Posted: November 21, 2015 in When the Wolf Howls
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Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 9

A chill went down Absalom’s spine. As he listened he could see the event in his mind. He would remember it for the rest of his life. Absalom wasn’t a first hand witness to Abner’s murder, but it left a lasting impression upon him, especially since Joab had been responsible. Absalom remembered the Canaanite knife that Joab had let him hold and Joab’s rasping voice as he said,

“…one day Abner will feel it’s blade.”

Since the meeting took place in a city of refuge, Abner had felt quite safe from any reprisals from Joab. Since Joshua’s time, Hebron had been designated as a safe place from those who sought vengeance for someone who had been slain. The holy writings spoke of it as a holy city, belonging to the Levitical priests. But Joab had violated this place of refuge by thrusting a knife into Abner and watching him die at the city gates.

The cold blooded killing seemed even more startling when Absalom had seen Abner only hours beforehand. Meeting Abner personally had been quite an experience. Abner had attended the feast as David’s guest and being David’s son, Absalom had also been in attendance. In fact he was quickly becoming one of the best informed people in the kingdom.

He discovered how Abner had convinced Israel that they would be better off under the rule of king David. Most of all, the people of Israel wanted to be free of their enemies. Abner had told them what they wanted to hear.

“The Lord has promised that king David will save us from the Philistines and from all our enemies.” he had said.

Subtly, Abner had undermined the authority of king Ish-bosheth by centering attention on the wants of the people. It was then an easy matter to transfer the kingdom to David.

Abner was a skilled negotiator. One day Absalom too would master this technique of persuasion. He would learn how to be subtle in his use of words and not to show the reality of his heart until the upper hand was gained, even if it meant placing his own ideas above the decisions and vision that marked David’s rule. His lack of respect would eventually lead him to perceive his father as weak and himself strong. The seeds of these attitudes were being sown. Already he had heard his father admit in despair that Joab and all the sons of Zeruiah were too strong for him.

“This is a disgrace to all Israel!” David had said in disgust.

Yet in Absalom’s mind, it had been right for Joab to kill Abner. He was secretly pleased. Joab had executed Abner for killing his brother, Asahel. Justice had been served, and with Asahel’s own knife.

Something of the spirit of Joab began to enter into Absalom that day, seeking and finding a foothold in his life.

Zeruiah was in tears. She was concerned that Joab would face execution. “Abner deserved to die! He killed my son! I’m glad he’s dead!” she shouted.

“Zeruiah, I am well aware of how you feel” said David, “but there are greater issues at stake. You don’t seem to realise that Israel is now on the brink of a major civil war! There has been widespread outrage that such an offence could occur at the gates of a city of refuge. And let me make it clear that I am personally outraged! Abner was a great man.” David had his back to her and was looking out of the window towards the city gates.

“He was a murderer!” she blurted out but she controlled herself. Her voice was quiet now, and apprehensive, “What do you intend to do? I couldn’t bear to lose another one of my sons. I am begging you not to…” She began to sob.

Zeruiah was David’s half sister. She was a fiery woman who allowed her emotions to rule her life, but she wielded a great deal of power in her family. Now it seemed that her only hope for saving the life of her son was to beg.

David turned and looked straight into the pleading eyes of his sister, “Zeruiah, the Lord will judge Joab for what he has done and when that time comes I will be the last one to show him any mercy! My concern now is to avert further bloodshed. That’s the only reason I allowed you to see me. Unless Joab does exactly what I command him to do, I will strike him down personally. Now listen carefully. You will convince your son to tear his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes. Then you will insist that he walks in mourning in front of Abner’s funeral bier and I will follow behind.”

Zeruiah was startled. “Joab will be humiliated if you ask him to do this!”

“I don’t intend to negotiate with you, Zeruiah. If you want to save the life of your son then you will do all that is in your power to make him comply with my orders. Unless he does what I ask, the people may well take him and stone him themselves! I intend to fast all day and pray that God will spare us from this senseless war with our own people.”

Miraculously war had been averted. All the people had taken note of David’s reponse to Abner’s death and they had been pleased.

David could have given Joab the death sentence for murdering Abner, but he was not punished in any further way. To Absalom this was a further sign of weakness in his father. If he believed in justice then why was he so soft? Why didn’t others notice such glaring faults as these in their leader.

Absalom tried to speak to Joab in private to let him know that he was still his friend, but when he arrived at Joab’s house no-one appeared to be home. The door was slightly ajar so Absalom had taken the liberty of poking his head through it. The house was small and dark and his eyes were still ajusting to the light when he was pulled violently through the door and thrust up against the wall by huge hands. A dagger was held at his throat and he could feel it’s cold blade against his skin. He had never been treated so savagely in his life.


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