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The Death of Absalom

Absalom gathered his army together and followed his father, and David knew that there was to be a battle between' him and his son. He, therefore, numbered the people that were with him and set captains over them and he made Joab the chief captain.

David himself knew that the hosts of Absalom were pursuing him and made ready for battle. He desired to go into battle himself but the people told him:

"You shall not go into battle, for it matters not if we flee or if we die. You are worth ten thousand of us, therefore, sit here and preserve your life in case the battle goes against us and for Absalom."

"What seems best to you, I will do," said the king simply, for he was an old man and much broken by the acts of his rebellious son.

David sat by the side of the gate on the side of Manhanaim, and all the people came out by hundreds and thousands on their way to battle with the hosts of Absalom. The king called Joab and his other captains to him as they were passing and said to them: "Deal gently, for my sake, with the young man, Absalom," and the people heard what David said to the captains about Absalom, but Joab made no promises of what he would do.

The battle was in the wood of Ephraim. The hosts of Absalom were slain before the servants of David and there was a great slaughter of twenty thousand men. The battle was scattered over the face of the country and many of the men of Absalom perished in the woods.

Absalom fled from the soldiers of David. He rode upon a mule and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak. Absalom's head was caught in the branches of the tree and he was held there between heaven and earth and the mule that was under him ran away, leaving him hanging by his head in the tree.

A man saw him hanging there and ran to Joab, saying: "I saw Absalom hanged in an oak." Joab replied to him: "When you saw him, why did you not smite him to the ground? I would, have given you ten shekels of silver and a girdle."

"Though I should receive a thousand shekels of silver, yet would I not put forth my hand against the king's son," said the man. For all Israel had heard that David had asked that no one touch the young man Absalom.

But Joab was not so careful of the king's words. He left the man and came to the tree where Absalom was hanging. He took three darts in his hand and thrust them through the heart of Absalom while he was yet alive and hanging in the tree. The young men that were with Joab also smote Absalom until he was quite dead. Then Joab blew the trumpet and the people returned from pursuing after the hosts of Absalom and they all saw how Joab had slain the son of David.

Then they took the body of Absalom and cast it into a great pit in the wood and covered it with a heap of stones and the men of Israel went back to their tents.

King David was waiting at the gate of the city to hear news of the battle, and his thoughts were upon his son. Joab said to Cushi, one of his servants: "Go, tell the king what you have seen." And Cushi bowed himself before Joab and started upon his mission. Another messenger named Ahimaaz said to Joab: "I pray you, let me run after Cushi that two of us may bear the message of the victory over the king's enemies." Joab said unto him also: "Go, tell the king what you have seen," and Ahimaaz ran after Cushi.

David sat between the two gates of the city. The watchman went up to the roof over the gate and saw a man running alone. He called down to the king what he saw and the king said: "If he be alone he is a messenger with tidings in his mouth." And the messenger drew near. Then the watchman saw another man running and called to the king, and the king said: "He also brings tidings."

Ahimaaz had outrun Cushi and brought the message first to the king and said: "Blessed be the Lord which delivered up the men that lifted their hands against the king."

But the old David was not thinking of the victory, and he said to the messenger: "Is the young man Absalom safe?" Ahimaaz answered: "Joab sent me with the message. I saw a great tumult and I knew not what it was and I do not know whether Absalom is safe or not." Ahimaaz stood aside while Cushi ran toward the king.

Cushi came and fell before the king and said: "Tidings, my lord, my king. God has avenged you this day of all them that rose up against you." But David was not thinking of his enemies and asked of this second messenger: "Is the young man Absalom safe?"

Cushi bowed his head and tried to tell the news to David. At last he said: "May the enemies of my lord and king and all who rise against him to do him hurt be as that young man now is."

Then David knew that Absalom was dead and his heart was bowed with grief. He rose from his seat and went up to the room over the gate and wept. As he went, he said: "O, my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!"