131David's son Absalom had a beautiful unmarried sister named Tamar. Amnon, another of David's sons, fell in love with her. 2He was so much in love with her that he became ill, because it seemed impossible for him to have her; as a virgin, she was kept from meeting men. 3But he had a friend, a very shrewd man named Jonadab, the son of David's brother Shammah. 4Jonadab said to Amnon, “You are the king's son, yet day after day I see you looking sad. What's the matter?”
“I'm in love with Tamar, the sister of my half-brother Absalom,” he answered.
5Jonadab said to him, “Pretend that you are ill and go to bed. When your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘Please ask my sister Tamar to come and feed me. I want her to prepare the food here where I can see her, and then serve it to me herself.’ ” 6So Amnon pretended that he was ill and went to bed.
King David went to see him, and Amnon said to him, “Please let Tamar come and make a few cakes here where I can see her, and then serve them to me herself.”
7So David sent word to Tamar in the palace: “Go to Amnon's house and prepare some food for him.” 8She went there and found him in bed. She took some dough, prepared it, and made some cakes there where he could see her. Then she baked the cakes 9and emptied them out of the pan for him to eat, but he wouldn't. He said, “Send everyone away” — and they all left. 10Then he said to her, “Bring the cakes here to my bed and serve them to me yourself.” She took the cakes and went over to him. 11As she offered them to him, he grabbed her and said, “Come to bed with me!”
12“No,” she said. “Don't force me to do such a degrading thing! That's awful! 13How could I ever hold up my head in public again? And you — you would be completely disgraced in Israel. Please, speak to the king, and I'm sure that he will give me to you.” 14But he would not listen to her; and since he was stronger than she was, he overpowered her and raped her.
15Then Amnon was filled with a deep hatred for her; he hated her now even more than he had loved her before. He said to her, “Get out!”
16“No,” she answered. “To send me away like this is a greater crime13.16 Probable text To send me… crime; Hebrew unclear. than what you just did!”
But Amnon would not listen to her; 17he called in his personal servant and said, “Get this woman out of my sight! Throw her out and lock the door!” 18The servant put her out and locked the door.
Tamar was wearing a long robe with full sleeves,13.18 long robe with full sleeves; or decorated robe (see Gen 37.3). the usual clothing for an unmarried princess in those days.13.18 Probable text in those days; Hebrew garments. 19She sprinkled ashes on her head, tore her robe, and with her face buried in her hands went away crying. 20When her brother Absalom saw her, he asked, “Has Amnon molested you? Please, sister, don't let it upset you so much. He is your half-brother, so don't tell anyone about it.” So Tamar lived in Absalom's house, sad and lonely.
21When King David heard what had happened, he was furious. 22And Absalom hated Amnon so much for having raped his sister Tamar that he would no longer even speak to him.
23Two years later Absalom was having his sheep sheared at Baal Hazor, near the town of Ephraim, and he invited all the king's sons to be there. 24He went to King David and said, “Your Majesty, I am having my sheep sheared. Will you and your officials come and take part in the festivities?”
25“No, my son,” the king answered. “It would be too much trouble for you if we all went.” Absalom insisted, but the king would not give in, and he asked Absalom to leave.
26But Absalom said, “Well, then, will you at least let my brother Amnon come?”
“Why should he?” the king asked. 27But Absalom kept on insisting until David finally let Amnon and all his other sons go with Absalom.
Absalom prepared a banquet fit for a king13.27 Some ancient translations Absalom prepared a banquet fit for a king; Hebrew does not have these words. 28and instructed his servants: “Notice when Amnon has had too much to drink, and then when I give the order, kill him. Don't be afraid. I will take the responsibility myself. Be brave and don't hesitate!” 29So the servants followed Absalom's instructions and killed Amnon. All the rest of David's sons mounted their mules and fled.
30While they were on their way home, David was told: “Absalom has killed all your sons — not one of them is left!” 31The king stood up, tore his clothes in sorrow, and threw himself to the ground. The servants who were there with him tore their clothes also. 32But Jonadab, the son of David's brother Shammah, said, “Your Majesty, they haven't killed all your sons. Only Amnon is dead. You could tell by looking at Absalom that he had made up his mind to do this from the time that Amnon raped his sister Tamar. 33So don't believe the news that all your sons are dead; only Amnon was killed.”
34In the meantime Absalom had fled.
Just then the soldier on sentry duty saw a large crowd coming down the hill on the road from Horonaim.13.34 Probable text from Horonaim; Hebrew behind him. He went to the king and reported what he had seen.13.34 One ancient translation He went… had seen; Hebrew does not have these words. 35Jonadab said to David, “Those are your sons coming, just as I said they would.” 36As soon as he finished saying this, David's sons came in; they started crying, and David and his officials also wept bitterly.
Absalom fled and went to the king of Geshur, Talmai son of Ammihud, and stayed there three years. David mourned a long time for his son Amnon; 39but when he got over Amnon's death, he was filled with longing for his son Absalom.
141Joab knew that King David missed Absalom very much, 2so he sent for a clever woman who lived in Tekoa. When she arrived, he said to her, “Pretend that you are in mourning; put on your mourning clothes, and don't comb your hair. Act like a woman who has been in mourning for a long time. 3Then go to the king and say to him what I tell you to say.” Then Joab told her what to say.
4The woman went to the king, bowed down to the ground in respect, and said, “Help me, Your Majesty!”
5“What do you want?” he asked her.
“I am a poor widow, sir,” she answered. “My husband is dead. 6Sir, I had two sons, and one day they got into a quarrel out in the fields, where there was no one to separate them, and one of them killed the other. 7And now, sir, all my relatives have turned against me and are demanding that I hand my son over to them, so that they can kill him for murdering his brother. If they do this, I will be left without a son. They will destroy my last hope and leave my husband without a son to keep his name alive.”
8“Go back home,” the king answered, “and I will take care of the matter.”
9“Your Majesty,” she said, “whatever you do, my family and I will take the blame; you and the royal family are innocent.”
10The king replied, “If anyone threatens you, bring him to me, and he will never trouble you again.”
11She said, “Your Majesty, please pray to the LORD your God, so that my relative who is responsible for avenging the death of my son will not commit a greater crime by killing my other son.”
“I promise by the living LORD,” David replied, “that your son will not be harmed in the least.”
12“Please, Your Majesty, let me say just one more thing,” the woman said.
“All right,” he answered.
13She said to him, “Why have you done such a wrong to God's people? You have not allowed your own son to return from exile, and so you have condemned yourself by what you have just said. 14We will all die; we are like water spilt on the ground, which can't be gathered again. Even God does not bring the dead back to life, but the king can at least find a way to bring a man back from exile.14.14 Probable text Even God… from exile; Hebrew unclear. 15Now, Your Majesty, the reason I have come to speak to you is that the people threatened me, and so I said to myself that I would speak to you in the hope that you would do what I ask. 16I thought you would listen to me and save me from the one who is trying to kill my son and me and so remove us from the land God gave his people. 17
I said to myself that your promise, sir, would make me safe, because the king is like God's angel and can distinguish good from evil.14.17 can distinguish good from evil; or knows everything. May the LORD your God be with you!”
18The king answered, “I'm going to ask you a question, and you must tell me the whole truth.”
“Ask me anything, Your Majesty,” she answered.
19“Did Joab put you up to this?” he asked her.
She answered, “I swear by all that is sacred, Your Majesty, that there is no way to avoid answering your question.14.19 there is… question; or you are absolutely right. It was indeed your officer Joab who told me what to do and what to say. 20But he did it in order to straighten out this whole matter. Your Majesty is as wise as the angel of God and knows everything that happens.”
21Later on the king said to Joab, “I have decided to do what you want. Go and get the young man Absalom and bring him back here.”
22Joab threw himself to the ground in front of David in respect, and said, “God bless you, Your Majesty! Now I know that you are pleased with me, because you have granted my request.” 23Then he got up and went to Geshur and brought Absalom back to Jerusalem. 24The king, however, gave orders that Absalom should not live in the palace. “I don't want to see him,” the king said. So Absalom lived in his own house and did not appear before the king.
25There was no one in Israel as famous for his good looks as Absalom; he had no defect from head to foot. 26His hair was very thick, and he had to cut it once a year, when it grew too long and heavy. It would weigh more than two kilogrammes according to the royal standard of weights. 27Absalom had three sons and one daughter named Tamar, a very beautiful woman.
28Absalom lived two years in Jerusalem without seeing the king. 29Then he sent for Joab, to ask him to go to the king for him; but Joab would not come. Again Absalom sent for him, and again Joab refused to come. 30So Absalom said to his servants, “Look, Joab's field is next to mine, and it has barley growing in it. Go and set fire to it.” So they went and set the field on fire.
31Joab went to Absalom's house and demanded, “Why did your servants set fire to my field?”
32Absalom answered, “Because you wouldn't come when I sent for you. I wanted you to go to the king and ask him from me: ‘Why did I leave Geshur and come here? It would have been better for me to have stayed there.’ ” And Absalom went on, “I want you to arrange for me to see the king, and if I'm guilty, then let him put me to death.”
33So Joab went to King David and told him what Absalom had said. The king sent for Absalom, who went to him and bowed down to the ground in front of him. The king welcomed him with a kiss.
151After this, Absalom provided a chariot and horses for himself, and an escort of fifty men. 2He would get up early and go and stand by the road at the city gate. Whenever someone came there with a dispute that he wanted the king to settle, Absalom would call him over and ask him where he was from. And after the man had told him what tribe he was from, 3Absalom would say, “Look, the law is on your side, but there is no representative of the king to hear your case.” 4And he would add, “How I wish I were a judge! Then anyone who had a dispute or a claim could come to me, and I would give him justice.” 5When the man approached Absalom to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out, take hold of him, and kiss him. 6Absalom did this with every Israelite who came to the king for justice, and so he won their loyalty.
7After four15.7 Some ancient translations four; Hebrew forty. years Absalom said to King David, “Sir, let me go to Hebron and keep a promise I made to the LORD. 8While I was living in Geshur in Syria, I promised the LORD that if he would take me back to Jerusalem, I would worship him in Hebron.”15.8 One ancient translation in Hebron; Hebrew does not have these words.
9“Go in peace,” the king said. So Absalom went to Hebron. 10But he sent messengers to all the tribes of Israel to say, “When you hear the sound of trumpets, shout, ‘Absalom has become king at Hebron!’ ” 11There were 200 men who at Absalom's invitation had gone from Jerusalem with him; they knew nothing of the plot and went in all good faith. 12And while he was offering sacrifices, Absalom also sent to the town of Gilo for Ahithophel, who was one of King David's advisers. The plot against the king gained strength, and Absalom's followers grew in number.
13A messenger reported to David, “The Israelites are pledging their loyalty to Absalom.”
14So David said to all his officials who were with him in Jerusalem, “We must get away at once if we want to escape from Absalom! Hurry! Or else he will soon be here and defeat us and kill everyone in the city!”
15“Yes, Your Majesty,” they answered. “We are ready to do whatever you say.” 16So the king left, accompanied by all his family and officials, except for ten concubines, whom he left behind to take care of the palace.
17As the king and all his men were leaving the city, they stopped at the last house. 18All his officials stood15.18 Probable text stood; Hebrew passed. next to him as the royal bodyguard passed by in front of him. The 600 soldiers who had followed him from Gath also passed by, 19and the king said to Ittai, their leader, “Why are you going with us? Go back and stay with the new king. You are a foreigner, a refugee away from your own country. 20You have lived here only a short time, so why should I make you wander round with me? I don't even know where I'm going. Go back and take your fellow-countrymen with you — and may the LORD be kind and faithful to you.”15.20 One ancient translation and may the LORD be kind and faithful to you; Hebrew kindness and faithfulness.
21But Ittai answered, “Your Majesty, I swear to you in the LORD's name that I will always go with you wherever you go, even if it means death.”
22“Fine!” David answered. “March on!” So Ittai went on with all his men and their dependants. 23The people cried loudly as David's followers left. The king crossed the brook of Kidron, followed by his men, and together they went out towards the wilderness.
24Zadok the priest was there, and with him were the Levites, carrying the sacred Covenant Box. They set it down15.24 Probable text set it down; Hebrew poured it out. and didn't pick it up again until all the people had left the city. The priest Abiathar was there too.15.24 Probable text was there too; Hebrew went up. 25Then the king said to Zadok, “Take the Covenant Box back to the city. If the LORD is pleased with me, some day he will let me come back to see it and the place where it stays. 26But if he isn't pleased with me — well, then, let him do to me what he wishes.” 27And he went on to say to Zadok, “Look,15.27 Some ancient translations Look; Hebrew Are you the seer? take your son Ahimaaz and Abiathar's son Jonathan and go back to the city in peace. 28Meanwhile, I will wait at the river crossings in the wilderness until I receive news from you.” 29So Zadok and Abiathar took the Covenant Box back into Jerusalem and stayed there.
30David went on up the Mount of Olives weeping; he was barefoot and had his head covered as a sign of grief. All who followed him covered their heads and wept also. 31When David was told15.31 One ancient translation was told; Hebrew told. that Ahithophel had joined Absalom's rebellion, he prayed, “Please, LORD, turn Ahithophel's advice into nonsense!”
32When David reached the top of the hill, where there was a place of worship, his trusted friend Hushai the Archite met him with his clothes torn and with earth on his head. 33David said to him, “You will be of no help to me if you come with me, 34but you can help me by returning to the city and telling Absalom that you will now serve him as faithfully as you served his father. And do all you can to oppose any advice that Ahithophel gives. 35The priests Zadok and Abiathar will be there; tell them everything you hear in the king's palace. 36They have their sons Ahimaaz and Jonathan with them, and you can send them to me with all the information you gather.”
37So Hushai, David's friend, returned to the city just as Absalom was arriving.