Another story from Charlie Pillsbury of Quinnipiac:

There’s a sacred ADR story in the Second Book of Samuel, which relates how the negotiating skills of a “wise woman” saved her city of Abel of Beth-maacah. 2 Samuel 20: 1-22*.  A man named Sheba son of Bichri tried to incite a rebellion among the people of Israel against King David and the people of Judah. David’s nephew Joab and his soldiers pursued Sheba and the Bichrites, who took refuge in the city of Abel. The following passage tells the rest of the story:

15Joab’s forces came and besieged…Abel of Beth-maacah; they threw up a siege-ramp against the city…. Joab’s forces were battering the wall to break it down. 16Then a wise woman called from the city, “Listen! Listen! Tell Joab, ‘Come here, I want to speak to you’.” 17He came near her; and the woman said, “Are you Joab?” He answered, “I am.” Then she said to him, “Listen to the words of your servant.” He answered, “I am listening.” 18Then she said, “They used to say in the old days, ‘Let them inquire at Abel’; and so they would settle a matter. 19I am one of those who are peaceable and faithful in Israel; you seek to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel; why will you swallow up the heritage of the Lord?” 20Joab answered, “Far be it from me, far be it, that I should swallow up or destroy! 21That is not the case! But a man…called Sheba son of Bichri has lifted up his hand against King David; give him up alone, and I will withdraw from the city.” The woman said to Joab, “His head shall be thrown over the wall to you.” 22Then the woman went to all the people with her wise plan. And they cut off the head of Sheba son of Bichri, and threw it out to Joab. So he blew the trumpet, and they dispersed from the city, and all went to their homes, while Joab returned to Jerusalem to the king.*

In reflecting on this text, I can only wonder how life would have been different for the people of Afghanistan and the NATO countries had there been such a “wise woman” and, of course, a NATO general willing to listen to her, who together had devised a similar plan about the fate of Osama bin Laden. Countless lives of both combatants and innocent civilians would have been saved. Lacking both this wisdom and willingness to negotiate, we know all too well the course of this modern tragic story, one that is sadly still unfolding.

*Citations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

Editor’s Note:  Charlie noted that this is one of the few DR stories in the Bible where a woman is the protagonist.  He wonders if there are other stories from other faith traditions.  You can reach him directly at Charles.pillsbury@quinnipiac.edu or feel free to comment on this post.

Andrea Schneider is a professor at Marquette Law School teaching ADR, Negotiation, Ethics, International Law, International Conflict Resolution and Art Law. She is the author or co-author of numerous books and book chapters in the field of dispute resolution. She serves as the editor of ADR Prof Blog.