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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

2 Samuel 20

Verse 1

Ver. 1. We have no part in David, &c.— The propensity of the children of Israel to rebellion is here very obvious to remark. There needs but a single match to light the fire of discord. The ten tribes disputing with that of Judah, their contest ran so high, that a wicked man, Sheba, a Benjamite, most probably a relation of Saul, found it sufficient to occasion a revolt. Instead of the son of Bichri, it might be rendered, one of the princes, or of the chiefs of the tribe of Benjamin: and it has been thought that Sheba, after Amasa, was one of the principal commanders in Absalom's army.

Verse 3

2 Samuel 20:3. The king took the ten women his concubines, &c.— As soon as David arrived at Jerusalem, one of his first cares was to remove those concubines, or secondary wives, whom Absalom had so scandalously abused. He ordered them, therefore, to be separated from the palace, and maintained in a proper place of seclusion and retirement, where they ended their lives as widows. The Jews say, that the widows of their kings could never marry again. David treated them as widows, and allowed them not to appear again in public, that there might be as little renewal as possible in the minds of men of the opprobrious infamy of his son. Mahomet, who borrowed a variety of his laws from the Jews, forbade his wives to marry again after his death. See Selden, Uxor. Heb. lib. 1: cap. 10.

REFLECTIONS.—When men's spirits are exasperated in popular tumults, some crafty and ambitious head fails not to improve the circumstances for his own advancement.

1. Sheba the son of Bichri, a Benjamite, a man of Belial, thinking that he might now step into the throne, widens the breach into rebellion. Since Judah seemed to engross the king, he advises the men of Israel to renounce the ten parts they claimed, and to have no part in David. The trumpet is blown, and Sheba now is their leader. Note; (1.) We must not promise ourselves long peace here below. Whilst the old enmity reigns in the heart of the sinner, new storms will arise. (2.) Foolish quarrels have dangerous consequences. (3.) We are apt to be swinging to extremes; and those who seemed the most zealous friends sometimes turn the bitterest enemies.

2. David proceeds to Jerusalem, and his first care is to shut up his concubines, whom Absalom had defiled, Note; Obscure retirement is the fittest place for those who have made themselves publicly scandalous.

Verse 9

2 Samuel 20:9. Joab took Amasa by the beard—to kiss him Those, among the Arabs, who are more intimately acquainted, or of equal age and dignity, mutually kiss the hand, the head, or shoulder of each other, says Dr. Shaw; but he makes no mention of their taking hold of the beard in order to kiss. Thevenot, however, assures us, that among the Turks it is a great affront to take one by the beard, unless it be to kiss him, in which case they often do it. Whether he means by kissing him, kissing his beard, or not, I cannot tell; but Joab's taking Amasa by the beard to kiss him, seems designed to express his taking his beard to kiss it; at least this is agreeable to the customs of those who now live in that country; for D'Arvieux, describing the assembling together of several of the petty Arab princes at an entertainment, tells us, that "all the Emirs came together a little time after, accompanied by their friends and attendants; and after the usual civilities, caressings, kissings of the beard, and of the hand, which every one gave and received, according to his rank and dignity, they sat down upon mats." He elsewhere speaks of the women's kissing their husbands' beards, and children those of their fathers, and reciprocally saluting each other in this manner; but the doing it by their Emirs more exactly answers this account of Joab and Amasa; and in this stooping posture he could much better see to direct the blow, than if he had only held his beard, and raised himself to kiss his face. Observations, p. 260.

Verses 10-13

2 Samuel 20:10-10.20.13. He smote him This action was attended with the highest perfidy and insolence. Many reasons concurred to prevent David's calling him to an account now; particularly his power, authority, and interest with the army: but it is plain that he never forgot this outrage of Joab's. 'That he highly resented it, we find in his last charge to Solomon, where he recommends and gives it in charge to his son to do justice on that bloody assassin. He was not now in a capacity to do it. Joab was too powerful a subject to be brought to account. After Absalom's death, he had the insolence to tell the king with an oath, that he would make every one of his subjects desert him; and after this assassination of Amasa, he resumed, contrary to his master's will, the command of all the forces, who had an affection for him as their own general, because he had restored the quiet of the land by quelling the insurrection of Sheba. Joab's being continued captain-general of all the forces, was not from David's inclination, but contrary to it, and by force.

Verse 14

2 Samuel 20:14. Unto Abel, and to Beth-maachah, and all the Berites To Abel Beth-maachah, whither all the Berites were gathered together to him. Houbigant. See the next verse. Abel Beth-maachah was a city between Libanus and Anti-libanus, north of Damascus. The Berites were probably the inhabitants of Beeroth, who were Benjamites.

Verse 15

2 Samuel 20:15. They cast up a bank against the city The LXX render it, they levelled the bank, or glacis, of the city; which receives some countenance from the words immediately following, and it stood in the trench. The Vulgate reads, and they surrounded the city with fortifications. But some learned persons have imagined, that the word סללה solelah, rendered a bank, signifies an engine of war, used in casting stones, or other heavy bodies, against the walls of a city. Parkhurst is of this opinion, who says, that it signifies a balista, a battering engine, anciently made use of to shoot stones against the wall of a besieged city, in order to beat them down. That this is the true meaning of the word, rather than a bank heaped up of stones or earth, seems evident from the present passage, and Jeremiah 6:6; Jeremiah 32:24; Jeremiah 33:4. One of the Greek versions in the Hexapla renders it, Eze 26:8 by βελοστασεις balistas. But should any one in some places prefer the other meaning, which the ancient versions generally favour, it will be best to render it battery, which will preserve the idea of the word. Dr. Delaney observes, that from the accounts we have of Joab's digging a trench round this city, and battering the walls, critics have fairly concluded, that the science of besieging cities with lines of circumvallation and contravallation, as they call them, and battering engines, was much older than any account left us of this practice in the history of the heathen world: though Herodotus, in his first book, gives Harpagus, Cyrus's general, the credit of having invented the lines now mentioned, and taken the city of Phocoea (the first city, according to him, so taken) by that invention; whereas the sacred writer speaks of one of those lines on occasion of the siege of Abel, as of a thing familiar and well known to his readers. See Scheuchzer on the place.

Verses 16-20

2 Samuel 20:16-10.20.20. Then cried a wise woman, &c.— As Joab pressed the siege with all earnestness, a wise woman, who probably was governess of the city, (an office, though generally filled by men, yet sometimes administered by women, such as Deborah, Athaliah, Judith, &c.) This wise woman from within called out over the walls, and desired to speak with him, in all the modesty and decency of language then in use: prefacing what she had to say with a short account of the reputation of wisdom (2 Samuel 20:18.) in which that city anciently stood; she covertly, as the text, 2Sa 20:19 is generally understood, expostulated with him upon the iniquity of going about to destroy an ancient and venerable city of his nation, without proposing terms of submission to it, and offering peace upon acceptance of those terms, as the law of God expressly directed to be done, even to an hostile and heathen city. Deuteronomy 20:0. She urges, that her city was faithful and peaceable in Israel: upon what pretence, then, could he engage in destroying a city of that character? Was not this to destroy a mother city, and to swallow up the inheritance of the Lord? Her speech is marked with all the characters of wisdom; close, clear, and cogent; singularly emphatical and moving, and such as well supported the reputation of her city. It is scarcely to be supposed, that she undertook this parley otherwise than in concert with the chief persons of her city; and if so, nothing surely could be managed with more address than their choosing out a wise and venerable woman to plead their cause. In the first place, her sex and character intitled her to attention and respect, which possibly could not have been so well secured to any rebel of the other sex, with a man of Joab's rough and haughty spirit. In the next place, they knew that ancient and honourable cities were wont to be considered under the character of matrons, revered for virtue and a numerous well-educated offspring, a way of speaking familiar to all languages; and indeed we frequently find both cities and countries in distress, represented under the character of complaining matrons, both in the writings and on the medals of the ancients. Who then could be so proper a representative of a city in distress, as a complaining matron?

Verse 23

2 Samuel 20:23. Now Joab was over all the host of Israel Joab, having successfully put an end to the rebellion of Sheba, returned to Jerusalem to the king, and returned with such a weight of popularity, as effectually to shield his atrocious murder of Amasa from all attempts of inquiry or chastisement. "The crime," as Florus expresses it, "was within the glory:" and not only so, but reinstated him likewise in the supreme command over the army. Thus did it seem good to the divine wisdom to permit Joab's unruly and impetuous ambition, at one time separate from all sense of duty, and at another joined to it, to punish the guilt of four notorious rebels in succession, Abner, Absalom, Amasa, and Sheba, with dreadful deaths; two of them, indeed, treacherous and sudden; but all, in the retributions of Providence, judicial and just. Dr. Delaney thinks, that David published at this time the 133rd Psalm, entirely to compose all contests and disagreements among the tribes.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/2-samuel-20.html. 1801-1803.