Insult to Injury

The king passed on and arrived at Bahurim, on the borders of the land of Benjamin. As the procession wound along the hill side, with the deep valley between them and the opposite hill, there came forth from his house Shimei of the family of Saul. The ravine separated him from the king, He gave vent to his burning hatred of the unhappy monarch; in his rage he cast stones at him and at his followers, heaping curse upon curse. The anger of Abishai, David's loyal general, was aroused, and he begged David's permission to go over and kill Shimei. But David would not permit him or anyone else to take up his cause saying, "Behold, my son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite do it? Let him alone and let him curse, for G‑d has bidden him. It may be that G‑d will look upon my afflictions and will requite me good for his cursing this day." So they passed onward on their side of the hill, while on the other side walked Shimei, throwing stones as before and casting dust and uttering loud imprecations. Sad and tired, the king and his followers rested at last after their weary and mournful day.

Absalom in Jerusalem

Meanwhile Absalom and his followers, among them his counselor Ahitophel, entered Jerusalem. Hushai was conspicuous among the men who welcomed Absalom into the city. Professing the deepest devotion to Absalom, Hushai gained his full confidence. A council of war was held, and Ahitophel proposed that an army of twelve thousand men should instantly be sent, under his leadership, in pursuit of David. Hushai heard with dismay this advice, which might have proved fatal to his royal master. Pretending to have nothing but Absalom's safety at heart, Hushai persuaded him to bide his time until his aging father would resign himself to his fate and abdicate in favor of his son. Pointing out the uncertainty of an open clash with David's men, Hushai bade Absalom remember that King David was still a powerful man, that his heart was as the heart of a lion, that he was surrounded by valiant followers, and that to attack him might mean the destruction of Absalom's army. If Absalom was determined to fight it out with his father, then he should at least recruit a huge army in order to be certain of victory. This counsel was approved of by Absalom, in preference to that of Ahitophel.

Without losing any time, Hushai at once sent two secret messengers to King David, advising him to continue his journey without delay. As the first rays of the morning sun lighted up the banks of the Jordan, the king and his sorrowing followers passed safely over the river and traveled on to Mahanaim.

News of David's escape reached Ahitophel. He realized that Divine Providence was now favoring David and that his restoration to the throne could not be long delayed. Rather than face a victorious David again, Ahitophel hastily returned home and put his house in order, then he hanged himself.

The Battle in the Forest of Ephraim

Absalom now determined to commence the attack with his vast host. He chose Amasa, one of Joab's kinsmen, as general, and marched out of Jerusalem into the land of Gilead. When David had entered Mahanaim with his followers, he was met and cordially received by Shobi, one of the Ammonite princes, by Barzillai, a Gileadite, and by other old adherents. They brought honey and milk, cheese, and other provisions for the weary wayfarers. Strengthened and refreshed, David assembled his host, and his old warrior spirit reviving, prepared for the encounter. He divided the army into three parts—one was to be led by Joab; one by Abishai; and the third by Ittai, the trusted friend from Gath. He then declared that he would head the army himself. But the devoted people would not allow the king to risk his life; they entreated him to remain in the city, while they went forth to fight for him. The name of the old king had preserved its wonderful charm; hundreds and thousands of daring warriors flocked to his aid and passed before him to the battle as he stood at the gate of the city. When all was ready, he gave to the three commanders this parting injunction, "Deal gently, for my sake, with the young man, with Absalom."

The two armies met in a forest of Ephraim. It was a great and terrible battle. The host of Absalom was routed by the warriors of David. Absalom himself fled in terror and dismay. As he was riding through the woods on his swift mule, he was caught by the long locks of his hair under the spreading branches of a large terebinth. Unable to extricate himself, he remained suspended, for his mule had escaped. One of David's servants brought this intelligence to Joab, who gave the order that Absalom be put to death and the battle be discontinued immediately thereafter.

David Mourns the Death of Absalom

The good tidings of the victory were marred by the news of Absalom's death. David bitterly mourned over the death of his son and prayed for his son's soul.

Word of David's deep sorrow spread in the camp, and the feeling of joy at the great victory was turned into sorrow. Joab saw all this with indignation and he reproached David bitterly—how could the death of an ungrateful child have more weight with him than the safety of so many devoted generals and brave soldiers and the welfare of the land at large?

David Restored To His Throne

At the news of Absalom's death, the revolt ceased in the land, and all the Israelites were ready to return to their rightful king. The men of Judah, however, David's own tribe, held aloof. To them David dispatched his two faithful priests, Zadok and Abiathaer, to urge the men of Judah, his own kinsmen, not to be among the last to welcome their king back to Jerusalem. David let them know that not only would he completely forgive Amasa, the commander of Absalom's army, but that he would invest him with the chief command of his army in the place of Joab, for David had not been able to forgive Joab for the cruel part he had taken in Absalom's death. Judah's allegiance was at last secured; the elders entreated David to come back to Jerusalem, and many of them went out to Gilgal to conduct him home from the east of the Jordan.

Not only David's loyal friends but even his former enemies now came to swear allegiance to the king. Among them were Shimei, the Benjaminite, and Ziba, the faithless servant of Mephibosheth, with his fifteen sons and his twenty followers, and a host of one thousand Benjaminites. Shimei was afraid of the king's just wrath, which he knew he had aroused by his reckless conduct. But David was determined to regain his throne without acts of violence. So he proclaimed a general forgiveness and swore that Shimei should not die. As David moved onward, he was met by the poor and faithful Mephibosheth, who had been mourning most sincerely the exile of his master. He told of the treachery of Ziba, who had so very grossly calumniated him and taken from him the donkey upon which he would have followed his monarch. But David, believing that Ziba was his loyal friend and not Mephibosheth, received the latter coolly and ordered half of Mephibosheth's possessions to be transferred to Ziba.