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Ahithophel

AHITHOPHEL

a-hith'-o-fel ('achithophel, "brother of foolishness," perhaps):

The real leader of the Absalom rebellion against David. He is described as "the king's counselor," in a context connected with events some of which are dated in the fortieth year of David (1 Chronicles 27:33,34; compare 1 Chronicles 26:31). Concerning him and his part in the rebellion we have rather full information (2 Samuel 15:12).

Some hold that he was the grandfather of Bathsheba, and make much of this in forming their estimates of him. Does the evidence sustain this view? In the latter half of the list of David's mighty men, not among the older veterans with whom the list begins, appears "Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite" (2 Samuel 23:34), the corresponding name in the other copy of the list being "Ahijah the Pelonite" (1 Chronicles 11:36). It is assumed that this is the same Eliam who was father to Bath-sheba (2 Samuel 11:3). Apparently the Chronicler testifies (1 Chronicles 3:5) that the mother of Solomon was "Bath-shua the daughter of Ammiel."

Bathshua may easily be a variant of Bathsheba, and the names Eliam and Ammiel are made up of the same parts, only in reversed order. It is not strange that men have inferred that the son of Ahithophel was the father of Bathsheba. But the inference is really not a probable one. The record does not make the impression that Ahithophel was an older man than David. The recorded events of David's life after his misconduct with Bathsheba cannot have occupied less than about twenty years; that is, he cannot have been at the time older than about fifty years. That Ahithophel had then a married grand-daughter is less probable than that there were in Israel two Eliams. Further, Ahithophel was not the sort of man to conspire against the interests of his grand-daughter and her son, however he may, earlier, have resented the conduct of David toward her. Ahithophel's motive in the rebellion was doubtless ambition for personal power, though he very likely shared with many of his countrymen in the conviction that it was unjust to push aside an older son by elevating a younger son to the throne.

Ahithophel has a reputation for marvelous practical sagacity (2 Samuel 16:23). He did not show this in joining the conspiracy but it is in evidence in his management of the affair. According to the record the hearts of the people, in spite of the much fault they had to find, were all the time with David. Absalom's only chance of success was by the method of surprise and stampede. There must be a crisis in which everybody would join Absalom because everybody thought that everybody else had done so. Such a state of public sentiment could last only a very few days; but if, in those few days, David could be put out of the way, Absalom might hold the throne in virtue of his personal popularity and in default of a rival. The first part of the program was carried out with wonderful success; when it came to the second part, Ahithophel's practical wisdom was blocked by Hushai's adroit appeal to Absalom's personal vanity. Ahithophel saw with absolute clearness that Absalom had sacrificed his one opportunity, and he committed suicide to avoid participation in the shameful defeat which he saw could not be averted.

Willis J. Beecher


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'AHITHOPHEL'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.