Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 17

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2 Samuel 17 continues the historical record of the insurrection led by Absalom, David’s thirdborn son. We are given a window, a front-row seat, concerning Absalom’s war council and the opposing strategies he was proffered.

2 Samuel 17 – Absalom’s War Council

Ahithophel Counseled Absalom to Pursue David (2 Samuel 17:1-4)

Ahithophel, an embittered but wise man and the grandfather of Bathsheba, counseled Absalom to allow him to pursue David and his entourage that very night (17:1). Ahithophel’s strategy was to ambush David before he could organize his “mighty men” and he would “smite the king only” (17:2). He encouraged Absalom that if he struck David, he would “bring back all the people [and] all the people shall be in peace” (17:3).

Absalom and “all the elders of Israel” agreed with Ahithophel’s counsel (17:4). Yet, Absalom made a fateful and providential error for David. The young, self-appointed king commanded, “Call now Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear likewise what he saith” (17:5).

Hushai’s Counsel Controverted Ahithophel’s (2 Samuel 17:5-13)


Remembering Hushai was covertly loyal to David, he fulfilled his mission and gave opposing counsel to Ahithophel. Ahithophel counseled Absalom to pursue and destroy David before he could organize or pass over the Jordan River. Hushai, however, convinced Absalom that he had the luxury of time. He reminded the foolish, self-appointed king that all Israel understood that David and his men were mighty warriors (17:8-10). Therefore, his counsel to the prodigal son of David was for him to gather a superior force and defeat his father by strength of power (17:11-12).

Having appealed to Absalom’s pride and pursuit of glory, Hushai painted a picture of Israel uniting behind him as their new king. He asserted that should David seek refuge in a walled city, “all Israel [would] bring ropes to that city, and…will draw it into the river, until there be not one small stone found there” (17:13).


Absalom’s Fateful Error (2 Samuel 17:14)


Though Ahithophel’s counsel was the wiser of the two, Absalom rejected his advice and followed Hushai’s strategy. Why? Why did Absalom do the irrational? Why did he refuse Ahithophel’s advice and permit his father to escape?

The answer to those questions is summed up in verse 14, where we are reminded that the LORD is Sovereign regardless of who sits on the throne or wields power as a ruler. “For the LORD had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the Lord might bring evil upon Absalom” (17:14).

The Departure of David’s Spies was Exposed (2 Samuel 17:15-21)

Having offered his counsel, Hushai successfully delayed Absalom’s pursuit of the king. Nevertheless, he knew it was crucial that David not wait to cross the Jordan River that night (17:15-16). Hushai, therefore, told the priests his counsel (17:15-16), who then sent a woman (perhaps a household servant) to take a message to the priests’ sons who were waiting outside the city (17:17).

Despite their attempt to secretly convey the news to David, a boy discovered their ploy and told Absalom (17:18), who sent men to pursue the spies. Then, a man and his wife who were loyal to David concealed the spies from Absalom’s men (17:18-20). After their pursuers departed and returned to Jerusalem, the priests’ sons took Husahi’s counsel to David and urged him and his party to pass over the Jordan that night (17:21).

David Made Privy to Absalom’s Strategy (2 Samuel 17:21-22)

The spies came to David’s encampment and brought news concerning Absalom’s plot (17:21). Hushai warned the king and his company that they must not rest until they crossed Jordan that night (17:22).

The Death of Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23)

Knowing his counsel was rejected, Ahithophel understood what Absalom and those who followed him would soon learn…All was Lost. The opportunity to crush David and his men was when he was in flight, but that time and opportunity had passed. Ahithophel exited Absalom’s presence and went home to arrange his personal affairs. Because he would face the indignity of execution as a traitor, Ahithophel “hanged himself” (17:23).

David’s Flight to Safety (2 Samuel 17:24-29)

David and his men crossed the river that night and arrived at Mahanaim, which was located on the east side of the Jordan (17:24). Absalom followed his father in a desperate pursuit (17:25-26), even as those loyal to David brought their king and his company supplies to refresh them (17:27-29).

Closing thoughts –

We will continue our study of this sad time in David’s life in another reading. For now, take a moment and reflect on the tragic end of Ahithophel, Bathsheba’s grandfather. He allowed bitterness against the king to fester in his soul until he found himself in the position of opposing the LORD’s anointed.

The problem with Ahithophel was not his counsel but his spirit. There was a time when he was numbered among the great men of Israel. He was renowned for his discernment and wisdom from God (2 Samuel 16:23). Tragically, a bitter and vengeful spirit had supplanted godly wisdom in his heart. His testimony in Israel ended in an inglorious act of suicide.

Warning –A wise man will assess his spirit before choosing sides in a conflict, for only fools oppose the LORD.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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