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II Samuel Chapter 17

Memory verses for this week:   Eccl 3:1  To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:  Eccl 3:2  A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 

Overview of II Samuel 17: With David in exile, chapter 17 provides the narrative of the diverse counsel of Ahithophel and Hushai to Absalom. The young renegade king-to-be is led by Providence to accept the advise of Hushai. Ahithophel commits suicide.  

Absalom is a type of of the false Messiah, who will gather an army against Christ who is typified here by David.  (Revelation 19:19). 

I.  The Diverse Counsel of Ahitophel and Hushai

2 Sam 17:1  Moreover Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Let me now choose out twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue after David this night:

2 Sam 17:2  And I will come upon him while he is weary and weak handed, and will make him afraid: and all the people that are with him shall flee; and I will smite the king only:

2 Sam 17:3  And I will bring back all the people unto thee: the man whom thou seekest is as if all returned: so all the people shall be in peace.

2 Sam 17:4  And the saying pleased Absalom well, and all the elders of Israel. 

Ahithophel had made himself important in Absalomís cabinet.   The last verse of chapter 16 notes that he was esteemed as if he were the word of God by Absalom and his party.  Ahithophel came up with further advice for Absalom.   His plan was simple.    Strike while the iron was hot.   He tells Absalom to pursue after David while he was tired and did not have the initiative.

 Ahithophel wanted to take 12,000 men immediately and overwhelm David that very night.   He clearly hinted that he would kill David and then his followers would melt away and Absalom by default would be the unchallenged king.   Ahithophelís advice was good. It probably would have worked as planned. But God had other plans. He providentially hindered the plan of Ahithophel.  

J. Vernon McGee pointed out that this counsel was in direct contrast to Hushai. 

As we have been following the different experiences of David, we saw first his triumphs, and now we are seeing his troubles. In fact, he is really in trouble right now. Davidís own son Absalom, whom I believe he loved above everything else in this world, is leading a rebellion against him. This was a heartbreak to the king. David withdrew from Jerusalem because he did not want it to become the scene of a battle and possibly be destroyed. Instead, David left his beloved city. He sent Hushai back to Absalom so that he might give him counsel that would be to Davidís advantage. Ahithophel, who had once been an advisor to David, had defected to Absalom. In chapter 17 these two advisors are giving Absalom contradictory counsel about whether or not to attack his father at this time.[1] 

2 Sam 17:5  Then said Absalom, Call now Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear likewise what he saith.

2 Sam 17:6  And when Hushai was come to Absalom, Absalom spake unto him, saying, Ahithophel hath spoken after this manner: shall we do after his saying? if not; speak thou.

Perhaps out of courtesy and certainly by Godís providence, Absalom decided to get another opinion from Hushai.   Absalom rehearsed the advice of Ahithophel to Hushai and essentially asked, now what do you think.  

2 Sam 17:7  And Hushai said unto Absalom, The counsel that Ahithophel hath given is not good at this time.

2 Sam 17:8  For, said Hushai, thou knowest thy father and his men, that they be mighty men, and they be chafed in their minds, as a bear robbed of her whelps in the field: and thy father is a man of war, and will not lodge with the people.

2 Sam 17:9  Behold, he is hid now in some pit, or in some other place: and it will come to pass, when some of them be overthrown at the first, that whosoever heareth it will say, There is a slaughter among the people that follow Absalom.

2 Sam 17:10  And he also that is valiant, whose heart is as the heart of a lion, shall utterly melt: for all Israel knoweth that thy father is a mighty man, and they which be with him are valiant men.

2 Sam 17:11  Therefore I counsel that all Israel be generally gathered unto thee, from Dan even to Beersheba, as the sand that is by the sea for multitude; and that thou go to battle in thine own person.

2 Sam 17:12  So shall we come upon him in some place where he shall be found, and we will light upon him as the dew falleth on the ground: and of him and of all the men that are with him there shall not be left so much as one.

2 Sam 17:13  Moreover, if he be gotten into a city, then shall all Israel bring ropes to that city, and we will draw it into the river, until there be not one small stone found there.

2 Sam 17:14  And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel. For the LORD had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the LORD might bring evil upon Absalom.

As he had planned, Hushai stepped in to try and thwart Absalom and Ahithophel.   He objected to Ahithophelís plan hoping to buy time.  Hushaiís advice was clearly a stalling tactic. He hoped that David could escape farther and gather enough followers to defend himself. Therefore, he tried to talk Absalom into waiting.

In Verse 11, with that purpose in view, Hushai counseled ďthat all Israel be generally gathered unto thee,Ē   Though Hushai had a grandiose plan, it was actually a stalling tactic.    Dan was the northern extremity of Israel.   Beersheba was the southern extremity.   It would take some time to send messengers from one end of the country to the other and then have delegates gather for a conference on the matter.   That is exactly what Hushai hoped would happen.   It would allow David time to further distance himself and consolidate his military assets.  

In verse 14, we find the clear providential working of God at hand.   God providentially put it in the hearts of Absalom and his privy council to accept Hushaiís advice.   Moreover, the intentions of God are made clear: ďthat the LORD might bring evil upon Absalom.Ē That He would.

Prov 8:14  Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength.

Prov 8:15  By me kings reign, and princes decree justice.

Prov 8:16  By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth. 

2 Sam 17:15  Then said Hushai unto Zadok and to Abiathar the priests, Thus and thus did Ahithophel counsel Absalom and the elders of Israel; and thus and thus have I counselled.

2 Sam 17:16  Now therefore send quickly, and tell David, saying, Lodge not this night in the plains of the wilderness, but speedily pass over; lest the king be swallowed up, and all the people that are with him.

2 Sam 17:17  Now Jonathan and Ahimaaz stayed by Enrogel; for they might not be seen to come into the city: and a wench went and told them; and they went and told king David. 

If we look back in the prior chapters, we will recall that Zadok and Abiathar the priests remained loyal to David.   In II Samuel 15:35-36, David had directed that they remain in Jerusalem to gather intelligence of what was going on and send word to him thereof.   Hushai was aware of that and thus informed them of what had transpired.   His advice to David was to get as far from Jerusalem as soon as possible.   Therefore, upon reaching the Jordan River valley and its flood plain, David ought to cross the river and keep on going. Absalom could pursue at any time.    Though Hushai had counseled Absalom to delay action, he advised David the exact opposite.  

In verse 17,  we find Jonathan and Ahimaaz were the young and swift sons of the priests.    Enrogel was a suburban area immediately north of Jerusalem.   There, the priests sons had laid low awaiting information to take to David.    The reference to a wench is simply old English for a maid servant.    The priests sent word out to Enrogel via one of their young maids.  

They in turn made haste to catch up to David with the counsel of Hushai.  

2 Sam 17:18  Nevertheless a lad saw them, and told Absalom: but they went both of them away quickly, and came to a man's house in Bahurim, which had a well in his court; whither they went down.

2 Sam 17:19  And the woman took and spread a covering over the well's mouth, and spread ground corn thereon; and the thing was not known.

2 Sam 17:20  And when Absalom's servants came to the woman to the house, they said, Where is Ahimaaz and Jonathan? And the woman said unto them, They be gone over the brook of water. And when they had sought and could not find them, they returned to Jerusalem.

2 Sam 17:21  And it came to pass, after they were departed, that they came up out of the well, and went and told king David, and said unto David, Arise, and pass quickly over the water: for thus hath Ahithophel counselled against you.

2 Sam 17:22  Then David arose, and all the people that were with him, and they passed over Jordan: by the morning light there lacked not one of them that was not gone over Jordan. 

A young man evidently loyal to Absalom saw them leave in haste and was immediately suspicious.   Bahurim was a town on the east side of the Mount of Olives on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho.   Jonathan and Ahimaaz likely knew that David had headed in the direction and may have learned that David had paused there as noted in chapter 16.   However, it is evident that they were aware they had been spotted and needed to hide.   Upon arriving at Bahurim, they found a man loyal to David and sought refuge.   He had a well within his courtyard which evidently only had a board covering over it.   Therefore, his wife placed these two young men therein, covered it over, and then spread grain on top of it to conceal it. No one was the wiser.    The lady of the house misled them, intimating that they had headed for Jordan and crossed it.   Absalomís men could not find them so they returned.  

In verse 21, after the danger passed, the young men climbed out of the well and ran to Davidís encampment.   They urged him to cross the Jordan lest Ahithophelís plan be adopted after all.   David therefore paid heed to the warning of his friend Hushai.   By dawn, he and his party had completely crossed the Jordan River to safer territory to the east.

 Matthew Henry said this in his notes:

We must now leave Davidís enemies pleasing themselves with the thoughts of a sure victory by following Hushaiís counsel, and sending a summons, no doubt, to all the tribes of Israel, to come to the general rendezvous at a place appointed, pursuant to that counsel; and we next find Davidís friends consulting how to get him notice of all this, that he might steer his course accordingly. Hushai tells the priests what had passed in council, v. 15. But, it should seem, he was not sure but that yet Ahithophelís counsel might be followed, and was therefore jealous lest, if he made not the best of his way, the king would be swallowed up, and all the people that were with him, v. 16. Perhaps, as he was called in to give advice (v. 5), so he was dismissed before they came to that resolve (v. 14) in favour of his advice, or he feared they might afterwards change their mind. However, it was good to provide against the worst, and therefore to hasten those valuable lives out of the reach of these destroyers. Such strict guards did Absalom set upon all the avenues to Jerusalem that they had much ado to get this necessary intelligence to David. 1. The young priests that were to be the messengers were forced to retire secretly out of the city, by En-rogel, which signifies, as some say, the fountain of a spy. Surely it went ill with Jerusalem when two such faithful priests as they were might not be seen to come into the city. 2. Instructions were sent to them by a poor simple young woman, who probably went to that well under pretence of fetching water, v. 17. If she carried the message by word of mouth, there was danger of her making some mistake or blunder in it; but Providence can make an ignorant girl a trusty messenger, and serve its wise counsels by the foolish things of the world.[2]

2 Sam 17:23  And when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his ass, and arose, and gat him home to his house, to his city, and put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died, and was buried in the sepulchre of his father.

2 Sam 17:24  Then David came to Mahanaim. And Absalom passed over Jordan, he and all the men of Israel with him.

Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem, when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he went home, put his house in order and hanged himself.   The conceit of this man is evident.

Because his advice was passed over, he was so humiliated that he committed suicide.   Pride is a terribly destructive force.   In verse 24,  we find David coming to the city of Mahanaim.  Mahanaim was a town on the east side of the Jordan River, north of Jericho, and some miles inland in the greater region of Gilead.    Absalom organized his forces and went in pursuit of his father.  

Prov 8:13  The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.

Prov 8:14  Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength.


II.   Absalom Pursue David  

2 Sam 17:25  And Absalom made Amasa captain of the host instead of Joab: which Amasa was a man's son, whose name was Ithra an Israelite, that went in to Abigail the daughter of Nahash, sister to Zeruiah Joab's mother.

2 Sam 17:26  So Israel and Absalom pitched in the land of Gilead. 

Some details of Absalomís primary general are noted.   Absalomís Ďchief of staffí was Amasa.  

As noted, Joab (Davidís general) and Amasa were cousins and David was the uncle of them both.

The civil war about to develop certainly would be a mutually destructive fight.  Absalom and his forces therefore also encamped in the region of Gilead in preparation for battle.  

2 Sam 17:27  And it came to pass, when David was come to Mahanaim, that Shobi the son of Nahash of Rabbah of the children of Ammon, and Machir the son of Ammiel of Lodebar, and Barzillai the Gileadite of Rogelim,

2 Sam 17:28  Brought beds, and basins, and earthen vessels, and wheat, and barley, and flour, and parched corn, and beans, and lentiles, and parched pulse,

2 Sam 17:29  And honey, and butter, and sheep, and cheese of kine, for David, and for the people that were with him, to eat: for they said, The people is hungry, and weary, and thirsty, in the wilderness. 

Three friends of David from the region of Gilead, upon hearing what had happened, immediately began to bring supplies and provisions for David and his forces.   Noted are Shobi from Ammon, Machir from Lodebar, and Barzillai from Rogelim.   They brought bedding and all manner of foodstuffs for David and his camp.   Once again, the providential hand of God is apparent.  David was supplied with all that he needed in the wilderness.  

It is to the comfort of all who fear God the fact that He has an over ruling hand in all counsels and a strong voice in all resolves of the just and the unjust.


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Prov 4:18  But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.


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[1]               J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.

[2]               Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henryís Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.