Absalom’s business is done; and we are now told,
I. How David was informed of it. He staid behind at the city of Mahanaim, some miles from the wood where the battle was, and in the utmost border of the land. Absalom’s scattered forces all made homeward toward Jordan, which was the contrary way from Mahanaim, so that his watchmen could not perceive how the battle went, till an express came on purpose to bring advice of the issue, which the king sat in the gate expecting to hear, 2 Sam. 18:24.
1. Cushi was the man Joab ordered to carry the tidings (2 Sam. 18:21), an Ethiopian, so his name signifies, and some think that he was so by birth, a black that waited on Joab, probably one of the ten that had helped to dispatch Absalom (2 Sam. 18:15) as some think, though it was dangerous for one of those to bring the news to David, lest his fate should be the same with theirs that reported to him Saul’s death, and Ish-bosheth’s.
2. Ahimaaz, the young priest (one of those who brought David intelligence of Absalom’s motions, 2 Sam. 17:17), was very forward to be the messenger of these tidings, so transported was he with joy that this cloud was blown over; let him go and tell the king that the Lord hath avenged him of his enemies, 2 Sam. 18:19. This he desired, not so much in hope of a reward (he was above that) as that he might have the pleasure and satisfaction of bringing the king, whom he loved, this good news. Joab knew David better than Ahimaaz did, and that the tidings of Absalom’s death, which must conclude the story, would spoil the acceptableness of all the rest; and he loves Ahimaaz too well to let him be the messenger of those tidings (2 Sam. 18:20); they are fitter to be brought by a footman than by a priest. However, when Cushi was gone, Ahimaaz begged hard for leave to run after him, and with great importunity obtained it, 2 Sam. 18:22, 23. One would wonder why he should be so fond of this office, when another was employed in it. (1.) Perhaps it was to show his swiftness; observing how heavily Cushi ran, and that he took the worse way, though the nearest, he had a mind to show how fast he could run, and that he could go the furthest way about and yet beat Cushi. No great praise for a priest to be swift of foot, yet perhaps Ahimaaz was proud of it. (2.) Perhaps it was in prudence and tenderness to the king that he desired it. He knew he could get before Cushi, and therefore was willing to prepare the king, by a vague and general report, for the plain truth which Cushi was ordered to tell him. If bad news must come, it is best that it come gradually, and will be the better borne.
3. They are both discovered by the watchman on the gate of Mahanaim, Ahimaaz first (2 Sam. 18:24), for, though Cushi had the lead, Ahimaaz soon outran him; but presently after Cushi appeared, 2 Sam. 18:26. (1.) When the king hears of one running alone he concludes he is an express (2 Sam. 18:25): If he be alone, there are tidings in his mouth; for if they had been beaten, and were flying back from the enemy, there would have been many. (2.) When he hears it is Ahimaaz he concludes he brings good news 21e9 , 2 Sam. 18:27. Ahimaaz, it seems, was so famous for running that he was known by it at a distance, and so eminently good that it is taken for granted, if he be the messenger, the news must needs be good: He is a good man, zealously affected to the king’s interest, and would not bring bad news. It is pity but the good tidings of the gospel should always be brought by good men; and how welcome should the messengers be to us for their message sake!
4. Ahimaaz is very forward to proclaim the victory (2 Sam. 18:28), cries at a distance, “Peace, there is peace;” peace after war, which is doubly welcome. “All is well, my lord O king! the danger is over, and we may return, when the king pleases, to Jerusalem.” And, when he comes near, he tells him the news more particularly. “They are all cut off that lifted up their hands against the king;” and, as became a priest, while he gives the king the joy of it, he gives God the glory of it, the God of peace and war, the God of salvation and victory: “Blessed be the Lord thy God, that has done this for thee, as thy God, pursuant to the promises made to uphold thy throne,” 2 Sam. 7:16. When he said this, he fell down upon his face, not only in reverence to the king, but in humble adoration of God, whose name he praised for this success. By directing David thus to give God thanks for his victory, he prepared him for the approaching news of its allay. The more our hearts are fixed and enlarged in thanksgiving to God for our mercies the better disposed we shall be to bear with patience the afflictions mixed with them. Poor David is so much a father that he forgets he is a king, and therefore cannot rejoice in the news of a victory, till he know whether the young man Absalom be safe, for whom his heart seems to tremble, almost as Eli’s, in a similar case, for the ark of God. Ahimaaz soon discerned, what Joab intimated to him, that the death of the king’s son would make the tidings of the day very unwelcome, and therefore in his report left that matter doubtful; and, though he gave occasion to suspect how it was, yet, that the thunderclap might not come too suddenly upon the poor perplexed king, he refers him to the next messenger, whom they saw coming, for a more particular account of it. “When Joab sent the king’s servant (namely, Cushi) and me thy servant, to bring the news, I saw a great tumult, occasioned by something extraordinary, as you will hear by and by; but I have nothing to say about it. I have delivered that which was my message. Cushi is better able to inform you than I am. I will not be the messenger of evil tidings; nor will I pretend to know that which I cannot give a perfect account of.” He is therefore told to stand by till Cushi come (2 Sam. 18:30), and now, we may suppose, he gives the king a more particular account of the victory, which was the thing he came to bring the news of.
5. Cushi, the slow post, proves the sure one, and besides the confirmation of the news of the victory which Ahimaaz had brought—The Lord has avenged thee of all those that rose up against thee (2 Sam. 18:31)--he satisfied the king’s enquiry concerning Absalom, 2 Sam. 18:32. Isa. he safe? says David. “Yes,” says Cushi, “he is safe in his grave;” but he tells the news so discreetly that, how unwelcome soever the message is, the messenger can have no blame. He did not tell him plainly that Absalom was hanged, and run through and buried under a heap of stones; but only that his fate was what he desired might be the fate of all that were traitors against the king, his crown and dignity: “The enemies of my lord the king, whoever they are, and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt, be as that young man is; I need wish them no worse.”
II. How David received the intelligence. He forgets all the joy of his deliverance, and is quite overwhelmed with the sorrowful tidings of Absalom’s death, 2 Sam. 18:33. As soon as he perceived by Cushi’s reply that Absalom was dead, he asked no more questions, but fell into a passion of weeping, retired from company, and abandoned himself to sorrow; as he was going up to his chamber he was overheard to say “O my son Absalom! my son, my son Absalom! alas for thee! I lament thee. How hast thou fallen! Would God I had died for thee, and that thou hadst remained alive this day” (so the Chaldee adds) “O Absalom! my son, my son!” I wish I could see reason to think that this arose from a concern about Absalom’s everlasting state, and that the reason why he wished he had died for him was because he had good hopes of his own salvation, and of Absalom’s repentance if he had lived. It rather seems to have been spoken inconsiderately, and in a passion, and it was his infirmity. He is to be blamed, 1. For showing so great a fondness for a graceless son only because he was handsome and witty, while he was justly abandoned both of God and man. 2. For quarrelling, not only with divine providence, in the disposals of which he ought silently to have acquiesced, but with divine justice, the judgments of which he ought to have adored and subscribed to. See how Bildad argues (Job 8:3, 4), If thy children have sinned against him, and he have cast them away in their transgression, thou shouldst submit, for doth God pervert judgment? See Lev. 10:3. 3. For opposing the justice of the nation, which, as king, he was entrusted with the administration of, and which, with other public interests, he ought to have preferred before nay natural affection. 4. For despising the mercy of his deliverance, and the deliverance of his family and kingdom, from Absalom’s wicked designs, as if this were no mercy, nor worth giving thanks for, because it cost the life of Absalom. 5. For indulging in a strong passion, and speaking unadvisedly with his lips. He now forgot his own reasonings upon the death of another child (Can I bring him back again?) and his own resolution to keep his mouth as with a bridle when his heart was hot within him, as well as his own practice at other times, when he quieted himself as a child that was weaned from his mother. The best men are not always in an equally good frame. What we over-loved we are apt to over-grieve for: in each affection, therefore, it is wisdom to have rule over our own spirits and to keep a strict guard upon ourselves when that is removed from us which was very dear to us. Losers think they may have leave to speak; but little said is soon amended. The penitent patient sufferer sitteth alone and keepeth silence (Lam. 3:28), or rather, with Job, says, Blessed be the name of the Lord.