Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
This night. Achitophel has a mind to shew that he is not only an able statesman, but a good general. (Haydock) --- On such occasions, expedition is of the utmost consequence, that the people may not have time to enter into themselves, or to concentrate about their lawful king. "Nothing is more delightful than haste in civil discord, where action is more requisite than consultation." By delays, "he would give the wicked an opportunity to repent, and the good would unite together. Crimes are confirmed by rushing on; good counsels by deliberation." Scelera impetu; bona consilia mora valescere. (Tacitus, Hist. i.)
Handed. He has not had time to collect forces. --- Alone. Hebrew also, "the king also;" so that the people will be saved by flight. (Haydock)
One man. They will return with such unanimity, when their leader is cut off. (Menochius) --- David was the one man whom his son desired to kill, as the latter was the only one whom David ordered to be spared, chap. xviii. 5. (Haydock) --- Hebrew seems rather transposed: "I will bring back all the people to thee, as all the people, whom thou seekest, are returned; and all the people shall be in peace:" or, ... "when all those, whom thou desirest, shall be returned, &c. (Calmet) --- Septuagint, "as a bride returns to her husband; only the soul of one thou seekest, and peace shall be to all the people." (Haydock)
This time, though he displays such prudence on all other occasions; or, "at this time" the situation of affairs is such, that it may prove dangerous to push people, who are already desperate, to extremities. Here we behold, how different sentiments may appear equally plausible. (Haydock) --- Mind, reduced to despair. The maxim is beautiful, as well as the comparison. See Osee xiii. 7., Proverbs xvii. 12., and Lamentations iii. 10. --- People. Hebrew adds, "in the night;" or, "he will not suffer the people to pass the night" in repose. (Calmet) --- He will not entrust his person to a faithless multitude, but will be surrounded with a chosen band, with whom he may escape, even though the rest should flee. (Haydock) --- Achitophel had represented David abandoned by his men. (Menochius)
First. Hebrew, "If they attack them at first." (Calmet) --- Report will easily represent the engagement as unfavourable to Absalom; and this will be readily believed, as all are convinced of David's valour. (Haydock) --- Nothing ought to be risked in such beginnings. (Calmet)
Man. Hebrew, "the son of valour himself." Achitophel, or any other. (Menochius)
Of them, their general. Hebrew, "and thy face shall go to battle," Exodus xxiii. 14.
Dew, which there falleth every night, in summer, like rain, Deuteronomy xxxiii. 28. Some of the light armed troops of the Romans were called Rorarii, because they fell upon the enemy, and began the battle.
Ropes, armed with hooks, to pull down the walls, and to move the battering engines. All the discourse of Chusai tends to fill the mind of the young prince with vanity; as if he could overcome all opposition when surrounded with the armies of Israel, (Calmet) at the head of which he would appear, instead of Achitophel, ver. 1. (Menochius)
Profitable, to the cause of Absalom, more than that of Chusai, which was also very plausible. (Haydock) --- Lord. The Scripture always directs us to fix our thoughts on God, as the arbiter of all human affairs. (Calmet) --- Hebrew, "for the Lord had ordained to dissipate the good counsel," &c. (Haydock) --- "Plerumque qui fortunam mutaturus est consilia corrumpit, efficitque, quod miserrimum est, ut quod accidit, etiam merito accidisse videatur, et casus in culpam transeat," Peterc. ii.
Thus. He discloses the secrets of the person who had consulted him, (Calmet) as his engagements to David and to his country were prior, and more to be observed, to prevent the effects of civil war. (Haydock)
Over the Jordan, that it might be some sort of barrier, in case Absalom changed his mind, to follow the advice of Achitophel.
Robel, near Jerusalem, on the east. (Menochius) --- Maid, under the pretence of washing linen. (St. Jerome, Trad.)
It, as it was level with the ground; so that a cloth being spread over it, prevented all suspicion. It had no water.
Barley, which was afterwards fried with oil, and eaten. Ptisanas may also denote wheat, &c. Grana cantusa. (Theodotion) --- "Figs." (Calmet) --- Septuagint have the original (hariphoth) untranslated. (Haydock)
Water. Hebrew, "they have crossed the brook of water." (Calmet)
River. Hebrew, "Jordan." (Haydock) --- They had travelled twenty leagues in the day and night after their departure from Jerusalem. (Calmet)
Order, making his will. (Menochius) --- Hanged himself. Some Rabbins pretend that he died of quinsey, or suffocated with grief. But it is almost universally believed that he set a pattern to Judas, the traitor, in this mode of dying, as well as in perfidy. He was aware that Absalom was undone, and vexed that his counsel had been disregarded. The most prudent of this world are often blinded to their own welfare. The Jews had not yet begun to refuse the rites of sepulture to suicides. (Calmet)
To the camp. The city of Mahanaim, the name of which in Hebrew, signifies The Camp. It was a city of note at that time; as appears from its having been chosen by Isoboseth for the place of his residence. (Challoner) --- The Vulgate often translates Mahanaim, or Manaim. See chap. ii. 8, 12. (Haydock) --- Him. It is not known how soon. But he probably waited till he had collected his forces. David had done the like, and was joined by the king of Ammon, ver. 27.
Jazrael, or Israel. (Du Hamel) --- Gortius would read Ismael, as 1 Paralipomenon ii. 17, Jether, the Ismaelite. (Haydock) --- Went in. This expressing makes Sanchez believe that Amasa was illegitimate. (Menochius) --- Naas is either the name of Isai's wife, or rather the latter had both names, 1 Paralipomenon ii. 13, 16. Septuagint read Jesse, in the edition of Complutensian; in others, Naas. (Calmet) --- Joab; so that these two were own cousins, and both nephews of David.
Camp, ver. 24. (Haydock) --- Sobi, whom David had set upon the throne, instead of Hanon, chap. x. --- Machir, who had the care of Miphiboseth, chap. ix. 4. --- Berzellai. See chap. xix. 31.
Beds, will all the necessary furniture, coverlets, &c. Roman Septuagint, "ten beds, with fur on both sides." --- Tapestry. Some would translate, "bottles," (Chaldean) or "cauldrons;" (Roman Septuagint) but other editions agree with the Vulgate. --- Vessels. These are necessary, as much as things of greater magnificence. Precious metals were then rarely used in the kitchen. --- Pulse, (cicer) or "parched peas." Hebrew kali, is thus twice translated, as it had been rendered parched corn. It signifies any thing "parched." The ancients made great use of such food in journeys, as the Ethiopians and Turks do still. (Atheneus ii. 13.; Busbec. iii.; Bellon. ii. 53.) (Calmet)
Calves. Many translate the Hebrew, "cheese of kine." (Theodotion) --- "Calves fed with milk." (Haydock) --- Wilderness, where they had been; unless this be placed out of its natural order. (Calmet) --- The value of a present depends greatly on the time when it is made. (Haydock) --- "How much dost thou esteem a hospitable reception in a wilderness?" &c. (Seneca, Ben. vi. 15.)