Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

2 Samuel 20:18

Then she spoke, saying, "Formerly they used to say, ‘They will surely ask advice at Abel,' and thus they ended the dispute.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Abel-Beth-Maachah;   Abishai;   Beth-Maachah;   Diplomacy;   Joab;   Politics;   Proverbs;   Tact;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Abelbethmaachah;   Sheba;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Wisdom literature;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Woman;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Sheba;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Abel-Beth-Maacha;   Sheba (1);   Holman Bible Dictionary - Abel (Place Name);   Abel-Beth-Maachah or Abel-Beth-Maacah;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Abel (of) Beth-Maacah;   Joab;   Samuel, Books of;   Sheba;   Wisdom;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Abel ;   Abelbethmaachah ;   Bichri ;   Sheba ;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - David;   Smith Bible Dictionary - A'bel-Ma'im;   Da'vid;   She'ba;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Hebrew Monarchy, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Abel-Beth-Maacah;   Dan (1);   Galilee;   Meadow;   Proverb;   Siege;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Abel;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Abel-Beth-Maachah;   Joab;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

They shall surely ask counsel at Abel - This is a proverb, but from what it originated we know not; nor can we exactly say what it means: much must be supplied to bring it to speak sense. Abel was probably famed for the wisdom of its inhabitants; and parties who had disputes appealed to their judgment, which appears to have been in such high reputation as to be final by consent of all parties. To this the wise woman refers, and intimates to Joab that he should have proceeded in this way before he began to storm the city, and destroy the peaceable inhabitants.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:18". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/2-samuel-20.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

This was an old proverb. Abel, like Teman, and some other places, was once famous for the wisdom of its inhabitants 1 Kings 4:30-31. The wise woman was herself a remnant of this traditional wisdom.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:18". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/2-samuel-20.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

2 Samuel 20:18

They shall surely ask counsel at Abel.

An old-time custom

It will have to come to that again. Things cannot be settled really and lastingly except by counsel, wisdom, consent. The sword has had its day; it is a fool’s argument. What is the idea of the text that is translatable into the practice of all places and all ages? Whether there was an oracle at Abel, whether there was a counsel of referees there, whether this one wise woman had in her own hand, as it were, the decision of important controversies, we can never determine: suffice it to know that there was a time, holy, sabbatic time, when men said, Let us go to the little town of Abel and talk this matter out: and so they ended the matter. The point to which we should direct attention is that there comes a moment when things must be settled by authority. Blessed are they who consent to the constitution of that authority; then it is no longer despotism or tyranny, it is settlement by consent. In old time men were wont to take counsel at Abel; and so they ended the matter. They discussed it, canvassed it, threshed it out, and went into it through and through, saw what it was made of, and then, having done so, they put out hand to hand, and were men and brothers once more. This same principle is amongst us like a ghost. Sometimes we get it in a concrete form and work it into the very practice of life, yet it is ever amongst us as a kind of spectre, some being more or less afraid of it, some offering it hospitality, all acknowledging that if it really could be brought into play on a large and just basis it would settle everything.

I. The Abel of experience. There is an Abel, a venerable city, called Experience; why not go down to the Abel of experience, take counsel there: and so settle the matter? Experience ought to go for something. Experience is man’s account of life. He tells you where he has been, what he has done, how he has conducted himself, and what results have accrued from the policies and the processes which he has adopted. We ought to hear that man. We always think there is a shorter cut than he took. Every age think it could work the programme better than Solomon worked it. For a long period this must go on, but the day will come when experience will go for something, when grey hairs will be taken as the symbols of philosophy, when the wrinkled face will itself be a title to be heard on all the practical questions and issues of life.

II. The Abel of time. Why not go to another aspect of this same experience, another corner of this same Abel, and consult Time? Why not admit Time to our counsels? Why leap at new theories? Why bristle up when the unpronouncable name of some lager-beer drinker is associated with some new mare’s nest in the realm of letters and theology? How many theories have come and gone! Where are they? Gone with the lager-beer! When men come to you with new theories, you should say, We must test these, or see them tested by long time. The Cross--the weird, grim, ghastly Cross--is nineteen centuries old, and it lifts itself up to-day the symbol of universal life. As for these theories and inventions of yours, it is only right that we should see how they bear the stress and the sifting of time. In old time our fathers were wont to come to the Abel of the Bible; venerable men would say, To the law and to the testimony! Perhaps they had too narrow a way of referring to the scriptures; they might make too much of a chapter and a verse, they might not sufficiently compare Scripture with Scripture and get their souls into the very genius of Divine revelation as to speak Biblically rather than textually: but their principle was right. They said, We know nothing of God but what is revealed, we know nothing of the future but what is written in the Book, we know nothing about sin and about redemption except what we are told by the revelation of God, as we believe it to be: therefore let us go to:

III. the Abel of the Bible, take counsel, and so end the matter. I am here to say in my own name, as the result of my own searching and experience, that I can get no answers to the greatest problems of mind and time equal in largeness, in precision, in hopefulness, to the answers that are given in the Bible. There are other answers, but I have found none that can stretch themselves with ease and dignity over the whole space of necessity. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Asking counsel at Abel

It has been supposed that the true interpretation of asking counsel at Abel is that Abel had become famous for its wisdom. In one of the Targums we read: “Remember now that which is written in the book of the law, to ask a city concerning peace at the first. Hast thou done so to ask of Abel if they will make peace.” No certain interpretation can be given to the words; but we are at liberty to remember that even superstition has sometimes played a useful part in history. Men have attached importance to times, places, emotions, and by so much have been checked in their impulses and subdued in their fiery ambitions. (J. Parker, D. D.)
.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Samuel 20:18". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/2-samuel-20.html. 1905-1909. New York.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Then she spake, saying, they were wont to speak in old time,.... It was a common saying, a proverbial expression among the ancient sages:

saying, they shall surely ask counsel at Abel, and so they ended the matter. Abel, it seems, had been a city so famous for wise and prudent men, that it was common for the inhabitants of other cities, in the several parts of the kingdom, when any controversy arose among them, to say to one another, since we cannot agree this matter among ourselves, let us go to Abel, and take advice there, and leave it to their arbitration; and so they did, and things were presently brought to an issue, and happily concluded; nay, when the king had a mind to make a decree or law, as R. Isaiah observes, he used to send to Abel to know whether they would submit to it; and if they agreed to it, then he proceeded in it; for other cities followed their example, so famous was this city, and of so great account: now the woman argues from hence, that surely such a renowned city should not hastily be destroyed; but the Targum directs to another sense, and which perhaps is best, and is followed by Jarchi, Kimchi, and others, paraphrasing the words thus,"she spake, saying, I remember now what is written in the book of the law, to ask a city first, saying, (will ye make peace?) so shouldest thou have asked of Abel, will ye make peace, or receive terms of peace?'referring to the law in Deuteronomy 20:10; signifying, if that had been attended to as it ought (for if such methods were to be taken with Heathen cities, much more with a city of Israel, as Abel was), things would soon have been agreed and issued; had Joab upon approaching the city proposed his terms of peace, they would have immediately yielded to them, and so the matter would have ended at once; for they were a peaceable people, as it follows: though Dr. LightfootF2Works, vol. 2. p. 367. gives another sense of these words, that Sheba and his party when they came to the city,"they at first certainly said thus, that they would ask Abel of its peace (or on whose side it was), and so they made the matter entire, or made a show of their own integrity:'by which this woman assured Joab, that the men of Abel had not invited, nor willingly received Sheba and his rebels into the city, but they had deceived them by fawning and false words, pretending only to inquire about the peace and welfare of their city.

Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:18". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/2-samuel-20.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Then she spake, saying, l They were wont to speak in old time, saying, They shall surely ask [counsel] at Abel: and so they ended [the matter].

(l) She shows that the old custom was not to destroy a city before peace was offered, (Deuteronomy 20:10-11).
Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:18". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/2-samuel-20.html. 1599-1645.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Then she spake, saying, They were wont to speak in old time, saying, They shall surely ask counsel at Abel: and so they ended the matter.

Ask counsel — This city which thou art about to destroy, is no mean and contemptible one, but so honourable and considerable for its wisdom, that when any differences arose among any of the neighbours, they used proverbially to say, We will ask the opinion and advice as the men of Abel about it, and we will stand to their arbitration; and so all parties were satisfied, and disputes ended.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:18". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/2-samuel-20.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

2 Samuel 20:18 Then she spake, saying, They were wont to speak in old time, saying, They shall surely ask [counsel] at Abel: and so they ended [the matter].

Ver. 18. They shall surely ask counsel at Abel,] q.d., You need not take scorn to take my counsel, since I was born and bred at Abel, the common oracle of the whole country, and so famous for wisdom, as some places are for folly, (a) that people came from all parts to take advice there; the men of Abel were so well seen in (b) the laws. Most interpreters think that in these words, read according to the margin, she had respect to Deuteronomy 20:10-11, and blamed Joab that he had not first made proposals of peace: therefore in the next verse she saith in the name of her city, "I am one of those which are peaceable," i.e., which will not refuse the offer and order of peace.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:18". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/2-samuel-20.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

According to this translation the sense is, This city which thou art about to destroy is no mean and contemptible one, but so honourable and considerable for its wisdom, and the wise people in it, that when any differences did arise among any of the neighbours, they used proverbially to say, We will ask the opinion and advice of the men of Abel about it, and we will stand to their arbitration; and so all parties were satisfied, and disputes ended. But there is another translation in the margin, embraced also by some others, which seems to be the best:

They (i. e. the citizens of this city) plainly (or, commonly) spake (among themselves) in the beginning, (to wit, when Sheba and his men first came into the city, and they were informed, that Joab was pursuing him,) saying, Surely they will ask of Abel, and so make an end. They will peaceably expostulate the business with us, and inquire why we received Sheba into our city; and whether we would deliver him up into their hands, and would inform us of the reason of their hostile attempt upon us, and offer to us conditions of peace, which by God’s law, Deuteronomy 20:10, they were to do even to strange, and much more to Israelitish cities. So she doth both modestly reprove Joab for the neglect of this duty, and oblige him to the performance of it.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:18". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/2-samuel-20.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

18.They were wont to speak in old time — Translated thus, the verse means that in former times Abel had been celebrated for the wisdom of its inhabitants, and persons were wont to resort thither for counsel. This wise woman, by calling attention to this fact, suggests that the counsel of Abel may be worth hearing now. This is the interpretation adopted by most critics; but to us the translation in the margin seems to suggest a simpler interpretation. We would translate and explain as follows: They (the inhabitants of Abel) would repeatedly speak at the beginning, (of the siege, when Joab’s army first appeared before the walls and began to cast up embankments,) saying, They will surely ask in Abel; (that is, ask what they want, or propose terms of peace before they proceed to destroy the city, as the law required, Deuteronomy 20:10;) and so they will cease, (that is, cease from or make an end of the war. They will thus cause the battle to cease.) According to this interpretation, the wise woman blamed Joab for beginning a siege without consulting its inhabitants and making known the object of his attack; and the sequel clearly implies that he had begun the siege without first demanding the surrender of Sheba.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:18". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-samuel-20.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

End of their disputes, (Haydock) as Abela was remarkable for its wise counsellors, (Menochius) and equitable decisions; (Haydock) so that many came, from a distance, to consult the learned of this city. (Calmet) --- Others suppose that she refers to the law, which ordains that peace shall first be proposed, and, if this had been done, the affair would long ago have been decided, Deuteronomy xx. 10. (Jonathan; Estius; &c.) --- Hebrew, "They spoke a word at first: Let them ask at Abela, and so they shall make an end." Much must be supplied to make the text conformable to the former explication. We may translate, "They said, in ancient times: Let those who require more, go seek at Abela: so they finished their discourse." (Calmet) --- Protestants, "They shall surely ask counsel at Abel: and so the ended the matter."

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:18". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/2-samuel-20.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

They shall, &c. Figure of speech Parcemia. App-6.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:18". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/2-samuel-20.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Then she spake, saying, They were wont to speak in old time, saying, They shall surely ask counsel at Abel: and so they ended the matter.

They were wont to speak in old time. The translation on the margin gives a better meaning, which is to this effect: When the people saw thee lay siege to Abel, they said, Surely he will ask if we will have peace; because the law (Deuteronomy 20:10) prescribes that he should offer peace to strangers, much more then to Israelite cities; and if he do this, we shall soon bring things to an amicable agreement, because we are a peaceable people. The answer of Joab brings out the character of that ruthless veteran as a patriot at heart, who, on securing the author of this insurrection, was ready to put a stop to further bloodshed, and release the peaceable inhabitants from all molestation.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:18". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/2-samuel-20.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(18) Ask counsel at Abel.—The simplest and most obvious explanation is here the true one, viz., that Abel had become proverbial for its wisdom. An ancient Jewish interpretation, which has been incorporated into the Targum, is, however, of sufficient interest to be mentioned: “Remember now that which is written in the book of the Law to ask a city concerning peace at the first? Hast thou done so, to ask of Abel if they will make peace?” The reference is to Deuteronomy 20:10, &c.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:18". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/2-samuel-20.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Then she spake, saying, They were wont to speak in old time, saying, They shall surely ask counsel at Abel: and so they ended the matter.
They were wont, etc
or, They plainly spake in the beginning, saying, Surely they will ask of Abel, and so make an end.
Deuteronomy 20:10,11
Reciprocal: Matthew 5:21 - it

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:18". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/2-samuel-20.html.