II Samuel – Chapter 17

The Stage is Set for a Confrontation

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Achitofel’s next advice: he wanted to gather 12,000 troops to pursue David in order to strike him down while he was tired from fleeing and ill-prepared. With this strategy, Achitofel was sure there would be minimal casualties. Avshalom liked the idea, but he asked Chushai for his input.

Chushai, who was secretly working in David’s best interests, might not have been able to forestall the incident with the concubines, but he did feel he could sway this course of action. “You know that your father and his men are skilled warriors – they won’t be caught by surprise. When they start to get the upper hand on your army, the rest will become discouraged. I suggest you take the time to gather a massive force from all over the country, then eradicate his army altogether. If he takes refuge in a city, that city should be razed to the ground.” G-d caused Avshalom to prefer Chushai’s plan to Achitofel’s.

Chushai then told Tzadok and Evyasar, the Kohanim (“priests”) about both plans, so that David could prepare. They sent Achimaatz and Jonathan, sons of Evyasar to David, but they were spotted en route. Avshalom’s men went to capture them, but they were hidden by a farmer’s wife in Bachurim. They hid in a well, which she covered with a blanket. She then spread grain out on the blanket, as if she had been drying them. The soldiers went right past the blanket, not even realizing that it covered a well. The woman told the soldiers that the messengers had headed off in the direction of the Jordan river. The soldiers never found them and they had to return to Jerusalem empty-handed.

The messengers safely reached David and gave him warning, so he moved his camp safely across the Jordan.

When Achitofel saw that Avshalom had accepted Chushai’s advice over his own, he got his affairs in order and hanged himself. He saw which was the wind was blowing and knew that David would be restored, marking him a traitor. He opted to take his own life, rather than be executed upon David’s return.

Avshalom’s army crossed the Jordan. His general was a man named Amasa. He’ll become important in a few chapters.

Meanwhile, a number of locals, including a man named Barzilai, brought David food and supplies. (Again, we’ll hear more about Barzilai in a little while.)

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