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Ahithophel: When Advisers Conspire Against Kings

Updated on December 6, 2012

This true story is found in 2nd Samuel, starting at chapter 15. Ahithophel was King David’s counselor.(1st Chronicles 27:33-34) To be in a position this close to a king means one has proven his character and skill. In Ahithophel's case, his wisdom was so good, it was thought that his advice was like an answer from God Himself.(2nd Samuel 16:23)

But in the course of time, King David’s son, Absalom, started to revolt. As he orchestrated his uprising, he invited Ahithophel to join him, and he simply came.(2nd Samuel 15:12)

But why did he? How could he have easily disowned his king?

King David feared him. When he learned of his connivance, he prayed that his advice would seem foolish,(2nd Sam 15:31) and he even made provisions to make it look so.(2nd Sam 15:34)

And his fears were warranted: Ahithophel knew him too well. He counseled that he himself would pursue David in that same night his army fled for their lives. He knew that David was weary and weak, and that his pursuit would strike terror to his loyal followers. He advised that only David be killed, and that his stalwarts can easily be reunited to the rest of the people in peace.(2nd Sam 17:1-3)

Ahithophel was so mad at King David that he himself volunteered to take him away. Where did all this anger come from?

Here is what King David overlooked about Ahithophel: He didn’t realize that he touched his family. Ahithophel’s pre-meditated murder started many years ago – on the roofs of the palace.

At the time when kings go off to war, King David went up the rooftops, the highest elevation in the city.(2nd Sam 11) In those days, public baths have no roofs. The king knew exactly what he went up to see.

If that were not enough, he called for a servant to ask about her, and the answer was prompt:

"Isn't this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?"(2nd Sam 11:3)

That could have stopped the king right then and there, for Eliam and Uriah are two of the Thirty, the most prestigious and elite men of his army.(2nd Sam 23:34, 39) But he did not.

What King David missed out was that Eliam was fathered by Ahithophel, making Bathsheba his trusted adviser’s granddaughter.

Ahithophel’s whole household trusted the king; they served his kingdom with excellence and faithfulness. But King David treated it all as trash. He was betrayed.

Imagine his shock when he learned that his favorite granddaughter was abused by the king, whom he held in high honor.

Imagine him crying out to the God as to why this has happened to his family. He lost his faith and confidence to the kingship and its leadership, and perhaps, even to the Most High God who is sovereign over all Israel.

Imagine his roller coaster of emotions when his grandson-in-law, Uriah, was pulled out of the battlefield to dine with the king in order to make him sleep with his wife and thus cover his tracks. But Uriah, having integrity, denied himself of this pleasure, and slept at the doors instead. Then the king devised his death, and once accomplished, he took Bathsheba as his wife.

Just imagine that, from frustration to horror, and deep-seated anger, and back. He awaited a day of reckoning, a day of vengeance.

His first advice to Absalom was for him to sleep with some of the king’s concubines on the rooftop for all Israel to see.(2 Sam 16:20-21) Oh, his vengeance was sweet!

However, when his plan to capture and kill David was rejected, he went home and hanged himself. Death was far sweeter.(2 Sam 17:23)

It was a lose-lose situation. No one was happy, and people got hurt and died. And thus is the fate of leaders who betrays their followers.

How does these truths apply to our daily lives?


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