A messenger came and told David, "The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom."
Then David said to all his officials who were with him in Jerusalem, "Come! We must flee,1 or none of us will escape from Absalom.2 We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin upon us and put the city to the sword."
The king's officials answered him, "Your servants are ready to do whatever our lord the king chooses."
The king set out, with his entire household following him; but he left ten concubines3 to take care of the palace.
So the king set out, with all the people following him, and they halted at a place some distance away.
All his men marched past him, along with all the Kerethites4 and Pelethites; and all the six hundred Gittites who had accompanied him from Gath marched before the king.
The king said to Ittai5 the Gittite, "Why should you come along with us? Go back and stay with King Absalom. You are a foreigner,6 an exile from your homeland.
You came only yesterday. And today shall I make you wander7 about with us, when I do not know where I am going? Go back, and take your countrymen. May kindness and faithfulness8 be with you."
But Ittai replied to the king, "As surely as the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be."922
David said to Ittai, "Go ahead, march on." So Ittai the Gittite marched on with all his men and the families that were with him.
The whole countryside wept aloud10 as all the people passed by. The king also crossed the Kidron Valley,1112 and all the people moved on toward the desert.
Zadok13 was there, too, and all the Levites who were with him were carrying the ark14 of the covenant of God. They set down the ark of God, and Abiathar15 offered sacrificesa until all the people had finished leaving the city.
Then the king said to Zadok, "Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the LORD's eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place16 again.
But if he says, 'I am not pleased with you,' then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him.17"
The king also said to Zadok the priest, "Aren't you a seer?18 Go back to the city in peace, with your son Ahimaaz and Jonathan19 son of Abiathar. You and Abiathar take your two sons with you.
I will wait at the fords20 in the desert until word comes from you to inform me."
So Zadok and Abiathar took the ark of God back to Jerusalem and stayed there.
But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping21 as he went; his head22 was covered and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up.
Now David had been told, "Ahithophel23 is among the conspirators with Absalom." So David prayed, "O LORD, turn Ahithophel's counsel into foolishness."
When David arrived at the summit, where people used to worship God, Hushai24 the Arkite25 was there to meet him, his robe torn and dust26 on his head.
David said to him, "If you go with me, you will be a burden27 to me.
But if you return to the city and say to Absalom, 'I will be your servant, O king; I was your father's servant in the past, but now I will be your servant,'28 then you can help me by frustrating29 Ahithophel's advice.
Won't the priests Zadok and Abiathar be there with you? Tell them anything you hear in the king's palace.3036
Their two sons, Ahimaaz31 son of Zadok and Jonathan32 son of Abiathar, are there with them. Send them to me with anything you hear."
So David's friend Hushai33 arrived at Jerusalem as Absalom34 was entering the city.