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Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
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THE DEATH OF ABSALOM

DAVID passed over Jordan and came to Mahanaim, a very fine and strong city. All the chief men of the country received him with pleasure, and furnished him with plenty of provisions for himself and his followers.

By this time Absalom had gathered together his army, and he came after his father. Then David counted the men who were with him, and found there were four thousand; and he set captains over them, and made Joab chief captain. He would himself have led them out to battle, but his friends would not let him, for they said the enemy would care more to kill him than to kill the whole army of his followers. So David remained in the city. When his army was ready to march out to meet Absalom, he spoke to the commanders, and exhorted them to be brave and faithful, but prayed them to spare his son Absalom for his sake.

Now, although David's army was so small, they were superior to the others in strength and skill in war. After a hard fight they won the victory. And they pursued the enemy and slew many thousands of them. Absalom himself fought long and bravely. But when he found that there was no more hope, he jumped on the back of a mule and fled away. The mule ran under the thick branches of a great oak, and [162] Absalom's long hair was caught amothe branches, so that he was pulled off the back of the mule, which ran away without him.

And one of David's army came to Joab and said, "I saw Absalom hanging from an oak-tree."

Joab answered, "If thou hadst shot at and killed Absalom, I would have given thee fifty shekels."

But the man said, "I would not have killed my master's son for a thousand shekels. Did he not desire in the hearing of us all that the young man should be spared?"

Joab asked him where he saw Absalom; and when the man told him, he went to the place and found him still hanging from the oak. He shot him with an arrow and killed him. Then he took the dead body down from the tree and cast it into a great chasm and piled stones upon it. After he had done this he blew his trumpet as a signal that the army was to stop any further pursuit and return to the city.


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DEATH OF ABSALOM

Then Ahimaaz, who was one of the priest's sons, came to Joab and asked leave to go and tell David of this victory. But Joab answered, "Thou hast always been the messenger of good news to the king, and it would not be well for thee to go and acquaint him that his son is dead."

He then called a man named Cushi, and told him to run to the king and tell him all he saw.

But again Ahimaaz besought Joab to let him go as a messenger, and assured him that he would only speak about the victory. Joab let him go. And Ahimaaz took a nearer road to the city than Cushi did, and arrived before him.

King David was sitting near the gate of the city waiting for tidings of the battle. One of the watchmen told him he saw a man coming who was running very fast. David said, "He brings news of the battle." A little while after the watchman reported that another messenger was following him, and David said, "He too brings news." By this time Ahimaaz had come so near that the watchman recognized [163] him, and told David who he was. David was very glad, and said,—

"Ahimaaz is a messenger of good tidings, and he brings such news from the battle as we shall be glad to hear."

Even while the king was speaking, Ahimaaz appeared at the gate and fell down on his face before him. When David asked him of the battle, he answered,—

"I bring good news of a great victory and of the restoration of thy kingdom."

Then David asked him what had become of Absalom. But Ahimaaz answered,—

"I came away on the sudden as soon as the enemy was defeated, but I heard a great noise of those that pursued Absalom, and could learn no more because of the haste I was in."

When Cushi had arrived and told David again of the victory, David asked him how Absalom had fared, and Cushi answered,—

"May as great a misfortune befall all thy enemies as hath befallen Absalom!"

Then David knew that his son was dead. And he, was in great distress, and went up to a chamber that was over the gate of the city, and wept, and beat his breast, and tore his hair, and cried, "Oh, Absalom, my son, would that I had died and ended my days with thee!"

When the army and Joab learned how the king mourned for his son, they were sorry and ashamed, and they did not like to enter the city in the habit of conquerors, but came in with their heads drooping and shedding tears as if they had been beaten. Joab, however, plucked up courage and went into the chamber where David was, and comforted hitn, and told him that he ought not to mourn so over Absalom, who would not have mourned, but would have rejoiced, at David's death.

"Thou seemest," said Joab, " to hate those that love thee and undergo dangers for thee; nay, to hate thyself and to [164] love only those that are thy bitter enemies; for if Absalom had gotten the victory, there had been none of us left alive, but all, beginning with thyself and thy children, would have miserably perished. Leave off, therefore, thy unreasonable grief, and come and show thyself to thy soldiers and return them thanks for the great deeds they have done this day."

David saw that Joab was right, and he left off mourning, and came out and sat in the gate of the city, where all the people ran to him and saluted him.


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