So the army went out into the field against Israel, and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim. And the men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the loss there was great on that day, twenty thousand men. The battle spread over the face of all the country, and the forest devoured more people that day than the sword. (2 Samuel 18:6-8)
The forest of Ephraim which “devoured more people that day than the sword” reminds me of the forest of Fangorn in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. In Tolkien’s story, the forest mysteriously “awoke” and devoured a whole army of the enemy. Could this have been his inspiration? The Bible doesn’t explain how the forest devoured people. One commentator explains it like this: “The woodland was difficult, full of gorges and bogs and steep defiles leading down to the Jordan, and the fugitives easily lost their way in it, and wandered about till they were hopelessly entangled in thicket and morass.” Certainly a plausible explanation, but who knows what really happened? God’s hand is involved in the events that were unfolding to bring Absalom’s defeat. This is why he listened to Hushai over Ahithophel as we see a few verses earlier (And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.” For the Lord had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the Lord might bring harm upon Absalom. 2 Sa 17:14) We’ve seen the waters part in the red sea and Jerichos walls fall down by an invisible army. If the people don’t praise God, the rocks and the trees will. So all we really need to know about this text is that God is behind the events. Even in the little things, isn’t the Bible fascinating!
Lord, thank you for the many treasures to be found in your Word!