Having heard what Ahithophel and Hushai had to say in the way of advising how to proceed against David, who had fled the city, Absalom and the elders had exclaimed as by one voice that the advice of Hushai was better than the counsel of Ahithophel. But might not Absalom, after calm reflection, revert to the counsel of Ahithophel? Only God knew, and He was silent. It was as activated by the fear that Ahithophel’s counsel might still be followed that Hushai hurried to instruct the high priests in waiting to tell David that by all means he must remove across the Jordan that same night, lest he be overwhelmed by Ahithophel’s superior forces. He must also be told just what Ahithophel advised and what he, Hushai, counseled in order that he might see for himself how urgent it was that he bestir himself without a moment’s delay.

Then said Hushai to Zadok and Abiathar and the priests, So and so hath Ahithophel counseled Absalom and the elders of Israel, and so and so counseled I, even I. And now, send speedily and tell David saying, Not shalt thou lodge this night in the plains of the wilderness, but thou shalt pass over by all means, lest the king be consumed and all the people that are with him. (15, 16).*

The sacred writer states indeed (II Sam. 17:14) that “the Lord had commanded (that is, ordained) to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel.” But this was to be­come clear, and hence it became clear to our writer, only from the course of subsequent events. At the mo­ment there was no revelation to that effect. This ex­plains Hushai’s great concern for the safety of David. He was ignorant at the time of the Lord’s purpose.

It might be asked why David, when the report of the revolt first reached him, did not inquire of the Lord, as had always been his custom in the past. A few examples: When he had received tidings that the Philistines were fighting against Keilah and had robbed the threshing floors, “he inquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go and smite the Philistines?” And God immediately returned answer: “Go and smite the

Philistines and save Keilah.” I Sam. 23:1, 2. Dur­ing this same time and in response to a second inquiry, he received a revelation to the effect that he was to go down to Keilah in that the Lord would deliver the Philistines into his hand. (4). Yet a third time he earnestly prayed: “Lord God of Israel, thy servant hath certainly heard that Saul seeketh to come to Keilah, to destroy the city for my sake. Will the men of Keilah deliver me up into his hand? Will Saul come down as thy servant hath heard? O Lord God of Israel, I beseech thee, tell thy servant.” The Lord answered: “He will come down.” His final request was: “Will the men of Keilah deliver me up?” The Lord replied also to this entreaty of His servant: “They will deliver thee up.” When Saul had died in battle, it was by the direction of God that David went up to Hebron. “And it came to pass after this, that David inquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah? And the Lord said unto him, Go up. And David said, Whither shall I go up? And he said unto Hebron.” (II Sam. 2:1, 2).

Why did David not inquire of the Lord in this crisis? He could have. He could have said to the Lord: “Will the inhabitants of Jerusalem deliver me up into Absalom’s hand? Shall I flee the city?” Or, later: “Has Ahithophel’s counsel been truly defeated? Shall I cross the Jordan or abide this night here in the plains of the wilderness?” But no, he forbore. The priests came to him there in the plains of the wil­derness. But instead of asking them to inquire for him of the Lord, he besought them to return to Jerusalem and take back the ark of the covenant that they had brought with them.

David’s conduct can be explained. First, he knew the Lord’s will well enough. Had not Nathan said: “The sword shall not depart from thy house”? That sword was now striking at him as wielded by his own son. It was God’s will. So He had determined. For David had sinned grievously, and was but reaping what he had sown. Should he then now be making inquiries? That would be like asking the Lord to save him from that sword and restore him to the throne. But what right had he, vile sinner that he was, to life and the throne? He felt it, and felt it deeply. So he kept silence. He humbled himself. He wept and had his head covered and went barefoot. And to his companions in the flight he said: “Let the Lord do with me what seemeth good in his eyes.” That was better than crying for his throne in that hour. Hum­bling himself under the mighty hand of God, He would again exalt him in due time.

Besides, though the sword of which Nathan had spoken was now suspended over his own head, he knew that he could not perish by it because of the word of the Lord that had come to him some years previous (II Sam. 7:12). According to this word, David would die a natural death and not a violent one by the hand of a usurper and when his days were full, thus in a good old age. And having slept with his fathers, he would be succeeded in the throne by a seed whose throne the Lord would establish forever. That seed was not, certainly, the godless Absalom. Such then was the promise to David. And as resting in that promise, he left the Holy city and ascended mount Olivet and worshipped there. He didn’t have to en­quire whether it was the Lord’s will that he should flee Jerusalem. For it was too evident that it was His will.

It was now the turn of the two high priests—Zadok and Abiathar—to act and act speedily. But their problem was how to get Hushai’s message for David to Enregel, that is, to a well by this name near the out­skirts of the holy city, where Jonathan and Ahimaaz, the two sons of the high priests, were waiting to relay to David any or all information regarding the progress of the insurrection that was to come to them from the high priest. Jonathan and Ahimaaz, it will be recalled were among the priests who had joined David in his flight. On their return, they had been stationed at this well, as they could not have left the city again, had they reentered it, without arousing suspicion. For Absalom’s spies were everywhere. And for this same reason, the two high priests could not go out to the well. Absalom would be informed. And he would be certain to conclude that their purpose was to con­tact David. So they sent a woman, their own trusted maidservant. That it was thought that her going would attract little or no attention might have been due to her having burdened herself with a bundle of soiled clothes. Everyone who saw her would con­clude that her reason for leaving the city was that she had a wash to do at the well. For as its name signifies (Enrogel: well of treading) it was at this well that the women of the city did their washings. In those ancient times this task was performed by treading with the feet and not by rubbing with the hands.

But the purpose of the subterfuge was only barely achieved. The woman did reach the well, where she communicated her message to the waiting priests. But the three of them were observed by one of Absa­lom’s spies. To the mind of the spy the presence of the two priests at this well in conversation with the maid servant of the high priest could have but one ex­planation. The three of them were cooperating in the business of keeping David informed regarding the state of affairs in Jerusalem. He quickly reported his discovery to Absalom. And he was but a na-ar, a lad, a teenage youth. What this helps to establish is that the Absalom revolt was to a large extent a youth movement.

Well aware that they had been spied upon and feeling certain that Absalom would send his servants in pursuit of them, the two priests quickly went away in quest for a place to hide. A man in Bahurim, evi­dently friendly to David, allowed them to conceal themselves in a dry well in his yard. When they had gone down into it, the man’s wife obligingly replaced the cover, over which she then spread some ground corn, so that no one could tell that the man had a well there in his court.

And Jonathan and Ahimaaz were standing by Enrogel. And the maid servant,¹ [a wench], came and told them, that they might go and tell David. [And they went and told David²], for not might they be seen to come into the city. Nevertheless a lad saw them and told Absalom. And went the both of them away with haste, and came to the house of a man in Bahurim, and there was to him in his court a well, and they went down there.

And the woman took and spread the covering over the surface of the well, and spread thereon ground corn, and not was the thing known. 17-19.

Soon thereafter the servants of Absalom made their appearance. It was the woman who took it upon herself to handle them. Evidently she had prepared herself for this moment. For in reply to their ques­tion: “Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan?” she says instantaneously and with spirit, it may be imagined: “They have passed over the brook of the water,” prob­ably a small creek in the vicinity. But didn’t she have them with her there in the pit? The woman can be forgiven that lie. As misdirected by the woman, the servants may have sought for a long time. Despair­ing of finding the fugitives, they returned to Jerusa­lem.

And came the servants of Absalom unto the woman to the house. And they said, Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan? And said to them the woman, They have passed over the brook of water. And they sought but could not find (them). And they returned to Jerusa­lem.” 20.

When the servants had again passed through the vicinity on their way home and were out of sight, the two priests left their hiding place, went to David, and delivered their message. “Arise and pass hastily over the waters; for thus counseled against you Ahithophel.” But they didn’t report what Hushai had ad­vised. That could wait. To their minds all that mattered at the moment was that David was still encamped in the plains of the desert.

It was night. And David and his people “were weary. For they had been on the way perhaps since early dawn. Besides, the company included women and children. Yet, the priests were right. The Jordan must be crossed that very night. David was agreed. So the trek across the river began. It lasted all night. But when the day dawned, the whole company had passed over to a man.

And it came to pass after they were gone, that they came up from the well, and went and told David and said to him, Arise and pass hastily over the waters: for thus counseled against you Ahithophel.

And arose David and all the people that were with him, and they passed over the Jordan: by the morning light (that is, when it was morning) there lacked not one of them that was not gone over Jordan. 21, 22.

Having crossed the Jordan with his people, David pushed on to Mahanaim, the former capital city of Ishbosheth (II Sam 2:8), a fortified place and suitable for gathering an army.

In the meantime, Absalom had raised his army. No numbers are given, so that we do not know its size. But it could not have been the numberless host that he had imagined. But this seems not to have dis­couraged him. Crossing the Jordan with his troops, he pitched in the land of Gilead, and thereby carried the war to David.

But his army still had to be organized. To this task he now addressed himself. Amasa was made captain of the host instead of Joab. He was a cousin to Joab and a nephew to David.

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

And Amasa did Absalom make captain of the host instead of Joab: and Amasa was the son of a man, and his name was Ithra an Israelite, that went in to Abigail the daughter of Nahash, sister to veruiah Joabs mother. 25

So Israel and Absalom pitched in the kind of Gil­ead. 26.

Ver. 25 raises questions to which no conclusive answers can be given. Who was Ithra. At I Chron. 2:17 he is called Jether the Ishmaelite.” Doubtless he was an Ishmaelite, a stranger, for to designate that he was an Israelite would be superfluous.

Was Abigail his lawful wife? If not, Amasa was an illegitimate son of Abigail.

Is Nahash the name of a man? And must the word “sister” be taken in apposition with Abigail? If so, then Jesse, David’s father, was twice married. And then Nahash was David’s stepfather and Abigail and Zeruiah his stepsisters.

According to another view, Nahash was a surname of Jesse.

There are still other possibilities that need not be mentioned.

G.M. Ophoff

*The translation that appears in these articles is of the undersigned. His aim is a rendering that literally reproduces the Hebrew text even as to its word order, except when this would be doing too much violence to the English idiom. The readings of the versions such as there be—King James and the American Revised—will be added as inclosed in brackets, but only in all such cases in which the departure from these readings is more or less radical.

¹ Maid servant with the definite article the; not: a wench—English King James Version.

² It is obvious that this rendering is in conflict with the statement of verse 18: “And went both of them away in haste.”

Gracious Lord, remember David,

How he made Thy house his care,

How he vowed to seek no pleasure

Till Thy house he should prepare.

Lord, remember his devotion;

Restless in his courts he trod

Till he found a habitation

Fit for Israel’s mighty God.


Far away God’s ark was resting;

It is with His people now;

We will go into His temple,

At His footstool we will bow.

With the ark Thy might revealing,

Enter, Lord, into Thy rest;

Let Thy priests be clothed with justice,

Let Thy joyful saints be blest.


Let the king behold Thy favor

For Thy servant David’s sake,

Unto whom a sacred promise,

Sure and faithful, Thou didst make.

If His children keep Thy covenant

And Thy testimony own,

Then, as Thou, O Lord, hast promised

They shall sit on David’s throne.