[2-Samuel 18:1] DAVID NUMBERED THE PEOPLE THAT WERE WITH HIM, AND SET
CAPTAINS OF THOUSANDS, AND CAPTAINS OF HUNDREDS OVER THEM.
Absalom the son of David had rebelled against his father. Most of the nation had
followed Absalom who had taken Jerusalem and had public intercourse with the
concubines of his father. David with those of hi9s followers who remained
faithful had fled to the region east of the Jordan and managed to reconsolidate
[2-Samuel 18:2] AND DAVID SENT FORTH A THIRD PART OF THE PEOPLE UNDER THE HAND
OF JOAB, AND A THIRD PART UNDER THE HAND OF ABISHAI THE SON OF ZERUIAH, JOAB'S
BROTHER, AND A THIRD PART UNDER THE HAND OF ITTAI THE GITTITE. AND THE KING
SAID UNTO THE PEOPLE, I WILL SURELY GO FORTH WITH YOU MYSELF ALSO.
Joab and Zeruiah were brothers and cousins through their mother of David. Ittai
the Gittite was apparently a non-Israelite and some suggest he was of the
Philistines or some other related foreign origin. In 2-Samuel ch.17 and
elsewhere we mentioned the phenomenon of David being able to inspire loyalty and
dedication in foreigners many of whom served him.
[2-Samuel 18:3] BUT THE PEOPLE ANSWERED, THOU SHALT NOT GO FORTH: FOR IF WE FLEE
AWAY, THEY WILL NOT CARE FOR US; NEITHER IF HALF OF US DIE, WILL THEY CARE FOR
US: BUT NOW THOU ART WORTH TEN THOUSAND OF US: THEREFORE NOW IT IS BETTER THAT
THOU SUCCOUR US OUT OF THE CITY.
This is logical. David was just as important as the whole of his forcers put
The Duke of Wellington is quoted as saying words to the effect that, "Bonny
[i.e. Napoleon] is no Gentleman but his hat on the field is worth ten
[2-Samuel 18:4] AND 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 BY HUNDREDS
AND BY THOUSANDS.
[2-Samuel 18:5] AND THE KING COMMANDED JOAB AND ABISHAI AND ITTAI, SAYING, DEAL
GENTLY FOR MY SAKE WITH THE YOUNG MAN, EVEN WITH ABSALOM. AND ALL THE PEOPLE
HEARD WHEN THE KING GAVE ALL THE CAPTAINS CHARGE CONCERNING ABSALOM.
[2-Samuel 18:6] SO THE PEOPLE WENT OUT INTO THE FIELD AGAINST ISRAEL: AND THE
BATTLE WAS IN THE WOOD OF EPHRAIM;
The wood of Ephraim was actually in the territory of Manasseh east of the Jordan
supposedly in the plain between the Jordan River, and the towns of Succoth,
Zephon, and Machanim (cf. Judges 12:4)..
An alternate location has been proposed further to the north in the region of
Lake Kinneret (i.e. the Sea of Gailee).
[2-Samuel 18:7] WHERE THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL WERE SLAIN BEFORE THE SERVANTS OF
DAVID, AND THERE WAS THERE A GREAT SLAUGHTER THAT DAY OF TWENTY THOUSAND MEN.
<<A GREAT SLAUGHTER>>: The word translated as SLAUGHTER here in Hebrew is "magafah"
which usually means "plague". This may indicate that the forces of Absalom were
stricken with same kind of sickness.
In Ancient Times armies often lost more men to contagious disease than they did
[2-Samuel 18:8] FOR THE BATTLE WAS THERE SCATTERED OVER THE FACE OF ALL THE
COUNTRY: AND THE WOOD DEVOURED MORE PEOPLE THAT DAY THAN THE SWORD DEVOURED.
<< THE WOOD DEVOURED>>: Holes in the ground, wild beasts, thick scrub,
combined with the effects of lack of water, exhaustion, panic, and disease all
took their toll. The plague may have been something endemic to the forest just
as certain serious sickness may be contracted in caves. In those days there were
lions, bears, wolves, and other beasts prevalent in the forested areas.
[2-Samuel 18:9] AND ABSALOM MET THE SERVANTS OF DAVID. AND ABSALOM RODE UPON A
MULE, AND THE MULE WENT UNDER THE THICK BOUGHS OF A GREAT OAK, AND HIS HEAD
CAUGHT HOLD OF THE OAK, AND HE WAS TAKEN UP BETWEEN THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH;
AND THE MULE THAT WAS UNDER HIM WENT AWAY.
[2-Samuel 18:10] AND A CERTAIN MAN SAW IT, AND TOLD JOAB, AND SAID, BEHOLD, I
SAW ABSALOM HANGED IN AN OAK.
[2-Samuel 18:11] AND JOAB SAID UNTO THE MAN THAT TOLD HIM, AND, BEHOLD, THOU
SAWEST HIM, AND WHY DIDST THOU NOT SMITE HIM THERE TO THE GROUND? AND I WOULD
HAVE GIVEN THEE TEN SHEKELS OF SILVER, AND A GIRDLE.
<<A GIRDLE>>: This was a belt to which the sheaf of the sword was attached.
These were often ornately decorated and may have reflected a badge of rank or
[2-Samuel 18:1 AND THE MAN SAID UNTO JOAB, THOUGH I SHOULD RECEIVE A THOUSAND
SHEKELS OF SILVER IN MINE HAND, YET WOULD I NOT PUT FORTH MINE HAND AGAINST THE
KING'S SON: FOR IN OUR HEARING THE KING CHARGED THEE AND ABISHAI AND ITTAI,
SAYING, BEWARE THAT NONE TOUCH THE YOUNG MAN ABSALOM.
[2-Samuel 18:13] OTHERWISE 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.
[2-Samuel 18:14] THEN SAID JOAB, I MAY NOT TARRY THUS WITH THEE. AND HE TOOK
THREE DARTS IN HIS HAND, AND THRUST THEM THROUGH THE HEART OF ABSALOM, WHILE HE
WAS YET ALIVE IN THE MIDST OF THE OAK.
[2-Samuel 18:15] AND TEN YOUNG MEN THAT BARE JOAB'S ARMOUR COMPASSED ABOUT AND
SMOTE ABSALOM, AND SLEW HIM.
"Antiquities of the Jews"
Book v11, CHAPTER 10.
HOW, WHEN ABSALOM WAS BEATEN, HE WAS CAUGHT IN A TREE BY HIS HAIR AND WAS SLAIN
1. AND this was
the state of David and his followers: but Absalom got together a vast army of
the Hebrews to oppose his father, and passed
therewith over the river Jordan, and sat down not far off Mahanaim, in the
country of Gilead. He appointed Amasa to be captain of all his
host, instead of Joab his kinsman: his father was Ithra and his mother Abigail:
now she and Zeruiah, the mother of Joab, were David's
sisters. But when David had numbered his followers, and found them to be about
four thousand, he resolved not to tarry till Absalom
attacked him, but set over his men captains of thousands, and captains of
hundreds, and divided his army into three parts; the one
part he committed to Joab, the next to Abishai, Joab's brother, and the third to
Ittai, David's companion and friend, but one that came
from the city Gath; and when he was desirous of fighting himself among them, his
friends would not let him: and this refusal of theirs was founded upon very wise reasons: "For," said they, "if we be conquered when
he is with us, we have lost all good hopes of
recovering ourselves; but if we should be beaten in one part of our army, the
other parts may retire to him, and may thereby prepare a
greater force, while the enemy will naturally suppose that he hath another army
with him." So David was pleased with this their advice,
and resolved himself to tarry at Mahanaim; and as he sent his friends and
commanders to the battle, he desired them to show all possible
alacrity and fidelity, and to bear in mind what advantages they had received
from him, which, though they had not been very great, yet
had they not been quite inconsiderable; and he begged of them to spare the young
man Absalom, lest some mischief should befall himself, if he should be killed; and thus did he send out his army to the
battle, and wished them victory therein.
2. Then did Joab put his army in battle-array over against the enemy in the
Great Plain, where he had a wood behind him. Absalom also
brought his army into the field to oppose him. Upon the joining of the battle,
both sides showed great actions with their hands and
their boldness; the one side exposing themselves to the greatest hazards, and
using their utmost alacrity, that David might recover
his kingdom; and the other being no way deficient, either in doing or suffering,
that Absalom might not be deprived of that kingdom, and be
brought to punishment by his father for his impudent attempt against him. Those
also that were the most numerous were solicitous that they
might not be conquered by those few that were with Joab, and with the other
commanders, because that would be the greater disgrace to them;
while David's soldiers strove greatly to overcome so many ten thousands as the
enemy had with them. Now David's men were
conquerors, as superior in strength and skill in war; so they followed the
others as they fled away through the forests and
valleys; some they took prisoners, and many they slew, and more in the flight
than in the battle for there fell about twenty thousand
that day. But all David's men ran violently upon Absalom, for he was easily
known by his beauty and tallness. He was himself also afraid
lest his enemies should seize on him, so he got upon the king's mule, and fled;
but as he was carried with violence, and noise, and a great
motion, as being himself light, he entangled his hair greatly in the large
boughs of a knotty tree that spread a great way, and there he
hung, after a surprising manner; and as for the beast, it went on farther, and
that swiftly, as if his master had been still upon his
back; but he, hanging in the air upon the boughs, was taken by his enemies. Now
when one of David's soldiers saw this, he informed Joab
of it; and when the general said, that if he had shot at and killed Absalom, he
would have given him fifty shekels, - he replied, "I
would not have killed my master's son if thou wouldst have given me a thousand
shekels, especially when he desired that the young man might
be spared in the hearing of us all." But Joab bade him show him where it was
that he saw Absalom hang; whereupon he shot him to the heart,
and slew him, and Joab's armor-bearers stood round the tree, and pulled down his
dead body, and cast it into a great chasm that was
out of sight, and laid a heap of stones upon him, till the cavity was filled up,
and had both the appearance and the bigness of a grave.
Then Joab sounded a retreat, and recalled his own soldiers from pursuing the
enemy's army, in order to spare their countrymen.
3. Now Absalom had erected for himself a marble pillar in the king's dale, two
furlongs distant from Jerusalem, which he named Absalom's
Hand, saying, that if his children were killed, his name would remain by that
pillar; for he had three sons and one daughter, named Tamar,
as we said before, who when she was married to David's grandson, Rehoboam, bare
a son, Abijah by name, who succeeded his father in the
kingdom; but of these we shall speak in a part of our history which will be more
proper. After the death of Absalom, they returned every
one to their own homes respectively.
[2-Samuel 18:20] AND 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, BECAUSE THE KING'S SON IS DEAD.
Ahimaaz was apparently a member of the Court and known to David.
It would not be to his advantage for David to associate him with bad tidings.
[2-Samuel 18:21] THEN SAID JOAB TO CUSHI, GO TELL THE KING WHAT THOU HAST SEEN.
AND CUSHI BOWED HIMSELF UNTO JOAB, AND RAN.
<<CUSHI>>: In Hebrew "Cushi" can mean African or "negro". People of Black
African descent often have superior athletic abilities in certain fields
A "Cushi" was also a servant of King Zedekiah (Jeremiah 38:7).and later saved
the life of Jeremiah.
[2-Samuel 18:2 THEN SAID AHIMAAZ THE SON OF ZADOK YET AGAIN TO JOAB, BUT
HOWSOEVER, LET ME, I PRAY THEE, ALSO RUN AFTER CUSHI. AND JOAB SAID, WHEREFORE
WILT THOU RUN, MY SON, SEEING THAT THOU HAST NO TIDINGS READY?
[2-Samuel 18:23] BUT HOWSOEVER, SAID HE, LET ME RUN. AND HE SAID UNTO HIM, RUN.
THEN AHIMAAZ RAN BY THE WAY OF THE PLAIN, AND OVERRAN CUSHI.
Cushi apparently ran through the wood which may have been shorter but was
tougher going. Ahimaaz broke out into the open country of the plain and so was
able to run freely.
[2-Samuel 18:24] AND DAVID SAT BETWEEN THE TWO GATES: AND THE WATCHMAN WENT UP
TO THE ROOF OVER THE GATE UNTO THE WALL, AND LIFTED UP HIS EYES, AND LOOKED, AND
BEHOLD A MAN RUNNING ALONE.
The Radak explains that the city entrance had two walls one after the other and
therefore two gates. A two-gate arrangement at the entrance to a city
was common in Ancient Times as revealed by archaeological findings.
David sat between the gates. David had wanted to go out to battle at the head of
his followers but they had dissuaded him as we saw above.
David nevertheless was anxious concerning the outcome and sat where he could be
certain of there being no delay in him receiving whatever news would be
[2-Samuel 18:25] AND THE WATCHMAN CRIED, AND TOLD THE KING. AND THE KING SAID,
IF HE BE ALONE, THERE IS TIDINGS IN HIS MOUTH. AND HE CAME APACE, AND DREW
[2-Samuel 18:26] AND THE WATCHMAN SAW ANOTHER MAN RUNNING: AND THE WATCHMAN
CALLED UNTO THE PORTER, AND SAID, BEHOLD ANOTHER MAN RUNNING ALONE. AND THE
KING SAID, HE ALSO BRINGETH TIDINGS.
[2-Samuel 18:27] AND THE WATCHMAN SAID, ME THINKETH 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.
The watchman recognized the style of running of Ahimaaz who may well have been a
famous athlete. Somewhere in our notes we have an article by a South African
Professor (P. S. Vermaak, "THE PROWESS OF THE BENJAMINITES") who suggests that
the Tribe of Benjamin on the whole had a reputation as runners and a style of
running peculiar to themselves.
[2-Samuel 18:28] AND AHIMAAZ CALLED, AND SAID UNTO THE KING, ALL IS WELL. AND HE
FELL DOWN TO THE EARTH UPON HIS FACE BEFORE THE KING, AND SAID, BLESSED BE THE
LORD THY GOD, WHICH HATH DELIVERED UP THE MEN THAT LIFTED UP THEIR HAND AGAINST
MY LORD THE KING.
[2-Samuel 18:29] AND THE KING SAID, IS THE YOUNG MAN ABSALOM SAFE? AND AHIMAAZ
ANSWERED, WHEN JOAB SENT THE KING'S SERVANT, AND ME THY SERVANT, I SAW A GREAT
TUMULT, BUT I KNEW NOT WHAT IT WAS.
Ahimaaz was apparently a champion runner and a loyal servant of David.
Ahimaaz was glad that the enemies of David had been defeated.
He wanted to be the one to deliver the news. He hoped to deliver the news in
such a way as to lessen the shock that David would feel at the death of his
son Absalom. He also had a kind of reputation to uphold. He was the one who
brought messages to the King in record time. He was the one who was known
for bringing good tidings. David said of him, "HE IS A GOOD MAN, AND COMETH
WITH GOOD TIDINGS" (2-Samuel 18:26). He may therefore have refused to bluntly
tell the king that Absalom was dead but rather he dissimulated. It is unlikely
that he was not aware of the death of Absalom but this could be so.
Alternately he knew but had not been told directly and so was not lying.
Both Jewish and Ancient Scandinavian Tradition (as related in Saxo Grammaticus)
held that if in very exceptional circumstances one cannot tell
the whole truth one should nevertheless endeavor if possible not to utter an
[2-Samuel 18:30] AND THE KING SAID UNTO HIM, TURN ASIDE, AND STAND HERE. AND HE
TURNED ASIDE, AND STOOD STILL.
[2-Samuel 18:31] AND, BEHOLD, CUSHI CAME; AND CUSHI SAID, TIDINGS, MY LORD THE
KING: FOR THE LORD HATH AVENGED THEE THIS DAY OF ALL THEM THAT ROSE UP AGAINST
[2-Samuel 18:3 AND THE KING SAID UNTO CUSHI, IS THE YOUNG MAN ABSALOM SAFE? AND
CUSHI ANSWERED, THE ENEMIES OF MY LORD THE KING, AND ALL THAT RISE AGAINST THEE
TO DO THEE HURT, BE AS THAT YOUNG MAN IS.
Cushi was expressing the feelings of the rank and file who followed David.
The King was more than just a person. He was an institution that people believed
in and that affected everyday life and social conduct. The threat
to David had been a threat to all those who believed in what David stood for.
The threat therefore deserved to be removed as absolutely as possible,
i.e. by execution, regardless of the personal feelings of the king himself.
There is something g in this. In psalms we understand that David had many
enemies and that the enemies of David were the enemies of God and of Israel.
Absalom had publicly contaminated the concubines of King David.
ABSALOM WENT IN UNTO HIS FATHER'S CONCUBINES IN THE SIGHT OF ALL ISRAEL
This contamination also involved an open transgression against the Torah of
Israel and of family life. What had been the motivations behind the wicked deed
of Absalom? Was a particular ideological outlook involved?
[2-Samuel 18:33] AND 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 I HAD DIED FOR THEE, O ABSALOM, MY SON, MY SON!
David would rather have died instead of his son Absalom.
He was expressing his feelings as a private person. Absalom had headed a
movement against David but had not necessarily realized the implications of all
that he was doing. The expression of David is a counter-weight to what Cushi
had said. Cushi said that all the enemies of the King should suffer as Absalom
did. David reacted by saying that he himself would have preferred to be in place
Even so the reaction of David was possibly not a fit thing to exhibit at that
moment. Joab (as we shall see) would be angry with David over this and
the reasoning of Joab appears to have been correct in this instance.
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