Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel once stated: “Wir lernen aus der Geschichte, dass wir überhaupt nichts lernen” (We learn from history, that we mostly learn nothing at all).
Yet there is a lesson to be learned from King David’s premier counselor Ahithophel the Gilonite (1 Chronicles 27:33; 2 Samuel 23:34). The Scriptures tell us: “Now the advice of Ahithophel, which he gave in those days, was taken as though one inquired of the word of God. So was all the advice of Ahithophel regarded by both David and Absalom” (2 Samuel 16:23). Ahithophel’s God-inspired wisdom was held in high esteem by King David himself. Yet something happened to him which turned honor into tragedy.
Something rotten up on the rooftop
- Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they brought destruction on the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed in Jerusalem. Now at evening time David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing . . . So David sent servants and inquired about the woman. And someone said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” (2 Samuel 11:1-3).
King David’s Special Operations Forces were led by ‘The Three’ (see 2 Samuel 23:8-12, 19). Joab’s brother Avishai in turn oversaw the lower ranking but still highly courageous team known as ‘The Thirty’ (2 Samuel 23:18-19). The last of ‘The Thirty’ mentioned in the Scriptures was a crack commando named Eliam son of Ahithophel (2 Samuel 23:34). Eliam had a daughter named Bathsheba, and Bathsheba’s grandfather was Ahithophel. When David seduced Bathsheba and later had her husband Uriah murdered on the battlefield, bitterness toward the king filled Ahithophel’s heart. By the time that Absalom activated his putsch against his own father, Ahithophel was on board supporting the mutiny:
- And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, from his city Gilo, while he was offering the sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong, for the people continually increased with Absalom . . . Now someone informed David, saying, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” And David said, “YHVH, please make the advice of Ahithophel foolish!” (2 Samuel 15:12, 31)
Ahithophel quickly offered his services to Absalom, offering to assassinate his father David: “Please let me choose twelve thousand men and let me set out and pursue David tonight. And I will attack him while he is weary and exhausted and startle him, so that all the people who are with him will flee. Then I will strike and kill the king when he is alone, and I will bring all the people back to you. The return of everyone depends on the man whom you are seeking. Then all the people will be at peace” (2 Samuel 17:1-3). Ahithophel’s bitterness had morphed his own heart into that of a rebel and a murderer. The God who had bound Himself to David by covenant now stepped in to thwart the evil counsel of Israel’s premier counselor:
- Then Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The advice of Hushai the Archite is better than the advice of Ahithophel.” For YHVH had ordained to foil the good advice of Ahithophel, in order for YHVH to bring disaster on Absalom . . . Now when Ahithophel saw that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey and set out and went to his home, to his city, and set his house in order, and hanged himself. So he died and was buried in his father’s grave (2 Samuel 17:14, 23)
Ahithophel did not need a weatherman to know which way the Wind blows, to paraphrase Robert Zimmerman. The gall of bitterness and the bondage of unrighteousness (see Acts 8:23) had distorted his wisdom, leading to a tragic end. As the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews said, a root of bitterness can spring up causing trouble, and by it many can become defiled (Hebrews 12:15).
King David was a man after God’s own heart (see Acts 13:22). Yet he was also guilty of adultery and murder. Ahithophel was aware of some of David’s real sins, but was not able to handle those matters in an ultimately redemptive way.
Theodor Herzl’s ground-breaking utopian novel was titled Altneuland (Old-New Land). His dream of a reborn Zion in Israel’s once-green-and-pleasant-land fired up the imaginations of Jews worldwide – a reborn Jewish nation in a reborn Jewish homeland, once again taking its place as a sovereign nation on the world stage.
Along with the wonders of physical restoration can also come the repeat of the sins of bygone days. The bitterness and desire for revenge that motivated Ahithophel and ultimately destroyed him, can be found sprouting noxious buds among modern Ahithophels in today’s Israel’s body politic.
“Zeal for vengeance hath consumed me”
Famous politicians and outstanding generals have fallen pray to this dynamic, including former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman who has called PM Bibi Netanyahu “the scum of the earth” who “deserves to suffer in hell every day.” Lieberman has declared that Netanyahu’s “methods are just like those of Goebbels and Stalin.” A political commentator recently summed up matters here: “Avigdor Lieberman’s Failed Plan To Topple Netanyahu: The Russian politician’s surprise decision to pull out of coalition talks is only the latest echo of his undying ambition . . . The former foreign minister wants to see Netanyahu out of office, and he will do whatever he can to make it happen.”
Another leader who is riven with an Ahithophel-like syndrome is former Mayor of Jerusalem and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Olmert is known for an extraordinarily bitter relationship with Netanyahu. In 2022, Olmert was found guilty in a defamation lawsuit filed by the Netanyahu family, paying $28,000 for having asserted in two interviews in April 2021 that the Netanyahu family were “irreparably” mentally ill.
In March 2023 Olmert spoke to world leaders in a public forum: “And I say, whoever loves the state of Israel has to act publicly, strongly, and aggressively against the Israeli government. If you love Israel, you have to spell it out in the bluntest possible manner: . . . because the government of Israel is the enemy of the state of Israel. And if you want to support the state of Israel, you have to act against the enemy of the state of Israel, and the enemy of the state of Israel is a government made up of thugs and terrorists and chauvinists and nationalists and brutal people, as they are.” Olmert added, “I think that the present government of Israel is simply anti-Israeli . . . Those who are in favor of the state of Israel should be against the Prime Minister of the state of Israel.” In his Channel 12 interview, Olmert added: “I very much hope that the British Prime Minister will cancel the visit of the Israeli Prime Minister. I’m very happy that the US President isn’t inviting the Israeli Prime Minister. I very much hope that the US President and the British Prime Minister reevaluate their ties with the Israeli government.” The Ahithophelian desire for vengeance is on full display here.
- Prime Minister Netanyahu is not King David. Neither is he a leader without sin. The above-mentioned politicians may be well aware of some of Bibi’s sins but, like Ahithophel, they may not be handling these matters in an ultimately redemptive way.
Also in March 2023 Olmert addressed news media, declaring: “We’ll be rioting and we will be raising the public opinion and we’ll continue to oppose the government, publicly and . . . in every square and street.” On March 28, 2023, Olmert addressed media in Jerusalem: “We now must get to the next stage, the stage of war, and war is not waged through speeches. War is waged in a face-to-face battle, head-to-head and hand-to-hand, and that is bound to happen here. While it’s great to see 100,000 people turn out to protest, that’s not what will clinch the real fight. The real fight will break through these fences and spill over into a real war.”
That same day, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai spoke at a mass protest outside Jerusalem’s Knesset buildings, saying, “Democratic countries such as ours can become dictatorships. But dictatorships can only return to be democracies through bloodshed. This is what history has taught us.”
Vendettas and dividing the Promised Land
Former PM Ehud Barak is Israel’s most decorated soldier, Head of Sayeret Matkal (IDF Delta Force; he was Netanyahu’s commander there), Head of AMAN (IDF Military Intelligence), Minister of Defence and former Chairman of Israel’s Labor Party. There has been an ongoing historic rivalry between Barak and Netanyahu. In 1999, Barak defeated Netanyahu in the elections and become PM for a little more than a year. In subsequent elections, he was defeated by Bibi time and again.
Back in 2016, Barak announced that “Netanyahu’s reckless conduct endangers Israel . . . Netanyahu enabled a militant, nationalist minority to carry out a hostile takeover of his party, Likud; . . . to hijack our national agenda in the service of a messianic drive toward, as it’s often put, ‘a single Jewish state, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.’ This . . . spell[s] doom for the Zionist dream.”
Barak’s former Chief of Staff Gilead Sher (also Policy Coordinator for Barak, and co-chief negotiator 1999-2001 at the Camp David summit), Ami Ayalon, former director of Shayetet 13 (IDF Navy Seals) and the Shin Bet (Israel’s FBI), and Orni Petruschka are the founders of non-partisan political movement Blue White Future. These three men have been major catalysts of the mass demonstrations. They have been activists for years, working for the overthrow of Netanyahu and the Likud party.
Long before the questions of judicial reform arose in Israel, in an April 2012 NY Times article, these three stated: “Israel can and must take constructive steps to advance the reality of two states based on the 1967 borders, with land swaps – regardless of whether Palestinian leaders have agreed to accept it . . . Israel should first declare that it is willing to return to negotiations anytime and that it has no claims of sovereignty on areas east of the existing security barrier. It should then end all settlement construction east of the security barrier and in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem. And it should create a plan to help 100,000 settlers who live east of the barrier to relocate within Israel’s recognized borders.”
In 2015 these three men advocated a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River, the redivision of Jerusalem between Jews and Palestinians, etc. On January 15, 2019 they stated: “Anybody who wants to support Israel should keep in mind that only the vision of two states for two peoples can fulfill the Zionist dream of a secure and democratic home for the Jewish people.” They opposed President Trump’s moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem and campaigned for the UK to refuse to follow suit: “But we believe it would not be in Israel’s interest for the UK move the embassy to Jerusalem.”
In 2019 they stated: “The choice Israelis must make today is between separating from the Palestinians into two nation-states, thereby maintaining Israel as the democratic and secure state of the Jewish people (albeit not in all of the territory of the Mandatory or Biblical Land of Israel), and annexation, which will bring the Zionist enterprise to its final end.” These are the clearly worded statements of the movers and shakers behind the move to overthrow the Netanyahu government.
Speaking at a June 2019 press conference in Tel Aviv, Barak called for an end to “Netanyahu’s rule with the radicals, racists and corrupt, with the Messianists and his corrupt leadership.” He declared that he was returning to politics in order to “topple Netanyahu.” In July 2019 author and Barak biographer Calev Ben-Dor stated that “Ehud Barak has the energy, the venom and the gravitas to hurt Netanyahu in a way no other candidate seemingly can.” Later that month, Barak states that the “State of Israel is at a moment before the total dissolution of Israeli democracy.”
Black flags, blue flags
The present mass street demonstrations in Israel, the civil disobedience and blocking of freeways and airports all have deep political roots, as was detailed in three recent newsletters. The origins of this movement go back to the 1930’s during the British occupation, when communists and socialists considered all conservatives to be fascists, and practically excommunicated the pre-Likud movement from participation in political discourse. Today this same worldview thrives on the Left side of the political aisle. It finds fellow-travelers in parties of the center-left as well. It is not hard to find hatred for the moderate right and for Orthodox Jewish parties openly manifested in political discussion. The demonization of the Likud party and its coalition partners – and directed especially against Bibi Netanyahu over the past 20 years – is part of normal political discourse here.
What is new is the reshaping of the discourse. Starting on March 19, 2020, the Black Flags movement (initiated by three brothers and a sister – Eyal, Yarden, Dekel and Shikma Schwartzman) organized a convoy up to Jerusalem to push for legal attempts to remove Prime Minister Netanyahu from office. Israel’s Channel 13 presented an exposé in early 2020 that the Black Flags movement was heavily underwritten by Ehud Barak at that time. On April 25, 2020, Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square was filled with 2,000 protesters opposed to a coalition agreement between Netanyahu’s Likud and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz. Black-clad protesters carried blue and white Israeli flags ‘stained by black tears.’ Former Shin Bet head (GSS) Carmi Gillon publicly blamed the Netanyahu-Gantz deal for destroying Israel’s parliament.
When Netanyahu lost the elections and stepped down in June 2021, the Black Flags movement declared victory. They released a statement: “Our beloved country faced the greatest threat since its inception — the dismantling of the democratic system and it becoming a dictatorship . . . Now is the time for the elected leadership to rebuild the systems and work to strengthen democracy and all that that entails. We cleared the way for them. We now put down our black flag and proudly wave the flag of the State of Israel.”
Yet within a short time (November 2022), Netanyahu was on his way back to the PM’s office. Barak immediately got busy rousing the troops for another assault on the PM.
When you don’t like the election results
In a recent Hebrew podcast, Ha’aretz reporter Amir Oren spoke with Barak’s longtime confidant, lawyer Gilead Sher, who revealed that a small circle was convened after the November 2022 election to strategize and develop funding for a new anti-Bibi movement. Hosted by Yossi Kutchik (Barak’s former Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office), the group included Sher (Barak’s former Chief of Staff and Policy Coordinator); former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz; hi-tech entrepreneur, former fighter pilot, and left-wing political activist Orni Petruschka; former Deputy Attorney-General Dina Zilber, and Shikma Bressler, prominent founder of the Black Flags group.
At that time Sher and his colleagues set up the organizational and financial structure for the mass ‘spontaneous demonstrations’ and rioting that Israel has experienced since January 2023 – before Netanyahu had formed the government or had set up government policy on legal reform proposals. The subsequent protests and riots were not spur-of-the-moment responses to the government’s legal reform proposals. They were planned and financed weeks ahead of those events. In Sher’s telling, “The four of us met and very quickly, maybe a week or two, we were joined by a number of other people.”
- The recent street protests in Israel are part of a crafted program to paralyze and destabilize Netanyahu’s freshly elected incoming government, with clear plans to weaken and overthrow it. The political opponents of the current government have shaped a narrative – namely, that these demonstrations are really spontaneous and popular opposition to judicial reform, and not a convenient cattle prod to herd Israel’s electorate in an anti-government direction
Ahithophel and the call for revolt
Ehud Barak and Yair Golan (a former Deputy Chief of Staff) have recently been calling for an intensification of civil rebellion and large-scale resistance:
Barak: “We must increase the protest and end the negotiations immediately. To this end, the protest must increase and move to civil rebellion. Nonviolent disobedience . . . The script for civil rebellion has already been written by Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and others. I call on all Israeli civilians to prepare to act, and when the call comes – answer it. We will fight, and we will not fear anyone or anything.”
Golan: “Civil revolt is not an exaggeration; we have to fight for democracy . . . We will present unequivocal and clear civil resistance, and if we have to reach a large-scale and non-violent protest, that is what we will do. I am calling here, within a reasonable framework and without resorting to violence – to do illegal things as well . . . In the fight for democracy, you have to do non-violent things that are on the fringes of the law – there is no choice but to do it”
Golan: “Shut down their stores, block the streets, bar all services . . . Friends, against this evil, malevolent government we have only one path: a comprehensive, broad public rebellion . . . From tomorrow, we’re changing things. No more polite Saturday evening protests. No more lamentations and complaints. Just actions. Just results. Businesses will be shut down, services will come to a halt, roads will be blocked, and this arrogant person who presumes to rule, with the help of corrupt, extreme, and dark forces will be made to realize that the people are sovereign.”
A recent exposé of a closed WhatsApp chat was recently publicized on June 11, 2023 on Israel’s Channel 14. The group included former prime ministers Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, former IDF Chiefs of Staff Dan Halutz and Moshe ‘Bogie’ Ya’alon, Yishai Hadas (founder of the Crime Minister movement), and leaders of the ‘Black Flags’ movement Roy Neuman, Shikma Schwarzman-Bressler and Eyal Schwarzman. The communications made public show that the real goal of the protests is to topple Netanyahu’s government.
King David is not Bibi, and Ahithophel is not Barak. Israel currently lives under a form of democratic government and not under a Davidic monarchy. Yet the spiritual principles that the Bible reveals, and the lessons we can all learn about guarding our hearts and not justifying vengeance and bitterness, are very much needed in our day. Ahithophel was a wise man, yet he still got poisoned by bitterness. Perhaps even modern Israeli heroes can suffer a similar fate from malevolent spiritual hands. Many hearts and minds can be defiled in Israel as a result. No human leader of any political party will be able to ultimately solve Israel’s problems and challenges. Only Messiah Yeshua will succeed in establishing God’s righteousness and justice on earth as it is in Heaven, as His Second Coming (see Isaiah 11:3-5).
How should we then pray?
- Pray for repentance to touch and transform the hearts of bitter men and women who once were Israel’s valiant champions
- Pray for God’s strategies and heart to invade and transform Israel’s politicians at all levels
- Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s prophetic Jewish army throughout the earth
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
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