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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)The wood devoured more.—The battle and the pursuit covered a wide range of country; more were slain in the pursuit through the wood, both by accident and by the sword, than in the actual battle itself.2 Samuel 18:8. The battle was scattered over all the country — In that neighbourhood; both in the field and in the wood. The wood devoured more people than the sword — Some think the wood is said to devour them because they fell into pits, or stumbled upon stumps of trees, or pressed one another to death, as they came into strait places, or were killed by wild beasts. But the most natural meaning of the words is, that there were more slain in the wood, into which Absalom’s men fled, than in the open field; that is, more in their flight, which was stopped by the wood, than in the battle.2 Samuel 18:17. The battle was there scattered, i. e. the warriors being beaten in the fight, fled, and were dispersed; the abstract being put for the concrete, as poverty is put for poor men, 2 Kings 24:14, and deceit for the deceiver, and dreams for dreamers, Proverbs 12:24 13:6.
The wood devoured more people, i.e. more people died in the wood, either through hunger, and thirst, and weariness; or by the wild beasts, whereof great numbers were there, which, though they were driven away by noise and clamour from the place of the main battle, yet might easily meet with them when they fled several ways, which also might be directed and sent to them by God’s providence and just judgment to punish them for their rebellion; or by falling into ditches and pits, which were in that place, 2 Samuel 18:17, and probably were covered with grass or wood, so as they could not see them till they fell into them; or by being hanged in trees, as Absalom was, 2 Samuel 18:9; and especially by David’s men, who pursued them, and killed them in the wood: and the wood is rightly said to have devoured them, because it gave the occasion to their destruction, inasmuch as the trees, and ditches, and pits, entangled them, and stopped their flight, and made them an easy prey to David’s men, who followed them, and slew them in the pursuit, being therein directed and assisted by the people of that country, who, after the manner, fell in with the victorious side.
Than the sword devoured, to wit, in the main battle; the sword being put for the battle, by a common metonymy.
and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured; there were more slain in it the in the field of battle, what by one thing or another; as by falling into pits and on stumps of trees, and being entangled in the bushes, and could make but little haste, and so were overtaken by David's men, and slain; insomuch that, as Josephus (h) observes, there were more slain fleeing than fighting, and perhaps some might perish by wild beasts; so the Targum,"and the beasts of the wood slew more of the people than were slain by the sword;''and so the Syriac and Arabic versions render the words to the same purpose.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)8. the wood devoured more, &c.] The explanation generally given is that they perished in the pits and precipices and morasses of the forest: but this seems unlikely. More probably it means that owing to the nature of the ground more were slain in the pursuit through the forest, than in the actual battle.Verse 8. - The battle was there scattered. The word in the Hebrew is a noun, which the Massorites have changed into a participle. But the noun is right: "The battle became a scattering," that is, it was a series of disconnected encounters, in which David's three divisions attacked and routed Absalom's men, while still on the march, without giving them an opportunity of collecting and forming in order of battle. And the wood devoured more people that day thin the sword devoured. The woodland was difficult, full of gorges and begs and steep defiles leading down to the Jordan, and the fugitives easily lest their way in it, and wandered about till they were hopelessly entangled in thicket and morass. 2 Samuel 18:1-2. David mustered the people that were with him, and placed over them captains of thousands and hundreds, and divided them into three companies, under the generals Joab, Abishai, and Ittai the Gathite, who had given such decided proofs, according to 2 Samuel 15:21-22, of his fidelity to David. בּיד שׁלּח, to leave to the hand of a person, i.e., to his power, is used here in the sense of placing under his direction. The people opposed in the most decided manner the wish of the king to go with them to the war, saying (2 Samuel 18:3), "Thou shalt not go out: for if we flee, they will take no heed of us (i.e., attach no importance to this); and if half of us die, they will take no heed of us: for thou art as ten thousand of us (we must evidently read אתּה for עתּה, and עתּה has merely got into the text in consequence of ועתּה following): and now it is good that thou be ready to give us help from the city" (the Chethib לעזיר, inf. Hiphil for להעזיר, is not to be disputed). David was to stay behind in the city with a reserve, that he might be able to come to their relief in case of need.
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