Verses 15-23 (2 Samuel 16:15-23)

Absalom had notice sent him speedily by some of his friends at Jerusalem that David had withdrawn, and with what a small retinue he had gone; so that the coasts were clear, Absalom might take possession of Jerusalem when he pleased. The gates were open, and there was none to oppose him. Accordingly he came without delay (2 Sam. 16:15), extremely elevated, no doubt, with this success at first, and that that in which, when he formed his design, he probably apprehended the greatest difficulty, was so easily and effectually done. Now that he is master of Jerusalem he concludes all his own, the country will follow of course. God suffers wicked men to prosper awhile in their wicked plots, even beyond their expectation, that their disappointment may be the more grievous and disgraceful. The most celebrated politicians of that age were Ahithophel and Hushai. The former Absalom brings with him to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 16:15), the other meets him there (2 Sam. 16:16), so that he cannot but think himself sure of success, when he has both these to be his counsellors; on them he relies, and consults not the ark, though he has that with him. But miserable counsellors were they both; for,

I. Hushai would never counsel him to do wisely. He was really his enemy, and designed to betray him, while he pretended to be in his interest; so that Absalom could not have a more dangerous man about him. 1. Hushai complimented him upon his accession to the throne, as if he had been abundantly satisfied in this title, and well pleased that he had come to the possession, 2 Sam. 16:16. What arts of dissimulation are those tempted to use who govern themselves by fleshly wisdom! and how happy are those who have not known these depths of Satan, but have their conversation in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity! 2. Absalom was surprised to find him for him who was known to be David?s intimate friend and confidant. He asks him, Isa. this thy kindness to thy friend? (2 Sam. 16:17), pleasing himself with this thought, that all would be his, since Hushai was. He doubts not of his sincerity, but easily believes what he wishes to be true, that David?s best friends are so in love with himself as to take the first opportunity to declare for him, though the pride of his heart deceived him, Obad. 1:3. Hushai confirmed him in the belief that he was hearty for him. For, though David is his friend, yet he is for the king in possession, 2 Sam. 16:18. Whom the people choose, and Providence smiles upon, he will be faithful to; and he is for the king in succession (2 Sam. 16:19), the rising sun. It was true, he loved his father; but he had had his day, and it was over; and why should he not love his successor as well? Thus he pretended to give reasons for a resolution he abhorred the thought of.

II. Ahithophel counselled him to do wickedly, and so did as effectually betray him as he did who was designedly false to him; for those that advise men to sin certainly advise them to their hurt; and that government which is founded in sin is founded in the sand.

1. It seems, Ahithophel was noted as a deep politician; his counsel was as if a man had enquired at the oracle of God, 2 Sam. 16:23. Such reputation was he in for subtlety and sagacity in public affairs, such reaches had he beyond other privy-counselors, such reasons would he give for his advice, and such success generally his projects had, that all people, good and bad, both David and Absalom, had a profound regard for his sentiments, too much by far, when they regarded him as an oracle of God; shall the prudence of any mortal compare with him who only is wise? Let us observe from this account of Ahithophel?s fame for policy, (1.) That many excel in worldly wisdom who are utterly destitute of heavenly grace, because those who set up for oracles themselves are apt to despise the oracles of God. God has chosen the foolish things of the world; and the greatest statesmen are seldom the greatest saints. (2.) That frequently the greatest politicians act most foolishly for themselves. Ahithophel was cried up for an oracle, and yet very unwisely took part with Absalom, who was not only a usurper, but a rash youth, never likely to come to good, whose fall, and the fall of all that adhered to him, any one, with the tenth part of the policy that Ahithophel pretended to, might foresee. Well, after all, honesty is the best policy, and will be found so in the long run. But,

2. His policy in this case defeated its own aim. Observe,

(1.) The wicked counsel Ahithophel gave to Absalom. Finding that David had left his concubines to keep the house, he advised him to lie with them (2 Sam. 16:21), a very wicked thing. The divine law had made it a capital crime, Lev. 20:11. The apostle speaks of it as a piece of villany not so much as named among the Gentiles, 1 Cor. 5:1. Reuben lost his birthright for it. But Ahithophel advised Absalom to it as a public thing, because it would give assurance to all Israel, [1.] That he was in good earnest in his pretensions. No doubt he resolved to make himself master of all that belonged to his predecessor when he began with his concubines. [2.] That he was resolved never to make peace with his father upon any terms; for by this he would render himself so odious to his father that he would never be reconciled to him, which perhaps the people were jealous of and that they must be sacrificed to the reconciliation. Having drawn the sword, he did, by this provocation, throw away the scabbard, which would strengthen the hands of his party and keep them firmly to him. This was Ahithophel?s cursed policy, which bespoke him rather an oracle of devil than of God.

(2.) Absalom?s compliance with this counsel. It entirely suited his lewd and wicked mind, and he delayed not to put it in execution, 2 Sam. 16:22. When an unnatural rebellion was the opera, what fitter prologue could there be to it than such unnatural lust? Thus was his wickedness all of a piece, and such as a conscience not quite seared could not entertain the thoughts of without the utmost horror. Nay, the client outdoes what his counsel advises. Ahithophel advised him to do it, that all Israel might hear of it; but, as if that were not enough, so perfectly lost is he to all honor and virtue that he will do it, and all Israel shall see it. A tent is accordingly spread on a1e the top of the house for the purpose; so impudently does he declare his sin as Sodom. Yet, in this, the word of God was fulfilled in the letter of it: God had threatened, by Nathan, that, for defiling Bath-sheba, David should have his own wives publicly debauched (2 Sam. 12:11, 12), and some think that Ahithophel, in advising it, designed to be revenged on David for the injury done to Bath-sheba, who was his grand-daughter: for she was the daughter of Eliam (2 Sam. 11:3), who was the son of Ahithophel, 2 Sam. 23:34. Job speaks of this as the just punishment of adultery (Let my wife grind to another, Job 31:9, 10), and the prophet, Hos. 4:13, 14. What to think of these concubines, who submitted to this wickedness, I know not; but how unrighteous soever Absalom and they were, we must say, The Lord is righteous: nor shall any word of his fall to the ground.

- Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary