King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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2 Samuel 15

Absalom’s ambition. (1-6) His conspiracy. (7-12) David leaves Jerusalem. (13-23) David sends back the ark. (24-30) He prays against Ahithophel’s counsel. (31-37)

2 Samuel 15 Audio:

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Absalom’s ambition

1 And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him.

2 And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel.

3 And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee.

4 Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice!

5 And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him.

6 And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.

His conspiracy

7 And it came to pass after forty years, that Absalom said unto the king, I pray thee, let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed unto the LORD, in Hebron.

8 For thy servant vowed a vow while I abode at Geshur in Syria, saying, If the LORD shall bring me again indeed to Jerusalem, then I will serve the LORD.

9 And the king said unto him, Go in peace. So he arose, and went to Hebron.

10 But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, As soon as ye hear the sound of the trumpet, then ye shall say, Absalom reigneth in Hebron.

11 And with Absalom went two hundred men out of Jerusalem, that were called; and they went in their simplicity, and they knew not any thing.

12 And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counsellor, from his city, even from Giloh, while he offered sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom.

David leaves Jerusalem

13 And there came a messenger to David, saying, The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom.

14 And David said unto all his servants that were with him at Jerusalem, Arise, and let us flee; for we shall not else escape from Absalom: make speed to depart, lest he overtake us suddenly, and bring evil upon us, and smite the city with the edge of the sword.

15 And the king’s servants said unto the king, Behold, thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my lord the king shall appoint.

16 And the king went forth, and all his household after him. And the king left ten women, which were concubines, to keep the house.

17 And the king went forth, and all the people after him, and tarried in a place that was far off.

18 And all his servants passed on beside him; and all the Cherethites, and all the Pelethites, and all the Gittites, six hundred men which came after him from Gath, passed on before the king.

19 Then said the king to Ittai the Gittite, Wherefore goest thou also with us? return to thy place, and abide with the king: for thou art a stranger, and also an exile.

20 Whereas thou camest but yesterday, should I this day make thee go up and down with us? seeing I go whither I may, return thou, and take back thy brethren: mercy and truth be with thee.

21 And Ittai answered the king, and said, As the LORD liveth, and as my lord the king liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be.

22 And David said to Ittai, Go and pass over. And Ittai the Gittite passed over, and all his men, and all the little ones that were with him.

23 And all the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people passed over: the king also himself passed over the brook Kidron, and all the people passed over, toward the way of the wilderness.

David sends back the ark

24 And lo Zadok also, and all the Levites were with him, bearing the ark of the covenant of God: and they set down the ark of God; and Abiathar went up, until all the people had done passing out of the city.

25 And the king said unto Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find favour in the eyes of the LORD, he will bring me again, and shew me both it, and his habitation:

26 But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.

27 The king said also unto Zadok the priest, Art not thou a seer? return into the city in peace, and your two sons with you, Ahimaaz thy son, and Jonathan the son of Abiathar.

28 See, I will tarry in the plain of the wilderness, until there come word from you to certify me.

29 Zadok therefore and Abiathar carried the ark of God again to Jerusalem: and they tarried there.

30 And David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot: and all the people that was with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up.

He prays against Ahithophel’s counsel

31 And one told David, saying, Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom. And David said, O LORD, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.

32 And it came to pass, that when David was come to the top of the mount, where he worshipped God, behold, Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat rent, and earth upon his head:

33 Unto whom David said, If thou passest on with me, then thou shalt be a burden unto me:

34 But if thou return to the city, and say unto Absalom, I will be thy servant, O king; as I have been thy father’s servant hitherto, so will I now also be thy servant: then mayest thou for me defeat the counsel of Ahithophel.

35 And hast thou not there with thee Zadok and Abiathar the priests? therefore it shall be, that what thing soever thou shalt hear out of the king’s house, thou shalt tell it to Zadok and Abiathar the priests.

36 Behold, they have there with them their two sons, Ahimaaz Zadok’s son, and Jonathan Abiathar’s son; and by them ye shall send unto me every thing that ye can hear.

37 So Hushai David’s friend came into the city, and Absalom came into Jerusalem.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Before him. Romulus instituted the 300 guards, whom he called Celeres, for the like purpose. C. — Absalom’s ambition could not wait patiently for the death of his father, who was not yet sixty years old, and had been first anointed forty years before, v. 7. He looked upon himself as the heir apparent, Amnon being now slain, and Cheliab (or Daniel) either dead, as it is thought, or unfit for government, while Solomon was only eight years old. Salien. — The quality of his mother, and his own personal qualifications, made him despise his brethren, and he began to assume the equipage of a king. C. — David considered this as only the effect of juvenile vanity, and he had not a mind to irritate him, without the utmost necessity. Salien. — Heb. “Absalom prepared for himself a chariot, (Prot. chariots) and horses,” &c. H. — It is not certain whether he had any other horsemen but those who mounted the chariots. Horses were then very scarce in Israel. C. — Adonias afterwards imitated his brother’s ambition, during his father’s life; (3 K. i. 5.) so that evil was continually raised up against David, out of his own house. C. xii. 11.

Ver. 2. Israel. Absalom rises early for wickedness. He assumes the character of a more zealous and disinterested judge, as if to contrast his conduct with the remissness of some appointed by the king; though the Holy Ghost bears witness to the integrity of David. C. viii. 15. Who would not be deceived by such appearances, if the arts of hypocrites had not taught us to examine things to the bottom, and to be upon our guard? If thy eye be evil, thy whole body will be darksome. The intention decides all. H.

Ver. 5. Kissed him. Engaging affability! How often abused by the ambitious, for similar purposes! H. — Thus acted Otho. Protendens manum, adorare vulgus, jacere oscula et omnia serviliter pro dominatione. Tacit. Hist. i. — “Stretching out his hand, he bowed to the common people, dispensing his kisses at random, and performed all the acts of servility to obtain the throne.” H.

Ver. 6. Enticed. Heb. “stole.” The people were not aware of his designs. C. — Absalom rendered them dissatisfied with the present government, and led them to expect better days, under his administration. H.

Ver. 7. Forty, which Vatable dates from the time when the people petitioned for a king; Salien, from the first anointing of David. M. — It is probable enough that this number has been substituted instead of four, which Josephus, Theodoret, Syr. Arab. and many Latin MSS. read; and Absalom would employ this term in securing the interest of Israel, before he declared himself openly their king. C. — He had been so long at Jerusalem, since his return. Salien. — The canon of Heb. verity, supposed to be made about the ninth century, is said (by Martinnay. H.) to be altered by some correcting hand, from four to forty. Kennicott. — This is the famous Memmian canon, which Theodulph, bishop of Orleans, is believed to have ordered, as the standard of truth, according to the Hebrew copies of that day: (H.) and this seems to have guided the Ben. editor of S. Jerom’s works, and of his translation; so that it is no wonder if “the printed copies agree in so many places with the corrupted Heb.” Canon Memmianus pure leget juxta Hebr├Žum, quod nos edidimus. Note on 2 Par. xiii. 3. 17. The Vulgate of Sixtus V. in that passage, as well as in the present, reads the smaller numbers, as he was guided by the best Latin copies, whereas Clement VIII. has also consulted “the Heb. fountains.” The former, says Kennicott, (Diss. ii. p. 205) “seems to have been printed on a juster plan…and the old Latin version is likely to be found more pure in the edition of Sixtus than in that of Clement, since the latter seems to have corrected his Latin by the modern (i.e. the corrupted) Heb. copies.” Dr. James observes, that “almost all the Latin editions received in the Church, for many years, (preceding 1590) agree with Sixtus,” who here reads quatuor, with many others; so that Grotius is well supported in having pronounced so decisively, “without doubt there is a mistake, two letters having been added at the end of arba. The thing itself declares that four years had elapsed.” Kennicott. — It appears to be indubitable, that some mistakes have taken place with regard to numbers. But that this place is incorrect may not be so certain, as the chronology of Salien, Usher, &c. explains it well enough. The Hebrew text was esteemed more correct when the last editions of S. Jerom, and of the Vulg. were given, than it is at present. H.

Ver. 8. Lord. The pretext seemed very bad, since he ought not to have delayed so long to perform his vow. Moreover, the usual places for sacrifice were Gabaon or Sion. But Absalom might plead a respect for the patriarchs, who were buried at Hebron. S. Jer. Trad. M.

Ver. 10. Spies, or men to give a plausible appearance to his ambition, and to insinuate that all was done according to order, and with David’s approbation. “The first word (or step) is the most difficult,” on such occasions; (Tacit. Hist. ii. Grot.) and those who find themselves incautiously entangled, find a repugnance to recede. H. — Reigneth. He was solemnly anointed. C. xix. 10. M.

Ver. 11. Design. Their hearts had been stolen, v. 6. They only meant to do honour to the prince, but by no means to join in his rebellion, like the rest. C.

Ver. 12. Achitophel, the grandfather of Bethsabee; to revenge whose dishonour, he had instigated the young prince to revolt, and had planned his rebellion; (Salien) so that he was every ready to lend his assistance. C.

Ver. 13. Absalom. How came they to abandon a king, appointed by heaven, and adorned with so many virtues? God was resolved to punish him. Many are always desirous of novelty. David had lately been guilty of two scandalous crimes. Joab remained unpunished, and arrogant; the judges neglected their duty, &c. v. 3. Some had still a partiality for the family of Saul. C. Grotius.

Ver. 14. Ruin, of a house falling. Heb. “evil.” David gives way to the fury of the rebels, hoping that they will enter into themselves, without bloodshed. He departs on foot, like a penitent, acknowledging the justice of God. Fear does not prompt him to leave Jerusalem, which was a place of such strength, (C. v. 6.) nor are his attendants abandoned on a sudden by that courage, which made some of them a match for a whole army. David disposes of all things with great coolness and prudence. C. — He wishes to appease God. M.

Ver. 16. Concubines. That is, wives of an inferior degree, (Ch. Gen. xxv. W.) who might perhaps have some influence to pacify the rioters.

Ver. 17. House, or palace, (H.) at the foot of the walls, (C.) that all who were well disposed, might join the king’s standard. Heb. “in a place that was far off;” (H.) or, “this house of flight (this family of David, in flight) stopped.” C.

Ver. 18. Phelethi, the king’s foreign guards, of Philistine extraction. C. viii. 18. — Gethites, who had been probably induced to enter his service by Ethai, v. 19. C. — Men. This number David kept up, in honour of those valiant companions who had defended him at Odollam, &c. Salien. — It is observable, that David is attended only by his own family, and by strangers; representing Jesus Christ, who rejects the Synagogue and its sacrifices, while he makes choice of the Gentiles. C.

Ver. 19. Ethai. Many assert that he was the son of Achis, and had embraced the true religion. M. — King; Absalom, who will not molest you. H. — Some translate the Heb. “Return from the king.” Syr. Arab.

Ver. 20. The Lord. Heb. “mercy and truth with thee.” As thou hast acted towards me, so mayest thou be rewarded. H.

Ver. 23. Cedron. Heb. nachal Kidron, may signify, “the shady torrent,” or “vale,” as it is styled by Josephus. It does not take its name from cedars. It is dry in summer, and when filled with water, in only three steps across. Doubdan xxvii. — Desert, of Bethel, (C.) or of Jericho, where S. John Baptist and our Saviour dwelt for some time. David passed over Kedron, only after he had dismissed the priests. M.

Ver. 24. Went up to the ark, or along with the rest. C.

Ver. 25. City. Abiathar had consulted the Lord for David, and received no answer; whence the king concluded that he had not suffered enough. M. — David displays a faith which could hardly have been expected of the carnal Jews. He confesses that God will reward the virtuous, and punish the wicked, independently of the ark, the symbol of his presence, and of which he deemed himself unworthy. C.

Ver. 27. Seer, supposing he was high priest, along with Abiathar, he might be thus addressed as one who consulted God by the ephod, as he might also, if he presided over the prophets, like Chonenias. 1 Par. xv. 22. Dionysius. M. — Heb. “Art not thou a seer?” a prudent man, who may be of greater service to me in the city; (H. or) seest thou not “the state of my affairs?” Sept. “See and return.” Follow my advice, or then act as your own wisdom dictates. C.

Ver. 30. Weeping, &c. David on this occasion wept for his sins, which he knew were the cause of all his sufferings. Ch. — Barefoot, like a criminal, or one in mourning. Isai. xx. 4. Ezec. xxiv. 17. C. — Covered, that the people might not see him. W.

Ver. 31. Infatuate: “render useless;” (Theodotion) “dissipate,” Sept. C. — God hindered the wise counsel of Achitophel from being regarded. H.

Ver. 32. The Lord, before he lost sight of the holy city, where the ark was kept. C. — Arachite, a convert, (M.) from Arach, or Edessa. S. Jerom. Trad. in Gen. x.

Ver. 33. To me, as he was perhaps advanced in years, though very prudent. M.

Ver. 34. Defeat; (dissipabis) “render of no effect.” H. — Thus princes keep spies in an enemy’s country. C.