Shmuel 2-Chapter 17: The battle between Avshalom and Dovid

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Chapter 17: The battle between Avshalom and Dovid

1. The plot of Achitofal to assassinate Dovid and its rejection:

  • The plot: Achitofal advised Avshalom to choose 12,000 men and get up and chase after Dovid at night. Achitofal said to Avshalom, “I myself will chase after Dovid and reach him when he is alone and scared, after having all of his army chased away, and then I will kill the king alone. I will then bring the entire nation in peace to follow you Avshalom.” The advice of Achitofal found favor in the eyes of Avshalom and in the eyes of all the elders of the Jewish people.
  • Chushaiy the Arki is asked as to his opinion on the assassination, and he rejects it: Avshalom asked for Chushaiy the Arki to be brought to him in order to seek his advice as well regarding what he should to. So, Chushaiy came to Avshalom, and Avshalom told him the advice that he had received from Achitofal and the pending plot of assassination and asked Chushaiy as whether he too advises to do as Achitofal had said. Chushaiy responded that in his opinion the current advice and plot of Achitofal is not good as, “You know your father and the warriors who are with him that they are men of strong spirit like a wild beer in the field who is searching for prey, and your father is a man of war who will not sleep together with the nation [and therefore you will not be able to find him to assassinate him] as he will be hiding in one of the pits, or in another place. Now, if you end up battling Dovid’s warriors, they will end up killing your men and the nation will hear that your people have fallen to the warriors of Dovid, and this will bring fear to all the nation to rebel against Dovid and join you. Even a man of strong spirit who has the heart of a lion will be frightened when he hears the news, as everyone knows that your father and the men who are with him are great warriors.”

2. Chushaiy gives alternative advice:

  • Gather the entire nation to fight Dovid: “Rather, my advice to you is as follows: you should gather all the Jewish people from the area of Dan until Bear Sheba and they will be like the sand of the sea due to their great multitude and then you should go to the battle. We should then go together and confront Dovid in one of the places that he’s found and we will then fall upon him like the dew falls on the earth. We will kill all of Dovid’s camp and we will not allow any man to survive. Even if he fortifies himself in the city, we will bring ropes and destroy the walls and drag it until the channel until there is no rock left by the city.”
  • The advice of Chushaiy is accepted: Avshalom together with all the Jewish people responded that the advice given by Chushaiy the Arkite is better than the advice given by Achitofel. G-d arranged this to be done because G-d desired to ruin the plot of Achitofel which was indeed a more productive plot, in order to bring Avshalom to his death.

3. The planted informers of Dovid are sent to inform him of the ensuing threat:

  • Chushaiy met with Tzadok and Avyasar the priests and he told them the advice that was given by Achitofel to Avshalom and to the elders of the Jewish people, and the advice that he had given. “Now, send [your children Yehonason and Achimatz] off right away to inform Dovid of the ensuing danger and they should tell him that he should not sleep at night in the plains of the desert and rather that he should cross the Jordan, as perhaps the king and nation in the end will decide to follow the advice of Achitofel.”
  • Yehonason and Achimatz are sent on a mission to inform Dovid: At that time, Yehonason and Achimatz remained outside of the city, out of fear of being caught, and they were by a spring of water where laundry was done. A maidservant [of Tzadok[1]] came and informed them of the above matter and that they should immediately travel to King Dovid and inform him of the impending danger.
  • Yehonason and Achimatz are seen and need to run away: However, as they were leaving, they were seen by a certain lad who informed Avshalom of their whereabouts. They therefore hurriedly traveled to hide in the home of a friend in Bachurim who had a well in his courtyard, and they descended into the well. The wife of the man took a curtain and covered the well with it, and then spread upon the curtain the grains in order to dry in order so no one would suspect that they are there. The servants of Avshalom arrived to the house of the woman and they asked her as to the whereabouts of Yehonason and Achimatz, to which the woman replied that they had already crossed the river. They therefore went on to search for them but could not find them and therefore returned to Jerusalem.
  • Yehonason and Achimatz leave the well and inform Dovid of the impending danger: After the men of Avshalom had left, Yehonason and Achimatz climbed out from the well and they traveled to Dovid and informed him of the impending danger. They said to Dovid as follows, “Get up and quickly cross the Jordan as Achitofel has advised the following regarding you.”
  • Dovid and his men flee across the Jordan: Dovid and all of the people who were with him got up and they crossed the Jordan. They traveled until the morning. There was not one man left behind who did who did not cross with them across the Jordan.

4. Achitofel commits suicide:

  • When Achitofel saw that his advice was not being followed, he straddled his donkey and got up and traveled back to his home city. He gave final instructions to his household and then killed himself through asphyxiation. He was buried in the cemetery of his father. [He committed suicide due to fear that since his advice was not followed indeed Dovid would be victorious, and he would be put to death and have all of his belongings inherited to the king. Therefore, he killed himself first in order to save his belongings.[2]]

5. Dovid flees from his son Avshalom:

  • Dovid settles across the Jordon: Dovid had arrived from Chanoyma, while Avshalom had crossed the Jordan together with all the Jewish people.
  • The new appointed general, Amasa: Amasa was appointed by Avshalom to be the general of the Army in place of Yoav. He was the son of a man named Yisra the Israelite who had relations with Abigail the daughter of Nachash [i.e. Yishaiy, the father of Dovid[3]] who was the sister of Tzeruyah who was the mother of Yoav.
  • Avshalom settles in Gilaad: The Jewish people and Avshalom settled in the land of Gilaad.
  • Dovid and his men are given food and supplies: When Dovid had arrived from Chanoyma he was greeted by the following men who provided him with food and supplies. He was greeted by Shovi [i.e. Chanun[4]] the son of Nachash who came from the nation of Amon, and by Machir the son of Amiel from the area of Lo Davar and by Barzilaiy the Giladi from Roglim. They brought him and his men cushions and sofas and manufacturing tools, as well as wheat and barley and flour, and beans and lentils and other roasted foods. They also gave him honey and butter and different types of cheeses and sheep. They provided all this food to Dovid and to the men that were with him in order to eat, as they said that certainly the nation is hungry and exhausted and dehydrated from thirst from being in the desert.


[1] Radak 16:17

[2] Pirush Rav Yeshayah 17:23; Metzudos Dovid ibid

[3] Rashi 17:25; Bava Basra 17a

[4] Rashi 17:27; See Chapter 10

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