Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

2 Samuel 18:9

Now Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. For Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. And his head caught fast in the oak, so he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him kept going.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Absalom;   Ephraim;   Gilead;   Mule;   Oak;   Thompson Chain Reference - Absalom;   Animals;   Bible Stories for Children;   Children;   Home;   Mules;   Oaks;   Pleasant Sunday Afternoons;   Religion;   Stories for Children;   Trees;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Death of the Wicked, the;   Mule, the;   Oak-Tree, the;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Ahimaaz;   Joab;   Mule;   Oak;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Absalom;   Joab;   Trees;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Mule;   Oak;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Fox;   Mule;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Heaven;   Samuel, Books of;   Terebinth;   Transportation and Travel;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Abishai;   Joab;   Mule;   Oak;   Samuel, Books of;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Mule;   Oak;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Absalom;   David;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Mule;   Oak;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Mule;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Hebrew Monarchy, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Absalom (1);   Chance;   Mule;   Oak;   Terebinth;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Asa;   Mule;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

And his head caught hold of the oak - It has been supposed that Absalom was caught by the hair, but no such thing is intimated in the text. Probably his neck was caught in the fork of a strong bough, and he was nearly dead when Joab found him; for it is said, 2 Samuel 18:14, he was yet alive, an expression which intimates he was nearly dead.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:9". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/2-samuel-18.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

would seem that the two things which his vain-glory boasted in, the royal mule, and the magnificent head of hair by which he was caught in the “oak” (rather, terebinth or turpentine tree), both contributed to his untimely death.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:9". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/2-samuel-18.html. 1870.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

THE AMAZING MANNER OF ABSALOM'S DEATH

"And Absalom chanced to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding upon his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak, and his head caught fast in the oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on.. And a certain man saw it and told Joab, "Behold, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak." Joab said to the man who told him, "What, you saw him! Why then, did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have been glad to give you ten pieces of silver and a girdle." But the man said to Joab, "Even if I held in my hand the weight of a thousand pieces of silver, I would not put forth my hand against the king's son; for in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, `For my sake, protect the young man Absalom.' On the other hand, if I had dealt treacherously against his life (and there is nothing hidden from the king), then you yourself would have stood aloof." Joab said, "I will not waste time like this with you." And he took three darts in his hand, and thrust them into the heart of Absalom, while he was still alive in the oak. And ten young men, Joab's armor bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him and killed him."

"His head caught fast in the oak" (2 Samuel 18:9). We are indebted to Josephus for the tradition that Absalom's hair was a factor in this episode. He wrote that, "He entangled his hair greatly in the large boughs of a knotty oak tree, but the beast went swiftly on; and there he hung after a surprising manner."[13] The sacred text does not support Josephus' account of what happened. Absalom was caught, not by his hair, but by his head. "Absalom, riding headlong on uneven ground, was carried with force into an oak tree, so that his head stuck in a fork between two branches, and he perhaps lost consciousness."[14] This is likely true, because there is no account of his trying to dislodge himself. Of course, the mule went on, leaving his rider suspended between heaven and earth.

"Thus the most notable victim of the forest was Absalom himself."[15] Matthew Henry noted that for especially notorious rebels against God's will, the Lord often provided some SPECTACULAR manner of taking them from the face of the earth, as in the rebellion of Korah, and here in the case of Absalom.

"If I had dealt treacherously against his life ... then you yourself would have stood aloof" (2 Samuel 18:13). "The man who thus answered Joab was not only loyal to King David, but he also thoroughly understood the unscrupulous character of Joab."[16]

"And he (Joab) took three darts ... and thrust them into the heart of Absalom, while he was still alive" (2 Samuel 18:14). The last clause here shows that the darts did not kill Absalom. "These weapons were inferior, being merely wooden stakes sharpened and hardened in the fire."[17] Joab evidently used these since they were the only weapons immediately at hand. "Absalom's heart, mentioned here, is not a reference to the blood pump, but refers to the midst of Absalom's body."[18] That this is indeed true appears from the fact that. "The word "heart" occurs in 2 Samuel 18:14, which in the KJV is rendered, while he was still alive in the midst of the oak."[19] Therefore, if heart means "midst of the oak" in this same passage, it has to mean in the midst of Absalom's body in the previous verse.

Was it right for Joab to kill Absalom? No! However, his action is understandable in the light of his knowledge that, in all probability, David would have spared Absalom's life, if he had been captured. Joab should have captured him and have carried him to David for the decision. Joab was not king and did not have the right to take a decision of this kind into his own hands.

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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 18:9". "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 Absalom met the servants of David,.... When his army was routed, he was in such a fright that he knew not which way to flee, and instead of flying from David's men, he fled in the way of them; but none of them attempted to slay him, nor even to stop him, but let him pass by them, knowing David's charge concerning him:

and Absalom rode upon a mule; as was common for great personages to do in those days, 2 Samuel 13:29,

and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak; and running full speed, Absalom could not guide him, nor stop, nor divert him from going under it:

and his head caught hold of the oak; either the hair of his head was twisted and entangled in the thick boughs of the oak; or rather his head was jammed into a forked branch of the oak:

and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth; hung in the air between both, as unworthy to live in either:

and the mule that was under him went away; and left him hanging in the oak.

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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 18:9". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/2-samuel-18.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Absalom met the servants of David — or was overtaken. “It is necessary to be continually on one‘s guard against the branches of trees; and when the hair is worn in large locks floating down the back, as was the case with a young man of the party to which I belonged, any thick boughs interposing in the path might easily dislodge a rider from his seat, and catch hold of his flowing hair” [Hartley]. Some, however, think that the sacred historian points not so much to the hair, as to the head of Absalom, which, being caught while running between two branches, was enclosed so firmly that he could not disengage himself from the hold, nor make use of his hands.

the mule that was under him went away — The Orientals, not having saddles as we do, do not sit so firmly on the beasts they ride. Absalom quitting his hold of the bridle, apparently to release himself when caught in the oak, the mule escaped.

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:9". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/2-samuel-18.html. 1871-8.

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

“And Absalom was lighted upon ( יקּרא = יקּרה ) by the servants of David, riding upon the mule; and the mule had come under the thick branches of the great terebinth, and his head fastened itself (remained hanging) on the terebinth, so that he was held (hung) between heaven and earth, as the mule under him went away.” The imperfects, ויּבא, ויּחזק, and ויּתּן, are only a combination of the circumstantial clause רכב ואבשׁ . With regard to the fact itself, it is not clearly stated in the words that Absalom hung only by his hair, but simply that his hair entangled him in the thick branches, and his head was fastened in the terebinth, namely, by being jammed between the strong boughs.

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The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
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Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:9". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kdo/2-samuel-18.html. 1854-1889.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

(9) ¶ And Absalom met the servants of David. And Absalom rode upon a mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth; and the mule that was under him went away.

Every prelude to the death of Absalom is awful. His death is not after the common visitation of all men. He is first suspended, as it were, a spectacle between heaven and earth, unworthy of being in either. The simple boughs of a tree, shall begin the preparation of his awful death. A mule shall assist at his execution. Had the animal thrown him: had he broken his neck in the fall; or had a certain man at a venture, shot him through; these would have been among the common things of war. But no! His sin, his rebellion, his whole life, indeed, had been so flagicious, that his death must be marked with more than common infamy. The very beast on which he rides, shall leave him, as if delighted to be no longer burthened with such a sinner!

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:9". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/2-samuel-18.html. 1828.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And Absalom met the servants of David. And Absalom rode upon a mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth; and the mule that was under him went away.

The servants of David — Who, according to David's command, spared him, and gave him an opportunity to escape.

His head — In which probably he was entangled by the hair of the head, which being very long and thick, might easily catch hold of a bough, especially when the great God directed it. Either he wore no helmet, or he had thrown it away as well as his other arms, to hasten his flight. Thus the matter of his pride was the instrument of his ruin.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Wesley, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:9". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/2-samuel-18.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

2 Samuel 18:9 And Absalom met the servants of David. And Absalom rode upon a mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth; and the mule that [was] under him went away.

Ver. 9. And his head caught hold of the oak.] His head was catched in a crotch or forked branch of the oak, (a) and so he hung by the neck between heaven and earth, as rejected of both.

Abslon Marte furens pensilis arbore obit.

By that head he hanged, which had plotted treason against so good a father; and by the hair of his head twisted and wound about the boughs, as most expositors hold. God making his hair his halter: those tresses that had formerly hanged loosely dishevelled on his shoulders, now he hangs by them. He had wont to weigh his hair, and was proud to find it so heavy: now his hair poiseth the weight of his body, and makes his burden his torment. But what meant Gretser, the Jesuit, to call this oak a cross, and a manifest figure of Christ’s cross? in qua Absalom pendens Christum praefiguravit? (b) Was the man in his right mind?

And the mule that was under him went away.] False hopes of God’s mercy will one day serve men as Absalom’s mule did his master: when those that are rightly grounded, will do as Bucephalus, Alexander’s great horse, of which Gellius reporteth, that though deeply wounded in both neck and sides in a battle, yet he carried his master with great speed from out the danger of his enemies, and when he had set him in safety, fell down and died.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:9". 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 18:9. The mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, &c.— Several commentators suppose, that Absalom was suspended by the long hair of his head; while others, imagining that he had a helmet on, think that his neck was so wedged in between the boughs, that he was not able to disengage himself. It is not easy to believe that he could have lived long in such a posture; and Joab, we are told in the 14th verse, found him yet alive, which would lead one rather to think that he was suspended by his hair.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:9". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/2-samuel-18.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Absalom met the servants of David, who, according to David’s command, spared him, and gave him an opportunity to escape.

His head caught hold of the oak; in which probably he was entangled by the hair of the head, which being very long and thick, might easily catch hold of a bough, especially when the great God directed it. Either he wore no helmet, or his helmet was such as left much of his hair visible; or he had thrown away his helmet as well as his other arms, to hasten his flight, or because of the heat of the season. Thus the matter of his pride was the instrument of his ruin, as also Asahel’s swiftness, 2 Samuel 2:18, and Ahithophel’s policy, 2 Samuel 17:23, were the occasions of their destruction.

The mule that was under him went away; which might easily happen, because being in flight the mule passed along very swiftly.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:9". 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

9.Absalom met the servants of David — And probably darted rapidly one side through the forest to avoid them, when he met with the accident which exposed him helpless to his enemy.

His head caught hold of the oak — Probably entangled by his hair, (compare 2 Samuel 14:26,) and so Josephus affirms.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:9". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-samuel-18.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

2 Samuel 18:9. Absalom met the servants of David — Who, according to David’s command, spared him, and gave him an opportunity to escape. But whom they would not arrest, the divine vengeance arrested. For the mule, on which he rode, went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak — Probably he was entangled by the hair of his head, which, being long and thick, might easily catch hold of a bough. For it is likely he either wore no helmet, or he had thrown it away, as well as his other arms, to hasten his flight. Thus the matter of his pride was made the instrument of his ruin. Some think his neck stuck fast between two boughs, or arms, of this oak, and was so wedged in by the swift motion of his mule that he was not able to disentangle himself; but yet, that, by the help of his hands, he so supported himself as not to be strangled.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:9". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/2-samuel-18.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Oak, between the branches, which hindered him from escaping. (Calmet) --- His beautiful curls got also entangled. (Menochius)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:9". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/2-samuel-18.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

taken up. The tradition about his "hair" comes from Josephus 2 Samuel 10:2).

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:9". "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 Absalom met the servants of David. And Absalom rode upon a mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth; and the mule that was under him went away.

Absalom met the servants of David - or was overtaken.

And his head caught hold of the oak, [ wayech

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:9". "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

(9) His head caught hold of the oak.—Absalom in his flight found himself among his enemies, and sought to escape into the denser parts of the forest. As he did so his head caught between the branches of a tree, his mule went from under him, and he hung there helpless. There is nothing said to support the common idea (which seems to have originated with Josephus), that he hung by his long hair, though this may doubtless have helped to entangle his head.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:9". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/2-samuel-18.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And Absalom met the servants of David. And Absalom rode upon a mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth; and the mule that was under him went away.
his head
Riding furiously under the thick boughs of a great oak, which hung low and had never been cropped, either the twisted branches, or some low forked bough of the tree, caught him by the neck, or, as some think, by the loops into which his long hair had been pinned, which had been so much his pride, and was now justly made a halter for him. He may have hung so low from the bough, in consequence of the length of his hair, that he could not use his hands to help himself, or so entangled that his hands were bound, so that the more he struggled the more he was embarrassed. This set him up as a fair mark to the servants of David; and although David would have spared his rebellious son, if his orders had been executed, yet he could not turn the sword of Divine justice, in executing the just, righteous sentence of death on this traitorous son.
14; 14:26; 17:23; Matthew 27:5
taken up
Deuteronomy 21:23; 27:16,20; Job 18:8-10; 31:3; Psalms 63:9,10; Proverbs 20:20; 30:17; Jeremiah 48:44; Mark 7:10; Galatians 3:13
Reciprocal: Genesis 36:24 - found;  Leviticus 19:19 - thy cattle gender;  2 Samuel 3:3 - Absalom;  2 Samuel 13:29 - mule;  Psalm 55:15 - Let death;  Ezekiel 17:20 - I will spread;  John 12:32 - if

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18:9". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/2-samuel-18.html.