AHITHOPHEL (Heb. for “brother of foolishness,” i.e. foolish!), a man of Judah whose son was a member of David’s bodyguard. He was possibly the grandfather of Bathsheiba (see 2 Sam. xi. 3, xxiii. 34), a view which has been thought to have some bearing on his policy. He was one of David’s most trusted advisers, and his counsel was “as though one inquired of the word of God.” He took a leading part in Absalom’s revolt, and his defection was a severe blow to the king, who prayed that God would bring his counsel to “foolishness.”
The subsequent events are rather obscure. At Ahithophel’s advice Absalom first took the precaution of asserting his claim to the throne by seizing his father’s concubines (cf. ABNER.) The immediate pursuit of David was then suggested; the advice was accepted, and the sequence of events shows that the king, being warned of this, fled across the Jordan (2 Sam. xvi. 20-23, xvii. 1-4, 22). Inconsistent with this is the account of the intervention of Hushai, whose counsel of delay (in order to gather all Israel “from Dan to Beersheba”), in spite of popular approbation, was not adopted, and with this episode is connected the tradition that the sagacious counsellor returned to his home and, having disposed of his estate, hanged himself. Instances of suicide are rare in the Old Testament (cf. SAUL), and it is noteworthy that in this case, at least, a burial was not refused.
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