2 Samuel Chapter 20


Sheba’s Revolt (20:1-22)

      • Now a worthless man happened to be there- Bikri’s son, Sheba, who was a Benjaminite. He blew the trumpet and shouted: “We have no share in David; we have no inheritance in Jesse’s son; every man to his home, Israel!” So all the men of Israel deserted David and followed Bikri’s son, Sheba. But the men of Judah stayed with their king from the Jordan River all the way to Jerusalem.

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “Sheba’s rebellion is directly connected with the split within the nation seen in 19:41-43. It does not seem to have gained support outside of his own clan (20:14), but the feeling that the king was not treating them well seems to have lingered among the northern tribes, then increased under Solomon (who did not require Judah to supply him with food in the list in 1 Kings 4:7-19), and finally caused the nation to split in two (1 Kings 12).”

        • There is debate over who exactly Sheba is:

          • Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers explains, “The English follows the ancient versions in taking Bichri as a proper name. Most recent commentators consider it as a patronymic, the Bichrite, i.e., of the family of Becher, the second son of Benjamin.”

        • Pulpit Commentary adds, “Among those who had taken part in the discussion with Judah was Sheba, a man of Belial, that is, a worthless fellow, but possibly possessed of rank and influence; for, according to many commentators, ben-Bichri does not mean the son of Bichri, but ‘a descendant of Becher,’ the second son of Benjamin (Genesis 46:21), and possibly the representative of the mishpachah [the entire family network of relatives by blood or marriage ] descended from him. But it is remarkable that this son of Benjamin disappears from the genealogies, and that no mishpachah of Bichrites is mentioned either in Numbers 26:38 or in 1 Chronicles 8:1. In both places Ashbel, who is enumerated as the third son in Genesis 46:21, takes the second place. We must be content, therefore, to leave this matter in uncertainty…”

        • On the scenario as a whole, Pulpit Commentary notes, “…evidently Sheba had come with Shimei and Ziba to welcome David back, and, with the rest of the thousand Benjamites, had rushed with loud cries of welcome across the Jordan, and, but for this altercation, would have remained faithful. But tribal jealousies were always ready to break forth, and were a permanent source of weakness; and now, stung by some jibe at Benjamin, Sheba gave orders to a trumpeter to give the signal for the breaking up of the meeting, and, as is commonly the case in large and excited gatherings, the crowd obeyed the unauthorized dictation of one man. His words are contemptuous enough. David is no king, but a private person, and the son, not of a great chief, but of Jesse merely, a yeoman of Bethlehem… But this withdrawal home signified the rejection of David’s government. Almost the same words are used in 1 Kings 12:16.”

      • When David came to his house in Jerusalem, he placed the 10 concubines whom he had left to care for the house under guard. He provided for them, but he no longer slept with them. They lived as widows and were kept in confinement until the day they died.

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible says, “ The reference is to the concubines left in Jerusalem in 15:16 to care for the palace during David’s flight from Absalom; they were violated by Absalom in 16:22…Unable or unwilling to reinstate the concubines in his harem, David provides for them as if they were widows in his household…”

        • Guzik says, “The sad fate of David’s ten concubines is an example of how our sin often has horrible effects on others. They suffered because of Absalom’s sin – and David’s sin.”

      • Then David said to Amasa, “Call the men of Judah together for me within three days, and you be present here with them also.” Amasa went to call Judah together, but he took longer than the amount of time that had been allotted. So, David told Abishai, “Bikri’s son Sheba will hurt us worse than Absalom did. Take your lord’s men and go after him. Otherwise, he will find fortified cities and escape from us. So Joab’s men, along with the Kerethites, Pelethites, and all the warriors marched out following Abishai to Jerusalem to pursue Bikiri’s son Sheba.

          • ESV Study Bible remarks, “David had made Amasa commander in 19:13, replacing Joab. Three days is rather a short time if he is supposed to gather men from all over Judah, and indeed he failed to gather an army in the set time that had been appointed to him. When Amasa failed to produce an armed force on schedule (v. 5), David turned to Abishai, brother of Joab, David’s former general whom he had passed over in favor of Amasa…Abishai and Joab had often worked together in battle…so David probably should not have been surprised at what soon transpired (2 Sam 20:10). David seems to have overestimated Sheba’s strength. Though ‘all the men of Israel’ had initially followed him, apparently only the members of Sheba’s own Bichrite clan were truly committed to his cause (v. 14)…”

      • When they were near the great rock which is in Gibeon, Amasa joined them. Now Joab was wearing his soldier’s uniform and had a dagger in its sheath belted to his thigh. As he stepped forward, it fell out. Joab said to Amasa, “How are you, my brother?” With his right hand, Joab took Amasa by the beard to kiss him. Amasa wasn’t on his guard against the dagger in Joab’s hand, and Joab stabbed him in the stomach, spilling his intestines onto the ground. There was no need to stab him again, Amasa died. Then Joab and his brother Abishai went after Bikri’s son Sheba.

          • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible says, “The normal understanding is that Joab was able to tip the dagger out of the sheath so he could pick it up and be holding it nonthreateningly as he approached Amasa. In the ancient Near East, a kiss might connote many things: obeisance, reconciliation, friendship, affection,etc. In the books of Samuel, Saul’s anointing is accompanied by a kiss of honor by Samuel (1 Sa 10:1; cf 2 Sa 19:39); Jonathan and David kissed one another in affection and sorrow…; and David used a kiss to effect a (partial?) reconciliation with Absalom (2 Sa 14:33), only to have Absalom subsequently steal the people’s affection and loyalty with a kiss (15:5-6). Here, Joab’s kiss feigns honor or reconciliation, but facilitates treachery. The purpose of the unusually detailed description of his grasping the beard with his right hand is to enable the reader to visualize how Amasa could have been caught off guard.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “For the second time, Joab killed a commander of the opposing army by treachery (the first was Abner, 3:26-27). Twice, David tried to merge feuding parties by absorbing the military leader of the opposing side (see 3:6-13; 17:25; 19:13)’ twice Joab scuttled David’s plans by treacherously murdering the rival commander (see also 3:22-30).”

      • One of Joab’s young men stood beside Amasa and said, “Whoever favors Joab, and whoever is for David, follow Joab!” Now Amasa was writhing in his own blood in the middle of the road. When the man noticed that everyone who came by and saw Amasa stopped, the man moved him from the road over to the field and covered him up with a garment. Once Amasa had been removed from the road, everyone followed Joab to pursue Bikri’s son Sheba.

        • Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible notes, “By which it seems, that though the wound was mortal, and of which he died, that as yet there was life in him, and through the pain he was in, and the pangs of death on him, he rolled himself about in his own blood in the high road, where the fact was committed…”

        • Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers adds, “…they were naturally overcome and paralysed for the moment at the sight of the great leader whom the king had just promoted wallowing in his blood. Joab’s warrior, seeing the effect of their consternation, removed and concealed the body, and the pursuit then went on.”

      • Sheba traveled through all the tribes of Israel to Abel of Beth Maakah. All the Bikrites gathered together and followed him in. So all of Joab’s men came and laid a seige against him in Abel of Beth Maakah. They built a siege ramp and it stood against the outer fortifications, and they were battering the wall to cause it to collapse. Then a wise woman called out from the city, “Listen! Listen! Tell Joab, ‘Come here so that I can speak with you.’”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Abel-beth-macaah was in the northernmost region of Israelite territory, four miles west of the city of Dan.”

      • When he had come near to her, the woman asked, “Are you Joab?” He answered, “I am.” She said, “Listen to what your servant has to say.” He replied, “I’m listening.” She said, “In the past, when people wanted to settle matters, they used to say, ‘Seek council in Abel.’ I am one of those who are peaceful and faithful in Israel. You are trying to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why would you want to devour Yahweh’s inheritance?”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible provides the following explanations for the reference to Abel as “a mother in Israel,” “Lit. ‘a city and a mother in Israel.’ This curious expression suggests several possible interpretations: (1) The ‘wise woman’ (v. 16) is referring not only to her city but also to herself, a mother in Israel (cf Deborah’s self-description as ‘a mother in Israel’ in Jdg 5:7). (2)Taking the phrase as a hendiadys (a single concept expressed with two coordinated terms) and reading it in the light of the general Hebrew perception of cities and regions as, figuratively speaking, the mothers of their inhabitants, it means ‘a mother city,’ i.e., a major city (cf the Hebrew phrase ‘a city and its daughters’ [i.e., towns, or villages]). (3) Perhaps the most likely interpretation is to relate the Hebrew term ‘mother’ to cognates from Old Babylonian (Mari), Ugaritic, Phoenician, etc that mean something like ‘mother unit’ or ‘clan.’ The wise woman’s charge in the present passage, then, would be ‘You are trying to destroy a city and family (or, rather, clan) in Israel.”

      • Joab answered, “No! Far be it from me to devour or destroy! That is not my intention. There’s a man from the hill country of Ephraim, Bikri’s son named Sheba, who has rebelled against King David. Hand over this one man and I’ll withdraw from the city. The woman replied, “His head will be thrown to you from the wall.”

        • On Joab’s response, NET Bible’s text critical notes remark, “Heb ‘Far be it, far be it from me.’ The expression is clearly emphatic, as may be seen in part by the repetition. P. K. McCarter, however, understands it to be coarser than the translation adopted here. He renders it as ‘I’ll be damned if…’ (II Samuel [AB], 426, 429), which (while it is not a literal translation) may not be too far removed from the way a soldier might have expressed himself.”

      • Then the woman went to all the people with her wise advice. They cut off the head of Sheba, the son of Bikri, and threw it out to Joab. So he blew the trumpet, his men dispersed from the city, and each went to his own home. Joab went back to the king in Jerusalem.

David’s Officials (20:23-26)

      • Joab was over Israel’s entire army; Benaiah, Jehoiada’s son, was over the Kerethites and Pelethites; Adoniram was in charge of forced labor; Jehoshaphat, Ahilud’s son, was secretary; Sheva was scribe; Zadok and Abiathar were priests; and Ira the Jairite was David’s priest.

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “This list is very similar to the lists in 8:15-18 and 1 Kings 4:1-6. The posts and officials overlap to a large degree, but the order is different, and unlike the others, this one does not start out with the king…An official in charge of forced labor…is not mentioned in ch. 8, so it is possible that this list is dated toward the end of David’s reign. The office is probably listed after the bodyguards as a military office because it involved mostly captured peoples, at least at first… The office of overseeing the forced labor is not mentioned again in the Bible, but a seventh-century seal bearing a similar title has been found…David’s priest…may have been similar to a private chaplain or adviser, probably the same office as Solomon’s ‘priest and king’s friend’ (1 Kings 4:5).”

        • On Ira the Jairite as David’s personal priest, Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers notes, “Earlier in David’s reign the office had been occupied by his own sons, but the murder of the eldest, the rebellion and death of Absalom, and other disorders in his household had led apparently to a change.”

      • Adoram or Adoniram? Masoretic says Adoram, but I’ve opted for the Septuagint reading. Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges writes, “Adoram] Perhaps the same as Adoniram (1 Kings 4:6; 1 Kings 5:14), who held the office in Solomon’s reign, and Adoram, who held it at the beginning of Rehoboam’s reign (1 Kings 12:18), but possibly three persons of the same family, who succeeded one another in the office, are meant. The Sept. reads Adoniram here.”

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