1. After this, Absalom procured a chariot and horses, with fifty men to run ahead of him.
2. He would get up early and stand beside the road leading to the city gate; and whenever a man with some lawsuit had to come before the king's tribunal, Absalom would call out to him and ask, 'Which town are you from?' If he answered, 'Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.'
3. then Absalom would say, 'Look, your case is sound and just, but not one of the king's deputies will listen to you.'
4. Absalom would say, 'Oh, who will appoint me judge in the land? Then anyone with a lawsuit or a plea could come to me and I should see he had justice!'
5. And whenever anyone came up to him to prostrate himself, he would stretch out his hand, draw him to him and kiss him.
6. Absalom acted like this with every Israelite who appealed to the king's tribunal, and so Absalom won the Israelites' hearts.
7. When four years had gone by, Absalom said to the king, 'Allow me to go to Hebron and fulfil the vow which I have made to Yahweh;
8. for, when I was in Geshur, in Aram, your servant made this vow, "If Yahweh brings me back to Jerusalem, I shall pay my devotions to Yahweh in Hebron." '
9. The king said to him, 'Go in peace.' So he set off and went to Hebron.
10. Absalom sent couriers throughout the tribes of Israel to say, 'When you hear the trumpet sound, you are to say, "Absalom is king at Hebron!" '
11. With Absalom went two hundred men from Jerusalem; they had been invited and had gone in all innocence, unaware of what was going on.
12. Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counsellor, from Giloh his town, and had him with him while offering the sacrifices. The conspiracy grew in strength, since Absalom's supporters grew in number.
13. A messenger came and told David, 'The men of Israel have shifted their allegiance to Absalom.'
14. David said to all his retinue then with him in Jerusalem, 'Up, let us flee, or we shall not escape from Absalom! Leave as quickly as you can, in case he mounts a sudden attack, overcomes us and puts the city to the sword.'
15. The king's retinue replied, 'Whatever my lord the king decides, we are at your service.'
16. The king set out on foot with his whole household, leaving ten concubines to look after the palace.
17. The king set out on foot with everyone following, and they halted at the last house.
18. All his officers stood at his side. All the Cherethites and all the Pelethites, with Ittai and all the six hundred Gittites who had come in his retinue from Gath, marched past the king.
19. The king said to Ittai the Gittite, 'You, why are you coming with us? Go back and stay with the king, for you are a foreigner, indeed an exile from your homeland.
20. You arrived only yesterday; should I take you wandering with us today, when I do not know myself where I am going? Go back, take your fellow countrymen with you, and may Yahweh show you mercy and faithful love!'
21. Ittai replied to the king, 'As Yahweh lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, for death or life, your servant will be there too.'
22. David then said to Ittai, 'Go ahead, march past!' And Ittai of Gath marched past with all his men and with all his children too.
23. The entire population was weeping aloud as the king stood in the bed of the Kidron and everyone marched past him, making for the desert.
24. Zadok was there too, and all the Levites with him, carrying the ark of God. They set the ark of God down beside Abiathar until everyone had finished marching out of the town.
25. The king then said to Zadok, 'Take the ark of God back into the city. Should I win Yahweh's favour, he will bring me back and allow me to see it and its tent once more.
26. But should he say, "You displease me," here I am: let him treat me as he sees fit.'
27. The king said to Zadok the priest, 'Look, you and Abiathar go back quietly into the city, with your two sons, your own son Ahimaaz and Jonathan son of Abiathar.
28. You see, I shall wait in the passes of the desert plain until word comes from you bringing me news.'
29. So Zadok and Abiathar took the ark of God back to Jerusalem and stayed there.
30. David then made his way up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, his head covered and his feet bare. And all the people with him had their heads covered and made their way up, weeping as they went.
31. David was then informed that Ahithophel was among the conspirators with Absalom. David said, 'I beg you, Yahweh, turn Ahithophel's advice to folly.'
32. As David reached the summit, where God is worshipped, he saw Hushai the Archite, his friend, coming to meet him with his tunic torn and with earth on his head.
33. David said, 'If you go along with me, you will be a burden to me.
34. But if you go back to the city and say to Absalom, "I am at your service, my lord king; once I was in your father's service, but now I shall serve you," you will be able to thwart Ahithophel's advice for me.
35. Surely the priests Zadok and Abiathar will be with you? Anything you hear from the palace you must report to the priests Zadok and Abiathar.
36. You see, their two sons are there with them, Zadok's son Ahimaaz, and Abiathar's son Jonathan; through these, you will send me word of everything you hear.'
37. Hushai, David's friend, entered the city just as Absalom was reaching Jerusalem.