Like Mysteries? Try This One

by Andy Wood on March 21, 2011

in Gamblers, LV Alter-egos

Do you like mysteries?  The kind that lead you through twists and turns, only to score with a surprise ending that makes you say, “Whoa!”?

I have one for you.  It’s all about a man named Ahithophel.



If you’re like most people, you’ve probably never heard of him.  But he’s right there, in high-definition, during the reign of King David in the Bible.  In fact, the Bible says something about this man that I don’t recall ever having read about anyone else, except the Lord Jesus:

Now in those days the advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God. That was how both David and Absalom regarded all of Ahithophel’s advice (2 Samuel 16:23).

Get this.  Both David and Absalom assumed that if Ahithophel spoke it, it was as if God was doing the talking.  That’s pretty high praise and respect.  I don’t remember hearing that said of Moses,  Jeremiah, or Daniel – as wonderful as those men were.  Ahithophel must have been some kind of man of God.

Now… fast forward exactly one chapter, and you’ll read this:

When Ahithophel saw that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey and set out for his house in his hometown. He put his house in order and then hanged himself… (2 Samuel 17:23).


Here’s the first part of the mystery:  Why is a man of God committing suicide?

I mean, I’ve dished out buckets of advice in the last 40 years, and a lot of it was ignored.  I may have been disappointed, frustrated, or sad.  But I’ve never wanted to kill myself because somebody didn’t take my advice.

What in the world is the matter with Ahithophel?

Filling in Some Gaps

Maybe it would help to fill in some of the gaps.  You can read all about it yourself in 2 Samuel 16-17 if you want.  But here’s my summary…

This story took place during a time when David’s son, Absolom, was in rebellion and had usurped the throne of his father.  David and those loyal to him fled Jerusalem, and Absalom was in pursuit.  Ahithophel, formerly an advisor to the king, was now giving advice to his son.  And David knew if Absalom followed this man of God’s advice he was dead meat.

There was only one solution:  Somehow David had to trick Absolom into rejecting Ahithophel’s advice.  So he sent his other advisor – a man named Hushai – to offer a second opinion.

I’ve gotta say, Ahithophel’s advice was pretty stunning.  “Why waste unnecessary lives?” he asked.  “Chase David’s men until they’re exhausted and flee in fear.  Then I’ll personally kill the king myself, and everyone else will lose heart and join you.”

Here’s mystery #2.  How could a man of God turn against the Lord and the Lord’s anointed king? He was David’s friend!  He was David’s counselor!  What is up with Ahithophel?

Plan B

Enter Hushai.  “Here’s what Ahithophel says,” the king’s son said.  “What say you?”

Hushai took Absalom on an ego trip.  “David’s men are trained warriors.  They won’t be running for the hills.  Gather up a massive army and overwhelm them.  It will be a glorious victory for you and all the nation will be gathered to you.”

See Absalom’s head swell.  See Absalom’s eyes grow misty.  See Absalom reject his only hope for victory.

Okay, so… back to Mystery #1.  Why… would a man of God… commit suicide… just because someone didn’t take his advice?

A Possible Clue

You can find a possible answer later in 2 Samuel.  This is in one of those lists we tend to skip over.  It’s a list of David’s mighty men.  And 2 Samuel 23:34 says,

Eliphelet the son of Ahasbai, the son of the Maacathite, Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite…

Hmmm.  So Ahithophel had a son named Eliam.  And Eliam was one of David’s mighty men.  But this makes the mystery only more confusing!

Mystery #3:  Why would Ahithophel want to kill the king when his son was one of David’s mighty men?

Ready for the Answer?

Earlier in 2 Samuel, an event took place that set all of this in motion.  Here’s how the Bible describes it:

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.   One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”  (2 Samuel 11:1-3).

Who was Eliam?  Bathsheba’s father.

Who was Ahithophel?  Bathsheba’s grandfather!

And why did a man of God turn against the Lord’s anointed?  Because that king had sinned against his granddaughter, murdered her husband, and brought reproach into his family.

And in spite of the fact that David had repented…

…in spite of the fact that David had married Bathsheba and was a part of Ahithophel’s family…

…in spite of the fact that David and Bathsheba now had a son (this man’s great-grandson!) named Solomon, who one day would be king…

…he was still consumed with bitterness and blinded by rage.

And when he saw that his plan to execute David personally had been rejected, he decided he would rather die himself if he couldn’t get even.

My God, what a waste.

Ahithophel died as a victim of his own anger.  And you could, too.

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