Friday, February 03, 2006
Intrigue! Love! Treason! Murder! Revenge!
No, it's not headlines for a new TV show, it's the Old Testament, particularly the section we've been reading and re-reading in Samuel, the books of the Kings, and the Chronicles.
If you're still hanging in with the Overachiever's Bible Reading program, you've already read one-third of the book! Pretty cool, huh?
I thought you might be interested in one "story behind the story."
Absalom, who had become bitter ever since the rape of his sister, Tamar, began a whispering campaign to turn the people away from his father. He employed runners to run ahead of his chariot and praise him to the skies; he also sat in the city gate and accosted people before they could gain an entrance to see the king.
Absalom killed his brother Amnon, the first-born who had raped Tamar, and though he was exiled for a time, his father forgave him. David loved Absalom, perhaps because this son was spectacularly handsome and pleasing to the eye. But Absalom was not a man of God; he may have been the most wicked of the king’s sons.
When Absalom was certain his popularity would prevail, he went on a supposed pilgrimage to Hebron, the land of his tribe, and people began to announce that he reigned from there. Many people did support him, so David and his loyal followers had to flee for their lives. One who remained behind, however, was Ahithophel. Ahithophel had been one of David’s “strong men,” one of the select “thirty” and one of David’s most trusted counselors. Scripture tells us “Now in those days the advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God. That was how both David and Absalom regarded all of Ahithophel's advice” (2 Samuel 16:23).
Because Ahithophel had remained behind, Absalom assumed that the wise man had come around to his side. He asked advice of the older man, and Ahithophel advised him to pursue David with an army of 12,000 while David and his men were tired. Before advising him militarily, however, Ahithophel told Absalom to go to the royal palace and sleep with David’s concubines on the top of the house, so all Israel could see and know what Absalom was doing.
Why would he advise this? Part of the reason undoubtedly had to do with the fact that Absalom had claimed the position of a defeated king, but another part of the reason had to be personal. Scripture does not reveal Ahitophel’s thinking, but notice this: Ahithophel had a son named Eliam (2 Samuel 23:34) and Eliam had a daughter named Bathsheba (“and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, ‘Isn't this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’ 2 Samuel 11:3).
Ahitophel’s granddaughter was Bathsheba, who had been taken from her husband, Uriah, and made pregnant by the king. In time the king’s sin was known throughout the land, and Ahithophel undoubtedly burned to know that his granddaughter had been shamed and her husband murdered. But what could a man do against the king? Only one thing: advise the king’s son about how to plan a coup.
Fortunately, God overruled Ahitophel’s revenge and Absalom followed another man’s advice. Afterward, Ahithophel went home and quietly committed suicide while Absalom was killed by David’s commander.