There are two primary characters in this chapter: Joab, the loose canon, and the wise woman living in Abel-beth-maacah.
Apparently David demoted Joab after Joab killed Absalom when expressly told to spare him. In his place, David appointed Amasa. David’s first task for Amasa, to mobilize the army of Judah in three days, is not done within the time allotted, so David sends Abishai and Joab and his other mighty warriors to go after Sheba, the man inciting rebellion against David.
When Joab catches up with Amasa, the first thing he does is kill him and retake control of the army. Then he and the troops besiege the city of Abel-beth-maacah where Sheba has gone to hide.
Joab is one of those guys who gets things done no matter what. He kills the people who get in David’s way, but also kills the people who get in his own way. Perhaps he thought that Amasa was ineffective because he was unable to complete his first command by David. Perhaps he was jealous the man was given his job. Who knows? But Joab did what David sent him out to do, and like with Absalom, David didn’t disciple Joab for his actions.
When it looked like the city of Abel-beth-maacah (really, what is it with these names?) looked like it was going to be destroyed by Joab and his troops, a wise woman challenged Joab to listen to her. I like her question (v19): “Why do you want to devour what belongs to the LORD?” This wasn’t a land that Joab was conquering, this was a city in Israel. The wise woman determined what Joab wanted (Sheba’s head), and then gave it to him without any more bloodshed or destruction of innocent people.
What does this passage say about God, Jesus, and/or the Holy Spirit?
God is the source of all wisdom, so it seems like he used this woman and her challenge to protect innocent people in Israel. Joab would have destroyed the entire town to get to Sheba, but God through this woman, offered him a better way.
What does this passage tell us about people, life, or faith?
Joab. He’s the guy you send if you want a job done and you don’t care how it gets done. The wise woman is a perfect contrast to him. Joab will kill and destroy to see that a job is carried out, and doesn’t stop to consider if there is a peaceable or different way to do it. Joab takes justice into his own hands instead of trusting the LORD to provide it. I think everyone knows someone like this in life. Someone who will get the job done even if it means bending, or breaking, the rules. Someone who believes the ends justify the means. I’d prefer to be the wise woman. Someone who looks after God’s possessions and seeks a way to complete the task with integrity, wisdom, and only warranted destruction.
Why did God put this passage in the Bible?
There is a contrast here to the people David spared for rebelling against him (last chapter), and Sheba. Like Absalom, Sheba incited a rebellion against David. David spared (tried to spare) Absalom and his followers, partly because Absalom was his son and he knew the circumstances were part of the consequences of his sin. But Sheba spoke out against David after the matter was settled and God had restored the kingdom to David. Also, Sheba didn’t repent and ask to be forgiven, so he paid the price for his betrayal.
Ultimately, I think this passage shows that there is a right way and a wrong way to get things done. The wrong way is going through life like a steamroller. The right way is considering the situation with wisdom.
How does this passage relate to my life?
I certainly have steamroller tendencies. As a task oriented person, I focus on getting a job done and forget to consider the people who may be affected by the WAY I’m getting it done.
How can I put this truth into practice?
I need to consider others. The means to completing a task are as important as the end result. People are God’s possessions and it is wise to treat them accordingly. I don’t want to “devour what belongs to the LORD.”