2 Samuel 15

CHAPTER XV

Absalom conspires against his father, and uses various methods

to seduce the people from their allegiance to their king, 14.

Under pretence of paying a vow at Hebron, he obtains leave from

David to go thither; and, by emissaries sent through the land,

prepares the people for revolt, 7-11.

He gains over Ahithophel, David's counsellor, 12.

David is informed of the general defection of the people; on

which he, and his life-guards and friends, leave the city, and

go towards the wilderness, 13-18.

The steadfast friendship of Ittai, the Gittite, 19-22.

David's affecting departure from the city, 23.

He sends Zadok and Abiathar with the ark back to Jerusalem,

24-29.

He goes up Mount Olivet; prays that the counsel of Ahithophel

may be turned into foolishness, 30-31.

He desires Hushai to return to Jerusalem, and to send him word

of all that occurs, 32-37.

NOTES ON CHAP. XV

Verse 1. Absalom prepared him chariots and horses] After all

that has been said to prove that horses here mean horsemen, I

think it most likely that the writer would have us to understand

chariots drawn by horses; not by mules or such like cattle.

Fifty men to run before him.] Affecting in every respect the

regal state by this establishment. Of this man Calmet collects the

following character: "He was a bold, violent, revengeful, haughty,

enterprising, magnificent, eloquent, and popular prince; he was

also rich, ambitious, and vain of his personal accomplishments:

after the death of Amnon, and his reconciliation to his father, he

saw no hindrance in his way to the throne. He despised Solomon

because of the meanness of his birth, and his tender years. He was

himself of the blood royal, not only by his father David, but also

by his mother Maacah, daughter to Talmai, king of Geshur: and,

doubtless, in his own apprehension, of sufficient age, authority,

and wisdom, to sustain the weight of government. There was

properly now no competitor in his way: Amnon, David's first-born,

was dead. Of Chileab, his second son by Abigail, we hear nothing;

and Absalom was the third: see 2Sa 3:2-5. He, therefore, seemed

to stand nearest to the throne; but his sin was, that he sought it

during his father's life, and endeavoured to dethrone him in order

to sit in his stead."

Verse 6. So Absalom stole the hearts] His manner of doing this

is circumstantially related above. He was thoroughly versed in the

arts of the demagogue; and the common people, the vile mass, heard

him gladly. He used the patriot's arguments, and was every thing

of the kind, as far as promise could go. He found fault with men

in power; and he only wanted their place, like all other pretended

patriots, that he might act as they did, or worse.

Verse 7. After forty years] There is no doubt that this reading

is corrupt, though supported by the commonly printed Vulgate, the

Septuagint, and the Chaldee. But the Syriac has [Syriac] arba

shanin, FOUR years; the Arabic the same [Arabic] arba shinin, FOUR

years; and Josephus has the same; so also the Sixtine edition of

the Vulgate, and several MSS. of the same version. Theodoret also

reads four, not forty; and most learned men are of opinion that

arbaim, FORTY, is an error for arba, FOUR; yet

this reading is not supported by any Hebrew MS. yet discovered.

But two of those collated by Dr. Kennicott have yom

instead of shanah, i.e., forty DAYS, instead of forty

YEARS; and this is a reading more likely to be true than that in

the commonly received text. We know that Absalom did stay THREE

years with his grandfather at Geshur, 2Sa 13:38; and this

probably was a year after his return: the era, therefore, may be

the time of his slaying his brother Amnon; and the four years

include the time from his flight till the conspiracy mentioned

here.

Verse 8. While I abode at Geshur in Syria] Geshur, the country

of Talmai, was certainly not in Syria, but lay on the south of

Canaan, in or near Edom, as is evident from Jud 1:10;

1Sa 27:8; 2Sa 13:37. Hence it is probable that

Aram, Syria, is a mistake for Edom; daleth

and resh being easily interchangeable. Edom is the reading

both of the Syriac and Arabic.

I will serve the Lord.] Here he pretended to be a strict

follower of Jehovah, even while he was in a heathen country; and

now he desires liberty to go and perform a vow at Hebron, which he

pretends to have made while he was resident at Geshur. And all

this was the more perfectly to organize his system of rebellion

against his venerable father.

Verse 10. Absalom sent spies] These persons were to go into

every tribe; and the trumpet was to be blown as a signal for all

to arise, and proclaim Absalom in every place. The trumpet was

probably used as a kind of telegraph by the spies: trumpet

exciting trumpet from place to place; so that, in a few minutes

all Israel would hear the proclamation.

Verse 11. Went two hundred men] These were probably soldiers,

whom he supposed would be of considerable consequence to him. They

had been seduced by his specious conduct, but knew nothing of his

present design.

Verse 12. Sent for Ahithophel] When Absalom got him, he in

effect got the prime minister of the kingdom to join him.

Verse 13. The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom.] It

is very difficult to account for this general defection of the

people. Several reasons are given: 1. David was old or afflicted,

and could not well attend to the administration of justice in the

land. 2. It does appear that the king did not attend to the

affairs of state, and that there were no properly appointed judges

in the land; see 2Sa 15:3. 3. Joab's power was overgrown; he was

wicked and insolent, oppressive to the people, and David was

afraid to execute the laws against him. 4. There were still some

partisans of the house of Saul, who thought the crown not fairly

obtained by David. 6. David was under the displeasure of the

Almighty, for his adultery with Bath-sheba, and his murder of

Uriah; and God let his enemies loose against him. 6. There are

always troublesome and disaffected men in every state, and under

every government; who can never rest, and are ever hoping for

something from a change. 7. Absalom appeared to be the real and

was the undisputed heir to the throne; David could not, in the

course of nature, live very long; and most people are more

disposed to hail the beams of the rising, than exult in those of

the setting, sun. No doubt some of these causes operated, and

perhaps most of them exerted less or more influence in this most

scandalous business.

Verse 14. David said-Arise-let us flee] This, I believe, was the

first time that David turned his back to his enemies. And why did

he now flee? Jerusalem, far from not being in a state to sustain a

siege, was so strong that even the blind and the lame were

supposed to be a sufficient defence for the walls, see 2Sa 5:6.

And he had still with him his faithful Cherethites and Pelethites;

besides six hundred faithful Gittites, who were perfectly willing

to follow his fortunes. There does not appear any reason why such

a person, in such circumstances, should not act on the defensive;

at least till he should be fully satisfied of the real complexion

of affairs. But he appears to take all as coming from the hand of

God; therefore he humbles himself, weeps, goes barefoot, and

covers his head! He does not even hasten his departure, for the

habit of mourners is not the habit of those who are flying before

the face of their enemies. He sees the storm, and he yields to

what he conceives to be the tempest of the Almighty.

Verse 17. And tarried in a place] He probably waited till he saw

all his friends safely out of the city.

Verse 19. Thou art a stranger, and also an exile.] Some suppose

that Ittai was the son of Achish, king of Gath, who was very much

attached to David, and banished from his father's court on that

account. He and his six hundred men are generally supposed to have

been proselytes to the Jewish religion.

Verse 20. Mercy and truth be with thee.] May God ever show thee

mercy, as thou showest it to me, and his truth ever preserve thee

from error and delusion!

Verse 23. The brook Kidron] This was an inconsiderable brook,

and only furnished with water in winter, and in the rains. See

Joh 18:1.

Verse 24. Bearing the ark] The priests knew that God had given

the kingdom to David; they had no evidence that he had deposed

him: they therefore chose to accompany him, and take the ark, the

object of their charge, with them.

Verse 25. Carry back the ark] David shows here great confidence

in God, and great humility. The ark was too precious to be exposed

to the dangers of his migrations; he knew that God would restore

him if he delighted in him, and he was not willing to carry off

from the city of God that without which the public worship could

not be carried on. He felt, therefore, more for this public

worship and the honour of God, than he did for his own personal

safety.

Verse 27. Art not thou a seer? return into the city in peace]

That is, As thou art the only organ of the public worship, that

worship cannot be carried on without thee; and as thou art the

priest of God, thou hast no cause to fear for thy personal

safety: the nation has not abandoned their God, though they have

abandoned their king. It appears also, that he wished these

priests, by means of their sons, Ahimaaz the son of Zadok, and

Jonathan the son of Abiathar, to send him frequent intelligence of

the motions and operations of the enemy.

Verse 30. Had his head covered] This was not only the attitude

of a mourner, but even of a culprit; they usually had their heads

covered when condemned. See the case of Haman. When the king had

pronounced his condemnation, they immediately covered his face,

and led him out to punishment; Es 7:8. See also Quintus Curtius,

De Philota, cap. vi.: I, Lictor; caput obnubito.

Verse 31. Turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.]

Ahithophel was a wise man, and well versed in state affairs; and

God alone could confound his devices.

Verse 32. Where he worshipped God] Though in danger of his life,

he stops on the top of Mount Olivet for prayer! How true is the

adage, Prayer and provender never hinder any man's journey!

Reader, dost thou do likewise?

Hushai the Archite] He was the particular friend of David, and

was now greatly affected by his calamity.

Verse 33. Then thou shalt be a burden unto me.] It appears that

Hushai was not a warrior, but was a wise, prudent, and discreet

man, who could well serve David by gaining him intelligence of

Absalom's conspiracy; and he directs him to form a strict

confederacy with the priests Zadok and Abiathar, and to make use

of their sons as couriers between Jerusalem and David's place of

retreat.

Verse 37. Absalom came into Jerusalem.] It is very probable that

he and his partisans were not far from the city when David left

it, and this was one reason which caused him to hurry his

departure.

READER, behold in the case of David a sad vicissitude of human

affairs, and a fearful proof of their instability. Behold a king,

the greatest that ever lived, a profound politician, an able

general, a brave soldier, a poet of the most sublime genius and

character, a prophet of the Most High God, and the deliverer of

his country, driven from his dominions by his own son, abandoned

by his fickle people, and for a time even by his God! See in his

desolate state that there is none so exalted that God cannot

abase, and none so abased that God cannot exalt. He was forsaken

for a time, and his enemies triumphed; God returned, and his

enemies were confounded. His crime, it is true, was great and God

had declared by Nathan what had now come to pass. God is just, and

in numberless instances sees right to show his displeasure even at

those sins which his mercy has forgiven. In all cases it is a

fearful and bitter thing to sin against the Lord.

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