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Ziba Gives Food to David

16 David had started down the other side of the Mount of Olives, when he was met by Ziba, the chief servant of Mephibosheth.[a] Ziba had two donkeys that were carrying two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred handfuls of raisins, a hundred figs,[b] and some wine.

“What’s all this?” David asked.

Ziba said, “The donkeys are for your family to ride. The bread and fruit are for the people to eat, and the wine is for them to drink in the desert when they are tired out.”

“And where is Mephibosheth?” David asked.

Ziba answered, “He stayed in Jerusalem, because he thinks the people of Israel want him to rule the kingdom of his grandfather Saul.”

David then told him, “Everything that used to belong to Mephibosheth is now yours.”

Ziba said, “Your Majesty, I am your humble servant, and I hope you will be pleased with me.”

Shimei Curses David

David was near the town of Bahurim when a man came out and started cursing him. The man was Shimei the son of Gera, and he was one of Saul’s distant relatives. He threw stones at David, at his soldiers, and at everyone else, including the bodyguards who walked on each side of David.

Shimei was yelling at David, “Get out of here, you murderer! You good-for-nothing, the Lord is paying you back for killing so many in Saul’s family. You stole his kingdom, but now the Lord has given it to your son Absalom. You’re a murderer, and that’s why you’re in such big trouble!”

Abishai said, “Your Majesty, this man is as useless as a dead dog! He shouldn’t be allowed to curse you. Let me go over and chop off his head.”

10 David replied, “What will I ever do with you and your brother Joab? If Shimei is cursing me because the Lord has told him to, then who are you to tell him to stop?”

11 Then David said to Abishai and all his soldiers:

My own son is trying to kill me! Why shouldn’t this man from the tribe of Benjamin want me dead even more? Let him curse all he wants. Maybe the Lord did tell him to curse me. 12 But if the Lord hears these curses and sees the trouble I’m in, maybe he will have pity on me instead.

13 David and the others went on down the road. Shimei went along the hillside by the road, cursing and throwing rocks and dirt at them. 14 When David and those with him came to the Jordan River, they were tired out. But after they rested, they[c] felt much better.

Hushai Meets Absalom

15 By this time, Absalom, Ahithophel, and the others had reached Jerusalem. 16 David’s friend Hushai came to Absalom and said, “Long live the king! Long live the king!”

17 But Absalom asked Hushai, “Is this how you show loyalty to your friend David? Why didn’t you go with him?”

18 Hushai answered, “The Lord and the people of Israel have chosen you to be king. I can’t leave. I have to stay and serve the one they’ve chosen. 19 Besides, it seems right for me to serve you, just as I served your father.”

Ahithophel’s Advice

20 Absalom turned to Ahithophel and said, “Give us your advice! What should we do?”

21 Ahithophel answered, “Some of your father’s wives[d] were left here to take care of the palace. You should have sex with them. Then everyone will find out that you have publicly disgraced your father. This will make you and your followers even more powerful.”

22 Absalom had a tent set up on the flat roof of the palace, and everyone watched as he went into the tent with his father’s wives.

23 Ahithophel gave such good advice in those days that both Absalom and David thought it came straight from God.

17 Ahithophel said to Absalom:

Let me choose twelve thousand men and attack David tonight, while he is tired and discouraged. He will panic, and everyone with him will run away. I won’t kill anyone except David, since he’s the one you want to get rid of. Then I’ll bring the whole nation back to you like a bride coming home to her husband.[e] This way there won’t be a civil war.

Hushai Fools Absalom

Absalom and all the leaders of the tribes of Israel agreed that Ahithophel had a good plan. Then Absalom said, “Bring in Hushai the Archite. Let’s hear what he has to say.”

Hushai came in, and Absalom told him what Ahithophel had planned. Then Absalom said, “Should we do what he says? And if we shouldn’t, can you come up with anything better?”

Hushai said:

This time Ahithophel’s advice isn’t so good. You know that your father and his followers are real warriors. Right now they are as fierce as a mother bear whose cubs have just been killed. Besides, your father has a lot of experience in fighting wars, and he won’t be spending the night with the others. He has probably already found a hiding place in a cave or somewhere else.

As soon as anyone hears that some of your soldiers have been killed, everyone will think your whole army has been destroyed. 10 Then even those who are as brave as a lion will lose their courage. All Israel knows what a great warrior your father is and what brave soldiers he has.

11 My advice is to gather all the fighting men of Israel from the town of Dan in the north down to the town of Beersheba in the south. You will have more soldiers than there are grains of sand on the seashore. Absalom, you should lead them yourself, 12 and we will all go to fight David wherever he is. We will fall on him just as dew falls and covers the ground. He and all his soldiers will die! 13 If they go into a walled town, we will put ropes around that town and drag it into the river. We won’t leave even one small piece of a stone.

14 Absalom and the others liked Hushai’s plan better than Ahithophel’s plan. This was because the Lord had decided to keep Ahithophel’s plan from working and to cause trouble for Absalom.

Jonathan and Ahimaaz Tell David the News

15 Right away, Hushai went to Zadok and Abiathar. He told them what advice Ahithophel had given to Absalom and to the leaders of Israel. He also told them about the advice he had given. 16 Then he said, “Hurry! Send someone to warn David not to spend the night on this side of the river. He must get across the river, so he and the others won’t be wiped out!”

17 Jonathan and Ahimaaz[f] had been waiting at Rogel Spring[g] because they did not want to be seen in Jerusalem. A servant girl went to the spring and gave them the message for David. 18 But a young man saw them and went to tell Absalom. So Jonathan and Ahimaaz left and hurried to the house of a man who lived in Bahurim. Then they climbed down into a well in the courtyard. 19 The man’s wife put the cover on the well and poured grain on top of it, so the well could not be seen.[h]

20 Absalom’s soldiers came to the woman and demanded, “Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan?”

The woman answered, “They went across the stream.”

The soldiers went off to look for the two men. But when they did not find the men, they went back to Jerusalem.

21 After the soldiers had gone, Jonathan and Ahimaaz climbed out of the well. They went to David and said, “Hurry! Get ready to cross the river!” Then they told him about Ahithophel’s plan.

22 David and the others got ready and started crossing the Jordan River. By sunrise all of them were on the other side.

Ahithophel Kills Himself

23 When Ahithophel saw that Absalom and the leaders of Israel were not going to follow his advice, he saddled his donkey and rode back to his home in Gilo. He told his family and servants what to do. Then he hanged himself, and they buried him in his family’s burial place.

Absalom Puts Amasa in Charge of the Army

24 David went to the town of Mahanaim, and Absalom crossed the Jordan River with the army of Israel. 25 Absalom put Amasa in Joab’s place as commander of the army. Amasa’s father was Ithra[i] from the family of Ishmael,[j] and his mother was Abigal,[k] the daughter of Nahash and the sister of Joab’s mother Zeruiah. 26 The Israelites under Absalom’s command set up camp in the region of Gilead.

Friends Bring Supplies to David

27 After David came to the town of Mahanaim, Shobi the son of Nahash came from Rabbah in Ammon,[l] Machir the son of Ammiel came from Lo-Debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite came from Rogelim.

28-29 Here is a list of what they brought: sleeping mats, blankets, bowls, pottery jars, wheat, barley, flour, roasted grain, beans, lentils, honey, yogurt, sheep, and cheese.

They brought the food for David and the others because they knew that everyone would be hungry, tired, and thirsty from being out in the desert.

David Gets Ready for Battle

18 David divided his soldiers into groups of a hundred and groups of a thousand. Then he chose officers to be in command of each group. He sent out one-third of his army under the command of Joab, another third under the command of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, and the rest under the command of Ittai from Gath. He told the soldiers, “I’m going into battle with you.”

But the soldiers said, “No, don’t go into battle with us! It won’t matter to our enemies if they make us all run away, or even if they kill half of us. But you are worth ten thousand of us. It would be better for you to stay in town and send help if we need it.”

4-6 David said, “All right, if you think I should.”

Then in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, he said, “Joab! Abishai! Ittai! For my sake, be sure that Absalom comes back unharmed.”

David stood beside the town gate as his army marched past in groups of a hundred and in groups of a thousand.

Joab Kills Absalom

The war with Israel took place in Ephraim Forest. 7-8 Battles were being fought all over the forest, and David’s soldiers were winning. Twenty thousand soldiers were killed[m] that day, and more of them died from the dangers of the forest than from the fighting itself.

Absalom was riding his mule under a huge tree when his head[n] caught in the branches. The mule ran off and left Absalom hanging in midair. Some of David’s soldiers happened by, 10 and one of them went and told Joab, “I saw Absalom hanging in a tree!”

11 Joab said, “You saw Absalom? Why didn’t you kill him? I would have given you ten pieces of silver and a special belt.”

12 The man answered, “Even if you paid me a thousand pieces of silver here and now, I still wouldn’t touch the king’s son. We all heard King David tell you and Abishai and Ittai not to harm Absalom. 13 He always finds out what’s going on. I would have been risking my life to kill Absalom, because you would have let me take the blame.”

14 Joab said, “I’m not going to waste any more time on you!”

Absalom was still alive, so Joab took three spears and stuck them through Absalom’s chest. 15 Ten of Joab’s bodyguards came over and finished him off. 16 Then Joab blew a trumpet to signal his troops to stop chasing Israel’s soldiers. 17 They threw Absalom’s body into a deep pit in the forest and put a big pile of rocks over it.

Meanwhile, the people of Israel had all run back to their own homes.

18 When Absalom was alive, he had set up a stone monument for himself in King’s Valley. He explained, “I don’t have any sons[o] to keep my name alive.” He called it Absalom’s Monument, and that is the name it still has today.[p]

Ahimaaz Wants To Tell David

19 Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said, “Joab, let me run and tell King David that the Lord has rescued him from his enemies.”

20 Joab answered, “You’re not the one to tell the king that his son is dead. You can take him a message some other time, but not today.”

21 Someone from Ethiopia[q] was standing there, and Joab told him, “Go and tell the king what you have seen.” The man knelt down in front of Joab and then got up and started running.

22 Ahimaaz spoke to Joab again, “No matter what happens, I still want to run. And besides, the Ethiopian has already left.”

Joab said, “Why should you run? You won’t get a reward for the news you have!”

23 “I’ll run no matter what!” Ahimaaz insisted.

“All right then, run!” Joab said.

Ahimaaz took the road through the Jordan Valley and outran the Ethiopian.

24 Meanwhile, David was sitting between the inner and outer gates[r] in the city wall. One of his soldiers was watching from the roof of the gate-tower. He saw a man running toward the town 25 and shouted down to tell David.

David answered, “If he’s alone, he must have some news.”

The runner was getting closer, 26 when the soldier saw someone else running. He shouted down to the gate, “Look! There’s another runner!”

David said, “He must have some news too.”

27 The soldier on the roof shouted, “The first one runs just like Ahimaaz the son of Zadok.”

This time David said, “He’s a good man. He must have some good news.”

28 Ahimaaz called out, “We won! We won!” Then he bowed low to David and said, “Your Majesty, praise the Lord your God! He has given you victory over your enemies.”

29 “Is my son Absalom all right?” David asked.

Ahimaaz said, “When Joab sent your personal servant and me, I saw a noisy crowd. But I don’t know what it was all about.”

30 David told him, “Stand over there and wait.”

Ahimaaz went over and stood there. 31 The Ethiopian came and said, “Your Majesty, today I have good news! The Lord has rescued you from all your enemies!”

32 “Is my son Absalom all right?” David asked.

The Ethiopian replied, “I wish that all Your Majesty’s enemies and everyone who tries to harm you would end up like him!”

David Cries for Absalom

33 David started trembling. Then he went up to the room above the city gate to cry. As he went, he kept saying, “My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! I wish I could have died instead of you! Absalom, my son, my son!”[s]


  1. 16.1 chief servant of Mephibosheth: See 9.1-13.
  2. 16.1 figs: Or “pomegranates,” a bright red fruit that looks like an apple.
  3. 16.14 they: Hebrew “he.”
  4. 16.21 wives: See the note at 3.7.
  5. 17.3 back to you. . . husband: One ancient translation; Hebrew “back to you. The man you are chasing is like bringing back the whole nation.”
  6. 17.17 Jonathan and Ahimaaz: See 15.27.
  7. 17.17 Rogel Spring: South of Jerusalem in Kidron Valley.
  8. 17.19 The man’s wife. . . seen: Everyone would have thought that the woman was drying grain on a mat that she had spread on the ground.
  9. 17.25 Ithra: Or “Jether.”
  10. 17.25 the family of Ishmael: Some manuscripts of one ancient translation; other manuscripts of the same translation “the town of Jezreel”; Hebrew “the people of Israel.”
  11. 17.25 Amasa. . . Abigal: Abigal and Zeruiah (Joab’s mother) were full sisters, and David was evidently their half brother with the same mother, but a different father. This made Amasa one of David’s nephews (see 1 Chronicles 2.12-17).
  12. 17.27 Shobi. . . Ammon: Shobi was probably the new king of the Ammonites that David had appointed after he captured Rabbah (see 2 Samuel 10.1-3; 12.26-31).
  13. 18.7,8 Twenty. . . killed: This may refer to the total number or to the number of Absalom’s soldiers who were killed.
  14. 18.9 head: Or “hair.”
  15. 18.18 I don’t have any sons: According to 14.27, Absalom had three sons. But they could have died young or been put to death for Absalom’s murder of Amnon.
  16. 18.18 today: That is, at the time of writing. This monument is not the same as the structure now known as “Absalom’s Tomb,” which was built at least 600 years later.
  17. 18.21 Ethiopia: The Hebrew text has “Cush,” which was a region south of Egypt that included parts of the present countries of Ethiopia and Sudan.
  18. 18.24 between. . . gates: The city gate was often like a tower in the city wall, with one gate on the outside of the wall and another gate on the inside of the wall.
  19. 18.33 son: In Hebrew, this verse is 19.1.

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