Useful Bible Studies > 2 Samuel Commentary > chapter 17

David escapes across the river Jordan

2 Samuel 17:21-22

At the time of David, Israel was on both sides of the Jordan river. Most of the people lived on the west side; that was where most of the principal cities, including Jerusalem, were. However, the tribes (family groups) called Reuben, Gad, and part of Manasseh had land on the east side of the river (see Joshua chapter 22).

David received Hushai’s message during the night. Jonathan and Ahimaaz, who brought it, had run the 20 miles (30 kilometeres) from Jerusalem. They had to hide on the way at Bahurim, so that delayed them. In the message, Hushai warned David about Ahithophel’s plan to send 12,000 soldiers out at once, to kill David. It was therefore too dangerous for David and his supporters to remain on the west side of the Jordan. With the river behind them, they would have no way to escape from their enemies.

The delay to the message meant that the attack might happen very soon. David, and everyone with him, needed to cross the river before Absalom’s soldiers arrived. Then, the river would form a natural defence for the people who were with David.

Before bridges were common, people crossed rivers at places called fords. Here, the river is wide so the water is shallow enough to walk through. David and the people with him had camped by a ford (15:28). So they went through the water, and they carried all their possessions across.

Actually, the soldiers from Absalom did not come that night. Absalom had decided that he preferred Hushai’s plan to gather a much larger group of soldiers first. The delay allowed David and his supporters to reach a strong city, Mahanaim, on the east of the Jordan (17:27).

Next part: Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23)


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