One of Joab’s men stood beside Amasa and said, “Whoever favors Joab, and whoever is for David, let him follow Joab!” (2 Samuel 20:11 NIV)
The United Tribes of Israel was a fragile reality after Absalom’s efforts. Even with David’s conciliatory actions, it only took one mischief maker called Sheba to upset it again by seizing on a dispute between Judah and Israel to call for another rebellion against David.
David may have been conciliatory, but his experience as a warrior gave him enough nous to see that Sheba could not be tolerated like Absalom. His endeavour to quell the rebellion was supposed to be lead by his General Amasa. Enter Joab, once more, to complete his hattrick of treacherous assassinations. As Amasa took longer than he should have to gather the troops, David sent Abishai to address the rebellion, deliberately overlooking Joab. When they came across Amasa, Joab tricked him with a greeting that he used to plunge a fatal stab into Amasa’s stomach. That meant Joab had illicitly killed Abner, Absalom and Amasa – but still maintained a leading position in David’s army.
On the positive side, Joab took on Sheba with ruthlessness up to the point where Sheba hid in Abel Beth Maakah. The siege of that place lead to a remarkable conversation with a wise woman there who appealed to Joab on behalf of the place. Her concern for the city lead her to counsel the people to give Joab what he wanted to stop the siege and in doing so quashing the rebellion once and for all as Sheba’s head was thrown out of the city.
So what is there to see and learn here? Rebellion against righteous rule should not come as a surprise, but should not be condoned or tolerated. There are people who think they are for you, but whose acts of insubordination should not be forgotten – David would not forget Joab’s actions of insubordination. Those who desire righteousness should be a part of what it takes to root out unrighteousness for the sake of the whole.
God, in His wisdom, allows us to see episodes in the life of His people to learn from them so we can be wise in His eyes, not our own.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden