There is a time for everything
…a time to kill and a time to heal
…a time to love and a time to hate
…a time for war and a time for peace.
I’m lucky enough to be able to say I’ve been to the Dead Sea a few times – but only on the Western side, which is in Israel. Located on the Eastern shore of the Dead Sea is a mountain range possessed by the country Jordan; this used to be called Moab.
On the wall in my apartment, there is a beautiful water-color picture of a woman who grew up in that area approximately 1100 years before Jesus was born. Her name is Ruth. She was a Gentile.
After her first husband died, she left her home in Moab to follow her Israelite mother-in-law, Naomi, back to Israel. Ruth then converted to Judaism and married a Israelite man named Boaz. She and Boaz had a son, Obed. Obed then had a son, whom he named Jesse. Jesse had eight sons, the youngest he named David.
We know a few things about this young man. He tended to Jesse’s sheep (1 Sam 16:11), he was good looking (v. 12), he was a gifted musician (v. 18), and, due to his love for the Lord, he was courageous on His behalf (1 Sam 17:26, 32).
Compared with David, we know relatively little about Joab. But we have a story which, though Joab is absent, gives a perfect illustration about the difference between David and Joab. This account deals with David’s flee from King Saul, who was trying to kill David. As Soul finally tracks him down, David manages to evade him and find Saul and his crew as they’re sleeping. Abishai, Joab’s brother,
1 Samuel 26:6-11
David then asked Ahimelech the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, “Who will go down into the camp with me to Saul?”
“I’ll go with you,” said Abishai.
So David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying around him.
Abishai said to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of my spear; I won’t strike him twice.”
But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the LORD lives,” he said, “the LORD himself will strike him; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the LORD forbid that I should lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go.”
This is a defining moment for David, as he begins to assert himself as future King of Israel. We will see that, whereas Joab (much like his brother Abishai) is quick to draw the sword, David is often reluctant, except in the clearest of situations, to kill. For David, the real threat which he must defend against is an attack on Israel, the country over which God anointed him king. So, even though Saul (and many others in the future) seek to kill him, David patiently waits for the Lord to deal with those who seek to kill him. But for Joab, as well as his brothers, any threat to David’s life constitutes a reason for bloodshed.
All things being equal, amidst a battle, Joab’s attitude about killing enemies is best described as, “It’s not personal, it’s business.”
David would say, “It’s not personal, it’s God’s business.”
Listen to David’s response to Goliath:
1 Samuel 17:45-47
David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”