After this, Absalom bought a chariot and horses, and he hired fifty footmen to run ahead of him.
He got up early every morning and went out to the gate of the city. When people brought a case to the king for judgment, Absalom would ask where they were from, and they would tell him their tribe.
Then Absalom would say, "You've really got a strong case here! It's too bad the king doesn't have anyone to hear it.
I wish I were the judge. Then people could bring their problems to me, and I would give them justice!"
And when people tried to bow before him, Absalom wouldn't let them. Instead, he took them by the hand and embraced them.
So in this way, Absalom stole the hearts of all the people of Israel.
After four years, a Absalom said to the king, "Let me go to Hebron to offer a sacrifice to the LORD in fulfillment of a vow I made to him.
For while I was at Geshur, I promised to sacrifice to him in Hebron if he would bring me back to Jerusalem."
"All right," the king told him. "Go and fulfill your vow." So Absalom went to Hebron.
But while he was there, he sent secret messengers to every part of Israel to stir up a rebellion against the king. "As soon as you hear the trumpets," his message read, "you will know that Absalom has been crowned king in Hebron."
He took two hundred men from Jerusalem with him as guests, but they knew nothing of his intentions.
While he was offering the sacrifices, he sent for Ahithophel, one of David's counselors who lived in Giloh. Soon many others also joined Absalom, and the conspiracy gained momentum.
A messenger soon arrived in Jerusalem to tell King David, "All Israel has joined Absalom in a conspiracy against you!"
"Then we must flee at once, or it will be too late!" David urged his men. "Hurry! If we get out of the city before he arrives, both we and the city of Jerusalem will be spared from disaster."
"We are with you," his advisers replied. "Do what you think is best."
So the king and his household set out at once. He left no one behind except ten of his concubines to keep the palace in order.
The king and his people set out on foot, and they paused at the edge of the city
to let David's troops move past to lead the way. There were six hundred Gittites who had come with David from Gath, along with the king's bodyguard. b19
Then the king turned to Ittai, the captain of the Gittites, and asked, "Why are you coming with us? Go on back with your men to King Absalom, for you are a guest in Israel, a foreigner in exile.
You arrived only yesterday, and now should I force you to wander with us? I don't even know where we will go. Go on back and take your troops with you, and may the LORD show you his unfailing love and faithfulness.c "
But Ittai said to the king, "I vow by the LORD and by your own life that I will go wherever you go, no matter what happens -- whether it means life or death."
David replied, "All right, come with us." So Ittai and his six hundred men and their families went along.
There was deep sadness throughout the land as the king and his followers passed by. They crossed the Kidron Valley and then went out toward the wilderness.
Abiathar and Zadok and the Levites took the Ark of the Covenant of God and set it down beside the road. Then they offered sacrifices there until everyone had passed by.
David instructed Zadok to take the Ark of God back into the city. "If the LORD sees fit," David said, "he will bring me back to see the Ark and the Tabernacle again.
But if he is through with me, then let him do what seems best to him."
Then the king told Zadok the priest, "Look, d here is my plan. You and Abiathar e should return quietly to the city with your son Ahimaaz and Abiathar's son Jonathan.
I will stop at the shallows of the Jordan River f and wait there for a message from you. Let me know what happens in Jerusalem before I disappear into the wilderness."
So Zadok and Abiathar took the Ark of God back to the city and stayed there.
David walked up the road that led to the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went. His head was covered and his feet were bare as a sign of mourning. And the people who were with him covered their heads and wept as they climbed the mountain.
When someone told David that his adviser Ahithophel was now backing Absalom, David prayed, "O LORD, let Ahithophel give Absalom foolish advice!"
As they reached the spot at the top of the Mount of Olives where people worshiped God, David found Hushai the Arkite waiting for him. Hushai had torn his clothing and put dirt on his head as a sign of mourning.
But David told him, "If you go with me, you will only be a burden.
Return to Jerusalem and tell Absalom, 'I will now be your adviser, just as I was your father's adviser in the past.' Then you can frustrate and counter Ahithophel's advice.
Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, are there. Tell them the plans that are being made to capture me,
and they will send their sons Ahimaaz and Jonathan to find me and tell me what is going on."
So David's friend Hushai returned to Jerusalem, getting there just as Absalom arrived.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)