16 1 Shortly after David passed the crest of the hill, Mephibosheth's steward Ziba met him with a string of pack animals, saddled and loaded with a hundred loaves of bread, a hundred raisin cakes, a hundred baskets of fresh fruit, and a skin of wine. 2 The king said to Ziba, "What's all this?" "The donkeys," said Ziba, "are for the king's household to ride, the bread and fruit are for the servants to eat, and the wine is for drinking, especially for those overcome by fatigue in the wilderness." 3 The king said, "And where is your master's grandson?" "He stayed in Jerusalem," said Ziba. "He said, 'This is the day Israel is going to restore my grandfather's kingdom to me.'" 4 "Everything that belonged to Mephibosheth," said the king, "is now yours." Ziba said, "How can I ever thank you? I'll be forever in your debt, my master and king; may you always look on me with such kindness!"
5 When the king got to Bahurim, a man appeared who had connections with Saul's family. His name was Shimei son of Gera. As he followed along he shouted insults 6 and threw rocks right and left at David and his company, servants and soldiers alike. 7 To the accompaniment of curses he shouted, "Get lost, get lost, you butcher, you hellhound! 8 God has paid you back for all your dirty work in the family of Saul and for stealing his kingdom. God has given the kingdom to your son Absalom. Look at you now - ruined! And good riddance, you pathetic old man!" 9 Abishai son of Zeruiah said, "This mangy dog can't insult my master the king this way - let me go over and cut off his head!" 10 But the king said, "Why are you sons of Zeruiah always interfering and getting in the way? If he's cursing, it's because God told him, 'Curse David.' So who dares raise questions?" 11 "Besides," continued David to Abishai and the rest of his servants, "my own son, my flesh and bone, is right now trying to kill me; compared to that this Benjaminite is small potatoes. Don't bother with him; let him curse; he's preaching God's word to me. 12 And who knows, maybe God will see the trouble I'm in today and exchange the curses for something good." 13 David and his men went on down the road, while Shimei followed along on the ridge of the hill alongside, cursing, throwing stones down on them, and kicking up dirt. 14 By the time they reached the Jordan River, David and all the men of the company were exhausted. There they rested and were revived.
15 By this time Absalom and all his men were in Jerusalem. And Ahithophel was with them. 16 Soon after, Hushai the Arkite, David's friend, came and greeted Absalom, "Long live the king! Long live the king!" 17 Absalom said to Hushai, "Is this the way you show devotion to your good friend? Why didn't you go with your friend David?" 18 "Because," said Hushai, "I want to be with the person that God and this people and all Israel have chosen. And I want to stay with him. 19 Besides, who is there to serve other than the son? Just as I served your father, I'm now ready to serve you." 20 Then Absalom spoke to Ahithophel, "Are you ready to give counsel? What do we do next?" 21 Ahithophel told Absalom, "Go and sleep with your father's concubines, the ones he left to tend to the palace. Everyone will hear that you have openly disgraced your father, and the morale of everyone on your side will be strengthened." 22 So Absalom pitched a tent up on the roof in public view, and went in and slept with his father's concubines. 23 The counsel that Ahithophel gave in those days was treated as if God himself had spoken. That was the reputation of Ahithophel's counsel to David; it was the same with Absalom.
The Counsel of Ahithophel and Hushai
17 1 Next Ahithophel advised Absalom, "Let me handpick twelve thousand men and go after David tonight. 2 I'll come on him when he's bone tired and take him by complete surprise. The whole army will run off and I'll kill only David. 3 Then I'll bring the army back to you - a bride brought back to her husband! You're only after one man, after all. Then everyone will be together in peace!" 4 Absalom thought it was an excellent strategy, and all the elders of Israel agreed. 5 But then Absalom said, "Call in Hushai the Arkite - let's hear what he has to say." 6 So Hushai came and Absalom put it to him, "This is what Ahithophel advised. Should we do it? What do you say?" 7 Hushai said, "The counsel that Ahithophel has given in this instance is not good. 8 You know your father and his men, brave and bitterly angry - like a bear robbed of her cubs. And your father is an experienced fighter; you can be sure he won't be caught napping at a time like this. 9 Even while we're talking, he's probably holed up in some cave or other. If he jumps your men from ambush, word will soon get back, 'A slaughter of Absalom's army!' 10 Even if your men are valiant with hearts of lions, they'll fall apart at such news, for everyone in Israel knows the kind of fighting stuff your father's made of, and also the men with him. 11 "Here's what I'd advise: Muster the whole country, from Dan to Beersheba, an army like the sand of the sea, and you personally lead them. 12 We'll smoke him out wherever he is, fall on him like dew falls on the earth, and, believe me, there won't be a single survivor. 13 If he hides out in a city, then the whole army will bring ropes to that city and pull it down and into a gully - not so much as a pebble left of it!" 14 Absalom and all his company agreed that the counsel of Hushai the Arkite was better than the counsel of Ahithophel. (God had determined to discredit the counsel of Ahithophel so as to bring ruin on Absalom.)
15 Then Hushai told the priests Zadok and Abiathar, "Ahithophel advised Absalom and the elders of Israel thus and thus, and I advised them thus and thus. 16 Now send this message as quickly as possible to David: 'Don't spend the night on this side of the river; cross immediately or the king and everyone with him will be swallowed up alive.'" 17 Jonathan and Ahimaaz were waiting around at En Rogel. A servant girl would come and give them messages and then they would go and tell King David, for it wasn't safe to be seen coming into the city. 18 But a soldier spotted them and told Absalom, so the two of them got out of there fast and went to a man's house in Bahurim. He had a well in his yard and they climbed into it. 19 The wife took a rug and covered the well, then spread grain on it so no one would notice anything out of the ordinary. 20 Shortly, Absalom's servants came to the woman's house and asked her, "Have you seen Ahimaaz and Jonathan?" The woman said, "They were headed toward the river." They looked but didn't find them, and then went back to Jerusalem. 21 When the coast was clear, Ahimaaz and Jonathan climbed out of the well and went on to make their report to King David, "Get up and cross the river quickly; Ahithophel has given counsel against you!"
22 David and his whole army were soon up and moving and crossed the Jordan. As morning broke there was not a single person who had not made it across the Jordan. 23 When Ahithophel realized that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey and left for his hometown. After making out his will and putting his house in order, he hanged himself and died. He was buried in the family tomb. 24 About the time David arrived at Mahanaim, Absalom crossed the Jordan, and the whole army of Israel with him. 25 Absalom had made Amasa head of the army, replacing Joab. (Amasa was the son of a man named Ithra, an Ishmaelite who had married Abigail, daughter of Nahash and sister of Zeruiah, the mother of Joab.) 26 Israel and Absalom set camp in Gilead. 27 When David arrived at Mahanaim, Shobi son of Nahash from Ammonite Rabbah, and Makir son of Ammiel from Lo Debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim 28 brought beds and blankets, bowls and jugs filled with wheat, barley, flour, roasted grain, beans and lentils, 29 honey, and curds and cheese from the flocks and herds. They presented all this to David and his army to eat, "because," they said, "the army must be starved and exhausted and thirsty out in this wilderness."
The Death of Absalom
18 1 David organized his forces. He appointed captains of thousands and captains of hundreds. 2 Then David deployed his troops, a third under Joab, a third under Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab's brother, and a third under Ittai the Gittite. The king then announced, "I'm marching with you." 3 They said, "No, you mustn't march with us. If we're forced to retreat, the enemy won't give it a second thought. And if half of us die, they won't do so either. But you are worth ten thousand of us. It will be better for us if you stay in the city and help from there." 4 "If you say so," said the king. "I'll do what you think is best." And so he stood beside the city gate as the whole army marched out by hundreds and by thousands. 5 Then the king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, "Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom." The whole army heard what the king commanded the three captains regarding Absalom. 6 The army took the field to meet Israel. It turned out that the battle was joined in the Forest of Ephraim. 7 The army of Israel was beaten badly there that day by David's men, a terrific slaughter - twenty thousand men! 8 There was fighting helter-skelter all over the place - the forest claimed more lives that day than the sword!
9 Absalom ran into David's men, but was out in front of them riding his mule, when the mule ran under the branches of a huge oak tree. Absalom's head was caught in the oak and he was left dangling between heaven and earth, the mule running right out from under him. 10 A solitary soldier saw him and reported it to Joab, "I just saw Absalom hanging from an oak tree!" 11 Joab said to the man who told him, "If you saw him, why didn't you kill him then and there? I'd have rewarded you with ten pieces of silver and a fancy belt." 12 The man told Joab, "Even if I'd had a chance at a thousand pieces of silver, I wouldn't have laid a hand on the king's son. We all heard the king command you and Abishai and Ittai, 'For my sake, protect the young man Absalom.' 13 Why, I'd be risking my life, for nothing is hidden from the king. And you would have just stood there!" 14 Joab said, "I can't waste my time with you." He then grabbed three knives and stabbed Absalom in the heart while he was still alive in the tree; 15 by then Absalom was surrounded by ten of Joab's armor bearers; they hacked away at him and killed him. 16 Joab then blew the ram's horn trumpet, calling off the army in its pursuit of Israel. 17 They took Absalom, dumped him into a huge pit in the forest, and piled an immense mound of rocks over him. Meanwhile the whole army of Israel was in flight, each man making his own way home. 18 While alive, Absalom had erected for himself a pillar in the Valley of the King, "because," he said, "I have no son to carry on my name." He inscribed the pillar with his own name. To this day it is called "The Absalom Memorial."
19 Ahimaaz, Zadok's son, said, "Let me run to the king and bring him the good news that God has delivered him from his enemies." 20 But Joab said, "You're not the one to deliver the good news today; some other day, maybe, but it's not 'good news' today." (This was because the king's son was dead.) 21 Then Joab ordered a Cushite, "You go. Tell the king what you've seen." "Yes sir," said the Cushite, and ran off. 22 Ahimaaz son of Zadok kept at it, begging Joab, "What does it matter? Let me run too, following the Cushite." Joab said, "Why all this 'Run, run'? You'll get no thanks for it, I can tell you." 23 "I don't care; let me run." "Okay," said Joab, "run." So Ahimaaz ran, taking the lower valley road, and passed the Cushite. 24 David was sitting between the two gates. The sentry had gone up to the top of the gate on the wall and looked around. He saw a solitary runner. 25 The sentry called down and told the king. The king said, "If he's alone, it must be good news!" 26 the sentry saw another runner and called down to the gate, "Another runner all by himself." And the king said, "This also must be good news." 27 Then the sentry said, "I can see the first man now; he runs like Ahimaaz son of Zadok." "He's a good man," said the king. "He's bringing good news for sure." 28 Then Ahimaaz called out and said to the king, "Peace!" Then he bowed deeply before the king, his face to the ground. "Blessed be your God; he has handed over the men who rebelled against my master the king." 29 The king asked, "But is the young man Absalom all right?" Ahimaaz said, "I saw a huge ruckus just as Joab was sending me off, but I don't know what it was about." 30 The king said, "Step aside and stand over there." So he stepped aside. 31 Then the Cushite arrived and said, "Good news, my master and king! God has given victory today over all those who rebelled against you!" 32 "But," said the king, "is the young man Absalom all right?" And the Cushite replied, "Would that all of the enemies of my master the king and all who maliciously rose against you end up like that young man." 33 The king was stunned. Heartbroken, he went up to the room over the gate and wept. As he wept he cried out, O my son Absalom, my dear, dear son Absalom! Why not me rather than you, my death and not yours, O Absalom, my dear, dear son!