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Our impression from everything he does, intensified by the way in which the narrative lingers over them, is that this is the suicide of a person who anticipates future events and does what he does out of level-headed consideration, as befits a sage like Ahithophel.
Because Ahithophel is not a warrior and his suicide does not take place in battle, his chosen instrument is not a weapon (unlike Abimelech, Saul, and Saul's squire, who were killed or killed themselves with a sword) but a noose.
The first reference to Ahithophel in the Bible relates to the growing strength of the rebellion: Absalom also sent [to fetch] Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counselor, from his town, Giloh.
Ahithophel is not painted in such negative colors as Abimelech is, whence another difference between them.