The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Second Book of Kings
And now David passed the men who were with him under review, appointing commanders and captains over them;
one third he entrusted to Joab, one third to Joab’s brother Abisai, and the remainder to Ethai of Geth. He himself, he told his men, would go into battle with them,
but they would not have it. It makes no great matter to the enemy, they said, whether we are routed: even if half of us should fall, they would set little store by it; thy life is more to them than the lives of ten thousand others. Better that thou shouldst remain in the city and garrison it for us.
So the king told them he would abide by their judgement, and he stood watching at the gate while they marched out company by company, in their hundreds and thousands.
One charge the king laid upon Joab and Abisai and Ethai alike, Spare me my son Absalom; and this charge about Absalom was so given to each of them that the men in the ranks could hear it.
So his army took the field against Israel; it was in the forest of Ephraim that battle was joined.
And the Israelites were routed by David’s men, with great loss; twenty thousand men fell that day,
and more of them perished in the woods than in the fighting itself, so scattered was their flight over all the country-side.
Some of David’s men encountered Absalom himself, riding on a mule; and away the mule went, under the tangled branches of a great oak, which caught him by the head and kept him hanging there between earth and sky, while the beast that carried him pressed on.
A soldier, who witnessed it, went and told Joab that he had seen Absalom hanging from an oak.
Thou sawest him, Joab answered, and didst not smite him then and there to the ground? I would have given thee ten sicles of silver and a belt besides.
Nay, said he, thou mightest count out a thousand silver pieces into my purse, and still I would not lift a hand against the king’s son. We were all of us within hearing when the king bade thee and Abisai and Ethai spare his son Absalom.
It would have been at the risk of my life, and the thing would never have passed unnoticed by the king; why, thou wouldst thyself be laying information against me.
That will not serve, answered Joab; I will smite him myself, and thou shalt be there to witness it. So he took three javelins with him, and thrust Absalom right through with them; then, as he still hung there writhing on the oak,
ten squires who attended on Joab ran up and dispatched him.
With that, Joab sounded the trumpet, and would not let his men go further in pursuit of Israel, to spare the lives of the common folk.
As for Absalom, they threw his body into a deep pit, there in the forest, and piled a great heap of stones over him. Meanwhile, the men of Israel fled away to their tents.
(The monument which stands in the King’s Vale is one which Absalom erected for himself in his own life-time, thinking thus to perpetuate his name, since he had no son to follow him. And as he gave this monument his own name, it has been called Absalom’s Mark ever since.)
And now Achimaas, son of Sadoc, asked leave to run and tell the king how God had punished his enemies,
but Joab told him, Better some other day than this for bearing the message; I would not have thee tell the news to-day; here is a king’s son dead.
Afterwards Joab bade Chusi go and tell the king what he had seen;✻ so Chusi did reverence to him, and ran.
And thereupon Sadoc’s son Achimaas asked whether he might not run after Chusi. No need for that, my son, Joab answered; it is not good news thou wilt carry.
But may I run? asked he. Run if thou wilt, said Joab. And Achimaas took a shorter way, and passed Chusi by.
David was sitting between the two gates; and now the watchman that stood above the roof over the gate, high up on the wall, looked up and saw a man running, all alone,
and cried out to let the king know of it. If he is alone, the king said, he has good news to tell. Then, as the runner came nearer,
the watchman saw a second courier on his way, and cried out from the roof, I see a second man running all alone. He too, the king said, is a welcome messenger.
And the watchman told him, I have marked how the first messenger runs; he runs like Achimaas, son of Sadoc. A good man, the king said; his will be good news.
And now Achimaas cried out, Hail, my lord king! Then he bowed down with his face to the earth, to do the king reverence, and said, Blessed be the Lord thy God; he has not suffered them to escape, the men who took up arms against the king’s grace.
Is all well, the king asked, with my son Absalom? And Achimaas answered, There was a great stir round about Joab when he sent me, thy servant, on my errand; I can tell thee no more.
Stand aside here, the king said; and as he did so,
Chusi came up after him; Good news, said he, for my lord the king! The Lord has maintained thy cause against the rebels.
Then the king asked Chusi, Is all well with my son Absalom? My lord king, Chusi answered, may all thy enemies, and all that conspire to thy hurt, fare as the prince has fared!
And with that, the king went up to the room over the gate in bitter sorrow, and wept there. O, my son Absalom, he said as he went, my son, my son Absalom! Would to God I had died instead of thee, Absalom, my son, my son!
The Holy Bible