Justice and Mercy upon David
Issue No. 238
So far in our study, David has lost three sons: the baby, Amnon, and Absalom. A fourth was yet to be lost in order for David to pay fourfold restitution according to the judgment he had pronounced upon himself in 2 Sam. 12:6. The final son, who was lost toward the end of David's life, was Adonijah.
David ruled Israel for a total of 40 years. The first 7 years he ruled from Hebron over Judah; the last 33 years he ruled from Jerusalem over all the tribes of Israel. It was the will of David that Solomon would become king after him (1 Kings 1:17). Solomon means peace, and he was a type of the “Prince of Peace.”
But his half-brother, Adonijah, desired the throne for himself, and when David was old, he declared himself king (1 Kings 1:11). He even offered sacrifices to God for the occasion (1:9), as if acting religious would make God overlook his presumption.
When David was informed of this, he immediately gave Solomon the crown in the presence of Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the general (1 Kings 1:32). Solomon was then paraded through the streets of Jerusalem and proclaimed king in public.
Adonijah was then afraid for his life and went to the altar of sacrifice, where he took hold of the horns on the altar (1 Kings 1:50). He was given mercy and released. But later, he requested to marry Abishag, who had been given as a wife or concubine to David when he was old and in need of someone to keep him warm (1 Kings 1:4). It was unlawful for Adonijah to marry his father’s wife (Lev. 18:8). Solomon recognized that Adonijah still had ambitions to take the throne for himself, and so he had him executed (1 Kings 2:25).
If we look at the prophetic side of this story, perhaps Abishag's name itself is prophetic. A Dictionary of the Bible, by John D. Davis, suggests that her name means “father of wandering.” Smith's Bible Dictionary suggests that it means “cause of error,” taking father in the symbolic sense of begetting, or causing to be. He takes the idea of wandering in the sense of “going off the path of truth into error.”
In other words, Abishag seems to be a type of the cause or reason for Adonijah’s lawlessness. If that is the case, it might be argued that Adonijah is a prophetic picture of religious people who claim that “My Lord is Jehovah” (the meaning of his name), but whose lawless actions prove that they have gone into error.
The error is when a person believes himself to be called to rulership and is willing to usurp it if necessary to help God establish his perceived right to rule. Contrast this with Jesus, who had the legitimate right to rule, but who did not try to defend Himself when He was condemned to the cross. Neither did David try to defend his throne when Absalom usurped the scepter.
Both David and Solomon were types of Christ in different ways. David was a type of Christ in His first coming, while Solomon was a type of Christ in His second appearance. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the City of David, and of the lineage of David, in order to be the lawful inheritor of the throne and Scepter of David. But His second coming is a manifestation of Solomon as the Prince of Peace, for that is how the Tabernacles Age to come is primarily characterized.
Isaiah 9:6 calls the Messiah the Prince of Peace. Verse 7 says of His rule in that day,
7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace [shalom], on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.
When Jesus was born, the angels declared in Luke 2:14,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.
At the present time, this peace is an inner way of life among those who know the sovereignty of God and the character of Christ. But the Age of Tabernacles will be a time when this inner peace spills out into the world at large at the time of the final outpouring of the Spirit.
Adonijah himself received mercy after bowing to Solomon (1 Kings 1:53). But Adonijah still felt that he ought to be the king of Israel, and Solomon knew his heart. So when he asked for Abishag, Solomon perceived that his true motive was to position himself for a future uprising. For this reason, he was executed.
So the fourth son of David died a violent death. This ended the judgment upon David for his sin. Each incident of divine judgment was a prophetic type that would foreshadow future events and people.
It is important also to keep in mind that apart from the first son (baby), the others all died only after they themselves had done things worthy of death. Although David’s sin was the original cause of divine judgment upon them, God did not simply take their lives without cause. He waited for them to do things worthy of death.
In other words, it was in the plan of God that Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah would do things that would bring judgment upon David himself, and that these actions would in turn bring judgment upon themselves.
If we were to trace the chain reaction of prior causes, we might say that the sons of David were executed because they committed murder and/or treason. They did these things because their character was flawed. Their character was flawed because God did not give them a heart to perceive their error. Their hearts were hardened because David had sinned and had determined the level of his own judgment as paying fourfold restitution.
Actually, we could trace it back in a chain reaction all the way back to the Garden of Eden and earlier to the very plan of God from the beginning. But the point is that God used each circumstance and each sinner as a prophetic type of Christ or of His opposition. These stories each provide a warning and point us by negative example to the true path to being overcomers.
Joab Disqualified as an Overcomer
Adonijah had the backing of Joab, David’s general who had fought with David since the time when King Saul had declared David an outlaw. By the time of Adonijah’s treason, David had reigned 40 years, so Joab had been faithful to David for perhaps 50 years. In fact, Joab remained the head of the armed forces until the day of his execution, when he was replaced by Benaiah.
To understand the execution of Joab, we must review earlier events to see how Joab was disqualified from living into the Kingdom of Solomon. In understanding this, we will see how many today are disqualified from receiving life (immortality) in the first resurrection at the time of the second coming of Christ, the Prince of Peace.
In the 18th year of David, Absalom usurped the throne in Jerusalem. This represented the first coming of Christ, when the priests usurped the throne of Jesus Christ, the “Son of David.”
Absalom installed Amasa as the general of his army that was sent to take Jerusalem from David (2 Sam. 17:25). Joab remained the general of David’s army. Joab himself was the son of Zeruiah, David’s sister (1 Chron. 2:16)
After David returned and conquered Absalom, David had no intention of punishing Israel further. David even mourned for Absalom. Joab objected and scolded David for “loving those who hate you” (2 Sam. 19:6). David then took steps to honor those who had remained loyal to him, but he also took note of Joab’s wrong attitude. In fact, Joab had been the one who killed Absalom, knowing full well that David had commanded the army to save him alive.
Joab’s bloody streak manifested itself three times in his career, when he personally murdered Abner, Absalom, and Amasa. In each case, he disagreed with David, took the law into his own hands, and committed murder.
The first was Abner. Abner was Saul’s general, who became disillusioned with Saul’s son, Ishbosheth and joined David (2 Sam. 3:20). David held a feast for him, and then sent him to Israel to “gather all Israel to my lord the king, that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may be king over all that your soul desires” (2 Sam. 3:21).
Joab and his brother Abishai had been out of town at the time. When they returned and discovered that David had made a covenant with Abner, they were furious, because Abner had previously killed their brother Asahel in combat. Asahel had pursued Abner, and though Abner did not want to fight him, Asahel forced him to defend himself. In the battle, Abner killed Asahel.
So Joab and Abishai wanted revenge for the death of their brother, Asahel. Therefore, they pursued Abner and killed him after David had made a covenant of peace with him (2 Sam. 3:30).
David was angry with them and gave Abner a full military burial with honors, saying in 2 Sam. 3:34,
34 Your hands were not bound, nor your feet put in fetters; as one falls before the wicked, you have fallen.”
Here David called Joab and Asahel “the wicked.” Further, we read,
37 So all the people and all Israel understood that day that it had not been the will of the king to put Abner the son of Ner to death. 38 Then the king said to his servants, “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel? 39 And I am weak today, though anointed king; and these men the sons of Zeruiah are too difficult for me. May the Lord repay the evildoer according to his evil.”
Joab and Asahel were evildoers in this matter. They did not have the same heart toward God as David did. David had been careful not to harm either Saul or Ishbosheth, for he trusted that God would work out His purposes by His sovereign will. But Joab had a heart of revenge, and this disqualified him in the end from being an overcomer who would live into the Kingdom of the Prince of Peace.
The second time that Joab disobeyed David was when he executed Absalom. In 2 Sam. 18:5 “the king charged Joab . . . saying, ‘Deal gently for my sake with the young man, Absalom.’ And all the people heard. . .” When Absalom was found, the people obeyed David, but Joab blamed them for not killing Absalom, saying, “Why then did you not strike him there to the ground? And I would have given you ten pieces of silver and a belt.”
Joab had a military and political perspective which he never subordinated to the will of David. David desired mercy more than anything, but Joab believed that mercy was counterproductive militarily and politically.
When David mourned for his son, Joab scolded him for “loving those who hate you, and hating those who love you” (2 Sam. 19:5). He accused David of preferring that Absalom had lived, and the army of David had died! That, of course, is a typical exaggeration and a half truth.
After Joab killed Absalom, David decided to replace him with Amasa, who had been Absalom’s general. This would solve two problems. It would solve the problem of Joab’s insubordination, and it would serve to reunite the nation of Israel. It would show that David had no intention of punishing the men of Israel who had been politically seduced by Absalom and had joined his revolt.
David said in 2 Sam. 19:13,
13 And say to Amasa, “Are you not my bone and my flesh? May God do so to me, and more also, if you will not be commander of the army before me continually in place of Joab.”
Now Amasa was David’s nephew. Amasa was the son of David’s second sister, Abigail, who had married “Jether the Ishmaelite” (1 Chron. 2:16). David had two sisters, one being the mother of Joab, and the other being the mother of Amasa. Thus, they were both David’s nephews. The revolt of Absalom was as much a family revolt as it was a political revolt.
So David intended to replace his nephew Joab with his other nephew Amasa, the general who had led the revolt under Absalom! Joab was not pleased with this turn of events and began plotting to kill Amasa, justifying himself once again that it was for David’s own good and for the good of Israel as a nation.
Joab soon found opportunity to assassinate his cousin, Amasa. 2 Sam. 20:9, 10 says,
9 And Joab said to Amasa, “Is it well with you, my brother?” And Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. 10 But Amasa was not on guard against the sword which was in Joab’s hand, so he struck him in the belly with it and poured out his inward parts on the ground . . . and he died.
We see that, in a way, Joab betrayed Amasa (and thus David, too) with a kiss, which links him prophetically to Judas in the New Testament. David did nothing about this, but before he died, he instructed Solomon in 1 Kings 2:5,6,
5 Now you also know what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, what he did to the two commanders of the armies of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner, and to Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed; he also shed the blood of war in peace. And he put the blood of war on his belt about his waist, and on his sandals on his feet. 6 So act according to your wisdom, and do not let his gray hair go down to Sheol in peace.
Here David did not charge Joab with the death of Absalom, because technically Absalom was killed in time of war. But Joab had killed Abner and Amasa in a time of peace after David had made peace with them. There was absolutely no excuse for Joab’s actions. Though David did not bring Joab to justice at the time, he knew that Joab was disqualified as one of the Davidic company of overcomers.
Many have heard that David was a man of war and had shed blood (1 Chorn. 28:3) and that for this reason God would not allow him to build the temple. While that was certainly true, David also had a heart of mercy, and Joab thought David was too reluctant to shed blood. David had not executed Amnon, and Absalom convinced the people that there was no justice in the land as long as David was king (2 Sam. 15:3-6).
But David had learned the hard way that justice must be tempered with mercy. He understood that often it was better to appeal a case to the Divine Court in heaven and leave matters to Divine justice. Many of the people did not understand his apparent lack of action, but David had absolute faith in the sovereignty of God and His ability to bring true justice in the end.
Now keep in mind that if Absalom represents the chief priests of the Jews who usurped the throne of Jesus Christ, then Amasa must be a prophetic type of the ordinary Jews who actually carried out the will of their leaders (Absalom). Joab himself represents those today who hate the Jews and want to kill them for helping their leaders usurp the throne of Christ. Such people disagree with Jesus and do not share His love for all men. Such people are disqualified from being overcomers, along with Joab.
Abiathar Disqualified as an Overcomer
Adonijah had the backing of Abiathar, the high priest, who was the last of the line of Eli to hold the high priesthood. Like Joab, Abiathar had remained faithful to David during the revolt of Absalom (2 Sam. 15:23-29), but (again like Joab) he betrayed David when he backed the coronation of Adonijah instead of Solomon (1 Kings 1:7).
This, then, became the incident where the prophecy to Eli came to pass, that his descendants would be removed from the high priesthood (1 Sam. 2:27-36). This prophecy had been given about 95 years earlier, but it could not come to pass until this final incident disqualified Abiathar.
Abiathar represents those Christians who remain faithful to Jesus Christ in the New Testament dispute over the throne rights. In other words, Abiathar represents the Christian priesthood who have faith in Jesus insofar as His first coming is concerned. The problem, however, is associated with the second coming of Christ that is represented by the coronation of Solomon, the Prince of Peace. Even as Abiathar ultimately backed Adonijah, who was a second usurper, so also has much of the Church backed the present-day usurpers in the time of the second coming of Christ.
This is why it is so vital to know who today are the ones who are truly called to rule in the Age to come. Just as the Jews contested Jesus’ right to rule in His first coming, so also is there a second revolt in modern times, wherein the Zionists have stolen the birthright of Joseph (and the name Israel that was given to him). The Zionist movement itself is prophesied by Adonijah and who is represented by Solomon.
But ultimately, Abiathar was replaced, according to the prophecy given by the man of God in the days of Eli.
Eli was of the dynasty from Phinehas, with whom God had made a covenant in the days of Moses. Num. 25:11-13 tells us,
11 Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away My wrath . . . so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy. 12 Therefore say, “Behold, I give him My covenant of peace; 13 and it shall be for him and his descendants after him, a covenant of a perpetual [olam, “age-abiding,” an unknown or an indefinite period of time] priesthood. . .”
In the days of Eli, the man of God prophesied an end of this supposedly “perpetual” priesthood. (The KJV uses the term “everlasting.”) Obviously, the term cannot mean “everlasting,” unless we are willing to make God a liar for bringing his dynasty to an end.
The priesthood of Phinehas corrupted itself by the time of Eli and his sons (1 Sam. 2:22). For this reason, God replaced his dynasty with that of Zadok in the days of Solomon (1 Kings 2:27, 35). This replacement prophesied of the greater replacement yet to come, when God replaced the Aaronic Order with that of Melchizedek. Zadok was obviously a type of Melchi-Zadok (Melchizedek).
This replacement was made in the coronation that took place in Acts 2, when God created a Pentecostal Church and Pentecostal priesthood, which was supposed to function as a Melchizedek Order under Jesus Christ, its High Priest. However, over the years, the Church slowly reverted back to Old Covenant practices and corrupted itself, even as Eli’s sons had been corrupt under the Aaronic Order.
For this reason, there is a secondary disqualification yet in the making. Since Pentecost is a leavened feast (Lev. 23:17), this should not be surprising. The bottom line is that the Order of Melchizedek yet must be empowered as “priests of God and of Christ” (Rev. 20:6). They are the ones represented by Zadok, even as the corrupted order under Pentecost is disqualified as was Abiathar.