Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run
before him--This was assuming the state and equipage of a prince. The
royal guards, called runners, avant couriers, amounted to fifty
The chariot, as the Hebrew indicates, was of a magnificent style; and
the horses, a novelty among the Hebrew people, only introduced in that
age as an appendage of royalty
(Ps 32:9; 66:12),
formed a splendid retinue, which would make him "the observed of all
2-6. Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the
gate--Public business in the East is always transacted early in the
morning--the kings sitting an hour or more to hear causes or receive
petitions, in a court held anciently, and in many places still, in the
open air at the city gateway; so that, as those whose circumstances led
them to wait on King David required to be in attendance on his morning
levees, Absalom had to rise up early and stand beside the way of the
gate. Through the growing infirmities of age, or the occupation of his
government with foreign wars, many private causes had long lain
undecided, and a deep feeling of discontent prevailed among the people.
This dissatisfaction was artfully fomented by Absalom, who addressed
himself to the various suitors; and after briefly hearing their tale,
he gratified everyone with a favorable opinion of his case. Studiously
concealing his ambitious designs, he expressed a wish to be invested
with official power, only that he might accelerate the course of
justice and advance the public interests. His professions had an air of
extraordinary generosity and disinterestedness, which, together with
his fawning arts in lavishing civilities on all, made him a popular
favorite. Thus, by forcing a contrast between his own display of public
spirit and the dilatory proceedings of the court, he created a growing
disgust with his father's government, as weak, careless, or corrupt,
and seduced the affections of the multitude, who neither penetrated the
motive nor foresaw the tendency of his conduct.
7-9. after forty years--It is generally admitted that an error has
here crept into the text, and that instead of "forty," we should read
with the Syriac and Arabic versions, and
JOSEPHUS, "four years"--that
is, after Absalom's return to Jerusalem, and his beginning to practice
the base arts of gaining popularity.
my vow, which I have vowed unto the Lord--during his exile in Geshur.
The purport of it was, that whenever God's providence should pave the
way for his re-establishment in Jerusalem, he would offer a sacrifice
of thanksgiving. Hebron was the spot selected for the performance of
this vow, ostensibly as being his native place
and a famous high place, where sacrifices were frequently offered
before the temple was built; but really as being in many respects the
most suitable for the commencement of his rebellious enterprise. David,
who always encouraged piety and desired to see religious engagements
punctually performed, gave his consent and his blessing.
10. Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of
Israel--These emissaries were to sound the inclination of the
people, to further the interests of Absalom, and exhort all the
adherents of his party to be in readiness to join his standard as soon
as they should hear that he had been proclaimed king. As the summons
was to be made by the sound of trumpets, it is probable that care had
been taken to have trumpeters stationed on the heights, and at
convenient stations--a mode of announcement that would soon spread the
news over all the country of his inauguration to the throne.
11. with Absalom went two hundred men . . . that were called--From
their quality, reputation, and high standing, such as would create the
impression that the king patronized the movement and, being aged and
infirm, was willing to adopt his oldest and noblest son to divide with
him the cares and honors of government.
12. Absalom sent for Ahithophel--who he knew was ready to join the
revolt, through disgust and revenge, as Jewish writers assert, at
David's conduct towards Bath-sheba, who was his granddaughter.
the conspiracy was strong--The rapid accession of one place after
another in all parts of the kingdom to the party of the insurgents,
shows that deep and general dissatisfaction existed at this time
against the person and government of David. The remnant of Saul's
partisans, the unhappy affair of Bath-sheba, the overbearing insolence
and crimes of Joab, negligence and obstruction in the administration of
justice--these were some of the principal causes that contributed to
the success of this widespread insurrection.
14. David said . . . Arise, and let us flee--David, anxious for the
preservation of the city which he had beautified, and hopeful of a
greater support throughout the country, wisely resolved on leaving
18-20. all the Gittites, six hundred men--These were a body of foreign
guards, natives of Gath, whom David, when in the country of the
Philistines, had enlisted in his service, and kept around his person.
Addressing their commander, Ittai, he made a searching trial of their
fidelity in bidding them
abide with the new king.
23. the brook Kidron--a winter torrent that flows through the valley
between the city and the eastern side of the Mount of Olives.
24, 25. Zadok also, and all the Levites . . ., bearing the ark--Knowing
the strong religious feelings of the aged king, they brought it to
accompany him in his distress. But as he could not doubt that both the
ark and their sacred office would exempt them from the attacks of the
rebels, he sent them back with it--not only that they might not be
exposed to the perils of uncertain wandering, for he seems to place
more confidence in the symbol of the divine presence than in God
Himself--but that, by remaining in Jerusalem, they might render him
greater service by watching the enemy's movements.
30. David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet--The same pathway
over that mount has been followed ever since that memorable day.
had his head covered--with a mourning wrapper. The humility and
resignation of David marked strongly his sanctified spirit, induced by
contrition for his transgressions. He had fallen, but it was the fall
of the upright; and he rose again, submitting himself meekly in the
meantime to the will of God [CHALMERS].
31. David said, Turn, O Lord, . . . the counsel of Ahithophel--this
senator being the mainstay of the conspiracy.
32. when David was come to the top of the mount, where he
worshipped--looking towards Jerusalem, where were the ark and
Hushai the Archite--A native of Archi, on the frontiers of Benjamin
Comparing the prayer against Ahithophel with the counsel to Hushai, we
see how strongly a spirit of fervent piety was combined in his
character with the devices of an active and far-seeing policy.