Friday, January 26, 2018

Joab and Military Power (5) Amasa

David abused Joab’s loyalty responded by appointing Amasa to be commander of his army in Joab’s place (2 Sam 19:13). This was a strange thing to do, as Amasa had already betrayed David once, so he probably could not be trusted not to do it again. By rewarding those who rebelled against him David, was giving the wrong message to those who opposed him. The outcome was another revolt and further violence.

A dispute broke out between the armies of Israel and the armies of Judah. I presume that the armies of Israel were annoyed that Joab had become commander over them.

The people of Judah spoke more harshly than the people of Israel. (2 Sam 19:43).
Inevitably, a troublemaker called Sheba son of Bicri started a rebellion against David (2 Sam 20:1-2). David instructed Amasa to gather the armies of Israel to put down the rebellion, but Amasa was too slow. Maybe he was already looking for another opportunity to undermine David.

David responded to Amasa’s failure by sending Abishai, Joab’s brother, to raise the army. He was loyal to his brother, so he took Joab with him ((2 Sam 18:14-15). When they came across Amasa, Joab killed him because he considered him to be a traitor to David (2 Sam 20:9-10).

Joab pursued Sheba and trapped him in a town of Ephraim. He persuaded the people of the town to kill him. This saved many unnecessary lives (2 Sam 20:22).

Once Joab has restored the security of David’s throne, David had no option to establish him as commander of his army (2 Sam 20:23).

David played power games between Joab and Amasa, but his machinations failed. In the end, he needed the brutality of Joab to keep his kingdom safe. Joab could be relied on to do what needed to be done, when things went wrong.

David seemed to be scared of his military commanders. The risk was real because one of them could seize his throne. David tried to play one off against the other, but it did not work. Joab was too tough and saw off all opposition to his power. He understood the realities of kingship and military power. Fortunately for David, Joab remained loyal to him, until nearly the end of his life, despite often being treated badly by him.

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