What So Enraged Ahithophel That He Betrayed David?

Have you heard fo the saying, “Blood is thicker than water”? This truism reminds us that relationships within the family and their loyalties are generally stronger than those outside the family.

I could not help but think of that saying when I was contemplating an event in the life of David. The situation I am referring to is when his son Absalom tried to overthrow his kingdom with the help of Ahithophel. Notice what it says in 2 Sam. 15:31,

“And it was told David, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” And David said, “O LORD, please turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.”

This coup attempt for David’s throne is compounded by the defection of Ahithophel. Ahithophel was the most esteemed advisor that David had. He is described as follows in 2 Sam. 16:23,

“Absalom followed Ahithophel’s advice, just as David had done. For every word Ahithophel spoke seemed as wise as though it had come directly from the mouth of God.

Why would David’s most trusted advisor leave him for Absalom? Ahithophel had been David’s right-hand man for years! This just does not seem to make sense! In fact, Ahithophel appears to be more than a casual conspirator because he wants to personally kill David. Notice what is says in the following passage,

“Now Ahithophel urged Absalom, ‘Let me choose 12,000 men to start out after David tonight. I will catch up with him while he is weary and discouraged. He and his troops will panic, and everyone will run away. Then I will kill only the king, and I will bring all the people back to you as a bride returns to her husband.’” (2 Sam. 17:1-3)

What is going on? What was driving Ahithophel to pursue this desperate course of action? We do not know much about Ahithophel, but we do find a major clue in 2 Sam. 23:34. There we learn that he had a son named Eliam.

This observation is very significant because of what we learn in 2 Sam. 11:3,

“He (David) sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, ‘She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.’”

Do you see what I see? Ahithophel is the grandfather of Bathsheba! The daughter of his son had a tragic end to her marriage because of David. Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, was killed through the conniving plan of David in his desperate attempt to hide the fact that he was the father of the child that Bathsheba was carrying.

When David had learned that the woman he wanted was married and the granddaughter of Ahithophel, his most trusted advisor, he should have come to his senses and abandoned his plans of taking advantage of her. Instead, he forced himself upon her in spite of this information. His decision to sin in this way had tragic consequences for him and many others.

As a result of these observations, it seems very possible that Ahithophel never got over this betrayal by David and he was waiting for his opportunity to get revenge because he had harmed his family. What a tragic story!

Father, thank you for helping us see that sin has disastrous consequences. David, controlled by passion, rationalized away obedience to pursue his selfish pleasure. You graciously let him know two facts 1) Bathsheba was married and 2) she was the granddaughter of his closest advisor.  This information should have stopped him cold in his tracks, but tragically it did not. Help me not to be deceived by sin and give me the ability to see my foolishness before I make mistakes like David.  Enable me to pursue simple obedience in following you.

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God Cares Even When We Fail

Today I found great comfort in Psalm 56:8.  It says,

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”

God was so aware of the details of David’s life that David describes it as God catching every one of his tears and putting them in a bottle. Every tear is recorded.  This is so encouraging, but it makes me wonder what David was experiencing to cause him such sorrow?

Sometimes in scripture, there is a connection between what we find written in the Psalms and a historical event. Psalm 56 is such a passage. This Psalm was written during the events of 1 Samual 21:10. When you read that passage, you find that this Psalm was written at the time David was fleeing from Saul and went to Gath and pretended to be mad before the king. How could David reach such a state that he felt the need to act like a crazy man to protect himself? This is a very hard question, but I think 1 Sam 21:12 helps us understand his motivation. Notice what it says,

“And David took these words to heart and was much afraid of Achish the king of Gath.”

Why did David do what he did instead of displaying confidence that God would protect him? The answer is fear!

David Payne provides great insight about this when he says,

Fear … was the cause of David’s deceit, both of Ahimelech and of Achish. Fear, like pride, is a destructive human trait, which can lead to a variety of wrongful actions. It is a basic human reaction to frightening circumstances, of course, but the Christian can overcome it by the depth of his trust in God, as many a Christian martyr has demonstrated.”

The Bible does not hide the imperfections of its characters. David was a man with flaws. He was not perfect and made mistakes. Even so, he was a man after God’s own heart. He had God as the number one allegiance of his heart even while being imperfect.  In this case, he allowed fear to cause him to make bad decisions.

Why then was David crying?  I’m sure that it was a combination of the need to flee for his life, being alone, missing his friends and family and missing the nearness of God. It also could be that he realized he had made some bad decisions and was sorrowful because of that as well.

Even so, God’s grace is clearly seen in how David reflected on his situation in Psalm 56. David still understood that God was intimately aware of everything he had done. He saw God as still being with him and being concerned about him in spite of his poor decisions and his difficult circumstances.  In fact, David saw God being so aware of his situation, it was as though God was there catching every tear that fell from his cheek!

Father, this example of David and your care for him even though he made mistakes, is so encouraging. I am often challenged by David’s courage and faith in you, but here, I am encouraged by his failure and your steadfast love in his life in spite of that. I know you love me when I make mistakes as well since I am your son. Help me to trust in you and courageously follow you, but also help me to remember that you care about me when I make mistakes.

Following Jesus with you,