2 Samuel Chapter 15
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Go to Bible: 2 Samuel 15
|2Sm 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.”
“one of the tribes of Israel.” In an actual conversation, the person would name the tribe, but this was just an example to show how Absalom was acting. The person may have been saying, “I am from a tribe in Israel and I am still not getting justice.”(top)
“but there is no one 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 to 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 subtly 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)
|2Sm 15:4||- (top)|
“and kissed him.” A kiss is the greeting of a friend, it does not mean love, but friendship.(top)
|2Sm 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.
“to Yahweh.” Absalom makes his lie more convincing by adding the name Yahweh.
“Yahweh in Hebron.” The text might be better translated “Yahweh-in-Hebron.”a It seems like Absalom had made a vow to Yahweh as He was known and worshiped in Hebron, Absalom’s hometown, and he had to go there to fulfill 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.
Hebron was a long day’s journey south of Jerusalem. Absalom may have chosen Hebron for a number of reasons, but also there may have still been people there who were upset that David moved his capital city away from Hebron to Jerusalem.
See, P. Kyle McCarter, 2 Samuel [AB], 356.
“If Yahweh will bring, yes, bring me back 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.
The phrase “bring, yes, bring” is the figure polyptoton, where the vowel “bring” is repeated twice for emphasis, with the verb “bring” being in different conjugations. Absalom’s pretend desire is emphasized by the doubling of the vowel “bring.”
[See word study on “polyptoton.”](top)
“Go in peace.” We are not told why no one told David of Absalom’s behavior, and thus his potential threat to David. Also, it seems that David should have been suspicious of Absalom’s request, after all, Absalom had now been in Jerusalem for six years (four at least, if the four years of 2 Sam. 15:7 included the two years Absalom lived in his house in Jerusalem), which was plenty of time to pay a vow in Hebron, a day’s journey away.
“So he arose and went to Hebron.” 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 worshiped 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 that 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. The shofar can be heard for a mile or more, but for the sound to cover all Israel, Absalom would have had to have had a network of shofar blowers.
“Absalom reigns as 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)
|2Sm 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.]
“from Giloh.” Giloh was close to Bethlehem, to the west of it, and is mentioned in Josh. 15:51.
“and the people increased continually with Absalom.” We are not told why so many people chose to side with Absalom against David. No doubt some thought Absalom would make a better king than David. But it is also possible that some of the people who sided with Absalom at this point thought that David, who was getting older, must have appointed Absalom to be king. After all, Absalom was David’s third son and the first two were dead, making Absalom the crown prince.(top)
|2Sm 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.]
“and strikes the city with the mouth of the sword.” The city was very defensible, so the fact that David leaves it so quickly likely indicates that there were enemies in the city.(top)
“my lord the king.” The servants spoke with one voice, hence the word “my” and not “our.”(top)
“ten women who were concubines.” Although we tend to idealize David and hold him up as the model believer, when we really look deeply into his life we see things that are not good and some things that are even sinful. This should encourage us and help us realize that even the best of God’s people are still human, and God loves and works with sinners. The accounts of David’s wives and concubines are not David at his best. We learn from 2 Samuel 15:16 that David had quite a few wives and concubines (a concubine was a wife of lesser status, such as a slave girl who is given as a present to the king to curry his favor). The text does not say David left all his concubines, but that he left ten of his concubines, implying that David had more than ten. We also know that he had a number of wives. Early in his rule, while he was still in Hebron, he had six wives: Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, Abigail, Maacah, Haggith, Abital, and Eglah (2 Sam. 3:2-5). Then, when David moved to Jerusalem he took more wives and concubines (2 Sam. 5:13), but the Bible does not say how many more wives and concubines he took. Also, none of those later wives and concubines are named except Bathsheba, so it seems that neither they nor their children played a major role in the Davidic dynasty. In taking all these wives and concubines it seems that David was flirting with breaking the command of Deuteronomy 17:17, that the king of Israel was not to have many wives.
Also, we may well wonder why David left behind any concubines at all in Jerusalem, seeing that they would almost surely become Absalom’s sexual property, which they did. That they were left to care for the palace is an empty excuse; if Absalom took the palace, which with all the guards gone was a foregone conclusion, the women would not be allowed to take care of anything, certainly not the palace and perhaps not even themselves. Why leave the women behind when Nathan the prophet had foretold that David’s wives would be sexually violated by another man in public, which happened when Absalom had sex with David’s wives (concubines) on the palace roof before all Israel (cp. 2 Sam. 12:8, 11-12; 16:21-22)? David’s action in leaving the women behind seems quite uncaring for the fate of those women, who disappear from history after Absalom had sex with them. Given the Old Testament culture, we can be sure that after Absalom had sex with them that David would not have sex with them again, nor would those women have been allowed to marry anyone else since they had had sex with the king. If any of them had a child it would be a potential rival for the throne, and so they would have remained isolated as an unwanted concubine of the king for the remainder of their lives.(top)
“the Last House.” David had not yet crossed the Kidron Valley, and apparently, there was a house referred to as the “Last House” or “Far House” that was either just inside the east gate of Jerusalem, or just outside the gate. David stopped there, but if he had not crossed the Kidron yet he could only have gone a few hundred yards after leaving the palace before he stopped. He did not stop to spend the night, and perhaps he stopped there to let his group gather or to get an idea of who was with him and following him and who might have stayed and sided with Absalom.(top)
“Cherethites and all the Pelethites and all the Gittites.” All these are non-Israelites. Most are of Philistine stock, but the Cherethites are from Crete. The scholars are divided as to whether the “and” before “all the Cherethites” is a “that is,” or an “also.” However, given the fact that the record indicates that some Israelites did go with David, it seems that “also” is the correct meaning.
“the Gittites.” The inhabitants of Gath were referred to as “Gittites.” Here in 2 Samuel 15:18, we see the Gittites were from Gath (see commentary on Josh. 13:3).(top)
“the king.” David here speaks of Absalom as “the king,” but the text does not explain why. It has been suggested that Ittai was new enough to Jerusalem that Absalom would not think he was overly connected to David. David may have been trying to keep Ittai out of the fight between David and Absalom.(top)
“yesterday.” This could be literal or used idiomatically like we sometimes use it to mean a short time ago.
“and have your brothers return with you.” So when Ittai came, he brought people from his family or tribe with him; “brothers” may mean people from the same family or tribe in this context. There were quite a few people with Ittai (2 Sam. 15:22).
“faithfulness and truth be with you.” This could also be “faithfulness and truth are with you,” meaning that David would not hold Ittai responsible for feigning loyalty to Absalom.(top)
|2Sm 15:21||- (top)|
“cross over.” Although the statement may be general, the most immediate place to cross over is the Kidron Valley.(top)
“all the land.” Seemingly a hyperbole for all the people who were in the country who were aware of David and his followers leaving Jerusalem.(top)
“and Abiathar came up.” The apparent meaning, which is disputed by scholars, is that Abiathar came up to where the ark had been set down.(top)
“he will bring me back.” The Hebrew is more literally, “cause me to return,” but that is awkward in English. David told the priests to “return” the ark of God to Jerusalem, and said that if he found favor in God’s eyes then God would cause David to return also.(top)
“let him do to me as is good in his eyes.” David is not making an arrogant statement in disguise as a humble statement, he is speaking from his heart. David had good reason to believe that God might not be pleased with him, and so might not deliver him. Things certainly had not gone well for David since he committed adultery with Bathsheba and engineered the murder of her husband Uriah. His son raped his daughter and he did nothing about it (2 Sam. 13:1-21). His third son murdered his first son, the crown prince (2 Sam. 13:23-29), and then went to live with David’s father-in-law, Talmai, the king of Geshur (2 Sam. 3:3; 13:37). David was also somehow blind to the subterfuge that his son Absalom was doing in his kingdom that went on for years, and now in 2 Samuel 15 his son Absalom was in open rebellion against him. So David’s blindness led to war between the factions along with all the death and destruction that war brings. Also, David had left ten of his concubines in Jerusalem even though Nathan the prophet had foretold that an enemy would arise from his own household and publicly have sex with his wives (2 Sam. 12:11). So now, leaving Jerusalem and fleeing east toward the Jordan River, David had no assurance that God would give him victory against Absalom.
If there is comfort at all in this record for believers, it is that God did support David and did not abandon him because of his sin, even though some of it was grievous. David had many weaknesses, but at no time is there a record of his life where he made excuses for them. Like all of us, he needed God’s grace and forgiveness, and despite his sin, God forgave him and blessed him.(top)
“Are you a seer?” It is not clear what David is saying. Two good possibilities are that Zadok was a “seer,” a prophet, and could therefore navigate being in the city with Absalom. But it seems that the better possibility is that David meant more like, “Are you able to see” what is happening and then report to David. That is what David says in the next verse, 2 Sam. 15:28.
“your sons with you.” Both the “your” and the “you” are plural in the Hebrew.(top)
“fords.” The Hebrew text also has the reading “plains,” but “fords” fits the record better (cp. 2 Sam. 17:16).(top)
|2Sm 15:29||- (top)|
“David went up by the Ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping 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 years 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).
“Ascent of the Mount of Olives.” Apparently the name of a well-traveled path up the west slope of the Mount of Olives.(top)
“the conspirators.” The Hebrew text is more concrete: “those banding together” with Absalom.(top)
“where they worshiped God.” The Hebrew reads, “where he worshiped God,” but the singular form is often used generically, and would mean “they” or “people” here. Scholars are divided on this point, some saying that David did use to worship God at this spot.
The Hebrew verb translated “worshiped” is shachah (#07812 שָׁחָה), and it is the same Hebrew word as “bow down.” The common biblical way of bowing down before people or God was to fall to one’s knees and bow the upper body to the earth. Shachah is translated as both “bow down” and “worship;” traditionally “worship” if God is involved and “bow down” if people are involved, but the verb and action are the same, the act of bowing down is the worship.
[For more on bowing down, see commentary on 1 Chron. 29:20.](top)
|2Sm 15:33||- (top)|
|2Sm 15:34||- (top)|
|2Sm 15:35||- (top)|
|2Sm 15:36||- (top)|
“Hushai, David’s friend, came into the city.” It is likely that Hushai, coming from the east, entered Jerusalem through a different gate than Absalom, who was coming from the south.(top)