1David counted his men and placed over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. 2He sent the troops out in three groups. Joab commanded one-third of the men. Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah commanded another third. And Ittai from Gath commanded the last third. King David said to them, “I will also go with you.”
3But the men said, “You must not go with us! If we run away in the battle, Absalom’s men won’t care. Even if half of us are killed, Absalom’s men won’t care. But you’re worth ten thousand of us! You can help us most by staying in the city.”
4The king said to his people, “I will do what you think is best.” So the king stood at the side of the gate as the army went out in groups of a hundred and a thousand.
5The king commanded Joab, Abishai, and Ittai, “Be gentle with young Absalom for my sake.” Everyone heard the king’s orders to the commanders about Absalom.
6David’s army went out into the field against Absalom’s Israelites, and they fought in the forest of Ephraim. 7There David’s army defeated the Israelites. Many died that day—twenty thousand men. 8The battle spread through all the country, but that day more men died in the forest than in the fighting.
9Then Absalom happened to meet David’s troops. As Absalom was riding his mule, it went under the thick branches of a large oak tree. Absalom’s head got caught in the tree, and his mule ran out from under him. So Absalom was left hanging above the ground.
10When one of the men saw it happen, he told Joab, “I saw Absalom hanging in an oak tree!”
11Joab said to him, “You saw him? Why didn’t you kill him and let him fall to the ground? I would have given you a belt and four ounces of silver!”
12The man answered, “I wouldn’t touch the king’s son even if you gave me twenty-five pounds of silver. We heard the king command you, Abishai, and Ittai, ‘Be careful not to hurt young Absalom.’ 13If I had killed him, the king would have found out, and you would not have protected me!”
14Joab said, “I won’t waste time here with you!” Absalom was still alive in the oak tree, so Joab took three spears and stabbed him in the heart. 15Ten young men who carried Joab’s armor also gathered around Absalom and struck him and killed him.
16Then Joab blew the trumpet, so the troops stopped chasing the Israelites. 17Then Joab’s men took Absalom’s body and threw it into a large pit in the forest and filled the pit with many stones. All the Israelites ran away to their homes.
18When Absalom was alive, he had set up a pillar for himself in the King’s Valley. He said, “I have no son to keep my name alive.” So he named the pillar after himself, and it is called Absalom’s Monument even today.
19Ahimaaz son of Zadok said to Joab, “Let me run and take the news to King David. I’ll tell him the Lord has saved him from his enemies.”
20Joab answered Ahimaaz, “No, you are not the one to take the news today. You may do it another time, but do not take it today, because the king’s son is dead.”
21Then Joab said to a man from Cush, “Go, tell the king what you have seen.” The Cushite bowed to Joab and ran to tell David.
22But Ahimaaz son of Zadok begged Joab again, “No matter what happens, please let me go along with the Cushite!”
Joab said, “Son, why do you want to carry the news? You won’t get any reward.”
23Ahimaaz answered, “No matter what happens, I will run.”
So Joab said to Ahimaaz, “Run!” Then Ahimaaz ran by way of the Jordan Valley and passed the Cushite.
24David was sitting between the inner and outer gates of the city. The watchman went up to the roof of the gate by the walls, and as he looked up, he saw a man running alone. 25He shouted the news to the king.
The king said, “If he is alone, he is bringing good news!”
The man came nearer and nearer to the city. 26Then the watchman saw another man running, and he called to the gatekeeper, “Look! Another man is running alone!”
The king said, “He is also bringing good news!”
27The watchman said, “I think the first man runs like Ahimaaz son of Zadok.”
The king said, “Ahimaaz is a good man. He must be bringing good news!”
28Then Ahimaaz called a greeting to the king. He bowed facedown on the ground before the king and said, “Praise the Lord your God! The Lord has defeated those who were against you, my king.”
29The king asked, “Is young Absalom all right?”
Ahimaaz answered, “When Joab sent me, I saw some great excitement, but I don’t know what it was.”
30The king said, “Step over here and wait.” So Ahimaaz stepped aside and stood there.
31Then the Cushite arrived. He said, “Master and king, hear the good news! Today the Lord has punished those who were against you!”
32The king asked the Cushite, “Is young Absalom all right?”
The Cushite answered, “May your enemies and all who come to hurt you be like that young man!”
33Then the king was very upset, and he went to the room over the city gate and cried. As he went, he cried out, “My son Absalom, my son Absalom! I wish I had died and not you. Absalom, my son, my son!”