Soon after I left Jerusalem, Absalom and his army entered, and without a struggle took possession of the stronghold of Israel. Hushai was among the first to greet the new-crowned monarch, and the prince was surprised and gratified at the accession of his father’s old friend and counsellor.
Absalom was confident of success. Thus far his schemes had prospered, and eager to strengthen his throne and secure the confidence of the nation, he welcomed Hushai to his court.
Absalom was now surrounded by a large force, but it was mostly composed of men untrained for war. Yet they had not been brought into conflict. Ahithophel well knew that my situation was far from hopeless.
A large part of the nation was still true to me, and I was surrounded by tried warriors, who were faithful to their king, and I was commanded by able and experienced generals. Ahithophel knew that after the first burst of enthusiasm in favour of the new king, a reaction would come.
Should the rebellion fail, Absalom might be able to secure a reconciliation with me. Then Ahithophel, as his chief counsellor, would be held most guilty for the rebellion and heaviest punishment would fall on him.
To prevent Absalom from retracing his steps, Ahithophel counselled him to an act that in the eyes of the whole nation would make reconciliation impossible. With hellish cunning this wily and unprincipled statesman urged Absalom to add the crime of incest to that of rebellion.
In the sight of all Israel, he was to take to himself his father’s concubines, according to the custom of oriental nations, thus declaring that he succeeded to his father’s throne. And Absalom carried out the vile suggestion.
Thus, was fulfilled the word of God to me by the prophet Nathan: Thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbour, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel.’
Not that God prompted these acts of wickedness, but because of my sin He did not exercise His power to prevent them.
Ahithophel had been held in high esteem for his wisdom, but he was destitute of the enlightenment which comes from God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10); and this, Ahithophel did not possess, or he could hardly have based the success of treason upon the crime of incest.
Men of corrupt hearts plot wickedness, as if there were no overruling Providence to cross their designs; but “He that sits in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.” Psalm 2:4.
The Lord says: “Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, They would have none of my counsel And despised my every rebuke. Therefore, they shall eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled to the full with their own fancies. For the turning away of the simple will slay them, And the complacency of fools will destroy them; But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, And will be secure, without fear of evil.” Proverbs 1:29-33
Having succeeded in the plot for securing his own safety, Ahithophel urged upon Absalom the necessity of immediate action against me.
“Now let me choose twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue David tonight. I will come upon him while he is weary and weak, and make him afraid. And all the people who are with him will flee, and I will strike only the king. Then I will bring back all the people to you. When all return except the man whom you seek, all the people will be at peace.”
This plan was approved by the king’s counsellors. Had it been followed, I, David would surely have been slain, unless the Lord had directly interposed to save him. But a wisdom higher than that of the renowned Ahithophel was directing events. “The Lord had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the Lord might bring evil upon Absalom.”
Hushai had not been called to the council, and he would not intrude himself unasked, lest suspicion should be drawn upon him as a spy. But after the assembly had dispersed, Absalom, who had a high regard for the judgment of his father’s counsellor, submitted to him the plan of Ahithophel.
Hushai saw that if the proposed plan were followed, I, David would be lost. And he said, “The counsel that Ahithophel hath given is not good at this time.
And when Hushai came to Absalom, Absalom spoke to him, saying, “Ahithophel has spoken in this manner. Shall we do as he says? If not, speak up.”
“The advice that Ahithophel has given is not good at this time. For,” said Hushai, “you know your father and his men, that they are mighty men, and they are enraged in their minds, like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field; and your father is a man of war, and will not camp with the people.
2Sa 17:9 Surely by now he is hidden in some pit, or in some other place. And it will be, when some of them are overthrown at the first, that whoever hears it will say, ‘There is a slaughter among the people who follow Absalom.’ 2Sa 17:10 And even he who is valiant, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will melt completely. For all Israel knows that your father is a mighty man, and those who are with him are valiant men.
And he suggested a plan attractive to a vain and selfish nature, fond of the show of power:
2Sa 17:11 Therefore I advise that all Israel be fully gathered to you, from Dan to Beersheba, like the sand that is by the sea for multitude, and that you go to battle in person. 2Sa 17:12 So we will come upon him in some place where he may be found, and we will fall on him as the dew falls on the ground. And of him and all the men who are with him there shall not be left so much as one. 2Sa 17:13 Moreover, if he has withdrawn into a city, then all Israel shall bring ropes to that city; and we will pull it into the river, until there is not one small stone found there.” 2Sa 17:14 So Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The advice of Hushai the Archite is better than the advice of Ahithophel.” For the LORD had purposed to defeat the good advice of Ahithophel, to the intent that the LORD might bring disaster on Absalom.
But there was one who was not deceived—one who clearly foresaw the result of this fatal mistake of Absalom’s. Ahithophel knew that the cause of the rebels was lost. And he knew that whatever might be the fate of the prince, there was no hope for the counsellor who had instigated his greatest crimes.
Ahithophel had encouraged Absalom in rebellion; he had counselled him to the most abominable wickedness, to the dishonour of his father; he had advised the slaying of David and had planned its accomplishment; he had cut off the last possibility of his own reconciliation with the king; and now another was preferred before him, even by Absalom.
Jealous, angry, and desperate, Ahithophel “Saw that his advice was not followed, he saddled a donkey, and arose and went home to his house, to his city. Then he put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died; and he was buried in his father’s tomb. Such was the result of the wisdom of one, who, with all his high endowments, did not make God his counsellor. Satan allures men with flattering promises, but in the end, it will be found by every soul, that the “wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23.
Hushai, not certain that his counsel would be followed by the fickle king, lost no time in warning me to escape beyond Jordan without delay. To the priests, who were to forward it by their sons, Hushai sent the message:
“Thus and thus did Ahithophel counsel Absalom and the elders of Israel; and thus and thus have I counselled. Now therefore … lodge not this night in the plains of the wilderness, but speedily pass over; lest the king be swallowed up, and all the people that are with him.”
The young men were suspected and pursued, yet they succeeded in performing their perilous mission. I, David, spent with toil and grief after that first day of flight, received the message that I must cross the Jordan that night, for my son was seeking his life.
What were my feelings, the feelings of father and king, so cruelly wronged, in this terrible peril?
“A mighty valiant man,” a man of war, a king whose word was law, betrayed by my son whom I had love and indulged and unwisely trusted, wronged and deserted by subjects abound by to me by the strongest ties of honour and allegiance – in what words did David pour out the feelings of his soul?
In the hour of my darkest trial my heart was stayed upon God, and I sang:
Psa 3:1 A Psalm of David When He Fled from Absalom His Son. LORD, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. Psa 3:2 Many are they who say of me, “There is no help for him in God.” Selah Psa 3:3 But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head. Psa 3:4 I cried to the LORD with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah Psa 3:5 I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustained me. Psa 3:6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people Who have set themselves against me all around. Psa 3:7 Arise, O LORD; Save me, O my God! For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone; You have broken the teeth of the ungodly. Psa 3:8 Salvation belongs to the LORD. Your blessing is upon Your people. Selah
I and all my company—warriors and statesmen, old men and youth, the women and the little children—in the darkness of night crossed the deep and swift-flowing river. “By the morning light there lacked not one of them that was not gone over Jordan.”
I and my forces fell back to Mahanaim, which had been the royal seat of Ishbosheth. This was a strongly fortified city, surrounded by a mountainous district favourable for retreat in case of war. The country was well-provisioned, and the people were friendly to my cause. Here many adherents joined me, while wealthy tribesmen brought abundant gifts of provision, and other needed supplies.
Hushai’s counsel had achieved its object, gaining for me opportunity for escape. But the rash and impetuous prince could not be long restrained, and he soon set out in pursuit of me, his father.
“And Absalom passed over Jordan, he and all the men of Israel with him.” Absalom made Amasa, the son of David’s sister Abigail, commander-in-chief of his forces. His army was large, but it was undisciplined and poorly prepared to cope with my tried soldiers.
I divided my forces into three battalions under the command of Joab, Abishai, and Ittai the Gittite. It had been my purpose to lead my army in the field. But against this the officers of the army, the counsellors, and the people vehemently protested.
But the people answered, “You shall not go out! For if we flee away, they will not care about us; nor if half of us die, will they care about us. But you are worth ten thousand of us now. For you are now more help to us in the city.”
Then the I said to them, “Whatever seems best to you I will do.” So I stood beside the gate, and all the people went out by hundreds and by thousands.
From the walls of the city the long lines of the rebel army were in full view. The usurper was accompanied by a vast host, in comparison with which my force seemed but a handful. But as I looked upon the opposing forces, the thought uppermost in my mind was not of the crown and the kingdom, nor of my own life, that depended upon the wage of battle.
My father’s heart was filled with love and pity for my rebellious son. As the army filed out from the city gates I encouraged my faithful soldiers, bidding them go forth trusting that the God of Israel would give them the victory.
But even here I could not repress my love for Absalom. As Joab, leading the first column, passed me, the conqueror of a hundred battlefields stooped his proud head to listen to my last message, as with trembling voice I said, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom.”
And Abishai and Ittai received the same charge — “Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom.” But my solicitude, seeming to declare that Absalom was dearer to me than my kingdom, dearer even than the subjects faithful to his throne, only increased the indignation of the soldiers against the unnatural son.
The place of battle was a wood near the Jordan, in which the great numbers of Absalom’s army were only a disadvantage to him. Among the thickets and marshes of the forest these undisciplined troops became confused and unmanageable.
And “the people of Israel were slain before me and there was there a great slaughter that day of twenty thousand men.” Absalom, seeing that the day was lost, had turned to flee, when his head was caught between the branches of a wide spreading tree, and his mule going out from under him, he was left helplessly suspended, a prey to his enemies.
In this condition he was found by a soldier, who, for fear of displeasing me, spared Absalom, but reported to Joab what he had seen. Joab was restrained by no scruples. He had befriended Absalom, having twice secured his reconciliation with David, and the trust had been shamelessly betrayed.
But for the advantages gained by Absalom through Joab’s intercession, this rebellion, with all its horrors, could never have occurred. Now it was in Joab’s power at one blow to destroy the instigator of all this evil.
“And he took three darts in his hand, and thrust them through the heart of Absalom…. And they took Absalom, and cast him into a great pit in the wood, and laid a very great heap of stones upon him.” What a very very sad epilogue!
David reaction on the news that Absalom was killed