2 Kings xv.
Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Before him. Romulus instituted the 300 guards, whom he called Celeres, for the like purpose. (Calmet) — Absalom’s ambition could not wait patiently for the death of his father, who was not yet sixty years old, and had been first anointed forty years before, ver. 7. He looked upon himself as the heir apparent, Amnon being now slain, and Cheliab (or Daniel) either dead, as it is thought, or unfit for government, while Solomon was only eight years old. (Salien) — The quality of his mother, and his own personal qualifications, made him despise his brethren, and he began to assume the equipage of a king. (Calmet) — David considered this as only the effect of juvenile vanity, and he had not a mind to irritate him, without the utmost necessity. (Salien) — Hebrew, “Absalom prepared for himself a chariot, (Protestants, chariots) and horses,” &c. (Haydock) — It is not certain whether he had any other horsemen but those who mounted the chariots. Horses were then very scarce in Israel. (Calmet) — Adonias afterwards imitated his brother’s ambition, during his father’s life; (3 Kings i. 5.) so that evil was continually raised up against David, out of his own house, chap. xii. 11.
Ver. 2. Israel. Absalom rises early for wickedness. He assumes the character of a most zealous and disinterested judge, as if to contrast his conduct with the remissness of some appointed by the king; though the Holy Ghost bears witness to the integrity of David, chap. viii. 15. Who would not be deceived by such appearances, if the arts of hypocrites had not taught us to examine things to the bottom, and to be upon our guard? If thy eye be evil, thy whole body will be darksome. [Matthew vi. 23.] The intention decides all. (Haydock)
Ver. 5. Kissed him. Engaging affability! How often abused by the ambitious, for similar purposes! (Haydock) — Thus acted Otho. Protendens manum, adorare vulgus, jacere oscula et omnia serviliter pro dominatione. (Tacitus, Hist. i.) — “Stretching out his hand, he bowed to the common people, dispensed his kisses at random, and performed all the acts of servility to obtain the throne.” (Haydock)
Ver. 6. Enticed. Hebrew, “stole.” The people were not aware of his designs. (Calmet) — Absalom rendered them dissatisfied with the present government, and led them to expect better days, under his administration. (Haydock)
Ver. 7. Forty, which Vatable dates from the time when the people petitioned for a king; Salien, from the first anointing of David. (Menochius) — It is probable enough that this number has been substituted instead of four, which Josephus, Theodoret, Syriac, Arabic, and many Latin manuscripts read; and Absalom would employ this term in securing the interest of Israel, before he declared himself openly their king. (Calmet) — He had been so long at Jerusalem, since his return. (Salien) — The canon of Hebrew verity, supposed to be made about the ninth century, is said (by Martinnay; Haydock) to be altered by some correcting hand, from four to forty. (Kennicott) — This is the famous Memmian canon, which Theodulph, bishop of Orleans, is believed to have ordered, as the standard of truth, according to the Hebrew copies of that day: (Haydock) and this seems to have guided the Ben. editor of St. Jerome’s works, and of his translation; so that it is no wonder if “the printed copies agree in so many places with the corrupted Hebrew.” Canon Memmianus purè leget juxta Hebrĉum, quod nos edidimus. (Note on 2 Paralipomenon xiii. 3, 17.) The Vulgate of Sixtus V, in that passage, as well as in the present, reads the smaller numbers, as he was guided by the best Latin copies, whereas Clement VIII has also consulted “the Hebrew fountains.” The former, says Kennicott, (Diss. ii. p. 205) “seems to have been printed on a juster plan….and the old Latin version is likely to be found more pure in the edition of Sixtus than in that of Clement, since the latter seems to have corrected his Latin by the modern (i.e., the corrupted) Hebrew copies.” Dr. James observes, that “almost all the Latin editions received in the Church, for many years, (preceding 1590) agree with Sixtus,” who here reads quatuor, with many others; so that Grotius is well supported in having pronounced so decisively, “without doubt there is a mistake, two letters having been added at the end of arbá. The thing itself declares that four years had elapsed.” (Kennicott) — It appears to be indubitable, that some mistakes have taken place with regard to numbers. But that this place is incorrect may not be so certain, as the chronology of Salien, Usher, &c., explains it well enough. The Hebrew text was esteemed more correct when the last editions of St. Jerome, and of the Vulgate, were given, than it is at present. (Haydock)
Ver. 8. Lord. The pretext seemed very bad, since he ought not to have delayed so long to perform his vow. Moreover, the usual places for sacrifice were Gabaon or Sion. But Absalom might plead a respect for the patriarchs, who were buried at Hebron. (St. Jerome, Trad.) (Menochius)
Ver. 10. Spies, or men to give a plausible appearance to his ambition, and to insinuate that all was done according to order, and with David’s approbation. “The first word (or step) is the most difficult,” on such occasions; (Tacitus, Hist. ii.; Grotius) and those who find themselves incautiously entangled, find a repugnance to recede. (Haydock) — Reigneth. He was solemnly anointed, chap. xix. 10. (Menochius)
Ver. 11. Design. Their hearts had been stolen, ver. 6. They only meant to do honour to the prince, but by no means to join in his rebellion, like the rest. (Calmet)
Ver. 12. Achitophel, the grandfather of Bethsabee; to revenge whose dishonour, he had instigated the young prince to revolt, and had planned his rebellion; (Salien) so that he was every ready to lend his assistance. (Calmet)
Ver. 13. Absalom. How came they to abandon a king, appointed by heaven, and adorned with so many virtues? God was resolved to punish him. Many are always desirous of novelty. David had lately been guilty of two scandalous crimes. Joab remained unpunished, and arrogant; the judges neglected their duty, &c., ver. 3. Some had still a partiality for the family of Saul. (Calmet) (Grotius)
Ver. 14. Ruin, of a house falling. Hebrew, “evil.” David gives way to the fury of the rebels, hoping that they will enter into themselves, without bloodshed. He departs on foot, like a penitent, acknowledging the justice of God. Fear does not prompt him to leave Jerusalem, which was a place of such strength, (chap. v. 6.) nor are his attendants abandoned on a sudden by that courage, which made some of them a match for a whole army. David disposes of all things with great coolness and prudence. (Calmet) — He wishes to appease God. (Menochius)
Ver. 16. Concubines. That is, wives of an inferior degree, (Challoner; Genesis xxv.; Worthington) who might perhaps have some influence to pacify the rioters.
Ver. 17. House, or palace, (Haydock) at the foot of the walls, (Calmet) that all who were well disposed, might join the king’s standard. Hebrew, “in a place that was far off;” (Haydock) or, “this house of flight (this family of David, in flight) stopped.” (Calmet)
Ver. 18. Phelethi, the king’s foreign guards, of Philistine extraction, chap. viii. 18. — Gethites, who had been probably induced to enter his service by Ethai, ver. 19. (Calmet) — Men. This number David kept up, in honour of those valiant companions who had defended him at Odollam, &c. (Salien) — It is observable, that David is attended only by his own family, and by strangers; representing Jesus Christ, who rejects the Synagogue and its sacrifices, while he makes choice of the Gentiles. (Calmet)
Ver. 19. Ethai. Many assert that he was the son of Achis, and had embraced the true religion. (Menochius) — King; Absalom, who will not molest you. (Haydock) — Some translate the Hebrew, “Return from the king.” (Syriac [and] Arabic)
Ver. 20. The Lord. Hebrew, “mercy and truth with thee.” As thou hast acted towards me, so mayest thou be rewarded. (Haydock)
Ver. 23. Cedron. Hebrew nachal Kidron, may signify, “the shady torrent,” or “vale,” as it is styled by Josephus. It does not take its name from cedars. It is dry in summer, and when filled with water, in only three steps across. (Doubdan xxvii.) — Desert, of Bethel, (Calmet) or of Jericho, where St. John the Baptist and our Saviour dwelt for some time. David passed over Kedron, only after he had dismissed the priests. (Menochius)
Ver. 24. Went up to the ark, or along with the rest. (Calmet)
Ver. 25. City. Abiathar had consulted the Lord for David, and received no answer; whence the king concluded that he had not suffered enough. (Menochius) — David displays a faith which could hardly have been expected of the carnal Jews. He confesses that God will reward the virtuous, and punish the wicked, independently of the ark, the symbol of his presence, and of which he deemed himself unworthy. (Calmet)
Ver. 27. Seer, supposing he was high priest, along with Abiathar, he might be thus addressed as one who consulted God by the ephod, as he might also, if he presided over the prophets, like Chonenias, 1 Paralipomenon xv. 22. (Dionysius) (Menochius) — Hebrew, “Art not thou a seer?” a prudent man, who may be of greater service to me in the city; (Haydock; or) seest thou not “the state of my affairs?” Septuagint, “See and return.” Follow my advice, or then act as your own wisdom dictates. (Calmet)
Ver. 30. Weeping, &c. David on this occasion wept for his sins, which he knew were the cause of all his sufferings. (Challoner) — Barefoot, like a criminal, or one in mourning, Isaias xx. 4., and Ezechiel xxiv. 17. (Calmet) — Covered, that the people might not see him. (Worthington)
Ver. 31. Infatuate: “render useless;” (Theodotion) “dissipate,” Septuagint. (Calmet) — God hindered the wise counsel of Achitophel from being regarded. (Haydock)
Ver. 32. The Lord, before he lost sight of the holy city, where the ark was kept. (Calmet) — Arachite, a convert, (Menochius) from Arach, or Edessa. (St. Jerome, Trad. in Genesis x.)
Ver. 33. To me, as he was perhaps advanced in years, though very prudent. (Menochius)
Ver. 34. Defeat; (dissipabis) “render of no effect.” (Haydock) — Thus princes keep spies in an enemy’s country. (Calmet)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Absalom’s policy and conspiracy. David is obliged to flee.
1 Now *after these things Absalom made himself chariots, and horsemen, and fifty men, to run before him.
2 And Absalom, rising up early, stood by the entrance of the gate, and when any man had business to come to the king’s judgment, Absalom called him to him, and said: Of what city art thou? He answered, and said: Thy servant is of such a tribe of Israel.
3 And Absalom answered him: Thy words seem to me good and just. But there is no man appointed by the king to hear thee. And Absalom said:
4 O that they would make me judge over the land, that all that have business might come to me, and I might do them justice.
5 Moreover, when any man came to him to salute him, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him.
6 And this he did to all Israel that came for judgment, to be heard by the king, and he enticed the hearts of the men of Israel.
7 And after forty years, Absalom said to king David: Let me go, and pay my vows which I have vowed to the Lord in Hebron.
8 For thy servant made a vow, when he was in Gessur of Syria, saying: If the Lord shall bring me again into Jerusalem, I will offer sacrifice to the Lord.
9 And king David said to him: Go in peace. And he arose, and went to Hebron.
10 And Absalom sent spies into all the tribes of Israel, saying: As soon as you shall hear the sound of the trumpet, say ye: Absalom reigneth in Hebron.
11 Now there went with Absalom two hundred men out of Jerusalem that were called, going with simplicity of heart, and knowing nothing of the design.
12 Absalom also sent for Achitophel, the Gilonite, David’s counsellor, from his city, Gilo. And while he was offering sacrifices, there was a strong conspiracy, and the people running together increased with Absalom.
13 And there came a messenger to David, saying: All Israel, with their whole heart, followeth Absalom.
14 And David said to his servants, that were with him in Jerusalem: Arise, and let us flee: for we shall not escape else from the face of Absalom: make haste to go out, lest he come and overtake us, and bring ruin upon us, and smite the city with the edge of the sword.
15 And the king’s servants said to him: Whatsoever our lord the king shall command, we, thy servants, will willingly execute.
16 And the king went forth, and all his household on foot: *and the king left ten women, his concubines, to keep the house.
17 And the king going forth, and all Israel, on foot, stood afar off from the house:
18 And all his servants walked by him, and the bands of the Cerethi, and the Phelethi, and all the Gethites, valiant warriors, six hundred men, who had followed him from Geth on foot, went before the king.
19 And the king said to Ethai, the Gethite: Why comest thou with us? return and dwell with the king; for thou art a stranger, and art come out of thy own place.
20 Yesterday thou camest, and to-day shalt thou be forced to go forth with us? but I shall go whither I am going: return thou, and take back thy brethren with thee, and the Lord will shew thee mercy, and truth, because thou hast shewed grace and fidelity.
21 And Ethai answered the king, saying: As the Lord liveth, and as my lord the king liveth: in what place soever thou shalt be, my lord the king, either in death, or in life, there will thy servant be.
22 And David said to Ethai: Come, and pass over. And Ethai, the Gethite, passed, and all the men that were with him, and the rest of the people.
23 And they all wept with a loud voice, and all the people passed over: the king also himself went over the brook Cedron, and all the people marched towards the way that looketh to the desert.
24 And Sadoc, the priest, also came, and all the Levites with him, carrying the ark of the covenant of God, and they set down the ark of God: and Abiathar went up, till all the people that was come out of the city had done passing.
25 And the king said to Sadoc: Carry back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find grace in the sight of the Lord, he will bring me again, and will shew me both it, and his tabernacle.
26 But if he shall say to me: Thou pleasest me not; I am ready: let him do that which is good before him.
27 And the king said to Sadoc, the priest: O seer, return into the city in peace: And let Achimaas, thy son, and Jonathan, the son of Abiathar, your two sons, be with you.
28 Behold I will lie hid in the plains of the wilderness, till there come word from you to certify me.
29 So Sadoc and Abiathar carried back the ark of God into Jerusalem: and they tarried there.
30 But David went up by the ascent of Mount Olivet, going up and weeping, walking barefoot, and with his head covered; and all the people that were with him, went up with their heads covered, weeping.
31 And it was told David, that Achitophel also was in the conspiracy with Absalom; and David said: Infatuate, O Lord, I beseech thee, the counsel of Achitophel.
32 And when David was come to the top of the mountain, where he was about to adore the Lord, behold Chusai, the Arachite, came to meet him with his garment rent, and his head covered with earth.
33 And David said to him: If thou come with me, thou wilt be a burden to me.
34 But if thou return into the city, and wilt say to Absalom, I am thy servant, O king: as I have been thy father’s servant, so I will be thy servant: thou shalt defeat the counsel of Achitophel.
35 And thou hast with thee Sadoc, and Abiathar, the priests: and what thing soever thou shalt hear out of the king’s house, thou shalt tell it to Sadoc, and Abiathar, the priests.
36 And there are with them their two sons, Achimaas, the son of Sadoc, and Jonathan, the son of Abiathar: and you shall send by them to me every thing that you shall hear.
37 Then Chusai, the friend of David, went into the city, and Absalom came into Jerusalem.
1: Year of the World 2980, Year before Christ 1024.
16: Year of the World 2981.