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Bible: What Does 2 Samuel 17-19 Teach Us About Punishments and Rewards?

Updated on August 21, 2016

The Antitype of Ahithophel

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Rejecting Ahithophel

Ahithophel's strategy also includes pursuing David until the king becomes both weary and afraid.

He surmises that when David's people desert him in terror, Absalom's twelve thousand soldiers can then round them up and kill their leader.

With David dead, peace will come at last--a conclusion Absalom likes just fine (vv. 1-4)!

After hearing Ahithophel's idea, Absalom turns to Hushai for a second opinion (vv. 5-6).

Basing his opposing argument on the common knowledge that David and his men are fierce warriors (vv. 7-8), and that the king is a clever strategist who can expertly confuse enemy armies (vv. 9-10), Hushai counsels Absalom to gather Israel en masse, attack David in person, and completely destroy them wherever they may hide (vv. 11-13).

Preferring Hushai's word to Ahithophel's, Absalom chooses what Yahweh had purposed in His sovereignty so that He might rescue David (v. 14).

In an elaborate underground communication of sorts, faithful Hushai (knowing Absalom’s decision) tells Zadok and Abiathar to relay the next move to David through their sons Jonathan and Ahimaaz, who abide secretly in En Rogel and require a maidservant to tell them what to say (vv. 15-17).

However, one of Absalom's counterespionage agents, a boy, eyes them and informs his master, who quickly dispatches soldiers to intercept the fleeing couriers at a certain man's house in Bahurim (vv. 18-20a).

The woman of the house conceals the spies in a well, and successfully misdirects the pursuers (as did Rahab of old) [v. 20b].

Safe and secure, the priests' sons report Hushai's counsel to David, and the king leads all his people across the Jordan (vv. 21-22).

[As a parenthesis, the author relates the sad account of the demise of Ahithophel.

After Absalom had refused his wisdom, the once trusted friend and counselor of David takes his own life, believing that the king would put him to death once he regained control—an event he knew would surely happen (v. 23; cf. Psalm 41:9.

See also the antitype Judas in John 13:18; Acts 1:18)].

David travels to Mahanaim where three leaders supply him and his weary, hungry men with necessaries (vv. 24a, 27-29); in the mean time, Absalom pursues his adversary over the River.

Amasa now leads the army instead of Joab as they camp in Gilead (vv. 24b-26).

King David


2 Samuel 18

Gaining wide support from Israelites as he flees his son, David now divides his army into three major contingents and many minor ones (vv. 1-2).

[One of the largest forces he awards to Ittai the Gittite for his remarkable loyalty (see 15:19-21)].

When the king asserts that he, too, plans to go out with them, the people object vehemently.

They fear that they would become leaderless in the event of his death, for they do not believe that the others would care for them (v. 3).

[They surely placed an inestimable value on David's life; he was almost "the irreplaceable, indispensable man."]

Bowing to their wishes, the king bids his captains farewell, but not before instructing them in the presence of all the people to treat Absalom gently (vv. 4-5).

Transpiring in the woods of Ephraim, the battle between David's armies and those of Absalom's Israel concludes in a great victory for the king of Judah.

Twenty thousand men lose their lives in a great slaughter, but the forest claims more than the sword (vv. 6-8).

[How is this so?]

Death of Absalom


Messenger of Bad News

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The fate of Absalom turns pathetic.

While riding on a mule, fleeing David's servants, he catches his head in a terebinth tree as he rides underneath it, and finds himself suspended in midair (v. 9).

[Was Absalom still conscious after such an abrupt change in position?]

When he learns about Absalom's vulnerability (v. 10), Joab does not allow the opportunity for glory to pass him by.

Even after the one who originally witnessed Absalom's plight reminds Joab about David's command (vv. 11-13; cf. v. 5), the general callously dismisses the warning and uses Absalom's torso as target practice.

[Although the text says Joab thrust three spears through Absalom's heart, it also states that the general's armor-bearers finished off the king's son (vv. 14-15)].

After the execution, Joab assembles his troops, buries Absalom in a pit, and fills it with stones; subsequently, Israel's army flees (vv. 16-17).

[As a fitting epitaph, the writer notes that Absalom had built a monument in the King's Valley dedicated to himself.

The imposter perished without an heir (v. 18)].

Refusing Ahimaaz the honor of carrying news of victory to David (because Absalom had died), Joab instead sends a Cushite (vv. 19-21).

Despite the apparent peril of delivering such a message, Ahimaaz so presses Joab that the general permits him to run also (vv. 22-23a).

And run he does, outdistancing the Cushite (v. 23b).

As David peers out from the city gates, a watchman informs him that he has spied a lone runner: a sign that he brings news (vv. 24-25).

A second courier also appears on the horizon; David construes that this one bears additional information (v. 26).

When the watchman identifies the first runner as Ahimaaz, the king believes that this righteous man carried a good report (v. 27).

Ahimaaz delivers what he knows about the battle, and praises God for the great victory (v. 28).

But when David questions him about Absalom, Ahimaaz (strangely) has no answer; he mentions only the event of a great tumult (v. 29).

[Even though Ahimaaz did not witness Absalom's death first-hand, did not Joab tell him that the king's son was dead?]

Turning to the second courier, King David anxiously inquires about his son.

The Cushite diplomatically states, in essence, "He is dead,'' causing David to depart in great sorrow to his chamber (vv. 30-33).

David's "Compassion"

Was David right to wish his soldiers to treat Absalom well?

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2 Samuel 19

When the people learn about their king's inordinate mourning for Absalom, they return to Jerusalem not with triumphal joy, but with shame (vv. 1-3).

Consequently, Joab boldly confronts David and rebukes him for his lack of gratefulness and for his misplaced love (vv. 4-6).

He also counsels him to make amends for his behavior, or all Israel would forsake him (v. 7). David makes this gesture of conciliation, and the people respond positively (v. 8).

Hearing all Israel complain that not everyone has welcomed him back to Jerusalem (vv. 9-10), the king asks his priests in Judah to inquire of the elders, "Why the lengthy delay?" (vv. 11-12).

In addition, David tells them to inform Amasa that he is offering him command of the army (v. 13).

Having made these special overtures, the king soon receives an official invitation and returns with a Judean escort from Gilgal (vv. 14-15).

Shimei and a thousand Benjamites (together with Ziba, his sons, and his servants) travel before him across the Jordan (vv. 16-17), while David's household comes back by ferryboat (v. 18).



Now come more opportunities for reconciliation and reward.

First, Shimei bows before the king, humbly begging his pardon (vv. 19-20).

As before, Abishai wants to wield the sword and lop off his head (v. 21; cf. 16:9); David, however, again rebukes this son of Zeruiah, saying that it is a day of rejoicing, not judgment (v. 22).

He, therefore, spares Shimei's life (v. 23).

Next, David encounters a disheveled Mephibosheth, and asks him why he did not go with him into temporary exile (vv. 24-25).

The poor fellow claims that Ziba had deceived and slandered him (vv. 26-27a; cf. 16:3).

After this explanation, he entrusts himself to the king to judge rightly (v. 27b).

Acknowledging David's past mercy, Mephibosheth seeks no special favors from him now; his motive is not so much to recover half of his land (David's kind decision) as it is to see the king on his throne again (vv. 28-30).

Last, the king meets with old Barzillai—a faithful citizen who provided for him in his exile—and offers to return the favor (vv. 31-33).

Facing the reality of his soon death and not wanting to be a burden, this fine servant declines the offer, citing also his inability to think well, enjoy his food, or hear music anymore (vv. 34-35).

He agrees to accompany David for a little while, but then asks leave to die in his own town (vv. 36-37a).

Barzillai puts forward Chinham to take his place (v. 37b), and the king permits the substitute for his servant's sake (v. 38).

Soon, the two part ways at the Jordan (v. 39).

Before Israel and Judah arrive in Jerusalem, another political dispute arises between them over the rights to David (vv. 40-43).

Israel claims Judah stole the king from them (v. 41); the latter then asserts David's close relationship to them (v. 42).

Israel counterclaims that they have more shares in the king and that they wanted him to come back first (v. 43a).

Somehow, Judah wins the argument (v. 43b).

© 2013 glynch1


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    • glynch1 profile image

      glynch1 4 years ago

      Rebellion against divine authority will always eventually result in disaster. So sad it is that so many people wittingly (and unwittingly) abide in that attitude right now. Either they do not believe or do not know that the wages of sin is eternal separation from the only true God.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Absalom's death by itself teaches some great lesson. Thanks for another detailed account.