2 Samuel 13:34
But Absalom fled. And the young man that kept the watch lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came much people by the way of the hill side behind him.
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(34) Absalom fled.—This is connected on one side with 2Samuel 13:29, and on the other with 2Samuel 13:37. Several things were happening at once. When the king’s sons fled to the palace, Absalom, taking advantage of the confusion, escaped another way. The reason for mentioning the fact just here is that otherwise he would seem to be included among “the king’s sons” of the two following verses.

Behind himi.e., from the west, the Oriental always being supposed to face the east in speaking of the points of the compass.

2 Samuel 13:34. Absalom fled — He was now as much afraid of the king’s sons as they were of him; they fled from his malice, he from their justice. No part of the land of Israel could shelter him; the cities of refuge afforded no protection to a wilful murderer. Though David had let Amnon’s incest go unpunished, Absalom could not promise himself his pardon for this murder. He therefore made the best of his way to his mother’s relations, and was entertained and protected by his grandfather Talmai three years; David not demanding him, and Talmai not thinking himself obliged to send him back unless he were demanded.

13:30-39 Jonadab was as guilty of Ammon's death, as of his sin; such false friends do they prove, who counsel us to do wickedly. Instead of loathing Absalom as a murderer, David, after a time, longed to go forth to him. This was David's infirmity: God saw something in his heart that made a difference, else we should have thought that he, as much as Eli, honoured his sons more than God.Absalom fled - This is the sequel to 2 Samuel 13:29. The king's sons rose from table and fled, and Absalom taking advantage of the confusion, also escaped and fled. This information is inserted here to account for the king's sons returning unmolested. 30, 31. tidings came to David, saying, Absalom hath slain all the king's sons—It was natural that in the consternation and tumult caused by so atrocious a deed, an exaggerated report should reach the court, which was at once plunged into the depths of grief and despair. But the information of Jonadab, who seems to have been aware of the plan, and the arrival of the other princes, made known the real extent of the catastrophe. Absalom fled; he who had undertaken to defend his servants flees or his own life.

Behind him; behind the watchman; for it seems they did not come in the direct road, where the watchman looked for them, but (for some reason or fancy they had) fetched a compass, and came that way which he least expected them.

But Absalom fled,.... He who promised his servants protection could not protect himself, and who no doubt fled with him; he knew what he had done was death by law, and that there was no city of refuge for such sort of murder as this, and he had no reason to hope the king would suffer so foul a crime as this to pass unpunished:

and the young man that kept the watch lifted up his eyes, and looked: to the way that led from Absalom's house to Jerusalem, to see if he could spy any other messenger on the road from thence:

and, behold, there came much people by the way of the hill side behind him; that is, behind the watchman, who, looking round him, saw them; these people were the king's sons and their attendants, who, being at some distance, the young man could not discern who they were; they did not come the direct road from Absalom's house, but came a round about way, for fear, as R. Isaiah rightly conjectures, lest Absalom should pursue, or send pursuers after them, and slay them; though others, as Kimchi, think this refers to the hill, and that the sense is, that the watchman saw them coming from the way which was behind the hill, and began to see them when they came to the side of it, which was the way that led to the city, surrounded by mountains, see Psalm 125:2.

But Absalom fled. And the young man that kept the watch lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came much people by the way of the hill side behind him.
34. But Absalom fled] This brief statement of Absalom’s escape is inserted here in anticipation of 2 Samuel 13:37-38, in order to contrast Absalom’s flight with the return of the king’s sons to Jerusalem.

the young man that kept the watch] At Jerusalem, probably in the tower over one of the gates. Cp. ch. 2 Samuel 18:24.

much people] The princes had been attended by a numerous retinue of followers.

by the way of the hill side behind him] From the way behind him from the side of the hill: that is probably, if the text is sound, from the west. But the Sept. has important variations, thus: “And behold much people were coming in the way behind him by the side of the hill at the descent. And the watchman came and told the king, and said, I have seen men coming from the way of Oronen, by the side of the hill. And Jonadab said,” &c. Oronen may represent Horonaim or Beth-horon, the dual form referring to the two places of that name, the “Upper” and “Lower” Beth-horon—which lay north-west of Jerusalem.

Verse 34. - But Absalom fled. These words break the form of the narrative, but complete the sense. They briefly state that Jonadab was right; for, so far from molesting any of the rest of the king's sons, Absalom had no other thought than for his own safety. He had avenged his sister, but had at present no other sinister design. It was David's method of treating him which drove this youth, with a nature fit for treachery, into schemes of rebellion. The way of the hillside behind him. This may mean "from the west," as, in taking the points of the compass, the Hebrews looked to the east, which would thus be "before them." Compare "the backside of the desert," that is, "the western side," in Exodus 3:1; and "the Syrians before and the Philistines behind," that is, on the east and west (Isaiah 9:12). But the versions differ so strangely in their renderings that they could scarcely have been made from our present text. 2 Samuel 13:34"And Absalom fled." This statement follows upon 2 Samuel 13:29. When the king's sons fled upon their mules, Absalom also took to flight.

2 Samuel 13:30-33 are a parenthesis, in which the writer describes at once the impression made upon the king and his court by the report of what Absalom had done. The apparently unsuitable position in which this statement is placed may be fully explained from the fact, that the flight of Absalom preceded the arrival of the rest of the sons at the king's palace. The alteration which Bttcher proposes to make in the text, so as to remove this statement altogether on account of its unsuitable position, is proved to be inadmissible by the fact that the account of Absalom's flight cannot possibly be left out, as reference is made to it again afterwards (2 Samuel 13:37, 2 Samuel 13:38, "Absalom had fled"). The other alterations proposed by Thenius in the text of 2 Samuel 13:34, 2 Samuel 13:37, 2 Samuel 13:38, are just as arbitrary and out of place, and simply show that this critic was ignorant of the plan adopted by the historian. His plan is the following: To the account of the murder of Amnon, and the consequent flight of the rest of the king's sons whom Absalom had invited to the feast (2 Samuel 13:29), there is first of all appended a notice of the report which preceded the fugitives and reached the king's ears in an exaggerated form, together with the impression which it made upon the king, and the rectification of that report by Jonadab (2 Samuel 13:30-33). Then follows the statement that Absalom fled, also the account of the arrival of the king's sons (2 Samuel 13:34-36). After this we have a statement as to the direction in which Absalom fled, the king's continued mourning, and the length of time that Absalom's banishment lasted (2 Samuel 13:37, 2 Samuel 13:38), and finally a remark as to David's feelings towards Absalom (2 Samuel 13:39).

Jonadab's assertion, that Amnon only had been slain, was very speedily confirmed (2 Samuel 13:34). The young man, the spy, i.e., the young man who was looking out for the return of those who had been invited to the feast, "lifted up his eyes and saw," i.e., saw as he looked out into the distance, "much people (a crowd of men) coming from the way behind him along the side of the mountain." אחריו מדּרך, ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ ὄπισθεν αὐτοῦ (lxx), per iter devium (Vulg.), is obscure; and אהר, "behind," is probably to be understood as meaning "to the west:" from the way at the back of the spy, i.e., to the west of his station. The following words, ההר מצּד, also remain obscure, as the position of the spy is not given, so that the allusion may be to a mountain in the north-west of Jerusalem quite as well as to one on the west.

(Note: The lxx have very comprehensive additions here: first of all, after ἐκ πλευρᾶς τοῦ ὄρους, they have the more precise definition ἐν τῇ καταβάσει, and then the further clause, "and the spy came and announced to the king," Ἄνδρας ὲώρακα ἐκ τῆς ὁδοῦ τῆς ὠρωνῆν (?) ἐκ μέρους τοῦ ὅρους, partly to indicate more particularly the way by which the king's sons came, and partly to fill up a supposed gap in the account. But they did not consider that the statement in 2 Samuel 13:35, "and Jonadab said to the king, Behold, the king's sons are coming," does not square with these additions; for if the spy had already informed the king that his sons were coming, there was no necessity for Jonadab to do it again. This alone is sufficient to show that the additions made by the lxx are nothing but worthless glosses, introduced according to subjective conjectures and giving no foundation for alterations of the text.)

When the spy observed the crowd of men approaching, Jonadab said to the king (2 Samuel 13:35), "Behold, the king's sons are coming: as thy servant said, so has it come to pass."

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