David now appointed generals and captains to lead his troops.
One-third were placed under Joab, one-third under Joab's brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and one-third under Ittai the Gittite. The king told his troops, "I am going out with you."
But his men objected strongly. "You must not go," they urged. "If we have to turn and run -- and even if half of us die -- it will make no difference to Absalom's troops; they will be looking only for you. You are worth ten thousand of us, and it is better that you stay here in the city and send us help if we need it."
"If you think that's the best plan, I'll do it," the king finally agreed. So he stood at the gate of the city as all the divisions of troops passed by.
And the king gave this command to Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: "For my sake, deal gently with young Absalom." And all the troops heard the king give this order to his commanders.
So the battle began in the forest of Ephraim,
and the Israelite troops were beaten back by David's men. There was a great slaughter, and twenty thousand men laid down their lives that day.
The battle raged all across the countryside, and more men died because of the forest than were killed by the sword.
During the battle, Absalom came unexpectedly upon some of David's men. He tried to escape on his mule, but as he rode beneath the thick branches of a great oak, his head got caught. His mule kept going and left him dangling in the air.
One of David's men saw what had happened and told Joab, "I saw Absalom dangling in a tree."
"What?" Joab demanded. "You saw him there and didn't kill him? I would have rewarded you with ten pieces of silver and a hero's belt!"
References for 2 Samuel 18:11
"I wouldn't do it for a thousand pieces of silver, " the man replied. "We all heard the king say to you and Abishai and Ittai, 'For my sake, please don't harm young Absalom.'
References for 2 Samuel 18:12
And if I had betrayed the king by killing his son -- and the king would certainly find out who did it -- you yourself would be the first to abandon me."
"Enough of this nonsense," Joab said. Then he took three daggers and plunged them into Absalom's heart as he dangled from the oak still alive.
Ten of Joab's young armor bearers then surrounded Absalom and killed him.
Then Joab blew the trumpet, and his men returned from chasing the army of Israel.
They threw Absalom's body into a deep pit in the forest and piled a great heap of stones over it. And the army of Israel fled to their homes.
During his lifetime, Absalom had built a monument to himself in the King's Valley, for he had said, "I have no son to carry on my name." He named the monument after himself, and it is known as Absalom's Monument to this day.
Then Zadok's son Ahimaaz said, "Let me run to the king with the good news that the LORD has saved him from his enemy Absalom."
"No," Joab told him, "it wouldn't be good news to the king that his son is dead. You can be my messenger some other time, but not today."
Then Joab said to a man from Cush, "Go tell the king what you have seen." The man bowed and ran off.
But Ahimaaz continued to plead with Joab, "Whatever happens, please let me go, too." "Why should you go, my son?" Joab replied. "There will be no reward for you."
"Yes, but let me go anyway," he begged. Joab finally said, "All right, go ahead." Then Ahimaaz took a shortcut across the plain of the Jordan and got to Mahanaim ahead of the man from Cush.
While David was sitting at the city gate, the watchman climbed to the roof of the gateway by the wall. As he looked, he saw a lone man running toward them.
He shouted the news down to David, and the king replied, "If he is alone, he has news." As the messenger came closer,
the watchman saw another man running toward them. He shouted down, "Here comes another one!" The king replied, "He also will have news."
"The first man runs like Ahimaaz son of Zadok," the watchman said. "He is a good man and comes with good news," the king replied.
Then Ahimaaz cried out to the king, "All is well!" He bowed low with his face to the ground and said, "Blessed be the LORD your God, who has handed over the rebels who dared to stand against you."
"What about young Absalom?" the king demanded. "Is he all right?" Ahimaaz replied, "When Joab told me to come, there was a lot of commotion. But I didn't know what was happening."
"Wait here," the king told him. So Ahimaaz stepped aside.
Then the man from Cush arrived and said, "I have good news for my lord the king. Today the LORD has rescued you from all those who rebelled against you."
"What about young Absalom?" the king demanded. "Is he all right?" And the Cushite replied, "May all of your enemies, both now and in the future, be as that young man is!"
The king was overcome with emotion. He went up to his room over the gateway and burst into tears. And as he went, he cried, "O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I could have died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son."