1David counted the soldiers who were with him and appointed captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them.
2Then David sent out the army, one-third under the command of Joab, another third under the command of Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab's brother, and still another third under the command of Ittai the Gittite. The king said to the army, “I will certainly go out with you myself, too.”
3But the men said, “You must not go to battle, for if we flee away they will not care about us, or if half of us die they will not care. But you are worth ten thousand of us! Therefore it is better that you be ready to help us from the city.”
4So the king answered them, “I will do whatever seems best to you.” The king stood by the city gate while all the army went out by hundreds and by thousands.
5The king commanded Joab, Abishai, and Ittai saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man, with Absalom.” All the people heard that the king had given the captains this command about Absalom.
6So the army went out into the countryside against Israel; the battle spread into the forest of Ephraim.
7The army of Israel was defeated there before the soldiers of David; there was a great slaughter there that day of twenty thousand men.
8The battle spread throughout the whole countryside, and more men were consumed by the forest than by the sword.
9Absalom happened to meet some of David's soldiers. Absalom was riding his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak tree, and his head was caught up in the tree branches. He was left dangling between the ground and the sky while the mule he was riding kept going.
10Someone saw this and told Joab, “Look, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak tree!”
11Joab said to the man who told him about Absalom, “Look! You saw him! Why did you not strike him down to the ground? I would have given you ten silver shekels and a belt.”
12The man replied to Joab, “Even if I received a thousand silver shekels, still I would not have reached out my hand against the king's son, because we all heard the king command you, Abishai, and Ittai, saying, 'No one must touch the young man Absalom.'
13If I had risked my life by a falsehood (and there is nothing hidden from the king), you would have abandoned me.”
14Then Joab said, “I will not wait for you.” So Joab took three javelins in his hand and thrust them through the heart of Absalom, while he was still alive and hanging from the oak.
15Then ten young men who carried Joab's armor surrounded Absalom, attacked him, and killed him.
16Then Joab blew the trumpet, and the army returned from pursuing Israel, for Joab held back the army.
17They took Absalom and threw him into a large pit in the forest; they buried his body under a very large pile of stones, while all Israel fled, every man to his own home.
18Now Absalom, while still alive, had built for himself a large stone pillar in the King's Valley, for he said, “I have no son to carry along the memory of my name.” He named the pillar after his own name, so it is called Absalom's Monument to this very day.
19Then Ahimaaz son of Zadok said, “Let me now run to the king with the good news, how Yahweh has rescued him from the hand of his enemies.”
20Joab answered him, “You will not be the bearer of news today; you must do it another day. Today you will bear no news because the king's son is dead.”
21Then Joab said to a Cushite, “Go, tell the king what you have seen.” The Cushite bowed down to Joab, and ran.
22Then Ahimaaz son of Zadok said again to Joab, “Regardless of what may happen, please let me also run and follow the Cushite.” Joab replied, “Why do you want to run, my son, seeing that you will have no reward for the news?”
23“Whatever happens,” said Ahimaaz, “I will run.” So Joab answered him, “Run.” Then Ahimaaz ran by the way of the plain, and outran the Cushite.
24Now David was sitting between the inner and outer gates. The watchman had gone up to the roof of the gate to the wall and raised his eyes. As he looked, he saw a man approaching, running alone.
25The watchman shouted out and told the king. Then the king said, “If he is alone, there is news in his mouth.” The runner came closer and neared the city.
26Then the watchman noticed another man running, and the watchman called to the gatekeeper; he said, “Look, there is another man running alone.” The king said, “He is also bringing news.”
27So the watchman said, “I think the running of the man in front is like the running of Ahimaaz son of Zadok.” The king said, “He is a good man and is coming with good news.”
28Then Ahimaaz called out and said to the king, “All is well.” He bowed himself before the king with his face to the ground and said, “Blessed be Yahweh your God! He has delivered the men who lifted up their hand against my master the king.”
29So the king replied, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” Ahimaaz answered, “When Joab sent me, the king's servant, to you, king, I saw a great disturbance, but I did not know what it was.”
30Then the king said, “Turn aside and stand here.” So Ahimaaz turned aside, and stood still.
31Immediately then the Cushite arrived and said, “There is good news for my master the king, for Yahweh has avenged you today from all who rose up against you.”
32Then the king said to the Cushite, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” The Cushite answered, “The enemies of my master the king, and all who rise up against you to do harm to you, should be as that young man is.”
33Then the king was deeply unnerved, and he went up to the room over the gate and wept. As he went he grieved, “My son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! I wish I had died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son!”