Thursday, January 25, 2018

Joab and Military Power (4) Absalom

David had problems in his family right from the beginning. I presume his disloyalty to his wives released a spirit of division. A son called Ammon’s raped his half-sister Tamar.

When King David heard all this, he was furious (2 Sam 13:21).
However, David did nothing about it, although he knew what had happened was wrong. Maybe his own adultery prevented him from dealing with his son’s sin.
Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar (2 Sam 13:21-22).
Absalom eventually killed Ammon and fled into exile. Again, David did nothing, I presume, because the felt that rough justice had been done.

David later criticised Joab for taking revenge on the person who had killed his brother, but David allowed his own son to do the same thing.

Absalom wanted to reconcile with his father, but he was forced to remain in exile. He was left in a situation of being forgiven, but not accepted (2 Sam 13:38). He lived with a hostile king, so naturally started working against David.

David never dealt with Absalom’s attitude, so he eventually rebelled against him and pushed David out of the kingdom. Being betrayed by a favourite son was the worst thing that could happen to a king. Joab and Abishai went into exile with David, when Absolam seized the throne (2 Sam 16:9).

Absalom appointed Amasa as commander of the army (2 Sam 17:25). Amasa was the son of David’s other sister Abigail and Joab’s cousin (1 Chron 2:17). By joining with the rebellion, Amasa was betraying his Uncle David.

Joab led the troops of Judah who remained loyal to David into battle against the armies of Absalom. When Absalom was captured, Joab killed him. This death was justified, because Absalom was a murderer and usurper (2 Sam 13:28-29).

Absalom’s death allowed David to get back his throne over Israel (2 Sam 18:14-15). This was necessary, because a king could no allow a rival to remain and threaten his kingship. David wept for Absalom, but Joab knew what had to be done to save the kingdom.

Joab was ruthless, but he understood the reality of political power. Those who hold political power have to be ruthless when it is threatened, or they can quickly lose their place. Like David, many political leaders pretend to dislike military force, but the reality is that is the basis for their power. If their power is threatened by rebellion, they have to deal with ruthlessly, or they could be defeated.

The foundation for political power is military force. It can remain hidden for much of the time, but it must be brought out when political power needs it.

When Absalom was dead, Joab sounded a trumpet to end the battle and prevent any more unnecessary bloodshed (2 Sam 18:16-17). Absalom’s soldiers were followers not rebels, so they did not need to die. Although Joab could be ruthless when necessary, he prevented unnecessary death whenever possible. He knew that the leaders were the problem, not the people who followed them.

Joab understood loyalty. He understood that it is not unlimited, so he challenged David about his disrespect for the men who had supported him.

Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you… Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the LORD that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall (2 Sam 19:5-7).
Joab challenged David to thank the men who had risked their lives for David when he was in trouble. By being disloyal to his men, David was putting their loyalty at risk. Joab understood loyalty. He knew that if David did not acknowledge their loyalty, he could face another rebellion.

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