1 And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared himself chariots and horses and fifty men to run before him. 2 And Absalom rose early and stood beside the way of the gate. And it was so, that when any man who had a controversy came to the king for judgment, Absalom called to him and said, "Of what city are you?" And he said, "Your servant is one of the tribes of Israel." 3 And Absalom said to him, "See, your matters are good and right, but there is no man deputed by the king to hear you." 4 Absalom said moreover, "Oh that I were made judge in the land so that every man who has any petition or cause might come to me, and I would do him justice!" 5 And it was so, that when any man came near to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, took him, and kissed him. 6 And in this manner Absalom did to all Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.
7 And it came to pass after forty years, that Absalom said to the king, "I pray you, let me go and pay my vow which I have vowed to the LORD in Hebron. 8 For your servant vowed a vow while I stayed at Geshur in Syria, saying, 'If the LORD brings me back indeed to Jerusalem, then I will serve the LORD.'" 9 And the king said to him, "Go in peace." So he arose and went to Hebron. 10 But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, "As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then you shall say, 'Absalom reigns in Hebron.'" 11 And two hundred men went with Absalom from Jerusalem, who were called, and they went in their simplicity and did not know anything. 12 And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counselor, from his city, even from Giloh, while he offered sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong, for the people increased continually with Absalom.
13 And there came a messenger to David, saying, "The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom." 14 And David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, "Arise and let us flee, or else we shall not escape from Absalom. Make speed to depart, lest he should overtake us suddenly and bring evil upon us and smite the city with the edge of the sword." 15 And the king's servants said to the king, "Behold, your servants are ready to do whatever my lord the king appoints." 16 And the king went forth, and all his household after him. And the king left ten women who were concubines to keep the house. 17 And the king went forth, and all the people after him, and stayed in Beth-merhak. 18 And all his servants passed on by his side, and all the Cherethites, all the Pelethites, and all the Gittites, six hundred men who came after him from Gath, passed on before the king.
19 Then the king said to Ittai the Gittite, "Why do you also go with us? Return to your place and abide with the king, for you are a stranger and also an exile. 20 Whereas you came but yesterday, should I this day make you go up and down with us, seeing I go where I may? Return, and take back your brothers. May mercy and truth be with you." 21 And Ittai answered the king and said, "As the LORD lives and as my lord the king lives, surely in whatever place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also your servant will be." 22 And David said to Ittai, "Go and pass over." And Ittai the Gittite passed over, and all his men, and all the little ones who were with him. 23 And all the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people passed over. The king also himself passed over the brook Kidron, and all the people passed over, toward the way of the wilderness.
24 And behold, Zadok also, and all the Levites were with him bearing the ark of the covenant of God. And they set down the ark of God, and Abiathar went up until all the people finished passing out of the city. 25 And the king said to Zadok, "Carry the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the eyes of the LORD, he will bring me back and show me both it and his habitation. 26 But if he says, 'I have no delight in you,' behold, here I am. Let him do to me as seems good to him." 27 The king said also to Zadok the priest, "Are you not a seer? Return into the city in peace, and your two sons with you, Ahimaaz your son and Jonathan the son of Abiathar. 28 Behold, I will wait in the plain of the wilderness until word comes from you to inform me." 29 Therefore, Zadok and Abiathar carried the ark of God back to Jerusalem, and they remained there.
30 And David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet and wept as he went. He had his head covered and he went barefoot. And all the people who were with him each covered his head, and they went up, weeping as they went. 31 And someone told David, saying, "Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom." And David said, "O LORD, I pray you, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness."
32 And it came to pass, that when David had come to the top of the mountain, where he worshiped God, behold, Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat rent and earth upon his head. 33 David said to him, "If you pass on with me, then you will be a burden to me. 34 But if you return to the city and say to Absalom, 'I will be your servant, O king. As I have been your father's servant until now, so I will now also be your servant,' then you may defeat the counsel of Ahithophel for me. 35 And do you not have there with you Zadok and Abiathar the priests? Therefore, it shall be, that whatever thing you hear out of the king's house, you shall tell it to Zadok and Abiathar the priests. 36 Behold, they have there with them their two sons: Ahimaaz the son of Zadok and Jonathan the son of Abiathar. And by them you shall send to me everything that you can hear." 37 So Hushai, David's friend, came into the city, and Absalom came into Jerusalem.
[v.17] - "Beth-merhak" - From the Pulpit Commentary: "'The Far House' - so we may translate this proper name - was probably not a dwelling, but a pavilion overlooking the Kidron valley; and here David halted his household until all were assembled, and arrangements made for their journey."