Our passage this week is another unusual one. It may not be familiar to us, but there's a lot here to learn! Let's look at II Samuel 20:15-22.
To get the background for our story, we need to know all of what had happened in this chapter. After the rebellion led by his son, Absalom, David mourned his death and then was brought up short by his mighty man, Joab. Joab told him that he needed to "straighten up and fly right" or he would not have any mighty men, soldiers, or loyal citizens! Things were in a mess.
So, David freshened up his face, put on his royal robes, and began to rule again. He touched base with priests and leaders, and inspired confidence in many of them that things were going to be OK.
However, there was a troublemaker named Sheba -- a rebel -- who tried to turn the hearts of many of the men of Israel away from King David. (The men of Judah were confident in David.) David tasked his nephew, Amasa, with convincing the men of Judah to come to Jerusalem, in order to pursue the rebel, Sheba of Bikri. He gave Amasa a promotion to commander of the army, and gave him three days to complete the task, but three days went by and Amasa had not returned. (Now, this was probably not a happy thing for Joab....Amasa had been Absalom's commander, and by doing this, David was passing over Joab. Joab probably felt like he'd been disrespected by not getting the promotion, I'm sure. We'll see how this plays out next.)
Since it seemed that Amasa was dragging his feet, David sent Abishai and Joab to help out. It looked like if they didn't get something done fast, they would have a bigger rebellion than Absalom's on their hands . . . if Sheba, son of Bikri, was holed up in one of the fortified cities, they'd have a difficult time quelling the rebellion, and this time of political instability would continue.
So, we see Joab and Abishai walking toward a large stone marker, and Amasa coming from the other direction to meet them. It was the custom at the time to give a kiss in greeting, and many times, they would grasp each other's beard to do so. (Sounds a little strange to us, now, but this gives Joab an opportunity for mischief of the worst kind.) Just before reaching Amasa, Joab's short sword just happens to fall from the scabbard tied into his cloth belt . . . oops, how did that happen? Joab comes up with it, and as he greets the unsuspecting Amasa with one hand on his beard, the other is thrusting the sword into Amasa's mid-section. Have we noted that Joab is not the nicest guy in the bunch? Oy. (By the way, Amasa was his cousin.)
With Amasa dead, or dying, command fell to Joab. (Ahh, there is his motivation, eh?) Just a side note, here, but have you wondered why King David never disciplined Joab? Think about it -- this guy's only redeeming quality seems to be his fierce loyalty to his king -- but in the mean time, he has killed Abner, killed David's son Absalom, and now he has killed Amasa. Recall our story of Bathsheba? Remember who the army captain was, that was told to put Bathsheba's hubby into the heat of battle and then withdraw and leave him to die? Yep. That same Joab. Reckon he knew too much about David for the king to do much with him . . .
Anyway, let's get back to our story. (Grin) Joab and Abishai gather the men and begin to march. Whoa. Wait a minute. The soldiers aren't following them. How come?
The body of Amasa, in a pool of blood, really spooked them. Nowadays, we'd say they were freaked out. It wasn't until the body was dragged off the road, into a field, and covered with a blanket that the men would march.
And they headed toward the town of Abel. They had heard that the rebel Sheba, son of Bikri, had headed there.
We'll continue our story next time.
Hope you'll join us!