Useful Bible Studies > 2 Samuel Commentary > chapter 17

Two camps at Mahanaim

2 Samuel 17:24-26

David took the people who supported him to Mahanaim, a city on the east side of the river Jordan. It was about 15 miles (25 kilometres) east of the Jordan. It had previously been a royal city: Ish-Bosheth, the son of Saul, had ruled Israel from there (2:8-10). So, the city would have had strong defences. Jacob gave the city its name, which means ‘two camps’ – see Genesis 32:1-2.

When Absalom brought his army there, there would again be two camps in that region. The camp of David’s army was inside the city. Absalom would establish the camp for his army some distance away, in a country area; however, that would take some time. Absalom first had to gather his army of men from all the towns and villages of Israel.

Absalom had no experience as a military commander. Although he would lead his army himself, he needed someone with experience in war to help him. So, he appointed his own relative, Amasa, as chief commander of his army. Amasa’s mother, Abigail, was the sister of Joab’s mother, Zeruiah. Joab was the chief commander of David’s army.

Amasa’s father was Jether. 2 Samuel 17:25 says that Jether came from Israel; but 1 Chronicles 2:17 says that Jether came from the family of Ishmael (see Genesis 25:12-18). We do not know the reason for this difference. However, perhaps Jether was a foreigner who made his home in Israel.

Gilead, where Absalom’s army camped, is the name of the region on the east side of the Jordan. It included useful agricultural land (Numbers chapter 32). However, at the time of David, much of it was a great forest.

Next part: Shobi, Makir and Barzillai (2 Samuel 17:27)


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© 2023, Keith Simons.