1 David numbered the men who were with him and set over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. 2 Then David sent the (a)army out, a third under the command of Joab, a third under Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, and a third under the command of Ittai the Gittite. And the king said to the (b)men, “I myself will certainly go out [to fight] with you.” 3 But the men said, “You should not go out [to battle with us]. For if in fact we retreat, 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. So now it is better that you be ready to help us from the city [of Mahanaim].” 4 Then the king said to them, “I will do whatever seems best to you.” So the king stood beside the gate [of Mahanaim], and all the army went out in groups of hundreds and of thousands. 5 The king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently with the young man Absalom for my sake.” And all the men heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders about Absalom.
6 So the men went out into the field against Israel, and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim. 7 The men of Israel [who supported Absalom] were defeated there by the (c)men of David, and a great slaughter took place there that day, 20,000 men. 8 For the battle there was spread out over the surface of the entire countryside, and the [hazards of the] forest devoured more men that day than did the sword.
9 Now Absalom met the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a massive tree, and his (d)head was caught in [the thick branches of] the tree; and he was left hanging [in midair] between heaven and earth, while the mule that had been under him kept going. 10 A certain man saw it and informed Joab, saying, “I saw Absalom hanging in a tree.” 11 Joab said to the man who informed him, “You saw him! Why then did you not strike him there to the ground? (e)I would have given you ten pieces of silver and a belt.” 12 The man told Joab, “Even if I were to feel the weight of a thousand pieces of silver in my hands, I would not put out my hand against the king’s son; for (f)we all heard the king command you, Abishai, and Ittai, saying, ‘Protect the young man Absalom, for my sake.’ 13 Otherwise, if I had acted treacherously against his life (for nothing is hidden from the king) you yourself would have (g)taken sides against me.” 14 Joab said, “I will not waste time with you.” So he took three spears in his hand and thrust them through the heart of Absalom while he was still alive [and caught] in the midst of the tree. 15 And ten young men, Joab’s armor bearers, surrounded and struck Absalom and killed him.
16 Then Joab blew the trumpet [to signal the end of the combat], and the men returned from pursuing Israel, for Joab held them back. 17 They took [down the body of] Absalom and threw him into a deep pit in the forest and set up a huge mound of stones over him. Then all Israel fled, everyone to his own tent. 18 Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up for himself a memorial pillar which is in the King’s Valley, for he said, “I have (h)no son to keep my name in remembrance.” He named the memorial pillar after himself, and to this day it is called (i)Absalom’s Monument.
David Is Grief-stricken
19 Then Ahimaaz the son of Zadok, said, “Let me run and bring the king news that the Lord has vindicated him by rescuing him from [the power of] his enemies.” 20 But Joab told him, “You are not the man to carry news [to King David] today, but you shall carry news another day. On this day you shall carry no news, because the king’s son is dead.” 21 Then Joab said to the Cushite (Ethiopian), “Go, tell the king what you have seen.” And the Cushite bowed to Joab and ran. 22 Then Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said again to Joab, “But whatever happens, please let me also run after the Cushite.” Joab said, “Why should you run, my son, seeing you will have no messenger’s reward for going [because you have only bad news]?” 23 “But whatever happens, Let me run.” So Joab said to him, “Run.” Then Ahimaaz ran by the way of the plain [of the Jordan River] and outran the Cushite.
24 Now David was sitting between the two gates; and the lookout went up to the roof of the gate by the wall, and when he raised his eyes and looked, he saw a man running alone. 25 The lookout called down and told the king. The king said, “If he is alone, he has good news to tell.” And he came nearer and nearer. 26 Then the lookout saw another man running, and he called to the gatekeeper and said, “Look, another man running alone.” The king said, “He also is bringing good news.” 27 The lookout said, “I think the man in front runs like Ahimaaz the son of Zadok.” The king said, “He is a good man and is coming with good news.”
28 And Ahimaaz called out and said to the king, “(j)All is well.” And he bowed before the king with his face to the ground and said, “Blessed be the Lord your God, who has handed over the men who lifted up their hands [to fight] against my lord the king.” 29 The king asked, “Is the young man Absalom safe?” Ahimaaz answered, “When Joab sent the king’s servant, and your servant, I saw a great turmoil, but I do not know what it was about.” 30 The king told him, “Step aside; stand here.” And he stepped aside and stood still.
31 Behold, the Cushite (Ethiopian) arrived, and said, “Let my lord the king receive good news, for the Lord has vindicated you today by rescuing you from the hand (power) of all those who stood against you.” 32 The king asked the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom [my son] safe?” The Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king, and all those who rise against you to do evil, be [dead] like that young man is.”
a. 2 Samuel 18:2: Lit people and so throughout the chapter.
b. 2 Samuel 18:2: Lit people and so throughout the chapter.
c. 2 Samuel 18:7: Lit servants.
d. 2 Samuel 18:9: Absalom’s remarkable head of hair is described in 14:26.
e. 2 Samuel 18:11: In defiance of David’s order, Joab must have offered a reward for the man who killed Absalom.
f. 2 Samuel 18:12: Lit in our hearing.
g. 2 Samuel 18:13: Lit stood aloof.
h. 2 Samuel 18:18: One rabbi said that Absalom considered his three unnamed sons (14:27) unfit to rule. More likely, his sons predeceased him.
i. 2 Samuel 18:18: Lit the hand of Absalom. The monument of the same name that exists today in the Kidron Valley is not the one set up by Absalom.
j. 2 Samuel 18:28: Lit Peace (Heb Shalom).
k. 2 Samuel 18:33: In the Hebrew text, ch 19 begins with this verse.
l. 2 Samuel 18:33: Lit Would that.