Leaving David and his followers to refresh themselves in the plain of Jordan, let us return to Jerusalem and observe the progress of the rebellion there. In the meantime, Absalom with Ahithophel and the whole band of his adherents had removed from Hebron to the holy city. Coming to him, Hushai with feigned enthusiasm and with considerable gusto, it may be imagined, uttered his greeting:
May the king live! May the king live!
Such exuberant well-wishing could mean but one thing. Hushai was offering Absalom his allegiance. The usurper was not a little surprised. He had not dared to count on the support of Hushai. For he and David had always been close friends. Besides, the man stood high in integrity and fidelity. So scarcely knowing what to make of this homage, Absalom said to him, partly in good-natured welcome and partly in suspicion:
Is this thy kindness to thy friend? Why wentest thou not with thy friend?
Hushai was ready with his reply:
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. What is more, whom should I serve? Should I not serve in the presence of his son? As I have served in thy father’s presence, so will I be in thy presence.
Hushai’s argument is clear. The Lord has chosen Absalom. For the voice of the people is the voice of God. In submission to God’s will, he must now attach himself to him and serve him as devotedly as he had formerly served the father, which he is also resolved to do, readily and cheerfully, the more so, seeing that Absalom is a son of his dear friends, and thus perpetrates the Davidic dynasty.
Certainly, God in His wrath had sovereignly predestined Absalom to the dreadful doings to which he by his own free choice and in his wickedness had committed himself. And accordingly, Absalom, as usurper, was the product of a sovereign Providence. In this sense, he was chosen of the Lord. It is also true that Hushai would be with Absalom, as he said, but solely with the purpose of working for his defeat.
But Hushai’s words could also and easily be taken to mean that, in the attempt to free the land of David, Absalom, as the Lord’s anointed, and as the object of His favor and with His blessing, was working a work of the Lord and could look forward to being established in his father’s throne permanently. And the obvious meaning of Hushai’s saying that he would be with Absalom, as he had been with his father, is that he was purposed to be just as helpful to Absalom.
This, to be sure, is the sense that Absalom gave to Hushai’s words. And so they were music to his ears. Hushai had spoken according to his heart. He had sanctioned his insurrection, even he, in the belief that Absalom was chosen of the people and therefore of God Himself for that very purpose. And in that belief he had identified himself with Absalom’s cause. So thought Absalom. And so pleased was he with Hushai, so confident that he could be trusted and relied on, that he not only received him into the rank of his followers but even included him among his chief privy counselors. Figuratively speaking, he took him to his very bosom on the spot and without any further argument or questioning.
Already the insurrection would have been a complete success had it not been for one thing. David with a small army had escaped. How to proceed against him was now Absalom’s problem, which he laid first before Ahithophel and his colleagues—fellow counselors—not including Hushai.
Then said Absalom to Ahithophel, Give ye counsel among you what we shall do.
Ahithophel, it is plain, had already given the matter much thought. For there was present to his mind a well worked out plan, the first part of which he now laid before Absalom.
And Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Go in unto thy fathers 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 strengthened.
This was wisdom. But it was wisdom “that descendeth not from above, but was earthly, natural, devilish.” Adding insult to injury, Absalom must commit an offence so vile, so unspeakably insulting to David, as would render him permanently irreconcilable toward his son. He must do a thing in plain sight of all the people that could only be construed as a proclamation of war to the bitter end. He must do a thing that would cause the people to conclude that there could be no danger of his ever surrendering as he would be well aware that all he could expect from the hand of the adversary was destruction. In a word, he must do a thing in public that would make all to see that he must be resolved to pursue the course on which he had set out to the death. The people would be mightily encouraged. They would know that they need have no fear that, when the going became hard, he would forsake them to make his peace with his father.
It is not hard to see what motivated Ahithophel. Without this encouragement the people would certainly turn back from following Absalom after the first wild enthusiasm had subsided. When all was quiet again, Absalom would be forgiven and David’s wrath would descend on him, Ahithophel, especially on him of all the leaders in the revolt. This, he felt assured, would happen. For he was well aware of David’s fondness for this profligate son. Hence, he must see to it that it be made impossible for both David and Absalom ever to want to become reconciled to each other.
It is also worthy of note that his counsel went unchallenged. No one among Absalom’s adherents ventured to question its wisdom. For, as the text in this connection asserts, “the counsel of Ahithophel, which he counseled in those days, was as if a man had enquired at the oracle of God: so was all the counsel of Ahithophel both with David “and with Absalom.” Nor did anyone openly condemn the proposed procedure on account of its abominableness. This alone condemned the whole movement as conceived in hell. For “by their fruits ye shall know them.”
The result was that the counsel was adopted and immediately put into execution.
So they spread Absalom a tent upon the top of the house; and Absalom went in unto his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.
So did Absalom take possession of his father’s harem in public in fulfillment of Nathan’s prophecy: “Thus saith the Lord, Behold I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbor, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of the sun.”.
Let us take notice, “I will raise up . . . . I will take thy wives . . . .” It was God’s work, this doing of Absalom. For he is creature, who lives and moves and has his being in God. Yet God is not the author of sin. He is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. And so the sinfulness of the vile doing was solely out of Absalom. Yet at the same time God sovereignly willed it. But it was Absalom’s own vile doing nevertheless. He was its willing subject as God’s free agent and on this account responsible. How true it is then that, as the Scriptures teach, God works all things according to the counsel of His will. How true it is that also this doing of the usurper-was a stroke laid upon David by the Lord on account. of his past sins.
But there was more to Ahithophel’s plans.
Moreover Ahithophel said unto Absalom. Let me now choose 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.
With David out of the way, such is here the argument, all his followers, loosing heart, would immediately lay down their arms and hail Absalom king. There could be so little doubt about this that, such was Ahithophel’s imagining, in the moment that David fell by his sword, in that same moment it would be as if all the followers had already returned to Absalom and made their peace with him. This counsel, too, was superb wisdom of a natural, devilish sort. But it had one flaw. It took no account of Cod. True, David was weary, he and his people with him. They had been underway perhaps from early dawn till deep in the night. It was also true that David was weak handed. His army numbered at the most but fifteen hundred men able to bear arms. As compared with the size of the host that Ahithophel had asked for, it was but a handful. But even though this advice had been followed, David would still have nothing to fear. For God was on His side. The hosts of the Lord were encamped about him. Hence, those that were for him were more than those that were against him. The Lord, who doeth wonders, would have saved his ill-deserving servant out of the hand of the adversary. David could not perish. The promises were his. Hence, rightly considered, Ahithophel’s wisdom was foolishness. It was foolishness with God. Had David stood in this faith just a little more firmly at the time, he would not have taken recourse to that forbidden stratagem. For was it not forbidden? Might Hushai, as directed by David, direct to Absalom a kind of speech calculated to impose upon him the delusion that his insurrection had the Lord’s sanction? Being at heart his enemy might he pose as his friend dedicated to his cause? It cannot be a question whether this was honest, for it is too obvious that it wasn’t. The only question is whether it was right for David to practice such dishonesty considering his plight. There can be but one answer. And this answer is negative.
But this, of course, is not saying that Absalom was an innocent victim of Hushai’s guile. That he could be deceived by Hushai’s reasoning was only because he was willingly ignorant of the true nature of his doing. What he read into Hushai’s sentences he had been saying to himself all along in the vain effort to
ease the torment of his conscience and to persuade himself that his way was right with God.
As was just said, Ahithophel’s counsel was wisdom of a natural sort. He had correctly perceived what ought to be done in the present circumstances. This was apparent to Absalom and all the elders of Israel.
And the saying was right in the eyes of Absalom and in the eyes of all the elders of Israel.
And yet, Absalom still had need of hearing Hushai on the matter.
Then said Absalom, Call now Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear likewise what he saith.
Literally: And said Absalom (to Ahithophel), Call thou by all means also Hushai, the Archite, indeed even him, that we may hear what is in his mouth.
Ahithophel was famed as a counselor. And Absalom doubted not the wisdom of his counsel. Yet he was determined to hear also Hushai. Perhaps the reason was his high regard for Hushai’s person. Ahithophel was a traitor and a scoundrel. Absalom must have really despised him in his heart. But Hushai, as was said, stood high in integrity with all. They imagined that he had gone over to Absalom’s side from principle. Had he not expressed it as his conviction (so they thought) that Absalom was chosen of the Lord.
Be this as it may, Hushai was called and appeared.
And when Hushai was come to Absalom, Absalom spake unto him saying, Ahithophel hath spoken after this manner: shall we do after his saying (Heb. shall we do his word)? If not, speak thou.
The first part of Hushai’s counsel is negative. Literally it reads as follows.
And said Hushai unto Absalom, Not good is the counsel that Ahithophel counsels at this time.
It was not like his former advice, which was good. Hushai chose his words with care. He must not be critical, more than was necessary, of Ahithophel’s ability as counselor.
For, said Hushai, thou knowest thy father and his men, that mighty men they be, and that embittered in spirit they be as a bear bereaved of her whelps in the field. And thy father is a man of war, and not until he lodge with the people.
Behold now, he is hid in one of the ravines or in one of the places. And it will come to pass when some of them be fallen at the first that all who hear will say, There is a slaughter among the people that follows Absalom.
The “ravines” were hiding places. The “places” were strong positions difficult of approach and from where a surprise attack could easily be launched against the adversary,
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 valiant men they that be with him.
It was certain, such is the point to Hushai’s reasoning, that David and his men were on the alert either as hid in one of the ravines of that region or as having betaken themselves to one or the other of the “places”. For being an experienced and seasoned soldier, David would know better than to abide with the people, the defenseless members of his company, women and children, and old men disqualified for combat by their age. Knowing that the adversary would not want to harm the “people”, David had withdrawn from them and was poised for attack in another place. Absalom must consider, further, that David and his men were famed for their courage in battle. How dangerous they must then be in their present mood. They would fight with the ferocity of a wild beast in the field robbed of her young. Hence, following Ahithophel’s advice would be fatal. For this was what would happen. Rushing forth with his men from his cavern or strong position, David would fall upon the enemy’s advanced guard and cut it in pieces. The rest of the fourteen thousand soldiers of Absalom would, as a result, be seized by a terror as that of a panic. And they all would take to flight. Hearing of it, the hearts of the bravest among the people of Israel in general would melt with fear. The will to continue the struggle would be gone. And that would be the end as far as Absalom’s cause was concerned.
Of course, Hushai didn’t believe a word of what he said. For he was filled with profoundest respect for Ahithophel’s counsel. He was just as convinced that it would have spelled disaster for David, if followed. Therefore he laid before Absalom a different counsel.
But I counsel that, by all means, all Israel be gathered unto thee from Dan unto Beersheba, as the sand that is by the sea for multitude, and that thy presence go in their midst. So shall we come upon him in one of the places where he may be found; and we shall light upon him as falleth the dew upon the ground: and not one will be left of him and of all the men that are with him not so much as one.
And if he be gathered into a city, then shall all Israel carry ropes to that city, and we shall draw it into the river, until there be not one small stone found there.
This has reference not only to the walls of the city but also to every dwelling in it. The whole city must be drawn into the river, that is, the ditch that surrounds it.
Here again Hushai did not believe what he said. His conviction was that if this course be followed Absalom would come to ruin. Yet, as inspired by his love of David, he must have spoken with glowing conviction. And as he had received no revelation from Heaven that the Lord would use his counsel to destroy Absalom, he had to rely on his judgment. Viewed on the surface it would spell certain disaster for David just as well as that of Ahithophel, even though it would give David time to flee across the Jordan. What could David with a handful of soldiers hope to achieve against an army that for size was meant to be numberless “as the sand that is by the sea.” What sense could there be in risking a battle with a force thus overwhelming. Yet the advice was good for two reasons.
1) God was purposed to defeat Absalom in the way that Hushai in his heart had conceived. The sacred writer expresses the same idea this way: “For the Lord had commanded to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the Lord might bring evil upon Absalom.” The text does not state that the Lord had commanded Hushai or David to defeat that counsel. Hushai had acted on his own initiative as activated by his awareness of David’s great peril. But the Lord had appointed, ordained, to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel.
2) The counsel of Hushai was good because it was good judgment on the part of Hushai to advise Absalom not to attack David immediately but to wait until he had raised a large army. Good judgment dictated that this could work to David’s interest considering all the circumstances. First, David would have time to cross the Jordan and raise a sizable army numbering several thousands. That David was successful in this is clear from the text at, where it is stated that David numbered the people that were with him, and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them. It shows that no small portion of the people had remained true to David and that perhaps another part, for the moment fallen away, had returned to him. So Absalom’s following was after all rather small. At any rate it was not large enough to make it possible for him to raise the kind of army that Hushai suggested. Also his advice that Absalom go to battle in his own person was sound in the sense just explained.
True, all depended on whether the Lord would bless David’s arms. And that He would. Yet certainly this did not free Hushai from the obligation to using his best judgment. And he did so. And his counsel was good.
But the sacred text calls also Ahithophel’s counsel good (see above), meaning that it was good in the sense that it was to Absalom’s interest that David be attacked immediately.
And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.
Absalom deceived himself with the belief that his insurrection had the support of all the people or nearly so. The idea of his going forth to battle as heading an army thus formidable would appeal to his vanity. And it could also be expected that he would put his confidence in numbers and make flesh his arm. But certainly the plan was far inferior to Ahithophel’s.
And when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not done, he saddled his ass, and arose, and gat him home to his house, to his city, and gave charge concerning his house, and hanged himself, and died, and was buried in the sepulcher of his father.
After his advice regarding the harem, he know that he had permanently fallen from David’s grace. Neither could he any longer take pleasure in the service of Absalom. He was too convinced that his counsel was right. And he was a proud man. What then of honor and pleasure had life still in store for him? Nothing at all. So he gat him home and hanged himself.