Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

2 Samuel 18:1

Then David numbered the people who were with him and set over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Armies;   Captain;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Armies of Israel, the;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Ahimaaz;   Joab;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Absalom;   Easton Bible Dictionary - David;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Mahanaim;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Abishai;   Samuel, Books of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Abishai;   Samuel, Books of;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Absalom;   David;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Hebrew Monarchy, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Absalom (1);   Samuel, Books of;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Absalom;   Army;   Captain;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

And set captains of thousands - By this time David's small company was greatly recruited; but what its number was we cannot tell. Josephus says it amounted to four thousand men. Others have supposed that they amounted to ten thousand; for thus they understand a clause in 2 Samuel 18:3, which they think should be read, We are now ten thousand strong.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:1". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/2-samuel-18.html. 1832.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

ABSALOM'S DISASTROUS DEFEAT AND DEATH

Absalom had crossed the Jordan River with an immense force of more than forty thousand men, referred to as "all Israel" in the text. He was riding at the forefront of this great army in royal style on a mule, probably the favorite mule that belonged to David. He had abandoned the chariot with fifty young men running before him and was riding in state anticipating the approaching overthrow of David, whom he supposed to be hiding in terror within the walls of Mahanaim. Strung out behind him for many miles were his soldiers. Absalom had probably rushed on ahead in order to find a good camping place not too far from Mahanaim, where his great army would pause and get ready for the final and fatal assault upon David's headquarters. It is simply incredible how much of this procedure was an enactment of the fanciful vision of Hushai who had filled Absalom's mind with this "victorious scenario," which was as utterly unrealistic as anything ever imagined!.

Amasa, the general whom Absalom had placed in control of so vast a force, made no effort whatever to guard against a surprise attack. Neither he nor Absalom had supposed for a moment that David would dare to attack such a tremendous military force as Absalom had brought together.

And what kind of military support had gathered around David? Josephus has this comment on that. "But when David had numbered his men and found them to be about four thousand, he resolved not to wait until Absalom attacked him";[1] but he organized his forces under three commanders and launched a devastating attack upon Absalom's army in such a manner that Absalom's forces were taken by surprise and slaughtered with a great slaughter.

DAVID ORGANIZED AND MUSTERED HIS MEN UNDER THREE COMMANDERS AND ORDERED THE ATTACK

"Then David mustered the men who were with him, and set over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. And David sent forth the army, one-third under the command of Joab, one-third under the command of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab's brother, and one-third under the command of Ittai the Gitate. And the king said to the men, "I myself will also go out with you." But the men said, "You shall not go out. For if we flee, they will not care about us. If half of us die, they will not care about us. But you are worth ten thousand of us; therefore it is better that you send us help from the city." The king said to them, "Whatever seems best to you I will do." So the king stood at the side of the gate, while all the army marched out by hundreds and by thousands. And the king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, "Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom." And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders about Absalom."

"One third under the command of Joab, one third under the command of Abishai ... and one third under the command of Ittai" (2 Samuel 18:2). "It was common war strategy in ancient times to divide the army into three bodies (Judges 7:16; 9:43; 1 Samuel 11:11; 13:17; and 2 Kings 9:5-6)."[2] In this particular case, however, there was another good reason. "Ittai had brought his clan of foreigners with him, and they would have been reluctant to fight under an Israelite commander, so David placed the foreigners under Ittai and the native troops under his nephews Joab and Abishai."[3]

"It is better that you send us help from the city" (2 Samuel 18:3). The men of David persuaded him not to go into battle for fear that his life might be taken away, but Absalom's men had taken no such precaution upon his behalf. In fact, it was Absalom's secret enemy Hushai who persuaded him to lead the army, "Thus serving Absalom's pride better than his prudence."[4] The argument of David's men here was that in case reinforcements were needed, David should remain behind at Mahanaim in order to send them if the situation required it.

"Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom" (2 Samuel 18:5). "Apparently, David still looked upon Absalom as merely a bad boy, and treated his rebellion as a youthful escape which he could forgive rather easily."[5] David seems not to have been able to understand that nothing on earth could resolve the conflict except either his own death, or that of Absalom. "This order of David put his military men in an impossible dilemma. How could they win the victory for David, and at the same time deal gently with Absalom"?[6]

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:1". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/2-samuel-18.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And David numbered the people that were with him,.... Which Josephus saysF4Antiqu. l. 7. c. 10. sect. 1. were four thousand; but one would think there should be more by what follows:

and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them; he divided his army into companies, which consisted some of a thousand and others of a hundred; over each of which he set captains, to lead them on, direct, and command them in battle.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:1". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/2-samuel-18.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

And David a numbered the people that [were] with him, and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them.

(a) For certain of the Reubenites, Gadites, and of the half tribe could not bear the insolence of the son against the father, and therefore joined with David.
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Bibliographical Information
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:1". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/2-samuel-18.html. 1599-1645.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

CONTENTS

This Chapter concludes the history of Absalom's rebellion, and an awful conclusion, to the rebel it proved. David sendeth forth his armies; gives a charge to his officers to deal favourably with Absalom. Absalom is slain. Victory determines in favour of David; but the king mourneth for his son.

2 Samuel 18:1

(1) ¶ And David numbered the people that were with him, and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them.

It is not said what numbers the whole army consisted of. In all probability, it could not be very many. But Jonathan had before learnt that there is no restraint on the LORD, to save by many or by few, 1 Samuel 14:6. Sweet thought to the believer amidst all his warfare!

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Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/2-samuel-18.html. 1828.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

2 Samuel 18:1 And David numbered the people that [were] with him, and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them.

Ver. 1. And David numbered the people.] Which seem to be by this time not so few as four thousand, as Josephus reporteth them, or seven thousand, as Comestor, but many more; so that he was confident of the victory, and gave charge concerning Absalom, that his life should be spared.

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Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:1". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/2-samuel-18.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

2 SAMUEL CHAPTER 18

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.

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

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:1". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/2-samuel-18.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

THE BATTLE IN THE WOOD OF EPHRAIM, AND DEATH OF ABSALOM, 2 Samuel 18:1-33.

1.Numbered the people — Josephus says he found them to be about four thousand. Others have inferred, from 2 Samuel 18:3, that they were ten thousand. Many had probably rallied to his standard at Mahanaim.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:1". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-samuel-18.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Hundreds. Josephus only allows David 4000 men. But his army seems to have been pretty numerous, since he divides it into three parts, and appoints three head commanders, with officers of a thousand, &c., under them. See ver. 4. (Calmet) --- He designed to lead them to battle himself, if the people had not dissuaded him. (Salien)

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Bibliographical Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:1". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/2-samuel-18.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

numbered = mustered, or inspected. David, was now fifty-six.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:1". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/2-samuel-18.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And David numbered the people that were with him, and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them.

David numbered the people that were with him. The hardy mountaineers of Gilead came in great numbers at the call of their chieftains; so that, although without money to pay any troops, David soon found himself at the head of a considerable army. The number of his soldiers is not stated in the sacred history. Josephus says they amounted to about 4,000 ('Antiquities,' b. 7:, ch. 10:, sec. 1). A pitched battle was now inevitable. But so much depending on the life of the king, he was not allowed to take the field in person, and therefore divided his forces into three detachments under Joab, Abishai, and Ittai, the commander of the foreign guards.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/2-samuel-18.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

XVIII.

(1) Numbered the people.—The word means rather mustered. David was some time at Mahanaim, organising the forces which continually gathered to him there.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:1". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/2-samuel-18.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And David numbered the people that were with him, and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them.
numbered
Exodus 17:9; Joshua 8:10
captains of thousands
1 Samuel 8:12
Reciprocal: 2 Samuel 18:4 - by hundreds

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:1". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/2-samuel-18.html.