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2Sa 17:1 Moreover Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Let me now choose out twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue after David this night:
Ver. 1. Moreover, Ahithophel said unto Absalom. ] This was a second politic indeed, but pestilent counsel, given by Ahithophel to Absalom, stirring him up to parricide; and offering his best service as a captain and commander, which in counsellors and politicians is not ordinary.
And pursue after David this night. ] He knew well that celerity in war is a great matter. Witness Alexander the Great with his Mηδεν αναβαλλομενος , and Julius Caesar with his Veni, Vidi, Vici. Pompey lost the day at the Pharsalian field by delays. And Charles, king of Sicily and Jerusalem, was for his lingering called Cunctator, because he stayed till opportunity was lost.
2Sa 17:2 And 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:
Ver. 2. And I will come upon him while he is weary and weak-handed. ] That indeed had been the ready way to win. Hannibal when he could have taken Rome, would not; when he would, could not. a The Protestant princes of Germany lost a fair opportunity at Ingolstadt, August 13, 1546, which they never afterwards could recover. They were far stronger in horse than the emperor, whose forces were but slenderly fortified at that time, and might easily have been worsted; but the next night they so entrenched themselves, that they took better heart, and soon after got the day. This error of the Protestant princes - the elector of Saxony, the landgrave of Hesse, and the rest - was, saith mine author, b the rise and cause of their calamity, but of Caesar’s victory, to the grief of all good people.
b Alsted., Chronol. 545.
2Sa 17:3 And I will bring back all the people unto thee: the man whom thou seekest [is] as if all returned: [so] all the people shall be in peace.
Ver. 3. The man whom thou seekest. ] Ah, lewd lowly! could Absalom hear his dear father’s death thus contrived and endeavoured, and approve of the plot? Certe tu non occidisti patrem, Certainly you did not kill your father, said Augustus to one that was brought before him for parricide. Lycurgus would make no law against it, as holding it impossible. But the devil had filled this man’s heart from corner to corner, as Acts 5:2 , and torn out thence all childlike affection.
2Sa 17:4 And the saying pleased Absalom well, and all the elders of Israel.
Ver. 4. And the saying pleased Absalom well. ] Heb., Was right in the eyes of Absalom, &c. Nam quae recta sunt placent. a Man is a rational creature: and everywise man will be mancipium rationis, ruled by reason, in matters of greatest consequence especially. Howbeit, all men are mutable, as appeareth in that this counsel, while so applauded, was so soon again misliked.
2Sa 17:5 Then said Absalom, Call now Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear likewise what he saith.
Ver. 5. Call now Hushai the Archite also. ] God had said that David should not die; but Absalom was doomed to death by God’s determined counsel. If Ahithophel’s counsel had been followed, how could David have escaped, or Absalom perished? Hushai, therefore, is consulted, and the whole scene altered. This came forth "from the Lord of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working." Isa 28:29
2Sa 17:6 And when Hushai was come to Absalom, Absalom spake unto him, saying, Ahithophel hath spoken after this manner: shall we do [after] his saying? if not; speak thou.
Ver. 6. If not, speak thou. ] Thou hast free liberty of counsel given thee, make use of it. And so he did to the hazard of his life, but with singular good success, showing himself to be vir bonus dicendi peritus, wise and well-spoken.
2Sa 17:7 And Hushai said unto Absalom, The counsel that Ahithophel hath given [is] not good at this time.
Ver. 7. Is not good at this time. ] This was a bold speech, and such as if he had not made good by alleging to Absalom verisimilia, et ingenio illius superbo accommodata, arguments probable, and suitable to his ambitious disposition, there had been but one law for Hushai; not unlike that of the Locrians, who ordained that whoso would propose a new law, should come with a halter about his neck, that if it were not liked, he should be hanged. Here, then, he beginneth with his Errorem erravit non levem vir alioqui consultissimus Ahithophel. This most grave and wise counsellor is out in this particular; as well he may be, since
“ Oυδεις ανθρωπων αυτος απαντα σοφος . ”
2Sa 17:8 For, said Hushai, thou knowest thy father and his men, that they [be] mighty men, and they [be] chafed in their minds, as a bear robbed of her whelps in the field: and thy father [is] a man of war, and will not lodge with the people.
Ver. 8. They be mighty men. ] Mighty indeed they were, whereas some one of them could lift up his hand against a hundred, two hundred, three hundred of the enemy. 2Sa 23:18-21 And David himself was of known valour. Our Richard II, when dethroned and committed to Pomfret Castle, was there assaulted by eight assassins, four of whom he valiantly killed. What would David have done then, think we? who as when he was young he fought with great Goliath and slew him, so, long after this rebellion of Absalom, and when he was well in years, he encountered Ishbibenob the giant, the weight of whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of brass in weight; 2Sa 21:16 surely he with his old soldiers would have made some work among Absalom’s raw men, fresh water soldiers.
As a bear robbed. ] So they, forced to leave all they have, will redouble their resolution to recover what they have lost: and who knoweth not that anger is the whetstone of valour? and that men enraged will venture their utmost?
And thy father is a man of war. ] A wary warrior, and expert in stratagems of all sorts: let him alone to look to one.
2Sa 17:9 Behold, he is hid now in some pit, or in some [other] place: and it will come to pass, when some of them be overthrown at the first, that whosoever heareth it will say, There is a slaughter among the people that follow Absalom.
Ver. 9. Behold, he is hid now in some pit. ] Either to secure himself, or from thence to rush suddenly upon our forces as they march by him, and to give them a defeat, and that would be of very ill consequence: Nam prima pugna, qualiscunque fuerit, totius belli praeiudicium esse videtur; for the first conflict is much looked upon as a foretoken of the success of those that shall follow: therefore Ahithophel’s counsel hac vice is not good.
“ Quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus. ”
2Sa 17:10 And 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] with him [are] valiant men.
Ver. 10. Whose heart is as the heart of a lion, shall utterly melt. ] Falling asunder in his bosom like drops of water. See Joshua 2:11 . Those seeming lions shall become as harts and stags, that have great horns and strength, but do nothing with them, quia deest animus, through want of courage.
That thy father is a mighty man, &c. ] This he repeateth as his chief argument, for he knew that he spake to a carpet knight.
2Sa 17:11 Therefore I counsel that all Israel be generally gathered unto thee, from Dan even to Beersheba, as the sand that [is] by the sea for multitude; and that thou go to battle in thine own person.
Ver. 11. Therefore I counsel that all Israel, &c. ] This was crafty counsel, well fitted to Absalom’s ambitious humour: viz., that he should raise so great an army as was possible, and then have the heading and leading of them himself, that the honour of the victory might be ascribed to him, and not to any deputy. It is reported of Sigismund, the young king of Hungary, that beholding the greatness of his army, in his great jollity, hearing of the coming of the Turks, he should proudly say, What need we to fear the Turks, who need not at all to fear the falling of the heavens; which if they should fall, yet were we able with our spears and halberds to hold them up from failing upon us! But what was the issue? This vainglorious prince shortly after received a notable overthrow, many of his army being slain, and himself hardly escaping with his life in a little boat, like another Xerxes. a The young man Absalom, deceived by Hushai’s counsel, and brought into the sublime dotage of a fool’s paradise, sped not so well, but well enough for such a stigmatical Belialist.
a Turk. Hist., 206.
2Sa 17:12 So shall we come upon him in some place where he shall be found, and we will light upon him as the dew falleth on the ground: and of him and of all the men that [are] with him there shall not be left so much as one.
Ver. 12. So shall we come upon him. ] We: q.d., I also will be one of the first and forwardest: that he might not seem to come short of Ahithophel, who had offered Absalom his service, both as a counsellor and as a commander.
There shall not be left so much as one. ] Thus in every point he opposeth himself to Ahithophel, 2Sa 17:2 and is the rather heard.
2Sa 17:13 Moreover, if he be gotten into a city, then shall all Israel bring ropes to that city, and we will draw it into the river, until there be not one small stone found there.
Ver. 13. Then shall all Israel bring ropes, ] i.e., With warlike engines we will as easily demolish it, as we would draw a great weight down a hill. A proverbial kind of speech, as Psalms 83:14 .
And we will draw it into the river. ] As Queen Elizabeth once threatened to do Leghorn into the sea, if the duke of Florence - that duke of Clouts, as she called him - did not by such a day disembark her merchants’ ships, which he then upon some pretence detained.
2Sa 17:14 And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, The counsel of Hushai the Archite [is] better than the counsel of Ahithophel. For the LORD had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the LORD might bring evil upon Absalom.
Ver. 14. For the Lord had appointed. ] Heb., He commanded - viz., his angels, saith Vatablus - that they should defeat Ahithophel’s counsel.
The good counsel of Ahithophel. ] The Vulgate Latin for bonum good, hath utile, profitable, the profitable counsel, sc., for the attaining of that end which Absalom aimed at: for otherwise, the counsel in itself was stark stinking nought.
2Sa 17:15 Then said Hushai unto Zadok and to Abiathar the priests, Thus and thus did Ahithophel counsel Absalom and the elders of Israel; and thus and thus have I counselled.
Ver. 15. Thus and thus did Ahithophel counsel Absalom. ] Hushai might in this case safely discover Absalom’s counsels, for the glory of God and the safety of his sovereign: though by the civil law, it was death to betray the secrets of the state, in military matters especially; and at Venice, consilia et decreta Patrum revelasse quempiam raro auditum est, semper graviter punitum: to reveal the counsels and decrees of the senators, is a fault seldom committed, and ever grievously punished, saith a good author. a
a Zevecat., Obser. Polit., cap. 14.
2Sa 17:16 Now therefore send quickly, and tell David, saying, Lodge not this night in the plains of the wilderness, but speedily pass over; lest the king be swallowed up, and all the people that [are] with him.
Ver. 16. Lest the king be swallowed up. ] For Hushai observing Absalom’s and his followers fickleness, knew not but that they might yet follow Ahithophel’s counsel, when seconded and set on by him with new and better arguments. He would have David therefore get speedily out of their reach over Jordan.
2Sa 17:17 Now Jonathan and Ahimaaz stayed by Enrogel; for they might not be seen to come into the city: and a wench went and told them; and they went and told king David.
Ver. 17. And a wench went. ] She went to Enrogel, that is, the Fuller’s fountain, - where those two were by their parents’ appointment, under pretence of fetching water or washing clothes there, - and carried intelligence. Thus David’s safety depended upon the faithfulness of a wench. God delighteth to help his servants "with a little help," as it is in Daniel 11:34 .
2Sa 17:18 Nevertheless a lad saw them, and told Absalom: but they went both of them away quickly, and came to a man’s house in Bahurim, which had a well in his court; whither they went down.
Ver. 18. Nevertheless a lad saw them. ] As the devil never wanteth instruments in such cases to work mischief. Who this lad was, it mattereth not: but sure he was none of Absalom’s horsemen, as Josephus writeth.
2Sa 17:19 And the woman took and spread a covering over the well’s mouth, and spread ground corn thereon; and the thing was not known.
Ver. 19. And spread ground corn thereon. ] Grana tusa et commolita; meal grist, under pretence it needed drying, being moist; or airing, being musty.
2Sa 17:20 And when Absalom’s servants came to the woman to the house, they said, Where [is] Ahimaaz and Jonathan? And the woman said unto them, They be gone over the brook of water. And when they had sought and could not find [them], they returned to Jerusalem.
Ver. 20. They be gone over the brook of water. ] Her hiding of them was ingenious - as women’s wits, they say, are best at a pinch; but her lie, though but officious, cannot be excused; for God could and would have wrought without it: nevertheless he is graciously pleased to lay the finger of mercy on the scars of such infirmities, where the bent and intent of the heart, for the main, is upright.
2Sa 17:21 And 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 the water: for thus hath Ahithophel counselled against you.
Ver. 21. For thus hath Ahithophel counselled against you. ] And who can yet tell what course they will take, though for present my counsel be cried up for the better?
“ Plebs tantum constans in levitate sua est. ”
2Sa 17:22 Then 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.
Ver. 22. Then David arose, and all the people that were with him. ] This was a hard task to those that had tired themselves all day before with a long and tedious march: but there was a necessity of doing so. Perquam durum est, sed lex ita scripta est, saith the civilian. Soldiers must suffer hardship.
There lacked not one of them. ] This was comfortable: "Unto the righteous there ariseth light in darkness." Christ likewise loseth not any of his. Joh 17:12 Baptism, figured out by Jordan, sayeth us. 1Pe 3:21
2Sa 17:23 And when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled [his] ass, and arose, and gat him home 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.
Ver. 23. And when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed. ] Discontent then was the ground of his suicide; like as it was also of Judas’, who could not brook it, that his counsel about the woman’s costly ointment to be sold rather, was rejected; but thereupon began to practise against his Master’s, and in fine against his own life. Principiis obsta; discontentedness paveth a way to desperation: it undid the devil.
He saddled his ass. ] Being conscious to himself, that for conspiring against his sovereign, and giving such perilous and pernicious counsel, there wanted but a hurdle, a horse, and a halter - as Judge Belknap afterwards, for like cause, said of himself - to do him right. a Had Ahithophel bridled his anger, when he saddled his ass, he would not, saith a worthy divine, of an oraculous counsellor, have turned such a notorious fool or madman, as to put his house in order, and himself into such a desperate and irrecoverable confusion. But the world’s wizards must show themselves in their colours. Rom 1:22 Cato first readeth Plato’s book of the immortality of the soul, and then stabbeth himself at Utica. Pliny thinketh that God never gave a man any greater happiness than this, that he may die when he pleaseth. Sensit idem et reipsa comprobavit Seneca. So Brutus, and many others, who, through pusillanimity or desperation, brake the lanthern of their body, and quench the light of their life. This was to be like Hercules Furens, or Ajax Flagellifer, who, restored to his right mind, slew himself; dementior quam cum demens, being therein more mad, than when he was stark mad. What if Ahithophel feared that Absalom following Hushai’s counsel would be ruined, David restored, and himself for his perfidy hanged, as he well deserved;
“ Hic rogo, non furor est, ne moriare, mori? ”
Gat him home to his house, to his city. ] That is, saith Vatablus, To his house in the city of Giloh; 2Sa 15:12 for he had many houses elsewhere, having feathered his nest under David’s government; like as Judas the thief licked his fingers in our Saviour’s family.
And put his household in order. ] Heb., Gave charge concerning his house; viz, what he would have done after his death. Josephus saith that he told his household that Absalom would be undone, and himself should be hanged: wherefore it was better for him to prevent it, and manfully to die with his own hands. He should first have set himself in order, and bethought him what would become of his precious soul. Then might he have hanged his house with tapestry, Pro 7:16 and with broidered work of Egypt, Eze 27:7 but this was the furthest end of his thoughts, as they say. Or if he had at his death any thoughts of eternity, they were, likely, not unlike those of Thomas Blaverus, chief counsellor sometime to the King of Scots, who believed not that there was God or devil, heaven or hell, till he came to die; and then cried out he was damned for ever. b Ahithophel was curious to provide for his family after his death; yet had no care to preserve himself from eternal death. Was not this a madness even to a miracle? saith one. c
And hanged himself. ] Ipse sibi fauces strangulavit, quibus impium consilium dederat, et dominum suum Davidem prodiderat. d The like end to like counsellors, God send! saith Willet.
a Speed, 747.
b Theat. Hist., pp. 127,128.
d A Lapide.
2Sa 17:24 Then David came to Mahanaim. And Absalom passed over Jordan, he and all the men of Israel with him.
Ver. 24. Then David came to Mahanaim. ] Where Jacob sometime had met with a double camp of angels, that made a lane for him, as it were. Gen 32:2 The remembrance of this was some relief doubtless to distressed David; for there God spoke with us, Hos 12:4 as he did likewise when he said to Joshua, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Heb 13:5
And Absalom passed over Jordan. ] In pursuit of his father, like an impious parricide: but not till he had got all the men of Israel to him, which was much for David’s advantage; for in the interim, David got together three potent armies, wherewith he worsted Absalom. 2Sa 18:1-33
2Sa 17:25 And Absalom made Amasa captain of the host instead of Joab: which Amasa [was] a man’s son, whose name [was] Ithra an Israelite, that went in to Abigail the daughter of Nahash, sister to Zeruiah Joab’s mother.
Ver. 25. Ithra an Israelite, ] sc, For his faith and religion, as by nature he was an Ishmaelite. 1Ch 7:17
That went in to Abigail, ] i.e., Married her; went in to the wedding chamber to her, as Judges 15:1 .
The daughter of Nahash. ] Otherwise called Ishai, the father of David; wherefore many Greek copies for Naas have Jesse, and both Josephus and Jerome affirm him to be the same. Kimchi thinketh he was called Nahash, or Serpent, per antiphrasin, as being void of venom or bitterness.
2Sa 17:26 So Israel and Absalom pitched in the land of Gilead.
Ver. 26. Pitched in the land of Gilead. ] Near Mahanaim, that they might keep in and contrain David, or draw him out to fight them.
2Sa 17:27 And it came to pass, when David was come to Mahanaim, that Shobi the son of Nahash of Rabbah of the children of Ammon, and Machir the son of Ammiel of Lodebar, and Barzillai the Gileadite of Rogelim,
Ver. 27. Shobi, the son of Nahash. ] Second brother, likely, to that unworthy Hanun, 2Sa 10:2 who abused David’s messengers, did him much more mischief, and was therefore worthily deposed, this brother of his being set up king in his stead. We read of Attilus, king of Suecia, that he made a dog king of the Danes, in revenge of a great many injuries he had received from them. Gunno, likewise king of the Danes, made a dog king of Norway, and appointed counsellors to do all things under his title and name. David was not so spiteful: but appointed this thankful man Shobi king of those injurious Ammonites; and married his son Solomon to Naamah, this man’s sister, or daughter, likely, but a convert to the Jewish religion. 1Ki 14:21
And Machir. ] He with whom Mephibosheth had been brought up, seeing his unexpected kindness to that poor cripple, ministereth to him.
2Sa 17:28 Brought beds, and basons, and earthen vessels, and wheat, and barley, and flour, and parched [corn], and beans, and lentiles, and parched [pulse],
Ver. 28. Brought beds, &c. ] Strangers relieve David, whom his own son persecuteth. While the divine bounty serveth us in good meat, though not in our own dishes, we have good reason to be thankful.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 17". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20