18:1 David assembled the army that was with him. He appointed leaders of thousands and leaders of hundreds. 18:2 David then sent out the army – a third under the leadership of Joab, a third under the leadership of Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and a third under the leadership of Ittai the Gittite. The king said to the troops, “I too will indeed march out with you.”
18:3 But the soldiers replied, 1 “You should not do this! 2 For if we should have to make a rapid retreat, they won’t be too concerned about us. 3 Even if half of us should die, they won’t be too concerned about us. But you 4 are like ten thousand of us! So it is better if you remain in the city for support.” 18:4 Then the king said to them, “I will do whatever seems best to you.”
So the king stayed beside the city gate, while all the army marched out by hundreds and by thousands. 18:5 The king gave this order to Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: “For my sake deal gently with the young man Absalom.” Now the entire army was listening when the king gave all the leaders this order concerning Absalom.
18:6 Then the army marched out to the field to fight against Israel. The battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. 18:7 The army of Israel was defeated there by David’s men. 5 The slaughter there was great that day – 20,000 soldiers were killed. 18:8 The battle there was spread out over the whole area, and the forest consumed more soldiers than the sword devoured that day.
18:9 Then Absalom happened to come across David’s men. Now as Absalom was riding on his 6 mule, it 7 went under the branches of a large oak tree. His head got caught in the oak and he was suspended in midair, 8 while the mule he had been riding kept going.
18:10 When one 9 of the men saw this, he reported it to Joab saying, “I saw Absalom hanging in an oak tree. 18:11 Joab replied to the man who was telling him this, “What! You saw this? Why didn’t you strike him down right on the spot? 10 I would have given you ten pieces of silver 11 and a commemorative belt!” 12
18:12 The man replied to Joab, “Even if 13 I were receiving 14 a thousand pieces of silver, 15 I would not strike 16 the king’s son! In our very presence 17 the king gave this order to you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘Protect the young man Absalom for my sake.’ 18 18:13 If I had acted at risk of my own life 19 – and nothing is hidden from the king! – you would have abandoned me.” 20
18:14 Joab replied, “I will not wait around like this for you!” He took three spears in his hand and thrust them into the middle of Absalom while he was still alive in the middle of the oak tree. 21 18:15 Then ten soldiers who were Joab’s armor bearers struck Absalom and finished him off.
18:16 Then Joab blew the trumpet 22 and the army turned back from chasing Israel, for Joab had called for the army to halt. 18:17 They took Absalom, threw him into a large pit in the forest, and stacked a huge pile of stones over him. In the meantime all the Israelite soldiers fled to their homes. 23
18:18 Prior to this 24 Absalom had set up a monument 25 and dedicated it to himself in the King’s Valley, reasoning “I have no son who will carry on my name.” He named the monument after himself, and to this day it is known as Absalom’s Memorial.
1 tn Heb “the people said.”
2 tn Heb “march out.”
3 tn Heb “they will not place to us heart.”
4 tc The translation follows the LXX (except for the Lucianic recension), Symmachus, and Vulgate in reading אָתָּה (’atta, “you”) rather than MT עָתָּה (’atta, “now”).
6 tn Heb “the.”
7 tn Heb “the donkey.”
8 tn Heb “between the sky and the ground.”
9 tc 4QSama lacks the word “one.”
10 tn Heb “Why did you not strike him down there to the ground.”
11 tn Heb “ten [shekels] of silver.” This would have been about 4 ounces (114 grams) of silver by weight.
12 tn Heb “and a girdle” (so KJV); NIV “a warrior’s belt”; CEV “a special belt”; NLT “a hero’s belt.”
13 tc The translation follows the Qere and many medieval Hebrew
14 tn Heb “weighing out in my hand.”
15 tn Heb “a thousand [shekels] of silver.” This would have been about 25 pounds (11.4 kg) of silver by weight.
16 tn Heb “extend my hand against.”
17 tn Heb “in our ears.”
18 tc The Hebrew text is very difficult here. The MT reads מִי (mi, “who”), apparently yielding the following sense: “Show care, whoever you might be, for the youth Absalom.” The Syriac Peshitta reads li (“for me”), the Hebrew counterpart of which may also lie behind the LXX rendering μοι (moi, “for me”). This reading seems preferable here, since it restores sense to the passage and most easily explains the rise of the variant.
19 tc The translation follows the Qere, many medieval Hebrew
20 tn Heb “stood aloof.”
21 tn There is a play on the word “heart” here that is difficult to reproduce in English. Literally the Hebrew text says “he took three spears in his hand and thrust them into the heart of Absalom while he was still alive in the heart of the oak tree.” This figure of speech involves the use of the same word in different senses and is known as antanaclasis. It is illustrated in the familiar saying from the time of the American Revolution: “If we don’t hang together, we will all hang separately.” The present translation understands “heart” to be used somewhat figuratively for “chest” (cf. TEV, CEV), which explains why Joab’s armor bearers could still “kill” Absalom after he had been stabbed with three spears through the “heart.” Since trees do not have “chests” either, the translation uses “middle.”
22 tn Heb “the shophar” (the ram’s horn trumpet).
24 tn Heb “and.” This disjunctive clause (conjunction + subject + verb) describes an occurrence that preceded the events just narrated.
25 tn Heb “a pillar.”