2 SAMUEL CHAPTER 18.
The End of Absalom’s Rebellion.
THE END OF ABSALOM. — V.1. And David numbered the people that were with him, and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them, the mustering being done with the care of the experienced general. V.2. And David, having made three divisions of his army, 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, the three divisions thus being sent forth under the command of these three tested warriors. And the king said unto the people, I will surely go forth with you myself also, in supreme command of all the forces. V.3. But the people, who loved him and were thoroughly loyal to him, answered, Thou shalt not go forth; for if we flee away, they will not care for us, that fact would have comparatively little weight with them; neither if half of us die, will they care for us, that also would not really satisfy their hearts; but, now, thou art worth ten thousand of us, his power and influence was equivalent to that of ten thousand common soldiers; therefore, now, it is better that thou succor us out of the city, remaining with a reserve corps in case assistance should be needed at any point of the battle-line. V.4. And the king said unto them, What seemeth you best I will do, he agreed to this prudent suggestion. And the king stood by the gate side, in the entrance of the city gate, and all the people came out by hundreds and by thousands, he reviewed them as they marched by. V.5. And the king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom; they should abstain from all harshness against his person. And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains charge concerning Absalom, the command was given in the hearing of the entire army. V.6. So the people went out into the field against Israel, the army of David advancing to the attack; and the battle was in the wood of Ephraim, in the northeastern part of the country of Gilead; v.7. where the people of Israel were slain before the servants of David, completely defeated by the veteran army of the king, and there was there a great slaughter that day of twenty thousand men. V.8. For the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country, it was spread out over the entire woody mountain terrain, which was cut up by deep gorges; and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured, for soldiers were lost in the mountain fastnesses and perished from exhaustion and hunger. V.9. And Absalom met the servants of David, he found himself face to face with the heroes of David and in imminent danger of being captured. And Absalom rode upon a mule, the animal used for riding by the royal children: and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, one of the splendid terebinths of the forest, and his head caught hold of the oak, evidently because his long hair, of which he was so proud, wrapped around a limb; and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth, suspended from the tree by the hair of his head. And the mule that was under him went away, continuing his flight without his master. V.10. And a certain man, a private of the army of David, saw it and told Joab, making a report to his commander, and said. Behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak. V.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? Joab severely reprimanded the private as though he had neglected an important duty. And I would have given thee ten shekels of silver and a girdle, as a reward for killing Absalom. V.12. And the man said unto Joab, Though I should receive a thousand shekels of silver in mine hand, literally, “weighed into my hand,” that is, seven hundred dollars instead of the seven offered, yet would I not put forth mine hand against the king’s son; for in our hearing v.5. the king charged thee and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Beware that none touch the young man Absalom, to harm his person or to take his life. V.13. Otherwise I should have wrought falsehood against mine own life, literally, “Had I dealt deceitfully against his life,” by acting against the express prohibition of the king; for there is no matter hid from the king, and thou thyself wouldest have set thyself against me, appearing before the king as accuser and causing the private to be punished. V.14. Then said Joab, I may not tarry thus with thee, losing time in this discussion, instead of doing what he considered necessary. And he took three darts in his hand, wooden staffs sharpened to he weapons, and thrust them through the heart of Absalom, while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak, suspended in the thicket of its branches. V.15. And ten young men that bare Joab’s armor compassed about and smote Absalom, and slew him, completing the work of their master. V.16. And Joab blew the trumpet, since Absalom’s death made further fighting unnecessary, and the people returned from pursuing after Israel; for Joab held back the people, since he wanted to spare the party of Absalom and not provoke a civil war. V.17. And they took Absalom, and cast him into a great pit in the wood, not granting him a proper burial, and laid a very great heap of stones upon him, a sign of embittered feeling for the rebel, a proper monument of shame for his crime; and all Israel fled, every one to his tent, to his own home. The rebellion was definitely broken. V.18. Now, Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a pillar, a monument of stone, which is in the king’s dale, Gen. 28, 22; 31, 52, the valley of the Kidron, some distance east of Jerusalem; for he said, I have no son to keep my name in remembrance, those mentioned chap. 14, 27 evidently having died in early childhood; and he called the pillar after his own name; and it is called unto this day Absalom’s Place, literally, “Absalom’s Hand,” recalling his memory like an uplifted hand. A significant contrast: the monument which his own vanity erected during his lifetime, and that actually placed over his body after his death! His example shows how jealously God guards the honor of parents and masters according to the Fourth Commandment, how severely He punishes disobedience and contempt of the authorities established by Him.
DAVID’S LAMENT FOR ABSALOM. — V.19. Then said Ahimaaz, the son of Zadok, who was with the troops, let me now run and bear the king tidings how that the Lord hath avenged him of his enemies, it was the direct divine interposition which had brought David justice. V.20. And Joab said unto him, Thou shalt not bear tidings, be a messenger, this day, but thou shalt bear tidings an other day; but this day thou shalt bear no tidings because the king’s son is dead. Joab felt that the king might be angry because Absalom had been put to death, and he did not want Ahimaaz to be exposed to this anger. V.21. Then said Joab to Cushi, probably an Egyptian slave in his service, Go tell the king what thou hast seen. And Cushi bowed himself unto Joab and ran. V.22. Then said Ahimaaz, the son of Zadok, yet again to Joab, but, howsoever, no matter what may happen, let me, I pray thee, also run after Cushi. He was anxious to convey what he thought was excellent news to David. And Joab, still unwilling to let the young man incur the anger of David, said, Wherefore wilt thou run, my son, seeing that thou hast no tidings ready? His message would not be profitable, since the king was bound to consider it bad, from his standpoint, and would therefore look upon him as a messenger of evil. V.23. But, howsoever, just the same, said he, let me run. He was willing to take the risk. And he said unto him, Run. Then Ahimaaz ran by the way of the plain and overran Cushi, reaching Mahanaim before the real messenger arrived. V.24. And David sat between the two gates, the space between the outer and the inner gates; and the watchman went up to the roof over the gate unto the wall, over the outer gate, which was connected with the city wall, and lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, a man running alone. V.25. And the watchman cried and told the king, whom his voice could reach, as he sat beneath the entrance arch or vault. And the king said, if he be alone, there is tidings in his mouth, he came as a messenger, for in the other event there would be several fugitives. And he, the runner, came apace, and drew near. V.26. And the watchman saw another man running; and the watchman called unto the porter, the keeper of the gate, and said, Behold, another man running alone. And the king said, He also bringeth tidings, he also must surely be a messenger. V.27. And the watchman said, Me thinketh that the running of the foremost is like the running of Ahimaaz, the son of Zadok, for by this time he could distinguish the peculiarities of the runner’s gait. And the king said, He is a good man, and cometh with good tidings, since Joab would certainly not have chosen him for evil news. V.28. And Ahimaaz, as soon as he came into hailing distance, called and said unto the king, All is well, literally, “Peace!” or, “Hail!” And he fell down to the earth upon his face before the king, in an attitude of reverence, and said, Blessed be the Lord, thy God, which hath delivered up the men that lifted up their hand against my lord the king. The revolt was so effectually quenched that the rebels could no longer stir. V.29. And the king said, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Ahimaaz, in an attempt to temporize, to evade the question, answered, When Joab sent the king’s servant, namely, Cushi, and me, thy servant, I saw a great tumult, but I knew not what it was. He made the impression that Absalom’s fate was not get decided when Joab sent him off. V.30. And the king said unto him, Turn aside and stand here, making way for the second messenger. And he turned aside and stood still. V.31. And, behold, Cushi came; and Cushi said, Tidings, my lord the king, he came as an official messenger; for the Lord hath avenged thee this day of all them that rose up against thee, that was the way in which the victory must be regarded, as a direct interposition of God. V.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. It was an indirect announcement of Absalom’s destruction, and in a manner which properly expressed condemnation of Absalom’s hostile attempt against his father and king. V.33. And the king, weakly losing sight of the avenging hand of God in this death, was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, probably that used by the watchmen of the city, 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! He was more deeply afflicted by the death of this rebellious son than by any event in his life. It is a blessing of God if dangerous and rebellious people, who lead others into temptation and destruction, are destroyed by God’s wrath. In such cases the believers have all reason to thank and praise God for the justice of His punishments.