David's Handsome Son and How He Stole the Kingdom
II Samuel xiii: 1,
to xvii: 23
after David's sin, the sorrows of which the prophet
had foretold him, began to fall upon David. He had
many wives, and his wives had many sons; but most of
his sons had grown up wild and wicked, because David
had not watched over them, and had not taught them
in their youth to love God and do God's will. He had
been too busy as a king to do his duty as a father.
The oldest of David's sons was Absalom, whose mother
was the daughter of Talmai, the king of a little
country called Geshur, on the north of Israel.
Absalom was said to be the most beautiful young man
in all the land. He had long locks of hair, of which
he was very proud, because all the people admired
them. Absalom became very angry with Amnon, another
of David's sons, because Amnon had done wrong to
Absalom's sister, named Tamar.
But Absalom hid his anger against Amnon, and one day
invited Amnon with all the king's sons to a feast at
his house in the country. They all went to the
feast; and while they were all at the table
Absalom's servants, by his orders, rushed in and
killed Amnon. The other princes, the king's sons,
were alarmed, fearing that they also would be slain;
and they ran away in haste. But no harm was done to
the other princes, and they came back in safety to
David was greatly displeased with Absalom, though he
loved him more than any other of his sons; and
Absalom went away from his father's court to that of
his grandfather, his mother's father, the king of
Geshur. There Absalom stayed for three years; and
all the time David longed to see him, for he felt
that he had now lost both sons, Absalom as well as
Amnon. And after three years David allowed Absalom
to come back to Jerusalem; but for a time would not
meet him, because he had caused his brother's death.
At last David's love was so strong that he could no
longer refuse to see his son. He sent for Absalom,
and kissed him, and took him back to his old place
among the king's sons in the palace.
But Absalom's heart was wicked, and ungrateful, and
cruel. He formed a plan to take the throne and the
kingdom away from his father, David, and to make
himself King in David's place. He began by living in
great state, as if he were already a king, with a
royal chariot, and horses, and fifty men to run
before him. Then too, he would rise early in the
morning, and stand at the gate of the king's palace,
and meet those who came to the king for any cause.
He would speak to each man, and find what was the
purpose of his coming; and he would say:
"Your cause is good and right, but the king will not
hear you; and he will not allow any other man to
hear you in his place. O that I were made a judge!
then I would see that right was done, and that every
man received his due!" And when any man bowed down
before Absalom as the king's son, he would reach out
his hand, and lift him up, and kiss him as his
friend. Thus Absalom won the hearts of all whom he
met, from every part of the land, until very many
wished that he was king instead of David, his
father. For David no longer led the army in war, nor
did he sit as judge, nor did he go among the people;
but lived apart in his palace, scarcely knowing what
was being done in the land.
After four years Absalom thought that he was strong
enough to seize the kingdom. He said to David, "Let
me go to the city of Hebron, and there worship the
Lord, and keep a promise which I made to the Lord
while I was in the land of Geshur."
David was pleased at this, for he thought that
Absalom really meant to serve the Lord. So Absalom
went to Hebron, and with him went a great company of
his friends. A few of these knew of Absalom's plans,
but most of them knew nothing. At Hebron, Absalom
was joined by a very wise man, named Ahithophel, who
was one of David's chief advisers, and in one whom
David trusted fully.
Suddenly the word was sent through all the land by
swift runners, "Absalom has been made king at
Hebron!" Those who were in the secret helped to lead
others, and soon it seemed as though all the people
were on Absalom's side and ready to receive him as
king in place of David.
The news came to David in the palace, that Absalom
had made himself king, that many of the rulers were
with him, and that the people in their hearts really
desired Absalom. David did not know whom he could
trust, and he prepared to escape before it would be
too late. He took with him a few of his servants who
chose to remain by his side, and his wives, and
especially his wife Bath-sheba, and her son, the
As they were going out of the gates they were joined
by Ittai, who was the commander of his guard, and
who had with him six hundred trained men of war.
Ittai was not an Israelite, but was a stranger in
the land, and David was surprised that he should
offer to go with him. He said to Ittai, "Why do you,
a stranger, go with us? I know not to what places we
may go or what trouble we may meet. It would be
better for you and your men to go back to your own
land; and may mercy and truth go with you!"
And Ittai answered the king, "As the Lord God lives,
and as my lord the king lives, surely in what place
the king shall be, whether in death or in life,
there will we, his servants, be with him."
So Ittai and his brave six hundred soldiers went
with David out of the city, over the brook Kedron,
toward the wilderness. And soon after came Zadok and
Abiathar, the priests, and the Levites, carrying the
holy ark of the Lord. And David said, "Take back the
ark of God into the city. If I shall find favor in
the sight of the Lord, he will bring me again to see
it; but if the Lord says, 'I have no pleasure in
David,' then let the Lord do with me as seems good
And David thought also that the priests might help
him more in the city than if they should go away
with him. He said to Zadok, "Do you go back to the
city and watch; and send word to me by your son,
Ahimaaz, and Jonathan, the son of Abiathar. I will
wait at the crossing place of the river Jordan for
news from you."
So Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, carried the holy
ark back to its Tabernacle on Mount Zion, and
watched closely, that they might send David word of
anything that would help his cause. David walked up
the steep side of the Mount of Olives, on the east
of Jerusalem, with his head covered and his feet
bare, as one in mourning, weeping as he walked. And
all the people who were with him, and those who saw
him, were weeping in their sorrow over David's fall
from his high place.
On the top of the hill David found another man
waiting to see him. It was Hushai, who was one of
David's best friends. He stood there in sorrow, with
his garments torn and earth upon his head, ready to
go into the wilderness with David. But David said to
Hushai, "If you go with us you cannot help me in any
way; but if you stay in the city, and pretend to be
Absalom's friend, then perhaps you can watch against
the advice that the wise man, Ahithophel, gives to
Absalom, and prevent Absalom from following it.
Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, will help you, and
through their sons, Ahimaaz and Jonathan, you can
send word to me of all that you hear."
A little past the top of the hill another man was
waiting for David. It was Ziba, the servant of
Mephibosheth. You remember how kindly David had
treated Mephibosheth, because he was the son of
David's dear friend, Jonathan. Ziba had by his side
a couple of asses saddled, and on them two hundred
loaves of bread, and a hundred clusters of raisins,
and a quantity of fruit, and a goat-skin full of
wine. David said to Ziba, "For what purpose are all
these things here?"
And Ziba said, "The asses are for the king; and here
is food for the journey, and wine for those who may
grow faint and may need it in the wilderness."
And David asked Ziba, "Where is Mephibosheth, your
"He is in Jerusalem," said Ziba; "for he says that
the kingdom may be given back to him, as he is the
heir of Saul's house."
David felt very sad as he heard that Mephibosheth
had forsaken him, and he said to Ziba, "Whatever has
belonged to Mephibosheth shall be yours from this
But David did not know that all Ziba's words were
false, and that Mephibosheth had not forsaken him.
This man was Shimei, and he belonged to the family
of King Saul. As David and his party walked along
the crest of the hill, Shimei walked over the hill
on the other side of a narrow valley, and as he
walked he threw stones at David, and cursed him,
shouting, "Get out, get out, you man of blood, you
wicked man! Now the Lord is bringing upon you all
the wrong that you did to Saul, when he was your
king. You robbed Saul of his kingdom, and now your
own son is robbing you. You are suffering just as
you deserve, for you are a bloody man!"
Then Abishai, the son of Zeruiah, who was one of
David's men and David's own nephew, said, "Why
should this dog be allowed to bark against my lord
the king? Let me go across the valley, and I will
strike off his head at one blow!"
But David said, "If it is the Lord's will that this
man should curse David, then let him curse on. My
own son is seeking to take away my life, and is it
strange that this man of another tribe should hate
me? It may be that the Lord will look upon the wrong
done to me, and will do good to me."
So David and his wives, and his servants, and the
soldiers who were faithful to him, went on toward
the wilderness and the valley of the Jordan. Soon
after David had escaped from the city, Absalom came
into it with his friends and a host of his
followers. As Absalom drew near, Hushai, David's
friend, stood by the road, crying, "Long live the
king! Long live the king!"
And Absalom said to Hushai, "Is this the way you
treat your friend? Why have you not stayed beside
your friend David?"
Hushai said to Absalom, "Whom the Lord and his
people have chosen, him will I follow, and with him
I will stay. As I have served the father, so will I
serve the son."
Then Hushai went into the palace among the followers
of Absalom. And Absalom said to Ahithophel, "Tell me
what to do next?"
Now Ahithophel was a very wise man. He knew what was
best for Absalom's success, and he said, "Let me
choose out twelve thousand men, and I will pursue
David this very night. We will come upon David when
he is tired, while only a few people are with him,
and before he has time to form any plans or to
gather an army, I will kill David, and will harm no
one else; and then you can reign as king in peace,
and all the people will submit to you when they know
that David is no longer living."
Absalom thought that this was wise advice; but he
sent for Hushai. He told him what Ahithophel had
said, and asked for his advice also. And Hushai
said, "The advice that Ahithophel gives is not good
for the present time. You know that David and his
men are very brave, and just now they are as savage
as a bear robbed of her cubs. David is with his men
in some safe place, hidden in a cave or among the
mountains, and they will watch against those who
come out to seek for them, and will rush upon them
suddenly from their hiding-place. Then, as soon as
the news goes through the land that Absalom's men
have been beaten, everybody will turn away from
Absalom to David. The better plan would be to wait
until you can gather all the men of war in Israel,
from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south. And
then, if David is in a city, there will be men
enough to pull the city in pieces, or if he is in
the field we will surround him on every side." And
Absalom and the rulers who were with him said to
each other, "The advice of Hushai is better than the
advice of Ahithophel. Let us do as Hushai tells us
So Absalom sat down in his father's palace and began
to enjoy himself while they were gathering his army.
This was just what Hushai wished, for it would give
David time to gather his army also, and he knew that
the hearts of the people would soon turn from
Absalom back to David.
Hushai told Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, of
Absalom's plans, and they sent word by a young woman
to their sons, Ahimaaz and Jonathan, who were
watching outside the city, and these young men
hastened to tell David, who was waiting beside the
river Jordan. Then David and his men found a safe
refuge in Mahanaim, in the tribe of Gad, across
Jordan; and there his friends from all the land
began to come to him.
When Ahithophel saw that his advice had not been
taken, and that Hushai was preferred in his place,
he knew at once that Absalom could not hold the
kingdom, and that Absalom's cause was already as
good as lost. He went to his home, put all his house
and his affairs in order, and hanged himself; for he
thought that it was better to die by his own hand
than to be put to death as a traitor by King David.
Absalom for a little time had his wish. He sat on
the throne, and wore the crown, and lived in the
palace at Jerusalem as the king of Israel.