2 Samuel, chapters 19-21

Chapter twenty relates to us how Joab ambitiously regained the position of chief military commander and incurred God’s wrath.

After Joab disobeyed King David by killing his son, David fired Joab and gave his job to Amasa (2 Sam. 18:12-14; 19:13).

Amasa had previously served as the commander in the insurgent army (2 Sam. 17:25).

When the two men met to chase down a new insurgent, Joab tricked Amasa and ran his sword through him.

“Joab said to Amasa: ‘Are you all right, my brother?’ Then with his right hand, Joab took hold of Amasa’s beard as if to kiss him. Amasa was not on guard against the sword that was in Joab’s hand, and Joab stabbed him with it in the abdomen […]” (2 Sam. 20:9,10).

Thus, by the end of the story, we are told that “Joab was in charge of all the army of Israel,” (2 Sam. 20:23).

Joab allowed his zeal for his job as David’s right-hand man to turn into self-centered ambition.

This disproportionate ambition led him to commit at least two murders and participate in at least one other (2 Sam. 3:27; 11:16,17).

Eventually, Joab was held accountable for his evil deeds (1 Kings 2:31-33).

What we learn from this story is that while zeal for attaining greater privileges in God’s service is commendable, one should not allow that zeal to turn into selfish ambition.

An overly ambitious attitude could lead us to give priority to a personal agenda rather than to obeying God’s theocratic arrangements.

When we ignore God’s instructions handed to us through the congregation in order to protect our self-interests, we wind up hurting others and displeasing Jehovah (Heb. 13:17).

Deuteronomy, chapters 19-22

“If someone is found slain in a field of the land that Jehovah your God is giving you to possess and it is not known who killed him, […] the elders of that city should lead the young cow down to a valley running with water where no tilling or sowing of seed has been done, and they should break the neck of the young cow there in the valley.”

~Deuteronomy 21:1, 4

To be honest, this passage shook my faith.

Why did the young cow have to suffer punishment if it had nothing to do with the murder?

Under the law, if the community did nothing about the murder, the elders of that community could be held accountable by God as having blood on their hands (De. 21:8; De. 22:8).

The ceremony with the heifer provided a concrete way of demonstrating to everyone in the surrounding areas that the murder had been officially investigated and remained unsolved.

The passage explains:

“Then all the elders of the city who are nearest to the dead body should wash their hands over the young cow whose neck was broken in the valley, and they should declare, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it shed. “‘Do not hold this against your people Israel, whom you redeemed, O Jehovah, and do not let guilt for innocent blood remain among your people Israel.'”Then the bloodguilt will not be held against them.”In this way you will remove the guilt of innocent blood from your midst by doing what is right in Jehovah’s eyes.”(De. 21:6-9)

If the murderer was later identified, he (or she) would still have to die on account of his (or her) actions (Nu. 35:30-33).

After discussing this bygone law with a brother in my congregation, he reminded me that sacrifices under Mosaic Law foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice: that of Christ (Heb. 10:5-10).

And like the innocent heifer whose life was taken as a result of human-spun injustice, so was Christ’s life taken as a result of humanity’s wrongdoings (Heb. 9:12-14).

The principle involved in this law is that human life is precious and its loss needs to be atoned.

We see the modern-day application of this principle when a congregation forms a committee to investigate the cause of death that was a result of one of its member’s actions.

For example, if the death was a result of a traffic accident, was the congregation member speeding? Was he (or she) distracted?

In such a case, the body of elders holds a judicial case in which they may decide to limit the member’s privilege to participate in certain activities (Matt. 18:15, 16; Gal. 6:7; 1 Pet. 3:16; 5:3).