The Death of Absalom
1 David assembled the army that was with him. He appointed leaders of thousands and leaders of hundreds.
2 David then sent out the army – a third under the leadership of Joab, a third under the leadership of Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and a third under the leadership of Ittai the Gittite. The king said to the troops, “I too will indeed march out with you.”
3 But the soldiers replied,tn Heb “the people said.” “You should not do this!tn Heb “march out.” For if we should have to make a rapid retreat, they won’t be too concerned about us.tn Heb “they will not place to us heart.” Even if half of us should die, they won’t be too concerned about us. But youtc The translation follows the LXX (except for the Lucianic recension), Symmachus, and Vulgate in reading אָתָּה (’atta, “you”) rather than MT עָתָּה (’atta, “now”). are like ten thousand of us! So it is better if you remain in the city for support.”
4 Then the king said to them, “I will do whatever seems best to you.”
So the king stayed beside the city gate, while all the army marched out by hundreds and by thousands.
5 The king gave this order to Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: “For my sake deal gently with the young man Absalom.” Now the entire army was listening when the king gave all the leaders this order concerning Absalom.
6 Then the army marched out to the field to fight against Israel. The battle took place in the forest of Ephraim.
7 The army of Israel was defeated there by David’s men.tn Heb “servants” (also in v. 9). The slaughter there was great that day – 20,000 soldiers were killed.
8 The battle there was spread out over the whole area, and the forest consumed more soldiers than the sword devoured that day.
9 Then Absalom happened to come across David’s men. Now as Absalom was riding on histn Heb “the.” mule, ittn Heb “the donkey.” went under the branches of a large oak tree. His head got caught in the oak and he was suspended in midair,tn Heb “between the sky and the ground.” while the mule he had been riding kept going.
10 When onetc 4QSama lacks the word “one.” of the men saw this, he reported it to Joab saying, “I saw Absalom hanging in an oak tree.
11 Joab replied to the man who was telling him this, “What! You saw this? Why didn’t you strike him down right on the spot?tn Heb “Why did you not strike him down there to the ground.” I would have given you ten pieces of silvertn Heb “ten [shekels] of silver.” This would have been about 4 ounces (114 grams) of silver by weight. and a commemorative belt!”tn Heb “and a girdle” (so KJV); NIV “a warrior’s belt”; CEV “a special belt”; NLT “a hero’s belt.”
12 The man replied to Joab, “Even iftc The translation follows the Qere and many medieval Hebrew mss in reading וְלוּ (vÿlu, “and if”) rather than MT וְלֹא (vÿlo’, “and not”). I were receivingtn Heb “weighing out in my hand.” a thousand pieces of silver,tn Heb “a thousand [shekels] of silver.” This would have been about 25 pounds (11.4 kg) of silver by weight. I would not striketn Heb “extend my hand against.” the king’s son! In our very presencetn Heb “in our ears.” the king gave this order to you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘Protect the young man Absalom for my sake.’tc The Hebrew text is very difficult here. The MT reads מִי (mi, “who”), apparently yielding the following sense: “Show care, whoever you might be, for the youth Absalom.” The Syriac Peshitta reads li (“for me”), the Hebrew counterpart of which may also lie behind the LXX rendering μοι (moi, “for me”). This reading seems preferable here, since it restores sense to the passage and most easily explains the rise of the variant.
13 If I had acted at risk of my own lifetc The translation follows the Qere, many medieval Hebrew mss, and a number of the ancient versions in reading בְנַפְשִׁי (vÿnafshi, “against my life”) rather than the MT בְנַפְשׁוֹ (vÿnafsho, “against his life”). – and nothing is hidden from the king! – you would have abandoned me.”tn Heb “stood aloof.”
14 Joab replied, “I will not wait around like this for you!” He took three spears in his hand and thrust them into the middle of Absalom while he was still alive in the middle of the oak tree.tn There is a play on the word “heart” here that is difficult to reproduce in English. Literally the Hebrew text says “he took three spears in his hand and thrust them into the heart of Absalom while he was still alive in the heart of the oak tree.” This figure of speech involves the use of the same word in different senses and is known as antanaclasis. It is illustrated in the familiar saying from the time of the American Revolution: “If we don’t hang together, we will all hang separately.” The present translation understands “heart” to be used somewhat figuratively for “chest” (cf. TEV, CEV), which explains why Joab’s armor bearers could still “kill” Absalom after he had been stabbed with three spears through the “heart.” Since trees do not have “chests” either, the translation uses “middle.”
15 Then ten soldiers who were Joab’s armor bearers struck Absalom and finished him off.
16 Then Joab blew the trumpettn Heb “the shophar” (the ram’s horn trumpet). and the army turned back from chasing Israel, for Joab had called for the army to halt.
17 They took Absalom, threw him into a large pit in the forest, and stacked a huge pile of stones over him. In the meantime all the Israelite soldiers fled to their homes.tn Heb “and all Israel fled, each to his tent.” In this context this refers to the supporters of Absalom (see vv. 6-7, 16).
18 Prior to thistn Heb “and.” This disjunctive clause (conjunction + subject + verb) describes an occurrence that preceded the events just narrated. Absalom had set up a monumenttn Heb “a pillar.” and dedicated it to himself in the King’s Valley, reasoning “I have no son who will carry on my name.” He named the monument after himself, and to this day it is known as Absalom’s Memorial.
David Learns of Absalom’s Death
19 Then Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said, “Let me run and give the king the good news that the Lord has vindicated him before his enemies.”tn Heb “that the Lord has vindicated him from the hand of his enemies.”
20 But Joab said to him, “You will not be a bearer of good news today. You will bear good news some other day, but not today,tn Heb “but this day you will not bear good news.” for the king’s son is dead.”
21 Then Joab said to the Cushite, “Go and tell the king what you have seen.” After bowing to Joab, the Cushite ran off.
22 Ahimaaz the son of Zadok again spoke to Joab, “Whatever happens, let me go after the Cushite.” But Joab said, “Why is it that you want to go, my son? You have no good news that will bring you a reward.”
23 But he said,tn The words “but he said” are not in the Hebrew text. They are supplied in the translation for clarity. “Whatever happens, I want to go!” So Joabtn Heb “he”; the referent (Joab) has been specified in the translation for clarity. said to him, “Then go!” So Ahimaaz ran by the way of the Jordan plain, and he passed the Cushite.
24 Now David was sitting between the inner and outer gates,tn Heb “the two gates.” and the watchman went up to the roof over the gate at the wall. When he looked, he saw a man running by himself.
25 So the watchman called out and informed the king. The king said, “If he is by himself, he brings good news.”tn Heb “good news is in his mouth.” The runnertn Heb “he”; the referent (the runner) has been specified in the translation for clarity. came ever closer.
26 Then the watchman saw another man running. The watchman called out to the gatekeeper, “There is another man running by himself.” The king said, “This one also is bringing good news.”
27 The watchman said, “It appears to me that the first runner is Ahimaaztn Heb “I am seeing the running of the first one like the running of Ahimaaz.” son of Zadok.” The king said, “He is a good man, and he comes with good news.”
28 Then Ahimaaz called out and said to the king, “Greetings!”tn Heb “Peace.” He bowed down before the king with his face toward the ground and said, “May the Lord your God be praised because he has defeatedtn Heb “delivered over.” the men who opposedtn Heb “lifted their hand against.” my lord the king!”
29 The king replied, “How is the young man Absalom?” Ahimaaz replied, “I saw a great deal of confusion when Joab was sending the king’s servant and me, your servant, but I don’t know what it was all about.”
30 The king said, “Turn aside and take your place here.” So he turned aside and waited.
31 Then the Cushite arrived and said,tn Heb “And look, the Cushite came and the Cushite said.” “May my lord the king now receive the good news! The Lord has vindicated you today and delivered you from the hand of all who have rebelled against you!”tn Heb “for the Lord has vindicated you today from the hand of all those rising against you.”
32 The king asked the Cushite, “How is the young man Absalom?” The Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who have plotted against youtn Heb “and all those rising against you for evil.” be like that young man!”
33 (19:1)sn This marks the beginning of ch. 19 in the Hebrew text. Beginning with 18:33, the verse numbers through 19:43 in the English Bible differ from the verse numbers in the Hebrew text (BHS), with 18:33 ET = 19:1 HT, 19:1 ET = 19:2 HT, 19:2 ET = 19:3 HT, etc., through 19:43 ET = 19:44 HT. From 20:1 the versification in the English Bible and the Hebrew Bible is again the same. The king then became very upset. He went up to the upper room over the gate and wept. As he went he said, “My son, Absalom! My son, my son,tc One medieval Hebrew ms, some mss of the LXX, and the Vulgate lack this repeated occurrence of “my son” due to haplography. Absalom! If only I could have died in your place! Absalom, my son, my son!”tc The Lucianic Greek recension and Syriac Peshitta lack this repeated occurrence of “my son” due to haplography.
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