Yesterday, I did indeed write about how we should be honest like Joab, but in 2 Samuel 20, Joab does not look like such an admirable character.
The problem came out of the fact that there was a rebellion led by Sheba. David, not wanting a rebellion in the kingdom, decided that he needed to send his army to shut down the rebellion. He put Amasa in control of these forces.
Amasa had been the commander of Absalom’s army, so as I’m sure you can imagine, Joab had no great love for him.
Amasa went to build his army, but it took him longer than it was supposed to. As a result, David sent Abishai to go finish off Sheba. However, the men that went with Abishai were Joab’s. Think about how much more angry he must have been. His men were marching off to war, and he was not in charge of them.
Not very long after, here is the scene that we see develop.
2Sa 20:9 And Joab said to Amasa, Art thou in health, my brother? And Joab took Amasa by the beard with the right hand to kiss him.
2Sa 20:10 But Amasa took no heed to the sword that was in Joab’s hand: so he smote him therewith in the fifth rib, and shed out his bowels to the ground, and struck him not again; and he died. So Joab and Abishai his brother pursued after Sheba the son of Bichri.
This is quite frankly cold-blooded murder. There’s really no way around it. Amasa was not a good general, but that is not a capital offense.
Joab was jealous. His jealousy led him to commit such a terrible crime. Why do you think that the 10 Commandments told us not to covet? When people are jealous, bad things can happen. I am not saying that every time we are little bit jealous of our neighbor’s new car we are going to commit murder, but I am saying that it is still a sin. This type of attitude is not helpful for anyone.
2 Samuel 3 shows us the tragic death of Abner. He had been rising through the house of Saul, and it seems that as the war was finally winding down between the house of David and the house of Saul, he had quite a bit of power.
2Sa 3:6 And it came to pass, while there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David, that Abner made himself strong for the house of Saul.
Because the war was pretty much over, Abner decided that he was going to help get Israel under David’s control.
2Sa 3:12 And Abner sent messengers to David on his behalf, saying, Whose is the land? saying also, Make thy league with me, and, behold, my hand shall be with thee, to bring about all Israel unto thee.
However, not everyone was too thrilled about this process. In particular, Joab thought that this offering of peace was nothing more than a trap.
2Sa 3:24 Then Joab came to the king, and said, What hast thou done? behold, Abner came unto thee; why is it that thou hast sent him away, and he is quite gone?
2Sa 3:25 Thou knowest Abner the son of Ner, that he came to deceive thee, and to know thy going out and thy coming in, and to know all that thou doest.
David was still not worried, but Joab decided to take everything into his own hands and murder Abner.
Obviously, something went wrong here.
It seems that the main problem was that Joab did not like the fact that Abner was going to be joining an alliance with David. We don’t necessarily know why he was upset outside the fact that he didn’t trust Abner, but I think that it is important to note that the problem with this situation was his reaction.
He did not have to trust Abner. Nobody told him that he had to automatically run out and support the idea of the treaty. However, the physical reaction to these emotions was the major problem here.
We have been given human emotions, and sometimes we will be upset. That does not mean that we can act on those emotions all of the time. Even though it might seem “natural,” God tells us that we need control ourselves.
Pro 25:28 He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.
Anger causes people to make many bad decisions. In 1 Samuel 22, Saul was incredibly angry that he wasn’t able to catch David. He could not believe that everyone was trying to help David out.
1Sa 22:7 Then Saul said unto his servants that stood about him, Hear now, ye Benjamites; will the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards, and make you all captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds;
1Sa 22:8 That all of you have conspired against me, and there is none that sheweth me that my son hath made a league with the son of Jesse, and there is none of you that is sorry for me, or sheweth unto me that my son hath stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as at this day?
Now, in other parts of the Bible, people have been angry. Jesus himself was incredibly angry at the money changers in the temple, and he absolutely demolishes their display.
The emotion is not wrong, but the results that come about because of that emotion can certainly have major consequences.
1Sa 22:17 And the king said unto the footmen that stood about him, Turn, and slay the priests of the LORD; because their hand also is with David, and because they knew when he fled, and did not shew it to me. But the servants of the king would not put forth their hand to fall upon the priests of the LORD.
1Sa 22:18 And the king said to Doeg, Turn thou, and fall upon the priests. And Doeg the Edomite turned, and he fell upon the priests, and slew on that day fourscore and five persons that did wear a linen ephod.
Saul ordered a mass murder because he thought that all the priests were in conspiracy with David and were not loyal enough to him anymore. Obviously, this is not a good action to follow the emotion of anger.
In fact, I even find this murder somewhat symbolic beyond just the fact that he killed a lot of priests.
At the beginning of his career, Saul tried to do what God wanted. However, as soon as he started sliding downhill after performing the sacrifice by himself, he also started falling away from God. Killing the people who needed to perform the sacrifices that would bring people closer to God was another sign that he was moving farther away.
While there are times when anger is certainly appropriate and called for, we also need to be careful that it does not lead us to do things that would be contrary to what God would want.
Numbers chapter 35 really made me think about the fact that we have a God who is entirely in touch with human emotion.
This chapter is essentially laying out the concept of the cities of refuge.
Num 35:10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come over Jordan into the land of Canaan;
Num 35:11 Then ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person at unawares.
Num 35:12 And they shall be unto you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation in judgment.
These cities would allow people to be protected from any people that might come and hunt them after an accidental death. For example, I would assume that a comparable situation would be a person who dies when someone cuts down a tree.
Obviously, that would be an incredibly tragic circumstance, but there would be absolutely no malicious intent in this accident. However, perhaps the brother of one who passed away would want to seek vengeance. The cities of refuge would allow the one person to remain safe until an official trial could take place.
This particularly stood out to me because God understood that people will not always act rationally. Even though the aforementioned situation was purely accidental, when people are grieving, it is sometimes hard to really consider what happened. He obviously understood this tendency in human beings.
I have heard people criticize God for being out of touch with reality. Some people argue that even if there is a God, He cannot possibly understand what I am going through. They don’t understand that not only has God wired all of us as the Creator of humanity, but when we read passages like this, it seems clear that He understands human emotion as well. He understands how people act when they are hurting. He understands that people do things that they shouldn’t.
He is also not excusing these accidental deaths. The people still needed to stand trial. That speaks to the justice of God. However, through the cities, many murders were prevented. I know this is not a happy thought or theme whatsoever, but I think it does demonstrate once again how God knows and loves us.