[2-Samuel 16:1] AND WHEN DAVID WAS A LITTLE PAST THE TOP OF THE HILL, BEHOLD, ZIBA THE SERVANT OF MEPHIBOSHETH MET HIM, WITH A COUPLE OF ASSES SADDLED, AND UPON THEM TWO HUNDRED LOAVES OF BREAD, AND AN HUNDRED BUNCHES OF RAISINS, AND AN HUNDRED OF SUMMER FRUITS, AND A BOTTLE OF WINE.
[2-Samuel 16:2] AND THE KING SAID UNTO ZIBA, WHAT MEANEST THOU BY THESE? AND ZIBA SAID, THE ASSES BE FOR THE KING'S HOUSEHOLD TO RIDE ON; AND THE BREAD AND SUMMER FRUIT FOR THE YOUNG MEN TO EAT; AND THE WINE, THAT SUCH AS BE FAINT IN THE WILDERNESS MAY DRINK.
[2-Samuel 16:3] AND THE KING SAID, AND WHERE IS THY MASTER'S SON? AND ZIBA SAID UNTO THE KING, BEHOLD, HE ABIDETH AT JERUSALEM: FOR HE SAID, TO DAY SHALL THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL RESTORE ME THE KINGDOM OF MY FATHER.
Ziba claimed that Mephibosheth hoped to be appointed king as a result of the rebellion of Absalom which could lead to disappointment with the House of David in general. It is not clear from the Bible whether Ziba was telling the truth in this matter or not, as we shall see. The Sages criticized David for accepting what they judged to be a false report.
[2-Samuel 16:4] THEN SAID THE KING TO ZIBA, BEHOLD, THINE ARE ALL THAT PERTAINED UNTO MEPHIBOSHETH. AND ZIBA SAID, I HUMBLY BESEECH THEE THAT I MAY FIND GRACE IN THY SIGHT, MY LORD, O KING.
[2-Samuel 16:5] AND WHEN KING DAVID CAME TO BAHURIM, BEHOLD, THENCE CAME OUT A MAN OF THE FAMILY OF THE HOUSE OF SAUL, WHOSE NAME WAS SHIMEI, THE SON OF GERA: HE CAME FORTH, AND CURSED STILL AS HE CAME.
<<THE SON OF GERA>>: This could mean he was a grandson of somebody named "Gera" but the expression here is understood to mean that he belonged to the Clan of Gera in Benjamin. In the Bible "son of" can mean "descended from" generations ago.
"AND THE SONS OF BENJAMIN WERE BELAH, AND BECHER, AND ASHBEL, GERA, AND NAAMAN, EHI, AND ROSH, MUPPIM, AND HUPPIM, AND ARD" [Genesis 46:21].
[2-Samuel 16:6] AND HE CAST STONES AT DAVID, AND AT ALL THE SERVANTS OF KING DAVID: AND ALL THE PEOPLE AND ALL THE MIGHTY MEN WERE ON HIS RIGHT HAND AND ON HIS LEFT.
[2-Samuel 16:7] AND THUS SAID SHIMEI WHEN HE CURSED, COME OUT, COME OUT, THOU BLOODY MAN, AND THOU MAN OF BELIAL:
[2-Samuel 16:8] THE LORD HATH RETURNED UPON THEE ALL THE BLOOD OF THE HOUSE OF SAUL, IN WHOSE STEAD THOU HAST REIGNED; AND THE LORD HATH DELIVERED THE KINGDOM INTO THE HAND OF ABSALOM THY SON: AND, BEHOLD, THOU ART TAKEN IN THY MISCHIEF, BECAUSE THOU ART A BLOODY MAN.
[2-Samuel 16:9] THEN SAID ABISHAI THE SON OF ZERUIAH UNTO THE KING, WHY SHOULD THIS DEAD DOG CURSE MY LORD THE KING? LET ME GO OVER, I PRAY THEE, AND TAKE OFF HIS HEAD.
[2-Samuel 16:10] AND THE KING SAID, WHAT HAVE I TO DO WITH YOU, YE SONS OF ZERUIAH? SO LET HIM CURSE, BECAUSE THE LORD HATH SAID UNTO HIM, CURSE DAVID. WHO SHALL THEN SAY, WHEREFORE HAST THOU DONE SO?
<<SONS OF ZERUIAH>>: Zeruiah was the aunt of David, the sister of his father. Abishai and Joab and Asahel (who had been slain by Abner 2-Samuel 3:30) were the sons of Zeruiah whose name implies "hornet". The Kingdom of David had need of Abishai and Joab but David did not always like it:
"AND I AM THIS DAY WEAK, THOUGH ANOINTED KING; AND THESE MEN THE SONS OF ZERUIAH BE TOO HARD FOR ME" [2-Samuel 3:39].
David was against Shimei being punished at this point but on his deathbed he instructed Solomon to put him to death.
AND, BEHOLD, THOU HAST WITH THEE SHIMEI THE SON OF GERA, A BENJAMITE OF BAHURIM, WHICH CURSED ME WITH A GRIEVOUS CURSE IN THE DAY WHEN I WENT TO MAHANAIM: BUT HE CAME DOWN TO MEET ME AT JORDAN, AND I SWARE TO HIM BY THE LORD, SAYING, I WILL NOT PUT THEE TO DEATH WITH THE SWORD [1-Kings 2:8].
NOW THEREFORE HOLD HIM NOT GUILTLESS: FOR THOU ART A WISE MAN, AND KNOWEST WHAT THOU OUGHTEST TO DO UNTO HIM; BUT HIS HOAR HEAD BRING THOU DOWN TO THE GRAVE WITH BLOOD [1-Kings 2:9].
[2-Samuel 16:11] AND DAVID SAID TO ABISHAI, AND TO ALL HIS SERVANTS, BEHOLD, MY SON, WHICH CAME FORTH OF MY BOWELS, SEEKETH MY LIFE: HOW MUCH MORE NOW MAY THIS BENJAMITE DO IT? LET HIM ALONE, AND LET HIM CURSE; FOR THE LORD HATH BIDDEN HIM.
[2-Samuel 16:1 IT MAY BE THAT THE LORD WILL LOOK ON MINE AFFLICTION, AND THAT THE LORD WILL REQUITE ME GOOD FOR HIS CURSING THIS DAY.
[2-Samuel 16:13] AND AS DAVID AND HIS MEN WENT BY THE WAY, SHIMEI WENT ALONG ON THE HILL'S SIDE OVER AGAINST HIM, AND CURSED AS HE WENT, AND THREW STONES AT HIM, AND CAST DUST.
[2-Samuel 16:14] AND THE KING, AND ALL THE PEOPLE THAT WERE WITH HIM, CAME WEARY, AND REFRESHED THEMSELVES THERE.
[2-Samuel 16:15] AND ABSALOM, AND ALL THE PEOPLE THE MEN OF ISRAEL, CAME TO JERUSALEM, AND AHITHOPHEL WITH HIM.
[2-Samuel 16:16] AND IT CAME TO PASS, WHEN HUSHAI THE ARCHITE, DAVID'S FRIEND, WAS COME UNTO ABSALOM, THAT HUSHAI SAID UNTO ABSALOM, GOD SAVE THE KING, GOD SAVE THE KING.
[2-Samuel 16:17] AND ABSALOM SAID TO HUSHAI, IS THIS THY KINDNESS TO THY FRIEND? WHY WENTEST THOU NOT WITH THY FRIEND?
Shimeon ben-Ephrat points out the irony in the first part of this expression which from the Hebrew could be translated thusly, "THIS IS THY KINDNESS TO THY FRIEND?" This indeed was the kindness.
[2-Samuel 16:18] AND HUSHAI SAID UNTO ABSALOM, NAY; BUT WHOM THE LORD, AND THIS PEOPLE, AND ALL THE MEN OF ISRAEL, CHOOSE, HIS WILL I BE, AND WITH HIM WILL I ABIDE.
Here too, Hushi was not really lying. God had chosen David. David was also the real choice of Israel. The followers of Absalom may well have numerically have been in the majority or seemed to have been but they did not represent the real choice of Israel. Further than this, another explanation is possible:
In Hebrew, we have the above expression "WITH HIM WILL I ABIDE". The word for "WITH HIM" is usually spelt "LY" (Lamed-Vav) but here an alternate (though legitimate) spelling is used which is LO (Lamed Aleph). The two forms are pronounced in the same way BUT the latter form can ALSO mean "NOT", i.e. Hushi was saying the exact reverse from what his words seemed to connote.
[2-Samuel 16:19] AND AGAIN, WHOM SHOULD I SERVE? SHOULD I NOT SERVE IN THE PRESENCE OF HIS SON? AS I HAVE SERVED IN THY FATHER'S PRESENCE, SO WILL I BE IN THY PRESENCE.
Shimeon ben-Ephrat ("Mikra Yisrael") points out the ambivalence in the answer of Hushi.
Hushi asks a rhetorical question, "SHOULD I NOT SERVE IN THE PRESENCE OF HIS SON?"
Hushi then continues but does not say to Absalom, "As I served thy father, So, will I serve you", rather he says "SO WILL I BE IN THY PRESENCE". This could be understood to mean (as Absalom chose to understand it) "as I served David so will I serve you" or (as Hushi intended it):
"As I served David in the past so will I continue to serve him in your presence".
Hushi departed slightly from the instructions of David:
"BUT IF THOU RETURN TO THE CITY, AND SAY UNTO ABSALOM, I WILL BE THY SERVANT, O KING; AS I HAVE BEEN THY FATHER'S SERVANT HITHERTO, SO WILL I NOW ALSO BE THY SERVANT: THEN MAYEST THOU FOR ME DEFEAT THE COUNSEL OF AHITHOPHEL" [2-Samuel 15:34].
Hushi did not tell an outright lie. He simply mislead Absalom. This on the one hand was more dangerous but it was also more effective. There was something genuine in what Hushi was saying that Absalom appreciated. Absalom just did not realize that it was directed against himself.
So too, when others cheat or mislead us or we let ourselves be robbed or mislead upon looking back we often see that the signs were there from the beginning. It happens that in some way our treacherous adversary actually warned us of their intentions or proclivities.
B (a Jewish man with a cynical attitude towards how own people) says to A:
"I guess the Jews succeed amongst the Anglos because the Anglos are trusting and gullible?"
A: "The Anglos are trusting but not so gullible. They let themselves be occasionally cheated badly by their own kind. Now and again they may let a Jew cheat them but never so badly or so often as they let their own people. They usually know what is going on. More often than not the Jew does not cheat. In the case of the Jew, cheating is actually exceptional and he provides services that others dont."
C was a Gentile who was always complaining to A that the Jews he dealt with were not honest. After a while A noticed that despite his "anti-Semitic" remarks C actually preferred to do business with Jews. He asked C about this.
C replied: "If you catch a Jew cheating he will be apologetic. He may return some of your money. A Gentile will laugh in your face".
Returning to our main theme:
Shimeon ben-Ephrat points out that two campaigns are being waged here. The first is to be that of the counselors and the second that of the armies. The war between the counselors will determine that of the armies. David knew this.
Historically the armies of Britain and the USA experienced ups and downs often suffering from initial lack of preparedness and bad planning. In the field of intelligence, counter-intelligence, and disinformation however they usually held their own from the very beginning.
After D-Day and the invasion of France in WW2 the Germans did not throw all the forces at their disposal against the Allies when such a move could still have been determinative. They had been led to believe that an extra million soldiers (who actually did not exist) were still waiting in England to make the main thrust and that the invasion of Normandy was only a feint.
[2-Samuel 16:20] THEN SAID ABSALOM TO AHITHOPHEL, GIVE COUNSEL AMONG YOU WHAT WE SHALL DO.
[2-Samuel 16:21] AND AHITHOPHEL SAID UNTO ABSALOM, GO IN UNTO THY FATHER'S CONCUBINES, WHICH HE HATH LEFT TO KEEP THE HOUSE; AND ALL ISRAEL SHALL HEAR THAT THOU ART ABHORRED OF THY FATHER: THEN SHALL THE HANDS OF ALL THAT ARE WITH THEE BE STRONG.
Absalom was the son of David. In killing Amnon his brother (who had raped Tamar his sister) Absalom had already seriously offended David yet David had forgiven him and the two had effected reconciliation. Now that Absalom had rebelled they who stood on the sidelines may have been wary of Absalom and David becoming reconciled once again leaving the followers of Absalom to face the music alone.
By publicly doing something that was unforgivable in the eyes of David everyone would know that the rift was irreconcilable.
[2-Samuel 16:22] SO THEY SPREAD ABSALOM A TENT UPON THE TOP OF THE HOUSE; AND ABSALOM WENT IN UNTO HIS FATHER'S CONCUBINES IN THE SIGHT OF ALL ISRAEL.
David had left concubines to mind the house (2-Samuel 15:16). Absalom had intercourse with all of them and according to tradition one of them was his own mother.
A rebellion against the House of David is in effect a rebellion against the Rule of God. Absalom may physically have been a descendant of David but by usurping legitimate succession he was setting a precedent that in the future could by used by strangers.
[2-Samuel 16:23] AND THE COUNSEL OF AHITHOPHEL, WHICH HE COUNSELLED IN THOSE DAYS, WAS AS IF A MAN HAD ENQUIRED AT THE ORACLE OF GOD: SO WAS ALL THE COUNSEL OF AHITHOPHEL BOTH WITH DAVID AND WITH ABSALOM.
<<AS IF A MAN HAD ENQUIRED AT THE ORACLE OF GOD>>: The Sages said that Ahitophel explained to Absalom that he was only fulfilling the decree of the Almighty,
THUS SAITH THE LORD, BEHOLD, I WILL RAISE UP EVIL AGAINST THEE OUT OF THINE OWN HOUSE, AND I WILL TAKE THY WIVES BEFORE THINE EYES, AND GIVE THEM UNTO THY NEIGHBOUR, AND HE SHALL LIE WITH THY WIVES IN THE SIGHT OF THIS SUN [2-Samuel 12:11].
<<THY NEIGHBOUR>> Hebrew "rayecha" which can mean "fellow" or "colleague" hinting that the person who would do this thing would be of the Royal Line and thus also a natural candidate for the monarchy, like David.
Concubines (in Hebrew "Pilagshim") were lesser wives and according to one opinion a stranger having intercourse with them is much less serious than doing so with a regular consort.
Somehow or other Ahitophel may have been lead to believe that what he was doing was permitted.
If this is so how can we reconcile it with the tradition that one of the concubines was his own mother?
First of all, we do not need to. Opinions of the Sages, traditions, etc, can be accepted or rejected in all cases where they do not involve practical application.
Apart from that it could also be suggested that once he let himself be convinced he could do such an evil act there was no stopping himself from going beyond his own lenience. It happens that once a person lets his own negative side gain strength it leads him beyond the boundaries he initially believed he had set for himself.
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