THE SECOND BOOK OF KINGS
SOMETIMES CALLED THE SECOND BOOK OF SAMUEL
Saul was already dead when David came back from routing Amelec, and spent two days in Siceleg; then, on the third day, a man from Saul's army came in view, his garments torn, his head covered with dust, who, upon sight of David, bowed down to earth and did reverence. Whence come you? David asked, and on learning that he had made his way there from the Israelite army, Tell me, how went the day? We were routed, said he, in the battle, and many of the common folk fell slain; worse yet, Saul and his son Jonathan are among the dead. What proof have you, David asked the messenger, that Saul and Jonathan were slain? I chanced, said he, to reach mount Gelboe, and there I found Saul, leaning on his spear. Chariots and horsemen were in close pursuit, and he turned to look behind him; saw, and hailed me, and learned I was ready at his command; asked who I was, and learned that I was an Amalecite. Then he said, Stand close, and give me my death-blow; the toils are closing round me, and I am a whole man yet. So I stood close, and dealt the blow, knowing well that there could be no life for him after his fall; then I took the crown from his head and the bracelet from his arm, and here I bring them to my lord. At that, David rent his garments, and so did all the men who were with him; mourned they and wept, and fasted till evening came, for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the Lord's people, men of Israel's race,that lay fallen in battle.
And now David asked the messenger, from where is it you came? My father, he answered, was an alien, a man of Amalec. And were you not afraid, said David, to lay hands on the king the Lord had anointed, and slay him? Then he bade one of his men go up and make an end of the Amalecite, and when the blow had fallen, said over his dead body, you have brought death on your own head, by owning yourself the murderer of an anointed king.
This is the lament David made over Saul and his son Jonathan, and would have this lament of his, The Bow, taught to the sons of Juda; the words of it are to be found in the Book of the Upright. Remember, Israel, the dead, wounded on your heights, the flower of Israel, cut down on your mountains; how fell they, warriors such as these? Keep the secret in Geth, never a word in the streets of Ascalon; shall the women-folk rejoice, shall they triumph, daughters of the Philistine, the uncircumcised? Mountains of Gelboe, never dew, never rain fall upon you, never from your lands be offering made of first-fruits; there the warrior's shield lies dishonoured, the shield of Saul, bright with oil no more. Where the blood of slain men, the flesh of warriors beckoned, never the bow of Jonathan hung back, never the sword of Saul went empty from the feast. Saul and Jonathan, so well beloved, so beautiful; death no more than life could part them; never was eagle so swift, never was lion so strong. Lament, daughters of Israel, lament for Saul, the man who dressed you bravely in scarlet, who decked your apparel out with trinkets of gold. How fell they, warriors such as these, in the battle? On your heights, Gelboe, Jonathan lies slain. Shall I not mourn for you, Jonathan my brother, so beautiful, so well beloved, beyond all love of women? Never woman loved her only son, as I you. How fell such warriors, what could blunt such swords as these?
After this David asked counsel from the Lord, whether he should remove into one of the cities of Juda. When the Lord bade him remove, he asked, Into which of them? And the answer came, To Hebron. So thither David took his two wives, Achinoam from Jezrahel and Abigail that had been wife to Nabal at Cannel; thither, too, went the men who followed him, each with his own household, settling in the townships that belonged to Hebron. There the men of Juda came to him, and anointed him king over the line of Juda. And when David heard how the men of Jabes-Galaad had given Saul burial, he sent messengers to say, The Lord's blessing on you, for the faithfulness you have shewn to Saul, your master, in thus burying him; may the Lord make return to you for your loyalty and kindliness! I too will prove myself grateful for it. Strong be those arms of yours, keep your courage high; now that you no longer have Saul to rule over you, the tribe of Juda has anointed me to be its king.
But meanwhile Abner the son of Ner, who was in command of the army, brought Isboseth forward, Saul's remaining son, and gave him a royal progress through the camp; setting him up as king of Galaad and Gessuri and Jezrahel and Ephraim and Benjamin and all the rest of Israel. Isboseth, heir to king Saul, was forty years old when his reign over Israel began, and it lasted two years; David had no following except the tribe of Juda, and as king of Juda, for seven and a half years, he reigned at Hebron.
And now they offered battle from their camp at Gabaon, Abner son of Ner and the men that recognized Isboseth as heir to king Saul; and by the pool at Gabaon the army of David went out to meet them, under Joab son of Sarvia. So they met, and confronted one another on opposite sides of the pool. Thereupon Abner proposed to Joab that champions should come forward and make trial of arms, and to this Joab agreed. Come forward they did, twelve men that acknowledged Isboseth as the heir of Saul, and twelve followers of David, and met one another. Each caught his man by the head and thrust his sword deep, and together they fell slain; there in the field by Gabaon which has taken its name from them, the Field of the Champions.
It was a fierce battle that raged that day, and David's men routed Abner and the Israelites. Two sons of Sarvia besides Joab were fighting, Abisai and Asael; Asael, swift of foot as any wild roe. And this Asael gave chase to Abner, following him still without swerving to right or left; till at last Abner looked behind him, and asked if he were Asael. When he learned that it was so, he warned him, Why then, turn aside this way or that, overtake one of my men, and from him secure your spoils. But still Asael would not give up the pursuit, and again Abner warned him, Turn back, and follow me no more; must I strike you down, and never again look your brother Joab in the face? At last, finding that he would not listen to him and never turned aside, Abner, with a backward thrust of his spear, smote him through the groin. There and then he fell dead; and none that came up behind him ventured beyond the place where Asael died.
But meanwhile Joab and Abisai were in pursuit of Abner. When the sun set, they had reached the Hill of the Aqueduct, that lies on the side of the ravine opposite the desert road to Gabaon. All the men of Benjamin had rallied to Abner, and there they stood gathered in one mass, with one hill-top to defend. And now Abner cried out to Joab, Is there no glutting that sword of yours? Have you never heard that desperate men are dangerous? Call off your men, before it is too late, from the pursuit of their own brethren. As the Lord is a living God, Joab answered, had you only spoken, my men would have let their brethren alone while it was still morning. With that, he sounded his trumpet, and all his army halted; there was no more pursuit of Israel, no more fighting. All that night Abner and his men marched over the plain, crossed the Jordan, and made their way along Beth-horon to their camp. When Joab returned after abandoning the pursuit, he called the roll and found only nineteen of David's men missing, besides Asael; whereas the toll they had taken of Benjamin and the rest of Abner's forces was three hundred and sixty dead. Asael they bore off, and gave him burial in his father's tomb at Bethlehem; then they too, Joab and his army, marched all through the night, and reached Hebron as dawn was breaking.
It was a long struggle between Saul's line and David's; but ever the fortunes and power of David grew, while the cause of Saul became daily weaker. Six sons were born to David, there in Hebron; Amnon, his first-born, by Achinoam of Jezrahel, then Cheleab, by Abigail, that had been Nabal's wife at Cannel, then Absalom, by Maacha, daughter to Tholmai, king of Gessur. The fourth was Adonias, son of Haggith, the fifth Saphathia, son of Abital, the sixth Jethraam, that David's wife Egla bore him; of all these Hebron was the birth-place. As long as war lasted between the two dynasties, Abner the son of Ner was the head of Saul's party. But Saul had left a concubine, Respha the daughter of Aia; and of her Isboseth said to Abner, What, would you mate with my father's concubine? And he, greatly angered by Isboseth's words, cried out, I have made all Juda shun me like a carrion-dog, by befriending the line of your father Saul, his kindred and his court, instead of giving you up to David; and am I to be called to account this day over a woman? God punish Abner as he deserves and more than he deserves, if I do not fulfil the promise which the Lord made to David; the kingship shall be taken away from Saul's line, and David shall reign over Israel and Juda alike, from Dan to Bersabee! Never a word did Isboseth say in answer, so greatly did he fear him.
Then Abner sent a message to David, claiming that the land lay in his own power; League yourself with me, the message ran, and I will help you, and reduce all Israel to your obedience. And David answered, Well said; I am ready to make a league with you, but one thing first. You can not be admitted to my presence unless you bring Michol, Saul's daughter, with you; so only shall you find audience. At the same time, he sent a message to Isboseth, that was heir to king Saul, Give me back my wife Michol, the bride I won with the foreskins of a hundred Philistines. So Isboseth sent and had her taken away from her husband Phaltiel, son of Lais, who followed her, weeping, all the way to Bahurim. But Abner bade him turn and go back, and go back he did. Meanwhile, Abner sent the word round among the elders of Israel, It was but yesterday you were eager to have David for your king. It is time now, to fulfil the promise the Lord made to David; by David's hand I will rid my people Israel of the Philistines, and of all their enemies. Even among the men of Benjamin Abner sent the word out. Then he went to tell David, at Hebron, of the resolve made by Israel, and by the tribe of Benjamin at large. He came to Hebron with twenty men, and there David made a feast for him and his companions. And now, said Abner, I will go and rally all Israel to your cause, my lord king. By this league of ours, they shall be your subjects, loyal to your will. So David took leave of him, and he went on his way in peace.
Soon David's men, with Joab at their head, came home from an attack on the freebooters, loaded with spoil. They did not find Abner in Hebron; David had but now sent him on his way in peace; they came too late, Joab and his men. But Joab was told how Abner, son of Ner, had visited the king, and of their friendly parting; so he went at once into the royal presence, and cried, What is this? Abner with you, and you have let him slip through your hands, gone, free as air! Do you know Abner so little? He did but come here to play you false, spying upon your comings and goings, learning of all you do. And Joab left the royal presence to send messengers after Abner, summoning him back, without David's knowledge, from the Pool of Sira. No sooner had Abner come back to Hebron than Joab took him aside, there in the gates, under pretence of speaking with him, and smote him in the groin, avenging by that death the death of his brother Asael. It was all over when David heard of it, and he cried, Never shall I or my kingdom be held answerable for Abner's death! On Joab's head let the guilt fall, and on all his line; let the line of Joab never want a man that has a running at the reins, or is a leper, or works at the distaff like a woman, or falls in battle, or begs his bread.
Thus Joab and his brother Abisai murdered Abner, who had slain their brother Asael in the fighting at Gabaon. As for David, he bade Joab and his men tear their garments and put on sackcloth, and go mourning at Abner's funeral; he himself followed the bier, and wept aloud over Abner's tomb at Hebron, where they buried him; all the people, too, were in tears. And this was the dirge with which he lamented him: Died Abner as the ignoble die? No bond tied your hands, no gyves your feet; you did fall as men fall when cruel wrong assails them. And all the people took up the refrain as they mourned. Then, while it was still full day, they came together to eat, and would have David eat with them; but he took an oath, The Lord punish me as I deserve, and more than I deserve, if I taste bread or any other food before set of sun! This all the folk heard, and more than ever they applauded the king's doings; among all that multitude, and in all Israel, there was not a man that blamed David for the slaying of Abner, son of Ner. Past all doubt, said the king to his servants, Israel has lost, this day, the greatest of its chieftains. Alas, they have anointed a weakling to be their king; not mine to curb these sons of Sarvia. May the Lord punish the wrongdoer for the wrong done!
When Isboseth, Saul's heir, heard news of Abner's death at Hebron, he was a broken man, and all Israel was in confusion. In command of his army, when they went out on forays, were two Berothites from Benjamin, named Baana and Rechab, sons of Remmon; Beroth counted as part of Benjamin, but these Berothites were exiles, and lived in Gethaim ever after. For heir, he had a grandson of Saul by Jonathan, a lame-footed boy; he was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezrahel, and his nurse carried him off to safety, but in the hurry of the flight he fell and was lamed; he was called Miphiboseth.
And now Baana and Rechab, sons of Remmon the Berothite, entered Isboseth's house when the sun was at its full heat; Isboseth himself was abed, taking his noonday sleep, and the woman that kept the door had fallen asleep too over the corn she was cleaning. (Taking ears of corn with them, Rechab and Baana made their way in secretly, and smote him in the groin, and made good their escape.) When they had made their way in, they found him there in his own room, asleep on the bed, and despatched him with blows; then they cut off his head, and journeyed with it across the desert road all night. So they brought the head of Isboseth to David at Hebron; See, they told him, here is the head of Isboseth, the heir of Saul, that was your mortal enemy; the Lord has revenged our royal master this day upon Saul and his race.
But this was the answer David made to Rechab and his brother Baana, sons of Remmon: As the Lord, my rescuer from all peril, is a living God, you shall repent it! There was one came to me at Siceleg and told me of Saul's death, thinking to bring me good news; and his reward was then and there to be seized and slain. And here are wretches that have murdered an innocent man in his own home, as he lay asleep; do you think I will not exact blood-vengeance from you, rid the land of you? So David ordered his men to kill them and cut off their hands and feet; the bodies were hung up over the fish-pond at Hebron. As for the head of Isboseth, it was carried away, and buried in Abner's grave.
After this, all the tribes of Israel rallied to David at Hebron; We are kith and kin of yours, they said. It is not so long since Israel marched under your orders, when Saul was still reigning; and the Lord has promised you that you should be its shepherd and its captain. And so the elders of Israel went to his court at Hebron; and there, at Hebron, in the Lord's presence, David made a covenant with them, and they anointed him king of Israel. He was thirty years old when his reign began, and it lasted forty years; for seven and a half years over Juda only, with its capital at Hebron, then for thirty-three more years over Israel and Juda both, with its capital at Jerusalem.
When the king and his army marched on Jerusalem, to attack the Jebusites, that were native to the soil, they met him with the taunt, you must rid yourself of blind men and lame, before you can make your way in here, meaning that David would never make his way in; but take it he did, the Citadel of Sion that is called David's Keep. He had promised a reward to the conqueror of the Jebusites, to the man who should reach the gutters of the roofs, and clear them of the blind and lame (as he called them) that were David's enemies. That was how the saying arose, No entry into the precincts for the blind and the lame.
And now he made his dwelling in the Citadel, and called it David's Keep; he built walls round it, too, with Mello for their outer bastion. So he went on, prospering and gaining in strength, and the Lord God of hosts was with him. Hiram too, king of Tyre, sent messengers offering him cedar planks and carpenters, and stone-masons for the walls; and they built David's house for him. No doubt could David have that the Lord had ratified his sovereignty over Israel, and made him the king of a great people. So, when he removed from Hebron to Jerusalem, he provided himself with fresh wives and concubines there, and more sons and daughters were born to him; Jerusalem was the birth-place of Samua, Sobab, Nathan, Solomon, Jebahar, Elisua, Nepheg, Japhia, Elisama, Elioda and Eliphaleth.
When news reached the Philistines that David had been anointed as king of all Israel, they mustered their forces to hunt him down. David, hearing of it, withdrew into his stronghold, while the Philistines came in and occupied the whole valley of Raphaim. Thereupon David consulted the Lord; should he attack the Philistines? Would he be given the mastery? And he was bidden to go to the attack; the Philistines would be at his mercy. So David marched out to Baal-Pharasim, and defeated them there; The Lord has parted the enemy's ranks before me, he said, as easily as water parts this way and that; so the place came by its name, Baal-Pharasim, The Master of the Breach. They left their idols behind them there, and these fell into the hands of David and his men. But once more the Philistines came to the attack, and occupied the Raphaim valley; and this time, when David asked whether he might attack them with good hope of mastering them, the answer was, Do not go to the attack, circumvent them and come upon them from the direction of the pear-trees yonder. Wait till you hear, in the tops of the pear-trees, the sound of marching feet; then offer battle; it is a sign that the Lord will pass on before you, to smite down the army of the Philistines. So David did as the Lord had bidden him; and he drove the Philistines before him all the way from Gabaa to Gezer.
Then David mustered anew the fighting men of Israel, thirty thousand strong. Meanwhile, he set out with the men of Juda that followed him, and went to fetch the ark of God home; that ark which takes its name from the Lord God of hosts, dwelling there above it between the cherubim. And they carried the ark away from Abinadab's house at Gabaa, putting it on a newly-made waggon, with Abinadab's sons, Oza and Ahio, for its drivers. He it was had had charge of it, there in Gabaa, till now; but now they took it away from his house, with Ahio walking before it, while David and the Israelites played music, there in the Lord's presence, on instruments of rare workmanship, harp and zither and tambour and castanets and cymbals. They had reached the threshing-floor of Nachon, when the oxen began to kick and tilted the ark to one side; whereupon Oza put out his hand and caught hold of it. Rash deed of his, that provoked the divine anger; the Lord smote him, and he died there beside the ark. Great grief it was to David, this ruin the Lord had brought on Oza (the place is still called Oza's Ruin), and a dread of the Lord came upon him that day; How shall I, he asked, give shelter to the Lord's ark? No longer was he minded to give it a lodging in David's Keep; it must find a home with Obededom the Gethite instead.
For three months the ark of the Lord was left with Obededom the Gethite, and brought a blessing on him and his household. Then word was brought to David how the Lord had blessed Obededom and all that was his for the ark's sake. So back he went, and brought the ark of God away from Obededom's house, into David's Keep, with great rejoicing; seven choirs of dancers he took with him, and a young bull for a victim. No sooner had the bearers of the ark gone six paces on their journey, than he sacrificed the bull and a ram with it. As for himself, he went dancing with all his might, there in the Lord's presence; clad in the sacred mantle, he must dance too. So David, and Israel with him, brought back the ark that bears record of the Lord's covenant, with rejoicing and a great din of trumpets. And as it came into David's Keep, there was Michol, Saul's daughter, looking on from her window; she saw king David leaping and dancing in the Lord's presence, and her heart despised him.
When the ark had been brought into the city, they put it down at the appointed place, in the midst of a tabernacle which David had there spread out for it; and David brought burnt-sacrifices and welcome-offerings into the Lord's presence there. Then, when his offering was done, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts, and gave to every Israelite, man or woman, a roll of bread and a piece of roast beef and a flour-cake fried in oil; and with that, the people dispersed to their homes. David himself, going back to bless his own household, was met by Michol, Saul's daughter. A day of great renown, she said, for the king of Israel, that exposed his person to man and maid, his own subjects, graceless as a common mountebank! Nay, answered David, it was at the Lord's coming. He it is that has chosen me, instead of your father or any of your father's line, to rule the Lord's people of Israel; and before his coming play the mountebank I will; humble myself I will in my own esteem, and those maids you speak of will honour me yet the more. And Michol, that was daughter to king Saul, never bore child again to the day of her death.
The king had now a palace of his own to dwell in, and the Lord kept him safe, on every side, from all his enemies. Whereupon he said to the prophet Nathan, Here am I dwelling in a house all of cedar, while God's ark has nothing better than curtains of hide about it! And Nathan answered, Go your own way, fulfil your own purpose; the Lord is with you. But that same night the divine word came to Nathan, Go and give my servant David a message from the Lord: do you think to build a house for me to dwell in? House was never mine, since I rescued the sons of Israel from Egypt; still in a tabernacle, a wanderer's home, I came and went. This way and that the whole race of Israel journeyed, and I with them; now to this tribe, now to that, I gave the leadership of the rest, and never did I reproach any of them for not building me a house of cedar.
This message, then, you will give to my servant David from the Lord of hosts: Out in the pasture-lands, where you were tending the sheep, I summoned you away to bear rule over my people Israel; go where you would, I was ever at your side, exterminating your enemies to make room for you, granting you such renown as only comes to the great on earth. Henceforth my people are to have a settled home, taking root in it and remaining in undisturbed possession of it, no longer harassed by godless neighbours, as they have been ever since I first gave Israel judges to rule them. No longer shall your enemies trouble you; and this too the Lord promises, that he will grant your line continuance. So, when your days are ended, and you are laid to rest beside your fathers, I will grant you for successor a son of your own body, established firmly on his throne. He it is that shall build a house to do my name honour. I will prolong for ever his royal dynasty; he shall find in me a father, and I in him a son. If he plays me false, be sure I will punish him; ever for man the rod, ever for Adam's sons the plagues of mortality; but I will not cancel my merciful promise to him, as I cancelled my promise to Saul, the king that was banished from my favour. Through the ages, far as your thought can reach, dynasty and royalty both shall endure; your throne shall remain for ever unshaken.
All this message, all this revelation, was handed on by Nathan to king David. And David went into the Lord's presence, and betook himself to prayer; Lord God, he said, that one such as I am, sprung from such a house as mine, should have been brought by you to such power! But it was not enough, Lord God, you would do more; you would foretell the destiny of your servant's line in days far hence; Lord God, can mortal man claim such rights? No words can your servant David find; such divine mercy you show him. In fulfilment of your promise, in pursuance of your will, you do bring about all these marvels which you have made known to your servant. So great you are, Lord God! None is like you, you alone are God, read we the history of past days aright. Can any other nation say, like your people Israel, that its God came to buy it back for himself as his own people, winning such renown for himself, doing such deeds of wonder and dread against any country, and its people, and its god, as you did when you did buy back your people from Egypt? So did you pledge this people of Israel to be your people eternally, and you, Lord God, did become their God.
This promise, then, Lord God, which you have made concerning your servant and his line, do you for ever fulfil; make your word good, that so your name may be for ever glorified, the Lord of hosts that is God of Israel; under your divine care may the dynasty of your servant David remain unshaken. Lord of hosts, God of Israel, you have given me secret knowledge of your will, promised me a long posterity; what wonder that your servant finds his heart full of such prayers as these? So be it, Lord God; you are God, and your word is ever faithful; since blessing you have promised to your servant, blessing on his line bestow, and keep it always under your protection. You, Lord God, have spoken, and through this blessing of yours my race shall be blessed for ever.
After this, David defeated the Philistines and brought their pride low; wrested from them, too, their claim to exact tribute. He also defeated the Moabites, and measured out their fate to them by lot, bringing them down to the dust; life and death were the two lots he measured out to them; and Moab became tributary to king David. He defeated Adarezer, son of Rohob, king of Soba, that marched out to extend his domains beyond the river Euphrates; seventeen hundred horsemen he took alive, and twenty thousand that fought on foot, and cut the hamstrings of the horses, but kept a hundred teams for himself. When the Syrians of Damascus came out to reinforce Adarezer, king of Soba, David routed their army of twenty-two thousand, and put a garrison of his own in the Damascus region of Syria, which became tributary to him. Undertake what enterprise he would, ever the Lord protected him.
All the golden trappings, which Adarezer's men wore, David carried off and brought to Jerusalem; from Bete, too, and Beroth, cities in Adarezer's dominion, he carried away great stores of bronze. When the news of this victory over Adarezer's forces reached Thou, king of Emath, he sent his son Joram to greet David and wish him well, out of gratitude for the conquest and rout of Adarezer, who was Thou's enemy; and this Joram brought presents with him, of gold and silver and bronze, which king David consecrated to the Lord, together with all the silver and gold he had set apart from the spoils of the conquered nations, Syria, Moab, Ammon, the Philistines, Amalec, and now Adarezer, son of Rohob, king of Soba.
David won renown, too, on his way back from the conquest of Syria, by defeating eighteen thousand men in the Valley of the Salt-pits; after this he kept troops in Edom to garrison it, and the whole of Edom became subject to him. And still the Lord protected David in all his enterprises. The whole of Israel was under his rule, and to all his people he administered justice and gave award. His army was commanded by Joab, son of Sarvia, and Josaphat, son of Ahilud, kept the records; the priests were Sadoc, son of Achitob, and Achimelech, son of Abiathar, and Saraias was secretary; Banaias, son of Joiada, was at the head of the Cerethites and Phelethites, and David's sons, too, were his ministers.
Meanwhile the thought came to David, whether there were any of Saul's line left, so that he could shew them kindness in memory of Jonathan. There was a serving-man left over from Saul's household, whose name was Siba; David now sent for him. Are you Siba? he asked. And ready at your command, the other answered. Tell me, said the king, has Saul left any descendant alive, to whom I can shew the friendship God requires of me? Why yes, answered Siba, there is a son of Jonathan that is lame footed; and when David asked where he might be found, he told him, At the house of Machir, son of Ammiel, at Lodabar. So from the house of Machir, son of Ammiel, at Lodabar, David had him brought, Miphiboseth, son of Jonathan, that was the son of Saul. He came into David's presence, and bowed low to do him reverence; and when David called him by name, he answered, I am here at your command. Do not be afraid, David said; I mean to shew you friendship for the sake of Jonathan, that was your father, and restore to you all the lands which belong to you as Saul's heir; and evermore you shall sit down to eat at my table. And the other said, bowing low, would you concern yourself with such a man as I am, no better than a dead dog?
Then the king sent to fetch Siba, that had been serving-man to Saul. All that belonged to Saul, he told him, all the household that once was his, I have given to your master's heir. Do you, then, and your sons, and the servants under you, till the lands for him, and bring in its revenues to maintain him. He, Miphiboseth, your master's heir, shall evermore sit down to eat at my table. This Siba had fifteen sons, and twenty servants under him, and he told David, My lord king, I am at your service to do your bidding. So Miphiboseth ate at the king's table, as if he had been one of the king's own sons. He had, too, a little son of his own, called Micha. Thus Siba and his household worked for Miphiboseth, while he himself lived at Jerusalem, eating ever at the king's table; a lame man, lame of either foot.
When the king of the Ammonites died, and his son Hanon succeeded him, David thought to himself, I will shew friendliness to Hanon, as his father Naas did to me; and he dispatched envoys to condole with him over his father's death. But when these reached the Ammonite country, the chiefs there said to Hanon, their sovereign, What, David send messengers to comfort you, in honour of your father's memory? Nay, if he has sent men here, they are spies who will make a report on the city, so that he may come and destroy it. So Hanon seized David's messengers, shaved their beards on one side, and cut off the skirts of their clothes right up to the buttocks, and in that guise sent them back. David, when he heard of this, sent out to meet them, covered with confusion as they were, and bade them wait in Jericho, not returning home until their beards were grown again.
Meanwhile the Ammonites, well aware that they had made an enemy of David, sent and hired mercenaries from the Syrians of Rohob and the Syrians of Soba, twenty thousand men that marched on foot; a thousand, too, from the king of Maacha, and twelve thousand from Istob. Upon hearing this news, David sent the whole of his forces to engage them, under Joab. The Ammonites themselves had come out from the city, and drawn up their line at the approaches to its gates; the Syrians from Soba, Rohob, Istob and Maacha were at a distance, out in the open country; and Joab saw that he must fight one enemy in front while another was ready to take him in the rear. So he chose the best of his troops and led them against the Syrians, leaving the rest, under his brother Abisai, to face the Ammonites. Bring me aid, said Joab, if the Syrians are too strong for me, and I, if the Ammonites have the mastery, will bring aid to you instead. Play the man, fight we valiantly for our people, and for the city walls that are sacred to our God; the Lord's will be done. So Joab and his men engaged the Syrians, who were routed by his first onslaught, and the Ammonites, when they saw the Syrians in full flight, gave way in their turn before the onslaught of Abisai, retreating into the city. After this, Joab went back from the Ammonite country to Jerusalem. Thus defeated, the Syrians mustered the whole of their army, and Adarezer sent for those others of their race who lived on the further side of the river to reinforce him, putting his general, Sobach, in command of them. David, as soon as he heard the news, mustered the whole forces of Israel, and marched across the Jordan to Helam. There the Syrians drew up their forces to meet him, and gave battle; but the Israelites routed them, and David won the victory. Seven hundred chariots Syria lost that day, and four thousand horsemen; Sobach, too, their general, was wounded and died on the field of battle. And now all the other kings who were vassals of Adarezer saw that they were no match for Israel; their troops lost heart and fled, fifty-eight thousand of them, at the enemy's approach. So they made peace with the Israelites and became their subjects; and no more was heard of the Syrians bringing aid to the men of Ammon.
And now spring returned, the time when kings march out to battle; and David sent Joab, with other servants of his and the whole army of Israel, to lay waste the Ammonite country and besiege Rabba, while he himself remained at Jerusalem. One day, he had risen from his midday rest, and was walking on the roof of his palace, when he saw a woman come up to bathe on the roof of a house opposite, a woman of rare beauty. So the king sent to enquire who she was, and was told that it was Bethsabee, Eliam's daughter, wife to Urias the Hethite. Thereupon he sent messengers to bring her to him; she came, and he mated with her, and as soon as she was cleansed from her defilement, back she went to her home. Then, finding she had conceived, she sent the news of her conception to David.
Therewith came a message to Joab, summoning Urias the Hethite to David's presence. So Joab sent him; and David, when Urias reached him, asked whether all was well with Joab and the army, and how the fighting went; then he bade him go back home and wash the dust from his feet. So Urias left the palace, and the king sent food after him from the royal table; but Urias slept the night at the palace gate among his master's attendants; go home he would not. Then David, learning from common talk that Urias had not gone home, said to him, you are newly come from a journey; why would you not go back to your house? What, answered Urias, here are the ark of God and all Israel and all Juda encamped in tents, here are my lord Joab and all those other servants of my master sleeping on the hard ground; should I go home, and eat, and drink, and bed with my wife ? The Lord save you and keep you, never that! David bade him stay one day more; he would let him go on the morrow. That day and the next Urias spent in Jerusalem, and ever he must eat and drink in the king's presence, till he was bemused with wine; but still, when he went out at night, he made his bed beside his master's attendants, and never returned to his home.
Next morning, David wrote a letter to Joab, which he despatched by Urias himself; and this was its purport, You are to find a place for Urias in the first line, where the fighting is bitterest; there leave him unaided, to die by the enemy's hands. So, when he next made an assault upon the city, Joab gave Urias the post where he knew the defenders were strongest; and some of these made a sally against Joab's men, killing Urias and other of David's men besides. Then Joab sent David a full account of the battle; and this was his word to the messenger who carried it: When you have finished giving the king the report of the battle, it may be he will shew indignation. Why did you go so close to the wall, he will ask, when you were attacking it? You must have known that weapons fall thick under the battlements. How fell Abimelech, that was son to Jerobaal? Was it not a piece of mill-stone, thrown by a woman, that killed him, there at Thebes? Why did you go so close to the wall? Then let this be your answer, your servant Urias the Hethite is among the dead.
So the messenger left him, and when he came into David's presence he gave him all Joab's message. The enemy were too strong for us, he told David; they sallied out to fight us in the open, so we went to the attack, and chased them back to the very gate of the city. But here the archers were shooting at us from the wall above, and many of the king's men fell; your servant Urias the Hethite is among the dead. Upon this, David sent him back with a message for Joab: Never be daunted by what has befallen; still uncertain are the chances of war; now one, now another, the sword claims for its prey. Hurl your men ever more strongly against the city, and destroy it; bid them keep their courage high.
When Urias wife heard that he was dead, she mourned for him; her mourning over, David sent and fetched her to his palace, wedded her and had a son by her. But meanwhile David's act had earned the Lord's displeasure.
So it was that the Lord sent Nathan on an errand to David; and this was the message he brought him. There were two men that lived in the same town, one rich, one poor. The rich man had flocks and herds in great abundance; the poor man had nothing except one ewe-lamb which he had bought and reared, letting it grow up in his house like his own children, share his own food and drink, sleep in his bosom; it was like a daughter to him. The rich man was to entertain a friend, who was on his travels; and, to make a feast for this foreign guest, he would take no toll of his own flocks and herds; he robbed the poor man of the one lamb that was his, and welcomed the traveller with that. David, burning with indignation at the wrong, said to Nathan, As the Lord is a living God, death is the due of such a man as this; for this cruel deed of his, he shall make compensation fourfold. And Nathan said to David, You are the man.
Here is a message for you, said he, from the Lord God of Israel: I anointed you king of Israel, I saved your life when Saul threatened it; I gave you your master's goods to enjoy, your master's wives to cherish in your bosom; all Israel and Juda are in your power, and if that were not enough, more should be yours for the asking. And you, would you defy the Lord's commandment, and do the wrong he hates, putting Urias the Hethite to the sword, so as to take his wife for your own? The men of Ammon struck the blow, but you are his murderer. For the wrong you have done in robbing Urias the Hethite of his wife, to make her yours, murder shall be the heirloom of your own race. This is the Lord's message to you: I mean to stir up rebellion against you in your own household; before your very eyes take your own wives from you and give them to another, that shall bed them in the full light of yonder sun. You did go to work secretly; when this threat of mine is fulfilled, all Israel and yonder sun shall witness it.
Then David said to Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord; and Nathan answered, The Lord has given your sin quittance, you shall not die for it. But you have brought on the Lord the contempt of his enemies, and the son that has been born to you is doomed to die. So Nathan went home, and now the little son Urias' wife had borne to David was struck down by the Lord, and no hope was left for him. David still interceded for him with the Lord, keeping strict fast and passing his nights on the ground; he would not humour his counsellors when they came and bade him rise to his feet again, nor would he take food with them. Then, after six days, the child died; and David's servants had not the courage to tell him it was so. If he would not listen to our remonstrances, they thought, while the child yet lived, what penance will he do when we tell him it is dead! But David, as he marked them whispering to one another, guessed what had befallen; The child is dead? he asked, and when he heard that it was, he rose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, changed his garments, and went into the Lord's house to do reverence there. Then he came back to his house, asked for food, and ate. And when his servants asked what his meaning was, that he should fast and lament over the child still living, rise up and take food once the child was dead, he answered, Fast and lament I would, for the child's sake, while he lived; It may be, I thought, the Lord will grant me his life. Now that he is dead, what need to fast? Can I bring him back from the grave? I shall go to be with him, he will not come back to me. Then David comforted his wife Bethsabee, and took her to his bed; and she bore him a son whom he called Solomon. Him the Lord loved, and sent word by the prophet Nathan that he was to be called The Lord's Favourite, in proof of his great love.
Meanwhile, Joab was attacking Rabbath, and took the royal quarter of it. Then he sent a message to David, I have been attacking Rabbath, but the river-side part of the city remains yet to be won. Muster all the rest of your army to attack the city and take it; I would not earn the credit of the victory by taking it myself. So David, mustering all his forces, marched on Rabbath and stormed it. He took the king's crown from his head, a crown of gold weighing a full talent, set with the rarest jewels, and wore it himself; much plunder he carried off from the city besides. As for the people, he had them brought out and sawed in pieces, or crushed under iron chariots, or cut up with knives, or passed through a brick-kiln and the same treatment he gave to all the cities of Ammon. Then David and his army returned to Jerusalem.
A maid there was of rare beauty, called Tamar, sister to David's son Absalom; and it befell at this time that another of David's sons, Amnon, fell in love with her. Such was his longing that he pined away wanting her; how should he approach a maid unwed, to compass her dishonour? But he had a friend called Jonadab, son to Semmaa that was David's brother, a man of shrewd wits, that expostulated with him, Should a royal prince pine away, day in, day out, and not tell the reason? Then Amnon told him, I am in love with my brother Absalom's sister, Tamar.
Lie down on your bed, Jonadab told him, and feign illness; then, when your father visits you, ask him to let your sister Tamar come and tend your wants, cook some dainty for you, and give it you with her own hand. So Amnon lay down, and feigned to fall sick, and said to the king, when he came to visit him, Pray send my sister Tamar to boil me two mouthfuls of gruel, here in my presence, and give them me with her own hand. So David sent word to Tamar's home, bidding her go to her brother Amnon's house and make gruel for him; and to her brother Amnon's house she went, to find him lying abed. She took the flour and stirred it and boiled it, and when her cooking was done, she poured it out, and put it down beside him; but he refused to eat. Then Amnon would have all that were there leave his presence, and when all had left him, he bade her come into his room and give it to him with her own hand. So Tamar took the gruel and brought it into her brother Amnon's room; but when she held it out, he caught hold of his sister and would have her bed with him. Nay, brother, said she, do not force me to your will; in all Israel, that were deemed great wrong. Forbear your recklessness; else can I never shew my face, and all Israel will cry out on your reckless folly. Ask me of the king for your bride; he will not deny you. But Amnon would not listen to her; he forced her to his will and so bedded her.
And now Amnon conceived a hatred of her that passed all measure; the love he once had for her could not compare with his hatred now; Up, he cried, and begone! Nay, said she, this is a greater wrong than the first wrong you did me, to drive me away thus. But he would not listen to her; he called to the serving-man that waited on him, and bade him thrust the woman out and shut the door on her. Clad in the long robe of a princess, she was thrust out, and the door was shut on her. Dust she sprinkled on her hair, tore the long robe, put her head between her hands, and went on her way in tears. So your brother Amnon bedded you? Absalom said to her. Keep silent for this while; he is your brother. Do not eat your heart out over it. So Tamar remained there in Absalom's house, pining away. Great sorrow had king David when the news came to him, but he would do nothing to cross his son Amnon, that he loved dearly; was he not his first-born? As for Absalom, he spoke no word to Amnon, fair or foul; so deeply did he hate him for dishonouring his sister Tamar.
Two years after, when it was shearing-time for Absalom's sheep at Baal-Hasor, by Ephraim, he would have all the king's sons there. But when he went to the king, and said, your servant's sheep are a-shearing, will not my lord king come to the feast, and his servants with him? the king answered, Nay, my son, do not ask us all to come and be a burden to you; nor would he consent, for all Absalom's pleading; he would only give him his blessing for the journey. Then at least, said Absalom, let my brother Amnon come with us, if you will not. There is no need for that, David said, but at last Absalom had his way, and David sent Amnon and all the princes with him. It was a royal banquet Absalom prepared for them; but first he gave orders to his men, Wait till Amnon is bemused with wine; then, when I say Strike, slay him. Have no fear; you do but execute my orders; take heart, and shew yourselves men of mettle. So Absalom's servants did his bidding on Amnon; and all the rest of the princes mounted on their mules and fled.
While they were still on their way, the story reached David that Absalom had slain all the princes, and not one had escaped with his life. At that the king rose up, and tore his garments, and cast himself down on the ground; and his servants tore their garments, all that stood by waiting on him. Only Jonadab, son of Semmaa that was David's brother, would have none of it; Do not believe, my lord King, he said, that all the princes have been killed; Amnon is dead, but only he. His name was ever on Absalom's lips, since the day of his sister Tamar's dishonouring. Never burden your heart, my lord king, with the fancy that all are dead; it is only Amnon.
Absalom betook himself to flight. Meanwhile, a servant that was on the watch looked out and saw a throng of men coming down by an unfrequented path on the mountain-side; whereupon Jonadab said to the king, It is the princes that are coming; your servant was in the right. And indeed, as soon as he had finished speaking, the princes came in view, and loud they wept as they came; the king, too, and all his servants made great lament. Absalom took refuge with Tholomai, son of Ammiud king of Gessur; and David all the while went on mourning for his son. Three years Absalom spent at Gessur as a fugitive; then David gave up the quest for him; already his grief for Amnon was assuaged.
Then Joab, son of Sarvia, aware that the king's heart had relented towards Absalom, sent for a wise woman who lived at Thecua, and spoke to her thus: Make as if you were in mourning, put on funeral garments, and never a drop of oil to anoint you, like a woman who has long been mourning for the dead. Then go into the king's presence, and speak as I bid you speak. And with that, he told her all she should say.
So the woman from Thecua came into David's presence and there bowed to the ground to do him reverence; Lord king, she said, give me redress! What wrong, asked he, is being done you? And she said, I am a widow, with no husband to protect me. And, my lord, I had two sons; but they came to blows out in the open fields, where there was none to interfere, and one gave the other a blow which killed him. And now the whole clan is at my heels; give up the murderer I must, so that they may kill him in vengeance for his brother's death, and make an end of the race. The one hope that is left me they would extinguish, so that my husband will have none left on earth to bear his name. Go home, said the king; I will see that justice is done you. And the guilt, said the woman of Thecua, let that rest with me and with my own kindred; the king and his heirs shall be quit of it. If anyone crosses your will, the king said, bring him before me, and I will not let him do you any more hurt. Ah, said she, if the king would only take an oath in the name of the Lord his God that the kinsfolk shall not be allowed to carry on the feud, that my son's life shall indeed be spared! Not a hair shall fall from his head, the king answered.
And now the woman asked leave to speak one word besides, and the king granted it. Then she said, Why does the king's grace treat the people of God so differently? Why does he persist in doing them wrong, by refusing to restore the man he has exiled? We must all die, water spilt on the ground; there is no bringing back the dead. Never a soul will God suffer to be lost in the reckoning; still he busies himself with remedies to save the life of him who is banished. I came to make my suit before my lord the king, with his subjects standing by, thinking to myself, Come, I will plead with the king, and perhaps he will grant his handmaid's request; and the king's grace has listened to me, and given me redress against those who would have blotted out my name and my son's name from the record of the Lord's people. And now let this plea of your handmaid's move you, my lord king, to speak a generous word. Though indeed my lord the king is wise as an angel of God; you are not moved from your purpose by fair word or foul; the Lord your God is with you.
Then the king said to her, I have a question to ask you; answer it openly. My Lord king, she said, you have only to speak. Tell me then, said the king, was not Joab concerned in all this? As you are a living man, she answered, that guess the king's grace has made has not missed the truth by a hair's breadth. It was your servant Joab who sent me on my errand, and told me all I was to say; it was your servant Joab who bade me use this parable. My lord king, you are wise as an angel of God; nothing on earth is hidden from you. And the king turned to Joab, and said, I relent, and grant your request; go and bring my son Absalom home. Whereupon Joab bowed his face to the ground in reverence, and blessed the king's name. To-day, he said, I am assured of your royal favour, that you should so grant your servant his will. Then he set out on his journey to Gessur, and brought Absalom back to Jerusalem. But the king said, Let him go back to his own house, and never come into my presence; so Absalom went home, and might not have access to the king.
This Absalom was a man of good presence and famed for his beauty, none like him in all Israel; from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head was no blemish to be found; and when he cut his hair, as each year he must for the heavy burden it was, the locks that were cut weighed two hundred sicles by common weight. Three sons he had, and one daughter called Tamar, a woman fair to see.
So for two years Absalom was in Jerusalem without sight of the king; then he sent for Joab, to win him audience, but Joab would not come. A second time the request was made and refused; then Absalom said to his servants, You know that field of Joab's next to mine, that is under barley; go and set fire to it. So Absalom's men set fire to the crop, and now Joab's men went to find him with their garments torn about them, and told him Absalom had had part of his field burned. Thereupon Joab went to see Absalom at his house, and asked, What means it, that your men have set fire to my crop? Why, answered Absalom, I was fain to see you; it was my thought to send you to the king, and ask him why he brought me home from Gessur. Better have stayed there; pray win me admittance to the king's presence, or let him put me to death if he cannot forgive the wrong. So Joab went and repeated this to the king, and Absalom was summoned into the king's presence. Low he bowed before him, with his face to the ground; but David greeted Absalom with a kiss.
And now Absalom must drive in state, with chariots and outriders, and fifty men that ran before him. He would rise early, and stand at the entrance to the gate, beckoning to him everyone who had business that called for the king's award, asking what city he came from, and, if he mentioned one of the Israelite tribes, telling him, your pleadings seem to me well-founded and just, but the king has not appointed any judge to try your cause. Ah, said Absalom, if only I could be appointed as judge in the land, so that all who had matters to decide could bring them to me for a careful hearing! And when men came up to greet him, he would put out his hand and take them to himself with a kiss. So he did to all the men of Israel who came up to get a hearing from the king, and stole away the hearts of the Israelites. Then, in the fortieth year of the reign, Absalom said to David, Grant me leave to go to Hebron and pay a vow I made to the Lord. It is a vow your servant took when he was at Gessur in Syria, that if the Lord would restore him to Jerusalem, he would offer a sacrifice. Go, said David, and peace go with you. To Hebron, then, he went, and meanwhile he had sent agents of his throughout all the tribes of Israel, bidding them wait till they heard the trumpet sound, and then raise the cry, Absalom is king! Absalom reigns at Hebron! And from Jerusalem itself he took two hundred men, who went with guileless hearts, not knowing why they had been summoned. He also invited from Gilo Achitophel, the Gilonite that was David's own counsellor. So Absalom began to offer his victims, and his conspiracy grew ever stronger, and the number ever greater that came to his support.
Soon a messenger came and told David that the whole of Israel was giving its allegiance to Absalom; and he said to the servants he had with him at Jerusalem, Up, we must make our escape, or we are in Absalom's hands! We must depart with all speed, or he will come and take us by surprise, overwhelm us and put the whole city to the sword! And his servants answered, We are at the command of our lord the king, we will do his bidding. So the king left the city on foot with all his attendants, leaving only ten concubines in charge of the palace. At some distance away he halted on his journey, with all the throng that accompanied him, his own servants walking at his side, and the Cerethite and Phelethite companies, as well as the Gethite warriors (six hundred foot, that had come from Geth in his retinue), marching on before him. Why do you come with us? the king asked of Ethai the Gethite. Go back to the court; you are a wanderer who has already left his home and came here but yesterday; there is no need for you to leave Jerusalem, as the rest of us are leaving it, to-day. I will go where I must; do you and these brethren of yours return, and may the Lord's faithful mercies reward you for this loyal service you have shewn. But Ethai answered, As the Lord is a living God, as my lord the king is a living man, it cannot be. Wherever you are, my lord king, in life or in death, there also will your servant be. Come then, David said to him, pass on over the stream. So Ethai and his men passed over, and then the rest, weeping aloud as they went, till the whole throng had gone across. The king himself crossed Cedron stream, and they all set out on the road which leads to the desert.
Sadoc the priest was among them, and with him the Levites, carrying the ark that bore witness of God's covenant. They now set the ark down, only Abiathar going forward on his journey, till the whole multitude that had left the city should have passed by. But the king said to Sadoc, Carry God's ark back into the city; if the Lord takes my part, he will bring me home again, and I shall see his ark and his tabernacle there; if he tells me that I have lost his favour, I am at his command; his will be done. You have the seer's gift; go back in peace to the city with your son Achimaas and Abiathar's son Jonathan, and I will wait till I have word from you before I come back from my hiding-place in the desert plain. So Sadoc and Abiathar carried the ark back to Jerusalem, and remained there.
So David went up the mount of Olives, and wept as he climbed it; bare-footed he went and with his head covered, and all that were in his company passed on, with covered heads, lamenting. And now David was told that Achitophel had taken part in Absalom's conspiracy; Lord, he prayed, do you foil the designs of Achitophel. He had already reached the top of the hill, where he meant to pay the Lord worship, when he met Chusai the Arachite, his garments torn, and his head all smeared with dust. Nay, said David, if you should come with me, you can only be a burden to me; go back to the city, and tell Absalom, lord king, I am at your command, I will be your servant as I was your father's. So you will be able to thwart the designs of Achitophel. You have the priests, Sadoc and Abiathar, to help you; pass on to the priests, to Sadoc and Abiathar, every word you hear at court. Their sons remain with them, Sadoc's son Achimaas and Abiathar's son Jonathan; by them you can send me news of all you hear. So David's friend Chusai went back, and Absalom was entering Jerusalem as he reached it.
When David passed a little way beyond the top of the hill, there was Siba, the servant of Miphiboseth, coming to meet them. He had two asses with him, laden with two hundred loaves, and a hundred bunches of raisins, and a hundred cakes of figs, and a skin of wine. When the king asked what he did with all these, Siba answered, I brought the asses to be ridden by the king's courtiers, the bread and fruit for your servants to eat, the wine to revive such as are faint in the desert. And where is your master's son? the king asked. He remained in Jerusalem, Siba answered, thinking that the men of Israel would restore him this day to the throne of his father. Why then, the king told him, all that was Miphiboseth's is yours. And Siba answered, My prayer is that I may ever enjoy your favour, my lord king.
But, as David reached Bahurim, a man of Saul's kindred came out to meet him, one Semei, son of Gera, and ever he cursed as he went, and threw stones after David, and his servants that walked to left and right of him, plain folk and warriors alike. Go your ways, cried Semei, cursing the king, go your ways, murderer and upstart! Now the Lord has avenged the blood of Saul's race, by handing over the kingdom you did usurp to your son Absalom; no wonder if calamity comes home to you, murderer as you are! At this Abisai, son of Sarvia, protested to the king, Why must this hang-dog fellow be allowed to curse my lord the king? Let me go and cut the head from his body! What, sons of Sarvia, David replied, will you never give me any rest? Let him curse as he will; the Lord has bidden him curse David, and who shall call him to question for doing it? Then he cried out, so that Abisai and all his servants could hear him, Look you, here is the son of my own body conspiring against my life; why may not yonder Benjamite do as much? Let him curse as curse the Lord has bidden him; perhaps it will move the Lord to pity my calamities, and bring good out of the ill fame I must endure this day. So David passed on, and his companions with him, while Semei strode along the ridge on the other side of the valley, cursing, and throwing stones and handfuls of earth. A weary man was the king, and weary were all the people with him, when they reached their halting-place; and there they rested.
Meanwhile Absalom and his men had entered Jerusalem, and Achitophel with him; and there David's friend, Chusai the Arachite, met them; Greeting, he said, greeting to the king! Why, said Absalom, is this your friendship? would you not bear that friend of yours company? Not I, said Chusai; for me, the king who has been chosen out by the Lord, by these folk here, by the whole of Israel; my place is by his side. And indeed, to whom is my service due, if not to the king's own son? You shall have the same loyalty your father had from me. And now Absalom said to Achitophel, Bethink you, what were best done. Whereupon Achitophel answered, Go and mate with the concubines your father has left in charge of the palace. When they hear you have come between your father's sheets, all Israel will rally to your cause the more fearlessly. So they spread a tent for Absalom on the roof, and he went in to bed his father's concubines, there with all Israel to witness it. Men followed Achitophel's advice then as if it were God himself they had consulted; so it was all the time he was David's counsellor, and all the time he was Absalom's.
Now, said Achitophel to Absalom, let me pick twelve thousand men, and set out in pursuit of David this very night; so I shall overtake him and easily defeat him, weary as he is and unnerved; first scatter the company that went with him, and then strike him down, with none to aid him. All the people I will bring round to your cause, as easily as I would persuade a single man; you have but one enemy, the rest of the people will be well content. Both Absalom and all the elders of Israel liked his counsel well; but Absalom would have them summon Chusai the Arachite, to find out his opinion too. So Chusai the Arachite came in, and Absalom told him what Achitophel had said; Were it well done? he asked. What advice give you? And Chusai answered, No, it will not serve our turn, this counsel Achitophel has given. Bethink you now, what brave warriors they are, your father and the men he leads; how fierce in their anger, fierce as the she-bear that lurks in a wood, when her cubs have been taken away from her; your father is a fighting man, he will not remain there among the common folk. No, by now he is hidden in some pit under ground, or some other vantage-point. A few deaths among his pursuers, and the word will go round, Absalom's followers are routed! Then the most lion-hearted will be overcome with sudden fear; well all the people of Israel knows that your father and the warriors that bear him company are men of mettle. No, here is a plan more to my liking, that you should summon all Israel, from Dan to Bersabee, an army countless as the sand, and yourself march out with it. Hide he where he may, we will find him, and we will be all about him, covering the earth like dew; never a man of his company shall escape us. Why, even if he should defend himself behind city walls, this great army of Israel could wind ropes round it and drag it down into the nearest valley, till never a stone was to be found of it! Thereupon Absalom and all the men of Israel agreed that Chusai the Arachite had given better counsel than Achitophel. Whereas in truth Achitophel's advice was the more to their purpose, but the Lord foiled it, to compass Absalom's ruin.
Then Chusai told the priests, Sadoc and Abiathar, what Achitophel's counsel had been, and what his own; Send a message to David, said he, with all speed, telling him not to linger in the desert plain this night, but cross Jordan without delay; else he and all that are with him may be overwhelmed. Jonathan and Achimaas stood at their post by the spring of Rogel, and a maid-servant must go and give them the message before they could take it to king David; they did not dare shew themselves in the city. Even so a lad saw them, and told Absalom, and they must turn aside with all speed into the house of a man at Bahurim, that had a well by the porch of it, and climb down into this for safety. Nor was their hiding-place discovered; a woman came and spread a cloth over the mouth of the well, as if she would dry her barley-groats there; and when Absalom's men reached the house, asking her where were Jonathan and Achimaas, she said they had gone quickly on their way, only stopping for a mouthful of water; so their pursuers returned baffled to Jerusalem. These gone, Jonathan and Achimaas climbed up out of the well, and brought king David word; Bestir yourselves, they said, and cross the river without more ado; and told what advice Achitophel had given. So king David and all that bore him company took the road, and were across Jordan before ever dawn broke; not a man was left west of the river.
As for Achitophel, when he found that his advice was not followed, he saddled his ass and went home to Gilon; there he put his affairs in order, and hanged himself. So there they buried him, in his father's tomb.
David made his way to the Encampment; and now Absalom crossed the Jordan after him, with all Israel at his back. In Joab's place, Absalom gave the command of his army to Amasa, that was son to a man called Jethra, of Jezrahel; he had mated with Abigail, daughter of Naas, that was sister to Joab's mother Sarvia. So Israel, and Absalom with them, pitched their tents in the country of Galaad. Meanwhile, upon David's coming to the Encampment, Sobi son of Naas the Ammonite, and Machir son of Ammihel from Lodabar, and Berzellai that dwelt in Galaad, at Rogelim, brought him presents; beds and coverlets and earthenware, wheat and barley, flour and parched corn, beans and lentils and fried pulse, honey and butter, sheep and fattened calves. So they made provision for David and his followers, that were like to be hard pressed with hunger and thirst, there in the desert.
And now David passed the men who were with him under review, appointing commanders and captains over them; one third he entrusted to Joab, one third to Joab's brother Abisai, and the remainder to Ethai of Geth. He himself, he told his men, would go into battle with them, but they would not have it. It makes no great matter to the enemy, they said, whether we are routed: even if half of us should fall, they would set little store by it; your life is more to them than the lives of ten thousand others. Better that you should remain in the city and garrison it for us. So the king told them he would abide by their judgement, and he stood watching at the gate while they marched out company by company, in their hundreds and thousands. One charge the king laid upon Joab and Abisai and Ethai alike, Spare me my son Absalom; and this charge about Absalom was so given to each of them that the men in the ranks could hear it.
So his army took the field against Israel; it was in the forest of Ephraim that battle was joined. And the Israelites were routed by David's men, with great loss; twenty thousand men fell that day, and more of them perished in the woods than in the fighting itself, so scattered was their flight over all the country-side. Some of David's men encountered Absalom himself, riding on a mule; and away the mule went, under the tangled branches of a great oak, which caught him by the head and kept him hanging there between earth and sky, while the beast that carried him pressed on. A soldier, who witnessed it, went and told Joab that he had seen Absalom hanging from an oak. You saw him, Joab answered, and did not smite him then and there to the ground? I would have given you ten sicles of silver and a belt besides. Nay, said he, you might count out a thousand silver pieces into my purse, and still I would not lift a hand against the king's son. We were all of us within hearing when the king bade you and Abisai and Ethai spare his son Absalom. It would have been at the risk of my life, and the thing would never have passed unnoticed by the king; why, you would yourself be laying information against me. That will not serve, answered Joab; I will smite him myself, and you shall be there to witness it. So he took three javelins with him, and thrust Absalom right through with them; then, as he still hung there writhing on the oak, ten squires who attended on Joab ran up and dispatched him. With that, Joab sounded the trumpet, and would not let his men go further in pursuit of Israel, to spare the lives of the common folk. As for Absalom, they threw his body into a deep pit, there in the forest, and piled a great heap of stones over him. Meanwhile, the men of Israel fled away to their tents. (The monument which stands in the King's Vale is one which Absalom erected for himself in his own life-time, thinking thus to perpetuate his name, since he had no son to follow him. And as he gave this monument his own name, it has been called Absalom's Mark ever since.)
And now Achimaas, son of Sadoc, asked leave to run and tell the king how God had punished his enemies, but Joab told him, Better some other day than this for bearing the message; I would not have you tell the news to-day; here is a king's son dead. Afterwards Joab bade Chusi go and tell the king what he had seen; so Chusi did reverence to him, and ran. And thereupon Sadoc's son Achimaas asked whether he might not run after Chusi. No need for that, my son, Joab answered; it is not good news you will carry. But may I run? asked he. Run if you will, said Joab. And Achimaas took a shorter way, and passed Chusi by.
David was sitting between the two gates; and now the watchman that stood above the roof over the gate, high up on the wall, looked up and saw a man running, all alone, and cried out to let the king know of it. If he is alone, the king said, he has good news to tell. Then, as the runner came nearer, the watchman saw a second courier on his way, and cried out from the roof, I see a second man running all alone. He too, the king said, is a welcome messenger. And the watchman told him, I have marked how the first messenger runs; he runs like Achimaas, son of Sadoc. A good man, the king said; his will be good news. And now Achimaas cried out, Hail, my lord king! Then he bowed down with his face to the earth, to do the king reverence, and said, Blessed be the Lord your God; he has not suffered them to escape, the men who took up arms against the king's grace. Is all well, the king asked, with my son Absalom? And Achimaas answered, There was a great stir round about Joab when he sent me, your servant, on my errand; I can tell you no more. Stand aside here, the king said; and as he did so, Chusi came up after him; Good news, said he, for my lord the king! The Lord has maintained your cause against the rebels. Then the king asked Chusi, Is all well with my son Absalom? My lord king, Chusi answered, may all your enemies, and all that conspire to your hurt, fare as the prince has fared! And with that, the king went up to the room over the gate in bitter sorrow, and wept there. O my son Absalom, he said as he went, my son, my son Absalom! Would to God I had died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son!
Word came back to Joab that the king was in tears, mourning over his son; and the news of the royal grief went round among the army, so that the victory they had won that day issued only in lament. They would not even return that day to the city, feeling such shame as a broken and routed army feels; and all the while the king hid his face away, and went on crying aloud, My son Absalom, Absalom, my son, my son! At last Joab made his way into the royal lodging, and said to the king, Here is a fine day's work, to make all your followers go about hanging their heads! The men who have saved you and your sons and daughters, your wives and concubines, from peril of death! Nothing but love for your enemies, nothing but hatred for your friends; never a thought, this day, for your own captains and your own men! If we were all dead, and Absalom still lived, I warrant you had been the better pleased. Bestir yourself, come out and speak to your men, and earn their good will; I swear by the Lord that if you do not come out, not a man will be left to serve your cause by nightfall; and worse awaits you than all the troubles which have come upon you from the days of your youth till now. So the king rose up, and seated himself at the gateway; and there, once the word had gone round that the king was sitting in the gateway, all his followers came into the royal presence.
But the men of Israel had fled home. And now, all through the tribes of Israel, there was high debate; Here is a king, men said, that has rid us of our enemies, rescued us from the power of the Philistines, and he must be exiled from his kingdom to please Absalom! This Absalom, whom we anointed to be our king, has fallen in battle; why is no voice raised for bringing the king back to us? News of what the Israelites were saying had reached the court, and now king David sent word to the priests, Sadoc and Abiathar, bidding them ask the elders of Juda, Why are you the last to welcome the king home again? You are my own tribesmen, my own kith and kin, why do you hang back, instead of restoring me to the throne? He bade them, too, give this message to Amasa, are you not my own flesh and blood? May the Lord punish me as I deserve, and more than I deserve, if I do not make you, instead of Joab, commander of my army henceforward! Thus he won over the men of Juda till they had but a single thought, and a message was sent to the king bidding him come back to them, and all his men with him.
So the king set out for home, and by the time he reached the Jordan, the whole of Juda had assembled at Galgal to meet him and escort him over the river. Semei the son of Gera, the Benjamite, hastened to bear them company, welcoming king David with a thousand of his own tribesmen; there was Siba, too, that had once been a servant in the court of Saul, with his fifteen sons and twenty servants of his, and these, plunging into the Jordan before the king could reach it, were across the ford, ready to escort his household and wait upon his bidding. Semei, Gera's son, was no sooner across Jordan than he fell at the king's feet; My lord, he said, do not hold me guilty, forget the wrong your servant did you when you, my lord king, had left Jerusalem; let there be no grudge in your royal heart. I, your servant, confess this day the wrong I did; that is why I have come, first spokesman of the other tribes, to meet the king's grace on his way. At this, Abisai son of Sarvia would have Semei put to death, for the curses he uttered against an anointed king. What, sons of Sarvia, David answered, will you never give me rest? This day, of all others, would you mar my peace? No Israelite shall lose his life this day, which has taught me for the first time that I am king in Israel. And to Semei he said, you shall not die, and took his oath to confirm it. Then the king was met by Miphiboseth, that was heir to Saul; he came with feet begrimed, with beard untrimmed, in garments that went unwashed from the day of the king's departure to the day of his return. Down from Jerusalem he came to meet him, and when the king asked, Why did you not bear me company, Miphiboseth? his answer was, My lord king, my own servant played me false; may it please you, I bade him saddle me an ass, so that I could ride in the king's company, lame as I am; and he, not content with disobeying, has brought a false charge against me before my lord the king. But you, my lord king, are wise as an angel of God; do what you will. For indeed, the whole of my father's line deserve nothing better than death at your hands, and you have given me, your servant, a place among the guests at your table; what right have I to complain? I will raise my voice no more in my defence. And the king told him, No need to say more. My word has been passed; do you and Siba divide the lands between you. Why, let him take all, Miphiboseth answered; enough for me that my lord the king has come home in peace. Berzellai, too, the man of Galaad, came down from Rogelim, to attend his crossing of Jordan, ready to accompany him to the further bank. Berzellai of Galaad was an old man, eighty years old; he it was that brought the king provisions, while he lay at the Encampment, for he was a man of great riches. To him the king said, Bear me company, and take your ease with me at Jerusalem. But Berzellai answered, What, a man of my years go up to Jerusalem with the king's grace? I am eighty years old now; are my senses still keen, to tell sweet from bitter? Can your servant take pleasure in food and drink? Can my ear catch the tone of songster and songstress? Nay, I would not be a burden to my lord the king; let your servant go with you a little of the way beyond Jordan, and no more. I need no such exchange of friendship; rather, my prayer is that I should be allowed to go back and die in my own city, and be buried close to the grave where my father and mother lie. Here is your servant Chamaam; let him go with you, my lord king, and do with him what you will. Chamaam shall go with me, the king replied, and it shall be for you to choose what is to be done with him; no request of yours shall go ungranted. So, when he and all the people had crossed over Jordan, the king kissed Berzellai and blessed him, and he went home, while the king passed on to Galgal, and Chamaam with him.
All the men of Juda had been the king's escort, but of the other Israelites only a half; and now the men of Israel came to him with one accord, and asked, How is it that our brethren, the men of Juda, have stolen you from us? By what warrant did they escort the king, and his household and the warriors of David's army, on their passage over Jordan? Why, answered the men of Juda, he is nearer of kin to us. There is no cause here for anger. Have we lived on the king's bounty, or been singled out to receive his gifts? And the Israelites replied, We are ten to one; our rights with the king, our claims upon David, are ten times as great as yours. Why did you wrong us by not conferring with us first about our king's restoration? Thus either side pleaded its own cause, but the men of Juda more bitterly than the men of Israel.
It chanced that there was a turbulent fellow there, called Seba, son of Bochri, from Benjamin, who now sounded his trumpet and raised the cry : David, then, is none of ours; not for us the son of Jesse; go back, men of Israel, to your homes! Thereupon all the Israelites parted from David's company, and marched away with Seba, son of Bochri; it was only the men of Juda that escorted David all the way from Jordan to Jerusalem. So the king came home. As for the ten concubines he had left in charge of the palace, he shut these away, giving them their allowance of food still, but never again having commerce with them; they remained shut away in their widowhood as long as they lived.
And now the king said to Amasa, Muster all the warriors of Juda, three days from now, and present yourself here with them. Amasa went to muster them, but dallied beyond the time which the king had named; and David said to Abisai, This Seba, son of Bochri, will do us more harm than ever Absalom did. Take the royal troops with you, and go in pursuit of him; or he will find refuge within city walls and escape us. So in pursuit of Seba they went, under Abisai's command, Joab's men, and the Cerethites and Phelethites, and all the picked warriors in Jerusalem; and when they reached the great stone of Gabaon, they fell in with Amasa. Joab was there, clad in a tight-fitting cloak of the same length as his coat, and girt with a dagger whose sheath only reached to his loins, such that he could draw it easily and strike. Greetings to you, brother, said Joab, and with that he clapped his right hand under Amasa's chin, as if he would kiss him; then, with the dagger that had gone unmarked, he struck him in the side, and spilt his entrails on the ground, so that he died without a second blow. After this, Joab and his brother Abisai continued their pursuit of Seba, son of Bochri. And among Joab's men, that stood beside the body, the word went round, Here he lies that would have been David's chosen friend in place of Joab. There Amasa lay, drenched in his own blood, till one who saw all the passers-by stopping to look at him, carried the body off into a field, away from the road; so they would halt on their journey no more. And sure enough, when it had been taken aside from the road, all were ready to follow Joab in pursuit of Seba, the son of Bochri.
Seba had gone through all the tribes of Israel, till he reached Abela that is called Beth-Maacha; and all their choicest warriors had rallied to him. So to Abela Beth-Maacha they went, and besieged him there, surrounding the city with works, so that it was quite cut off; nor did Joab's men spare any pains to make a breach in the wall. But now a wise woman cried out from within the city, A word with you, a word with you! Bid Joab come here, and let me speak to him. You are Joab? she asked, as he came near; and when he answered to the name, Listen, she besought him, to what your handmaid has to say. Listen I will, said he. There is an old proverb, she told him, that says, They who ask counsel must ask it at Abela; and so they did. Here dwells a woman that tells Israelites the truth; and would you overthrow such a city, a mother-city in Israel? Why would you bring ruin on the Lord's chosen land? Never that, never that, Joab answered; ruin and destruction are not for me. The case stands otherwise; there is one Seba, son of Bochri, from the hill-country of Ephraim, that is in rebellion against king David; hand that one man over, and we will raise the siege. Wait then, said the woman; his head shall be thrown down to you from the wall. And with that she went in, and spoke to the defenders in the wisdom that was her craft; whereupon they cut off the head of Seba, son of Bochri, and cast it down to Joab. So he blew his trumpet, and his men raised the siege and went to their tents; Joab himself went back to the king's court at Jerusalem.
Joab, then, commanded the army of Israel, and Banaias son of Joiada the Cerethites and Phelethites; Aduram was overseer of the revenues, and Josaphat, son of Ahilud, kept the records; Siva was secretary, Sadoc and Abiathar chief priests; Ira, too, the Jairite, was one of David's ministers.
There was a famine in David's reign that lasted three years continuously; and when David consulted the Lord's oracle he was told, It is because of Saul; he slew the Gabaonites, and the guilt of blood still rests upon his line. The Gabaonites did not belong to Israel; they were of the old Amorrhite stock, and their lives had been spared in fulfilment of an oath, but Saul, jealous for the honour of Israel and of Juda, had tried to exterminate them. So king David summoned them, and asked what he could do to content them; what amends he could make, to recover their good will for the Lord's chosen people. Of silver and gold, the Gabaonites told him, there is no question here; our quarrel is with Saul and his kin; we would not take any toll of Israelite lives. What would you have me do, then? the king asked. And they said, We must efface the memory of the man who persecuted us and wrongfully oppressed us, leaving none of his stock alive from end to end of Israel. Hand over to us seven men of his line, and let us crucify them before the Lord at Gabaa, that is named after him; there dwelt he when the Lord chose him out to be king. And David said, You shall have them. But he spared Miphiboseth, the heir of Saul through Jonathan, to honour the covenant which Jonathan, Saul's son, had made with him; he took two sons that were born to Saul by Respha, daughter of Aia, one called Armoni and one that bore his cousin's name of Miphiboseth, and five sons of Michol, Saul's daughter, that she bore to Hadriel, son of Berzellai, at Molathi, and handed these over to the Gabaonites. And the Gabaonites crucified them before the Lord, there on the hillside. It was in the first days of the harvest, when the barley was beginning to be cut, that the seven of them perished, all at so one time; and Respha, the daughter of Aia, spread herself a covering of sackcloth and sat there on the rock, from the beginning of harvest till the first rains fell on them; bird by day nor beast by night should touch them. The news of what Saul's concubine, Respha the daughter of Aia, had done, reached David's ears. And thereupon he recovered the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from the men of Jabes-Galaad, who had stolen them back when the Philistines hung them up in the streets of Bethsan, soon after Saul's death on Gelboe; carried these away, and collected the bones, too, of the men crucified at Gabaa, and buried them. So they were laid in the tomb of Cis, that was Saul's father, in the Benjamite country, beside the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan; all this was done at the king's command. And now the land was restored to God's favour.
War broke out again between Israel and the Philistines, and David went to battle against them with his men. But David's strength had left him; and he came near to being struck down by Jesbi-Benob, a man of the Araphite breed, that had a spearhead of ten pounds weight, and a new sword at his side. It was Abisai, Sarvia's son, that came to the king's rescue, and gave the Philistine his death-blow. But after that David's men swore that he should never go into battle with them again; that light must not be lost to Israel. In another battle against the Philistines, at Gob, Saph, of the giant breed of Arapha, was slain by Sobochai, from Husathi; in a third, also at Gob, Elehanan the son of Jaare, an embroiderer from Bethlehem, slew Goliath of Geth, that had a shaft to his spear as big as a weaver's beam. In a fourth, at Geth, there was a man of huge stature that had twelve fingers and twelve toes, another of the Araphite breed; and he taunted Israel, till Jonathan, son of David's brother Semma, struck him down. All these four were Araphites from Geth, all slain by David and his men.
And this was David's song of thanksgiving when he found that the Lord had rescued him from the power of Saul, and from his other enemies: The Lord is my rock-fastness, my bulwark, my rescuer. It is my God that brings me aid, and gives me confidence; he is my shield, my weapon of deliverance, my protector, my stronghold; he it is that preserves me and frees me from wrong. Praised be the Lord! When I invoke him I am secure from my enemies. Death's terrors were near at hand, deep flowed the tide of wickedness, to daunt me; the toils of the grave were all about me, deadly snares had trapped my feet. One cry to the Lord, in my affliction, one word of summons to my God, and he, from his sanctuary, listens to my voice; the complaint I make before him finds a hearing.
Earth shivered and shook, the very foundations of the hills quailed and quaked before his anger; smoke went up before his indignant presence, and a consuming fire; burning coals were kindled as he went. He bade heaven stoop, and came down to earth, with mist at his feet; he came, mounted on the cherubim, borne up on the wings of the wind, shrouded in a pall of darkness, wringing out the rainstorm from the clouds of heaven; burning coals were kindled by the lightning that went before him; the Lord, sending his thunder from heaven, the Most High, letting his voice be heard. How they scattered when he rained down his arrows on them, fled in confusion before his lightning! The secret springs of ocean came to light, the very foundations of the world were laid bare, when the Lord threatened them, blew upon them with the breath of his anger. Then he reached down from heaven, caught hold of me, rescued me from that flood, saved me from triumphant malice, from the enemies that held me at their mercy. In that evil day he came to my side; the Lord upheld me and brought me out into freedom again; his great love befriended me.
And still as he sees me dutiful, the Lord will requite me; as he sees me guiltless in act, he will make return. Have I not kept true to the Lord's paths? Have I not been loyal to my God? No law of his, but I have kept it before my eyes; no task he laid upon me have I refused; ever stainless in his presence, ever watchful to keep myself clear of guilt. Surely the Lord will requite me as he sees me dutiful, as he sees me guiltless in act. Lovingly you do treat those who love you, faithfully the courageous; he that is your own shall find you his very own, from the man who turns against you, you will turn away. To humble folk you will bring deliverance; the proud, with their haughty looks, you will bring down to earth. You, Lord, are the lamp of my hope; you, Lord, do shine on the darkness about me. In your strength I shall run well girded; in the strength of my God I will leap over a wall.
Such is my God, unsullied in his dealings; his promises are like metal tried in the fire; he is the sure defence of all who trust in him. Who but the Lord is God? What other power can there be except our God? It is he that girds me with strength, he that makes me go on a smooth way, untroubled. He makes me sure-footed as the deer, and gives me the freedom of the hills; these hands, through him, are skilled in battle, these arms are a match for any bow of bronze. Your saving power, Lord, is my defence, your tender care fosters me. Through you, my steps are untrammelled as I go, foot of mine never falters; I can master the enemies I pursue, and never turn home till I have made an end of them; made an end of them, beating them to their knees, hurling them down at my feet. You gird me about with a warrior's strength; whatever power challenges me you do subdue before me, putting my enemies to flight, and throwing all their malice into confusion. Loudly they cry out to the Lord, bereft of aid, but he makes no answer to their cries. I can crush them to pieces, like dust on the ground, spurn and trample them like mire in the streets.
You will deliver me, then, from sedition among my people; nay, you have a higher destiny for me yet, to rule over other nations, with alien folk for my subjects. Aliens offering battle, and then brought to my allegiance, so feeble have they grown, so hard pinched by distress! Blessed be the living Lord who is my God, praised be the God who rescues me! It is you, my God, that bring me redress, that grant me dominion over my people, that save me from my enemies, so that I am high above the reach of their assaults, proof against their violence. Then, Lord, so I will give you thanks in the hearing of all nations, singing in praise of your name; how powerful you are to protect the king you have chosen, how merciful you are towards him you have anointed, towards David, and David's line for ever.
These are the words of David's last psalm. Thus speaks David, son of Jesse, thus speaks the man whom the God of Jacob swore to anoint, he who sang as none other sang in Israel. Through me the spirit of the Lord has spoken; his words are on my tongue. What says Israel's God, Israel's strong defender? That he who rules among men, governing them justly in the fear of God, shines out like the light of dawn, when the sun rises in a cloudless sky, grows strong like meadow grass watered by the rain. What worth has my kindred in God's sight, that he should make an everlasting covenant with me, sealed and ratified all of it? Everywhere he preserves me, everywhere grants me my will; no wish of mine but bears fruit. Sinful men he treats like briars, too sturdy to be plucked away with the hand, so that all who would interfere with them go armed with iron-shod poles, setting fire to them at last and burning them away to nothing. And these are the names of David's champions; first among the first three was Jesbaam the son of Hachamoni (the same that was called Plump as a Wood-worm), who slew eight hundred men in one assault. After him, his cousin Eleazar the Ahohite, one of the three champions that were with David when they defied the Philistines. These had mustered for battle, and the men of Israel had left the field; Eleazar stood there and cut down the Philistines until his arm grew weary and his hand stiff about his sword. A great victory the Lord gave Israel that day, and the men who had fled at first came back to gather up the spoils of the dead. And after him Semma, the son of Age, from Arari. When a company of Philistines had gathered, close by a field of lentils, and routed the Israelites, he stood there in the middle of the field and held it against the Philistines till he defeated them; that day, too, the Lord gave Israel a great victory.
Once, when it was harvest-time, these three, the foremost of the Thirty, were at the king's side in the cave of Odollam; the Philistines had encamped in the Valley of the Giants, and David kept close in his stronghold. The Philistines had a garrison at this time in Bethlehem: and now David, overcome with longing, said aloud, Oh for a cup of water from the well by Bethlehem gate! Whereupon the three champions broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well by the gate of Bethlehem, and brought it to David. Instead of drinking it, he poured it out as a libation to the Lord; The Lord be merciful to me, said he, never that! That were to drink men's blood; they brought it at the peril of their lives; it is not for my drinking. Such were the feats of the three first champions. Abisai, too, Joab's brother, son of Sarvia, was one of three champions; he it was that engaged three hundred men with his own spear, and slew them. His name stood as one of three, and among these he was foremost, leading the others, but he could not rival the first three. There was Banaias, too, whose father, Joiada of Cabseel, was a warrior famous for his exploits. Banaias it was that slew the two heroes of Moab; he also went down into a cavern on a day of snow, and killed a lion there. And there was an Egyptian he slew, a wondrous man to see, that carried a great spear; Banaias went into battle with a club, and killed the Egyptian with his own spear, wresting it from his hand. Such were the feats of Banaias, son of Joiada; he, too, was one of the three champions that were foremost among the Thirty, but he could not rival the first three. He was the man David appointed to carry out his secret commands.
And these were the men who belonged to the Thirty; Asael, Joab's brother, and his cousin, Elehanan of Bethlehem; Semma from Harodi, Elica from Harodi; Heles from Phalti; Hira, son of Acces, from Thecua; Abiezer from Anathoth; Mobonnai from Husati; Selmon the Ahohite; Maharai the Netophathite; Heled, son of Baana, also from Netophath; Ithai, son of Ribai, from Gabaath in Benjamin; Banaia the Pharathonite; Heddai from the valley of Gaas; Abialbon the Arbathite; Azmaveth from Beromi; Eliaba from Salaboni; the sons of Jassen, Jonathan, Semma from Orori; Aiam, son of Sarar, the Arorite; Eliphelet, son of Asbai, son of Machati; Eliam, son of Achitophel, the Gelonite; Hesrai from Carmel; Pharai from Arbi; Igaal, son of Nathan, from Soba; Bonni from Gadi; Selec from Ammoni; Naharai the Berothite, that was squire to Joab the son of Sarvia; Ira and Gareb, the Jethrites, and Urias the Hethite; thirty-seven names in all.
But still the Lord's vengeance threatened Israel; and now it was through David he disturbed their peace, with a design for registering Israel and Juda. The king said to Joab, the chief of his army, Go through all the tribes of Israel from Dan to Bersabee, and make a muster-roll of the people, so that I may know the full tale of them. Why, said Joab, my prayer is that the Lord may increase yet more the number of the people, great as it is, and that you may live to see it a hundred times as great! But what is it my lord the king means by this design? But all that Joab and the captains of the army could say might not thwart the king's will; so Joab and the other commanders left the king's presence to make a register of Israel. They crossed the Jordan, and reached Aroer, on the right side of the city that stands in the vale of Gad; then they passed by way of Jazer into Galaad to the plain country of Hodsi, and so reached the woodlands of Dan. Thence they turned towards Sidon, passed close to the walls of Tyre, and all along the country that was still held by Chanaanite and Hevite, and came at last to the southern end of Juda, at Bersabee. So they made their review of the whole country, and returned to Jerusalem after nine months and twenty days absence. And Joab gave in the register to the king; it proved that there were eight hundred thousand warriors that bore arms in Israel, and five hundred thousand in Juda.
But, now the count of Israel had been made, David's heart reproached him. And he confessed to the Lord, I have sinned greatly in what I have done; Lord, give my sin quittance; I have played a fool's part. And by the time he rose next morning, the word of the Lord had come to the prophet Gad, that was David's seer, Go and give David this message from the Lord; he is given a threefold choice, and he must choose his own punishment among the three. So Gad went to David with the message: will you have seven years of famine in your country, or three months of flight from the pursuit of your enemies, or three days in which your country is smitten with plague? Think well, and tell me what answer I shall make to him whose word I bear you. I am hard pressed on all sides, David told him; but it is better to fall into the hands of the Lord, so rich is he in mercy, than into the hands of men. So the Lord sent a plague upon Israel, from that morning till the time he had appointed; and it raged all the way from Dan to Bersabee, till seventy thousand men had perished. But when the angel of the Lord was stretching out his hand over Jerusalem, to bring destruction on it, the Lord was moved with pity over their calamity, and said to the angel who was smiting the people down, It is enough, stay your hand. The angel of the Lord stood close, then, to the threshing-floor of Areuna the Jebusite. David, when he saw how the angel was smiting the people down, had said to the Lord, The sin is mine, the fault is mine; these poor sheep of mine, what wrong have they done? Nay, turn your hand against me, and my own father's race!
Then Gad brought David the message, Go up to the threshing-floor of Areuna the Jebusite, and build an altar there. So David went up, in obedience to the command which the Lord had given him through Gad; and when Areuna looked round, to see the king and the king's servants coming towards him, he came forward, bowing down with his face to the ground to do the king reverence. What would my lord king with his servant? he asked. And David said, I have come to buy your threshing-floor; I must build an altar here to the Lord, to put an end to the mortality which goes unhindered among the people. Then Areuna answered, Let the king's grace take all he needs for his offering; here are sheep for a burnt-sacrifice, here is the waggon, and the yoke my oxen bear, for kindling-wood. All this is Areuna's royal gift to the king. And may the Lord, Areuna added, grant your prayer. But the king would not let him have his will; Nay, said he, I must buy it from you; the victims I offer to the Lord my God must not be procured without cost. So David bought threshing-floor and ox-team for fifty silver pieces; there he built an altar to the Lord, and there he brought burnt-sacrifice and welcome-offering. So the land was received back into the Lord's favour, and the plague disappeared from Israel.