1 Kings 2:30-34
And Benaiah came to the tabernacle of the LORD, and said to him, Thus said the king, Come forth. And he said, No; but I will die here…
1. Joab was a man of war. He delighted in battle, he scented it from afar, the thought of it was in his heart. He never saw the tragedy — the madness of it; or, if he did, he ignored it, as thousands of great soldiers have done. He was a man of blood and iron, a lesser Napoleon, who climbed to greatness, such aa it was, over a hecatomb of corpses. He was never happy but amid tumult and bloodshed; the sweetest music that over greeted his ear was the bugle call to charge the enemy. Empire-making was his life-work, but, fortunately, David's ambition was limited to a small geographical area, and Joab had no standing army at his beck and call, or the peace of the world would not have been safe for a single day.
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.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Benaiah came to the tabernacle of the LORD, and said unto him, Thus saith the king, Come forth. And he said, Nay; but I will die here. And Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me.
WEB: Benaiah came to the Tent of Yahweh, and said to him, "Thus says the king, 'Come forth!'" He said, "No; but I will die here." Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, "Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me."