Some time later Absalom, David's son, prepared a chariot and horses and fifty men to run before him. He used to rise early and stand beside the highway which led to the city gate. He would call to him every man who had a suit that was to come before the ruler for judgment and say, "Of what city are you?" When the man replied, "Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel," Absalom would say to him, "Your claims are good and right; but the ruler has not appointed any one to hear you. Oh, that some one would make me judge in the land, so that every man who has any complaint or cause would come to me, and I would see that he received justice!" And whenever a man came near to bow before him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him. In this way Absalom treated all the Israelites who came to David for justice. Thus, Absalom stole from David the hearts of the Israelites.
At the end of four years, Absalom said to his father, "I should like to go and keep my promise, which I have made to the LORD in Hebron." David said to him, "Go in peace." So he went to Hebron; but Absalom sent messengers to all the tribes of Israel to say, "As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, cry, 'Absalom has become ruler in Hebron.'" With Absalom there went two hundred men from Jerusalem, who were invited and went innocently, knowing nothing at all of what he was going to do. Absalom also sent for Ahithophel, David's adviser, from the city of Giloh, while he was offering the sacrifices. And the plot was strong, for more and more people kept going over to Absalom.
When a messenger came to David, saying, "The hearts of the men of Israel have gone over to Absalom," David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, "Up, let us flee; for, if we do not, none of us will escape from Absalom. Go at once, or he may quickly overtake us and bring evil upon us and kill the people of the city." Then David's servants said to him, "It shall be done as our lord wishes; we are your servants."
So David and all the people who followed him went out and stood at the last house, while all the officers and the royal body-guard and all the men of Ittai the Gittite, the six hundred who had followed him from Gath, passed on before him.
Then David said to Ittai, "Why do you also go with us? Go back and stay with the new ruler, for you are a foreigner and away from your own land. Yesterday you came, and to-day shall I make you go up and down the land with us, while I go where I may? Go back and take your men with you, and may the LORD show you kindness and faithfulness." But Ittai answered, "As surely as the LORD lives and as my lord the ruler of Israel lives, wherever my lord is, whether dead or living, there your servant will be!" David said to Ittai, "March on." So Ittai marched on with all his men and with all the children who were with him.
All the people were weeping aloud while David stood in the Kidron valley, and they went by before him on the way to the wilderness. And Zadok and Abiathar came carrying the ark of the LORD and set it down until all the people had passed. Then David said to Zadok, "Carry the ark of God back into the city. If I win the LORD's favor, he will bring me back and show me both it and the place where he dwells. But if he declares, 'I have no trust in you, then here am I, let him do to me as he thinks best.'" So Zadok and Abiathar carried the ark of God back to Jerusalem and stayed there.
But David went up, weeping as he climbed the Mount of Olives with his head covered and his feet bare. All the people who were with him covered their heads and went up, weeping as they went.
And when David came to the summit, where one worships God, Hushai the Archite with his garment torn and earth upon his head, came to meet him. David said to him, "If you go on with me you will be a burden to me. But if you go back to the city, and say to Absalom, 'Your brothers have gone away and your father has gone after them; I will be your servant, O king; as I have been your father's servant in the past, so now I will be your servant,' you can defeat for me the advice of Ahithophel. And have you not there with you Zadok and Abiathar the priests? See, they have there with them their two sons, Ahimaaz, Zadok's son, and Jonathan, Abiathar's son. By them you shall send word to me of everything that you hear." So Hushai, David's friend, went into the city, when Absalom came to Jerusalem.
Then David and all the people who were with him, reached the Jordan tired out, but he refreshed himself there.
And Absalom, with all the men of Israel, came to Jerusalem, and Ahithophel was with him. When Hushai, David's friend, came to Absalom, Hushai said to him, "May the king live, may the king live!" But Absalom said to Hushai, "Is this your love for your friend? Why did you not go with your friend?" Hushai answered, "No! to him whom the LORD and his people and all the men of Israel have chosen, to him will I belong and with him will I stay. Also whom should I serve? Should it not be his son? As I have served your father, so will I serve you."
The advice which Ahithophel gave in those days was thought by David and Absalom to be the same as if it had come from God himself. And Ahithophel said to Absalom, "Let me now pick out twelve thousand men, and set out and follow David to-night. Thus I will come upon him when he is tired and weak and will frighten him, and all the people who are with him will flee. Then I will kill only the king, and I will bring back all the people to you as the bride turns to her husband. Seek only the life of one man, and all the people will be at peace." This advice pleased Absalom and all the leaders of Israel.
Then Absalom said, "Call now Hushai and let us hear also what he has to say." When Hushai came to Absalom, Absalom said to him, "Thus Ahithophel has spoken; shall we act as he advises? If not, you advise us." Then Hushai said to Absalom, "The advice that Ahithophel has given this time is not good. You know that your father and his men are mighty warriors and are now angry, like a bear robbed of her cubs. Your father is also a soldier and will not stay at night with the people. Even now he has hidden himself in one of the caves or in some other place. If some of the people fall at first, whoever hears it will say, 'There is a slaughter among the people who follow Absalom.' Then even he who is brave, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will completely lose courage; for all Israel knows that your father is a great warrior, and they who are with him are brave men. But I advise, let all the Israelites be gathered to you, from Dan to Beersheba, as many as the sand that is by the sea, with you yourself marching in the midst of them. In this way we will come upon him in some place where he will be found, and we will fall upon him as the dew falls on the ground; and of him and of all the men who are with him not even one shall be left. If he goes into a city, then all Israel will bring ropes to that city, and we will pull it down into the valley, until not even a small stone is found there."
Absalom and all the men of Israel said, "The advice of Hushai is better than the advice of Ahithophel." For the LORD had planned to defeat the good advice of Ahithophel, so that the LORD might bring evil upon Absalom.
Then Hushai said to Zadok and to Abiathar the priests, "This is what Ahithophel advised Absalom and the leaders of Israel; and this is what I advised. So now send quickly and say to David, 'Do not spend this night at the fords of the wilderness, but by all means cross over, for fear that David and all the people with him be killed.'"
Now Jonathan and Ahimaaz were staying at Enrogel; and a maid-servant was to go and bring them news, and they were to go and tell David, for they must not be seen coming into the city. But a boy saw them and told Absalom. Then they both went away quickly and entered into the house of a man in Bahurim, who had a well in his courtyard into which they descended. The women took and spread the covering over the mouth of the well, and scattered dried fruit upon it, so that nothing was known. And when Absalom's servants came to the woman at the house and said, "Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan?" the woman answered, "They have gone over the brook." When they had searched and could find nothing, they returned to Jerusalem.
But as soon as the men had gone away, Ahimaaz and Jonathan came up out of the well, and went and told David and said, "Get up, cross quickly over the water, for so has Ahithophel advised in regard to you." Then David and all the people who were with him rose and crossed the Jordan. By daybreak there was not one left behind.