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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him.
And it came to pass ... - The working out of Nathan's prophecy (marginal reference) is the clue to the course of the narrative. How long after Absalom's return these events occurred we are not told.
2And 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.
Beside the way of the gate - See Ruth 4:1 note.
3And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee.
To flatter each man by pronouncing a favorable verdict in his case, to excite a sense of grievance and discontent by censuring the king for remissness in trying the causes brought before him by his subjects, and to suggest a sure and easy remedy for all such grievances, namely, to make Absalom king; all this, coupled with great affability and courtesy, which his personal beauty and high rank made all the more effective, were the arts by which Absalom worked his way into favor with the people, who were light and fickle as himself.
4Absalom 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!
5And 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.
6And 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.
Stole the hearts - i. e., deceived them, for so the same phrase means Genesis 31:20, Genesis 31:26.
7And 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.
Forty years - An obvious clerical error, though a very ancient one for four years, which may date from Absalom's return from Geshur, or from his reconciliation with David, or from the commencement of the criminal schemes to which 2 Samuel 15:1 refers.
Hebron - This, as having been the old capital of David's kingdom and Absalom's birthplace, was well chosen. It was a natural center, had probably many inhabitants discontented at the transfer of the government to Jerusalem, and contained many of the friends of Absalom's youth. As the place of his birth (compare 1 Samuel 20:6), it afforded a plausible pretext for holding there the great sacrificial feast ("the serving the Lord," 2 Samuel 15:8), which Absalom pretended to have vowed to hold to the glory of God.
8For 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.
9And the king said unto him, Go in peace. So he arose, and went to Hebron.
10But 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.
11And with Absalom went two hundred men out of Jerusalem, that were called; and they went in their simplicity, and they knew not any thing.
12And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counseller, from his city, even from Giloh, while he offered sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom.
Ahithophel - It has been with great probability supposed that Ahithophel was estranged from David by personal resentment for his conduct in the matter of Bath-sheba and Uriah (see 2 Samuel 11:3).
While he offered sacrifices - Rather, that Absalom sent for Ahithophel to be present when he offered the sacrifices; the intention being that all who partook of the sacrifice should be bound together to prosecute the enterprise. Absalom, too, would take advantage of the excitement of the great feast to inflame the ardour of the guests, and pledge them irrevocably to his cause.
13And there came a messenger to David, saying, The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom.
14And 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.
And smite the city - David's kind nature induced him to spare Jerusalem the horrors of a siege, and the risk of being taken by assault. He had no standing army with which to resist this sudden attack from so unexpected a quarter. Possibly too he remembered Nathan's prophecy 2 Samuel 12:10-12.
15And the king's servants said unto the king, Behold, thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my lord the king shall appoint.
16And the king went forth, and all his household after him. And the king left ten women, which were concubines, to keep the house.
17And the king went forth, and all the people after him, and tarried in a place that was far off.
18And 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.
Passed on - Rather, "crossed" the Brook Kidron, as in 2 Samuel 15:22-23.
Gittites - During David's residence in the country of the Philistines he attached such a band to himself; and after the settlement of his kingdom, and the subjugation of the Philistines, the band received recruits from Gath, perhaps with the king of Gath's consent. They were now under the command of Ittai the Gittite, a foreigner 2 Samuel 15:19, and "his brethren" 2 Samuel 15:20. The number 600 probably indicates that this band or regiment of Gittites had its origin in David's band of 600 1 Samuel 23:13; 1 Samuel 27:2. They were at first, it is likely, all Israelites, then Gittites mixed with Israelites, and at last all Gittites.
19Then 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.
20Whereas 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.
Thou camest but yesterday - Meaning, "Thou art not a native Israelite, but only a sojourner for a few years, it is not reason therefore that thou shouldst share my calamities. Return to thy place, thy adopted home Jerusalem, and to the king, Absalom" 2 Samuel 15:34-35.
21And 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.
22And 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.
23And 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.
24And 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.
Abiathar went up - i. e., continued to ascend the Mount of Olives. Abiathar was high priest 1 Kings 2:35. Perhaps Zadok is addressed by David 2 Samuel 15:25 as the chief of those who were actually bearing the ark.
25And 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:
26But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.
27The 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.
Art not those a seer? - If the text be correct, the sense would be, "Art thou not a seer? therefore go back to the city, and observe, and certify me of what thou seest" 2 Samuel 15:28. Others, by a slight alteration of the original text, read "Art not thou a chief" (priest), etc.
28See, I will tarry in the plain of the wilderness, until there come word from you to certify me.
29Zadok therefore and Abiathar carried the ark of God again to Jerusalem: and they tarried there.
30And 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.
His head covered - See the marginal references and Jeremiah 14:3-4; Ezekiel 24:17; the sign of deep mourning.
31And 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.
32And 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:
Render ... "when David was come to the top of the mount where people worship God." The top here, and in 2 Samuel 16:1, is used almost as a proper name. No doubt there was a high-place upon the top of the Mount of Olives.
33Unto whom David said, If thou passest on with me, then thou shalt be a burden unto me:
34But 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.
35And 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.
36Behold, 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.
37So Hushai David's friend came into the city, and Absalom came into Jerusalem.