After mustering the troops he had with him, David placed officers in command of groups of a thousand and groups of a hundred.
David then put a third part of the soldiers under Joab’s command, a third under command of Abishai, son of Zeruiah and brother of Joab, and a third under command of Ittai the Gittite. The king then said to the soldiers, “I intend to go out with you myself.”
But they replied: “You must not come out with us. For if we should flee, we shall not count; even if half of us should die, we shall not count. You are equal to ten thousand of us. Therefore it is better that we have you to help us from the city.”
So the king said to them, “I will do what you think best”; and he stood by the gate as all the soldiers marched out in units of a hundred and of a thousand.
But the king gave this command to Joab, Abishai and Ittai: “Be gentle with young Absalom for my sake.” All the soldiers heard the king instruct the various leaders with regard to Absalom.
David’s army then took the field against Israel, and a battle was fought in the forest near Mahanaim.
The forces of Israel were defeated by David’s servants, and the casualties there that day were heavy – twenty thousand men.
The battle spread out over that entire region, and the thickets consumed more combatants that day than did the sword.
Absalom unexpectedly came up against David’s servants. He was mounted on a mule, and, as the mule passed under the branches of a large terebinth, his hair caught fast in the tree. He hung between heaven and earth while the mule he had been riding ran off.
Someone saw this and reported to Joab that he had seen Absalom hanging from a terebinth.
Joab said to his informant: “If you saw him, why did you not strike him to the ground on the spot? Then it would have been my duty to give you fifty pieces of silver and a belt.”
But the man replied to Joab: “Even if I already held a thousand pieces of silver in my two hands, I would not harm the king’s son, for the king charged you and Abishai and Ittai in our hearing to protect the youth Absalom for his sake.
Had I been disloyal and killed him, the whole matter would have come to the attention of the king, and you would stand aloof.”
Joab replied, “I will not waste time with you in this way.” And taking three pikes in hand, he thrust for the heart of Absalom, still hanging from the tree alive.
Next, ten of Joab’s young armor-bearers closed in on Absalom, and killed him with further blows.
Joab then sounded the horn, and the soldiers turned back from the pursuit of the Israelites, because Joab called on them to halt.
Absalom was taken up and cast into a deep pit in the forest, and a very large mound of stones was erected over him. And all the Israelites fled to their own tents.
During his lifetime Absalom had taken a pillar and erected it for himself in the King’s Valley, for he said, “I have no son to perpetuate my name.” The pillar which he named for himself is called Yadabshalom to the present day.
Then Ahimaaz, son of Zadok, said, “Let me run to take the good news to the king that the LORD has set him free from the grasp of his enemies.”
But Joab said to him: “You are not the man to bring the news today. On some other day you may take the good news, but today you would not be bringing good news, for in fact the king’s son is dead.”
Then Joab said to a Cushite, “Go, tell the king what you have seen.” The Cushite bowed to Joab and sped away.
But Ahimaaz, son of Zadok, said to Joab again, “Come what may, permit me also to run after the Cushite.” Joab replied: “Why do you want to run, my son? You will receive no reward.”
But he insisted, “Come what may, I want to run.” Joab said to him, “Very well.” Ahimaaz sped off by way of the Jordan plain and outran the Cushite.
Now David was sitting between the two gates, and a lookout mounted to the roof of the gate above the city wall, where he looked about and saw a man running all alone.
The lookout shouted to inform the king, who said, “If he is alone, he has good news to report.” As he kept coming nearer,
the lookout spied another runner. From his place atop the gate he cried out, “There is another man running by himself.” And the king responded, “He, too, is bringing good news.”
Then the lookout said, “I notice that the first one runs like Ahimaaz, son of Zadok.” The king replied, “He is a good man; he comes with good news.”
Then Ahimaaz called out and greeted the king. With face to the ground he paid homage to the king and said, “Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delivered up the men who rebelled against my lord the king.”
But the king asked, “Is the youth Absalom safe?” And Ahimaaz replied, “I saw a great disturbance when the king’s servant Joab sent your servant on, but I do not know what it was.”
The king said, “Step aside and remain in attendance here.” So he stepped aside and remained there.
When the Cushite came in, he said, “Let my lord the king receive the good news that this day the LORD has taken your part, freeing you from the grasp of all who rebelled against you.”
But the king asked the Cushite, “Is young Absalom safe?” The Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rebel against you with evil intent be as that young man!”