1Then David gathered the troops who were with him and appointed unit commanders over thousands and hundreds. 2David sent out the army—a third under Joab’s command, a third under the command of Abishai, Zeruiah’s son, and a third under the command of Ittai the Gittite. The king told the troops, "I will march out with you myself."
3But the troops replied, "No! You must not march out! 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. It is much better if you support us from the city."
4The king said to them, "I will do whatever you think is best." So the king stood beside the gate as all the troops marched out by hundreds and thousands. 5The king gave orders to Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: "For my sake, protect my boy Absalom." All the troops heard what the king ordered regarding Absalom to all the commanders.
6So the troops marched into the field to meet the Israelites. The battle was fought in the Ephraim forest. 7The army of Israel was defeated there by David’s soldiers. A great slaughter of twenty thousand men took place that day. 8The battle spread out over the entire countryside, and the forest devoured more soldiers than the sword that day.
9Absalom came upon some of David’s men. Absalom was riding on a mule, and the mule went under the tangled branches of a large oak tree. Absalom’s head got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair while the mule under him kept on going. 10One of the men saw this and reported to Joab, "I just saw Absalom hanging from an oak tree."
11Joab said to the man who told him, "You saw this? Why didn’t you kill him on the spot? I would have given you ten pieces of silver and a belt."
12But the man said to Joab, "Even if I had a thousand pieces of silver in my hand, I wouldn’t touch the king’s son! We heard what the king commanded you, Abishai, and Ittai—‘For my sake, take care of my boy Absalom.’#LXX, Vulg, Syr; Heb uncertain 13If I had taken Absalom’s life behind the king’s back then—though nothing is hidden from the king—you would have kept your distance from me."#Or Otherwise, I would have been dealing recklessly with my own life, because nothing is hidden from the king and you were stationed far from me; Heb uncertain.
14Joab said, "I won’t waste time like this with you!" He took three sticks in his hand and drove them into Absalom’s chest while he was still alive in the oak. 15Then ten young armor-bearers of Joab surrounded Absalom, struck him, and killed him. 16Then Joab sounded the trumpet, and the troops stopped chasing the Israelites, because Joab held them back.
17They took Absalom and threw him into a big pit in the forest. They piled over him a huge heap of stones. Meanwhile, all the Israelites fled to their homes. 18When he was alive, Absalom had raised a large pillar for himself in the King’s Valley because he said, "I have no son to carry on the memory of my name." He named the pillar after himself. It is called Absalom’s Monument to this day.
David mourns for Absalom
19Then Zadok’s son Ahimaaz said, "Please let me run and take the news to the king that the LORD has vindicated him against his enemies’ power."
20Joab said to him, "You aren’t the one to bring the news today. You can bring news on another day, but not today, because the king’s son is dead." 21Then Joab said to a Cushite, "Go tell the king what you have seen." The Cushite bowed low before Joab, then ran off.
22But Zadok’s son Ahimaaz again said to Joab, "I don’t care what happens, just let me run after the Cushite too."
"Why do you want to go, son?" Joab asked. "You’ll get no reward for going."#Heb uncertain
23"I don’t care what happens, I want to go," Ahimaaz said.#LXX; MT lacks Ahimaaz said.
So Joab said to him, "Run off then!"
Ahimaaz ran off, going by way of the plain, and passed the Cushite.
24Now David was sitting between the two gates. The watchman on duty went up on the roof of the gate by the wall. He looked out and saw a man running alone. 25The watchman called out and reported this to the king. The king said, "If he’s alone, it’s good news."
The man got nearer and nearer, 26and the watchman saw another man running and called down to the gatekeeper, "There’s another man running alone."
The king said, "That one must be bringing good news too."
27The watchman said, "I can see that the first one runs like Zadok’s son Ahimaaz."
"He’s a good man," the king said, "and is coming with good news."
28Ahimaaz called out to the king, "Peace!" then bowed low before the king, his nose to the ground. He said, "Bless the LORD your God, who has delivered up the men who raised their hands against my master the king."
29The king said, "Is my boy Absalom okay?"
Ahimaaz said, "I saw a large crowd right when Joab, the king’s servant, sent your servant off, but I don’t know what it was about."
30"Step aside and stand right here," the king said. So Ahimaaz stepped aside and waited.
31Then the Cushite arrived and said, "My master the king: Listen to this good news! The LORD has vindicated you this day against the power of all who rose up against you."
32The king said to the Cushite, "Is my boy Absalom okay?"
The Cushite answered, "May the enemies of my master the king and all who rise up against you to hurt you end up like that young man."
33#19:1 in Heb The king trembled. He went up to the room over the gate and cried. As he went, he said, "Oh, my son Absalom! Oh, my son! My son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you! Oh, Absalom, my son! My son!"