So it came to pass after the death of King David that Solomon set about eliminating his perceived enemies; and those whom he claimed had been directed by his father David to be brought to the grave ‘peaceless’.
Benaiah had taken the side of Solomon, in the succession battles, which took place while the King was still under the care of Abishaag! Benaiah, Nathan and Bathsheba were on the side of Solomon; whereas Joab, the Chief Commander of David’s forces, and Abiathar, the Priest, were with Adonijah.
The camp of Adonijah is supposed to have proclaimed Adonijah as the King and the news was brought to King David – it is told. So Bathsheba rushes to the side of King David and extracts the reward for the unspecified promise – which David was supposed to have made soon after her Hittite husband was decimated and she was made to join the string of widows, virgins and adulteresses who adorned the conjugal bed of David- to make her son Solomon the King of Israel.
The moribund David would not have been in any position to have given advice to Solomon to decimate Joab.
The problem was the Letter. A letter has been written by David and sent through a courier in which David has written that Uriah, the Hittite, has to be dispatched to the hottest part of the battle and left supportless, so that Uriah might die. Uriah was a mini commander himself and was named as one among the Thirty Valiant men of the army of David. This letter had reached the hands of Joab and Joab was the intended recipient of that letter too.
After years, David had forgotten about that letter, but Bathsheba wouldn’t. How could she? Having committed adultery with David, and having become pregnant with David’s love child, David saw no other way but to get Uriah out of his way and legitimise his relationship with Bathsheba. Now, after more than the decades, the whereabouts of the letter written by David was not traceable.
Joab’s protests that he had destroyed the letter of David, still left a possibility of Joab keeping the letter for use against Bathsheba, in a future date. That would be a great blot on the Queen Mother.
So how to sort this issue? The writer of the letter was no more. The deed has been committed, the messenger did not know the contents of the letter. The recipient of the letter says that it has been destroyed. What would happen if Joab were to be in possession of the letter and release it and thereby denigrate, the manufactured history of Bathsheba?
Moreover, Joab had moved over to the opposite camp and cannot be counted to conceal such damning matters to favour Solomon or his mother.
So Solomon orders that Joab be brought to him, one last time to hand over that letter.
Joab naturally couldn’t produce that letter, but Solomon and Bathsheba were very clear, the letter or the Life off Joab.
When the efforts to retrieve the letter were fruitless, Solomon accuses Joab for all the bloodletting that Joab had done for his own reasons. Solomon gives the reasons as to why his father David wanted Joab to be decimated.
The relevant verses are as follows:
I Kings Chapter 2:
5 Moreover thou knowest also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two captains of the hosts of Israel, unto Abner the son of Ner, and unto Amasa the son of Jether, whom he slew, and shed the blood of war in peace, and put the blood of war upon his girdle that was about his loins, and in his shoes that were on his feet.
6 Do therefore according to thy wisdom, and let not his hoar head go down to the grave in peace.
When Joab heard that, Joab sarcastically asked Solomon: Did not King David tell you that my hoary head should not come to the grave in peace because i killed Absalom, though the king had commanded me to be kind to the lad Absalom?
Oh, said Solomon, my father King David didn’t instruct me on that!
Said Joab, “Naturally, had Absalom been alive, you would never have been in the reckoning at all. Queen Maacah would have ensured that you and your mother had ended your days much before this day!”
Solomon composed himself and said: Where is the letter?
Joab answered: Which letter?
Whereupon King Solomon told Benaiah, Would you suffer such effrontery by an old dog to his sovereign?
No sooner had those words proceeded out of the lips of King Solomon, than Benaiah fell on Joab and Joab died.
But that’s not the way the history is written – after all the winner writes history (knock knock Winston)
Power has pretexts, it looks for Justification, however tenuous those pretexts may be. Thankfully Solomon Ruled for another Four decades, so those early histories stayed to survive till date.