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 2nd SAMUEL 18:8

"For the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country: and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured."


 A Preacher in his Study







The Verse is unique!

It is descriptive of the battle fought when Absalom rebelled against his Father David.

War was raging!

David was fleeing the Throne of Israel!

The young reprobate was advancing toward what appeared to be a royal future!

Then the Holy Spirit writes: "For the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country: and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured." 2nd Samuel 18:8

The Lord willing, we're going to study that Verse!

Each of you should ponder it carefully.

Ask the Lord to show you some things it might be teaching.

After all, that's the way to begin the study of any Bible Text!

With sincere, humble prayer!

Here's a specific example.

Directed to the Lord, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law." Psalm 119:18

Just as well pray, "Teach me Thy Word!"


                                                                             --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




The battle was raging!

It was an unnecessary battle too.

A son is fighting his own Father, the King of Israel.

Absalom is a rebel!

David is a man after God's Own Heart!

We are today studying one single verse. At least part of it. "For the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country: and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured." 2 Samuel 18:8

The noun "battle" is "milchamah" in Hebrew. It means not only "battle" but also "war." In the King James Text it's translated "war" 158 times and "battle" 151 times. It is derived from the basic verb "lacham." And the interesting thing is that "lacham" can mean "to eat" or "to devour" as well as "to do battle!" In fact, the Hebrew noun for "bread" is "lechem," a relative of "lacham!"

A young man trying "to devour" his own Daddy!

Let it today be emphasized that this whole confrontation could have been avoided.

On both sides it could have!

A good peacemaker, without compromise too, might have introduced some harmony into this awful mix, and a bloody chapter of Jewish history might have never been written.

Don't misunderstand please.

If wrong must be ascribed here, Absalom bears the heavier load of guilt! He might even have been 90% to blame, or more! That of course leaves only 10% or less liability for King David, but it's there anyway. In that small a quantity even.

Here's why I say this.

We of course must look at both sides.

Under NO circumstances ever is a child, even when grown, to disrespect and disobey and denigrate one of his parents.

The "first commandment with promise" had been written hundreds of years earlier! "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee." Exodus 20:12 thunders from Sinai, from God to Moses to the people!

This Commandment alone declares Absalom guilty!

Here's another reason too. David, had Absalom just bided his time, had he just waited for the years to transpire, would have had riches aplenty!

David was not in the habit of denying his children anything! To his shame he had "spoiled" each of them!

Concerning his son Adonijah, we are told: "And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so? and he also was a very goodly man; and his mother bare him after Absalom." 1st Kings 1:6 makes it clear!

David gave his kids anything they wanted!

He never "displeased" them! "Atzsab" means "to grieve, to hurt" or even "to make sorry!"

But greedy Absalom wanted 100% of the inheritance now rather than waiting for sure but delayed wealth later!

Absalom violated Scripture!

Absalom coveted power and affluence and gold and silver!

He was wrong!

Furthermore, withour even thinking apparently, Absalom sought to "touch" God's anointed Leader for Israel! That's not to be tolerated!

Persuading himself to let King Saul, wicked as he was, remain in safety, young David lived by this principle from God: "Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm." The King is one of God's anointed Offices!

Not to Absalom apparently!

He sought to kill "the sweet Psalmist of Israel!" See 2nd Samuel 23:1 for this title for King David. It's Biblical.

Yes, the "battle" of our Text could have been avoided! "For the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country: and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured."

It could have been circumvented on David's side too!

He absolutely refused to see his son, even to look on Absalom's face, for two full years! With Absalom asking again and again to see His Father. "So Absalom dwelt two full years in Jerusalem, and saw not the king's face." 2nd Samuel 14:28

Next Absalom tried to get Joab, David's military commander, to contact the King! Still to no avail! "Therefore Absalom sent for Joab, to have sent him to the king; but he would not come to him." 2nd Samuel 14:29

If a Dad ignores his son's cries long enough, something is going to happen!

Pouting and sulking and refusing to acknowledge someone's desires is not the answer!

I know Absalom had murdered his own half-brother Amnon. But Amnon had raped Absalom's sister Tamar, his full sister. And King David was apparently going to dispense no judgment at all to the rapist, no discipline whatsoever!

But still, just to "talk" to one's own son, is not a bad thing to do!

I'm sure glad the Prodigal's Father did not have David's attitude! If so, Luke 15 might be missing from the Bible!

Here's another way King David could have avoided this terrible event. In all probability anyway. By living more godly!

His greatest blot, that adulterous episode with Bathsheba, brought God's chastisement to the Royal House! Especially in this sense, according to the Prophet Nathan: "Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife." 2nd Samuel 12:10

So, the sword devoured Amon.

Then nearly David, by the hand of his own Son!

Then, finally, Absalom the rebel himself!

Oh, by the way, one more thing!

Absalom is the son of David's wife "Maacah," a heathen gentile whom David sinned by marrying anyway! "Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur," says 2nd Samuel 3:3.

Had David obeyed God's Word about a wife, Absalom the killer would have never been born!

This civil war, Son versus Father, was unavoidable ... on both sides!

Come to think of it, a lot of our battles are too!

                                                                          --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




The verse merely describes a battle.

It could have been the beginning of civil war in fact.

Absalom, son of King David, sought to overthrow his Father's throne!

Here's 2nd Samuel 18:8 in its entirety: "For the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country: and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured."

Heaven's favorite in this battle is not the rebel, not Absalom!

It's David, whom Paul called a man after God's Own Heart! "I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart." Acts 13:22

Today we shall concentrate on the verb "was scattered." In Hebrew it's spelled "putzs" and means "to disperse."

I believe that God "scattered" these skirmishes across the countryside for one purpose, to protect King David and spare his life a while longer!

David's trusted counselor of many years, Ahithophel, had just defected from the King!

He, a wise man indeed on most issues, had joined sides with Absalom and offered his expert counsel in expediting the war!

Had his advice been followed, David would have been dead soon. No widespread war would have occurred!

But God frustrated the nearly fool-proof advice of Ahithophel!

This whole episode is divinely engineered to give David the victory

The scene developed this way. "And one told David, saying, Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom. And David said, O LORD, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness."

"Then said Absalom to Ahithophel, Give counsel among you what we shall do."

Next ... "Moreover Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Let me now choose out twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue after David this night: and I will come upon him while he is weary and weak handed, and will make him afraid: and all the people that are with him shall flee; and I will smite the king only. And I will bring back all the people unto thee: the man whom thou seekest is as if all returned: so all the people shall be in peace."

Those twelve thousand men could have easily found David, encircled him, and dealt the death blow!

But God intervened!

Numerous scattered skirmishes, all small in size, can be handled. Twelve thousand men coming at once, all cold and hungry and ready to fight, can change a lot!

This scene clearly pictures God's Hand of control in all areas of human life!

Indeed, "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?"


                                                                             --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

One more thing! Why would Ahithophel so hate King David? Why would he defect from the side of the proven old King and fight for the foolish young rebel Absalom?

Watch these Verses and draw your own conclusion. Notice the name of Ahithophel's son. "Eliphelet the son of Ahasbai, the son of the Maachathite, Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite." 2nd Samuel 23:34 tells us, Eliam.

Now get the name of Bathsheba's father. "And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" 2nd Samuel 11:3 lists Eliam.

These two names, Eliam the son of Ahithophel and Eliam the father of Bathsheba are speaking of the same man!

Ahithophel was Bathsheba's Grandfather!

Now we know why he hated David so passionately!




The verse is unusual.

While its context, its "setting" in 2nd Samuel 18, certainly must be considered, it can nearly stand alone!

It's that powerful!

"For the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country: and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured." 2nd Samuel 18:8

Basically we're being told that on the day being described, more people died from exposure to the "wood," now called "woods," than to the army's weapons!

Those were dangerous "woods!"

The Hebrew noun is "yaar." It is used a total of 58 times in the Bible. It is translated "forest" most of those times, 38 to be exact. Then "wood" 19 times and "honeycomb" 1 time! A maze of thickly grown trees can form a honeycomb-like pattern I reckon.

This word for the "woods" is used in 1st Samuel 14:25 and associated with "honey" again. "And all they of the land came to a wood; and there was honey upon the ground."

Again our word, "yaar," is linked to "glory" in Isaiah 10:18, specifically "the glory of his forest."

"The forest of his Carmel," quoting Isaiah 37:24, specifies Lebanon with all its majestic cedar trees. These beauties were used to built the Temple of God in Jerusalem.

Ezekiel preached to the woods! "And say to the forest of the south, Hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD ...." Ezekiel 20:47

The "woods" also provided lumber for the royal palace during the days of King Solomon. They called the mansion "the house of the forest of Lebanon." Here's 1st Kings 7:2 for an example. "He built also the house of the forest of Lebanon; the length thereof was an hundred cubits, and the breadth thereof fifty cubits, and the height thereof thirty cubits, upon four rows of cedar pillars, with cedar beams upon the pillars."

What blessings these "woods" have provided through the years!

What sweetness and utility!

Yet, all of a sudden, things change!

These woods, productive as they have been, become dangerous!


"Devourers," says our Text!

"For the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country: and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured."

The verb "devoured" literally means "to eat or consume!" It's spelled "akal" in Hebrew.

Why such a change?

From benign forests to malignant infestations of danger!

Because God ordained it!

These people chose to fight on the wrong side of the battle.

They have elected to oppose King David, who not perfect for sure, was still God's Man!

God's anointed!

God's King!

A forerunner of Christ Jesus!

To fight for a rebel, Absalom, against a King, David, is to invite trouble!


And the "woods" can administer such discipline!

It's like this.

If God is "after" a man, about to punish him, nothing can spare him! "As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him." Amos 5:19

Even the woods are dangerous when you're out of the will of God, being disobedient to His Cause!

Think about it!

                                                                       --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




How can the "woods" be so dangerous?

The question is based on the truth of 2nd Samuel 18:8. "For the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country: and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured."

The "wood," meaning the forest or the woods or the nearby thickets of overgrowth, devoured or killed more folks that day than did the sword!

Using the Bible as our only source, here are some dangers found in the woods. The list is impressive. This is simply a word search for "yaar," the Hebrew noun translated "wood" in our Text.

Significantly, the "first mention" of the woods in Scripture involves danger! "As when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbour to hew wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the axe to cut down the tree, and the head slippeth from the helve, and lighteth upon his neighbour, that he die ...." Deuteronomy 19:5

Then Elisha the Prophet was defended one day by something from the woods, something dangerous! "And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them." 2nd Kings 2:24

Here's more about such beasts! God is talking in Psalm 50:10. "For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills."

The "boar" is a fierce wild hog! "The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it." Psalm 80:14 is describing the destruction of a vineyard.

In such thick woods, fire is always a danger too. "As the fire burneth a wood, and as the flame setteth the mountains on fire ...." Psalm 83:14

Creeping things too! "Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth." Psalm 104:20

Now remember than in Scripture a lion can represent the devil. "Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey? will a young lion cry out of his den, if he have taken nothing?" Amos 3:4

The woods, Scripturally speaking, are filled with dangerous things!

Flying axe heads!

Furious she bears!

Manifold beasts!

Rampaging hogs!


Creeping things!

Lions, too!

This is not to say that the woods can't be made safe! God can protect one anywhere he or she goes.

But it's not wise to stay in the woods very long if you're fighting against the man of God! That's exactly what these people were doing in our Text Verse. Aiding Absalom and rebelling against David!

If that's the side one takes, anything can happen! "For the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country: and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured."

True safety is not found in guns and horses and armour of various kinds. It's found in the Hand of God! "The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD." So says Proverbs 21:31.

The question of the day is asked by Moses to the Israelites in Exodus 32:26. "Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD'S side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him."

Who is on the Lord's side?

If you are not "with" Him, stay out of the woods!

                                                                                --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




When Absalom rebelled against his own Father, King David of Israel, multitudes followed his wicked lead!

"All Israel," said one account! "Therefore I counsel that all Israel be generally gathered unto thee, from Dan even to Beersheba, as the sand that is by the sea for multitude; and that thou go to battle in thine own person." 2nd Samuel 17:11

The young rebel "stole the hearts of the men of Israel," says 2nd Samuel 15:6.

At the very first "hint" of the insurrection, Ahithophel proposed to Absalom: "Let me now choose out twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue after David this night." Twelve thousand! 2nd Samuel 17:1

Apparently the majority stood with Absalom, against the aging and less active King David.

But David was not without supporters either!

Fewer in number, yet loyal to the core, some stood with the King! Here they are hurriedly leaving Jerusalem, fleeing for their lives! "And the king went forth, and all the people after him, and tarried in a place that was far off. And all his servants passed on beside him; and all the Cherethites, and all the Pelethites, and all the Gittites, six hundred men which came after him from Gath, passed on before the king." 2nd Samuel 15:17-18

Even the enemy, Absalom and his advisers, said of David's less numerous men, "They which be with him are valiant men." 2nd Samuel 17:10

Lacking specific numbers, Scripture does say of David's adherents: "And David numbered the people that were with him, and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them. And David sent forth a third part of the people under the hand of Joab, and a third part under the hand of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab's brother, and a third part under the hand of Ittai the Gittite. And the king said unto the people, I will surely go forth with you myself also." Sounds impressive, especially for an abdicating King! 2nd Samuel 18:1-2

The battle lines look well drawn!

Then, why does 2nd Samuel 18:8 report this? "For the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country: and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured."

It seems that the battle started in the fields, a likely place, but soon regressed into the woods! "So the people went out into the field against Israel." Then, next, we are informed: "And the battle was in the wood of Ephraim." 2nd Samuel 18:6

Then, get this shocking fact!

More people, followers of Absalom, died in the thick forests than on the heated field of battle!

David wins! "The people of Israel were slain before the servants of David, and there was there a great slaughter that day of twenty thousand men." 2nd Samuel 18:7

Here's the point today. Absalom apparently had the masses, David the smaller number of soldiers. Yet Absalom's people were not as sure, not as brave, not as valiant!

Before long they had left the field of battle and retreated into the woods!

And there, clearly having chosen the wrong side, they somehow were killed, thousands of them!

The "attitude" the woods revealed that day is amazing!




While David's men charged onward, fervently wielding their swords, Absalom's men cowered in fear!

If a Cause is built upon sinking sand, such will be the outcome!

When leaders are unsure, so will be the followers!

If panic infests an army, it will often spread!

Again our Verse: "For the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country: and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured."

The facts given do not even say that David's little army had to enter those woods!

"Nature" took care of these disloyal subjects!

"Providence," the old-timers would have said.

"Luck," today's so-called journalists would have chronicled, "bad luck" at that!

Dead ... in the woods!

But it was not nature or fate or luck!

It was the Lord!

If a sparrow can't fall without His supervision, neither can a Jewish soldier!

Isaiah 28:16 preaches, "He that believeth shall not make haste." Those who belived in King David and His God prevailed, without fear or confusion!

Meanwhile, Absalom's crowd reaped confusion!

They had a spirit of fear!

Remember, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." 2nd Timothy 1:7

"The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion." So says Proverbs 28:1, a pretty good commentary on the battle we're studying!

The Apostle Paul, near the hour of his martyr's death, penned: "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." He does not sound too scared!

And Jesus, approaching His Death on Calvary, challenges the forces of darkness! "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. He is near that justifieth me." Then our precious Saviour asks: "Who will contend with me? Who is mine adversary? Let him come near to me? Who is he that shall condemn me?" Isaiah 50:6-7

Any fear here?


Yes, God can give confidence to those who obey Him and confusion to those who oppose Him!

He often does!

No wonder the Bible loves the clause, "And I know ...!"

Real saints of God do not want to flee to the woods!

They want to stand true to their God!

Like Shammah of old, "And after him was Shammah the son of Agee the Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered together into a troop, where was a piece of ground full of lentiles: and the people fled from the Philistines. But he stood in the midst of the ground, and defended it, and slew the Philistines: and the LORD wrought a great victory." 2nd Samuel 23:11-12

He stood, refusing to run into the woods!

Who needs the "woods" when he is on God's side?

"The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace." Exodus 14:14

"Ye shall not fear them: for the LORD your God he shall fight for you." Deuteronomy 3:22

"For the LORD your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you." Deuteronomy 20:4

Yet again, "O children of Israel, fight ye not against the LORD God of your fathers; for ye shall not prosper." 2nd Chronicles 13:12

David ... or Absalom?

The choice had to be made!

                                                                          --- Dr. Mike Bagwell




The verse simply says, "For the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country: and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured." 2nd Samuel 18:8

These words were written by the Holy Spirit as He recounted the bloody battle between rebellious Absalom and his royal Father, King David.

Civil war, really!

Most of Israel apparently followed the younger man.

And many of them died too!

David's numerically meager army was fierce! "The people of Israel were slain before the servants of David, and there was there a great slaughter that day of twenty thousand men." 2nd Samuel 18:10

Twenty thousand of Absalom's followers, dead!

Known dead!

Counted dead!

Verified fatalities!

Twenty thousand!

But, presumably plus these thousands, "the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured."

God providentially intervened on David's behalf!

Maybe by wild beasts, or swamps, or thirst, or whatever ... the woods proved deadly that day!

But here's the amazing thing.

Among those devoured by the woods, yea by the very trees, was the rebel himself, Absalom!

Here's how it happened, "And Absalom met the servants of David. And Absalom rode upon a mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth; and the mule that was under him went away. And a certain man saw it, and told Joab, and said, Behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak." 2nd Samuel 18:9-10

The wood, the woods, got him!

Then, Joab, David's military Commander, enters the picture. "Then Joab took three darts in his hand, and thrust them through the heart of Absalom, while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak."

Dangling in the trees!

"And ten young men that bare Joab's armour compassed about and smote Absalom, and slew him."

Not a very glorious death!

No honor in that!

Yet such was the miserable end for the man who sought to harm God's Anointed leader!

Yes, Absalom definitely had numerical advantage at the start of the battle!

But not at the end!

And David, while lacking in numbers, ended up victorious!

Even numerically victorious!

On the way to do battle with the insurrectionists, King David's cohorts forbade him! "But the people answered, Thou shalt not go forth: for if we flee away, they will not care for us; neither if half of us die, will they care for us: but now thou art worth ten thousand of us: therefore now it is better that thou succour us out of the city." 2nd Samuel 18:5

Their noble leader, all alone, by himself, was worth 10,000 good men, fighting men!

I'd call that fact one of numerical significance!

The day the "woods" killed a multitude!

Rebels all!

But, do remember, "Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft." So says God's Prophet in 1st Samuel 15:23. Deadly rebellion!

Oh, one more thing. The greater Son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ, also died on a Tree!

But a more significant death has never been experienced!

Through that Death we have life, eternal life!

Praise the Lord!

                                                                         --- Dr. Mike Bagwell





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