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Go to Bible: 2 Samuel 15
|2Sa 15:1||- (top)|
“dispute.” The Hebrew is rib (#07379 רִיב), and it has a wide range of meanings including strife, controversy, dispute, quarrel, accusation, lawsuit, etc., depending on the context. In this case, “dispute” or “legal dispute” would be good translations because if a person was coming all the way to Jerusalem to the king to get his dispute settled, then it could not be settled by the elders in his hometown, which was usually an easier and quicker way to go. [For more on rib, see commentary on Hosea 4:1].
“the road leading to the gate.” The Hebrew is “the road of the gate.”
“such-and-such a tribe.” In an actual conversation the person would name the tribe, but this was just an example to show how Absalom was acting.(top)
“but there is no man appointed by the king to listen to you.” It seems that for Absalom to make this claim it was likely true. One possibility for that may have been that earlier, when the United Kingdom was less organized and more tribal, David may have been able to hear the cases that came to Jerusalem himself, but as the United Kingdom became more organized and grew in its centralized power that became more difficult. Or, David may have been able to hear many of the cases but Absalom quietly intervened. There are some other possibilities as well.
We have to wonder why David did not seem know what Absalom was doing. It may be that, especially as Absalom gained popularity and strength, no one wanted to get involved and tell king David. If someone had informed about Absalom and David did nothing about it, Absalom would have been a formidable enemy. It is also possible that David did hear that Absalom was judging some cases, but he did not see any danger in it. David had a weakness for not seeing trouble when it came to his sons.
It is also worth asking how Absalom could tell someone their grievance was good and right without having witnesses and representatives of both sides present. It is possible that 2 Samuel 15:3 is just giving a kind of summary and there were times when Absalom adjudicated over complicated cases. Another possibility is that Absalom may have only really gotten involved with certain cases—those involving the state—and being able to subtlety speak about the failures of the state would have undermined David while increasing his own popularity. The United Kingdom of Israel was brand new, and no doubt there were a number of unpopular moves being made on the state level: state incursions into what had formerly been tribal matters, issues with taxes, problems with recruiting manpower for state projects, conflicts about who got appointed to which positions in the kingdom, and much more. David’s attention had to be focused on building and defending the kingdom, changes that were necessary but that would have offended many people. The various changes affected the whole kingdom and in part explains how Absalom could have followers throughout all the tribes of Israel (2 Sam. 15:10). In contrast to David, Absalom did not actually have to make any of the hard choices and changes in the kingdom. He could simply propagandize and tell people that if he were king then things would be different; and over the four years he quietly undermined David he stole the hearts of the people of Israel (2 Sam. 15:6-7).(top)
|2Sa 15:4||- (top)|
“and kissed him.” A kiss is the greeting of a friend, it does not mean love, but friendship.(top)
|2Sa 15:6||- (top)|
“four years.” The standard Masoretic Hebrew text has “forty,” but this has to be a scribal error for “four” because David’s entire reign was only 40 years, and this was the preparation time for Absalom’s rebellion. Some Hebrew texts read “four years,” and there are texts that say “forty days,” but the Lucianic Greek recension, the Syriac Peshitta, and the Latin have “four years.” Most modern English versions have “four years.”
“fulfill my vow.” This would be done by offering a sacrifice, in this case a large sacrifice with lots of animals and thus lots of food to eat, which explains the invited guests in 2 Samuel 15:11. But how could he do that away from Jerusalem? That question is not answered. This was a ruse, there was no such vow, and the fact that it had supposedly gone so many years without fulfillment should have aroused David’s suspicion, but David would not doubt his sons, something that was the cause of much trouble. In this case his naivete nearly cost him his kingdom and his life.
“Yahweh in Hebron.” The text might be better translated “Yahweh-in-Hebron” (see P. Kyle McCarter, Jr., The Anchor Bible: 2 Samuel, p. 356). It seems like Absalom had made a vow to Yahweh as He was known and worshipped in Hebron, Absalom’s hometown, and he had to go there to fulfil his vow. Although some versions move “in Hebron” away from Yahweh, it appears as Yahweh in Hebron in the Hebrew text and seems to go there.(top)
“If Yahweh will indeed bring me again to Jerusalem, then I will serve Yahweh.” This is such a godly-sounding vow! “I will serve Yahweh!” But Absalom had no intention of serving Yahweh, at least not as far as keeping God’s commands was concerned. So Absalom joins the hordes of people who through the centuries have used religious sounding statements to fool people. Jesus taught us to not be fooled by what people say, but to look to what they did—their fruit—if we wanted to know who they really were (Matt. 7:15-20). If David had paid attention to Absalom’s fruit and to what he was doing, then David would have seen the trouble ahead. Christians should not be fooled like David was; we must obey Christ and look closely at people’s fruit so that we can mostly avoid being fooled by what people say.(top)
The ancient city of Hebron was a good place for Absalom to start his rebellion. It is first mentioned in Genesis 13:18, when Abraham lived there and worshipped Yahweh there. David lived there and was even crowned king there, first over Judah and then over all Israel (2 Sam. 2:4; 5:3). Absalom himself had been born there, and given the fact that he started his rebellion there, it is likely that he had kept up with his contacts there through the years.
It is also very likely that at least some of the people of Hebron were unhappy with the fact that once David became king over all Israel he moved his capital city to Jerusalem. After all, Hebron was a city in the tribal area of Judah, and David was a Judean from Bethlehem. Furthermore, it was the Judeans who supported David in his rebellion against the house of Saul the Benjamite and anointed him king over Judah. Thus it is very likely they felt that David was ungrateful and had abandoned them when he moved his capital city from Hebron to Jerusalem, a city in the tribal area of Benjamin. Between Hebron’s ancient roots as a city of Yahweh, Absalom’s contacts in Hebron, and a likely dissatisfaction among some of the Hebronites with David, the city of Hebron was the perfect place for Absalom to start a rebellion, and Absalom’s rebellion almost succeeded.(top)
“secret messengers.” The Hebrew word is ragal (#07270 רָגַל), a word which describes a lot. It can mean to go on foot or walk about on foot; to be a slanderer or gossip; to go as a spy or scout. This range of meanings is the reason for the many different translations in the English versions: BBE (watchers); CJB, JPS, KJV, NASB (spies); HCSB (messengers); ESV, NIV, NLT, RSV (secret messengers); NJB (couriers); TNK (agents); Schocken Bible (spy-runners).
Given the fact that these agents of Absalom were not “spies” in the traditional sense but were actually his agents that in this context were to deliver a message to Absalom’s contacts around Israel, “secret messengers” seemed to be a good translation, although the Tanakh’s translation “agents” is also very good.
“shofar.” The ram’s horn trumpet, not the metal trumpet.
“Absalom is king in Hebron.” One thing that is conspicuously missing from Absalom’s claim to the throne is that David’s second son, Chileab (2 Sam. 3:3 but called “Daniel” in 1 Chron. 3:1), would have the claim to the throne over Absalom. This is quite certain evidence that Chileab had died since he is not mentioned in any of the records. In fact, Chileab likely died very young since nothing is ever said about him other than he was David’s second son (2 Sam. 3:3).
Absalom was killed in battle and never got to become king. However, his grandson Abijah did become king of Judah. Absalom’s wife gave birth to Maacah, who married Rehoboam the son of Solomon, and then the son of Maacah and Rehoboam was Abijah, who became the king of Judah (2 Chron. 11:20; 1 Kings 11:43; 14:31-15:1).(top)
|2Sa 15:11||- (top)|
“sent for Ahithophel.” Ahithophel had been David’s counselor, but apparently he had become angry and bitter against David after David had sex with his granddaughter Bathsheba and arranged for her husband Uriah to be killed. Ahithophel was the father of Eliam (2 Sam. 23:34), and Eliam was the father of Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:3), making Ahithophel the grandfather of Bathsheba. Absalom would have noticed that the relationship between Ahithophel and David had cooled, and likely had spoken with Ahithophel while they were both at the palace, and that is why he was confident enough to send for Ahithophel even though in the past Ahithophel had been very close to David. Now that David had a rival, Ahithophel sided with him. His anger and bitterness was his undoing, because when Absalom rejected his advice and took instead the advice of Hushai the Arkite (2 Sam. 17:1-14) he felt so rejected and dishonored that he took his own life (2 Sam. 17:23). [For more on Ahithopehl see commentary on 2 Samuel 16:21 and 2 Samuel 17:1].(top)
|2Sa 15:13||- (top)|
“the mouth of the sword.” Used to show great destruction, as if the sword was eating its victims (see commentary on Josh. 6:21).(top)
|2Sa 15:15||- (top)|
|2Sa 15:16||- (top)|
|2Sa 15:17||- (top)|
|2Sa 15:18||- (top)|
|2Sa 15:19||- (top)|
|2Sa 15:20||- (top)|
|2Sa 15:21||- (top)|
|2Sa 15:22||- (top)|
|2Sa 15:23||- (top)|
|2Sa 15:24||- (top)|
|2Sa 15:25||- (top)|
|2Sa 15:26||- (top)|
|2Sa 15:27||- (top)|
|2Sa 15:28||- (top)|
|2Sa 15:29||- (top)|
“David went up by the ascent of the Mount of Olives and wept as he went up.” King David wept on the Mount of Olives as he climbed it to leave Jerusalem in the hands of his ungodly son Absalom. About 1,000 year later Jesus wept when he saw the city of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives because he knew they rejected him, which would mean his death and Jerusalem’s doom (Luke 19:41).(top)
|2Sa 15:31||- (top)|
|2Sa 15:32||- (top)|
|2Sa 15:33||- (top)|
|2Sa 15:34||- (top)|
|2Sa 15:35||- (top)|
|2Sa 15:36||- (top)|
|2Sa 15:37||- (top)|