2 Samuel 17:1–13 (ESV)
Moreover, Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Let me choose twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue David tonight. I will come upon him while he is weary and discouraged and throw him into a panic, and all the people who are with him will flee. I will strike down only the king, and I will bring all the people back to you as a bride comes home to her husband. You seek the life of only one man, and all the people will be at peace.” And the advice seemed right in the eyes of Absalom and all the elders of Israel.
Then Absalom said, “Call Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear what he has to say.” And when Hushai came to Absalom, Absalom said to him, “Thus has Ahithophel spoken; shall we do as he says? If not, you speak.” Then Hushai said to Absalom, “This time the counsel that Ahithophel has given is not good.” Hushai said, “You know that your father and his men are mighty men, and that they are enraged, like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field. Besides, your father is expert in war; he will not spend the night with the people. Behold, even now he has hidden himself in one of the pits or in some other place. And as soon as some of the people fall at the first attack, whoever hears it will say, ‘There has been a slaughter among the people who follow Absalom.’ Then even the valiant man, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will utterly melt with fear, for all Israel knows that your father is a mighty man, and that those who are with him are valiant men. But my counsel is that all Israel be gathered to you, from Dan to Beersheba, as the sand by the sea for multitude, and that you go to battle in person. So we shall come upon him in some place where he is to be found, and we shall light upon him as the dew falls on the ground, and of him and all the men with him not one will be left. If he withdraws into a city, then all Israel will bring ropes to that city, and we shall drag it into the valley, until not even a pebble is to be found there.”
David’s spies inside Absalom’s court guarantee that almost any attack plan will fail. David will know all and can set up an ambush. So, if Ahithophel’s plan is doomed to fail, why try to replace it with another plan?
Ahithophel’s plan keeps Absalom out of the battle. Hushai’s plan has Absalom go to battle in person.
This may sound like a more effective way to win, but it endangers Absalom.
As we will see, endangering Absalom is not what David wants. He hopes to see Nathan’s prophecy (God’s punishment) play out with as little damage as possible to himself and to others. He already witnessed the death of an innocent baby, and he’d like to keep the rest of the carnage to a minimum.
Frankly, he’s mostly worried about minimizing the damage to others—to himself, not so much. This raises an interesting psychological point.
David knows that he messed up and that his sin is leading to all kinds of bad things. He doesn’t want bad things to happen to himself, but if they do, at least it’s just.
But when bad things happen to others, that’s unjust, which is worse.
That attitude is an important part of David being a man after God’s own heart.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.