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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 20

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

Verses 1-26

Satan is always ready to take advantage of such occasions among God's people, and he had a man there of worthless, ambitious character, Sheba, the son of Bichri was actually a Benjamite, not from any of the other ten tribes, but he saw an opportunity to exalt himself. Blowing a trumpet, he made the bold declaration, "We have no part in David, nor do we have inheritance in the son of Jesse; every man to his tents, 0 Israel!"

Since the Israelites were already incensed against Judah, Sheba's loud voice and confident tone swayed all Israel to follow him without any consideration of the character of their leader. What a lesson for the people of God! Friction and quarreling can lead to men's accepting the leadership of a wicked and worthless man! Sects are easily formed in this way. Where indeed were the peacemakers who are called "the sons of God" (Matthew 5:9)? The men of Judah remained loyal to David, but still, they had also shown too much of a sectarian spirit in their treatment of Israel. Self-judgement on their part therefore was just as important as it was on the part of Israel. But the rift between the tribes had taken place, and it must be faced.

Arriving at Jerusalem, David's first act was to put his concubines in seclusion. Since Absalom had violated them, David knew it would be wrong for him to have any sexual relations with them again. He did support them, however, but they lived in virtual widowhood.

As David had intimated, he ignored Joab as to the assembling of his army, and gave Amasa (the formerly appointed leader of Absalom's rebels) orders to gather the men of Judah within three days (v.4). But Amasa had no experience such as Joab had, and delayed longer than he was told (v.3).

David therefore told Abishai (not Joab) to take soldiers with him and pursue Sheba the son of Bichri before he was able to establish himself in fortified cities and present a formidable opposition to Judah. Of course Abishai, the brother of Joab, was also an experienced man of war.

But verse 7 tells us it was Joab's men, with the Cherethites and the Pelethites (David's bodyguard) who went with him. Joab himself was not going to be left out, whatever David's orders were. They started on their way to pursue Sheba.

A short distance north (at Gibeon) Amasa met them. Whether he had done anything at all in gathering Judah we are not told. But Joab saw the opportunity he wanted. Amasa was totally unsuspecting, though he ought to have remembered Joab's murder of Abner (2 Samuel 3:26-27), and he should have known perfectly well that Joab would strongly resent Amasa's promotion above him to the rank of commander of David's armies. Joab was dressed in battle armor, and though he had a sword in his left hand, Amasa did not even notice this, and specially since Joab spoke to him in friendly terms, "Are you in health, my brother?" and came close to kiss him. But "the kisses of an enemy are deceitful" (Proverbs 27:6), and Joab plunged his sword into Amasa's chest at the same time, making sure he killed him with one stroke.

Joab and Abishai continued their pursuit of Sheba, leaving Amasa lying in a pool of blood, with one of Joab's men left behind to urge those following to catch up with Joab. But in seeing Amasa's body the people were shocked and stood still. The man therefore removed the body from the highway and covered it with a garment. The gruesome evidence being thus covered up, the men continued on their way to follow Joab. Joab had taken the place of commander, which evidently Abishai willingly gave him.

Sheba had apparently been unable to organize any army whatever, and had travelled as far north as he could in Israel, taking refuge in the city of Abel in Beth-Maachah. We are not even told how may followers were with him. but Joab and his men had no difficulty in finding where he was. The gates of the city were barred, an evidence to Joab that the city was protecting Sheba. Under the protection of a siege mound Joab and his men attacked the city wall, intending to break through it.

However, there was one wise woman in the city who called out to request in interview with Joab. He willingly listened. She then tells him that in former times the city of Abel had a reputation for settling disputes, and indicated that there were still considerate people in the city, including herself, she being one who was peaceable and faithful in Israel. Now she says Joab is seeking to destroy a city and a mother in Israel. Why should he bring the inheritance of the Lord down to ruins?

Joab replies that he has no such intention, but that one man, Sheba, is harbored in the city, and since he has raised insurrection against David, if he is delivered up to Joab, then the city will be spared. The woman is quite confident of the outcome, and tells Joab that Sheba's head will be thrown over the wall. She therefore simply told the citizens, either have the city destroyed in order that Sheba should be killed, or else give up Sheba alone to death and save the city. Of course it would have been only folly to protect the rebel, so they cut off his head and threw it over the wail to Joab.

Thus Joab was successful in quelling that revolt of Sheba without any warfare, and he and his men returned to David at Jerusalem. What was David to do? He had demoted Joab in raising Amasa to take his position. Amasa proved inefficient in his first commission. Then Joab murdered Amasa in cold blood, and Joab without David's instruction, took up Amasa's commission and carried it out quickly and efficiently, relieving David of the threat of a broken kingdom. From a practical viewpoint Joab had done well for David's kingdom, but it was the prosperity of the kingdom for which he was zealous, not for the honor of God. David had refused to have Saul killed by his men, but Joab had not hesitated to kill Abner, Absalom and Amasa.

David could certainly not approve of this, yet at this time he did nothing about it. Joab took his place again as general over all the army (v.23). Yet later David gave orders to Solomon that Joab must suffer death for his crimes (1 Kings 2:5-6). Joab himself provided the occasion for this when he followed Adonijah in his attempt to take David's throne (1 Kings 1:5; 1 Kings 2:28-34).

Benaiah (v.23) was a different character than Joab, a trusted man who was over David's bodyguard, the Cherethites and the Pelethites. The names of others also are given us in verses 24-26 as those in place of administration in David's kingdom. The list here is similar to that in Chapter 8:16-18, yet there are some differences. That in Chapter 8 is given in connection with the highest point of David's honor in his kingdom while this is given after serious failure and sin had left its blot on that kingdom. In these later years, instead of David's kingdom being consistently a type of that of the Lord Jesus, much of the history is a sad contrast to the pure truth and dignity of the coming kingdom of our Lord. Notice for one thing that in Chapter 8 David's sons are listed as chief ministers, but now only "Ira the Jairite" is mentioned as "chief minister under David." The principle of natural succession has only brought miserable failure. All of this teaches us solemnly that government given into the hands of men (even the best of men) can never succeed. Only the Lord Jesus can be trusted with this high honor. What a relief it will be to the whole creation when He takes His great power and reigns!

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/2-samuel-20.html. 1897-1910.
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