a leresources - AHITHOPHEL VERSES HUSHAI
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LESSON FIFTYFOUR - AHITHOPHEL VERSES HUSHAI

II Samuel 16:15-17:14

15 Meanwhile, Absalom and all the men of Israel came to Jerusalem, and Ahithophel was with him. 16 Then Hushai the Arkite, David’s confidant, went to Absalom and said to him, “Long live the king! Long live the king!” 17 Absalom said to Hushai, “So this is the love you show your friend? If he’s your friend, why didn’t you go with him?” 18 Hushai said to Absalom, “No, the one chosen by the Lord, by these people, and by all the men of Israel—his I will be, and I will remain with him. 19 Furthermore, whom should I serve? Should I not serve the son? Just as I served your father, so I will serve you.” 20 Absalom said to Ahithophel, “Give us your advice. What should we do?” 21 Ahithophel answered, “Sleep with your father’s concubines whom he left to take care of the palace. Then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself obnoxious to your father, and the hands of everyone with you will be more resolute.” 22 So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and he slept with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel. 23 Now in those days the advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God. That was how both David and Absalom regarded all of Ahithophel’s advice. 17:1 Ahithophel said to Absalom, “I would choose twelve thousand men and set out tonight in pursuit of David. 2 I would attack him while he is weary and weak. I would strike him with terror, and then all the people with him will flee. I would strike down only the king 3 and bring all the people back to you. The death of the man you seek will mean the return of all; all the people will be unharmed.” 4 This plan seemed good to Absalom and to all the elders of Israel. 5 But Absalom said, “Summon also Hushai the Arkite, so we can hear what he has to say as well.” 6 When Hushai came to him, Absalom said, “Ahithophel has given this advice. Should we do what he says? If not, give us your opinion.” 7 Hushai replied to Absalom, “The advice Ahithophel has given is not good this time. 8 You know your father and his men; they are fighters, and as fierce as a wild bear robbed of her cubs. Besides, your father is an experienced fighter; he will not spend the night with the troops. 9 Even now, he is hidden in a cave or some other place. If he should attack your troops first, whoever hears about it will say, ‘There has been a slaughter among the troops who follow Absalom.’ 10 Then even the bravest soldier, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will melt with fear, for all Israel knows that your father is a fighter and that those with him are brave. 11 “So I advise you: Let all Israel, from Dan to Beersheba—as numerous as the sand on the seashore—be gathered to you, with you yourself leading them into battle. 12 Then we will attack him wherever he may be found, and we will fall on him as dew settles on the ground. Neither he nor any of his men will be left alive.13 If he withdraws into a city, then all Israel will bring ropes to that city, and we will drag it down to the valley until not so much as a pebble is left.” 14 Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The advice of Hushai the Arkite is better than that of Ahithophel.” For the Lord had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom.

Whose advice should the man of God follow? Of course we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit to the best of our ability as God gives us discernment to understand what the Holy Spirit is saying. But in church and ministry-related matters, church leaders must make dozens of important decisions every year. What criteria can the Christian leader use to make decisions? Absalom is certainly no example to follow, but David is. How did David make decisions?

1. Hushai Meets with Absalom 15-19

Apparently, as soon as Absalom became aware that David had fled Jerusalem, he entered the city. Verse 15 says, “ Meanwhile, Absalom and all the men of Israel came to Jerusalem, and Ahithophel was with him.” With the city gates open, no opposition and with his own ego-driven excitement, Absalom may have felt that things were really going his way and that seizing power over all Israel was going to be easier than he thought. Furthermore, it appeared that the two best-known political advisers were at his disposal since Absalom brought Ahithophel with him from Hebron and Hushai—sent by David—joined him soon. Verse 16 says, “Then Hushai the Arkite, David’s confidant, went to Absalom and said to him, “Long live the king! Long live the king!” It looked good! It sounded good! Absalom was a smart man, but not smart enough to not be ruined by his own pride.

As soon as Hushai complimented Absalom on his accession to the throne, Absalom showed surprise that Hushai, who was known to be a close confidant, friend and adviser to David, should appear to be making himself available to Absalom. So quite understandably Absalom asked him, “So this is the love you show your friend? If he’s your friend, why didn’t you go with him” (17)? Possibly Absalom’s own pride encouraged him to believe Hushai’s response—“Long live the king! Long live the king!”

Obadiah 1:3 says, “The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’” And even more applicable to this situation, Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Pride blinded Absalom and his sense of entitlement led him to believe that he deserved to have the loyal counsel of these two learned and experienced statesmen with him—though one of them was ambitious (Ahithophel) and the other was David’s spy (Hushai). If Ahithophel, and now Hushai, were in his camp, he thought all Israel would surely follow. Verse 18-19 say, “‘No, the one chosen by the Lord, by these people, and by all the men of Israel—his I will be, and I will remain with him. Furthermore, whom should I serve? Should I not serve the son? Just as I served your father, so I will serve you.’”

It was true, Hushai had loved and served Absalom’s father; but he had had his day; it was over and now why should he not love his successor, the rising star, as well? Hushai pretended to give reasons for a new loyalty to Absalom, a so-called loyalty he internally actually rejected and abhorred. Hushai was loyal to David but served David better in these circumstances as a mole—a very secret spy.

2. The Advice of Ahithophel 20-4

Ahithophel counseled him to do wickedly and in doing so led him as far astray as the later counsel of Hushai who intended to lead him astray. If someone advises men to sin, that person is certainly not giving them good advice. Yet in those days the counsel of Ahithophel was so respected that it was like the oracle—Word—of God. Verses 20&23 say, “Absalom said to Ahithophel, ‘Give us your advice. What should we do? . . .” Now in those days the advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God. That was how both David and Absalom regarded all of Ahithophel’s advice.”

Everyone in Israel and both David and Absalom respected Ahithophel’s sentiments too much if they regarded inquiring of him as inquires of God. It was God, not Ahithophel who guided David when the Philistines twice attacked Israel when David first became king—“yes . . . attack the Philistines . . . no . . . go around behind them”—and subsequently again and again David enquired of the Lord. When did David change his view and lift the advice of Ahithophel to this high level? Was it gradual? Was it sudden? Did anyone advise David to invite Bathsheba to his bedroom? Nathan was not invited, but David accepted Nathan’s advice.

Many excel in worldly wisdom who are completely destitute of heavenly grace; the highest statesmen are not often the most noble saints. Ahithophel wise? If so, why did he turn away from a man after God’s own heart only to take up the cause of a young, arrogant, inexperienced, murderer of his brother and usurper of his father’s throne? Ahithophel, was that wise? Did the Lord tell you to do that? No, Ahithophel, your policy is not always wise and it will be refuted by another.

Ahithophel advised Absalom to do a very wicked thing. Verses 21-22 say, “Ahithophel answered, ‘Sleep with your father’s concubines whom he left to take care of the palace. Then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself obnoxious to your father, and the hands of everyone with you will be more resolute.’ So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and he slept with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.” God’s law had made that a capital crime as seen in Lev, 20:11, “If a man has sexual relations with his father’s wife, he has dishonored his father. Both the man and the woman are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” Paul said in I Cor. 5:1 that this sin was not even practiced by the Gentiles, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife.” Reuben lost his birthright over this sin, but Ahithophel advised Absalom to do it as a public thing, because it would give assurance to all Israel. Assurance of what? That he was resolved to possess everything of his father’s, including his concubines? To never make peace with his father? This is not the wisdom of one who enquires of God, but of the devil.

And what does Absalom think of Ahithophel’s advice? He liked it and even went beyond his counselor. It was consistent with Absalom’s wicked and animal-like mind. He did it not only so that all Israel would hear of it but so that all Israel would see it
And so was fulfilled what Nathan had said to David regarding God’s punishment for his sin with Bathsheba. II Sam. 12:11-12 say, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’” A tent was erected for this purpose and the deed was done.

Ahithophel was the father of Eliam as seen in II Sam 23:34 which lists David’s mighty men, saying, “. . . Eliam son of Ahithophel the Gilonite,” and Eliam was the father of Bathsheba the wife of Uriah according to II Sam. 11:3, “and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, ‘She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.’” Bathsheba was Ahithophel’s granddaughter. It is, therefore, possible that Ahithophel wanted to get revenge against David for violating his granddaughter, Bathsheba. Or that Ahithophel was jealous of his granddaughter’s elevated position as the seemingly favorite wife of the king, or at least, the mother of Solomon who would become king, not Absalom. The intrigues of the king’s court may seem mysterious to us outsiders, but surely this complex mess clearly demonstrates the confusion to which sin can lead.

Absalom is now in Jerusalem and the royal palace is his. David reigned seven years in Hebron and did not hurry to get to Jerusalem until it was God’s time and even then was not eager destroy the house of his predecessor, but treated them kindly. Absalom, however, is crowned king in Hebron and hurried immediately to Jerusalem wanting to not only take the throne, but also take the life of his father who had sat on it. David and all who remained loyal to him must be cut off. No one seemed to ask, “ Wait, what evil has David done that he must lose his crown and his head? No one seemed to suggest that banishment would be enough. Not many years had passed since Absalom murdered Amnon and fled to Geshur where David allowed him to remain in exile without bothering him. Absalom deserved death, yet his father grieved for him; David did not deserve to die, yet his son wanted his blood. No debate took place concerning whether or not David should die. They only discussed how he should die.

Ahithophel advised immediate pursuit that very night, that the king only be killed and his forces dispersed. Then, Ahithophel reasoned, the people that were now for Absalom would align themselves more firmly with Absalom with no long war as there had been between the house Saul and the house of David. This is what we see in verses 1-4, “‘I would choose twelve thousand men and set out tonight in pursuit of David. I would attack him while he is weary and weak. I would strike him with terror, and then all the people with him will flee. I would strike down only the king 3 and bring all the people back to you. The death of the man you seek will mean the return of all; all the people will be unharmed.” This counsel was similar to the advice of Caiaphas who also suggested that only one die; not all. John 11:50 says, “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” This would also be similar to the tenants in Jesus parable, “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’” Kill Jesus and you have the kingdom, thought Caiaphas; kill David and you have the kingdom thought Ahithophel. In both instances the human plan failed. David was not killed though Jesus was. David’s and Jesus’ kingdoms both, however, lived on to the glory of God. Man’s plan failed. Ahithophel and Caiaphas both bear the shame of giving wrong counsel. Their counsel was not like one of those who inquiries of God.

Ahithophel was right in this respect, if the army had pursued David and his men immediately, it could have been, in the natural, very bad for David; it could’ve been fatal. No wonder, that “This plan seemed good to Absalom and to all the elders of Israel.” How was this plan subverted? What did God use to destroy the counsel of Ahithophel as David had prayed, probably that same day on his way up the mountain fleeing from Absalom? Yes. Hushai was used as we will not see.

3. The Advice of Hushai 5-14

Hushai wanted to give David and his followers time to escape uninjured and organize themselves, so he advised that they not hurry in pursuing David, but rather take time to bring together all their forces against him and overpower him with numbers. He also proposed that Absalom show himself strong by leading the larger army himself. Hushai was using Absalom’s ego against him.

Absalom gave Hushai an invitation to advise him. Verse 5-6 say, “Absalom said, ‘Summon also Hushai the Arkite, so we can hear what he has to say as well.’ When Hushai came to him, Absalom said, ‘Ahithophel has given this advice. Should we do what he says? If not, give us your opinion.’” The elders had approved of Ahithophel’s counsel, yet God overruled Absalom’s heart not to proceed until he had consulted Hushai. Given the opportunity to speak, Hushai modesty, and with careful deference to Ahithophel’s good reputation, argued against Ahithophel’s counsel, and began to demonstrate the danger of following his advice this time. Note his tactfulness shown in verses 7-10: “The advice Ahithophel has given is not good this time. You know your father and his men; they are fighters, and as fierce as a wild bear robbed of her cubs. Besides, your father is an experienced fighter; he will not spend the night with the troops. Even now, he is hidden in a cave or some other place. If he should attack your troops first, whoever hears about it will say, ‘There has been a slaughter among the troops who follow Absalom.’  Then even the bravest soldier, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will melt with fear, for all Israel knows that your father is a fighter and that those with him are brave.”

He acknowledged that Ahithophel’s advice us usually the best and most reliable, but he begged to differ from that wise counselor. Remembering the first battle between Israel and Ai, “So about three thousand went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai” (Josh 7:4). Hushai recommended a larger army later. Hushai said David’s army was formidable whereas Ahithophel had represented them as being despicable. They are fighters, Hushai said, and with particular anger against Absalom, they would fight hard. Ahithophel had worn a gown as a counselor, but not the sword of a soldier. Your father is a man of war, a mighty man, not having fled Jerusalem from cowardice, but from military tactics and strategy. His soldiers were valiant men. They could hide, set a trap, ambush and then destroy. The story would soon be told that Absalom’s men had been slaughtered by David’s.

Then after explaining the weakness of Ahithophel’s advice, Hushai proposes his own. He counseled something he knew would appeal to Absalom’s proud vanity and thirst for glory. Let all Israel be gathered to you, Absalom. You, great and mighty Absalom, you lead them. Also, don’t just seek to kill the king, but get your own personal revenge on all those who followed him. Verses 11-13 say, “So I advise you: Let all Israel, from Dan to Beersheba—as numerous as the sand on the seashore—be gathered to you, with you yourself leading them into battle. Then we will attack him wherever he may be found, and we will fall on him as dew settles on the ground. Neither he nor any of his men will be left alive. If he withdraws into a city, then all Israel will bring ropes to that city, and we will drag it down to the valley until not so much as a pebble is left.”

Hushai’s presentation was so successful that not only Absalom agreed to it, but so did the whole group. They all agreed that the counsel of Hushai was better than the counsel of Ahithophel. We learn from this that one man with tact, wisdom, verbal skills and patience can turn the tide of a conversation and change the situation. If Hushai were not there, Ahithophel’s ideas would have prevailed. Ahithophel’s advice was better, but Hushai’s clever appeal to Absalom’s ego and pride probably was the most important factor in the reversal of Absalom’s decision. No one knew that Hushai was a mole speaking for David. What tricks are often played in courts and councils. We also can see how God can work through a man to change a decision.

Though from a human standpoint we can explain the proposals, their advantages and disadvantages, the pros and cons and the motives of the men who made the decision, we cannot, must not, overlook the importance of what is recorded in verse 14, “Absalom and all the men of Israel said, ‘The advice of Hushai the Arkite is better than that of Ahithophel.’ For the Lord had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom.” Later the one who replaced David wrote in Proverbs 21:1 “In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him.” Our belief in the sovereign hand of God in human affairs does not mean we do nothing and watch God do everything. We do what we can do just as David did in slinging the stone toward Goliath’s head to the best of his ability and as Hushai did when he logically and patiently reasoned with a group who had actually already made up their minds that Ahithophel’s advice was good.

Good leaders give place for others under them to develop their leadership abilities. David did this by his ability to delegate this assignment to Hushai. The fate of the nation was in the hands of Ahithophel and Hushai under the watchful eye of hateful Absalom. David was not even there. Yet David knew how to pray and he had delegated a very responsible task to a trustworthy friend. David did well to do this and Hushai did well to follow his instructions. Ahithophel and Absalom do not fare so well—they both hang themselves—one intentionally and one by accident as we will see in the following lessons. David made decisions by inquiring of the Lord and obeying Him when He answered. Ah! Yes! And Amen!