Then David numbered the people who were with him and set over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. David sent the people out, one third under the command of Joab, one third under the command of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab's brother, and one third under the command of Ittai the Gittite. And the king said to the people, "I myself will surely go out with you also."
But the people said, "You should not go out; for if we indeed flee, they will not care about us; even if half of us die, they will not care about us. But you are worth ten thousand of us; therefore now it is better that you be ready to help us from the city."
Then the king said to them, "Whatever seems best to you I will do." So the king stood beside the gate, and all the people went out by hundreds and thousands.
The king charged Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, "Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom." And all the people heard when the king charged all the commanders concerning Absalom. Then the people went out into the field against Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. The people of Israel were defeated there before the servants of David, and the slaughter there that day was great, 20,000 men. For the battle there was spread over the whole countryside, and the forest devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.
Now Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. For Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. And his head caught fast in the oak, so he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him kept going. When a certain man saw it, he told Joab and said, "Behold, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak."
Then Joab said to the man who had told him, "Now behold, you saw him! Why then did you not strike him there to the ground? And I would have given you ten pieces of silver and a belt."
The man said to Joab, "Even if I should receive a thousand pieces of silver in my hand, I would not put out my hand against the king's son; for in our hearing the king charged you and Abishai and Ittai, saying, 'Protect for me the young man Absalom!' Otherwise, if I had dealt treacherously against his life (and there is nothing hidden from the king), then you yourself would have stood aloof."
Then Joab said, "I will not waste time here with you." So he took three spears in his hand and thrust them through the heart of Absalom while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak. And ten young men who carried Joab's armor gathered around and struck Absalom and killed him.
Then Joab blew the trumpet, and the people returned from pursuing Israel, for Joab restrained the people.
They took Absalom and cast him into a deep pit in the forest and erected over him a very great heap of stones. And all Israel fled, each to his tent.
Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up for himself a pillar which is in the King's Valley, for he said, "I have no son to preserve my name." So he named the pillar after his own name, and it is called Absalom's Monument to this day.
Then Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said, "Please let me run and bring the king news that YAHWEH has freed him from the hand of his enemies."
But Joab said to him, "You are not the man to carry news this day, but you shall carry news another day; however, you shall carry no news today because the king's son is dead."
Then Joab said to the Cushite, "Go, tell the king what you have seen." So the Cushite bowed to Joab and ran.
Now Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said once more to Joab, "But whatever happens, please let me also run after the Cushite." And Joab said, "Why would you run, my son, since you will have no reward for going?"
"But whatever happens," he said, "I will run." So he said to him, "Run." Then Ahimaaz ran by way of the plain and passed up the Cushite.
Now David was sitting between the two gates; and the watchman went up to the roof of the gate by the wall, and raised his eyes and looked, and behold, a man running by himself. The watchman called and told the king. And the king said, "If he is by himself there is good news in his mouth." And he came nearer and nearer.
Then the watchman saw another man running; and the watchman called to the gatekeeper and said, "Behold, another man running by himself." And the king said, "This one also is bringing good news."
The watchman said, "I think the running of the first one is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok." And the king said, "This is a good man and comes with good news."
Ahimaaz called and said to the king, "All is well." And he prostrated himself before the king with his face to the ground. And he said, "Blessed is YAHWEH your Elohim, who has delivered up the men who lifted their hands against my master the king."
The king said, "Is it well with the young man Absalom?" And Ahimaaz answered, "When Joab sent the king's servant, and your servant, I saw a great tumult, but I did not know what it was."
Then the king said, "Turn aside and stand here." So he turned aside and stood still.
Behold, the Cushite arrived, and the Cushite said, "Let my master the king receive good news, for YAHWEH has freed you this day from the hand of all those who rose up against you."
Then the king said to the Cushite, "Is it well with the young man Absalom?" And the Cushite answered, "Let the enemies of my master the king, and all who rise up against you for evil, be as that young man!"
What a strange way of saying
Absalom is dead!
The king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And thus he said as he walked, "O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!"
Then it was told Joab, "Behold, the king is weeping and mourns for Absalom."
The victory that day was turned to mourning for all the people, for the people heard it said that day, "The king is grieved for his son."
So the people went by stealth into the city that day, as people who are humiliated steal away when they flee in battle. The king covered his face and cried out with a loud voice, "O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!"
Then Joab came into the house to the king and said, "Today you have covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who today have saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters, the lives of your wives, and the lives of your concubines, by loving those who hate you, and by hating those who love you. For you have shown today that princes and servants are nothing to you; for I know this day that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased. Now therefore arise, go out and speak kindly to your servants, for I swear by YAHWEH, if you do not go out, surely not a man will pass the night with you, and this will be worse for you than all the evil that has come upon you from your youth until now."
Doesn't it sound like Joab is quite upset with the king? Do you understand why he is upset? Talk about this--remember the king's son is dead and yet Joab is saying he has shamed his servants.
So the king arose and sat in the gate. When they told all the people, saying, "Behold, the king is sitting in the gate," then all the people came before the king. Now Israel had fled, each to his tent. All the people were quarreling throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, "The king delivered us from the hand of our enemies and saved us from the hand of the Philistines, but now he has fled out of the land from Absalom. However, Absalom, whom we anointed over us, has died in battle. Now then, why are you silent about bringing the king back?"
Then King David sent to Zadok and Abiathar the priests, saying, "Speak to the elders of Judah, saying, 'Why are you the last to bring the king back to his house, since the word of all Israel has come to the king, even to his house? You are my brothers; you are my bone and my flesh. Why then should you be the last to bring back the king?' Say to Amasa, 'Are you not my bone and my flesh? May Elohim do so to me, and more also, if you will not be commander of the army before me continually in place of Joab.'"
Thus he turned the hearts of all the men of Judah as one man, so that they sent word to the king, saying, "Return, you and all your servants."
The king then returned and came as far as the Jordan. And Judah came to Gilgal in order to go to meet the king, to bring the king across the Jordan. Then Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjamite who was from Bahurim, hurried and came down with the men of Judah to meet King David. There were a thousand men of Benjamin with him, with Ziba the servant of the house of Saul, and his fifteen sons and his twenty servants with him; and they rushed to the Jordan before the king. Then they kept crossing the ford to bring over the king's household, and to do what was good in his sight. And Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king as he was about to cross the Jordan.
So he said to the king, "Let not my master consider me guilty, nor remember what your servant did wrong on the day when my master the king came out from Jerusalem, so that the king would take it to heart. For your servant knows that I have sinned; therefore behold, I have come today, the first of all the house of Joseph to go down to meet my master the king."
But Abishai the son of Zeruiah said, "Should not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed YAHWEH'S anointed?"
David then said, "What have I to do with you, O sons of Zeruiah, that you should this day be an adversary to me? Should any man be put to death in Israel today? For do I not know that I am king over Israel today?"
The king said to Shimei, "You shall not die." Thus the king swore to him.
Then Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king; and he had neither cared for his feet, nor trimmed his mustache, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came home in peace. It was when he came from Jerusalem to meet the king, that the king said to him, "Why did you not go with me, Mephibosheth?"
So he answered, "O my master, the king, my servant deceived me; for your servant said, 'I will saddle a donkey for myself that I may ride on it and go with the king,' because your servant is lame. Moreover, he has slandered your servant to my master the king; but my master the king is like the angel of Elohim, therefore do what is good in your sight. For all my father's household was nothing but dead men before my master the king; yet you set your servant among those who ate at your own table. What right do I have yet that I should complain anymore to the king?"
So the king said to him, "Why do you still speak of your affairs? I have decided, 'You and Ziba shall divide the land.'"
Mephibosheth said to the king, "Let him even take it all, since my master the king has come safely to his own house."
Now Barzillai the Gileadite had come down from Rogelim; and he went on to the Jordan with the king to escort him over the Jordan. Now Barzillai was very old, being eighty years old; and he had sustained the king while he stayed at Mahanaim, for he was a very great man. The king said to Barzillai, "You cross over with me and I will sustain you in Jerusalem with me."
But Barzillai said to the king, "How long have I yet to live, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem? I am now eighty years old. Can I distinguish between good and bad? Or can your servant taste what I eat or what I drink? Or can I hear anymore the voice of singing men and women? Why then should your servant be an added burden to my master the king? Your servant would merely cross over the Jordan with the king. Why should the king compensate me with this reward? Please let your servant return, that I may die in my own city near the grave of my father and my mother. However, here is your servant Chimham, let him cross over with my master the king, and do for him what is good in your sight."
The king answered, "Chimham shall cross over with me, and I will do for him what is good in your sight; and whatever you require of me, I will do for you."
All the people crossed over the Jordan and the king crossed too. The king then kissed Barzillai and blessed him, and he returned to his place.
Now the king went on to Gilgal, and Chimham went on with him; and all the people of Judah and also half the people of Israel accompanied the king. And behold, all the men of Israel came to the king and said to the king, "Why had our brothers the men of Judah stolen you away, and brought the king and his household and all David's men with him over the Jordan?"
Then all the men of Judah answered the men of Israel, "Because the king is a close relative to us. Why then are you angry about this matter? Have we eaten at all at the king's expense, or has anything been taken for us?"
But the men of Israel answered the men of Judah and said, "We have ten parts in the king, therefore we also have more claim on David than you. Why then did you treat us with contempt? Was it not our advice first to bring back our king?" Yet the words of the men of Judah were harsher than the words of the men of Israel.
It seems like King David just can't win, doesn't it?
Now a worthless fellow happened to be there whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjamite; and he blew the trumpet and said, "We have no portion in David, Nor do we have inheritance in the son of Jesse; Every man to his tents, O Israel!"
So all the men of Israel withdrew from following David and followed Sheba the son of Bichri; but the men of Judah remained steadfast to their king, from the Jordan even to Jerusalem.
Then David came to his house at Jerusalem, and the king took the ten women, the concubines whom he had left to keep the house, and placed them under guard and provided them with sustenance, but did not go in to them. So they were shut up until the day of their death, living as widows.
Then the king said to Amasa, "Call out the men of Judah for me within three days, and be present here yourself."
So Amasa went to call out the men of Judah, but he delayed longer than the set time which he had appointed him.
And David said to Abishai, "Now Sheba the son of Bichri will do us more harm than Absalom; take your master's servants and pursue him, so that he does not find for himself fortified cities and escape from our sight."
So Joab's men went out after him, along with the Cherethites and the Pelethites and all the mighty men; and they went out from Jerusalem to pursue Sheba the son of Bichri. When they were at the large stone which is in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Now Joab was dressed in his military attire, and over it was a belt with a sword in its sheath fastened at his waist; and as he went forward, it fell out.
Joab said to Amasa, "Is it well with you, my brother?" And Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. Amasa was not on guard against the sword which was in Joab's hand so he struck him in the belly with it and poured out his inward parts on the ground, and did not strike him again, and he died. Then Joab and Abishai his brother pursued Sheba the son of Bichri.
Now there stood by him one of Joab's young men, and said, "Whoever favors Joab and whoever is for David, let him follow Joab." But Amasa lay wallowing in his blood in the middle of the highway. And when the man saw that all the people stood still, he removed Amasa from the highway into the field and threw a garment over him when he saw that everyone who came by him stood still. As soon as he was removed from the highway, all the men passed on after Joab to pursue Sheba the son of Bichri.
Now he went through all the tribes of Israel to Abel, even Beth-maacah, and all the Berites; and they were gathered together and also went after him. They came and besieged him in Abel Beth-maacah, and they cast up a siege ramp against the city, and it stood by the rampart; and all the people who were with Joab were wreaking destruction in order to topple the wall. Then a wise woman called from the city, "Hear, hear! Please tell Joab, 'Come here that I may speak with you.'"
So he approached her, and the woman said, "Are you Joab?" And he answered, "I am." Then she said to him, "Listen to the words of your maidservant." And he answered, "I am listening."
Then she spoke, saying, "Formerly they used to say, 'They will surely ask advice at Abel,' and thus they ended the dispute. I am of those who are peaceable and faithful in Israel. You are seeking to destroy a city, even a mother in Israel. Why would you swallow up the inheritance of YAHWEH?"
Joab replied, "Far be it, far be it from me that I should swallow up or destroy! Such is not the case. But a man from the hill country of Ephraim, Sheba the son of Bichri by name, has lifted up his hand against King David. Only hand him over, and I will depart from the city." And the woman said to Joab, "Behold, his head will be thrown to you over the wall."
Then the woman wisely came to all the people. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri and threw it to Joab. So he blew the trumpet, and they were dispersed from the city, each to his tent. Joab also returned to the king at Jerusalem.
Now Joab was over the whole army of Israel, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and Adoram was over the forced labor, and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was the recorder; and Sheva was scribe, and Zadok and Abiathar were priests; and Ira the Jairite was also a priest to David.