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Absalom Pursues David

17 Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Let me choose 12,000 men and leave tonight to go after David. I’ll attack him while he’s tired and weak, and I’ll cause him to panic. All the people with him will flee, but I’ll kill only him. I’ll return all the people to you as a bride is returned to her husband. Since you will be seeking the life of only one man,[a] all the people will have peace.” Absalom and all the leaders of Israel approved this plan.

Absalom said, “Please call Hushai, who is descended from Archi’s family, and let us hear what he, too, has to say.”

When Hushai arrived, Absalom said to him, “Ahithophel has told us his plan. Should we do what he says? If not, tell us.”

“This time Ahithophel’s advice is no good,” Hushai said to Absalom. “You know your father and his men. They are warriors as fierce as a wild bear whose cubs have been stolen. Your father is an experienced soldier. He will not camp with the troops tonight. He has already hidden in one of the ravines or some other place. If some of our soldiers are killed in the initial attack, others will definitely hear about it and say, ‘The troops that support Absalom have been defeated.’ 10 Even the bravest man with a heart like a lion would lose his courage, because all Israel knows that your father is a warrior and the men with him are brave. 11 So my advice is to gather all Israel’s troops from Dan to Beersheba, since they are as numerous as the sand on the seashore. Lead them into battle yourself. 12 Then we’ll attack him wherever we find him. We’ll fall on him as dew falls on the ground. Neither he nor any of his men will be left alive. 13 If he retreats into a city, all Israel will bring ropes to that city and drag it into a valley so that not even a pebble will be found there.”

14 Absalom and all the people of Israel said, “The advice of Hushai from Archi’s family is better than Ahithophel’s advice.” (Yahweh had commanded Ahithophel’s good advice to be defeated in order to ruin Absalom.)

15 Then Hushai told the priests Zadok and Abiathar, “Ahithophel advised Absalom and the leaders of Israel to do one thing, but I advised them to do something else. 16 Now send messengers quickly to tell David, ‘Don’t rest tonight in the river crossings in the desert, but make sure you cross the river, or Your Majesty and all the troops with him will be wiped out.’”

17 Jonathan and Ahimaaz were waiting at En Rogel. They could not risk being seen coming into the city, so a servant girl was to go and tell them, and they were to go and tell King David. 18 But a young man saw Jonathan and Ahimaaz and told Absalom. So both of them left quickly and came to the home of a man in Bahurim who had a cistern in his courtyard, and they went down into it. 19 The man’s wife took a cover, spread it over the top of the cistern, and scattered some grain[b] over it so that no one could tell it was there.

20 Absalom’s servants came to the woman at her home. “Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan?” they asked.

The woman said, “They’ve crossed the stream.”

The servants looked for them but did not find them. So Absalom’s servants returned to Jerusalem.

21 After Absalom’s servants left, both men came out of the cistern and went and told King David. “Leave right away,” they told David. “Cross the river quickly because this is what Ahithophel has advised against you. . . .”

22 David and all the troops with him left to cross the Jordan River. When the dawn came, everyone had crossed the Jordan River.

23 When Ahithophel saw that his advice hadn’t been followed, he saddled his donkey, left, and went home to his own city. He gave instructions to his family. Then he hanged himself, died, and was buried in his father’s tomb.

24 David had already come to Mahanaim by the time Absalom and all the men of Israel with him crossed the Jordan River. 25 Absalom appointed Amasa to take Joab’s place as commander of the army. (Amasa was the son of a man named Ithra, a descendant of Ishmael.[c] His mother was Abigail,[d] the daughter of Nahash and sister of Joab’s mother Zeruiah.) 26 The Israelites and Absalom camped in the region of Gilead.

27 When David came to Mahanaim, Shobi, son of Nahash from Rabbah in Ammon, and Machir, son of Ammiel from Lo Debar, and Barzillai from Rogelim in Gilead 28 brought supplies and food for David and his troops: bedding, bowls, pots, wheat, barley, flour, roasted grain, beans, lentils,[e] 29 honey, buttermilk, sheep, and calves. They brought these things because they thought, “The troops in the desert are hungry, exhausted, and thirsty.”


  1. 2 Samuel 17:3 “as a bride . . . only one man” Greek; Hebrew meaning uncertain.
  2. 2 Samuel 17:19 Hebrew meaning uncertain.
  3. 2 Samuel 17:25 Greek, 1 Chronicles 2:17; Masoretic Text “the Israelite.”
  4. 2 Samuel 17:25 Or “Ishmael’s descendant Ithra, who slept with Abigail.”
  5. 2 Samuel 17:28 Greek, Latin, Syriac; Masoretic Text adds “and roasted grain.”

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