Joab saw that there were battle lines in front of him and behind him; so he selected some of the best troops in Israel and deployed them against the Arameans. He put the rest of the men under the command of Abishai his brother and deployed them against the Ammonites. Joab said, “If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you are to come to my rescue; but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come to rescue you. Be strong, and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in his sight.” Then Joab and the troops with him advanced to fight the Arameans, and they fled before him. When the Ammonites realized that the Arameans were fleeing, they fled before Abishai and went inside the city. So Joab returned from fighting the Ammonites and came to Jerusalem. After the Arameans saw that they had been routed by Israel, they regrouped. Hadadezer had Arameans brought from beyond the Euphrates River; they went to Helam, with Shobak the commander of Hadadezer’s army leading them. When David was told of this, he gathered all Israel, crossed the Jordan and went to Helam. The Arameans formed their battle lines to meet David and fought against him. But they fled before Israel, and David killed seven hundred of their charioteers and forty thousand of their foot soldiers. He also struck down Shobak the commander of their army, and he died there. When all the kings who were vassals of Hadadezer saw that they had been routed by Israel, they made peace with the Israelites and became subject to them. So the Arameans were afraid to help the Ammonites anymore. – 2 Samuel 10:9-19
This passage contains a continuation of the clan wars and killing that has been so prevalent in 2 Samuel. There seems to be a perpetual tit for tat with one people chasing another and seeking retribution for past wrongs. The original crossing over of the Jordan River was to take possession of the Promised Land that God provided the Israelites. This crossing over is for a very different reason. In this case it is to chase down an enemy and kill them.
Joab acknowledges God’s role in whether they win or lose. I think this is good, although I am still not convinced that God takes sides in every conflict. David’s men crossed over the Jordan River without the direct intervention of God like the Israelites experienced when the waters of the Jordan were “held up“. It is not clear whether God is really going ahead of them or not — maybe they are getting out ahead of God again.
I have a confession to make. My nephew got me hooked on a computer game called Clash of Clans last summer. It is a simulation game where you build and fortify your “village” against on-line marauders who come and attack your village while you are away. If you are feeling vengeful you can even attack them back to get revenge. You can even form virtual clans and go to war with other clans. I am currently a member of my nephew’s “clan” which for a time definitely contributed to my “cool uncle” coefficient.
I don’t mean to be flippant about this story, but the clans chasing each other about and killing one another feels like a bunch of boys playing a game…albeit a game with deadly consequences. Perhaps I am not tuned into the cultural context of the time and place, but it feels like a lot of time, effort, and lives are being spent on fighting each other that could be spent in better ways. I find it interesting that when Jesus came he did so as a God who serves rather than a military leader. Perhaps David and his men have gotten so accustomed to resolving conflict with clan warfare that they have forgotten how to love each other as God loves them.
Prayer: God help us to learn how to resolve conflict with love rather than violence.