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2 Samuel Chapter Seventeen                            


2 Samuel 17

Chapter Contents

Ahithophel's counsel overthrown. (1-21) He hangs himself, Absalom pursues David. (22-29)

Commentary on 2 Samuel 17:1-21

(Read 2 Samuel 17:1-21)

Here was a wonderful effect of Divine Providence blinding Absalom's mind and influencing his heart, that he could not rest in Ahithophel's counsel, and that he should desire Hushai's advice. But there is no contending with that God who can arm a man against himself, and destroy him by his own mistakes and passions. Ahithophel's former counsel was followed, for God intended to correct David; but his latter counsel was not followed, for God meant not to destroy him. He can overrule all counsels. Whatever wisdom or help any man employs or affords, the success is from God alone, who will not let his people perish.

Commentary on 2 Samuel 17:22-29

(Read 2 Samuel 17:22-29)

Ahithophel hanged himself for vexation that his counsel was not followed. That will break a proud man's heart which will not break a humble man's sleep. He thought himself in danger, concluding, that, because his counsel was not followed, Absalom's cause would fail; and to prevent a possible public execution, he does justice upon himself. Thus the breath is stopped, and the head laid low, from which nothing could be expected but mischief. Absalom chased his father. But observe how God sometimes makes up to his people that comfort from strangers, which they are disappointed of in their own families. Our King needs not our help; but he assures us, that what we do for the least of his brethren, who are sick, poor, and destitute, shall be accepted and recompensed as if done to himself

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on 2 Samuel


2 Samuel 17

Verse 2

[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:

And I will, … — That such a wretch as Absalom should aim at his father's throat is not strange. But that the body of the people, to whom David had been so great a blessing, should join with him in it, is amazing. But the finger of God was in it. Let not the best of parents, or the best of princes think it strange, if they are injured by those who should be their support and joy, when they (like David) have provoked God to turn against them.

Verse 5

[5] Then said Absalom, Call now Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear likewise what he saith.

Call Hushai — A wonderful effect of Divine Providence, influencing his heart, that he could not rest in Ahithophel's counsel, though it was so evidently wise, and approved by the general consent of his whole party; and that he should desire Hushai's advice, though neither his reputation for wisdom was equal to Ahithophel's, nor had he yet given anyone proof of his fidelity to Absalom. But there is no contending with that God who can arm a man against himself, and destroy him by his own mistakes and passions.

Verse 9

[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.

Pit — Having been often accustomed to that course, and well acquainted with in all hiding-places from Saul's time. In one of them, unknown to us, he will lurk with some of his chosen men, and lie in ambush for us; and, when they see a fit opportunity, they will suddenly come forth and surprize some of our men, when they least expect it, and probably at first put them to flight.

Some — Namely, of Absalom's men sent against David.

At the first — Implying, that their good success at first would mightily animate David's men to proceed vigorously in the fight, and intimidate Absalom's army, and consequently would be both a presage and an occasion of their total defeat.

Verse 11

[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.

I counsel — His pretence was, that they might make sure, though slow work: his design was to gain David time, that he might increase his army, and make better provision for the battle; and that the present heat of the people might be cooled, and they might bethink themselves of their duty, and return to their allegiance.

Thou — For thy presence will put life and courage into thy soldiers, who will be ambitious to shew their skill and courage in defending thy person, when they know that all their actions are observed by him who hath the distribution of rewards and punishments in his hands. Besides, the glory of the victory will be wholly thine, which now Ahithophel seeks to get to himself.

Verse 12

[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.

As dew — That is, plenteously, suddenly, irresistibly, and on all sides; for so the dew falls.

Verse 13

[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.

Bring ropes — It is an hyperbolical expression, suited to the vain-glorious temper of this insolent young man: implying, that they would do so if they could not destroy him another way: or, that they should be enough to do so, if there were occasion.

River — Adjoining to the city; it being usual to build cities near some river, both for defence, and for other accommodations.

Verse 14

[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.

Absalom and all, … — Be it observed, to the comfort of all that fear God, he turns all mans hearts as the rivers of water. He stands in the congregation of the mighty, has an over-ruling hand in all counsels, and a negative voice in all resolves, and laughs at mens projects against his children.

Verse 16

[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.

Lodge not — Lest the king's and people's mind's change, and Ahithophel persuade the king to pursue you speedily.

Verse 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.

Enrogel — Or, the fullers well. A place near Jerusalem, Joshua 15:7; 18:16.

Wench — Pretending to go thither to wash some cloaths, or to draw water.

Verse 19

[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.

Spread corn — Under pretence of drying it by the sun: which shews it was summer-time.

Verse 20

[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.

Over the brook of water — That is, over Jordan. This was a manifest lie.

Verse 23

[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.

Hanged himself — See here contempt poured upon the wisdom of man! He that was more renowned for policy than ever any man was, played the fool with himself more than ever any man did. See likewise honour done to the justice of God! The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands.

Verse 24

[24] Then David came to Mahanaim. And Absalom passed over Jordan, he and all the men of Israel with him.

Passed — Not speedily, but when all the men of Israel were gathered together according to Hushai's counsel.

Verse 25

[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.

Nahash — Nahash is the name of Jesse's wife, by whom he had this Abigail, as he had Zeruiah by another wife; so they were sisters by the father, but not by the mother.

Verse 27

[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,

Shobi — Who, as it may seem, disliked and disowned that barbarous action to the ambassadors; and therefore, when the rest were destroyed, was left king or governor of the residue of the Ammonites.

Machir — See above chap. 9:4.

Verse 29

[29] And honey, and butter, and sheep, and cheese of kine, for David, and for the people that were with him, to eat: for they said, The people is hungry, and weary, and thirsty, in the wilderness.

In — Having been in the wilderness. Thus God sometimes makes up to his people that comfort from strangers, which they are disappointed of in their own families.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on 2 Samuel


17 Chapter 17


Verses 1-14

Verses 7-23

2 Samuel 17:7-23

And Hushai said unto Absalom.

Hushai’s advice preferred

The wisest man in the world is not wise at all times: though Achitophel commonly gives successful counsel, yet, with his good leave, he hath missed the mark at this time, and in this case.

I. Hushai’s grand design was first to invalidate the perilous counsel Achitophel had given, before he gave his own opinion he hereupon discovers the danger of Achitophel’s advice from three topics.

1. The first is taken from the valour of David, which he amplifies by a similitude of a bear robbed of her whelps.

2. The second argument m taken from the policy and prudence of David, as the first is from his courage and valour.

3. His third argument or topic is a periculoso from the dangerous consequences of this expedition of Achitophel’s. (2 Samuel 17:9-10.)

II. When Hushai had thus invalidated Achitophel’s counsel, then he produceth and introduceth his own to Absalom, and partly contrary and partly congruous and consentaneous to that of Achitophel’s. (2 Samuel 17:11-13.)

1. Hushai’s counsel was contrary to that of Achitophel’s in three respects.

2. Mark, it was congruous as to the effect, the same in the end with that Achitophel now had advised, to wit, the destruction of David, and of his despicable company, saying, David shall not be able to defend himself neither.

III. How great is the power of faithful prayer; David had prayed, Lord, turn Achitophel’s counsel into folly. Achitophel’s counsel is rejected as foolish counsel, David’s prayer of faith and fervency was answered over and over again; for

1. Achitophel’s counsel was folly itself (2 Samuel 16:21.)

2. ‘Tis here refused as such; and

3. he died as a fool (verse 28.)

IV. Achitophel’s counsel was infringed here by a double means,

1. by human help, namely, by Hushai’s prudence and policy, humouring an ambitious bigot to his own destruction, well knowing that his insolent temper would best be flushed up with flourishing flatteries, and

2. by a Divine hand, God giving Absalom up to believe lies, and so hasten his own end. (C. Ness.)

The best counsellors

Alphonsus, King of Anagon, being asked who were the best counsellors, answered, “The dead (meaning books), which cannot flatter, but do without partiality, declare the truth.” Now of all such dead counsellors, God’s testimonies have the preeminence. A poor, godly man, even then when he is deserted of all, and hath nobody to plead for him, he hath his senate, and his Council of State about him, the prophets and apostles, and “other holy men of God, that spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” A man so furnished is never less alone than when alone; for he hath counsellors about him that tell him what is to be believed or done; and they are such counsellors as cannot err, as will not flatter him, nor applaud him in any sin, nor discourage or dissuade him from that which is good, whatever hazard it expose him to. And, truly, if we be wise we should choose such counsellors as these: Thy testimonies are the men of my counsel.” (T. Manton.)

Verse 14

2 Samuel 17:14

The counsel of Hushai the Archite.

Hushai’s Counsel

Hushai saw that it was essential to gain time, “in order,” to quote the words of Tacitus, “to give the disaffected time to repent, and the loyal time to unite: crimes gain by hasty action, better counsels by delay.” His scheme was cleverly devised to appeal to Absalom’s vanity and love of display. It seemed safe and easy: it was a far more attractive idea for Absalom to march in person against, David at the head of an immense army than for him to let Achithophel complete the revolution by a decisive action at once. His vanity proved his ruin. He forgot that s general levy would involve no slight delay: he forgot that the rising was by no means certain to be general, and that when the first surprise of the insurrection was over many would return their allegiance to David. But Absalom and his counsellors were blinded by a divinely-ordered infatuation. (A. F. Kirkpatrick, M. A.)

Verses 15-22

Verse 23

2 Samuel 17:23

And when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed.

God overthrows the evil wisdom of the worldly wise

As in Ahithophel’s ease, the most subtle counsels of evil men are often most unexpectedly overthrown. It was so with the men who plotted against Daniel, Jeremiah, and Mordecai. So the Armada was overthrown in the days of Queen Elizabeth, though it had been planned in the most deliberate and sagacious manner. So the invasion of England by Napoleon the First came to nought, though a most consummate tactician was directing it.

Verse 23

2 Samuel 17:23

And when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed.

God overthrows the evil wisdom of the worldly wise

As in Ahithophel’s ease, the most subtle counsels of evil men are often most unexpectedly overthrown. It was so with the men who plotted against Daniel, Jeremiah, and Mordecai. So the Armada was overthrown in the days of Queen Elizabeth, though it had been planned in the most deliberate and sagacious manner. So the invasion of England by Napoleon the First came to nought, though a most consummate tactician was directing it.

Verses 24-26

Verses 27-29

2 Samuel 17:27-29

When David was come to Mahanaim.

Mahanaim, or hosts of angels

(with Genesis 32:27; Genesis 32:29):--Let us go even unto Mahanaim and see these great sights. First, let us go with Jacob and see the two camps of angels, and then with- David to observe his troops of friends.

I. God has a multitude of servants, and all these are on the side of believers. The great army of the Lord of hosts consists largely of unseen agents, of forces that are not discernible except in vision or by the eye of faith. Jacob saw two squadrons of these invisible forces, which are on the side of righteous men.

1. We know that a guard of angels always surrounds every believer. Ministering spirits are abroad, protecting the princes of the blood royal. They cannot be discerned by any of our senses, but they are perceptible by faith, and they have been made perceptible to holy men of old in vision.

2. All these agents work in order, for it is God’s host, and the host is made up of beings which march or fly, according to the order of command. “Neither shall one thrust another; they shall walk every one in his path.”

3. All punctual to the Divine command. Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.

4. All engaged personally to attend upon Jacob.

5. Those forces, though in themselves invisible to the natural senses, are manifest to faith at certain times. Our Mahanaims occur at much the same time as that in which Jacob beheld this great sight. Jacob was entering upon a more separated life. He was leaving Laban and the school of all those tricks of bargaining and bartering which belong to the ungodly world.

6. Again, the reason why the angels met Jacob at that time was, doubtless, because he was surrounded with great cares.

7. Again, the Lord’s host appeared when Jacob felt a great dread. His brother Esau was coming to meet him armed to the teeth, and, as he feared, thirsty for his blood. In times when our danger is greatest, if we are real believers, we shall be specially under the Divine protection, and we shall know that it, is so.

8. And, once again, when you and I, like Jacob, shall be near Jordan, when we shall just be passing into the better land then is the time when we may expect to come to Mahanaim.

9. There is no doubt whatever that they are sent for a purpose.

10. Mahanaim was granted to Jacob, not only to refresh his memory, but to lift him out of the ordinary low level of his life.

II. If such a special vision be granted to us let us keep it in memory. Jacob called the name of that place Mahanaim.

II. This brings me to my second text; for angels did not meet David, but living creatures of another nature met him, who answered the purpose of David quite as well as angels would have done.

1. Who is yonder prominent friend? He speaks like a foreigner. He is an Ammonite. What is his name? Shobi the son of Nahash, of Rabbah, of the children of Ammon. I have heard of those people: they were enemies, were they not--cruel enemies to Israel? That man Nahash, you recollect his name; this is one of his sons. Yes! God can turn enemies into friends when His servants require succour. Those that belong to a race that is opposed to Israel can, if God will it, turn to be their helpers. The Lord found an advocate for his Son Jesus in Pilate’s house--the governor’s wife suffered many things in a dream because of him. He can find a friend for his servants in their persecutor’s own family, even as he raised up Obadiah to hide the prophets and feed them in a cave: the chamberlain to Ahab himself was the protector of the saints, and with meat from Ahab’s table were they fed.

2. Here comes another person we have heard of before, Machir of Lodebar. That is the large farmer who took care of Mephibosheth. He seems to have been a truly loyal man, who stuck to royal families, even when their fortunes were adverse. As he had been faithful to the house of Saul so was he to David.

3. Here comes Barzillai, an old man of fourscore, and as the historian tells us, “a very great man.” His enormous wealth was all at the disposal of David and his followers, and “he provided the king of sustenance while he lay at Mahanaim.” This old nobleman was certainly as useful to David as the angels were to Jacob, and he and his coadjutors were truly a part of God’s forces. The armies of God are varied: he has not one troop alone, but many. On this occasion Mahanaim well deserved its name, because the help that came to David from these different persons came in a most noble way, as though it came by angels. I infer from this that if at any time a servant of God is marching onward in his Master’s work, and he needs assistance of any sort, he need not trouble about it, but rest in the Lord, for succour and help will surely come, if not from the angels above, yet from the church below. Conclusion: While I have shown you God’s invisible agents, and God’s visible agents, I want to call to your mind that in either case, and in both cases, the host is the host of God: that is to say, the true strength and safety of the believer is his God. The presence of God with believers is more certain and constant than the presence of angels or holy men. God hath said it--“Certainly I will be with thee.” He hath said again, “I will not leave thee, nor forsake thee.” When you are engaged in Christ’s service you have a special promise to back you up--“Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature; and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. If, then, God is pleased to grant us help by secondary causes, as we know He does--for to many of us He sends many and many a friend to help in his good work--then we must take care to see God in these friends and helpers. When you have no helpers, see all helpers in God: when you have many helpers, then you must see God in all your helpers. Herein is wisdom. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The service of love

Robert Louis Stevenson had a remarkable power of attaching hearts to himself by the very magnetism of his personality, as well as by the kindliness of his behaviour. A recent book of reminiscences of his life in Samoa tells that one day when the cook was away, Stevenson told another servant, Sosimo, lust to bring him a little bread and cheese for lunch to his writing-room. But to his surprise he was served with an excellent meal--an omelette, a good salad, and perfect coffee. “Who cooked this?” asked Stevenson, in Samoan. “I did,” said Sosimo. “Well, then, great is your wisdom.” Sosimo bowed and humbly corrected him: “Great is my love!” It was love that gave skill and deftness to his hand, mad added welcome to the repast. So with the provision which David’s timely helpers supply.

──The Biblical Illustrator