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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
2 Samuel 20

 

 

Verses 1-26

EXPOSITION

2 Samuel 20:1

There happened to be there a man of Belial. The fierce words of the men of Judah led to evil results. It was a time when all wise and thoughtful persons would have laboured for peace, and tried to soothe and appease the angry passions fomented by the late war. Instead of this, the men of Judah irritated the Israelites with insult and contumely, and the day, intended as one of rejoicing and of the restoration of David to his throne by common consent, saw the rebellion break forth afresh. Among those who had taken part in the discussion with Judah was Sheba, a man of Belial, that is, a worthless fellow, but possibly possessed of rank and influence; for, according to many commentators, ben-Bichri does not mean the son of Bichri, but "a descendant of Becher," the second son of Benjamin (Genesis 46:21), and possibly the representative of the mishpachah descended from him. But it is remarkable that this son of Benjamin disappears from the genealogies, and that no mishpachah of Bichrites is mentioned either in Numbers 26:38 or in 1 Chronicles 8:1. In both places Ashbel, who is enumerated as the third son in Genesis 46:21, takes the second place. We must be content, therefore, to leave this matter in uncertainty; but evidently Sheba had come with Shimei and Ziba to welcome David back, and, with the rest of the thousand Benjamites, had rushed with loud cries of welcome across the Jordan, and, but for this altercation, would have remained faithful. But tribal jealousies were always ready to break forth, and were a permanent source of weakness; and now, stung by some jibe at Benjamin, Sheba gave orders to a trumpeter to give the signal for the breaking up of the meeting, and, as is commonly the case in large and excited gatherings, the crowd obeyed the unauthorized dictation of one man. His words are contemptuous enough. David is no king, but a private person, and the son, not of a great chief, but of Jesse merely, a yeoman of Bethlehem. Every man to his tents. "To his tent" meant "to his home" (see 2 Samuel 18:17). But this withdrawal home signified the rejection of David's government. Almost the same words are used in 1 Kings 12:16.

2 Samuel 20:2

So every man of Israel, etc.; literally, so all the men of Israel went up from after David after Sheba. They had come down to Jordan to bring the king back in triumph, but, on finding that the men of Judah had forestalled them, they had a quarrel, and as no one endeavoured to allay it and mediate between them, it ended in open revolt, and they transferred their allegiance to the worthless Sheba. Nothing could more clearly prove the want of cohesion among the tribes, and how little Saul and David had done to knit them together. We need not, therefore, seek for any deep reasons of state, or for proofs of failure in David's government, to account for the rapid success of Absalom's rebellion. Israel was a confused mass of discordant elements, kept in a state of repulsion by the sturdy independence of the tribes and their jealousy one of another. Even David's victories had failed to infuse into them any feeling of national unity, nor did the long glory of Solomon's reign and the magnificence of the temple succeed better. The kings were not as yet much more than the judges had been—leaders in war, but with little authority in times of peace. What is so extraordinary is that David had lost the allegiance of his own tribe; and it now, on returning to its duty, spoiled by its violence the whole matter. The day must have been a great disappointment to David. He was to have gone back conducted gloriously by all the tribes of Israel; but he had fancied that Judah was holding back, and grieving over Absalom. He had secret dealing therefore with it, in order that the day might not be marred by its absence. It came, but only to do mischief; and David went home with only its escort, and with all the rest in open rebellion.

2 Samuel 20:3

They were shut up. We are not to conclude that all widows had to live in seclusion, but only that those women who belonged to the royal harem, but had been taken by another, were not allowed to return to it, but condemned to a sort of imprisonment. Living in widowhood. This is explained by the Chaldee as lasting only during David's life, its rendering being, "in widowhood while their husband was alive."

2 Samuel 20:4

Then said the king to Amasa. David thus takes the first step towards depriving Joab of the command (see 2 Samuel 19:13). This was a most unwise step, however guilty Joab may have been in slaying Absalom. With all his faults, Joab had always been faithful to David, and it was chiefly his skill in war and statesmanlike qualities which had raised the kingdom to a position of great power. Just now, too, he had crushed with smaller forces a rebellion in which Amasa had taken the lead. To cast him off and put Amasa in his place might please conspirators, and reconcile them to their defeat, but it would certainly offend all those who had been faithful to David in his troubles. Throughout David acts as one whose affections were stronger than his sense of duty, and his conduct goes far to justify Joab's complaint, "This day I perceive, that if Absalom had lived, and all we had died this day, then it had pleased thee well" (2 Samuel 19:6). If David, in the administration of his kingdom, acted with as little forethought as in the slight he cast-upon the ten tribes in negotiating with Judah to be the first to restore him, as it had been the first tribe to rebel, instead of waiting for the rest, and doing his best to make the day of his return one of general concord and good will; or with as little justice as in the matter of Ziba and Mephibosheth; or with as little tact and good sense as in substituting at the end of a revolt the rebel general for the brave soldier who had "saved his life, and the lives of his sons and of his daughters, and the lives of his wives and of his concubines" (2 Samuel 19:5); we cannot wonder that he had failed to secure the allegiance of a race so self-willed and stubborn as the Israelites. One cannot help half suspecting that Joab had used the power he had gained over the king by the part he had taken in the murder of Uriah tyrannically, and for cruel purposes, and that David groaned under the burden. But if so, it was his own sin that was finding him out.

2 Samuel 20:5

He tarried longer than the set time. But not longer than was to be expected. For the appointment was so surprising that everybody must have been agape with astonishment. They would naturally have expected that Amasa would he punished. Instead of this, he is commissioned to gather the militia in David's name. And men would hesitate about joining such a leader. Was he really loyal? or would he embark them in a new rebellion? And what would Joab do? He was not a man likely to bear such a slight tamely, and David ought to have foreseen that he was sowing for himself a crop of discord and enmity.

2 Samuel 20:6

David said to Abishai. David thus gives the command to the younger brother, and we find in 2 Samuel 20:7 that even "Joab's men," his own special troop, were placed under Abishai's command. There seems always to have been a firm friendship between the brothers, and at first Joab acquiesces. The king was, in fact, in so grim a humour that he probably felt that he had better keep with his men, who would protect him, instead of remaining at Jerusalem, where he would be in David's power. When Amasa joined them, Abishai would have to resign to him the command; and David probably expected that, after a successful campaign, and with the aid of the men of Judah, who were rebels like himself, Amasa would be able to crush Joab. But Joab did not intend to wait for this; and immediately on meeting his rival he murders him, and assumes the command. Thy lord's servants. These are the men enumerated in 2 Samuel 20:7, and formed David's usual military attendants. When war broke out, they were reinforced by a levy of the people. And escape us. The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain. It may signify, "and withdraw himself from our eyes," which gives the sense of the Authorized Version, and is supported by the Vulgate. The Septuagint renders, "and overshadow our eyes," which might have the same meaning, but, as others think, may signify, "and cause us anxiety." Many modern commentators render, "and pluck out our eye;" that is, do us painful damage. Either this or the Authorized Version gives a good sense, and, anyhow, rapid action was necessary, or Sheba's revolt might become dangerous.

2 Samuel 20:7

There went out after him—that is, under Abishai's command—Joab's men. The men who formed his regular attendants, and to whose number belonged the ten armour bearers who slew Absalom (2 Samuel 18:15). Joab retained their command, and probably they would not have served under any other person. It is evident from the enumeration in this verse that the "men of Judah," after escorting David to Jerusalem, had all dispersed to their own homes.

2 Samuel 20:8

The great stone which is in Gibeon. Gibeon is situated in the mountains of Ephraim, in the tribe of Benjamin, northwest of Jerusalem. The great stone was probably some isolated rock well known in the neighbourhood. Amasa went before them; Hebrew, Amasa came before them; that is, came in view with the levy of men he had raised in Judah. And Joab's garment, etc.; more correctly, and Joab was girded with his military coat as his garment, and over it was the strap of his sword in its sheath, and it (masculine, equivalent to "the sheath") came out, and it (feminine, equivalent to "the sword") fell. This change of gender is very harsh, and has caused the Authorized Version to apply the masculine verb to Joab, and translate, and as he went forth it fell; but a very slight change, supported by the Septuagint, gives us a more satisfactory sense, namely, and it (the sword) came out and fell. It is generally assumed that all this was arranged beforehand on Joab's part, who had so placed his sword that he could shake it out of the sheath. More probably it was an accident, of which he took instant advantage. He had felt that his position was insecure, and that if David had the support of Amasa, and a powerful band of the men of Judah at Jerusalem, he would probably order his execution for slaying Absalom; and Amasa would carry out the command willingly enough, as he thereby would secure the high position offered him. We know David's feelings towards Joab from his dying command to Solomon (1 Kings 2:5), and probably he had given various indications of his deep seated resentment. Joab, therefore, determined to stop Amasa's growth in power, and also to give David a rough lesson. And this accident gave him an early opportunity, which he used with ruthless energy.

2 Samuel 20:10

In the fifth fib; in the abdomen (see note on 2 Samuel 2:23). He struck him not again. When his sword fell out of its sheath, Joab picked it up with his left hand, which was not the hand for action, and as he could not put it into its place without taking it into his right hand, his continuing to hold it while he took his cousin's beard in his fight hand and kissed him, was too natural to awaken any suspicion. But holding down Amasa's head, he struck him with his left hand so fiercely that no second blow was necessary; and then continued his march forward as if what had occurred was a matter of little importance.

2 Samuel 20:11

One of Joab's men. Joab left one of his personal followers to prevent any halt of the people round Amasa's body, and to suggest that he was a traitor. For he was to say to them as they came up, not only that "whosoever had pleasure in Joab," but also that "all who were for David, were to go after Joab." All loyal men were to regard him as captain of the host, and to disobey him would be rebellion. Naturally they would conclude from this that Amasa had not really been true to David, and that his death was the punishment inflicted on him for his past guilt.

2 Samuel 20:12

He removed Amasa. The admonition to move on failed; for the sight was terrible and tragic, and all as they came along stopped to see what had happened, and inquire the cause. The man, therefore, had the corpse carried out of the way, and threw over it a cloth, really a coat—the loose upper mantle worn over the tunic (see note on beged, 1 Samuel 19:13). Whereupon the people renewed their march, most of them not knowing what had occurred, and the rest urged to it by the warning voice of Joab's servitor.

2 Samuel 20:14

And he went through, etc. It was not Joab, but Sheba, who, by David's prompt action, was compelled to make a rapid retreat, seeking help in vain from tribe after tribe, but rejected of all, and unable to make any defence until he had reached the extreme north of the land of Israel. Unto Abel, and to Beth-Maachah. The conjunction probably ought to be omitted, as the proper name of the place, is Abel-beth-Maachah, and it is so given in 2 Samuel 20:15 (see below), and in 1 Kings 15:20; 2 Kings 15:29. It is the place called Abel-Maim, the "water meadow," in 2 Chronicles 16:4—an abel being a place where the grass grows rankly from the abundance of springs. It thus forms part of the name of various places, as Abel-Mizraim (Genesis 1:11), Abel-Meholah (1 Kings 4:12), etc. Abel-beth-Maachah was a fortress in the most northerly part of the tribe of Naphtali, and is identified with the modem village of Abel, a few miles above Lake Huleh, the ancient "Waters of Merom." And all the Berites. No place or people of this name can be found, but Jerome, when translating the Vulgate, had before him a different reading, which seems clearly right, "And all the chosen men of war were gathered together, and went after him."

2 Samuel 20:15

It stood in the trench. This is a literal translation, and yet gives a wrong sense. The Hebrew "stood" means "rose up to," "stood level with;" and the "trench" is what in modern fortifications is called "the glacis," and includes the outer wall of defence. The Revised Version renders, "it stood against the rampart." The usual way of capturing cities in ancient times was to cast up a bank or mound of earth against them (Isaiah 29:3; Isaiah 37:33; Jeremiah 6:6); and Joab's work had advanced so far as to be level with the outer line of defence. The name of the city in the Hebrew is not Abel of Beth-Maachah, but Abel-beth-Maachah. Battered. This is a word taken from Roman warfare. The Hebrew says, "And all the people that were with Joab were destroying the wall to make it fall," most probably by undermining it. Ewald even asserts that this is the meaning of the verb, and translates, "were digging pits under the wall." The Revised Version adopts this for the margin, where it gives "undermined." The Septuagint and Chaldee have a different and probable reading, "And all Joab's people were devising (contriving) means to throw down the wall." This would be the next operation after the mound had been carried up to a level with it.

2 Samuel 20:18

They were wont to speak, etc. The Hebrew literally is, they used to say in old time, They shall surely ask at Abel; and so they finished (the matter). But of these words two completely distinct interpretations are given. The Jewish Targum records the one: "Remember now that which is written in the book of the Law, to ask a city concerning peace at the first. Hast thou done so, to ask of Abel if they will make peace?" The woman, that is, was referring to the command in Deuteronomy 20:10, not to besiege a city until peace had been offered to the inhabitants on condition of their paying tribute. When a city was captured the lot of the inhabitants, as the woman declares in Deuteronomy 20:19, was utter destruction; and the Law mercifully gave them the chance of escaping such a fate. Joab had not complied with this enactment, but had assumed that the people would support Sheba, and was proceeding to the last extremity without consulting them. This interpretation gives an excellent sense, but cannot be wrung out of the present Hebrew text without violence. The other interpretation is that of the Authorized Version, that the woman was commending her words to Joab, by reminding him that Abel had been famed in early times for its wisdom, and had probably been the seat of an oracle in the old Canaanite times. When, therefore, people had carried their dispute to Abel, both sides were content to abide by the answer given them, and so the controversy was ended. Literally, these words mean, "they shall surely inquire at Abel," the verb being that specially used of inquiring of God.

2 Samuel 20:19

I am one of them that are, etc. The Authorized Version translates in this way, because, while "I" is singular, "peaceable" and "faithful" are plural. Really this construction shows that the woman speaks in the name of the city, and consequently the Authorized Version, while preserving the grammar, loses the sense. It should be translated, we are peaceable, faithful people in Israel. A city and a mother; that is, a mother city, a metropolis, the chief town of that district.

2 Samuel 20:21

The matter is not so. It seems from this verse that the citizens did not quite understand why Joab attacked them. Sheba had thrown himself into the city. and Joab, in hot pursuit, finding the gate closed—a measure of ordinary precaution upon the approach of a body of men—at once blockaded the town, and began to cast up the mount. At all events, they were ready to come to terms now, and would probably have given up Sheba at first, if Joab had demanded his surrender. A man of Mount Ephraim. Sheba was a Benjamite, but the hills of Ephraim extended into the territory of Benjamin, and retained their name (see 1 Samuel 1:1). Over the wall; Hebrew, through the wall, being the word rendered "at" a window in Genesis 26:8. It probably means through one of the apertures made for the archers.

2 Samuel 20:22

In her wisdom; that is, with her wise counsel. The story in Ecclesiastes 9:13-15 probably refers to this narrative. They retired; Hebrew, they dispersed themselves each to his tent; that is, his home. This refers to Amasa's levies, who were glad to depart, and whom Joab did not want at Jerusalem. He took thither with him all those mentioned in Ecclesiastes 9:7. Incensed as David must have been at the murder of Amasa following so quickly upon that of Absalom, yet that very act proved Joab's determination, and left the king powerless. He must have felt, too, that Joab was indispensable for the maintenance of peace and order in his dominions, and that he was at the least faithful to himself.

2 Samuel 20:23

Now Josh, etc. With this list of his chief officers, the narrator closes the history of David's reign; for the remaining four chapters form a kind of appendix. A similar list closes 2 Samuel 8:1-18; where, too, there is a break in the history, the previous narra-tire having been a summary of the rapid rise of David's empire. In this section, ch. 9-20, we have a more full and detailed account of David's wars, leading on to his crime and its punishment. The rest of David's life we may trust was calm and uneventful, but it was the life of a sorrow stricken man; and the sword again woke up against his family when his end was approaching, and filled his dying hours with grief and trouble. This list is much later in date than that previously given, though most of the officers are the same. Cherethites. This is a correction of the Massorites to make the passage agree with 2 Samuel 8:18. The K'tib has cari, a word which occurs in 2 Kings 11:4, 2 Kings 11:19, where in the Authorized Version it is translated "captains," but in the Revised Version Carites, which here appears only in the margin. But there is no reason why the place of the Cherethites should not have been taken by Carian mercenaries later on in David's reign, though really we know too little about such matters to be able to form a judgment. Some commentators translate cari "digger," and suppose that it means executioner; but why a digger should have such a meaning is inexplicable. It may be interesting to add that the Caftans were famous in old times as mercenaries. During the reign of Manasseh, Psammetichus won the throne of all Egypt by the aid of Caftans, and from that period they took a leading part in all Egyptian wars. The age of David is much more antique, but as there was constant communication between Phoenicia and Asia Minor and Greece, there is nothing improbable in David taking Caftans into his service in place of the Philistine Cherethites. His connection with them would soon cease after he left Ziklag.

2 Samuel 20:24

Adoram was over the tribute. This was a new officer, and a new thing. For the Hebrew word mas does not mean "tribute," but "forced labour." This was one of the most oppressive exactions of old time, and it continued to be practised in Europe throughout the Middle Ages until it was abolished at the end of the eighteenth century by the French Revolution, except in Russia, where the serfs were freed from it by the late emperor Alexander II. Nevertheless, it was probably made almost necessary at first by the absence of money. As there was no money for the payment of taxes, the dues of the king or lord could only be rendered by personal service. Yet even so it was exceedingly liable to be abused, and the people might be taken from their own homes and fields just when their presence there was most needed. One most painful result was that the women had to endure, upon the farm and among the cattle, a drudgery to which they were unsuited. We gather from this passage that it was David who began this practice in Israel, exacting probably only from the descendants of the Canaanites (who, nevertheless, formed a considerable portion of the inhabitants of Palestine) forced labour employed in preparing for the building of the temple, and in the fortifications of his fenced cities. Under Solomon it seems to have been extended to other classes (1 Kings 5:13, 1 Kings 5:14; but see 1 Kings 9:20-22), and reduced to a system, which pressed so heavily upon the people that it was the principal cause of the revolt of the ten tribes from Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:4). Unless the Israelites had themselves suffered severely from this exaction, they would not have been driven into rebellion by sympathy with the remains of the native races. Subsequently we find Jeremiah accusing Jehoiakim of employing forced labour (Jeremiah 22:13), but the severity with which he condemned it suggests that it had then ceased to be customary. Adoram. His appointment to this office was probably at a late period in David's reign, as he continued to hold the office under Solomon (1 Kings 4:6; 1 Kings 5:14, where he is called Adoniram), and even down to the beginning of Rehoboam's reign (1 Kings 12:18). We there read that he paid the penalty of his hateful office with his life. In 2 Chronicles 10:18 he is called Hadoram.

2 Samuel 20:25

Sheva. He is called Seraiah in 2 Samuel 8:17.

2 Samuel 20:26

Ira … was a chief ruler; Hebrew, cohen, priest, minister (see on this term, 2 Samuel 8:18). We there find David's sons holding this confidential office; but the feuds which resulted from David's sin had destroyed the concord of the family, and the usefulness of David's children. In their degradation from this office we see also a preparation for their being set aside from the succession, and the throne given to Solomon.

ADDITIONAL NOTE

With this chapter ends the second section of David's history; for, as we have already seen, the last four chapters are not arranged in chronological order, but form an appendix remarkable both for the singularly varied nature of its contents, and also for its omissions. The Second Book of Samuel is so thoroughly a history of David, that we should naturally have expected some account of his latter years, and of his manner of government after his return to power. But such details would have been interesting politically rather than spiritually, and the two narratives which have gone before are complete each in itself; and in each David is regarded from an entirely distinct point of view. In the first eight chapters we have the history of David as the theocratic king. As such he takes the heathen for his inheritance, and founds an empire. Even more remarkable are the alterations he makes in the worship of Jehovah. To the old Levitical sacrifices he added a far more spiritual service of psalms and minstrelsy, without which Judaism would have been unable to develop the evangelical realities which lay embedded in its ritual and legal ordinances. And it is important to notice that his service of sacred song is called "prophecy" (1 Chronicles 25:1-3), from which we learn two things. The first that David's service was essentially the same as that established by Samuel at Ramah. There, too, we read of the company of the prophets prophesying (1 Samuel 19:20), their service undoubtedly being one of minstrelsy (1 Samuel 10:5, 1 Samuel 10:10, 1 Samuel 10:11); and without Samuel's authority David would scarcely have ventured upon so great an innovation. Even so, this consecration of music by Samuel, and David's ordinance whereby there was established a daily service, morning and evening, of thanksgiving and praise (1 Chronicles 23:1-32.30; Nehemiah 12:24), is a most remarkable step forward; and by it the service of God ceased to be mere ritual, and became "a reasonable service" (Romans 12:1), such as was repeatedly commended by St. Paul to the members of the Christian Church (Colossians 3:16, etc.). But secondly, it drew the minds of the people to the evangelic meaning of the Levitical ordinances. To this day hymns form a most important part of our solemn services, and seem especially adapted to draw out the inner and deeper meaning of rites and doctrines. They did not, indeed, begin with David. There are psalms older than his reign; but this consecration of them to the public daily service of God led to an outburst of Divine psalmody which raised the minds of the people above the material and grosset elements of their worship, and taught them the true nature of God, and made them ascribe to him high and spiritual attributes in wonderful contrast with the grovelling frivolities of heathenism. The Levitical worship was necessarily typical: in the psalms the people learned that God desireth not sacrifice, but the offering of a broken and contrite heart. Even prophecy, in its sense of speaking for God, would scarcely have reached the high eminence of future days but for the psalms. For only in a nation deeply imbued with poetry and song could an Isaiah have arisen, capable of giving in so perfect an outward form the mysteries of Christ's incarnation, his vicarious sacrifice, and universal kingdom. In the second section, neither the theocratic nor the prophetic element is in the forefront. It is the history of a fearful sin, and of its stern punishment. The sinner is the theocratic king: the punishment is the pollution of his house by incest and murder; the ruin of the glory of his realm, the rending asunder of his empire, begun in his days and consummated in those of his grandson; his own disgrace and flight; and his sorrowful return to his throne, impotent to avenge either the murder of his son or that of the man whom he had chosen in the hope that he would release him from the stern grip of the ruthless Joab. The moral lessons of this sad story are beyond number. We see the saint changed into a sinner. No privileges save him from hateful crime; no repentance from draining the last dregs of the bitter cup of retribution. But never was the power of repentance in cleansing the heart and giving peace to the conscience more clearly shown; and the psalms written by David as a penitent, and during his flight from Absalom, are the most spiritual and choice and edifying of the whole Psalter. Without them the depths of self-abasement would have been left without inspired expression. The sinner in his greatest need, when crushed with the conviction of sin, when earnestly longing for forgiveness, when thirsting for the restored presence of God within his soul, and when feeling that, vile as he was, yet that he was not shut out from mercy, but that access to God's presence was still permitted him;—at all such times he would have gone to his Bible, and it would have been silent. These psalms are still the sinner's comfort, and give him the words which best express what is present in his heart. Without them the Jewish Church would never have reached that fervid purity of spiritual feeling which so animated the prophets; and even the Christian Church would possibly have stopped short of that full doctrine of repentance which she now holds. It is, indeed, the Christian's privilege to unite the doctrine of repentance with the thought of all that Christ has done and suffered for us, and so to understand why repentance avails to cleanse the heart; but even with this knowledge no Christian writer has ever reached so high a level of spirituality as David, though we may thankfully acknowledge that many of our best hymns do not fall far short of it.

It is easy, then, to see that these two histories are not only of primary importance, but that no narrative after the time of the Exodus equals them in value. They form the very kernel of the Book of the Earlier Prophets, giving us, in the first, the true meaning and spiritual import of the settlement of Israel in Palestine; and setting before us, in the second, the nature of repentance, and so preparing the way for the revelation of the gospel of pardon and peace.

They are followed by an appendix containing several narratives recorded apparently for their intrinsic value. Commentators have endeavoured to trace a connection between them, but their arguments are farfetched, and their conclusions unsatisfactory. It is better to regard them as separate and complete, each one in itself. They are six in number:

(1) the visitation of famine because of Saul's cruelty to the Gibeonites;

(2) some incidents in the war with the Philistines, illustrating the heroic character of David's worthies;

(3) David's psalm of deliverance;

(4) David's last words;

(5) a list of the Gibborim, with special records of acts of bravery and devotion;

(6) the visitation of pestilence because of David's numbering the people. The third and fourth sections especially are of the highest interest; while the second makes it plain that David's bravery in encountering the giant of Gath lit up an equally bright flame of patriotic heroism in the armies of Israel.

HOMILETICS

2 Samuel 20:1-13

The facts are:

1. Among the men who discuss the question of priority with Judah is a worthless man named Sheba, and he raises the cry of revolt against David, and the men of Israel follow him, while those of Judah cleave to the king.

2. David enters his house and makes arrangement for the sustenance of his concubines, who henceforth live in virtual widowhood.

3. David, observing that Amasa was tardy in executing his orders to gather the men of Judah, directs Abishai to go out with Joab's men in pursuit of Sheba.

4. While they are obeying the king's orders, Amasa joins them at Gibeon; whereupon Joab, under pretext of saluting Amasa and inquiring concerning his health, smites him, while off his guard, unto death.

5. While the pursuit after Sheba continues, one of Joab's partisans calls upon the people to show their preference for Joab and David by following after Joab, which they do when the bleeding corpse is no longer on the road to arrest their progress.

Man's revolt against Christ.

The hot controversy between the men of Israel and Judah issued in more than words. The discussion took its rise in a pretended interest in the restoration of David to the throne, but, becoming mixed up with personal matters, it first developed an alienation of one part of the nation from another; and then the more humiliated section turned their alienation from their brethren into the more dangerous form of revolt against the authority of the king whom those brethren claimed as specially theirs (2 Samuel 19:42, 2 Samuel 19:43). There is always in human society some restless, unscrupulous spirit ready to take advantage of divergent sentiments, and form them into expressions of positive opinion and antagonistic action. The man of Belial used up the elements of discord for securing what, at first, was not contemplated—namely, an open repudiation of the right of David to exercise kingly authority over the people. In this revolt against David, the Lord's anointed, we have an illustration of the nature and some of the causes and pleas of man's revolt against Christ.

I. MAN'S REVOLT AGAINST CHRIST CONSISTS ESSENTIALLY OF A REJECTION OF A DIVINE CLAIM. Sheba not only would not have David as his king, but he distinctly indicates as chief reason his rejection of the Divine claim of David to the throne, and which the nation had previously recognized. In speaking contemptuously of him as the "son of Jesse," he clearly ignores the selection and anointing of him by Samuel in the name of God. David is not the Lord's anointed; only Jesse's son—a mere man, to be treated as any other man. The people also who followed Sheba did so on this basis—that whatever may have been once, there was now in David no more right than in any other man; he was not endowed with Divine authority. This is exactly the case with modern infidelity—men will not submit to Christ. They repudiate all claim to Divine authority. To them he is a mere man—possessing no eternal and unchallengeable right to demand the obedience of all men to his yoke. He is the Nazarene, the carpenter's Son, not the beloved Son of God, anointed of God to be Prince and Saviour. It is a simple matter of choice whether they shall accept his testimony and do what he declares is right. This spirit of revolt against the Divine in Christ is the essence of every form of modern infidelity, be it scientific rejection of the supernatural or pure agnosticism. Once recognize him as the anointed Lord of all, all forms of submission to his teaching and will follow; once reject him in this respect, and high treason is the practical issue.

II. A REJECTION OF CHRIST'S DIVINE CLAIM PROCEEDS FROM UNBELIEF IN GOD'S SELF-REVELATION TO MAN. If ever Sheba was a believer in Samuel's mission, he had certainly ceased to be so now, or else had come to believe that revelation had ceased. No one could hold to the Divine appointment of Moses and of Samuel to gradually unfold the purpose of God to Israel, and at the same time logically refuse to submit to David as king, unless he could show that God had set up another. This revolt, therefore, was the expression of a practical unbelief in the fact of a revelation of God to the Jewish people. In like manner, when we look into the reason for the rejection of the Divine claim of Christ, it is to he found in a prior assumption, namely, that a self-revelation of God to mankind by special means distinct from natural law, though not in contravention of it, is a fiction. With a dogmatism evidently based on ignorance, the supernatural is said to be impossible, i.e. we know so well the constitution of all things, and the only possible relation of God to all things, that we can affirm that no such a Divine Lord and King as Christ is said to be, could be a reality. He was simply a much misunderstood man. It is obvious that, as Sheba's unbelief in Samuel's mission was no credit to his memory or historic knowledge (1 Samuel 16:13), so the unbelief in God's self-revelation to man is no credit to man's humility or judgment.

III. REVOLT AGAINST CHRIST'S CLAIMS THUS ORIGINATING IS SUSTAINED BY VARIOUS PLEAS. Sheba's unbelief was in the background, his pleas were in front. He could not have gained so many over to his side by any enunciation of abstract views as to the reality or continuance of a revelation of God's purpose. Men are influenced in action by more superficial and concrete forms of thought. The mistakes of David's government, his reputed partiality to the son whom he fought against, his errors of conduct in the case of Bathsheba, his apparent preference for Judah, and the apprehension that Judah would gain an ascendency in public affairs,—these pleas would give an appearance of public reason for the conduct pursued. Nor did he or his followers care to consider that incidents in a fallible life do not annihilate a Divine purpose running through that life. We find the same course adopted in relation to the authority of Christ. Though none can convict him of sin, advantage is taken of the mistakes of the Church, the seemingly tardy progress of Christianity, the peculiar structure of Old Testament history, and what seem to be occasional discrepancies in the gospel record, and, in fact, anything that can be construed into a weakness, in order to justify a total rejection of Christ's supreme authority. An ingenious mind, bent on resisting the holy Saviour, will never lack plausible reasons for open revolt.

IV. REVOLT AGAINST CHRIST IS A COURSE OF CONDUCT DEVOID OF POSITIVE REGULATIVE PRINCIPLE. Sheba's principles, so far as he had any, were negative. There was nothing in his words or deeds that indicated any definite principle on which the state was to be governed. Hitherto the theocratic principle, enunciated and enforced by Samuel, regulated the setting up and setting aside of rulers. The spiritual interests of the nation were the prime concern. Now, Divine authority being ignored, there was no principle to determine the destiny of the people. The conflicting whims and passions of men were to contend for supremacy, and the grand purpose for which the nation had been hitherto supposed to exist in relation to Messiah and the world was lost to view. In the same way, the course of human affairs, without Christ, is aimless, chaotic. Infidelity and agnosticism rest on negations. Individual life is as a ship without a helm.

GENERAL LESSONS.

1. There is always in human nature a latent tendency to restlessness under authority, and we should both be on our guard against this in our own lives, and also avoid whatever may develop it in others.

2. The quarrels and disputes of Christian men on matters of government and precedence may generate, by degrees, feelings of alienation from religion.

3. In this life we should not be surprised if, like David, we find the pathway of returning prosperity shaded by some transient clouds.

4. The zeal of crowds in a bad cause is more due to the influence of clever and restless leaders than to any profound convictions or intelligent views in the people themselves.

Unsanctified power.

We pass over David's provision for his concubines, simply noting how wise and considerate he was in thus cutting himself free from old associations full of reminiscences of sorrow, and at the same time doing no injustice to any one concerned. The chief figure in the narrative before us is Joab, who here stands out as a strong man bent on a definite purpose, and able to carry out his will in spite of moral, social, and loyal considerations. All the other men referred to are as pigmies beside him, and the orders even of the king are so far bent to his will that he becomes practically master of the situation. Regarding him as an illustration of unsanctified power, we notice—

I. GREAT ABILITIES. Joab was a man of great natural abilities. This is obvious throughout his career. There was not one in the army to compare with him. Great natural abilities are the base of power among men. In some men they are purely intellectual, in others they are those of will. For influencing action and obtaining an ascendency over multitudes, will force must be strong. This partly accounts for success in commerce, in statesmanship, in Church government, in popular movements.

II. STRONG PASSIONS. Passions are not abilities; they are rather the fire that feeds the energy of the will. Joab was a man whose passions were very strong, though no boisterous and impulsive. His jealousy and hatred of Amass, who had been appointed to supersede him in command, were intense. These, blended with contempt for his inferiority, disgust at David's choice, and a lofty pride which would not deign to remonstrate with the king, formed such a strenuous force on the naturally powerful will, that to kill his rival was a decision which no ordinary obstacles could hinder in accomplishment. When unholy passions, deliberately cherished, concentrate on a powerful will, there results one of the most formidable instances of unsanctified power. Such men are to be dreaded. They cannot but make a great impression on weaker natures, and bend them to their own designs. They are illustrations of what woe comes to mankind when distinguished powers, incorporated in the constitution of man, receive a bent of evil rather than of good. A being who becomes a Miltonic Satan might be a real archangel. It is the spirit that makes the one or the other.

III. A DREAD SECRET. To many the bearing of Joab toward the authority of David in this matter of Amasa may be an enigma, seeing that he raised no revolt, but was rather zealous for the king. But that which made Joab so terrible an example of unsanctified power was his possession of the dreadful secret of Uriah's death (2 Samuel 11:14-25). He knew too much of David's former guilt; and so all his great natural abilities were concentrated in holding a firm grip on the king's public reputation. It is true, David had found forgiveness with God, and was a new man; but he knew that Joab had him in his power in matters that came nearest to a man's life, and Joab perfectly understood that David dared not do what otherwise he would doubtless have done. This possession of secret knowledge concerning others always gives increased power. Whoever knows of the financial weakness of a commercial firm, or the private delinquencies of individuals, or of original social inferiority of persons aiming to figure in society, if it be known that he knows, holds a power over these parties which they dread, and which, if he be unholy, he can use in most painful form. Those are to be pitied indeed who have caused their failings and sins to become the secret of unholy men.

IV. FAMILIARITY WITH SUFFERING. Bad as great power is in a man of strong passions and possessed of special knowledge, it is a more terrible thing when the moral sensibilities have been blunted by familiarity with sufferings. Joab had seen many a man dying in agonies. War does not improve the feelings of men. It was with no compunctions of conscience, as far as we can see, that he dew Amasa. What was a bleeding corpse to the man who had smitten many a hew, and who now was governed by jealousy, hatred, contempt, and pride? It is this loss of moral sensibility which has made such men as Napoleon I. so terrible a scourge. There are other men of, perhaps, equally strong will, but their moral susceptibilities restrain them from brutality.

V. CLEANLY DEFINED PURPOSE. Joab knew what he intended to do. The narrative shows that he watched for opportunity. He did not wish to encourage revolt against royal authority, but he did wish and purpose to avenge his displacement from supreme command by the death of his rival, to prove his power to David by actually assuming the leadership and suppressing the revolt, and to vindicate before the people his superiority in the state. Purpose, clearly defined, is a practical addition to power. It avoids waste of energy, and converts subsidiary appliances into instruments of great significance. By such purpose the whole nature of the man and all his strong and unhallowed passions are condensed and concentrated into one channel.

GENERAL LESSONS.

1. We see the supreme importance of prayer for the converting power of the Holy Spirit, so that men of great natural powers may have them governed by a principle according to the will of God.

2. The appearance of unhallowed feelings in the heart should be at once an occasion of prayer and self-control, as they will be sure to combine to influence us to deeds of wrong.

3. There is more real honour in being a man of lowly abilities, but under the sway of holy dispositions, than in possessing the highest powers destitute of such a disposition.

4. If we can only secure progress in life or continued possession of privileges by using abilities wickedly, it is infinitely better to lose all than thus sink deeper in moral and spiritual degradation.

5. According to our abilities will be the account we shall have to give unto God.

2 Samuel 20:14-26

The causes and remedies of religious strife.

The facts are:

1. Joab and his forces, pursuing Sheba till they came upon him in the city of Abel, lay siege to it.

2. A wise woman of the city remonstrates with Joab for attacking the city, and refers to the fact that when Sheba with his armed followers threw themselves into the city, the people felt sure that when the pursuing foes came up they would open negotiations with the authorities, and so bring the conflict to an end.

3. Urging the impolicy and wrong of seeking to destroy a part of the inheritance of the Lord—a city which was as a mother in Israel—she obtains from Joab a disclaimer, and a declaration that it was only the rebel and traitor Sheba that he was fighting against.

4. The wise woman, conferring with the inhabitants, secures that the head of Sheba be thrown over the wall to Joab, who then retires with his men to Jerusalem.

5. A reorganization of the officers of state is made, and Joab regains his former position as head of the army. The patriotism of Joab and a rough kind of fidelity to David manifested itself in his prompt and eager pursuit of the rebel force till it took refuge in a city and began to act on the defensive. There is no evidence that the inhabitants had formally identified themselves with the cause of Sheba, though probably there as elsewhere some disaffected men of Belial were to be found. It is not always within the competence of a city to prevent an armed force entering within its walls and virtually turning its resources against pursuers. The conflict between the opposing forces was becoming desperate, and threatened, if persisted in, to result in the destruction of the city. The horrors and wasting issues of civil war were impending. At this juncture, the more peaceably inclined portion of the inhabitants, encouraged by a woman who had gained reputation for wisdom, were anxious to avoid the calamities of continued strife, and probably having in mind the old law of Deuteronomy 20:11, Deuteronomy 20:12, remonstrated with Joab because he had not sought to come to terms before having recourse to arms. And here we see a fact embodying a principle, namely, that a people of one nation, speech, religion, and covenant relation to God, pause while engaged in a ruinous strife, and that it is pre-eminently desirable and right on occasions of strife to seek some basis of reconciliation.

I. THE TRUE CONDITION OF THE PROFESSED SERVANTS OF CHRIST IS THAT OF UNITY AND CONCORD. The strife between Joab's forces and the people of this city was unnatural. They were brethren, the chosen race, called and separated from all nations to work out a blessed purpose in which all men were concerned. Unity and concord became them. How good and beautiful a thing for them to dwell in harmony! The siege of Abel was a sign of an abnormal state of things. This is just what is taught in the New Testament. Christ's disciples are a holy nation, a peculiar people, called to show forth the glory of God and to bless mankind, and in his last most solemn discourses and great prayer he sets forth their unity and concord as the only state befitting them, and congruous with his spirit (John 14-17).

II. THE BREAKING OUT OF RELIGIOUS STRIFE IS PRODUCTIVE OF SERIOUS MISCHIEF, AND THREATENS THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD WITH GREAT CALAMITIES. The fact of the strife is itself an evil, and indicates the presence somewhere of a mind alien to the mind of Christ; but also it generates evils of varied form, and intensifies their action in proportion as the spirit of strife is intense. Leaving out of view just now the revolt of Sheba against the lawful authority of David—regarding him in that respect as a type of the men who reject the authority of Christ—we see that there existed a strife between men who had not rejected David's authority. Joab was contending against the whole city of Abel as though it were hostile to him, and many in the city were contending against him as though he were an enemy. The evils of this were obvious: bad feelings were engendered and strengthened the longer the siege continued, desolation and anguish were being brought on many homes, the city as a centre of influence—a mother of children—was having its power for good cut off, and the one kingdom to which all belonged was being checked in its progress. That was the belief of the wise woman and her friends, and it was in accordance with facts. Precisely the same evils attend our more modern strifes. When subjects of the same Lord are engaged in conflict, whatever the passing occasion, there is not only a dire evil in the fact itself, but inevitably bitter unhallowed feelings find scope, many a Christian heart and home are made desolate and sad, Churches and organizations that should embody in themselves all the kindly fostering influences of mothers have their proper spiritual influence. weakened, and the progress of the kingdom of love, peace, and righteousness receives a check. "The inheritance of the Lord" is laid waste. "The boar out of the wood doth waste it" (Psalms 80:13).

III. THE CAUSES OF RELIGIOUS STRIFE MAY LIE IN MUTUAL MISUNDERSTANDING AND NEGLECT OF PRIMARY OBLIGATIONS. Joab fought against this city on the supposition that it was in sympathy with Sheba; and the people themselves for a while were constrained by his assaults to assume a defensive attitude. Had he at first, in accordance with Deuteronomy 20:11, Deuteronomy 20:12, sought an interview with the elders, and had they been willing, in the spirit of that ancient rule, to receive his communications, the strife had earlier come to a close, and brethren would have been one. The beginnings of strife are very subtle, and it is hard to unravel the true causes from among the intricate thoughts and feelings of the human mind; and the incidents which occasion the appearance of strife may be as far beyond the control of communities as was the sudden throwing of an armed force by Sheba into this unguarded city. But most often strife is kept up through mutual misunderstandings. Opinions are supposed to be held which, if fairly looked at in an early stage, would not be ascribed, and motives are imagined which would disappear on closer acquaintance. Perhaps it is inevitable that, differently constituted and educated as men are, judgments must differ as to the form of expressing truth and doing Christian work; but these need not cause actual strife, if formed in a prayerful loving spirit, and all for the glory of Christ, and especially may much contention be avoided if men will but discharge the primary obligation]aid down in the ancient law (John 15:12; Matthew 5:44), of loving and praying for one another, and being frank and generous in intercourse (Matthew 18:15, Matthew 18:16).

IV. IT IS THE DUTY OF PERSONS OF REPUTED WISDOM TO BRING ALL THEIR INFLUENCE TO BEAR ON THE PROMOTION OF PEACE AND HARMONY. The "wise woman" and those of her mind in the city were but discharging a duty they owed to their city, their king, and the kingdom, when, amidst the discords of the time, they brought their superior intelligence to bear on a solution of the difficulties of the case. They evidently saw that, if more light were thrown upon the affair, and proper kindly influences were brought to bear on Joab, those would become friends who now were m the unnatural position of enemies. The leaders of opinion in the city showed their good feeling in being willing to come to terms, and their discretion in availing themselves of the superior gifts and qualities of this "wise woman." The proper place of intelligence and wisdom is at the head of movements in the direction of concord. A serious injury is inflicted on the Church in seasons of trial and conflict when men of character and repute keep in the background, and leave the conduct of affairs to inferior minds. Acquired reputation is a precious gift that should be cheerfully laid at the service of the Church, especially in seasons of sorrow. The soothing, healing power of the noblest minds is a great blessing.

V. THE OCCASION OF STRIFE BEING ASCERTAINED, EVERY EFFORT SHOULD BE MADE TO PUT IT AWAY. The occasion of the strife in this instance was the presence within the city of a rebel and a traitor. Had it not been for Sheba entering the city, Joab and the people would not have so misunderstood each other as to come to actual conflict. Mutual inquiry and explanations revealed the fact that he was the occasion of trouble; and therefore the citizens devised means of getting rid of him in accordance with the rude and swift justice of those times. If in our religious strifes, whether as between communities or within separate organizations, we, in our desire for peace, search out some removable occasion of them, it then becomes an imperative duty that we not only wish to see the occasion removed, but that we make vigorous efforts, though full of pain and sorrow, to put them away. What the disturbing cause may be—evil minded men, or narrow ideas of our own, or unhallowed feeling, or an exacting temper, or undue pressure of the influence of the world—can only be found out by conscientious rigorous search; and, when found out, it will probably demand a very high and holy resolve to cast it away. Probably one chief reason why there is not more peace and harmony among Christians is that they have not the heart to go deep down into the moral causes of strife, and less heart to cut off those causes when discovered. It takes very much grace to be a thoroughgoing Christian.

GENERAL LESSONS.

1. Communities and individuals should watch carefully against the intrusion within themselves of whatever may bring on a disruption of our peaceable relations to the fellowship of the saints.

2. It is possible to imagine others to be hostile in feeling to us, when, on full inquiry, it may turn out that they have been misjudged; and hence we should be careful not to be rash in imputing motives to persons who are casually placed in circumstances of seeming antagonism.

3. The influence of cities in a nation and of Christian communities in the world being maternal in character, their purity, peacefulness, and power should be most jealously guarded.

4. The influence of woman in promoting peace in the Church of God is worthy of the consideration of all, seeing that it is often underestimated, and that its power is of the most subtle and persuasive kind.

5. We see in the removal of Sheba, the occasion of the trouble in the earthly kingdom, and the subsequent harmony of the chosen nation during the reign of David, a foreshadowing of the final removal of the great spirit of discord from the Church of God, and the consequent peace and unity of the redeemed.

HOMILIES BY B. DALE

2 Samuel 20:1-3

(GILGAL.)

The insurrection of Sheba.

"We have no part in David,

And we have no inheritance in the son of Jesse;

Every man to his tents, O Israel!"

(2 Samuel 20:1; 1 Kings 12:16.)

Before the restoration of David was completed, a new rebellion broke out. The people were still disquieted, like the sea after a storm; the independent action of Judah in conducting the king over the Jordan aroused the jealousy of the other tribes; at Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:15; 1 Samuel 13:8-10; 1 Samuel 15:12, 1 Samuel 15:13), where the representatives of the latter assembled and met the king, a fierce altercation ensued (2 Samuel 19:40-43); and shortly afterwards the trumpet was blown by Sheba the Bichrite (Genesis 46:21). "He who lately (with the rest of Israel) claimed ten parts in David as king, disclaims and disowns him now, as having no part in him at all. David before had raised his hand against a faithful subject, Uriah, and therefore now a faithless subject raises his hand against him; as a man sinneth, so ofttimes he is punished. And as bees, when they are once up in a swarm, are ready to light upon every bough, so the Israelites, being stirred up by the late rebellion of Absalom, are apt here also to follow Sheba; especially finding nothing but clemency, and David's passing by their former revolt" (Guild). Concerning this insurrection, observe that (like others which have since occurred)—

I. IT AROSE OUT OF AN EVIL DISPOSITION INDULGED BY THE PEOPLE. They were:

1. Discontented with the government of David; the restlessness, lawlessness, and ungodliness which they displayed in joining Absalom's revolt were only partial? corrected by recent chastisement (2 Samuel 19:9, 2 Samuel 19:10); their complaint to the king concerning the conduct of "the men of Judah" (verse 41) was due more to regard for their own honour than zeal for his; and was an indirect expression of their dissatisfaction at the disrespect which he bad shown toward them, for "very probably it had been learned that he had a hand in the movement."

2. Contentious in their treatment of their "brethren;" ready to find occasion of offence "because of envy" and ill will; their auger being increased by the proud and contemptuous bearing of the latter. Whatever may have been the motives of the men of Judah in their recent action, they were now as blamable as the men of Israel; each party sought to exalt itself and depreciate the other; and "the words of the men of Judah were more violent than the words of the men of Israel" (verse 43). "Grievous words stir up anger" (Proverbs 15:1, Proverbs 15:18; Proverbs 25:15; Proverbs 29:22). How differently had Gideon spoken to the men of Ephraim under similar circumstances ( 8:1-3)!

3. Self-blinded. Indifferent to their true interests, without proper self-control, liable to surrender themselves to the guidance of an ambitious leader, and prepared for open rebellion. Having violated the spirit of unity, they were ready to destroy the formal union of the tribes, which it had cost so much to bring about, and on which their strength and prosperity so much depended. "Where jealousy and. faction are, there is confusion and every vile deed" (James 3:16; James 4:1, James 4:11).

II. IT WAS INSTIGATED BY A WORTHLESS LEADER, "A man of Belial, a Benjamite" (like Shimei, 2 Samuel 16:11); "a man of the mountains of Ephraim" (2 Samuel 20:21); who probably took an active part in the late rebellion, and had numerous dependents. "He was one of the great rogues of the high nobility, who had a large retinue among the people, and consideration or name, as Cataline at Rome" (Luther).

1. The worst (as well as the best) elements of a people find their chief embodiment in some one man, who is the product of the prevailing spirit of his time, and adapted to be its leader.

"Avarice, envy, pride,

Three fatal sparks, have set the hearts of all

On fire."

(Dante.)

In his selfish ambition, Sheba sought for himself individually what the men of Israel sought for themselves as a whole.

2. Such a man clearly perceives the popular feeling and tendency, with which he sympathizes, and finds therein his opportunity for effecting his own purposes. The design of Sheba was, doubtless, to become head of a new combination of the northern tribes.

3. He seizes a suitable moment for raising his seditious cry; and, instead of quenching the sparks of discord, kindles them into a blaze. "They claim David as their own. Let them have him. We disclaim him altogether. The son of Jesse! Let every man cast off his yoke, return home, and unite with me in securing liberty, equality, and fraternity!" What at another time would have been without effect, is now irresistible with the people. Nothing is more unstable than a multitude; one day crying, "Hosanna!" another, "Not this Man, but Barabbas!"

III. IT ATTAINED A DANGEROUS MAGNITUDE. "And all the men of Israel went up from after David, and followed Sheba the son of Bichri" (2 Samuel 20:2); "Now will Sheba do us more harm than Absalom" (2 Samuel 20:6). The insurrection:

1. Was joined in by great numbers of the people.

2. Spread over the greater portion of the country. "He went through all the tribes of Israel," rousing them to action, and gaining possession of the fortified cities.

3. Threatened to produce a permanent disruption of the kingdom. "It was, in fact, all but an anticipation of the revolt of Jeroboam. It was not, as in the case of Absalom, a mere conflict between two factions in the court of Judah, but a struggle arising out of that conflict, on the part of the tribe of Benjamin to recover its lost ascendency" (Stanley). With what anxieties must it have filled the mind of the restored monarch! And how must it have led him to feel his dependence upon God! The influence for evil which one bad man sometimes exerts is enormous (Ecclesiastes 9:18). It is, nevertheless, limited; and, though it prevail for a season, it is at length "brought to nought" (Psalms 37:12, Psalms 37:20, Psalms 37:35-40).

IV. IT ENDED IN UTTER DISCOMFITURE. The first act of David, on arriving at Jerusalem, attended by the men of Judah, who "clave unto the king" (after setting his house in order, 2 Samuel 20:3), was to adopt energetic measures to put down the insurrection; and these succeeded (though in a different manner from what he expected).

1. Many who at first followed Sheba deserted him when they had time for reflection and saw the approach of the king's army; so that he found it necessary to seek safety in the far north.

2. He was beheaded by those among whom he sought refuge; and "rewarded according to his wickedness" (2 Samuel 3:39). "Evil pursueth sinners" (Proverbs 13:21; Proverbs 11:19).

3. All the people returned to their allegiance. "While to men's eyes the cooperation of many evil powers seems to endanger the kingdom of God to the utmost, and its affairs appear to be confused and disturbed in the unhappiest fashion, the wonderful working of the living God reveals itself most gloriously in the unravelment of the worst entanglements, and in the introduction of new and unexpected triumphs for his government" (Erdmann).—D.

2 Samuel 20:4-13

(GIBEON.)

The murder of Amasa.

"And Amasa took no heed to the sword that was in Joab's hand" (2 Samuel 20:10). Amasa (son of Abigail, David's sister, and Jether an Ishmaelite, and first cousin of Joab, 2 Samuel 17:25) joined Absalom in his rebellion; and must have been a man of great ability, courage, and influence, from the fact that he was appointed by him "captain of the host instead of Joab," and afterwards promised by David the same post (2 Samuel 19:13). This promise "involved no injustice to Joab himself, for he had long been notorious for too great severity in war, and had just acted with such direct disobedience to the royal command in Absalom's case, that it was impossible to overlook his offence without endangering the royal prerogative" (Ewald). Whilst it was adapted to conciliate the men of Judah, it was, nevertheless, certain to give offence to Joab and cause future trouble. It does not appear that he was formally replaced by Amasa; but the commission given to the latter (2 Samuel 20:4) "was intended as the commencement of the fulfilment of the promise" (Keil). And when he exhibited undue delay in its fulfilment (2 Samuel 20:5), David, "wishing to have nothing to do with Joab," sent Abishai to pursue after Sheba (2 Samuel 20:6). "And there went out after him Joab's men" (2 Samuel 20:7) under Joab (who deemed himself still commander-in-chief). At "the great stone which is in Gibeon" (2 Samuel 2:13; 2 Samuel 21:1; 1 Chronicles 21:29) he met Amasa returning with his military levies, and on saluting him with the kiss of peace, dealt him his death blow (2 Samuel 20:8-10); passed on, followed (after a brief hesitation at the spectacle of their murdered captain) by "all the people;" finished the war, and returned to Jerusalem. In this tragedy notice:

1. The danger of holding a responsible position by one who is ill Qualified for it through want of natural ability, proper antecedents, timely appointment, public confidence, adequate zeal and energy. "The cause of Amasa's delay is not stated. It may have been the unwillingness of the men of Judah to place themselves under the orders of Amasa (contrast 2 Samuel 20:13 and 2 Samuel 20:14), or it may have been caused by a wavering or hesitation in the loyalty of Amasa himself. This last is evidently insinuated in 2 Samuel 20:11, and no doubt this was the pretext; whether grounded in fact or not, by which Joab justified the murder of Amasa before David" ('Speaker's Commentary').

2. The tendency of repeated crimes to induce more daring criminality. This was Joab's third murder (2 Samuel 3:27; 2 Samuel 18:14), in addition to his complicity in the death of Uriah; less excusable, more guileful, malicious, and reckless than any other; his motive being jealousy of a rival. "No life is safe that stands in his way, but from policy he never sacrifices the most insignificant life without a purpose" (2 Samuel 2:27-30; 2 Samuel 18:16; 2 Samuel 20:20). "By degrees men grow more and more bold and unfeeling in the commission of crimes of every kind; until they vindicate and glory in their villainies; and when such daring offenders are actuated by ambition or revenge, they will not be restrained by the ties of relationship or friendship; nay, they will employ the guise and language of love to obtain the opportunity of perpetrating the most atrocious murders. The beginning of evil should therefore in everything be decisively resisted" (Scott).

3. The infliction of deserved punishment by an unauthorized and wicked hand. "Amasa is innocent of the crime of seeking Joab's place, for which he is murdered by him, yet he is guilty before God for his siding with Absalom. Whereupon we collect that ofttimes men suffer innocently for some crimes that are laid to their charge, and in respect of the persons who are the pursuers; yet in God's judgment they are justly punished for other sins, wherein either they have been spared or else have not been noted to the world; and as many at the hour of their death and execution, publicly have acknowledged" (Guild).

4. The commission of a great crime by one who possesses great abilities and renders great public services. Alas! that a man of such military skill, practical sagacity, and tried fidelity as Joab (now far advanced in life), should have been so "hardened by the deceitfulness of sin"! Once more he saved the monarchy; and once more David was compelled to bear with him (2 Samuel 3:39; 2 Samuel 19:13). "He probably felt obliged to show some indulgence to a man who was indispensable to him as a soldier, and who, notwithstanding his culpable ferocity, never lost sight of his master's interests." His indulgence was doubtless also due, in part, to the consciousness of his own sin (Psalms 51:3), which made him unwilling to inflict the penalty of the law on one who had been his partner in guilt. But at length judgment overtakes the transgressor; the Law is vindicated; and the ways of God to men are justified (1 Kings 2:5, 1 Kings 2:6, 1 Kings 2:28-35). Near the very spot where his crowning act of perfidy was perpetrated, Joab received his death blow from the hand of Benaiah (1 Chronicles 16:39).—D.

2 Samuel 20:15-22

(ABEL-BETH-MAACAH.)

A peacemaker.

"Then cried a wise woman out of the city, Hear! hear?" (2 Samuel 20:16).

1. Hard pressed by the forces of Joab, Sheba threw himself into the fortified city of Abel-beth-Maachah (in the northwest extremity of Palestine). The feelings of its inhabitants toward him are not stated. But Joab soon appeared; and, without entering into any negotiations with them, made preparations for attack. "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 the city. With a deep trench and strong wall it must have been almost impregnable. The besiegers cast up a mount against the city, 'and it stood in the trench'" etc. (Thomson, 'The Land and the Book'). A deadly conflict was imminent.

2. At this juncture a wise woman presented herself at the wall; and, having obtained a hearing, sought to make peace; nor was her endeavour fruitless. "There was a little city," etc. (Ecclesiastes 9:14, Ecclesiastes 9:15). "Wisdom is better than strength. Wisdom is better than weapons of war; but one sinner destroyeth much good" (Ecclesiastes 9:16, Ecclesiastes 9:18). As one bad man exposed the city to destruction, so one good woman effected its deliverance.

3. There is often much need of a peacemaker to heal the strife that arises between individuals, families, cities, Churches, and nations. Regarded as an example to others, this "wise woman" of Abel—

I. POSSESSED AN EXCELLENT SPIRIT; observant, prudent, sagacious, peaceful, faithful, just, and benevolent. Hence she was prompted to go of her own accord, individually and independently, to "seek peace, and pursue it" (1 Peter 3:11; Psalms 34:12-16; Genesis 13:8, Genesis 13:9).

1. Being grieved at the sight of strife between brethren, and the prospect of the miseries which they were about to inflict on each other.

2. Being desirous of preventing the evil which threatened them, and promoting their welfare. Her chief concern was about her own city, which was likely to be the greater sufferer; but she was also (like Joab, 2 Samuel 20:20) concerned about others, and the general good of Israel, in which Abel was "a mother city," a part of "the inheritance of Jehovah" (2 Samuel 20:19).

3. Having faith in the common sense of men, their regard for their own interest (when they saw it, not blinded by prejudice), their love of justice, their generally good intentions (when not under the influence of wrath and revenge), and their susceptibility to the power of persuasion.

4. Being determined to make every possible effort and sacrifice, and undergo any personal risk and suffering for the sake of peace. She was doubtless willing (as others have been) to lay down her own life if thereby the lives of others might be spared. "Peacemakers are fire quenchers, who, although they may with plying of engines and much ado, rescue a pile of buildings from the flames, yet their eyes will be sure to smart with the smoke" (R. Harris).

II. ADOPTED AN ADMIRABLE METHOD; thereby justifying the "wisdom" with which she was credited. Perceiving that there was some misunderstanding between the contending parties, her aim was to clear it up; if there were any real cause of contention, to remove it; and thus dispose them to peace. This she endeavoured to effect by:

1. Seizing the opportune moment for interposition; promptly availing herself of the pause before the attack. Instead of "battered the wall" (Authorized Version), read, "were devising to throw down the wall." There is generally such a time for the work of a peacemaker, which, if it be neglected, may be afterwards too late.

2. Making use of courteous, gentle, reasonable, and impressive speech. "Hear the words of thine handmaid." Like the woman of Tekoah (2 Samuel 14:4), she was a mistress in the art of persuasion. "The tongue of the wise is health" (Proverbs 12:18); "a tree of life" (Proverbs 15:4; Proverbs 10:20; Proverbs 18:21).

3. Ascertaining the nature of the misunderstanding, and the occasion of complaint; and, for this purpose, going directly and separately to the persons concerned, and learning it from their own lips. She knew the sentiments of her people, especially that they felt aggrieved that no communications should have been made to them by Joab, and suspected his destructive and merciless designs. And now she sought to discover what were his real thoughts and purposes in relation to them. How much mischief would be prevented if contending parties would only be at pains to understand one another!

4. Removing all misconception, and producing the conviction in each party of the just aims and good intentions of the other. To Joab she said, "You evidently deem this city deficient in good sense; whereas it has been always noted for its wisdom and conciliatory disposition and counsel. You think the people contentious and rebellious; I assure you in their name that we are among the most peaceable and faithful in Israel. Yet, without any communication with us, so as to ascertain our feelings, and without any reasonable cause, you are about to give an important city of Israel to the devouring sword. Why will you bring to ruin what belongs to the Lord?" On the other hand, from his reply, it was made apparent that he was not desirous of their destruction (as they supposed), but only sought to inflict a just punishment on a notorious traitor in their midst, and was under the necessity (if, as he had supposed, they harboured him, participated with him in rebellion, and resolved to defend him to the utmost) of making an attack upon them for that purpose. "Far be it, far be it from me … The matter is not so," etc. (2 Samuel 20:20, 2 Samuel 20:21). Misunderstanding was now at an end, but a real occasion of difference remained.

5. Obtaining needful concessions on both sides. "Deliver him only, and I will depart from the city … Behold, his head shall be thrown to thee through the wall." If (as is doubtful) the people had (from whatever reason) at first shown favour to the cause of Sheba, they were now persuaded by her to do otherwise, "and so they ended the matter."

6. Requiring no sacrifice of principle; but only urging a course conformable to "goodness, righteousness, and truth," and consistent with professed obedience to the will of the Lord. "The just punishment of one atrocious criminal is frequently mercy to great numbers" (Scott). "Follow peace with all men, and holiness" (Hebrews 12:14; Romans 14:19; James 3:17, James 3:18).

III. ACHIEVED AN EMINENT TRIUMPH—the triumph of peace. "And he blew the trumpet" (2 Samuel 20:22) summoning to peace, as Sheba had blown it summoning to war (2 Samuel 20:1). It was a victory over error, distrust, wilfulness, wrath, injustice, rebellion; and one by which:

1. An immense evil was prevented.

2. The general good was promoted.

3. The Divine kingdom (as represented in the government of David) was confirmed.

4. The peacemaker's joy was fulfilled. The wise woman accomplished what she had set her heart upon; and in blessing others was herself blessed. "Blessed are the peacemakers," etc. (Matthew 5:9). "Of the following things," said a Jewish rabbi, "men reap the fruits both in the present and the future life—honouring father and mother, bestowing benefits, and making peace between men."

REMARKS.

1. It is hardly possible to estimate too highly the worth of peace among men.

2. Those who would make peace between others must themselves be at peace with God, with their own hearts, and with their neighbours. The peacemaker must not be a peacebreaker.

3. The greatest Peacemaker the world has ever seer. is Jesus Christ, who is "our Peace" (Ephesians 2:14).

4. In proportion as we partake of his spirit we shall endeavour to heal all unholy strife and promote "peace on earth." D.

HOMILIES BY G. WOOD

2 Samuel 20:1, 2 Samuel 20:2

Departure from and adherence to Christ.

A sudden change in the aspect of affairs. The occasion was a fierce dispute between the Israelites and the men of Judah as to the right of the latter to go so far towards the restoration of the king without consulting the former. The causes, however, are to be found partly in old jealousies between the tribes; partly in the unallayed resentment of the Benjamites on account of the setting aside of the house of Saul from the royalty, and its transfer to the tribe of Judah; partly in the excitement of men's minds by the rebellion under Absalom, and its suppression. A spark only was wanted to produce another desolating flame, and that was supplied by the sudden summons of Sheba to the men of Israel. Hence another insurrection, which seems to have been begun without consideration, and which was brought to an end speedily and ignominiously. The men of Israel followed. Sheba; but those of Judah "clave unto their king," and conducted him "from Jordan even to Jerusalem." The division thus for the time produced has its counterpart in the spiritual sphere. It may serve to illustrate especially the more open and manifest departures from the Divine King which at times occur, under, perhaps, some leader, and the steadfast adherence to him of his friends, which, at such times, becomes more pronounced and manifest.

I. THE NATURE AND CAUSES OF DEFECTION FROM CHRIST.

1. Its nature. It is the casting off of his rule over mind, heart, life. It may be secret or it may be open, and may be with or without emphatic declaration, with or without open adherence to a leader of rebellion against him. But it ought not to be confounded with separation from a particular Church, or renunciation of a particular humanly constructed creed. We do wrong if we condemn any one as having departed from Christ because he has departed from us. There is room for great variety of conception and expression as to Christian truth, and of modes of sincerely and truly serving Christ; and he recognizes, as loyal subjects of his, many in all Churches, and not a few outside all Churches. At the same time, it must be, and ought to be, distinctly maintained that to reject his supreme authority in matters of belief and practice, to think and express our thoughts without regard to his teaching, to feel and act without recognition of his commands, is to reject him; to openly declare that we no longer recognize his authority is open rebellion against him.

2. Its causes.

II. REASONS WHICH INDUCE THE FAITHFUL TO CLEAVE TO THEIR KING, WHOEVER MAY DESERT HIM.

1. Faith in his Divine authority. That he is King by Divine right, and must and will reign, and make all his foes his footstool (Psalms 2:1-12.; Psalms 110:1; 1 Corinthians 15:25).

2. Love to him. Originating in gratitude for his redeeming love, becoming attachment to him from discernment and approval of his infinite excellences, and to his government and laws, because the renewed heart is in harmony with them.

3. Experience of the blessings of his reign. In the heart, the home, the people who truly serve him. Hence, intense satisfaction with his service.

4. Hope of a yet happier experience when his reign is fully established and perfected. Hope, as the "anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast" (Hebrews 6:19), keeps the soul steadfast when storms of temptation arise. To give up Christ would be, it is felt, to give up hope of glory in his "everlasting kingdom" (2 Peter 1:11).

5. Perception of the worthlessness of his rivals. Observe the contrast presented between Sheba and David—the one "a man of Belial" (worthlessness), the other "their king." Similarly, when "many of Christ's disciples went back, and walked no more with him," and he, turning to the twelve, asked, "Will ye also go away?" Peter exclaimed, "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (John 6:66-69). And still we may ask, "To whom shall we go?" Where shall we find one to take the place of Christ? Who has equal claims on our confidence and affection? Who can confer equal benefits? Not the irreligious multitude, whether of the coarser or the more refined sort. Not the leaders of sceptical thought, some of whom simply ignore all that renders Christ precious to the Christian; others maintain that nothing can be known of God, and that all that is believed respecting him and his relation to men belongs to the region of imagination, not of truth; and others proffer a religion without a God. The Christian sees that all who would tempt him to forsake his Lord can offer him as substitutes only "vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver" (1 Samuel 12:21).

6. Expectation of the coming of Christ. The account to be then rendered, the judgments to be pronounced, the rewards and punishments to be distributed. The certainty that "he," and only he, "that shall endure unto the end shall be saved" (Matthew 24:13). For these reasons, and such as these, some of which are felt most by one, and some by another; whilst many may follow this or that pretender, Christians who are really such will "cleave unto their King."—G.W.

2 Samuel 20:19

Peaceableness and faithfulness.

"I am one of them that are peaceable and faithful in Israel." The wise woman probably spoke in these words, not so much for herself, as for the inhabitants of her town, which Joab was besieging. Hence the adjectives are plural. She pleads the peacefulness and fidelity of the people as a reason for sparing them. It was no fault of theirs that a traitor had taken refuge amongst them. Joab acknowledges the force of her plea, and promises to depart if Sheba were delivered up to him—a promise which he fulfilled when the head of the traitor had been flung to him over the wall. The qualities here mentioned are of inestimable value; in an individual in relation to his neighbours, fellow citizens, and fellow Christians; in a family as between its members, and in relation to other families; in a town, between its inhabitants, and in respect to other towns; in a country, between the various classes of the people, between the people and their rulers, and in relation to other countries; and in a Church, as between its members, and in its relations with other Churches and with the community at large. They are the subject of many Scripture injunctions and promises. They are fruits of the Spirit; essential parts of the character of a Christian; the natural product of the gospel in those who really believe it. "The kingdom of God is righteousness and peace" (Romans 14:17); "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness" (Galatians 5:22, Revised Version); "Love truth and peace" (Zechariah 8:19, Revised Version).

I. PEACEABLENESS. This Christian virtue is very frequently inculcated in the Scriptures, especially the New Testament.

1. Its nature. It consists in a disposition to live in harmony and friendliness with all. It shows itself by courtesy and kindness; by avoidance of contention and quarrels; by carefulness not to give just or needless provocation to others; by meek endurance of provocation and even injustice from others; by readiness to give and receive explanation and apology; by quiet, unobtrusive performance of one's own duties, and abstinence from intermeddling with other people's business; by overlooking small offences, and readiness to forgive greater.

2. Its sources. In some it is a natural disposition. As a Christian virtue it springs from:

3. Its benefits.

II. FAITHFULNESS. "Faithful," on the lips of the wise woman, probably meant "loyal" to the king. It might well include also uprightness in general. "We are a people not only peaceful, but (as the word is) reliable, trustworthy. We are honest, just, steadily occupied with a faithful discharge of our duties, at once to God, to each other, and to the state." Fidelity must be associated with peaceableness to form a noble Christian character; fidelity to Christ and God, to conscience and conviction, to truth and duty, to promises and engagements; fidelity to those to whom we are variously related in family, social, ecclesiastical, and national life. This gives strength to the character, as gentleness and peacefulness give beauty. The two qualities are not incompatible, but mutually helpful. A peaceful spirit prevents fidelity from becoming harsh, censorious, meddlesome, fierce. Fidelity prevents peacefulness from becoming an immoral weakness, which disregards justice and truth, is ever making unworthy Compromises, and would rather sacrifice the highest principles than run the risk of arousing the passions of men by asserting and defending them. Only "the wisdom that is from above," which "is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without variance, without hypocrisy" (James 3:17, Revised Version); in other words, the teaching of the Holy Spirit,—can enable us to give to each of these virtues, peacefulness and faithfulness, its due place.—G.W.

2 Samuel 20:19

Seeking to destroy God's inheritance.

"Why wilt thou swallow up the inheritance of the Lord?" The nation of Israel was called the "inheritance" of God, because specially chosen and set apart for himself, and therefore specially valued and cared for (see Deuteronomy 4:20; Deuteronomy 9:26, Deuteronomy 9:29). The "wise woman," in remonstrating with Joab against his assault on Abel, applies the term to that part of the people which dwelt there. It was an assertion of their right, as belonging to the chosen people, to be protected, not destroyed. The corresponding word in the New Testament is used of the everlasting possession which Christians will inherit, not of Christians themselves (unless Ephesians 1:18 be an exception). But the idea is presented in other words (see 1 Peter 2:9, "a people for God's own possession," Revised Version), and the remonstrance might be appropriately addressed to any who seek to destroy the Church of God.

I. CHRISTIANS ARE THE LORD'S INHERITANCE. That part of mankind which is specially his.

1. Which he has peculiarly appropriated. All the world is his; hut, while he has left the larger portion of it for a time comparatively waste, he has in a special manner claimed and separated this for himself.

2. For which he specially cares, bestowing upon it peculiar culture, watching over it with special interest.

3. From which he expects and receives special returns. Of thought, love, confidence, praise, "fruits of righteousness" (Philippians 1:11), glory (Matthew 5:16). The words, "inheritance of the Lord," may be applied to the whole Church; or (according to the analogy of the text) to any part of it, any Christian society; or to individual Christians. And it is fitted to awaken in them reflections as to the degree in which they are worthy of the name, and to encourage the sincere to expect the special protection and blessing of God.

II. THERE ARE ATTEMPTS TO DESTROY GOD'S INHERITANCE. Some are wrongly charged with such attempts. Joab declared truly that his aim was not to "swallow up or destroy" (2 Samuel 20:20). He only wished to punish a traitor, by doing which he would serve instead of injuring "the inheritance of the Lord." In like manner, men who endeavour to purify the Church from error and sinful practices may be wrongly charged with seeking to destroy what their desire is to conserve. Reformers are often regarded as destructives. Such, however, do need to be cautioned lest anything in their spirit or measures should injure what is good more than correct what is evil. Some, again, injure God's inheritance without deliberate intention. Unworthy ministers of religion, hypocrites, and inconsistent Christians are of this class. But others are chargeable with endeavouring to destroy God's inheritance.

1. Such as attempt to destroy faith in the great Christian verities. Could they succeed, there would be no Christianity, no Church, no "inheritance of the Lord," left in the world.

2. Persecutors of Christians in general, or of particular sections of them. Various bodies of Christians have in turn sought not to convince (which is right), but to root out, their fellow Christians, employing the civil power, if that were at their command, or, if not, using their wealth or social influence to oppress or entice in order to suppress.

III. THE EXPOSTULATION OF THE TEXT MAY BE JUSTLY ADDRESSED TO THOSE WHO MAKE SUCH ATTEMPTS. "Why wilt thou swallow up," etc.? The words may be used to urge consideration of:

1. The reasons and motives which prompt the attempts. Such as:

2. The impiety and unrighteousness of such attempts. The wise woman suggests to Joab, by the words she uses, that he would be guilty of these sins if he persisted in his assault on the town. So those who assail the Church of God:

3. Their futility. "The inheritance of the Lord" cannot be really swallowed up, although certain portions of it may for a time be injured. "Upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).

4. The retribution which will surely follow them. Christians who, in their blindness, make them in any degree, receive loss and injury thereby in their own souls and in their influence for good; the enemies of God will find that he is too mighty for them. He will "plead his own cause" (Psalms 74:22), and "avenge his elect" (Luke 18:7).—G.W.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/2-samuel-20.html. 1897.

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