Psalm 41: The pattern of betrayal - Past, present and future (P1)

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Bible Studies on the Messianic Psalms

Psalm 41: The pattern of betrayal - Past, present and future (P1)

by I Gordon


Previously we've looked at different aspects of the Messiah's life and return in the Messianic Psalms,today we are going to look at one specific topic: The betrayal. This will be over 2 messages. We'll do a lot of the ground work today looking at an interesting Old Testament type of Jesus betrayal and then look at what it means for our own lives and the end times, next time. Now some Messianic Psalms involve the entire Psalm. Psalm 2 and 22 are examples of this. Some contain a selected portion or set of verses that are Messianic. And some, like Psalm 41 where we will start today, contain just one Messianic verse. Let's have a look:

The Betrayal

Psalms 41:7-9 All my enemies whisper together against me; they imagine the worst for me, saying, (8) A vile disease has beset him; he will never get up from the place where he lies. (9) Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.

In the context of the entire Psalm, David is unwell and he is down. His enemies are licking their lips thinking that this is the end of him. Yet it isn't the thoughts of his enemies that most trouble David's heart. It is the actions of the one who was his friend. This is brought out in verse 9:

Psalms 41:9- Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.

David has been betrayed. Now I'm not sure if you have ever been betrayed. For me, betrayed is a very strong word. I think we could all think of times that we have been let down, disappointed or hurt by friends, family or associates. But betrayed is on a different level. Well, it is in the context of what I am looking at. [1] Jesus knew all about this. He picked this one verse, verse 9, out from the Psalm 41 and said it must be fulfilled with Him.

John 13:18-22 I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: 'He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.'... After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me." (22) His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant.

Now in trying to understand the betrayal of Jesus, it is beneficial to study the betrayal that David was initially speaking of in the Psalm - the betrayal of a close friend by the name of Ahithophel.

The Inner Betrayal - Ahithophel

Now we are going to pick up the story part the way through a very pivotal and distressing time in David's life. His own son, Absalom is attempting to take the throne. We'll have to read several different passages.

2 Samuel 15:10-14 Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel to say, "As soon as you hear
the sound of the trumpets, then say, 'Absalom is king in Hebron.' (11) Two hundred men from Jerusalem had accompanied Absalom. They had been invited as guests and went quite innocently, knowing nothing about the matter. (12) While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he also sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counsellor, to come from Giloh, his hometown. And so the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom's following kept on increasing. (13) A messenger came and told David, "The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom." (14) Then David said to all his officials who were with him in Jerusalem, "Come! We must flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom. We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin upon us and put the city to the sword."

Now this is the first mention of our guy in the spotlight: Ahithophel. We see that when Absalom starts his rebellion he specifically wants to get Ahithophel onboard. So who was this guy Ahithophel? Ahithophel was the grandfather of Bathsheba. [2] Thus he was a grand-father in law to David. He was a close friend and confidant. He was David's 'go-to' guy. When David needed advice, when he needed a sounding board, Ahithophel was his man. So we see straight away there is a betrayal within a larger betrayal... a conspiracy within a larger conspiracy. The betrayal of his friend Ahithophel is part of a larger betrayal of his son Absalom. We'll come back to Absalom later but for now let's focus on this guy Ahithophel.

2 Samuel 15:30-34 ...David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up. (31) Now David had been told, "Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom." So David prayed, "O LORD, turn Ahithophel's counsel into foolishness." (32) When David arrived at the summit, where people used to worship God, Hushai the Arkite was there to meet him, his robe torn and dust on his head. (33) David said to him, "If you go with me, you will be a burden to me. (34) But if you return to the city and say to Absalom, 'I will be your servant, O king; I was your father's servant in the past, but now I will be your servant,' then you can help me by frustrating Ahithophel's advice.

When David hears that even Ahithophel is among the conspirators, he is even more concerned and prays that the Lord will confound his counsel. Why is this? Well, it actually says in 2 Sam 16:23 that Ahithophel's 'counsel was in those days like inquiring from God'. He knew all about David, had been his closest advisor, and yet he switched. He turned and betrayed David when David needed him most. We are also introduced to this man Hushai here who went back to Absalom and said that just as he had supported David while he was king, so he would now give his full allegiance and service to Absalom as his king. And Absalom believed him... but really he was still on the side of David. Now the story comes to an important stage where Absalom, Ahithophel and Hushai are discussing how they can kill David. Ahithophel gives his advice of taking 12,000 men and pursuing David while he is weak and tired. Hushai says this is a bad plan as David and his men can fight with the heart of a lion and an early defeat would cause all his supporters and subjects to lose heart. He advises that the king should unite all his followers and Absalom himself should lead them out to fight against David.

2 Samuel 17:14, 23 ." Absalom and all the men of Israel said, "The advice of Hushai the Arkite is better than that of Ahithophel." For the LORD had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom... (23) When Ahithophel saw that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey and set out for his house in his hometown. He put his house in order and then hanged himself. So he died and was buried in his father's tomb.

We see that Ahithophel is the Old Testament equivalent of Judas. Let's note some parallels:

  • We've seen that Ahithophel was one of David's most trusted and closest men, just as Judas was one of only 12 disciples who went everywhere with Jesus.

David loved Ahithophel - he was a brother with whom they would share bread in close fellowship together. That is not elaborated on in these passages but it is in Psalm 55:12-14. When you read the entire Psalm you see emotions expressed that go hand in hand with being betrayed - pain, anguish, despondency, fear, shock... but what hurts most is that it was a friend... someone close... someone trusted. In like manner, we shouldn't think that Jesus was unaffected by the betrayal just because He knew it would take place. We read earlier: John 13:21 When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me." Contemplating the betrayal, Jesus was deeply troubled in spirit. Yet not one of His disciples knew who among them would be the betrayer. Several wondered if it was going to be them. No one thought 'I bet that is going to be Judas'. This shows that Jesus treated them all equally and showed love and kindness to Judas right to the very end. Even at the very hour of his betrayal, in the very act when Judas betrayed Him, Jesus called him 'friend' saying 'Friend, do what you have come for.' Matt 26:50- We shouldn't think that just because there was a prophecy of the betrayal that that made Judas some kind of robot. He still had free will. In fact he was given the ultimate privilege of being with Jesus, hearing Him, experiencing the miracles, the changed lives... If ever there was the opportunity for a thief to be repentant and turn his life around, it was this case of Judas. He chose not to.

  • Despite David's friendship, Ahithophel was willing to betray David when the pressure came on. He was a gun, or in this case, a counsel, for hire. Loyalty meant nothing if swapping sides meant there was something in it for him. Judas likewise looked for opportunities to betray Jesus. He saw that he could gain from it and went through with it. Loyalty didn't come into it. And again - the deepest cut is that which comes from a close friend - No treachery is worse than betrayal by a family member or friend. Julius Caesar knew such treachery. Among the conspirators who assassinated the Roman leader on March 15, 44 was Marcus Junius Brutus. Caesar not only trusted Brutus, he had favoured him as a son. According to Roman historians, Caesar first resisted the onslaught of the assassins, but when he saw Brutus among them with his dagger drawn, he ceased to struggle and, pulling the top part of his robe over his face, asked the famous question, "You too, Brutus?"
  • Ahithophel spoke to Absalom and advised him to go after David with 12,000 men to do away with him. This plan was thwarted by God's counsel through Hushai, but Judas did actually do this going out with what is believed to be 500-600 Roman soldiers to arrest Jesus (John 18:3).
  • And what of the end for our betrayers? Ahithophel's plan wasn't followed so he departed, went home, and hung himself. (2 Sam 17:23). In like manner, Judas left the priests, went away and hung himself. (Matt 27:5)
  • Even the location where it all played out is the same; the Chadron valley and the Mount of Olives. The first mention of the Kidron in the Bible is in 2 Sam 15:23 which David had to cross at the time of his betrayal. The last mention is in John 18:1 which Jesus crossed leading up to the time of His betrayal.

The Outer and Larger Betrayal

Now, we said earlier that this betrayal is but part of a larger betrayal going on. There is a betrayal within a larger betrayal... a conspiracy within a larger conspiracy. Ahithophel's betrayal is that of a friend and a counselor. But the larger betrayal is that of David's own son Absalom who is trying to usurp the kingdom from the hands of its rightful ruler - the one chosen by God, King David. Absalom is using Ahithophel in his pursuit of a much wider scheme and plan. This too teaches us about the betrayal of Jesus and the one behind the scenes who is doing all he can to usurp and gain control of God's kingdom - Satan. Just as Absalom used Ahithophel, so Satan used Judas in his attempt to thwart God's plan and ultimately take God's kingdom. Let's explore some of the facts concerning this greater betrayal of Absalom. .

2 Samuel 14:25-27 In all Israel there was not a man so highly praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the top of his head to the sole of his foot there was no blemish in him. (26) Whenever he cut the hair of his head--he used to cut his hair from time to time when it became too heavy for him--he would weigh it, and its weight was two hundred shekels by the royal standard. (27) Three sons and a daughter were born to Absalom. The daughter's name was Tamar, and she became a beautiful woman.

First we start with the description of Absalom. He was perfect from head to toe. A beautiful man? Who would have thought that could happen?! There was no one like Absalom who was perfect, according to the Bible, with no blemish from the top of his head to the sole of his foot. Now I don't know too much about what the perfect man looks like, so I'll leave that to your imagination;, but rest assured, that was Absalom. His yearly locks weighed just under 2 kg. His beauty stands as a typeof Lucifer, the 'light bearer', before his fall. Ezekiel 28:12-15 ... 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: 'You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. (13) You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. (14) You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. (15) You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.

The beautiful one has less than beautiful intentions

2 Samuel 15:1-6 In the course of time, Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him. (2) He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, "What town are you from?" He would answer, "Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel." (3) Then Absalom would say to him, "Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you." (4) And Absalom would add, "If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that he gets justice." (5) Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him. (6) Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the men of Israel.

We see two important points here.

  1. We see that Absalom was not content with just being the King's son. He wanted to be the King! He was after the complete overthrow of the kingdom. He wanted to be the top dog and he knew this meant the total overthrow of the true king. This also is patterned after the revolt of Satan.
    Isaiah 14:12-15 How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn!... You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. (14) I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High."
  2. Next we read about the method implored by Absalom to usurp the kingdom from David's hands. He started spreading disharmony concerning the king among the hearts of the Israelites. He sowed seeds of discontent in their minds. What about Satan? Ezekiel 28:16 'Through your widespread trade (or traffic) you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones.'

Arnold Fructenbaum: 'Satan sinned 'by the abundance of your traffic'. This Hebrew expression means 'to go about from person to person or from place to place.' The picture is that when unrighteousness was found in Satan, he went from angel to angel trying to secure their allegiance by slandering God. One third of the innumerable number of angels was convinced by Satan and joined him, but two thirds did not. The specific sin here was the act of slandering God from angel to angel. This act of sin originated from the sin of pride; then the sin of slandering God led to violence. Satan caused violence in Heaven by leading a revolt.'
So just as Absalom started to go from person to person spreading disharmony against the king in his plot to take the kingdom, so this is a picture of the betrayal of Satan who went from angel to angel slandering God to win their allegiance in overthrowing the Most High God.

Let's look at Absalom's undoing

2 Samuel 18:6-10 Then the people went out into the field against Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. (7) The people of Israel were defeated there before the servants of David, and the slaughter there that day was great, 20,000 men. (8) For the battle there was spread over the whole countryside, and the forest devoured more people that day than the sword devoured. (9) Now Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. 'For Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. And his head caught fast in the oak, so he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him kept going.' (10) When a certain man saw it, he told Joab and said, "Behold, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak."

The fall of Absalom is very instructive and involves at least three interesting parallels with Satan:

  1. The Jewish historian Josephus writes that it was Absalom's hair became entangled in the branches of a tree and he was left hanging there. Thus the very source of his beauty and pride became Absalom's downfall. This also speaks to us of Satan's fall. Ezekiel 28:17 'Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth;'
  2. At the point of trying to take the kingdom, at the very point where ultimate victory is within his grasp, Absalom is undone by... of all things, a tree! Was it not the same for Satan? Satan thought he had almost won when he had Jesus betrayed, falsely judged and then crucified on a tree. He probably thought he had executed his master plan to perfection and had killed the King of Kings! You can almost see him amazed as he surveys his greatest ever victory... or so he thought until he saw that that tree that crucified the Lord of Lords was not the downfall of the Son of God but his own doom and judgment! Speaking of the cross we read:
    1 Corinthians 2:8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
    Colossians 2:15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
  3. The Bible uses the very strange description of what happened to Absalom once the source of his beauty and pride led to his downfall. It says 'his head caught fast in the oak, so he was left hanging between heaven and earth.' He was left hanging between 'heaven and earth'. This also points to Satan who, after being banished from Heaven, is in the New Testament now said to be the 'ruler of the power of the air'. (Eph 2:2)

It ends with the pit

Finally we read of the eventual end of Absalom.

2 Sam 18:11-17, Then Joab said to the man who had told him, "Now behold, you saw him! Why then did you not strike him there to the ground? And I would have given you ten pieces of silver and a belt." (12) The man said to Joab, "Even if I should receive a thousand pieces of silver in my hand, I would not put out my hand against the king's son; for in our hearing the king charged you and Abishai and Ittai, saying, 'Protect for me the young man Absalom!' (13) "Otherwise, if I had dealt treacherously against his life (and there is nothing hidden from the king), then you yourself would have stood aloof." (14) Then Joab said, "I will not waste time here with you." So he took three spears in his hand and thrust them through the heart of Absalom while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak. (15) And ten young men who carried Joab's armor gathered around and struck Absalom and killed him. (16) Then Joab blew the trumpet, and the people returned from pursuing Israel, for Joab restrained the people. (17) They took Absalom and cast him into a deep pit in the forest and erected over him a very great heap of stones. And all Israel fled, each to his tent.

The betrayal of Absalom ends with his death and his body thrown into a pit. The betrayal has been finally overthrown and the true king, David, can reign over Israel once again. This ties in with what we read of Satan's end.

Isaiah 14:13-15 You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. (14) I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." (15) But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit .

And Revelation speaks of the pit; the abyss that Satan is thrown into at the start of Jesus' Messianic reign on planet Earth following his return.

Revelation 20:1-3 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. (2) He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, which is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. (3) He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.


So what have we seen? Well, in the days of David there was a betrayal within a betrayal... a conspiracy within a conspiracy. His friend Ahithophel betrayed David but it was part of a greater betrayal of Absalom to usurp and seize control of the kingdom. This is all instructive of what was happening in Jesus' day. His friend, Judas, betrayed Him but he wasn't doing it alone. His betrayal was also part of a far greater ongoing betrayal from Satan who was, and still is, actively looking for ways in which he can make himself like the Most High and seize control of the kingdom. We read earlier about the last supper where Jesus said:

John 13:18-21 'I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: 'He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.'... After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me."

But it then goes on to tell us of the one who was ultimately leading this betrayal:

John 13:26-28 ...Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. (27) As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. "What you are about to do, do quickly," Jesus told him, ( 28) but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him.

The betrayal of Judas was but a small part of the greater ongoing betrayal of Satan. And the outworking of this ongoing betrayal is far from finished. There are patterns of this betrayal still to be repeated. What started with Satan's fall, and was shown in the life of Absalom, had a fulfillment in the life of the Messiah Jesus. But that isn't where it ends. Satan attempts to have this played out in the life of every believer. In your life even. He is still going about His 'trafficking' - going from person to person trying to sway their allegiance from the true King and onto himself. Having betrayed the king himself, He is still in the business of trying to lead others into this same betrayal.

But the pattern of betrayal doesn't stop there. It repeats and will ultimately play out on the world stage once more for all in the world to see when His treacherous representative, the Antichrist, betrays the nation of Israel in the last days. The pattern repeats. It is the outworking of this in our own lives and in the nation of Israel that we will look at next time.

[1]  Mr Google tells us that we use the word 'betray' in a few different ways:

Failure in expectations: We could say something like: 'My brother would have won many running races at school had his legs not betrayed him... normally just after the starters gun went off.' Now that is certainly true of my brother but it isn't what we are looking at today.

Disclose a secret: We may think something like 'Well, I really shouldn't betray Betty's confidence... but do you hear what happened to her?' That is a valid use of the word betray, but that's not what we are looking at today.

Disloyalty: This is certainly a part of what we are talking about. It could be used when a person betrays their spouse by not being true to their vows or when a companion betrays their friend by being disloyal.

Treachery: This is the worst type of betrayal. It is to intentionally expose a person or nation to danger through siding with the enemy. That also plays a big part of what we are talking about today.

These last two types of betrayal, which come from someone close, cut the deepest of all. It's what both David and Jesus experienced. William MacDonald writes: 'Perhaps the "unkindest cut of all" was the treachery of one who had been an intimate friend. Of all the sorrows of life, this is certainly one of the bitterest - to be betrayed by one who has had close associations with you. It is a sorrow the Saviour experienced in the betrayal of Judas, and a not-uncommon experience in the lives of those who follow this Captain.'

[2]  Ahithophel is mentioned in 2 Samuel 23:34 where he is said to be the father of Eliam. And in 2 Samuel 11:3 we read that Eliam is the father of Bathsheba. Thus, assuming they are talking about the same Ahithophel and Eliam (which I believe they are) the Ahithophel who betrays David is Bathsheba's grandfather and David's grand-father in law. Nothing like relatives to betray you!