Scripture

2 Samuel 24:3 (NIV)

But Joab replied to the king, “May the Lord your God multiply the troops a hundred times over, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king want to do such a thing?”

Observation

Joab isn’t usually portrayed as a “Godly” person. Even when it comes to being loyal to David, what we see is a man who didn’t appear to be concerned with how God saw him. He murdered Abner despite Abner being on a mission of peace during peace talks (2 Samuel 3:27), colluded with David, and murdered Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 11:14-21). Furthermore, he kills Absalom despite the king’s orders and murdered Amasa (2 Samuel 20:7-10). Of these despicable deeds, only the killing of Absalom was done during war-time and was in the best interest of Israel. Indeed, David, instructs his son, Solomon, to “not let his gray head go down to the grave in peace (1 Kings 2:9 NIV)” as punishment for his crimes.


However, in this verse we see Joab reminding David of God’s faithfulness. Something that David isn’t seeing at the moment. Joab, as the commander of the army, intimately knows how God has brought victory to Israel and David.

Joab is a shrewd man. His murder of Abner wasn’t just an expression of revenge but a strategic move against one who could become the next commander of the king’s army. King David had told Amasa that he would be the commander of his army (2 Samuel 19:13) over Joab. One could stipulate that Joab’s murder of Amasa was in the best interest of Israel, given that Amasa, as commander of Absalom’s army, effectively failed Absalom by allowing him to be caught away from the protection of the army. Furthermore, Amasa delayed in fulfilling the king’s orders to summon the men of Judah and bring them to him in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 20:4-5). A commander who can’t marshal troops effectively and get them to where they need to be isn’t the best choice to command one’s army. Finally, the allies of the king, who had supported him when Absalom revolted, likely would have preferred to have had Joab, a commander with a successful track record, guarding the king and all of Israel. I believe, however, that Joab’s principal motive in killing Amasa was out of self-preservation.

Joab’s question to David, “why does the lord the king want to do such a thing?” suggests that Joab saw the prideful motive behind David’s desire to count the troops. David had been a successful ruler over Israel for quite some time. While David could look to the lands that he controlled, the size of his army was one way that he could see how great he had become. In addition, if David were looking to expand his kingdom, he’d want to know how many troops he had.

I see Joab, here, in this instance, as being a messenger of God. We are familiar with the prophets, such as Samuel, Nathan, and Gad, bringing the word of the Lord to David. We know that Joab isn’t the first person to give a warning to David before he sinned against God. David’s wife, Abigail, interceded on the behalf of the males of Nabal’s household when he sought to avenge himself against Nabal for his rude and disrespectful behavior (1 Samuel 25:25). When we look to David’s pride, as a motivation for his desire to count the troops, we see the same David, from so many years before, with his pride hurt, bent on his desire to avenge himself with his own hands, turn from evil and do the right thing. Abigail’s plea to David rings with a heart-wrenching prophetic utterance when we realize that the 70,000 men who die from this prideful sin of counting the troops, could have been spared if he listened to Joab, the unlikely reminder of God’s faithfulness.

“Please forgive your servant’s presumption. The Lord your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the Lord’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel, my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the Lord your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant.” (1 Samuel 25:28-31 NIV)

I think that we could accept David’s pride as the primary reason behind him ignoring Joab’s warning. However, to do so would have us miss out on, what I believe, is a lesson to be learned here from this situation. We have already noted that David was aware of Joab’s wickedness (1 Kings 2:9). I think that this fall of David, in counting the troops, was a one-two punch. The first punch was David’s pride which led him to validate “his” greatness by looking at the size of his army. The second punch was only seeing Joab as the evil man he knew him to be.
It was easy for David to see Abigail, bowing down before him in humility, as a messenger of God. “David said to Abigail, ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me.'”(1 Samuel 25:32 NIV). However, David’s eyes were surely blinded by Joab’s past misdeeds.

While the text doesn’t say, “the Lord said,” to Joab. We can look to the truth in what was said and know that it a “truth” of God.

“‘May the Lord your God multiply the troops a hundred times over, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it'” (v 3).

The Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:1-43), speaks of the Lord’s power that allows “one man to chase a thousand or two to put ten thousand to flight.” (Deuteronomy 32:30 NIV) The Song of Moses was given to Moses by God as a witness against the Israelites for the time when God brought them into the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 31:19-20). They, with their bellies full and their heart’s content, would turn away and follow other gods. It was the responsibility of the Israelites to know this song. As the king, David would have heard this at some point in his life. Beyond the song, however, is the work that God had done in David’s life. David, the boy who faced Goliath, knew the power of his God but didn’t recognize the truth in Joab’s words. There can be no doubt that David was fully aware of the power of God in his own life. He writes in Psalms 34:7, “the angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them,” (NIV) when he was fleeing from Saul.

The Truth of God never changes. This is why Paul, in Philippians 1:15-18, say’s, “what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.” As followers of Christ, we need to be attentive and discerning to God’s voice. He speaks to us in myriad ways, from his word in the Holy Bible, through the Holy Spirit and circumstances in our lives. He can speak to us through the people in our lives. Those who know Him and those who do not. If He can open up the mouth of a donkey (Numbers 22:21-39) to get someone’s attention, then surely He can speak to us through another person. We need to be discerning and align what we have heard with the character of God and His word.

Application

How can I apply what I have learned today?

The best way to know God’s Word is to read my Bible and then study it.

Prayer

Father, I praise you and I thank you for who you are. I thank you, Father, for the gift of your Holy Spirit which allows me to be guided into all truth. Thank you for speaking to me today, through your Word. Father, I pray, in the name of Jesus, that I would be attentive and discerning to your still small voice that speaks to me. Open the eyes of my heart, that I may know you better. Please forgive me for when I have not listened to your voice and done as you have wanted me to do, or even worse when I have heard your voice and followed my path. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.