Archive for the ‘Series: David and Joab’ Category

200px-david_and_goliath_by_caravaggio.jpgLast Friday, our softball team suffered its first defeat. I sincerely tried to put on a good face, but it’s been made clear to me (by two people, both independently!) that my frustration after the game was quite apparent.

I was upset.

I hate losing. That probably makes me like every other person in the world, except that I really hate losing.

Afterwards, I drove to one of my favorite spots in Bellingham and devoted a few moments to meditating on God and his word. I desperately needed his voice in my mind, as my thoughts only seemed to worsen my mood.

Psalm 37 was the place I unintentionally turned to. As I read it (and watched a thoroughly glorious sunset), I felt overwhelmed by a sense of God’s sovereignty in the life of David as well as my own. I write this one week later, and the sense of awe I felt upon reading that passage is nearly as intense as it was then.

For those of you who have read along with the last four studies about David and Joab (1, 2, 3, 4), you’ll remember that the most prominent difference between the two men was that Joab would break the rules to defend the nation, whereas David only fought battles which were completely black and white. Joab took matters into his own hands even when it meant murder; David left matters to God, even when it made him look passive.

Oh, how we must all learn to leave our battles to the Lord!

That compelling lesson I had learned from David’s life, through reading those historical books which documented his life, was immediately brought to life in full color as I contemplated Psalm 37.


I suspect (if the reader is anything like me) that when I quote scripture on here, the tendency may be to skim it and move on to “what I’m really getting at”. If that is the case, I encourage you that the passage itself is what I’m getting at. This is David’s own expression of the passion that sustained him from his battle with Goliath, through his flight from Absalom, until his final breath in which he entrusted his kingdom to his son Solomon. This is a glimpse into the heart of a man after God’s heart.

Do not fret because of the wicked;
do not be envious of wrongdoers,
for they will soon fade like the grass,
and wither like the green herb.

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
so you will live in the land and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will make your vindication shine like the light,
and the justice of your cause like the noonday.

Be still before the Lord,
and wait patiently for him;
do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
over those who carry out evil devices.

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
Do not fret – it only leads to evil.

For the wicked shall be cut off
but those who wait for the Lord
shall inherit the land.

Psalm 37:1-9 (NRSV)


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Now again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel,
and it incited David against them to say,
“Go, number Israel and Judah.”
2 Samuel 24:1

Then Satan stood up against Israel
and moved David to number Israel.
1 Chronicles 21:1


So who did it?

Who prompted David to take the census which led God to inflict a massive judgment on Israel, God or Satan?

For that matter, who prompted all the calamity that fell upon Job?

Was it God?

“Have you [Satan] considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil…Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” (Job 1:9, 12)

Or was it Satan?

“Have You [God] not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.” (Job 1:10-11)

The problem in both of these passages is that we see God orchestrating an event which includes Satan acting in a malicious way. How can God and Satan work together? God, the supreme loving Father, and Satan, the father of lies…cooperating?

It happens in the New Testament too. In the fourth chapter of Matthew and Luke, we read that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where he was tempted by the devil. Paul refers to a messenger of Satan who had been given to him to keep him from exalting himself, a messenger who Paul says God allowed to continue to attack him (2 Cor. 12:7,8). In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, we read of two men, Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom Paul, “handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme.” (1 Timothy 1:20)

Essentially, what we learn from all these passages is that Satan – though he is cursed for his rebellion against God – is still used by God for His own sovereign purposes. The Tempter, as he is referred to in Matt. 4:3 and 1 Thess. 3:5, requires no aide or abetting from God in order to do evil; instead, we see that God releases Satan unto certain goals so that either the righteousness or unrighteousness of a person will be exposed.


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LORD, I have heard the report about You and I fear.

O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years,
In the midst of the years make it known;
In wrath remember mercy.
Habakkuk 3:2

There is a phrase oft repeated in conversation amongst Christians, “The path to hell is paved with good intentions.”


I’ve heard it attributed to George Bernard Shaw; God’s word presents a more refined way of saying it, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” This verse is an apt summary of the tragic legacy of Israel’s greatest warrior: Joab.

Why was Joab’s life a tragedy? The man was obsessed with killing. As much as we may associate Joab with David, and as much as he fought with success, he does not earn the commendation of God’s word. In fact, King David was so conscious of the blood-lust of Joab that one of his last wishes was for Solomon to kill him,

“Deal with him according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to the grave in peace.” (1 Kings 2:6)

Odd, isn’t it? A man earned a death warrant from the same king who used him to lead his army into battle. If only the Bible offered a clear explanation of this curious paradox! Why did David keep him as an official if he had such a huge ax to grind with him? Was David merely using Joab because he wanted to win battles? Did David leave him in his position of power to prevent Joab from inciting a coup d’├ętat? Or perhaps David simply tolerated Joab until David realized that God wouldn’t allow him to build the temple due to the blood on David’s hands? Maybe David wanted to save Solomon from a similar indictment from God?


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200px-david_and_goliath_by_caravaggio.jpgThere 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.”

Joab will be next…
Jump to David and Joab Part 1, 2, 3, 4, Finale

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200px-david_and_goliath_by_caravaggio.jpgNew Series Alert: I’m going to focus some future posts on King David and his military commander, Joab.

I’ve been reading through the Old Testament historical books lately. Specifically, I’m following the Kings of Israel and Judah in a harmony of 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings, and 1&2 Chronicles. This allows me to read through the Bible chronologically and compare the different accounts to see as many details as possible.

These two men have occupied my attention throughout much of this reading. I thought about making just one post expressing the concepts I’ve grappled with, but it was too intimidating. Additionally, I have a tendency to “overpost” when it comes to things about the Bible. Overposting is when I don’t write my blogs short enough for someone who forgets to take his ADD pills that day. So this blog will summarize (I hope) what I’ll be getting myself into. Future blogs will deal with specific traits or historical moments that pull my attention.

David was the King of Judah (the lower kingdom of Israel) and after about 7 years, the King of Israel and Judah (upper and lower Israel) for about 33 more years. Overall, he reigned from about 1000 B.C. to 960.

Joab was King David’s military commander. If you want to understand his position in an American context, King David was the Commander and Chief and Joab was the Secretary of Defense. But Joab also handled the nuts and bolts of battle. Imagine Robert Gates (you know, the guy who replaced Donald Rumsfeld) wearing battle fatigues, fighting in Iraq, and kicking major butt, and you have a good parallel to Joab.

Why is it fascinating to do this comparison? Perhaps because Scripture gives no military commander more attention than Joab. There are many lessons we learn from observing the actions and character traits of such a prominent (yet oft ignorned) figure in Israelite history.

Furthermore, David receives more attention from Scripture than any other King (unless you count Jesus, of course). David wrote many of the Psalms, he is continually referenced in other parts of the Hebrew Bible, and he is commonly mentioned in the New Testament. In short, David is a significant icon in the Bible, if not the significant icon apart from Christ.

As we examine these men side by side, we’ll see each man’s unique traits more clearly. Here are some of the distinctives of both men that we’ll look at in blogs to come:

Both were both valiant fighters on behalf of Israel, and, ultimately, the LORD. David (1 Sam 17:45, 1 Sam 18:5-7, 2 Sam 8:1-6) and Joab (2 Sam 10:12, 2 Sam 20:10, 2 Sam 24:3, 1 Chr 11:6) demonstrated a consistent passion to fight for God.

Neither man was without sin, or errors in judgment. David committed adultery with a top soldier’s wife; he then killed the soldier as part of the cover-up. Joab went overboard in his desire to defend, killing people whom David commanded him to spare. David took a census of Israel which undercut his trust in God’s provision (which Joab rightly opposed). Joab wrongly followed Adonijah’s sinful attempt to become king (which David soon rectified, thanks to Nathan and Bathsheba).

As he orchestrates this period of history for his glory, God uses both of these men to unite and protect Israel. The Bible is never just about people, but it does use people as parts of a larger picture that tells us about the nature of God. As I examine these elements of the picture, I expect to uncover a lot about God and gain some wisdom about life in the process. I hope you do too.

Jump to David and Joab Part 1, 2, 3, 4, Finale

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