I’m sure that like me you value good advice from trusted people. As a lawyer I’m paid to be a trusted advisor to my clients. Hopefully, I provide good advice which helps them make their decisions.
There was a man in the bible who was renowned for giving good advice. In fact his advice was so good that it was likened to enquiring at the oracle of God. That’s a huge compliment.
The man was called Ahithophel (a name that just trips off your tongue) and he was a trusted advisor to King David.
There is a fascinating story in 2 Samuel 15-17 of the time when the good advice of Ahithophel was thwarted by God. God had different plans.
The background to the story is that Absalom, David’s son, had secretly conspired to rebel against his father and seize the throne. He had gathered together key people to support him, one of whom was Ahithophel. David had fled with his supporters to escape being killed by Absolam who then took up residence in the King’s house.
Now David and his supporters were really concerned when they heard that Ahithophel had sided with Absolam and would be his adviser. They knew that they had to find a way to ensure that Absalom did not follow his good advice as this was a real threat to David.
There were 2 steps to David’s plan. First he rightly gave the situation to God and prayed:
And David said, “O Lord, I pray, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness!” 2 Samuel 15:31
I find this prayer quite amazing. Praying to God to turn away the good advice of someone. It made me think of the advisers to those in governments especially with the current situation in Ukraine. Whilst advisers may provide good advice to their leaders, is it Godly advice to bring about God’s purposes and plans. Does their advice lead to peace and goodness.
The other part of David’s plan was that one of David’s other trusted advisers, a man named Hushai, would pretend that he had swapped allegiance to Absolam. He would then provide different advice in the hope of persuading Absolam to ignore the good advice of Ahithophel.
The time came for Absalom to make a key decision. He had usurped the throne but David and his supporters were still alive. What should he do. He asked Ahithophel for his advice. He wisely advised Absalom to let him pursue that night with 12,000 armed men and strike whilst there was this golden opportunity to defeat David when he was tired and vulnerable from fleeing in haste. David was in the wilderness with no protection. He would kill David only and bring back his supporters in peace which would please the men of Israel.
Absalom approved of this advice but asked Hushai what he thought. Hushai was bold. He undermined the good advice by introducing doubt of David’s weakness and reminding Absalom of the mighty men of David who accompanied him and of the mighty and crafty warrior David was. Hushai advised Absalom to rather gather all of Israel to pursue David thus delaying the strike whilst the army was gathered and buying David time. He subtly introduced doubt and fear into Absalom’s mind. The result was that Absalom chose to ignore the good advice of Ahithophel and follow the bad advice of Hushai. Therefore the good advice of Ahithophel was overthrown.
So Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The advice of Hushai the Archite is better than the advice of Ahithophel.” For the Lord had purposed to defeat the good advice of Ahithophel, to the intent that the Lord might bring disaster on Absalom.
2 Samuel 17:14
Now when Ahithophel heard that Absalom had not followed his advice he took drastic action. We read that he returned to his home, put his affairs in order and then killed himself. Now that is an extreme reaction and it wasn’t done in a fit of pique that the King had not followed his advice. Ahithophel realised that his days were now numbered. He knew that by not following his advice, Absalom was going to be defeated by David and lose his grasp on the throne. This meant that as someone who had betrayed David, he would be killed once David returned.
I find this whole story fascinating and especially how it played out. It has really made me think. If you would like to read more of the story then I recommend reading from 2 Samuel chapters 15-19. This includes the subsequent defeat of Absalom and then the wise advice of Joab to David.