Ahithophel -- "Brother Of Folly"

Ahithophel (his name means “brother of folly”) was a statesman and counselor of kings, who enjoyed such great fame and popularity that his counsel “was as if a man inquired at the oracle of God” (2 Samuel 16:23).

But Ahithophel was an opportunist. He had been advisor to King David (2 Samuel 15:12), until Absalom “stole the hearts of the men of Israel” (2 Samuel 15:6), and then gave his allegiance to Absalom, apparently in the belief that he would somehow overcome David. He conspired with Absalom to the degree that David prayed, “O LORD …. turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness” (2 Samuel 15:31).

It was Ahithophel who advised Absalom to spread a tent upon the top of his house, and to “go in unto thy father’s concubines” before all Israel — to publicly insult David, and ridicule decency and honor (2 Samuel 16:20-22). Apparently, Ahithophel was adept at using psychological warfare to accomplish his “agenda.” Then, as if that were not foolishness enough, he seemed to forget the strong-hearted character of David, and advised a military operation that promised to frighten and overcome David, and bring his followers to their knees before Absalom (2 Samuel 17:1-3).

Due to his efforts, he had the elders of Israel smiling and nodding at his brilliance (2 Samuel 17:4). However, David had a friend among the court counselors (Hushai the Archite) who said, “The counsel that Ahithophel hath given this time is not good” (2 Samuel 17:7). He reminded them of David’s strength, and the unlikeliness of ever catching him off-guard (2 Samuel 17:8-10). Then he urged Absalom to personally lead a force against David (2 Samuel 17:11-14). When Ahithophel saw that Absalom and the men of Israel chose Hushai’s counsel over his, the text states, “And when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his ass, and arose, and gat him home unto his house, to his city, and put his household in order, and hanged himself….” (2 Samuel 17:23).

He is the only suicide mentioned in the Old Testament, with the exception of those individuals mentioned in warfare. He was apparently a childish, unstable person; trying to play the odds to elevate himself and feed his pride, with little regard for moral principles of right or wrong. He briefly flashed across the pages of Old Testament history, misusing his talents and dying in shame. What a sad end to one who had the ability to influence others for good, but chose evil instead. The meaning of his name (“brother of folly”) was indeed a true reflection of his character.

Mike Riley, Gospel Snippets