2 Samuel 17:23
And when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey, and arose, and got him home to his house, to his city…

Such was the end of the great counsellor of the age, who was regarded as an "oracle of God" (2 Samuel 16:23). Astute as he was, he was evidently unprincipled. His desertion of David for Absalom, and the advice he gave the latter, show this. His wisdom did not avail for his own good. He died "as a fool dieth," and by his own hand. Yet there was a thoughtfulness and deliberateness about the deed such as was in a certain keeping with his intellectual ability. It is not difficult to account for the desperate course he took. He was mortified that Absalom, for whom he had incurred so much guilt, and made so great sacrifices, and who knew and revered his wisdom (2 Samuel 16:23), should have rejected his counsel for that of Hushai; and, because of his confidence in the wisdom of his own advice, he felt sure that David would be victorious, and he himself, not only disgraced and ruined, but executed as a traitor. Rather than face this prospect, he hanged himself. Self-murder is not an agreeable subject, yet it may be salutary occasionally to reflect upon it. Many do put an end to their own lives; and doubtless many others are more or less tempted to do so. It may be hoped that consideration of the matter may fortify the minds of some against the first approaches of such temptation.


1. Mental derangement is doubtless a common cause. Not so common as we might infer from the verdicts of coroners' juries, anxious to relieve surviving relatives from the pains and penalties inflicted by antiquated civil and ecclesiastical laws; yet still the most common cause. It is virtually the same thing to say that disease of the brain is the common cause. This is often hereditary, or it may be induced by overwork, or by excessive indulgence of the appetites and passions, or by the pressure of worldly anxieties. Insanity relieves of the guilt of self-murder; nevertheless, where the insanity is the result of habits which are sinful, the guilt of these remains; and, if the probable issue of them was foreseen, the sinner cannot free himself altogether from the guilt which attaches to the act of self-destruction.

2. The pressure or dread of troubles often leads to this crime. Not only as they produce insanity, but as they operate on a sane mind. Intense pain, great misfortunes, disgrace, or the dread of it, fear of destitution, etc. Instances: Saul and his armour bearer (1 Samuel 31:4, 5); Zimri (1 Kings 16:18); Ahithophel; and the Philippian jailor (Acts 16:27).

3. Remorse and despair. Judas (Matthew 27:5).


1. It is contrary to nature. The love of life is one of the strongest principles implanted in us by our Creator. "Self-preservation is the first law of nature." The natural conscience, which teaches the criminality of taking the life of another, equally teaches that of taking our own. We may for adequate reasons, in serving God or men, expose our lives to peril; but we must not ourselves extinguish them, and thus cut short our opportunities of service.

2. It is daring impiety towards God. It is a cowardly abandonment of our trust; an act of rebellion against him who has assigned us our post and work; a contemptuous casting away as worthless, or worse, of God's precious gift. It springs from distrust of God, discontent with his appointments, a proud refusal to serve him unless under such conditions as are agreeable to ourselves.

3. It is a serious injustice to our friends and society. Our life is given us for the sake of others as well as ourselves. To abandon it is to rob and injure them. It is vain to say we can no longer be of service to them. Under the worst circumstances a man can set an example of patience and submission such as is much needed in this world of suffering. And if he have become a burden to others, in bearing the burden they may be enriched and blessed.

4. It is in direct opposition to the revealed will of God. No distinct prohibition can, indeed, be quoted, unless it is included in the command, "Thou shalt do no murder;" which is doubtful. But it is entirely opposed to all the precepts of Scripture which enjoin patient endurance of trials, and that to the end; and to the examples of such endurance which are set before us, especially that of our Lord Jesus Christ. The instances in Holy Writ of fleeing from suffering by rushing out of the world, are all those of either wicked or deranged persons.

5. It is a desperate plunge into worse miseries than can be experienced in this life. The self-murderer rushes red handed into the presence of the awful Judge, depriving himself of all possibility of repentance.

III. PRESERVATIVES AGAINST THIS DREADFUL SIN. In this case emphatically "prevention is better than cure" - preservation, that is, from that condition of mind from which suicide springs. And this is to be found in vital godliness in all its branches. In particular:

1. Constant faith in God. Confidence that he is, and that he is the Rewarder of those who seek him, however he may try them. Unbounded trust in his goodness and wisdom, as exercised in respect to ourselves. Earnest and cheerful service of him under whatever conditions he may place us. Profound submission to his will. Dread of his displeasure.

2. Moderation in respect to worldly things. In our estimates of their worth, and of the evil of being deprived of them; in the pursuit of them; in their enjoyment; in sorrow at their departure. Habitual self-control. Intemperance partakes of the guilt of suicide.

3. Prayer. Habitual. Special when cares and temptations press with special weight. "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you" (1 Peter 5:7; comp. Psalm 55:22). "In nothing be anxious, but in everything by prayer," etc. (Philippians 4:6, 7, Revised Version). "The peace of God" thus obtained will best "guard" the heart and the thoughts against all that tends to despondency.

4. The communion of saints. Christian society; social worship; visitation of the Christian poor, whose privations and sufferings will often make our own seem small, whose cheerfulness and resignation will shame our discontent and impatience, and assist us to a better mind.

5. Prompt and resolute rejection, with loathing, of every thought of this as a possible way out of trouble. Probably many persons of a nervous and desponding temper are visited with such thoughts. Let them be instantly dismissed, lest they grow in frequency and power, and in a weak moment produce the corresponding deed. In conclusion, all sin is of the nature of suicide. He who impenitently persists in it destroys the life of his own soul. All they that hate the Divine wisdom and forsake its ways "love death" (Proverbs 8:36). - G.W.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his ass, and arose, and gat him home to his house, to his city, and put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died, and was buried in the sepulchre of his father.

WEB: When Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey, and arose, and went home, to his city, and set his house in order, and hanged himself; and he died, and was buried in the tomb of his father.

God Overthrows the Evil Wisdom of the Worldly Wise
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