King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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2 Samuel 18

Absalom’s army defeated. (1-8) He is slain. (9-18) David’s over-sorrow. (19-33)

2 Samuel 18 Audio:

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Absalom’s army defeated

1 And David numbered the people that were with him, and set captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds over them.

2 And David sent forth a third part of the people under the hand of Joab, and a third part under the hand of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, and a third part under the hand of Ittai the Gittite. And the king said unto the people, I will surely go forth with you myself also.

3 But the people answered, Thou shalt not go forth: for if we flee away, they will not care for us; neither if half of us die, will they care for us: but now thou art worth ten thousand of us: therefore now it is better that thou succour us out of the city.

4 And the king said unto them, What seemeth you best I will do. And the king stood by the gate side, and all the people came out by hundreds and by thousands.

5 And the king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom. And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains charge concerning Absalom.

6 So the people went out into the field against Israel: and the battle was in the wood of Ephraim;

7 Where the people of Israel were slain before the servants of David, and there was there a great slaughter that day of twenty thousand men.

8 For the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country: and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.

He is slain

9 And Absalom met the servants of David. And Absalom rode upon a mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth; and the mule that was under him went away.

10 And a certain man saw it, and told Joab, and said, Behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak.

11 And Joab said unto the man that told him, And, behold, thou sawest him, and why didst thou not smite him there to the ground? and I would have given thee ten shekels of silver, and a girdle.

12 And the man said unto Joab, Though I should receive a thousand shekels of silver in mine hand, yet would I not put forth mine hand against the king’s son: for in our hearing the king charged thee and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Beware that none touch the young man Absalom.

13 Otherwise I should have wrought falsehood against mine own life: for there is no matter hid from the king, and thou thyself wouldest have set thyself against me.

14 Then said Joab, I may not tarry thus with thee. And he took three darts in his hand, and thrust them through the heart of Absalom, while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak.

15 And ten young men that bare Joab’s armour compassed about and smote Absalom, and slew him.

16 And Joab blew the trumpet, and the people returned from pursuing after Israel: for Joab held back the people.

17 And they took Absalom, and cast him into a great pit in the wood, and laid a very great heap of stones upon him: and all Israel fled every one to his tent.

18 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.

David’s over-sorrow

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 this day thou shalt bear no tidings, because the king’s son is dead.

21 Then said Joab to Cushi, Go tell the king what thou hast seen. And Cushi bowed himself unto Joab, and ran.

22 Then said Ahimaaz the son of Zadok yet again to Joab, But howsoever, let me, I pray thee, also run after Cushi. And Joab said, Wherefore wilt thou run, my son, seeing that thou hast no tidings ready?

23 But howsoever, said he, let me run. And he said unto him, Run. Then Ahimaaz ran by the way of the plain, and overran Cushi.

24 And David sat between the two gates: and the watchman went up to the roof over the gate unto the wall, and lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold a man running alone.

25 And the watchman cried, and told the king. And the king said, If he be alone, there is tidings in his mouth. And he came apace, and drew near.

26 And the watchman saw another man running: and the watchman called unto the porter, and said, Behold another man running alone. And the king said, He also bringeth tidings.

27 And the watchman said, Me thinketh the running of the foremost is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok. And the king said, He is a good man, and cometh with good tidings.

28 And Ahimaaz called, and said unto the king, All is well. And he fell down to the earth upon his face before the king, and said, Blessed be the LORD thy God, which hath delivered up the men that lifted up their hand against my lord the king.

29 And the king said, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Ahimaaz answered, When Joab sent the king’s servant, and me thy servant, I saw a great tumult, but I knew not what it was.

30 And the king said unto him, Turn aside, and stand here. And he turned aside, and stood still.

31 And, behold, Cushi came; and Cushi said, Tidings, my lord the king: for the LORD hath avenged thee this day of all them that rose up against thee.

32 And the king said unto Cushi, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Cushi answered, The enemies of my lord the king, and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt, be as that young man is.

33 And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Hundreds. Josephus only allows David 4000 men. But his army seems to have been pretty numerous, since he divides it into three parts, and appoints three head commanders, with officers of a thousand, &c. under them. See v. 4. C. — He designed to lead them to battle himself, if the people had not dissuaded him. Salien.

Ver. 3. Ten thousand, “like us.” Heb. C. — Succour us, “by praying for us.” (Chal.) or by sending reinforcements, where they may be necessary. M. — David was persuaded “to reserve himself (like Otho) for the interest of the state, at a distance from the danger of battle.” Tacit. An. ii.

Ver. 5. Save us: do not hurt, v. 12. S. Aug. (Doct. iii. 23.) concludes, that David wished to allow his son time for repentance. M. — He seems to have been sure of victory. Abul.

Ver. 6. Ephraim, where the men of that tribe had formerly signalized themselves. Judg. vii. and viii. and xii. C.

Ver. 8. Country; people fighting in great numbers. But the army of Absalom was soon dispersed. H. — Consumed, viz. by pits and precipices: Ch. “wild beasts.” Syr. &c. Many also died of their wounds, and were slain in the wood; (C.) so that not less, probably, than 50,000 perished on this fatal day. H.

Ver. 9. Oak, between the branches, which hindered him from escaping. C. — His beautiful curls got also entangled. M.

Ver. 11. Silver, somewhat above a guinea: sicles are not expressed in Heb. H. — Belt, the richest part of armour. Jonathan and Ajax made presents of their belts to David and Hector. 1 K. xviii. 4. Iliad H. See Job xiii. 18. The Romans wore very splendid belts. Balteus et notis fulserunt cingula bullis. Claud. Proserp. ii.

Ver. 12. Save. Prot. “beware that none touch the young man.”

Ver. 13. My own. Some copies of the Heb. and Sept. read, “his;” others, my, &c. The soldier would have acted against his conscience, and exposed his life to danger, if he had transgressed the king’s order. H. — By me? or, omitting the mark of interrogation, “Thou wouldst have declared thyself against me.” C.

Ver. 14. Sight. Heb. “I will not tarry thus with thee.” I will not stand to refute these reasons, nor imitate thy example. H.

Ver. 15. Ten. Naharai alone is specified. C. xxiii. 37. Why he had ten does not appear. C. — Slew him, inflicting many wounds on him; though Joab had already done sufficient. H. — These men abused his corpse, as if to revenge the insult offered to David’s ten wives. Salien. — It is asked whether Joab did wrong? He consulted the public welfare, rather than the parental affection of the king for a son, whom the law condemned to die for rebellion, incest, and murder. Lev. xviii. 29. C. xiii. 28. But still he was not a proper judge to inflict this death in cold blood; and thus to render the salvation of Absalom’s soul more desperate. David would, however, have done well to have punished this son, as incorrigible and dangerous to the state. H.

Ver. 17. Him. Thus was the law executed upon Absalom. Deut. xxi. 18. S. Jerom. M. — History scarcely affords a more detestable character; and his punishment was no less terrible than instructive. He was a figure of the Jews persecuting Jesus Christ, while he gave his blood for the redemption of these his enemies, and prayed for them. As they continued obdurate, they were held up as objects of horror both to heaven and to all nations, like Absalom suspended on the tree, and rejected by heaven and earth. C.

Ver. 18. No son. The sons mentioned above, C. xiv. 27, were dead when this pillar was erected; unless we suppose he raised this pillar before they were born: (Ch). or meant this pillar to perpetuate his memory, when they should be no more. Joseph. vii. 9. — This author says that it was a pillar of marble; so that it is different from that which Doubdan (15) mentions, observing , that all who pass throw a stone at it. Thus was his vanity chastised! — Hand, work. So Martial (viii. 51.) says of a vial! Mentoris hæc manus est an, Polyclete, tua? M. — The same word is translated, triumphal arch. 1 K. xv. 12. G.

Ver. 21. Chusi: perhaps, of Ethiopian extraction. Grot.

Ver. 22. Tidings. People of reputation did not wish to perform this office. 3 K. ii. 42. Heb. “these tidings will bring thee nothing;” or, “do not suit thee.” C. — Prot. “seeing thou hast no tidings ready?” H.

Ver. 24. Two gates, one leading into the town, the other into the country. In the middle was a chamber for public meetings, and another above. Job xxix. 7. On the roof a guard was stationed on this occasion.

Ver. 25. Mouth. If the army had been routed, all would have been in confusion. C. — Now they are employed in plundering the vanquished. M.

Ver. 28. Shut up; frustrated the attempts of the enemy, and consigned many to the grave. H.

Ver. 29. Else. This was false. v. 20. C. — But he wished not to communicate the bad news; for which reason he had got first to the king. H.

Ver. 32. Is. This was as much as to tell plainly that he was dead, (M.) or at least, a prisoner. But David understood him right. H.

Ver. 33. Wept, in private. M. — Would. David lamented the death of Absalom, because of the wretched state in which he died; and therefore would have been glad to have saved his life, even by dying for him. In this he was a figure of Christ weeping, praying, and dying for his rebellious children, and even for them that crucified him. Ch. S. Amb. (de Ob. Valent.) Theod. q. 35. — David had presently ceased to weep for the son of Bethsabee, because he had reason to hope that he was saved. C.