Absalom’s Defeat

18 David reviewed his troops and appointed commanders of hundreds and of thousands over them. He then sent out the troops, a third under Joab, a third under Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and a third under Ittai the Gittite. The king said to the troops, “I will also march out with you.”

“You must not go!”(A) the people pleaded. “If we have to flee, they will not pay any attention to us. Even if half of us die, they will not pay any attention to us because you are worth[a] 10,000 of us. Therefore, it is better if you support us from the city.”

“I will do whatever you think is best,” the king replied to them. So he stood beside the gate while all the troops marched out by hundreds and thousands. The king commanded Joab, Abishai, and Ittai, “Treat the young man Absalom gently for my sake.” All the people heard the king’s orders to all the commanders about Absalom.

Then David’s forces marched into the field to engage Israel in battle, which took place in the forest of Ephraim. The people of Israel were defeated by David’s soldiers, and the slaughter there was vast that day—20,000 casualties. The battle spread over the entire region, and that day the forest claimed more people than the sword.

Absalom’s Death

Absalom was riding on his mule when he happened to meet David’s soldiers. When the mule went under the tangled branches of a large oak tree, Absalom’s head was caught fast in the tree. The mule under him kept going, so he was suspended in midair.[b] 10 One of the men saw him and informed Joab. He said, “I just saw Absalom hanging in an oak tree!”

11 “You just saw him!” Joab exclaimed.[c] “Why didn’t you strike him to the ground right there? I would have given you 10 silver pieces[d] and a belt!”

12 The man replied to Joab, “Even if I had the weight of 1,000 pieces of silver[e] in my hand, I would not raise my hand against the king’s son. For we heard the king command you, Abishai, and Ittai, ‘Protect the young man Absalom for me.’[f](B) 13 If I had jeopardized my own[g] life—and nothing is hidden from the king—you would have abandoned me.”

14 Joab said, “I’m not going to waste time with you!” He then took three spears in his hand and thrust them into Absalom’s heart while he was still alive in the oak tree, 15 and 10 young men who were Joab’s armor-bearers surrounded Absalom, struck him, and killed him.

16 Afterward, Joab blew the ram’s horn, and the troops broke off their pursuit of Israel because Joab restrained them. 17 They took Absalom, threw him into a large pit in the forest, and piled a huge mound of stones over him.(C) And all Israel fled, each to his tent.(D)

18 When he was alive, Absalom had set up a pillar(E) for himself in the King’s Valley,(F) for he had said, “I have no son(G) to preserve the memory of my name.” So he gave the pillar his name. It is still called Absalom’s Monument today.

19 Ahimaaz son of Zadok(H) said, “Please let me run and tell the king the good news that the Lord has delivered him from his enemies.”

20 Joab replied to him, “You are not the man to take good news today. You may do it another day, but today you aren’t taking good news, because the king’s son is dead.” 21 Joab then said to the Cushite, “Go tell the king what you have seen.” The Cushite bowed to Joab and took off running.

22 However, Ahimaaz son of Zadok persisted and said to Joab, “No matter what, please let me also run behind the Cushite!”

Joab replied, “My son, why do you want to run since you won’t get a reward?”

23 “No matter what, I want to run!”

“Then run!” Joab said to him. So Ahimaaz ran by way of the plain and outran the Cushite.

24 David was sitting between the two gates(I) when the watchman went up to the roof of the gate and over to the wall.(J) The watchman looked out and saw a man running alone. 25 He called out and told the king.

The king said, “If he’s alone, he bears good news.”

As the first runner came closer, 26 the watchman saw another man running. He called out to the gatekeeper, “Look! Another man is running alone!”

“This one is also bringing good news,” said the king.

27 The watchman said, “The way the first man runs looks to me like the way Ahimaaz son of Zadok runs.”(K)

“This is a good man; he comes with good news,”(L) the king commented.

28 Ahimaaz called out to the king, “All is well,” and then bowed down to the king with his face to the ground. He continued, “May the Lord your God be praised! He delivered up the men who rebelled against my lord the king.”

29 The king asked, “Is the young man Absalom all right?”

Ahimaaz replied, “When Joab sent the king’s servant and your servant, I saw a big disturbance, but I don’t know what it was.”

30 The king said, “Move aside and stand here.” So he stood to one side.

31 Just then the Cushite came and said, “May my lord the king hear the good news: today the Lord has delivered you from all those rising up against you!”

32 The king asked the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom all right?”

The Cushite replied, “May what has become of the young man happen to the enemies of my lord the king and to all who rise up against you with evil intent.”(M)

33 [h]The king was deeply moved and went up to the gate chamber and wept. As he walked, he cried, “My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son!”(N)

Footnotes

  1. 2 Samuel 18:3 Some Hb mss, LXX, Vg; other Hb mss read because there would now be about
  2. 2 Samuel 18:9 Lit was between heaven and earth
  3. 2 Samuel 18:11 Lit Joab said to the man who told him
  4. 2 Samuel 18:11 About 4 ounces of silver
  5. 2 Samuel 18:12 About 25 pounds of silver
  6. 2 Samuel 18:12 Some Hb mss, LXX, Tg, Vg; other Hb mss read Protect, whoever, the young man Absalom; Hb obscure
  7. 2 Samuel 18:13 Alt Hb tradition reads jeopardized his
  8. 2 Samuel 18:33 2Sm 19:1 in Hb

18 David mustered the men who were with him and appointed over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. David sent out his troops,(A) a third under the command of Joab, a third under Joab’s brother Abishai(B) son of Zeruiah, and a third under Ittai(C) the Gittite. The king told the troops, “I myself will surely march out with you.”

But the men said, “You must not go out; if we are forced to flee, they won’t care about us. Even if half of us die, they won’t care; but you are worth ten(D) thousand of us.[a] It would be better now for you to give us support from the city.”(E)

The king answered, “I will do whatever seems best to you.”

So the king stood beside the gate while all his men marched out in units of hundreds and of thousands. The king commanded Joab, Abishai and Ittai, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.” And all the troops heard the king giving orders concerning Absalom to each of the commanders.

David’s army marched out of the city to fight Israel, and the battle took place in the forest(F) of Ephraim. There Israel’s troops were routed by David’s men, and the casualties that day were great—twenty thousand men. The battle spread out over the whole countryside, and the forest swallowed up more men that day than the sword.

Now Absalom happened to meet David’s men. He was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absalom’s hair(G) got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going.

10 When one of the men saw what had happened, he told Joab, “I just saw Absalom hanging in an oak tree.”

11 Joab said to the man who had told him this, “What! You saw him? Why didn’t you strike(H) him to the ground right there? Then I would have had to give you ten shekels[b] of silver and a warrior’s belt.(I)

12 But the man replied, “Even if a thousand shekels[c] were weighed out into my hands, I would not lay a hand on the king’s son. In our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘Protect the young man Absalom for my sake.[d] 13 And if I had put my life in jeopardy[e]—and nothing is hidden from the king(J)—you would have kept your distance from me.”

14 Joab(K) said, “I’m not going to wait like this for you.” So he took three javelins in his hand and plunged them into Absalom’s heart while Absalom was still alive in the oak tree. 15 And ten of Joab’s armor-bearers surrounded Absalom, struck him and killed him.(L)

16 Then Joab(M) sounded the trumpet, and the troops stopped pursuing Israel, for Joab halted them. 17 They took Absalom, threw him into a big pit in the forest and piled up(N) a large heap of rocks(O) over him. Meanwhile, all the Israelites fled to their homes.

18 During his lifetime Absalom had taken a pillar and erected it in the King’s Valley(P) as a monument(Q) to himself, for he thought, “I have no son(R) to carry on the memory of my name.” He named the pillar after himself, and it is called Absalom’s Monument to this day.

David Mourns

19 Now Ahimaaz(S) son of Zadok said, “Let me run and take the news to the king that the Lord has vindicated him by delivering him from the hand of his enemies.(T)

20 “You are not the one to take the news today,” Joab told him. “You may take the news another time, but you must not do so today, because the king’s son is dead.”

21 Then Joab said to a Cushite, “Go, tell the king what you have seen.” The Cushite bowed down before Joab and ran off.

22 Ahimaaz son of Zadok again said to Joab, “Come what may, please let me run behind the Cushite.”

But Joab replied, “My son, why do you want to go? You don’t have any news that will bring you a reward.”

23 He said, “Come what may, I want to run.”

So Joab said, “Run!” Then Ahimaaz ran by way of the plain[f] and outran the Cushite.

24 While David was sitting between the inner and outer gates, the watchman(U) went up to the roof of the gateway by the wall. As he looked out, he saw a man running alone. 25 The watchman called out to the king and reported it.

The king said, “If he is alone, he must have good news.” And the runner came closer and closer.

26 Then the watchman saw another runner, and he called down to the gatekeeper, “Look, another man running alone!”

The king said, “He must be bringing good news,(V) too.”

27 The watchman said, “It seems to me that the first one runs like(W) Ahimaaz son of Zadok.”

“He’s a good man,” the king said. “He comes with good news.”

28 Then Ahimaaz called out to the king, “All is well!” He bowed down before the king with his face to the ground and said, “Praise be to the Lord your God! He has delivered up those who lifted their hands against my lord the king.”

29 The king asked, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”

Ahimaaz answered, “I saw great confusion just as Joab was about to send the king’s servant and me, your servant, but I don’t know what it was.”

30 The king said, “Stand aside and wait here.” So he stepped aside and stood there.

31 Then the Cushite arrived and said, “My lord the king, hear the good news! The Lord has vindicated you today by delivering you from the hand of all who rose up against you.”

32 The king asked the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”

The Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up to harm you be like that young man.”(X)

33 The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died(Y) instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”[g](Z)

Footnotes

  1. 2 Samuel 18:3 Two Hebrew manuscripts, some Septuagint manuscripts and Vulgate; most Hebrew manuscripts care; for now there are ten thousand like us
  2. 2 Samuel 18:11 That is, about 4 ounces or about 115 grams
  3. 2 Samuel 18:12 That is, about 25 pounds or about 12 kilograms
  4. 2 Samuel 18:12 A few Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint, Vulgate and Syriac; most Hebrew manuscripts may be translated Absalom, whoever you may be.
  5. 2 Samuel 18:13 Or Otherwise, if I had acted treacherously toward him
  6. 2 Samuel 18:23 That is, the plain of the Jordan
  7. 2 Samuel 18:33 In Hebrew texts this verse (18:33) is numbered 19:1.

18 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.

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.

And the king said unto them, What seemeth you best I will do. And the king stood by the gate side, and all the people came out by hundreds and by thousands.

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.

So the people went out into the field against Israel: and the battle was in the wood of Ephraim;

Where the people of Israel were slain before the servants of David, and there was there a great slaughter that day of twenty thousand men.

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.

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.

10 And a certain man saw it, and told Joab, and said, Behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak.

11 And Joab said unto the man that told him, And, behold, thou sawest him, and why didst thou not smite him there to the ground? and I would have given thee ten shekels of silver, and a girdle.

12 And the man said unto Joab, Though I should receive a thousand shekels of silver in mine hand, yet would I not put forth mine hand against the king's son: for in our hearing the king charged thee and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Beware that none touch the young man Absalom.

13 Otherwise I should have wrought falsehood against mine own life: for there is no matter hid from the king, and thou thyself wouldest have set thyself against me.

14 Then said Joab, I may not tarry thus with thee. And he 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.

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

16 And Joab blew the trumpet, and the people returned from pursuing after Israel: for Joab held back the people.

17 And they took Absalom, and cast him into a great pit in the wood, and laid a very great heap of stones upon him: and all Israel fled every one to his tent.

18 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.

19 Then said Ahimaaz the son of Zadok, Let me now run, and bear the king tidings, how that the Lord hath avenged him of his enemies.

20 And Joab said unto him, Thou shalt not bear tidings this day, but thou shalt bear tidings another day: but this day thou shalt bear no tidings, because the king's son is dead.

21 Then said Joab to Cushi, Go tell the king what thou hast seen. And Cushi bowed himself unto Joab, and ran.

22 Then said Ahimaaz the son of Zadok yet again to Joab, But howsoever, let me, I pray thee, also run after Cushi. And Joab said, Wherefore wilt thou run, my son, seeing that thou hast no tidings ready?

23 But howsoever, said he, let me run. And he said unto him, Run. Then Ahimaaz ran by the way of the plain, and overran Cushi.

24 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.

25 And the watchman cried, and told the king. And the king said, If he be alone, there is tidings in his mouth. And he came apace, and drew near.

26 And the watchman saw another man running: and the watchman called unto the porter, and said, Behold another man running alone. And the king said, He also bringeth tidings.

27 And the watchman said, Me thinketh the running of the foremost is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok. And the king said, He is a good man, and cometh with good tidings.

28 And Ahimaaz called, and said unto the king, All is well. And he fell down to the earth upon his face before the king, and said, Blessed be the Lord thy God, which hath delivered up the men that lifted up their hand against my lord the king.

29 And the king said, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Ahimaaz answered, When Joab sent the king's servant, and me thy servant, I saw a great tumult, but I knew not what it was.

30 And the king said unto him, Turn aside, and stand here. And he turned aside, and stood still.

31 And, behold, Cushi came; and Cushi said, Tidings, my lord the king: for the Lord hath avenged thee this day of all them that rose up against thee.

32 And the king said unto Cushi, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Cushi answered, The enemies of my lord the king, and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt, be as that young man is.

33 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!

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