Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
And when David was a little past the top of the hill, behold, Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth met him, with a couple of asses saddled, and upon them two hundred loaves of bread, and an hundred bunches of raisins, and an hundred of summer fruits, and a bottle of wine.
And Absalom, and all the people the men of Israel, came to Jerusalem, and Ahithophel with him.2. Absalom in Jerusalem. His Evil Deed through Ahithophel’s Evil Counsel. The Designs of the Latter against David thwarted by Hushai’s Counsel
2 SAMUEL 16:15–17:23
15AND Absalom and all the people the men of Israel4 came to Jerusalem, and Ahithophel with him. 16And it came to pass, when Hushai the Archite [Arkite] David’s friend5 was come unto Absalom, that Hushai said unto Absalom, God save [Long live] the king, God save [Long live] the king. 17And Absalom said to Hushai, Is this thy kindness to thy friend? why wentest thou not with thy friend? 18And Hushai said unto Absalom, Nay;6 but whom the Lord [Jehovah] and this people and all the men of Israel choose, his will I be, and with him will I abide. 19And again [in the second place], whom should I serve? should I not serve in the presence of his son?7 as I have served in thy father’s presence, so will I be in thy presence.
20Then said Absalom [And Absalom said] to Ahithophel, Give [ins. ye] counsel among you [om. among you8] what we shall do. 21And Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Go in unto thy father’s concubines, which [whom] he hath left to keep the house; and all Israel shall hear that thou art abhorred of [art become loathsome to9] thy father, then [and] shall [om. shall] the hands of all that are with thee 22[ins. shall] be strong. So [And] they spread Absalom a tent upon the top of the house [on the roof], and Absalom went in unto his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel. 23And the counsel of Ahithophel, which he counselled in those days, was as if a man had inquired at the oracle [of the word] of God; so was all the counsel of Ahithophel both with David and with Absalom.
2 SAMUEL 17:1 MOREOVER [And] Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Let10 me now choose out twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue after David this night; 2And I will come upon him while he is weary and weak-handed, and will make him afraid, and all the people that are with him shall flee, and I will smite the king only; 3And I will bring back all the people unto thee; the man whom thou 4seekest is as if all returned;11 so [om. so] all the people shall be in peace. And the saying pleased Absalom well [om. well], and all the elders of Israel. 5Then said Absalom [And Absalom said], Call now Hushai the Archite [Arkite] also, and let us hear likewise [om. likewise] what he [ins. too] saith. 6And when Hushai was come [And Hushai came] to Absalom, [ins. and] Absalom spake [said] unto him, saying, Ahithophel hath spoken after this manner; shall we do after his saying? if not, [after his saying, or not?]12 speak thou.
7And Hushai said unto Absalom, The counsel that Ahithophel hath given is not good at this time [hath given this time13 is not good]. 8For, said Hushai [and Hushai said], Thou knowest thy father and his men, that they be [are] mighty men, and [ins. that] they be [are] chafed in their minds, as a bear robbed of her whelps in the field;14 and thy father is a man of war, and will not lodge With the people. 9Behold, he is hid now in some pit [in one of the ravines] or in some other place [in one of the places15]; and it will come to pass, when some of them be overthrown [fall16] at the first, that whosoever heareth it will say There is a slaughter among the people that follow Absalom. 10And he also that is valiant, whose heart is as the heart of a lion, shall utterly melt; for all Israel knoweth that thy father is a mighty man, and they which be [that are] with him are valiant 11men. Therefore [But] I counsel17 that all Israel be generally gathered unto thee from Dan even [om. even] to Beersheba, as the sand that is by the sea for multitude, and that thou go to battle in thine own person. 12So shall we [And we shall] come upon him in some place [in one of the places] where he shall be found, and we will light upon him as the dew falleth on the ground,18 and of him and of all 13the men that are with him there shall not be left so much as one. Moreover [And] if he be gotten into a city, then shall all Israel bring19 ropes to that city, and we will draw it into the river [brook], until there be not one small stone found there. 14And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, The counsel of Hushai the Archite [Arkite] is better than the counsel of Ahithophel. For the Lord had appointed [And Jehovah appointed] to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the Lord [Jehovah] might bring evil upon20 Absalom.
15Then said Hushai [And Hushai said] unto Zadok and to Abiathar the priests, Thus and thus did Ahithophel counsel Absalom and the elders of Israel, and thus 16and thus have I counselled. Now, therefore [And now], send quickly and tell David, saying, Lodge not this night in the plains [at the fords21] of the wilderness, but speedily [om. speedily] pass over, lest the king be swallowed up and all the 17people that are with him. Now [And] Jonathan and Ahimaaz stayed by [were stationed at] En-rogel, for they might not be seen to come into the city; and a wench [the maid-servant] went and told them, and they went and told king David [And Jonathan and Ahimaaz were stationed at En-rogel, and the maid-servant came and told them, and they were to go and tell king David; for they might not 18be seen, etc.22]. Nevertheless [And] a lad saw them and told Absalom; but [and] they went both of them away [om. away] quickly, and came to a man’s house in Bahurim, which [and he] had a well in his court, whither [and thither] they went down. 19And the woman took and spread a [the] covering over the well’s mouth, and spread ground corn thereon; and the thing was not known [nothing 20was perceived]. And when [om. when] Absalom’s servants came to the woman to the house, they [and] said, Where is Ahimaaz and Jonathan? And the woman said unto them, They be [are] gone over the brook23 of water. And when they had [And they] sought and could [did] not find them, they [and] returned to Jerusalem.
21And it came to pass, after they were departed, that they came up out of the well, and went and told king David, and said unto David, Arise and pass quickly over 22the water, for thus hath Ahithophel counselled against you. Then [And] David arose, and all the people that were with him, and they passed over Jordan; by the morning-light there lacked not one of them that was not gone over Jordan.
23And when [om. when] Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed [ins. and] he saddled his ass, and arose and gat him home [and went] to his house, to his city, and put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died, and was buried in the sepulchre of his father.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
2 Samuel 16:15–23. Absalom in Jerusalem. He is greeted by Hushai. Ahithophel counsels an evil deed.
2 Samuel 16:15. And Absalom, comp. 15:12, to which this narration attaches itself, the account of David’s flight (15:13–16:14) being interposed.—And all the people of the men of Israel [literally: all the people, the men of Israel.—TR.]. Thenius: “Very significant: The old malcontents (2:8, 9).”
2 Samuel 16:16. Hushai, comp. 15:32. He was to be the instrument for bringing to naught the designs of Ahithophel (15:31).
2 Samuel 16:17. That David’s trusted friend and counsellor should come to him with the greeting: “may the king live,” must have astonished Absalom. But instead of expressing this feeling, he answers (in his double question) with a scornful fling (as his nature was) at Hushai’s friendly relation to David. [Patrick: Absalom did not reflect that one might have said to him: “Is this thy duty to thy father?”—TR.].
2 Samuel 16:18 sqq. Hushai in his answer assumes the role of crafty dissimulation, suggested by David (15:34). His first word is the answer to Absalom’s question: “why wentest thou not with thy friend?” It is therefore not to be rendered: “Nay, but” (De Wette, [Eng. A. V.]), but: “Not (i.e., I went not with David), because, etc.” Vulg.: nequaquam quia. [The rendering of Eng. A. V. here seems more natural and appropriate. See “Text, and Gram.”—TR.]. Whom the Lord has chosen, that is, as the event has shown: I follow him who is king by God’s choice. As I served before thy father [so will I be before thee, 2 Samuel 16:19], i. e., it is self-evident that, my service with the father having ceased by God’s will, I must attach myself to the son. By the clever use of this double argument, the divine and the human, he easily imposes on the inconsiderate Absalom the delusion that he means honestly. [Hushai’s two reasons: 1) the voice of the people is the voice of God (Patrick); 2) former fidelity to the father is ground and pledge of present fidelity to the son.—TR.].
2 Samuel 16:20. Brief statement of a council held by Absalom with Ahithophel and other counsellors (so the plural: “Give ye”) on the means of announcing and securing his usurpation. The Dativus commodi (לָכֶם) gives the sense: “it is your affair to counsel me” [literally: “give ye you counsel,” Eng. A. V. wrongly: “among you.”—TR.].
2 Samuel 16:21. Ahithophel’s counsel was that he should publicly take to himself his father’s concubines (15:16); this would indicate definite dethronement of the father, and complete assumption of royal authority. Comp. 3:7; 12:8. All Israel will hear, etc.—Ahithophel’s purpose is, 1) to make the breach between Absalom and his father irreparable, and 2) to infuse energy into Absalom’s followers, and confirm their defection from David.—Cornelius a Lapide: “That they may know that thy hatred against thy father is implacable, and so all hope and fear of reconciliation may be cut off, and they strengthened in thy conspiracy.” So also Ahithophel hoped to secure his own position [i. e., he feared that, if a reconciliation were effected, he would be sacrificed.—TR.]. Absalom’s deed was the grossest insult to his father (comp. Gen. 49:4), and made reconciliation impossible. [Here again Ahithophel was perhaps avenging the wrong done to Bathsheba. So Blunt.—TR.].
2 Samuel 16:22. They spread the tent; the Article [so the original, but it may properly be omitted in an English translation, because the definiteness is not obvious—TR.] indicates that it was the tent designed for the roof, used by the king and his family for protection against sun, wind and rain. Thenius: “the expression: the tent is an evidence that the author is relating events of his time.” On the roof, the same where David’s look at Bathsheba led him into the path of sin, whose evil results for him are completed in this deed of Absalom. Thus is Nathan’s threat (12:11) fulfilled; as he sinned against Uriah’s house, so is he punished in his own house.
2 Samuel 16:23. Explanatory remark attached to 2 Samuel 16:22. The immediate execution of Ahithophel’s counsel is explained by the fact that it had almost the weight of a divine oracle with both David and Absalom. It is thus intimated that they both put too much confidence in this bad man, the bitter fruit whereof David is now reaping. In 1 Chron. 27:33 he is expressly called the king’s counsellor.24 To inquire of God’s word = to inquire of God. Comp. Judg. 1:1; 18:5; 20:18, 23, 27; 1 Sam. 10:22; 14:37; 22:10, 13; 23:2 [comp. Gen. 25:22, where, however, the verb is different.—TR.]
2 Samuel 17:1–23. Defeat of Ahithophel’s counsel through Hushai’s, and suicide of Ahithophel.
2 Samuel 17:1–4. Ahithophel’s counsel against David: To surprise him by night and kill him. Against the opinion of the older expositors that Ahithophel wished to avenge the wrongs of his granddaughter Bathsheba, is 1) that this relationship is not proved, for, though Ahithophel had a son named Eliam (23:34), it is not shown that this man is the same with Eliam, the father of Bathsheba (11:3); 2) granting, however, that Ahithophel was Bathsheba’s grandfather, it is hard to see how an ambitious man, like him, should have sought revenge, when he saw his granddaughter raised to the highest honors of the realm.—His advice is to fall on David quickly, that same night, with a chosen body of 12,000 men, and get possession of his person. Absalom having publicly and solemnly mounted the throne, there was needed a securing of his usurped power against David and his followers. “This night” is the night that followed David’s flight and Absalom’s entrance into Jerusalem. In favor of this is 2 Samuel 17:16, and also 2 Samuel 17:2 compared with 16:14; for David’s exhaustion, on which Ahithophel counted, could only come from the haste and exertion of the day’s flight. The sudden night-attack with superior force (the march required was only about four geographical miles) was to throw David’s followers into panic and flight, and, while they were thus scattered, Ahithophel was to kill the king “alone,” that is, while he was alone (לְבַדּוֹ) He reckons on the king’s weariness; in the phrase “weakhanded” the “hand” is the symbol of strength, comp. Isa. 8:11.
2 Samuel 17:3. And I will bring back all the people to thee, that is, all the people now gathered around David. Ahithophel regards Absalom’s government as the only lawful one, to which those fugitives must submit; their flight is in his eyes an act of insubordination, from which they are to be brought back.—In the following difficult phrase [Eng. A. V. and Erdmann: “the man thou seekest is as if all returned”] the first question is whether we shall (with Thenius) adopt the reading of the Septuagint: as the bride returns to her husband; only the life of one man thou seekest, (and all the people will be uninjured”). But, apart from the fact that no other ancient version has a trace of such a text, why may not the translation of the Sept. come (as Keil supposes) from a wrong reading of our Hebrew?41 For the rest, Böttcher (against Thenius) rightly objects that we cannot speak of the “husband” of a bride; “where and when,” he asks, further, “was the bride brought back to her husband?” Böttcher himself renders: “as her wooer leads back the bride, etc.” [where “wooer” is the person sent to propose for the bride, as Eliezer for Rebecca, Gen. 24.—TR.]; against which is the fact that the word he proposes (אֹרֵשׂ) is never found in this sense of “wooer,” and also the unsuitableness of the adverb “back.” The rendering: “if all return, [only] the man that thou seekest [will be killed]” (Mich., Schultz) is to be rejected on account of the aposiopesis and consequent supplements. S. Schmid and Clericus translate: “when all the men that thou seekest return, all the people will be at peace” [so Philippson and Luther]; but this contradicts the connection, according to which the word “seekest” can only refer to David, and the word “man” (אִישׁ) must be in the Singular referring to him. Maurer proposes two renderings, one: “then I will bring back to thee all the people, as if the man that thou seekest brought back all,” where the understanding of the Qal (שׁוּב) as causative, though possible (Num. 10:36; Ps. 85:5 ; Mic. 2:18), is here improbable, as he says, since two forms [Qal and Hiphil] having the same meaning would not stand so near together; the other: “then I will bring back to thee all the people, as if all returned, would the man return (כְּשׁוּב) whom thou seekest” (i. e., as if David, the man that thou seekest should be brought back with all his men) is to be rejected, (with Thenius) as unintelligible. The translation of the Vulgate: “and I will bring back all the people, as one man is accustomed to return (for one man thou seekest”) gives no clear sense. Ahithophel’s words are to be taken strictly according to their connection with the preceding 2 Samuel 17:2, where he sets the one man, David over against all the people with him, and announces it as his plan to kill him alone, so as then to bring back all the people (2 Samuel 17:3) that had gone out with him. That is, the one man that thou seekest is equivalent to the return of the whole people. Peter Martyr (Vermigli): “one, says he, will perish, the multitude will be spared.” Dathe: “it is the same as if all returned, when he that thou seekest is killed” [so nearly Chald.]. De Wette: “the man that thou seekest is equivalent to the return of all.” Bunsen: “the return of all that have not yet joined thee, depends on the removal of David; his fall brings peace to the whole nation.”—Literally: “the whole people will be peace,” = “in peace,” adverbial use, as in 20:9; 25:6.
2 Samuel 17:1 Sam. 4. “The saying was right in the eyes of Absalom, etc.,” pleased him (19:6; 18:20, 26; 1 Kings 9:12; Jerem. 18:4, etc.).
2 Samuel 17:5–14. Hushai’s counsel against Ahithophel.
2 Samuel 17:5. Though Ahithophel’s counsel had been generally approved, Absalom sends for Hushai in order to hear his opinion. There is no need to read the Plural “call ye” (Sept., Vulg., Syr., Then.) instead of the Sing, “call thou” (of the Heb.), since Absalom, as king, might give such a command even to Ahithophel, instead of to the servants. As he had accorded full confidence to Hushai (16:18, 19), he wished at this decisive moment to hear his advice also.42
2 Samuel 17:6, 7. Hushai, being asked, pronounces Ahithophel’s counsel “not good” [“Not good is the counsel that Ahithophel counsels this time,” that is, his former advice was good (16:21), but not this.—TR.].
2 Samuel 17:8 sq. Hushai gives his advice in elaborate and skilful style. Against Ahithophel’s opinion that David was “exhausted” (2 Samuel 17:2), he first affirms the contrary, observing that Absalom knew his father and his men to be valiant heroes, and that they were embittered in spirit, as a bear robbed of her whelps (comp. Judg. 18:25; Prov. 17:12; Hos. 13:8). So he would not stay at night with the people, where he might be surprised. Böttcher and Thenius render: “and lets not the people lodge for the night” (יָלִין as unusual Hiphil); but there is no ground for this, [it does not agree with 2 Samuel 17:9 (Keil)].
2 Samuel 17:9 sqq. Description of how David, as a genuine military man, would be on his guard during the night, and, at the approach of Absalom’s troops, would rush forth from his caverns43 and strong positions, fall on the enemy’s advanced guard and defeat the whole body. “In the falling on them,” where from the connection David is the subject,=“when he falls on them.” [Eng. A. V.: “in the falling among them,” = when some of them fall. See “Text. and Gramm.”—TR.]. The “them” refers from the context to Absalom’s men, and it is unnecessary to read “the people” (בָעָם Dathe). “In the beginning,” since David would begin the fight by falling on the approaching enemy. [Or, according to Eng. A. V., the fall of some of Absalom’s soldiers at the beginning of the battle would create a panic and flight, there being general fear of the military skill and prowess of David and his generals. Bib.-Com.: “It is likely that Absalom was not a man of courage, and Hushai, knowing this, adroitly magnified the terror of the prowess of David and his men.”—TR.].—And the hearer hears and says, etc.—picture of the spread of a report of defeat by those that are first attacked.
2 Samuel 17:10. Though the hearer be lion-hearted, he will melt in fear, because it is known in all Israel what heroes David and his men are. This explains how the report of an attack by David would lead to a general everthrow. To Ahithophel’s proposal to surprise David Hushai replies that on the contrary David would surprise them.
2 Samuel 17:11. Therefore his counsel is that Absalom should summon a great force from all Israel, and lead it against David in person. Properly: “but44 (or, rather) I counsel.” It is unnecessary to read “in their midst” (Sept., Vulgate, Arab., Thenius) instead of “into battle,” since a change in the Hebrew from the latter to the former would be easy.
2 Samuel 17:12 sq. Hushai explains to Absalom how he could with so great an army easily annihilate David’s band. “We shall come unto him in one45 of the places.” The next sentence is rendered in two ways: either: “so we on him,” that is, so we fall on him (Vulg.: irruemus super eum), spread over him, as the dew falls on the earth;46 or, “we light47 on him” [so Eng. A. V.], as the phrase is used of an encamping army (Isa. 7:2, 19), and of a lighting swarm of flies or locusts (Isa. 7:19; Ex. 10:14), and elsewhere (with עַל “on”) in the sense of “lighting” (21:10; Gen. 8:4; Ex. 10:14; Nu. 11:25, 26); not: “we encamp against him” (De Wette). The second translation [“we light on him”] answers better to the figure of the dew, which falls quietly and unperceived on the earth at night, with which (as before with the sand on the sea) Hushai compares Absalom’s army, settling quietly in its overwhelming power on David. On the other hand the emphatic “we” at the beginning of the sentence [as in the first translation] is without ground, and does not correspond to the verb “we come” in the preceding clause; while to this latter properly corresponds the verb “we light” (as indeed all the ancient versions have a verb in this place). Böttcher further remarks that this form of the Heb. Pers. Pron. is everywhere else used in a depreciatory sense: “we insignificant, very poor persons,” which would here be against the connection. Böttcher, however, would read “locust”48 instead of “dew,” and render: “and sink (rush) on him, as a swarm of locusts falls on the earth;” but this is too remote a conjecture (having no support in any ancient version or in any rendering), and unnecessary besides, since the figure of the dew, together with that of the sand, fitly sets forth the swift and quiet settling of the huge host on the enemy. And with this accords perfectly the statement of the success of the attack: “not even one will be left.”
2 Samuel 17:13. Hushai, assuming that the imagination of his hearers would be carried from one conception to the other, here passes in a wordy discourse, skilfully adapted to gain his end, to the supposition (which would appear natural to a military man) that David, defeated as above described, should “concentrate to the rear,” and throw himself into a strong city. Then all Israel set ropes to this city. Vulgate: “all Israel put ropes around that city.” Hushai is not speaking of ropes thrown over the walls by which the latter are thrown into the ditch (Michaelis, Dathe, Niemeyer), for nothing is said of a ditch and walls; but in his exaggerated mode of expression, which he forces to a hyperbolical climax (all intended for momentary effect), he shows how easily even then David could be captured, all Israel laying ropes about the city and dragging it into the neighboring brook or river. We are not here with Ewald to understand a city-fosse (נַחַל), “for the fosse was close by the city” (Then.), but the brook or river on which the city is built, “because fortified cities are almost always on the declivities of brooks or rivers” (Then.). “Till not even a small stone be found,” so the ancient versions;49 comp. Am. 9:9: “a little grain.”—The meaning is: “Your powerful army will easily destroy the fortified place, where David may seek refuge, and leave not one stone on another.” Cornelius a Lapide: “we will collect so great a force that we shall be able to put ropes around the city (so to speak), and drag it down to ruin.”
2 Samuel 17:14. To this advice of Hushai Absalom gives the preference over Ahithophel’s. The boldness and highflown extravagance of Hushai’s words accorded with Absalom’s character and with his wish to secure his throne in brilliant fashion by overpowering the force opposed to him. Clericus: “The counsel seemed good, and at the same time was full of a certain boastfulness, that pleased the young man.” The statement about the bravery of David and his men was true; the deceit in Hushai’s counsel was only the advice to make a levy of all Israel. Absalom deluded himself with the belief that this could be easily raised, not considering that only the discontented part of the people formed the kernel of the insurrection, that no small portion still remained true to David, and that another part, now for the moment fallen away, would return after the first fit of revolution had passed. For this reason it was an important consideration (to which Hushai slyly had regard) that David gained time while Absalom was preparing to summon all Israel. P. Martyr: “to what does Hushai look in this counsel? to delay; delay, he knows, makes for David’s cause.”—And the Lord had appointed. In all this the narrator sees a divine appointment or ordination, the aim of which was thus to bring on Absalom the evil (that was determined on). The verb (צִוָּה) is used in the signification “appoint, ordain,” also in Ps. 48:29 ; 111:9; Lam. 1:17; Isa. 45:12; the object of the verb is apparent from the connection. Ahithophel’s counsel is called good, because it was to Absalom’s interest to attack David immediately.
2 Samuel 17:15–22. Hushai promptly sends word to David.
2 Samuel 17:15. He first informs the two high-priests, Zadok and Abiathar, of the council that was held. Comp. 15:27, 28. [Bib. Com.: “It is remarkable how persistently Zadok is named first.”—Patrick: “Herein Hushai betrayed Absalom’s counsels.”—TR.]
2 Samuel 17:16. He directs them to send information to David as speedily as possible by their sons, and to convey his advice concerning his next movement. Grotius: “David’s plan, above mentioned (15:35, 36), succeeded well.” Lodge not to-night at the fords of the wilderness (15:28), that is, stay not this side the Jordan, but cross over. The necessity of the passage of the Jordan for David’s safety is shown by the following (variously understood) words: That it (namely, the transit) be not swallowed up (defeated, rendered impossible) to the king and to all the people that are with him. So (with Böttcher) the sentence is best understood from the connection and from David’s dangerous situation, the noun “crossing over” [transit] being taken as the subject of the verb (עבוֹר immediately preceding). It was important that David should get away from this side the Jordan, where the masses were to be called out against him, and meantime, since a hasty expedition might be sent against him, when it was found that he was on the west side (especially if Absalom should change his mind and adopt Ahithophel’s counsel), he must pass immediately to the east side, where he might hope to find many followers, as actually happened. To the phrase “that it be not swallowed up” other interpretations are given: that of Maurer and De Wette: “lest destruction be prepared for the king” is untenable because the meaning of the verb (“swallowed up”) makes the introduction of such a verbal subject [“destruction”] impossible; that of Gesenius: “that the king be not swallowed up” [so Eng. A. V.] is equally untenable, because then the text should have “the king” as Nominative [in the Heb. it is preceded by the Prep, “to”—TR.]. Of Ewald’s rendering (Gram. 295 c): “that it (misfortune) be not swallowed by the king,” that is, that the king may not have to suffer it, Böttcher rightly says: “a very unnatural rendering, with a very remote verbal subject, for which the verb would at least better be Feminine.” [It seems allowable here to take the verb as impersonal, and render (with Eng. A. V., Ges., Philippson, Cahen): “lest it be swallowed (destroyed) to the king,” i. e., lest the king be destroyed. So all the ancient versions50 understood it. The construction adopted by Erdmann requires a somewhat difficult supply of a subject to the verb.—TR.]
2 Samuel 17:17. “And Jonathan and Ahimaaz were standing” [= were stationed], where the Participle “were standing” expresses their readiness to go as messengers to David at any moment, according to the arrangement in 15:28, 36. To this end they were stationed outside the city at the Fuller’s Fountain [En-rogel] for the purpose of receiving information. En-rogel (comp. Josh. 15:7; 1 Kings 1:9) is the “present very deep and abundant Fountain of Job, Bir Eyub (Von Raumer, p. 307), or of Nehemiah, south of Jerusalem where the vallies of Kidron and Hinnom meet, Rob. II. 138 sqq. [Am. ed. I. 331–333]; Tobler, Top. II. 50 sqq.” (Knobel). [See in Smith’s Bible-Dictionary, Art. “En-rogel,” Bonar’s argument for identifying En-rogel with the “Fountain of the Virgin,” and Dr. Wolcott’s reply (Am. ed.) in favor of Bir Eyub.—TR.]—The maid, not “a maid,” since the Article [of the Heb.] denotes the particular maid-servant belonging to the high-priest’s house. And they went, an anticipatory remark, the narrator desiring to mention immediately the chief fact, namely, that they carried the information to David. [See “Text and Gram.,” where the inversion of Eng. A. V. is pointed out, and a slightly different translation proposed.—TR.] For they could not let themselves be seen to come into the city—appended explanation of the fact that they were outside the city, and the maid-servant had to go to them. Her going out to the spring would not seem strange, while their entrance and return would have excited suspicion, since it was known (15:25 sqq.) that they were on David’s side.—From 2 Samuel 17:18 it seems that Absalom closely watched them: A lad saw them and told Absalom. Seeing that they were observed, and expecting to be followed, they hastened off in order to get the start of their pursuers, and then to hide somewhere. They went to Bahurim, where Shimei met David (16:5), whose counterpart is the man in whose house the two young men found refuge. It is again a woman (the man’s wife) whose presence of mind and cunning did David’s cause a great service. The messengers descended into the empty well in the court.
2 Samuel 17:19. And she spread the covering, which (as the Art. shows) was at hand, or was designed for the well (Thenius), over the well, and spread thereon the grain-corns (Prov. 27:22) with which (so the Art. indicates) she was occupied. Vulg. (explanatory rendering): “as if she were drying barley-groats.”
2 Samuel 17:20. Absalom’s servants come in pursuit, are misdirected by the woman, find nothing and return to Jerusalem.51 [Patrick: “It seems to have been a common opinion in those days that these officious lies for the safety of innocent persons had no hurt in them.”—TR.]
2 Samuel 17:21 sq. The messengers hastened to David, who, in consequence of the information they brought, crossed the river immediately, so that by the morning light not even a man more was on the west side. The situation of affairs was now favorable to David’s cause.
2 Samuel 17:23. Ahithophel betakes himself to his city, leaves Absalom’s court, that is, out of chagrin at the rejection of his counsel, anger at the frustration of his ambitious plans, and also from fear of the fatal results that David’s victory would have for him, the contriver and furtherer of the insurrection. A self-murder52 from baffled ambition and despair. Not only is David’s prayer (15:31) answered, but Ahithophel falls under God’s judgment for his unfaithfulness and treachery.
HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL
1. Absalom’s insurrection and the establishment of a new kingdom with public dishonoring of the royal house, is the completion of the judgment on David’s deep fall and weakness towards his sons’ crimes, the purpose of which was to purify him (after penitential self-humiliation on his part), and to subject him to the test of faith, without which he could not rise by God’s hand from this deep abasement. On the other hand, the success of the godless rebel shows a lack of a true theocratic feeling in the mass of the people, who, in abandoning God’s government, were guilty of opposition to the government of God. At the same time in Absalom’s conduct (adopted through Ahithophel’s evil counsel) is exhibited the general truth that God permits evil to work out its own consequences, and the wicked to entangle themselves in their own snares, that He may reveal His justice and holiness in the self-condemnation and self-destruction of the power of evil, and thus lead the wandering and apostate, when they will hear His voice, to reflection and conversion, as happened here to the people, after the wickedness of Absalom and Ahithophel had completely worked itself out.
2. The divine justice is anew revealed in and on the house of David through Absalom’s publicly committed crime. The answer to the question why God brought on David’s house this deed of shame of His own son, is given in the Lord’s word through Nathan (12:11, 12). The sins of the fathers are visited not only on the children, but through them. “Absalom’s deed was another chastisement for David from the Lord, not, indeed, a sign of the divine anger, but a wholesome paternal discipline, that was meant for his good. In such earnest does God deal with His children, even after He has taken them into favor” (Schlier).
3. Absalom’s rejection of Ahithophel’s good counsel for Hushai’s destructive counsel sets forth the truth that evil punishes itself by itself, and especially pride and vanity blind man, so that he errs in the choice of means for his sinful ends, and secures not only their frustration, but also his own destruction. But this occurs in the course of the moral government of the world, under the guidance of the divine justice and wisdom, which takes human sin, blindness and foolishness into its plans as a factor, in order to frustrate its wicked aims and to effect its own holy aims.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
2 Samuel 16:15. SCHLIER: Poor, deluded fool, that strives after popular favor, and when he has found it, consoles himself therewith. There is nothing more changeable than popular favor—nothing more transitory than what is called public opinion.
2 Samuel 16:16–19. CRAMER: Remain faithful to thy friend in his poverty, that thou mayest again enjoy thyself with him when it goes well with him (Ecclus. 22:28, 29).—The saints of God do many a thing with good intentions, and yet we are not on that account to take part in it all. Meantime God lets it happen, and knows how thereby to carry out His work (Isa. 28:21, 29).—SCHLIER: What we say should be true, not merely that it shall contain no lie, but also that it be free from all double-meaning. In the times of the Old Testament, God the Lord could overlook such double-meaning; with us, in the times of the New Testament, that is no longer the case, but it holds always and every where that the Lord will make the upright prosper.
2 Samuel 16:20 sq. HEDINGER: Worldly wisdom and spiritual gifts do not always dwell under one roof.—S. SCHMID: He must be extremely ungodly who can openly do that of which nature has a horror even in private.—SCHLIER: David certainly thought anew upon his old sins, was ashamed and humbled himself, and in his son’s sin again recognized his own sin, and anew repented before the Lord.
2 Samuel 17:1–4. CRAMER: God blinds the ungodly, and confounds them through giddiness, so that they can neither see nor know what in human wise is wholesome and good for them; for He puts to shame the wisdom of the wise (Isa. 29:14; Job 12:17).—[TAYLOR: This plan was worthy of Ahithophel’s reputation. If it had been energetically followed, it would have been completely successful, and would have changed the entire color and complexion of Jewish history.—TR.]
2 Samuel 17:5–14. Large talking and grand schemes are a means whereby young and inexperienced persons are often deceived (1 Kings 12:10).—The Lord ensnares the ungodly in their cunning, so that they are deceived by that very thing on which they most relied.—S. SCHMID: If God does not open and rule the eyes of the mind, even the most sensible men are blind (Psalm 119:18).—STARKE: God does not leave His enemies to manage as they will, but appoints them a limit, how far they shall go. When they take hold most shrewdly, yet God goes another road (Ps. 33:10; Isa. 8:10; Job 5:12).—[HALL: First, to sweeten his opposition, Hushai yields the praise of wisdom to his adversary in all other counsels, that he may have leave to deny it in this; his very contradiction in the present insinuates a general allowance. Then he suggests certain apparent truths concerning David’s valor and skill to give countenance to the inferences of his improbabilities. Lastly, he cunningly feeds the proud humor of Absalom, in magnifying the power and extent of his commands, and ends in the glorious boasts of his fore-promised victory. As it is with faces, so with counsel; that is fair that pleaseth.—TR.]—SCHLIER: A good cause always goes the way of truth, and does not need scoffing and self-important words, but goes on soberly and simply. Absalom gave heed to Hushai’s bad counsel, because Hushai knew how by means of his vanity to bring him to a fall.—The Lord is with us and lets nothing happen to us; He also knows how to turn the wickedness of our enemies into a blessing to us. And if all the world is hostile and persecutes us, the Lord takes in hand even our persecutors, and does with them as He pleases.
2 Samuel 17:15–22. SCHLIER: Let us recognize the Lord’s hand in the things of common life also, but let us always honor His hand and thankfully accept what it gives. Circumstances are God’s messengers, and well for him who in these circumstances recognizes and honors the hand of his Lord. It was God’s hand that through all these littlenesses and casualties caused the news of Ahithophel’s counsel to come safe to David.
2 Samuel 17:23. CRAMER: Ungodly men fall into the pit which they make for others (Psa. 7:16 ; 9:16 ; Prov. 26:27). [HALL: What a mixture do we find here of wisdom and madness! Ahithophel will needs hang himself; there is madness: he will yet set his house in order; there is an act of wisdom. … How preposterous are the cares of idle worldlings, that prefer all other things to themselves, and while they look at what they have in their coffers, forget what they have in their breasts.—TAYLOR: This is the first recorded case of deliberate suicide. And the feelings which led to it and which we can easily analyze, were very similar to those which have impelled many in our own times to commit the same awful iniquity. Chief among them was wounded pride. Then, besides this, there was the conviction that Absalom’s cause was now hopelessly ruined … Perhaps also there was a mingling of remorse with those other emotions of pride. He had left a master who loved and valued him, and had transferred his services to one who, as he now discovered, had not the wisdom to appreciate his worth, but preferred the gaudy glitter of empty rhetoric to the substantial wisdom of unadorned speech. This contrast, thus forced upon him, might awaken his conscience to the value of the friendship which he had forfeited when he turned against David, until remorse and shame overwhelmed him.—TR.]
[2 Samuel 17:5. It was not unwise in Absalom to seek the advice of another experienced counsellor also (Prov. 24:6); his fault was that he did not know which advice to follow, and was misled by high-sounding and flattering words. In choosing counsellors, and in judging of their counsel, lies great part of the wisdom of life.—Boldness is often true prudence; and “delays are dangerous.”
2 Samuel 17:14. Hushai’s treacherous craft and Absalom’s silly vanity are overruled to the accomplishment of the Lord’s purpose. Few things are so consoling as the frequency with which we perceive how God brings good out of evil; and doubtless this is often true where we do not yet perceive it (Ps. 76:10; Is. 13:7).
2 Samuel 17:23. Ahithophel 1) A model of worldly wisdom (16:23). Excellence of his advice to Absalom (16:21; 17:1–3). 2) An example of worldly wisdom failing because it ignores God (2 Samuel 17:14; Ps. 14:1). 3) A suicide; a) probable causes; b) folly and guilt.—TR.]
4[2 Samuel 16:15. This phrase, in which the “all the people” is put in apposition with “men of Israel” (not: “all the people of the men of Israel.” as Erdmann renders), is peculiar, and is variously changed by the versions: Sept.: “all the men of Israel;” Syr., Arab.: “all the people that were with him, and all Israel;” Vulg.: “all his people.” Sept. and Vulg. may have omitted half the expression for simplicity (and they retain different halves), and the Heb. text itself may be a duplet, arisen from a marginal explanation. Thenius: “Instead of these words (אִישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל) MS. Cantab. 1 has אֲשֶׁר אִתּוֹ (added by Syr. and Arab.), which came from the fact that in some MS. that was copied, the words א׳ ישׂ׳ (men of Israel) stood under the אֲשֶׁר אִתּוֹ (that were with him) of the preceding verse (Kennicott, sup. rat. text. Heb., 449).”—TR.]
5[2 Samuel 16:16. Sept.: ἀρχιεταῖρος (as above 15:32) = ’Αρχὶ ἑταῖρος.—Hushai’s address to Absalom is literally: “live the king! live the king!” given once only in Sept. and Arabic.—TR.]
6[2 Samuel 16:18. Thenius and Erdmann render: “Not (i. e. I go not with David), because,” etc. But it is not likely that Hushai would make his negation with one word, and usage establishes the sense of the phrase given in Eng. A. V.: “nay, but,” or, “nay, for,” see Ges. Lex. s. v. לֹא 2.—The Kethib לֹא in this verse is approved by De Rossi against the Qeri לוֹ, which seems to be adopted by all the versions, even by Syriac and Arab., which make the sentence interrogative. The Kethib (לא) would be interrogative, and would require a preposition before אֲשֶׁר.—TR.]
7[2 Samuel 16:19. Arab.: “And ’tis not my business to be forever the servant of one man;” Syr.: “whose servant I shall be is not in my power.” Instead of בנו Syr. had ידי (אידי), which Arab. read as אחד.—TR.]
8[2 Samuel 16:20. This Dativus commodi (לכם) cannot be here given well in English. The phrase: “give ye you counsel,” is awkward, and in “give you counsel” the pronoun would be understood as Nominative.—TR.]
9[2 Samuel 16:21. The verb means: “to be in bad odor.” The אֵת is the Prep. “with,” not the sign of the Accus., as Sept. and Vulg. take it. Chald paraphrases: “that thou art stirred up against thy father.” Syr. and Arab. explain: “that thou hast gone in to the concubines of thy father.” Josephus interprets: “the people will believe that a reconciliation with thy father is impossible.”—TR.]
10[2 Samuel 17:1. Or: “I will now choose … …and will arise.” Sept. and Vulg.: “I will now choose me.” Arab.: “choose thou … and let them go forth to seek David.”—TR.]
11[2 Samuel 17:3. So Erdmann, Cahen, Wordsworth, Bib.-Com. Various other renderings are discussed by Erdmann in the Exposition. In addition to what he says it may be mentioned that Chald. renders nearly (as to the sense) as Eng. A. V.: “they will all return when the man that thou seekest is killed,” = “as the return of all is [the killing of] the man,” etc. (so Cahen). Syr.: “as if all the men that thou seekest returned,” as if reading כָּל־תָאִישׁ; so Philippson: “at the return of all the men thou seekest.” The translations proposed all either do violence to the text, or fail to suit the connection and give a good sense, or require a bold insertion (as of the phrase: “the killing of” in Chald. and Eng. A. V.).—TR.]
12[2 Samuel 17:6. Eng. A. V. renders according to the accents, and so Erdmann; but it is better (with Vulg., Cahen, Wellhausen) to take the sentence as a double question. Sept. inserts וְ (εἰ δὲ μή), which may easily have fallen out (from the preceding ו), and is almost necessary for the rendering of Eng. A. V. It is found in some MSS. and EDD.—Instead of the more usual לֹא, we here have אַיִן, literally: “is there not” = “is our doing (according to Ahithophel’s counsel) not?”—TR.]
13[2 Samuel 17:7. פַּעַם, the numeral, not the simple substantive “time” (עֵת). Sept.: τὸ ἅπαξ τοῦτο; Vulg.: hac vice; Cahen: cette fois; Erdmann: dieses Mal.—TR.]
14[2 Samuel 17:8. Sept. here inserts: καὶ ὡς ὗς τραχεῖα ἐν τῶ πεδἰῳ, “and as a fierce sow in the plain,” which addition is adopted by Ewald, Thenius and Böttcher on the ground of its appropriate poetic character, and as not likely to have been inserted by the Greek translator. To this Wellhausen replies that the two words ἀγρῶ and πεδίῳ of the Greek point to the same Heb. word (שדה), making the double figure improbable, and further that an Israelite would naturally think of the hog only as an unclean animal, and would not put it alongside of the bear.—TR.]
15[2 Samuel 17:9. The word “place” is here used in the sense of “locality” (Bib.-Com.) or “camping-place” in distinction from the “ravine” or “cleft,” not as a mere adverb, see 2 Samuel 17:12.—Instead of אַחַד some MSS. and EDD. have אחת, and Wellhausen remarks that the two numerals here seem to have changed places.—TR.]
16[2 Samuel 17:9. Or: “when he falls on them at the first” (so Erdmann and Sept.], and some would therefore supply the personal suffix וֹ to the Infinitive: but the present text permits either rendering, and that of Eng. A. V. seems to agree better with the context.—TR.]
17[2 Samuel 17:11. Sept.: “Thus I counsel,” ὂτι οὕτως συμβουλεύων ἐγὼ συνεβούλευσα = כִּי כֹה יָעץ יָעַצְתִּי, preferred by Wellhausen, on the ground that the similar words might easily have fallen out. The fullness of the expression would also be in Hushai’s manner.—Some MSS. read: “as the sand on the shore (שפת) of the sea,” an expansion of the original.—Böttcher’s objection to the last word in this verse, קְרָב, “battle,” is that it elsewhere occurs only in poetry (Ps., Job, Eccles., Zech.), and he proposes בְּקִרְבּוֹ, “in their midst.” This reading is strongly supported by the fact that all the versions have it (Chald.: “at the head of them all”), and is in itself more congruous with the general context; against it is Hushai’s inclination to use pompous and unusual words.—TR.]
18[2 Samuel 17:12. “On the face of the ground” in some MSS. and EDD., a scribal expansion, as in the preceding verse.—TR.]
19[2 Samuel 17:13. Vulg., Thenius, Philippson, Erdmann render: “all Israel shall lay ropes at (= about) that city,” on the ground that pulling a city stone by stone into the brook by ropes was an unheard of and impossible thing (Bp. Patrick also suggests the same difficulty). But Hushai seems purposely to put his proposal in the most recklessly exaggerated form, as an appeal to Absalom’s vanity, and says expressly that the city will be drawn into the brook. This meaning will be gotten if we render the Hiphil (הִשִּׂיאוּ): “lay to, apply to,” and the text shows a double Accusative. The Hiphil may also mean: “cause to bring.” Wellhausen remarks that we should here expect הֵשִׂימוּ, which is, however, according to the above view, not necessary.—TR.]
20[2 Samuel 17:14. Literally: “to,” אֶל. All the versions and some MSS. and Edd. have עַל, “upon.”—The Pisqa in this verse is wanting in some MSS.; its effect is merely partially to isolate and bring out in relief the succeeding solemn statement.—TR.]
21[2 Samuel 17:16. Eng. A. V. again adopts the Qeri, which is found in many MSS. and EDD. (De Rossi) and in all the versions. Kethib is here preferred as in 15:28, which see.—The “speedily” of Eng. A. V. is meant as translation of the Infinitive Absolute, but introduces too different a substantive idea from that of the verb (עבר); the sense is rather: “actually pass over.” The rendering: “lest the king be swallowed up” (so Philippson, Wellhausen) seems to be the best; the phrase is discussed by Erdmann, who adopts the translation: “lest it (transit over the river) be swallowed up (= snatched away).”—TR.]
22[2 Samuel 17:17. Eng. A V. here inverts the order of the Heb, in order to avoid the contradiction of making the statement: “they might not be seen to enter the city,” follow the statement that they “had gone to tell the king” (rendering the verb ילכוּ as Aorist). Erdmann says that this last statement is anticipatory. But the Imperfect is here better taken in the future sense: “and they were to go and tell,” which avoids the somewhat hard anticipation. Philippson renders not substantially differently: “the maid told them that they were to go,” etc.—TR.]
23[2 Samuel 17:20. The word מִיכל is as yet unexplained. Rashi says that its meaning can only be inferred from the context. Sept.: μικρόν, “little” (perhaps from similarity of sound); Chald. takes the phrase as meaning “the Jordan.” Syriac renders: “hence,” as if it were מִן־כֹּה or מִפֹּה; Arab. omits it; Vulg.: “having tasted a little water,” after the Sept. J. D. Michaelis and Gesenius compare Arab. makil, “a dry pit,” mimkal, “a pit containing water,” but this does not agree with the form of the Heb. word. Others assume a root יכל (Fürst takes this stem to mean “contain,” whence our word = “water-ditch”). Wellhausen would drop מיכל from the text, or supply some such word as דּרך: “the way of the water.”—TR.]
24“And the counsel of Ahithophel … days”—the construction is interrupted, and completes itself in the כַּאֲשֶׁר ... כֵּן. Qeri and all versions supply אּישׁ after יִשְׁאַל; but, if one is not disposed to accept this as necessary (Keil), the verb may be taken impersonally.
41 הַכַּלָּה אִישׁ for הַכֹּל הָאִישׁ [with interpolation of “only the life of one man” (Keil). The Sept. text was בְּשׁוּב הַבַּלָה לְאִישָׂהּ אַךְ נֶפֶשׁ אִישׂ אֶחַד אַתָּה מְבַקִּשׁ. It is suggested that the three words following הַכַּלָּה may have fallen out, because the eye of the scribe passed to the following אִישׁ, to which the ה in כלה was then prefixed, and the אחד made into אשר. This is possible, but the sense of the Sept. rendering is doubtful.—TR.]
42The גַם־הוּא strengthens the suffix in פִּיו. Ewald, § 311 a.
43 פְּחָתּים, natural hiding-places, מִקוֹמות, artificially strong positions; in these David would pass the night.
44So כּי after a negation, expressed or understood, Ges. § 155, 1, e—פָּנֶיךָ = “thy person, thyself,” the Plu. noun here accompanied by a Plu. Particip,—Instead of בַּקְרָב Thenius would read בְּקִרְבָּם.
45The fem. numeral (though the subst. is found as fem. in Gen. 18:24; Job 20:9) is probably (since the masc. is used in 2 Samuel 17:9) to be regarded as scribal error for masc. (Maurer).
46Taking נַחְנוּ = “we,” as in Gen. 42:11; Ex. 16:7, 8; Num. 32:32; Lam. 3:42.
47 נַחְנוּ as 1 plu. Perf. Qal of נוּחַ, Sept. (παρεμβαλοῦμεν), Syr., Arab.
48 חָסִיל or חָסִל for הַטָּל.
49 צוּר = צְרוּר.—On the masc. אֹתוֹ referring to the fem. עִיר see Ew. § 174, 6 a.
50[Sept. (Alex.): “lest one swallow up the king;” Vulg.: “lest the king be swallowed up;” Syr.: “lest thou perish;” Chald.: “lest profit be gotten front the king,” i. e., lest he be betrayed (Walton’s Polyg. incorrectly: “lest the king perish”).—TR.]
51 מִיכַל הַמָּיִם a ἅπ. λεγ. = a small brook in the vicinity. [See “Text. and Gram.”—TR.]
52[There is an old opinion (see Patrick in loco) that Ahithophel died of quinsy brought on by violent passions, grief, chagrin, hatred, and Then. (Comm. in loco) mentions that the same view (as to the disease) is maintained by Steuber (1741). In Dryden’s “Absalom and Ahithophel” the latter personage represents the Earl of Shaftesbury.—TR.]