Ethical dilemmas put us in conflict between at least two moral mandates. To obey one will cause us to violate the other. Joab finds himself in an ethical dilemma when he discovers Absalom entangled in the woods. David commanded Joab to “deal gently” with his son. Yet as a general with loyalty to his soldiers, many of whom were killed by Absalom and his army, Joab has an obligation to complete the victory. It also could be argued that by eliminating Absalom, Joab saved many lives. His situation is complicated by the fact that he is more than a general to David; he is also a friend and advisor, and has taken action previously that persuaded David to do the right thing.
The Bible clearly teaches that those in authority have been placed in their positions by God, and we are to submit to them. We also find plenty of instances in the Bible where faithful men and women have done so, painfully, and at great cost to themselves. However, we can also find instances where God directs people to reject authority, and to “obey God rather than man.” And again, we see instances in scripture where faithful men and women do just that – disobey earthly authority. Did Joab do the right thing by disobeying the king’s order? It’s an ethical dilemma. What do you think?