|<< 2 Sam 15|
II Samuel 16-18 Listen
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 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.
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.
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.
In II Samuel 15 (see notes) we see David and his people leaving Jerusalem in flight from his treasonous son, Absalom. That evacuation continues here in chapter 16.
Remember the big break David gave Jonathan's son, Mephibosheth, by bringing this crippled young man to David's table and providing him with the best of everything, even servants headed by Ziba? Mephibosheth and Ziba got a big break that day (II Samuel 9:1-13, see notes). However, this day Ziba comes to meet David with supplies for his journey, but with an ulterior motive. He spins a tall tale of how Mephibosheth has sided with Absalom and expects to ascend to the throne of his grandfather, Saul. As it turns out, Ziba is lying; Mephibosheth would later confirm that he remained loyal to David all along (II Samuel 19, see notes), but due to his physical disability was unable to leave without assistance. David believes Ziba, however, and hastily decrees that all of Mephibosheth's possessions be given to Ziba in verse 4.
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.
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.
7 And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial:
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.
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.
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?
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.
12 It may be that the LORD will look on mine affliction, and that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing this day.
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.
14 And the king, and all the people that were with him, came weary, and refreshed themselves there.
Then there's this guy, Shimei; his mention in the scripture comes because he's a relative of Saul who obviously feels strongly that David is an illegitimate King of Israel. Shimei walks alongside David as he is fleeing Jerusalem throwing rocks at David and cursing him, and he does so for quite a distance. He's very cruel and daring when he says to David, "Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial." Incidentally, while the KJV frequently transliterates the Hebrew word "belial" as a proper name, in fact it is a general Hebrew word meaning worthless or wicked. Seeing it capitalized, one might get the impression that it was the name of a pagan god, but not so. Shimei is a gutsy guy; David's nephew, Abishai, offers to take him out, but David forbids it and allows the man to go on mocking and cursing him - even suggests in verse 10 that Shimei is prompted by Jehovah himself to cry out these insults. David concludes that God will sort it all out. Later on, Shimei would come back to David and apologize, and David would forgive him (II Samuel 19, see notes). That's not really the end of it, though; his end would be unpleasant under the reign of David's son and successor, Solomon (I Kings 2:46, see notes).
15 And Absalom, and all the people the men of Israel, came to Jerusalem, and Ahithophel with him.
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.
17 And Absalom said to Hushai, Is this thy kindness to thy friend? why wentest thou not with thy friend?
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.
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.
20 Then said Absalom to Ahithophel, Give counsel among you what we shall do.
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.
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.
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.
Absalom rides into Jerusalem and takes over - even goes and takes David's concubines as his own - the ones that were left behind in II Samuel 15:13-37 (see notes). This outrageous deed was done at the counsel of Ahithophel who claimed that when the Jerusalem residents saw this master act of rebellion, they would assume that Absalom is definitely in and David is definitely out. They considered the spectacle of this horrendous act to be so important that Absalom set up a tent on top of David's royal house in which he defiled David's concubines for all of Jerusalem to see. Nathan had prophesied this in II Samuel 12:11 (see notes). David is still reaping the consequences of his sin with Bathsheba.
By the way, the spy from David, Hushai (II Samuel 15:32 (see notes), successfully sells himself as loyal to Absalom. That might present a problem for Absalom later on - serves him right, don't you agree? Incidentally, we see a reference to how very significant Ahithophel's counsel was regarded in verse 23, "And the counsel of Ahithophel, which he counseled 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." Imagine: Here's Ahithophel giving counsel to Absalom that is in direct violation of Mosaic Law (Leviticus 18:8, see notes; Leviticus 20:11, see notes; Deuteronomy 22:30, see notes). We are told that it was a common practice among kings in that region to demonstrate one's ascension to the throne by hijacking the royal harem, but for Israelites, it was an atrocious act against God's Law. Perhaps the obvious needs to be stated here as a rule of thumb: Not everyone who proclaims to speak in the name of God is really speaking in the name of God. Oh...by the way...that's still true today. Many self-proclaimed prophets would have their audiences violate clear scriptural mandates "in the name of God." Remember this: If it isn't scriptural, it isn't God's will.
1 Moreover Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Let me now choose out twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue after David this night:
2 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:
3 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.
4 And the saying pleased Absalom well, and all the elders of Israel.
5 Then said Absalom, Call now Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear likewise what he saith.
6 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.
7 And Hushai said unto Absalom, The counsel that Ahithophel hath given is not good at this time.
8 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.
9 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.
10 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.
11 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.
12 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.
13 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.
14 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.
15 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.
16 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.
17 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.
18 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.
19 And the woman took and spread a covering over the well’s mouth, and spread ground corn thereon; and the thing was not known.
20 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.
21 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.
22 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.
23 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.
24 Then David came to Mahanaim. And Absalom passed over Jordan, he and all the men of Israel with him.
25 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.
26 So Israel and Absalom pitched in the land of Gilead.
27 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,
28 Brought beds, and basons, and earthen vessels, and wheat, and barley, and flour, and parched corn, and beans, and lentiles, and parched pulse,
29 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.
Well, Ahithophel, Absalom's main counselor, is ready to go after David himself...and kill him. Remember Hushai (16:16-18), the guy who had been counselor with Ahithophel to David? You may recall that David sent him back to Absalom in II Samuel 15:13-37 (see notes) and told him to keep an eye on Absalom, and to report back through messengers any suspicious activity. He turns out to be the right man in the right place here. Hushai persuades Absalom that Ahithophel's idea of going after David immediately is a lousy strategy. Hushai suggests an alternate idea which serves to give David some time; Absalom adopts Hushai's strategy (good for David, but bad for Absalom). Hushai then sends warning back to David by the priests' sons outlining the adopted battle plan. Interestingly enough, Absalom has his own incidental spy who sees the messengers; they have to be hidden in a well to prevent capture by Absalom's men. Ahithophel takes the rejection of his battle plan really, really hard and hangs himself (verse 23). Verse 4 is a little disturbing in this passage where we see that "all the elders of Israel" sided with Absalom; a crowd will turn on you in a heartbeat...and their leaders too. Way too many people follow the crowd rather than God.
So...here's the situation: Absalom is now following a flawed battle plan laid out by David's loyal counselor, Hushai. What's more, Hushai is able to get advanced warning back to David. Absalom is headed for disaster and doesn't even realize it.
Oh...one more item of interest here in verse 25: Absalom made Amasa "captain of the host" instead of Joab. Of course, Joab remained faithful to David in exile. Both were nephews of David. So...when this is all over, will Joab be rewarded for his faithfulness to David, and will Amasa be executed as a traitor? Nooooo! In a political move, David allows Amasa (the traitor) to remain over Israel's army (II Samuel 19:9-15, see notes). He doesn't hold the position very long before cousin Joab disposes of him in II Samuel 20 (see notes). Does it seem to you that David's family might have been a little...you know...dysfunctional?
1 And David numbered the people that were with him, and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
6 So the people went out into the field against Israel: and the battle was in the wood of Ephraim;
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.
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.
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.
10 And a certain man saw it, and told Joab, and said, Behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak.
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.
12 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.
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.
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.
15 And ten young men that bare Joab’s armour compassed about and smote Absalom, and slew him.
16 And Joab blew the trumpet, and the people returned from pursuing after Israel: for Joab held back the people.
17 And they took Absalom, and cast him into a great pit in the wood, and laid a very great heap of stones upon him: and all Israel fled every one to his tent.
18 Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a pillar, which is in the king’s dale: for he said, I have no son to keep my name in remembrance: and he called the pillar after his own name: and it is called unto this day, Absalom’s place.
David's ready to go to battle with the troops, but Joab convinces him to stay back - a very good idea, since the death of David is Absalom's objective. David's objective is a little fuzzy here, based upon his orders to his generals in verse 5, "Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom." What is David thinking? Verse 7 is amazing to me; the "servants of David" are fighting against "Israel." Some 20,000 Israeli soldiers, having attacked David's servants, are killed that day. It seems that Absalom's army was ill equipped to fight in the forest (verse 8). Then for the big kill - the death of Absalom himself.
Absalom was no ordinary person and needed a special way to die. He's riding on his mule (that's right, mule) when his hair gets caught in a tree as he goes under it. No, no, not a horse...a mule - a slow, slow mule, one like royalty rides, the luxury transportation vehicle in those days. The scripture simply reports that his head was caught, but Jewish tradition according to Josepus (Antiq. 7.10.2) maintained that he was caught there by his long hair, an extra-scriptural explanation that, if true, might explain why Absalom was not able to extract himself from this predicament. So, Absalom is hanging there in all his vulnerability. One of David's troops sees him, but is reluctant to kill him after David's expression of love for him prior to the battle (verse 12). Perhaps he also remembers what David did to the guy who tried to take responsibility for Saul's death in II Samuel 1 (see notes). He tells Joab, who's not reluctant at all (Joab wasn't afraid of David). An impression is given here that some time passed while Absalom was stuck in that tree. "I know what will bring him down," reasons Joab, "Darts!" Joab takes three spears and pierces Absalom's heart and then lets three men finish him off. Whether David realizes it or not, the only good Absalom is a dead Absalom, given the fact that Absalom's goal in life was David's overthrow and death.
David gets the good news and the bad news (II Samuel 18:19-33)
19 Then said Ahimaaz the son of Zadok, Let me now run, and bear the king tidings, how that the LORD hath avenged him of his enemies.
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.
21 Then said Joab to Cushi, Go tell the king what thou hast seen. And Cushi bowed himself unto Joab, and ran.
22 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?
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.
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.
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 near.
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.
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.
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.
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.
30 And the king said unto him, Turn aside, and stand here. And he turned aside, and stood still.
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 thee.
32 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.
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!
Ahimaaz, the son of the high priest, Zadok, is really excited over the death of Absalom and can't wait to share the news with David. Joab declines to let him go, but opts to send a slave as messenger instead. Why? I suspect Joab recalled how poorly David had received the news of Saul's death (II Samuel 1, see notes); he just wanted to be careful with the life of the high priest's son. After the Cushite takes off with the news to David, Ahimaaz convinces Joab to allow him to take the news; Joab finally agrees. Ahimaaz passes the slave and makes it to David first. He must have learned something from Joab though; he only gives him the good news, "David, you're not a fugitive anymore; the battle's over!" Then David asks the big question in verse 29, "And the king said, Is the young man Absalom safe?" WHAT! How can David possibly show concern for the safety of the man who plotted his death?!!!! I don't know...looks like the priests son, Ahimaaz, might have chickened out on answering that question - looks like he lied. He must have reasoned, "let's leave that bit of news for the Cushite to deliver." The slower-running Cushite shows up almost immediately after Ahimaaz with the news, "Absalom is dead!" David goes into a grievous mourning session over his dead son.