I. THE ETERNAL LAW THAT WRONG DOING MUST BE FOLLOWED BY ITS DUE RECOMPENSE. Recognise the Divine element in this act of human retribution. There is a Nemesis that tracks the steps of the transgressor, and sooner or later overtakes him; not a natural law merely, but an intelligent Divine will and power. The superstition of the Melitans had a deep and solemn truth in it (Acts 28:4). Striking correspondence often between the sin and the penalty. Men suffer in forms resembling the injury they inflict. "Whoso sheddeth man's blood," etc. "All they that take the sword," etc. The weapon used wrongfully recoils upon the head of him who wielded it. "Curses, like birds, come home to roost." In the teaching of Christ and His apostles, however, the law of retribution appears, not in its old Bare, crude form, but in a more vital and spiritual form. New Testament idea - sin bears within itself the germ of its own punishment. The penalty is a development rather than an arbitrary infliction. "Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." Sin may be divinely forgiven, and yet go on to produce in this world all sorts of bitter fruits. "May one be pardoned and retain the offence?" No; but the pardoned ruin may retain in himself the evil effects of what he has done, and see, with infinite remorse, the evil effects in others. The sin, as a "finished" fact, takes its place in the general procession of cause and effect, independently of God's mercy to the transgressor. On the other hand, the worst retribution is in the moral nature of the sinner himself.
"There is no future pang
II. THE NOBLENESS OF A TRUTHFUL AND FEARLESS DISCHARGE OF DUTY. Solomon's deed a homage to the sense of duty. Magnanimity blended with severity. He spares Abiathar, but has no mercy on Joab and Shimei. Note the reasons of this distinction. As a "man of peace" he had no love for this retributive work. It might involve him in trouble. But he shrinks not from doing the thing he conceives to be right. Men often constrained by force of circumstances, or persuasion of a Divine voice within them, to do what they have no natural inclination for doing. Essence of all moral nobleness to make duty rather than inclination or policy the law of one's life. In men of highest nature conscience is the ruling power. However it may appear, that Life is the most blessed which is the most perfect homage to the law of right
II. THE SUPERIORITY OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS ABOVE THE MORAL STANDARD OF OLDEN TIMES. In following the chronicles of these old Hebrew kings we feel that we are moving in a moral region of somewhat dim light and low level. It must needs be so if there is a real law of development in Scripture and the dispensations of God. We may recognise the working of Divine principles of truth and righteousness amid the confusions of the time, and yet feel that we have in the law of Christ a far higher rule of conduct. We admit what is good in David and Solomon, but HE is our model who, on the cross of sacrifice, prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." - W.
Nay; but I will die here.
I. JOAB'S CHARACTER. Joab as a man was somewhat like Esau, belligerent from his youth. As one of the sons of Zeruiah, of whom David complained that they "were too hard for him," he readily acquired the character of a reckless soldier, and a most unscrupulous disposition. However brave or successful as a warrior, he was never known to forget an insult or to forgive an injury. He always waited for his enemies, real or supposed, as a bear robbed of her whelps, and would punish them without mercy. In some respects he was more cruel and vindictive than Nero, or any of the Roman Caesars. It was in cold blood that he assassinated Abner, and slew Absalom with his own hand. These and similar acts of cruelty, instead of checking his career, or making him more thoughtful, only paved his way for the commission of still greater crimes. He cared as little for the king's curse, on account of Abner's assassination, as he cared for the king's grief over Absalom's death. For years he had been guilty of shedding the blood of innocents, and the king seems to have been powerless in checking him or punishing him for his enormous crimes. But on his death-bed he charged Solomon to deal with him, so that the "innocent blood which he had shed might be purged from him and from his father's house" (ver. 31). This was the character of Joab, the man who fled in terror to the tabernacle of the Lord, and laid hold upon the horns of the altar.
II. JOAB'S REFUGE. Why did Joab, in his extremity, run to the tabernacle? As a drowning man is said to catch at a straw, Joab ran to the tabernacle as his only hope of safety. It was the hour of his desperation; the pressure of destiny was upon his heart, the Nemesis of retribution had laid hold upon him; and rather than die like Judas, he would lay hold upon the horns of the altar as his only means of salvation. But he had no right to do so. He was one of those expressly forbidden by the law of Moses (Deuteronomy 19:12) to enter the tabernacle, or to lay hold upon the horns of the altar. As a murderer — as a murderer "with guile," as a murderer with deliberate purpose — he had no right to take refuge in God's sanctuary, or to lay hold upon the altar with his defiled hands. Solomon knew the law, and honoured it when he commanded Benaiah to drag him forth from the altar and have him slain (Exodus 21:14). But what cares a sinner, who has lived all his days to outrage all law and order, when pressed by the shadows or pangs of despair, whether he enters in by the door or climbs up some other way? When he becomes, like Samson, a helpless creature — his eyes out, and sport for the Philistines — he will dare the most terrible things, if only he can be saved.
III. JOAB'S RESOLUTION. There he would die, and nowhere else. It has been said that soldiers, as a class, are not greatly concerned for religion. It was alleged by Dean Swift that "no class of men had so little sense of religion as English soldiers." It is said that Pope tried hard at one time to assure the Emperor that it was not a thing impossible to discover devout soldiers in the army. Gibbon, the historian, records the ease of a Roman general who as early as the year spent most of his time in praying and fasting, and singing Psalms. But he has evidently more satisfaction in telling us of the soldier who, before some terrible battle, prayed thus, "Oh God — if there be a God — save my soul — if I have a soul." Perhaps we ought to regard such men as Colonel Gardiner, Sir Henry Havelock, Captain Hedley Vicars, General Lee, General Gordon, and Gustavus Adolphus, as exceptions to what is common in military circles. But there is nothing necessarily antagonistic to a religious life in the army. It is not necessary that a soldier should be brutal in his character or a murderer in heart and action. But Joab was so. He was utterly regardless of human life, and lived far from God and righteousness. We may regard Joab's resolution as the outcome of nature, not of fear. "It is the fashion of our foolish presumption," says Bishop Hall, "to look for protection, under the pressure of necessity, when we have not cared to yield obedience. Even a Joab clings to God's altar in the hour of his extremity, which in his prosperity ha regarded not. Necessity will drive the most profane and lawless men to God." When the Angel of Death comes to men in no unmistakable way, when, by ago or by accident, lingering sickness or the sorrows of bereavement, they seem to hear it said, "Set thine house in order, for thou shalt die, and not live!" or when, in some significant way, their doom is forecast, as Belshazzar's doom was written upon his palace wall, they will waken up and cry out for a refuge in despair. But as there is a mirage in the spiritual as well as in the natural world, they may find that the harvest is past and the summer ended; they may find that prayers then extorted are in vain — the hour of mercy pearl Those who are saved at God's altar are drawn to it, never driven.
(J. K. Campbell, D. D.)
2. The havoc wrought by envy. Joab was David's sister's son, a fact he never forgot himself, and never permitted others to forget. David's brothers never quite forgave him being greater than themselves. Abner and the rest, could not forget that scene in the vale of Succoth, when David by one supreme act of faith and courage became the nation's idol. Saul's was not the only heart which felt the pang of jealousy that day. Envy, that black imp of hell, was dancing in and out amid the troops of Israel, and he wrought great havoc in Jesse's household. Only great natures can rejoice at the prosperity of others. A man had better take a nest of rattlesnakes into his bosom than envy into his heart. But among those who stood staunch and true to David was his nephew, Joab. He had his faults, but treachery was not one of them, and he was a courageous man, and could not only fight himself, but could inspire others; and he possessed that dogged perseverance that never knows when it is beaten, but rises out of the ashes of defeat to fight once more and to conquer. "The battle is lost, sire," said a messenger to Napoleon one morning. "Then," he said, pulling out his watch, "there is time to win another." And that was Joab, too, a very glutton for a hard fight, who never admitted defeat, but just kept pounding away, as Wellington said, until the enemy yielded. But Joab had the defect of his qualities: he was selfish, ambitious, with a nature of stone and iron; there was no light and shade in his character; he never suffered himself to be thwarted, but bore all down by the violence of his temper. And David grew to be afraid of this imperious, loud-voiced, combative nephew of his, and perhaps to yield to him on occasions when it would have been better if he had not.
3. David plays the fool Joab was a great man, his own nephew, a very useful man when the kingdom was threatened, and so David made a tearful speech, and let the culprit go. And Joab from that day thought himself indispensable, and acted accordingly. And the time came when David played the fool, as he now played the coward. A beautiful woman bewitched him, and he fell so foully that we stand and gape in astonishment at the deed of wickedness David did. The saddest thing on earth is when a good man forgets himself, turns his back on God, and shakes hands with the devil. "Do not mistake me," said saintly Jacob Behmen, the mystic, so beloved by Dr. Whyte, "for my heart is as full as it can be of all malice, and all ill will. My heart is the very dunghill of the devil, and it is no easy matter to wrestle with him on his chosen ground. But wrestle with him on this ground of his I must, and that the whole of my life to the end." "I have never read of a crime," says Goethe, "which I might not have committed." And the lust of the eyes seized David, and he wrote a disgraceful letter to Joab, who, when he read it, gave a hoarse, derisive laugh, and felt glad in his heart, for there are hard, coarse natures who delight in the moral downfall of a better man. If Joab had been the friend of David he would have torn that letter into thousands of pieces, and he would have gone forth and remonstrated with the king, for he is our best friend who cannot bear to see stain upon our character, and who will risk giving offence rather than let us cheapen ourselves in the eyes of the world. But Joab kept the letter as a precious treasure, for use on another day.
4. Joab master of the situation. And Joab obeyed the letter, and put Uriah in the front of the battle, and the brave soldier fell fighting for the king who planned his death, and dreamt not that his general was the worst foe that he had that day. It was as shameful a deed as ever was committed on a battlefield. And from that hour Joab twisted the king round his little finger. David never lost his conscience, and it is the man who has a conscience who suffers. What a mental purgatory the spiritually minded man lives in who has fallen from grace. Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter has shown us how a secret sin eats like a cancer at the heart until confession becomes, not only a necessity, but a relief. Joab could sleep as soundly as a child, and no vision of the slain Uriah came to haunt him. But David could not. Through many a sleepless hour he wailed out his broken-hearted penitence in psalm and prayer. This man could not go through a mire of sin and be merry over it, he could not forget, and forgetting is the sinner's only refuge. Better a thousand times be David, with his tear-smitten face turned Godward, hating himself for the wrong done, than the sneering, self. complacent old warrior who found no place for repentance. Such men as Joab make hell a necessity of the future if ever justice is to be done, and right vindicated. Yes, I believe in hell, I cannot but believe in it, or there is no such thing as justice. It is awful to see the sinner when remorse has seized him. But I tell you what is far more awful, and that is to see the sinner going on cursing, laughing, unheeding to his doom, as indifferent as the fattened ox goes to the shambles. The best things in life are tenderness, sweetness, graciousness; and Joab never saw them, never knew them, but was always harsh, strident, and stern.
PeopleAbiathar, Abishag, Abner, Absalom, Achish, Adonijah, Amasa, Anathoth, Barzillai, Bathsheba, Benaiah, David, Eli, Gera, Haggith, Jehoiada, Jether, Joab, Maacah, Maachah, Ner, Shimei, Solomon, Zadok, Zeruiah
PlacesAnathoth, Bahurim, Gath, Hebron, Jerusalem, Jordan River, Kidron, Mahanaim, Shiloh
TopicsCharge, Charged, Command, Commandment, Hast, Instructed, Kept, Laid, Oath, Obey, Order, Wherefore
Outline1. David, having given a charge to Solomon
3. of Reverence
5. of Joab
7. of Barzillai
8. of Shimei
10. Solomon succeeds
12. Adonijah, moving Bathsheba to ask unto Solomon for Abishag,
13. is put to death
26. Abiathar, having his life given him, is deprived of the priesthood
28. Joab fleeing to the horns of the altar, is there slain
35. Benaiah is put in Joab's room, and Zadfok in Abiathar's
36. Shimei, confined to Jerusalem, by occasion of going to Gath, is put to death.
Dictionary of Bible Themes1 Kings 2:36-45
LibraryThe Horns of the Altar
WE MUST tell you the story. Solomon was to be the king after David, but his elder brother, Adonijah, was preferred by Joab, the captain of the host, and by Abiathar, the priest; and, therefore, they got together, and tried to steal a march upon dying David, and set up Adonijah. They utterly failed in this; and when Solomn came to the throne Adonijah was afraid for his life, and fled to the horns of the altar at the tabernacle for shelter. Solomn permitted him to find sanctuary there, and forgave …
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 31: 1885
"He Ascended into Heaven:" Believe. "He Sitteth at the Right Hand of the Father...
Whether Curiosity Can be About Intellective Knowledge?
Whether the Angels have Bodies Naturally United to Them?
Whether the Natural Law Can be Changed?
The Whole Heart
"The King Kissed Barzillai. " 2 Sam. xix. 39
What Manner of Man Ought not to Come to Rule.
Authorship of the Pentateuch.
Fifth Sunday after Trinity Exhortation to the Fruits of Faith.
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