Ahitophel, as King David’s counselor, was a powerful man. He was so powerful that in his days, his counsel “was as if a man had inquired at the oracle of God”. However something was wrong with him. If not, why would someone with such an established reputation would defect to follow after young Absalom when he revolted against his father David? What made Absalom feel so sure that he could send after Ahitophel and that he would follow him without any hesitation? (2 Sam 15:12) When David learned that Ahitophel decided to side with his son against him, he feared him so much that he left a whole staff to counteract his doings: Hushai the Archaite, Zadock and Abiathar the priests, and their sons Ahimaaz and Jonathan. (2 Sam. 15: 34-37). “And the counsel of Ahitophel, which he counseled in those days, was as if a man had inquired at the oracle of God: so was all the counsel of Ahitophel both with David and with Absalom.” (2 Sam. 16:23).
Ahitophel was such a powerful and wise man! He was revered and loved by David. In Psalms 41:9, David described him as “mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted…” In Psalms 55: 12-14, David painted the strong and harmonious relationship which existed between them. “For it was not an enemy that reproached me…But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together and walked unto the house of God in company.” However, all those flattering pictures must have been erased in Ahitophel’s souvenirs. All that were left were hatred and a desire to kill King David himself. In the rivalry between David and Absalom for the throne, Ahitophel intervened to say unto Absalom, “Let me now choose out twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue after David this night: and I will come upon him while he is weary and weak handed, and will make him afraid and all the people that are with him shall flee; and I will smite the king only…”
This well devised plan pleased Absalom and all the elders of Israel. Ahitophel was wise and knew David so well. It took Hushai all the help from God to defeat that plan and save David and his men. “And when Ahitophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his ass, and arose, and got him home to his house, to his city, and put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died and was buried in the sepulcher of his father.” (2 Sam. 17:23)
Why would such a powerful man end his life in such a terrible way?
His family’s history could help answer that question.
Who was Ahitophel the Gilonite?
The father of Eliam, as stated in 2 Sam. 23:34
And who was that Eliam?
2 Samuel 11:3 tells us. “And David sent and inquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bath-Sheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”
If Eliam was the father of Bath-Sheba, that made Ahitophel Bath-Sheba’s grandfather. Therefore, one can understand how Ahitophel felt after David’s escapade which made his granddaughter a widow and took away her honor. He did not have the guts to face the mighty king but surely was deeply offended. As time went on he became bitter about the whole situation and when his attempt to avenge the honor of his family failed, he killed himself. What a terrible price to pay over bitterness! What a sad way for a powerful and wise man to die!
You see, Ahitophel was not just anybody. He was a counselor to a king but yet all his knowledge and wisdom could not save him. That is how serious bitterness is! It all starts with an offense which, if not dealt with, produces resentment. For a while that resentment can dwell in one’s mind and affect one’s attitude. Once resentment finds its way down to the heart, it is called bitterness. There, when it builds root and springs up, it troubles you and many are defiled. (Heb. 12:15) Absalom knew about Ahitophel bitterness. That is why he could send for him and feel sure that he will follow after him.
Bitterness clouds the minds, blinds the eyes and hardens the hearts. It produces hatred. It kills and causes people to kill. Bitterness eats you up as gangrene. It is a stone to the heart and prevents the word of God from taking root in it. Bitterness forces you to indulge in self-pity and without realizing it you can sometimes be confined in an indignant attitude until someone feels sorry for you. It is caused by situations and circumstances of life, tribulations and persecutions for the word of God. It prevents you from seeing the bright side of life or from being thankful for the blessings of God in your life. It makes you unable to appreciate the people around you. A simple smile and saying thank you become such a huge chore for a bitter person. A bitter person forgets how to consider things but instead is quick to complain, criticize and condemn. Bitterness is a real sickness to the heart.
Who can be affected or infected by bitterness? Anyone, if one is not careful. Husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters, saints and pastors, saints among themselves can all be bitter toward each other. And this often occurs because we react and not response to the situations of life or the offenses that come our way. It is sad to say that many churches today are full of bitter saints who will never move up in God until they get rid of that bitterness. Remember that a bitter person is self-centered, selfish. However if the “i” is taken out of bitter and focus is made on the big picture, one will have the opportunity to become a better person. Bitter or better? It is a vital choice to be made.
How does one get rid of bitterness?
The first step toward being cleansed from bitterness is to identify the cause of the bitterness and acknowledge it. This is self-examination through the light of the word of God. “The heart knoweth his own bitterness…” tells Solomon in Proverbs 14:10. Simply be honest with oneself and avoiding denial and all types of self-justification.
The second step is to seek for counseling from a man of God. Bitterness is a real sickness to the heart. And the apostle James gave us a clear advice. “Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” This oil is a type of a good understanding of the things of God.
The third step is to do as Jesus recommended in Matthew 17:21: prayer and fasting! It is vital to take time to offer up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears to be delivered from situations that can set one’s path toward self-destruction.
Bitterness can be such a real hindrance in a Christian’s walk with the Lord. Offenses will surely come but everyone should be vigilant and learn how to respond to them. By all means, everyone should prevent or cure any bitterness from their heart. Once they do that, they should take disposition to avoid such condition at all cost by taking heed to the salutary advice of Solomon in Proverbs 4:23 “Keep thy heart with all diligence: for out of it are the issues of life.”
Joël Hilaire, M.D
Pastor of Orlando Gospel Assembly