2 Samuel 20

Sheba Rebels Against David

1 Now a troublemaker named Sheba son of Bikri, a Benjamite, happened to be there. He sounded the trumpet and shouted, “We have no share in David, no part in Jesse’s son! Every man to his tent, Israel!”
2 So all the men of Israel deserted David to follow Sheba son of Bikri. But the men of Judah stayed by their king all the way from the Jordan to Jerusalem.
3 When David returned to his palace in Jerusalem, he took the ten concubines he had left to take care of the palace and put them in a house under guard. He provided for them but had no sexual relations with them. They were kept in confinement till the day of their death, living as widows.
4 Then the king said to Amasa, “Summon the men of Judah to come to me within three days, and be here yourself.”
5 But when Amasa went to summon Judah, he took longer than the time the king had set for him.
6 David said to Abishai, “Now Sheba son of Bikri will do us more harm than Absalom did. Take your master’s men and pursue him, or he will find fortified cities and escape from us.”[a]
7 So Joab’s men and the Kerethites and Pelethites and all the mighty warriors went out under the command of Abishai. They marched out from Jerusalem to pursue Sheba son of Bikri.
8 While they were at the great rock in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Joab was wearing his military tunic, and strapped over it at his waist was a belt with a dagger in its sheath. As he stepped forward, it dropped out of its sheath.
9 Joab said to Amasa, “How are you, my brother?” Then Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him.
10 Amasa was not on his guard against the dagger in Joab’s hand, and Joab plunged it into his belly, and his intestines spilled out on the ground. Without being stabbed again, Amasa died. Then Joab and his brother Abishai pursued Sheba son of Bikri.
11 One of Joab’s men stood beside Amasa and said, “Whoever favors Joab, and whoever is for David, let him follow Joab!”
12 Amasa lay wallowing in his blood in the middle of the road, and the man saw that all the troops came to a halt there. When he realized that everyone who came up to Amasa stopped, he dragged him from the road into a field and threw a garment over him.
13 After Amasa had been removed from the road, everyone went on with Joab to pursue Sheba son of Bikri.
14 Sheba passed through all the tribes of Israel to Abel Beth Maakah and through the entire region of the Bikrites,[b] who gathered together and followed him.
15 All the troops with Joab came and besieged Sheba in Abel Beth Maakah. They built a siege ramp up to the city, and it stood against the outer fortifications. While they were battering the wall to bring it down,
16 a wise woman called from the city, “Listen! Listen! Tell Joab to come here so I can speak to him.”
17 He went toward her, and she asked, “Are you Joab?” “I am,” he answered. She said, “Listen to what your servant has to say.” “I’m listening,” he said.
18 She continued, “Long ago they used to say, ‘Get your answer at Abel,’ and that settled it.
19 We are the peaceful and faithful in Israel. You are trying to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why do you want to swallow up the LORD’s inheritance?”
20 “Far be it from me!” Joab replied, “Far be it from me to swallow up or destroy!
21 That is not the case. A man named Sheba son of Bikri, from the hill country of Ephraim, has lifted up his hand against the king, against David. Hand over this one man, and I’ll withdraw from the city.” The woman said to Joab, “His head will be thrown to you from the wall.”
22 Then the woman went to all the people with her wise advice, and they cut off the head of Sheba son of Bikri and threw it to Joab. So he sounded the trumpet, and his men dispersed from the city, each returning to his home. And Joab went back to the king in Jerusalem.

David’s Officials

23 Joab was over Israel’s entire army; Benaiah son of Jehoiada was over the Kerethites and Pelethites;
24 Adoniram[c] was in charge of forced labor; Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was recorder;
25 Sheva was secretary; Zadok and Abiathar were priests;
26 and Ira the Jairite[d] was David’s priest.

2 Samuel 20 Commentary

Chapter 20

Sheba's rebellion. (1-3) Amasa slain by Joab. (4-13) Sheba takes refuge in Abel. (14-22) David's officers. (23-26)

Verses 1-3 One trial arises after another for our good, till we reach the place where sin and sorrow are for ever done away. Angry disputers misunderstand or misconstrue one another's words; proud men will have every thing their own way, or wholly refuse their assistance. The favour of the many is not to be depended upon; and what have others to expect, when Hosanna to the Son of David was soon changed to Crucify him, crucify him?

Verses 4-13 Joab barbarously murdered Amasa. The more plot there is in a sin, the worse it is. Joab contentedly sacrificed the interest both of the king and the kingdom to his personal revenge. But one would wonder with what face a murderer could pursue a traitor; and how, under such a load of guilt, he had courage to enter upon danger: his conscience was seared.

Verses 14-22 Justly is that place attacked, which dares to harbour a traitor; nor will the heart fare better which indulges rebellious lusts, that will not have Christ to reign over them. A discreet woman, by her prudent management, satisfied Joab, and yet saved the city. Wisdom is not confined to rank or sex; it consists not in deep knowledge; but in understanding how to act as matters arise, that troubles may be turned away and benefits secured. A great deal of mischief would be prevented, if contending parties would understand one another. Let both sides be undeceived. The single condition of peace is, the surrender of the traitor. It is so in God's dealing with the soul, when besieged by conviction and distress; sin is the traitor; the beloved lust is the rebel: part with that, cast away the transgression, and all shall be well. There is no peace on any other terms.

Verses 23-26 Here is the state of David's court, after his restoration. It is well when able men are appointed to discharge public duties; let all seek to perform those duties, as faithful servants to the Son of David.

Cross References 24

  • 1. S Genesis 31:14
  • 2. S Genesis 29:14; 1 Kings 12:16
  • 3. 1 Samuel 22:7-8; 2 Chronicles 10:16
  • 4. S 2 Samuel 15:16; 2 Samuel 16:21-22
  • 5. S 2 Samuel 17:25; 2 Samuel 19:13
  • 6. 2 Samuel 21:17
  • 7. S 1 Samuel 30:14; S 2 Samuel 8:18; 2 Samuel 15:18; 1 Kings 1:38
  • 8. S Joshua 9:3
  • 9. S 2 Samuel 2:18
  • 10. S Judges 3:21; 2 Samuel 2:23; 2 Samuel 3:27
  • 11. 1 Kings 2:5
  • 12. S 2 Samuel 2:23
  • 13. Numbers 21:16
  • 14. 1 Kings 15:20; 2 Kings 15:29
  • 15. 2 Kings 19:32; Isaiah 37:33; Jeremiah 6:6; Jeremiah 32:24
  • 16. 2 Samuel 14:2
  • 17. S Deuteronomy 2:26
  • 18. S 1 Samuel 26:19; 2 Samuel 21:3
  • 19. S 2 Samuel 4:8
  • 20. Ecclesiastes 9:13
  • 21. S 2 Samuel 2:28; 2 Samuel 8:16-18; 2 Samuel 24:2
  • 22. 1 Kings 4:6; 1 Kings 5:14; 1 Kings 12:18; 2 Chronicles 10:18
  • 23. S 2 Samuel 8:16; 1 Kings 4:3
  • 24. S 1 Samuel 2:35; S 2 Samuel 8:17

Footnotes 4

  • [a]. Or "and do us serious injury"
  • [b]. See Septuagint and Vulgate; Hebrew "Berites" .
  • [c]. Some Septuagint manuscripts (see also 1 Kings 4:6 and 5:14); Hebrew "Adoram"
  • [d]. Hebrew; some Septuagint manuscripts and Syriac (see also 23:38) "Ithrite"

Chapter Summary


This chapter gives an account of a new rebellion raised by Sheba, 2Sa 20:1,2; of David's shutting up his concubines unto the day of their death, whom Absalom had lain with, 2Sa 20:3; of Amasa being ordered to assemble the men of Judah to crush the rebellion, but being dilatory, Abishai is sent out with David's servants, and was followed by Joab with the men under him, 2Sa 20:4-7; and of the murder of Amasa by Joab, 2Sa 20:8-13; and of Sheba being shut up in the city Abel, 2Sa 20:14,15; whose head, by the means of a wise woman, was delivered to Joab, and so an end was put to the rebellion, 2Sa 20:16-22; and, lastly, of the chief officers in David's camp and court, 2Sa 20:23-26.

2 Samuel 20 Commentaries

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