2 Samuel 18 New King James Version (NKJV)
Absalom’s Defeat and Death
18 And David [a]numbered the people who were with him, and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them. 2 Then David sent out one third of the people under the hand of Joab, one third under the hand of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, and one third under the hand of Ittai the Gittite. And the king said to the people, “I also will surely go out with you myself.”
3 But the people answered, “You shall not go out! For if we flee away, they will not care about us; nor if half of us die, will they care about us. But you are worth ten thousand of us now. For you are now more help to us in the city.”
4 Then the king said to them, “Whatever seems best to you I will do.” So the king stood beside the gate, and all the people went out by hundreds and by thousands. 5 Now the king had commanded Joab, Abishai, and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains orders concerning Absalom.
6 So the people went out into the field of battle against Israel. And the battle was in the woods of Ephraim. 7 The people of Israel were overthrown there before the servants of David, and a great slaughter of twenty thousand took place there that day. 8 For the battle there was scattered over the face of the whole countryside, and the woods devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.
9 Then Absalom met the servants of David. Absalom rode on a mule. The mule went under the thick boughs of a great terebinth tree, and his head caught in the terebinth; so he was left hanging between heaven and earth. And the mule which was under him went on. 10 Now a certain man saw it and told Joab, and said, “I just saw Absalom hanging in a terebinth tree!”
11 So Joab said to the man who told him, “You just saw him! And why did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have given you ten shekels of silver and a belt.”
12 But the man said to Joab, “Though I were to receive a thousand shekels of silver in my hand, I would not raise my hand against the king’s son. For in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, saying, [b]‘Beware lest anyone touch the young man Absalom!’ 13 Otherwise I would have dealt falsely against my own life. For there is nothing hidden from the king, and you yourself would have set yourself against me.”
14 Then Joab said, “I cannot linger with you.” And he took three spears in his hand and thrust them through Absalom’s heart, while he was still alive in the midst of the terebinth tree. 15 And ten young men who bore Joab’s armor surrounded Absalom, and struck and killed him.
16 So Joab blew the trumpet, and the people returned from pursuing Israel. For Joab held back the people. 17 And they took Absalom and cast him into a large pit in the woods, and laid a very large heap of stones over him. Then all Israel fled, everyone to his tent.
18 Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up a [c]pillar for himself, which is in the King’s Valley. For he said, “I have no son to keep my name in remembrance.” He called the pillar after his own name. And to this day it is called Absalom’s Monument.
David Hears of Absalom’s Death
19 Then Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said, “Let me run now and take the news to the king, how the Lord has [d]avenged him of his enemies.”
20 And Joab said to him, “You shall not take the news this day, for you shall take the news another day. But today you shall take no news, because the king’s son is dead.” 21 Then Joab said to the Cushite, “Go, tell the king what you have seen.” So the Cushite bowed himself to Joab and ran.
22 And Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said again to Joab, “But [e]whatever happens, please let me also run after the Cushite.”
So Joab said, “Why will you run, my son, since you have no news ready?”
23 “But whatever happens,” he said, “let me run.”
So he said to him, “Run.” Then Ahimaaz ran by way of the plain, and outran the Cushite.
24 Now David was sitting between the two gates. And the watchman went up to the roof over the gate, to the wall, lifted his eyes and looked, and there was a man, running alone. 25 Then the watchman cried out and told the king. And the king said, “If he is alone, there is news in his mouth.” And he came rapidly and drew near.
26 Then the watchman saw another man running, and the watchman called to the gatekeeper and said, “There is another man, running alone!”
And the king said, “He also brings news.”
27 So the watchman said, [f]“I think the running of the first is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok.”
And the king said, “He is a good man, and comes with good news.”
28 So Ahimaaz called out and said to the king, [g]“All is well!” Then he bowed down with his face to the earth before the king, and said, “Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delivered up the men who raised their hand against my lord the king!”
29 The king said, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”
Ahimaaz answered, “When Joab sent the king’s servant and me your servant, I saw a great tumult, but I did not know what it was about.”
30 And the king said, “Turn aside and stand here.” So he turned aside and stood still.
31 Just then the Cushite came, and the Cushite said, “There is good news, my lord the king! For the Lord has avenged you this day of all those who rose against you.”
32 And the king said to the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”
So the Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise against you to do harm, be like that young man!”
David’s Mourning for Absalom
33 Then the king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept. And as he went, he said thus: “O my son Absalom—my son, my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!”
2 Samuel 18 New International Version (NIV)
18 David mustered the men who were with him and appointed over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. 2 David sent out his troops, a third under the command of Joab, a third under Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and a third under Ittai the Gittite. The king told the troops, “I myself will surely march out with you.”
3 But the men said, “You must not go out; if we are forced to flee, they won’t care about us. Even if half of us die, they won’t care; but you are worth ten thousand of us.[a] It would be better now for you to give us support from the city.”
4 The king answered, “I will do whatever seems best to you.”
So the king stood beside the gate while all his men marched out in units of hundreds and of thousands. 5 The king commanded Joab, Abishai and Ittai, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.” And all the troops heard the king giving orders concerning Absalom to each of the commanders.
6 David’s army marched out of the city to fight Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. 7 There Israel’s troops were routed by David’s men, and the casualties that day were great—twenty thousand men. 8 The battle spread out over the whole countryside, and the forest swallowed up more men that day than the sword.
9 Now Absalom happened to meet David’s men. He was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absalom’s hair got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going.
10 When one of the men saw what had happened, he told Joab, “I just saw Absalom hanging in an oak tree.”
11 Joab said to the man who had told him this, “What! You saw him? Why didn’t you strike him to the ground right there? Then I would have had to give you ten shekels[b] of silver and a warrior’s belt.”
12 But the man replied, “Even if a thousand shekels[c] were weighed out into my hands, I would not lay a hand on the king’s son. In our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘Protect the young man Absalom for my sake.[d]’ 13 And if I had put my life in jeopardy[e]—and nothing is hidden from the king—you would have kept your distance from me.”
14 Joab said, “I’m not going to wait like this for you.” So he took three javelins in his hand and plunged them into Absalom’s heart while Absalom was still alive in the oak tree. 15 And ten of Joab’s armor-bearers surrounded Absalom, struck him and killed him.
16 Then Joab sounded the trumpet, and the troops stopped pursuing Israel, for Joab halted them. 17 They took Absalom, threw him into a big pit in the forest and piled up a large heap of rocks over him. Meanwhile, all the Israelites fled to their homes.
18 During his lifetime Absalom had taken a pillar and erected it in the King’s Valley as a monument to himself, for he thought, “I have no son to carry on the memory of my name.” He named the pillar after himself, and it is called Absalom’s Monument to this day.
19 Now Ahimaaz son of Zadok said, “Let me run and take the news to the king that the Lord has vindicated him by delivering him from the hand of his enemies.”
20 “You are not the one to take the news today,” Joab told him. “You may take the news another time, but you must not do so 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 down before Joab and ran off.
22 Ahimaaz son of Zadok again said to Joab, “Come what may, please let me run behind the Cushite.”
But Joab replied, “My son, why do you want to go? You don’t have any news that will bring you a reward.”
23 He said, “Come what may, I want to run.”
So Joab said, “Run!” Then Ahimaaz ran by way of the plain[f] and outran the Cushite.
24 While David was sitting between the inner and outer gates, the watchman went up to the roof of the gateway by the wall. As he looked out, he saw a man running alone. 25 The watchman called out to the king and reported it.
The king said, “If he is alone, he must have good news.” And the runner came closer and closer.
26 Then the watchman saw another runner, and he called down to the gatekeeper, “Look, another man running alone!”
The king said, “He must be bringing good news, too.”
27 The watchman said, “It seems to me that the first one runs like Ahimaaz son of Zadok.”
“He’s a good man,” the king said. “He comes with good news.”
28 Then Ahimaaz called out to the king, “All is well!” He bowed down before the king with his face to the ground and said, “Praise be to the Lord your God! He has delivered up those who lifted their hands against my lord the king.”
29 The king asked, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”
Ahimaaz answered, “I saw great confusion just as Joab was about to send the king’s servant and me, your servant, but I don’t know what it was.”
30 The king said, “Stand aside and wait here.” So he stepped aside and stood there.
31 Then the Cushite arrived and said, “My lord the king, hear the good news! The Lord has vindicated you today by delivering you from the hand of all who rose up against you.”
32 The king asked the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”
The Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up to harm you be like that young man.”
33 The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”[g]