Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1-11. Moreover Ahithophel said unto Absalom--The recommendation to
take prompt and decisive measures before the royalist forces could be
collected and arranged, evinced the deep political sagacity of this
councillor. The adoption of his advice would have extinguished the
cause of David; and it affords a dreadful proof of the extremities to
which the heartless prince was, to secure his ambitious objects,
prepared to go, that the parricidal counsel "pleased Absalom well, and
all the elders of Israel." It was happily overruled, however, by the
address of Hushai, who saw the imminent danger to which it would expose
the king and the royal cause. He dwelt upon the warlike character and
military experience of the old king--represented him and his adherents
as mighty men, who would fight with desperation; and who, most
probably, secure in some stronghold, would be beyond reach, while the
smallest loss of Absalom's men at the outset might be fatal to the
success of the conspiracy. But his dexterity was chiefly displayed in
that part of his counsel which recommended a general levy throughout
the country; and that Absalom should take command of it in
person--thereby flattering at once the pride and ambition of the
usurper. The bait was caught by the vainglorious and wicked prince.
12. we will light upon him as the dew falleth on the ground--No image
could have symbolized the sudden onset of an enemy so graphically to an
Oriental mind as the silent, irresistible, and rapid descent of this
natural moisture on every field and blade of grass.
13. all Israel shall bring ropes to that city--In besieging a town,
hooks or cranes were often thrown upon the walls or turrets, by which,
with ropes attached to them, the besiegers, uniting all their force,
pulled down the fortifications in a mass of ruins.
14. The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of
Ahithophel--The reasons specified being extremely plausible, and
expressed in the strong hyperbolical language suited to dazzle an
Oriental imagination, the council declared in favor of Hushai's advice;
and their resolution was the immediate cause of the discomfiture of the
rebellion, although the council itself was only a link in the chain of
causation held by the controlling hand of the Lord.
16. send quickly, and tell David--Apparently doubting that his advice
would be followed, Hushai ordered secret intelligence to be conveyed to
David of all that transpired, with an urgent recommendation to cross
the Jordan without a moment's delay, lest Ahithophel's address and
influence might produce a change on the prince's mind, and an immediate
pursuit be determined on.
17. by En-rogel--the fuller's well in the neighborhood of Jerusalem,
below the junction of the valley of Hinnom with that of Jehoshaphat.
18. and came to a man's house in Bahurim, which had a well in his
court--The court was that of the house, and the well an empty
cistern. All the houses of the better class are furnished with such
reservoirs. Nothing could more easily happen than that one of these
wells, in consequence of a deficiency of water, should become dry and
it would then answer as a place of retreat, such as David's friends
found in the man's house at Bahurim. The spreading of a covering over
the well's mouth for the drying of corn is a common practice.
23. when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed--His vanity
was wounded, his pride mortified on finding that his ascendency was
gone; but that chagrin was aggravated by other feelings--a painful
conviction that through the delay which had been resolved on, the cause
of Absalom was lost. Hastening home, therefore, he arranged his private
affairs, and knowing that the storm of retributive vengeance would fall
chiefly upon him as the instigator and prop of the rebellion, he hanged
himself. It may be remarked that the Israelites did not, at that time,
refuse the rites of sepulture even to those who died by their own
hands. He had an imitator in Judas, who resembled him in his treason,
as well as in his infamous end.
24. Then David came to Mahanaim--in the high eastern country of
Gilead, the seat of Ish-bosheth's government.
Absalom passed over Jordan--It is not said how long an interval
elapsed, but there must have been sufficient time to make the intended
levy throughout the kingdom.
25. Amasa--By the genealogy it appears that this captain stood in
the same relation to David as Joab, both being his nephews. Of course,
Amasa was Absalom's cousin, and though himself an Israelite, his father
was an Ishmaelite
Nahash--is thought by some to be another name of Jesse, or according
to others, the name of Jesse's wife.
27-29. when David was come to Mahanaim--The necessities of the king
and his followers were hospitably ministered to by three chiefs, whose
generous loyalty is recorded with honor in the sacred narrative.
Shobi--must have been a brother of Hanun. Disapproving, probably, of
that young king's outrage upon the Israelite ambassadors, he had been
made governor of Ammon by David on the conquest of that country.
Supposed by some to have been a brother of Bath-sheba, and
Barzillai--a wealthy old grandee, whose great age and
infirmities made his loyal devotion to the distressed monarch
peculiarly affecting. The supplies they brought, which (besides beds
for the weary) consisted of the staple produce of their rich lands and
pastures, may be classified as follows: eatables--wheat, barley, flour,
beans, lentils, sheep, and cheese; drinkables--"honey and butter" or
cream, which, being mixed together, form a thin, diluted beverage,
light, cool, and refreshing. Being considered a luxurious refreshment
the supply of it shows the high respect that was paid to David by his
loyal and faithful subjects at Mahanaim.
29. in the wilderness--spread out beyond the cultivated tablelands
into the steppes of Hauran.