Story Fifteen

ABSALOM IN THE WOOD: DAVID ON THE THRONE
THE land on the east of Jôŕ dan, where Dā́ vid found a refuge, was called Ḡĭĺ e-ăd, a word which means "high," because it is higher than the land opposite on the west of Jordan. There, in the city of Mā˗hā̇˗nā́ im, the rulers and the people were friendly to Dā́ vid. They brought food of all kinds and drink for Dā́ vid and those who were with him; for they said, "The people are hungry, and thirsty, and very tired, from their long journey through the wilderness.”
And at this place Dā́ vid's friends gathered from all the tribes of Ĭś̝ ra-el, until around him was an army. It was not so large as the army of Ăb̝́ sa-lŏm, but in it were more of the brave old warriors who had fought under Dā́ vid in other years. Dā́ vid divided his army into three parts, and placed over the three parts Jṓ ăb, his brother Ă-bĭsh́ a-ī, and Ĭt́ ta˗ī who had followed him so faithfully.
Dā́ vid said to the chiefs of his army and to his men, "I will go out with you into the battle.”
But the men said to Dā́ vid, "No, you must not go with us; for if half of us should lose our lives, no one will care; but you are worth ten thousand of us, and your life is too precious. You must stay here in the city, and be ready to help us if we need help.”
So the king stood by the gate of Mā-hā̇-nā́ im while his men marched out by hundreds and by thousands. And as they went past the king the men heard him say to the three chiefs, Jṓ ăb, and Ā̇-bĭsh́ a-ī, and Ĭt́ ta-ī, "For my sake, deal gently with the young man, Ăb́ sa-lŏm.”
Even to the last Dā́ vid loved the son who had done to him such great wrong, and Dā́ vid would have them spare his life.
A great battle was fought on that day at a place called "The Wood of Ḗ phră-Am," though it was not in the tribe of Ḗ phră˗ĭm, but of Găd, on the east of the Jôŕ dan. Ăb́ sa-lŏm's army was under the command of a man named Ăḿ a-sȧ, who was a cousin of Jṓ ăb; for his mother, Ăb́ ĭ-gail, and Jṓ ăb's mother, Zĕr-u-ī́ ah, were both sisters of Dā́ vid. So both the armies were led by nephews of King Dā́ vid.
Ăb́ sa-lŏm himself went into the battle, riding upon a mule, as was the custom of kings.
Dā́ vid's soldiers won a great victory, and killed thousands of Ắb́ sa-lŏm's men. The armies were scattered in the woods, and many men were lost, so that it was said that the woods swallowed up more men than the sword. When Ăb́ sa-lŏm saw that his cause was hopeless he rode away, hoping to escape. But as he was riding under the branches of an oak-tree, his head, with its great mass of long hair, was caught in the boughs of the tree. He struggled to free himself, but could not. His mule ran away, and Ăb́ sa-lŏm was left hanging in the air by his head.
One of Dā́ vid's soldiers saw him, and said to Jṓ ăb, "I saw Ăb́ sa-lŏm hanging in an oak.”
"Why did you not kill him?" asked Jṓ ăb. "If you had killed him I would have given you ten pieces of silver and a girdle.”
"If you should offer me a thousand pieces of silver," answered the soldier, "I would not touch the king's son; for I heard the king charge all the generals and the men, 'Let no one harm the young man Ăb́ sa-lŏm.' And if I had slain him, you yourself would not have saved my life from the king's anger.”
"I cannot stay to talk with you," said Jṓ ăb; and with three darts in his hand he hastened to the place where Ăb́ sa-lŏm was hanging. He thrust Ăb́ sa-lŏm's heart through with the darts, and after that his followers, finding that Ăb́ sa-lŏm was still living, pierced his body until they were sure that he was dead. Then they took down his body, and threw it into a deep hole in the forest, and heaped a great pile of stones upon it.
During his life Ăb́ sa-lŏm had built for himself a monument in the valley of Kĭd́ ron, on the east of Jē̇-rṳ́ sā̇-lĕm. There he had expected to be buried; but though the monument stood long afterward, and was called "Ăb́ sa-lŏm's pillar," yet Ăb́ sa-lŏm's body lay not there, but under a heap of stones in the wood of Ḗ phră-ĭm.
After the battle Ā̇-hĭḿ a-ăz, the son of the priest Zā-dŏk, came to Jṓ ăb. Ā̇-hĭḿ a-ăz was one of the two young men who brought news from Jē̇-rṳ́ sā̇-lĕm to Dā́ vid at the river Jôŕ dan, as we read in the last Story. He said to Jṓ ăb, "Let me run to the king, and take to him the news of the battle.”
But Jṓ ăb knew that the message of Ab́ sa-lŏm's death would not be pleasing to King Dā́ vid, and he said, "Some other time you shall bear news, but not today, because the king's son is dead.”
And Jṓ ăb called a negro who was standing near, and said to him, "Go, and tell the king what you have seen.”
The negro bowed to Jṓ ăb, and ran. But after a time Ā̇-hĭḿ a-ăz the son of Zā́ dŏk, again said to Jṓ ăb, "Let me also run after the negro, and take news.”
"Why do you wish to go, my son?" said Jṓ ăb; "the news will not bring you any reward.”
"Anyhow, let me go," said the young man; and Jṓ ăb gave him leave. Then Ā̇-hĭḿ a-ăz ran with all his might, and by a better road over the plain, though less direct than the road which the negro had taken over the mountains. Ā̇-hĭḿ-ăz outran the negro, and came first in sight to the watchman who was standing on the wall, while King Dā́ vid was waiting below in the little room between the outer and inner gates, anxious for news of the battle, but more anxious for his son, Ăb́ sa-lŏm.
The watchman on the wall called down to the king, and said, "I see a man running alone.”
And the king said, "If he is alone, he is bringing a message." He knew that if men were running away after a defeat in battle there would be a crowd together. Then the watchman called again, "I see another man running alone.”
And the king said, "He also is bringing some news.”
The watchman spoke again, "The first runner is coming near, and he runs like Ā̇-hĭḿ a-ăz, the son of Zā́ dŏk.
And Dā́ vid said, "He is a good man, and he comes with good news." Ā̇-hĭḿ a-ăz came near, and cried out as he ran, "All is well!”
The first words which the king spoke were, "Is it well with the young man Ăb́ sa-lŏm?”
Ā̇-hĭḿ a-ăz was too wise to bring to the king the word of Ăb́ sa-lŏm's death. He left that to the other messenger, and said, "When Jṓ ăb sent me, there was a great noise over something that had taken place, but I did not stop to learn what it was.”
A little later came the negro, crying, "News for my lord the king! This day the Lord has given you victory over your enemies!”
And Dā́ vid said again, "Is it well with the young man Ăb́ sa˗lŏm?”
Then the negro, who knew nothing of Dā́ vid's feeling, answered, "May all the enemies of my lord the king, and all that try to do him harm, be as that young man is!”
Then the king was deeply moved. His sorrow over Ăb́ sa-lŏm made him forget the victory that had been won. Slowly he walked up the steps to the room in the tower over the gate, and as he walked he said, "O my son Ăb́ sa-lŏm! my son, my son Ăb́ sa-lŏm! I wish before God that I had died for you, O Ăb́ sa-lŏm, my son, my son!”
The word soon went forth that the king, instead' of rejoicing over the victory, was weeping over his son. The soldiers came stealing back to the city, not as conquerors, but as if they had been defeated. Everyone felt sorry for the king, who sat in the room over the gate, with his face covered, and crying out, "O Ăb́ sa-lŏm, my son! my son, my son Ăb́ sa-lŏm!”
But Jṓ ăb saw that such great sorrow as the king showed was not good for his cause. He came to Dá vid, and said to him, "You have put to shame this day all those who have fought for you and saved your life. You have shown that you love those who hate you, and that you hate those who love you. You have said by your actions that your princes and your servants, who have been true to you, are nothing to you; and that if Ab́ sa-lŏm had lived and we had all died, you would have been better pleased. Now rise up, and act like a man, and show regard for those who have fought for you. I swear to you in the name of the Lord, that unless you do this, not a man will stay on your side, and that will be worse for you than all the harm that has ever come upon you in all your life before this day!”
Then Dá vid rose up, and washed away his tears, and put on his robes, and took his seat in the gate as a king. After this he came from Mā-hā̇-nā́ im to the river Jôŕ dan, and there all the people met him, to bring him back to his throne in Jē̇-rṳ́ sā̇-lĕm.
Among the first to come was Shĭḿ e-ī, the man who had cursed Dá vid and thrown stones at him as he was flying from Ăb́ sa-lŏm. He fell on his face, and confessed his crime, and begged for mercy. Ā̇-bĭsh́ a-ī brother, said, "Shall not Shĭḿ e-ī be put to death, because he cursed the king, the Lord's anointed?”
But Dá vid said, "Not a man shall be put to death this day in Ĭś̝ ra-el, for to-day I am king once more over Ĭś̝ ra-el. You shall not be slain, Shĭḿ e-ī; I pledge you the word of a king.”
And Zī́ bȧ, the servant of Mē̇-phĭb́ o-shĕth, was there with his sons and his followers; and Mē̇-phĭb́ o-shĕth was there also to meet the king. And Mē̇-phĭb́ o-shĕth had not dressed his lame feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes, from the day when Dá vid had left Jē̇-rṳ́ sā̇-lĕm until the day when he returned in peace. And Dá vid said to him, "Mē̇-phĭb́ o-shĕth, why did you not offer to go with me?”
"My lord, O king," said Mē̇-phĭb́ o-shĕth, "my servant deceived me. He said, 'You are lame, and cannot go; but I will go in your name with the king, and will help him.' And he has done me wrong with the king; but what matters it all, now that the king has come again?”
Dá vid said, "You and Zī́ bȧ may divide the land and the property.”
And Mē̇-phĭb́ o-shĕth said, "Let him have it all, now that the king has come in peace to his own house!”
The army of Ăb́ sa-lŏm had melted away, and was scattered throughout all Ĭś̝ ra-el. Dá vid was still displeased with Jṓ ăb, the chief of his army, because he had slain Ăb́ sa-lŏm, contrary to Dá vid's orders. He sent a message to Ăḿ a-sȧ, who had been the commander of Ăb́ sa-lŏm’s army, and who was, like Jṓ ăb and Dá vid's own nephew. He said to Ăḿ a-sȧ, "You are if my own family, of my bone and my flesh, and you shall be the general in place of Jṓ ăb.”
Jṓ ăb and his brother were strong men, not willing to submit to Dá vid's rule; and Dá vid thought that he would be safer on his throne if they did not hold so much power. Also, Dá vid thought that to make Ăḿ a-sȧ general would please not only those who had been friends to Ab́ sa-lŏm, but many more of the people, for many feared and hated Jṓ ăb.
At the river Jôŕ dan almost the whole tribe of Jū́ dah were gathered to bring the king back to Jē̇-rṳ́ sā̇-lĕm. But this did not please the men of the other tribes. They said to the men of Judah, "You act as though you were the only friends of the king in all the land! We, too, have some right to Dá vid.”
The men of Jū́ dah said, "The king is of our own tribe, and is one of us. We come to meet him because we love him."
But the people of the other tribes were still offended, and many of them went to their homes in anger. The tribe of Ḗ phră-ĭm, in the middle of the land, was very jealous of the tribe of Jū́ dah, and unwilling to come again under Dá vid's rule. One man in Ḗ phră-ĭm, Shḗ bȧ, the son of Bĭch́ rī, began a new rebellion against Dá vid, which for a time threatened again to overthrow Dā́ vid's power.
Ăḿ a-sȧ, the new commander of the army, called out his men to put down Shḗ bȧ's rebellion. But he was slow in gathering his army, and Jṓ ăb, the old general, went forth with a band of his own followers. Jṓ ăb met Ăḿ a-sȧ, pretending to be his friend, and killed him, and then took the command. He shut up Shḗ bȧ in a city far in the north, and finally caused him to be slain. So at last every enemy was put down; and Dā́ vid sat again in peace upon his throne. But Jṓ ab, whom Dā́ vid feared and hated because of many evil deeds that he had done, was, as before, the commander of the army and in great power. Jṓ ăb was faithful to Dā́ vid, and was a strong helper to Dā́ vid's throne. Without Jṓ ăb's courage and skill in Dā́ vid's cause Dā́ vid might have failed in some of his wars, and especially in the war against. Ăb́ sa-lŏm's followers. But Jṓ ăb was cruel and wicked; and he was so strong that Dā́ vid could not control him. Dā́ vid felt that he was not fully the king while Jṓ ăb lived.
But few people knew how Dā́ vid felt toward Jṓ ăb; and in appearance the throne of Dā́ vid was now as strong as it had ever been; and Dá̄ vid's last years were years of peace and of power.
Lesson 28. David and Absalom.
(Tell Stories 13, 14 and 15 in Part Third.)
1. What wicked thing did King David do? He caused one of his brave soldiers to be killed.
2. For what purpose was this done? So that David might marry the soldier's wife.
3. Who came to David and told him that he had done wickedly? The prophet Nathan.
4. In what story did Nathan show the king how wickedly he had acted? In the story of a little lamb.
5. What did David say when Nathan spoke to him? "I have sinned against the Lord.”
6. What did Nathan say should come to David because of his sin? He should be made to suffer.
7. What son of David tried to take his kingdom from him? Absalom.
8. How far did Absalom succeed? He drove David away from Jerusalem.
9. Where was the battle fought between the men of Absalom and the men of David? In the, wood of Ephraim.
10. What happened to Absalom in the battle? He was killed.
11. What came to David? He reigned again as king.