2 Samuel 18
Barnes' Notes
And David numbered the people that were with him, and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them.
And David 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. And the king said unto the people, I will surely go forth with you myself also.
A third part - This seems to have been a favorite division with the Hebrew commanders (see Judges 7:16; Judges 9:43; 1 Samuel 11:11; 2 Kings 11:5-6) and with the Philistines also 1 Samuel 13:17.

But the people answered, Thou shalt not go forth: for if we flee away, they will not care for us; neither if half of us die, will they care for us: but now thou art worth ten thousand of us: therefore now it is better that thou succour us out of the city.
Succour us out of the city - David, with a reserve, would hold the city, and either support the bands in case of need, or receive them within the walls should they be compelled to flee.

And the king said unto them, What seemeth you best I will do. And the king stood by the gate side, and all the people came out by hundreds and by thousands.
And the king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom. And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains charge concerning Absalom.
So the people went out into the field against Israel: and the battle was in the wood of Ephraim;
Against Israel - Implying that the revolt was in a great measure that of the ten tribes, Saul's party, against the kingdom.

The wood of Ephraim - This would naturally be sought in the west of Jordan (marginal reference). But on the other hand it seems certain that the scene of this battle was on the east of Jordan. It seems therefore inevitable to conclude that some portion of the thick wood of oaks and terebinths which still runs down to the Jordan on the east side was for some reason called "the wood of Ephraim," either because it was a continuation on the east side of the great Ephraimitic forests on the west, or because of some transaction there in which Ephraim had taken part, such as the slaughter of the Midianites Judges 7:24-25, or their own slaughter Judges 12:6.

Where the people of Israel were slain before the servants of David, and there was there a great slaughter that day of twenty thousand men.
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.
The battle was scattered - Probably Absalom's forces were far more numerous than David's; but, most likely by Joab's skillful generalship, the field of battle was such that numbers did not tell, and David's veteran troops were able to destroy Absalom's rabble in detail. The wood entangled them, and was perhaps full of pits, precipices, and morasses 2 Samuel 18:17.

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.
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.

And a certain man saw it, and told Joab, and said, Behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak.
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? and I would have given thee ten shekels of silver, and a girdle.
Ten shekels - (About 25 shillings.) The word "shekel" is understood, as in Genesis 20:16; Genesis 37:28. See the Exodus 38:24 note.

A girdle - Girdles were costly articles of Hebrew dress used to put money in Matthew 10:9, and given as presents 1 Samuel 18:4.

And the man said unto Joab, Though I should receive a thousand shekels of silver in mine hand, yet would I not put forth mine hand against the king's son: for in our hearing the king charged thee and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Beware that none touch the young man Absalom.
Otherwise I should have wrought falsehood against mine own life: for there is no matter hid from the king, and thou thyself wouldest have set thyself against me.
The man gives a remarkable incidental testimony to David's sagacity and penetration (compare 2 Samuel 14:19), and to Joab's known unscrupulousness.

Then said Joab, I may not tarry thus with thee. And he took three darts in his hand, and thrust them through the heart of Absalom, while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak.
I may not tarry ... - i. e., lose time in such discourse.

And ten young men that bare Joab's armour compassed about and smote Absalom, and slew him.
And Joab blew the trumpet, and the people returned from pursuing after Israel: for Joab held back the people.
Blew the trumpet - To stop the pursuit and slaughter 2 Samuel 2:28; 2 Samuel 20:22.

And they took Absalom, and cast him into a great pit in the wood, and laid a very great heap of stones upon him: and all Israel fled every one to his tent.
A great heap of stones - See the marginal reference. This kind of monument is common to almost all early nations.

Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a pillar, which is in the king's dale: for he said, I have no son to keep my name in remembrance: and he called the pillar after his own name: and it is called unto this day, Absalom's place.
The king's dale - Anciently the "valley" of "Shaveh" (marginal reference), and apparently in the near neighborhood of Sodom; but the exact site is not known. It quite agrees with Absalom's preference for Hebron 2 Samuel 15:7, that his monument should be reared by him in the south. If Absalom's monument be placed in the ravine of the Kedron, the "king's dale" here is a different place from the "dale of Shaveh."

Absalom's place - literally, "Absalom's hand." (1 Samuel 15:12 note.)

Then said Ahimaaz the son of Zadok, Let me now run, and bear the king tidings, how that the LORD hath avenged him of his enemies.
Ahimaaz was a well-known runner 2 Samuel 18:27. Speed was a heroic virtue in those simple times (compare 2 Samuel 2:18). In Hezekiah's reign 2 Chronicles 30:6, 2 Chronicles 30:10 we find an establishment of running post-men; and the same name ("runners") is given Esther 3:13 to the Persian posts, though at that time they rode on mules and camels.

Bear tidings - The original word is used almost exclusively of bearing good tidings, and hence, is rendered in the Septuagint (though not always) εὐαγγίζεσθαι euangelizesthai 2 Samuel 4:10; 1 Samuel 31:9. In 2 Samuel 18:21, it is not "carry the good tidings," but "tell," simply "announce."

And Joab said unto him, Thou shalt not bear tidings this day, but thou shalt bear tidings another day: but this day thou shalt bear no tidings, because the king's son is dead.
Then said Joab to Cushi, Go tell the king what thou hast seen. And Cushi bowed himself unto Joab, and ran.
Cushi - "The Cushite," a foreign slave, perhaps of Joab's, whom he did not scruple to expose to David's anger. If, however, it is a name, it must be rendered "Haccushi." In the title to Psalm 7, "Cush, the Benjamite," cannot mean this Cushi, since the contents of the Psalm are not suitable to this occasion.

Then said Ahimaaz the son of Zadok yet again to Joab, But howsoever, let me, I pray thee, also run after Cushi. And Joab said, Wherefore wilt thou run, my son, seeing that thou hast no tidings ready?
But howsoever, said he, let me run. And he said unto him, Run. Then Ahimaaz ran by the way of the plain, and overran Cushi.
The plain - The floor of the valley through which the Jordan runs. The Cushite did not run by that road, but took the road over the hills, which may well have been the shorter but also the more difficult road. The two roads would probably meet a short distance from Mahanaim. These words, which have been thought to prove that the battle took place on the west of Jordan, are a clear proof that it took place on the east, because if the runners had had to cross the Jordan, they must both have come by the same road, which it is clear they did not.

And David sat between the two gates: and the watchman went up to the roof over the gate unto the wall, and lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold a man running alone.
And the watchman cried, and told the king. And the king said, If he be alone, there is tidings in his mouth. And he came apace, and drew near.
And the watchman saw another man running: and the watchman called unto the porter, and said, Behold another man running alone. And the king said, He also bringeth tidings.
And the watchman said, Me thinketh the running of the foremost is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok. And the king said, He is a good man, and cometh with good tidings.
And Ahimaaz called, and said unto the king, All is well. And he fell down to the earth upon his face before the king, and said, Blessed be the LORD thy God, which hath delivered up the men that lifted up their hand against my lord the king.
Ahimaaz called - This marks the eager haste with which, before he had quite reached the king, he shouted out the pithy decisive word of good tidings, "Shalom!" Peace!

Hath delivered - See the margin. The figure seems to be that of confining a person within the power of his enemy, in opposition to "giving him his liberty" "in a large room," to work what mischief he pleases.

And the king said, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Ahimaaz answered, When Joab sent the king's servant, and me thy servant, I saw a great tumult, but I knew not what it was.
And the king said unto him, Turn aside, and stand here. And he turned aside, and stood still.
And, behold, Cushi came; and Cushi said, Tidings, my lord the king: for the LORD hath avenged thee this day of all them that rose up against thee.
Tidings ... - Rather, "Let my lord the king receive the good tidings."

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.
And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, 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!
There is not in the whole of the Old Testament a passage of deeper pathos than this. Compare Luke 19:41. In the Hebrew Bible this verse commences the nineteenth chapter. The King James Version follows the Greek and Latin versions.

Notes on the Bible by Albert Barnes [1834].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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