“Moreover Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Let me now choose out twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue after David this night: And I will come upon him while he is weary and weak handed, and will make him afraid: and all the people that are with him shall flee; and I will smite the king only: And I will bring back all the people unto thee: the man whom thou seekest is as if all returned: so all the people shall be in peace. And the saying pleased Absalom well, and all the elders of Israel. Then said Absalom, Call now Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear likewise what he saith. And when Hushai was come to Absalom, Absalom spake unto him, saying, Ahithophel hath spoken after this manner: shall we do after his saying? if not; speak thou. And Hushai said unto Absalom, The counsel that Ahithophel hath given is not good at this time. For, said Hushai, thou knowest thy father and his men, that they be mighty men, and they be chafed in their minds, as a bear robbed of her whelps in the field: and thy father is a man of war, and will not lodge with the people. Behold, he is hid now in some pit, or in some other place: and it will come to pass, when some of them be overthrown at the first, that whosoever heareth it will say, There is a slaughter among the people that follow Absalom. And he also that is valiant, whose heart is as the heart of a lion, shall utterly melt: for all Israel knoweth that thy father is a mighty man, and they which be with him are valiant men. Therefore I counsel that all Israel be generally gathered unto thee, from Dan even to Beersheba, as the sand that is by the sea for multitude; and that thou go to battle in thine own person. So shall we come upon him in some place where he shall be found, and we will light upon him as the dew falleth on the ground: and of him and of all the men that are with him there shall not be left so much as one. Moreover, if he be gotten into a city, then shall all Israel bring ropes to that city, and we will draw it into the river, until there be not one small stone found there. And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel. For the LORD had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the LORD might bring evil upon Absalom” (2 Samuel 17:1-14).
Both Absalom and Ahithophel wanted David dead, but while Absalom accepted his chief counsellor’s advice he desired the approval of Hushai too. We will see how the Lord used Hushai’s counsel to thwart that of Ahithophel and thus protect David from Absalom.
Ahithophel was so full of anger and hate that he was like a savage beast baying for blood. We notice in the text that it was all about him; I will do this, I will do that, I will do the other. This brave warrior wanted to be Absalom’s hero, but still needed twelve thousand soldiers to help him! There is no doubting the fact that he wanted to receive the glory for defeating David. Here was a man who would go to his grave full of resentment and bitterness rather than forgive the person who offended him, but his pride would destroy him rather than his supposed enemy.
Ahithophel was eager to get the job done straight away that very night. He believed that David would not be anticipating such an attack and did not have sufficient men to resist it. He knew that David would be vulnerable and would be both mentally and physically exhausted after the day’s events. Absalom does not appear to have noticed the true reason why Ahithophel wanted to kill David but was willing to use him as a tool to promote his own success. Ahithophel’s one track mind is plainly revealed when he promises not to touch anyone else but David. He assured Absalom that once David was dead all those who followed him would surrender and defect to him.
Ahithophel believed that there would be peace in the land once David was gone for good, but how could the assassination of God’s anointed king bring lasting peace? The person who needed to be dealt with, the very one who instigated all the current problems, was Absalom, but few recognised this fact, for every one of the elders of Israel thought that Ahithophel’s proposition was wonderful and inspired. This indicates just wicked these newly appointed government officials really were. They had no desire for righteousness or justice but sought the destruction of the one who reminded them of both. “Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished: but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered” (Proverbs 11:21).
It seems that Hushai was not present at the war cabinet meeting, but was called to offer his blessing on Ahithophel’s proposal. God must have put in Absalom’s mind the need for extra approval for he was already pleased with the advice previously given and therefore eager to put it into action. Hushai’s words were completely opposite to all that Ahithophel had spoken.
Hushai said that Ahithophel’s counsel was unsound and would cause more problems than those he thought he could solve. He said that rather than being weakened by what had happened, David would be as mad as a wild animal and would slaughter anyone who came near him, so he urged Absalom to act cautiously, for, apart from anything else, he knew that his father was a brave and mighty warrior, and would not be as easily defeated as Ahithophel was claiming he would be. In reality Hushai was attempting both to hinder Ahithophel and give David as much time as possible to get further away from Jerusalem. Hushai played on Absalom’s personal fears too, because if Ahithophel’s proposed attack went even slightly wrong then the people would quickly lose confidence in their new king. He said that twelve thousand soldiers were insufficient to bring David down, so advised Absalom to muster an even bigger army from every town in Israel and thus bring him greater honour and glory. This advice hit its mark in Absalom’s conceited heart because it seems he did not consider just how long it would take to gather and arm such a mighty host of men.
Hushai took his plan to destroy Absalom one step closer when he encouraged him to lead this numberless army of soldiers into battle himself. He recognised Absalom’s pride and vanity so knew that such pomp and ceremony would appeal to him, so bringing about his downfall and ruin. If Absalom was pleased with Ahithophel’s advise, then he must have been ecstatic over Hushai’s.
Why did Absalom not think things through, for what was it that caused him to change his mind about the previously accepted advice? There may be many reasons, not least is that he was a presumptuous person, but mainly due to the fact that God had dulled his reason so that He could lay the foundation for his and Ahithophel’s defeat. The evil counsellor’s end was almost immediate, for “When Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his ass, and arose, and gat him home to his house, to his city, and put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died, and was buried in the sepulchre of his father” (2 Samuel 17:23). He must have suddenly realised that it was all over now that Absalom had accepted Hushai’s advice. He knew that in effect Absalom’s and his own death warrant was signed, and the moment David returned he would be executed for treason. How quickly he changed from being someone promoting valiant escapades to a mental wreck who saw suicide as his only way of escape! “There is no contending with that God who can arm a man against himself, and destroy him by his own mistakes and passions” (John Wesley). In closing, we see how the traitor Ahithophel resembled the traitor Judas in many ways.