1David organized the men who were with him and put commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds in charge of them.
2David sent the army out divided into three sections. One third was commanded by Joab, one third was commanded by Abishai, son of Zeruiah, Joab's brother, and one third was commanded by Ittai the Gittite. The king told the men, “I myself will go out into battle with you.”
3But the men replied, “No, you must not go out into battle! For if we have to run away, they won't care about us. Even if half of us die, they won't care about that either. But you are worth ten thousand of us, so it's better if you stay here and send us help from the town.”
4“I will do whatever you think best,” the king replied. The king stood beside the gate while all his men marched out by hundreds and by thousands.
5The king ordered Joab, Abishai and Ittai, “Treat young Absalom gently for me.” All the men heard the king giving orders to each of his commanders about Absalom.
6David's army marched out to face the Israelites in battle, which was fought in the forest of Ephraim.
7The Israelites were defeated by David's men and many were killed that day—some twenty thousand.
8The battle covered the whole countryside, and that day more died because of the forest than were killed by the sword.
9Absalom ran into some of David's men while he was riding on his mule. As the mule went under the twisted branches of a large oak tree, Absalom's hair got caught in the tree. The mule he was riding kept going, leaving him hanging between earth and sky.
10One of David's men saw what happened, so he told Joab, “I just saw Absalom hanging from an oak tree!”
11“What! You saw him like that?” Joab said to the man. “Why didn't you kill him right then and there? I would have given you ten shekels of silver and a soldier's belt as a reward!”
12But the man replied, “Even if you gave me a thousand shekels of silver, I wouldn't hurt the king's son. We all heard the king give the order to you, Abishai, and Ittai, ‘Look after young Absalom for me.’
13If I had disobeyed and killed Absalom—and the king finds out everything—you yourself wouldn't have defended me.”
14“I'm not going to waste time waiting around like this with you!” Joab told him. He grabbed three spears and drove them into Absalom's heart while he was still alive, hanging from the oak tree.
15Ten of Joab's armor-bearers surrounded Absalom and hacked him to death.
16Then Joab blew the ram's horn, and his men stopped chasing the Israelites because Joab had signaled them to stop.
17They took Absalom and threw him into a deep pit in the forest, and piled a large heap of stones over him. All the Israelites ran away to their homes.
18Absalom while he was alive had made a stone pillar and set it up in the King's Valley as a memorial to himself, for he thought to himself, “I don't have a son to keep the memory of my name alive.” He named the pillar after himself, and it's called Absalom's Monument even today.
19Then Ahimaaz, son of Zadok, said, “Please let me run and take the good news to the king that the Lord has vindicated him over his enemies.”
20“You're not the man to take the good news today,” Joab replied. “You can do it some other time, but don't do it today, because the king's son is dead.”
21So Joab said to a man from Ethiopia, “Go and tell the king what you have seen.” He bowed to Joab and ran off.
22Ahimaaz asked Joab again, “Never mind what happens, please let me run too, after the Ethiopian!” “Son, why do you want to run—you won't get anything for it?” Joab replied.
23“Doesn't matter, I want to run anyway,” he said. “Fine, start running!” Joab told him. Ahimaaz took the route over flatter ground and overtook the Ethiopian.
24David was sitting between the inside and outside gates. The watchman climbed up to the roof of the gateway by the wall. He looked out, and saw a man running by himself.
25So he shouted down to tell the king. “If he's by himself then he's bringing good news,” the king replied. As the first runner got closer,
26the watchman saw someone else running, and he shouted down to the gatekeeper, “Look! There's another man running by himself!” “He'll also be bringing good news,” said the king.
27“The first man seems to me to be running like Ahimaaz, son of Zadok,” said the watchman. “He's a good man,” he king replied. “He'll bring good news.”
28Ahimaaz shouted out greetings to the king,. Then he came and he bowed facedown before the king. “Blessed be the Lord your God!” he said. “He has defeated the men who rebelled against Your Majesty!”
29“How is young Absalom? Is he alright?” the king asked. Ahimaaz answered, “It was very chaotic when your officer Joab sent me, your servant. I really don't know what was happening.”
30“Stand to one side and wait,” the king told him. So Ahimaaz stood to one side and waited.
31Right then the Ethiopian arrived and said, “Your Majesty, listen to the good news! Today the Lord has defeated all those who rebelled against you!”
32“How is young Absalom? Is he alright?” the king asked. The Ethiopian replied, “May what has happened to the young man happen to Your Majesty's enemies, and to everyone who rebels against you!”
33The king broke down. He went up to the room over the gate and cried. As he walked, he sobbed out, “My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! I wish I'd died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son!”