From David Watts
The rebellion of Sheba is an attempt to divide Israel (the northern tribes) and Judah (a southern tribes), a precursor to the actual splitting of the nation after Solomon’s death (1 Kgs 12). The splitting of the kingdom is ultimately a divine consequence of David and Solomon’s folly (1 kgs 11:11-13), and the perceived and very real preference of Judah over the other tribes. In the previous text, Israel had felt slighted that Judah did not wait for them to process into the Jerusalem with the king (2 Sam 19:41-43), and Solomon will later exact tax from the northern kingdoms but not Judah (1 Kgs 4:7-19). Therefore we have preferential treatment, systematic injustice, and leaders who seem aloof to handle the situation, finding more pleasures in their wealth and privilege (especially in Solomon’s case). When leadership stinks, all suffer. Guess what happens when people feel slighted? They arm up. And so does the government. We see Sheba assembling a forcefully rebellion against David, and David sending his troops to silence them with the sword.
Sound familiar? The most recent tragic deaths of the two dead black men and five dead police officers only highlight a problem that’s been going on for decades in this country. The racial divide has been and will continue to create divisions among Americans. The more recent history of racial tensions mirrors to some extent the strife between Israel and Judah: preferential treatment of one people group over another, systematic injustice, and aloof leadership amidst it all. The escalation of force has been rising in this country, leaving both sides bloody.
Amidst all the political positioning, rebelling, and fighting between Israel and Judah, there arises two unsung heroes, a wise woman and a listening general. Why is this unnamed woman attributed as wise by the narrator? Because she has the audacity to demand a conversation with the general; and Joab has the audacity to, in the middle of a siege, listen to this woman. Through the sound of siege works literally battering down the hatches in the background, a conversation springs between a bold woman and a listening general. They find common ground over their shared inheritance in the Lord, and this huge rebellion and tireless chase comes to an end. Well, not quite. For this wise woman not only boldly convinces Joab to listen, but convinces all her people to expel those who rebel with the sword.
It’s going to take a lot of wise woman and listening generals in our culture to help quell this racial storm which divides our country, but through the sound of guns firing we can be the peace makers who boldly speak up and humbly listen to end this bloodshed and divert division. It can start with Christians finding common heritage in our faith in Jesus, that as his brothers and sisters we are one. If land and a city can be common ground to end a nation wide rebellion, how much more can our inheritance in Jesus can unify us, that we might model and advance racial reconciliation individually, collectively, and systematically? As the wise woman, we will boldly need to convince the other, and our own, to seek peace and justice. As the listening general, we need to genuinely open our ears to the other if we are in positions of power. This woman goes unnamed and most likely so will we, but her city was saved, her people spared, the kingdom remained unified, and her wisdom lives on.