2 Samuel 17


In this chapter, and the next three chapters, we see that David’s troubles and the trouble for his household are continued to be lived out as Nathan the prophet told him earlier, 2 Samuel 12:10.

After all the evil acts that Absalom has done over the years, in his rebellion against his father, David, in this chapter, we read the events building up to Absalom’s death.

‘Ahithophel said to Absalom, ‘I would choose twelve thousand men and set out tonight in pursuit of David. I would attack him while he is weary and weak. I would strike him with terror, and then all the people with him will flee. I would strike down only the king and bring all the people back to you. The death of the man you seek will mean the return of all; all the people will be unharmed.’ This plan seemed good to Absalom and to all the elders of Israel. But Absalom said, ‘Summon also Hushai the Arkite, so we can hear what he has to say as well.’ When Hushai came to him, Absalom said, ‘Ahithophel has given this advice. Should we do what he says? If not, give us your opinion.’ Hushai replied to Absalom, ‘The advice Ahithophel has given is not good this time. You know your father and his men; they are fighters, and as fierce as a wild bear robbed of her cubs. Besides, your father is an experienced fighter; he will not spend the night with the troops. Even now, he is hidden in a cave or some other place. If he should attack your troops first, whoever hears about it will say, ‘There has been a slaughter among the troops who follow Absalom.’ Then even the bravest soldier, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will melt with fear, for all Israel knows that your father is a fighter and that those with him are brave. ‘So I advise you: Let all Israel, from Dan to Beersheba—as numerous as the sand on the seashore—be gathered to you, with you yourself leading them into battle. Then we will attack him wherever he may be found, and we will fall on him as dew settles on the ground. Neither he nor any of his men will be left alive. If he withdraws into a city, then all Israel will bring ropes to that city, and we will drag it down to the valley until not so much as a pebble is left.’ Absalom and all the men of Israel said, ‘The advice of Hushai the Arkite is better than that of Ahithophel.’ For the LORD had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom.’ 2 Samuel 17:1-14

It appears that Ahithophel’s advice to Absalom to defeat David and his men was far too ambitious, and so Absalom goes to Hushai for his opinion. Hushai then takes this moment to turn the advice of Ahithophel against Absalom.

He then suggests that David’s men were far too smart when it comes to war because David and his men would be expecting Absalom and his men to come to them.

The stakes were high here for Absalom because if he lost this battle, then everyone would turn against him and so, Hushai advices Absalom to wait until he got a great army behind him so he would have enough men to defeat David and his men. Absalom decided to take this advice, which as we shall read in a moment was going to lead to his death.

Notice Absalom and his men say, ‘for the LORD had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom.’ Ahithophel’s plan was far too ambitious and far from being perfect, and Hushai had exposed some flaws in his plan, but for Absalom, it was the best option he had, Job 5:13.

Why did Absalom reject the advice that could have given him the victory? Because it was simply God’s will that he would do so. The advice of Hushai was part of the chain of events that caused it, and David’s earlier prayer was another part, 2 Samuel 15:31.

‘Hushai told Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, ‘Ahithophel has advised Absalom and the elders of Israel to do such and such, but I have advised them to do so and so. Now send a message at once and tell David, ‘Do not spend the night at the fords in the wilderness; cross over without fail, or the king and all the people with him will be swallowed up.’ Jonathan and Ahimaaz were staying at En Rogel. A female servant was to go and inform them, and they were to go and tell King David, for they could not risk being seen entering the city. But a young man saw them and told Absalom. So the two of them left at once and went to the house of a man in Bahurim. He had a well in his courtyard, and they climbed down into it. His wife took a covering and spread it out over the opening of the well and scattered grain over it. No one knew anything about it. When Absalom’s men came to the woman at the house, they asked, ‘Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan?’ The woman answered them, ‘They crossed over the brook.’ The men searched but found no one, so they returned to Jerusalem. After they had gone, the two climbed out of the well and went to inform King David. They said to him, ‘Set out and cross the river at once; Ahithophel has advised such and such against you.’ So David and all the people with him set out and crossed the Jordan. By daybreak, no one was left who had not crossed the Jordan. When Ahithophel saw that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey and set out for his house in his hometown. He put his house in order and then hanged himself. So he died and was buried in his father’s tomb.’ 2 Samuel 17:15-23

Hushai warns David not to stay at the night at the fords, it appears that Hushai isn’t aware if Absalom took his advice or the advice of Ahithophel. It also appears that David has secret informants who were keeping him up to date with what Absalom was doing.

Notice that messengers were sent to David but they were kept in hiding by some of those who lived in Jerusalem. This tells us that not everyone favoured Absalom.

David needed time to gather together all those who weren’t a part of Absalom’s rebellion and it’s clear that David had a greater following than Absalom and so because of the delay, this fell to David’s advantage.

We can imagine how much effort, organisation and time it must have taken David to move twelve thousand men with all their supplies and equipment across the Jordan, Psalms 42:6. The time and effort were necessary for David and his men to go to war against Absalom and his men.

When Ahithophel came to realise that Hushai’s advice would lead to the victory of David over Absalom, he knew that David would punish him for his betrayal, this is why he commits suicide by hanging himself.

Ahithophel is one of four people who are recorded in the Scriptures to have committed suicide, Judas Iscariot, Matthew 27:5, Zimri, 1 Kings 16:18, and King Saul, 1 Samuel 31:5.

Some believe because Ahithophel was buried in the family tomb, this meant that the Jews of that period accepted suicide as much as any other form of death, but no one can be sure if that’s what they believed or not.

‘David went to Mahanaim, and Absalom crossed the Jordan with all the men of Israel. Absalom had appointed Amasa over the army in place of Joab. Amasa was the son of Jether, an Ishmaelite who had married Abigal, the daughter of Nahash and sister of Zeruiah the mother of Joab. The Israelites and Absalom camped in the land of Gilead. When David came to Mahanaim, Shobi son of Nahash from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and Makir son of Ammiel from Lo Debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim brought bedding and bowls and articles of pottery. They also brought wheat and barley, flour and roasted grain, beans and lentils, honey and curds, sheep, and cheese from cows’ milk for David and his people to eat. For they said, ‘The people have become exhausted and hungry and thirsty in the wilderness.’ 2 Samuel 17:24-29

As soon as news about what Absalom was doing, David went to Mahanaim, it appears that a large number of people were loyal to David and wanted to support him in his war against Absalom.

David then gets his men to gather east of the Jordan because he knows that Absalom would follow him and attack. Because of the foolish decision of Absalom, a bloody civil war was now about to happen which would involve everyone.

Both Abigal and Zeruiah were David’s sisters, daughters of Jesse, 1 Chronicles 2:16-17, which possibly means that Nahash was Jesse’s wife. If Zeruiah and Abigal were David’s sisters only by the mother, then Nahash might possibly be the name of her first husband.

All of the men mentioned here were powerful warriors of Israel who graciously supplied David’s men with much-needed provisions. Shobi, the Ammonite’s father was possibly the king of the Ammonites, who David may have possibly appointed him as governor of Ammon after he took Rabbah, 2 Samuel 12:29.

Ammiel who was from Lo Debar was the son of Ahithophel and the father of Bathsheba, which makes Machir Bathsheba’s brother. Barzillai the Gileadite was from Rogelim, he was an ancestor through a daughter of a family of priests, who were called after him, ‘Sons of Barzillai’. They returned from the Babylonian captivity with Ezra, Ezra 2:61-63 / Nehemiah 7:63.

Go To 2 Samuel 18


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