And Absalom, and all the people the men of Israel, came to Jerusalem, and Ahithophel with him.
At last Absalom was obtaining that which was the dream of his life he was entering Jerusalem with all of the glory and honor of a king. To his vain nature, there was nothing more that a person could ever desire. It was his most glorious hour.
With Absalom came all of the grandest show that could be gathered together. He had always had a flair for such things, from the fifty runners he had used for many years to announce his approach, to the elaborate tomb which he had built to house his body in the end. Everything was designed to bring attention to himself and distinguish him among the people. It was so completely different than anything his father had ever done. For David, all such pomposity was nothing but a waste of time and the last thing he desired. He never had seen any reason to try to draw special attention to himself since all of his blessedness was not in himself but a gift of grace proceeding from God. And it was this very fact that made Absalom’s efforts so much more effective. Never before had the people seen such pomp as Absalom was bringing into their city. They liked it. Somehow just to see Absalom with all of his show of glory made them to feel identified with it and participants in it. In a moment, whatever feelings of sympathy had remained for the old king were swept away, and with joy they welcomed his treacherous son in his place.
With Absalom by this time there was gathered a rather large force of fighting men. His journey from Hebron to Jerusalem had witnessed a phenomenal growth in his strength. People from all parts of the country came to take part in his revolution. Some of them were people whom Absalom had in one way or another befriended, some of them were adventurers looking for the excitement of the moment, some were opportunists who saw in the sudden rise of Absalom an opportunity to share in some of his new-found glory, some were deserters from David’s army, and some of them were simply those who through the years had come to hate David, if for no other reason, because he had always so firmly insisted upon the exclusive service of Jehovah within their land and they didn’t like it. And when all were gathered together, it formed a most impressive number. It tended to feed itself and bring even greater support and growth in the excitement of the moment.
In spite of all who joined him, however, there was one from whom Absalom gained more satisfaction than from any other: that was Ahithophel, the former adviser to his father David. Here was a man renowned as being one of the very wisest men in all of the kingdom. His father had always used him in solving the most difficult problems that came to him. And now this man had joined himself to Absalom from the very start. It, more than anything else, proved to the satisfaction of Absalom that his plans from the very beginning were wise and well conceived. And yet this was soon to change.
It was when Absalom stepped in to take over the royal palace that there came to him a surprise far beyond his greatest imagining. There before him stood Hushai the other adviser of his father David. This he could hardly believe. It was not that Hushai was actually so much wiser than Ahithophel. It was just that he was different. Ahithophel was known to be a cold and calculating man. He could take an issue and pick it apart piece by piece without any emotional involvement in it. This was maybe his big virtue, he could be so very objective. But Hushai was different. He too was an extremely wise man; but with him there was none of that cold distance that held the feelings of life so far away. He was warm and kind and understanding with all of the sincerity which always characterized David the king. For this reason he and David had become the closest of friends with a deep bond of understanding and love between them. Even now as Hushai stood there before his very eyes, Absalom could not really believe that by Hushai all of this was forgotten. And still Hushai spoke, and the words which he said were these, “God save the king, God save the king.”
In a way it almost hurt Absalom for a moment to see even this closest friend of David’s to prove unfaithful in the end. In his amazement he blurted out, “Is this thy kindness to thy friend? why wentest thou not with thy friend?”
To Hushai himself, however, these words were even more cutting. Just for a moment even to be thought of as a traitor to his dear master and friend was almost more than he could bear. And yet it had to be borne for the moment, and he was not one to lose his bearings at a time like this. Quickly he answered with words purposely ambiguous but designed. to soothe whatever suspicion Absalom might have. He said, “Nay; but whom the LORD, and this people, and all the men of Israel, choose, his will I be, and with him will I abide. And again, whom should I serve? should not I serve in the presence of his son? as I have served in the father’s presence, so will I be in thy presence.” With Hushai there was no real question as to who was the properly appointed king of Israel and, therefore, to whom his service would be directed whether he stood in the presence of the father or the son; but Absalom in the vanity of his soul could not be expected to see through this ambiguity of Hushai. To him the very thought that even Hushai would leave his father David to join the company of the son was all too flattering to let pass. Here was the ultimate proof that he was the person of great excellency which he had always thought himself to be. The last thing he wished to do was to undermine it by being overly suspicious. With all of the joy of a self-satisfied ego, he welcomed Hushai into the circle of his most intimate associates.
It was not long before Hushai discovered, undoubtedly to his greatest shock, just exactly how far Absalom and those surrounding him had gone in rejecting the principles upon which the kingdom of Israel was founded. It came about almostimmediately after Absalom had taken over the royal palace. At that time he called his counselors together and turning to Ahithophel as the senior member of the group, he said, “Give counsel among you what we should do.” The whole approach was presumptuous and arrogant, so far different from David’s customary command, “I pray thee, bring me hither the ephod” by which he made consultation first always with God. But Absalom’s confidence did not rest on any such faith. He was confident that they with their human wisdom would be able to solve any problem that might arise, and his every word reflected this.
The shocking part did not come in this, however, but in the advice that Ahithophel tendered him. His advice was this, “Go in unto thy father’s concubines, which he hath left to keep the house; and all Israel shall hear that thou art abhorred of thy father: then shall the hands of all that are with thee be strong.” It was not that the action itself was so very unusual. This was what any heathen king would have done in that day. It was the way they had of showing their contempt for a king which they had defeated by debasing his wives publicly and thereby demonstrating his inability to defend even his own family. But that this should be done in Israel, and that by a son taking over the throne of his own father, was all too incomprehensible. It was an affront, not just to David the fleeing king, it was an affront to every man in Israel who was left with any sense of decency and of love for the law; but even more than this it was an open affront to the God of Israel upon whom the whole strength of the nation rested. To think that Ahithophel who had stood with him for so many years in the presence of David where the precepts of the law were always of first consideration should now present such a plan with perfectly sincere intent and without any sign of shame, and to think that David’s own son should receive it with equal equanimity was altogether too much.
But that was not the end of the matter either. With cold and calloused deliberateness, they actually went ahead to do what Ahithophel suggested. It was a public notice with proof which could not be questioned that Absalom held no love for his father and no fear of God in his heart.
Thus it was that when once again Absalom returned to his counsel chambers there was no question left in the mind of Hushai as to the desperateness of the situation. The very survival of the nation in the fear of the Lord was at stake. Well had been David’s wish for him, “If thou return to the city . . . then mayest thou for me defeat the counsel of Ahithophel.”
The question at stake at this point was what to do about pursuing David, and Ahithophel’s advice was with its usual discretion. He said to 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.” It was good advice and Absalom and all those with him felt it: and yet Absalom did not feel completely at ease with it. For one thing, it meant that while Absalom remained in Jerusalem Ahithophel would be going out to gain the final stroke of victory with all of its glory. The only alternative would be for him to go on to the battle also; and he was not quite ready for that either. He was enjoying himself much too much amid the newfound glory of Jerusalem. Thus he commanded that Hushai should be brought to him to see what he would think of the plan.
Once Hushai had come and the proposition of Ahithophel was explained to him, he understood the danger that it threatened. Above all, it was necessary that it should be prevented. But the Spirit of God was with him and so he spoke. “The counsel that Ahithophel hath given is not good at this time. For 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.” It was advice far less practical than that of Ahithophel; but ii allowed for the nature of Absalom far more. Not only did it protect his thirst for glory by allowing opportunity for him to go with and gain the credit for that final battle, but it also appealed to the basic cowardice of Absalom’s nature by promising him the possibility of a force so great that David could offer no resistance. Quickly Absalom agreed and decided that Hushai’s advice was best.
It was Ahithophel alone that saw what this really meant. Without the advantage of a sudden sweeping victory, all of their plans were vain. But it was useless for him to protest. Everyone would only think that he was trying to defend and promote his own name. Instead, he went home and hanged himself. There was nothing more that he could do.