David called together the troops that were with him. He appointed commanders in charge of regiments and battalions.
David put a third of the troops under Joab's command, another third under Joab's brother Abishai (Zeruiah's son), and the last third under Ittai from Gath. "I am going [into battle] with you," the king said to the troops.
"You're not going [with us]," the troops said. "If we flee, they won't care about us, and if half of us die, they won't care either. But you're worth 10,000 of us. It's better for you to be ready to send us help from the city."
"I'll do what you think best," the king responded. So the king stood by the gate while all the troops marched out by battalions and regiments.
The king ordered Joab, Abishai, and Ittai, "Treat the young man Absalom gently for my sake." All the troops heard him give all the commanders this order regarding Absalom.
So the troops went out to the country to fight Israel in the forest of Ephraim.
There David's men defeated Israel's army, and the massacre was sizable that day--20,000 men.
The fighting spread over the whole country. That day the woods devoured more people than the battle.
Absalom happened to come face to face with some of David's men. He was riding on a mule, and the mule went under the tangled branches of a large tree. Absalom's head became caught in the tree. So he was left hanging in midair when the mule that was under him ran away.
A man who saw this told Joab, "I saw Absalom hanging in a tree."
"What! You saw that!" Joab said to the man who told him. "Why didn't you strike him to the ground? Then I would have felt obligated to give you four ounces of silver and a belt."
But the man told Joab, "Even if I felt the weight of 25 pounds of silver in my hand, I wouldn't raise my hand against the king's son. We heard the order the king gave you, Abishai, and Ittai: 'Protect the young man Absalom for my sake.'
If I had done something treacherous to him, would you have stood by me? Like everything else, it wouldn't stay hidden from the king."
Then Joab said, "I shouldn't waste time with you like this." He took three sharp sticks and plunged them into Absalom's heart while he was still alive in the tree.
Then ten of Joab's armorbearers surrounded Absalom, attacked him, and killed him.
Joab blew the ram's horn to stop their [fighting], and the troops returned from pursuing Israel.
They took Absalom, threw him into a huge pit in the forest, and piled a large heap of stones over him. Meanwhile, all Israel fled and went back to their homes.
([While he was still living,] Absalom had taken a rock and set it up for himself in the king's valley. He said, "I have no son to keep the memory of my name alive." He called the rock by his name, and it is still called Absalom's Monument today.)
Then Ahimaaz, Zadok's son, said, "Let me run and bring the king the good news that the LORD has freed him from his enemies."
But Joab told him, "You won't be the man carrying good news today. You can carry the news some other day. You must not deliver the news today because the king's son is dead."
Then Joab said to a man from Sudan, "Go, tell the king what you saw." The messenger bowed down with his face touching the ground in front of Joab and then ran off.
Ahimaaz, Zadok's son, spoke to Joab again, "Whatever may happen, I also want to run after the Sudanese messenger." "Now, son, why should you deliver the message?" Joab asked. "You won't be rewarded for this news."
"Whatever happens, I'd like to run," [replied Ahimaaz.] "Run," Joab told him. So Ahimaaz ran along the valley road and got ahead of the Sudanese messenger.
David was sitting between the two gates while the watchman walked along the roof of the gate by the wall. As he looked, he saw a man running alone.
The watchman called and alerted the king. "If he's alone," the king said, "he has good news to tell." The runner continued to come closer.
When the watchman saw another man running, the watchman called, "There's [another] man running alone." The king said, "This one is also bringing good news."
The watchman said, "It seems to me that the first one runs like Ahimaaz, Zadok's son." "He's a good man," the king said. "He must be coming with good news."
Then Ahimaaz came up to the king, greeted him, and bowed down in front of him. Ahimaaz said, "May the LORD your God be praised. He has handed over the men who rebelled against Your Majesty."
"Is the young man Absalom alright?" the king asked. Ahimaaz answered, "I saw a lot of confusion when Joab sent me away, but I didn't know what it meant."
"Step aside, and stand here," the king said. He stepped aside and stood there.
Then the Sudanese messenger came. "Good news for Your Majesty!" he said. "Today the LORD has freed you from all who turned against you."
"Is the young man Absalom alright?" the king asked. The Sudanese messenger answered, "May your enemies and all who turned against you be like that young man!"
The king was shaken [by the news]. He went to the room above the gate and cried. "My son Absalom!" he said as he went. "My son, my son Absalom! I wish I had died in your place! Absalom, my son, my son!"