Now someone told David: "Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom." So David pleaded, "O LORD, please turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness!"
2 Samuel 15:31. - (MOUNT OLIVET.)References: 2 Samuel 15:12, 34; 2 Samuel 16:15, 20-23; 2 Samuel 17:1-7, 15, 23; 1 Chronicles 27:33.) While ascending the Mount of Olives, David received intelligence that his counsellor, Ahithophel the Gilonite, had gone over to Absalom. He was the wisest statesman in Israel, and nothing was more adapted than his counsel to ensure the success of the revolt. The effect which his defection produced upon David is evident from the prayer (suggested probably by his name, "brother of a fool") that forthwith broke from his lips. As he continued his, journey, he, perhaps, reflected on the former course of Ahithophel (the Old Testament Judas) in the light of present knowledge, and indulged some such sentiments as are expressed in Psalm 41., 'The comfort of the afflicted and betrayed;' Psalm 55, 'Prayer against a treacherous friend;' Psalm 69., 109. Observe that -
I. A FAMILIAR FRIEND MAY BECOME A DEADLY FOE.
"Also my friend [literally, 'man of my peace'], whom I trusted,
"For it is not an enemy, etc.
1. Dislike of the religious earnestness and theocratic policy of David.
2. Ambition to be the sole adviser and prime minister of Absalom. "There may have been jealousy of Joab, or the natural tendency to worship the rising instead of the setting sun, or the impatience of a hypocrite at the round of religious services in which he was compelled to bear a part, affecting a devotion he did not feel, Psalm 55:13, 14" (Plumptre).
3. Revenge "for the dishonour done to his family in the person of Bathsheba, which no subsequent marriage could repair or efface" (Delany). "He was urged by the desire of punishing David's greatest crime, if he were not at the bottom of the movement. It is but reasonable to trace in the conspiring Ahithophel one of the intricate methods by which the judicial providence of God works out its own ends; suffering a great offender, notwithstanding his penitence, to eat the fruit of his deeds; yet reserving for treachery in time its reward" (R. Williams). "This text is a glass wherein God's justice is plainly to be seen. David had formerly forsaken Uriah, and now God suffers Ahithophel to forsake David.
(1) Let us learn, when our friends forsake us, to enter into a serious scrutiny with our own souls.
(2) The most politic heads have not always the faithfullest hearts.
(3) False friends will forsake thee in times of adversity" (T. Fuller). "My brethren have dealt deceitfully as a brook," etc. (Job 6:15; Jacox, 'Stray Side-Lights on Scripture Texts').
II. GREAT GIFTS ARE SOMETIMES PERVERTED TO UNGODLY USES. "That oracular wisdom which made his house a kind of shrine (2 Samuel 16:23) seems to move the spirit of the sacred writer with an involuntary admiration" (Stanley). "His great crimes were enhanced by his immense talents, of which God gave him the use and the devil the application." His criminality appears not only in
(1) his sanctioning and promoting rebellion against the authority of the king; but also in
(2) his lawless and shameless advice against his honour (2 Samuel 16:21, 22), whereby he sought to make reconciliation and compromise impossible in the view of all, and to gratify his revenge in the most effective and significant manner (2 Samuel 11:2, 4, 11); becoming, consciously or unconsciously, an instrument of retribution. "This cursed policy showed him rather an oracle of the devil than of God" (Matthew Henry).
(3) His malicious and cruel proposal to take away his life (2 Samuel 17:2). None but a man devoid of all moral and religious principle could have given such counsel. A powerful intellect is, alas! too often united with a depraved heart. "It is often found true by experience that persons of superior penetration and wisdom are of bad intentions; they see further than other men, and are under a temptation to turn their minds to the overreaching of others, and effecting mischief; their ability in accomplishing wickedness is a snare and a temptation to them; they find they can do it, and therefore are ready and willing to do it" (W. Jones, of Nayland). "This man, while he was one of David's deep counsellors, was one of David's fools, that said in their hearts, 'There is no God;' else he could not have hoped to make good an evil with worse, to build the success of treason upon incest." "Oh the policy of this Machiavelli of Israel, no less deep than hell itself! Oh the wisdom of the Almighty, that can use the worst evils well, and most justly make the sins of man his executioners!" (Hall).
III. GOD IS ABLE TO FRUSTRATE THE CRAFTIEST COUNSELS. "Turn," etc., "either infatuate him, that he may give foolish counsel; or, let his counsel be rejected as foolish, or spoiled by the foolish execution of it" (Poole). "He taketh the wise in their own craftiness," etc. (Job 5:13; 1 Corinthians 3:19). Of this David was persuaded from:
1. His supreme and infinite wisdom, in comparison with which the highest human wisdom is foolishness.
2. His abundant and varied resources for the direction and control of men's purposes and actions, so that they are made of none effect, or turn out contrary to what was intended and expected.
3. His frequent and extraordinary interpositions for that end. History is full of such instances (Acts 4:28). So are individual lives (1 Samuel 23:24-28). "Though Ahithophel spoke as an oracle of God (as we often see statesmen wiser than priests), yet as he turned to treachery his counsel turned to foolishness."
IV. A GOOD MAN HAS AN UNFAILING RESOURCE IN EVERY TROUBLE, viz. sincere, believing, fervent prayer. "Call upon me," etc. (Psalm 1:15).
1. However beset by the craft and power of his adversaries, he cannot be deprived of this privilege, but has access to God in all circumstances, at all times, and in all places (ver. 32). "A Christian cannot always hear, or always read, or always communicate, but he may pray continually. If he be on the top of a house with Peter, he may pray; if he he in the bottom of the ocean with Jonah, he may pray; if he be walking in the field with Isaac, he may pray when no eye seeth him; if he be waiting at table with Nehemiah, he may pray when no ear heareth him; if he be in the mountains with our Saviour, he may pray; if he be in the prison with Paul, he may pray; wherever he is, prayer will help him to find God out. Every saint is God's temple; and he that carrieth his temple about him, saith Austin, may go to prayer when he pleaseth. Indeed, to a Christian every house is a house of prayer; every closet a chamber of presence; and every place he comes to an altar whereon he may offer the sacrifice of prayer" (Swinnock, 'The Christian Man's Calling').
2. The depth of his helplessness and peril is an incentive to higher earnestness and an argument for the fulfilment of Divine promises. "Ejaculations are short prayers darted up to God on emergent occasions. When we are time bound, place bound, or person bound, so that we cannot compose ourselves to make a large solemn prayer, this is the right instant for ejaculations, whether orally uttered or only poured forth inwardly in the heart" (T. Fuller).
3. And his prayer is not offered in vain. Sometimes while he is "yet speaking" (Isaiah 65:24) the answer comes (ver. 32). "In answer to a single emphatical ejaculation the counsel of the prudent is carried headlong" (Scott).
"As for me - unto God will I cry,
O Lord, I pray Thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.
(W. Birch, jun.)
II. TO INQUIRE WHO MAY BE SAID TO BE AIMING TO OVERTHROW A GOOD GOVERNMENT, There is such a great diversity in the natural abilities, acquired knowledge, local situations, and temporal interests of mankind, that it is not to be expected they should be perfectly agreed in their political sentiments. Individuals, therefore, may be good subjects of a good government, though they should really think that its constitution is not so perfect as it might be; or that those in administration do not in all cases conduct public affairs so well as they might conduct them. But we may justly consider those as aiming to subvert the government, who endeavour to alienate the affections of the people from it. This was the method which Absalom pursued, in order to take the kingdom out of his father's hands into his own. Accordingly, when we find any description of men insidiously endeavouring to alienate the affections of the people from their government, we have no room to doubt of their malevolent and traitorous designs. They are certainly seeking the power of bringing about a revolution of government; and should they attain that power, we may presume they will employ it for that purpose.
III. THE PROPRIETY OF PRAYING THAT GOD WOULD DISCONCERT THE COUNSELS OF SUCH DESIGNING AND DANGEROUS MEN. And this will appear, if we consider,
1. That the subversion of a good government is one of the greatest calamities than can fair upon a people. A good government is the security of everything which they hold most dear and valuable in life. It protects their persons, their property, and all their civil and religious privileges. And if this foundation of their public safety and happiness should be taken away they would be completely ruined. Hence David demands, "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?"
2. It is the prerogative of God to frustrate the most secret and destructive counsels of men. He knows their down-sittings and up-risings. He understands their thoughts afar off. He looks on their hearts and ponders all their purposes. They cannot conceive an evil thought nor concert a malignant design which he cannot perfectly penetrate and comprehend. He is able therefore to discover and disconcert the most subtile and secret counsels against the peace and prosperity of any people. This the inspired writers firmly believed and abundantly taught.
3. That God has often defeated the most destructive and deep-laid designs of men, in answer to prayer. David entreated God to confound the designs of Ahithophel. "O Lord, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness." This prayer was graciously heard and answered.
(N. Emmons, D. D.)
PeopleAbiathar, Absalom, Ahimaaz, Ahithophel, Aram, Arkite, Cherethites, David, Gittites, Hushai, Israelites, Ittai, Jonathan, Kerethites, Levites, Pelethites, Zadok
PlacesAram, Gath, Geshur, Giloh, Hebron, Jerusalem, Kidron, Mount of Olives
TopicsAbsalom, Ab'salom, Ahithophel, Ahith'ophel, Ahithophel's, Conspirators, Counsel, David, Declared, Foolish, Foolishness, Joined, O, Please, Prayed, Saying, Someone, Turn, Wisdom
Outline1. Absalom, by fair speeches and courtesies, steals the hearts of Israel.
7. By pretense of a vow, he obtains leave to go to Hebron
10. He makes there a great conspiracy
13. David upon the news flees from Jerusalem
19. Ittai will leave him
24. Zadok and Abiathar are sent back with the ark
30. David and his company go up mount Olivet weeping,
31. He curses Ahithophel's counsel
32. Hushai is sent back with instructions
Dictionary of Bible Themes2 Samuel 15:31
LibraryA Loyal Vow
'And the king's servants said unto the king, Behold, thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my lord the king shall appoint.'--2 SAMUEL xv. 15. We stand here at the darkest hour of King David's life. Bowed down by the consciousness of his past sin, and recognising in the rebellion of his favourite son the divine chastisement, his early courage and buoyant daring seem to have ebbed from him wholly. He is forsaken by the mass of his subjects, he is preparing to abandon Jerusalem, and to flee as an …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
Ittai of Gath
Pardoned Sin Punished
Loyal to the Core
The Will of God
A Light to Lighten the Gentiles
The Daily Walk with Others (iii. ).
And V the Kingdom Undivided and the Kingdom Divided
That Whereas the City of Jerusalem had Been Five Times Taken Formerly, this was the Second Time of Its Desolation. A Brief Account of Its History.
King of Kings and Lord of Lords
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