Friday, July 2, 2010

the wise woman of Tekoa & King David: a theory

Sometimes, when I read the Messianic prophecies in context, I wonder how much context can really have to do with anything, no matter what my college education pounded into my head. Doubtless, in those cases, I just don't have a wide enough view in order to really get the context.

However, this week I read something in the Old Testament that wasn't, I don't think, an actual Messianic prophecy, but that certainly sounds like one out of context. Read this, and see what you think it's talking about:

"For we will surely die and are like water spilled on the ground which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away life, but plans devices so that the banished one will not be cast out from him."

So poignant. Doesn't that sound like a Messianic prophecy? Yet it's not. It's part of the wise woman of Tekoa's plea to King David to let his banished son Absalom back into Jerusalem. It seems to be, as far as it goes, not about anyone at all, except Absalom and David.

Yet . . . the account says that it was Joab who, as the woman says, "put all these words into the mouth of your maidservant." Joab, longtime servant of King David. Really, a character worth studying in his own right: steadfast, yet tricksy; on the right side, yet with a terrifying hard-hearted streak. But a man who had been with the king for years and years, doubtless soaking up all of the king's words with intelligent attention.

And he "put all these words" into the woman of Tekoa's mouth, in order to convince David of what he thought was best to be done: bringing Absalom back to Jerusalem. Isn't it possible that Joab - being the man he was - was wise enough himself to know that what would best convince David was a bit of David's own theology in a stranger's mouth?

Because the argument is: "God makes strange devices in order to save the hopeless man. You, then, should imitate God in your behavior towards the hopeless Absalom." Or, at least, so I read it.

So, then, from David's mouth (surely Joab had heard some of his sovereigns prophetic psalms) to Joab's to the woman of Tekoa's: this may indeed be an echo of the same theology we find in the Psalms. 

It certainly sounds like it to me. What do you think? Is my theory probable?

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell


Anne Kennedy said...

I read this two weeks ago and was struck by the same line. Actually, overlaying Jesus helps me so much to think about David, the text is so desperately rich with the cross of Christ.

Gabe said...

I think that's perfectly reasonable. You've hit on a statement that clearly shows the continuity of God's purposes in the OT with His actions in the NT, and more than a hint of the final Redemption to come.

Regarding context, I think the point is, not that we're taking the OT out of context, but that there is a wider context, of God's redemptive purposes for His chosen people, and of Jesus as the new Israel, doing what Israel itself couldn't.

Also, many prophecies seem to be layered, with dual-fulfillments. So Isaiah's prophecy in 7:14 of protection for his chosen people can be fulfilled in ch. 8, but also be taken archetypally as a prophecy that God will once and for all Save his people through a child born of a literal Virgin.