Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The advice of Hushai the Arkite is better than that of Ahithophel.” For the Lord had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom. (2 Samuel 17:14 NIV)
Previously, when David was informed that his top advisor Ahithophel had defected to Absalom, he was troubled enough to pray to God, asking Him to ensure the advice would be brought to nothing. God’s way of answering prayer is depicted in the seventeenth chapter of 2 Samuel.
It starts by establishing how highly regarded Ahithophel’s advice is when he instructs Absalom to sleep with his Dad’s concubines to send a clear message to the nation that he is in charge now. Absalom appreciated that PR policy and followed that instruction. As this chapter begins, Ahithophel reinforces the good advice with another crucial piece of advice – to strike while the iron was hot. Not just strike, but target the king in particular, knowing that David’s death would be sufficient to establish Absalom’s position.
It sounded like good advice. Absalom and his crew were certainly up for that advice. They were up for it. Just as a precaution, though, Absalom sought the advice of Hushai. The role of Hushai as a mole for David in Absalom’s court was a masterstroke. That was proved in how Hushai responded to the advice of Ahithophel. The best way was to appeal to the ego of Absalom and Hushai did so superbly – massaging Absalom by saying he knows his Dad, so he might as well flex his new powers by getting the whole host of Israel together to engage in battle with his Dad and his crew. The crowning piece of the advice was suggesting to Absalom that he, himself, the king could lead the charge with his amassed forces.
His ego suitably massaged, Absalom chose to neglect the advice of Ahithophel. Thus David’s prayer was answered. It won’t be the last time in scripture that the advice of elders is ignored for the more appealing and ego massaging advice of a peer. It’s worth considering carefully the advice you receive, just because it sounds appealing, this does not mean it is the best advice to follow. If a tougher piece of advice comes from someone with a proven track record of great advice, it would be foolhardy to dismiss it.
Ahithophel knew that this would not bode well for him. The methodical way in which he responds, however, sorting his affairs out before committing suicide is a chilling reminder of the cost of associating yourself with the losing side in a fight to the death.
When we pray, God has unique and innovative ways of engaging with our requests. It is for us to be patient and watchful for how He chooses to answer those prayers as we continue to be diligent in doing and being everything pleasing to Him.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden