The Problem with Revenge

Growing with God: A daily devotional with Tonia Slimm.

2 Samuel 20:8-10 (NIV)
While they were at the great rock in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Joab was wearing his military tunic, and strapped over it at his waist was a belt with a dagger in its sheath. As he stepped forward, it dropped out of its sheath. Joab said to Amasa, “How are you, my brother?” Then Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. Amasa was not on his guard against the dagger in Joab’s hand, and Joab plunged it into his belly, and his intestines spilled out on the ground. Without being stabbed again, Amasa died. Then Joab and his brother Abishai pursued Sheba son of Bikri.

2 Samuel 20:8-10 (MSG)
They were near the boulder at Gibeon when Amasa came their way. Joab was wearing a tunic with a sheathed sword strapped on his waist, but the sword slipped out and fell to the ground. Joab greeted Amasa, “How are you, brother?” and took Amasa’s beard in his right hand as if to kiss him. Amasa didn’t notice the sword in Joab’s other hand. Joab stuck him in the belly and his guts spilled to the ground. A second blow wasn’t needed; he was dead. Then Joab and his brother Abishai continued to chase Sheba son of Bicri.
“When they were at the great stone in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Now Joab was wearing his military uniform, and over it he had a belt with a sheathed sword strapped around his hips; and as he went forward, it fell out. Joab said to Amasa, “Is it going well with you, my brother?” And with his right hand Joab took hold of Amasa by the beard [as if] to kiss him [in greeting]. But Amasa [who had replaced Joab as David’s commander] was off guard and not attentive to the sword in Joab’s hand. So Joab struck Amasa in the abdomen with the sword, spilling his intestines to the ground. Without another blow Amasa died. Then Joab and Abishai his brother pursued Sheba the son of Bichri.

David seems to have had his fair share of troublemakers and we will address another one of them today; that would be Joab. Joab had a close relationship with the king; he was in fact David’s nephew, the son of David’s sister Zeruiah. Joab had two brothers, Abishai, who will also work into today’s story, and Asahel, the swift of foot, who was killed by Abner whom in turn was treacherously murdered by Joab.

Joab was the brave one who led the assault when David’s men stormed the fortress on Mount Zion. For his service Joab was raised to the rank of “prince of the king’s army”; which was a job title that he took quite seriously. He was quite protective and jealous of his position and we will see more of this today.

We must understand though that Joab would often go about carrying out the king’s requests in an otherwise unethical way; just to get the job done. Because of this we find in 2 Samuel 19, David taking Joab’s postion away from him and giving it to Amasa. “Say to Amasa [the commander of Absalom’s troops], ‘Are you not my bone and my flesh? May God do so to me, and more also, if you will not be commander of my army from now on in place of Joab.’” -2 Samuel 19:13 (AMP)

Here is where the root of the problem is from our text today. Joab was angry and jealous that Amasa had taking not only his job, but also his glory. Remember, pride has caused great leaders and people to be humbled and sometimes even destroyed. “For the wicked boasts and sings the praises of his heart’s desire,
And the greedy man curses and spurns [and even despises] the Lord. The wicked, in the haughtiness of his face, will not seek nor inquire for Him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God [so there is no accountability or punishment].”-Psalms 10:3-4 (AMP)

We will find in Joab’s case that when David took away his job as commander-in-chief and gave it to Amasa that his jealousy and hurt pride began to eat him from the inside out. When the opportunity arose to avenge himself and take back his mantle of responsibility Joab took it; even though it was done in an underhanded, unethical manner.

This is how the story plays out. David had sent Amasa to summon the men of Judah to help take a stand against the revolt of Sheba, but it took longer than David thought it would for Amasa to get back. In his impatience David ordered Abishai, Joab’s brother to get the troops together and head out. Of course, Joab went along; for the men’s loyalties still lay with him. En-route to confront Sheba they just happen to run into Amasa on his way back to report to the king. Here is where our text comes into play in His-story. We are able to see how deceitful and under-handed Joab truly was, “When they reached the great boulder at Gibeon, Amasa met them. Joab was dressed for battle, with his sword strapped on at the waist; and as he went forward to meet Amasa, Joab’s sword slipped out of its sheath.” -(VOICE)

The story of Joab’s subversive revenge plays out like this:
“Joab greeted Amasa, “How are you, brother?” and took Amasa’s beard in his right hand as if to kiss him. Amasa didn’t notice the sword in Joab’s other hand. Joab stuck him in the belly and his guts spilled to the ground. A second blow wasn’t needed; he was dead. Then Joab and his brother Abishai continued to chase Sheba son of Bicri.” Notice, Joab and his brother Abishai do not even blink an eye or miss a step after Amaza is murdered. It is as if it were no big deal to them to take a life to advance their own agenda.

Meanwhile, the rest of Joab’s men were having an issue with what they were coming upon in the middle of the road. “One of Joab’s soldiers took up his post over the body and called out, “Everyone who sides with Joab and supports David, follow Joab!” Amasa was lying in a pool of blood in the middle of the road; the man realized that the whole army was going to stop and take a look, so he pulled Amasa’s corpse off the road into the field and threw a blanket over him so it wouldn’t collect spectators. As soon as he’d gotten him off the road, the traffic flowed normally, following Joab in the chase after Sheba son of Bicri. Sheba passed through all the tribes of Israel as far as Abel Beth Maacah; all the Bicrites clustered and followed him into the city.” -2 Samuel 20:11-14 (MSG)

The Bible has much to say about seeking out revenge. God says:

* “‘Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, in due time their foot will slip; for the day of their disaster is at hand, and their doom hurries to meet them.’” -Deuteronomy 32:35 (AMP)

* “Finally, all of you, be like-minded and show sympathy, love, compassion, and humility to and for each other— not paying back evil with evil or insult with insult, but repaying the bad with a blessing. It was this you were called to do, so that you might inherit a blessing.” -1 Peter 3:8-9 (VOICE)

* “Again, my loved ones, do not seek revenge; instead, allow God’s wrath to make sure justice is served. Turn it over to Him. For the Scriptures say, “Revenge is Mine. I will settle all scores.” -Romans 12:19 (VOICE)

“The more plot there is in a sin, the worse it is. Joab contentedly sacrificed the interest both of the king and the kingdom to his personal revenge. But one would wonder with what face a murderer could pursue a traitor; and how, under such a load of guilt, he had courage to enter upon danger: his conscience was seared.” -Matthew Henry

Joab’s choice to take revenge will end up causing more issues for David and the kingdom. The problem with seeking revenge is that it causes more problems than it solves. The best option is to allow God to deal with someone who we feel has wronged us. Pray for them and let God deal with them.

My Prayer:
Lord, help me to trust you to deal with those who have hurt me. I can see from your Word that you expect me to extend forgiveness to those who have wronged me and spitefully used me. I also know that I need to be careful that I do not allow pride to take root in my life. Help me, Lord, to trust you to take care of my best interest. My job is to show sympathy, love, compassion, and humility. Help me to keep my priorities straight.