Ahithophel and Hushai advise Absalom

Chapter 17

Ahithophel and Hushai advise Absalom

v1 Then Ahithophel said to Absalom, ‘Let me choose 12 000 men. I will go and chase David tonight. v2 I will attack him when he is tired and weak. I will frighten him. All the people who are with him will run away. I will kill only the king. v3 Then I will bring all his people back to you. When David is dead, everyone will return to you. Everyone will be safe.’ v4 Absalom and all the leaders in *Israel thought that this was good advice.

v5 Then Absalom said, ‘Bring Hushai the *Arkite to me. I want to know what he thinks about this.’ v6 When Hushai arrived, Absalom spoke to him. Absalom said, ‘Ahithophel has given us this advice. Should we do what he says? If not, tell us what to do.’

v7 Hushai replied to Absalom, ‘This time, Ahithophel has not given good advice to you. v8 You know that your father and his men are strong men. They are fierce, like a mother bear when someone steals her baby bears. Also, your father is a skilled soldier. He will not stay with his soldiers at night. v9 He has probably already hidden in a cave or some other place. David will attack your soldiers first. Then everyone will hear about it. They will say, “Many of Absalom’s men are now dead.” v10 Your bravest soldiers are as brave as lions. But even those soldiers will become afraid. All the *Israelites know that your father is a strong man. And they know that his soldiers are brave men.

v11 This is what I suggest. Gather all the *Israelites from the whole nation. They should even come from the area called Dan in the north, and from Beersheba in the south. You will have a huge army that is too big to count, like the bits of sand by the sea. You yourself should lead them into the battle. v12 We will go and find David. Then we will attack him. We can descend on him like rain that falls on the ground. We will kill him and all his men. v13 If he escapes to a city, then all the *Israelites will bring ropes (very thick strings) to that city. And we can pull the city down into the valley. Not one stone will remain.’

v14 Absalom and all the *Israelites said, ‘Hushai’s advice is better than Ahithophel’s advice.’ The *Lord had decided to destroy Ahithophel’s good advice. The *Lord was going to ruin Absalom.

Ahithophel advised Absalom again. He had a plan that would quickly make Absalom the king. David was running away. He was not happy. He only had a few loyal men with him. He thought that all the *Israelites were against him. Ahithophel knew that they could easily attack David. Then, they could kill David. Everything would happen quickly. David would not have time to prepare for a battle. Then David’s men would return to Jerusalem and serve the new king. In verse 1, 12 000 probably meant groups of men, from each *Israelite *tribe. This would show a united *Israel. Verse 14 says that this was good advice. But the *Lord was controlling the situation.

Absalom wanted to be certain that this plan would work. So, he got Hushai’s opinion. Hushai wanted to protect David. So, he had to give Absalom a better plan. But that plan had to give David more time to escape. Everyone knew about David’s skill as a soldier. He was brave. He had fought a giant man called Goliath. He fought lions and bears (1 Samuel chapter 17). David and his soldiers had also fought all *Israel’s enemies and defeated them (2 Samuel chapter 8). And Absalom would not want David to defeat his soldiers. That would have frightened the rest of Absalom’s soldiers.

At the end of 1 Samuel, David managed to escape from King Saul many times. In verse 13, Hushai even suggested that David might escape from Absalom and his army. Hushai said that Absalom needed all the *Israelites to fight with him. This would be a huge army with Absalom as their leader. Absalom was a proud man (14:25). He could imagine himself as the leader of this great *Israelite army. In verses 12 and 13, Hushai described how this army would have complete success against David. Hushai used words that helped Absalom to imagine the situation.

Absalom probably wanted the *Israelites to see that he was a great leader and soldier. But Absalom did not realise that the *Lord was against him. Absalom liked Hushai’s grand plan much more than he liked Ahithophel’s advice. But Hushai’s plan would take more time. This meant that Hushai could send news to David in order to warn him.

Hushai sends a message to David

v15 Hushai spoke to Zadok and Abiathar the priests. He told them what Ahithophel had advised Absalom. Then Hushai told them what he had advised Absalom.

v16 Hushai said, ‘Send a message to David immediately. Tell him, “Tonight, do not stay in the desert where people cross the shallow river. You must go across the river. If you do not, you and all your army will die.” ’

v17 Jonathan and Ahimaaz were staying at En Rogel. They did not want anyone to see them go into that town. So, a servant girl went out from the town and she gave them messages. Then Jonathan and Ahimaaz went to tell King David. v18 But a young man saw them. He went and told Absalom. So, Jonathan and Ahimaaz left quickly. They went to a man’s house in the town of Bahurim. He had a well in his garden. Jonathan and Ahimaaz climbed down into the well. v19 The man’s wife put a sheet over the top of the well. And she put grain all over it. Nobody knew anything about it.

v20 Absalom’s men came to the woman at the house. They said, ‘Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan?’

The woman said, ‘They went across the stream.’ Absalom’s men searched for Ahimaaz and Jonathan, but they did not find them. Then Absalom’s men returned to Jerusalem.

v21 When Absalom’s men had gone, Ahimaaz and Jonathan climbed out of the well. They went to give the message to David. They said, ‘Hurry. Cross over the river. Ahithophel has given this advice against you.’ v22 So David and all his people crossed the river Jordan. By dawn, everyone had crossed the Jordan.

v23 Ahithophel saw that the *Israelites did not follow his advice. So he put a saddle on his *donkey. He went to his house in his home town. He dealt with all his family affairs. Then he hanged himself and he died. They buried him next to his father’s grave.

David had to act quickly. He had to get far away from Absalom. En Rogel was only about one and a half kilometres (about 1 mile) south of Jerusalem. A servant girl would often go out to collect water so nobody would suspect her. But someone saw Jonathan and Ahimaaz and suspected them. They went to a village on the east side of the *Mount of *Olives. They probably knew a family there that were loyal to David. A woman hid them and she sent Absalom’s men away. They believed her because everything looked normal. The men who were looking for Jonathan and Ahimaaz did not know about the well in the garden. They only saw the sheet with wheat on it. When it was safe, the two men went to David. They warned him. David and his men quickly crossed the Jordan.

It was too late for Ahithophel’s plan to work. Absalom did not want Ahithophel’s advice. If David returned as king, he would probably kill Ahithophel. Ahithophel felt hopeless. He had no future. So, he went home and he killed himself.

v24 David went to the town called Mahanaim. And Absalom and all the *Israelites crossed over the river Jordan. v25 Now Absalom had made Amasa the leader of the army instead of Joab. Amasa was the son of Jether, who came from Ishmael’s family. Jether had married Abigail. She was the daughter of Nahash and the sister of Zeruiah. Zeruiah was the mother of Joab. v26 Absalom and all the *Israelites camped in the land of Gilead.

v27 When David came to the town called Mahanaim, Shobi, Makir and Barzillai were there. Shobi was the son of Nahash, who came from the *Ammonite town called Rabbah. Makir was the son of Ammiel, who came from Lo Debar. Barzillai came from Rogelim in the area called Gilead. v28 They brought beds, bowls and pots to David. They also brought wheat, barley (like wheat), flour and some grain that they had cooked. And they brought beans, small peas (types of vegetables) and v29 honey. They also brought some sheep, sheep’s milk and cheese that they had made from cows’ milk. They brought all this for David and his men. The three men thought, ‘The people are in the desert. They will be hungry and tired. They will also need to drink.’

The town of Mahanaim had strong walls round it. It was about 11 kilometres (7 miles) east of the river Jordan. Ish-Bosheth, the son of Saul, had become king there (2:8-10). Shobi, Makir and Barzillai were David’s friends. Shobi’s father, Nahash, had been king of the country of Ammon. Mephibosheth had lived with Makir before he lived with David in Jerusalem (9:4-5). Barzillai was a rich old man. He was loyal to David (19:31-32). These three men gave David practical help. They brought many different types of food for David and his men. The men cooked the food in the pots. They ate the food out of the bowls. Then they had somewhere comfortable where they could sleep. After this, David’s men were strong and they were ready to fight again.

Meanwhile, Absalom gathered the *Israelite army. This would have taken several days. Joab used to lead the army but he was with David (18:2). So, Absalom had to find a new leader. He chose Amasa, who was a relative of Joab and David. Absalom and his army camped in the land near Mahanaim.