The Suicide of Ahithopel  (II Samuel 17:23)


Displeased with the decision of the council (v. 14), Ahithophel left the

city and returned to his own house, whence he had been summoned the day

before (ch.15:12). While Ahimaaz and Jonathan hurried eastward toward the

Jordan with their message (the decision of the council being as yet unknown

publicly, or its reversal feared), the renowned counselor rode southward toward

Giloh, brooding over what might have been (v. 2) and what would be; the

shadows of night thickening around him (I Samuel 28:1-10); and the same night

(or soon afterwards) his lamp was put out in darkness” (Proverbs 13:9).

With the deliberate cynicism of a man who had lost all faith, he committed that

rare crime in Israel, suicide.  (I believe that the worst thing about suicide is that

conditions in one’s life are so bad that a person will not allow God to help them! –

CY – 2013).  He was probably not the first man who hanged himself, but he bears

the unenviable distinction of being the first whose hanging himself is recorded; and

society would have little reason to complain if all who have since sentenced themselves

to this doom were as worthy of it as this father of self-suspenders.. So perished the

great Machiavelli of that age, the very wisest of the very wise men of this world!

We have here:


  • A DISAPPOINTED POLITICIAN. Like many other eminent

politicians, he was destitute of religious principles; set his heart upon the

world, and had “his portion in this life” (Psalm 17:14); was proud of his

own wisdom, ambitious of wealth, fame, honor, and power, and hostile to

godliness and godly men; the leading mind of THE UNGODLY

PARTY IN ISRAEL.  He had no regard either to the ways of God or the

laws of God.  Providence made no part of his plan. He considered with great

sagacity how he was to act; but he never considered how God would act;

and therefore all his wise designs must have been very defective. The rich man

said, ‘I shall want room for my stores,’ etc. But the Gospel calls him a fool,

for not considering that God might call him out of the world that night, and

that then all his schemes of happiness and prosperity would die with him.

(Luke 12:20).  Such is he who is wise without God; and such was this

Ahithophel. We now see him under the influence of:


Ø      Wounded pride, frustrated ambition, and, probably, ungratified malice

(v. 1). The rejection of his counsel was regarded by him as a personal

affront, and a fatal blow to his position and prospects; for he had been

impelled by nothing else than a mad ambition, so that life itself became

insupportable when the attainment of the position he had hankered

after proved insufficient to satisfy his desires. He would be revenged

on Absalom himself, by leaving him to pursue his own course.


Ø      Unavoidable fear of the disgrace, infamy, and punishment that awaited

him. For, by the adoption of Hushai’s counsel, he foresaw that all was

lost, and that David would live and reign. Although he had the “Roman”

courage (or rather, cowardice and impatience) to face death, he had

not courage enough to face disaster.


“He’s not valiant that dares die;

But he that boldly bears calamity.”


Ø      Bitter remorse, desperation, and despair. Perhaps he now began to

see for the first time that, as he had been against God, God was

against him, and, according to the prayer of David, was turning his

counsel into foolishness (ch. 15:31). Under this calamity, what had he

to support him? Nothing but that policy of a wicked man WHICH


trouble of a righteous man THERE IS HOPE (Proverbs 14:32),

but in the trouble of the wicked THERE IS NONE!   And, for a man

like Ahithophel, there is no refuge BUT IN DESPAIR!  (Psalm 7:15-16).


  • A DELIBERATE CRIME.And put his household in order,etc.; i.e.

he settled his affairs, he made his will, as a person of sound mind and

memory; as he would have done if death had been coming upon him in a

natural way. He did not commit the deed in an outburst of passion, but

with deliberation and forethought. Suicide is often due to insanity, and

without blame (except in so far as it is induced by previous misconduct);

but in his case there is no indication of it; nor was there the same

justification or the same extenuation of guilt as in other cases (Judges 16:30;

I Samuel 31:4-5). Whatever may have been the measure of his culpability,

suicide is a crime:


Ø      Against a man himself; a violation of the law of self-preservation

Written upon his nature.

Ø      Against society. Nor can any case be put which is not concluded

Under sin by the peculiar injury or general mischief.

Ø      Against God, who has “fixed His canon against self-slaughter”

(Exodus 20:13); who has committed life to men as a trust; and

Whose will in relation to it is intimated in various ways.

“In every society where the Christian and old Pythagorean idea of life,

as a talent and a trust, is unknown or forgotten, and where its value is

measured by enjoyment, suicide will be likely to become common”

(Thirlwall, ‘Letters to a Friend’).  (Is this why suicide is common

in America? – CY – 2013)  It is “a complication of”

o       ingratitude,

o       contempt of the Lord’s gift of life,

o       defiance,

o       impatience,

o       pride,

o       rebellion, and

o       infidelity” (Scott; Wardlaw,‘Sys. Theol.’).


What a mixture do we find here of wisdom and madness!”

(Hall) “Thus he displayed the miserable infatuation of worldly policy”

(Wordsworth). Under the light which the gospel sheds upon the

Present and the future, the act of the self-destroyer is rendered

peculiarly criminal and awful.


  • A DREADFUL RETRIBUTION. (ch.12:10-12.) The course of sin on

which he had entered was attended (as it ever is in others)

by most baneful effects on himself, and ended in destruction; the

culmination at once of his sin and of his punishment. He became:


Ø      His own tormentor; rushing against impassable barriers, and

bringing upon himself irreparable misery.

Ø      His own tempter; being urged onward by inward impulses to

further transgression.

Ø      His own executioner; inflicting with his own hand the extreme

penalty of the law; a retribution more dreadful than when inflicted

by the direct stroke of Heaven (ch. 6:6-8) or the hands of other

 men (Ibid. ch. 4:12; 18:7,14). “The wages of sin is death”

(Romans 6:23;).  “Thus it falleth out that wicked counsel doth

chiefly redound to the hurt of the author thereof.” (Wilier).

Like Judas, Ahithophel went to “his own place” (Acts 1:25).


  • AN ADMONITORY END; the consideration of which should lead to:


Ø      The conviction of the enormous evil of suicide; which may exert a

preserving influence in an hour of temptation.

Ø      The abhorrence of the principles which induce its commission, and

the avoiding of every sinful way. The sinner is a self-destroyer

(Hosea 13:9).

Ø      The cherishing, with renewed earnestness, of the opposite principles

of humility, faith, patience, godliness, uprightness, charity, etc.

If the affections are violently set upon anything in this world, whether

fame, wealth, or pleasure, and are disappointed, then life becomes

insupportable.  Therefore, the moral is this: “Set your affection on

things above, not on things on the earth.”  (Colossians 3:2)



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