Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

2 Samuel 18:10

When a certain man saw it, he told Joab and said, "Behold, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak."
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Absalom;   Ephraim;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Death of the Wicked, the;   Oak-Tree, the;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Ahimaaz;   Joab;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Absalom;   Joab;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Fox;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Samuel, Books of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Abishai;   Joab;   Samuel, Books of;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Oak;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Absalom;   David;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Hebrew Monarchy, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Oak;   Terebinth;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

I saw Absalom hanged in an oak - He must have hung there a considerable time. this man saw him hanging; how long he had been hanging before he saw him, we cannot tell. He came and informed Joab; this must have taken up a considerable time. Joab went and pierced him through with three darts; this must have taken up still more time. It is therefore natural to conclude that his life must have been nearly gone after having been so long suspended, and probably was past recovery, even if Joab had taken him down.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:10". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/2-samuel-18.html. 1832.

The Biblical Illustrator

2 Samuel 18:10

I saw Absalom hanging in an oak.

Glory: Human and Divine

I. A man’s glory is his doom. For although in a strict sense the custom does not fit with the fashion of the age, there are men to-day who, figuratively speaking, cannot cut their hair without weighing it. In plain language, there are men whose whole attention is directed to the contemplation of their endowments and the worship of their powers. And, just as with Absalom, these very endowment may lead to their destruction; they may be “in at the death.”

1. New, in the first place, let the proposition be accepted that man must glory. By his very nature he attaches himself to something either external or personal to himself, in which he takes a lively interest and manifests a palpable pride. Every man is, more or less, what is vulgarly called a “Faddist.” He takes hold of something, and makes it the centre of his existence, the object of his aims and desires. Or else that something lays hold of him, and keeps him a bondman to its service. It may be personal, or social, or municipal, or political, or religious, but there it is, embedded in the soul, or laying its grasp upon the mind. It comes out on any and every occasion. It is made manifest in the thought and in the life and in the work. And seldom indeed is its power found either to diminish or to die. Or, to vary the figure, each life has its Sun. And here, of course, the moral, the spiritual law, diverges from the natural, which knows of only one centre. Round this sun the life-planet circles, kept in place by its influence, partaking of its light, and reflecting its radiancy with more or less brilliance, according to what may be called the atmospheric conditions which prevail. Without that sun, the life falls from its place and loses its power. The sun’s light may have a greater or a less intensity, its attraction have a greater or a less force. It may range from the lowest to the highest extreme. It may glimmer as a fad, or it may shine brightly as an ideal: but still it is there, necessary to all existence, indispensable to all true life. For we are all of us in a sense mirrors; very often, God knows, scored and imperfect and dull, but in some measure reflecting a borrowed glory, catching rays from the unknown and the infinite, and throwing them at very different angles upon the world. In short, the rays of one life--of various colours as they must ofttimes be--when gathered together will generally be found to have one common source. That is its glory, that is its sun.

II. Death lies in human glory. To reason from the particular to the general directly is not consistent with the canons of logic and the forms of thought. Because a thing happens in one case there are no grounds for declaring that it must happen in all. But if it can be shown by the evidence of illustration and instances that there are few, if any, exceptions, then we may, with some show of reason, claim recognition for the rule. What was said a little ago of the unit of humanity, man, supplies with equal truth to men in the mass. A living organisation, an aggregate of thinking men, is also a reflection of a glory. Here is a country whose glory has a human source. Two thousand years ago, looking from her seven hills across the subjugated lands Rome stood, the proud and pompous mistress of the world. Along her ringing thoroughfares there rolled the chariot of war. By Tibet’s bank the sentry trod his everlasting round. President of the council of her gods sat Jupiter, the king of heaven, to whom the war-shout of the conqueror and the sacrifice of the sword ascended as a sweet savour. Tribe by tribe the inhabitants of the known world passed beneath the yoke, and power became the one object in the national outlook. Raising it to the place of deity, they tendered it the honour and the praise. “Triumph! triumph!” was the cry that rent the Roman air. “Number the captives and measure their land! Ours is the brave heart, ours the mighty arm, and great indeed is our glory!” Ay! two thousand years ago. But the day of downfall was at hand. The oak caught Absalom by the hair. Into collision with the eternal oak of God’s will and purpose came the blind and boastful glory of the Empire. “Thus far and no further” was the stern decree. And on swept the steed of History, leaving its Rome behind.

2. Here is a church whose glory, too, has a human source. Its Bible is the morality, the etiquette, the fashion of the age. Its teaching is laid on the basis of what is proper rather than what is right. Its creed runs thus--“I believe in well-cushioned pews, wealthy communicants, and a respectable record of missionary zeal, so long as that calls for no work of mine.” Through the pillars and arches of its buildings there floats the breath of sweetest music, and the silver tones of “the snowy-banded, dilettante, delicate-handed priest.” And from an aesthetic point all is sweet to hear and fair to see. But where is God in that church? Where is the “glory due unto His name?” Left out of account! It glories in its exclusiveness; in what it calls its culture, its high tone. But high tone and culture of that kind fall foul of the hard judgment of a stern world. The entanglement comes; and on goes religion heedless of its loss while enemies arrive with their darts of disestablishment and popular clamour to thrust into the useless body. In its glory there lies its death.

3. Here is an individual whose glory too, has a human source. He believes in himself to the exclusion of all else. He takes some attribute or characteristic of his own, and says, “This is what I am by the grace of my own endeavours.” He owns allegiance to human nature, to the tendencies of the age, until, like Wolsey, he is forced to the bitter cry, “Had I but served my God with half the zeal I served my king, He would not in mine age have left me naked to mine enemies!” And not infrequently I should say this: “Show me that in which a man prides himself, and I shall know one thing at least that he is not.” Let me take you back to the survey of that image of the sun; and let me ask you to observe one such as I have mentioned, whose sun has nothing but an earthly effulgence and a human light; who circles, for example, about pride, or riches, or merely worldly wisdom; who is content to live in the light of these, and to take the glory of his life from them. And there you have the most terrible of all spectacles, the most ghastly of all weird pictures--a heart without God. A world without its sun! A heart without God! A heart with nothing but its own cherished glory! And that very pride, these very riches, that very worldly wisdom brings him at last under the power of God. On goes eternity, and the wretched man is left behind to realise the truth of these awful words, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

III. Life lies in divine glory. It is a far cry from the Jewish prince to the Gentile preacher, but pass with me to St. Paul. A man “of like passions with you,” he, too, must glory in something; nor, humanly speaking, had he far to seek for a cause. “If I must glory,” he says, “if I must have my one life-support, if I must look somewhere for a spiritual dynamic--then God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ah! there he finds the proper source, the real centre, the bright sun. From over Calvary’s hill there steal the roseate rays of the Sun of Righteousness--and these he seeks to reflect. To glory in a cross--a cross! the badge of infamy--the stamp of shame! Now I see that St. Paul is in the right, that he knows whom he has believed. For in that cross I find the earnest of life eternal and undying love; through that cross I feel the power of God and the wisdom of God; from that cross I see a light that streams across the desert of life. Think of what it typifies and teaches; think of all which led up to it, and all to which it leads, and say, has it not glory sufficient for us to-day? It speaks of a self-renunciation; of a sacrifice solemn and significant, which, while it can never in itself be repeated, may still, thank God, be copied; and what though there be many a shortcoming and many a fault? Lay yourself down before it in heroic martyrdom: cast away the old, dull self: giving is getting with Jesus; and getting with Him is glory. Make it the centre of your spiritual existence; make your life a reflection of. Him who gives it at once its value and its power; and you can say to the worldling, in full assurance of faith--“Death worketh in you; but life in us.” (R. Barclay, M. A.)

The fallen prince

I. Absalom was the beloved child of his parents. Exactly why he was the favourite son cannot, perhaps, be decided. All David’s children were beautiful in person, though Absalom seems to have excelled them all in personal grace. It has been suggested that his mother was a queen, and so he seemed more royal than the rest of the princes.

II. Absalom was the hope of a party in the nation. The country, in his day, was unsettled. Judah had lost the supremacy it had gained during David’s reign in Hebron, and was restless and jealous. David’s neglects were telling on the country, producing discontent. And one great party was looking to Absalom, the affable and kingly son. By his blandishment he stole the hearts of the people, and, on the first favourable opportunity, the people bore him, with a sudden impulse, to the royal throne.

III. Absalom bore some of the penalty of his father’s sins. For the Divine penalties on transgressions come in part by consequences, which are sure to reach beyond the transgressor, and he is punished and wounded in the sufferings of others, often of those nearest and dearest to him. Absalom bore some of the penalty of David’s sin by his wrong-doing.

IV. And Absalom met with a tragic end, A hasty ride through the woods; an overhanging bough; three smitings of the darts; rude hackings of the young men’s swords; and a grave in a pit. (R. Tuck, B. A.)

The circumstances of Absalom’s death

As the ruined gambler for a crown rode recklessly on in his fear, he was swept out of the saddle by being caught by the low, spreading branches of a great terebinth tree, and the startled mule galloping away, was left hanging there, unable to lift his arms so as to haul himself up. It is from Josephus that we get the statement that Absalom was caught by his hair, which is probable enough, but the lesson does not describe how he was entangled. Perhaps his head was jammed between the forks of some great branch. At all events, there he dangled, half throttled, and utterly incapable of releasing himself. There is something of horror and ghastliness in so strange a fate, as if this criminal was too bad to die by a common death. But there is a deeper lesson in that figure swinging there, with his gay clothing all disordered. God has plenty of instruments to punish evil-doers. “Thousands at his bidding wait.” There is no need for a miracle. He works through the natural operations of his creation. So all things are against the man who is against God, even as all work together for good to those who love Him, and, when He wills, the leafy beauty of the great tree shall be the gallows for the rebel Absalom. “The stars in their courses fought against Sisera.” A frightened mule and an unconscious tree bring Absalom to his death. There are no accidents in the great scheme of things. God’s foes have foes in every bush and every beast. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Caught in the maelstrom of vanity and pride

The “Road to Ruin,” taken by Absalom, may be illustrated by what is known of the Maelstrom, a famous whirlpool off the coast of Norway. The immense body of water forming it extends, in a circle, about thirteen miles in circumference. A great rock stands in the midst thereof, against which the tide, when ebbing, beats with inconceivable fury, instantly swallowing up all things coming within the sphere of its violence. No dexterity of steering or strength of rowing on the mariner’s part can accomplish his escape. The most experienced sailor at the helm finds his ship beginning to move in a direction opposite to his efforts and intentions; the motion at first is slow and nearly imperceptible, but becomes every moment more rapid; the vessel goes round in circles, narrowing each time, until, dashed against the central rock, it is lost with all on board. Thus was Absalom borne onward in the ever-narrowing circle of vanity, self-indulgence, and cruel treachery, until he perished in the Maelstrom of Divine Retribution.

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Samuel 18:10". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/2-samuel-18.html. 1905-1909. New York.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And a certain man saw it,.... Saw him in the above posture, one of David's soldiers:

and told Joab, and said, behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak; caught by the neck in one, out of which he could not disengage himself, but there he hung, though alive.

Copyright Statement
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 18:10". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/2-samuel-18.html. 1999.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

2 Samuel 18:10 And a certain man saw [it], and told Joab, and said, Behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak.

Ver. 10. Behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak.] Which oak, by the just judgment of God, this new king had for a throne, his twisted hair for a crown. He shall shortly have three darts in his heart for a sceptre, and Joab’s ten armourbearers for a guard: but this in the text dared not meddle with him, because of the king’s command to the contrary. [2 Samuel 18:5]

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Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:10". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/2-samuel-18.html. 1865-1868.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

10.Saw Absalom hanged — Suspended by his head, hair, and arms, and probably struggling to disentangle himself. He must have suffered serious injury to his person and almost perished by this mishap before the darts of Joab pierced him, for so the statement in 2 Samuel 18:14, that he was yet alive, seems to imply.

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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:10". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-samuel-18.html. 1874-1909.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

man. Hebrew. "ish. App-14.

Behold. Figure of speech Asterismos. App-6.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliographical Information
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:10". "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 a certain man saw it, and told Joab, and said, Behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:10". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/2-samuel-18.html. 1871-8.