Blow the trumpet in Tekoa!

“And he [Joab] took three javelins in his hand and thrust them into the heart of Absalom while he was still alive in the oak. …Then Joab blew the trumpet, and the troops came back from pursuing Israel, for Joab restrained them.” (2 Samuel 18:14, 16).

I’ve underlined the verbs ‘thrust’ and ‘blew’ because in the Hebrew it is the same verb used, taqa’. The dictionary (NIDOTTE, entry 9546) describes the word as onomatopoeic – ‘it has been formed in imitation of the sound it describes’. It is often used to describe the pitching of a tent (Genesis 31:25). The town of Tekoa (teqoa) is composed of the same letters and clearly linked to the verb. Jeremiah plays upon the link in Jeremiah 6:1: “Blow the trumpet in Tekoa” (and note he uses the verb again in Jeremiah 6:3 – pitching the tents).

This connection with Tekoa is noteworthy in the narrative of Samuel because, back in 2 Samuel 14, it was Joab who had brought a wise woman from Tekoa to David. And it was this woman whom Joab used to bring reconciliation between David and Absalom. Joab had her declare to David: “But God will not take away life, and he devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast.” (2 Samuel 14:14). 

But, of course, in the next chapter, it is David who is the banished one in exile. And there is no small irony that the victory trumpet blast signalling the end of that banishment for David comes with the thrusting of a javelin-spear into the heart of Absalom hanging on the tree. Joab thrusts the spear, Joab blows the trumpet, and so the battle is over and David may return to Jerusalem. The Samuel narrative will employ the verb two more times with the sounding of the trumpet in 2 Samuel 20:1, 22 which is a chapter which rounds off the narrative section from 2 Samuel 14-20 (note the wisdom theme connection).

It seems to me that the narrator’s use of this verb to connect Joab’s involvement in the death of Absalom to the victory of David is deliberate and drawing us to reflection. Drawing us to consider the path of wisdom which unfolds here. There is much more that could be said, but for now, I close with the words of the prophet, Amos, who came from Tekoa:

“Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?” (Amos 3:6).

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