How To Get A Head Through Negotiation

They came and besieged him in Abel Beth- maacah, and they cast up a siege ramp against the city, and it stood by the rampart; and all the people who were with Joab were wreaking destruction in order to topple the wall. (2 Samuel 20:15 NASB)

Joab replied, “Far be it, far be it from me that I should swallow up or destroy!  Such is not the case. But a man from the hill country of Ephraim, Sheba the son of Bichri by name, has lifted up his hand against King David. Only hand him over, and I will depart from the city.” And the woman said to Joab, “Behold, his head will be thrown to you over the wall.” (2 Samuel 20:20-21 NASB)

One of the most difficult things any US Administration faces is negotiations in the Middle East.  It  seems to be one of the most difficult places for people to get along.  Whether because of oil or religion, or even different people-groups, it seems that there is always turmoil in the Middle East.  In some wars early in Israel’s 20th Century history, they used tactics from Scripture to form their battle plans.  I wonder if we can find negotiation strategies in there too?

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The Gutless General

When they were at the large stone which is in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Now Joab was dressed in his military attire, and over it was a belt with a sword in its sheath fastened at his waist; and as he went forward, it fell out.  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 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 did not strike him again, and he died. Then Joab and Abishai his brother pursued Sheba the son of Bichri. (2 Samuel 20:8-10 NASB)

There are times that I really wish the Biblical writers had included more detail.  Then there are times, like here, where they include a lot of detail, and it doesn’t help; I still don’t get it.  This used to bother me, but the more I read commentaries, I realize we all struggle imagining just what happened here.  In addition to the few things we surmise, there are a few things we actually know.

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Rebuilding Burnt ‘Emotional’ Bridges

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. ‘” Thus he turned the hearts of all the men of Judah as one man, so that they sent word to the king, saying, “Return, you and all your servants.” (2 Samuel 19:13,14 NASB)

David, you’ve just won the battle against your rebellious son and all of Israel.  What are you going to do now?  Well, whatever he should have done, could have done, or might have done; what he did was ball his eyes out demoralizing his faithful victorious troops, sit in the gate to cheer them up, send word to Judah to rebuild relationships, and sort of forgave his enemies all around.  But it’s not really clear whether this is one of David’s shining moments or not.

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The Man With The Dangerously Big Head

Now Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. For Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. And his head caught fast in the oak, so he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him kept going (2 Samuel 18:9 NASB)

I had a friend ask me where I come up with these titles.  I’m not sure.  I suppose when I imagine a guy riding a mule going under a tree, getting his head stuck in the tree, and the mule continuing on, leaving the man hanging from the tree; I’m likely to suspect his head was too big.  The irony of the term applied to Absalom also makes it very attractive, almost as attractive as he thought he was.  See, it just works so well on too many levels.

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Wait, he’s who again?

Absalom set Amasa over the army in place of Joab. Now Amasa was the son of a man whose name was Ithra the Israelite, who went in to Abigail the daughter of Nahash, sister of Zeruiah, Joab’s mother. (2 Samuel 17:25 NASB)

Have you ever listened to some guy’s story about somebody he knows, and after getting lost in the details realize he has no idea who this guy is either?  The basic issue here is that Abigail’s and Zeruiah’s father wasn’t Nahash but Jesse (or was supposed to be).  That made Joab David’s nephew, which may be the only reason David let him live.

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