Posts Tagged ‘Joab’

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls 

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 76

It was some time later that David walked in the King’s Valley and touched the stone that reminded him of his son. It now lies under the rubble of years, but once it stood tall and stark against the sky for all to see. It was called Absalom’s monument because Absalom built it on his way back from Hebron after being declared king. It stood as a reminder to the people of Israel of a handsome young man who hated the authority of his own father, and held bitterness in his heart until it erupted like a cancerous growth and consumed him. It served as a reminder of God’s grace rejected.

Absalom, your pride blinded you, thought David, and now all I have left of you is this symbol of rebellious futility. How easy it is for someone like you to look on the outward appearance. If only you had known that God looks always on the heart.

You were like me in so many ways at various times in my own life; deceptive, stubborn and selfish, but I did not know that you would hold such deep hurt inside for so long against me. Your unrepented sin has festered into the poison of bitterness against the Lord’s anointed, and you have caused me grief I can barely carry.

At this same spot in the King’s Valley Abraham had once met with the king of Sodom: the man of God and a king of Godlessness. Perhaps it is appropriate you chose to build your monument here.

The lion of Judah and the wolf. As king David touched the monument it was as if this man after God’s own heart was touching the stony surface of Absalom’s heart. It seemed that God wept with him for his son and perhaps for all those with a spirit such as this.

 Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

Joab looked at the carvings on the hilt of the Canaanite dagger in his hand. Dedicated to the gods of war as it came from a Philistine kiln, it had once belonged to his brother, Asahel. It had been used by men with vengeance in their hearts to commit murder. The very shape of vengeance, thought Joab, cold, hard and razor sharp. On the handle was a carving of a lion and wolf in mortal combat. In the hands of avenging predators, it had already lain Absalom, Abner and Amnon in their graves.

Amasa, the new general of king David’s army was not on guard as Joab greeted him.

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

Postscript

Sitting in his favourite chair and looking back over the years that had transpired, he reflected upon David and the Son of David. He had experienced personally the incredible power of the forgiveness of Christ which stood in such stark contrast to the destructive power of bitterness and selfish ambition of Absalom, Joab, Ahithophel, Judas and so many others since king David.

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he instructed his amanuensis to write words of eternal significance to the Hebrew Church. Such impact they have had upon my life already, he thought, even now as I write them to you who have ears to hear what the Spirit of God is saying to the Church of the living God.

His loud clear, sonorous voice repeated the words that came from heaven’s throne, as his amanuensis inscribed the parchment, in flawless script with his stylus.

“Obey your leaders, and submit yourselves to their authority; for they keep watch as shepherds over your souls, and they will one day give an account to God. Let them do this work to which God has called them with joy and not grief, for this would be very unprofitable for you.”

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

 Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 75

No-one dared to stop Joab. The door was nearly unhinged as he thrust it open and roared at David with the gravelly voice more like that of a war-cry, “Today you have covered this city with shame. Everywhere I go the faces of the warriors who saved your life and the lives of your family are filled with a sense of regret. Your sons and daughters, your wives and your concubines are alive today because of them but it seems that you love your enemies who hate you and use you, and you hate those who proved their love by killing your enemies. I don’t understand you at all. You have shown today that those who serve you mean nothing to you. If Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead, maybe then you would be pleased.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. How am I supposed to feel about the death of my son? What do you expect of me?”

“I expect you to go out to your servants who fought hard to save you today and have some kind things to say to them, instead of heaping guilt upon them. I swear by the Lord, if you do not go out to them now there will not be one man left to stand with you by the time this night is through. You don’t seem to realise that if they leave you now this could be the worst thing that has ever happened to you.”

“All right, Joab! Leave me!” It seemed that the spirit of Absalom still had the power to wrest a kingdom from David’s hand, this time by using his grief.

David came to his senses and despite the ache in his heart, he went out and sat between the inner and outer gate of the city. The news travelled quickly and everyone came to see their king and to share their victory with him.

Many people were already making their way back to Jerusalem. Absalom was dead. They wondered what the future held for them but they could do no more than to return to their homes.

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

Zadok and Abiathar wasted little time with preliminary greetings but said, “King David has sent word to us. He has told us to speak with you. His message is, ‘Why is it that you are the last to bring your king back to Jerusalem and to his palace. All of Israel waits for you. You are my brothers; bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. Why then should you be the last ones to take action?’” Relief swept across the elder’s faces as sat together at the gate of Jerusalem, except for Amasa, Shimei and Mephibosheth who were among them.

Zadok continued, “King David also says to you, Amasa, ‘You are my own flesh and blood, my nephew. May God deal with me severely if I do not appoint you to be commander of the army in place of Joab.’” David intended to replace Joab because he had disobeyed him concerning his son, but to place such trust in the man who led the opposing army against him was almost more than these men could comprehend.

Humbly, Amasa gave voice to their thoughts. “What kind of king could forgive in such a way as this? King David bears no malice. He truly is a man after God’s own heart.”

“Perhaps he will find it in his heart to forgive me also.” said Shimei.

A message was sent to the king immediately, inviting him to return.

There were no stones in Shimei’s hands this time as he met king David at the Jordan. “Forgive me, my lord. Please do not remember the wrong I did to you when you left Jerusalem. Please don’t take these things to heart. I know that I have sinned. That’s why I am here. I wanted to be the first to meet with my lord the king.”

Abishai had no sympathy. He said, “This scoundrel deserves to die! He has cursed the Lord’s anointed! What reason do we have for not putting him to death, my lord? What would you have me do with him?”

David spoke directly and firmly to Abishai, “You have also opposed me when you all disobeyed me concerning Absalom. Perhaps the question you should be asking is what will I do with you? Let me make it quite clear that it is not a good idea for you sons of Zeruiah to make mention of the death sentence concerning those who have cursed the Lord’s anointed.”

Looking out at a sea of serious faces, David smiled and said, “Why should any man be put to death in Israel today? This is a day to celebrate! This day I am king over Israel!” There was much cheering and a shout went up that seemed to echo in eternity and down the corridors of time, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

The king crossed the Jordan with his people. David forgave those who had opposed him such as Amasa, acknowledged those who were disabled such as Mephibosheth, and honoured those who were old like Barzillai, the man who had provided for him in Manahaim.

“Such a king as David will rule with justice.” Barzillai said to his old friend Obed-edom, “It seems that as our king returns, the very presence of God is also returning to Jerusalem with him.”

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 74

Managing to take hold of his dagger, Absalom wildly jabbed its point towards Joab, but Joab deftly took hold of his hand and thrust it back mercilessly into Absalom’s heart. He followed this by plunging his spear into Absalom’s twitching frame. Then a second and third.

Joab’s armour bearers joined in, striking Absalom’s body until it fell. As his body lay on the ground, it was unrecognisable except for his hair, much of which still remained entangled in the tree.

Those who had gathered around now stood in horror. Joab ordered the signaler to blow the trumpet to regather his soldiers from their pursuit of the remnants of Absalom’s shattered and spend forces. The battle was won.

Roughly dragging Absalom’s limp frame by the hair, as if it was a bag of refuse, Joab cast it into a deep pit in the forest. His deep, course, rasping voice broke the silence, “This young man may have been the kings son but he was a murderer and rebellious criminal. He deserved to die. If he had won this battle none of you would have been spared. He would have murdered his own father like he did his brother. The law of God demands that the grave of a rebellious son be heaped with stones. If what I am saying is wrong then kill me also. But if I am right, then show no mercy!” Joab threw the first stone and each man followed until a wild frenzy of stones were heaped upon Absalom’s bloody and broken body.

 Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

It seemed like an eternity that David had been sitting between the outer and inner gates of the city. When the watchman notified him that he could see only a single runner, he presumed the news was good. It was customary to send two unknown runners if the news was bad and someone well known if the news was good.

Before the runner arrived, the watchman informed the king of another runner. Since they were not together David still hoped for the best. He was even more encouraged to see that the first runner was Ahimaaz.

Ahimaaz, the son of Zadok the priest, had been overjoyed when he arrived back to Joab and had asked special permission to take the news of victory to the king.

Joab had said, “Why do you want to go, my son? I assure you there is no reward for giving the king news about Absalom.” Ahimaaz was insistent. “Alright go, but when you arrive, tell him only of victory. Nothing about Absalom, understand! I will send one of the Cushite runners to tell him of Absalom.”

Taking a shorter path, Ahimaaz arrived before the Cushite. When he ran through the gate he was breathless but managed to say to the king, “All is well.” He prostrated himself before king David.

“Blessed is the Lord your God, for He has delivered you from your enemies.”

“Is it also well with my son Absalom?” said David.

“I can only report to you of victory, my lord. The Cushite runner will tell you more.”

When the Cushite arrived, he also gave the news of victory.

David interrupted him, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?”

The Cushite reached into the folds of his coat for a lock of hair. He handed it to king David. Then he voiced what David had been afraid to hear, “Let all the enemies who do evil against my lord the king, be as that young man!”

David was so deeply affected that he left the room immediately, unable to speak for some time. Up in the chamber over the gate, grief overwhelmed him and he paced the floor trying to escape the hollow, searing pain in his heart from which hope had been seized. He wept bitterly. In deep anguish, he repeated over and over, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! I would have preferred to die instead of you. O Absalom, my son, my son!”

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

 © by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 73

The slaughter was horrendous. At battle’s end, 20,000 men lay dead. Because of the strategic positions of Joab’s men, more of Absalom’s forces died in the forest that day than in open combat by the sword. David’s careful strategy and many years of guerrilla warfare in rugged terrain such as this had taught Joab how best to use the geography of the country to full advantage in battle.

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

His long hair flying in the wind, Absalom rode his mule towards the thickest part of the forest he could find, Abishai’s men in pursuit. As his mule veered sharply, careering under the thick branches of a great oak, there was no time to lower his head, and crossed branches were thrust under his chin.

The shuddering halt caused extreme trauma to his pharynx. His head caught fast in the oak and his neck was almost broken. As the momentum of his body swung, its full weight wrenched on his spinal column and Absalom momentarily lost consciousness. A tingling sensation ran down his spine from his head and the impact left him temporarily unable to move his arms or legs.

Growing his hair had made him a further victim of his vow against David. Now it was caught around the branches so that he was left hanging awkwardly between heaven and earth. Balanced precariously, in shock and fear, he waited for the end to come.

The man who had followed Absalom saw that he was unable to move. He sheathed his sword and sent word immediately to Joab. When Joab arrived he was furious, “You saw him and you didn’t strike him down! I would have given you ten pieces of silver and a belt as a reward.”

The soldier was defensive. “Even if you gave me a thousand pieces of silver, I would not have killed him. He is the king’s son. You heard what the king said. He told you to protect him. We all heard the command. Besides, I am sure that if I had killed him you would not have supported me before the king.”

“Don’t waste my time.” I’ll deal with your insolence later. He pushed the man out of the way.

For a fleeting moment Absalom saw Joab moving towards him with a spear but then as he slipped once again into the ethereal world of semi-consciousness, he seemed to hear his father’s voice say, “He is my son.” Then the strong hands of his father were reaching up to free him. Father, spare my life again!

Searing, throbbing pain pierced through his body, singing with increasing volume in his head. Absalom saw himself seated on the throne of David’s kingdom with his father now lying prostrate before him, begging him for mercy. Will I send you into exile or keep you under house arrest for the rest of your natural life?

“Bring me my dagger”, he said, but his voice seemed to be deep and gravelly. One of the soldiers nearby brought a dagger to him. It had strange carvings on the handle of a lion and a wolf in mortal combat.

David was tied, hands outstretched, suspended from the branches of a tree. You will pay! He raised the dagger and thrust it toward his father’s heart. As the dagger moved closer he looked on with the delight of insanity written into the features of his face.

But the face changed. Instead of his father, the face that looked at him was now the face of Amnon. As the dagger continued its journey and in the flickering filtered light, the face changed again and again.

Eternity was opening its doors and he saw the face of Ahithophel just before he hanged himself and many of the faces of the soldiers wide-eyed in the terror of certain death. In the array of faces that appeared was a man whom he did not recognise with a crown of thorns on His head and nails in His hands His feet.

The dagger had reached its destination as the face changed for one final timeless moment. My own face! To his horror, he realised that he was executing himself. “No! Stop!” he yelled.

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 72

A murmur went through the crowd, each person shocked at David’s proposal. Joab thought No-one is going to agree with this, and he was right.

David had planned as carefully as he could. Firstly he had set commanders over every hundred men and overall commanders over every thousand men. Each of the commanders were seasoned warriors. He had divided his army further into three groups, headed by Joab, Abishai, and Ittai the Gittite. But as he finished his battle plan and strategies he had said, “I will lead you out and may the Lord be with us.”

For a moment there was silence and then everyone began to speak at once. One man said, “My lord, you should not go with us. You are their main target. They are not concerned about us. If half of us died, they would still only be concerned to find and kill you.” Another man confirmed this by saying, “You are worth ten thousand of us, my lord.” One of the commanders of thousands said, “Please, my lord, it would be better that you remain in the city and be ready for the last line of attack.” They were all united in their agreement.

David could see that it was not worth arguing. He had not been looking forward to facing his own son in battle so this came as a welcome relief. “As you wish. I’ll do whatever you think is best.”

He then spoke to Joab, Abishai and Ittai, in the hearing of all the people, “I command each of you to deal gently with Absalom for my sake. He is my son. Bring him back to me alive.” Abishai and Ittai gave their agreement. Joab snarled something under his breath and began to get his commanders ready.

As his forces left the city in their regiments David stood at the gate and prayed God’s blessing over them.

Joab sent scouts ahead. “Find out where Absalom’s men are stationed and give me a report of the terrain.” They were familiar with the drill.

The battle began as Absalom had hoped. David’s forces led by Ittai attacked the superior numbers of Absalom’s army. They came swarming out of the forest, shouting and waving their swords, shields and spears. It was not long, however, before Ittai’s forces looked as if they would be overwhelmed.

Suddenly, Ittai did the only thing he was able to do. He sounded a retreat. Absalom signalled his troops to pursue the enemy. From his vantage point, he could see that they would be trapped by the rugged terrain.

Ittai’s men looked helpless as they ran headlong back into the forest. They stopped before a large pitted area. As Absalom had predicted, the rugged terrain would not allow them the time they needed to retreat any further. They could only watch as Absalom’s forces bore down upon them. Ittai faced his pursuers with courage.

Just before Absalom’s men engaged them in battle, Ittai turned to his trumpeter and said, “Now!” The trumpeter signalled the attack. When Joab heard the signal his men suddenly closed in from the sides.

The ambush was successful but the sheer numbers of Absalom’s army meant the battle was not yet won. Ittai manoeuvred his forces and speared his way out of the forest splitting the rest of Absalom’s distracted army in half. From his position, Absalom had no way of knowing his men had fallen into Joab’s trap until he saw his army being separated.

Simultaneously, Abishai’s men had manoeuvred themselves behind Absalom’s main command force and attacked them. Without their commanders, Absalom’s army was in disarray and was now scattering all over the countryside. Many, disoriented without their commanders and not understanding what had happened in the forest, continued to run straight into Joab’s trap.

Abishai’s troops systematically cleaned up the remaining forces from behind and fought wherever they were needed the most. The battle was long and bloody.

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 66

As Hushai was received into Absalom’s presence he said without hesitation, “Long live the king! Welcome to Jerusalem, my lord.” He had taken the initiative to ask for an audience with Absalom.

Absalom saw no reason to be anything but blunt. He said, “It is well known that you are my father’s friend. Why have you remained in Jerusalem? It seems to me that you lack the loyalty of a friend. Why didn’t you go with him?”

Absalom was curious and suspicious of those who were not of the sons of Israel. Ahithophel seemed to think that Hushai would not cause trouble. Never-the-less, Hushai had been an important advisor to king David and it must not be assumed that his intentions were honourable.

Hushai almost interrupted Absalom by saying, “No, my lord! I am the servant of the one whom the Lord and all the people of Israel have chosen. I have served in your father’s presence. It is only right that I should serve in your presence as well.” The answer was acceptable to Absalom, though not entirely trustworthy. Since Hushai collected intelligence in Jerusalem for Ahithophel, he thought, You may be of some use to me for now.  After all, you might provide balance to the counsel of Ahithophel. Absalom’s men knew that it went without question that he would have to be watched.

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

“Get out of here, man of bloodshed. Get out! God has brought this upon you because you don’t deserve to be king. Your own son will kill you as you have killed many of the sons of Saul. You have been overtaken by your own evil.”

When David passed through the village of Bethurim, Shimei, in a fit of rage had pelted David with stones and followed him, shouting his abuse. A relative of king Saul, his own son had died in battle, and he had blamed David.

The servants shielded king David immediately to protect him from the onslaught of stones. Abishai, Joab’s brother, had drawn his sword and offered to cut off Shimei’s head but David was unwilling to take such extreme measures with a man who was obviously giving vent to his hurt.

This man is obviously crazy.” said Abishai. Why aren’t you doing anything about him, he thought. “Why should this dead dog be allowed to curse you, my lord?”

David looked at Abishai.

“What am I going to do with you sons of Zeruiah?” You are so much like Joab. Remembering Joab’s hurt and anger at losing his younger brother in war, David reflected on the irrationality of Joab’s grief. It had resulted in impulsive revenge and in Abner’s murder. He said, “Perhaps the man is not crazy. This may well be a test from God to prove that I am not the man of blood that he says that I am. Would you have me kill him and prove him to be right? Both of you are intent on proving that I am as unjust as Absalom thinks I am. 

I don’t understand the events that have taken place recently any more than you. I have been asking the Lord what He is trying to say to me. What if the Lord has sent him to curse me? Who is going to question the Lord with a sword? Who is willing to kill a man who is sent from God and risk bringing the judgement of God upon our heads?” Abishai was silent. This is bizarre! You are not making any sense, he thought.

David gave a command to the servants who were about to take Shimei into custody. “Leave him alone and let him curse. My own son, Absalom, is seeking to take my life, so I think we can put up with the words and stones of this Benjaminite. The Lord has told him to do it. Perhaps the Lord will look on my situation and turn his cursing into blessing.”

They arrived weary from the ordeal. Shimei had continued to cast stones, curses and dust from the hillside parallel to them throughout their journey.

Pastor Ross

P.S. Don’t forget to purchase a copy of Above the Storm, my new e-book on the ancient book of Job, full of short stories to help you understand some deep truths. This is a creative exploration of Job. You will not read another commentary like it. All royalties for the e-book, if any, will go to Hope Street in Sydney, Australia.

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 61

Ahithophel was on the defensive. He had deliberately stalled the report of these rumours from David until the right moment, but now he was being summoned to the court by the king because Joab had been probing into the reports concerning Absalom. He arrived at court as Joab was expressing his concerns to the king.

After the formalities, David said, “I rely your advice as my chief of intelligence, but I find there has been much talk in the kingdom suggesting I appoint Absalom as Judge of Israel. Apparently some are saying that I intend to announce Absalom as King. I intend no such thing. Why haven’t I heard you speak about this?”

“My lord, it is merely gossip. I saw no need.”

David pursued the issue. He was annoyed and said, “Give me your thoughts on this gossip.”

This was a welcome opportunity. Expressing his ideas freely but carefully, Ahithophel made a case for Absalom as Judge of Israel, showing that he had thought through the issues well, as usual. He wove his words together skilfully and ended by saying, “He certainly seems well qualified for the position…”

Joab, who had stood by with a scowl on his face could stand it no longer. He interrupted in his harsh, deep, rasping voice, “Just because he rides around on that chariot like some kind of glorified champion of the people doesn’t mean he has the ability to be the Judge of Israel.”

“Be careful with your words, Joab!” David was willing to discuss matters concerning the security of the kingdom but he would not have anyone underestimate the abilities of any of his sons, nor speak of them disrespectfully.

Joab ignored the warning and said, “This is ludicrous, my king! Absalom has already killed Amnon, his own brother! He is a dangerous young man who always gets what he wants!” Without pause Joab turned to Ahithophel and said, “Now you want him appointed as Judge of Israel! Is that your idea or his?”

David said, “Enough! You dare speak of Amnon when you have Abner on your conscience.” He had been tempted to speak further of Joab’s murder of Abner but a fleeting thought of Uriah the Hittite made him hold his tongue.

“Are you completely blind?” shouted Joab, overstepping his authority completely.

“Get out! Your insolence is not helpful!” Joab, you and I are both blinded by our past. 

When Joab was gone David turned to Ahithophel, obviously annoyed and a little embarrassed. After a time the king spoke carefully and with deliberation. “I agree with Joab,” he said. “This time I am not willing to heed your advice, Ahithophel. I will not appoint Absalom as Judge in Israel. I am amazed at your lack of discernment. You have been influenced too much by my son and by what people are saying.”

David did intend to re-instate Absalom as one of his counsellors along with his other sons, but certainly not in the high office of Judge of Israel. Solomon perhaps, but not Absalom. He said nothing of this to Ahithophel. “I want you to work alongside Absalom and give balance to his counsel, not come under his influence. It will soon be 40 years since Samuel anointed me as king. I will have some important announcements to make then. In the meantime try to bridle my son’s ambitions.”

Ahithophel was astounded. You tell me that my counsel is like that of a prophet, yet you reject it! You are being foolish, he thought. His counsel had rarely been rejected. He was unable to say anything but “Yes, my lord”. He left the court deeply offended, only to find Joab was waiting for him.

“I have nothing to say to you.” Ahithophel said as Joab stood in his way, but the imposing figure of this man gave him no choice but to pause.

“Absalom is a dangerous man, Ahithophel. You would do well to be careful.”

Ahithophel turned and walked down the steps without making a comment. Dangerous indeed. Absalom is one of the few people who has any common sense around here! he thought. Even Hushai did not seem as open as Absalom was with him. It is not of Absalom of whom I must be careful.

Ahithophel felt the final ties of allegiance to king David gradually falling away. How could you sacrifice my advice for that of Joab’s so easily, and accuse ME of a lack of discernment?

“You speak of discernment” he muttered, remembering his granddaughter, Bathsheba, and the shame of adultery that had been displayed openly like an unbandaged, festering sore when Nathan gave his now famous prophecy in court. Discernment isn’t one of your best attributes. Your immorality is now part of the history of your kingdom, giving your enemies cause to blaspheme God!

Absalom acted with justice when Amnon had raped Tamar. Amnon’s so-called murder was the will of God. Yes, I will have to be careful, but not of Absalom.

Ahithophel neglected to mention his meeting with the king to Absalom.

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 59

The time came when Absalom could bear it no longer. I can’t be king if I can’t gain access into your presence, Father. If you refuse me again, I’ll force your hand, he thought. He sent for Joab in order to send him with a message to the king.

To his astonishment, Joab would not come! As Absalom had grown more popular, Joab’s own attitude toward him had soured.

Never a man to be interested in popularity, Joab still had much in common with Absalom. It disturbed him that there was much in this brooding young man that he admired. He reflected so many of his own characteristics. Headstrong and proud … And cruel.

Not wanting to be reminded of his own regrets, he ignored the request. Best not to be associated with Absalom after David’s rebuke.

When Absalom sent for Joab a second time, and he still would not come, it was interpreted as a betrayal.

“Set Joab’s field of barley on fire!” he told his servants. That might prompt you to respond to a royal command!

Pure spite shone red in his eyes as he watched the flames spread. For a moment, he was Samson getting his revenge on the Philistines by burning their fields. The demonic forces, like foxes, ran through the fields of his mind, setting it on fire with malevolence.

It had the desired effect. Storming into Absalom’s house and with a voice which breathed out a fire of its own outrage, Joab said, “Why have your servants set my field on fire? What do you think you are doing?”

Absalom disregarded the questions altogether. He said, “The reason I sent for you is so I can send you to my father with a message. Go to him now and say, ‘Why have I bothered to return from Geshur? I might as well still be there.’ I want to see the king face to face, and if he still finds me to be guilty then let him put me to death.”

Absalom looked at Joab with eyes aflame like Joab’s barley field. For a flickering moment, Joab thought that Absalom looked ugly. He shows such lack of respect. He turned to walk out and as he did, Absalom said, “Joab, I am willing to make restitution for any crime I may have committed, but you know that I am also willing to avenge any crime perpetrated against me.”

This young man was dangerous. For some reason, Joab found himself wanting to get out of there as quickly as he could. Faltering at the door for a moment, he regained his composure and walked out of the house without saying a word. Unseen in the shadows, a man lowered his bow.

Absalom’s message to the king was relayed. Surely it is time to take my place! thought Absalom.

Surely his time of punishment has been enough, thought David, as he called for an audience with his son. I can refuse him no longer. He is my son. Everyone speaks well of him. I long to see you again, Absalom.

“My son!” David whispered, as his strikingly handsome son, Absalom, came into the room. Dutifully falling to the ground, Absalom prostrated himself before his father.He shows such respect, thought David.

But Absalom’s hair had grown and it was nearing the time when he must reach toward the two central pillars of his father’s kingdom and push with the might of Samson until the house of David crumbled.

Oblivious to what was in Absalom’s heart, David ran to his son and kissed him, sealing his pardon.

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 57

“So distorted!” … “misshapen!” they said.

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

“I have never had any regrets about killing Amnon. If my father had governed the way he should have then he would have demanded that Amnon receive the death sentence for the rape of my sister, but because of his own sexual crimes he did nothing! I had no other choice but to bring justice upon Amnon! Surely you of all people understand that what I did was right?”

“Murder is never right.” said Joab quietly. He saw so much of himself in this young man.

“But justice is!” said Absalom.

Joab came straight to the point with Absalom, “Your father wants you to come home. He still has you on his mind and in his heart. It has been long enough.”

“So now he wants me back, finally.” Absalom said, looking at Joab with fire in his eyes. “Why has it taken so long? He could have called me back to the palace long before this. What changed his mind?”

Joab said simply, “A wise woman from Tekoa. He may not agree with what you did but he does not think that estrangement is the answer.” He was not willing to say any more, but like Nathan he had used the woman’s situation as a simple parable to change the situation dramatically. He was not to know how much.

Absalom had waited and planned his return, yet it had seemed to take so long. He had almost given up hope. And now the message telling him to return had finally come. He looked forward to the royal welcome he deserved, with people lining the streets and his father offering him a total pardon. My destiny demands my presence in Jerusalem. Nothing and no-one is going to stand in my way.

It was almost as Absalom wanted it. His return to Jerusalem attracted considerable attention. He wore a purple robe with Asahel’s dagger in his belt beneath it. He brought with him considerable sized flocks and herds and he now had a family. The people recognised him immediately because of his long hair and cheered their welcome.

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

A huge being, shimmering with light, moved the fabric of time just a fraction and pointed him out. “Absalom is considered to be a very handsome man. It is said that no-one is as handsome in all Israel. No defect they say. From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. Like a sacrificial lamb dedicated to God. And he is the king’s son, they say.” They murmured. Incredulous, they thought.

“Somehow they don’t see the ugliness that disfigures him. It is there, beyond what they are seeing, past the blue eyes and confident smile, past the smooth words and bronzed muscular frame, open to the eyes of God and to you and I, and at times to those who have prophetic insight.”

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

It pleased Absalom to see his mother and his sister Tamar again, but his father, the king, was not there to welcome him at the city gate. He went with Joab to be announced to his father but after some time, Joab returned to say, “The king is not willing to see you.”

“What do you mean ‘not willing’?” Absalom said.

“He will not see you face to face.” Joab said, “Give him more time.”

Absalom was furious, “I have already given him three years. Isn’t that enough?”

Joab glared. He was a man of few words. He said with a voice that challenged disobedience, “Go home!”

Absalom stormed out of the palace. His heart was becoming harder and he decided to use the unfairness of David to his advantage. He began to plan his future and reacquaint himself with the people of his past.

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

“Somewhere in the area of the heart is something born from years of bitterness that twists Absalom’s appearance such that he is more ugly than any man in Israel. From the crown of his head to the sole of his foot,” the angelic hosts observed. “So twisted and ugly,” they all agreed. “Unclean. Like the heart of the one who is his master,” they said.

Pastor Ross

See also Above the Storm

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

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.”