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1Sometime later, Absalom acquired a chariot equipped with horses and recruited 50 men to accompany him. 2Then he would get up early, stand near the passageway to the palace gate, and when anyone arrived to file a legal complaint for a hearing before the king, Absalom would call to him and ask, "You're from what city?" If he replied, "Your servant is from one of Israel's tribes," 3Absalom would respond, "Look, your claims are valid and defensible, but nobody will listen to you on behalf of the king. 4Who will appoint me to be a judge in the land? When anyone arrived to file a legal complaint or other cause, he could approach me for justice and I would settle it!" 5Furthermore, if a man approached him to bow down in front of him, he would put out his hand, grab him, and embrace him. 6By doing all of this to anyone who came to the king for a hearing, Absalom stole the loyalty of the men of Israel.
7And so it was that forty years after Israel had demanded a king, Absalom asked the king, "Please let me go to Hebron so I can pay my vow that I made to the LORD, 8because when I was living at Geshur in Aram, your servant made this solemn promise: 'If the LORD ever brings me back to Jerusalem, then I will serve the LORD.'" 9The king replied to him, "Go in peace!" So Absalom got up and left for Hebron. 10But Absalom sent agents throughout all of the tribes of Israel, telling them, "When you hear the sound of the battle trumpet, you're to announce that Absalom is king in Hebron." 11Meanwhile, 200 men left Jerusalem with Absalom. They had been invited to go along, but were innocent, not knowing anything about what was happening. 12Absalom also sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counselor, to come from his home town of Giloh while Absalom was presenting the sacrificial offerings. And so the conspiracy widened, because the common people increasingly sided with Absalom.
13Then a messenger arrived to inform David, "The loyalties of the men of Israel have shifted to Absalom." 14So David told all of his staff who were with him in Jerusalem, "Let's get up and get out of here! Otherwise, none of us will escape from Absalom. Hurry, or he'll overtake us quickly, bring disaster on all of us, and execute the inhabitants of the city!" 15"Look!" the king's staff replied. "Your servants will do whatever the king chooses." 16So the king left, taking his entire household with him except for ten mistresses, who were to keep the palace in order. 17The king left, along with all of his people with him, and they paused at the last house. 18All of his staff were going on ahead of him—that is, all of the special forces and mercenaries, all of the Gittites, and 600 men who had come to serve him from Gath, went on ahead of the king.
19Then the king suggested to Ittai the Gittite, "Why should you have to go with us? Return and stay with the new king, since you're a foreigner and exile. Stay where you want to stay. 20It seems only yesterday that you arrived, so should I make you wander around with us while I go wherever I can? Go back, and take your brothers with you. May gracious love and truth accompany you!" 21"As the LORD lives," Ittai answered in reply, "and as your majesty the king lives, wherever your majesty my king may be—whether living or dying—that's where your servant will be!" 22So David replied, "Come along, then!" So Ittai the Gittite went along also, accompanied by all of his men and all of his little ones. 23With all of the people in the territory crying loudly, everybody passed over the Kidron brook, along with the king. Then everyone headed out toward the road that leads to the wilderness.
24Meanwhile, Zadok showed up also, along with all of the descendants of Levi with him, carrying the Ark of the Covenant of God. They set down the Ark of God and Abiathar approached while all the people finished abandoning the city. 25The king told Zadok, "Take the Ark of God back to the city. If I'm shown favor in the LORD's sight, then he'll bring me back again and show me both it and the place where it rests. 26But if he should say something like 'I'm not pleased with you,' well then, here I am—let him do to me whatever seems right to him." 27The king also asked Zadok the priest, "Aren't you a seer, too? Go back to the city in comfort, along with your son Ahimaaz and Abiathar's son Jonathan. 28Look! I'll camp at the wilderness fords until you send word to inform me." 29So Zadok and Abiathar returned the Ark of God to Jerusalem and remained there.
30David then left, going up the Mount of Olives, crying as he went, with his head covered and his feet bare. All of the people who were with him covered their own heads and climbed up the Mount of Olives, crying as they went along. 31Just then, someone told David, "Ahithophel is one of Absalom's conspirators!" So David prayed, "LORD, please turn Ahithophel's counsel into foolishness."
32Just as David was coming to the top of the Mount of Olives where God was being worshipped, there was Hushai the Archite to meet him, with his coat ripped and dust all over his head! 33David greeted him, "If you come along with me, you'll be a burden to me. 34So go back to the city and tell Absalom, 'I'll be your servant, your majesty! Just as I served your father in the past, I can be your servant now.' That way you can manipulate Ahithophel's advice to my benefit. 35Won't Zadok and Abiathar the priests be there with you? So whatever you hear from the king's palace, you're to report to Zadok and Abiathar the priests. 36Their two sons—Zadok's son Ahimaaz and Abiathar's son Jonathan—are with them there. You'll be sending me everything that you hear through them." 37So David's friend Hushai went back to the city just as Absalom was arriving in Jerusalem.