Therefore I counsel that all Israel be generally gathered to you, from Dan even to Beersheba, as the sand that is by the sea for multitude; and that you go to battle in your own person.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)I counsel that all Israel.—Hushai had before him a difficult task. He had not only to “make the worse appear the better reason,” but to do this in face of the counsel of a man very famous for his wisdom and devoted to the interests of Absalom, while his own fidelity had but just now been called in question. He accomplishes his task successfully by emphasising all the possible hazards and contingencies of the plan recommended by Ahithophel, and by proposing, on the other hand, a plan attended with no risk, on the supposition that the great mass of Israel already were, and would continue to be, on Absalom’s side, a supposition which; with delicate flattery, he assumes as true.2 Samuel 17:11. Therefore I counsel that all Israel be generally gathered unto thee — As Ahithophel proposed all imaginable advantage to the evil cause he was engaged in, from expedition, upon the principle mentioned by Tacitus, that nothing determines civil discords so happily as despatch, Hushai, on the contrary, laid himself out to protract and to delay. His design was to gain David more time, that he might increase his army and make better preparation for the battle; and that the present heat of the people for Absalom might be cooled, and they might at last bethink themselves of their duty to David, and return to their former allegiance. For delay, as the same Tacitus observes, gives ill men time to repent, and the good to unite; with a view, therefore, to gain this delay, his advice to Absalom was, that he should wait till he had collected a far larger and more complete army. That all Israel be generally gathered unto thee, from Dan even to Beer-sheba — An army made up of the bravest men of all the tribes, to which every thing must yield; and thereby to make sure though slow work. And that thou go to battle in thine own person — Intimating that his presence would put life and courage into his soldiers, who would be ambitious to show their skill and courage in defending his person, when they knew that all their actions were observed by him, who had the distribution of rewards and punishments in his hands; and intimating that the glory of the victory belonged to him alone, and that no body should pretend to rob him of it. “And whereas it was urged by Ahithophel, that he would smite the king only, as if all Absalom’s ends were to be attained by his death, Hushai intimates that the death of competitors was as necessary as that of the king, at least, the death of him who was divinely designed for the throne. And, therefore, he adds, that they should come upon David, where he could not be concealed, and whence he could not escape, nor any one of those that were with him.”2 Samuel 17:12; 1 Samuel 26:25.
Hushai's argument is that there was no chance of seizing David by surprise as Ahithophel suggested. There was sure to be sharp fighting, and the terror of the names of David, Joab, Abishai, Ittai, and their companions, would magnify the first few blows received into a victory, and Absalom's men would flee in panic. It is likely that Absalom was not a man of courage, and Hushai, knowing this, adroitly magnified the terror of the warlike prowess of David and his mighty men.
2Sa 17:1-14. Ahithophel's Counsel Overthrown by Hushai.
1-11. Moreover Ahithophel said unto Absalom—The recommendation to take prompt and decisive measures before the royalist forces could be collected and arranged, evinced the deep political sagacity of this councillor. The adoption of his advice would have extinguished the cause of David; and it affords a dreadful proof of the extremities to which the heartless prince was, to secure his ambitious objects, prepared to go, that the parricidal counsel "pleased Absalom well, and all the elders of Israel." It was happily overruled, however, by the address of Hushai, who saw the imminent danger to which it would expose the king and the royal cause. He dwelt upon the warlike character and military experience of the old king—represented him and his adherents as mighty men, who would fight with desperation; and who, most probably, secure in some stronghold, would be beyond reach, while the smallest loss of Absalom's men at the outset might be fatal to the success of the conspiracy. But his dexterity was chiefly displayed in that part of his counsel which recommended a general levy throughout the country; and that Absalom should take command of it in person—thereby flattering at once the pride and ambition of the usurper. The bait was caught by the vainglorious and wicked prince.
That thou go to battle in thine own person; for thy presence will put more life and courage into all thy soldiers, who will be ambitious to show their utmost skill and courage in defending thy person and cause, when they know that all their actions are observed by him who hath the distribution of rewards and punishments in his hands. So mayst thou also give counsel as occasion offers, and encourage thy men to kill David, which otherwise they may possibly be afraid to do. Besides, the glory of the victory will be wholly thine, which now Ahithophel seeks to get to himself.
that all Israel be generally gathered unto thee, from Dan even to Beersheba, as the sand that is by the sea for multitude: not all the inhabitants of the land, but such as are fit to bear arms, or that were soldiers, employed in military affairs, in keeping garrisons, guarding the coasts, &c. even the militia of the nation, from the extreme boundary of it on the north to the extreme boundary of it on the south; in such a direction lay Dan and Beersheba. This is opposed to the counsel of Ahithophel, which was only to select twelve thousand men, and send them against David at once; and this is designed chiefly to gain time, since such a collection could not be made soon, and so David would have more time to get farther off, and to prepare the better for his defence; and this advice might be the more agreeable to Absalom, as it promised a greater certainty of success through numbers, and might feed the vanity and ambition of that prince to have such a large army under him, as well as suggested that all Israel were on his side, and at his command, and might easily be gathered to him:
and that thou go to battle in thine own person; this was another part of his advice opposed to the counsel of Ahithophel, who proposed to have the command of the twelve thousand men himself, and to leave Absalom at Jerusalem; now Hushai suggests that it would be more to his interest and his honour to take command of the army himself, and go in person into the field of battle; since this would serve to animate his soldiers, when they saw their prince at the head of them, and he would have the glory of the victory, which he might insinuate hereby Ahithophel sought to deprive him of: it is in the Hebrew text, that "thy face" or "faces go to battle" (m), where he might be seen in person, and have the oversight and direction of things himself; the Targum is,"and thou shalt go at the head of us all;''and this advice Hushai was directed to give, and which was taken, that Absalom might fall in battle.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)11. be generally gathered] Generally = ‘as a whole’: as we might say, “that there be a general gathering of all Israel.”
from Dan even to Beer-sheba] See note on 1 Samuel 3:20.
the sand, &c.] A common figure for an innumerable multitude. Cp. Genesis 22:17; Genesis 41:49; 1 Samuel 13:5; Psalm 78:27; &c.
and that thou go, &c.] Or, and that thy presence go in the midst of them; as the Sept., Vulg., and other versions read instead of to the battle.Verse 11. - And that thou go to battle in thine own person; literally, and that thy presence go to the battle. The versions have preserved a much better reading, "And that thy presence go in the midst of them."
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