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 Tamar.
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 three years 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 trusted fully.
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 you!"
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