2 Samuel 20

2 Samuel 20

The Rebellion of Sheba

20 Now there happened to be there a worthless man, whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjaminite. And he blew the trumpet and said,

  “We have no portion in David,
  and we have no inheritance in the son of Jesse;
  every man to his tents, O Israel!”

So all the men of Israel withdrew from David and followed Sheba the son of Bichri. But the men of Judah followed their king steadfastly from the Jordan to Jerusalem.

And David came to his house at Jerusalem. And the king took the ten concubines whom he had left to care for the house and put them in a house under guard and provided for them, but did not go in to them. So they were shut up until the day of their death, living as if in widowhood.

Then the king said to Amasa, “Call the men of Judah together to me within three days, and be here yourself.” So Amasa went to summon Judah, but he delayed beyond the set time that had been appointed him. And David said to Abishai, “Now Sheba the son of Bichri will do us more harm than Absalom. Take your lord’s servants and pursue him, lest he get himself to fortified cities and escape from us.” And there went out after him Joab’s men and the Cherethites and the Pelethites, and all the mighty men. They went out from Jerusalem to pursue Sheba the son of Bichri. When they were at the great stone that is in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Now Joab was wearing a soldier’s garment, and over it was a belt with a sword in its sheath fastened on his thigh, and as he went forward it fell out. And Joab said to Amasa, “Is it well with you, my brother?” And Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. But Amasa did not observe the sword that was in Joab’s hand. So Joab struck him with it in the stomach and spilled his entrails to the ground without striking a second blow, and he died.

Then Joab and Abishai his brother pursued Sheba the son of Bichri. And one of Joab’s young men took his stand by Amasa and said, “Whoever favors Joab, and whoever is for David, let him follow Joab.” And Amasa lay wallowing in his blood in the highway. And anyone who came by, seeing him, stopped. And when the man saw that all the people stopped, he carried Amasa out of the highway into the field and threw a garment over him. When he was taken out of the highway, all the people went on after Joab to pursue Sheba the son of Bichri.

And Sheba passed through all the tribes of Israel to Abel of Beth-maacah, and all the Bichrites assembled and followed him in. And all the men who were with Joab came and besieged him in Abel of Beth-maacah. They cast up a mound against the city, and it stood against the rampart, and they were battering the wall to throw it down. Then a wise woman called from the city, “Listen! Listen! Tell Joab, ‘Come here, that I may speak to you.’” And he 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.” And he answered, “I am listening.” Then she said, “They used to say in former times, ‘Let them but ask counsel at Abel,’ and so they settled a matter. I 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?” Joab answered, “Far be it from me, far be it, that I should swallow up or destroy! That is not true. But a man of the hill country of Ephraim, called Sheba the son of Bichri, has lifted up his hand against King David. Give up him alone, and I will withdraw from the city.” And the woman said to Joab, “Behold, his head shall be thrown to you over the wall.” Then the woman went to all the people in her wisdom. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri and threw it out to Joab. So he blew the trumpet, and they dispersed from the city, every man to his home. And Joab returned to Jerusalem to the king.

Now Joab was in command of all the army of Israel; and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was in command of the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and Adoram was in charge of the forced labor; and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was the recorder; and Sheva was secretary; and Zadok and Abiathar were priests; and Ira the Jairite was also David’s priest.


2 Samuel 20 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

Concubines, intestines, and a severed head being thrown over a wall! This chapter is not for the faint of heart. Coming off the heels of a civil war, David is drawn back in. At the end of 2 Samuel 19, there were glimpses of a dispute brewing. Here in 2 Samuel 20, we read of a man named Sheba who successfully managed to pull the 10 tribes of Israel away from David’s kingdom.

However, before we get into that, why did David go back to Jerusalem and put his 10 concubines under watch? This was a sad and direct result of both David and Absalom’s sin. David should not have taken them as concubines in the first place, and if you remember, Absalom raped these women on the roof in plain sight of all of Israel. Because of that fact, David would have been viewed as detestable if he were to become intimate with them after they had been defiled by Absalom. It is a horrific ending to their lives, but David, in mercy, makes sure all their needs are provided for.

“He could not well divorce them; he could not punish them, as they were not in the transgression; he could no more be familiar with them, because they had been defiled by his son; and to have married them to other men might have been dangerous to the state: therefore he shut them up and fed them – made them quite comfortable, and they continued as widows to their death.”

Adam Clarke

Now, let’s get back to the action. In the previous chapter, David demoted Joab and promoted Amasa to the position of commander. As we find out here in 2 Samuel 20, Amasa was not a great military leader. David gave him an order and he failed to follow through. Whether it was because of jealousy, weakness, or loyalty we do not know, but Joab felt it was necessary to end Amasa’s life.

In Eastern culture, it is customary to greet a man by kissing his beard. Joab pretended to do this while driving a dagger through Amasa’s stomach, ripping out his bowels. Unfortunately, this is the way Joab operated. He was so bold as to murder the army commander in front of his soldiers and those men then turned around and immediately followed Joab!

From there, Sheba was next on the list. But David’s army would not capture him. The people inside the city feared David’s army and they turned on Sheba, cutting off his head and throwing it over the wall to satisfy Joab and his men. This inflammatory feud between the tribes of Israel and the tribe of Judah foreshadows what we will see later when the nation is shattered into two factions led by different kings.

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