Story Fourteen

DAVID'S HANDSOME SON, AND HOW HE STOLE THE KINGDOM
NOT long after Dā́ vid's sin, the sorrows of which the prophet had foretold him, began to fall upon Dā́ vid. He had many wives, and his wives had many sons; but most of his sons had grown up wild and wicked, because Dā́ vid had not watched over them, and 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.
One of Dā́ vid's sons was Ăb́ sa-lŏm, whose mother was the daughter of Tăĺ mai, the king of a little country called Ḡḗ shŭr, on the north of Ĭś̝ ra-el. Ăb́ sa-lŏm 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. Ăb́ sa-lŏm became very angry with Ăḿ nŏn, another of Dā́ vid's sons, because Ăḿ nŏn had done wrong to Ăb́ sa-lŏm's sister, named Tā́ mar.
But Ăb́ sa-lŏm hid his anger against Ăḿ nŏn, 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, Ăb́ sa-lŏm's servants, by his orders, rushed in and killed Ăḿ nŏn. 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 Dā́ vid.
Dā́ vid was greatly displeased with Ăb́ sa-lŏm, though he loved him more than any other of his sons; and Ăb́ sa-lŏm went away from, his father's court to that of his grandfather, his mother's father, the king of Ḡḗ shŭr. There Ăb́ sa-lŏm stayed for three years; and all the time Dā́ vid longed to see him, for he felt that he had now lost both sons, Ăb́ sa-lŏm as well as Ăḿ nŏn. And after three years Dā́ vid allowed Ăb́ sa-lŏm to come back to Jē̇-rṳ́ sā̇-lĕm; but for a time would not meet him, because he had caused his brother's death. At last Dā́ vid's love was so strong that he could no longer refuse to see his son. He sent for Ăb́ sa-lŏm, and kissed him, and took him back to his old place among the king's sons in the palace.
But Ăb́ sa-lŏm's heart was wicked, and ungrateful, and cruel. He formed a plan to take the throne and the kingdom away from his father, Dā́ vid, and to make himself king in Dā́ vid'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 Ăb́ sa-lŏm as the king's son, he would reach out his hand, and lift him up, and kiss him as his friend. Thus Ăb́ sa-lŏm won the hearts of all whom he met, from every part of the land, until very many wished that he was king instead of Dā́ vid, his father. For Dā́ vid 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 Ăb́ sa-lŏm thought that he was strong enough to seize the kingdom. He said to Dā́ vid, "Let me go to the city of Hḗ bron, and there worship the Lord, and keep a promise which I made to the Lord while I was in the land of Ḡḗ shŭr.”
Dā́ vid was pleased with this, for he thought that Ăb́ sa-lŏm really meant to serve the Lord. So Ăb́ sa-lŏm went to Hḗ bron, and with him went a great company of his friends. A few of these knew of Ăb́ sa-lŏm's plans, but most of them knew nothing. At Hḗ bron Ăb́ sa-lŏm was joined by a very wise man, named Ā̇-hĭth́ o˗phel, who was one of Dā́ vid's chief advisers, and one in whom Dā́ vid trusted fully.
Suddenly the word was sent through all the land by swift runners, "Ăb́ sa-lŏm has been made king at Hḗ bron!" Those who were in the secret helped to lead others, and soon it seemed as though all the people were on Ăb́ sa-lŏm's side and ready to receive him as king in place of Dā́ vid.
The news came to Dā́ vid in the palace, that Ăb́ sa˗lŏm had made himself king, that many of the rulers were with him, and that the people in their hearts really desired Ăb́ sa-lŏm. Dā́ vid 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 Băth́=shĕ-bȧ, and her son, the little Sŏĺ o-mon.
As they were going out of the gates they were joined by Ĭt́ ta-ī, who was the commander of his guard, and who had with him six hundred trained men of war. Ĭt́ ta˗ī was not an Ĭś̝ ra˗el˗īte, but was a stranger in the land, and Dā́ vid was surprised that he should offer to go with him. He said to Ĭt́ ta-ī, "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 Ĭt́ ta˗ī 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 Ĭt́ ta-ī and his brave six hundred soldiers went with Dā́ vid out of the city, over the brook Kĭd́ ron, toward the wilderness. And soon after came Zā́ dŏk and Ā̇bī́ a-thär, the priests, and the Lḗ vītes, carrying the holy ark of the Lord. And Dá̄ vid 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 Dā́ vid,' then let the Lord do with me as seems good to him.”
And Dā́ vid thought also that the priests might help him more in the city than if they should go away with him. He said to Zā́ dŏk, "Do you go back to the city and watch; and send word to me by your son, Ā̇-hĭḿ a-ăz, and Jŏń a-than, the son of Ă-bī́ a-thär. I will wait at the crossing place of the river Jôŕ dan for news from you.”
So Zā́ dŏk and Ā̇-bī́ a-thär, the priests, carried the Holy Ark back to its Tabernacle on Mount Zī́ ŏn, and watched closely, that they might send Dā́ vid word of anything that would help his cause.
Dā́ vid walked up the steep side of the Mount Ŏĺ ĭ-vĕt, on the east of Jē̇-rṳ́ sā̇-lĕm, with his head covered and his feet bare, as one in mourning, weeping as he walked. And all the people who were with him, and those who saw him, were weeping in their sorrow over Dā́ vid's fall from his high place.
On the top of the hill David found another man waiting to see him. It was Hū́ shāi, who was one of Dā́ vid's best friends. He stood there in sorrow, with his garments torn and earth upon his 'head, ready to go into the wilderness with Dā́ vid. But Dā́ vid said to Hū́ shāi, "If you go with us you cannot help me in any way; but if you stay in the city, and pretend to be Ăb́ sa-lŏm's friend, then perhaps you can watch against the advice that the wise man, Ā̇-hĭth́ o-phĕl, gives to Ăb́ sa-lŏm, and prevent Ăb́ sa-lŏm from following it. Zā́ dŏk and Ā̇-bī́ a-thär, the priests, will help you, and through their sons, Ā̇-hĭḿ a-ăz and Jŏń a-than, you can send word to me of all that you hear.”
A little past the top of the hill another man was waiting for Dā́ vid. It was Zī́ bȧ, the servant of Mē̇-phĭb́ o-shĕth. You remember how kindly Dā́ vid had treated Mē̇-phĭb́ o-shĕth, because he was the son of Dā́ vid's dear friend, Jŏń a-than. Zī́ bȧ had by his side a couple of asses saddled, and on them two hundred loaves of bread, and a hundred clusters of raisins, and a quantity of fruit, and a goat-skin full of wine. Dā́ vid said to Zī́ bȧ, "For what purpose are all these things here?”
And Zī́ bȧ said, "The asses are for the king; and here is food for the journey, and wine for those who may grow faint and may need it in the wilderness.”
And Dā́ vid asked Zī́ bȧ, "Where is Mē̇-phĭb́ o-shĕth, your master?”
"He is in Jē̇˗rú sā̇-lĕm," said Zī́ bȧ; "for he says that the kingdom may be given back to him, as he is the heir of Sa̤ul's house.”
Dā́ vid felt very sad as he heard that Mē̇-phĭb́ o-shĕth had forsaken him, and he said to Zī́ bȧ, "Whatever has belonged to Mē̇-phĭb́ o-shĕth shall be yours from this time.”
But Dā́ vid did not know that all Zī́ bȧ's words were false, and that Mē̇-phĭb́ o-shĕth had not forsaken him. This he learned afterward, as we shall see.
Soon after this another man came out to meet Dā́ vid, but in a very different spirit from Ĭt́ ta-ī, Hū́ shāi, and Zī́ bȧ. This man was Shĭḿ e-ī, and he belonged to the family of King Sa̤ul. As Dā́ vid and his party walked along the crest of the hill, Shĭḿ e-ī walked over the hill on the other side of a narrow valley, and as he walked he threw stones at Dá̄ vid, and cursed him, shouting, "Get out, get out, you man of blood, you wicked man! Now the Lord is bringing upon you all the wrong that you did to Sa̤ul, when he was your king. You robbed Saul of his kingdom, and now your own son is robbing you. You are suffering just as you deserve, for you are a bloody man!”
Then Ā̇-bĭsh-a-ī, the son of Zĕr-u-ī́ ah, who was one of Dā́ vid's men and Dā́ vid's own nephew, said, "Why should this dog be allowed to bark against my lord the king? Let me go across the valley, and I will strike off his head at one blow!”
But Dā́ vid said, "If it is the Lord's will that this man should curse Dā́ vid, then let him curse on. My own son is seeking to take away my life, and is it strange that this man of another tribe should hate me? It may be that the Lord will look upon the wrong done to me, and will do good to me.”
So Dā́ vid and his wives, and his servants, and the soldiers who were faithful to him, went on toward the wilderness and the valley of the Jôŕ dan. Soon after Dā́ vid had escaped from the city, Āb́ sa-lŏm came into it with his friends and a host of his followers. As Ăb́ sa-lŏm drew near, Hú̄ shāi, Dā́ vid's friend, stood by the road, crying, "Long live the king! Long live the king!”
And Ăb́ sa-lŏm said to Hū́ shāi, "Is this the way you treat your friend? Why have you not stayed beside your friend Dā́ vid?”
Hū́ shāi said to Ăb́ sa-lŏm, "Whom the Lord and his people have chosen, him will I follow, and with him I will stay. As I have served the father, so will I serve the son.”
Then Hū́shāi went into the palace among the followers of Ăb́ sa-lŏm. And Ā̇b́ sa-lŏm said to Ā̇-hĭth́ o-phĕl, "Tell me what to do next?”
Now Ā̇-hĭth́ o-phĕl was a very wise man. He knew what was best for Ăb́ sa-lŏm's success, and he said, "Let me choose out twelve thousand men, and I will pursue Dā́ vid this very night. We will come upon Dā́ vid when he is tired, while only a few people are with him, and before he has time to form any plans or to gather an army, I will kill Dā́ vid, and will harm no one else; and then you can reign as king in peace, and all the people will submit to you when they know that Dā́ vid is no longer living.”
Ăb́ sa-lŏm thought that this was wise advice; but he sent for Hū́ shāi. He told him what Ā̇-hĭth́ o-phĕl had said, and asked for his advice also. And Hū́ shāi said, "The advice that Ā̇-hĭth́ o-phĕl gives is not good for the present time. You know that Dā́ vid and his men are very brave, and just now they are as savage as a bear robbed of her cubs. Dā́ vid is with his men in some safe place, hidden in a cave or among the mountains, and they will watch against those who come out to seek for them, and will rush upon them suddenly from their hiding-place. Then, as soon as the news goes through the land that Ab́ sa-lŏm's men have been beaten, everybody will, turn away from Ăb́ sa-lŏm to Dā́ vid. The better plan would be to wait until you can gather all the men of war in Ĭś̝ ra-el, from Dăn in the north to Bḗ eŕ=shḗ bȧ in the south. And then, if Dā́ vid is in a city, there will be men enough to pull the city in pieces, or if he is in the field we will surround him on every side." And Ăb́ sa-lŏm and the rulers who were with him said to each other, "The advice of Hū́ shāi is better than the advice of Ā̇-hĭth́ o-phĕl. Let us do as Hū́ shāi tells us to do.”
So Ăb́ sa-lŏm sat down in his father's palace and began to enjoy himself while they were gathering his army. This was just what Hū́ shāi wished, for it would give Dā́ vid time to gather his army also, and he knew that the hearts of the people would soon turn from Ăb́ sa-lŏm back to Dā́ vid.
Hū́ shāi told Zā́ dŏk and Ā̇-bī́ a-thär, the priests, of Ăb́ sa-lŏm's plans; and they sent word by a young woman to their sons, Ā̇-hĭḿ ā ăz and Jŏń a-than, who were watching outside the city, and these young men hastened to tell Dá̄ vid, who was waiting beside the river Jôŕ dan. Then Dā́ vid and his men found a safe refuge in Mā-hā̇nā́ im, in the tribe of Gad, across Jôŕ dan; and there his friends from all the land began to come to him.
When Ā̇-hĭth́ o-phĕl saw that his advice had not been taken, and that Hū́ shāi was preferred in his place, he knew at once that Ăb́ sa-lŏm could not hold the kingdom, and that Ăb́ sa-lŏm’s cause was already as good as lost. He went to his home, put all his house and his affairs in order, and hanged himself; for he thought that it was better to die by his own hand than to be put to death as a traitor by King Dā́ vid.
Ăb́ sa-lŏm for a little time had his wish. He sat on the throne, and wore the crown, and lived in the palace at Jē̇-rṳ́ sā̇-lĕm as the king of Ĭś̝ ra-el.