Ahithophel (Heb. אֲחִיתֹפֶל) the Gilonite
AHITHOPHEL (Heb. אֲחִיתֹפֶל) THE GILONITE
AHITHOPHEL (Heb. אֲחִיתֹפֶל) THE GILONITE (i.e., of the Judean town of Giloh), adviser of King *David (ii Sam. 15:12; i Chron. 27:33–34): "Now, in those days, advice from Ahithophel was like an oracle from God" (ii Sam. 16:23). Ahithophel was the only one of David's inner council who joined *Absalom in his revolt against his father (15:12). His defection was a source of great anxiety to David (15:31), and prompted him to charge *Hushai the Archite with counteracting Ahithophel's counsel (15:34; 16:15 ff.). On Ahithophel's advice Absalom took possession of David's concubines, thus demonstrating that the breach between him and his father was final (16:21). Ahithophel further proposed that he himself should pick 12,000 men and pursue David so as to overwhelm him at the nadir of his strength (17:1–3). Hushai, however, persuaded Absalom to muster a vast army before attempting to battle with such formidable adversaries as David and his professional warriors. Ahithophel, realizing that the respite afforded to David would be fatal to Absalom and his supporters, returned home and committed suicide (17:23).
A juxtaposition of ii Samuel 11:3 and 23:34 suggests that Bath-Sheba, the wife of Uriah, whom David debauched, was a granddaughter of Ahithophel. This act of David could thus be the motive for Ahithophel's defection (cf. Sanh. 101b).
The meaning of the name is doubtful. It may be a theophoric combination, the ophel ("folly") being a pejorative substitute for the name of a Canaanite god (see *Euphemism); but in Deuteronomy 1:1, it is the name of a place (Tophel).
In the Aggadah
The rabbis rank Ahithophel and Balaam as the two greatest sages, the former of Israel and the latter of the Gentiles. Both, however, died in dishonor because of their lack of humility and of gratitude to God for the divine gift of wisdom (Num. R. 22:7). Ahithophel's inciting of Absalom to rebel against his father, King David, was in order to gain the throne himself, since he mistakenly regarded prophecies of royal destiny concerning his granddaughter, Bath-Sheba, to apply to himself (Sanh. 101b). The name of "Ahithophel" is interpreted as "brother of prayer" (Heb. aḥi tefillah), referring to the fact that he composed three new prayers daily (tj Ber. 4:3, 8a). Socrates was said to have been his disciple (Moses Isserles, Torat ha-Olah 1:11, quoting an old source). He was 33 years old when he took his life, and he was one of those who have no share in the world to come (Sanh. 10:2).
S. Yeivin, Meḥkarim be-Toledot Yisrael ve-Arẓo (1950), 201–2; Noth, Personennamen, index; Bright, Hist, 188; Ginzberg, Legends, 4 (1913), 94–97. add. bibliography: D. Daube, in: vt, 48 (1998), 315–25.