was as if a man had inquired of the oracle of God; such an opinion was entertained of it, so well satisfied were they with it, and as confident of success in taking it, as if the Lord himself had been consulted by Urim and Thummim; this is a very great exaggeration of Ahithophel's counsel, and is observed as a reason why it was so readily taken, though so bad in the preceding instance:
so was all the counsel of Ahithophel, both with David and with Absalom; Ahithophel was a crafty man, a time server, that temporized with princes, and knew how to suit his counsels with their tempers and interests: to David he gave good counsel, what was acceptable with him, and to Absalom bad counsel, which was pleasing to him.
INTRODUCTION TO SECOND SAMUEL 17
This chapter relates the advice Ahithophel gave to march out speedily with a number of men in pursuit of David, which at first seemed agreeable, 2 Samuel 17:1; but Hushai's opinion being asked, and he giving counsel to raise a larger army, which required time, and was taken to, hereby the counsel of Ahithophel was defeated, 2 Samuel 17:5; upon which he hanged himself, 2 Samuel 17:23; these different counsels being communicated by Hushai to the priests, they found means to transmit them to David, with an instruction to him to pass over Jordan immediately; which he did, and pitched in Gilead, and whither he was followed by Absalom, 2 Samuel 17:15; and where he met with a supply of provisions for his army from some eminent persons in and near that place, 2 Samuel 17:27.
let me now choose out twelve thousand men: out of those that were with Absalom, which shows their number to be large; and twelve thousand are pitched upon with respect to the twelve tribes of Israel, a thousand from every tribe; Josephus has only ten thousand:
and I will arise and pursue after David this night; he took upon him to be general of the army, as well as a counsellor; or this he said to show how confident he was of the success of his counsel, that if Absalom, or any other, should decline the conduct of the army upon it, as a hazardous attempt, he would undertake it himself; or rather it may be, he was not willing that Absalom should go out in person with the army, not so much for his own safety, as lest through his affection for the king he should spare him, when he fell into his hands, or they two should be reconciled; he proposed to do it that night, partly for expedition, no time being to be lost, and partly for the greater surprise of David and his men.
and weak handed; while the number of men with him is small, and before the people from different parts can come to his assistance:
and will make him afraid; strike terror into him and his then, by surprising them suddenly in the night with such a number of men:
and all the people that are with him shall flee; one one way, and another another, for their own security, and leave David alone:
and I will smite the king only; dispatch him, and let the people flee without pursuing them.
the man whom thou seekest is as if all returned; meaning David, whom he speaks of contemptibly, and whose life it seems Absalom sought, as well as his crown; and he being dead, it would be all over at once with the people; they would immediately return to their own habitations, and yield obedience to Absalom as the rightful heir and successor; all depended on his death, he intimates: from whence it appears that Abarbinel is wrong in suggesting that Absalom did not design to take away the life of his father, only to secure the kingdom to himself in his father's lifetime, who he understood had disposed of it by his will to Solomon; but here Ahithophel plainly declares the intention of Absalom, nor would he have proposed in plain terms to take away the king's life, had Absalom been averse to it; and it is plain by what follows that the thing was pleasing to him:
so all the people shall be in peace; both parties coalesce under the government of Absalom, and live peaceably under it, and so an entire end of the war.
and let us hear likewise what he saith; which he might say without any diffidence about the "counsel" given, but knowing that in the multitude of counsellors there is safety; and Hushai being a wise and good counsellor, he might hope and expect that he would give the same advice, and so strengthen and confirm it.
Absalom spake unto him, saying, Ahithophel hath spoken after this manner; and then related the counsel he had given as before:
shall we do after his saying? is it right to proceed on this scheme, and carry it into execution?
if not, speak thou; thy mind freely, without any reserve, or fear of giving any offence.
the counsel that Ahithophel hath given is not good at this time; he owns that Ahithophel was a good counsellor, and that the counsel he gave was for the most part, if not always, good, but what he gave at this time was not so; the wisest of men may sometimes be mistaken. Abarbinel thinks he respects his former counsel, particularly that that was good, advising him to defile his father's bed, 2 Samuel 16:21; but this was not, for which he gives the following reasons.
and they be chafed in their minds; or "bitter in soul" (f); not merely filled with trouble and anguish, and depressed in their spirits, on account of that, as the phrase sometimes signifies; but enraged and full of wrath at the rebellion raised against their prince, which obliged them with him to leave their habitations; and now being desperate, their all lying at stake, their wives and children, their families and estates, they would fight furiously in the defence of the king and themselves, and not so soon flee as Ahithophel had represented:
as a bear robbed of her whelps in the field; a bear is a very furious creature, especially a she bear, and the more when it has whelps, and more so when deprived of them (g), when it ranges about in the field, and in its fury attacks whomsoever it meets with; See Gill on Hosea 13:8,
and thy father is a man of war; not only bold and courageous, but expert and skilful in all the arts of war and not easy to be surprised and circumvented, as Ahithophel intimated:
and will not lodge with the people; in the camp, but at some distance from it; partly to prevent any traitorous design upon him in it, and partly that he might not be surprised by the enemy, knowing that their chief view was to seize his person; and therefore as it would not be easy to find him where he was, he could not be smitten alone, as Ahithophel proposed.
(f) "amari animo", Pagninus, Montanus; "amaro animo", V. L. Tigurine version, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (g) Aristot. Hist. Animal. l. 6. c. 18. & 9. 1.
and it will come to pass, when some of them be overthrown at the first; that is, some of Absalom's party, on whom David and his men coming out of an ambush should fall, and make a slaughter among them first, before they could do anything of consequence; and so having got the first advantage, it would serve to animate them, and dishearten their enemies:
that whosoever heareth it; at that time, or the next day:
will say, there is a slaughter among the people that follow Absalom; there has been a defeat of them, and that may cause a defection.
for all Israel knoweth that thy father is a mighty man, and they which be with him are valiant men: this is so universally known that it cannot be denied.
(h) , Moschi Idyll 2. ver. 45. (i) Homer. Iliad. 5. ver 639. Iliad. 7. ver. 228. Odyss. 11. ver. 279. Vid. Hesiod. Theogoniam prope finem. (k) Descriptio Africae, l. 3. p. 400. (l) Ib. p. 474.
that all Israel be generally gathered unto thee, from Dan even to Beersheba, as the sand that is by the sea for multitude: not all the inhabitants of the land, but such as are fit to bear arms, or that were soldiers, employed in military affairs, in keeping garrisons, guarding the coasts, &c. even the militia of the nation, from the extreme boundary of it on the north to the extreme boundary of it on the south; in such a direction lay Dan and Beersheba. This is opposed to the counsel of Ahithophel, which was only to select twelve thousand men, and send them against David at once; and this is designed chiefly to gain time, since such a collection could not be made soon, and so David would have more time to get farther off, and to prepare the better for his defence; and this advice might be the more agreeable to Absalom, as it promised a greater certainty of success through numbers, and might feed the vanity and ambition of that prince to have such a large army under him, as well as suggested that all Israel were on his side, and at his command, and might easily be gathered to him:
and that thou go to battle in thine own person; this was another part of his advice opposed to the counsel of Ahithophel, who proposed to have the command of the twelve thousand men himself, and to leave Absalom at Jerusalem; now Hushai suggests that it would be more to his interest and his honour to take command of the army himself, and go in person into the field of battle; since this would serve to animate his soldiers, when they saw their prince at the head of them, and he would have the glory of the victory, which he might insinuate hereby Ahithophel sought to deprive him of: it is in the Hebrew text, that "thy face" or "faces go to battle" (m), where he might be seen in person, and have the oversight and direction of things himself; the Targum is,"and thou shalt go at the head of us all;''and this advice Hushai was directed to give, and which was taken, that Absalom might fall in battle.
(m) "facies tuae euntes", Montanus, "facies tua vadat", Pagninus.
and we will light upon him as the dew falleth upon the ground; whose drops are innumerable, and cover all the ground where they fall; and the phrase not only expresses their numbers, but the irresistible force they should come with, and the manner, secretly, unawares, opportunely; the Romans had a sort of soldiers, called from the dew "rorarii", who carried light armour, and fought first in the battle, from whence they had their name, because dew falls before it rains (n):
and of him, and of all the men that are with him, there shall not be left so much as one; so that for the future Absalom would sit easy upon the throne, there being none left to molest him.
(n) Valtrinus de Milit. Roman. l. 3. c. 3.
then shall all Israel bring ropes to that city; scaling ropes, and thereby get upon and over the walls of it, and take it by storm; or engines worked with ropes, used for the demolishing of cities; so Tacitus speaks of "vincula tormentorum", the bands or ropes of engines, as Grotius observes; the Targum renders it by "armies", thus,"all Israel shall be gathered against the city, and surround it with armies,''besiege it in form, and so surround it that David could not possibly make his escape out of it, nor could it hold out long against such numerous forces; or this is an hyperbolical expression, as Kimchi calls it, signifying that their numbers would be so many, that they could soon and easily demolish it:
and we will draw it into the river; by the side of which it was built, or the ditch or trench around it, or the valley near it, that being built on an hill; and by this boasting, bragging, hyperbolical expression, he signifies that they should be able easily and utterly to destroy its walls, buildings, and towers, as if a number of men were to fasten a rope about anything, and by their main strength, and through their numbers, draw it down whither they pleased:
until there be not one small stone found there; and this being the case, David and his men must inevitably fall into their hands, and none escape.
the counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel; it appeared to them most plausible, and most likely to be attended with success:
for the Lord had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel; for so it was to Absalom and his party the best and wisest that could be given them; but it was the Lord's will it should be defeated, and therefore the minds of Absalom and of the elders of Israel were blinded:
to the intent that the Lord might bring evil upon Absalom; his person and cause; that his cause might be ruined, and he himself slain in battle; see Proverbs 19:21.
thus and thus did Ahithophel counsel Absalom and the elders of Israel; relating to them in express words what he advised to:
and thus and thus have I counselled; telling them in what manner he had given his counsel.
saying, lodge not this night in the plains of the wilderness; which reached to Jericho; this advice he gave, because he knew not whether his counsel would be abode by, though preferred; Absalom and the elders of Israel might change their minds, and Ahithophel might, by the strength of his oratory, prevail upon them after all to follow his advice; and therefore, to guard against the worst, he judged it most prudential in David to make all the haste he could from that place where he was, and not continue a night longer in it; for, if Ahithophel's counsel should take place, he would be in pursuit of him that very night:
but speedily pass over; the river Jordan:
lest the king be swallowed up, and all the people that are with him: be destroyed by the forces Ahithophel should bring with him, which he would not be able to withstand.
(for they might not be seen to come into the city); having been charged by their parents to continue there for the sake of carrying intelligence to David, or because suspected by Absalom's party of carrying on such an intrigue:
and a wench went and told them: what Hushai had communicated to the priests, and what was his advice to David; this girl is supposed by Kimchi and Abarbinel to be of the family of Zadok, by whom she was sufficiently instructed to tell her message, and of whom there would be no suspicion:
and they went and told King David; the sons of the priests went and related to him all that had been transmitted to them.
but they went both of them away quickly; made all the haste they could with their message to David:
and came to a man's house in Bahurim; where very probably they had been informed David had been, whither he came weary, and had refreshment, 2 Samuel 16:14; or rather, perceiving they were discovered and pursued, they turned in hither, the first place they came to, for safety:
which had a well in his court; which they observed, and was the reason of their turning in:
whither they went down; to hide themselves from their pursuers, it being dry, as sometimes wells were in the summertime: Josephus says (p), a woman let them down by a rope.
(o) Antiqu. l. 7. c. 9. sect. 7. (p) Ibid.
and spread ground corn thereon: just taken out of the mill, before it was sifted, while in the bran; or corn unhusked, or just threshed out, in order to be dried in the sun, and then parched; or wheat bruised for that purpose: Josephus says (q) they were locks of wool she spread:
and the thing was not known; that the young men were in the well.
(q) Antiqu. l. 7. c. 9. sect. 7.
they said, where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan? calling them by their names, being persons well known, and as to them, so to the woman of the house, as they supposed:
and the woman said unto them, they be gone over the brook of water; the river Jordan; so the Targum,"they have already passed over Jordan;''
this was a lie she told them, which is not to be justified; the Vulgate Latin version,"they passed over hastily, having drank a little water;''and so Josephus (r) in some copies:
and when they had sought and could not find them; not only searched that house, but very probably others in Bahurim:
they returned to Jerusalem; to give an account what success they had.
(r) Antiqu. l. 7. c. 9. sect. 7. Hudson. not. in ib.
that they came up out of the well; the sons of the priests, being informed by the woman that they were gone; Josephus (s) says they were drawn up by the woman with a rope:
and went and told King David; who was now in the plain of the wilderness, perhaps near Jericho, and not a great way from Jordan, to whom they related the whole of their message:
and said unto David; as they were directed:
arise, and pass quickly over the water; the river Jordan:
for thus hath Ahithophel counselled against you; to come with twelve thousand men, and fall upon him that very night; and it was not certain his counsel would be rejected; and therefore it was advisable for David to prepare against the worst.
(s) Antiqu. l. 7. c. 9. sect. 7. Hudson. not. in ib.
by the morning light there lacked not one of them that was not gone over Jordan; they travelled all night, and before it was morning they had all passed the river in boats, or through the fords, and not one was lost in the passage, nor any deserted, see John 17:12; and now perhaps David penned the forty second and forty third psalms, Psalm 42:1.
he saddled his ass; or ordered it to be saddled:
and arose, and gat him home to his house, to his city; which was Giloh in the tribe of Judah, 2 Samuel 15:12,
and put his household in order; made his will, and disposed of his estates, see Isaiah 38:1; or "commanded his house" or "household" (t); gave orders and instructions, both relating to himself when dead, where and how he should be buried, and to his family, how they should behave to one another and among their neighbours, and towards their superiors; and particularly, the Jews say (u), he gave them this charge, not to rebel against the government of the house of David:
and hanged himself; so to his other sins added that of suicide, which was done deliberately, as the preceding clause shows; this he did, partly because his proud spirit could not bear it that his counsel should be slighted, and that of another be preferred to it; and partly because he plainly foresaw that the cause of Absalom would be ruined by neglecting his counsel and following that of Hushai's, whereby he himself would fall into the hands of David, and be put to death by him as a traitor; and he chose to die by his own hand, and not his; and the rather, to prevent the confiscation of his goods and estates as a traitor, and his heirs being deprived of them; though some think he died of a disease, by strangling or suffocation in the throat, was choked through grief and trouble; so R. Elias observes (w), that some say that this disease came upon him through the greatness of his grief of mind and trouble of soul, because his counsel was not taken, and he died of strangling; and they say this, because they reckon it an absurdity for so wise and understanding a man as he was to hang himself; but the case seems very clear that he did kill himself; the Jews say (x) he was but thirty three years of age when he died; for being a bloody and deceitful man, he did not live out half his days, Psalm 55:23; which psalm was penned on his account; but one so young could hardly be a counsellor of David, and so famous for his wise counsel; and besides, if so young, could not be the grandfather of Bathsheba, as the Jews say:
and died, and was buried in the sepulchre of his father; though he died an ignominious death, he had an honourable burial; it perhaps not being usual in those times to put any mark of infamy on those that killed themselves, by refusing them interment in the common burying places of their friends and neighbours.
(t) "praecepit ad domum suam", Montanus. (u) T. Hieros. Sanhedrin, fol. 29. 1.((w) In Tishbi, p. 129. & David de Pomis, Lexic. fol. 148. 2.((x) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 106. 2.
and Absalom passed over Jordan, he, and all the men of Israel with him; not directly after David, but some time after, when, according to the counsel of Hushai, he had gathered all the warlike men of Israel to him that he could, and with this army pursued his father; not content to drive him to the other side Jordan, sought to seize his person, and take away his life, and so secure the crown and kingdom to him, of which he made no doubt, having such a numerous army, on which he relied.
which Amasa was a man's son whose name was Ithra, an Israelite; he is called Jether the Ishmaelite, 1 Chronicles 2:17; either because he was an Ishmaelite by birth, and being proselyted to the Jewish religion, was called an Israelite; or rather he was an Israelite by birth, and having sojourned in the land of Ishmael some time, was called an Ishmaelite, as Uriah the Hittite, and others; and when Amasa is called a "man's son", it means a great man, as Kimchi observes:
that went in to Abigail, the daughter of Nahash, sister to Zeruiah,
Joab's mother: so that Joab and Amasa, the generals of David and Absalom, were own cousins, sisters' children, and David uncle to them both; for Abigail and Zeruiah were David's sisters, 1 Chronicles 2:16; children of Jesse, whose name is here called Nahash, having two names, or this was his surname; though others think Nahash is the name of a woman, the wife of Jesse, and that these two sisters had two mothers, but one father; it seems by this expression, "went in to", as if Amasa was not begotten in the conjugal state, but was illegitimate.
that Shobi the son of Nahash of Rabbah of the children of Ammon: who was either the son, or rather the brother of Hanun king of the Ammonites, that used David's ambassadors in so shameful a manner, whom David overcame and deposed, and set up this brother in his room; who had showed his dislike of his brother's conduct, and now makes a grateful return to David for his favours; though some say this was Hanun himself, as Jarchi, now become a proselyte, which is not so likely; others take this man to be an Israelite that continued in Rabbah, the metropolis of the Ammonites, after it was taken by David:
and Machir the son of Ammiel of Lodebar; the same that brought up Mephibosheth, from whom David received him and took him off of his hands, for which now he requited him, see 2 Samuel 9:5,
and Barzillai the Gileadite of Rogelim; a place that lay under the hills of Gilead (y); it had its name from the "fullers" who dwelt here for the convenience of fountains of water to wash their clothes in.
(y) Fuller's Pisgah-View, B. 2. c. 3. sect. 10. p. 94.
and basins, and earthen vessels; to put their food and liquors in, and eat and drink out of, and for other services:
and wheat, and barley, and flour, and parched corn; or "kali", which was made of the above corn ground into meal, and mixed with water or milk, and eaten with honey or oil, as there was another sort made of pulse, later mentioned:
and beans, and lentiles, and parched pulse; or "kali", made of these in the above manner. Some think (a) coffee is meant, but without reason.
(z) Vid. Aristophan. in Pluto, p. 55. (a) Sterringa, Animadv. Philol. Sacr. p. 48.