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old servant, with an offering of wine, and bread, and fruit, and from him David learnt that Mephibosheth, to whom the king had been as a father, was tarrying in Jerusalem, hoping that he might gain the kingdom during the confusion. David made Ziba master of all Mephibosheth's property. Further on, a man called Shimei, of the house of Saul, came forth, abusing and cursing David, and casting stones at him. Abishai would have slain the rebel, but David forbade him, saying, in most touching humility and sorrow, “Behold, my son, which came forth out of my bowels, seeketh my life; how much more may this Benjamite do it? let him alone, and let him curse, for the LORD hath bidden him; it may be that the LORD will look on mine affliction, and that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing this day."
Meantime the undutiful Absalom had entered Jerusalem. He was vain and headstrong himself, and also weak and easily led by the clever but wicked Ahithophel, who had had great influence with David, and now had as much with Absalom. Ahithophel advised con- . duct the most insulting and offensive to David; and even urged Absalom to let him go with twelve thousand men after the king, so as to
overtake him while he was weary and weakhanded. Ahithophel proposed to smite the king only, promising afterwards to bring back the people to Absalom. Now King David's prayer
that the LORD would defeat the counsel of Ahithophel was answered. Although Absalom and his friends were pleased with this advice, and no feeling of horror at the thought of killing his fond indulgent father seems to have come upon the wicked son, Absalom chose to call in Hushai and ask his counsel also. Of course Hushai advised such measures as were most in David's favour, he said Ahithophel's plan was a bad one, and advised Absalom to call all Israel round him, and go to battle himself. He and all his followers said, “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.” For the LORD was pleased thus to defeat Ahithophel's treachery, and bring punishment upon Absalom.
Hushai went, as was agreed, to Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and told them all that had happened, and they sent word speedily to David by Ahimaaz and Jonathan. They had some difficulty in escaping to the king, for Absalom traced them, and they were only saved by hiding in a well that was in the court
of a friend's house in Bahurim. The mistress of the house spread a cloth covered with ground corn over the well's mouth, and so concealed Ahimaaz and Jonathan; as soon as Absalom's men were gone, they went to David, and gave him warning, and he and his people rose up quickly, and before morning dawned they had all crossed the river Jordan, and went to Mahanaim, where several great men of the country round brought all kinds of provisions, and beds, and vessels for the king and his followers.
Meanwhile, when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, nor he alone the prince's adviser, he was so grieved, that he left Absalom, and went back all alone to Giloh and hanged himself. Thus ended his treason, and this was its punishment. That of his master, Absalom, was not far off.
David made ready for battle. He divided his armies, placing one third under Joab's command, another third under that of Abishai, Joab's brother, and the last third under Ittai the Gittite. The king meant to go forth to battle himself, but the people besought him not to expose his life, saying that he was more use to his people in the city, and that he was
worth ten thousand of their lives. So David consented to remain behind, but he stood by the gate and saw the armies go forth, and with a heart yet full of fatherly love for his ungrateful son, he commanded the three generals in the hearing of all the people to spare Absalom, saying, “Deal gently, for my sake, with the young man, even with Absalom."
There was a fierce battle fought that day in the wood of Ephraim: twenty thousand men of Israel were slain by David's soldiers, and even more men were lost in the forest than were slain by the sword. Among others, Absalom rode through the forest on a mule, flying from David's men. He had very long, beautiful hair; and this hair, which had been a cause of vanity to him, now led to his death. Riding hastily through the forest, his long hair was caught in the thick branches of an oak, the mule went from under him, and he was left hanging from the tree. One of Joab's soldiers saw Absalom hanging thus, and told Joab. The chief captain reproached the man for not having slain Absalom, saying that, in that case, he should have had ten shekels of silver and a girdle. But the soldier answered, “ Though I should receive a thousand shekels of silver in mine hand, yet would I not put forth my hand against the king's son ; for in our hearing the king charged thee and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Beware that none touch the young man Absalom."
Joab had not so much respect for the king's word. He had before sorely grieved David with his too ready vengeance; and now, in spite of the king's command, he went hastily to the oak where Absalom yet hung, alive, and thrust him through with three darts. His young armour-bearers closed round, and finished slaying the wretched man.
Meanwhile King David sat between the two gates of the city, anxiously waiting for tidings; caring more to hear that Absalom was safe than aught else. At last the watchman cried out that he saw Ahimaaz running, and the king said, “He is a good man, and bringeth good tidings.” Ahimaaz came into the king's presence, and called out, “ All is well.” Then he fell down to the earth on his face before the king, and said, “Blessed be the LORD thy God, Which hath delivered up the men that lifted up their hand against my lord the king."
But the only question David asked out of a full heart was, “ Is the young man Absalom