And the king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom. And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains charge concerning Absalom.
Deal gently — If you conquer (which be presaged they would by God's gracious answer to his prayer for the turning of Ahithophel's counsel into foolishness,) take him prisoner, but do not kill him. Which desire proceeded, from his great indulgence towards his children: from his consciousness that he himself was the meritorious cause of this rebellion, Absalom being given up to it for the punishment of David's sins; from the consideration of his youth, which commonly makes men foolish, and subject to ill counsels: and from his piety, being loth that he should be cut off in the act of his sin without any space for repentance. But ''what means, says Bp. Hall, this ill-placed mercy? Deal gently with a traitor? Of all traitors with a son? And all this for thy sake, whose crown, whose blood he hunts after? Even in the holiest parents nature may be guilty of an injurious tenderness. But was not this done in type of that unmeasurable mercy, of the true King of Israel, who prayed for his murderers, Father, forgive them! Deal gently with them for my sake!" Yea, when God sends an affliction to correct his children, it is with this charge, deal gently with them for my sake: for he knows our frame.
 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 — More people died in the wood, either through hunger, and thirst, and weariness: or, by the wild beasts, whereof great numbers were there, which, though they were driven away from the place of the main battle, yet might easily meet with them when they fled several ways: or, by falling into ditches and pits, which were in that place, verse 17, and probably were covered with grass or wood, so that they could not see them till they fell into them: and especially by David's men, who pursued them, and killed them in the wood: and the wood is rightly said to have devoured them, because it gave the occasion to their destruction, inasmuch as the trees, and ditches, and pits, entangled them, and stopped their flight, and made them an easy prey to David's men, who followed them, and slew them in the pursuit.
The sword — In the main battle: the sword being put for the battle, by a common figure.
 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.
The servants of David — Who, according to David's command, spared him, and gave him an opportunity to escape.
His head — In which probably he was entangled by the hair of the head, which being very long and thick, might easily catch hold of a bough, especially when the great God directed it. Either he wore no helmet, or he had thrown it away as well as his other arms, to hasten his flight. Thus the matter of his pride was the instrument of his ruin.
 And ten young men that bare Joab's armour compassed about and smote Absalom, and slew him.
Slew him — The darts did not dispatch him, and therefore they smote him again, and killed him.
 Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a pillar, which is in the king's dale: for he said, I have no son to keep my name in remembrance: and he called the pillar after his own name: and it is called unto this day, Absalom's place.
A pillar — To preserve his name; whereas it had been more for his honour if his name had been buried in perpetual oblivion.
 And David sat between the two gates: and the watchman went up to the roof over the gate unto the wall, and lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold a man running alone.
Gates — For the gates of the cities then were, as now they are, large and thick; and for the greater security, had two gates, one more outward, the other inward. Here he sat, that he might hear tidings when any came into the city.
 And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!
Over the gate — Retiring himself from all men and business, that he might wholly give up himself to lamentation.
My son — This he might speak from a deep sense of his eternal state, because he died in his sins, and because David himself had by his own sins been the occasion of his death. But it seems rather to be the effect of strong passion, causing him to speak unadvisedly with his lips.