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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 20

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1

SHEBA’S REBELLION, 2 Samuel 20:1-22.

1. A man of Belial See note on 1 Samuel 1:16.

A Benjamite And therefore probably affected with strong desire to have his tribe recover the ascendency which it lost by the death of Saul. Sheba had probably been a leading spirit in Absalom’s rebellion, and was evidently a man of great influence among the people.

He blew a trumpet The signal of insurrection (2 Samuel 15:10) as well as retreat. 2 Samuel 18:16. It served to assemble the people and secure their attention.

We have no part in David At that moment of excited and bitter contention this cry acted like a charm to precipitate rebellion.

Every man to his tents To his house or lodging place. On the meaning of tent in such connexion, see note at 1 Samuel 17:54.

Verse 2

2. Israel went up from after David So this second insurrection began before the king had returned to Jerusalem. The elders of the ten tribes, embittered by the fierce words of the Judahites, and emboldened by the sound of Sheba’s trumpet, utterly forsook the king in the plains of Jericho, and left the men of Judah to escort him home alone.

Verse 3

3. Put them in ward Shut them up in a place of security, where no one could come at them.

Fed them Provided them with temporal comforts. “He could not well divorce them; he could not punish them, as they were not in the transgression; he could no more be familiar with them, because they had been defiled by his son; and to have married them to other men might have been dangerous to the state.” Clarke.

Verse 4

4. Said the king to Amasa So he speedily carried out his pledge to this man. See 2 Samuel 19:13. But this rash purpose, conceived in anger, proved to Amasa fatally abortive.

Verse 5

5. He tarried longer than the set time He doubtless met with many and serious difficulties in collecting together the warriors of Judah, who, long accustomed to the command of Joab, were slow to follow the call of him who had been the leader of the insurgent hosts.

Verse 6

6. David said to Abishai He grew impatient over the slow movements of Amasa, and, knowing that every day might add new strength to the rebellion, he sent forth Joab’s brother; for he could not now safely or consistently send Joab, who had been superseded in office, and might himself be strongly tempted to join the insurgents.

Thy lord’s servants The mighty men and faithful adherents who had returned to Jerusalem with the king, and ever kept near his person. They are called David’s men in 2 Samuel 19:41, and included the Cherethites and Pelethites.

Escape us Margin, correctly: deliver himself from our eyes; that is, elude all our search and effort to overcome him. Keil translates, tear out our eye, that is, do us a serious injury.

Verse 7

7. Joab’s men The body of soldiers that usually fought under Joab’s immediate command. From what follows we see that Joab also went with them, probably in command of his own body of men, but not as captain of the host. He cherished a terrible purpose of revenge on the man who had taken his office in the army, but he kept his purpose to himself until the proper time for its accomplishment.

Cherethites… Pelethites Executioners and runners of foreign origin. See on 2 Samuel 8:18.

Verse 8

8. The great stone Some old landmark well known at the time of the writer, but now not recognised or identified by travellers, perhaps because long since removed.

Gibeon Where occurred the sore battle between Abner and Joab. 2 Samuel 2:12-17.

Amasa went before them At this place he had probably ordered the men of Judah, whom he had been summoning, to rendezvous; and now, arriving at the place himself, and finding David’s servants there under command of Abishai, he went before them all; that is, assumed command of the entire host. This was more than Joab’s jealousy could endure, and he felt that now was the opportune moment for revenge.

And Joab’s garment that he had… on A better translation is, And Joab was girt about with his military coat as his upper garment, and upon it a sword-girdle fastened on his loins, in its sheath, and he went forth and it fell; that is, the sword fell out.

Verse 9

9. To kiss him How like the treachery of Judas! Matthew 26:49. Joab was versed in treacherous acts like this. Compare 2 Samuel 3:27.

Verse 10

10. Took no heed to the sword He probably saw him pick up his sword as it fell from his girdle, and, though still in his hand, he suspected no foul intention.

In the fifth rib Rather, in the abdomen. See note on 2 Samuel 2:23.

Joab and Abishai… pursued They felt themselves now responsible for the success of the army.

Verse 11

11. One of Joab’s men stood Doubtless he was instructed to do so by Joab himself.

By him By the bloody corpse of Amasa.

He that favoureth Joab… after Joab There is no other commander now, and his heart is still loyal to David. Thus Joab’s bold and fearless action defeats the purposes of his king.

Verse 12

12. Stood still Horror-stricken at the ghastly sight, as formerly at the sight of the murdered Asahel, (2 Samuel 2:23;) and probably many were in doubt as to who was now their captain.

Verse 14

14. Through all the tribes That is, all the tribes whose territory lay between Jerusalem and Abel, namely, Benjamin, Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, Zebulun, and Naphtali.

Abel, and to Beth-maachah Called Abel of Beth-maachah in the next verse, and Abel-beth-maachah in 1 Kings 15:20, and 2 Kings 15:29. Beth-maachah was probably the district of which Abel was the chief city. This city was situated on a long oval mound, about twenty-five miles north of the Sea of Galilee, and identical with the modern Abil. Says Dr. Thomson: “I have repeatedly ridden round it, and stood on the top trying to realize the scene. Taking advantage of an oblong knoll of natural rock that rises above the surrounding plain, the original inhabitants raised a high mound sufficiently large for their city. With a deep ‘trench’ and strong wall, it must have been almost impregnable. The country on every side is most lovely, well watered, and very fertile.” In 2 Chronicles 16:4, it is called Abel-maim, probably from the fountains and vast marsh near by.

All the Berites The meaning of this is uncertain. It may designate a tribe of people dwelling near Abel; or we may render the Hebrew by all the Berim, and understand a district of open country in the same vicinity. Compare all Bethron, (2 Samuel 2:29,) and the Chaldee בר , an open field.

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Verse 15

15. A bank against the city A mound or rampart on which the besieging forces might easily approach the city wall.

It stood in the trench The marginal reading is better, it stood against the outmost wall; that is, the embankment or rampart just mentioned stood against or near by the exterior fortification ( pomoerium) which the inhabitants of Abel had built around the wall of their city. The building of an embankment against these outer works of the city enabled the besieging army to batter the wall with engines.

Battered the wall What methods or instruments they used for destroying these walls it is difficult to tell. The engines invented during Uzziah’s reign (2 Chronicles 26:15) were not then in use; but perhaps they used something resembling the battering ram of the ancient Romans.

Verse 16

16. A wise woman And one that had great influence with the people, as the sequel shows. She may have been a prophetess, like Deborah. Judges 4:4.

Verse 18

18. They were wont to speak in old time Translated thus, the verse means that in former times Abel had been celebrated for the wisdom of its inhabitants, and persons were wont to resort thither for counsel. This wise woman, by calling attention to this fact, suggests that the counsel of Abel may be worth hearing now. This is the interpretation adopted by most critics; but to us the translation in the margin seems to suggest a simpler interpretation. We would translate and explain as follows: They (the inhabitants of Abel) would repeatedly speak at the beginning, (of the siege, when Joab’s army first appeared before the walls and began to cast up embankments,) saying, They will surely ask in Abel; (that is, ask what they want, or propose terms of peace before they proceed to destroy the city, as the law required, Deuteronomy 20:10;) and so they will cease, (that is, cease from or make an end of the war. They will thus cause the battle to cease.) According to this interpretation, the wise woman blamed Joab for beginning a siege without consulting its inhabitants and making known the object of his attack; and the sequel clearly implies that he had begun the siege without first demanding the surrender of Sheba.

Verse 19

19. I… peaceable… faithful in Israel She speaks in, the name of the whole city, declaring that they were guilty of nothing that called for war.

A mother in Israel A designation of Abel as a mother city, having many towns dependent upon her.

Why wilt thou This question clearly implies that Joab had begun his siege without proper preliminary communication with the inhabitants, and even without making known his purpose or desires.

The inheritance of the Lord The land of Israel consecrated for his chosen people. See marginal references.

Verse 21

21. Mount Ephraim Which extended into the territory of Benjamin. See note on Judges 17:1.

Verse 22

22. In her wisdom With wise counsels advising them to deliver up the seditious Benjamite, which advice they readily followed.

Retired from the city Literally, They were scattered, or dispersed themselves, from the city. They retreated, not in the order of battle, but at the sound of the trumpet every man started off by the nearest road to his own home.

Joab returned… unto the king Flushed with victory and extolled by the people as the conqueror of this rebellion as well as that of Absalom, he knew that David would not dare depose him again from the office he had resumed upon the death of Amasa.

Verses 23-26

DAVID’S OFFICIALS, 2 Samuel 20:23-26.

This list differs from that given in 2 Samuel 8:16-18, only in the addition of the names of Adoram and Ira the Jairite, and belongs to a later period of David’s reign. Our author seems to have had before him the records of Jehoshaphat, the king’s recorder, and finding therein these two lists, he inserted them both at the proper places in his own narrative to show how few changes the king made among his officials in a reign of forty years.

Verse 24

24. Adoram Called also Adoniram and Hadoram, 1Ki 4:6 ; 2 Chronicles 10:18. He received his appointment at a late period of David’s reign, and continued in office until the reign of Rehoboam, when he was stoned to death by the infuriated people, who had grown tired of excessive taxation. See 1 Kings 12:18.

Over the tribute The Hebrews were required to pay tribute to Jehovah to sustain the service of the sanctuary. Exodus 30:11-16. The support of the kingdom, the court, and the building of public works required additional revenues, and the kings of Israel, when they had the power, exacted tribute from the foreign nations that were subject to them, and also, in times of emergency, from the Israelitish people themselves. This taxation became, in the reign of Solomon, so burdensome that after his death the people protested against it. 1 Kings 12:4. It was Adoram’s business to superintend all these revenues of the kingdom, but more particularly the levies of men which were, from time to time, required for the public works. The Hebrew word מס , here rendered tribute, means generally a tribute of bond-service, or levies of men impressed for various kinds of labour. So the word is used in 1 Kings 5:13-14. There it appears that Adoram’s duty was to oversee the levies that were bound to labour, whether they were levied from among the Israelites, or were bond-servants from among the heathen. This, perhaps, explains why this officer first appears at a late period of David’s reign, when the number of foreign captives, reduced to bond-service by the fortunes of war, had become so great as to require a special officer to superintend them.

Verse 25

25. Sheva Called Shisha, 1 Kings 4:3, and Shavsha, 1 Chronicles 18:16; but these are all either corruptions or abbreviations of the name Seraiah, which appears in the earlier list. 2 Samuel 8:17.

Zadok and Abiathar… priests These priests seem to have acted in great harmony during the reign of David. But the one officiated at Gibeon and the other at Jerusalem. See note on 2 Samuel 6:17. When Solomon became king he removed Abiathar. 1 Kings 2:26.

Verse 26

26. Ira the Jairite He either took the place of David’s sons, or was added to their number as a private counsellor. See on chap. 2 Samuel 8:18. Of his personal history we know nothing beyond this single fact. The Ithrite of this name, mentioned 2 Samuel 23:38, was, perhaps, a different person.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/2-samuel-20.html. 1874-1909.
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