2 Samuel Chapter 20

After their success in a difficult battle against the army of David’s son, Absalom, David and his followers were able to return to their homes in Jerusalem. They had done so by an escort, made of of mainly the tribe of Judah. The other leaders of Israel were offended by this, and because of the unstable nature of the kingdom, this pushed them to the brink of a civil war. This chapter begins:

1 And there happened to be there a man of Belial, whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjamite: and he blew a trumpet, and said, We have no part in David, neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: every man to his tents, O Israel.
2 So every man of Israel went up from after David, and followed Sheba the son of Bichri: but the men of Judah clave unto their king, from Jordan even to Jerusalem.

A man named Sheba, of the tribe of Benjamin, and a follower of Belial, led Israel away from David, claiming that their people had no place in the kingdom of David. Israel followed after Sheba, and Judah remained loyal to David. It seems that this was a time when more of Israel followed after their own hearts, than the Lord, because Sheba was a man who followed after false gods and led people away by making the issues of the kingdom about a man, David, not the Lord.

3 And David came to his house at Jerusalem; and the king took the ten women his concubines, whom he had left to keep the house, and put them in ward, and fed them, but went not in unto them. So they were shut up unto the day of their death, living in widowhood.

David returned to his home, but the women who had been left behind and taken by his sons, would no longer be treated as his wives. Instead they were cared for as needed, but treated as the widows of Absalom.

4 Then said the king to Amasa, Assemble me the men of Judah within three days, and be thou here present.
5 So Amasa went to assemble the men of Judah: but he tarried longer than the set time which he had appointed him.
6 And David said to Abishai, Now shall Sheba the son of Bichri do us more harm than did Absalom: take thou thy lord’s servants, and pursue after him, lest he get him fenced cities, and escape us.
7 And there went out after him Joab’s men, and the Cherethites, and the Pelethites, and all the mighty men: and they went out of Jerusalem, to pursue after Sheba the son of Bichri.
8 When they were at the great stone which is in Gibeon, Amasa went before them. And Joab’s garment that he had put on was girded unto him, and upon it a girdle with a sword fastened upon his loins in the sheath thereof; and as he went forth it fell out.
9 And Joab said to Amasa, Art thou in health, my brother? And Joab took Amasa by the beard with the right hand to kiss him.
10 But Amasa took no heed to the sword that was in Joab’s hand: so he smote him therewith in the fifth rib, and shed out his bowels to the ground, and struck him not again; and he died. So Joab and Abishai his brother pursued after Sheba the son of Bichri.
11 And one of Joab’s men stood by him, and said, He that favoureth Joab, and he that is for David, let him go after Joab.
12 And Amasa wallowed in blood in the midst of the highway. And when the man saw that all the people stood still, he removed Amasa out of the highway into the field, and cast a cloth upon him, when he saw that every one that came by him stood still.
13 When he was removed out of the highway, all the people went on after Joab, to pursue after Sheba the son of Bichri.

Amasa, who was now the captain of David’s armies and was the cousin of Joab, was commanded to gather the men of Judah. He took longer than he was told to perform this duty. David was concerned that Sheba would do worse to their people, than Absalom had done, so he sent his army after him. All their men went after Sheba, to stop him from making a defense for himself. Amasa, dressed in the garments of the captain, which had belonged to Joab, led the troops. As he went, his sword fell from the sheath. Joab took advantage of this moment and asked Amasa if he was alright. Joab tricked Amasa and stabbed him. Then, the brothers, Joab and Abishai, went after Sheba. The men of Joab followed after him, leaving Amasa dead behind them. No one would touch the body, so a man moved it out of the way and covered it with a cloth, while the rest of the army went after Sheba.

14 And he went through all the tribes of Israel unto Abel, and to Beth-maachah, and all the Berites: and they were gathered together, and went also after him.
15 And they came and besieged him in Abel of Beth-maachah, and they cast up a bank against the city, and it stood in the trench: and all the people that were with Joab battered the wall, to throw it down.

Joab led them throughout the land of Israel, and found him in Abel. They went against the city and attempted to throw down its wall.

16 Then cried a wise woman out of the city, Hear, hear; say, I pray you, unto Joab, Come near hither, that I may speak with thee.
17 And when he was come near unto her, the woman said, Art thou Joab? And he answered, I am he. Then she said unto him, Hear the words of thine handmaid. And he answered, I do hear.
18 Then she spake, saying, They were wont to speak in old time, saying, They shall surely ask counsel at Abel: and so they ended the matter.
19 I am one of them that are peaceable and faithful in Israel: thou seekest to destroy a city and a mother in Israel: why wilt thou swallow up the inheritance of the Lord?
20 And Joab answered and said, Far be it, far be it from me, that I should swallow up or destroy.
21 The matter is not so: but a man of mount Ephraim, Sheba the son of Bichri by name, hath lifted up his hand against the king, even against David: deliver him only, and I will depart from the city. And the woman said unto Joab, Behold, his head shall be thrown to thee over the wall.
22 Then the woman went unto all the people in her wisdom. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri, and cast it out to Joab. And he blew a trumpet, and they retired from the city, every man to his tent. And Joab returned to Jerusalem unto the king.

A wise woman came out of the city to speak with Joab, and he listened to her. She told him that in times past, people had come to seek counsel in their city. This stopped the fight against the city, and she pled with him not to destroy her, as a faithful and peaceful woman of Israel. Joab did not desire to destroy innocent people, so he told her that Sheba had gone against the king and was hiding in her city. If she would deliver Sheba to him, they would leave the city in peace. She said that she would see to it that the head of Sheba would be cast over the wall. She returned to her people, and they found Sheba and cut off his head. It was sent over the wall to Joab, and the army left and returned to their homes in Jerusalem.

23 Now Joab was over all the host of Israel: and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and over the Pelethites:
24 And Adoram was over the tribute: and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder:
25 And Sheva was scribe: and Zadok and Abiathar were the priests:
26 And Ira also the Jairite was a chief ruler about David.

Joab returned to being captain over the army of Israel, with Benaiah, Adoram, Jehoshapaht, Sheva, Zadok, Abiathar, and Ira serving for David in their own capacities, along with him. He had managed to return things back to the way they were prior to his seeing to the death of the king’s son. Joab was a sly man, who used the opportunity to take his own advantage and gain power. Amasa had not followed through on his duty in a timely manner, which made him a target for removal from his position as captain of the armies. However, I don’t think this should have ever made it acceptable for another man to kill him in cold-blood, the way that Joab did. Joab proved himself a worthy leader of the army, but at a cost that was awful and unnecessary, in my opinion. I cannot imagine that this choice was going to bring him the blessings of the Lord, or of the king whom he served. It amazes me, the things that people will do for power.

The Israelite nation continued to be broken from within. I think that if the people had been a more righteous people, willing to turn to the Lord instead of trying to live whatever way pleased them, they would have been united and strong. I know that blessings will come to people who remain faithful, and that the Lord will allow the wicked to suffer for their choices, even to the point of cursing them. I believe that we will see this for the people of Israel, in the coming chapters.

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