He sent out the troops, a third under Joab, a third under Joab's brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and a third under Ittai the Gittite. And the king said to the troops, "I will surely march out with you as well."
2 Samuel 18:1-8. - (MAHANAIM.)2 Samuel 2:8), and recruited their exhausted energies, David and those who were with him prepared for the conflict which now seemed inevitable. Meanwhile (during several weeks) Absalom collected a great army (2 Samuel 17:11), appointed Amasa captain, crossed the Jordan, and encamped in the land of Gilead (2 Samuel 17:24-27). Here, "in the wood of Ephraim" (ver. 6; Judges 12:4), he was met by the forces of David, and the issue was quickly decided. "The traveller who only knows Palestine to the west of the Jordan, can form no idea of the luxuriance of the hillsides of Gilead. Here we crossed sparkling rivulets, where the sunlight glinted through the foliage of handsome oak, terebinth, and carob trees, and traversed glades seldom disturbed by the foot of man, which led into the deep solitudes of the forest. In one of these Absalom met his end; and one could well understand, as one came suddenly upon the brink of some rock or gorge, why possibly, in headlong and disastrous flight, so many of the combatants on that fatal day should have been numbered among the missing, that it was said the wood devoured more than the sword" (Oliphant). Attention is especially directed to David, concerning whom observe -
I. THE RENEWED ENERGY OF HIS CHARACTER. After his deep humiliation, the old king is himself again. His youth is "renewed like the eagle's." Passive submission is succeeded by active exertion, to which he is urged by inward impulses and new circumstances. There is a time to pray, and a time to work.
1. He actively musters his friends around him; and constantly attracts and receives reinforcements from the people who dwell on the east of the Jordan (2 Samuel 17:27-29; Psalm 27; Psalm 28; Psalm 110:3).
2. He skilfully organizes his forces, appointing captains of thousands and captains of hundreds, and arranging them in three divisions under Joab, Abishai, and Ittai (2 Samuel 15:19-22), well knowing the worth of able leaders and of strict order and discipline (2 Samuel 8:15-18).
3. He courageously purposes to go forth himself into the conflict (2 Samuel 21:17), and is prevented from doing so only by their considerate determination (ver. 4). "Those who engage others in arduous and perilous attempts must be willing to take their full share of hardship; but true courage and firmness of mind are very different from rashness and obstinacy, and wise men are always must ready to listen to prudent counsel, even from their inferiors" (Scott).
4. He specially charges them to do his son no harm. "Gently for me with the young man Absalom" (ver. 5); "Beware, whoever it be," etc. (ver. 12). A general and intense feeling of resentment is naturally felt against him; and none are concerned about his welfare, save his father, whom he has chiefly wronged. "See what a thing a godly father's affection is to his child. No undutifulness, no practice on a child's part, no, nor death itself, can divide between him and his child. What though Absalom can forget David, yet David cannot forget him; what though he be a very ungracious imp, yet 'he is my child, my child,' saith David, 'I cannot but love him;' and, indeed, he over loves him; which I do not commend, but only observe, to note the strength of parents' love, if it be natural - a love indeed as strong as death. Is the love of an earthly father so great? What, then, is the affection of our heavenly Father towards us?" (R. Harris: 1610).
II. THE ARDENT ATTACHMENT OF HIS FOLLOWERS; in contrast with the disaffection and hostility of others.
1. They offer themselves willingly to his service, and readily risk their lives for his sake.
2. They set an inestimable value on his life in comparison with their own. "Thou art worth ten thousand of us" (ver. 3). How much often depends on one man! The safety, unity, religion, prosperity, of a whole nation. Both patriotism and piety require the utmost care for his preservation.
3. They see the peculiar peril to which he is exposed, and seek to guard him against it. "They will pay no attention to us," etc. Of Washington, one of his officers wrote, "Our army love their general very much; but they have one complaint against him, which is the very little care he takes of himself."
4. They deem it expedient to provide, in case of need, for receiving his aid. "It is better that thou succour us out of the city." Their proposal is prudent, courteous, and honourable. Whilst he waits in the city with the "reserves," he still commands them, prays for them, and cooperates with them. They go forth under his sanction (ver. 4), are animated on the battlefield by the remembrance of him, and look forward to his approval as their recompense (2 Samuel 19:3). Such devotion is rare, not merely towards an earthly commander, but even on the part of those who war a spiritual warfare towards the heavenly Leader and "Captain of their salvation."
III. THE SIGNAL OVERTHROW OF HIS ADVERSARIES (vers. 7, 8); which is accomplished by the valour, discipline, and devotion of his "servants," and chiefly:
1. By the interposition of Divine providence (vers. 28, 31). "The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong" (Ecclesiastes 9:11). "Providence is" by no means "always on the side of big battalions."
2. In retribution upon the disobedient and ungodly, over whom mercy lingers long, but not forever, and who, though used as instruments of chastising others, are themselves ultimately broken in pieces.
3. For the deliverance of the faithful, the restoration of the "Lord's anointed," and the maintenance of the theocracy.
4. As a preparation for, and a foreshadowing of, the nobler victories of the King Messiah. It was another of the decisive battles of the world. "The contest was of short duration. The victors were soon vanquished. The storm was like a whirlwind, and like a whirlwind it passed away, leaving the enemies of God under the foot of the Messiah. To the depth of David's fall, to the height of his exaltation, there is but one parallel. We see it in the Passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The two Davids fell in a manner alike mysterious to their astonished friends. The two Davids rose again in a manner alike terrible to their astonished foes" (M. Hill, 'The Typical Testimony to the Messiah'). - D.
Now Absalom in his life-time had taken and reared up for himself a pillar.
PeopleAbishai, Absalom, Ahimaaz, Cushi, David, Israelites, Ittai, Joab, Zadok, Zeruiah
PlacesKing's Valley, Mahanaim
TopicsAbishai, Abi'shai, Army, Brother, Certainly, Command, David, Forth, Gittite, Ittai, It'tai, Joab, Jo'ab, Joab's, Jo'ab's, March, Myself, Orders, Surely, Third, Troops, Zeruiah, Zeru'iah
Outline1. David viewing the armies in their march gives them charge of Absalom
6. The Israelites are sorely smitten in the wood of ephraim
9. Absalom, hanging in an oak is slain by Joab, and cast into a pit
18. Absalom's place
19. Ahimaaz and Cushi bring tidings to David
33. David mourns for Absalom
Dictionary of Bible Themes2 Samuel 18:2
LibraryThe Wail of a Broken Heart
'Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a pillar, which is in the king's dale; for he said, I have no son to keep my name in remembrance; and he called the pillar after his own name: and it is called unto this day, Absalom's Place. 19. Then said Ahimaaz the son of Zadok, Let me now run, and bear the king tidings, how that the Lord hath avenged him of his enemies. 20. And Joab said unto him. Thou shalt not bear tidings this day, but thou shalt bear tidings another day; but …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
The Church and the Young Man.
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