II Samuel 18

Those who exalt themselves shall be abased.
It never pays to take counsel against the Lord and His anointed.

1 And David numbered the people that were with him, and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them.

2 And David sent forth a third part of the people under the hand of Joab, and a third part under the hand of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, and a third part under the hand of Ittai the Gittite. And the king said unto the people, I will surely go forth with you myself also.

3 But the people answered, Thou shalt not go forth: for if we flee away, they will not care for us; neither if half of us die, will they care for us: but now thou art worth ten thousand of us: therefore now it is better that thou succour us out of the city.

4 And the king said unto them, What seemeth you best I will do. And the king stood by the gate side, and all the people came out by hundreds and by thousands.

5 And the king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom. And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains charge concerning Absalom.

6 ¶ So the people went out into the field against Israel: and the battle was in the wood of Ephraim;

7 Where the people of Israel were slain before the servants of David, and there was there a great slaughter that day of twenty thousand men.

8 For the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country: and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.

9 ¶ And Absalom met the servants of David. And Absalom rode upon a mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth; and the mule that was under him went away.

10 And a certain man saw it, and told Joab, and said, Behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak.

11 And Joab said unto the man that told him, And, behold, thou sawest him, and why didst thou not smite him there to the ground? and I would have given thee ten shekels of silver, and a girdle.

12 And the man said unto Joab, Though I should receive a thousand shekels of silver in mine hand, yet would I not put forth mine hand against the king’s son: for in our hearing the king charged thee and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Beware that none touch the young man Absalom.

13 Otherwise I should have wrought falsehood against mine own life: for there is no matter hid from the king, and thou thyself wouldest have set thyself against me.

14 Then said Joab, I may not tarry thus with thee. And he took three darts in his hand, and thrust them through the heart of Absalom, while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak.

15 And ten young men that bare Joab’s armour compassed about and smote Absalom, and slew him.

16 And Joab blew the trumpet, and the people returned from pursuing after Israel: for Joab held back the people.

17 And they took Absalom, and cast him into a great pit in the wood, and laid a very great heap of stones upon him: and all Israel fled every one to his tent.

18 ¶ Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a pillar, which is in the king’s dale: for he said, I have no son to keep my name in remembrance: and he called the pillar after his own name: and it is called unto this day, Absalom’s place.

19 Then said Ahimaaz the son of Zadok, Let me now run, and bear the king tidings, how that the LORD hath avenged him of his enemies.

20 And Joab said unto him, Thou shalt not bear tidings this day, but thou shalt bear tidings another day: but this day thou shalt bear no tidings, because the king’s son is dead.

21 Then said Joab to Cushi, Go tell the king what thou hast seen. And Cushi bowed himself unto Joab, and ran.

22 Then said Ahimaaz the son of Zadok yet again to Joab, But howsoever, let me, I pray thee, also run after Cushi. And Joab said, Wherefore wilt thou run, my son, seeing that thou hast no tidings ready?

23 But howsoever, said he, let me run. And he said unto him, Run. Then Ahimaaz ran by the way of the plain, and overran Cushi.

24 And David sat between the two gates: and the watchman went up to the roof over the gate unto the wall, and lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold a man running alone.

25 And the watchman cried, and told the king. And the king said, If he be alone, there is tidings in his mouth. And he came apace, and drew near.

26 And the watchman saw another man running: and the watchman called unto the porter, and said, Behold another man running alone. And the king said, He also bringeth tidings.

27 And the watchman said, Me thinketh the running of the foremost is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok. And the king said, He is a good man, and cometh with good tidings.

28 And Ahimaaz called, and said unto the king, All is well. And he fell down to the earth upon his face before the king, and said, Blessed be the LORD thy God, which hath delivered up the men that lifted up their hand against my lord the king.

29 And the king said, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Ahimaaz answered, When Joab sent the king’s servant, and me thy servant, I saw a great tumult, but I knew not what it was.

30 And the king said unto him, Turn aside, and stand here. And he turned aside, and stood still.

31 And, behold, Cushi came; and Cushi said, Tidings, my lord the king: for the LORD hath avenged thee this day of all them that rose up against thee.

32 And the king said unto Cushi, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Cushi answered, The enemies of my lord the king, and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt, be as that young man is.

33 ¶ And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!

2 Samuel 18:1-15 – The End of an Unfilial Son

   Absalom’s army was soon across the river under Amasa, David’s nephew, II Samuel 17:25, 26. Though political reasons constrained David to flight, his heart bled for his wrong-headed and evil-hearted son, and he gave urgent directions for his safety. Let us here learn something of God’s own heart of love. We may have been heartless and thoughtless, have defied His authority and refused to give Him His rightful place; but He gives charge concerning us, desires that we may be spared the full results of our actions, and yearns for our return.
   The eastern tribes had rallied so enthusiastically around David’s standard, that he soon found himself at the head of a great army, which, to judge from II Samuel 18:12, was absolutely loyal to him. But Joab saw farther than the ordinary soldiers and knew that there could be no peace while Absalom lived. He had forfeited his life, according to Deuteronomy 21:18, 21, 23. See also II Samuel 17:2, 4. His head being caught in the fork of a tree, it seemed, indeed, as if he were cursed according to the law, Galatians 3:13; Deuteronomy 21:23.

Cushi Brings Tidings of the Death of Absalom,
II Samuel 18:9-12, 14, 31-33

2 Samuel 18:16-30 – Tidings That Failed to Bring Joy

   Ahimaaz was far-famed for his swift running. He had already served the royal cause, and his family was intimate with the king, II Samuel 15:36; 17:17. Joab was therefore unwilling to entrust the youth with tidings which must give the king bitter sorrow, and perhaps cause him to associate them ever after with the bearer. Perhaps Joab also feared that the part which he himself had taken in Absalom’s death would be exposed by Ahimaaz. The tidings were therefore entrusted to an Ethiopian slave. He ran along the straight road to Mahanaim, but the young priest took the way of the plain and outran him.
   Tidings are constantly pouring in upon us, some by the stranger, some by the friend. But if we trust in the Lord we shall not be afraid of them, Psalm 112:7. Only let our heart be fixed. For us also there shall arise light in the darkness, our heart shall be established, and we shall not be moved. When next you break the seal of the dreaded letter, lift your heart to God. He will bring good out of evil.

2 Samuel 18:22-23 – Wherefore wilt thou run? . . . But howsoever, said he, let me run.

   Joab did not love David, as Ahimaaz did, and could not understand what made the young man so eager to carry the tidings. Doubtless Ahimaaz and Cushi entirely misinterpreted the heart of David, and thought that he would be glad to hear that the rebellion was stamped out, and Absalom was dead. And it was because of the pleasure which he thought to give his king that the swift footed son of Zadok pleaded for permission to run. What though there would be no reward, or that it would fall to the lot of Cushi, who had already started at Joab’s command that mattered not, the love of David constrained him.
   How often that question of reward is thrown at the servants of God! It is one of the favorite taunts of the world; as Satan said of Job, that we do as we do because we are paid. (Job 1:9) “Doth Job fear God for naught?” And nothing so startles men as disinterested service. They cannot account for it; but it wins their respect. “Reward or no reward; recompense or none; smiles or tears, come what may, let me run.” That is the spirit that becomes a Christian, and convinces the world. “The love of Christ constraineth us” (2 Corinthians 5:14).
   Ahimaaz outran Cushi. The one was a volunteer for love’s dear sake; the other, a bond servant, doing as he was told. Love lent wings to his feet, and speeding past his fellow bore him first into David’s presence. So God’s will is done in heaven: “The living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lighting” (Ezekiel 1:14). So God’s will is done on earth: “They departed quickly from the sepulcher with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. And…behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail” (Matthew 28:8-9).