Preparation for Battle. 1After mustering the troops he had with him, David placed officers in command of units of a thousand and units of a hundred. 2David then divided the troops three ways, a third under Joab, a third under Abishai, son of Zeruiah and brother of Joab, and a third under Ittai the Gittite. The king said to the troops, “I intend to go out with you myself.” 3But they replied: “You must not come out with us. For if we flee, no one will care; even if half of us die, no one will care. But you are worth ten thousand of us. Therefore it is better that we have you to help us from the city.” 4The king said to them, “I will do what you think best.” So the king stood by the gate as all the soldiers marched out in units of a hundred and a thousand. 5But the king gave this command to Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: “Be gentle with young Absalom for my sake.” All the soldiers heard as the king gave commands to the various leaders with regard to Absalom.
Defeat of Absalom’s Forces. 6David’s army then took the field against Israel, and a battle was fought in the forest near Mahanaim. 7The forces of Israel were defeated by David’s servants, and the casualties there that day were heavy—twenty thousand men. 8The battle spread out over that entire region, and the forest consumed more combatants that day than did the sword.
Death of Absalom. 9Absalom unexpectedly came up against David’s servants. He was mounted on a mule, and, as the mule passed under the branches of a large oak tree, his hair caught fast in the tree. He hung between heaven and earth while the mule under him kept going. 10Someone saw this and reported to Joab, “I saw Absalom hanging from an oak tree.” 11Joab said to the man who told him this: “If you saw him, why did you not strike him to the ground on the spot? Then it would have been my duty to give you fifty pieces of silver and a belt.” 12But the man replied to Joab: “Even if I already held a thousand pieces of silver in my two hands, I would not lay a hand on the king’s son, for in our hearing the king gave you and Abishai and Ittai a command: ‘Protect the youth Absalom for my sake.’ 13Had I been disloyal and killed him, it would all have come out before the king, and you would stand aloof.” 14Joab replied, “I will not waste time with you in this way.” And taking three pikes in hand, he thrust for the heart of Absalom. He was still alive in the tree.a 15When ten of Joab’s young armor-bearers closed in on Absalom, and killed him with further blows, 16Joab then sounded the horn, and the soldiers turned back from the pursuit of the Israelites, because Joab called them to halt. 17They took Absalom and cast him into a deep pit in the forest, and built up a very large mound of stones over him. And all the Israelites fled to their own tents.b
18During his lifetime Absalom had taken a pillar and set it up for himself in the King’s Valley, for he said, “I have no son to perpetuate my name.” The pillar which he named for himself is called Absalom’s Monument to the present day.c
David Told of Absalom’s Death. 19Then Ahimaaz, son of Zadok, said, “Let me run to take the good news to the king that the LORD has set him free from the power of his enemies.” 20But Joab said to him: “You are not the man to bring the news today. On some other day you may take the good news, but today you would not be bringing good news, for in fact the king’s son is dead.” 21Then Joab said to a Cushite, “Go, tell the king what you have seen.” The Cushite bowed to Joab and ran off. 22But Ahimaaz, son of Zadok, said to Joab again, “Come what may, permit me also to run after the Cushite.” Joab replied: “Why do you want to run, my son? You will receive no reward.” 23But he insisted, “Come what may, I want to run.” Joab said to him, “Run.” Ahimaaz took the way of the Jordan plain and outran the Cushite.
24Now David was sitting between the two gates, and a lookout mounted to the roof of the gate above the city wall, where he looked out and saw a man running all alone. 25The lookout shouted to inform the king, who said, “If he is alone, he has good news to report.” As he kept coming nearer, 26the lookout spied another runner. From his place atop the gate he cried out, “There is another man running by himself.” And the king responded, “He, too, is bringing good news.” 27Then the lookout said, “I notice that the first one runs like Ahimaaz, son of Zadok.” The king replied, “He is a good man; he comes with good news.”d 28Then Ahimaaz called out and greeted the king. With face to the ground he paid homage to the king and said, “Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delivered up the men who rebelled against my lord the king.” 29But the king asked, “Is young Absalom safe?” And Ahimaaz replied, “I saw a great disturbance when the king’s servant Joab sent your servant on, but I do not know what it was.” 30The king said, “Step aside and remain in attendance here.” So he stepped aside and remained there. 31When the Cushite came in, he said, “Let my lord the king receive the good news that this day the LORD has freed you from the power of all who rose up against you.” 32But the king asked the Cushite, “Is young Absalom all right?” The Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rebel against you with evil intent be as that young man!”
a. [18:14] 2 Sm 12:10; 13:28–29.
b. [18:17] Jos 7:26; 8:29; 10:27.
c. [18:18] 2 Sm 14:27.
d. [18:27] 2 Kgs 9:20.