In the previous blog post, we learned about the loyalty of Uriah the Hittite to King David. We got an idea of the lengths Uriah went to in order to remain faithful to David. In this blog post, we are going to dig deeper into Uriah’s loyalty not only toward his king, but also his commanding officer Joab.
According to 2 Samuel 11:16, Joab had assigned Uriah to a place in Rabbah where he knew were valiant men. He had done this to obey David’s commandment.
2 Samuel 11:15 – And he [David] wrote in the letter, saying, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die.”
As per the verse given above, Joab may have retreated from Uriah as David commanded him. But God did not let Uriah die in the place where he was assigned to, even when Joab had retreated from him. Uriah may have only died when the men of Rabbah came out to the field to fight with Joab.
2 Samuel 11:17 – And the men of the city went out, and fought with Joab: and there fell some of the people of the servants of David; and Uriah the Hittite died also.
2 Samuel 11:23 – And the messenger said to David, “Surely the men prevailed against us and came out to us in the field; then we drove them back as far as the entrance of the gate.
Now, there could be two interpretations of 2 Samuel 11:17, with regard to how and where Uriah died during the battle in Rabbah.
Interpretation 1: Men of Rabbah directly attacked Joab
David and Joab may have had thought that the Ammonites in Rabbah would initially, and more fiercely, fight the Israeli soldiers positioned at the place in the battlefield where Uriah was assigned to. But if we take the literal meaning of the verse 2 Samuel 11:17, it could be said that the men of Rabbah came out straight to Joab to fight with him.
This could be despite Joab retreating from Uriah and moving to a place where the battle was less fierce or not as hot as where Uriah was stationed at. If it is true that the men of Rabbah had directly attacked Joab, Uriah could have avoided getting exposed to the hottest battle and instead played it safe.
Yes, Uriah was one of David’s “Mighty Men of War” who were brave, mighty, and intelligent. He was ready to give his life for David and Israel. But when Joab retreated from Uriah, it may have given a wrong signal to Uriah or Uriah may have smelled something fishy.
Joab and Uriah may have fought several battles shoulder to shoulder. And Joab suddenly retreating from Uriah in the battlefield may have given an unusual feeling to Uriah. Moreover, Uriah’s strategic mind of a warrior may have not been convinced about Joab’s move to retreat from him.
Who knows, Joab may have had discussed a different war plan before the start of the battle, and retreating from Uriah may have never been part of the plan. Not to forget, an army leader always leads the battle and does not leave his army on their own. But Joab made a different move.
Despite all these factors, Uriah chose to fight the men of Rabbah who came out to fight with Joab. Obviously, not all the men may have had directly and only fought with Joab, but most of them. Furthermore, Joab may have been caught up in the hottest battle or found himself surrounded by most of the men.
Whichever the case, Uriah selflessly fought the men of Rabbah who may have attacked Joab directly. He may have died saving Joab’s life or fighting the men. Remember, 2 Samuel 11:17 says “and there fell” some of the people of David’s servants, and Uriah also died.
This verse indicates that Uriah may not have died in the place where the valiant men of Rabbah were or where he was assigned to. But he may have died when the men of Rabbah came out to the field to fight with Joab. The phrase “and there fell” tells us that he may have died in the place where the men of the city were fighting with Joab, not where Uriah was stationed at.
This is remarkable: in terms of Uriah’s loyalty to David, faithfulness toward Joab, willingness to fulfill his responsibility as a soldier, and his bravery. What a warrior!
Interpretation 2: Men of Rabbah first attacked Uriah, then Joab
David and Joab may have miscalculated their moves with regard to getting Uriah killed by the hands of the Ammonites in Rabbah. They may have also underestimated the capability of Uriah as a warrior.
Why do I say “underestimated the capability of Uriah as a warrior”? Well, when the men of Rabbah came out to the field to fight with Joab, they could have first encountered Uriah since he was positioned at the forefront of the battle. This is my second interpretation of the situation.
Moreover, Uriah had been positioned in a place where there were valiant men of Rabbah.
2 Samuel 11:16 – And it came to pass, when Joab observed the city, that he assigned Uriah unto a place where he knew that valiant men were.
As explained earlier, Uriah may not have died in the place he was positioned, but where Joab was fighting with the men of the city. If this is true, he had managed to fend off or eliminate the valiant men, then run back to kill the men who were fighting with Joab.
Why do I say, “run back”? It’s because Joab had retreated from Uriah, and Uriah may have been left alone or probably with a few fellow soldiers (and obviously you don’t take a stroll in a battlefield, you run around). So, if my second interpretation is true, it took a lot to get Uriah killed. He was a tough warrior.
David and Joab may have had thought Uriah would get killed by the valiant men of Rabbah. But they were wrong. Furthermore, we should factor in the presence of archers in Rabbah and Uriah’s ability to even dodge them or survive their arrows.
Remember, Uriah had been positioned at the forefront of the hottest battle. So, he may have not only encountered the valiant men of Rabbah, but also the Ammonite archers of the city. Being at the forefront of a battle, Uriah could have been in the range of the archers or in close proximity to them.
But Uriah may have neither died by the hands of Rabbah’s valiant men nor their archers on the city wall. As explained earlier, he may have died when the men of the city fought with Joab. 2 Samuel 11:17 clearly says the men of Rabbah came out to fight with Joab, “and there” Uriah died along with some of the people of the servants of David.
And remember, Joab had not been fighting in the same place where Uriah was stationed at, because he had already retreated from Uriah. Joab was not at the forefront of the battle, but Uriah was. They were fighting in two different areas of the battlefield.
Was Joab displeased with Uriah’s death? If yes, why?
Joab may have been displeased with what happened with Uriah and some of David’s servants during the war in Rabbah. This could actually be the fifth red flag that David should have considered to avoid getting further involved in the sin with Bathsheba. Read my previous blog post to know the other four red flags.
2 Samuel 11:25 – Then David said to the messenger, “Thus you shall say to Joab: ‘Do not let this thing displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another. Strengthen your attack against the city, and overthrow it.’ So encourage him.”
If we take the meaning of the phrase “fought with Joab” in 2 Samuel 11:17 in the literal sense, it could be said that Joab may have regretted or felt guilty of getting Uriah killed. Why? Because Uriah may have died saving Joab from the men of Rabbah or fighting the men who attacked Joab.
Besides, Joab may have felt bad for Uriah. This is because despite Joab retreating from him, Uriah had continued to fulfill his duty as a soldier and stay loyal to his commanding officer Joab. Furthermore, Joab may have been displeased with the way David wanted to get rid of Uriah after sleeping with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba.
Joab may also have been displeased because of the death of one of his loyal soldiers and David’s Mighty Men of War. Lastly, he may have been displeased to see the death of some of David’s servants who died along with Uriah in the battle.
David’s attitude toward the death of Uriah and some of his servants is worth taking note of. He literally tells the messenger to tell Joab not to be displeased with the death of Uriah and some of the king’s servants because people die by the sword in a war.
David may have been wanting to say that it’s normal for people to die in a war and there’s nothing to be displeased about. Nobody is going to find out about what David and Joab had planned to get Uriah killed. And let’s just say Uriah sacrificed himself for the country.
The devil does the same thing to encourage people to commit sin and feel okay about it. He keeps people away from the conviction of sin, by the Holy Spirit. He downplays the situation and waters down the severity of sin and its consequences.
For example, the devil may deceive you saying:
- “It’s okay to lose virginity before marriage. Who is a virgin these days anyway?”
- “Everybody drinks alcohol and everybody smokes. You can too.”
- “Every marriage has problems. Your marriage is no different.”
- “One drag won’t make you addicted to this drug.”
- “You’re an adult. You can watch this. God understands your physical needs. For a matter of fact, He made your body.”
Did Uriah die an honorable death?
Interestingly, if the two interpretations discussed above are correct, Uriah may have actually not fallen prey to David’s plan to get him killed by the Ammonites in Rabbah. As explained earlier, Uriah may have survived the attack of valiant men and archers on the city wall. He may have only died when and where the men of the city fought with Joab.
This tells us that Uriah may have died honorably, fighting for his king and country, and not because of David’s carefully crafted plan to get Uriah killed. Having said that, God still considered David as someone who killed Uriah.
2 Samuel 12:9 – Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon.
If Uriah may have died an honorable death, why did God say David killed Uriah? Because David had not only made an attempt to kill Uriah, but he had also pre-planned Uriah’s killing. Moreover, God sees the heart.
1 John 3:15 – Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
John 8:44 – You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.
Job 24:14 – The murderer rises with the light; he kills the poor and needy; and in the night he is like a thief (according to 2 Samuel 11:14, David wrote a letter to Joab in the morning to get Uriah killed).
James 4:2 – Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
Matthew 15:19 – For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
Matthew 5:21,22 – “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.