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2 Samuel 15 Part 6 – Ahithophel

March 26, 2011 Leave a comment

The Conspiracy gains Ahithophel  – 15:11-12

 

Absalom steals the hearts of the men of Israel and plans and co-ordinates the conspiracy in Hebron, but the names of other members of the conspiracy are not mentioned.[1] Everything is done surreptitiously[2] and anonymity is preserved until Absalom’s offering of the sacrifices, when, somewhat abruptly, the narrative reveals one man’s name. A Gilonite has been sent for by Absalom to join the conspiracy – Ahithophel (15:12). Hundreds of other men are with Absalom, but this man, who has never even been mentioned in the books of Samuel, is singled out as he joins the rebellion. Yet, Ahithophel, too, reinforces the Davidic focus of the narrative as he is identified explicitly as ‘David’s counselor’. The defection of the counselor is a strategic advantage for the son’s rebellious quest.[3]

It was a coup to have the king’s own counselor join with Absalom and direct his mind and will to the king’s downfall. No reason or motive is given for this counselor’s betrayal; those in the know will be aware that Ahithophel is the grandfather of Bathsheba.  This familial tie is alluded to on the first mention of Bathsheba in the Samuel chronicle. The marriage to Uriah the Hittite is not the only nor the first identification tag noted about Bathsheba. The first piece of information is that she is the daughter of Eliam (11:3) whom those familiar with the king’s court will know is the son of Ahithophel.

For the reader this connection is not revealed until much later (23:34) and, even then, little attention is drawn to it which is not surprising considering the shameful role and ending of Ahithophel in the Absalom saga.[4] But this information does provide a clue to the motive behind the traitor’s actions. It is not unreasonable to surmise that Ahithophel was driven by vengeance for the shame which he felt David had brought upon his son, Eliam, and his family. By joining the conspiracy Ahithophel was satisfying his own greed and seeking his own gain.[5] One can imagine how the invitation of Absalom fueled the greed of a blazing anger which had lain long dormant in his heart. How long had Ahithophel advised King David, while all the time scheming how he might satisfy his lust for revenge? Although he was counselor to the king, Ahithophel did not serve David wholeheartedly, for when the opportunity arose, his treacherous heart is uncovered. The intensely personal focus of his lust and the exposure of the malevolence of his heart against David are only evinced when Absalom appears to have secured Jerusalem. Within Ahithophel’s heart the seed of revenge had grown into a lust for power and dominion over David which would only be sated by the death of his enemy (17:2). This exposure of the evil intents of those who claim to serve the king is an important consequence of the events narrated in 2 Samuel 14-20.[6]

The analysis of Ahithophel’s motive was not likely to undergo much scrutiny from the men of Israel. For the majority, the news of the defection of Ahithophel would simply serve as confirmation that Absalom’s claims are well-founded. Now even David’s counselor has left him and joined the son’s side. What confidence can the men of Israel have in the king’s judgments if his own counselors are deserting him? The move by Ahithophel adds weight to the argument of the conspirators that Absalom must indeed be the better judge for Israel and therefore deserving of the kingship.


[1] In contrast to 1 Kings 1.

[2] ‘Secret messengers’ are sent (15:10). The word ragal is the usual word for spies (eg Josh 2:1).

[3] ‘Without counsel plans fail, But with many advisers [counselors] they succeed.’ (Proverbs 11:22).

[4] This is the clear implication of 2 Sam 11:3 and 23:34. It is hardly surprising that the connection is not emphasized due to the disgrace which Ahithophel’s name brings to the family of King Solomon. In contrast to that shame, Bathsheba’s father, Eliam is counted among the mighty men of David.

[5] He was also rejecting the warning of Scripture: ‘Vengeance is mine, and recompense’ (Deut 32:35).

[6] Compare Luke 8:16-18. The practical outworking of this for the Christian believer can have very significant pastoral importance. Many times it appears that Jesus, the king of Israel, is not the ruler over life’s vicissitudes, however, this paradigm shows the wider perspective of such periods. It is only through the apparent abandoning of the throne that the hearts of those who claim to be servants of the King of Israel can be revealed – both good and evil.

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