intimating that the glory of the victory belonged to him alone, and that no body should pretend to rob him of it. “And whereas it was urged by Ahithophel, that he would smite the king only, as if all Absalom’s ends were to be attained by his death, Hushai intimates that the death of competitors was as necessary as that of the king, at least, the death of him who was divinely designed for the throne. And, therefore, he adds, that they should come upon David, where he could not be concealed, and whence he could not escape, nor any one of those that were with him.”


Verse 12

2 Samuel 17:12. We will light upon him as the dew falleth upon the ground — Plenteously, suddenly, irresistibly, and on all sides; for so the dew falls. This is very beautiful and expressive. “The dew in Palestine, as in several other climates, falls fast and sudden; and is therefore an apt emblem of an active and expeditious soldiery. And it was, perhaps, for this reason that the Romans called their light armed forces, rorarii. The dew falls upon every spot of the earth; not a blade of grass escapes it. A numerous army resembles it in this respect; it is able to search everywhere.” — Delaney.


Verse 13

2 Samuel 17:13. If he be gotten into a city, &c. — If he should take refuge for more security in any one of the cities of Israel, they would have numbers sufficient to pull it down, stone by stone, about his ears. The expression in the original is very remarkable, but hyperbolical, suited to the vain-glorious temper of this insolent young man. Then shall all Israel bring ropes to that city, and we will draw it into the river — The meaning of which threat seems to be this: that they would come before that city with those cranes, or hooks, which the ancients were wont to throw upon the battlements of walls, and with which, by the help of ropes fastened to them, they were wont to pull them down piecemeal into the rivers and trenches, (filled with water,) which encompassed or adjoined to them; it being usual to build cities near some river, both for defence and other accommodations.


Verse 14

2 Samuel 17:14. Absalom and all the men of Israel said — Being infatuated by a divine power, and given up to believe a lie. The counsel of Hushai is better, &c. — His advice was much better suited to Absalom’s cruelty, as well as his vanity; and seemingly to the interest of his ambition, as well as the safety of his followers, (who did not care to put any thing to the hazard of a small party,) and therefore it easily prevailed. Such is the wonderful overruling providence of God in more cases than we are aware of! For the Lord had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel — It was good politically considered; being the wisest and most effectual course to accomplish the end Absalom had in view. Be it observed here, to the comfort of all that fear God, he turns all men’s hearts as the rivers of water. He stands in the congregation of the mighty, has an overruling hand in all counsels, and a negative voice in all resolves, and laughs at men’s projects against his children.


Verse 16-17

2 Samuel 17:16-17. Now therefore send quickly — Lest Absalom’s and the people’s minds change, and Ahithophel persuade them to pursue you speedily. Jonathan and Ahimaaz stayed by En-rogel — Or the fuller’s fountain. Being to carry the intelligence, they had not returned into the city, but found some pretence for tarrying without the walls at this place, probably that they might wash and cleanse themselves from some legal pollution. Indeed, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to have sent them out of the city without their being discovered. A wench went and told them — Being sent by Zadok, and pretending, perhaps, to go thither for water, or to wash some clothes. And they went and told King David — After a little stop in their way, as is here related.


Verse 18-19

2 Samuel 17:18-19. Nevertheless a lad saw them — Who knew them to be favourers of David, and observed that they waited there with design to gain intelligence, and possibly saw the girl speaking privately to them. But they went away quickly — Suspecting by the observation which the lad made, and his after conduct, that they were discovered. And came to a man’s house in Bahurim — Turning out of the public road, as Josephus explains it, they made haste to this village. Which had a well in his court, whither they went down — For at that time of the year their wells were in many places dry, or had little water in them. And spread ground corn thereon — Under pretence of drying it by the sun, which shows that it was summer- time. Thus the woman effectually concealed them.


Verse 20

2 Samuel 17:20. When Absalom’s servants — Who were sent to pursue them; came to the woman to the house — For some had informed them that Jonathan and Ahimaaz had turned that way. The woman said, They be gone over the brook — According to Josephus, the woman told them; they made no stay at her house, but, after they had asked for a little water, made haste away: but, if they pursued them speedily, she believed they might overtake them. This, however, was a manifest lie; and, though spoken for no hurt, but good only; and though, as is probable, it was pardoned by God; yet was it certainly moral evil, as all kinds of lies are, and are condemned by plain passages of Scripture, which inform us we must not do evil that good may come, nor tell a lie for God’s glory, Romans 3:7-8.


Verse 22

2 Samuel 17:22. David arose — He instantly obeyed the friendly counsel given him, with such diligence and despatch that before the next morning he and all his people were safe on the other side Jordan, which they passed over either at the fords or in boats; and in such a manner, it appears, that none of them perished in the passage. Doubtless David took as much care to retard the passage of his enemies, in case they pursued him, as he had before done to hasten his own.


Verse 23

2 Samuel 17:23. And put his household in order — Disposed of his property by will. See Isaiah 38:1. And hanged himself — Partly because he could not bear to outlive his disgrace, and the rejection of his counsel; and partly because he saw that by this means, David would gain time and strength, and, in all probability, prove victorious; and that then the storm would fall most heavily upon his own head, as the main author and pillar of the rebellion, and the contriver of the pernicious counsels above mentioned. “See here,” says Henry, “contempt poured upon the wisdom of man! He that was more renowned for policy than ever any man was, played the fool with himself more than any man ever did. Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, when he sees him that was so great an oracle dying as a fool dies!” See, likewise, honour done to the justice of God: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands, and sunk in a pit of his own digging. “When he had contrived, inspired, diffused, and propagated evil, through an innumerable multitude, and loaded his soul with all the horrors of complicated guilt that hell could devise; treachery, rebellion, incest, parricide! he hurried it to all the vengeance due to it from eternal justice; to prevent all possibility of reparation and repentance, he died in the act of self-murder. So perished the great Machiavel of that age; the very wisest of the very wise!” — Delaney.


Verse 24

2 Samuel 17:24. David came to Mahanaim — A place in the country of Gilead, bordering upon the land of the Ammonites, lately the residence of Ish- bosheth, and anciently the resting-place of Jacob; where God had placed him under the protection of two hosts of angels. The king’s distress here, at this time, would naturally lead him to reflect on the distress of his great ancestor in the same place; when, being encompassed with a weak and helpless family of wives and children, as David now was, he received information that Esau was coming against him with a strong band of men. And Absalom passed over Jordan — Not immediately, but as soon as all the men of Israel, who are here said to be with him, were gathered together to him, according to Hushai’s counsel, which required some time, during which David had an opportunity to strengthen himself, by gathering an army also.


Verse 25

2 Samuel 17:25. Absalom made Amasa captain of the host — Amasa was another of David’s nephews, the son of his sister Abigail. The daughter of Nahash — Nahash was one of Jesse’s wives, by whom he had this Abigail, the mother of Amasa, as he had Zeruiah, the mother of Joab, by another wife; so that they were sisters by the father, but not by the mother, and Joab and Amasa were cousins.


Verse 27

2 Samuel 17:27. Shobi the son of Nahash of Rabbah — Who, probably, disliked and disowned that barbarous action to David’s ambassadors, recorded 2 Samuel 10:4, and therefore, when the agents and instruments of Hanun’s tyranny were chastised by David, was left by him in the regency of the country, with such marks of kindness and friendship as now engaged him, in his turn, to give the king all possible demonstrations of affection and gratitude in his distress. Machir, of Lo-debar — The friend and protector of Mephibosheth, who, as such, must be presumed to have been at first, in some degree, disaffected to David; but was now not only reconciled, but zealously attached to him; and probably, in a great measure, from the king’s noble manner of treating Mephibosheth. Barzillai the Gileadite — A man of a very uncommon character, very aged, very wealthy, and very generous. A man who, with all the bodily infirmities of old age, was yet clear of all those which dishonour and deform the mind in that season; equally superior to timorous caution, sordid avarice, and unsuited luxury. — Delaney.


Verse 28-29

2 Samuel 17:28-29. Brought beds, and basins, and earthen vessels — All manner of household stuff; and wheat, and barley, and flour, and corn — That is, various kinds of provision, which they now wanted. For they said, The people is hungry and weary, &c.,in the wilderness — Having been in the wilderness, where there was a total want or scarcity of provisions and all conveniences, and therefore they needed refreshment when they were come out of it, which moved these persons to bring them these things. Thus God sometimes makes up to his people that comfort from strangers which they are disappointed of in their own families. The circumstances now related were all so many happy beginnings and omens of David’s future success, and pledges of that just and humble confidence which he had placed in the divine favour and protection.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 17:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/2-samuel-17.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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