Whether We Have Two Prescriptive Examples of Rebuked Emotions in the Bible

Whether We Have Two Prescriptive Examples of Rebuked Emotions in the Bible The Garrett Ashley Mullet Show

My cousin Tim Mullet over at The Bible Bashed Podcast recently answered my question about examples from the Old or New Testaments of God’s people rebuking one another for emotions. Let us consider, then, his answer: the deaths of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10, as well as the death of Absalom in 2 Samuel 18-19:15.

As Tim rightly points out, Moses and Joab spoke to Aaron and David respectively for their displays of grief in these contexts. And I agree that it would not be overstating things to call their responses rebukes.

As Moses tells Aaron after his sons are burned up by God’s wrath for conducting an unauthorized ceremony in a way that clearly lacked the reverence due the Most High: 

“Do not let the hair of your heads hang loose, and do not tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the congregation; but let your brothers, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning that the LORD has kindled. And do not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you.”

Similarly we read of Joab – who was commander of David’s military, who sternly took his king to task after the death of Absalom.

As you may remember, David’s son Absalom had tried to usurp the throne, and the resulting civil war cost many lives. David mourned his son on learning he had been killed, and Joab was having none of it when celebration at victory turned into the whole people feeling ashamed as in defeat to see their king so distraught.

“You have today covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who have this day saved your life and the lives of your sons and your daughters and the lives of your wives and your concubines, because you love those who hate you and hate those who love you. For you have made it clear today that commanders and servants are nothing to you, for today I know that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased. Now therefore arise, go out and speak kindly to your servants, for I swear by the Lord, if you do not go, not a man will stay with you this night, and this will be worse for you than all the evil that has come upon you from your youth until now.”

Shortly thereafter, it should be noted, though David heeded his counsel after a fashion, Joab was removed from his position and summarily replaced. The fact that he was the one who had killed Absalom against the orders of his king may have been a contributing factor.

But were these examples of God’s people rebuking one another for their emotions? Or were these as I suppose?

These were examples of outward expressions of partially appropriate grief which were taken too far, or would have soon been without intervention. They were then responded to accordingly by contemporaries as risking the communication of an untruth and injustice given the circumstances, particularly the positions of leadership and two-way representation held by Aaron and David.

Furthermore, though these do admittedly serve as examples of just the sort of thing I had said previously I have not noticed in the Biblical text, we ought to nevertheless ask a perennial question when we come to passages like these.

Does their inclusion in the Biblical narrative serve a prescriptive role or merely a descriptive one? In other words, we should ask whether Moses and Joab were called to and commended for their response to Aaron and David in this way. The fact of what they each said is not enough to establish this, since the Lord’s purpose may as well in some cases been to demonstrate the character of His people – both rebuking and rebuked – more than to serve as an example for us to follow.

So also, given the extremity of the situations – one of disobedient and presumptuous worship by priests only one generation removed from Aaron, the other  an incident of gross rebellion against the Lord’s anointed over the household of Israel – I would at least warn those who rebuke their brothers and sisters in Christ for the emotions themselves, that they ought to consider whether the situations in which they take the household of faith to task have a similar weight and significance to these.

In the vast majority of cases, I dare say they do not.

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