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Deeper Commentary

2Sa 20:1 There happened to be there-
That wonderful scene of grace and unity at David's restoration in 2 Sam. 19 was attended by some who were unmoved by it; and sought for their own faction to have power.

A base fellow, whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjamite: and he blew the trumpet and said, We have no portion in David, neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse. Every man to his tents, Israel!-
True as the Proverbs are which condemn "a worthless / wicked person" (Prov. 6:12; 16:27; 19:28), again we have a subtext of Solomon seeking to justify himself and his father David, and to criticize the various competitors to Solomon's throne. "A worthless person" is the term used for Nabal (1 Sam. 25:17), those in David's camp who were not fully supportive of David (1 Sam. 30:22), Sheba who plotted to overthrow the Davidic line as king (2 Sam. 20:1), and particularly of those who wanted to overthrow Solomon as king (2 Chron. 13:7). 

2Sa 20:2 So all the men of Israel changed from following David, and followed Sheba the son of Bichri; but the men of Judah joined with their king, from the Jordan even to Jerusalem-
We see the fickle nature of human hearts. They had been won by David from Saul, then Absalom had stolen the hearts of the men of Judah, and in 2 Sam. 19:14 David bows those hearts back to him, in a very short space of time; and then those hearts are won by Sheba in 2 Sam. 20:2. We think of how the people who once cried "Hosanna" were soon shouting "crucify Him!", and soon after that were so supportive of the apostles preaching Jesus as Christ that the authorities were scared to touch them.

2Sa 20:3 David came to his house at Jerusalem; and the king took the ten women his concubines, whom he had left to keep the house, and put them in custody, and provided them with sustenance, but didn’t go in to them. So they were shut up to the day of their death, living in widowhood-
These were presumably the concubines with whom Absalom had slept. The implication could be that this was when he first returned from exile in Mahanaim. Which would mean that the revolt of Sheba was almost immediately after he had crossed the Jordan, making a mockery of the 'unity meeting' held at Gilgal in 2 Sam. 19 to officially restore David as king. 

2Sa 20:4 Then the king said to Amasa, Call me the men of Judah together within three days, and be here present-
David had replaced Joab as head of the army with Amasa (2 Sam. 19:13). David was repeating the lessons he learned after the death of Saul, where he showed huge grace to his enemies- and it worked. Even though it ran against the grain of all secular sense and wisdom.  And so now he does the same, in offering the post of commander-in chief to the general of the rebel army. Joab was obviously deeply resentful of this and totally didn't understand grace.

2Sa 20:5 So Amasa went to call the men of Judah together; but he stayed longer than the set time which he had appointed him-
As Samuel tarried longer than the set time Saul expected (1 Sam. 13:8), so Amasa "tarried longer than the set time which [David] had appointed him" (2 Sam. 20:5). Circumstances repeat within our lives and between our lives and those of others in Biblical history; that we might learn the lessons and take comfort from the scriptures, that man is not alone. Amasa's delay and failure to immediately chase after Sheba was interpreted as meaning that he was again being disloyal to David as he had been during Absalom's rebellion. But we do not know why he delayed, although the note on :13 suggests there were genuine reasons and Amasa was loyal to David still. What we do know is that Joab will now deceive him and kill him, clearly motivated by jealousy over the fact he had been replaced by Amasa as the leader of the army. Although he would have justified it by claiming as he did when he murdered Abner, that Amasa was a threat to David. Again we see how Joab's self interest and pride precluded him from understanding grace.

2Sa 20:6 David said to Abishai-
Amasa had been appointed general, but he was absent. Instead of treating Joab as the second in command, David addressed Joab's brother Abishai as the de facto army general. All this provoked huge resentment in Joab. It seems David had a personality clash with Joab, frustrated at his refusal to understand grace and complaining that Joab was "too hard" for him.

Now Sheba the son of Bichri will do us more harm than Absalom did. Take your lord’s servants, and pursue after him, otherwise he will get himself fortified cities, and escape out of our sight-
David is far more proactive and not as mournfully passive as he was during Absalom's rebellion. This reflects how he realized that Absalom's putsch was the fulfilment of Nathan's words to him about the consequences of his sin with Bathsheba. But he clearly didn't see Sheba's power grab in the same light.

2Sa 20:7 There went out after him Joab’s men, and the Cherethites, the Pelethites and all the mighty men; and they went out of Jerusalem, to pursue after Sheba the son of Bichri-
The abiding loyalty of these men to David (2 Sam. 8:18; 15:18) is incredible. Joab's sad end at Solomon's hands in 1 Kings 2:28 is the more tragic.

2Sa 20:8 When they were at the great stone which is in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them-
Amasa had presumably been raising an army in Benjamin.

Joab was clothed in his battledress that he had put on, and on it was a sash with a sword fastened on his waist in its sheath-
The only person in David's life whose belt is noted is Joab (2 Sam. 20:8; 1 Kings 2:5). But Ps. 109:8,19 wish curses upon the man who was well known for his belt. See notes there for the extent of David's anger with Joab and his desire for the man's condemnation because of it- even though David was not himself perfect.

And as he went forth it fell out-
It seemed that the sword at Joab’s side accidentally fell out of its scabbard as he went toward Amasa to greet him (2 Sam. 20:8) – but it was on purpose, of course. The Bible sometimes describes things as they appear, even if that appearance is incorrect. This explains why the wrong understandings of demons aren't specifically corrected in the New Testament.

2Sa 20:9 Joab said to Amasa, Is it well with you, my brother? Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him-
Amasa was surely aware of how Joab had slain Abner, but as will be discussed on :10, on another level, he took no cognizance of this. "Well with you" is the word shalom, and is referred to in Solomon's comment that Joab shed the blood of war in peace, perhaps meaning 'in the name of peace' (1 Kings 2:5).

2Sa 20:10 But Amasa took no heed to the sword that was in Joab’s hand. So he struck him with it in the body, and shed out his bowels to the ground, and didn’t strike him again; and he died. Joab and Abishai his brother pursued after Sheba the son of Bichri-
Joab had murdered in the same way in 2 Sam. 3:27. We note the internal consistency in the record of Joab's character; another reason to believe these records are absolutely credible and inspired by God.  See on 2 Sam. 19:6. The blood of Amasa went all over Joab, even into his sandals (1 Kings 2:5).

We wonder why Amasa "took no heed to the sword...". Drivers can see an accident coming, but not swerve; there is a lack of cognition somewhere in the human psyche. Pilots take off at times knowing that their wings are frozen, and crash. Amasa saw the sword and must have seen the possibility of death, but didn’t take cognizance of it. Samson must have known, on one level, what Delilah would do. The human Lord Jesus knew Judas would betray Him, and yet acted on another level as if He didn’t. It should have been obvious to the British and French that Germany would start a war in 1938. But mankind is in amnesia, somewhere, somehow, we fail to recognize the obvious. Likewise with the nearness of the Lord’s return, with the urgency of our task in witness, with the evident need to follow God’s word- this lack of cognizance so often comes into play. We really ought to pray, earnestly, for open hearts and eyes and obedient lives before our daily reading. 

It is part of human nature not to perceive the obvious when we have a subconscious reason not to, or a distraction. Maybe Amasa was more concerned about fighting Sheba, and considered that Joab would of course not touch him because they were soldiers fighting on the same side. Or we can know something on one level, but not on another. It helps explain why the Lord Jesus knew from the beginning that Judas would betray him (Jn. 6:64), and yet how He could really trust in Judas as his own familiar friend, confide in him (Ps. 41:9), tell him that he would sit with the other eleven on thrones in the Kingdom (Mt. 19:28). This was ever a serious contradiction for me, until considering the Samson : Delilah relationship in depth. A man can know something about someone on one level, but act and feel towards them in a quite different way than this knowledge requires. In the same way, it was in one sense true that the Jews “knew not whence I come” (Jn. 8:24,14 RV) and yet in another sense they knew perfectly well the Divine origin of Jesus (Jn. 7:28). David likewise must have known Absalom’s deceit; but he chose not to see it, for love’s sake. “They also that seek after my life lay snares for me: and they that seek my hurt speak mischievous things [just as Absalom did in the gate]... but I, as a deaf man, heard not” (Ps. 38:12,13). One also gets the sense that the Gibeonites’ deception was somehow guessed by the elders of Israel, but against their better judgment they disregarded the telltale signs (Josh. 9:7). Amasa, taking no heed to the sword in Joab’s hand... against his better judgment, surely, is another example.

2Sa 20:11 There stood by him one of Joab’s young men and said, He who favours Joab, and he who is for David, let him follow Joab!-
We see here the beginnings of Joab's move towards trying to himself seize power at the time of Adonijah's rebellion. He places his name before David's, and asks men to follow him rather than David. We learn how evil actions begin with baby steps towards them.

2Sa 20:12 Amasa lay wallowing in his blood in the midst of the highway. When the man saw that all the people stood still, he carried Amasa out of the highway into the field, and cast a garment over him, when he saw that everybody who came by him stood still-
It was a particularly bloody murder (1 Kings 2:5). "The men" were the troops Amasa had raised to be loyal to David; see on :13.

2Sa 20:13 When he was removed out of the highway, all the people went on after Joab, to pursue after Sheba the son of Bichri-
"All the people" refers to the troops Amasa had raised to fight on David's side against Sheba; they followed Joab, which would indicate that Amasa's delay in coming was not due to any disloyalty to David; see on :5. So this delay was used as an excuse by Joab to doubt Amasa's loyalty, and use that as a cover for slaying him- when his motive was really personal jealousy. This covering of the motive of personal jealousy goes on all the time in life.

2Sa 20:14 He went through all the tribes of Israel to Abel, and to Beth Maacah, and all the Berites: and they were gathered together, and went also after him-
The location of any place called Berim is unknown, so we may go with LXX "and all the chosen men were gathered together".

2Sa 20:15 They came and besieged him in Abel of Beth Maacah, and they cast up a mound against the city, and it stood against the rampart; and all the people who were with Joab battered at the wall, in order to throw it down-
"Battered" translates a word meaning 'to undermine' or to dig pits. By all means they were seeking to tear down the wall, yet we will see on :18 that Joab had disobeyed the command of Dt. 20:10 to firstly dialogue before besieging a city.

2Sa 20:16 Then a wise woman cried out of the city-
LXX "from the wall".

Hear, hear! Please say to Joab, ‘Come near here, that I may speak with you’-
This coming near to a city wall recalls the murder of Uriah, again under Joab's command and with Joab's full complicity. Joab would immediately have thought 'I must be careful not to be killed as Uriah was'. All these rebellions were related to David's sin against Bathsheba and Uriah, and there are many conscious and unconscious allusions back to it.

2Sa 20:17 He came near to her; and the woman said, Are you Joab? He answered, I am. Then she said to him, Hear the words of your handmaid. He answered, I do hear-
Abigail's plea "Hear the words of your handmaid" (1 Sam. 15:24) was repeated by the woman of 2 Sam. 20:17. But Abigail herself had modelled her behaviour on women like Rebekah (1 Sam. 25:23 = Gen. 24:18,46). This is how functional fellowship occurs between God's people, both over time and in contemporary relationships. We copy that which is Godly and good which we observe in other believers, both those we know and those we meet in the Bible.

2Sa 20:18 Then she spoke saying, They used to say in old times, ‘They shall surely ask counsel at Abel’; and so they resolved things-
The text is difficult. The idea may be that as in AVmg. "They plainly spake in the beginning, saying, Surely they will ask of Abel, and so make an end", meaning that Joab ought to have done as in Dt. 20:10 and summoned the city to surrender before besieging it. Joab comes over as over hasty and with no interest in following the Biblical rules of engagement. Hence LXX also hints at this: "It was asked in Abel and in Dan whether the customs have failed which the faithful of Israel ordained".

2Sa 20:19 I am among those who are peaceable and faithful in Israel. You seek to destroy a city and a mother in Israel. Why will you swallow up the inheritance of Yahweh?-
Joab was looking to destroy the city for the sake of his mission against Sheba. The woman's argument is that which should be used against all such campaigns which are based around guilt by association. The grammar suggests she speaks of herself as a personification of the city: "I am peaceable faithful ones of Israel". Cities are often called mothers (as 2 Sam. 8:1), and their surrounding villages are called their daughters.

2Sa 20:20 Joab answered, Far be it, far be it from me, that I should swallow up or destroy-
Joab may mean 'I am personally not doing this to you, I have a Divine mandate to destroy a false leader called Sheba'. But that doesn't actually answer the woman's wisdom of :19. Joab ought to have asked for the head of Sheba at the start, but he doesn't apologize for his actions and his refusal to seek dialogue first; see on :18.

2Sa 20:21 The matter is not so. But a man of the hill country of Ephraim, Sheba the son of Bichri by name, has lifted up his hand against the king, even against David. Deliver him only, and I will depart from the city. The woman said to Joab, Behold, his head shall be thrown to you over the wall-
The Philistines in 1 Sam. 29:4 recalled how David had carried the head of Goliath to Saul (1 Sam. 17:57). To carry the heads of a king's enemies was a way to get the king's favour, as in Jud. 7:25; 2 Sam. 4:8; 16:9; 20:21; 2 Kings 10:6-8. Again we see the inspired, historical record has consistency. It would have required a clever editor to insert this theme of beheading to curry a leader's favour throughout the entire Biblical record. But the histories were clearly written at different times; a later hand would not have thought of all these realistic touches to sprinkle so consistently throughout it. The internal harmony of the Bible is to me the greatest indication that it is what it claims to be, the Divinely inspired word of God, evidencing His editing throughout. 

2Sa 20:22 Then the woman went to all the people in her wisdom. They cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri, and threw it out to Joab. He blew the trumpet, and they were dispersed from the city, each man to his tent. Joab returned to Jerusalem to the king-
Joab has before blown a trumpet to end a civil war and further bloodshed. Although he was a renowned and unjustified murderer, he seems also to have had a genuine concern to limit bloodshed within Israel. This is the kind of contradiction within human characters which is brought out continually in the record; we see it especially in David's character. We reflect upon it, and realize these were not just isolated individuals, but are typical of us all. Solomon later alludes to the wisdom of this woman in this situation (Ecc. 9:13-16), again with the unspoken implication that Joab was a fool. Solomon's writings are true enough but constantly contain attacks upon those with whom he or his father had had conflicts; and Solomon slew Joab as a contender against his power base.

2Sa 20:23 Now Joab was over all the army of Israel; and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and over the Pelethites-
That is, Joab was restored to be over the army, as David had given that job to Amasa as a sign of grace to his betrayers.

2Sa 20:24 and Adoram was over the men subject to forced labour; and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was the recorder-
This is a similar list to that in 2 Sam. 8:6-8, but with the addition of the office of Adoram "over the men subject to forced labour". This was exactly what Samuel had predicted Israel's king would do. And it seems David fell into this too, and Solomon took that unwisdom far further, to the point that people complained he was beating and whipping them with his demands.

2Sa 20:25 and Sheva was scribe; and Zadok and Abiathar were priests-
We note how those faithful to David in his wilderness years were in office for 40 years (2 Sam. 8:6-8). This is highly unusual in political circles. The impressive long term continuity in David's inner circle reflects a unity which was achieved by genuine respect and loyalty towards David and his specific Divine anointing as king. Likewise only a truly Christ-centered approach brings true unity amongst God's people and servants.

2Sa 20:26 and also Ira the Jairite was chief minister to David
The similarity with the list of 2 Sam. 8:6-8 but this office replaces the comment that "David's sons were chief rulers". They had either been killed or were deemed by David unsuitable. We notice that Solomon, the son with whom David came to be besotted after the loss of Absalom, doesn't figure in any of this, perhaps because of his youth.