We all have acquaintances, associates, neighbors – but what does it mean to be a friend?
1 Chronicles, chapters 25-27; 1 Thessalonians, chapter 4
Jonathan, David’s uncle, was a wise counselor to the king, a man of great insight, and a scribe. Jehiel the Hacmonite was responsible for teaching the king’s sons. Ahithophel was the royal adviser. Hushai the Arkite was the king’s friend. Ahithophel was succeeded by Jehoida son of Benaiah and by Abiathar. Joab was commander of the king’s army.
Today’s reading from 1 Chronicles lists various officials who served in David’s kingdom. Tucked away at the end of the list, after the musicians, gatekeepers, administrators, and military commanders are the few verses I’ve quoted above. The way these chapters are constructed leads me to think that these few men who are listed in verses 32-34 had served in David’s “cabinet.” His uncle Jonathan was a wise counselor. Jehiel was in charge of teaching the king’s sons.
These are important positions, but my I suspect that these men were no longer on the scene as David nears his death. David died “at a ripe old age” (1 Chronicles 29:28); his uncle must have been even older. Jehiel taught the king’s sons – but those sons were now adults. I believe that this list at the end of chapter 27 is a look back at people who had served David over the years.
Ahithophel’s inclusion in this list reinforces my conclusion that these verses are a historical review, not a current roster of David’s court. This is not the first time we’ve heard Ahithophel’s name. The writer of 1 Chronicles ignores the story of Absalom’s attempted coup against David, but 2 Samuel includes the story. Absalom’s story is where we first meet Ahithophel. Ahithophel had been David’s counselor, but then served Absalom in the same capacity.
In 2 Samuel 17 Ahithophel advises Absalom to let him gather a force and chase David “while he is weary and discouraged” (2 Samuel 17:2). Everybody thought that was a good plan – but Absalom decided to ask another of his father’s old advisers what to do. That adviser counseled against chasing David: “You know your father and his men; they are mighty warriors…And remember that your father is an experienced man of war…And when he comes out and attacks and a few of your men fall, there will be panic among your troops…Then even the bravest soldiers, though they have the heart of a lion, will be paralyzed with fear. For all Israel knows what a mighty warrior your father is and how courageous his men are” (2 Samuel 17:8-10).
The second adviser was Hushai.
Absalom took Hushai’s advice – “For the Lord had determined to defeat the counsel of Ahithophel, which really was the better plan, so that he could bring disaster on Absalom!” (2 Samuel 17:14). David’s forces defeated Absalom, and David was ultimately restored to the throne. Our passage for today says that Hushai was the king’s friend. He had served David as an adviser, just as Ahithophel had. The difference was that Hushai was the king’s friend, whereas Ahithophel was the royal adviser.
Hushai demonstrated his loyalty to David, rather than to the throne, by going to Absalom and pretending to be with him. Why did he do that? Because David asked him to: “Return to Jerusalem, and tell Absalom, ‘I will now be your adviser, O king, just as I was your father’s adviser in the past.’ Then you can frustrate and counter Ahithophel’s advice” (2 Samuel 15:34).
That’s exactly what happened. Hushai is remembered as the king’s friend. And Ahithophel? Well, 1 Chronicles doesn’t tell us this, but in 2 Samuel we see the rest of his story. “When Ahithophel realized that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey, went to his hometown, set his affairs in order, and hanged himself” (2 Samuel 17:23).
We could apply Ahithophel’s story in many ways. Don’t lose sight of God’s work. Don’t become so convinced of your own knowledge and ability that you forget to seek God’s direction. Ahithophel apparently placed so much importance on his standing in the king’s court that he couldn’t accept Absalom’s rejection of his advice.
But the applications that really stand out to me come from Hushai. First, it’s important to be loyal to your friends. Hushai was a royal adviser, just as Ahithophel was – but Ahithophel wasn’t David’s friend. When Absalom called, Ahithophel went and joined the conspiracy against David. Hushai was David’s friend. When David asked him to go back to Absalom and work as a double agent, Hushai did it. That could have been dangerous for him, but he trusted David and was loyal to his friend.
The second application is that it’s important for us to have friends. No matter who we are, no matter what status we may or may not have, we all need friends. Not “acquaintances” or “associates”; friends.David had such a friend in Jonathan, Saul’s son; Hushai was another. We may not have a lot of “real” friends over the course of our lives, but we need to have some.
And all of us have a friend like that! “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear.”
Father, thank you for reminding us that we have a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Thank you for also reminding us that we need to be a friend to others, and to have friends who love us. When we walk in your way, you lead us and provide what we need – including friends. Help us today to cherish our friends, and to “love at all times” as your word directs. Amen.
Written by: OchriO