2 Samuel 15-19 Common English Bible (CEB)
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[a] 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.”[b]
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,[c] 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.[d] 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.”[e]
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[f] 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[g] 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![h] 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,[i] 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[j] 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.[k] 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[l] 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.”[m] 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[n] 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.’[o] 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.”[p]
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.”[q]
23 “I don’t care what happens, I want to go,” Ahimaaz said.[r]
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 [s] 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!”
[t]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.[u] 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,[v] 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?[w] 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[x] 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,[y] 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[z] 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[aa] 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[ab] 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.[ac] 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![ad] 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.[ae]