Ahithophel advises Absalom to pursue David with twelve thousand men. Hushai advises Absalom against this, warning of David’s ferocity and military cunning. Hushai advises Absalom to raise a huge army from across all Israel, and for Absalom to go into battle personally. Absalom goes with Hushai’s plans, and David is warned. Ahitophel hangs himself when he sees his advice is not taken. David moves to Mahanaim, and Absalom follows him over the Jordan. Several friends meet David at Mahanaim with refreshments and provisions.
David puts the army under three captains, Joab, Abishai and Ittai. Absalom’s forces are defeated in the woods of Ephraim. Absalom is killed by Joab as he hangs from a tree, his head having been caught in thick boughs while he was riding on his donkey. David mourns for his son.
Victory celebrations turn into mourning. Joab rebukes David for his mourning. The tribes take counsel to bring the king back to Jerusalem. David makes Amasa captain in place of Joab. The returning king is met by Judah at Gilgal. Shimei is forgiven by David when he pleads for his life. Mephibosheth also meets David, and shows how he has been slandered by Ziba. David is met by one his followers, Barzillai, who is eighty, and blessed. The northern tribes feel excluded from the ceremonial welcome of David back to Jerusalem, and complain to Judah.
Sheba leads Israel against David – only Judah does not join it. David isolates the concubines Absalom lay with. David tells Amasa to assemble an army, but there is a delay, so David goes with Joab’s forces instead. Joab kills his rival Amasa, and commands David’s troops. Sheba is besieged in Hebel, and on the advice of a wise woman, the people of Hebel cut off Sheba’s head, and throw it over the wall to Joab. Joab’s forces return to Jerusalem. A list of David’s civil and military officers is given.
Famine in Israel because Saul killed some Gibeonites (not recorded in 1 Samuel). David makes peace with Gibeonites (descended from the Amorites). The Gibeonites want to hang seven descendants of Saul at Gibeah. David agrees, but spares Mephibosheth because of his covanent with his father, Jonathan. Rizpah, the mother of two executed, watches the bodies through the whole of the time of harvest, to prevent them frown being devoured by animals. David is informed of Rizpah’s conduct: he collects the bones of Saul and Jonathan from Jabesh Gilead, and buries them, along with the seven men that were hanged, in Zelah, in the land of Benjamin. There is a war between the Israelites and Philistines, and David is persuaded to retire from active duty. David’s men kill the Philistine Ishbi-Benob, and several other gigantic Philistines.