Then I was reading An Historical Survey of the Old Testament by Eugene H. Merrill yesterday and came across some interesting discussion about Israel's second king. If you know the biblical account of David, you recall how he refused to harm King Saul even though Saul was hunting down David with murderous intent. David in no way wanted to hurt the one God had chosen as Israel's first king. So he basically refused to kill his enemy even though he had the opportunity twice. The author wrote:
"Joab, completely disgusted by this show of emotion, reproached David, reminding him that time after time he had mourned for his enemies when he should have rejoiced at their defeat and death. First it was Saul, then Abner, then Ishbosheth, and now his own iniquitous son. If David possessed one overriding fault, in Joab's sight that fault was an irresponsible love for all men including his enemies (II Sam. 19:6)." (pg. 222)
And this last line is what made me take note and remember my own post from just last week where I thought David hated his enemies. I looked up II Samuel 19 to read about Joab's disgust. Remember that Absalom is one of David's sons who tried to overthrow his father and take over the kingdom. In fact Absalom did manage to convince a sizable number of people to his side against his father. But Absalom was killed by the chief military guy, Joab, and David was told the news. His throne was saved, but ...
1 Joab was told, "The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom." 2 And for the whole army the victory that day was turned into mourning, because on that day the troops heard it said, "The king is grieving for his son." 3 The men stole into the city that day as men steal in who are ashamed when they flee from battle. 4 The king covered his face and cried aloud, "O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!"
5 Then Joab went into the house to the king and said, "Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. 6 You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. 7 Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the LORD that if you don't go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come upon you from your youth till now."
Pretty harsh words towards the king, eh?
Now about those imprecatory Psalms where David calls down God's wrath on his enemies, the author writes this:
"It is important to remember on those that the poet is not expressing a desire for God's punishment of the wicked to satisfy his own feelings, but because he recognizes that the wicked have offended the honor of God ... [David] is looking forward to the day of the Lord when all unrepentant sinners must be dealt with according to their impiety toward God. Though many scholars would attempt to demonstrate that the Old Testament is morally inferior to the New by referring to these 'barbarous' imprecations, the true explanation of the ethical incongruity lies in the mistaken ideas some men have concerning the Biblical doctrine of sin and punishment. When we properly understand the nature of a holy and sinless God, we, with the psalmists, must cry out against the iniquity which so terribly offends Him. We must not mean that we hate men though they sin, for indeed we must love them, but we must hate their sin and unrepentance." (pg. 235)
So now I have a better view of how David thought of and dealt with his enemies. I'm sure he did not weep over all or even most of them, but perhaps this post sheds a bit more balanced view of the great Israelite king.
When you pray for God to punish someone is it for your own satisfaction or because you know those people have offended a holy God? Do you think it's perfectly all right to find satisfaction when the wicked are eternally punished? What - if anything - does God teach about this? Any thoughts on Joab's words to David or David's reaction to his enemies such as Saul or his own son?