But what happened to Ahithophel? Why would he choose Absalom over David? What would lead a wise, godly man to not only choose wrongly here - but also to offer very godless advice to Absalom as one of his first acts as his counselor? In 2 Samuel 16 he encouraged Absalom to commit adultery and rape with 10 of David’s concubines in broad daylight before all of Israel in Jerusalem. That is not godly counsel! What would lead a man who once was seen as a source of godly wisdom to give such unwise, unholy counsel?
Something we know only by examining the genealogies of Scripture is that Ahithophel had a granddaughter who was well known in the annals of Scripture. We read in 2 Samuel 23:34 that Ahithophel’s son was named Eliam. What we don’t see, unless we examine the records closer, is who Eliam’s daughter and Ahithophel’s granddaughter was. Her name was Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam. Bathsheba was Ahithophel’s granddaughter. This was how a godly man began to descend down a path of bitterness that eventually destroyed not just his wisdom, but eventually destroyed him in the end.
What a blow it had to be to learn of David’s betrayal to him and his family. Ahithophel had served with honor and distinction - had given his son to the fight - had even given his son-in-law as well (for Uriah was one of the mighty men of David too). David repented of his sin in the end - even writing publicly sung Psalms that spoke of his betrayal and wickedness. But something happened to Ahithophel in the process. We are warned in the New Testament to beware of any root of bitterness that may spring up in us that will defile us and many around us. David bears responsibility for his sin and for being a stumbling block to Ahithophel, but it was also this man’s responsibility to forgive as well - even when it was excruciating to do so. But it is evident that he did not - but began to nurse bitterness and a grudge against David.
Then the day came that an opportunity arose for Ahithophel. David’s passivity toward his son was costing him the kingdom. Absalom had effectively stolen the hearts of many in Israel and a rebellion was begun. One of the early things Absalom did was to ask Ahithophel to be a part of the rebellion - and Ahithophel gladly rose to the task. His ungodly advice to begin Absalom’s rule by invading and then raping the 10 concubines left to care for the house was shocking. But it had its desired results in that it burned any bridge left between David and Absalom. Then Ahithophel counseled Absalom to let him had a large strike force he would take and use to chase down and kill David. He was not focused on winning a battle - but on making sure David was dead. These were the actions of a man who was consumed with destroying David - as he had destroyed Ahithophel’s family.
In a strange twist, David’s close friend, Hushai - stayed behind at David’s request to thwart the counsel of Ahithophel. When Hushai disagreed with Ahithophel’s counsel and prevailed - the disgraced royal counselor knew that Absalom would not prevail. With a hurt pride - and a crushed spirit that would no longer be able to see David killed - Ahithophel went home. Unforgiveness turned to bitterness and now bitterness had led to ungodly counsel to murder God’s anointed. He saw his own demise coming - and unable to see forgiveness as a possibility (probably due to his own inability and unwillingness to give it to others) - Ahithophel set his house in order - and hung himself.
What do we learn from the sad story of Ahithophel? First, I want to make sure that everyone who reads this knows that what David did was sin - and he was responsible before God for being a stumbling block to many. It brought great damage to his own family and also among his friends. So we do learn that sin has a horrific price to it that we usually do not see in the moment we consider it and act in an ungodly manner. Hopefully we see a reminder to ask ourselves, “Who is going to be hurt by the fallout of my sin?” This is a question we most definitely should ask - and allow its answer to warn us and frighten us so that we fear God and run from sin. But there is a second lesson we need to learn. Stumbling blocks will come - and anyone who has lived on this fallen earth knows that there will be many many times we will be hurt in one lifetime. The lesson we need to take from Ahithophel is to realize that nursing those hurts instead of giving them to God and forgiving others will destroy us. I do not want to minimize the pain and hurt Ahithophel felt. I do not want to given anyone the impression that such pain is easy to deal with in life. But the truth is that our pain, when not dealt with, will lead us toward unforgiveness and bitterness. Left to grow into a malignancy in our hearts - bitterness and unforgiveness will hurt us. The damage it will do within us is only going to grow over time. Ahithophel’s hurt and pain did turn into unforgiveness and bitterness in the end. It smoldered within his heart and turned a wise man into a fool who gave very wicked advice. It turned a man who served God early in his life into a man who lived with an unholy vendetta to kill the one who hurt him - and when that opportunity was taken from him - he killed himself.
To those who have been hurt badly by another - even possibly a leader in a church - I do not want to minimize your pain. It is very real. But remember that our Lord was betrayed and left alone at the cross. He knows every ounce of venom the world can try to inject with its bite into our hearts. He did not succumb to it - and even prayed, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing,” toward those who impaled him upon the cross. He even forgave Peter who denied Him and cursed vehemently as he did. He forgave the others who ran and left Him and who did not even stand with Him for one hour of prayer in the garden. Our Lord Jesus Christ has been betrayed an untold amount of times since then - even by our own indifference and unwillingness to speak and stand out for Him. And He forgives - and forgives - and forgives again. He has even given us His Spirit, by which He empowers us to draw on His life and power to forgive others. Bitterness and unforgiveness destroyed Ahithophel. Let us not learn or draw from him and his example when hurt - but rather let us die to ourselves and draw upon our Lord Jesus Christ and His life to forgive.