Week of 4 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  The Death of Absalom, by Gustave Dore

He Who Lives By the Sword…

FEBRUARY 4, 2014

JANUARY 30, 2018

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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2 Samuel 18:9-15, 24-19:3 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And Absalom chanced to meet the servants of David.  Absalom was riding his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on.  And a certain man saw it, and told Joab,

Behold, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak.

Joab said to the man who told him,

What, you saw him!  Why then did you not strike him there to the ground?  I would have been glad to give you ten pieces of silver and a belt.

But the man said to Joab,

Even if I felt in my hand the weight of a thousand pieces of silver, I would not put forth my hand against the king’s son; for in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, “For my sake protect the young man Absalom.”  On the other hand, if I had dealt treacherously against his life (and there is nothing hidden from the king), then you yourself would have stood aloof.

Joab said,

I will not waste time like this with you.

And he took three darts in his hand, and thrust them into the heart of Absalom, while he was still alive in the oak.  And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him and killed him.

(Joab orders Ahimaaz not to tell David what has happened.  Then Joab sends a Cushite to update David and decides after all to let Ahimaaz run after the Cushite.  Ahimaaz then passes the Cushite.)

Now David was sitting between the two gates; and the watchman went up to the roof of the gate by the wall, and when he lifted up his eyes and looked, he saw a man running alone.  And the watchman called out and told the king.  And the king said,

If he is alone, there are tidings in his mouth.

And he came apace, and drew near.  And the watchman saw another man running; and the watchman called to the gate and said,

See, another man running alone!

The king said,

He also brings tidings.

And the watchman said,

I think the running of the foremost is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok.

And the king said,

He is a good man, and comes with good tidings.

Then Ahimaaz cried out out to the king,

All is well.

And he bowed before the king with his face to the earth, and said,

Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delivered up the men who raised their hand against my lord the king.

And the king said,

Is it well with the young man Absalom?

Ahimaaz answered,

When Joab sent your servant I saw a great tumult, but I do not know what it was.

And the king said,

Turn aside, and stand here.

So he turned aside, and stood still.

And behold, the Cushite came; and the Cushite said,

Good tidings for my lord the king!  For the LORD has delivered you this day from the power of all who rose up against you.

The king said to the Cushite,

Is it well with the young man Absalom?

And the Cushite answered,

May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up against you for evil, be like that young man.

And the king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said,

O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom!  Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

It was told Joab,

Behold, the king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.

So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people; for the people heard that day,

The king is grieving for his son.

And the people stole into the city that day as people steal in who are ashamed when they flee in battle.

Psalm 86:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Bow down your ear, O LORD, and answer me,

for I am poor and in misery.

2 Keep watch over my life, for I am faithful;

save your servant who puts his trust in you.

Be merciful to me, O LORD, for you are my God;

I call upon you all the day long.

4 Gladden the soul of your servant,

for to you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

5 For you, O LORD, are good and forgiving,

and great is your love toward all who call upon you.

Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer,

and attend to the voice of my supplications.

Mark 5:21-43 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him; and he was beside the sea.  Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at this feet, and begged him, saying,

My little daughter is at the point of death.  Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.

And he went with him.

And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him.  And there was a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.  She had heard the reports about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment.  For she said,

If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well.

And immediately the hemorrhage ceased; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.  And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said,

Who touched my garments?

And his disciples said to him,

You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?”

And he looked around to see who had done it.  But the woman, knowing what had been done to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.  And he said to her,

Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.

While he was still speaking, there came fro the ruler’s house some who said,

Your daughter is dead.  Why trouble the Teacher any further?

But ignoring what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue,

Do not fear, only believe.

And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James.  When they came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, he saw a tumult, and people weeping and wailing loudly.  And when he had entered, he said to them,

Why do you make a tumult and weep?  The child is not dead but sleeping.

And they laughed at him.  But he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was.  Taking her by the hand he said to her,

Talitha cumi;

which means,

Little girl, I say to you, arise.

And immediately the girl got up and walked; for she was twelve years old.  And immediately they were overcome with amazement.  And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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A Related Post:

Week of 4 Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/week-of-4-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

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He who lives by the sword will die by the sword.  I refer to Joab, not Absalom.  This is what the 1968 Encyclopaedia Britannica says about Joab:

JOAB (fl. 1000 B.C.), Jewish military commander under King David, his mother’s brother, figures chiefly in the biblical second Book of Samuel.  He led the commando party which captured Jerusalem for David, and as a reward was appointed commander in chief of the army.  He played a leading part in many of David’s victories (e.g., against the Ammonites and Edomites) and led the loyal force which crushed the rebellion of David’s son Absalom.  Utterly devoted to David, Joab thought he knew David’s interests  better than David himself did; hence his killing of Absalom when David had commanded that his life be spared.  Joab showed characteristic ruthlessness in the treacherous murder of two of his potential rivals:  Abner, Saul’s former commander in chief, who had killed Joab’s brother Asahel, and Amasa, who mustered the men of Judah for David against the revel leader Sheba.  Joab obeyed under protest when ordered by David to carry out a national census.  During David’s last words he supported his son Adonijah’s abortive bid for the throne, and was executed by the successful Solomon.

This entry comes from Volume 13, page 2, by the way.

The 1962 Encyclopedia Americana (Volume 16, page 148) says this about him:

JOAB, King David’s nephew and commander in chief of his armies.  He helped put David on the throne by defeating Abner, military leader of Saul’s forces.  Later he killed Abner to avenge the earlier slaying of his own brother Asahel, and possibly to remove a dangerous rival to his power.  He conducted David’s foreign wars and put down Absalom’s revolt, slaying Absalom with his own hands.  David then attempted to supercede him with Amasa, Absalom’s general, whom Joab also assassinated to retain his position.  He assisted David in putting to death Uriah the Hittite, the first husband of Bath-sheba.  Finally, he supported Adonijah, David’s rightful heir, against Bath-sheba’s son Solomon.  For this Solomon had put him to death, allegedly at the behest of dying David (I Kings 2:28-34).

Sometimes Joab obeyed his uncle and king; other times he did not.  Joab killed others who threatened his position, until Solomon had him killed.  The pattern of Joab’s life led to the manner of his death.

Of course, bad things do happen to good people, and sometimes nonviolent people die violently.  For example, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., advocated nonviolent social and political change but each man died because somebody shot him.  And Jesus, was not violent, but agents of the Roman Empire put him to death via execution.  Often people who seek to appeal to the best elements of human nature die because they anger people interested in nurturing the worst elements of human nature.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that those who live by the sword have set themselves on a course which will end badly.  This rule applies to nations as well as people; those nation-states, kingdoms, and empires which seek enemies more often than friends succeed in that goal, but fail in the long term to establish stability and peaceful relations with neighbors.  They might gain short-term military glory, but, in the long term, it is better to have more allies and friends than enemies.

God, as I understand God via Jesus, is the deity of shalom, a word with many meanings.  Translated as peace, hello, and goodbye, shalom means far more.  The Oxford Companion to the Bible explains (on page 578)  that shalom can refer to all of the following:

  • Health
  • Restoration to health
  • General well-being (including sound sleep, length of life, a tranquil death, and physical safety)
  • Good relations between peoples and nations
  • Tranquility and contentment
  • Wholeness
  • Soundness
  • Completeness
  • Peace in God

Joab was not on the path of shalom.

May you, O reader, and I be on and stay on that path, however.  Shalom to you.  Shalom to your relatives, friends, and neighbors.  Shalom to your enemies.  Shalom to people you will never know.  Shalom to the United States.  Shalom to all nations.  Shalom to the State of Israel.  Shalom to the Palestinian Authority.  Shalom to everybody.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/he-who-lives-by-the-sword/

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