Zeal of The Sons of Zeruiah, Grace and Mercy of King David
Hidden in the stories of King David and his triumphs, victories and setbacks are the stories of the three sons Zeruiah. Who are these three men and why are they important to the Davidic Kingdom? What, if any parallels exist between then and some of Jesus’ disciples? What can we learn from their lives?
“The three sons of Zeruiah were: Joab, Abishai, and Asahel. Now Asahel was fleet-footed as a wild gazelle.” 2 Samuel 2:18
Obviously, these men were important because a whole verse mentions them, and describes one of them, Asahel as swift-footed as a gazelle. Who was Zeruiah? Zeruiah was one of David’s sisters the other being Abigail. Most likely Zeruiah was older than David, because we see these three helping David in his hidden years and in the early years of his reign. Nevertheless, they were part of his family, which is important in how he deals with them.
The sons of Zeruiah were zealous to serve their king. Perhaps it was family loyalty or tribal duty, all being of the tribe of Judah, but whatever the case we find them always popping up to do the kings bidding as valiant, mighty men. However, we also see that unlike their uncle they lack necessary qualities all leaders, especially ‘new covenant’ leaders, need, mainy grace and mercy, or at least discerning when to demonstrate such, especially to the enemy.
What follows the verse above is Asahel’s pursuit of one of Saul’s generals who was of the tribe of Benjamin, by the name of Abner. Eventually after Asahel catches up to Abner he is warned to turn back, but without heeding Abner’s advice he succumbs to Abner’s knife, and death. Zealous for David and the kingdom but had he turned back as the story unfolds, he would have eventually gained a loyal ally. What ensued was Joab and Abishai avenging their brothers death by murdering Abner. David mourned Abner’s death. David is innocent of Abner’s death.
2 Samuel 3:28 “I and my Kingdom ae innocent before the Lord forever of the blood of Abner, son of Ner.”
2 Samuel 3:39 “And I am weak today, though anointed king; and these men, the sons of Zeruiah are too difficult for mean. May the Lord repay the evil doer according to his evil.”
Joab and Abishai wanted to avenge their brother’s death at all cost. Likewise they wanted to serve David well. Joab was the first to enter the Jebusite stronghold we know as Jerusalem and became the first in command of David’s army. Later, when David mourns Absalom’s death it is Joab who encourages David to go to his servants who had stood with him while he was on the run from Absalom. It is Abishai who wants to kill Shimai who cursed David when they were leaving Jerusalem from Absalom, and layer still wants to kill Shimai when he comes and repents before David.
2 Samuel 19:22 “ What have I to do with you O sons of Zeruiah, that you should this day be an adversary to me? Should any man in Israel be put to death today? For do I not know that I am king over Israel today?”
David demonstrated started grace and mercy to his enemies time and time again. On the day he regained his kingdom David does not see the point in any more death. There is a time for punishment, discipline and there is also a time for grace and mercy. Their are other examples but I want to look at Jesus and his disciples.
In Luke chapter nine beginning in verse 51 James and John aka “the sons of thunder” want to call fire down on some Samaritans simply because they did not receive Jesus. Jesus tells them that they do not know what ‘spirit they are of. It is interesting the same John the beloved who ‘leaned on Jesus’ at the Last Supper and his brother who was one of the first martyrs in the early church, are here being told ‘you don’t know what spirit you are of. Later, Peter is rebuke by Jesus and He tells the spirit behind certain statements to ‘get behind Him.’ Perhaps on those days Jesus was, at least as a man wearied like David by those closest to Him.
Maybe we are like the sons of Zeruiah and the sons of Thunder or Peter. We are close to Jesus, and we sit at His feet and we want to please Him, but we are so quick to call fire down on someone who cuts us off on the highway, or we want to take revenge for those who wrong us, instead of showing grace and mercy and letting the Lord dispense justice on our behalf. We should all appreciate the zeal with which Davids commanders, and likewise Jesus’ disciples show in serving and wanting only the best for the king and the kingdom. Yet we need to be like David and Jesus and gain discernment when to dispense mercy and grace. After all didn’t God the Father do that for us?
There are times we need to step out and not let others step on us or run over us. We need to speak up and speak out, but at the end of the day we are just vessels and must be led by the ‘Spirit’ which requires first being born again and filled with the ‘Spirit of God.” This is the kingdom of God and David first demonstrated that there are times where one should just smile and say not today. I am going to act with grace, and show the love of Jesus. Let us temper that zeal towards the enemy, that is the spirit behind whatever we face. Grace and Blessings to you!