Useful Bible Studies > 2 Samuel Commentary > chapter 18

A terrible battle

2 Samuel 18:6-8

Every battle, of course, is awful; but this one was particularly terrible.

David’s army went out from the city called Mahanaim, to meet Absalom’s army, which had camped in Gilead. Both of these places were on the east side of the river Jordan. Probably the forest of Ephraim was there too – but the tribe (family group) of Ephraim lived on the west side of the river.

As Hushai had said, David’s soldiers were strong, brave men with much experience of war (17:7-10). Absalom’s soldiers were afraid and they ran away into the forest (see 2 Samuel 18:16). However, David’s soldiers could not allow them to escape. If they escaped, they would only gather together to fight the battle again. So, David’s soldiers chased them in the forest.

These were not trees that someone had planted. It was a wild place with rough, uneven ground and no paths for many miles (or, many kilometres). Soon, the soldiers spread across a vast area. Some of them lost their way in the forest, and never returned home. Some of them fell badly, and there was nobody to help them. Large wild animals, for example lions and bears were in that region, and they attacked some men. Snakes bit some of them, and some of them ran out of food and water. Such were the dangers of the forest. Normally, nobody would go into such a place without a guide, unless they knew the forest well.

The result was a terrible defeat for Absalom’s army; 20,000 of its men died that day. David’s soldiers killed less than half of those men. The rest died in accidents in the forest.

Next part: Absalom hangs, alive, in a tree (2 Samuel 18:9)


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