Sheba opposes David

Chapter 20

Sheba opposes David

v1 Sheba, the son of Bicri, happened to be there. He came from the *tribe of Benjamin. He was a wicked man. He blew a *trumpet and he shouted,

‘We will not join with David.

We do not want to associate with the son of Jesse!

People of *Israel, prepare to fight!’

v2 So all the *Israelites left David. They followed Sheba, the son of Bicri. But the men of *Judah stayed with the king as he travelled from the river Jordan to Jerusalem.

v3 David returned to his palace in Jerusalem. He had left 10 *concubines there to look after his palace. He put them in a house and someone guarded them. He provided all that they needed. But David did not have sex with them. They lived there like widows until they died.

Sheba was probably a relative of King Saul. Sheba was wicked and he caused trouble. He opposed David and he did not want him to rule the *Israelites. Sheba tried to lead *Israel after Absalom’s death. And he tried to divide *Israel and *Judah again. But this did not last for very long. He blew a *trumpet to gather the *Israelites to himself. The *Israelite soldiers left David and they followed Sheba. But they did not go to fight David immediately. However, the men of *Judah remained loyal to David. They returned to Jerusalem with David and his family.

In 16:22, Absalom wanted to show that he was the king instead of David. So Absalom had sex with David’s *concubines. This evil act ruined the women and it made them feel ashamed. So, they did not serve David in his palace any more. And in that society, they could not marry other men. (Compare this with Tamar in chapter 13.) David looked after the *concubines and he protected them. But they could not be free. They could not join in with the activities at the palace. Instead, they stayed in private. And they behaved like widows. They were probably very sad that they could not continue to live with King David.

v4 Then the king said to Amasa, ‘Tell the men of *Judah to come to me in three days. You must be here too.’ v5 Amasa went to call the men of *Judah. But he took longer than the king had said.

v6 David said to Abishai, ‘Sheba, the son the Bicri, will cause us more trouble than Absalom did. Take my soldiers and chase him. Otherwise, he might find strong cities and escape from us.’

v7 So Abishai led all Joab’s men, the men from Kereth and Peleth, and all the brave soldiers. They left Jerusalem to chase Sheba, the son of Bicri.

v8 They arrived at the large rock in Gibeon. Amasa came to meet them. Joab was wearing his army uniform. He had a belt round the middle of his body. On his belt, he had a sword that was in its case. As he walked forwards, the sword fell out of its case.

v9 Joab said to Amasa, ‘Hello my brother, are you well?’ Then Joab held Amasa’s beard with his right hand. Joab pretended that he was going to kiss Amasa. v10 Amasa was not watching the sword in Joab’s hand. Joab pushed the sword into Amasa’s stomach. The inside of Amasa’s body fell out onto the ground. Joab did not have to push his sword into Amasa again because Amasa was already dead.

Then Joab and his brother Abishai chased Sheba, the son of Bicri.

v11 One of Joab’s men stood next to Amasa and he said, ‘Whoever is for Joab and David should follow Joab.’ v12 Amasa was in the middle of the road. He had blood all over him. The man saw that everyone stopped there. So, he pulled Amasa off the road and he pulled him into a field. Then he threw a coat over Amasa’s body. v13 As soon as the man removed Amasa’s body from the road, all the soldiers followed Joab. They were chasing Sheba, the son of Bicri.

Amasa was the new leader of David’s army. This would please the people of Israel who had followed Absalom. Perhaps David had chosen him instead of Joab because Joab had not obeyed David. He had killed Absalom. But Amasa took too long to gather the men of *Judah. Perhaps he was not a strong leader. Perhaps he could not command the men as Joab had done. David was worried about Sheba. So, David did not wait for the whole army. Instead, he sent his loyal men ahead to chase Sheba. This time David chose Abishai as the leader. Abishai even led Joab’s men.

Amasa was one of Joab’s relatives. But Joab was jealous of him as the leader of the army. Amasa was returning to Jerusalem. Joab pretended to greet him in the usual way. When Joab’s sword fell out of its case, Joab picked it up. Amasa did not suspect anything so he greeted Joab. But Joab killed Amasa. We do not know whether Joab had planned this. Or perhaps he just took the opportunity as it happened. Joab was an expert with a sword. He killed Amasa quickly. Joab and Amasa were cousins. King David was their uncle (1 Chronicles 2:16-17). So Nathan’s *prophecy in 12:10 happened again.

Joab then became the leader of the army again. But the men stopped and looked at Amasa’s body. But Joab did not bury it or show any honour. Then, a man removed the body so that the soldiers would not notice it. This shows Joab’s rather cruel character. He was a very strong man. He did not seem to care much about anyone else. And he did not want anyone to rule him.

v14 Sheba went through all the *tribes of *Israel. He went to the city called Abel Beth Maacah. All the people in the Beri (or Bicri) family followed him. v15 When Joab’s soldiers arrived they surrounded the city. They put earth up against the walls of the city. Then they tried to break down the walls. v16 Then a wise woman called from the city, ‘Listen to me. Tell Joab to come over here so that I can talk to him.’

v17 So Joab went to her. The woman asked, ‘Are you Joab?’

‘I am’, he replied.

She said, ‘I am your servant. Listen carefully to what I say.’

Joab said, ‘I am listening.’

v18 She said, ‘A long time ago people said, “Go to Abel and get advice.” That would solve their problem. v19 We love peace and we are loyal people of *Israel. You are trying to destroy a city that is like a mother in *Israel. Why do you want to destroy something that belongs to the *Lord?’

v20 Joab replied, ‘No, I really do not want to ruin or to destroy your city. v21 That is not my plan. But there is a man called Sheba. He is the son of Bicri. He comes from the mountains in the region of Ephraim. He now opposes King David. If you hand over Sheba to me, I will leave your city.’

The woman replied, ‘We agree. We will throw his head over the wall to you.’

v22 The woman went to the people of the city and she told them her wise advice. They cut off the head of Sheba, the son of Bicri. They threw it to Joab. So Joab blew a *trumpet. All Joab’s men left the city and they returned to their own homes. Joab went back to the king in Jerusalem.

The city called Abel Beth Maacah was over 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Jerusalem. It was near the city called Dan, which was at the north end of the country called *Israel. So Sheba had to go through the land of the other *tribes to get to Abel. However, the only *Israelites who supported him were his own family. In those days, people usually built their cities on a hill or on an area of higher ground. Then they built a wall of stones round it with one gate at the entrance. The people could defend these cities quite easily. They could throw stones down onto the people who tried to attack them. Sometimes the enemy just surrounded the city. They waited until the people inside ran out of food and water. At other times, the enemy acted quickly. The soldiers made a slope out of earth. Then they could go right up to the walls and attack the city more easily. Joab probably chose this way to show his power.

Abel was a famous city. It had many good qualities (verses 18-19). ‘A mother in *Israel’ means that it was important. And there were many smaller cities and towns round it. It was in the land that God had given to the *Israelites. In chapter 14, Joab had sent a wise woman to David. This made David change his decision. Here a wise woman spoke to Joab and her words changed his decision. Joab said that he only wanted Sheba. Joab and his army had to punish Sheba because Sheba was not loyal to David. Joab did not want to destroy the loyal city of Abel. Joab knew that the woman had given him wise advice. When Sheba was dead, Joab blew his *trumpet. This meant that the battle had finished. The men stopped attacking the city and they went home. This account shows that some women had great power in *Israel at that time.

David’s officers

v23 Joab was the leader of the whole army of *Israel. Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada, was the leader of the men from Kereth and Peleth. v24 Adoniram controlled all the men who had to work for the king. Jehoshaphat, the son of Ahilud, was responsible for the records. v25 Sheva wrote the records. Zadok and Abiathar were priests. v26 Ira, who came from the family of Jair, was David’s priest.

This list of David’s officers ends this section of 2 Samuel. There is a similar list at the end of chapter 8.

The list in chapter 8 starts with David as the ruler of all *Israel. In this chapter (20), Joab’s name is first. Joab was leader of the army again. This may show that David had become weaker. And it may show that Joab had become more powerful. Today, in many countries of the world, the leader of the army is very powerful. Sometimes he is more powerful than the president or the king. Joab had saved David’s *kingdom. Joab was a confident man. He commanded the army and he was successful. But David was not happy about Joab. Joab kept murdering people but David could not punish him. David needed Joab. But David could not control him. Just before David died, he told his son Solomon to deal with Joab.

In verse 25, Sheva may be a different name for Seraiah in 8:17. In 1 Chronicles 18:16, Seraiah is called ‘Shavsha’.

In verse 24 there was a new government department. The king forced people to work for him. Samuel had warned the *Israelites about this in 1 Samuel chapter 8. However, God had made a law that the *Israelites should not be slaves to each other (Leviticus 25:39-42). Later, David’s son Solomon built the *temple. He forced the *Israelites to work for him (1 Kings 5:13-18). This caused trouble after Solomon died. As a result, *Israel and *Judah divided permanently.

David still had sons but they were not on this new list. But David had his own priest.

The story of David continues in 1 Kings 1:1.

The last 4 chapters of 2 Samuel contain extra information about David. We do not know why the writer did not include this in the main account in chapters 1-20. The events in chapters 21-24 are not in the order in which they happened. In *Old Testament days, the recorder (verses 24-25) kept accurate records of events. But the *Old Testament is more than just a history book. It is also about God and how he dealt with his people.