2 Samuel 18

David prepares his army

1 David brought together all the men who were with him. He chose some to lead hundreds and some to lead thousands of them. 2 He sent them out in three groups. Joab led one group. His brother, Abishai, led another group and Ittai from Gath led the third group. The king said to them all, ‘I will go with you myself.’

3 But the men replied, ‘You must not go out. If we have to run away they may kill half of us. But they will really want only to kill you. You are worth 10,000 of us. You can send help to us from the city.’

4 ‘I will do whatever you think is best,’ the king answered. Then he stood by the side of the gate. And his men marched out in their groups of hundreds and of thousands. 5 The king spoke strongly to Joab, Abishai and Ittai. ‘Do not hurt the young man Absalom if you love me,’ he said. And all the soldiers heard him say this to the three officers.

David's men fight Israel's soldiers

6 The army marched out to fight Israel. They fought in the forest of Ephraim. 7 There David's men won the fight with Israel's men. Many men died. There were 20,000 dead men. 8 They fought over all the land in and round the forest. More men died in the forest than in the fight.

Joab's men catch Absalom

9 And Absalom met some of David's men. He was riding on a mule. It went under a big oak tree and Absalom's hair caught in its branches. He hung there by his hair but the mule continued to walk on.

10 A man saw it and he told Joab, ‘I have seen Absalom. He is hanging from an oak tree.’

11 Joab said to the man, ‘If you saw him, why did you not kill him? I would have given you 10 silver coins and a special belt.’

12 But the man replied, ‘I would not hurt the king's son, even for 25 pounds (11 kilos) of silver. We all heard the king speak to you, Abishai and Ittai. He said, “Do not hurt young Absalom if you love me.” 13 If I had killed Absalom, It would have been very dangerous for me. The king knows everything and then he would have killed me. And you would not have saved me.’

Joab kills Absalom

14 Joab said, ‘I cannot stand here and talk with you.’ And he took three spears. And he pushed them into Absalom's heart as Absalom was still hanging in the oak tree. 15 Ten of Joab's own men came round Absalom. They hit him and they killed him.

16 Then Joab made a sound with his trumpet and his soldiers stopped running after Israel. Joab had stopped them. 17 They took Absalom's dead body and they put it in a big hole in the forest. They put a lot of stones over it. At the same time, all the Israelites ran to their homes.

Absalom's pillar

18 While Absalom was alive he built a tall pillar of stones in the king's valley. He built it so that people might remember him. He thought, ‘I have no son to live after me.’ He gave his own name to it and people still call it Absalom's pillar.

Ahimaaz and a man from Ethiopia take the news to David

19 Zadok's son Ahimaaz spoke to Joab. ‘Let me run to give the king the news that the Lord has saved him from his enemies,’ he said.

20 Joab said, ‘You must not take any good news today. You can take it another day, but not today. The king's son is dead.’

21 Then Joab spoke to a man from Ethiopia, ‘Go to the king. Tell him what you have seen.’ The man bent down in front of Joab and then he ran off.

22 Ahimaaz spoke to Joab again, ‘I am not afraid of what may happen. Please let me run after the man from Ethiopia.’

But Joab replied, ‘Why do you want to do it? The king will not give you a gift for this news.’

23 He said, ‘But I do want to go, whatever happens.’

So Joab said, ‘Run!’ Then Ahimaaz ran across the flat ground. And he went faster than the man from Ethiopia.

24 David was sitting between the two city gates. A man stood over the gate by the wall. He was watching the road. As he looked he saw a man. The man was running towards the city. He was running alone. 25 The man on the roof shouted to the king to say what he had seen.

The king said, ‘If he is alone, the news is good.’ And the man came closer and closer.

26 Then the man on the roof saw another man who was running. He called down to the man at the gate, ‘Look, another man is also running alone!’

The king said, ‘He will bring good news, too.’

27 The man said, ‘The first man is running like Zadok's son Ahimaaz.’

‘He is a good man,’ the king said. ‘He will bring good news.’

Ahimaaz tells the good news

28 Then Ahimaaz shouted to the king, ‘It is good news!’ And he bent down with his face to the ground and he said, ‘Praise the Lord your God! He has helped you to win the fight with those who were against you.’

29 The king asked, ‘Is the young man Absalom safe?’

Ahimaaz answered, ‘When your officer Joab sent me I saw many people together. They seemed to be confused. But I did not see what had caused it.’

30 The king said, ‘Stand at the side and wait here.’ So Ahimaaz stepped to the side and he waited.

31 Then the man from Ethiopia arrived. He said, ‘My lord the king, hear my good news! Today the Lord has helped you to win the fight with those who were against you.’

The man from Ethiopia tells David that Absalom is dead

32 The king asked the man from Ethiopia, ‘Is the young man Absalom safe?’

The man from Ethiopia replied, ‘I hope that all your enemies will be like that young man. And I want the same thing to happen to all those who are against you.’

33 The king became very upset. He went upstairs to the room over the gate, and he wept loudly. As he went, he said, ‘My son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! You should not have died. I should have died instead, Absalom, Absalom my son!’