DAVID'S HANDSOME SON, AND HOW HE STOLE THE KINGDOM
II Samuel xiii: 1, to xvii: 23.
OT long 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
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.
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
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.
DAVID SENDS FOR ABSALOM AND KISSES HIM
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
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 little Solomon.
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
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 to him."
THE BROOK KEDRON
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. (See Story 65.) 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
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
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
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
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 to do."
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
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.