Matthew Poole's Commentary
And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him.Absalom stealeth the hearts of Israel, 2 Samuel 15:1-6. Under pretence of a vow obtaineth leave to go to Hebron: there with Ahithophel’s aid he conspires to be king, 2 Samuel 15:7-12. David fleeth from Jerusalem with all his men; leaveth ten of his concubines, 2 Samuel 15:13-37.
As being the king’s eldest son, now Amnon was dead; for Chileab, who was his eldest brother, 2 Samuel 3:3, was either dead, or manifestly incapable of the government. And this course he knew would draw the eyes and minds of people to him, and make them conclude that David intended him for his successor.
And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel.Rose up early; thereby making a show of self-denial, and diligence, and solicitude for the good of the public, and of every private person, as he had opportunity.
Beside the way of the gate; either, first, Of the king’s palace. Or rather, secondly, Of the city; for that was the place of judicature or judgment, for which these men came.
Absalom called unto him, preventing him with the offers of his assistance.
Of what city art thou? as if he were ready to make particular inquiry into the state of his cause.
Of one of the tribes of Israel; or rather, of one city (which word is easily understood out of the foregoing question) of the tribes of Israel, i.e. of an Israelitish city, either this or that; of such or such a city.
And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee.Thy matters are good and right: upon some very slight hearing of their case he approved it, that he might oblige all.
No man deputed of the king to hear thee, to wit, none such as will do thee justice. The other sons and relations of the king, and the rest of the judges and rulers under him and them, are wholly corrupted, and swayed by favour or bribes; or, at least, not careful and diligent, as they should be; and my father being grown in years, is negligent of public affairs, leaving them wholly to their conduct.
Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice!Oh that I were made judge in the land! for the king had only restored Absalom to favour, but thought not fit to put him into any place of power and trust.
I would do him justice; I should refuse no man, and decline no pains to do any man good. So he pretends to a very public spirit.
And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him.Putting on the garb of singular humanity and good will to all men; for that seems to have been a ceremony in frequent use in those times of showing respect, as pulling off the hat, and bowing, or embracing, is at this day with us.
And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.i.e. He secretly and subtlety undermined his father, and robbed his father of the good opinions and affections of his people, that he might gain them to himself, by such insinuations into their affections, by his plausible and over-civil carriage.
And it came to pass after forty years, that Absalom said unto the king, I pray thee, let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed unto the LORD, in Hebron.After forty years.
Quest. Whence are these to be computed?
Answ. Not from Absalom’s birth; for he was born in Hebron some considerable time after David had begun his reign, 2 Samuel 3:3, much less from the time of his vow made, or of his return from banishment; but either, first, From the time of David’s election or designation to the kingdom. 1 Samuel 16:13. Or, secondly, From the beginning of Saul’s reign; which being a solemn time, and observable for the change of the government in Israel, might very fitly be made an epochs, from which the computation or account of times begin; as the Greeks and Romans began their accounts in the same manner, and upon the same ground. Or rather, thirdly, From the beginning of David’s reign, who reigned forty years; and so the words may be rendered, about or towards the end of forty years, i. e. in the beginning of the fortieth year. And so this very phrase is used Deu 15:1, At the end of every seven years, i.e. in the seventh year, even from the beginning of it, as is manifested and confessed. So in a like expression, After three days will I rise again, Mark 8:31, i.e. on the beginning of the third day, when Christ did rise; the number of three days being then completed when the third day is begun. And the forty years are here expressed as one motive or inducement to Absalom to rebel, because now his father’s end grew near; and one of the Hebrew doctors affirms, that there was a tradition, or rumour, or prediction, that David should reign but forty years. And Absalom might easily understand that David intended to decline him, and to make Solomon his successor, as well by the conscience of his own wickedness and unfitness for so great a trust, as by that eminent wisdom and piety which appeared in Solomon in his tender years, and that great respect and affection which his father must needs have and manifest to him upon this account, and by that promise and oath given to Bathsheba concerning his succession mentioned 1 Kings 1:30, but made before that time, which also might come to Absalom’s ear. Against this opinion two things are objected: first, That David was in the time of this rebellion a strong man, for he marched on foot, 2 Samuel 15:30, whereas in his last year he was very infirm and bedrid. Secondly, That after this rebellion was ended divers other things happened, as the three years’ famine, 2 Samuel 21:1, and other things following in the history. But it may be answered to the first, that David might in the beginning of his last year have so much strength and vigour left as to march on foot, especially when he did so humble and afflict himself, as it is apparent he did, 2 Samuel 15:30; and yet through his tedious marches, and the tormenting cares, fears, and griefs of his soul for Absalom, might be so strangely and suddenly impaired, as in the end of the same year to be very feeble and bedrid, it being a very common accident, especially in old men, and upon extraordinary occasions, to languish and decline exceedingly, and to fall from some competent degree of health and rigour, to be very infirm and bedrid, and that in the space of a few months. And to the second objection, That those histories related 2Sa 21, &c., though they be placed after this rebellion, yet indeed were done before it; the proof of which see on 2 Samuel 21:1. For it is so confessed and evident, that things are not always placed in the same order in which they were done, that it is a rule of the Hebrews, and approved by other learned men, Non datur pri us et posterius in Saetia literis; that is, There is no first and last in the order of Scripture relations. And here is a plain reason for this transplacing of this history, which is allowed in other like cases, that when once the history of Tamar’s rape had been mentioned, it was very fit to subjoin the relation of all the mischiefs which followed upon that occasion. If any infidel will yet cavil with this text and number of years, let him know, that instead of forty, the Syriac, and Arabic, and Josephus the Jew read four years; and that it is much more rational to acknowledge an error of the scribe, who copied out the sacred text, than upon so frivolous a ground to question the Divine authority of the Holy Scriptures. And that some men choose the latter way rather than the former, is an evidence that they are infidels by the choice of their wills, more than by the strength of their reasons.
Let me go and pay my vow: he pretends piety, which he knew would please his father, and easily procure his consent.
Hebron is mentioned as the place, not where the vow was made, for that was at Geshur, 2 Samuel 15:8, but where he intended to perform it. The pretence for which was, that he was born in this place, 2 Samuel 3:3, and that here was a famous high place; and, till the temple was built, it was permitted to sacrifice upon the high places.
For thy servant vowed a vow while I abode at Geshur in Syria, saying, If the LORD shall bring me again indeed to Jerusalem, then I will serve the LORD.i.e. Worship him by the offering of sacrifices of thanksgiving to God, for restoring me to the place of his presence and service, and to my father’s favour. But why should not this service have been performed at Zion, or at Gibeon? Here was some ground of suspicion; but God blinded David’s eyes, that he might bring upon David and upon Absalom the judgments which they deserved, and he designed.
And the king said unto him, Go in peace. So he arose, and went to Hebron.This place he chose, as being an eminent city, and next to Jerusalem, the chief of the tribe of Judah, and the place of his birth, and the place where his father began his kingdom, which he took for a good omen, and where it is probable that he had secured many friends, and which was at some convenient distance from Jerusalem, that his father could not suddenly reach him.
But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, As soon as ye hear the sound of the trumpet, then ye shall say, Absalom reigneth in Hebron.Absalom sent from Hebron; or, had sent from Jerusalem; that when he went to Hebron, they should go into the several tribes to sift the people, and to dispose them to Absalom’s party, and acquaint them with his success.
As soon as ye hear the sound of the trumpet; which I shall take care to have sounded in several parts by other persons; and when that is done, you shall inform them of the reason of it. Or, as soon as you understand that the trumpet was sounded at Hebron; partly to call the people together for my assistance; and partly to celebrate my inauguration to the kingdom, which you shall speedily know by messengers whom I shall send to you to that end.
And with Absalom went two hundred men out of Jerusalem, that were called; and they went in their simplicity, and they knew not any thing.That were called; such as Absalom had picked out as fit for his purpose; such as were of some quality and reputation with the king and people, which would give a great countenance to his undertaking, and give occasion to people at first to think that this was done by his father’s consent or connivance, as being now aged, and infirm, and willing to resign the kingdom to him, as his eldest son, and the noblest too, as being descended from a king by both parents; and such as by their wisdom and interest in the people might have done David much service in this needful time; yet such as were not very martial men, nor likely with violence to oppose his proceedings. They knew not any thing concerning Absalom’s design.
And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counseller, from his city, even from Giloh, while he offered sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom.Ahithophel is thought to have been the author, or, at least, the fomenter of this rebellion; either because he was discontented with David, for which there might be many reasons; or because he saw the father was old and nigh his end, and he thought it best policy to worship the rising sun, and to follow the young prince, whom he observed to have so great an interest in the hearts of the people, and whom he supposed he could easily manage as he pleased, which he could not do with David.
While he offered sacrifices; which he did not in devotion to God, for he neither feared God, nor reverenced man; nor to implore God’s favour and assistance against his father, which he knew was a vain thing to expect; but merely that upon this pretence he might call great numbers of the people together, whereof many would come to join with him in the worship of God, and most to partake of the feasts which were made of the remainders of the sacrifices, according to the manner.
And there came a messenger to David, saying, The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom.The generality of the people are for him; which is not strange, considering either, first, David, whose many miscarriages had greatly lost him in the hearts of his people. Or, secondly, The people, whose temper is generally unstable, weary of old things, and desirous of changes, and apt to expect great benefits thereby. Or, thirdly, Absalom, whose noble birth, and singular beauty, and most obliging carriage, and ample promises, had won the people’s hearts; considering also that he was David’s first-born, to whom the kingdom of right belonged, and yet that David intended to give away his right to Solomon, which the people thought might prove the occasion of a civil and dreadful war, which hereby they designed to prevent. Or, fourthly, The just and holy God, who ordered and overruled all these things for David’s chastisement, and the instruction and terror of sinners in all future ages.
And David said unto all his servants that were with him at Jerusalem, Arise, and let us flee; for we shall not else escape from Absalom: make speed to depart, lest he overtake us suddenly, and bring evil upon us, and smite the city with the edge of the sword.Arise, and let us flee; for though the fort of Zion was strong and impregnable, and he might have defended himself there; yet he had not laid in provisions for a long siege; and, if he had been once besieged there, Absalom would have got speedy and quiet possession of his whole kingdom; whereas if he marched abroad, he might raise a considerable army for his defence, and the suppression of the rebels. Besides, the greatest part of Jerusalem could not be well defended against him. And he suspected that a great number of the citizens might take part with Absalom, and possibly deliver him up into Absalom’s hands. Besides, if he had made that the seat of the war, he feared the destruction of that city, which he vehemently desired to preserve, because it was the chief and royal city, and the place in which God had appointed to put his name and worship. Moreover, when David considered that God’s hand was now against him, and that he was now bringing evil upon him out of his own house, as he had threatened, 2 Samuel 12:11, it is no wonder if he was intimidated and disposed to flee.
And the king's servants said unto the king, Behold, thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my lord the king shall appoint.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the king went forth, and all his household after him. And the king left ten women, which were concubines, to keep the house.After him, or, on foot, by comparing 2 Samuel 15:30, which the king chose to do rather than to ride; partly, to humble himself under the hand of God; partly, to encourage his companions in this hard and comfortless march; and partly, to move compassion in his people towards him.
The king left ten women; for he supposed that their sex would protect them even among barbarians, and their relation to David would gain them some respect, and, at least, safety from his son. But it seems he did not now actually consider that clause of the threatening concerning his wives, (God diverting his mind to other things,) or he thought that would be accomplished some other way, conceiving that Absalom would abhor the thoughts of such incestuous converse, especially with persons which were now grown in years.
And the king went forth, and all the people after him, and tarried in a place that was far off.Either to rest and refresh themselves a little; or rather, in expectation of others who should or would come after him, that they might march away in a considerable body, which might both defend the king, and invite others to come in to their assistance.
A place that was far off; at some convenient distance, but not very far.
And all his servants passed on beside him; and all the Cherethites, and all the Pelethites, and all the Gittites, six hundred men which came after him from Gath, passed on before the king.Of the Cherethites and the Pelethites See Poole on "2 Samuel 8:18". The Gittites were either, first, Israelites by birth, called Gittites because they went with him to Gath, and abode with him in that country. Or rather, secondly, Strangers, as Ittai their head is called, 2 Samuel 15:19, and they are called his brethren, 2 Samuel 15:20; and probably they were Philistines by birth born in the city or territory of Gath, as the following words imply, who by David’s counsel, and example, and the success of his arms, were won to embrace and profess the true religion, and had given good proof of their military skill, and valour, and fidelity to the king.
Then said the king to Ittai the Gittite, Wherefore goest thou also with us? return to thy place, and abide with the king: for thou art a stranger, and also an exile.Return to thy place; either, first, To thy native country of Gath, where thou wilt be remote from our broils. Or, secondly, To Jerusalem, where thy settled abode now is.
And abide, or, or abide; for he could not both go to Gath, and tarry in Jerusalem with Absalom. Although this part of the verse lies otherwise in the Hebrew text, and may be rendered thus,
Return (to wit, to Jerusalem) and abide with the king (there);
for thou art a stranger and exile from thy own place; or, in respect of thy own place, or, as concerning thy place, i. e. in regard of the place of thy birth and former habitation. With the king; with Absalom, who is now made king by the choice of the people, and therefore is able to give thee that protection and encouragement which thou deservest; whereas I am in a manner deposed, and unable to do for thee what I desired and intended.
A stranger, and also an exile; not much concerned in our affairs, and therefore not fit to be involved in our troubles.
Whereas thou camest but yesterday, should I this day make thee go up and down with us? seeing I go whither I may, return thou, and take back thy brethren: mercy and truth be with thee.Thou camest but yesterday; by which it may be gathered that these were not the Israelitish soldiers which went with David to Gath, and came up with him from thence to Hebron, which was above thirty years before this time, but some proselytes which came from thence more lately. For though this word
yesterday be sometimes used of a time long before past, as @2Ki 9:26 Job 8:9 Isaiah 30:33; yet it seems to be here restrained to a shorter compass by the following words, and by the argument here used.
Go whither I may; I know not whither; having now no certain dwelling-place.
Thy brethren; thy countrymen and soldiers the Gittites, 2 Samuel 15:18.
Mercy and truth be with thee; since I am now unable to recompense thy kindness and fidelity to me, my hearty prayer to God is, that he would show to thee his mercy, in blessing thee with all sorts of blessings, and his faithfulness, in making good all those promises which he hath made, not to Israelites only, but in and with them to all true-hearted proselytes, such as thou art.
And Ittai answered the king, and said, As the LORD liveth, and as my lord the king liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be.No text from Poole on this verse.
And David said to Ittai, Go and pass over. And Ittai the Gittite passed over, and all his men, and all the little ones that were with him.For being so deeply engaged for David, he durst not leave his little ones to Absalom’s mercy.
And all the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people passed over: the king also himself passed over the brook Kidron, and all the people passed over, toward the way of the wilderness.All the country, i.e. the generality of the people by whom they passed; for it must be considered that Absalom’s friends and partisans were gone to him to Hebron, and the rest of the people thereabouts were either well-willers to David, or at least moved with compassion at the sad and sudden change of so great and good a king, which was able to affect a heart of stone.
The brook Kidron was near Jerusalem. See Matthew 26:36 John 18:1.
Toward the way of the wilderness; which was between Jerusalem and Jericho.
And lo Zadok also, and all the Levites were with him, bearing the ark of the covenant of God: and they set down the ark of God; and Abiathar went up, until all the people had done passing out of the city.Bearing the ark of the covenant of God; as a pledge of God’s presence and assistance, and that David might inquire at it upon occasion.
They set down the ark of God; either in expectation of drawing forth more people to David’s party, if not from their loyalty to their lawful king, yet from their piety and reverence to the ark; or that all the people might pass along, and the ark might come in the rear of them for their safeguard and encouragement.
Abiathar went up; either,
1. From the ark, which now was in the low ground, being near the brook Cedron, to the top of the Mount of Olives, whence he had the prospect of the city and temple, as appears from Mark 13:3, where he could discern when the people ceased to come out of the city after David; which when they did, he gave notice to David that he should wait no longer, but march away and carry the ark with him. Or,
2. From the ark to the city, which was in a higher ground, that so he being high priest, might use his authority and interest with the people to persuade them to do their duty, in going forth to defend and help their king against his rebellious son; and there he staid until all those whom he could persuade were gone forth.
And the king said unto Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find favour in the eyes of the LORD, he will bring me again, and shew me both it, and his habitation:Carry back the ark of God into the city; partly, out of care and reverence to the ark, which though sometimes it was and might be carried out to a certain place; yet he might justly think unfit to carry it from place to place he knew not whither, and to expose it to all the hazards and inconveniences to which he himself was likely to exposed; partly, out of respect to the priests, whom, by this means, he thought he should expose to the rage of Absalom, as he had before exposed them to Saul’s fury on another occasion 1Sa 22; and partly, that by this, means he might have the better opportunity to search out and to counterwork Absalom’s plots; which was so necessary, not only for himself, but for the defence and maintenance of the ark, and all God’s ordinances, and of the true religion.
His habitation, i.e. the tabernacle which David had lately built for it, 2 Samuel 6:17, in which the ark, and God, by means thereof, ordinarily dwelt. And hereby he insinuates another reason of his returning the ark to Jerusalem, be cause there was the tabernacle made for the receipt of it.
But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.I have no delight in thee; I will not receive thee into my favour, nor restore thee to thy throne and city, and to the enjoyment of my ark and ordinances.
Here am I, ready to obey him, and to submit to his will and pleasure concerning me.
The king said also unto Zadok the priest, Art not thou a seer? return into the city in peace, and your two sons with you, Ahimaaz thy son, and Jonathan the son of Abiathar.The king said also unto Zadok; either because Abiathar was gone from him, 2 Samuel 15:24, and not yet returned; or because David put more confidence in Zadok.
A seer, i.e. either,
1. A prophet, for such were called seers, 1 Samuel 9:9 2 Samuel 24:11 Amos 7:12. And such he may be called, either because he really had the gift of prophecy or because as the name of prophets is sometimes given to those who had not prophetical gifts, but were only officers and minsters devoted to and employed in God’s worship and service, as 1 Samuel 10:5, &c.; 1 Kings 18:4,13; compare 1 Chronicles 25:1-3; so it is reasonable that the name of seers be extended to the same latitude; and therefore he may properly and fitly be called a
seer, as he was with and under Abiathar the chief governor of the house and worship of God; who, by his office, was to instruct and direct the people in those matters, whereby he had many opportunities both of sifting out Absalom’s counsels, and of minding the people of their duty to David, as he saw opportunity: which sense suits well with David’s scope and design. Or,
2. A seeing, or discerning, or observing man; for so the Hebrew verb raah is oft used. And this suits well with David’s mind: Thou art a wise man, and therefore fit to manage this great business, which requires prudence and secrecy.
In peace; as men of peace, giving over all thoughts of war, and devoting yourselves entirely to God’s service.
See, I will tarry in the plain of the wilderness, until there come word from you to certify me.No text from Poole on this verse.
Zadok therefore and Abiathar carried the ark of God again to Jerusalem: and they tarried there.No text from Poole on this verse.
And David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot: and all the people that was with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up.He went barefoot, in testimony of his deep sorrow, and humiliation and shame for his sins, whereby he had procured, this evil to himself; for these were the habits of mourners, 2 Samuel 19:4 Esther 6:12 Isaiah 20:3,4 Jer 14:3,4; and to take a holy revenge upon himself for his former delicacy and luxury.
And one told David, saying, Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom. And David said, O LORD, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.One told David, or, David told, i.e. David being hereof informed, acquaints his friends and followers with it, to stir them up to join with him in the following prayer against him.
Turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness; either infatuate him, that he may give foolish counsel; or let his counsel be rejected as foolish, or spoiled by the foolish execution of it.
And it came to pass, that when David was come to the top of the mount, where he worshipped God, behold, Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat rent, and earth upon his head:He worshipped God; looking towards Jerusalem, where the ark and tabernacle was. Compare 1 Kings 8:44,48 Da 6:10.
Unto whom David said, If thou passest on with me, then thou shalt be a burden unto me:Increasing my charge, and care, and sorrow for what may befall thee, and being but of little use to me: for it may seem he was an old man, and fitter for counsel than for war.
But if thou return to the city, and say unto Absalom, I will be thy servant, O king; as I have been thy father's servant hitherto, so will I now also be thy servant: then mayest thou for me defeat the counsel of Ahithophel.i.e. I will be as faithful to thee as I have been to thy father; which he neither was nor ought to be; and therefore the profession of this was great dissimulation. And David’s suggesting this crafty counsel may be reckoned amongst his errors; which, proceeding from a violent temptation, and his present and pressing straits, God was pleased mercifully to pardon, and to direct this evil advice to a good end.
And hast thou not there with thee Zadok and Abiathar the priests? therefore it shall be, that what thing soever thou shalt hear out of the king's house, thou shalt tell it to Zadok and Abiathar the priests.No text from Poole on this verse.
Behold, they have there with them their two sons, Ahimaaz Zadok's son, and Jonathan Abiathar's son; and by them ye shall send unto me every thing that ye can hear.There with them; not in Jerusalem, but in a place near to it, to which they could easily send upon occasion. See 2 Samuel 17:17.
So Hushai David's friend came into the city, and Absalom came into Jerusalem.No text from Poole on this verse.