Absalom leads a rebellion
1Some time later, Absalom got himself a chariot with horses to pull it, and he had fifty men to run in front. 2He would get up early each morning and wait by the side of the road that led to the city gate.#15.2 the city gate: Or “the entrance to the king's palace.” Anyone who had a complaint to bring to King David would have to go that way, and Absalom would ask each of them, “Where are you from?”
If they said, “I'm from a tribe in the north,” 3Absalom would say, “You deserve to win your case. But the king doesn't have anyone to hear complaints like yours. 4I wish someone would make me the judge around here! I would be fair to everyone.”
5Whenever anyone would come to Absalom and start bowing down, he would reach out and hug and kiss them. 6That's how he treated everyone from Israel who brought a complaint to the king. Soon everyone in Israel liked Absalom better than they liked David.
7Four years#15.7 Four years: The Hebrew text has “forty years”. later, Absalom said to David, “Please, let me go to Hebron. I have to keep a promise that I made to the LORD, 8when I was living with the Arameans in Geshur. I promised that if the LORD would bring me back to live in Jerusalem, I would worship him in Hebron.”#15.8 in Hebron: Some manuscripts of one ancient translation; these words are not in the Hebrew text.
9David gave his permission, and Absalom went to Hebron. 10-12He took two hundred men from Jerusalem with him, but they had no idea what he was going to do. Absalom offered sacrifices in Hebron and sent someone to Gilo to tell David's adviser Ahithophel to come.
More and more people were joining Absalom and supporting his plot. Meanwhile, Absalom had secretly sent some messengers to the northern tribes of Israel. The messengers told everyone, “When you hear the sound of the trumpets, you must shout, ‘Absalom now rules as king in Hebron!’ ”
David has to leave Jerusalem
13A messenger came and told David, “Everyone in Israel is on Absalom's side!”
14David's officials were in Jerusalem with him, and he told them, “Let's get out of here! We'll have to leave soon, or none of us will escape from Absalom. Hurry! If he moves fast, he could catch us while we're still here. Then he will kill us and everyone else in the city.”
15The officials said, “Your Majesty, we'll do whatever you say.”
16-17David left behind ten of his wives#15.16,17 wives: See the note at 3.7. to take care of the palace, but the rest of his family and his officials and soldiers went with him.
They stopped at the last house at the edge of the city. 18Then David stood there and watched while his regular troops and his bodyguards#15.18 bodyguards: See the note at 8.18. marched past. The last group was the six hundred soldiers who had followed him from Gath.#15.18 the six … Gath: These were Philistine soldiers who were loyal to David. Their commander was Ittai.
19David spoke to Ittai and said, “You're a foreigner from the town of Gath. You don't have to leave with us. Go back and join the new king! 20You haven't been with me very long, so why should you have to follow me, when I don't even know where I'm going? Take your soldiers and go back. I pray that the Lord will be#15.20 I pray … be: One ancient translation; these words are not in the Hebrew text. kind and faithful to you.”
21Ittai answered, “Your Majesty, just as surely as you and the LORD live, I will go where you go, no matter if it costs me my life.”
22“Then come on!” David said.
So Ittai and all his men and their families walked on past David.
David sends the sacred chest back to Jerusalem
23The people of Jerusalem were crying and moaning as David and everyone with him passed by. He led them across Kidron Valley#15.23 Kidron Valley: This was considered the eastern boundary of Jerusalem. and along the road towards the desert.
24Zadok and Abiathar the priests were there along with several men from the tribe of Levi who were carrying the sacred chest. They set the chest down, and left it there until David and his followers had gone out of the city.
25Then David said:
Zadok, take the sacred chest back to Jerusalem. If the LORD is pleased with me, he will bring me back and let me see it and his tent again. 26But if he says he isn't pleased with me, then let him do what he knows is best.
27Zadok, you are a good judge of things,#15.27 you … things: Or “You are a prophet” or “You are not a prophet”. so return to the city and don't cause any trouble. Take your son Ahimaaz with you. Abiathar and his son Jonathan will also go back. 28I'll wait at the river crossing in the desert until I hear from you.
29Zadok and Abiathar took the sacred chest back into Jerusalem and stayed there. 30David went on up the slope of the Mount of Olives. He was barefoot and crying, and he covered his head to show his sorrow. Everyone with him was crying, and they covered their heads too.
31Someone told David, “Ahithophel is helping Absalom plot against you!”
David said, “Please, LORD, keep Ahithophel's plans from working!”
David sends Hushai back as a spy
32When David reached the top of the Mount of Olives, he met Hushai the Archite#15.32 Archite: The Archites were part of the tribe of Benjamin (see Joshua 16.2). at a place of worship. Hushai's robe was torn, and dust was on his head.#15.32 Hushai's … head: See the note at 1.2. 33David told him:
If you come with me, you might slow us down.#15.33 you might slow us down: Hushai was probably very old. 34Go back into the city and tell Absalom, “Your Majesty, I am your servant. I will serve you now, just as I served your father in the past.”
Hushai, if you do that, you can help me ruin Ahithophel's plans. 35Zadok and Abiathar the priests will be there with you, and you can tell them everything you hear in the palace. 36Then they can send their sons Ahimaaz and Jonathan to tell me what you've heard.
37David's adviser Hushai slipped back into Jerusalem, just about the same time that Absalom was coming in.