Monday, January 16, 2017

How Can the Principle of Undesignedness Help Us To Corrborate Biblical History? The Case of David, Absalom and Ahithophel the Gilonite

Image result for jigsaw puzzleThe principle of undesignedness was first identified by the famed Christian philosopher William Paley (1743-1805), in his book Horae Paulinae. Therein, he highlighted example after example of undesigned integrations between the epistles of Paul and the Acts of the Apostles -- that is, cases where two or more of those sources dovetail with each other in a manner that cannot be attributed to the design of the author. In 1850, J.J. Blunt published his book Undesigned Scriptural Coincidences, in which he took Paley's argument further, documenting examples in the Old Testament, as well as between the gospels, and between the gospels, Acts, and Josephus. I have previously discussed several examples of undesigned coincidences between the gospels in this article.

The principle of undesignedness is a forgotten but brilliant argument which can be used to corroborate Biblical history. In this article, I will give an example of how it can be used.

2 Samuel 15 details the story of King David's son Absalom conspiring against his own Father. In verses 7-12, we read,
"And at the end of four years Absalom said to the king, “Please let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed to the Lord, in Hebron. For your servant vowed a vow while I lived at Geshur in Aram, saying, ‘If the Lord will indeed bring me back to Jerusalem, then I will offer worship to the Lord.’” The king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he arose and went to Hebron. But Absalom sent secret messengers throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then say, ‘Absalom is king at Hebron!’” With Absalom went two hundred men from Jerusalem who were invited guests, and they went in their innocence and knew nothing. And while Absalom was offering the sacrifices, he sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counselor, from his city Giloh. And the conspiracy grew strong, and the people with Absalom kept increasing."
In verse 12, Absalom sends for Ahithophel, David's counselor. Who is this man, Ahithophel? According to 2 Samuel 16:23,
"Now in those days the counsel that Ahithophel gave was as if one consulted the word of God; so was all the counsel of Ahithophel esteemed, both by David and by Absalom."
Ahithophel, then, was the most trusted adviser to King David. Why, then, did Absalom count on Ahithophel to join him in conspiring against the King?

In 2 Samuel 23, in a completely unrelated part of the text, we have an important clue. Verses 24-39 list the thirty-seven body guards of King David. In verse 39, we have a familiar name -- Uriah the Hittite, the husband of Bathsheba. Another individual mentioned is Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite (verse 34). This means that Ahithophel's son was a colleague of Uriah the Hittite.

It gets even more interesting when we look over at 2 Samuel 11, in which we read of David's adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband, Uriah the Hittite. Here is what we read in verses 2-3:
"It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king's house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?"
Thus, it appears that Bathsheba was the the granddaughter of Ahithophel, David's counselor, and her father Eliam himself was among the King's body guards along with Bathsheba's husband Uriah. This then explains why Absalom in chapter 15 expected Ahithophel to be ready to conspire against King David and why Ahithophel joined Absalom's rebellion. He wanted revenge on David for what he had done to Bathsheba and Uriah.

But it gets even more interesting. Flip over to chapter 16 and verses 20-22:
"Then Absalom said to Ahithophel, “Give your counsel. What shall we do?” Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Go in to your father's concubines, whom he has left to keep the house, and all Israel will hear that you have made yourself a stench to your father, and the hands of all who are with you will be strengthened.” So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof. And Absalom went in to his father's concubines in the sight of all Israel."
Why do they pitch a tent for Absalom on the roof so that he can sleep with his father's concubines? It was on the roof that David's eye first caught Bathsheba bathing, resulting in his adulterous affair and his murder of her husband Uriah. Her grandfather Ahithophel then seeks revenge, and so encourages Absalom to sleep with his father's concubines on the roof of the palace.

Now, note that it was only by putting together different, seemingly unrelated, parts of the text that we were able to arrive at these explanations. Nowhere in Scripture is it explicitly spelled out that Ahithophel was the grandfather of Bathsheba. Rather, one has to do detective work in order to see beneath the surface what exactly is going on here.

This is not the sort of pattern that one might expect in stories of myth and legend. Rather, it is the hallmark of truth. In future blog posts, I will look at other similar neat examples of how we can use the principle of undesignedness to corroborate Biblical history.

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