The servant rushed into the palace panting from exhaustion and exclaimed, “I have found him, your Majesty!”
“Where is he?” Solomon urged.
“He was found kneeling in the sacred tent, your Majesty,” the servant gasped for air then continued, “clinging to the horns of the altar.”
“Benaiah!” beckoned Solomon as Benaiah immediately hastened to kneel before his sovereign. “You have heard where Joab has fled. My father instructed me to make sure his gray head didn’t go to the grave in peace. So now go and strike him down! He must pay for the innocent blood he has shed in the land of Israel.”
“Yes, your majesty.” Benaiah bowed and then hastily exited to carry out the king’s solemn command.
Solomon had issued the royal decree. Joab, his cousin, would die. His countenance diminished as he contemplated the decision. So many in his family had already perished over the tumultuous years of intrafamily strife. Now he had authorized one more death.
The sound of footsteps entering the king’s chamber roused Solomon’s attention. Nathan the prophet appeared. Though Nathan’s voice quivered from age, it still carried the melody of wisdom. “May I speak with your majesty?”
“Yes, my dear friend,” Solomon promptly concurred. “I would greatly appreciate your conversation.” Solomon motioned to a servant who hurriedly brought in an ornate chair for the distinguished prophet.
“The decisions of a king are not easy, are they my Lord?”
“No, Nathan, they certainly are not. I so want to serve God like my father and not in petty vengeance as Saul before him.”
“And do you feel you are doing so?” probed Nathan.
“I believe I am. Yet, I question my motives for executing Joab. You know how he conspired with Adonijah against me. Am I truly cleansing the land with his execution or am I simply appeasing a craving for personal revenge?”
“Seek the LORD, Solomon. He will reveal your heart.”
At that moment, Benaiah burst through the chamber doors with an anxious look upon his face. Both Solomon and Nathan snapped into focus on him, anticipating his news.
“Your Majesty,” a troubled Benaiah reported, “Joab refuses to leave the sacred tent!”
Solomon shifted his eyes toward Nathan who responded with a subtle upward glance toward the heavens before descending again upon Solomon’s inquisitive gaze. Solomon immediately grasped Nathan’s suggestion and bowed his head in a silent prayer.
“Lord, you have placed me over Your people and I want to rule with righteousness rather than petty selfish preservation. Joab wronged my father and me but he also wronged You by shedding the blood of Abner and Amasa in peacetime. You demand that a murderer pay for his crime with his life. Thus, may Your will be done.”
“Sire, what would you have me do?” Benaiah queried.
Solomon lifted his head and with a sober but confident tone issued the command, “Strike him down in the tent if that’s where he wants to die.” Nathan quietly nodded in affirmation knowing the difficulty of Solomon’s decision, even though the Torah itself confirmed it.
Benaiah entered the sacred tent carrying the weight of a royal decree. Joab refused to turn and face Benaiah and instead held fast to the altar. The sweat beaded on Joab’s trembling flesh as the muscular tension throughout his body took its toll. Benaiah stealthily raised his sword above Joab’s humiliated form and bore down upon him with the righteous vindication of God in one conclusive stroke.
Joab–nephew of David, cousin of Solomon, slayer of innocent men, and traitor of the king, crumpled to the floor. The stain of innocent blood had finally been removed from David’s kingdom.
Benaiah, after removing the soulless shell of flesh from the sacred tent, returned to Solomon. “Your bidding has been carried out your majesty.”
“Very well, Benaiah. Make sure Joab receives a proper burial,” the honorable King of Israel replied.
Solomon bowed his head slightly to shield Benaiah’s view from the tears pooling in the corners of his eyes. The arduous ascension to Israel’s throne had sapped Solomon’s emotional reserves. David’s conflicted family had suffered so deeply from betrayal and bloodshed over the years and Solomon had seen enough. Perhaps now there could be peace. Perhaps now the land was cleansed. Perhaps now the people of Israel would experience the fullness of God’s blessing.
In the solemnity of that moment Solomon whispered a prayer, “LORD, grant me the wisdom to make it so. Amen.”
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