So Joab went to the king and told him this. Then the king summoned Absalom, and he came in and bowed down with his face to the ground before the king. And the king kissed Absalom. (2 Samuel 14:33 NIV)
There are many fascinating characters in scripture. Two particularly fascinating characters are Joab and Absalom.
Joab. Wow, what a complex and yet straightforward character. Someone more than accomplished to aggressive acts, well suited for the military. A member of David’s family, a general in the army and yet an ongoing thorn in his side. For all his aggressive acts – from killing Abner onwards – there is something about him that maintains some loyalty to David. He is such a weird man. In the 14th chapter of 2 Samuel, that weirdness is evident again in his efforts to get David to snap out of his doldrums over his son in exile and bring him back to the fold. Taking a leaf out of Nathan’s playbook, Joab sets David up with the old ‘tell a story – you are the story’ method. Such cunning gets David bang to rights.
Yet Joab is not the only one who knows how to play mind games. This leads us to the second intriguing character, David’s own son – Absalom. The Absalom Saga dominates these chapters (13-19) and it highlights the incredible mind of Absalom. Here is a man that was undoubtedly ambitious, bitter, cunning, devious and elaborate. His description in this chapter also indicates that a bit like Saul, he had all the physical attributes for greatness. He had it physically, he had it intellectually, there is little doubt that if he wanted to, he could have been a great King.
One aspect of that is his commitment to the long game. He waited for his opportunity to kill Amnon. He waited for his opportunity to return from exile. He knew the right way to agitate an aggressive man. He knew the right buttons to press, he knew when to press it.
When it came to Joab, he played him like a fiddle – after all it was the general that had engineered his return from exile. So now this general could go the whole hog and smooth the way back into the King’s court. Joab was in checkmate as Absalom patiently played the long game.
Some people don’t like considering the Bible as a book about politics, but it is. It reflects the capacity of man to govern and rule or be in the pursuit of it. How tragic that a father and son can portray the extreme approaches to both – the Dad being anointed by God to rule and initially doing so with honour, whereas the son …
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden