In the Middle East, “tells” are large mounds of hill-sized dirt across the landscape that are the remains of ancient cities built upon each other. One of these mounds is identified as Abel Beth-maacah, and this city is going to figure into our study.
David, Absalom, and Sheba
In II Samuel 15 we read of Absalom planning a rebellion to usurp the throne from his father David, who flees for a time. However, in chapter 17, David’s forces combat Absalom’s, and Absalom dies in this battle. However, all is not yet well, and a man named Sheba leads a rebellion in chapter 20. David’s men pursue Sheba to Abel Beth-maacah – the town from which Absalom’s mother came. This results in Abel Beth-maacah being besieged by Joab and his men, but chapter 20:16 records a wise woman appeals to Joab regarding the heritage of her city.
In her description, the wise woman describes Abel Beth-maacah as a place of counsel and settlings. It is a place that acts a mother to Israel, a city interested in peace. This appeal takes Joab aback, and he explains the situation to the wise woman, resulting in Sheba’s head being delivered to David’s troops.
Brethren Fighting Brethren
The wise woman describes the travesty of brethren infighting. There is shame implicit in such troubles. In the New Testament, Galatians 5:14-15 warns us against biting and devouring one another, instead loving each other as ourselves. This spiritual cannibalism can lead to our own destruction, as Joab nearly destroyed Abel Beth-maacah.
If this state of turmoil exists, we fail in our role as a place of reconciliation and peace. We will no longer be place people will seek out for solace and comfort. We cannot offer a spiritual inheritance to the lost if we are consumed in infighting. Just as the wise woman points out the shame of brother fighting against brother, the same is true today if we hold enmity and grudges against our spiritual family.
Far be it from us to fail in being what God would have us to be. We need to be gracious and merciful toward each other, forgiving before judgmental. We should maintain that second-mile mentality Jesus speaks about in the sermon on the mount. Our lives should be characterized by peace and kindness, and, as Joab was unwilling to tear down and devour his brothers, we should likewise seek peace among our brethren.
lesson by Tim Smelser