Study Notes

2Samuel 18:1-19:43


We have seen David - and those loyal to him - flee from Jerusalem because of the rebellion of his son Ab-shaw-LOME. As we finished our study of chapter 17, David was warned by an in-house spy to cross the Jordan, for Ab-shaw-LOME was coming after him with an army raised from all over Israel.

18:1-4 Three Commanders

As David is about to enter into battle, he finds himself with an army of thousands. He divides them into thirds, appointing as commanders Yo-AWB, Ab-ee-SHAH-ee the son of Tser-oo-YAW, and Ee-THAH-ee the GHIT-ite.

Yo-AWB had been the commander of David's army since he first became king. Ab-ee-SHAH-ee was Yo-AWB's brother, and Ee-THAH-ee was from Gath - a man who had only recently come to David's kingdom (2Samuel 15).

I have discovered only in the last year or two the wisdom of delegation. The wise man realizes that he cannot do it all on his own. Moses learned that he couldn't judge every dispute among the people of Israel, but needed to delegate that responsibility to other leaders (Exo. 18). The apostles couldn't devote themselves to prayer and the Word if they were busy waiting tables, so they delegated that responsibility to deacons (Acts 6). Even Jesus was able to cover more ground by sending the disciples out in pairs to preach the gospel in the towns of Israel (Luke 9).

The one who seeks to be in control will ultimately burn out, and burn out the people he is supposed to be serving. As Moses' father-in-law told him,

Exod. 18:17-18 ..."The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone."

The bigger your job is, the more responsibility you have, the wiser it is to divide up the army, delegating to other commanders.

You Should Not Go Out

Although David was planning on going to war, the people wouldn't hear of it. In their thinking, even if many in their army were killed, it wouldn't make much difference. But if David were killed, the whole battle would have been for nothing, since Ab-shaw-LOME would be the uncontested king.

18:5 Deal Gently With Absalom

The king informed his 3 commanders in everyone's hearing that he wanted Ab-shaw-LOME to be protected. Even though he was leading a murderous rebellion, he was still David's beloved son.

18:6-8 The Forest Devoured

When the battle was engaged, David's men proved formidable. But even more formidable was the forest that they were doing battle in. The majority of men that died were actually killed by the forest than by David's men. Hit by branches, falling down ravines, and slamming into trees, Ab-shaw-LOME's army was having a terrible time.

18:9 Absalom Gets Stuck

As the dense forest was claiming many lives of his army, Ab-shaw-LOME himself lost a battle with an oak tree. He was caught in its branches. Remember that we read in chapter 14,

2Sam. 14:25-26 Now in all Israel was no one as handsome as Absalom, so highly praised; from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no defect in him. And when he cut the hair of his head (and it was at the end of every year that he cut {it,} for it was heavy on him so he cut it), he weighed the hair of his head at 200 shekels by the king's weight.

Because of this, it is assumed that he was caught by his hair in the tree. The historian Josephus writes this as well:

"...all David's men ran violently upon Absalom, for he was easily known by his beauty and tallness. He was himself also afraid lest his enemies should seize on him, so he got upon the king's mule, and fled; but as he was carried with violence, and noise, and a great motion, as being himself light, he entangled his hair greatly in the large boughs of a knotty tree that spread a great way, and there he hung, after a surprising manner; and as for the beast, it went on farther, and that swiftly, as if his master had been still upon his back; but he, hanging in the air upon the boughs, was taken by his enemies." (Josephus, Antiquities, 6.10.2)

But in actuality, this does not seem to be the case. Although it sounds like poetic justice to have Ab-shaw-LOME hanging by his hair, the word that the writer of 2Samuel uses is head, not hair.

18:10-15 Joab Kills Absalom

When one of Yo-AWB's men saw this, he reported it to him. Yo-AWB was angry that he hadn't killed Ab-shaw-LOME. But the man protested, knowing that David had commanded that Ab-shaw-LOME be protected. But Yo-AWB wanted to hear nothing about it. He went himself and killed Ab-shaw-LOME as he hung in the oak tree.

Yo-AWB was a guy that always did his own thing. You recall that he was the one who'd started the battles between David's servants and Eesh-BO-sheth's servants when Eesh-BO-sheth was made king of Israel after his father Saul died (2Samuel 2). He was the one who had killed Abner after David had made a covenant of peace with him (2Samuel 3). He was also the guy that orchestrated the deception of David by sending the woman from Tek-O-ah to pretend that her only son was going to be killed.

Yo-AWB was supposed to be under David's authority, but he was constantly doing his own thing. Whenever he disagreed with David's decisions, he just decided to do it his own way. Are you like that? Each of us is in submission to someone. Whether it's the boss at work, the husband at home, the teacher or parents, or God Himself, we're all under authority. And that authority will sometimes, or maybe all the time, make decisions that you disagree with. How do you handle that? Do you submit? Or do you go your own way?

The Bible makes it clear that we are to submit to the authorities over us, regardless of whether they are making the best decisions.

18:16-17 Absalom Is Buried

Now that Ab-shaw-LOME was dead, Yo-AWB knew there was no more reason to be killing the men of Israel. He blew the trumpet and stopped the battle.

Ab-shaw-LOME's body was thrown into a pit and covered in a massive pile of stones. I think this in itself was poetic justice. Ab-shaw-LOME was a rebellious son of David. The law of God stated,

Deut. 21:18-21 "If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his home town. And they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.' Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear {of it} and fear.

Ab-shaw-LOME's rebellion ended with the people stoning him!

18:18 Absalom's Pillar

Ab-shaw-LOME had set up a pillar to preserve his name, since he had no sons to carry his name forward. Now, we did read in chapter 14 that

2Sam. 14:27 Absalom there were born three sons, and one daughter whose name was Tamar; she was a woman of beautiful appearance.

Because the sons names were not given, and Ab-shaw-LOME had said, "I have no son," most historians believe that the babies must have died in infancy.

So, because he had no sons, Ab-shaw-LOME set up a pillar to preserve his name.

Many of us want to leave our mark in the world. We want to be the most famous, the richest, the fastest, the coolest. We want to know that we've done something, that our name will live on after we die. But that ambition is inherently prideful and sinful. What we should be doing is insuring that the name of Jesus Christ continues on. We should be working towards the name of Jesus Christ making a mark in this world. And by doing that, we will insure that our own pillar is established as well. Jesus told the church in Philadelphia,

Rev. 3:11-12 "I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, in order that no one take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God..."

The pillar that you erect becomes a tribute to your own pride. But if you let God establish that pillar for you, it serves as a testimony of your faithfulness.

18:19-33 The Two Runners

Before there were telegraphs and telephones, radios and radars, news of battles was brought from the front lines to the commanders by runners.

Akh-ee-MAH-ats was the son of Tsaw-DOKE the priest. He asked Yo-AWB to let him run to the king to bring the news of the victory. But Yo-AWB would only send such a good man with good news. He told Akh-ee-MAH-ats that he could not go, because the news was not all good: the king's son was dead. So he sent a Cushite to deliver the news instead.

But Akh-ee-MAH-ats wasn't content with this situation. He wanted to be the one to run to give David the good news. He ran and passed the Cushite, and got to David first. He came and reported that all was well, they had won the battle. But when David asked what had happened to Ab-shaw-LOME, he couldn't bring himself to tell David that Ab-shaw-LOME was dead.

David didn't get the whole story until the Cushite came and told him everything he had seen.

Saints, it is not enough to be willing to run. You must be willing to bring the entire message. If you want to be the guy that only brings the good news, then you will be told to "turn aside and stand here." You must be willing to present the entire message if you want to be effective, a successful runner that is rewarded.

I have met many people in ministry that want the popularity of standing before the people week after week. They want to bring the good news so that people will be happy and refreshed. But that is only half of the message. If you want to bring the good news of a Savior, you must be willing to bring the bad news of sin. If you want to preach the good news of heaven, you must be willing to teach the bad news of hell.

19:1-4 David's Grief

David was so grief-stricken over his son that he would have preferred to have died himself. He was so despondent that when the army should have been rejoicing in having won the battle, instead they were bummed.

19:5-8 Joab's Rebuke

Yo-AWB rebuked David for this behavior, saying that he was shaming all the people that had fought in the battle. He told David to quit the pity party and congratulate his soldiers.

19:9-12 Calling For The King's Return

When the people of Israel were speaking of bringing back David, he sent an appeal through the priests Tsaw-DOKE and Ab-yaw-THAWR to the people of Judah, asking why David's own tribe had not yet gathered to bring the king back to Jerusalem.

19:13-14 Amasa Restored

David also replaced Yo-AWB as commander of his army with Am-aw-SAW. How do you think Yo-AWB is going to respond to this slight? We'll find out in chapter 20.

Remember that Am-aw-SAW was the guy who had been appointed as the head of Ab-shaw-LOME's army (2Sam. 17:25).

If I were David, I believe that this is one of the most difficult things I could have ever done. Am-aw-SAW had defected, rebelled against David. Gone over to the other side. A man like that, I would wonder if I could ever trust again.

But David's example is deafening. This same grace was given to me years ago, by a pastor whom I'd rebelled from, who I'd turned against. And when I repented, I wasn't kept at arm's length. I was completely restored, and even entrusted with more ministry.

Jesus taught,

Matt. 6:14-15 "For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions."

Matt. 18:21-35 Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a certain king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. And when he had begun to settle {them,} there was brought to him one who owed him ten thousand talents. But since he did not have {the means} to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. The slave therefore falling down, prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will repay you everything.' And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and {began} to choke {him,} saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.' So his fellow slave fell down and {began} to entreat him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.' He was unwilling however, but went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you entreated me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?' And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."

True forgiveness erases the transgression. It is forgotten and never brought into account again. If God has forgiven us, we must be willing to forgive others with true forgiveness.

19:15 David Restored

In response to David's appeal, Judah came to Ghil-GAWL to bring the king back across the Jordan, and restore him to his rightful place in Jerusalem.

19:16-23 Shimei Asks For Forgiveness

You recall that Shim-EE the son of Gay-RAW of Bakh-oo-REEM was the man who had cursed David and thrown rocks at him in chapter 16.

When he heard that David was in fact still the king, he and a thousand men of Benjamin - along with Tsee-BAW, the deceitful servant of Mef-ee-BO-sheth - came and helped David's household ford the river.

When David came to cross, Shim-EE fell down before him and confessed his sin.

Ab-ee-SHAH-ee, the mighty man who had originally wanted to cut off Shim-EE's head, said again, "Shouldn't he die for cursing the king?" But David refused to put Shim-EE to death.

19:24-30 Mephibosheth Restored

Now Mef-ee-BO-sheth meets David as he enters the land. David had been given the wrong information about Mef-ee-BO-sheth earlier.

2Sam. 16:3-4 Then the king said, "And where is your master's son?" And Ziba said to the king, "Behold, he is staying in Jerusalem, for he said, ‘Today the house of Israel will restore the kingdom of my father to me.'" So the king said to Ziba, "Behold, all that belongs to Mephibosheth is yours."...

Tsee-BAW had lied about Mef-ee-BO-sheth. But now David is hearing the true story. Thus, he decides to divide the land between Mef-ee-BO-sheth and Tsee-BAW.

19:31-39 Barzillai

Bar-zil-LAH-ee the Ghil-AW-dite of Ro-gel-EEM was one of the three men that had generously supplied David's people with supplies in Makh-an-AH-yim at the end of chapter 17.

He came to watch David cross the Jordan and enter back into his kingdom, but when David invited him to come live in Jerusalem, he declined. He was old, with not too much longer to live. His mind was going, along with life's enjoyments and his hearing. He decided to ask for this blessing to be bestowed upon his servant Kim-HAWM.

This got me thinking this week: am I like Bar-zil-LAH-ee? When I receive a blessing, do I keep it for me, or give it to someone else? Aren't blessings meant to be shared or given away? How often does this enter into my thinking?

19:40-43 Conflicts Between Israel And Judah

Now a jealous conflict arises between the men of Israel and the men of Judah. Why was Judah bringing David back in, when Israel was larger, and they had been the ones to first want him back.

This division will continue to increase in the land of the Jews, until finally civil war will break out after the reign of King Solomon.

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