1 - 4 Further Advice of Ahithophel
1 Furthermore, Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Please let me choose 12,000 men that I may arise and pursue David tonight. 2 I will come upon him while he is weary and exhausted and terrify him, so that all the people who are with him will flee. Then I will strike down the king alone, 3 and I will bring back all the people to you. The return of everyone depends on the man you seek; [then] all the people will be at peace.” 4 So the plan pleased Absalom and all the elders of Israel.
Ahithophel gives further advice. From that advice it is noted in verse 14 by the Spirit of God that it was “the good council of Ahithophel”. He proposes to work with a number of men to ensure that David is killed. Then the whole people will be saved. He asks Absalom permission to put together an army. He wants to choose the men himself. There are not few of them, as many as 12,000 men. However, there are not too many of them either. It is a mobile and decisive army. He determines the tactics himself and wants to pursue David with these men without losing time.
With his astute mind, he realizes that David is tired and discouraged. This is the right moment for the attack on the life of the fugitive king. Ahithophel foresees that the people who are with David will flee when he appears with his special forces. That’s not bad, because it’s about David. If he can kill him, the whole people will return to Absalom and be at peace, for “the return of everyone depends on the man you seek”. This advice of Ahithophel pleases “Absalom and all the elders of Israel”.
By presenting the matter in this way Ahithophel suggests that Absalom is the rightful king from whom the people have deviated. He also makes it seem as if Absalom is the man who gives peace. The proclamation of this false peace, as well as the proclamation that Absalom is the rightful king, is also seen in the antichrist.
What Ahithophel says about the disabling of David is very similar to the words Caiaphas spoke about the disabling of the Lord Jesus: “But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” (Jn 11:49-52). What is not fulfilled with David, is fulfilled with the Lord Jesus, but only to carry out God’s plan. The lie of Caiaphas becomes the truth of God. What the Lord Jesus did has consequences for all who belong to Him.
5 - 13 The Advice of Hushai
5 Then Absalom said, “Now call Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear what he has to say.” 6 When Hushai had come to Absalom, Absalom said to him, “Ahithophel has spoken thus. Shall we carry out his plan? If not, you speak.” 7 So Hushai said to Absalom, “This time the advice that Ahithophel has given is not good.” 8 Moreover, Hushai said, “You know your father and his men, that they are mighty men and they are fierce, like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field. And your father is an expert in warfare, and will not spend the night with the people. 9 Behold, he has now hidden himself in one of the caves or in another place; and it will be when he falls on them at the first attack, that whoever hears [it] will say, ‘There has been a slaughter among the people who follow Absalom.’ 10 And even the one who is valiant, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will completely lose heart; for all Israel knows that your father is a mighty man and those who are with him are valiant men. 11 But I counsel that all Israel be surely gathered to you, from Dan even to Beersheba, as the sand that is by the sea in abundance, and that you personally go into battle. 12 So we shall come to him in one of the places where he can be found, and we will fall on him as the dew falls on the ground; and of him and of all the men who are with him, not even one will be left. 13 If he withdraws into a city, then all Israel shall bring ropes to that city, and we will drag it into the valley until not even a small stone is found there.”
Despite the fact that Ahithophel’s “pleases Absalom and all the elders of Israel”” (verse 4), Absalom does not want to bind himself to any particular advice and also wants to hear Hushai. This can only be from the LORD. Hushai seizes the opportunity offered to him. Very tactically, he starts by saying that the advice Ahithophel gave “this time … is not good”. To be able to say this, he will need a lot of persuasion. He has that. That persuasiveness lies in the knowledge he has of David, because David is his friend. Absalom knows that well. He believes he can now benefit from that knowledge for the plan to be made to eliminate his father.
It is therefore possible that Absalom wants to hear Hushai’s advice because, as a friend of David, he is even better informed about his plans and working method than Ahithophel. As the son of David Absalom knows the weaknesses of David as a father, but he does not know him as a warrior. With great knowledge of David’s method and courage, Hushai shows that his proposal is better. Hushai speaks with conviction and great caution. He also flatters the insight of Absalom. He speaks of David’s leadership, his inspiring example, the hero he is to the people who are with him.
Hushai recommends that the whole people be gathered. The background of this advice is that it saves time and David can be warned. He emphasizes that only by a tremendous supremacy David and his men can be defeated in a way that not one remains. In poetic language Hushai paints to Absalom how it will go when David withdraws into a city, believing that he is safe there. Because of the enormous force majeure, the whole city will be demolished stone by stone, so there is nothing left of the protection for David.
14 The Counsel of Ahithophel rejected
14 Then 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 ordained to thwart the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the LORD might bring calamity on Absalom.
Here we see why Hushai’s speech is successful. This is not because of his eloquence and persuasiveness, but because the LORD has ordained this. The words of Hushai are used by the LORD to reach His goal. It is not the case that Hushai would have managed to convince Absalom without his convincing speech. His magnificent plea was necessary and God uses it. Absalom and all the people are convinced. The fact that the LORD so governs it does not alter the fact that Hushai had to lay down a good plan. As so often, the responsibility of man and the intention of God also work together here.
This is also the case with us, for example when it comes to the preaching of the gospel. On the one hand, through the preaching, all will believe who “had been appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). On the other hand, we must convince people of their sins, as if it depends on us that they repent. We then read that they “spoke in such a manner that a large number of people believed, both of Jews and of Greeks” (Acts 14:1). We must speak and work according to our responsibility and then we will find that the Lord uses it to speak to people. We also pray that our words and all kinds of organizational matters will be blessed by Him. The same goes for the upbringing of our children.
15 - 22 Hushai Warns David
15 Then Hushai said to Zadok and to Abiathar the priests, “This is what Ahithophel counseled Absalom and the elders of Israel, and this is what I have counseled. 16 Now therefore, send quickly and tell David, saying, ‘Do not spend the night at the fords of the wilderness, but by all means cross over, or else the king and all the people who are with him will be destroyed.’” 17 Now Jonathan and Ahimaaz were staying at En-rogel, and a maidservant would go and tell them, and they would go and tell King David, for they could not be seen entering the city. 18 But a lad did see them and told Absalom; so the two of them departed quickly and came to the house of a man in Bahurim, who had a well in his courtyard, and they went down into it. 19 And the woman took a covering and spread it over the well’s mouth and scattered grain on it, so that nothing was known. 20 Then Absalom’s servants came to the woman at the house and said, “Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan?” And the woman said to them, “They have crossed the brook of water.” And when they searched and could not find [them], they returned to Jerusalem. 21 It came about after they had departed that they came up out of the well and went and told King David; and they said to David, “Arise and cross over the water quickly for thus Ahithophel has counseled against you.” 22 Then David and all the people who [were] with him arose and crossed the Jordan; and by dawn not even one remained who had not crossed the Jordan.
More means are being used to protect David from the rebels and to stay out of their hands. In addition to Hushai and his eloquent speech, Zadok and Abiathar are also used. Hushai tells them what both Ahithophel and himself counseled Absalom.
Others are called in to warn David. Two boys and a slave also form links in the chain of messengers, allowing David to cross the Jordan in time. Jonathan is the son of Abiathar and Ahimaäz is the son of Zadok (2Sam 15:36). These boys are now making their lives available to save the king’s life. A nameless slave and a nameless family living in Bahurim also help. They are known to God. So everyone has a task in this history, in which is hunted for the life of David.
The Lord Jesus is always the stake of life, also in ours. It is for or against Him, in all situations of life. As friends of our rejected Lord, let us not consider any service unworthy or too small to help others who may have a service that is greater in our eyes, to do that service. If we fail in our ‘minor’ assignment, we may be the cause of that service not happening or happening very poorly.
We can have our questions about using lies to stay out of enemy hands. Just like with Rachab a lie is used so that the young ones are not found (Jos 2:4-7). Shall we be careful in our judgment of it? Do we know anything about such a danger? If we have never been in such a situation, it is almost impossible to say what we would have answered on the question of where the boys are. By the way, haven’t we ever used a lie ourselves to free ourselves from a tricky situation? We did that to save ourselves or our faces and not even to help someone else. So let us not judge too harshly what is happening here. God does not do it.
That does not mean that He accepts lie. We cannot rely on this history and other similar histories to say: “Let us do evil that good may come” (Rom 3:8). God is able to let good come forth from evil, but that does not mean that He approves evil. The fact that He does not pass judgment on it here must make us cautious about passing judgment on it.
The boys do not tell what Hushai counseled to do, but what Ahithophel counseled (verse 21). Ahithophel is the great danger.
It is nice to read that David crosses the Jordan with all the people and that not one is missing (verse 22). No one leaves him, even though the difficulties are so great; no one is left sick or tired. We are reminded here of the words of the Lord Jesus – through which we can see David again here as a type of Him: “Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one” (Jn 18:9).
23 Ahithophel Commits Suicide
23 Now when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled [his] donkey and arose and went to his home, to his city, and set his house in order, and strangled himself; thus he died and was buried in the grave of his father.
Now that Ahithophel can no longer exert any influence, his role is over. He understands the consequences of ignoring his counsel. He possesses the wisdom for it, but it is a wisdom from the abyss, a demonic wisdom. He understands that David will win the war and that he should not expect any grace from David. In what he is going to do, he resembles Judas, the traitor of the Lord Jesus: just like Judas he commits suicide (Mt 27:5). To this someone comes when he hates the man who is loved by God. The end is destruction.
24 - 26 Camps of David and Absalom
24 Then David came to Mahanaim. And Absalom crossed the Jordan, he and all the men of Israel with him. 25 Absalom set Amasa over the army in place of Joab. Now Amasa was the son of a man whose name was Ithra the Israelite, who went in to Abigail the daughter of Nahash, sister of Zeruiah, Joab’s mother. 26 And Israel and Absalom camped in the land of Gilead.
David arrives in Mahanaim. Perhaps David thought about what Jacob experienced here in his wanderings. At this place angels of God came to Jacob to help and encourage him in his fear of meeting Esau (Gen 32:1-2). Now David is here, where he is also helped (verses 27-29).
In the meantime Absalom has arrived with all the warriors in the land of Gilead where they camp.
27 - 29 Friendship Service
27 Now when David had come to Mahanaim, Shobi the son of Nahash from Rabbah of the sons of Ammon, Machir the son of Ammiel from Lo-debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim, 28 brought beds, basins, pottery, wheat, barley, flour, parched [grain], beans, lentils, parched [seeds], 29 honey, curds, sheep, and cheese of the herd, for David and for the people who [were] with him, to eat; for they said, “The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness.”
Here we see who David’s friends are. Again it are mainly pagans. David has made friends with enemies. When he arrives in Mahanaim, others meet him with soothing and strengthening means, such as beds and food. There is enough for David and the people. Machir, the son of Ammiel from Lo-debar is also present. He lovingly cared for Mephibosheth (2Sam 9:3-5).
Thus in the time of the Lord Jesus there are also people who have something for Him and His disciples (Lk 4:39; 5:29-30; 10:38-40). They have an eye for the Man after God’s heart and for those who go with Him and share in His reproach. They can empathize with the hardships they have suffered (cf. Heb 13:3).
How important it is to feel what the Lord’s servants are experiencing, to give them things that invigorate and strengthen them. It is withheld once from Gideon, when he is in battle and pursuing the enemy (Jdg 8:5-6). Later he returned to punish this negative attitude (Jdg 8:15-17).
What we learn in this chapter is that we can ask the Lord for wisdom to counsel others in a way that promotes His work. This happens when we acknowledge and stimulate those who are involved in His work. It is important for all time to choose His side, which we can show by helping others in what they need so they can persevere in their way with Him.