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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(Hebrew Achitho'phel, אֲחַיתֹפֶל, brother of insipidity, i e. foolish; Sept. Ἀχιτόφελ, Josephus Ἀχιτόφελος ), the singular name of a man renowned for political sagacity among the Jews, who regarded his counsels as oracles (2 Samuel 16:23). He was of the council of David (1 Chronicles 27:33-34), and his son Eliam (q.v.) was one of David's body-guard (2 Samuel 23:34). He was at Giloh, his native place, at the time of the revolt of Absalom, by whom he was summoned to Jerusalem; and it shows the strength. of Absalom's cause in Israel that a man so capable of foreseeing results, and estimating the probabilities of success, took his side in so daring an attempt (2 Samuel 15:12). He probably hoped to wield a greater sway under the vain prince than he had done under David, against whom it is also possible that he entertained a secret malice on account of his granddaughter Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:3, comp. with 2 Samuel 23:34).

The news of his defection appears to have occasioned David more alarm than any other single incident in the rebellion. He earnestly prayed God to turn the sage counsel of Ahithophel "to foolishness" (probably alluding to his name); and being immediately after joined by his old friend Hushai, he induced him to go over to Absalom with the express view that he might be instrumental in defeating the counsels of this dangerous person (2 Samuel 15:31-37). Psalms 55 is supposed to contain (Psalms 55:12-14) a further expression of David's feelings at this treachery of one whom he had so completely trusted, and whom he calls "My companion, my guide, and my familiar friend" a passage which our Savior applies to his own case in such a manner as to indicate that Ahithophel was in some sense a type of Judas (John 13:18); at least their conduct and their end were similar (see Steuber, Achitophel sibi loqueo gulam fractus, Rint. 1741; Lindsay, Lect. 2, 199; Crit. Sac. Thes. Nov. 1, 676; Jones, Works, 7, 102). The detestable advice which Ahithophel gave Absalom to appropriate his father's harem committed him absolutely to the cause of the young prince, since after that he could hope for no reconcilement with David (2 Samuel 16:20-23). His proposal as to the conduct of the war undoubtedly indicated the best course that could have been taken under the circumstances; and so it seemed to the council until Hushai interposed with his plausible advice, the object of which was to gain time to enable David to collect his resources. (See ABSALOM).

When Ahithophel saw that his counsel was rejected for that of Hushai, the far-seeing man gave up the cause of Absalom for lost (comp. Josephus, Ant, 7, 9, 8); and he forthwith saddled his ass, returned to his home at Giloh, deliberately settled his affairs, and then hanged himself. and was buried in the sepulcher of his fathers (2 Samuel 17), B.C. cir. 1023. (Niemeyer's Charak. 4, 327 sq.; Ewald, Isr. Gesch., 2, 642.) (See DAVID).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Ahithophel'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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