David was a feared and respected warrior, but he might not have been too fond of imposing discipline in person.
David’s last instructions to Solomon included directions about Joab:
1 Kings 2:5-6 You know what Joab son of Zeruiah did to me when he murdered my two army commanders, Abner son of Ner and Amasa son of Jether. … Do with him what you think best, but don’t let him grow old and go to his grave in peace.
1 Kings 2:8-9 I swore by the Lord that I would not kill him. But that oath does not make him innocent. You are a wise man, and you will know how to arrange a bloody death for him.
This was consistent with David’s treatment of his sons:
- he had never disciplined Adonijah (not even to ask him ‘What are you doing?’)
- he instructed his army not to kill Absalom, despite his leading of a rebellion
- he was very angry with Amnon, but did not discipline him for his treatment of Tamar, even though the Law labelled it as ‘detestable’, and anyone found guilty of such an act should have been cut off from Israel.
David’s resolved the he-said-he-said between Ziba and Mephibosheth over who supported David during Absalom’s rebellion in a similarly non-confrontational way: it was as if David threw his hands up and said ‘Enough already’ and split the difference (see 2 Samuel 16:1-4 and 19:24-30).
It perhaps goes some way to explaining David’s reluctance to take Saul’s throne by force, and his relief at not having to take action against Nabal. But that would just be conjecture, something this blog is trying hard to avoid.
The one documented exception would be the murder of Uriah the Hittite, but even then, David had asked the more violent Joab to do his dirty work for him.