2 SAMUEL 14:1-20
1Now Joab son of Zeruiah perceived that the king’s mind was on Absalom. 2Joab sent to Tekoa and brought from there a wise woman. He said to her, “Pretend to be a mourner; put on mourning garments, do not anoint yourself with oil, but behave like a woman who has been mourning many days for the dead. 3Go to the king and speak to him as follows.” And Joab put the words into her mouth.
4When the woman of Tekoa came to the king, she fell on her face to the ground and did obeisance, and said, “Help, O king!” 5The king asked her, “What is your trouble?” She answered, “Alas, I am a widow; my husband is dead. 6Your servant had two sons, and they fought with one another in the field; there was no one to part them, and one struck the other and killed him. 7Now the whole family has risen against your servant. They say, ‘Give up the man who struck his brother, so that we may kill him for the life of his brother whom he murdered, even if we destroy the heir as well.’ Thus they would quench my one remaining ember, and leave to my husband neither name nor remnant on the face of the earth.”
8Then the king said to the woman, “Go to your house, and I will give orders concerning you.” 9The woman of Tekoa said to the king, “On me be the guilt, my lord the king, and on my father’s house; let the king and his throne be guiltless.” 10The king said, “If anyone says anything to you, bring him to me, and he shall never touch you again.” 11Then she said, “Please, may the king keep the LORD your God in mind, so that the avenger of blood may kill no more, and my son not be destroyed.” He said, “As the LORD lives, not one hair of your son shall fall to the ground.”
12Then the woman said, “Please let your servant speak a word to my lord the king.” He said, “Speak.” 13The woman said, “Why then have you planned such a thing against the people of God? For in giving this decision the king convicts himself, inasmuch as the king does not bring his banished one home again. 14We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up. But God will not take away a life; he will devise plans so as not to keep an outcast banished forever from his presence. 15Now I have come to say this to my lord the king because the people have made me afraid; your servant thought, ‘I will speak to the king; it may be that the king will perform the request of his servant. 16For the king will hear, and deliver his servant from the hand of the man who would cut both me and my son off from the heritage of God.’ 17Your servant thought, ‘The word of my lord the king will set me at rest’; for my lord the king is like the angel of God, discerning good and evil. The LORD your God be with you!”
18Then the king answered the woman, “Do not withhold from me anything I ask you.” The woman said, “Let my lord the king speak.” 19The king said, “Is the hand of Joab with you in all this?” The woman answered and said, “As surely as you live, my lord the king, one cannot turn right or left from anything that my lord the king has said. For it was your servant Joab who commanded me; it was he who put all these words into the mouth of your servant. 20In order to change the course of affairs your servant Joab did this. But my lord has wisdom like the wisdom of the angel of God to know all things that are on the earth.”
Joab is an interesting figure. Of course my saying that Joab's an "interesting" figure doesn't say all that much. So, "interesting" how?
Joab is one of King David's nephews. Joab is the commander of David's army. He is a great military leader, leading David's army to victory in battles at Mt. Zion, Aram, Ammon, Moab, and Edom. Joab is also loyal (to a degree) to his uncle, taking part in Uriah's death.
Joab is politically smart and savvy. The passage above begins with Joab's perception that King David's been distracted, not running his kingdom as he ought, preoccupied by the fate of his beloved son, Absalom, who fled after his men killed his half-brother, Amnon, who raped Tamar, Absalom's sister. The estrangement between David and his son has political implications, so Joab provokes David to action by putting words into a wise woman's mouth who tells a story (much like Nathan's story) so that David finds himself in a predicament where he must act. David could have easily been offended by Joab's manipulative action, but David cools off and agrees to have Absalom back.
Fast-forwarding, Joab and his men end up killing Absalom who gets stuck in a tree when his long, thick, beautiful hair gets caught in the tree's branches. (Absalom had decided to revolt against his father.) Later, David decides to replace Joab as the commander of his army with another of his nephews, Amasa, who then gets killed by Joab. Joab eventually gives allegiance to Adonijah, David's eldest son, against the wishes of David (and the Lord) who choose Solomon to take over the kingdom. Nearing his own death, David tells Solomon to kill Joab because of his past betrayals and for all the blood that he has shed. That's the end of Joab. Interesting, right?
What makes Joab interesting is his character -- what he has and what he lacks.
Joab is extremely intelligent, militarily and politically. Joab is also bold, a man of quick decision and action. These qualities he poses in abundance.
But Joab lacks certain traits. He lacks full loyalty to King David. As the general of David's army, Joab is expected to give his full allegiance to the king he serves. Joab gives loyalty (to a degree). The parenthetical qualifier makes a huge difference. Partial loyalty is as good as no loyalty in times of strife and stress. Joab sees David in his weakness and grows contemptuous of him (Joab probably thought that he himself would have made a better king!). Joab also lacks the "fear of the Lord." Joab is spiritually out of it. Even when he hears that Solomon has been chosen by YHWH to take David's place, he refuses to listen and instead sides with Solomon's adversary, Adonijah. Arrogance and defiance, instead of humility and obedience.
Just like Joab, our own mixture of what we have and what we lack makes us "interesting." But let's pray that what we lack doesn't lead us to a fate similar to Joab's. Heaven forbid.
Let's pray: Father God, we are all very "interesting" in the sense above. We have certain wonderful traits and we lack other traits. None of us, we confess, is complete, whole. Therefore we need your grace everyday. We need your guidance everyday. We ask that you would instill in us a "fear of the Lord" that would keep all things in perspective and that you would instill in us the ability to honor you and others. Teach us rightful loyalty, spiritually appropriate behavior, wisdom, and sensitivity to your heart. In Jesus' name, amen.