David’s friend Hushai gives Absalom some ‘helpful’ counsel. Only it is helpful for David, not Absalom. Ahithophel’s counsel would have helped Absalom better. Thank God he didn’t listen!
Now that Absalom has raped David’s concubines he wants to know what to do next. He turns again to the two counselors with him; Ahithophel and Hushai. Both of their counsel revolves around David. ‘Now that you have the throne, can you keep it’ kind of advice. Let’s join our story again and see where the Spirit takes us with it.
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Absalom is feeling very proud of himself as he exits the tent on the rooftop. Ahithohphel waits on the eastern side of the roof, close to the stairs leading back down into the building. Ahithophel accompanies Absalom as he makes his way back to the throne room. On the way downs Ahithophel shares his plan for the next phase of the plan for assuring Absalom leadership in Israel.
“Let me choose twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue David tonight. I will come upon him while he is weary and discouraged and throw him into a panic, and all the people who are with him will flee. I will strike down only the king, and I will bring all the people back to you as a bride comes home to her husband. You seek the life of only one man, and all the people will be at peace” (verses 1b-3).
Ahithophel’s words sound very wise to Absalom but he wants to weigh this idea with another. As Absalom and Ahithophel enter the throne room Absalom issues orders to one of his guards. “Call Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear what he has to say” (verse 5).
Ahithophel’s counsel had not been challenged before. He always spoke in the best interest of the king. Why was Absalom seeking counsel from another. Hushai quickly entered the throne room and bowed before Absalom. “How may I serve you my king?”
“Ahithophel has given me counsel. I would like your advice on the matter. He has asked to take 12,000 men in pursuit of David this night. He intends to scatter the people and catch David while he is weary. He believes he can capture David and no others will be hurt. What say you to this? ‘Shall we do as he says? If not, you speak’ (verse 6b).”
Hushai knew he had been placed in this position for a time such as this. He has to stall Absalom so David can safely escape. “This time the counsel that Ahithophel has given is not good. You know that your father and his men are mighty men, and that they are enraged, like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field. Besides, your father is expert in war; he will not spend the night with the people. Behold, even how he has hidden himself in one of the pits or in some other place. And as soon as some of the people fall at the first attack, whoever hears it will say, ‘There has been a slaughter among the people who follow Absalom.’ Then even the valiant man, whose heart is like a heart of a lion, will utterly melt with fear, for all Israel knows that your father is a mighty man, and that those who are with him are valiant men. But my counsel is that all Israel be gathered to you, from Dan to Beersheba, as the sand of the sea for multitude, and that you go to battle in person. So we shall come upon him is some place where he is to be found, and we shall light upon him as the dew falls on the ground, and of him and all the men with him not one will be left. If he withdraws into a city, then all Israel will bring ropes to that city, and we shall drag it into the valley, until not even a pebble is to be found” (verses 7b-13).
Hushai is nearly breathless after his proposal. He is praying that Absalom will agree to it. It is all Hushai can think of to stall Absalom.
Absalom appears to be thinking over Hushai’s plan. He looks to the other men gathered around the room. Heads nod as he moves his gaze from one to the next to the next. Not everyone agrees. Ahithophel is NOT in agreement but this is the king’s decision to make. All he can do is offer advice and carry out the orders his king keeps. Absalom finally has his decision.
“The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel” (verse 4b).
Hushai sent a silent prayer heavenward while maintaining a neutral face for Absalom. He wanted to shout and praise the Lord for he KNEW that this was the work of the Lord. Ahithophel’s counsel was indeed wise and would probably have succeeded. Hushai needed to get word to David now, in case Absalom changed his mind.
Hushai bows again. “Will that be all, my king? I would go and prepare if so.”
Absalom answered with a wave of his hand. “You may go.”
Hushai had to clamp down on his desire to run to Zadok. He couldn’t be seen openly going to him. Absalom surely knew that Zadok was still loyal to David. Hushai went to his home and retrieved items that would give the impression that he was going up to the tent of David to offer praise to the Lord. He took his coin purse and his shawl. He also laid aside his sword. Hushai walked with purpose to the tent of David where Abiathar and Zadok were serving.
Once at the tent, Hushai stated in a loud voice, “I come to offer praise to the Lord.” In a lower voice he added, “And to send word to the king.”
Zadok quickly caught Hushai’s meaning and joined him in his ruse. “Join me brother in a meal before the Lord where we will give thanks to Him.”
The three men disappeared into a nearby tent. As soon as they were seated Hushai laid out all that had happened before Absalom. “I fear for the king’s safety. Ahithophel gave the king’s son sound advice but the Lord intervened and I was able to persuade him to wait until he could gather all of Israel. I fear Absalom may yet change his mind. ‘Now therefore send quickly and tell David, “Do not stay tonight at the fords of the wilderness, but by all means pass over, lest the king and all the people who are with him be swallowed up”’ (verse 16).”
“Thank you brother for bringing this word to me. I will see to it that the king receives this information right away” said Zadok.
Hushai peeked his head out of the tent to be sure he wasn’t being observed before exiting. Then he made his way back to his house.
Zadok left the tent next. He returned to the entrance of the tent of David where the Ark of the Lord rested. Abiathar would take the next step in warning David while Zadok kept the people’s eyes diverted.
Abiathar was the last to exit the tent and he called to a special servant girl to come clear away the remains of the meal. As she was clearing the meal Abiathar quietly relayed Hushai’s words for David to her ears. “You will find Jonathan and Ahimaaz waiting at Enrogel. They will carry word to the king. Go quickly, for they must reach him before night fall. But be careful not to be observed.”
She barely nodded her head and kept working. Anyone observing would not be able to tell anything had passed between the two. As soon as she had gathered all the platters she exited the tent and took them to the kitchen for cleaning. Instead of washing them though she left them on the counter and stole away to Enrogel.
Her destination was just outside the city. She kept to the back streets as much as possible and kept checking over her shoulder to see if she was being observed. She didn’t believe she was being followed. When she arrived at the rendezvous point she looked one last time to see if she was being observed before going to where Jonathan and Ahimaaz.
The two men were waiting in a home near the edge of town. They had consented to be runners carrying information to David from Jerusalem. This would be their first mission.
The servant girl made her way to the house and into the kitchen. She quickly passed on the information to the two runners. She would spend the night at this home to decrease the possibility of her being observed.
Jonathan and Ahimaaz took great pains to disguise themselves including wearing cloaks with hoods. The information they were bringing was so urgent that they couldn’t wait until dark to leave. They had to leave right away. They slipped out the back and along the back alley into a nearby olive grove. As they traveled they heard shouts coming from behind them.
“You, stop there!”
They had been observed and someone had raised an alarm. Jonathan and Ahimaaz fled as quickly as possible and found whatever cover they could. They made it to Bahurim without being apprehended and had managed to put a little distance between them and their pursuers. “I know a man in the street over there. He can hide us” said Jonathan pointing off to the left.
Out of breath and in fear for their lives the two runners arrived at the house of Ahaz, a sympathetic friend of the king. Ahaz had seen them approaching and he met them in the courtyard. “We need a place to hide quickly!”
“Follow me!” commanded Ahaz. He led them to the well for his house. “Quick! Climb down the ladder!”
Jonathan and Ahimaaz did as they were told. Ahaz’s wife Anna arrived right after Ahimaaz made it into the well. She had a cloth covering that was used when grinding and sifting grain. She spread it over the opening of the well and scattered grain on it, making it appear as if this was where she had been working recently. She and Ahaz then quickly went back into their house.
Absalom’s servants worked their way through the town from house to house. They knew the two men had come this way and suspected that someone had helped them escape. When they knocked on Ahaz’s door his wife opened it.
“Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan?” (verse 20b) demanded the servant.
She did not pretend she didn’t know these two young men or even that she hadn’t seen them. Instead with a steady voice she answered Absalom’s men. “They have gone over the brook of water” (verse 20c).
She was so convincing that Absalom’s servants immediately left and crossed the Kidron brook and continued their search farther on for the two men. They looked for about an hour before giving up and returning to Jerusalem.
Anna watched from her window, hidden behind a curtain, while the men searched. She saw them abandon their search too. When they were well away from Anna’s home she returned to the well and uncovered it.
“Thank you my lady!” said Ahimaaz
“And you also kind sir” offered Jonathan.
“Take this with you. You may need it on the way.” Anna pressed a towel containing bread and cheese into Ahimaaz’s hands.
Ahimaaz and Jonathan reached David at the Jordan where he and those who traveled with him had been refreshing themselves. They went straight to David to inform him of everything they had learned. “’Arise, and go quickly over the water’ (verse 21b) for Ahithophel has counseled Absalom to seek you this night while you are weary. Hushai has counseled him to wait until all Israel can be gathered. Absalom agreed to Hushai’s counsel but it is unknown if he will change his mind and proceed with the more urgent advise of Ahithophel.”
David called for his captains immediately. “Gather the people. We cross tonight. There must be no one left on the banks by morning.”
Crossing at night would be more dangerous but it couldn’t be avoided. The people’s lives were at stake. Joab and Ittai strung a rope across the river so the people could hold onto it for safety in the dark. All night long men ferried the women and children across the river then crossed over themselves. David’s company was more than a thousand in number and the safe crossing was narrow enough that only a few could ford it at a time.
While David was moving his people to safety, his previous advisor was concluding his life. Ahithophel had been an advisor to the king for many years. His counsel had always been taken as if it came from the Lord Himself. He was distraught by the fact that this time it was different. The reason for his distress what that he knew there were going to be MANY more deaths now. His plan had called for ONE man to be taken. Hushai’s counsel meant there would be war between David and Absalom. And Israel would pay for that war in blood. Ahithophel also expected David would win in such a conflict. Ahithophel had stood with Absalom instead of David and he believed that when the dust settled he would pay dearly for that decision.
After Absalom decided to follow Hushai’s counsel, Ahithophel mounted his donkey and went off to his own city. He served in Jerusalem but that was not his home. As soon as he arrived home he wrote a letter to his family. In it he apologized for his actions and he left a blessing for his sons. He knew his assets would keep his family comfortable for some time but the shame of his actions would probably tarnish their lives for generations to come. Once he concluded his letter he retrieved a rope from the stable and walked to a nearby tree. He threw the rope over a branch and tied a loop on one end. The other he tied securely around the tree. He climbed on his donkey’s back and rode it under the branch. He put his head into the loop and spurred his donkey sharply causing it to break into a run. Ahithophel was pulled from the donkey’s back and hanged. His family would find him this way the next day.
When the first rays of morning broke over David and his followers they were on the eastern banks of the Jordan. They were tired and hungry but they were not yet safe. David knew Absalom would soon be following so he led the people to Mahanaim. This is the city where Saul’s son Ishbosheth reined while David ruled in Hebron.
David and those with him were met by an amazing gift. They were met by three men who cared greatly for David. “Shobi the son of Nahash from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and Machir the son of Ammiel from Lodebar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim, brought beds, basins and earthen vessels, wheat, barley, flour, parched grain, beans and lentils, honey and curds and sheep and cheese from the herd, for David and the people with him to eat, for they said, ‘The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness’” (verses 27b-29). David and his people could not have been more grateful.
The people thanked their hosts, washed, ate and then slept. A feeling of safety settled on the women and children now that their bellies were full. But David and his men knew it was only a matter of time. Battle was imminent.
Absalom was already closer than David knew. After learning of Jonathan and Ahimaaz had eluded his men he readied himself and his men to follow David. When morning came they were on the western bank of the Jordan preparing to cross over. Their destination was the land of Gilead. Amasa, Joab’s cousin, would lead Absalom’s army into battle against David. Absalom would fight side by side with him.
(to be continued)
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I LOVE how God provided for David’s needs through various people without the need of even asking for help. God knows our needs, even before we do. I also LOVE seeing God’s fingerprints all over this story. One place I see His prints are on the covering that hid the men in the well. Where did that covering come from? How is it that it was available exactly when needed? I wonder what it was really made of. It certainly didn’t look out of place when Absalom’s men arrived. They probably looked right at it or passed right by it in their haste.
I also think it interesting how the woman doesn’t even question who the servants are searching for. Of course they all know the others know who they are talking about, WITHOUT clarifying descriptions or information. I probably would have played dumb. “Who? I don’t know a Jonathan or Ahimaaz.” God made her story believable to those searching. Another ‘fingerprint’ moment.
Father God, thank You for Your stories. Thank You for Your protection. You kept David and all those who were with him in the palm of Your hand. You keep me there too. This I know because of my own ‘fingerprint moments’ in my life. Help me NEVER forget those moments and remind me to draw on their certainty when I’m facing another of life’s storms. I am safe in Your arms.