Matthew Poole's Commentary
Moreover Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Let me now choose out twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue after David this night:Hushai, David’s friend, being, by David’s order, gone over to Absalom, by God’s appointment overthroweth Ahithophel’s counsel, 2 Samuel 17:1-14. Hushai certifieth David thereof, and adviseth him forthwith to march on, 2 Samuel 17:15-21. David passeth over Jordan, 2 Samuel 17:22. Ahithophel hangeth himself, 2 Samuel 17:23. David cometh to Mahanaim: Absalom passeth over Jordan, making Amasa the captain of his host, 2 Samuel 17:21-26. David is there furnished with provisions by his friends, 2 Samuel 17:27-29.
I am so well assured of the goodness of this counsel, that I will venture my own person and life in execution of it.
And I will come upon him while he is weary and weak handed, and will make him afraid: and all the people that are with him shall flee; and I will smite the king only:Weary and weak-handed; tired with a tedious march on foot, and destitute of men and military provisions; and disheartened by his own small numbers, and by the general defection of his subjects.
And I will bring back all the people unto thee: the man whom thou seekest is as if all returned: so all the people shall be in peace.The man whom thou seekest is as if all returned, i. e. the death of that man whom thou seekest to destroy is no less considerable to thee, than if all the people that follow him should desert him and return unto thee.
And the saying pleased Absalom well, and all the elders of Israel.No text from Poole on this verse.
Then said Absalom, Call now Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear likewise what he saith.A wonderful effect of Divine Providence, blinding his mind, and influencing his heart, that he could not rest in Ahithophel’s counsel, though it was so evidently wise, and good, and approved by the general consent of his whole party; and that he should desire Hushai’s advice, though neither his reputation for wisdom was equal to Ahithophel’s, nor had he yet given any one proof of his fidelity to Absalom as Ahithophel had done; nor was he so fixed by his interest to him as Ahithophel was; and though there wanted not just cause to suspect him and his counsel too. But there is no contending with that God who can arm a man against himself, and destroy him by his own mistakes and passions, without any other help.
And when Hushai was come to Absalom, Absalom spake unto him, saying, Ahithophel hath spoken after this manner: shall we do after his saying? if not; speak thou.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Hushai said unto Absalom, The counsel that Ahithophel hath given is not good at this time.Though at other times he generally gives most wise and admirable counsel; yet, as he is a man, he seems now to be under a mistake, and not sufficiently to consider all the present circumstances of this business.
For, said Hushai, thou knowest thy father and his men, that they be mighty men, and they be chafed in their minds, as a bear robbed of her whelps in the field: and thy father is a man of war, and will not lodge with the people.Mighty men; of approved courage and strength, therefore not so soon vanquished as Ahithophel supposeth.
Chafed in their minds, Heb. bitter of soul, inflamed with rage; desperate, and therefore resolved to sell their lives at a dear rate.
A man of war; a wise prince and general; who knowing of what importance it is to secure his own person, and that your great design is against his life, will doubtless use extraordinary care to keep out of your reach, which he may easily do.
Behold, he is hid now in some pit, or in some other place: and it will come to pass, when some of them be overthrown at the first, that whosoever heareth it will say, There is a slaughter among the people that follow Absalom.He is hid now in some pit, or in some other place; having been oft accustomed to that course, and well acquainted with all hidingplaces from Saul’s time. In one of them, unknown to us, he will lurk with some of his chosen men, and lie in ambush for us; and when they see a fit opportunity, they will suddenly come forth and surprise some of our men when they least expect it, and fall upon them with great fury, and probably will at first put them to flight.
Some of them, to wit, of Absalom’s men sent against David.
Overthrown at the first; implying that their good success at first would mightily animate David’s men to proceed vigorously in the fight, and intimidate Absalom’s army, and consequently would be both a presage and an occasion of their total defeat.
Whosoever heareth it will say; they who first hear these ill tidings will propagate it, and strike terror with it into the rest of the army.
And he also that is valiant, whose heart is as the heart of a lion, shall utterly melt: for all Israel knoweth that thy father is a mighty man, and they which be with him are valiant men.The known fame of the prodigious valour of David and his followers will easily gain credit to that report, and strike the stoutest of our men with dread, even Ahithophel himself, if he should go with them.
Therefore I counsel that all Israel be generally gathered unto thee, from Dan even to Beersheba, as the sand that is by the sea for multitude; and that thou go to battle in thine own person.His pretence was, that they might have a far greater army, and make sure though slow work; his design was to gain David more time, that he might increase his army, and make better provisions for the battle; and that the present heat of the people might be cooled, and they might at last bethink themselves of their duty to David, and return to their former allegiance.
That thou go to battle in thine own person; for thy presence will put more life and courage into all thy soldiers, who will be ambitious to show their utmost skill and courage in defending thy person and cause, when they know that all their actions are observed by him who hath the distribution of rewards and punishments in his hands. So mayst thou also give counsel as occasion offers, and encourage thy men to kill David, which otherwise they may possibly be afraid to do. Besides, the glory of the victory will be wholly thine, which now Ahithophel seeks to get to himself.
So shall we come upon him in some place where he shall be found, and we will light upon him as the dew falleth on the ground: and of him and of all the men that are with him there shall not be left so much as one.As the dew falleth on the ground, i. e. plenteously, suddenly, irresistibly, and on all sides; for so the dew falls.
Moreover, if he be gotten into a city, then shall all Israel bring ropes to that city, and we will draw it into the river, until there be not one small stone found there.Then shall all Israel bring ropes to that city; not that they should do so, or that it was the custom to do so; but it is an hyperbolical and thrasonical expression, suited to the vain-glorious temper of this insolent young man; and therefore most likely to prevail with him; implying that they would do so if they could not discover and destroy him another way; or that they should be enough to do so, if there were occasion. We will draw it into the river, adjoining to the city; it being usual to build cities near some river, both for defence, and for other accommodations.
And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel. For the LORD had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the LORD might bring evil upon Absalom.Absalom and all the men of Israel were infatuated by a Divine power, and given up to believe lies and mistakes.
The Lord had appointed to defeat the good counsel; so it was, politically considered; being the wisest and most effectual course to accomplish Absalom’s end.
Then said Hushai unto Zadok and to Abiathar the priests, Thus and thus did Ahithophel counsel Absalom and the elders of Israel; and thus and thus have I counselled.No text from Poole on this verse.
Now therefore send quickly, and tell David, saying, Lodge not this night in the plains of the wilderness, but speedily pass over; lest the king be swallowed up, and all the people that are with him.Lodge not this night in the plains of the wilderness, lest the king’s and people’s minds change, and Ahithophel, by his deep wit and great interest, persuade the king to follow his former advice, and to pursue you speedily.
Now Jonathan and Ahimaaz stayed by Enrogel; for they might not be seen to come into the city: and a wench went and told them; and they went and told king David.En-rogel, or, the fuller’s well; a place near Jerusalem, Joshua 15:7 18:16.
A wench went and told them; pretending to go thither to wash some clothes,
Nevertheless a lad saw them, and told Absalom: but they went both of them away quickly, and came to a man's house in Bahurim, which had a well in his court; whither they went down.A lad saw them, who knew them to be favourers of David, and observed them to wait there upon design, and to gain intelligence, and possibly saw the wench speaking privately to them.
They went both of them away quickly; suspecting by this lad’s observation and carriage that they were discovered.
Wither they went down; either to some hole in the side of the pit; or to the bottom of the pit, it being then dry, as pits often were in those hot countries. And this being in so open a place, they concluded none would imagine them to be hid there. And besides, they relied upon God’s good providence, which they knew watched over David, and them for his sake.
And the woman took and spread a covering over the well's mouth, and spread ground corn thereon; and the thing was not known.Spread ground corn thereon, under pretence of drying it by the sun; which shows it was summer time.
And when Absalom's servants came to the woman to the house, they said, Where is Ahimaaz and Jonathan? And the woman said unto them, They be gone over the brook of water. And when they had sought and could not find them, they returned to Jerusalem.Over the brook of water, i.e. over Jordan. This was a manifest lie; but because it was spoken for no hurt, but good only, many persons in those times conceived such lies to be lawful. Compare Exodus 1:19 Joshua 2:4,5. But although God was pleased to overlook and pardon the sin, and graciously to reward the good intention which accompanied them; yet it is certain that all kinds of lies are moral evils, and condemned by plain scriptures, and that we must not do evil that good may come, nor tell a lie for God’s glory, Romans 3:7,8.
And it came to pass, after they were departed, that they came up out of the well, and went and told king David, and said unto David, Arise, and pass quickly over the water: for thus hath Ahithophel counselled against you.No text from Poole on this verse.
Then David arose, and all the people that were with him, and they passed over Jordan: by the morning light there lacked not one of them that was not gone over Jordan.They passed over Jordan; either at the ford, or in boats.
And when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his ass, and arose, and gat him home to his house, to his city, and put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died, and was buried in the sepulchre of his father.Put his household in order; disposed of his estate by will. Compare Isaiah 38:1.
Hanged himself; partly because he could not endure to outlive his disgrace, and the rejection of his counsel; and partly because he foresaw by this means David would gain time and strength, and in all probability be victorious, and then the storm would fall most heavily upon his head, as the main author and pillar of the rebellion, and the contriver of those two pernicious counsels above mentioned.
Then David came to Mahanaim. And Absalom passed over Jordan, he and all the men of Israel with him.Mahanaim; a place in the country of Gilead, bordering upon the land of the Ammonites, 2 Samuel 17:27. See Genesis 32:2 2 Samuel 2:8.
Absalom passed over Jordan; not speedily, but when all the men of Israel were gathered together according to Hushai’s counsel, who are said to be with him here, as it follows.
And Absalom made Amasa captain of the host instead of Joab: which Amasa was a man's son, whose name was Ithra an Israelite, that went in to Abigail the daughter of Nahash, sister to Zeruiah Joab's mother.Ithra an Israelite.
Object. He was an Ishmaelite, 1 Chronicles 2:17.
Answ. Not Amasa; but Ithra, or Jether, Amasa’s father, is there so called, because he was such, either by his birth from such parents, or by his long habitation among them, or for some other reason now unknown. Compare 2 Samuel 15:18. And Amasa is here called an Israelite, either because he was a proselyte; or in opposition to Joab, who was of the tribe of Judah, as Amasa was of one of the ten tribes; or rather, to intimate, that although he or his parents were called Ishmaelites for some reason, yet as to their extraction they were indeed Israelites; which if Amasa had not been, it is not probable that he could have had so powerful an influence upon the tribe of Judah as he had, 2 Samuel 19:14.
That went in to Abigail, i.e. lay with her, whether being first married to her, or not, is uncertain.
The daughter of Nahash. Nahash is either another name of Jesse; or rather, the name of Jesse’s wife; by whom he had this Abigail, as he had Zeruiah by another wife; so they were sisters by the father, but not by the mother; and Nahash is here named to signify so much.
So Israel and Absalom pitched in the land of Gilead.No text from Poole on this verse.
And 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 Ammiel of Lodebar, and Barzillai the Gileadite of Rogelim,Shobi, as it may seem, disliked and disowned that barbarous action to the ambassadors; and therefore, when the rest were destroyed, was left king or governor of the residue of the Ammonites.
Machir the son of Ammiel of Lodebar. See above, 2 Samuel 9:4.
Brought beds, and basons, and earthen vessels, and wheat, and barley, and flour, and parched corn, and beans, and lentiles, and parched pulse,Beds and basons, i.e. all sorts of household stuff, as well as other provisions, all which David now wanted.
And honey, and butter, and sheep, and cheese of kine, for David, and for the people that were with him, to eat: for they said, The people is hungry, and weary, and thirsty, in the wilderness.i.e. Having been
in the wilderness; which is an easy and common ellipsis. Or, because of (so the Hebrew particle beth is oft used) the wilderness, which they have passed through, in which provisions are very scarce.