Let it rest on the head of Joab, and on all his father's house; and let there not fail from the house of Joab one that has an issue, or that is a leper, or that leans on a staff, or that falls on the sword, or that lacks bread.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Let it rest on the head of Joab.—The strong curse here pronounced by David shows that Joab’s act could not be justified as that of the “Goel,” or lawful avenger of his brother’s blood, for Abner had slain Asahel in battle, unwillingly and in self-defence. It is also to be remembered that Hebron was a city of refuge (Joshua 21:13), and that here not even the “Goel” might slay the murderer without a trial (Numbers 35:22-25). The curse falls “on his father’s house,” since Abishai also (2Samuel 3:30) had been concerned with him in the murder.
The phrase, “that leaneth on a staff,” has been understood by many as “holding a distaff,” i.e., a person unfit for war. The word has the sense of “distaff” in Proverbs 31:19, and is so rendered here by the Vulgate; but the sense given by the English—which is also that of the LXX. and Targum—is better, and more in accordance with the other particulars.
For “on the sword” read “by the sword,” there being no reference to the idea of suicide. On the violent end of Joab see 1Kings 2:31-34.2 Samuel 3:27 in taking away Abner's life.
That leaneth on a staff - Rather, a crutch. The phrase denotes one lame or infirm. For similar instances of hereditary disease and poverty as a punishment of great sin, see 1 Samuel 2:31-33, 1 Samuel 2:36; 2 Kings 5:27; John 9:2.Let it rest, i.e. this blood, the guilt and punishment of it.
And on all his father’s house. But children were not to suffer for their parent’s sin, Deu 24:16; and therefore either this was only a prediction; or, if it were an imprecation, David may seem to have transgressed his bounds, and mingled his passion with his zeal, that so he might express his utter detestation of this horrid murder, and how far he was from having any hand in it.
An issue was not only a troublesome and shameful disease, but also infectious, both to him that had it, and to all that touched him; so that whilst it was upon a man, he was cut off in a great part from converse either with God or men.
That leaneth on a staff, through craziness, or feebleness, or lameness, whereby he is rendered unfit for action and public service.
and on all his father's house; on Abishai his brother, and other relations that might be privy to the death of Abner, and advising to it, and ready to assist in it if necessary:
and let there not fail from the house of Joab; let there be always in his family, and of his seed, one or other of the persons described as follows:
one that hath an issue; a gonorrhoea, which was reckoned infamous, and very impure, according to the Jewish law, and rendered persons unfit for society; see Leviticus 15:1,
or that is a leper; whose disease was very loathsome and infectious, and shut him out of the company of men; see Leviticus 13:1,
or that leaneth on a staff; being blind, as Aquila renders the word; or through weakness of body, not being able to walk without one; or through some disease of the feet, as the Jewish writers generally understand it; and R. Isaiah interprets it of the gout particularly: the word for "staff" is rendered "spindle", Proverbs 31:19; and to this sense it is rendered here in, the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Arabic versions; and then the meaning is, let his posterity, or some of them, be so poor, that they shall be obliged to get their livelihood in so mean a way as by spinning; or let them be of such an effeminate disposition, as be more fit to handle the spindle, and do the, work of women, than to use the sword:
or that falleth on the sword; not by it honourably in the field of battle, but cowardly destroying themselves with it:
or that lacketh bread; and is obliged to beg it: all which David might say, not by a spirit of prophecy, but in a passion; and to show with what horror he resented the action, and how detestable it was to him, and how far it was for him to have any concern in it: but though it was a very wicked action in Joab to murder Abner in this manner, and for the reasons he did; yet it was a just vengeance from the Lord on Abner for fighting against God, and acting against the dictates of his own conscience; for his rebellion against David, and perfidy to Ishbosheth, and for having been the cause of much bloodshed in Israel.Let it rest on the head of Joab, and on all his father's house; and let there not fail from the house of Joab one that hath an issue, or that is a leper, or that leaneth on a staff, or that falleth on the sword, or that lacketh bread.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)29. let it rest] Let it fall. The Heb. word is a forcible one, expressing the energy of David’s indignation. It is used in Jeremiah 23:19; Jeremiah 30:23, of the whirlwind of God’s wrath falling upon the head of the wicked.
one that hath an issue, or that is a leper] Pining away miserably with incurable diseases, which not only made life a burden, but rendered their victim ceremonially unclean, and excluded him from the congregation of the Lord (Leviticus 13:46).
that leaneth on a staff] A cripple, lame, or blind. The word translated staff means elsewhere distaff (Proverbs 31:19), and the phrase may also be rendered as it is in the Vulgate “distaff holder” (tenens fusum). This would signify ‘a weak, effeminate man, unfit for war,’ as “Hercules with the distaff” was the type of unmanly feebleness among the Greeks. But this explanation seems forced, and the E. V. is supported by the Sept. and Targum.
that falleth on the sword] Render, “by the sword.” The E. V. suggests the idea of suicide, but untimely death in battle or by the hand of an assassin is meant.Verse 29. - Let it rest on the head of Joab. The Hebrew word is very strong, "Let it roll itself," or throw itself upon Joab's head. The force of the expression thus indicates the great excitement under which David was labouring; yet even so it was no slight matter to utter so bitter a curse upon a man so powerful, and whose military skill was so essential to the maintenance of his throne. To a man of David's strong sense of justice, it was a small matter that by Abner's murder the kingdom of the ten tribes was lost perhaps forever; what he hated was the wickedness of this mean act of personal revenge. And thus his imprecations are all such as would be humiliating to a family so distinguished for great physical as well as mental gifts, as the house of Zeruiah. Nor was David content with this; for we gather from 1 Chronicles 11:6 that during the intervening years Joab was deprived of his office, and that he regained it only by an act of daring bravery. (For the miserable condition of one suffering with an issue, see Leviticus 15:2, etc.; and for that of a leper, Leviticus 13, 14.) Instead of one that leaneth on a staff, some translate "a distaff holder," that is, a poor effeminate creature, fit only for woman's work. The true sense is probably a cripple - one who needs a crutch. That falleth on the sword; more correctly the Revised Version, that falleth by the sword. The two last imprecations mean that if any of the race of Joab and Abishai escape these personal blemishes, yet that his fate shall be, in war an inglorious death, and in peace a life of poverty. This curse of David is regarded in the Talmud ('Sanhedr.,' 48.2) as very sinful. Undeniably it was uttered in violent anger, and while Joab's act was utterly base and perfidious, yet he had the excuse for it of Asahel's death and David's double-dealing. The latter made him conclude that the man who had killed his brother was also to usurp his place. Possibly this suspicion was not without reason. As David was strong enough to deprive Joab of his command, it is plain that he had nothing to fear from telling him his plans. Joab would have assented, the blood feud have been appeased by a money payment, and all gone well. But David, it seems, wished to hold Joab in check by giving at least a share in the command to the veteran Abner.
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