2 Samuel 18:1-17
And David numbered the people that were with him, and set captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds over them.…
1. Before the battle, David does not bear prosperity well. He shines best in trial. He is greater when fleeing from Saul than when in the palace. His flight without his crown reveals his real kingliness. Surely David is in much communion with God. He is pressed with sorrow, but then his character like as myrrh is most fragrant. He is most restful. Fear has gone. He pillowed his head on the truth, that ever drives fear away. Such a calm restfulness would be sure to give indications of God's nearness, and we find many signs of Divine guidance. How discreet he is! How they are blundering at Jerusalem! How wise to make Mahanaim his headquarters, though most probably his choice was made all unconscious of its splendid adaptability to the necessities of the hour. He was led by a "Hand Divine." Did David pray for wisdom? Surely such quiet restfulness in God's guidance is ever accompanied by prayerful fellowship! The Father of light gives to those who ask: how far wiser should we be if we asked! Was it this hallowed experience at Mahanaim which evoked his impressive charge to Solomon? (1 Chronicles 22:12; 1 Kings 3:9.) So passed the week before the battle.
2. Concerning the battle itself, as to details of conflict, we know little. Probably Absalom has been three months king. According to the counsel of Hushai, he heads the army. The first shock decided the fortunes of the day, as indeed is still common in Eastern warfare, and Absalom's army flees in confusion. David's army is victorious, and ere the evening came all Israel and Judah knew that David had conquered.
3. After the battle. David is sitting between the two gates (2 Samuel 18:24) waiting for the news. The watchmen upon the wall are gazing anxiously, and yet more anxious is the expectation of the king. All is so graphically told. His hope when he hears the bearer is Ahimaaz, the parent-heart asking for his son amid the news of victory, the falsity of the messenger when face to face with the agitated king (ver. 29), the quickened hope so bluntly quenched by the less cautious Cushi, and then the wail, that has been echoed from so many hearts since: "O my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!"(1) An entire absence of resignation to God's will. Strange, is it not, that which is so prominent in all his other times of trial is prominent by its absence here! He abandons himself uncontrolledly to his feelings. Unless those in public places of honour sink their private feelings in public duty, why are they there? David's heart is lacerated now. His own sins make his grief the heavier. We note too —
(2) His petulant wish and foolish complaint. Had he died in place of Absalom, what would have become of Israel with such a king, and where the promise of God to him? On public grounds David's utterance can find no justification, and Joab is right when he arouses him from his selfish grief. Better for David had he sought, in the early days of his son's life, by prayer and holy conduct, to have lived for his children than wished to die for them. We need to learn it is better to live for our children than wail a wish to die over characters we have helped to form. Still, we can but admire him as a father! Does love first ruin and then pray? We can, however, understand the wail of David if he was thinking of the eternal interests. This was agony time might mitigate and soften. but never obliterate. Before the mysterious in the dealings of God with him, he bowed in an agony Joab could not understand. That surely is one of the sad penalties of declension from the ways of God. Grief was borne by him and not carried to God. Hence for a while David's character is clouded again.
(H. E. Stone.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And David numbered the people that were with him, and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them.