2 Samuel 17
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
Moreover Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Let me now choose out twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue after David this night:
Then David came to Mahanaim. And Absalom passed over Jordan, he and all the men of Israel with him.
3. The Civil War

CHAPTERS 17:24–18:33 [19:1]

a. David at Mahanaim. 2 Samuel 17:24–29

24THEN [AND] David came to Mahanaim. And Absalom passed over Jordan, he and all the men of Israel with him. 25And Absalom made Amasa captain of the host instead of Joab, which [and] Amasa was a man’s son,13 whose name was Ithra, an Israelite [the Ishmaelite], that went in to Abigail the daughter of Nahash, sister 26to Zeruiah, Joab’s mother. So [And] Israel and Absalom pitched in the land of Gilead. 27And it came to pass, when David was come to Mahanaim, that Shobi the son of Nahash of Rabbah of the children of Ammon, and Machir the son of 28Ammiel of Lo-debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite of Rogelim, Brought14 beds, and basons, and earthen vessels, and wheat, and barley, and flour, and parched corn, and beans, and lentiles, and parched pulse [corn], 29And honey, and butter [curds], and sheep, and cheese of kine, for David, and for the people that were with him, to eat; for they said, The people is [got15] hungry, and weary, and thirsty in the wilderness.

b. The battle in the forest of Ephraim. 2 Samuel 18:1–8

1AND David numbered [mustered] the people that were with him, and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them. 2And David sent forth [gave16] a third part of the people under [into4] the hand of Joab, and a third part under [into] the hand of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, and a third part under [into] the hand of Ittai the Gittite. And the king said unto the people, 3I will surely [om. surely] go forth with you myself also. But [And] the people answered [said], Thou shalt not go forth; for if we flee away, they will not care for [pay attention to17] us; neither [and] if half of us die, will they care for us [they will not pay attention to us]; but now thou [for thou5] art worth ten thousand of us; therefore [and] now it is better that thou succour us out of the city. 4And the king said unto them, What seemeth you best I will do. And the king stood by the gate-side, and all the people came out [went forth] by hundreds and by thousands. 5And the king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with [om. even with] Absalom. And all the people 6heard when the king gave all the captains charge concerning Absalom. So [And] the people went out into the field against Israel; and the battle was [or, took place] 7in the wood of Ephraim. Where [And] the people of Israel were slain [smitten there] before the servants of David, and there was there18 a great slaughter that day 8of twenty thousand men. For [And] the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country; and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.

c. Absalom murdered by Joab. 2 Samuel 18:9–18

9And Absalom met19 the servants of David. And Absalom rode [was riding] upon a [the] mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a [the] great oak [terebinth], and his head caught hold of the oak [terebinth], and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth, and the mule that was under him went away 10[passed on]. And a certain man saw it, and told Joab, and said, Behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak [the terebinth]. And Joab said unto the man that told 11him, And behold, thou sawest him, and why didst thou not smite him there to the ground? and I would have given thee ten shekels [pieces] of silver, and a girdle. 12And the man said unto Joab, Though20 I should receive a thousand shekels [pieces] of silver in mine hand, yet would I not put forth my hand against the king’s son; for in our hearing the king charged thee and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Beware 13that none touch the young man Absalom. Otherwise21 I should have wrought falsehood against mine own life; for there is no matter hid from the king, and thou thyself wouldest have set thyself against me. 14Then said Joab [And Joab said], I may not tarry thus with thee. And he took three darts22 in his hand, and thrust them through [into] the heart of Absalom, while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak [terebinth]. 15And ten young men that bare Joab’s armour compassed about and smote Absalom, and slew him. 16And Joab blew the trumpet, and the people 17returned from pursuing after Israel, for Joab held back23 the people. And24 they took Absalom, and cast him into a [the] great pit in the wood, and laid a very great 18heap of stones upon him; and all Israel fled, every one to his tent. Now [And] Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a [the] pillar,25 which is in the king’s dale; for he said, I have no son to keep my name in remembrance; and he called the pillar after his own name, and it is called unto this day, Absalom’s place [monument].

d. The tidings of joy and grief. David’s lament over Absalom. 2 Samuel 17:19–33 [19:1]

19Then said Ahimaaz, the son of Zadok [And Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said], Let me now run, and bear the king tidings how [om. how] that the Lord [Jehovah] hath avenged [delivered] him of [from] his enemies. 20And Joab said unto him, Thou shalt not bear tidings this day, but thou shalt bear tidings another day; but this day thou shalt bear no tidings, because26 the king’s son is dead. 21Then said Joab to Cushi [And Joab said to the Cushite], Go, tell the king what thou hast seen. And Cushi [the Cushite] bowed himself unto Joab and ran. 22Then said Ahimaaz the son of Zadok [And Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said] yet again to Joab, But, however, let me, I pray thee, also run after Cushi [the Cushite]. And Joab said, Wherefore wilt thou run, my son, seeing that thou hast no tidings ready.27 23But howsoever, said he,28 let me run. And he said unto him, Run. Then [And] Ahimaaz ran by the way of the plain, and overran Cushi [the Cushite].

24And David sat [was sitting] between the two gates; and the watchman went up to the roof over [of] the gate unto the wall, and lifted up his eyes, and looked 25[saw], and behold a man running alone. And the watchman cried [called] and told the king. And the king said, If he be alone, there is tidings in his mouth. And he came apace and drew near [he came nearer and nearer]. 26And the watchman saw another man running; and the watchman called unto the porter,29 and said, Behold, another [om. another, ins. a] man running alone. And the king said, He also bringeth tidings. 27And the watchman said, Methinketh the running of the foremost is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok. And the king said, He is a good man, and cometh with good tidings. 28And Ahimaaz called, and said unto the king, All is well [Peace!] And he fell down to the earth upon his face before the king, and said, Blessed be the Lord [Jehovah] thy God, which hath delivered up the men that lifted up their hand against my lord the king. 29And the king said, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Ahimaaz answered [said] When Joab sent the king’s servant and me [om. the king’s servant and me30] thy servant, I saw a great tumult, but I knew not what it was. 30And the king said unto him [om. unto him], Turn aside, and stand here. And he turned aside and stood still. 31And behold, Cushi [the Cushite] came; and Cushi [the Cushite] said, Tidings, my lord the king, for the Lord [Let my lord the king receive the tidings that Jehovah] hath avenged [delivered] thee this day of [from] all them that rose up against thee. 32And the king said unto Cushi [the Cushite], Is the young man Absalom safe? And Cushi answered [the Cushite said], The enemies of my lord the king, and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt [for evil] be as that [the] young man is [om. is]. [Heb. 19:1]. 33And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God [O that] I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!


a. 2 Samuel 17:24–29. David at Mahanaim

2 Samuel 17:24. To Mahanaim, east of the Jordan (which he had crossed in the night, passing through the Jordan-valley, 2 Samuel 17:22), probably a fortified place, north of the Jabbok, suitable for a rendezvous for gathering an army, whence it was chosen by Abner as Ishbosheth’s capital-city. See on 2:8. [A well-provisioned country, friendly to David (Bib.-Com.).—TR.]—Absalom’s passage over the Jordan took place when he had had time to gather (according to Hushai’s counsel) “all the men of Israel,” that is, all the military force of the country (comp. 2 Samuel 17:11 sq.). 2 Samuel 17:25. Whether Amasa, appointed by Absalom captain in place of Joab (who remained faithful to David), is the same with the Amasai of 1 Chron. 12:17, 18 (Ewald, Bertheau), must be left undetermined. “If this conjecture were correct, the man, so cordially received by David (1 Chron. 12:17), would have committed grave wrong in attaching himself to Absalom” (Then.). Elsewhere the phrase “son of a man (or woman)” is defined by a following appositional word or genitive (Böttcher); but here the defining phrase is introduced by “and” [“and his name was Ithra”], so that we have the independent assertion: “son of a man,” which is meaningless. Perhaps the text originally had: “whose name was” (אֲשֶׁר שְׁמוֹ), and the relative pronoun has fallen out (from the following אשׁר). Böttcher conjectures that “foreigner” (גֵר) stood after “man,” comp. 1:13 [it would then read: “Amasa was the son of a foreigner, and his name was Ithra.”—TR.].—With this would agree that Ithra was an Ishmaelite, for so we must here read instead of “Israelite,” after 1 Chron. 2:17, where Jether is shortened form of Ithra (Sept.: “the Jezreelite,” Josh. 19:18, so David’s wife Ahinoam, 1 Sam. 28:3). The designation of Ithra as an “Israelite” would be superfluous; but the statement that he was an “Ishmaelite” serves to illustrate the fact that Amasa was an illegitimate son of Abigail. If Nahash be taken as a man’s name, and the word “sister” in apposition with Abigail, then Zeruiah and Abigail are daughters of David’s mother by her first marriage with Nahash, step-daughters of Jesse, and on this side step-sisters of David (so the older expositors, Michaelis and Schultz). But Nahash may, with Movers and Thenius (who refers to 1 Chron. 4:12, where it is the name of a city), be taken as a woman’s name, here a second wife of Jesse. In this case also the two, Zeruiah and Abigail, would be David’s step-sisters. Clericus supposes Nahash to be another name, or a surname of Jesse; Capellus would read “Jesse” instead of “Nahash” (after a variant of the Sept.); Böttcher puts “sister” in apposition with “Nahash,” which he regards as a woman’s name. [It is an old Jewish view that Nahash is another name of Jesse. For many persons, says Kimchi, had two names, and this (Nahash) signifies “a serpent.” From whence it is that when Isaiah (14:29) saith: “out of the serpent’s root (or, the root of Nahash) shall come forth a cockatrice or basilisk,” the Chaldee paraphrase expounds it, “out of the root of Jesse shall come forth the Messiah;” who was typified by the brazen serpent in the wilderness (Patrick). This would be baseless allegorizing, even if Nahash were proved to be another name of Jesse, which is not probable. The omission of the name Nahash in 1 Chron. 2:16 is against the view that it belongs to a daughter of Jesse; more probably it is the name of the otherwise unknown father of Abigail. See “Text. and Gram.”—TR.]

2 Samuel 17:26. Absalom pitched his camp in Gilead. Nothing is said of a siege (Ewald) of Mahanaim. Against this view is the fact that David, as appears from what follows, here got supplies of men and provisions, formed an army, and organized it in three divisions, which required time. It is hence evident that David was able to establish himself strongly at Mahanaim without being attacked by Absalom’s army.

2 Samuel 17:27–29. David receives reinforcements and provisions. Shobi, the son of Nahash, from Rabbah, the capital of the Ammonites; this last statement “guards against the possible error that Shobi was a brother of Abigail” (Thenius). Rabbah, on the lower Jabbok (12:26–31), belonged to David’s empire, and now remained true to him. Shobi, if not an Israelite, was perhaps a son of the deceased Ammonite king Nahash and brother of the Hanun (10:1 sqq.) conquered by David (Keil), or a member of the royal house of Ammon favored by David (Ewald). [Shobi was hardly tributary king of Ammon (Bib.-Com.), else he would have been called king.—TR.]—Machir, son of Ammiel of Lodebar, who had received Jonathan’s lame son Mephibosheth into his house (9:4).—Barzillai, a Gileadite of Rogelim, an otherwise unknown place, mentioned besides here only in 19:32. The Sept. (alone among the ancient versions) inserts “ten” before “beds” and before “basons;” but this does not agree with the connection, since the articles mentioned were brought by several persons for “the people” (2 Samuel 17:29), and therefore certainly in considerable quantities. Ten would have been too few for David’s “court and army” (Ew.); the insertion of this number in the Sept. was perhaps suggested by 1 Sam. 17:17, 18. Whether they were “fine mattress-beds” (Ew.) must be left undecided. “Basons,” metallic vessels for preparing food. “Parched food” (קָלִי), comp. 1 Sam. 17:17. As not only corn-grains, but also pulse-beans were roasted (Bochart, Hier. II. 582, Harmar, Beobacht. I. 255 sq.), the second word may refer to pulse, of which, as well as of corn, two kinds are named; and therefore the omission of the second (קלי) as an error (Sept., Syr., Arab.) is unnecessary [Eng. A. V. retains it, and renders: “parched pulse”]. The last term in the list (שְׁפוֹת נָּקָר) is variously translated; Vulg.: “fat calves;” Theod.: “sucking calves;” Chald., Syr., Rabbin.: “cheese of kine (cows)” [so Eng. A. V.]. The last sense agrees better with the preceding words [Eng. A. V. incorrectly: “butter”]; the first sense accords with the “sheep” (small cattle). Sept. transfers the Heb. word: “saphoth of oxen.” The meaning of the Heb. phrase is doubtful. The verb in this sentence (“brought”) stands strangely and unnaturally after the long list of articles; it is therefore better, with Sept., Vulg., Syr., Arab., to supply a verb-form (partcp.) at the beginning of 2 Samuel 17:28, and then to insert “and” before the verb in 2 Samuel 17:29: “they brought beds, etc., and gave them to David.” [Eng. A. V. simply transfers the verb to the beginning of 2 Samuel 17:28. On the reading see “Text. and Gram.” Patrick calls attention to the food of the times (only one sort of meat) as indicated by the list in 2 Samuel 17:28, 29, and Bib.-Com. remarks that God’s care for David was evident in the kindness of these people.—TR.]



13[2 Samuel 17:25. Probably we should read: “the son of a stranger (foreigner)” (אִישׁ נָכְרִי, or אִישׁ גֵּר). Instead of “Israelite” editors now generally read: “Ishmaelite” (1 Chr. 2:17). The old Jewish view is that Ithra or Jithra or Jether (another name for Jesse) was an Israelite by birth, but had lived long among the Ishmaelites, or was an Ishmaelite by birth and an Israelite by religion (a proselyte), and that the phrase “son of a man” = “a man of distinction” (so Philippson); but this is less probable than that our text is corrupt. Wordsworth supposes that the name “Israelite” may be used in distinction from ‘Judahite,’ to show that Jithra did not belong to the tribe of Judah; but Cahen remarks that this designation (Israelite) seems not to have come into use till after the division of the kingdom.—Wellhausen thinks that “daughter of Nahash” is for “son of Nahash,” and is an insertion from 2 Samuel 17:27. a not improbable supposition; the statement would then be: “Amasa was the son of a foreigner named Jethra the Ishmaelite, who went in unto Abigail, sister to Zeruiah, Joab’s mother.” Abigail and Zeruiah would then be full sisters to David, and Amasa illegitimate son of Abigail, and cousin of Joab.—The reading of Sept. and Vulg.: “Jezreelite” is less probable than the “Ishmaelite” of 1 Chr. 2:17, because our text indicates (by the maimed phrase: “son of a man”) that Jethra was a non-Israelite. The Arabic reading is noticeable: “and Absalom made his lance-bearer in place of Ahithophel, a man named Amsa, son of a rich man named Jether.”—TR.]

14[2 Samuel 17:28. The verb does not occur in the Heb. till 2 Samuel 17:29, whence it is proposed to insert (with the versions) a verb or participle (מְבִיאִים) at the beginning of 2 Samuel 17:28. The verb in 2 Samuel 17:29 may be retained, and would, indeed, serve to govern the nouns in 2 Samuel 17:28, but for the phrase “for the people to eat,” since the things mentioned in that verse are not all eatables. The difficulty, however, still exists if (with Erdmann) we supply the copula before the “brought” of 2 Samuel 17:29; we may then say that the word “eat” is used of the principal part of the things brought (in which case it will not be absolutely necessary to supply the verb at the beginning of 2 Samuel 17:28), or, we may suppose that the articles last mentioned (2 Samuel 17:29, together with the קָלִי “parched corn” at end of verse 28, the repetition of which would thus be explained) were brought ready for immediate eating, the others (2 Samuel 17:28) as a store of provisions.—The word “corn” is retained in its proper sense = “grain,” though liable to be misunderstood by American readers for maize.—TR.]

15[2 Samuel 17:29. The people were not at Mahanaim, and had gotten hungry during the march through the wilderness.—TR.]

16[2 Samuel 18:2. The verb does not mean “sent forth,” nor had the army yet begun its march (2 Samuel 18:6); the phrase שׁלח ביד means either: “to send by the hand of some one,” or: “to give over to some one,” here the latter.—The adverb “surely” is too strong for the signification of the Infinitive Absolute.—TR.]

17[2 Samuel 18:3. Literally: “set heart on us.”—אַתָּה “thou” instead of עַתָּה “now” is read by Sept., Vulg., Sym., and by one or two MSS.—Syr. has “now;” its text here (followed by Arab.) is badly maimed.—Instead of “out of the city” Sept., an anonymous Greek version and Vulg., have “in the city,” which is perhaps merely an explanatory rendering. The absence of the Art. in מֵעִיר creates a difficulty. Bib.-Com., taking מֵעִיר as Hiph. participle of עוּר, proposes to render: “that thou be to us a stirrer-up in helping us,” i.e., that thou help us by stirring us up. But the construction here does not favor this rendering; the verb (Hiphil) is followed by the Acc. of the person or thing roused, and frequently by עַל (“against”) with the person against whom it is roused; the Infin. here also would from the construction rather have for its subject the roused than the rouser. It is better to supply the Art. מֵהָעִיר, or else to read בָּעִיר.—Kethib לַעֲזִיר for לְהַעֲזִיר Hiph. Infin.; Qeri לַעֲזוֹר Qal.—TR.]

18[2 Samuel 18:7. Omitted by Sept. as unnecessary. The first “there” in this verse is retained in Sept. (not omitted, as Wellh. says).—TR.]

19[2 Samuel 18:9. Wellhausen: “from the connection with לִפְנֵי [‘in the presence of’] and from 2 Samuel 18:10 it appears that the text וַיִקָּרֵא is incorrect; read perhaps וַיִּירָא [‘and Absalom feared’].” But the construction is supported by Deut. 22:6 (Bib.-Com.), and the statement of 2 Samuel 18:10 is properly explained by this statement that Absalom in his flight “met,” accidentally came across some of David’s men.—TR.]

20[2 Samuel 18:12. Read the Qeri לוּ or לֻא (= לוּא).—“Though I should weigh (שֹׁקֵל) into (upon) my hand;” instead of the Act. Particip. Wellhausen reads the Pass. שָׁקוּל: “though there were weighed into my hand,” but the man might easily conceive of the weighing as done by himself.—TR.]

21[2 Samuel 18:13. Eng. A. V. here follows the Qeri (“my life,” Kethib “his life”). The whole verse is difficult in text and meaning. The line of thought seems to favor the marginal reading בְּנַפְשׁוֹ “against his life; but it is then difficult to see whether the man presents two reasons for not killing Absalom: 1) his regard for the king’s command (2 Samuel 18:12), 2) his fear of the consequences to himself (2 Samuel 17:13), or only the former. Moreover whether the last phrase in the verse is to be rendered “thou wilt have to stand before him” (to give account, or testimony), or “thou wilt stand (appear) against me” is uncertain; the latter is more probable. In the first part of our verse the Sept. had a different text from the Heb.: “guard me the young man Absalom, not to do wrong against his life,” which would simplify the man’s address. We may adopt the reading (מֵעֲשׂוֹת instead of אוֹ־עָשִׂיתִי), or keep the Heb. text and render: “or if I acted falsely against his life, then nothing is concealed from the king, and thou wouldest take stand against me.”—TR.]

22[2 Samuel 18:14. The word (שֵׁבֶט) not “dart,” but “staff,” and is contrasted with the word “spear” (חֲנִית) in 2 Sam. 23:21. Either, then, we must suppose Joab to have used an uncommon weapon (Erdmann) or we must change the text. Erdmann states the objections to Thenius’ proposed reading שְׁלָחִים, and it would be hard to account for an alteration of חניתים or חםיתות into שבטים.—Instead of: “in the heart (בלב) of the terebinth.” Thenius proposes to read after Syr. and Vulg.: “hung in (תָּלוּי) the terebinth,” for which there seems no necessity; the renderings of these two versions are merely interpretations.—TR.]

23[2 Samuel 18:16. Sept., Vulg., Thenius, Keil, Erdmann render: “Joab wished to spare the people,” but the rendering of Eng. A. V. seems better because the idea of “wish” is not contained in the Hebrew, and the phrase “the people” in connection with Joab more naturally refers to David’s army.—TR.]

24[2 Samuel 18:17. Wellhausen objects to the order of 2 Samuel 17:14–17, because it represents Absalom, already half-dead from hanging, as surviving Joab’s stabbing with the staves or darts, and finally meeting his death from the young men. He would make the last word of 2 Samuel 18:15 and 2 Samuel 18:16 follow 2 Samuel 18:14, and then insert 2 Samuel 18:15, 17, so as to read: “14, Joab took three darts, etc., … in the terebinth, and killed him, 16 and blew the trumpet, and held back the people. 15 and ten young men compassed about Absalom, 17 and took him, etc.” Though this is ingenious, it is not required by the text. Joab’s wounds did not kill Absalom, and the zealous armor-bearers finished him; then Joab called in his soldiers, and they (indef. subject = Passive) took Absalom and cast him into the pit.—TR.]

25[2 Samuel 18:18. This word has the sign of determination (את), and yet is not followed by a determinative noun; whence Wellhausen would supply אֲשֵׂרָה (in place of following אשר), and render: “took the pillar of the Asherah [idol-image] in the king’s dale and set it up.” But (apart from the fact that אֲשֵׁרָה does not occur after a construct מַצֶּבֶת, in 1 Kings 14:23; 17:10 the two words are used co-ordinately) this is an example of a word determined by a relative clause, as in Gen. 40:3. See Ew. § 277 d, 2), and Ges. § 116.—At the end of the verse ידַ = “monument,” a different word from that rendered “pillar.”—TR.]

26[2 Samuel 18:20. Eng. A. V. here adopts the Qeri עַל־כֵּן: “for the king’s son is dead.” Syr. and Chald., omitting the כֵּן, render: “thou wilt not announce except that the king’s son is dead,” which, however, the present Heb. will not bear.—עַל־בֵּן usually means “therefore,” but here = “because” (= כִּי עַל־כֵּן).—TR.]

27[2 Samuel 18:22. Eng. A. V. takes לְבָה = “to thee,” and מֹצֵאת Qal. Act. Particip. fem. of מָצָא, = “finding, ready:” Erdmann renders the Particip. “reward-finding,” Philippson: “profitable;” Wellhausen takes it as Hoph. of יָצָא (מֻצֵאת) = “brought out, paid out” (Gen. 38:25); Bib.-Com.: “sufficing,” which commends itself as appropriate.—According to Böttcher, it is only when the pronoun is emphatic that we can render לְכָה “to thee;” and here it is better = “go thou” (= “and if thou go”). But the pronoun may be emphatic here.—TR.]

28[2 Samuel 18:23. Insert וַיֹּאמֵר at the beginning of the verse.—TR.]

29[2 Samuel 18:26. Instead of שעֵר “porter” Erdmann, Then., Böttcher, Wellhausen (after Sept. and Syr.) read שַעַר “gate,” which, however, is not necessary, and this statement is not in conflict with 2 Samuel 18:25, where the watchman seems to speak directly to the king.—After the second אִישּׁ Thenius and Wellhausen (Sept., Vulg., Syr.) insert אַחֵר “another;” but Böttcher properly remarks that this would naturally be inserted by the versions (so Eng. A. V. inserts it) from the preceding part of the verse, while its omission could not so well be accounted for.—TR.]

30[2 Samuel 18:29. Erdmann renders as Eng. A. V., but the construction, as it stands, is awkward and improbable. The simplest procedure seems to be that of Wellhausen, to omit אֶת־עֶבֶד הַמֶּלֶךְ (though it is not easy to account for its insertion). Some (so Bib.-Com.) prefer the Vulg. rendering, on which see Erdmann in the Exposition. Related questions, such as the person of “the Cushite,” will there be referred to.—TR.]

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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