"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

King David and Enemies Revisited

Not long ago I did a post on King David vs. Jesus on the Topic of Enemies touching on why one wrote poems practically begging God to send forth His wrath and judge his enemies while the other told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  Why the two vastly different messages? 

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 ...

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? 


Amber said...

This actually reminded me of a post I did about a million years ago where I compared David to a Mafia Don, with Joab as his consigliere.

I think this author may be stretching the point about David's love for everyone. You've included a list of four people. Saul was (presumably) a friend - most people would hesitate to kill a friend, even that friend has betrayed them. In addition, David was very close friends with Jonathan, which might have played an emotional part in not wanting Saul dead - political ambition aside, executing your best friends father is maybe not the best trust building exercise. All that aside, politically, Saul still had supporters. While if he were dead, he couldn't raise an army to come against David, his supporters could use him as a political martyr to rally support for one of Saul's sons in opposition to David's reign. So David maybe just wanted some more time to think about the best path.

Abner, by the time he was killed, was on David's side, and had brought him control of the tribe of Benjamin. Not exactly an enemy. And, I'd like to point out, David did nothing to Joab after.

Ish-bosheth had effectively surrendered. While he wasn't a friend, he doesn't appear to have been a threat any longer. So you fall again into the question of was he more of a threat alive, or dead? And while supposedly David knew nothing of the planned assassination, Joab killed the assassins awful fast. To my mind, it appears like a house cleaning. use a third part to kill your 'problem', then eliminate the third party when they come to get paid. And the deed can't be traced to you.

As for Absalom, well, it was his son. And he seems to have had a humongous blind spot in regards to his children. As evidence, I present the entire mess that led up to Absalom's rebellion and death. And, I point out again, despite David's anguish at all this, he *still* didn't do anything to Joab! The man seems to have carte blanche to kill whoever he felt needed killing.

And we know that David wasn't a soft touch, or a weak leader, or he wouldn't have been so successful in the army, or as king. So I don't think we can claim that he couldn't stand up to Joab. I suspect that Joab was his 'left hand man'. The one you turn to when you need something 'distasteful' done, but socially or politically can't be seen doing it or condoning it yourself.

All that being said, I don't pray anymore for God to punish someone. It doesn't do any good, and just keeps the anger and hurt in my heart and mind. I haven't been able to bring myself to pray *for* some people, but I at least don't try to pray against them anymore. It's a process. God will deal with everyone as He sees fit, and why should I feel happy or elated at someone elses' eternal suffering when I myself am relying of God's Mercy?

Niki said...

"Rejoice not when thy enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth:
"Lest the Lord see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him."
Proverbs 24:17-18

Lat said...

Very interesting post on the interpretations of David's life towards his enemies and friends.
Thank you for sharing this as I've learned a few more details of the great king.But then we may never know sure if everything we read is 100% real or David's true feelings.

Susanne said...

Amber, I don't remember that! Was it before my time or am I just forgetting it? Sounds like an interesting post! I wonder if I could find it on a blog search....*makes mental note to check for it*

In all fairness I don't think the author meant David loved all his enemies...true. He even alluded to as much when he pointed out David's questionable treatment of some people he fought in war. And David was a warring man...so he killed people. Thanks for clarifying the position which I did not.

Yeah, you gave lots of good reasons why David wouldn't have wanted to kill Saul. The Bible often quotes him as not wanting to kill the Lord's anointed so there is that reason as well.

Ha.ha...I agree with you about Joab...it seems HE really was the ruler, huh? Or, yes, as you said the one who does the dirty deeds...hmmm. So maybe he had blackmail potential and thus power.

I enjoyed your comment. Thanks for adding what you did especially your last paragraph. :)

Susanne said...

Niki, nice verse addition! Thank you!

Susanne said...

Lat, glad you enjoyed it and hopefully learned some things. At least you know some of the verses the Bible contains about his life. There are plenty more. :)

".But then we may never know sure if everything we read is 100% real or David's true feelings. "

Very true! How do we really know what people thought or felt? I don't even always know my own feelings on things. :-D

Thanks for your comment!

Amber said...


You mean you don't have perfect recall of every word I've ever written? *shock and dismay!*

It was one of those multi-topic posts, and I really didn't focus on David. I think the emphasis was more on Jericho actually... *wanders off*

Yup. Here's the post: http://littlestepshome.blogspot.com/2009/03/battles-bc-and-other-things.html

I don't think Joab was the power behind the throne or anything, but, like you said, he was the doer of the dirty deeds. He was loyal to David (for whatever personal reasons), and did whatever was necessary to keep David on the throne, even when those things were less than honest or scrupulous. And I think David at least knew about the things that Joab did after the fact, if not before, and approved of them.

Wafa said...

A few years ago, i started to stop praying for God to punish anyone. I
tend to believe that God will punish or maybe forgive for whatever injustices they did against God or His creatures.

And it's normal or even fair at all for someone -wicked or not- to be punished for good. Nothing justify being punished for whatever anyone did for eternity.Nothing.

For me it's enough to punish someone for whatever they did by just ignoring them , of course i mean these personal fights.
And it's easy for us to call someone wicked or evil, but maybe if we look deep into their lives, we would have another opinion of them, maybe.

Susanne said...

Wafa', thank you for sharing your views on this subject. They are interesting and thought-provoking!

vicki leonardson said...

This is good.

vicki leonardson said...