In 2 Shmuel 17 Ahitophel counsels Avshalom to immediately pursue David with 12,000 soldiers and predicts that they will be able to kill David without having to kill David's men.

At David's behest, Chushai subverts Ahitophel's counsel and instead proposes waiting until Avshalom's army is massive in numbers. It would seem that the reason for this counsel was to enable David and his men to flee and regroup, which they do. Avshalom adopts Chushai's advise and when the battle finally takes place (18:7) the casualties are a staggering 20,000.

It would seem that the large number of casualties is a direct result of Chushai's advice. I understand that Chushai was trying to save David's life and perhaps he felt that the advice he gave was the only possible solution which Avshalom would accept.

I would still like to know if Chushai is considered responsible, perhaps at least in part, for the deaths of so many people.

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    The very premise and phraseology of the question seems a bit off to me. David was fighting a righteous war against an usurper to the throne. If not for Chushai's advice, Avshalom, backed by Achitophel may have been victorious and it seems clear Chushai's advice was the only play. While, war is unfortunate and we do not celebrate death, when fighting a just war, when the good guys win we don't lament the defeat of the aggressor. In WWII when the allies bombed Germany, it wasn't a happy occasion but it was necessary.
    – garyseven
    Feb 23 at 15:15
  • @garyseven phraseology of the comment seems off to me. In a just war is absolutely any tactic on the table? Had Chushai offered different counsel which didn't require so many troops to join and die would that not have been preferable? If so, is he not in some way culpable for the excessive loss of life? Please note further that you are comparing Avshalom and the Jews who (innocently) fought with him to the Nazis Feb 23 at 15:58
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    In a war, when one side loses, its soldiers die. That's just how it goes. And the winning side is allowed to celebrate. Especially thousands of years later, we can't judge Chushai based on hypothetical alternatives.
    – N.T.
    Feb 23 at 17:28
  • Certainly, and perhaps this addresses the original concern of the question. When blood is shed without cause it is criticized in tanach (and there are multiple examples of this) and in the commentaries. We have no record in any way of Chushai doing anything wrong. Quite the opposite.
    – garyseven
    Feb 25 at 12:14
  • The comparison (was of a clearly necessary war, not comparing anyone of n*zi's) was to point out that when you fight a just war against an aggressor and win there is no guilt in that. If one side can win easily and with less casualties that’s a different story. That was not the case here - it seems clear Chushai's advice was the only play and the alternative would have been catastrophic. There’s a famous saying “if someone comes to kill you, precede him” (Midrash Rabbah, 21:4). @rikitikitembo
    – garyseven
    Feb 25 at 12:21

1 Answer 1


I don't know if he is to "blame"? But the Midrash Shocher Tov / Tehillim 3:3 explains that his full name - חושי הארכי - Chushai the Arkite is due to his role in helping to cement Dovid's kingdom:

חד אמר למה נקרא שמו חושי הארכי שהיה מארכי של דוד. וחד אמר שעל ידו נתבססה מלכותו של דוד. וחד אמר על שם עירו נקרא

One said, why do we call his name Chushai the Arkite? Because he was one of the ארכי - the great men of Dovid's court. And one says that through him the kingdom of Dovid was firmly established. And one says that he was named after his city.

The Malbim on the verse II Shmuel 17:4 says expressly:

ויאמר ואז הסכימו כולם שעצת חושי טובה יותר, והכתוב מעיד שזה היה מאת ה', כי באמת אם היו עושים כעצת אחיתופל היו מצליחים:

Then they all agreed that the advice of Chushai was better, and the verse testifies that this was all from Hashem because in truth, if they would have done like the advice of Achitofel they would have been successful.

  • I'm not sure I understand how this answers the question. Pharaoh's oppressing of the Jews in Egypt was also from Hashem, but he was still punished for it. Sep 26, 2023 at 14:44
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    The Malbim is an afterthought showing how Hashem ultimately orchestrated everything. So had they gone with Achitofel's advice they would have succeeded but yet since they ended up going with Chushai G-d made it pan out as it did, and so in that context, his advice would hold him somewhat accountable,
    – Dov
    Sep 26, 2023 at 15:12
  • Thanks, now I understand the answer better but I still don't see the relevance to the question - is there a source that says Chushai is/n't accountable for those deaths? Sep 26, 2023 at 16:07
  • There's no source that holds Chushai "accountable" for those deaths. It was a war and he acted as was needed.
    – garyseven
    Feb 23 at 15:20

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