Then Absalom said to Ahithophel, “Give your counsel. What shall we do?” 21 Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Go in to your father's concubines, whom he has left to keep the house, and all Israel will hear that you have made yourself a stench to your father, and the hands of all who are with you will be strengthened.” 22 So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof. And Absalom went in to his father's concubines in the sight of all Israel. 23 Now in those days the counsel that Ahithophel gave was as if one consulted the word of God; so was all the counsel of Ahithophel esteemed, both by David and by Absalom.
Absalom loved the fool-hardy idea! David liked the idea because it would show the people of Israel that Absalom was unworthy of being king, he was lustful, had no boundaries, and was disrespectful of anyone other than himself. 2 Samuel 17 continues with more of Ahithophel’s advice given in front of Hushai, David’s faithful friend. He said, “Let me handpick twelve thousand men and go after David tonight. I’ll come on him when he’s bone tired and take him by complete surprise. The whole army will run off and I’ll kill only David. Then I’ll bring the army back to you—a bride brought back to her husband! You’re only after one man, after all. Then everyone will be together in peace!” (Verses 1-3 The Message).
Ahithophel’s advice sounded good to Absalom because it appealed to his ego, it had a ring of “greater good” to it, and it even sounded a little godly. But it was not from The LORD, it was from Satan who hoped to destroy the Davidic line, in hopes of destroying the promise of the Messiah. But, not only couldn’t he do that, it was already too late; Solomon and Nathan Jesus’ ancestors had already been born. There is no way to stop God’s Word from accomplishing its purpose. God had promised the Messiah and He would eventually come.
Absalom asked Hushai what he thought of Ahithophel’s counsel and Hushai, knowing that the plan might work said, “That won’t work, David and his men are like hungry desperate bears, they’re experienced and they might ambush your valiant men and slaughter them. You’re better off to gather every man in Israel and you bravely lead them yourself. He won’t be able to hide anywhere! He nor any of his followers will survive.”
Verse 14 reads,
And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.” For the Lord had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the Lord might bring harm upon Absalom.
Hushai sent word to David via Zadok and Abiathar the priests to cross the river to keep Absalom’s army from drowning. You see, Hushai trusted God and knew that when the fight finally came, David would be victorious because the LORD was with him. Zadok and Abiathar got the message to Ahimaaz and Jonathan. But they were seen by one of Absalom’s men. Before they could get the message to David they would have to hide from him. They hid in the well of a woman who reported that they had gone on to the river. The next day they left the well and finally got the message to David and his men who all managed to safely cross the Jordan River and camped at Mahanaim. There Shobi son of Nahash from Ammonite Rabbah, and Makir son of Ammiel from Lo Debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim brought beds, blankets, food, and wine so that they could refresh and keep up their strength.
Ahithophel realized his advice had not been chosen. His ego was wounded and rather than face disgrace with Absalom, he killed himself. In the meantime, Absalom’s army also made it safely across the Jordan and camped at Gilead.
2 Samuel 18 continues the chronicle. David split his army into thirds to send them out to fight. He was going to lead them personally but the men warned him against the move. Verse 3 reads,
But the men said, “You shall not go out. For if we flee, they will not care about us. If half of us die, they will not care about us. But you are worth ten thousand of us. Therefore it is better that you send us help from the city.”
David heeded their advice and commanded his men to deal gently with Absalom, his son and everyone heard the order. The battle took place in the forest of Ephraim and David’s men won. The casualties were heavy though, twenty thousand men died in that battle. Absalom was not among those who had died. He rode his mule and his long thick hair got him into trouble. Verses 9-15 read,
And Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak, and his head caught fast in the oak, and he was suspended between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on. 10 And a certain man saw it and told Joab, “Behold, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak.”11 Joab said to the man who told him, “What, you saw him! Why then did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have been glad to give you ten pieces of silver and a belt.” 12 But the man said to Joab, “Even if I felt in my hand the weight of a thousand pieces of silver, I would not reach out my hand against the king's son, for in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘For my sake protect the young man Absalom.’13 On the other hand, if I had dealt treacherously against his life (and there is nothing hidden from the king), then you yourself would have stood aloof.” 14 Joab said, “I will not waste time like this with you.” And he took three javelins in his hand and thrust them into the heart of Absalom while he was still alive in the oak. 15 And ten young men, Joab's armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him and killed him.
That young man was wise. He knew he had been ordered not to harm Absalom and if he had Joab would have let him take the fall for it. No amount of money would be enough to go against David’s orders and die. Joab on the other hand chose revenge and anger over wisdom and obedience and put three javelins through the prince, then had his armor bearers finish him off. Joab blew the trumpet and called David’s army back from pursuing Absalom’s army. When Israel heard that shofar, they knew they had lost and all of them took off and hid in their homes.
Zadok’s son Ahimaaz could hardly wait to tell the king what had happened. He begged Joab to let him tell David the news. But Joab, knowing how upset David would be over Absalom’s death said, not today. Instead Joab sent a Cushite to tell David the battle had been won. But Ahimaaz continued to beg Joab for the opportunity to tell David and perhaps be rewarded for the news. He would not listen to Joab’s advise.Joab said, “Listen, you will not be rewarded but go on if you must.” He had sent the Cushite for that reason, because he knew that David would not see the good news of the defeat through the terrible news of his son’s death.
So Ahimaaz ran and even outran the Cushite to reach David. Verses 28-30 in The Message read,
Then Ahimaaz called out and said to the king, “Peace!” Then he bowed deeply before the king, his face to the ground. “Blessed be your God; he has handed over the men who rebelled against my master the king.”
29 The king asked, “But is the young man Absalom all right?”
Ahimaaz said, “I saw a huge ruckus just as Joab was sending me off, but I don’t know what it was about.”
30 The king said, “Step aside and stand over there.” So he stepped aside.
The Cushite arrived and delivered the news of David’s victory, but David said, “What about Absalom? How is he?”
The ignorant Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up against you for evil be like that young man.” (Verse 32).
David was heartbroken. He cried out, even wishing that he himself might have died instead of Absalom.
Absalom had taken bad advice from the beginning. He turned to people who would appeal to his self-importance and conceit. He asked people who looked for rewards and accolades for their guidance. Proverbs 13:20 says,
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
David turned to the LORD and to people who also turned to the LORD. The people who advised David were faithful to David and had his best interests, not theirs, in mind. Proverbs 27:9 reads,
Oil and perfume make the heart glad,
and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.
Believer, where are you getting your counsel? Are you turning to The Counselor and to friends who turn to Him? Are your friends true and unafraid to sometimes tell you what you may not want to hear or do they entreat your ego? Remember this,
Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy. (Proverbs 27:6).
And do not forget,
A man of many companions may come to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24).
Believer, you do not need to turn to the world for wisdom; true wisdom comes only from God. He is indwelled in you and your fellow believers. Including the Lord in your relationships makes you all stronger and wiser. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived knew the importance of true friends who all turn to The Counselor for their help. In Ecclesiastes 4:9-13, he wrote,
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. 13 Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice.