2 Samuel 16:21
And Ahithophel said to Absalom, Go in to your father's concubines, which he has left to keep the house; and all Israel shall hear that you are abhorred of your father: then shall the hands of all that are with you be strong.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) And Ahithophel said.—The counsel of Ahithophel was in effect that Absalom should make the breach between him and his father absolute and irreconcilable. His followers would thus be assured of the impossibility of his securing a pardon for himself while they were left to their fate. After adopting this course, he must necessarily persist to the end. The taking of the harem of his predecessor by the incoming monarch was an Oriental custom, to the enormity of which the mind was blunted by the practice of polygamy.

2 Samuel 16:21. Go in unto thy father’s concubines — This counsel he gave, partly to revenge the injury done to Bath-sheba, the daughter of Eliam, chap. 2 Samuel 11:3; the son of Ahithophel, 2 Samuel 23:34; and principally for his own and the people’s safety, that the breach between David and Absalom might be irreparable. For this, he foresaw, would provoke David in the highest degree, and cut off all hope of reconciliation, which otherwise might have been expected to take place, by some treaty between Absalom and his tender-hearted father. But in that case his followers, and especially Ahithophel, would have been left to David’s mercy. That thou art abhorred of thy father — And, therefore, art obliged to prosecute the war with all vigour, and to abandon all thoughts of peace; as knowing that thy father, though he may dissemble, yet will never forgive such an act. Then shall the hands of all that are with thee be strong — They will fight with greater courage and resolution when they are freed from the fear of thy being ever reconciled to thy father, and see they are out of all danger of being sacrificed to any future treaty of peace or agreement between you. “An advice,” says Delaney, “for the present, and in appearance, wise; but in reality pernicious. Could not this long-headed, sagacious statesman foresee, that this action, for which some men would now become more attached to Absalom, must one day make him detestable in their eyes, when they reflected upon the horror of it? a guilt made mortal by the law of God, Leviticus 20:11, and not named even among the Gentiles; a guilt for which they must one day judge him more worthy to lose his crown than Reuben his birth-right. However, this hellish advice was immediately embraced.”16:15-23 The wisest counsellors of that age were Ahithophel and Hushai: Absalom thinks himself sure of success, when he has both; on them he relies, and consults not the ark, though he had that with him. But miserable counsellors were they both. Hushai would never counsel him to do wisely. Ahithophel counselled him to do wickedly; and so did as effectually betray him, as he did, who was designedly false to him: for they that advise men to sin, certainly advise them to their hurt. After all, honesty is the best policy, and will be found so in the long run. Ahithophel gave wicked counsel to Absalom; to render himself so hateful to his father, that he would never be reconciled to him; this cursed policy was of the devil. How desperately wicked is the human heart!Taking possession of the harem was the most decided act of sovereignty (see 1 Kings 2:22). It was also the greatest offence and insult that could be offered. Such an act on Absalom's part made reconciliation impossible. A further motive has been found in this advice, namely, the desire on the part of Ahithophel to make David taste the bitterness of that cup which he had caused others (Uriah and all Bath-sheba's family) to drink, and receive the measure which he had meted withal. 21. Ahithophel said unto Absalom—This councillor saw that now the die was cast; half measures would be inexpedient. To cut off all possibility of reconciliation between the king and his rebellious son, he gave this atrocious advice regarding the treatment of the royal women who had been left in charge of the palace. Women, being held sacred, are generally left inviolate in the casualties of war. The history of the East affords only one parallel to this infamous outrage of Absalom. This counsel he gave, partly to revenge the injury done to Bath-sheba, who was the daughter of Eliam, 2 Samuel 11:3 who was

the son of Ahithophel, 2 Samuel 23:34; and principally for his own and the people’s safety, that the breach between David and Absalom might be made wide and irreparable by so vile an action which must needs provoke David in the highest degree, both for the sin and shame of it; as the like action had done Jacob, Genesis 49:3,4; and cut off all hopes of reconciliation, which otherwise might have been expected by some treaty between Absalom and his tender-hearted father; in which case his followers, and especially Ahithophel himself, had been left to David’s mercy.

Israel shall hear that thou art abhorred of thy father; and therefore obliged by thy own interest to prosecute the war with all possible rigour, and to abandon all thoughts of peace; as knowing that his father, though he might dissemble, yet would never forgive so foul and scandalous a crime.

Then shall the hands of all that are with thee be strong; they will fight with greater courage and resolution when they are freed from the fear of thy reconciliation, which otherwise would make their hearts faint and hands slack in thy cause. But by this we may see the character of Absalom’s party, and how abominably wicked they were, whom such a loathsome and scandalous action tied the faster to him, whom for that very reason they should have deserted and abhorred. And we may further learn how corrupt and filthy the body of the people was, and how ripe for that severe judgment which is now hastening to them. And Ahithophel said unto Absalom,.... Either immediately of himself, without consulting with others; or after a consultation had been held between them, he as the president of it, and their mouth, gave the following advice; though the former seems most correct:

go in unto thy father's concubines, which he hath left, to keep the house; and lie with them; there were ten of them, 2 Samuel 15:16,

and all Israel shall hear that thou art abhorred of thy father; this fact will be so abominable to him, and he will so highly resent it, as never to forgive thee, and be reconciled unto thee:

then shall the hands of all that are with thee be strong; he intimates that they were now weak, and did not act with spirit; they were fearful that David and Absalom would be reconciled, and then they should be reckoned traitors, and fall a sacrifice to David's vengeance, for their treason against him: but by Absalom's taking such a step as this, which would make him for ever the object of his father's hatred, their hands and hearts would be strengthened, and their fears removed, and they would not have the least jealousy of a reconciliation between them, and of their being left to the resentment of David. Some think this was not his only reason for giving this counsel, but also to revenge David's abuse of Bathsheba, his son's daughter, as she is supposed to be; see Gill on 2 Samuel 15:12; however, it was so ordered in Providence, that this advice should be given and taken, to fulfil the prophecy of the Lord to Nathan, 2 Samuel 12:11.

And {k} Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Go in unto thy father's concubines, which he hath left to keep the house; and all Israel shall hear that thou art abhorred of thy father: then shall the hands of all that are with thee be strong.

(k) Suspecting the change of the kingdom, and so his own overthrow, he gives such counsel as might most hinder his father's reconciliation: and also declare to the people that Absalom was in highest authority.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verse 21. - Ahithophel said. Ahithophel's counsel was utterly abominable, even though the deed would not be regarded by any of the Israelites as incestuous. A king inherited his predecessor's harem, and Absalom's act was a coarse and rude assertion that David's rights were at an end, and that crown and lands and property, even to his wives, now all belonged to the usurper. But, while polygamy had thus degraded the wives and concubines into mere chattels, the harem was the property most jealously guarded by its owner (2 Samuel 3:7; 1 Kings 2:22); and Absalom's act was an outrage which David could never have pardoned. And this was what Ahithophel wanted. He was afraid that if Absalom's cause began to decline, he might come to terms with his father, who would readily forgive a son if he submitted, but would certainly punish Ahithophel. For his own selfish purposes, therefore, he led Absalom on to a crime which rendered a reconciliation with David impossible, and pledged all the conspirators to carry out the matter to the bitter end; and that end could only be the death of David if the conspiracy succeeded. But this bitterness to David would vex all moderate men, and weaken Absalom's cause. It was of advantage only to such as were deeply committed to the rebellion, and bent on killing David. To him it was terrible sorrow; for he knew that this open shame was the punishment of his own secret infamy (2 Samuel 12:11, 12); and in it, again, he saw the meshes of the avenger's net tightening around him. When Absalom and "all the people, the men of Israel," i.e., the people who had joined him out of all the tribes of Israel (2 Samuel 15:10), came to Jerusalem, and Ahithophel with him, Hushai the Archite also came and greeted him warmly as king, by exclaiming again and again, "Long live the king!"
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