Ahithophel’s Counsel Defeated
“The LORD had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the LORD might bring harm upon Absalom” (17:14).- 2 Samuel 16:15–17:23
Despite David’s being God’s chosen king (1 Sam. 16:1–13), Absalom found support from many people when he attempted to take Israel’s throne from his father. Among his chief supporters was Ahithophel, one of David’s wisest counselors (2 Sam. 15:12). Hearing of Ahithophel’s betrayal, David prayed that the man’s advice would be turned to foolishness, and he commissioned Hushai the Archite to defeat the counsel of Ahithophel (vv. 31–37). Today’s passage explains how Hushai did just that.
The account begins by reporting Absalom’s entry into Jerusalem to claim the throne. Hushai, who was known to be David’s friend, greeted Absalom, saying, “Long live the king!” (16:15–16). This phrase likely was an abbreviated oath of loyalty to the king, not merely an expression of hope for the king to have a long reign. Justifiably suspicious, Absalom asked Hushai about his loyalty but was assuaged by Hushai’s pledge of commitment (vv. 17–19).
Ahithophel told Absalom to have sexual relations with his father’s concubines in order to galvanize support. This brazen act would signify that Absalom did not want reconciliation with David but would see his coup through to the bitter end, thus encouraging the people to keep fighting alongside him. Absalom consented, pitching a tent on the palace roof as a place to visit David’s concubines (vv. 20–22). Everyone in the city would see this and know what was going on. Note also that Ahithophel’s advice led to the fulfillment of one of the consequences promised to David for his sin with Bathsheba (12:11). Ahithophel did not know his advice would enable this, pointing us to God’s sovereignty over David’s enemies. Ahithophel thought he was harming David, and he was, but it was all in the service of God’s discipline of David. The Lord used David’s enemies to discipline him, showing that He remained on David’s side and that the king’s foes would not prevail.
Yet, Absalom did not follow the next word of counsel Ahithophel gave, choosing rather to heed Hushai’s suggestion that Absalom himself lead an army against David. Understanding that this spelled Absalom’s defeat, Ahithophel committed suicide, for David’s return would mean his own execution for treason (17:1–23). And why did Hushai’s counsel win out? Because “the LORD had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the LORD might bring harm upon Absalom” (v. 14).
The Lord allowed Absalom to prosper for a time but ultimately thwarted him through counsel that was not sound for achieving his goals. God may allow the enemies of His people to succeed for a time, but eventually He will bring them down. We can be confident that He will defeat all His and our enemies, whether through ordinary or extraordinary means.
Passages for Further Study
2 Chronicles 18; 22:1–9