Who Was the 'Judas' of the Old Testament?
Good News Magazine
April 1981
Volume: Vol XXVIII, No. 4
Issue: ISSN 0432-0816
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Who Was the 'Judas' of the Old Testament?
Carrol Miller  

   "I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me" (John 13:18).
   The speaker? Jesus Christ. The subject? Judas lscariot, Christ's betrayer, the classic example of a traitor, and yet, at one time, one of Christ's closest disciples and one of the original apostles.
   But Christ was quoting, almost word for word, Psalm 41:9, "Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me."
   What did Psalm 41:9 mean in its original context? To whom was David referring when he wrote this verse? Do you know the identity of the "Judas" of this Old Testament passage?
   Who was this man who ate at David's table, and who later turned against him? He was David's counselor, his adviser, his friend. David wrote of him: "For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me: then I would have hid myself from him: But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company" (Ps. 55: 12-14).
   Who was this friend and equal of the king in David's eyes? His name was Ahithophel, and his story is quite intriguing. Ahithophel was highly honored in David's court. Ahithophel was the father of Eliam, who was the father of Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite (II Sam. 23:34, 11:3). Ahithophel was Bathsheba's grandfather.
   Have you ever wondered why Bathsheba lived close to the king's palace? Who was Eliam, her father? Who was Uriah — simply an unknown soldier in David's army, a man David could send to his death without a second thought? No. Eliam and Uriah were numbered among the top 30 valiant men in David's army and were part of the palace guard (II Sam. 23:23, 34, 39).
   When David sent Uriah to his death, he murdered a valiant soldier and a trusted, intimate friend. This crime was heinous in God's sight.
   But why did Ahithophel turn against David? The Bible does not say. But there is the possibility — knowing human behavior — that he may have induced Bathsheba to take a bath on a rooftop, just at the right time to be seen by the king. If David were to be seduced to marry Bathsheba, Ahithophel would become part of the royal family.
   After he saw David's repentance for his sin with Bathsheba, Ahithophel threw in his lot with Absalom. Perhaps he felt he could manipulate Absalom and thus be the actual ruler over Israel. This, of course, is speculation, but it is indicative of how some humans reason.
   Absalom, David's son, conspired to kick David off his throne: "And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counsellor, from his city, even from Giloh, while he offered sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom" (II Sam. 15:12) Absalom had stolen the hearts of the people, probably with the advice of Ahithophel (verse 6). When Absalom moved against Jerusalem with an army, David fled for his life (verses 13-14).
   The story continues in verse 31: "And one told David, saying, Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom. And David said, O Lord, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness." (Ahithophel's name means " foolishness.")
   As David fled Jerusalem, however, the king came in contact with another trusted friend and adviser. For years this man stood loyally by David. His name was Hushai. He met David as the king was fleeing to the wilderness, and wanted to go with him (II Sam. 15:32).
   Instead of allowing him to flee with the others, David asked Hushai to return to Jerusalem. Why? "But if thou return to, the city, and say unto Absalom, I will be thy servant, O king; as I have been thy father's servant hitherto, so will I now also be thy servant: then mayest thou for me defeat the counsel of Ahithophel" (verse 34).
   Hushai returned to Jerusalem as David directed. He did give counsel contrary to Ahithophel's and Absalom followed Hushai's counsel. This saved David's life and ultimately paved the way for David to be restored as God's appointed king over Israel. You can read the account in II Samuel 17 through 19.
   When Ahithophel found that his counsel was rejected, he realized Absalom would be defeated and he went home and hanged himself (II Sam. 17:23). Ahithophel realized a delay in attacking David would allow David to regroup his forces and win back his throne..
   When this occurred, Ahithophel would be revealed as a traitor. He could not stand the thought of the punishment that would come upon him and the disgrace and ignominy that would come upon his family. In his state of depression he, like Judas Iscariot, committed suicide.
   So here is the story of the man David was talking about when he wrote the scripture Christ later quoted in referring prophetically to Judas. And here, too, is the story of a true friend and counselor of David, Hushai, a man who remained loyal to him, just as the other apostles remained loyal to Christ.

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Good News MagazineApril 1981Vol XXVIII, No. 4ISSN 0432-0816