Posted: February 10, 2016 in When the Wolf Howls
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Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 56

“Revenge cursed Joab as surely as it cursed Absalom,” said Ahithophel to Hushai as they made their way to Geshur to retrieve Absalom and his family.

“Joab had remained bitter and the war had continued for many years without an occasion for him to avenge his brother’s death. It had bothered him like an open sore that refuses to heal.” It was a leprosy that ate away from the inside. It slowed him down like a man with a crippled foot. He hungered for Abner’s death like a man starving for nourishment.

“Then the perfect opportunity came. Joab walked into the king’s presence after a successful raid. I remember that David was pleased and responded, ‘I also have good news. Abner has made a peace agreement with me during your absence. He has gone out of his way to convince the rest of Israel that I should be their king. I prepared a feast for him, and he has returned in peace to arrange the details of our covenant.’

Joab was anything but pleased. His desire for personal revenge completely blinded him to the significance of what was happening. Instead of seeing the possibility of David’s dream of Israel being united once again, his dreams only pictured his brother dying at Abner’s feet in war.

He confronted David and said, ‘What have you done? Abner came to you. Why did you let him go?’ He was furious. ‘Don’t you realise that he is deceiving you? He came to observe your military operations and to find out what you are doing!’”

David had seen the hatred in Joab’s eyes which had blocked any sense of reason.

“Joab strode out of the room and spurred on by malice, he immediately sent messengers after Abner. They found him and brought him back.”

Joab had been consumed by a spirit of revenge and motivated by a false sense of personal justice. With deceit in his heart Joab had taken Abner aside into the shadows of the gateway, as though to speak with him privately. Unknown to Abner, Joab held Asahel’s Canaanite dagger tightly in his hand as they met.

Joab boasted to me once. He told me that without warning, he had thrust Asahel’s dagger into Abner’s stomach, ripping it upwards towards his lungs so that he would die slowly. He was spitting the venom of years of bitter hatred and he said, ‘This is for Asahel!’ as he watched Abner die.

“As you can imagine, this murder had tremendous implications for the political climate of the time. Strangely, Joab was not punished but I was present when David cursed him.”

He could almost hear the words of David echoing in his mind when he had heard of Abner’s death.

David had shouted at Joab “Did it ever occur to you that your own selfish hurt has the capacity to hurt all Israel? Israel is now on the brink of a major civil war! Your actions, as my general reflect upon my rulership. Didn’t you realise that people would accuse me, not you, of Abner’s murder? You took matters into your own hands instead of trusting my decision to protect Abner.”

“You should have heard him.” Ahithophel said, “‘May his blood be upon your head and upon all your family!’ he said, ‘May your family never be without someone who has a running sore or leprosy or who is crippled or who dies by the sword or who lacks food.’ I’ve never heard David speak like this before or since.”

Ahithophel laughed but he also remembered that tears had begun to well in David’s eyes as he turned away. He had spoken absently.

“I am not sure but perhaps he was praying because David said, ‘A great man has fallen in Israel this day? I am weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are too strong for me.’

But David did do something which punished Joab more than we will know. He humiliated Joab by ordering him and all the people with him to tear their clothes, put on sackcloth and walk in mourning in front of Abner’s funeral bier. His own mother had insisted.

King David himself had walked behind the bier. The king wept aloud at Abner’s tomb and sung a lament in public for Abner. His lament made it clear that Joab was to blame. He said of Abner, ‘You died as one who is killed before wicked men. May the Lord repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds!’”

The people had wept and David had fasted for the whole day. It was this that stopped the civil war from erupting. All the people had taken note of David’s response to Abner’s death and they were in agreement with him. In fact, everything the king did had pleased them.

“David did not punish Joab in any way other than making him lament for Abner. He could have given Joab the death sentence for this murder. I still wonder why he didn’t. Perhaps Absalom knew of Joab’s history and took this into account before he killed Amnon. If his father did nothing to his general, then he was not likely to do anything to his son.”


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