2 Samuel 18


David reviews and arranges the people, and gives the command

to Joab, Abishai, and Ittai, 1, 2.

On his expressing a desire to accompany them to the battle,

they will not permit him, 3.

He reviews them as they go out of the city, and gives

commandment to the captains to save Absalom, 4, 5.

They join battle with Absalom and his army, who are discomfited

with the loss of twenty thousand men, 6-8.

Absalom, fleeing away, is caught by his head in an oak; Joab

finds him, and transfixes him with three darts, 9-15.

The servants of David are recalled, and Absalom buried, 16-18.

Ahimaaz and Cushi bring the tidings to David, who is greatly

distressed at hearing of the death of Absalom, and makes

bitter lamentation for him, 19-33.


Verse 1. And set captains of thousands] By this time David's

small company was greatly recruited; but what its number was we

cannot tell. Josephus says it amounted to four thousand men.

Others have supposed that they amounted to ten thousand; for thus

they understand a clause in 2Sa 18:3, which they think should be

read, We are now ten thousand strong.

Verse 3. But now thou art worth ten thousand of us] The particle

attah, now, is doubtless a mistake for the pronoun

attah, thou; and so it appears to have been read by the

Septuagint, the Vulgate, and the Chaldee, and by two of

Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS.

Verse 5. Deal gently-with the young man] David was the father of

this worthless young man; and is it to be wondered at that he

feels as a father? Who in his circumstances, that had such

feelings as every man should have, would have felt, or acted


Verse 7. Twenty thousand men.] Whether these were slain on the

field of battle, or whether they were reckoned with those slain in

the wood of Ephraim, we know not.

Verse 8. The wood devoured more people] It is generally supposed

that, when the army was broken, they betook themselves to the

wood, fell into pits, swamps, &c., and, being entangled, were hewn

down by David's men; but the Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic, state

that they were devoured by wild beasts in the wood.

Verse 9. 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, 2Sa 18:14,

he was yet alive, an expression which intimates he was nearly


Verse 10. I saw Absalom hanged in an oak.] He must have hung

there a considerable time. this man saw him hanging; how long he

had been hanging before he saw him, we cannot tell. He came and

informed Joab; this must have taken up a considerable time. Joab

went and pierced him through with three darts; this must have

taken up still more time. It is therefore natural to conclude that

his life must have been nearly gone after having been so long

suspended, and probably was past recovery, even if Joab had taken

him down.

Verse 11. And a girdle.] The military belt was the chief

ornament of a soldier, and was highly prized in all ancient

nations; it was also a rich present from one chieftain to another.

Jonathan gave his to David, as the highest pledge of his esteem

and perpetual friendship, 1Sa 18:4. And

Ajax gave his to Hector, as a token of the highest respect.-Hom.

Il. vii., ver. 305.

Verse 13. Thou thyself wouldest have set thyself against me.]

This is a strong appeal to Joab's loyalty, and respect for the

orders of David; but he was proof against every fine feeling, and

against every generous sentiment.

Verse 14. I may not tarry thus with thee] He had nothing to say

in vindication of the purpose he had formed.

Thrust them through the heart of Absalom] He was determined to

make sure work, and therefore he pierced his heart.

Joab should have obeyed the king's commandment: and yet the

safety of the state required the sacrifice of Absalom. But

independently of this, his life was quadruply forfeited to the

law:-1. In having murdered his brother Amnon. 2. In having

excited an insurrection in the state. 3. In having taken up arms

against his own father, De 21:18, 21. 4. In having lain with his

father's concubines, Le 18:29. Long ago he should have died by

the hand of justice; and now all his crimes are visited on him in

his last act of rebellion. Yet, in the present circumstances,

Joab's act was base and disloyal, and a cowardly murder.

Verse 15. Ten young men-smote Absalom and slew him.] That is,

they all pierced the body; but there could be no life in it after

three darts had been thrust through the heart: but they added as

much as would have killed him had he been alive.

Verse 16. Joab blew the trumpet] He knew that the rebellion was

now extinguished by the death of Absalom; and was not willing that

any farther slaughter should be made of the deluded people.

Verse 17. And laid a very great heap of stones] This was the

method of burying heroes, and even traitors, the heap of stones

being designed to perpetuate the memory of the event, whether good

or bad. The ancient cairns or heaps of stones, in different parts

of the world, are of this kind. The various tumuli or barrows in

England are the same as the cairns in different parts of Ireland

and Scotland. In the former, stones were not plenty; hence they

heaped up great mounds of earth.

Verse 18. Reared up for himself a pillar] There was a marble

pillar in the time of Josephus called Absalom's pillar: and there

is one shown to the present day under this name; but it is

comparatively a modern structure.

Absalom's place.] Literally Absalom's HAND.

See Clarke on 1Sa 15:12.

Verse 21. Tell the king what thou hast seen] At this time the

death of Absalom was not publicly known; but Joab had given Cushi

private information of it. This Ahimaaz had not, for he could not

tell the king whether Absalom were dead. To this Joab seems to

refer, 2Sa 18:22: "Thou hast no tidings ready."

Verse 24. David sat between the two gates] He was probably in

the seat of justice. Before the gate of the city it is supposed

there was an enclosure, which had its gate also; David sat in the

space between these two doors. Over the larger gate there appears

to have been a turret, on which a sentinel or watchman stood

continually, and gave information of what he saw in the country.

Verse 25. If he be alone, there is tidings] That is, good

tidings. For if the battle had been lost men would have been

running in different directions through the country.

Verse 29. I saw a great tumult] It was very probable that

Ahimaaz did not know of the death of Absalom; he had seen the rout

of his army, but did not know of his death. Others think he knew

all, and told this untruth that he might not be the messenger of

bad news to David.

Verse 30. Stand here.] He intended to confront two messengers,

and compare their accounts.

Verse 32. Is the young man Absalom safe?] This was the utmost of

his solicitude, and it well merited the reproof which Joab gave

him, 2Sa 19:5.

Verse 33. 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:-

Beni Abshalom, beni!

My son Absalom! O my son!

Beni Abshalom!

O my son Absalom!

Mi yitten muthi ani thachteicha.

O that I had died in thy stead!

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?

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