2 Samuel 18:9
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.
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(9) His head caught hold of the oak.—Absalom in his flight found himself among his enemies, and sought to escape into the denser parts of the forest. As he did so his head caught between the branches of a tree, his mule went from under him, and he hung there helpless. There is nothing said to support the common idea (which seems to have originated with Josephus), that he hung by his long hair, though this may doubtless have helped to entangle his head.

2 Samuel 18:9. Absalom met the servants of David — Who, according to David’s command, spared him, and gave him an opportunity to escape. But whom they would not arrest, the divine vengeance arrested. For the mule, on which he rode, went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak — Probably he was entangled by the hair of his head, which, being long and thick, might easily catch hold of a bough. For it is likely he either wore no helmet, or he had thrown it away, as well as his other arms, to hasten his flight. Thus the matter of his pride was made the instrument of his ruin. Some think his neck stuck fast between two boughs, or arms, of this oak, and was so wedged in by the swift motion of his mule that he was not able to disentangle himself; but yet, that, by the help of his hands, he so supported himself as not to be strangled.

18:9-18 Let young people look upon Absalom, hanging on a tree, accursed, forsaken of heaven and earth; there let them read the Lord's abhorrence of rebellion against parents. Nothing can preserve men from misery and contempt, but heavenly wisdom and the grace of God.would seem that the two things which his vain-glory boasted in, the royal mule, and the magnificent head of hair by which he was caught in the "oak" (rather, terebinth or turpentine tree), both contributed to his untimely death. 9. Absalom met the servants of David—or was overtaken. "It is necessary to be continually on one's guard against the branches of trees; and when the hair is worn in large locks floating down the back, as was the case with a young man of the party to which I belonged, any thick boughs interposing in the path might easily dislodge a rider from his seat, and catch hold of his flowing hair" [Hartley]. Some, however, think that the sacred historian points not so much to the hair, as to the head of Absalom, which, being caught while running between two branches, was enclosed so firmly that he could not disengage himself from the hold, nor make use of his hands.

the mule that was under him went away—The Orientals, not having saddles as we do, do not sit so firmly on the beasts they ride. Absalom quitting his hold of the bridle, apparently to release himself when caught in the oak, the mule escaped.

Absalom met the servants of David, who, according to David’s command, spared him, and gave him an opportunity to escape.

His head caught hold of the oak; in which probably he was entangled by the hair of the head, which being very long and thick, might easily catch hold of a bough, especially when the great God directed it. Either he wore no helmet, or his helmet was such as left much of his hair visible; or he had thrown away his helmet as well as his other arms, to hasten his flight, or because of the heat of the season. Thus the matter of his pride was the instrument of his ruin, as also Asahel’s swiftness, 2 Samuel 2:18, and Ahithophel’s policy, 2 Samuel 17:23, were the occasions of their destruction.

The mule that was under him went away; which might easily happen, because being in flight the mule passed along very swiftly.

And Absalom met the servants of David,.... When his army was routed, he was in such a fright that he knew not which way to flee, and instead of flying from David's men, he fled in the way of them; but none of them attempted to slay him, nor even to stop him, but let him pass by them, knowing David's charge concerning him:

and Absalom rode upon a mule; as was common for great personages to do in those days, 2 Samuel 13:29,

and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak; and running full speed, Absalom could not guide him, nor stop, nor divert him from going under it:

and his head caught hold of the oak; either the hair of his head was twisted and entangled in the thick boughs of the oak; or rather his head was jammed into a forked branch of the oak:

and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth; hung in the air between both, as unworthy to live in either:

and the mule that was under him went away; and left him hanging in the oak.

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.
9–18. Absalom’s Death

9. And Absalom, &c.] And Absalom happened to find himself in the presence of David’s servants: now Absalom was riding upon his mule, and the mule, &c. In the course of the flight, Absalom found himself among enemies: he turned to escape into the denser part of the forest. The mule which he rode—perhaps David’s own—was a mark of royalty (1 Kings 1:33; 1 Kings 1:38).

a great oak] The great terebinth; the article seems to shew that the tree was well known in after times. The Heb. êlah is generally said to denote the terebinth or turpentine tree, which is not unlike the oak in general appearance: but in the forests on the E. of Jordan, oaks are far more common than terebinths, and some kind of oak may be meant.

his head caught hold of the oak] His head was caught in the forked boughs of the tree, and he hung there, stunned and helpless. Perhaps his long thick hair got entangled, but there is nothing to support the common idea that he was suspended merely by his hair.

Verse 9. - Absalom met the servants of David. The verb means that he came upon them by chance. Evidently in the intricacies of the forest, Absalom. had lost his way, and, finding himself suddenly in damager of being captured by some of David's men, he urged his mule through a thicket, as the open ground was blocked by his pursuers. But in the attempt his head was jammed between the boughs of a great terebinth, and the mule, struggling onward, left him hanging in mid-air. Nothing is said about his hair having caused the accident, and apparently it was his neck which became fixed. Probably, too, he was half stunned by the blow, and choked by the pressure; and then his hair would make it very difficult for him to extricate himself. And so, after one or two efforts, in which he would be in danger of dislocating his neck, he would remain suspended to await his fate. Now, this adventure makes the whole affair perfectly plain. Absalom was riding his mule, evidently unprepared for battle. The chariot and horses, with fifty men as his body guard, used by him at Jerusalem (2 Samuel 15:l), are nowhere near him. Chariots, of course, would have been useless on such rough ground, but Absalom would have had a picked body of young men round him in the battle; and mules were only for use on the march, and were sent into the rear when the fighting began. But the last thing that Absalom expected was that he should be attacked on the march. He was advancing with an army infinitely more numerous than that of David, and assumed that David would wait at Mahanaim, and, if he fought at all, would fight under its walls. His defeat he regarded as certain, and then the vain glorious prince and all Israel would drag the city into the nearest ravine. In this over confidence he was riding in advance of his army, which was struggling on over most difficult ground. For "rising as the country does suddenly from the deep valley of the Jordan, it is naturally along its whole western border deeply furrowed by the many streams which drain the district; and our ride," says Canon Tristram, "was up and down concealed glens, which we only perceived when on their brink, and mounting from which on the other side, a short canter soon brought us to the edge of the next" (Tristram, p. 462). Struggling along over such ground, Absalom's men were not merely tired and weary, but had lost all order, and "become a scattering," and probably Absalom had cantered on in order to find some suitable spot for reforming them. Suddenly he sees at a little distance before him one of the three detachments of David's army, which had marched out a few miles from Mahanaim, and posted themselves on some fit spot to attack the rebels on their march. Apparently they caught no glimpse of him, but he immediately became aware of the tactics of the king's generals, and discerned the extreme danger of his position. Everything depended upon celerity. If he could warn his men, the foremost would halt until the others came up, and a sufficient force be gathered to resist Joab's onslaught. There was no cowardice on his part, but simply the discharge of his duty as a general. He turns his mule round, and dashes away in order to halt and form his men, keeping to the wood that he may not be seen. In his great haste he is not careful in picking his route, and possibly his mule was stubborn, and swerved; and so, in attempting to force his way through the thicket, he is stunned by a blow from a branch of a terebinth tree, and so entangled in its boughs that he cannot free himself; and as none of David's men had seen him, he might have hung there to be the prey of the vultures, and only his riderless mule have been left to bear witness to his having met with some disaster. Meanwhile his followers struggle on, until they come upon David's men, who put them to the sword. There is no battle, but the three divisions, advancing in order, make merciless slaughter of their opponents. For some time Absalom's forces, extended over many miles of march, do not even learn what is going on in their front, and twenty thousand men had fallen before, becoming aware of their defeat, they fly in wild confusion, to lose more men in their panic than had fallen in fighting. Their loss would even have been greater had not Joab stopped the pursuit upon Absalom's death. But where was Amasa, and what was he doing? He had led his troops miserably, had taken no precautions against surprise, and did nothing to rally them. Had Absalom got back in safety to the van, he might have saved his men from so disastrous a defeat; but Amasa, doubtless a brave soldier, proved himself quite incompetent to the duties of a commander-in-chief, and no match for the sagacious Joab. 2 Samuel 18:9"And Absalom was lighted upon (יקּרא equals יקּרה) by the servants of David, riding upon the mule; and the mule had come under the thick branches of the great terebinth, and his head fastened itself (remained hanging) on the terebinth, so that he was held (hung) between heaven and earth, as the mule under him went away." The imperfects, ויּבא, ויּחזק, and ויּתּן, are only a combination of the circumstantial clause רכב ואבשׁ. With regard to the fact itself, it is not clearly stated in the words that Absalom hung only by his hair, but simply that his hair entangled him in the thick branches, and his head was fastened in the terebinth, namely, by being jammed between the strong boughs.
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