Hushai told Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, “Ahithophel has advised Absalom and the elders of Israel to do such and such, but I have advised them to do so and so. Now send a message at once and tell David, ‘Do not spend the night at the fords in the wilderness; cross over without fail, or the king and all the people with him will be swallowed up.’” Jonathan and Ahimaaz were staying at En Rogel. A female servant was to go and inform them, and they were to go and tell King David, for they could not risk being seen entering the city. But a young man saw them and told Absalom. So the two of them left at once and went to the house of a man in Bahurim. He had a well in his courtyard, and they climbed down into it. His wife took a covering and spread it out over the opening of the well and scattered grain over it. No one knew anything about it. When Absalom’s men came to the woman at the house, they asked, “Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan?” The woman answered them, “They crossed over the brook.” The men searched but found no one, so they returned to Jerusalem. After they had gone, the two climbed out of the well and went to inform King David. They said to him, “Set out and cross the river at once; Ahithophel has advised such and such against you.” So David and all the people with him set out and crossed the Jordan. By daybreak, no one was left who had not crossed the Jordan. 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. So he died and was buried in his father’s tomb.
It is a natural human tendency to seek another opinion, be it the need for medical or surgical treatment, or obtaining a proper ‘diagnosis’ about a crumbling brickwork before commissioning the right builder, or simply where to go for your next holiday! It is also tempting at times to make a quick or hasty decision and not be obsessed with the outcome.
Ahithophel naturally felt that he had acted in a responsible manner. Here, as the sordid saga of David’s family continues, we find royal mismanagement, misguided advice and divided loyalties all coming to the fore. King David is still on the run fearful of his avenging son. Absalom’s desperate plight meant that it was difficult for him to be able to discern true counsel and the right course of action in relation to his father. Perhaps, it is one of those ‘should have’ moments that he needed to strike while the iron is hot!
Ahithophel’s shrewd advice was given in good faith and borne out of an experience of military manoeuvres. While trust is notably absent throughout the respective households, Absalom chose to seek a second opinion because of his own inadequacy and vulnerability. The narrative is terse: eventually Ahithophel’s rejection and shame led him to end it all! Was his suicide a responsible act, you might ask? Even in recent times, ending one’s life in such contexts might be deemed honourable.
However, there will be times when our Christian pilgrimage is tough. We will face prejudice, misunderstanding and will experience rejection not least because of the views and position that we might adopt. That should preclude, however, any hasty decision or drastic action on our part, where consequences could be hurtful or harmful to those whom we journey with.
Unbeknown to Absalom, Hushai had double-crossed him. This seeking of an alternative strategy ultimately cost him his life. As we had already read in 2 Samuel 12.10, the curse that the ‘sword shall never depart from your house’ is increasingly realised in David’s dysfunctional family, whose sole preoccupation was to seek vengeance and right succession to the throne.
Dear God, Grant us always, especially in times of crisis in our domestic, ecclesiastical and national lives: the discernment of your will for all peoples, the wisdom to know when and how to act, and the courage to know when trust is genuine. Amen
Andy Lie, Ecumenical & Inter-Faith Officer, URC Northern Synod
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