Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

2 Samuel 18:33

The king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And thus he said as he walked, "O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!"
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Absalom;   Ahimaaz;   Bereavement;   David;   House;   Mourning;   Parents;   Readings, Select;   Sorrow;   Weeping;   Thompson Chain Reference - Absalom;   David;   Dead, the;   Grief;   Home;   Joy-Sorrow;   Mourning;   Parental;   Sorrow;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Parents;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Absalom;   Ahimaaz;   Gate;   House;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Vanity;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Absalom;   Dwellings;   Muth-Labben;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - House;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Chamber;   David;   Samuel, Books of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Abishai;   David;   Fortification and Siegecraft;   Samuel, Books of;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Absalom;   Chamber;   David;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Ahim'a-Az;   Chamber;   Sol'omon;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Hebrew Monarchy, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Absalom (1);   Child;   Gate;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Ahimaaz;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Absalom;   Family and Family Life;   Gate;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

O my son Absalom - It is allowed by the most able critics that this lamentation is exceedingly pathetic. In what order the words were pronounced, for much depends on this, we cannot say. Perhaps it was the following: -

בני אבשלום בני Beni Abshalom, beni ! My son Absalom! O my son!

אבשלום בני Beni Abshalom ! O my son Absalom!

תחתיך אני מותי יתן מי Mi yitten muthi ani thachteicha . O that I had died in thy stead!

בני בני אבשלום Abshalom, beni ! beni ! O Absalom, my son, my son!

Is there no hope for the soul of this profligate young man? He died in his iniquity: but is it not possible that he implored the mercy of his Maker while he hung in the tree? And is it not possible that the mercy of God was extended to him? And was not that suspension a respite, to the end that he might have time to deprecate the wrath of Divine justice?

This is at least a charitable conjecture, and humanity will delight in such a case to lay hold even on possibilities. If there be any room for hope in such a death, who that knows the worth of an immortal soul, would not wish to indulge in it?

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:33". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/2-samuel-18.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

There is not in the whole of the Old Testament a passage of deeper pathos than this. Compare Luke 19:41. In the Hebrew Bible this verse commences the nineteenth chapter. The King James Version follows the Greek and Latin versions.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:33". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/2-samuel-18.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

2 Samuel 18:33

And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept.

The wail of a broken heart

1. The first picture shows a glimpse of the battlefield, and brings before us three men, each in different ways exhibiting how small a thing Absalom’s death was to all but the heart-broken father, and each going his own road, heedless of what lay below the heap of stones. The world goes on all the same, though death is busy, and some heart-strings be cracked. The three men, Ahimaaz, Joab, and the Cushite (Ethiopian), are types of different kinds of self-engrossment, which is little touched by other’s sorrows. The first, Ahimaaz, the young priest who had already done good service to David as a spy, is full of the joyous excitement of victory, and eager to run with what he thinks such good tidings. The word in 2 Samuel 18:19, “bear tidings,” always implies good news; and the youthful warrior-priest cannot conceive that the death of the head of the revolt can darken the joy of victory to the king. He is truly loyal, but, in his youthful impetuosity and excitement, cannot sympathise with the desolate father, who sits expectant at Mahanaim. Joab is a very different type of indifference. He is too much accustomed to battle to be much flushed with victory, and has killed too many men to care much at killing another. He is cool enough to measure the full effect of the news on David; and though he clearly discerns the sorrow, has not one grain of participation in it. The Cushite gets his orders; and he, too, is, in another fashion, careless of their contents and effect. Without a word, he bows himself to Joab, and runs, as unconcerned as the paper of a letter that may break a heart. Ahimaaz still pleads to go, and, gaining leave, takes the road across the Jordan valley, which was probably easier, though longer; while the other messenger went by the hills, which was a shorter and rougher road.

2. The scene shifts to Mahanaim, where David had found refuge. He can scarcely have failed to take an omen from the name, which commemorated how another anxious heart had camped there, and been comforted, when it saw the vision of the encamping angels above its own feeble, undefended tents, and Jacob “called the name of that place Mahanaim” (that is, “Two camps.”) How chilling to Ahimaaz, all flushed with eagerness, and proud of victory, and panting with running, and hungry for some word of praise, it must have been, to get for sole answer the question about Absalom! He shrinks from telling the whole truth, which, indeed, the Cushite was officially despatched to tell; but his enigmatic story of a great tumult as he left the field, of which he did not know the meaning, was told to prepare for the bitter news. The Cushite with some tenderness veils the fate of Absalom in the wish that all the king’s enemies may be “as that young man is.” But the veil was thin, and the attempt to console by reminding of the fact that the dead man was an enemy as well as a son, was swept away like a straw before the father’s torrent of grief.

3. The sobs of a broken heart cannot be analysed; and this wail of almost inarticulate grief, with its infinitely pathetic reiteration, is too sacred for many words. “Grief, even if passionate, is not forbidden by religion; and David’s sensitive poet-nature felt all emotions keenly. We are meant to weep; else wherefore is there calamity?’ But there were elements in David’s agony which were not good. It blinded him to blessings and to duties. His son was dead; but his rebellion was dead with him, and that should have been more present to his mind. His soldiers had fought well, and his first task should have been to honour and to thank them. He had no right to sink the king in the father, and Joab’s unfeeling remonstrance, which followed, was wise and true in substance, though rough almost to brutality in tone. Sorrow which hides all the blue because of one cloud, however heavy and thunderous, is sinful. Sorrow which sits with folded hands, like the sisters of Lazarus, and lets duties drift, that it may indulge in the luxury of unrestrained tears, is sinful. There is no tone of “It is the Lord; let Him do what seemeth Him good,” in this passionate plaint; and so there is no soothing for the grief. The one consolation lies in submission. Submissive tears wash the heart clean; rebellious ones blister it. David’s grief was the bitter fruit of his own sin. He had weakly indulged Absalom, and had spared the rod, probably, in the boy’s youth, as he certainly spared the sword when Absalom had murdered his brother. But there is another side to this grief. It witnesses to the depth and self-sacrificing energy of a father’s love. The dead son’s faults are all forgotten and obliterated by “death’s effacing fingers.” The headstrong, thankless rebel is, in David’s mind, a child again, and the happy old days of his innocence and love are all that remain in memory. The prodigal is still a son. The father’s love is immortal, and cannot be turned away by any faults. The father is willing to die for the disobedient child. Such purity and depth of affection lives in human hearts. So self-forgetting and incapable of being provoked is an earthly father’s love. May we not read in this disclosure of David’s paternal love, stripping it of its faults and excesses, some dim shadow of the greater love of God for his prodigals--a love which cannot be dammed back or turned away by any sin, and which has found a way to fulfil David’s impossible wish, in that it has given Jesus Christ to die for his rebellious children, and so made them sharers of his own kingdom? (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Anguish of parents at the perverseness of children

1. I would call to this subject the attention of every sinner, who has a pious parent, or parents, still living. I wish to show such persons how much anguish they occasion their parents by neglecting to prepare for death. Every Christian parent in David’s situation would feel, in some measure, as David felt. Every Christian parent feels a similar concern for the souls, the eternal interests of his children.

2. I proceed now to press the subject upon the attention of pious parents.

Absalom’s death

A loud cry always arrests attention. All understand the language of sorrow in any age or race. The sobs of a little child, or of a strong man, affect mightily those that chance to hear. The roughest and most hardened can rarely resist the appeal of tears, and often turn to brush away their own. The Esaus and Rachels and Davids and Marys are kin to the multitudes, for whom

“Never morning wore

To evening, but some heart did break.”

Grief is a leveller, even as death is. It ignores distinctions, and makes great and small bold to ask of the other its cause, and proffer such aid as may be. So this pathetic lament from the chamber over the gate of Mahanaim impels us to inquire who the mourner is, and for whom or what does he weep. After the Ruler, the Father issues his orders. He would slay the treachery, but spare the traitor. While every retainer might be put to the sword or flight, and every weapon be struck from his hand, the king gives all the captains charge to “deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom.” It were to him no victory if the dead body of his son be brought back in triumph; it were utter defeat. Such commission always hampers. A faint stroke, the world has seen, prolongs the struggle, and imperils the end sought. Rebellion must be stamped out of hand and heart, or, like the hydra’s heads, its shoots forth again as often as cut off. “You say you are praying,” writes Abraham Lincoln, “for the war to end. So am I, but I want it to end right. God only knows how anxious I am to see these rivers of blood cease to flow; but they must flow until treason hides its head.” While the opposing forces have met in the woody, tangled mountain passes, the eager king and father takes his seat between the city gates to wait for tidings. The hours drag wearily away. His fortunes are perhaps already determined, or may be at the moment wavering in the balance. One word from him, one swing of his sword, one leap from the crag, might decide them, were he only at hand. How ready are we to say, “there was a great tumult, but I knew not what it was.” The blow must not fall in all its stunning power at once. Let the victim, at least, have time to kneel to receive it. And so as he stood aside, the blunt and careless Ethiopian comes up and confirms the first announcement, and exults over the slaughter of the foe and son alike. It is the one dreaded word, converting the brief joy into a volume of sorrow. Thus it ever is. What the friend is studying to soften, and by hints prepare the bereft to imagine, the telegraph, the paper, some stranger or little child declares, in its plain and overwhelming measure. There is no averting of facts nor any defence against their meaning. What we have loved and trusted, when taken away, can neither be made to appear as though it still is ours, nor the loss be breathed in modified degree. No generous nature can interpose to break the shock. When it comes, it is with full force, as the cyclone bursts upon the town. We may be given grace and patience, but not exemption from grief. To such trial every life is subject. From such distress none can always escape. Some day it must be told David, “Absalom is dead.” And who can bear to look upon that stricken father, or listen to his agonising cries, or hear that convulsive utterance, “O Absalom, my son, my son!” Around the wall, and near the gateway at Mahanaim, the people clustered, gazing up at the window whence the sounds of anguish came. With low voices they talked together of the singular conduct of the king. Would he rather have had his armies routed and at this moment be preparing for a siege? Would he have chosen that the infidel son should madly and successfully assault himself and blot out what remained of his realm? Was not the issue the very best possible for the nation? Ought they not all to sing psalms of thanksgiving unto the Most High, “whose right hand had found out all his enemies and swallowed them up in His wrath.” Yes! but there is a secret which these observers have not discovered, and it is buried deep m that father’s heart. Now and then he had almost disclosed it in these days of adversity. Zadok might have divined it, when he answered, “If He thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here I am, let Him do to me as seemeth good unto Him.” Aishai, burning with indignation at the imprecations upon his master, might have suspected it, when David replied: “Let him curse, for the Lord hath bidden him.” And these friends might have found that their ruler was under just condemnation of heaven. He was but paying, in some form, the heavy penalty for his sins. (Monday Club Sermons.)

David’s grief for Absalom

“Next to the calamity of losing a battle,” a great general used to say, “is that of gaining a victory.” The battle in the wood of Ephraim left twenty thousand of King David’s subjects dead or dying on the field. It is remarkable how little is made of this dismal fact. Men’s lives count for little in time of war, and death, even with, its worst horrors, is just the common fate of warriors. Yet surely David and his friends could not think lightly of a calamity that cut down more of the sons of Israel than any battle since the fatal day of Mount Gilboa. Nor could they form a light estimate of the guilt of the man whose inordinate vanity and ambition had cost the nation such a fearful loss. But all thoughts of this kind were for the moment brushed aside by the crowning fact that Absalom himself was dead. The elements of David’s intense agony, when he heard of Absalom’s death, were mainly three.

I. There was the loss of his son, of whom he could say that, with all his faults, he loved him still. A dear object had been plucked from his heart, and left it sick, vacant, desolate. A face he had often gazed on with delight lay cold in death. An infinite pathos, in a father’s experience, surrounds a young man’s death. The regret, the longing, the conflict with the inevitable, seem to drain him of all energy, and leave him helpless in his sorrow.

II. Absalom had died in rebellion, without expressing one word of regret, without one request for forgiveness, without one act or word that it would be pleasant to recall in time to come, as a foil to the bitterness caused by his unnatural rebellion.

III. In this rebellious condition he had passed to the judgment of God. What hope could there be for such a man, living and dying as he had done?

IV. Two remarks.

A father’s remorse and a father’s forgiveness

The story of Absalom’s rebellion is the most exciting drama in the Bible, and one of the guiltiest and saddest tragedies in human history. It is given to us in some of the most powerful word-pictures which have ever been painted. Clear, strong, and lifelike do the leading figures stand out.

I. In this cry of anguish there was the torture of self-accusation. The sting of death is sin. The sting of that death to David was Absalom’s sin, and alas! his own sin too. We never know What the end of a sin may be. We never know how far the consequences will reach, or whom they will affect. We cannot whitewash the black pages by repenting of the deeds. David had repented in sackcloth and ashes. He had been forgiven. But there in his children were the deadly fruits, and he would rather have laid down his life than brought this evil upon them. There are things which God forgives us, but which we can never forgive ourselves. There is no misfortune that is crushing unless some memory of guilt is behind it. The poet says, “A sorrow’s crown of sorrow is remembering happier things.” Nothing of the kind. A sorrow’s crown of sorrow is the feeling that we have brought it on ourselves.

II. We may take it as a type of the divine fatherhood and of its unlimited forgiveness. David is called the man after God’s own heart, and that word staggers us when we remember some of his doings. But the word does not come amiss here. We feel that it is true in such scenes as this. Kneeling in his chamber and uttering that impassioned cry of pity, burning love, and forgiveness, we can see indeed something of God’s own heart. In this great tribulation he is as one washed and made white, and his face is like the tearful Christ’s, Godlike. His love for this guilty, iron-hearted son was passing strange; it was almost more than human. It was a love which gave a kiss for every blow, turned a forgiving face to every insult and stripe, and prayed for the criminal who was crucifying it. All this is what we rightly call Divine. It is a broken light of God. It is the image of His Fatherhood. And through Jesus we preach to everyone a fatherly God, a tearful God, a cross-bearing God, a God whose pity is beyond all our measurement, whoso forgiveness is greater than man’s greatest sin. (J. G. Greenhough, M. A.)

Absalom’s funeral

I. That god’s dearest children are exercised with near and piercing crosses in this life. It may seem to be no good congruity to say that David wept, that King David mourned. For Christians to mourn being poor, or princes being wicked, it is no strange matter: but when a man hath God for his friend in heaven, and a kingdom on earth too, what should trouble him? Yet for such a one the Lord hath crosses, and those sharp, those near, those cutting. Here are griefs, in his familiars shall I say? nay, in his kinsfolks, his father, his wives, at Ziklag, his children, his Absalom. What might be the cause that God’s best children are so sped? Is it their religion? Is it their profession? Not no, it is because they are set with corruption, and therefore must be purged: for God’s best children will sometimes venture on noisome meats, and hurtful poisons, they will feed on the grosser sins, they will drink in every puddle, I mean iniquity, and when the child hath so done, what should the father do? If David will lie and commit adultery, and fall to murder innocents, what can God do less for David than scourge him thoroughly? Is it not better he should lose his sin than God his child? So, then, one cause why the Lord doth thus lay load on his children here is, because they defile themselves with gross sins, and therefore must have much washing. As God lays many crosses on us, so we may thank ourselves for many too: not only in that we do deserve them, but in that we work them out of our own bowels: for many we draw upon ourselves by riot, idleness, unthriftiness, rage, etc., and the most we make more heavy (that are heavy enough already) through our own folly, and that is whilst we rake into our wounds, looking no higher, and what with unbelief and impatience, do double the cross on ourselves.

II. That God’s best children are apt to grieve too much and to exceed in passion for outward things: as in mirth, when once we are in, we are apt to forget ourselves; so in sorrow, when once we yield unto it, we are in danger of surfeting upon it.

1. Now, this being so, that the best of us all are subject to immoderate sorrow for outward things, we must not only learn to bear with one another in this our common frailty, but further, every one for himself must fence and mound his heart against, these absurd passions and excessive griefs.

2. Do God’s best children exceed sometimes in sorrow for outward things? Then must we not be altogether discouraged, though we find our worldly grief more than our spiritual sorrow; for this is a thing that may befall the best; they may be immoderate in the one, when they are boo short in the other: the best have many tears to bestow upon some outward things, when they cannot without much travail weep for their many sins.

III. That God’s children, who bear some crosses with great wisdom and moderation, are sometimes foiled in other some, and fail in health. Who could behave himself better than David in the matter of Shimei? Who worse, in the case of Nabal? How sweet his carriage in many passages between Saul and him? How admirable his behaviour in one child’s death? How absurd in others? Nay, how diversely affected with the cause of one and the same Absalom? What gracious speeches did he once utter when he fled from Absalom? What a bead-roll have we here at his death? Who could more forget himself than here he doth, thus to take on at such a time, in such a place, on such an occasion? How far was this from policy? How far unlike his carriage in other places?

1. What might be the cause that these so worthy champions are thus sometimes foiled. First, it pleaseth God sometimes to set on a cross, and make it stick by a man, either because the same party would look besides former crosses, or kick them off too lightly; or else because he would let him see himself, and know what he is of himself.

2. Sometimes we have not denied ourselves in some particular last, and then if a cross light there it soon enters and hats deep, because we ourselves do give a sting unto it.

1. Let us not suffer it to pass without some use, though we be briefer. Learn hence at least a double point of wisdom: the first respects our brethren; them we must too lightly censure for their weakness and tenderness in some crosses, though light; sith that cannot be light, which God will make heavy; such that may be light to one which is a mountain to another; sith those our brethren may manfully bear far sorer crosses than ourselves, though humbled in some particular.

IV. What though Absalom can forget David, yet David cannot forget him. What though he be a very ungracious imp? Yet he is my child.

1. Do kind and godly parents so love their children that you may sooner find too much carnal than too little natural affection in them? Then shall they never make it good to their own or other’s souls, that there is any goodness in them who bear no affection to their own children.

2. Here is somewhat for children also. Is the affection of godly parents such that they cannot chose but love their children; and out of their love grieve at their unkindness, weep for their impiety, mourn for their sorrows, and take to heart their follies?

3. Here is a word of instruction and consolation for all sorts, both parents and children, high and low: Is the love of an earthly father (if godly) so great? Does he take so much to heart the unkindness of his children? Is he so sensible of their griefs? So wounded with their sorrows? What, then, is the affection of our heavenly Father towards us? How tenderly doth he take disobedience at our hands? and therefore how great should our mourning be for our great and many contempts? How ought we to pour forth ourselves in tears, and to lament with a great lamentation. (R. Harris, D. D.)

Mourning for Absalom

I. For even a fond parent, it is very weak to grieve more for a loss than foe the crime which brought it on. This wild outcry of David is essentially mistaken in its sentiment. That lie was patient was evident enough; but that he saw God’s hand avenging wrongs done against God, and launching the retributions of the Divine law upon an offender who had defied God, nowhere appears. The utterance of grief he makes assumes only soreness and pain. Absalom was his favourite; this downfall had come suddenly; the catastrophe was remediless. His boy had died in the act of rebellion against his father and his king. But not even a word of sorrow or shame or humiliation passes his lips. Sometimes mourning reaches so supreme a height of personal grief as that it is mere egotism and tends towards sheer selfishness.

II. It is better to live honestly for one’s children than just to wish to die for them when their retribution comes. The fact is, we miss the proper feelings of the occasion here in David’s form of expression. His language is extravagant; it was very rough to tell those soldiers, who had imperilled their lives again and again that clay to sustain his kingdom, that he wished a gracious providence had taken his life instead of that of the chief rebel they had fought. Think how almost brutal it was to say that he would have died happy if only Absalom were alive again! With that creature for a king, what would have become of the kingdom? A mere sense of personal bereavement moved him. He became unmanly, unknightly, and inconsiderate. But our main trouble must be found with the absence of every sort and measure of self-examination in David; he sends not one glance of his eye backwards over those vast mistakes of the past which he had committed in rearing that child. He makes no allusion to an offended God, except to point his reckless asseveration with the mention of his name. One would think that the king must have had, even in these successes, some misgiving now and then; something like those thoughtful acknowledgments which history records in the dying utterance of William the Conqueror: “Although human ambition rejoices in such triumphs, I am nevertheless seized with an unquiet terror when I think that, in all these actions of mine, cruelty marched with boldness.” We wish David had lived always for Absalom’s instruction and mourned a little less for his defeat.

III. Public duties should check the indulgence of noisy personal griefs. We all admit that the human feeling of the king in an instance so severe is pathetic and poetic. But at that time an awful field of blood was wild with cries of desperate pain from the dying and around the dead. Twenty thousand of Israel’s loyal soldiers lay on the plain of battle; and all that David seemed to care about it was that his boy Absalom was killed likewise. Once we saw in the palace at Amsterdam a bas-relief representing the sternness of the ancient Brutus. Everybody recalls the classic story of the Roman ruler whose two sons, Titus and Tiberius, were among the conspirators that planned the overturning of the government. He sat in judgment upon the enemies that had threatened the realm; or did he hesitate to do the justice they deserved upon all alike. He caused those two sons “to be scourged with rods, in accordance with the law, and then beheaded by the lictors in the forum, and he neither turned aside his eyes nor shed any tears over them, for they had been false unto their country and had offended against the law.” And then the well-known dictum of his was pronounced, which these patriotic Dutchmen have perpetuated in their king’s judgment hall: “A man may have many more children, but never can have but one country, even that which gave him birth.” David certainly had very little of that firm justice which made Lucius Junius Brutus historic.

IV. The death of an infant child may quite possibly become a greater comfort to its parents than the rebellious life of another child who grows up to be a pain and a shame for ever. The counsel was long ago given to bereaved Christians by one who understood what it was to be in mourning: “Do not ask that the enveloping cloud be ever entirely taken up from your home; it never will be; but it may become so luminously transparent that you can see bright stars through it.” When David’s little child in earlier times was stricken with death, he fell down heavily sorrowing over the affliction before the Lord; but he said, in wise and strong confidence of a submissive faith, “I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” But now he could only pour out hopeless wails of grief; for Absalom appeared to have no future in which he could expect or in which he wished to share. Many of us have seen in Westminster Abbey a beautiful alabaster cradle, with an infant’s face just showing itself from beneath a coverlet wrought in delicate stone apparently spread over the figure. It is the tomb, as the inscription relates, of Sophia, daughter of James I., who died when only three days old, in 1607, and to that brief record is added this verse for an epitaph:

“When the archangel’s trump shall blow, and souls to bodies join,

Millions will wish their lives below had been as short as thine.”

V. There is a sad meaning in the words “too late.” Most of us wish we could live parts of our lives over again, to make some corrections. Especially we think of the example we set or the words we speak or the deeds we do in the presence of our intimates, perhaps even of our children. David does not help the case much with any behaviour of his in this story. But we begin to feel, I am sure, that his wrong-doing had something to do in the formation of Absalom’s character and in the fixing of Absalom’s doom. For we carry in mind the truth of the old couplet:

“Who saws thro’ a trunk, tho’ he leaves the tree up in the forest.

When the wind casts it down, is not his the hand that smote it?”

But there comes a moment in which one feels that all regrets arrive too late for any good to come forth from them: no hope now! (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

David’s lament over Absalom; or, the tears of parental love

I. The force of parental love. Whatever could have induced David to have mourned the death of such a son as this? All might have expected, that day, that the news would have fallen like music on his ears. There are two circumstances which might have induced men to have expected this.

1. The corrupt character of Absalom. In the short, strange life of Absalom, we discover several most depraved and morally repulsive attributes of character. There is revenge (see 2 Samuel 13:28-29); there is vanity (2 Samuel 15:1); there is ambition (2 Samuel 15:4); there is meanness (2 Samuel 15:5); hypocrisy (2 Samuel 15:7-8). There is a tendency in such attributes as these to destroy all love for their possessor. Depravity in a wife is adapted to quench the love of a husband; depravity in a monarch is adapted to quench the love of his people; depravity in a son is adapted to destroy the love of the father. Yet David’s love was too strong for this--it clung to the monster.

2. The filial rebellion of Absalom. He was not only corrupt in his character, but he was a malignant opponent to his father, the man whom he ought to have loved and obeyed. He had pledged himself to his father’s ruin. His last purpose was n purpose to deprive his sire of his throne, his happiness, his life. David had no greater enemy in Israel than Absalom. This force of parental love indicates two things:--

II. The bitterness of parental love. What bitterness is in this cry, “O Absalom, my son!” etc. Two things would give bitterness to David’s feelings now.

1. The memory of his own domestic sins. The carnality, the favouritism, the false tenderness, the want of thorough discipline, which he displayed in his own family, were in themselves heinous vices, and prolific sources of domestic misery.

2. His fear as to his future state. Of where is my son Absalom. Can it be that my son is added to the number of the accursed? From this subject we learn:

A remorseful lament

It is a terrible cry that comes out of the chamber over the gate of Mahanaim that makes the name of Absalom so well known and so full of the most terrible lessons to us. “O, my son Absalom, my son, my son, Absalo! Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” Yes, that is love, no doubt. That is the love of a broken-hearted father, no doubt. But the pang of the cry, the innermost agony of the cry, the poisoned point of the dagger in that cry is remorse. I have slain my son! I have murdered my son with my own hands! I neglected my son Absalom from a child! With my own lusts I laid his very worst temptation right in his way. It had been better Absalom had never been born! If he rebelled, who shall blame him? I, David, drove Absalom to rebellion. It was his father’s hand that stabbed Absalom through the heart. O, Absalom, my murdered son I Would God thy murderer had been in thy place this day. And the king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son! (Alex. Whyte, D. D.)

A lather’s grief over rebellious son

About 1189 Richard, son of the great Henry II., joined the French king, Philip II., against his father. Three other sons were also rebels against their father, and only his youngest son, John, remained at his court. Philip and Richard took his castles, while Henry remained in a condition of unusual supineness. He was now broken in spirit He yielded almost without a struggle to the demands that were made upon him . . . Throughout these unnatural conflicts he had rested his hopes upon his beloved John, to whom he had required his seneschal to deliver his castles in the event of his death . . . He asked for the names of those barons who had joined the French king. The first name he saw was John. He read no more. The world and all its troubles and hopes faded from his view. He turned his face to the wall, and exclaimed, “Let everything go as it will.” . . . His great heart was broken. On the 6th of July, 1189, Henry II. was no more. (Knight’s Eng.)

David the afflicted man

It is not uncommon to read in the preface to works which good men have left as legacies to the church, that their lives, passed amid quiet scenes and in the routine of useful but common duties, furnished few materials for biography. Such tranquillity and monotony were not features of David’s life.

I. David’s afflictions. In the ills of poverty, the loss of children, the death of old friends, the numerous infirmities of age, troubles often gather around the prosperous in the decline of life, like clouds about a setting sun. Happy for them if these are sanctified. Alas for David! his home was the scene of his most painful trials. Who can fancy David’s feelings when he looked on Tamar’s tears, and listened, with grief and consternation on his countenance, to a story that filled the whole land with horror? But hardly has that earthquake-shock passed away when another follows. Tragedy on tragedy! The crime a father allowed to go unpunished her brother avenges. Biding his time, and when suspicion is lulled, drawing Amnon, the perpetrator of that monstrous wickedness, into his toils, Absalom gives the signal, and, smitten by his servants, his brother dies. He has to drink still deeper “of the wine of astonishment.” Hardly has time, the great healer, closed that wound, when Absalom, his favourite son, whom he had forgiven, inflicts a deeper one; commits a crime of yet darker dye. In reading how the Pope’s soldiers, to obtain speedy possession of their jewels, were wont to sever the fingers of Huguenot ladies from their bleeding hands, I have wondered at the savage cruelty; but what cruelty, or crime, to be compared with his who, to possess himself the sooner of his father’s crown, sought to sweep off his father’s head? We have seen many a sad sight; but none to be compared to this aged monarch, full of honours and of years, worthy of all filial love and public veneration, who had no subject but should have fought, nor child but should have died for him, flying with a few followers, under the cloud of night, to escape the sword of his own son. And when tidings came of Absalom’s death, how terrible his grief!

II. The cause of his afflictions. It may seem a great mystery to some how so good a man should have been so sorely tried. But it is no mystery. He reaped as he had sowed. This retribution was still more painfully, and not less plainly exemplified in the unnatural and monstrous rebellion of Absalom. It may be traced to his sin in the matter of Bathsheba: It appears from one genealogy that Bathsheba was the daughter of Eliam, and from another that her father Eliam was the son of Ahithophel, the Gilonite, David’s counsellor. This near relationship between Bathsheba and Ahithophel throws a flood of light on Absalom’s rebellion; for what more likely than that through means of that, Ahithophel sought vengeance for the wrongs which, in the double crime of adultery and murder, the king had committed against him and his house? Revenge is a strong passion in all, but especially in the bosom of eastern nations. If, like David, we are compelled to trace our sufferings to our sins, what a weight does that add to the load l Let us pray God that, while He forgives their iniquity for Christ’s sake, and takes away their guilt through his blood, he would not visit us for our sins. If we are to suffer, may it not be for sins, but for righteousness’ sake! A light load that--a fortune we should neither greatly dread nor deprecate.

III. The use and profit of his afflictions. When Queen Mary, by her marriage, was about to plunge herself and the kingdom of Scotland into dark and bloody troubles, Knox publicly condemned the step. For this she summoned the bold Reformer to her presence, complained bitterly of his conduct, and saying, “I vow to God I shall be revenged,” burst into a flood of tears. Waiting till she had composed herself, he proceeded calmly to make his defence: It was triumphant; but produced no other effect on Mary than to exasperate her passions. Again she began to sob, and weep with great bitterness. While Erskine, the friend of both, and a man of mild and gentle spirit, tried to mitigate her grief and resentment by praising her beauty and accomplishments, Knox continued silent--waiting with unaltered countenance till the queen had given vent to her feelings. Then explaining how he was constrained to sustain her tears rather than hurt his conscience, and by his silence betray the commonwealth, he protested that he never took delight in the distress of any creature; and that so far from rejoicing in her majesty’s tears, it was with great difficulty he could see his own boys weep when he corrected them for their faults. In this beautiful expression we see the feelings of every father; and in these a faithful, though feeble, reflection of the kind heart of God. In no case does He afflict His people willingly; and always for their good. And how His gracious purpose was accomplished in the Psalmist’s afflictions may be seen, for instance, in the sorrow, and even horror, with which he regarded his saddest fall. His bitterest enemies could not have exposed, nor his dearest friends lamented, it more than he did himself. Cast me not sway from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation!” The greatest of all afflictions is an unblessed affliction. On the other hand, let the Holy Spirit, in answer to prayer, turn them into the means of our sanctification, and there are no greater mercies. How many, when they became poor in this world, have grown rich toward God! How many have found life in the death of dear ones! How many, by being brought to weep over a broken cistern, have turned their trembling steps to the fountain of living water! and when God sent storms to wreck their earthly happiness, how many “on the broken pieces of the ship” have reached the shore in safety! (T. Guthrie, D. D.)
.

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Samuel 18:33". 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 the king was much moved,.... His affections were moved, his passions were stirred up; he was greatly troubled, distressed, and grieved:

and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; got out of sight and company as soon as he could; as his own dwelling was at some distance, he made haste to the chamber in the watchtower, over the gate of the city, where the watchman was, to vent his grief; and could not suppress it till he got thither:

and as he went; up the stairs to the chamber:

thus he said, O my son Absalom! my son, my son Absalom! which repetition expresses the vehemence of his affections, and how inconsolable he was on account of his son's death:

would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son! some think he said this on account of his eternal state, being satisfied of his own; but it may be it was only the effect of natural affection, indulged to too great a degree, and unbecoming so good a man in such a case; the Targum is,"I wish I had died for thee, and thou hadst remained this day.'

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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 18:33". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/2-samuel-18.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

And the king was much l moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!

(l) Because he considers both the judgment of God against his sin, and could not otherwise hide his fatherly affection for his son.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:33". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/2-samuel-18.html. 1599-1645.

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

The king understood the meaning of the words. He was agitated, and went up to the balcony of the gate (the room above the entrance) and wept, and said, walking about, “My son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Oh that I had died for thee, Absalom, my son, my son!” To understand this passionate utterance of anguish, we must bear in mind not only the excessive tenderness, or rather weakness, of David's paternal affection towards his son, but also his anger that Joab and his generals should have paid so little regard to his command to deal gently with Absalom. With the king's excitable temperament, this entirely prevented him from taking a just and correct view of the crime of his rebel son, which merited death, and of the penal justice of God which had been manifested in his destruction.

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Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:33". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kdo/2-samuel-18.html. 1854-1889.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

REFLECTIONS

READER! are you a parent, a father or a mother! And are you yourself a partaker of grace, while those of your household are graceless! If so, you will best be able to enter into a proper apprehension of David's feelings for his son. Oh! the unknown, the inexpressible agonies of the mind, in seeing those whom the LORD hath made near, and dear to us in the bonds of nature, totally void of union in the bonds of grace! Oh! did those pious parents, whom the LORD calls to the painful exercises of nature, in the breaches made by death, in their infant years, did they but recollect the accumulated aggravations of sorrow, which attend the deaths of graceless children, ripened in years, and ripened in iniquity; how would they learn to bless GOD, in those instances of preventing wisdom and mercy! Surely, Sirs! it is far, far better, and a far higher privilege also, to follow infants to their tomb, than have them remain longer with us, to be trained for everlasting misery! What a wound the very thought gives, as it enters the imagination!

But, Reader! what an aggravation to misery is it, when, as in the case of David, the LORD's hand is to be traced in the evils which grow up out of our house, from the children of our own bowels. When David looked round the walls of his dwelling, and beheld the vacancies there made by death, and marked them as divine chastisements, well might he exclaim, O Absalom! my son! my son!

And is there no relief for such a state? Is there no balm in Gilead: no physician there? Yes, blessed be GOD, there is both. Oh! precious, precious JESUS! where, but for thee, should balm be found: or what physician, but thyself, could heal such complicated diseases. Teach me then, dearest JESUS teach him that reads; teach every poor distressed, exercised soul that believes, to do as David did, after all this series of troubles. Teach our souls to look to thee. And when our Absaloms, our Amnons, and all our sorrows are multiplied, to look to JESUS, and say as David did; Although my house be not so with GOD ; yet hath he made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure. And this is all my salvation, and all my desire, though he make it not to grow.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:33". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/2-samuel-18.html. 1828.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!

Over the gate — Retiring himself from all men and business, that he might wholly give up himself to lamentation.

My son — This he might speak from a deep sense of his eternal state, because he died in his sins, and because David himself had by his own sins been the occasion of his death. But it seems rather to be the effect of strong passion, causing him to speak unadvisedly with his lips.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:33". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/2-samuel-18.html. 1765.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

‘THE CHAMBER OVER THE GATE.’

‘The king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept.’

2 Samuel 18:33

We cannot enlarge upon this scene without injuring its matchless pathos. Let us leave David in ‘the chamber over the gate,’ to a sorrow too sacred for mere words.

I. The father is more than the king.—‘The victory that day was turned into mourning.’ Not even Absalom’s rebellion, and the deep sense that his own fondness wakened no response in the son’s heart, could crush that love out.

II. Still more affecting is it to notice how natural, when love is thus deeply stirred, is the desire to take the dead man’s place.—So Moses pleaded for Israel: ‘If Thou wilt forgive their sin blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book. So Paul was willing to be cut off from Christ if only his brethren might be saved. This is no mere outburst of passion. It is the deep-seated longing for substitution, and only Christ, the Sinless One, can satisfy it. To die the just for the unjust is not unreasonable, but in the Holy Son of God alone has it been possible. For David, alas! the lament over the winning and beautiful creature whose charm outlived the shock even of ungrateful, ungenerous, and unsuccessful rebellion, was accompanied by the terrible remembrance that to his own sin was due all the family misery of which the revolt of Absalom was only one illustration. Remorse and anguish were busy at the heart-strings of the poor father weeping all the way up to the chamber over the gate, and there, in that lonely room, giving way to a sorrow for which it was hard to find one alleviating touch. The sobs of a broken heart cannot be analysed; and this wail of almost inarticulate grief, with its infinite pathetic reiteration, is too sacred for many words. Grief, even if passionate, is not forbidden by religion; and David’s sensitive poet-nature felt all emotions keenly. We are meant to weep; else wherefore is there calamity?

III. But there were elements in David’s agony which were not good.—It blinded him to blessings and to duties. His son was dead; but his rebellion was dead with him, and that should have been more present to his mind. His soldiers had fought well, and his first task should have been to honour and to thank them. He had no right to sink the king in the father, and Joab’s unfeeling remonstrance which followed was wise and true in substance, though rough almost to brutality in tone. Sorrow which hides all the blue because of one cloud, however heavy and thunderous, is sinful. Sorrow which sits with folded hands, like the sisters of Lazarus, and lets duties drift that it may indulge in the luxury of unrestrained tears, is sinful. There is no tone of ‘It is the Lord; let Him do what seemeth Him good,’ in this passionate plaint; and so there is no soothing for the grief. The one consolation lies in submission. Submissive tears wash the heart clean; rebellious ones blister it.

Illustrations

(1) ‘“I well remember,” says a present-day writer, “the effect produced on my mind on being told by a servant, soon after I recovered from a dangerous illness, that during the crisis of the malady my father was often seen to shed tears. He was not an emotional man.”’

(2) ‘When Bramwell Brontë died, Charlotte wept “for the wreck of talent, the ruin of promise, the untimely, dreary extinction of what might have been a burning and a shining light.” Her father’s grief was still more poignant. “Much and long as he had suffered on his (Bramwell’s) account, he cried out for his loss like David for that of Absalom—‘My son! my son!’—and refused at first to be comforted.” Fondest love makes heaviest mourning. It must be every true son’s earnest desire and prayer that he may spare his father and his mother the anguish of having to say of him, lying dishonoured in death, “Would God I had died for thee, O my son, my son.”’

3 ‘A distinguished man, speaking at the opening of a reformatory institution for boys, remarked that if only one boy was saved from ruin it would repay all the cost. Afterwards a friend asked the speaker if he had not put it a little too strongly, when he said that all the cost would be repaid if only one boy were saved. “Not if that were my boy,” was the reply.’

(4) ‘James IV. of Scotland, while yet a lad, took part with the rebels who drove his father, James III., from the throne. The rebel forces were successful; the father was killed; the son mounted the throne. But the young king was seized with sudden remorse. His reign had commenced in parricide, his throne was built over the remains of his murdered father, and the plea of youth and inexperience was insufficient to still within his soul the upbraidings of remorse. He retired to Stirling Castle, spent his nights in prayer and penance, and wore an iron belt or chain round his waist under his clothing, to which he added a certain number of links every year till the day of his death, as a self-punishment and expiation for the part he had taken as a youth in breaking his father’s heart.’

(5) ‘David had let Absalom flaunt and swagger and live in luxury, and put no curb on; and here was the end of his foolish softness. How many fathers and mothers are the destroyers of their children to-day by the very same thing? That grave in the wood might teach parents how their fatal fondness may end. Children, too, may learn from David’s grief what an unworthy son can do to stuff his father’s pillow with thorns, and to break his heart at last.’

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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:33". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/2-samuel-18.html. 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

2 Samuel 18:33 And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!

Ver. 33. And the king was much moved.] A great deal more than was justified. Many heathens have better borne the death of their dear children; as he who, bearing his son’s death, said only this, Novi me genuine mortalem. Pulvillus, when he was about to consecrate a temple to Jupiter, and news was brought to him of the death of his son, would not desist from his enterprise, but with much composure of mind gave order for decent burial. Now is it not a shame that nature should outstrip grace? - that David, hearing that Absalom was dead, should thus inconsolabiliter lamentari et victoriam funestare, lament so unreasonably and intempestively now, to the endangering of all his people, who, it might be feared, would hereupon have forsaken him, and set up a new captain over them? But it is like it was the fear lest he died in his sin, and so perished for ever, that so much troubled David, and then, - Lugeatur mortuus; sed ille quem gehenna suscipit, quem Tartarus devorat, in cuius poenam aeternus ignis aestuat, saith Jerome; in that case there is great cause of mourning indeed. Howbeit est modus in rebus, there is reason in all things; and all immoderations are to be avoided, as offensive to God and prejudicial to the soul.

And as he went thus he said, O Absalom, &c.] The poet saith, Res est ingeniosa dolor, Grief is a witty thing; nevertheless the excess of it maketh a man foolish, as it did David here; and as Alexander the Great, who, bewailing the death of his favourite, Hephaestion, not only clipped his horses’ and mules’ hair, but plucked down also the battlements of the walls of the city, that they might seem to mourn too. (a)

Would God I had died for thee!] Thus he could now cry out ill natural sorrow. But who ever heard David cry out in godly sorrow, O Uriah, would God I had died for thee! But that is more rational, the other more passionate.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:33". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/2-samuel-18.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

2 Samuel 18:33. O my son Absalom! &c.— There certainly cannot be produced from any writer a more striking instance of the true pathetic than the present. See Dr. Lowth's 22nd Praelection. It is, however, extremely difficult to reconcile this degree of sorrow with David's usual piety and resignation. The king's command to spare Absalom, was indeed an extraordinary instance of mercy, exceeded only by HIM, who, dying, prayed for his murderers; yet it is to be accounted for from his fatherly fondness. But there is something astonishing in this excess of grief for such a reprobate; and I confess, it is to me, says Dr. Delaney, utterly unaccountable, from any other principle than the sad and shocking reflection of his having died with all his sins upon his head, and gone down quick to perdition. The affection of parents is, doubtless, extremely strong. The sins, nay the ingratitude of children cannot root it from their hearts; and they who fear God, are then most reasonably inconsolable, when their children are engaged in a course of sin, and they see them die in a state of condemnation.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:33". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/2-samuel-18.html. 1801-1803.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

DISCOURSE: 322

DAVID’S LAMENTATION OVER ABSALOM

2 Samuel 18:33. And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and, as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!

THIS life is at best a chequered scene: the happiness of man is rarely of long continuance; nor is it ever altogether without alloy: the sweetest cup we taste has always in it, either in a greater or less degree, an infusion of gall: it is in heaven alone that our blessedness is complete. David had attained a full possession of the throne of Israel: but troubles arose to him from various quarters, and especially from his own family; even his own son rose up in rebellion against him, to dethrone him. The rebellion was scarcely matured before it was quashed: but alas! his son, his favourite son, was slain: and how bitterly he laid to heart this calamity, may be seen from the words which we have now read.

We propose to notice,

I. The grief of David for the loss of Absalom—

This was in some respects right and commendable—

[He did well in mourning for the death of a son. God has put into the heart of parents a love for their offspring: and indeed such a love was necessary to counterbalance the cares and troubles which a family entails. That love of necessity contains in it the seeds of sorrow, when evil befalls the offspring, or death snatches them away. Even the irrational creation are deeply penetrated with this feeling, and manifest it in a very high degree, whenever the loss of their offspring calls it into exercise. We wonder not, therefore, that a man of David’s piety should greatly bewail the death of his favourite son. We do not disapprove of him when for seven successive days he wept, and fasted, and prayed for the life of his dying infant; much less can we blame his grief for a son of mature age and eminent accomplishments.

But still more was his grief justified, when we consider the circumstances under which his son was taken away. Absalom, alas! was very unfit to die: he was a man of an abandoned character. He was an assassin, and had murdered his own brother Amnon. He was a rebel against the king whom God himself had called to the throne, even against his own father. He was, in heart at least and design, a murderer of his own father: for when the proposal was made by Achitophel so to contrive the attack as to destroy his father only, it was highly gratifying to this unnatural son. Moreover, for the express purpose of making himself “abhorred by his father,” and or precluding all possibility of reconciliation with him, “he went in to his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.” Such was the state of Absalom, when death arrested him. What a tremendous load of guilt was here, under the whole of which he expired, without any space given him for repentance! Well then might David weep for him, even tears of blood. David well knew the misery of those who died in their sins, and had often wept for the inconsiderateness of those who overlooked their danger: well therefore might he weep as he did for the miserable end of Absalom.]

In other respects it certainly was wrong—

[The dispensation was indeed most afflictive; but still it called for different feelings in the mind of David. In it there was a mixture of mercy and of judgment: and, if he had viewed it aright, his sorrows would have been tempered with resignation and gratitude. The death of Absalom was in part a punishment of David’s sin in the matter of Uriah; and therefore when the judgment was inflicted, he should, like Aaron, have “held his peace [Note: Leviticus 10:3.],” or have said, like Eli, “It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good [Note: 1 Samuel 3:18.].” The death of Absalom was also a mercy both to David and to all Israel, inasmuch as it put a speedy end to the calamities of civil war, and was the means of re-establishing David on the throne of Israel. Should not this then have called for thanksgiving on the part of David? Yet behold, there was but too much justice in the remark of Joab, that David was insensible of all these mercies; and that he would have been better pleased with the loss of all his faithful adherents that had exposed their lives for him, than of this graceless wretch who had sought his destruction [Note: 2 Samuel 19:3-6.]. Surely such grief could not be justified: after all the allowance that must be made for the affection of a parent, and the compassion of a saint, we are constrained to acknowledge, that the feelings of David on this occasion were ill regulated and unchastised. He seems almost to have quarrelled with God, when he should rather have said, like Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord [Note: Job 1:21.]!”]

Much instruction however may be gathered from this expression of David’s grief. Let us proceed to consider,

II. The lessons it is calculated to teach us—

Much instruction does it impart,

1. To men in general—

[It teaches us loudly to moderate our affections towards the creature. Whatever God bestow upon us, we are apt to fix our affections too strongly on it, and to forget that it is a loan rather than a gift: we forget that it still remains the Lord’s, and that he has a right to call for it whenever he will. Hence if it he unexpectedly withdrawn from us, we are ready to grieve and murmur, as if every source of happiness were cut off from us: because a cistern is broken, we lament, as if the fountain itself also were dried up. This is especially the case in reference to near and dear relations: but such inordinate regard to the creature is idolatry; and it will sooner or later bring its own punishment along with it.

It teaches us also to proportion our sorrows to the occasion. Sorrow is allowable, especially for the loss of our friends or relatives. So far was our Lord from condemning the grief of Martha and Mary for the death of their brother, that he himself joined in it; “Jesus wept.” Grief too on such occasions may sometimes be very deep. If, for instance, a minister be removed in the midst of all his usefulness, as Stephen was, there is good reason why “great lamentation should be made for him,” because the loss of such an one to the Church of God is incalculable [Note: Acts 8:2. If this be a Funeral Sermon, any observations respecting the character of the deceased may be introduced, where it best accords with the subject as here treated.]. If a man be not taken away in the midst of life, yet, if he have been eminently good and greatly distinguished, he may also be deeply lamented [Note: Genesis 50:7-11.]. Nor is this due to public characters only: private individuals also, who have rendered themselves useful in their day and generation, may well be thus deplored. Dorcas had laid herself out for the comfort and support of the poor: she had assisted them in the way that best suited her ability and their wants: and therefore when she was withdrawn by death, the loss of her was much bewailed, and a lively interest was excited to get her, if possible, restored to life [Note: Acts 9:36-39.]. Thus a concern for the general good may fitly increase the tide of our sorrows on the removal of any one by death: but there are occasions, as when any saint is released from a state of deep affliction and distress, when we may rather rejoice over them, as resting from their labours, and happy in the fruition of their God [Note: Revelation 14:13.]. But in any case we must guard against that inordinate sorrow which renders us unmindful of God’s mercies, or insensible of our own desert.]

2. To parents and children in particular—

[Parents, surely you may learn from the history before us to cut off all occasion for self-reproach in the event of your children’s death. No doubt David was too indulgent towards Absalom, and had forborne to punish him as he deserved. And what a bitter reflection it will be to you to think, that you had not exerted yourselves to the utmost of your power for the repressing of sin in your children, and the cultivating of an heavenly principle in their minds! You well know how God marked his indignation against Eli for this very thing [Note: 1 Samuel 2:27-34; 1 Samuel 3:13-14.]. His fault was, not that he encouraged his sons to sin, but that he did not exert himself with sufficient energy to reclaim them. O think what you will say, if you neglect to warn, to reprove, and to instruct your children! how will you answer it at the tribunal of God? Are ministers responsible for the souls committed to their charge? so are you for the children whom God has intrusted unto you. He has said to you, as Pharaoh’s daughter, “Take these and bring them up for me;” and, if they perish through your neglect, “their blood will be required at your hands.” Endeavour then to impress them with a sense of their duty to God. You often try to convince them how much you have loved them; but you are apt to forget to shew them how Christ hath loved them. David’s love to Absalom was nothing in comparison of Christ’s to them: Christ did not merely under a momentary conflict of mind wish that he had died for them; but he actually did die for them, yea, and endured the curse due to their sins, and left the bosom of his Father on purpose that he might do so; and foreseeing from eternity all that he must suffer, he formed the purpose, and never receded from it, till he had accomplished all that was necessary for their salvation: and all this he did, when they were in open rebellion against him. You may convince them of your love, and yet produce no permanent effect upon them; they may continue hostile both to God and you: but convince them of the love of Christ to them, and that will constrain them to live in all dutiful obedience both to God and man.

Children, learn ye also from this history to regard the instructions of your parents. See, in Absalom, the effect and recompence of wilful disobedience! And be careful not to grieve the souls of your parents, by constraining them to “sorrow for you as without hope.” If you die before them, what distress will your state occasion! or, if you survive them, how will they be pained in a dying hour to have no prospect of meeting you in a better world! Remember, that however much they love you now, they will be swift witnesses against you in the day of judgment; and all the efforts which they made for your salvation, will only aggravate your eternal condemnation. Be wise then in time, and labour, that whether you survive your parents or die before them, you may be their joy and crown of rejoicing to all eternity.]

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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:33". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/2-samuel-18.html. 1832.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Went up to the chamber over the gate; retiring himself from all men and business, that he might wholly give up himself to lamentation.

David might speak thus from a deep sense of his eternal state, because he died in his sins, without the least testimony of repentance, and because David himself had by his own sins been the unhappy instrument and occasion of his son’s death.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:33". 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

33.The chamber over the gate — An apartment in the upper part of the tower of one of the gates.

O my son Absalom — This lamentation is the most touchingly pathetic of all David’s elegies, and it sprung from the deepest depths of his heart. One hardly knows which most to wonder at, the excessive tenderness of the father, or the pitiable weakness of the king.

In the life and death of Absalom we have a picture of the fast young man. At an early period of his life a bitter hatred towards his brother soon ends in impious fratricide, and a soul thus passionate and rash can easily find its way to the crimes of an incendiary. 2 Samuel 14:30. Excessively vain, he loves to display his beauty, and have his praises spoken of in Israel; and this path of vainglory leads him rapidly on to an ostentatious prodigality that affects regal pomp and splendour, (2 Samuel 15:1,) and even erects a pillar to perpetuate his name. For a youth thus reckless and headstrong it was no difficult matter to plot treason, (even against a father’s throne,) seduce the people, betray the innocent, and commit the most shameful incest. Such abandoned characters are sure to meet with a miserable end.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:33". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-samuel-18.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Wept, in private. (Menochius) --- Would. David lamented the death of Absalom, because of the wretched state in which he died; and therefore would have been glad to have saved his life, even by dying for him. In this he was a figure of Christ weeping, praying, and dying for his rebellious children, and even for them that crucified him. (Challoner; St. Ambrose (de Ob. Valent.); Theodoret, q. 35.) --- David had presently ceased to weep for the son of Bethsabee, because he had reason to hope that he was saved. (Calmet)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:33". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/2-samuel-18.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

my son . . . my son. Figure of speech Epizeuxis. App-6. for = instead of.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:33". "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 the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!

The king ... went up to the chamber over the gate [ `al (Hebrew #5921) `aliyat (Hebrew #5944)]. 'To most houses of respectable size or public importance there is a smaller one annexed, which sometimes rises one storey higher than the house; at other times it consists of one room or two rooms only and a terrace; while others that are built, as they frequently are, over the porch or gateway, have, if we except the ground floor, which they have not, all the conveniences that belong to the house properly so called. It is a sequestered part of the building, to which a person can retire for meditation and undisturbed solitude' (Dr. Shaw's 'Travels:' see further the note at 2 Kings 4:10). The death of Absalom was a heavy trial, and it is impossible not to sympathize with the outburst of feeling by which David showed that all thoughts of the victory he had won as a king were completely sunk in the painful loss he had sustained as a father. The extraordinary ardour and strength of his affection for this worthless son breaks out in the redundancy and vehemence of his mournful ejaculations.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:33". "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

(33) Was much moved.—David’s grief was not merely that of a father for his first-born son, but for that son slain in the very act of outrageous sin. His sorrow, too, may have gained poignancy from the thought—which must often have come to him during the progress of this rebellion—that all this sin and wrong took its occasion from his own great sin. Yet David was criminally weak at this crisis in allowing the feelings of the father completely to outweigh the duties of the monarch.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:33". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/2-samuel-18.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!
O my son
19:4
would God
12:10-23; Psalms 103:13; Proverbs 10:1; 17:25; James 5:17 Reciprocal: Genesis 21:11 - because;  Genesis 44:30 - his life;  Exodus 16:3 - Would;  Judges 11:35 - rent his clothes;  2 Samuel 3:3 - Absalom;  2 Samuel 3:32 - lifted;  2 Samuel 13:36 - very sore;  2 Samuel 14:1 - toward Absalom;  2 Samuel 18:20 - because;  2 Samuel 19:1 - General1 Chronicles 3:2 - Absalom;  Job 1:19 - they are dead;  Psalm 3:1 - when;  Proverbs 17:21 - that;  Proverbs 19:13 - foolish;  Luke 8:52 - all;  Acts 26:29 - I would;  2 Corinthians 12:15 - though;  1 Thessalonians 4:13 - ye sorrow

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:33". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/2-samuel-18.html.