1David took a census of the people who were with him and appointed over them commanders of thousands and of hundreds. 2Then David dispatched the people, a third of them under the command of Yo’av, a third under Avishai the son of Tz’ruyah, Yo’av’s brother, and a third under Ittai the Gitti; and the king said to the people, “I will also go out with you, myself.” 3But the people replied, “Don’t go out; because if we flee, they won’t care about us. Even if half of us die, they won’t care about us. But you are worth ten thousand of us; so it is better now that you stay in the city and be ready if we need help.” 4The king answered them, “I will do whatever you think best.” So the king stood at the side of the gate, while all the people went out by hundreds and by thousands. 5The king gave orders to Yo’av, Avishai and Ittai, “For my sake, deal gently with young Avshalom.” All the people were listening when the king gave all the commanders this order concerning Avshalom.
6So the people went out into the field against Isra’el; the battle took place in the forest of Efrayim. 7The people of Isra’el were defeated there by David’s servants; there was a terrible slaughter that day of 20,000 men. 8For the battle there was spread all over the countryside; the forest devoured more people that day than did the sword.
9Avshalom happened to meet some of David’s servants. Avshalom was riding his mule, and as the mule walked under the thick branches of a big terebinth tree, his head got caught in the terebinth, so that he was left hanging between earth and sky, as the mule went on from under him. 10Someone saw it and told Yo’av, “I saw Avshalom hanging in a terebinth.” 11Yo’av asked the man who told him, “Here now, you saw it; so why didn’t you strike him to the ground then and there? I would have had to give you ten pieces of silver and a belt besides.” 12The man replied to Yo’av, “Even if I were to get a thousand pieces of silver, I still wouldn’t raise my hand against the son of the king! After all, while we were listening, the king ordered you, Avishai and Ittai, ‘Be careful that no one touches young Avshalom.’ 13Or, if I had pretended that I didn’t know, the king would have known otherwise anyway; and you wouldn’t have interceded for me either.” 14Yo’av said, “I can’t waste time arguing with you!” He took three darts in his hand and rammed them through Avshalom’s heart while he was still alive, hanging from the terebinth. 15Then Yo’av’s ten young armor-bearers surrounded Avshalom, struck him and killed him.
16Yo’av sounded the shofar, and the people returned from pursuing Isra’el, because Yo’av held back the troops. 17They took Avshalom and threw him into a big pit in the forest and piled a big heap of stones over him. All Isra’el fled, each one to his tent. 18In his own lifetime Avshalom had taken and raised for himself the pillar which stands in the King’s Valley; because he said, “I don’t have a son to preserve the memory of my name.” So he named the pillar after himself, and it’s called Avshalom’s Monument to this day.
19Then Achima‘atz the son of Tzadok said, “Let me run now and bring news to the king that Adonai has judged in his favor by releasing him from his enemies.” 20Yo’av said to him, “You are not to be the one to bring the news today; you can convey news another day; but today you will not bring news, because the king’s son is dead.” 21Then Yo’av said to the Ethiopian, “Go, tell the king what you saw.” The Ethiopian bowed to Yo’av, then ran off. 22But Achima‘atz the son of Tzadok said again to Yo’av, “Come what may, please let me also run after the Ethiopian.” Yo’av answered, “Why do you want to run, my son? You won’t receive any reward for bringing the news.” 23“I don’t care — whatever happens, I want to run.” So he said to him, “Run.” Then Achima‘atz ran by the road through the desert flats and outran the Ethiopian.
24David was sitting between the two gates. A watchman went up to the roof of the gate and out onto the wall, raised his eyes, looked, and saw there a man running by himself. 25The watchman cried out and told the king. The king said, “If he’s alone, he has good news to tell.” As he ran along and came close, 26the watchman saw another man running and called to the gatekeeper, “There’s another man running by himself.” The king said, “He too must have good news.” 27The watchman said, “The first one runs like Achima‘atz the son of Tzadok.” The king said, “He’s a good man, he comes with good news.”
28Achima‘atz called to the king, “Shalom,” prostrated himself before the king with his face to the ground and said, “Blessed be Adonai your God, who has handed over the men who rebelled against my lord the king.” 29The king asked, “Is everything all right with young Avshalom?” Achima‘atz answered, “When Yo’av sent the king’s servant and me your servant, I saw a big commotion; but I didn’t know what it was.” 30The king said, “Go, and stand over there.” So he went and stood there. 31Then up came the Ethiopian, and the Ethiopian said, “There’s good news for my lord the king, for Adonai has judged in your favor and rid you of all those who rebelled against you.” 32The king asked the Ethiopian, “Is everything all right with young Avshalom?” The Ethiopian answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rebel against you in order to harm you be as that young man is.”