Who is Ahithophel?

Most of us have heard of the butterfly effect (the idea that the movement of a butterfly in China can affect the weather halfway around the world), or something to that effect. The idea is that everything impacts everything else. A single act; a mispoken word, or a critical decision can change the course of nature and history.

Sunday, I attended a homecoming at the Alachua Church of Christ and was reminded just how true this principle is. Not only did the sermon emphasize this amazing truth, but the entire day was a vivid reminder.  Ever hear of Ahithophel? No me neither. Somehow in all my study his story never jumped off the pages of scripture until Sunday. Ahithophel was a counselor to King David, but when David’s son Absalom tried to usurp the throne, David’s trusted counselor changed allegiances (2 Sam 15:30-31).

I don’t know if I ever would have understood all the intrigue of this story if an old friend, Mike Elledge had not pieced together the rest of the story. David’s trusted counselor switched sides because of the adultery and murder committed by David’s hand. Most of us know the story of David & Bathsheba. Some of us even struggle to understand how David can be called “a man after God’s own heart” after defiling another man’s wife, murdering her husband and using his power to cover up the scandalous affair. It’s understandable that some of his most trusted advisors might have a problem with his leadership, but the story has more twists and turns than a San Francisco side street.

Ahithophel and one of David’s mighty men of war (Eliam) not only turned on David, it is likely they hated him beyond imagination. You see, Eliam was Bathsheba’s father and Ahithophel was her grandfather. Bathsheba was not just some woman who appeared on a rooftop naked one day, her family most likely frequented David’s court. She was not some stranger, but the daughter and granddaughter of those in David’s inner circle. Imagine the sense of betrayal. These two men who served David faithfully were repaid with selfishness, deceit and shame.

Our actions have consequences. I returned to Alachua after 17 years to see old friends, renew acquaintances and share the good times from the past, but I was also reminded of the power of influence. Back then I don’t know if I thought a lot about how my example or teaching might impact future generations, but now the children from a previous time where sitting in church with their children. It was particularly moving to see one family all seated together (4 generations from 4 – 94). Knowingly, or not the great-grandmother continues to influences generations for good.

It is always nice when stories have happy endings (David’s didn’t). When he stole another man’s wife and committed murder to cover up his actions, the prophet told him that “the sword would not depart from your house” (2 Samuel 12:10)

  • Bathsheba’s child, David’s son died (2 Samuel 12:15-19).
  • Amnon was murdered by Absalom (2 Samuel 13:28-29)
  • Absalom was killed by Joab leading a revolt against his father  (2 Samuel 18:9-15).
  • Adonijah was executed for attempting to usurp Solomon’s rule (1 Kings 2:19-25).
  • Four of David’s children dead!

As I listened to the horrible consequences that unfolded because one man didn’t stop to think, I looked across the church auditorium and saw my happy ending. There was a great-grandmother sitting with the other 3 generations of faithful Christians. Her actions too had consequences. Her actions set an example and standard that didn’t bring death but life, faith and hope to this generation, and perhaps generations yet unborn.

Who was Ahithophel? He is a reminder to each of us that our actions have consequences.


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