2 Samuel 13-24 Common English Bible (CEB)
Amnon rapes Tamar
13 Some time later, David’s son Amnon fell in love with Tamar the beautiful sister of Absalom, who was also David’s son. 2 Amnon was so upset over his half sister that he made himself sick. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible in Amnon’s view to do anything to her. 3 But Amnon had a friend named Jonadab, Shimeah’s son, David’s brother, who was a very clever man.
4 “Prince,” Jonadab said to him, “why are you so down, morning after morning? Tell me about it.”
So Amnon told him, “I’m in love with Tamar, the sister of my brother Absalom.”
5 “Lie down on your bed and pretend to be sick,” Jonadab said to him. “When your father comes to see you, tell him, ‘Please let my sister Tamar come and give me some food to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I can watch and eat from her own hand.’”
6 So Amnon lay down and pretended to be sick. The king came to see him, and Amnon told the king, “Please let my sister Tamar come and make a couple of heart-shaped cakes in front of me so I can eat from her hand.”
7 David sent word to Tamar at the palace: “Please go to your brother Amnon’s house and prepare some food for him.”
8 So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house where he was lying down. She took dough, kneaded it, made heart-shaped cakes in front of him, and then cooked them. 9 She took the pan and served Amnon, but he refused to eat.
“Everyone leave me,” Amnon said. So everyone left him. 10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the bedroom so I can eat from your hand.” So Tamar took the heart-shaped cakes she had made and brought them to her brother Amnon in the bedroom. 11 When she served him the food, he grabbed her and said, “Come have sex with me, my sister.”
12 But she said to him, “No, my brother! Don’t rape me. Such a thing shouldn’t be done in Israel. Don’t do this horrible thing. 13 Think about me—where could I hide my shame? And you—you would become like some fool in Israel! Please, just talk to the king! He won’t keep me from marrying you.”
14 But Amnon refused to listen to her. He was stronger than she was, and so he raped her.
15 But then Amnon felt intense hatred for her. In fact, his hatred for her was greater than the love he had felt for her. So Amnon told her, “Get out of here!”
16 “No, my brother!”[a] she said. “Sending me away would be worse than the wrong you’ve already done.”
But Amnon wouldn’t listen to her. 17 He summoned his young servant and said, “Get this woman out of my presence and lock the door after her.” (18 She was wearing a long-sleeved robe because that was what the virgin princesses wore as garments.)[b] So Amnon’s servant put her out and locked the door after her.
19 Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long-sleeved robe she was wearing. She put her hand on her head and walked away, crying as she went.
20 Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has your brother Amnon been with you? Keep quiet about it for now, sister; he’s your brother. Don’t let it bother you.” So Tamar, a broken woman, lived in her brother Absalom’s house.
21 When King David heard about all this he got very angry, but he refused to punish his son Amnon because he loved him as his oldest child.[c] 22 Absalom never spoke to Amnon, good word or bad, because he hated him for raping his sister Tamar.
Absalom kills Amnon
23 Two years later, Absalom was shearing sheep at Baal-hazor near Ephraim, and he invited all the king’s sons. 24 Absalom approached the king and said, “Your servant is shearing sheep. Would the king and his advisors please join me?”
25 But the king said to Absalom, “No, my son. We shouldn’t all go, or we would be a burden on you.” Although Absalom urged him, the king wasn’t willing to go, although he gave Absalom a blessing.
26 Then Absalom said, “If you won’t come, then let my brother Amnon go with us.”
“Why should he go with you?” they asked him. 27 But Absalom urged him until he sent Amnon and all the other princes. Then Absalom made a banquet fit for a king.[d]
28 Absalom commanded his servants, “Be on the lookout! When Amnon is happy with wine and I tell you to strike Amnon down, then kill him! Don’t be afraid, because I myself am giving you the order. Be brave and strong men.” 29 So Absalom’s servants did to Amnon just what he had commanded. Then all the princes got up, jumped onto their mules, and fled.
30 While they were on the way, the report came to David: “Absalom has killed all of the princes! Not one remains.” 31 The king got up, tore his garments, and lay on the ground. All his servants stood near him, their garments torn as well. 32 But Jonadab, the son of David’s brother Shimeah, said, “My master shouldn’t think that all the young princes have been killed—only Amnon is dead. This has been Absalom’s plan ever since the day Amnon raped his sister Tamar. 33 So don’t let this bother you, my master; don’t think that all the princes are dead, because only Amnon is dead, 34 and Absalom has fled.” Just then the young man on watch looked up and saw many people coming on the road behind him alongside the mountain. 35 Jonadab told the king, “Look, the princes are coming, just as I, your servant, said they would.”
36 When Jonadab finished speaking, the princes arrived. They broke into loud crying, and the king and his servants cried hard as well.
37 Meanwhile, Absalom had fled and gone to Geshur’s King Talmai, Ammihud’s son. David mourned for his son a long time. 38 But Absalom, after fleeing to Geshur, stayed there for three years. 39 Then the king’s desire to go out after Absalom faded away because he had gotten over Amnon’s death.[e]
Absalom is restored
14 Now Joab, Zeruiah’s son, could see that the king’s mind was on Absalom. 2 So Joab sent someone to Tekoa and brought a wise woman from there. He said to her, “Pretend to be in mourning. Dress in mourning clothes. Don’t anoint yourself with oil. Act like a woman who has spent a long time mourning over someone who has died. 3 Go to the king and speak to him as follows.” Then Joab told her what to say.
4 When the woman from Tekoa came to the king, she fell facedown, bowing low out of respect. “King, help me!” she said.
5 “What is wrong?” the king asked her.
“It’s terrible!” she said. “I am a widow; my husband is dead. 6 Your servant had two sons, but the two of them fought in the field. No one could separate them, and one struck the other and killed him. 7 Now the entire clan has turned against your servant. They say, ‘Hand over the one who killed his brother so we can execute him for murdering his brother, even though we would destroy the heir as well.’ So they would snuff out the one ember I have left, leaving my husband without name or descendant on the earth.”
8 The king said to the woman, “Return home, and I will issue an order in your behalf.”
9 The woman of Tekoa said to the king, “My master and king, let the guilt be on me and on my father’s household. The king and his throne are innocent.”
10 “If anyone speaks against you, bring him to me, and he will never trouble you again,” the king replied.
11 She said, “Please let the king remember the Lord your God so that the one seeking revenge doesn’t add to the destruction and doesn’t kill my son.”
“As surely as the Lord lives,” David said, “not one of your son’s hairs will fall to the ground.”
12 Then the woman said, “May your female servant say something to my master the king?”
“Speak!” he said.
13 The woman said, “Why have you planned the very same thing against God’s people? In giving this order, the king has become guilty because the king hasn’t restored his own banished son. 14 We all have to die—we’re like water spilled out on the ground that can’t be gathered up again. But God doesn’t take life away; instead, he makes plans so those banished from him don’t stay that way.[f]
15 [g]“I have come to my master the king to talk about this because people have made me afraid. Your servant thought, I must speak with the king. Maybe the king will act on the request of his servant, 16 because the king will agree to deliver his servant from the power of anyone who would destroy both me and my son from the inheritance God gave. 17 Your servant thought, The word of my master the king will definitely comfort me, because my master the king is like one of God’s messengers, understanding good and evil. May the Lord your God be with you!”
18 [h] The king answered the woman, “I must ask you something—don’t hide anything from me!”
The woman said, “Please, my master and king, speak.”
19 So the king said, “Has Joab put you up to this?”
The woman answered, “As surely as you live, my master and king, no one can deviate a bit from whatever my master and king says. Yes, it was your servant Joab who directed me, and it was Joab who told your female servant to say all these things. 20 Your servant Joab did this to change the way things look.[i] But my master’s wisdom is like the wisdom of one of God’s own messengers—he knows everything that takes place in the land.”
21 So the king said to Joab, “All right then. I will do it. Go and bring back my boy Absalom.”
22 Joab fell facedown, bowing low out of respect, and he blessed the king.
“Today your servant knows that you think well of me, my master and king,” Joab said, “because the king has followed up on his servant’s recommendation.”
23 So Joab got up, went to Geshur, and brought Absalom back to Jerusalem.
24 The king said, “He must go straight to his own house. He must not see my face.” So Absalom went straight to his own house and did not see the king.
25 No man throughout Israel was as praised for his good looks as Absalom. From the soles of his feet to the crown of his head there was nothing wrong with him. 26 When he shaved his head—he had to shave his head at the end of each year because his hair was so heavy that he had to shave it—the weight of the hair from his head was two hundred shekels by the royal weight. 27 Absalom had three sons and one daughter. The daughter’s name was Tamar. She was a beautiful woman.
28 Absalom lived in Jerusalem two years without ever seeing the king’s face. 29 Absalom called for Joab in order to send Joab to the king, but Joab refused to come. Absalom called for Joab a second time, but he still wouldn’t come. 30 So Absalom said to his servants, “Look, Joab’s property is next to mine. He has barley there. Go and set it on fire.” So Absalom’s servants set the property on fire. Then Joab’s servants went to Joab with their clothes torn. “Absalom’s servants set the property on fire,” they said.[j]
31 So Joab went straight to Absalom’s house and said to him, “Why have your servants set my property on fire?”
32 Absalom answered Joab, “Look, I sent you a message: Come here so I can send you to the king to ask, ‘Why have I returned from Geshur? I would be better off if I were still there!’ Please let me see the king’s face. If I’m guilty, then the king can kill me.”
33 Joab went to the king and reported this to him. Then the king called for Absalom, and Absalom came to the king. He bowed low out of respect, nose to the ground before the king. Then the king kissed Absalom.
Absalom plots rebellion
15 Some time later, Absalom got a chariot and horses for his own use, along with fifty men to run ahead of him. 2 Absalom would get up early and stand by the side of the road that went through the city gate. Whenever anyone had a lawsuit to bring before the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him, “What city are you from?” When the person said, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel,” 3 then Absalom would say to him, “No doubt your claims are correct and valid, but the king won’t listen to you. 4 If only I were made a judge in the land,” Absalom would continue, “then anyone with a lawsuit could come to me, and I would give them justice.”
5 Whenever anyone came near to Absalom, bowing low out of respect, he would reach his hand out, grab them, and kiss them. 6 This is how Absalom treated every Israelite who came to the king seeking justice. This is how Absalom stole the hearts of the Israelites.
7 At the end of four[k] years, Absalom said to the king, “Please let me go to Hebron so I can fulfill a promise I made to the Lord. 8 Your servant made this promise when I lived in Geshur, in Aram. I promised that if the Lord would bring me back to Jerusalem, then I would worship the Lord in Hebron.”[l]
9 “Go in peace,” the king said. So Absalom left and went to Hebron.
10 But Absalom sent secret agents throughout the tribes of Israel with this message: “When you hear the sound of the trumpet, then say, ‘Absalom has become king in Hebron!’” 11 Two hundred invited guests went with Absalom from Jerusalem. They were innocent and knew nothing of this matter when they went. 12 While Absalom was offering the sacrifices, he summoned David’s advisor Ahithophel, who was from Giloh, to come from his hometown. So the conspiracy grew stronger, and Absalom’s following grew.
David flees from Jerusalem
13 A messenger came to David, reporting, “The hearts of the Israelites have gone over to Absalom.” 14 Then David told all the servants who were with him in Jerusalem, “Come on! We have to run for it, or we won’t be able to escape Absalom. Hurry, or he will catch up with us in no time, destroy us,[m] and attack the city with the sword.”
15 The king’s servants said to him, “Your servants are ready to do whatever our master the king decides.” 16 So the king left, with his entire household following him, but he left ten secondary wives behind to take care of the palace.
17 So the king left, with all his people following him, and they stopped at the last house. 18 All the king’s servants marched past him, as did all the Cherethites, all the Pelethites, and the six hundred Gittites who had followed him from Gath. 19 The king said to Ittai the Gittite, “Why are you coming with us too? Go back! Stay with King Absalom.[n] You are a foreigner and an exile from your own country. 20 You just got here yesterday. So today should I make you wander around with us while I go wherever I have to go? No. Go back, and take your relatives with you. May the Lord show you loyal love and faithfulness.”[o]
21 But Ittai answered the king, “As surely as the Lord lives and as surely as my master the king lives, wherever my master the king may be, facing death or facing life, your servant will be there too.”
22 “Okay then,” David replied to Ittai. “Keep marching!”
So Ittai the Gittite and all of his men and all the little children with him marched past. 23 The whole countryside cried loudly as all the troops marched past. The king crossed the Kidron Valley, and all the troops passed by on the Olive road[p] into the wilderness.
24 Zadok was there too, along with all the Levites carrying the chest containing God’s covenant. They set God’s chest down, and Abiathar offered sacrifices until all the troops had finished marching out of the city. 25 Then the king said to Zadok, “Carry God’s chest back into the city. If the Lord thinks well of me, then he will bring me back and let me see it and its home again. 26 But if God says, ‘I’m not pleased with you,’ then I am ready. Let him do to me whatever pleases him.”
27 “Do you understand?” the king said to the priest Zadok. “Go back to the city in safety—you and Abiathar[q] with your two sons, your son Ahimaaz and Abiathar’s son Jonathan. 28 I will be waiting in the desert plains until you send word telling me what to do.” 29 So Zadok and Abiathar took God’s chest back to Jerusalem and stayed there.
30 But David, his head covered, walked barefoot up the slope of the Mount of Olives crying. All the people who were with him covered their heads too and cried as they went up. 31 David was told that Ahithophel was also among the conspirators with Absalom, so he prayed, “Please, Lord, make Ahithophel’s advice foolish.”
David and Hushai
32 When David came to the summit where people used to worship God, Hushai from Erek met him. Hushai’s clothes were ripped, and dirt was on his head. 33 David said to him, “If you come with me, you will be a burden to me. 34 But if you return to the city and say to Absalom, ‘King, I am your servant![r] Please spare my life! I was your father’s servant in the past, but now I am your servant,’ then you can help me by countering Ahithophel’s advice. 35 The priests Zadok and Abiathar will be with you there. So report everything you hear in the king’s palace to the priests Zadok and Abiathar. 36 Their two sons, Zadok’s son Ahimaaz and Abiathar’s son Jonathan, are also there. Use them to report to me everything you hear.”
37 So David’s friend Hushai went into Jerusalem, just as Absalom was entering the city.
David and Ziba
16 When David had passed a short distance beyond the summit, Ziba, Mephibosheth’s servant, met him with a pair of saddled donkeys loaded with two hundred loaves of bread, one hundred bunches of raisins, one hundred figs,[s] and a jar of wine.
2 “What is all this for?” the king asked Ziba.
“The donkeys are for the royal family to ride,” Ziba explained. “The bread and summer fruit are for the young people to eat, and the wine is for those who get exhausted in the wilderness.”
3 “Where is your master’s grandson?” the king asked.
“He is still in Jerusalem,” Ziba answered the king, “because he thinks that the Israelites are now going to give his grandfather’s kingdom back to him.”
4 “Look here,” the king said to Ziba. “Everything that belonged to Mephibosheth now belongs to you.”
Ziba said, “I bow out of respect! Please think well of me, my master and king.”
Shimei curses David
5 When King David came to Bahurim, a man from the same clan as Saul’s family came out from there. His name was Shimei; he was Gera’s son. He was cursing as he came out. 6 He threw rocks at David and at all of King David’s servants, even though the entire army and all the warriors were on either side of him.
7 This is what Shimei said as he cursed David: “Get out of here! Get out of here! You are a murderer! You are despicable! 8 The Lord has paid you back for all the blood of Saul’s family, in whose place you rule, and the Lord has handed the kingdom over to your son Absalom. You are in this trouble because you are a murderer!”
9 Zeruiah’s son Abishai said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my master the king? Let me go over and cut his head off!”
10 But the king said, “My problems aren’t yours, you sons of Zeruiah. If he is cursing because the Lord told him to curse David, then who is to question, ‘Why are you doing this?’”
11 Then David addressed Abishai and all his servants: “Listen! My own son, one of my very own children, wants me dead. This Benjaminite can only feel the same—only more! Leave him alone. And let him curse, because the Lord told him to. 12 Perhaps the Lord will see my distress; perhaps the Lord will repay me with good for this cursing today.”
13 So David and his men kept walking, while Shimei went along on the hillside next to him, cursing as he went, throwing rocks and dirt at him. 14 The king and all the people who were with him reached the Jordan River[t] exhausted, and he rested there.
15 Now Absalom and all the Israelites entered Jerusalem, and Ahithophel was with him. 16 Then David’s friend Hushai, who was from Erek, approached Absalom and said to him, “Long live the king! Long live the king!”
17 But Absalom said to Hushai, “Is this how you show loyal love to your friend? Why didn’t you go with him?”
18 “No,” Hushai replied to Absalom, “I will belong to the one chosen by the Lord, by this people, and by all Israel, and I will stay with him. 19 What’s more, whom should I serve if not David’s son? I served your father, and so I will serve you in the same way.”
20 Then Absalom said to Ahithophel, “Give your advice then. What should we do?”
21 “Have sex with your father’s secondary wives—the ones he left to take care of the palace,” Ahithophel told Absalom. “Then all Israel will hear that you have alienated yourself from your father, and everyone who supports you will be encouraged.”
22 So they set up a tent for Absalom on the roof, and he had sex with his father’s secondary wives in plain sight before all Israel. (23 Now in those days, the advice Ahithophel gave was like asking for a word from God. That’s why Ahithophel’s advice was valued by both David and Absalom.)
17 Then Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Let me pick twelve thousand men, and I will go after David tonight. 2 I will attack him while he is tired and weak, and I will throw him into a panic. All the troops with him will run off. I promise to kill the king alone, 3 and I will bring all the people back to you like a bride comes back to her husband.[u] It’s only one man’s life you are seeking; everyone else can be at peace.”
4 This plan seemed excellent to Absalom and the Israelite elders.
5 But Absalom said, “Call Hushai from Erek. Let’s hear what he has to say as well.” 6 When Hushai from Erek arrived, Absalom said to him, “This is what Ahithophel has advised. Should we follow it or not? What do you say?”
7 Hushai said to Absalom, “This time, the advice Ahithophel has given isn’t right. 8 You know that your father and his men are warriors,” he continued, “and they are as desperate as a wild bear robbed of her cubs. Your father is a seasoned fighter. He won’t spend the night with his troops. 9 Even now he has probably hidden himself in one of the caves or some other place. When some of the troops[v] fall in the first attack, whoever hears it will say, ‘The soldiers who follow Absalom have been defeated!’ 10 Then even the bravest soldier, whose heart is like a lion’s, will melt in fear because all Israel knows that your father is a warrior and that those who are with him are brave. 11 So I would advise that all the Israelites, from Dan to Beer-sheba—a group as countless as sand on the seashore—be summoned to join you, and that you yourself go into battle. 12 When we attack him wherever he might be, we will fall on him like dew that falls on the ground. No one will survive—not him and not one of the soldiers who are with him! 13 If he retreats into a city, all Israel will bring ropes to that city, and we will drag it into a valley until not even a pebble of it will be found.”
14 Then Absalom and everyone in Israel agreed, “The advice of Hushai from Erek is better than Ahithophel’s advice.” This was because the Lord had decided to counter Ahithophel’s good advice so that the Lord could bring disaster on Absalom.
Hushai warns David
15 Hushai told the priests Zadok and Abiathar, “Here is what Ahithophel advised Absalom and the Israelite elders, and here is what I advised. 16 Now send word immediately to David and tell him, ‘Don’t spend the night in the desert plains. You must cross over immediately. Otherwise, the king and all the troops who are with him will be swallowed up whole.’”
17 Jonathan and Ahimaaz were standing by at En-rogel. A female servant would come and report to them, and they would then travel and report to King David because they couldn’t risk being seen entering the city. 18 But a boy saw them and reported it to Absalom. So the two of them left immediately and came to a man’s house at Bahurim. He had a well in his courtyard, and they climbed down into it. 19 The man’s wife took a covering and spread it over the well’s opening, then scattered grain over it so no one would notice. 20 When Absalom’s servants came to the woman at the house they demanded, “Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan?”
The woman told them, “They crossed over the stream.”[w] They looked for them but found nothing, so they returned to Jerusalem.
21 After they had left, Jonathan and Ahimaaz climbed out of the well. They went and reported to King David, “Get up! Cross the water immediately because Ahithophel has made plans against you!” 22 So David and all the troops who were with him got up and crossed the Jordan River. By daybreak there was no one left who hadn’t crossed the Jordan.
23 Meanwhile, once Ahithophel saw that his advice hadn’t been followed, he saddled his donkey and went home to his own town. He gave instructions to his household, then hanged himself and died. He was buried in his father’s tomb.
24 David had reached Mahanaim by the time Absalom and all the Israelites who were with him crossed the Jordan River. 25 Absalom had put Amasa in charge of the army instead of Joab. Amasa was the son of a man named Ithra, an Ishmaelite[x] who had married Abigail, who was Nahash’s daughter and the sister of Zeruiah, Joab’s mother. 26 Israel and Absalom camped in the territory of Gilead.
27 When David arrived in Mahanaim, Nahash’s son Shobi, who was from Rabbah of the Ammonites; Ammiel’s son Machir, who was from Lo-debar; and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim 28 brought couches, basins, and pottery, along with wheat, barley, flour, roasted grain, beans, lentils, 29 honey, curds, sheep, and cheese from the herd so that David and the troops who were with him could eat. They said, “The troops have grown hungry, tired, and thirsty in the wilderness.”
18 Then David gathered the troops who were with him and appointed unit commanders over thousands and hundreds. 2 David 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.”
3 But 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.”
4 The 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. 5 The 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.
6 So the troops marched into the field to meet the Israelites. The battle was fought in the Ephraim forest. 7 The army of Israel was defeated there by David’s soldiers. A great slaughter of twenty thousand men took place that day. 8 The battle spread out over the entire countryside, and the forest devoured more soldiers than the sword that day.
9 Absalom 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. 10 One of the men saw this and reported to Joab, “I just saw Absalom hanging from an oak tree.”
11 Joab 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.”
12 But 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.’[y] 13 If 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.”[z]
14 Joab 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. 15 Then ten young armor-bearers of Joab surrounded Absalom, struck him, and killed him. 16 Then Joab sounded the trumpet, and the troops stopped chasing the Israelites, because Joab held them back.
17 They 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. 18 When 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
19 Then 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.”
20 Joab 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.” 21 Then Joab said to a Cushite, “Go tell the king what you have seen.” The Cushite bowed low before Joab, then ran off.
22 But 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.”[aa]
23 “I don’t care what happens, I want to go,” Ahimaaz said.[ab]
So Joab said to him, “Run off then!”
Ahimaaz ran off, going by way of the plain, and passed the Cushite.
24 Now 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. 25 The 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, 26 and 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.”
27 The 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.”
28 Ahimaaz 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.”
29 The 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.
31 Then 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.”
32 The 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 [ac] 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!”
[ad]19 Joab was told that the king was crying and mourning Absalom. 2 So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the troops because they heard that day that the king was grieving for his son. 3 So that day the troops crept back into the city like soldiers creep back ashamed after they’ve fled from battle. 4 The king covered his face and cried out in a loud voice, “Oh, my son Absalom! Oh, Absalom, my son! My son!”
5 Joab came to the king inside and said, “Today you have humiliated all your servants who have saved your life today, not to mention the lives of your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your secondary wives, 6 by loving those who hate you and hating those who love you! Today you have announced that the commanders and their soldiers are nothing to you, because I know that if Absalom were alive today and the rest of us dead, that would be perfectly fine with you! 7 Now get up! Go out and encourage your followers! I swear to the Lord that if you don’t go out there, not one man will stick with you tonight—and that will be more trouble for you than all the trouble that you’ve faced from your youth until now.”
8 So the king went and sat down in the city gate. All the troops were told that the king was sitting in the gate, so they came before the king.
David returns to Jerusalem
Meanwhile, the Israelites had fled to their homes. 9 Everyone was arguing throughout Israel’s tribes, saying, “The king delivered us from our enemies’ power, and he rescued us from the Philistines’ power, but now he has fled from the land and from controlling his own kingdom.[ae] 10 And Absalom, the one we anointed over us, is dead in battle. So why do you say nothing about bringing the king back?”
11 When the things that all the Israelites were saying reached the king,[af] David sent a message to the priests Zadok and Abiathar: “Say the following to the elders of Judah: ‘Why should you be the last to bring the king back to his palace?[ag] 12 You are my relatives! You are my flesh and bones! Why should you be the last to bring the king back?’ 13 And tell Amasa, ‘Aren’t you my flesh and bones too? May God deal harshly with me and worse still if you don’t become commander of my army from now on instead of Joab!’”
14 So he won over the hearts of everyone in Judah as though they were one person, and they sent word to the king: “Come back—you and all your servants.” 15 So the king came back and arrived at the Jordan River. Judah came to Gilgal to meet the king and bring him across the Jordan.
16 Gera’s son Shimei, the Benjaminite from Bahurim, hurried down with the people of Judah to meet King David. 17 A thousand men from Benjamin were with him. Ziba too, the servant of Saul’s house, along with his fifteen sons and twenty servants, rushed to the Jordan ahead of the king 18 to do the work of ferrying[ah] over the king’s household and to do whatever pleased him.
Gera’s son Shimei fell down before the king when he crossed the Jordan. 19 He said to the king, “May my master not hold me guilty or remember your servant’s wrongdoing that day my master the king left Jerusalem. Please forget about it, Your Majesty,[ai] 20 because your servant knows that I have sinned. But look, I am the first person from the entire family of Joseph to come down today and meet my master the king.”
21 Zeruiah’s son Abishai responded, “Shouldn’t Shimei be put to death for that—for cursing the Lord’s anointed?”
22 But David said, “My problems aren’t yours, you sons of Zeruiah. Why are you becoming my enemy today? Should anyone in Israel be put to death today? Don’t I know that today I am again king over Israel?”
23 Then the king told Shimei, “You will not die.” And the king swore this to him.
24 Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson, also came down to meet the king. He hadn’t taken care of his feet, trimmed his beard, or washed his clothes from the day the king left until the day he returned safely. 25 When he came from Jerusalem to meet the king, the king asked him, “Mephibosheth, why didn’t you go with me?”
26 “My master and king,” Mephibosheth answered, “my servant abandoned me! Because your servant is lame, I asked my servant, ‘Saddle a donkey for me[aj] so I can ride and go to the king.’ 27 So Ziba has slandered your servant to my master and king, but my master and king is a messenger of God. So do whatever seems best to you. 28 Even though all the members of my grandfather’s family were nothing short of demonic[ak] toward my master and king, you still put your servant with those who eat at your table. So what right do I have to beg for still more from the king?”
29 “You don’t need to talk any more about this,” the king said to him. “I order you and Ziba to divide the property.”
30 Mephibosheth said to the king, “Let him take all of it, since my master and king has come home safely.”
31 Now Barzillai the Gileadite had come down from Rogelim. He accompanied the king to the Jordan River to send him off there. 32 Barzillai was very old, 80 years of age. He had supported the king during his stay at Mahanaim because Barzillai was a very wealthy man.
33 The king said to Barzillai, “Come over the Jordan with me. I will provide for you at my side in Jerusalem.”
34 But Barzillai said to the king, “How many years do I have left that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem? 35 I am now 80 years old. Do I know what is good or bad anymore? Can your servant taste what I eat or drink? Can I even hear the voices of men or women singers? Why should your servant be a burden to my master and king? 36 Your servant will cross a short way over the Jordan with the king, but why should the king give me such a reward? 37 Let your servant return so I may die in my own town near the grave of my parents. But here is your servant Chimham. Let him cross over with my master and king, and treat him as you think best.”
38 The king said, “Okay. Chimham will cross over with me, and I will treat him as I[al] think best. And I will do for you anything you desire from me.”
39 So all the people crossed over the Jordan River, and the king stayed behind.[am] The king kissed Barzillai and blessed him, and then Barzillai went back to his home. 40 When the king crossed over to Gilgal, Chimham went with him. All the troops of Judah and half the troops of Israel escorted the king across.
41 Then everyone in Israel came and said to the king, “Why did our relatives the people of Judah steal you away, and bring the king and his household across the Jordan River, along with all of his soldiers?”
42 Then all the people of Judah answered the Israelites, “Because the king is our relative! Why are you angry at us about this? Have we taken any of the king’s food? Has he given us any gifts?”
43 But the Israelites answered the people of Judah, “We have ten shares in the monarchy! What’s more, we are the oldest offspring, not you![an] So why have you disrespected us? Weren’t we the first to talk about bringing back our king?”
But the words of the people of Judah were even harsher than the words of the Israelites.[ao]
20 Now a despicable man named Sheba, Bichri’s son, from Benjamin, was also there. He sounded the trumpet and said:
“We don’t care about David!
2 So all the Israelites left David to follow Bichri’s son Sheba. But all the people of Judah stayed close to their king from the Jordan River all the way to Jerusalem.
3 When David arrived at his palace in Jerusalem, the king took the ten secondary wives he had left to take care of the palace and put them in a house under guard. He provided for them, but he didn’t have sex with them. They were confined until the day they died, and lived like widows.
4 Then the king said to Amasa, “Call everyone in Judah here to me three days from now. You should be here too.” 5 So Amasa went to call Judah together, but he took longer than the allotted time.
6 David told Abishai, “Bichri’s son Sheba will cause more trouble for us than Absalom did. Take your master’s servants and chase after him before he finds fortified cities and escapes from us.” 7 So Joab’s men marched out after Sheba—this included the Cherethites, the Pelethites, and all the warriors. They marched out of Jerusalem to pursue Bichri’s son Sheba.
8 When they got to the great stone in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Joab was dressed in his soldier’s uniform. Over the tunic at his waist he wore a sword in its sheath. As Joab went forward it slipped out.
9 “How are you, my brother?” Joab asked Amasa, and with his right hand he took hold of Amasa’s beard as if to kiss him. 10 But Amasa didn’t notice the sword in Joab’s hand. Joab struck him in the stomach with it so that Amasa’s intestines spilled out on the ground. He died without Joab striking him a second time. Then Joab and his brother Abishai pursued Sheba, Bichri’s son.
11 One of Joab’s men stood by Amasa and said, “Whoever favors Joab, and whoever is for David, follow Joab!” 12 Amasa was writhing in blood in the middle of the road, and the man saw that everyone was stopping. When he saw this, he dragged Amasa from the road into a field and threw a robe over him. 13 Once Amasa was moved out of the road, everyone who followed Joab marched past in pursuit of Bichri’s son Sheba.
14 Sheba went through all the Israelite tribes up to Abel of Beth-maacah. All the Bichrites[ap] assembled and followed Sheba in. 15 Then Joab’s men arrived and attacked Sheba at Abel of Beth-maacah. They piled up a ramp against the city, and it stood against the outer wall.[aq] All of Joab’s troops were hammering the wall, trying to bring it down.
16 Then a wise woman called from the city, “Listen! Listen! Tell Joab to come over here, so I can talk to him.”
17 So Joab approached her, and the woman said, “Are you Joab?”
“I am,” he answered.
“Pay close attention to the words of your female servant,” she said.
“I’m listening,” Joab replied.
18 She said, “People used to say long ago: ‘Ask your question at Abel,’ and that settled the matter. 19 I am one of the peaceful and faithful in Israel, but you are trying to kill a city that is one of Israel’s mothers! Why would you annihilate the Lord’s inheritance?”
20 Joab answered, “I would never, ever annihilate or destroy such a thing! 21 That’s not the issue. A man named Sheba, Bichri’s son, who is from the Ephraim highlands, has rebelled against King David. Just hand him over, and I’ll leave the city alone.”
The woman said to Joab, “His head will be thrown over the wall to you!”
22 When the woman went to everyone with her wise counsel, they cut off the head of Sheba, Bichri’s son, and threw it out to Joab. Then Joab sounded the trumpet, and his troops left the city, returning to their homes. But Joab returned to the king in Jerusalem.
23 Now Joab was in command of Israel’s army; Jehoiada’s son Benaiah commanded the Cherethites and the Pelethites; 24 Adoram was in charge of the forced labor; Ahilud’s son Jehoshaphat was the recorder; 25 Sheva was secretary; Zadok and Abiathar were priests; 26 and Ira from Jair was also a priest for David.
Avenging the Gibeonites
21 There was a famine for three years in a row during David’s rule. David asked the Lord about this, and the Lord said, “It is caused by Saul and his household, who are guilty of bloodshed because he killed the people of Gibeon.” 2 So the king called for the Gibeonites and spoke to them.
(Now the Gibeonites weren’t Israelites but were survivors of the Amorites. The Israelites had sworn a solemn pledge to spare them, but Saul tried to eliminate them in his enthusiasm for the people of Israel and Judah.)
3 David said to the Gibeonites, “What can I do for you? How can I fix matters so you can benefit from the Lord’s inheritance?”
4 The Gibeonites said to him, “We don’t want any silver or gold from Saul or his family, and it isn’t our right to have anyone in Israel killed.”
“What do you want?”[ar] David asked. “I’ll do it for you.”
5 “Okay then,” they said to the king. “That man who opposed and oppressed[as] us, who planned to destroy us, keeping us from having a place to live anywhere in Israel— 6 hand over seven of his sons to us, and we will hang them before the Lord at Gibeon[at] on the Lord’s mountain.”
“I will hand them over,” the king said.
7 But the king spared Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son and Saul’s grandson, because of the Lord’s solemn pledge that was between them—between David and Saul’s son Jonathan. 8 So the king took the two sons of Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, Armoni and Mephibosheth, whom she had birthed for Saul; and the five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab,[au] whom she birthed for Adriel, Barzillai’s son, who was from Meholah, 9 and he handed them over to the Gibeonites. They hanged them on the mountain before the Lord. The seven of them died at the same time. They were executed in the first days of the harvest, at the beginning of the barley harvest.
10 Aiah’s daughter Rizpah took funeral clothing and spread it out by herself on a rock. She stayed there from the beginning of the harvest until the rains poured down on the bodies from the sky, and she wouldn’t let any birds of prey land on the bodies during the day or let wild animals come at nighttime. 11 When David was told what Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, Saul’s secondary wife, had done, 12 he went and retrieved the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from the citizens of Jabesh-gilead, who had stolen the bones from the public square in Beth-shan, where the Philistines had hanged them on the day the Philistines killed Saul at Gilboa. 13 David brought the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from there and collected the bones of the men who had been hanged by the Gibeonites. 14 The bones of Saul and his son Jonathan were then buried in Zela, in Benjaminite territory, in the tomb of Saul’s father Kish. Once everything the king had commanded was done, God responded to prayers for the land.
War with the Philistines
15 Once again war broke out between the Philistines and Israel. David and the soldiers who were with him went down and fought the Philistines. When David grew tired, 16 Ishbi-benob, a descendant of the Raphah,[av] planned on killing David.[aw] The weight of his spear was three hundred shekels of bronze, and he was wearing new armor. 17 But Zeruiah’s son Abishai came to David’s aid, striking the Philistine down and killing him. Then David’s men swore a solemn pledge to him: “You will never march out to battle with us again! You must not snuff out Israel’s lamp!”
18 Some time later, another battle with the Philistines took place at Gob. Then Sibbecai from Hushah killed Saph, a descendant of the Raphah. 19 There was yet another battle with the Philistines at Gob; and Elhanan, Jair’s son[ax] from Bethlehem, killed Goliath from Gath, whose spear shaft was as strong as the bar on a weaver’s loom. 20 In another battle at Gath, there was a huge[ay] man who had six fingers on his hands and six toes on his feet, twenty-four in all. He too was descended from the Raphah. 21 When he insulted Israel, Jonathan, who was the son of David’s brother Shimei, killed him. 22 These four Philistines were descended from the Raphah in Gath, and they fell by the hands of David and his servants.
David’s thanksgiving psalm
22 [az] David spoke the words of this song to the Lord after the Lord delivered him from the power of all his enemies and from Saul.
2 He said:
8 The earth rocked and shook;
17 From on high God reached down and grabbed me;
26 You deal faithfully with the faithful;
32 Now really, who is divine except the Lord?
47 The Lord lives! Bless God, my rock!
David’s last words
23 These are David’s last words:
This is the declaration of Jesse’s son David,
9 Next in command was Eleazar, Dodo’s son and Ahohi’s grandson. He was among the three warriors with David when they insulted the Philistines who had gathered there for battle. The Israelites retreated, 10 but he stood his ground and fought the Philistines until his hand was weary and stuck to the sword. But the Lord accomplished a great victory that day. The troops then returned to Eleazar, but only to plunder the dead.
11 Next in command was Agee’s son Shammah, who was from Harar. The Philistines had gathered at Lehi, where there was a plot of land full of lentils. The troops fled from the Philistines, 12 but Shammah took a position in the middle of the plot, defended it, and struck down the Philistines. The Lord accomplished a great victory.
13 At harvesttime, three of the thirty chiefs went down and joined David at the fortress[bl] of Adullam, while a force of Philistines were camped in the Rephaim Valley. 14 At that time, David was in the fortress, and a Philistine fort was in Bethlehem. 15 David had a craving and said, “If only someone could give me a drink of water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem.” 16 So the three warriors broke through the Philistine camp and drew water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem and brought it back to David. But he refused to drink it and poured it out to the Lord.
17 “The Lord forbid that I should do that,” he said. “Isn’t this the blood of men who risked their lives?” So he refused to drink it.
These were the kinds of things the three warriors did.
18 Now Zeruiah’s son Abishai, the brother of Joab, was chief of the Thirty.[bm] He raised his spear against three hundred men, killed them, and made a name for himself along with the Three. 19 He was the most famous of the Thirty.[bn] He became their commander, but he wasn’t among the Three.
20 Jehoiada’s son Benaiah was a hero from Kabzeel who performed great deeds. He killed the two sons[bo] of Ariel from Moab. He once went down into a pit and killed a lion on a snowy day. 21 He also killed a giant[bp] Egyptian who had a spear in his hand. Benaiah went against him armed with a staff. He grabbed the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear. 22 These were the kinds of things Jehoiada’s son Benaiah did. He made a name for himself along with the three warriors. 23 He was famous among the Thirty, but he didn’t become one of the Three. David placed him in command of his own bodyguard.
24 Among the Thirty were:
Asahel, Joab’s brother;
Elhanan, Dodo’s son from Bethlehem;
25 Shammah from Harod;
Elika from Harod;
26 Helez from Pelet;
Ira, Ikkesh’s son from Tekoa;
27 Abiezer from Anathoth;
Mebunnai the Hushathite;
28 Zalmon from Ahoh;
Maharai from Netophah;
29 Heleb, Baanah’s son from Netophah;
Ittai, Ribai’s son from Gibeah in Benjamin;
30 Benaiah from Pirathon;
Hiddai from the Gaash ravines;
31 Abi-albon from the desert plain;
Azmaveth from Bahurim;
32 Eliahba from Shaalbon;
Jashen the Gizonite;[bq]
Jonathan, 33 Shammah’s son[br] from Harar;
Ahiam, Sharar’s son from Harar;
34 Eliphelet, Ahasbai’s son from Maacah;
Eliam, Ahithophel’s son from Giloh;
35 Hezro from Carmel;
Paarai from Erab;
36 Igal, Nathan’s son from Zobah;
Bani the Gadite;
37 Zelek the Ammonite;
Naharai from Beeroth, and the armor-bearer for Zeruiah’s son Joab;
38 Ira from Ither;
Gaeb from Ither;
39 and Uriah the Hittite—
thirty-seven in all.
24 The Lord burned with anger against Israel again, and he incited David against them: Go and count the people of Israel and Judah.
2 So the king said to Joab and the military commanders[bs] who were with him, “Go throughout all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beer-sheba, and take a census of the people so I know how many people there are.”
3 Joab said to the king, “May the Lord your God increase the number of people a hundred times while the eyes of my master the king can still see it! But why does my master the king want to do this?”
4 But the king’s word overruled Joab and the military commanders. So Joab and the commanders left the king’s presence to take a census of the Israelites. 5 They crossed the Jordan River and began from Aroer and from[bt] the town that is in the middle of the valley of Gad, then on to Jazer. 6 They continued to Gilead and on to Kadesh in Hittite territory.[bu] They came to Dan[bv] and went around to Sidon. 7 They went to the fortress of Tyre and to all the towns of the Hivites and the Canaanites. They went out to Beer-sheba in the arid southern plain of Judah. 8 At the end of nine months and twenty days, after going through the entire country, they came back to Jerusalem. 9 Joab reported to the king the number of the people who had been counted: in Israel there were eight hundred thousand strong men who could handle a sword; in Judah the total was five hundred thousand men.
10 But after this David felt terrible that he had counted the people. David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, Lord, please take away the guilt of your servant because I have done something very foolish.”
11 When David got up the next morning, the Lord’s word came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer: 12 Go and tell David, This is what the Lord says: I’m offering you three punishments. Choose one of them, and that is what I will do to you.
13 So Gad went to David and said to him, “Will three[bw] years of famine come on your land? Or will you run from your enemies for three months while they chase you? Or will there be three days of plague in your land? Decide now what answer I should take back to the one who sent me.”
14 “I’m in deep trouble,” David said to Gad. “Let’s fall into the Lord’s hands because his mercy is great, but don’t let me fall into human hands.”
15 So the Lord sent a plague on Israel from that very morning until the allotted time. Seventy thousand people died, from Dan to Beer-sheba. 16 But when the divine messenger stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord regretted doing this disaster and said to the messenger who was destroying the people, “That’s enough! Withdraw your hand.” At that time the Lord’s messenger was by the threshing floor of Araunah from Jebus.
17 When David saw the messenger who was striking down the people, he said, “I’m the one who sinned! I’m the one who has done wrong. But these sheep—what have they done wrong? Turn your hand against me and my household.”
18 That same day Gad came to David and told him, “Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah from Jebus.” 19 So David went up, following Gad’s instructions, just as the Lord had commanded.
20 Araunah looked up and saw the king and his servants approaching him. Araunah rushed out and bowed low before the king, his nose to the ground. 21 Araunah said, “Why has my master and king come to his servant?”
David said, “To buy this threshing floor from you to build an altar to the Lord, so the plague among the people may come to an end.”
22 Then Araunah said to David, “Take it for yourself, and may my master the king do what he thinks is best. Here are oxen for the entirely burned offering, and here are threshing boards and oxen yokes for wood. 23 All this, Your Majesty, Araunah gives to the king.” Then he added, “May the Lord your God respond favorably to you!”
24 “No,” the king said to Araunah. “I will buy them from you at a fair price. I won’t offer up to the Lord my God entirely burned offerings that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. 25 David built an altar there for the Lord and offered entirely burned offerings and well-being sacrifices. The Lord responded to the prayers for the land, and the plague against Israel came to an end.