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2 Samuel 15:31 So David prayed, Lord, turn Ahithophel’s counsel into foolishness

Soon after David prayed, he was met by a trusted advisor, Hushai the Arkite. Hushai was loyal to David, so David sent him back to Jerusalem, to pretend to be loyal to Absalom. Hushai would serve as David’s spy, and try to undermine Ahithophel.

Then Hushai . . . went to Absalom and said to him, Long live the king! (2 Samuel 16:16). Absalom was a little surprised that Hushai abandoned David so quickly. Hushai explained that Absalom was chosen by God, and had Hushai’s support as well. Just as I served your father, so I will serve you (2 Samuel 16:19), he said. Absalom received Hushai, which put him in position to help David.

2 Samuel 16:20-21 Absalom said to Ahithophel, Give us your advice. What should we do? Ahithophel answered, Sleep with your father’s concubines whom he left to take care of the palace. Then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself obnoxious to your father, and the hands of everyone with you will be more resolute.

True to his reputation, Ahithophel offered brilliant advice. For Absalom to sleep with his father’s concubines would completely destroy their relationship, and any possibility of a co-regency. When the people heard of it, they would have to choose between David and Absalom. Since Absalom had the power, the people would quickly align with him. So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and he slept with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel (2 Samuel 16:22). 

This was a literal fulfillment of what God had said to David after he committed adultery with Bathsheba. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel (2 Samuel 12:11-12), said God.

In fact, the roof on which Absalom slept with his father’s concubines may have been the same roof from which David lusted at Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:2). But if David confessed his sin, and God forgave him (2 Samuel 12:13), why did this still happen? The answer is not provided, but the lesson is clear: sin is the way to misery. 

Before David’s spectacular sin his life was triumphant; but afterward he struggled. Since God is the one who determines the quality of our lives, we should always try to please him. Then, when trouble comes, at least we will know it was not because of our foolish behavior.

2 Samuel 17:1 Ahithophel said to Absalom, I would choose twelve thousand men and set out tonight in pursuit of David

After seizing control of the palace, and taking over the harem, there was only one thing left for Absalom to do: kill his dad. Since David was on the run, he would be weak and vulnerable. So Ahithophel advised Absalom to attack at once. But Absalom said, Summon also Hushai the Arkite, so we can hear what he has to say as well (2 Samuel 17:5).

Ahithophel’s advice was so good, it would be hard to oppose. But Hushai was loyal to David so he had to do his best. Let all Israel, from Dan to Beersheba . . . be gathered to you, with you yourself leading them into battle. Then we will attack [David] wherever he may be found, and we will fall on him as dew settles on the ground. Neither he nor any of his men will be left alive (2 Samuel 17:11-12), he said. With these and other words, Hushai delayed the battle, and sent information to David. 

2 Samuel 18:1 David mustered the men who were with him and appointed over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds

David was on the run, but he still had a sizable army. And even though it was war, he was still concerned for his son. Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake (2 Samuel 18:5), he said. 

The battle took place in a forest, and Absalom’s mule went under a tree. Abaslom’s hair got caught in a branch, and when his mule kept going, Absalom was left hanging by his hair. One of David’s men took three javelins and plunged them into Absalom’s heart (2 Samuel 18:14). He died somewhat comically: hanging by the hair he loved.

How different things would have been for Absalom if he had simply served his father, and his father’s God. With all the benefits of royalty, and his natural gifts (2 Samuel 14:25-26), Absalom could have been a force for good. But power, privilege and prestige were not enough for Absalom. He overreached and died a young man, consumed by selfish ambition.

2 Samuel 18:33 [David] went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son! 

Only those who have lost a child know the depth of David’s grief. The one who brought him sorrow in life, brought him sorrow in death as well. We might expect David to be relieved at the death of his enemy son, but he wished that he had died instead.

This kind of emotion finds its source in the heart of our heavenly Father. He does not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), wrote Peter. That is why there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10), said Jesus. We have all rebelled against the king, but we need not die like Absalom. 

Reflection and Review
Why did Absalom sleep with his father’s concubines?
What kind of friend was Hushai?
How does David’s grief remind us of God’s heart?