II Samuel – Chapter 18

The Battle Joined

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

David divided his army into three forces, appointing Yoav, Avishai and Ittai each to head a division. He wanted to go into battle, too, but his men objected. Capturing or killing David was the main objective of Avshalom’s army. Having David on the battlefield was what they wanted! It would be better if David stayed in the city and helped with prayer. David acquiesced. He only asked that they spare Avshalom. Despite everything, he was David’s son.

The battle took place in a forest and David’s forces defeated Avshalom’s. Avshalom tried to escape, but his long hair became tangled in some branches. (Remember his long hair from chapter 14? We told you that was going to be important!) Avshalom’s mount moved on, out from under him, leaving him suspended from the branches by his hair. One of David’s men saw Avshalom and informed his commander, Yoav. “Why didn’t you strike him down?” asked Yoav. “I heard the king command you not to harm him!” replied the soldier. “Fine,” said Yoav, “I’ll do it myself.”

Yoav stabbed Avshalom in the chest, but he did not die right away, so Yoav’s armor-bearers beat Avshalom until he died. Yoav then blew a shofar to signal his troops that the battle was ended. Avshalom’s body was tossed in a pit, which was then covered by large stones. We are told that Avshalom had erected a huge monument to himself; nevertheless, he ended up being buried in a pit.

Achimaatz wanted to go to the city in order to tell David what had happened, but Yoav tried to stop him because of the news of Avshalom’s death, which David would not like. Yoav sent another messenger instead. Achimaatz persisted until Yoav finally relented and let him go, too. Achimaatz took a different route and overtook the other messenger.

David’s lookouts saw a lone runner and realized it was a messenger. They saw another runner behind him and knew that he, too, was a messenger. When he got closer, they recognized the first messenger as Achimaatz and David cheered up that it must be good news. When Achimaatz arrived, he told David that the battle was over and his position was secured. Right away David asked how Avshalom was and Achimaatz realized why Yoav didn’t want to send him. Achimaatz held off answering until the second runner arrived with the news of Avshalom’s death.

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