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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 20

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

Verse 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.

And there happened to be there. — As all places are full of such beautefeaus and Belialists: so is hell too. God permitted, and the devil instigated this fellow to stir up this rebellion for a further correction to David; and, as some think, for his late unjust dealing with Mephibosheth.

A man of Belial.Iniquus et nebulo, flagellum Reip, et flabellum seditionis; such as amongst us were Jack Cade or Wat Tyler, who dared to say that all the laws of England should come out of his mouth.

A Benjamite. — Of the house of Saul likely; and, as some think, one of Absalom’s captains against David, even the next to Amasa. A Lapide.

And he blew a trumpet. — Himself being Tuba rebellionis, blew a trumpet, that he might thereby assemble, and get audience among the discontented multitude, that shallow brained but great and many headed beast.

We have no part in David, — viz., As the men of Judah say, - thus he maketh use of the late unhappy contention to advance his ambitious design of setting up himself or some other of his tribe, - let us therefore relinquish him as a stranger, and make a new choice of one that will care more for us. It vexed the ten tribes, perhaps, that David sent Zadok and Abiathar to the men of Judah, to persuade with them to fetch back the king, and not unto them, and that he seemed to incline rather to them than to the rest. A prince had need to carry an even hand over his subjects, of various nations especially; or else there will be somewhat to do with them; as was lately here with the English and Scots in King James’s reign. Charles V is famous for this virtue, Ut qui singulis se parem immo patrem exhibebat.

In the son of Jesse. — This expression savoureth of Saul, and of the old enmity.

Every man to his tents, O Israel. — Look you to your business, and let him look to his.

Verse 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.

So every man of Israel. — So fickle and inconstant is that neutrum modo, mas modo, vulgus, the common people. Our Saviour found it so, when their "Hosanna" was so soon changed into "Crucify him, crucify him." All this was for David’s good, that he might trust more in God, and less in the creature.

Verse 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.

And David came to his house at Jerusalem. — Which had been in his absence basely defiled, and was therefore by him newly dedicated. Psalms 30:1 , title

And put them in ward. — He committed them to perpetual, yet liberal imprisonment: because they had not rather died, as they ought to have done, than yielded to Absalom’s lust, in so public a manner especially. Pellican here observeth that David was to blame for not punishing such others, now in his power, as were either causers or consenters to that disgrace; such as was Amasa, a chief man, then about Absalom. Of one Ode Severus, Archbishop of Canterbury, A.D. 934, we read that he excommunicated King Edwin’s concubines; and caused one of them, whom the king doted unreasonably upon, to be fetched out of the court by violence, burnt her in the forehead with a hot iron, and banished her into Ireland. Godw., Catal., 62. Absalom had no such zealots about him; but what should David have done?

Verse 4

Then said the king to Amasa, Assemble me the men of Judah within three days, and be thou here present.

Within three days. — This task was long; the time short; but the necessity was pressing. Semper nocuit differre.

Verse 5

So Amasa went to assemble [the men of] Judah: but he tarried longer than the set time which he had appointed him.

But he tarried longer. — Either through his own remissness, or the people’s unwillingness to be commanded by this new general.

Verse 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.

Do us more harm than did Absalom. — David’s endless troubles kept his body still in action, his mind in passions, and his prowess in use, as one speaketh of our King John. Speed. Affliction, saith another, so held in the Saxon kings in the Danish wars, that, having little outlets and leisure for ease and luxury, they were made the more pious, just, and careful in their government. Daniel.

Take thou thy lord’s servants. — That is, My guard, and those other that are in readiness, as 2 Samuel 20:7 .

Verse 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.

Joab’s men. — Those that had lately been commanded by him: but he was now Officiperda, which yet held not long, for he would not be ousted.

Verse 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.

And as he went forth, it fell out. — He had taught it, as it were, at a certain motion or posture of his body, to fall out of the scabbard, that taking it up in his hand again, he might inter salutandum smite Amasa, suspecting no harm.

Verse 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.

Art thou in health, my brother? — Of all kinds of revenge that is most execrable and deadly, which, like a serpent in the green grass, lies lurking in the flatteries and fawnings of a fleeting face. The Hebrew here hath it, Art thou peace? Oh, base!

And Joab took Amasa by the beard to kiss him. — Indeed, to kill him. But that this was the ancient manner of saluting, see Plin., lib. xi. cap. 5.

Verse 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.

So he smote him therewith in the fifth rib. — Was not David in some sort guilty of this murder of Amasa, by not having all this while punished Joab for the like butchery acted upon Abner? Hemingius telleth of a felon who was found guilty of murdering seven men: and while the judge was considering what punishment heavy enough to inflict upon him, a certain advocate stepped forth, and offered to prove that the judge himself was guilty of the six last of those murders, because he had not punished ths felon for the first.

Verse 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.

And one of Joab’s men stood by him. — This soldier was left there by Joab to justify the fact, and to advise them to march on, notwithstanding it. One interpreter saith that these words are a bitter jeer of a certain servant insulting over dead Amasa, and extolling the wicked act of his master Joab.

Verse 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.

And Amasa wallowed in blood. — Beating himself, and sprunting in the last pangs of death. Thus God punished him for his rebellion against his uncle, though David had both pardoned and preferred him.

Verse 13

When he was removed out of the highway, all the people went on after Joab, to pursue after Sheba the son of Bichri.

All the people went on after Joab. — So fast affected they were to him, notwithstanding these foul miscarriages and David’s displeasure to boot.

Verse 14

And he went through all the tribes of Israel unto Abel, and to Bethmaachah, and all the Berites: and they were gathered together, and went also after him.

And he went through all the tribes of Israel. — First Sheba did, and then Joab at the heels of him, as our forces were at the heels of the gunpowder plotters, who fled from one county to another, after that they were discovered, but could not escape the divine vengeance: which the Greeks fitly call Aδραστεια , because it cannot be avoided.

Verse 15

And they came and besieged him in Abel of Bethmaachah, 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.

And they came and besieged him. — Who now probably repented him of his bold and treacherous enterprise; sicut Leo cassibus irretitus ait, Si praescivissem?

Battered the wall to throw it down. — It had been pity those walls should have stood, if they had been too high to throw a traitor’s head over. Sheba, likely, thought himself very safe when gotten into a walled city: but what said the voice from heaven to Phocas the traitor? - if Nicephorus may be believed - Though thou build thy walls as high as heaven, and as strong as thou canst make them, yet sin lying at the bottom will easily undermine and overturn them: ευαλωτος η απολις , the city of thy defence will soon be taken.

Verse 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.

Then cried a wise woman out of the city. — There are wise women, then, as well as men: souls have no sexes. It was a foolish speech of him -

“ Mισω σοφην γαναικα ”

God delighteth oft, by weak means, to effect great matters.

Verse 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.

And he answered, I do hear. — He slighted her not, though a weak woman. If he had, she might fitly have said unto him, as Bernard once did to his brother when he gave him good counsel, and he being a soldier minded it not: A spear shall one day make way to that heart of thine, for instructions and admonitions to enter at.

Verse 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].

They shall surely ask counsel at Abel,q.d., You need not take scorn to take my counsel, since I was born and bred at Abel, the common oracle of the whole country, and so famous for wisdom, as some places are for folly, Baeotum in patria, crassoque sub aere natus. Brabanti quo magis senescunt eo magis stultescunt. - Erasm. that people came from all parts to take advice there; the men of Abel were so well seen in [Saw so well into.] the laws. Most interpreters think that in these words, read according to the margin, she had respect to Deuteronomy 20:10-11 , and blamed Joab that he had not first made proposals of peace: therefore in the next verse she saith in the name of her city, "I am one of those which are peaceable," i.e., which will not refuse the offer and order of peace.

Verse 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?

I am one of them, … — See on 2 Samuel 20:18 .

Thou seekest to destroy a city and a mother in Israel,i.e., A metropolis that hath many towns belonging to it; which sucking in the air of this city, as Plutarch speaketh of Rome in Numa’s days, do breathe peaceableness and faithfulness to their rightful sovereign. Or, A mother in Israel, that is, a city that can give mother-like counsel. Or, A mother, that is, a university, such as was afterwards Athens, spared therefore by Sulla, when as else he had destroyed it. Plut., Apoph.

Why wilt thou swallow up — As a greedy beast doth his prey.

The inheritance of the Lord? — Will not such a murdering morsel be thy bane? Art thou so good at committing of sacrilege, at robbing God of his right?

Verse 20

And Joab answered and said, Far be it, far be it from me, that I should swallow up or destroy.

Far be it, far be it from me. — He utterly disclaimeth and disavoweth all such bloodthirstiness as wherewith she chargeth him. He affected not the title of Poliorcetes or city-destroyer: but rather of Euergetes, a preserver of his country, a general benefactor.

Verse 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.

Deliver him only, and I will depart from the city. — Spiritually the case is ours, saith a right reverend writer. Bp. Hall, Contempl. Every man’s breast is as a city enclosed. Every sin is a traitor that lurketh within those walls. God calleth to us for Sheba’s head, neither hath he any quarrel to us for our person, but for our sin. If we love the head of our traitor above the life of our soul, we shall justly perish in the vengeance. We cannot be more willing to part with our sins, than our merciful God is to withdraw his judgments.

Verse 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.

Then the woman went to all the people. — Josephus telleth us what she said, Vultis mali male perire cure liberis ac coningibus? … Will you utterly undo yourselves, your wives and children, for this wicked fellow’s sake, who is both a stranger to you and a rebel against David, from whom you have received so many benefits?

And they cut off the head of Sheba. — A fit death for a traitor. There was a young man among the Swiss that went about to usurp the government, and to alter their free state. Him they condemned to death, and appointed his father to cut off his head, as the cause of his evil education. It were happy if all such traitors might hop headless.

And Joab returned to Jerusalem unto the king. — Who was so glad, it seemeth, of this victory without bloodshed, that he never so much as mentioned to Joab, for aught we find, the murder of Amasa; which he should have reproved him for at least, though he durst not punish him.

Verse 23

Now Joab [was] over all the host of Israel: and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada [was] over the Cherethites and over the Pelethites:

Now Joab was over all the host. — He would be so; neither was it in David’s power to put him by; so great a sway bare he in the army, who were all for General Joab. Neither, indeed, could David well spare him, so necessary was his service.

Verse 24

And Adoram [was] over the tribute: and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud [was] recorder:

And Adoram was over the tribute. — All was as before, 2 Samuel 8:15-18 David being fully reestablished; save that this Adoram praeerat pecuniae recipiendae, was treasurer for the tribute, which came in from those many nations, since subdued by David.

Verse 25

And Sheva [was] scribe: and Zadok and Abiathar [were] the priests:

And Sheva was scribe. — The same with that Seraiah, 2 Samuel 8:17 or else some other succeeding him, being now dead.

Verse 26

And Ira also the Jairite was a chief ruler about David.

Was a chief ruler about David, — Heb., A prince, or a priest: whence some make him president of the council; others, the king’s chaplain or his almoner; others, his peculiar and familiar friend. Amicus intimus et consiliarius. - Vat.

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/2-samuel-20.html. 1865-1868.
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