As time went on, Absalom took to riding in a horse-drawn chariot, with fifty men running in front of him.
Early each morning he would take up his post beside the road at the city gate. When anyone showed up with a case to bring to the king for a decision, Absalom would call him over and say, "Where do you hail from?" And the answer would come, "Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel."
Then Absalom would say, "Look, you've got a strong case; but the king isn't going to listen to you."
Then he'd say, "Why doesn't someone make me a judge for this country? Anybody with a case could bring it to me and I'd settle things fair and square."
Whenever someone would treat him with special honor, he'd shrug it off and treat him like an equal, making him feel important.
Absalom did this to everyone who came to do business with the king and stole the hearts of everyone in Israel.
After four years of this, Absalom spoke to the king, "Let me go to Hebron to pay a vow that I made to God.
Your servant made a vow when I was living in Geshur in Aram saying, 'If God will bring me back to Jerusalem, I'll serve him with my life.'"
The king said, "Go with my blessing." And he got up and set off for Hebron.
Then Absalom sent undercover agents to all the tribes of Israel with the message, "When you hear the blast of the ram's horn trumpet, that's your signal: Shout, 'Absalom is king in Hebron!'"
Two hundred men went with Absalom from Jerusalem. But they had been called together knowing nothing of the plot and made the trip innocently.
While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he managed also to involve Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's advisor, calling him away from his hometown of Giloh. The conspiracy grew powerful and Absalom's supporters multiplied.
Someone came to David with the report, "The whole country has taken up with Absalom!"
"Up and out of here!" called David to all his servants who were with him in Jerusalem. "We've got to run for our lives or none of us will escape Absalom! Hurry, he's about to pull the city down around our ears and slaughter us all!"
The king's servants said, "Whatever our master, the king, says, we'll do; we're with you all the way!"
So the king and his entire household escaped on foot. The king left ten concubines behind to tend to the palace.
And so they left, step by step by step, and then paused at the last house
as the whole army passed by him - all the Kerethites, all the Pelethites, and the six hundred Gittites who had marched with him from Gath, went past.
The king called out to Ittai the Gittite, "What are you doing here? Go back with King Absalom. You're a stranger here and freshly uprooted from your own country.
You arrived only yesterday, and am I going to let you take your chances with us as I live on the road like a gypsy? Go back, and take your family with you. And God's grace and truth go with you!"
But Ittai answered, "As God lives and my master the king lives, where my master is, that's where I'll be - whether it means life or death."
"All right," said David, "go ahead." And they went on, Ittai the Gittite with all his men and all the children he had with him.
The whole country was weeping in loud lament as all the people passed by. As the king crossed the Brook Kidron, the army headed for the road to the wilderness.
Zadok was also there, the Levites with him, carrying God's Chest of the Covenant. They set the Chest of God down, Abiathar standing by, until all the people had evacuated the city.
Then the king ordered Zadok, "Take the Chest back to the city. If I get back in God's good graces, he'll bring me back and show me where the Chest has been set down.
But if he says, 'I'm not pleased with you' - well, he can then do with me whatever he pleases."
The king directed Zadok the priest, "Here's the plan: Return to the city peacefully, with Ahimaaz your son and Jonathan, Abiathar's son, with you.
I'll wait at a spot in the wilderness across the river, until I get word from you telling us what's up."
So Zadok and Abiathar took the Chest of God back to Jerusalem and placed it there,
while David went up the Mount of Olives weeping, head covered but barefooted, and the whole army was with him, heads covered and weeping as they ascended.
David was told, "Ahithophel has joined the conspirators with Absalom." He prayed, "Oh, God - turn Ahithophel's counsel to foolishness."
As David approached the top of the hill where God was worshiped, Hushai the Arkite, clothes ripped to shreds and dirt on his head, was there waiting for him.
David said, "If you come with me, you'll be just one more piece of luggage.
Go back to the city and say to Absalom, 'I'm ready to be your servant, O King; I used to be your father's servant, now I'm your servant.' Do that and you'll be able to confuse Ahithophel's counsel for me.
The priests Zadok and Abiathar are already there; whatever information you pick up in the palace, tell them.
Their two sons - Zadok's son Ahimaaz and Abiathar's son Jonathan - are there with them - anything you pick up can be sent to me by them."
Hushai, David's friend, arrived at the same time Absalom was entering Jerusalem.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)