Context: Absalom, the son of David, plots against his father, the king. When men from all over Israel flock to Absalom's side, David says to his people that for safety they must flee Jerusalem with him, and go into the wilderness. Absalom moves into the city upon David's departure, even taking over King David's concubines, as a sign that he has become the ruler. Ahithophel, one of Absalom's counselors, asks to be allowed to pursue the forces of David and destroy them, but Hushai, who is a secret agent of King David, advises differently. When Ahithophel sees that his counsel is not taken, he goes to his home and hangs himself. Following the advice of Hushai, Absalom takes a force to go out and crush David's loyal followers. But David and his people meet Absalom and his force in battle in the wood of Ephraim and defeat them. Absalom loses twenty thousand men in the battle. Absalom himself is caught in the branches of a great oak tree when his mule passes beneath; there he hangs, alive, till found by David's men. Joab, one of David's lieutenants, stabs Absalom with three darts, and his men then beat Absalom to death, despite King David's injunction to his followers not to harm Absalom. Ahimaaz and Cushi are sent as runners to tell David of the victory; Ahimaaz does not reveal Absalom's death, but Cushi does. King David, who loves Absalom dearly, despite the son's great treachery, is saddened beyond measure by Absalom's death, and the victory over the rebel and his men becomes a day of mourning. The king is distraught over his son's death:
And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!
. . .
And the people gat them by stealth that day into the city, as people being ashamed steal away when they flee in battle.
But the king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!