In 2 Samuel 17 we see Psalm 2 played out in entirety. The ‘wicked counsel’ of men against the chosen counsel of Hushai, the type of Christ, interceding on behalf of the spiritual Israelite church. Note how the wickedness of Ahithophel’s counsel is not in the destruction of all the men who went with David – rather, the focus is on one man (v.3). His belief is that the death of this One Man will ‘liberate’ all men, and the people will be at peace – and there is a certain sense of irony here which is echoed in the words of the Pharisee in Acts (Acts 5:34-40).
Yet, this plan is flawed in the LORD’s eyes – because the king is not fighting the king. Thus comes in Hushai’s grand plan – to unite all the heretics of Israel, meanwhile commending David and his men. Note especially v.11 where Hushai encourages Absalom to fight David, the heretical son against the father, the angel Satan against the Father who created him.
(8) 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. (9) 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.’ (10) 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. (11) 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. (12) 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. (13) 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.”
Note what words Hushai uses: mighty (v.8), valiant (v.10), lion-hearted (v.10), valiant (again – v.10). And under Hushai’s counsel where David and his men are portrayed positively powerful despite being exiled, what is equally important behind Hushai’s loyal words (to David and his men) is explained in v.14:
(14) And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.” For the LORD had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the LORD might bring harm upon Absalom.
The key purpose of Absalom receiving Hushai’s counsel is “so that the LORD might bring harm upon Absalom”. Through the going out of the false king, only then can the true king return from death. This imagery is thoroughly carried forward into the passing over of the fords of the wilderness in v.16. Yet, before we reach the passing of the fords, we come to see a stark imagery of the two sons of Zadok the priest, Jonathan and Ahimaaz, being forced to hide inside a well though they were waiting beside one (En-rogel). In the providence of God, we see here a picture of the priestly sons hidden in the depth of the earth, in the well, and ascending out of the well to deliver the implied message behind this imagery of baptism (v.16-21).
(22) Then David arose, and all the people who were with him, and they crossed the Jordan. By daybreak not one was left who had not crossed the Jordan. (23) When Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey and went off home to his own city. He set his house in order and hanged himself, and he died and was buried in the tomb of his father. (24) Then David came to Mahanaim. And Absalom crossed the Jordan with all the men of Israel. (25) Now Absalom had set Amasa over the army instead of Joab. Amasa was the son of a man named Ithra the Ishmaelite, who had married Abigal the daughter of Nahash, sister of Zeruiah, Joab’s mother. (26) And Israel and Absalom encamped in the land of Gilead. (27) When David came to Mahanaim, Shobi the son of Nahash from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and Machir the son of Ammiel from Lo-debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim, (28) brought beds, basins, and earthen vessels, wheat, barley, flour, parched grain, beans and lentils, (29) honey and curds and sheep and cheese from the herd, for David and the people with him to eat, for they said, “The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness.”
And so, upon David’s crossing of the Jordan (v.22 onwards), we see a physical portrayal of Romans 6:3-5:
Rom 6:3-5 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (4) We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (5) For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
David, taking the first step crossing through the waters of the Jordan is leading his men further away from the Promised Land; and yet, in doing so, Hushai’s counsel may be fulfilled that Absalom and his men may too walk this path of death. Yet, unlike Jonathan and Ahimaaz who had ascended out of the well just as David and his men do not plan to stay on the outer side of Jordan, so also Absalom and his men shall be ‘baptised’ into the death of Christ (v.24) but not rise with Him for they planned to murder the King of the true church and try to force the bride into Satan’s hand. This is the true picture of the crossing of the Jordan, in direct contrast with the first picture of crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land in Joshua 3.
And it is in immediate response to this picture of death-baptism that Ahithophel saw that his counsel was defeated – the result of which is death, not only of king Absalom but also indirectly of himself. His action of suicide is merely an action of receiving his firstfruit of death which is inevitable as he understood the meaning behind Absalom and his men crossing the waters of Jordan. He is but a precursor to Judas – this man, who once walked alongside David as his counselor (2 Samuel 15:12) but like Judas has not recognized that the true David’s victory will bring life even to the rejected Judas and Ahithophel. Rather than side with the children of light, he would rather remain in darkness as both men hang themselves in shame – and above all, in persistent disbelief that Jesus is a greater king of redemption than the satanic Absalom.
Even this can be seen in the fellowship of Absalom and the fellowship of David and his men – Christ is all about feasting: evangelism and spiritual warfare are but tools of the period of the wilderness. In faith, hope and love, the greatest of these three is love (1 Corinthians 13:13), for in new creation our pinnacle source of joy is partaking in the intra-trinitarian love of the Three Persons. David is brought food from the rejected (v.27-29) – the pastureless (Lodebar); the inbreds (Ammonites); and the fullers (‘tramping’ the cloth in washing – Rogelim) – and yet, this is at the very place which Jacob called God’s camp – Mahanaim (v.24 c.f. Genesis 32:2). How beautiful it is that the LORD would eat with us in the wilderness, to serve and be served in the wilderness, despite the ravenous wolves trying to persecute Him and kill Him? What a stark contrast between the suicide of Ahithophel and the calmness of the loving fellowship of David and his men? This is the beauty of the Trinitarian family and the love of God transcending even the evil counsel of Ahithophel (and the oath of Saul which was poorly made when the men were hungry – c.f. 1 Samuel 14:26-27) and turning his counsel into one which is ironically true. For it is indeed in the death of Absalom, the evil king, that the bride will return to David, the true king.