The conspiracy that was instigated by David’s son Absalom undermined David’s confidence in the loyalty of his closest advisors. Second Samuel 17:25 tells us, “Absalom had set Amasa over the army instead of Joab. Amasa was the son of a man named Ithra the Ishmaelite, who had married Abigail the daughter of Nahash, sister of Zeruiah, Joab’s mother.” Because Joab killed Absalom after David gave him strict orders not to, David decided to make Amasa commander of his army instead of Joab after he returned to Jerusalem and was restored to his position of King of Israel. It says in 2 Samuel 19:8-15:
Now Israel had fled every man to his own home. And all the people were arguing throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “The king delivered us from the hand of our enemies and saved us from the hand of the Philistines, and now he has fled out of the land from Absalom. But Absalom, whom we anointed over us, is dead in battle. Now therefore why do you say nothing about bringing the king back?”
And King David sent this message to Zadok and Abiathar the priests: “Say to the elders of Judah, ‘Why should you be the last to bring the king back to his house, when the word of all Israel has come to the king?You are my brothers; you are my bone and my flesh. Why then should you be the last to bring back the king?’ And say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my bone and my flesh? God do so to me and more also, if you are not commander of my army from now on in place of Joab.’” And he swayed the heart of all the men of Judah as one man, so that they sent word to the king, “Return, both you and all your servants.” So the king came back to the Jordan, and Judah came to Gilgal to meet the king and to bring the king over the Jordan.
David’s strategy of winning back the loyalty of his tribesmen was successful, but a division among the tribes of Israel had already begun to erode the unity that had been a mark of David’s reign as king. After David had crossed the Jordan, 2 Samuel 20:1-2 states, “Now there happened to be there a worthless man, whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjamite. And he blew the trumpet and said, ‘We have no portion in David, and we have no inheritance in the son of Jesse; every man to his tents, O Israel!’ So all the men of Israel withdrew from David and followed Sheba the son of Bichri. But the men of Judah followed their king steadfastly from the Jordan to Jerusalem.”
Sheba’s statement had particular significance with regard to Israel’s Messiah. Sheba said, “We have no portion in David, and we have no inheritance in the son of Jesse” (2 Samuel 20:1). The words portion and inheritance were likely intended to refer to the blessing that Jacob’s son Judah received at the time of Jacob’s death. Jacob said, “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s cub: from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Genesis 49:8-10). “This verse does not mean that there will be a continuous reign by the descendants of Judah but merely that their line will retain a permanent right to rule. It is generally regarded as messianic prophecy” (note on Genesis 49:10). Isaiah’s prophecy of the “righteous reign of the branch” (Isaiah 11) refers to Israel’s Messiah as both a stump and root of Jesse (verses. 1 and 10), the name of David’s father. In one of his sermons, the Apostle Paul identified David, the son of Jesse, as the progenitor of Israel’s Messiah. Paul said, “Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my own heart, who will do all my will.’ Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised” (Acts 13:21-23).
Israel’s rejection of David was the first step in a progression of events that resulted in Jesus’ crucifixion. Likewise, the generosity of Barzillai the Gileadite in taking care of David’s needs while he was in exile (2 Samuel 19:32), established the basis of Jesus’ judgment of the world. Jesus told his disciples, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:31-35). The Apostle John talked about support and opposition in his final letter which he addressed to “the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth” (3 John 1:1). “Originally from Macedonia, Gaius was one of Paul’s companions who was seized during the riot perpetuated by opponents of the gospel in Ephesus (Acts 19:29). He was also among those who accompanied Paul to Jerusalem, perhaps as an official delegate of his church in Derbe, and was a member of the party that awaited the apostle at Troas (Acts 20:4, 5). He was baptized by Paul in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:14). His house was used as a regular meeting place for the congregation and Paul stayed with him during one of his visits from Corinth (Romans 16:23). John commended Gaius for his gracious hospitality (v. 5) and expressed his desire to see him soon (v. 14)” (note on 3 John 1:1).
John went on in his letter to single out a man that was causing trouble in the church. John said, “I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church” (3 John 1:9-10). “Diotrephes was an ambitious person who resisted the authority of the elders in the church. He attacked them publicly and forbade the reception of John and his followers. He excluded those who received them, perhaps by formal excommunication or by physical violence” (note on 3 John 1:9). John said that Diotrephes was “talking wicked nonsense” (3 John 1:10). The Greek words that John used, logos (logˊ-os) poneros (pon-ay-rosˊ) phluareo (floo-ar-ehˊ-o) indicate that Diotrephes was using the word of God in a hurtful or evil manner. Diotrephes’ position in the church enabled him to control the other members’ behavior. Diotrephes stopped those who wanted to welcome John into their congregation by excommunicating them (3 John 1:10).
Joab undermined David’s effort to reunite his kingdom by killing Amasa, the man David appointed to take his place as commander of Israel’s army (2 Samuel 19:13). It says in 2 Samuel 20:4-10:
Then the king said to Amasa, “Call the men of Judah together to me within three days, and be here yourself.” So Amasa went to summon Judah, but he delayed beyond the set time that had been appointed him. And David said to Abishai, “Now Sheba the son of Bichri will do us more harm than Absalom. Take your lord’s servants and pursue him, lest he get himself to fortified cities and escape from us. ”And there went out after him Joab’s men and the Cherethites and the Pelethites, and all the mighty men. They went out from Jerusalem to pursue Sheba the son of Bichri. When they were at the great stone that is in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Now Joab was wearing a soldier’s garment, and over it was a belt with a sword in its sheath fastened on his thigh, and as he went forward it fell out. 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. But Amasa did not observe the sword that was in Joab’s hand. So Joab struck him with it in the stomach and spilled his entrails to the ground without striking a second blow, and he died.
Joab’s act of treachery gave him the ability to reestablish himself as the commander of Israel’s army without David’s approval. After the head of Sheba the son of Bichri was thrown to Joab over the wall where he sought refuge, 2 Samuel 20:23 tells us, “Now Joab was in command of all the army of Israel; and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was in command of the Cherethites and the Pelethites.”
David’s final instructions to his son Solomon reveal that even though David didn’t trust or respect Joab, he allowed Joab to remain in command of his army until Solomon succeeded him as king. David told Solomon, “Moreover, you also know what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, how he dealt with the two commanders of the armies of Israel, Abner the son of Ner, and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed, avenging in time of peace for blood that had been shed in war, and putting the blood of war on the belt around his waist and on the sandals on his feet. Act therefore according to your wisdom, but do not let his grey head go down to Sheol in peace. But deal loyally with the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table, for with such loyalty they met me when I fled from Absalom your brother” (1 Kings 2:5-7). David distinguished Joab, who had led Israel’s army during his entire reign, from Barzillai the Gileadite who had shown him kindness when he fled from Absalom, by the loyalty or disloyalty that each man demonstrated toward him. The Hebrew word that David used which is translated loyalty in 1 Kings 2:7 is chesed (khehˊ-sed). “The classic text for understanding the significance of this word is Psalm 136 where it is used twenty-six times to proclaim that God’s kindness and love are eternal. The psalmist made it clear that God’s kindness and faithfulness serves as the foundation for His actions and His character…The entire span of creation to God’s redemption, preservation, and permanent establishment is touched upon in this psalm. It all happened, is happening, and will continue to happen because of the Lord’s covenant faithfulness and kindness” (H2617). David’s distinction between his friend and his foe was similar to the Son of Man’s distinction between the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:33), David based his judgment of the two men on their resemblance to God’s character.