II Samuel 20 Continued

11. Meanwhile one of Joab’s men stood near Amasa, and said, “Whoever favors Joab and whoever is for David—follow Joab!”

One of Joab’s men, no doubt acting at Joab’s orders while personally fully supporting this popular and charismatic man, encourages all to favor Joab. He stands by Amasa’s body and suggests that to favor Joab, and even to be for David, means to follow Joab. This does not leave much choice, does it? Who would favor a dead body as army commander over a living and successful, mighty man? Who among David’s loyal men would turn back and refuse to act for him now? So Joab’s man makes it “a vote for Joab is a vote for David,” and David’s loyal men have little choice but to go along with it.

12. But Amasa wallowed in his blood in the middle of the highway. And when the man saw that all the people stood still, he moved Amasa from the highway to the field and threw a garment over him, when he saw that everyone who came upon him halted.

It seems that poor Amasa, though mortally wounded in the gut, was not immediately killed by Joab’s blow. He probably suffered a long, painful, terrible death. He was rolling around in agony in his own blood in the middle of the highway. Everyone who was running along after David’s men and who came upon Amasa, their new commander, wallowing in his own blood this way stopped running and looked on in horror at this grim sight. This was probably similar to what we see so often along the highways in our time. When there is an accident, people must slow down to stare at it. We call this gawking or rubbernecking, and the result is the curiosity crawl, which can bring traffic to almost a standstill. So it is with these soldiers, who stop and stare when they see Amasa dying in the middle of the road. On top of the horrible sight, touching a dead body would cause an Israelite to become unclean, so they probably did not want to continue down the road with Amasa’s body parts lying on it.

This is an interesting thing: a dead man holding up men from making progress in the mission they were supposed to be on. We must be careful about this very thing in Bible study. Often we study the writings and teachings of men who are dead. Praise God for the faithful students of the Word who have gone before us! And yet these men are dead. We cannot talk to them. We cannot question them or try to convince them that any of their ideas have problems or might be wrong. They cannot make progress or discover new truth. Thus, though we can learn from their studies and efforts, we must be careful that we do not allow them to hinder us from making progress. They are dead, and God’s Word is living and powerful. Let us go on in our pursuit of it, not allow ourselves to be held back by the unchanging ideas of dead men. They cannot progress after truth, and as far as they made it is as far as they ever will go. Yet we who are alive can progress. We are not held only to go as far as dead men before us have gone. Let us, then, continue to progress, and continue to pursue the truth God has for us in His Holy Word!

Joab’s cheerleader sees that this is happening. This is not what Joab wanted, and is slowing down the pursuit of Sheba, not to mention drawing attention to Joab’s vicious crime. Thus the man acts to move Amasa out of the highway to the field beside the road. He throws a garment over him, perhaps his own outer robe, to hide him from the soldiers hurrying down the road.

13. When he was removed from the highway, all the people went on after Joab to pursue Sheba the son of Bichri.

After Amasa’s body is thrust off the road, the delay is stopped and the People go on to follow after Joab as he desired and to pursue the rebel Sheba the son of Bichri. Thus the wily Joab gets away at this time with both murdering his rival and winning back command over David’s men once again.

14. And he went through all the tribes of Israel to Abel and Beth Maachah and all the Berites. So they were gathered together and also went after Sheba.

So Joab, again large and in charge, pursues Sheba, following him through all the tribes of Israel. He comes to Abel, which means “Meadow,” in northern Israel following Sheba. He goes on to Beth Maachah, which means “House of Pressure,” and was at the foot of Mount Hermon in northern Israel. He goes on from there to all the Berites. The Companion Bible suspects that these were probably the same as the Bichrites, the people of Sheba, who were descended from Becher, a son of Benjamin. (Thus the Bichrites or Berites would have been a sub-tribe in Benjamin). This is Sheba’s home, and he has traveled through all these regions gathering together the people to follow him in rebellion against David. David was right: Sheba has been making trouble, and he could ill afford to allow him to continue to do it. He was gathering strength and support, and was planning to promote himself, no doubt, as king instead of David and his line. This, though, Jehovah Himself was not going to allow, though He did allow this trouble to develop as yet another punishment on David for his great sin.

15. Then they came and besieged him in Abel of Beth Maachah; and they cast up a siege mound against the city, and it stood by the rampart. And all the people who were with Joab battered the wall to throw it down.

Joab and all the People of David come and besiege Sheba in Abel of Beth Maachah. So Sheba did make it to a fortified city where it would be hard to get at him, as David feared. Yet Joab and his men are ready and know what to do. They throw up a great mound of earth next to the city wall or rampart. Either this was to allow them to climb over the wall and attack the city, or else it afforded them protection from above as they battered the walls of the city to throw them down and allow them to enter the city unhindered. Perhaps the latter is a better guess, since that appears to be what they were doing.

16. Then a wise woman cried out from the city, “Hear, hear! Please say to Joab, ‘Come nearby, that I may speak with you.’”

As all this activity is going on, a wise woman of the city decides to step in. This was good, for all this chaos was not beneficial for Israel or for David’s government. A wise person was needed to set things back to right again, and this wise woman now acts. There are many people called wise in the Bible. The first individual called this is Joseph, whom Pharaoh made the wise man of Egypt. Now this woman proves herself the wisest person in the city of Beth Maachah.

She calls out to David’s men until they listen to her. Then she asks them to call for Joab to come near enough so that she can speak with him.

17. When he had come near to her, the woman said, “Are you Joab?”
He answered, “I am.”
Then she said to him, “Hear the words of your maidservant.”
And he answered, “I am listening.”

The message is relayed, and Joab comes near to where the woman was calling over the wall. She sees him and asks if he is Joab. Remember that, at that time when television, newspapers, and even photographs were unheard of, most everyone in Israel would have heard of Joab, but many might have no idea what he looked like. Thus she is not sure that this is Joab, and asks him to confirm it. He answers affirmatively that he is indeed Joab. Then she calls on him to hear her words, calling herself his maidservant. This probably also was a way of indicating that she had something important to say. He responds that he is indeed listening to her.

18. So she spoke, saying, “They used to talk in former times, saying, ‘They shall surely seek guidance at Abel,’ and so they would end disputes.

She speaks then, and refers to an old proverb, probably common at one time in that part of Israel, that they would surely seek guidance there at Abel. Abel, it seems, was known for wise counsel, and disputes would end when they were decided by the wise counsellors at Abel.

19. I am among the peaceable and faithful in Israel. You seek to destroy a city and a mother in Israel. Why would you swallow up the inheritance of the LORD?”

She then speaks personally on behalf of her city, saying that she is among both the peaceable and the faithful in Israel. Why does Joab want to destroy a mother city in Israel? This city, like all the land of Israel, is Yahweh’s inheritance. Why, then, will he swallow it up? So this woman pleads against this mad procedure of Israel fighting and seeking to destroy Israel. This should not be, and Abel does not deserve this!

20. And Joab answered and said, “Far be it, far be it from me, that I should swallow up or destroy!

Joab forcefully denies that what he wants is to swallow up and destroy. He uses this expression “far be it from me,” which Abraham first used in Genesis 18:25, saying “far be it” from the LORD to destroy the righteous with the wicked. The idea seems to be that the idea is profane, it is detestable, it is put far away from one. Thus Joab indicates that it was never his intention to swallow up and destroy any part of Israel. He never set out to do any such thing!

21. That is not so. But a man from the mountains of Ephraim, Sheba the son of Bichri by name, has raised his hand against the king, against David. Deliver him only, and I will depart from the city.”
So the woman said to Joab, “Watch, his head will be thrown to you over the wall.”

Her speech, he insists, is not the way it is. Instead, he explains, the trouble was caused by a man from the hill country of Ephraim, Sheba the son of Bichri. He describes how he has raised his hand, meaning acted with all the power he has, to rebel against the rightful King David. If the city of Abel will deliver Sheba to David’s forces, then Joab will leave the city in peace.

The woman hears what Joab has to say and understands it. She urges Joab just to wait, and she will see to it that Sheba’s head will be thrown to him over the wall.

22. Then the woman in her wisdom went to all the people. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri, and threw it out to Joab. Then he blew a trumpet, and they withdrew from the city, every man to his tent. So Joab returned to the king at Jerusalem.

So this woman returns from her conference with Joab to speak with all the people of her city. She goes to her people in all her wisdom and advises them wisely what to do. They cannot help, it seems, but recognize the wisdom of her counsel, and so they do as she suggests. They cut off the head of Sheba son of Bichri and throw it out to Joab as the woman had promised. Once Joab has this proof that Sheba is dead, he blows a trumpet or horn to signal to his army that the siege is over and to command them to withdraw.

Thus this wise woman saved the city of Abel. This is as the proverb says in Proverbs 29:8, “Scoffers set a city aflame, But wise men turn away wrath.” The scoffer Sheba nearly did bring this city to ruin, but the wise woman turned away wrath. We wonder if this woman was remembered? As Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 9:14-15, “14. There was a little city with few men in it; and a great king came against it, besieged it, and built great snares around it. 15. Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that same poor man.” Did anyone remember this wise woman? We do not know if she was poor or not. If she was poor, perhaps they did not. But she by her wisdom saved her own life and the lives of all her fellow citizens. Let us learn wisdom like hers, and be blessed as the Lord Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God,” Matthew 5:9.

They disperse, every man returning to his tent. Compare this to II Samuel 19:8, when David’s men fled to their tents in shame when David mourned the death of Absalom after they won their great victory. Compare it also to Sheba’s words in 20:1, when he commanded Israel, not to their own tents, but to their own gods. The threat is over. David is back on the throne, and all opposition has ended. Once more David can rule over his nation in peace.

So Joab goes back to the king at Jerusalem. David must have been surprised to find that his will was overturned, and that Joab was in charge of the troops once again! Yet it was a done deal by this time. Joab was popular with the army, even with David’s own most loyal men. He had maneuvered himself back into the commander’s role, and there was nothing David could do about it. Yet David remembered his disloyalty, and the last chapter of Joab’s story was not yet written. There was still to be a comeuppance for this crafty, unscrupulous man.

At this point, the historical record of David’s reign is mostly complete. What we have from here on through the last few chapters of Samuel are a couple of important incidents from the latter part of David’s reign, a few significant psalms that David wrote, and a few lists of David’s men and their activities during this latter part of his reign. The historical record will not take back up in earnest until we get to the next book, that of I Kings.

23. And Joab was over all the army of Israel; Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites;

So now Joab, in spite of all David could do, is back to being commander of all the army of Israel. Abishai, it seems, has demoted himself by allowing Joab to take ascendancy over him, and is no longer in charge of anything, though he still retains his position among the mighty men.

Benaiah, meaning “Yahweh Has Built Up,” is still over the Cherethites or Executioners and Pelethites or Couriers, as he was before back in II Samuel 8:18. He must have been a younger man than David, for he will continue in this position even well into the reign of Solomon. He is the son of Jehoiada, which means “Yahweh knows.” We know nothing of this Jehoiada, except for his famous son, a loyal and faithful follower of David. He must have been, to have the leadership and earn the respect of the Cherethites and Pelethites, David’s most loyal men.

24. Adoram was in charge of revenue; Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder;

Adoram is listed next as one of David’s officials. It seems we are reviewing his officials now, and comparing them to his officials early in his reign, as we had it back in II Samuel 8. Adoram was not listed in that earlier list of officials, although that does not necessarily indicate a change since no officer over the revenue was listed in that former list. Adoram means “My Lord is Exalted.” He is called “Adoniram” in I Kings 4:6, when he held the same position under Solomon. Even under Rehoboam he seems to have held the same position, though he was stoned by Israel as part of their revolt against Judah and Rehoboam, a sad end to this official first promoted by David. “Revenue” means tribute, and was often collected from foreigners as tribute money when they were under Israel’s control. Yet this could also refer to a tax levy from Israelites.

Next we read of Jehoshaphat, meaning “Whom Jehovah Judges,” the son of Ahilud or “Child’s Brother.” He is still recorder or remembrancer, as we saw him back in II Samuel 8:16. We would probably call him the official or royal historian. He held this position still under Solomon, as we read in I Kings 4:3. That is the last we read of him.

25. Sheva was scribe; Zadok and Abiathar were the priests;

Next we read of Sheva or Sheya, which means “Yahweh Contends.” He is called the scribe, or we might call him the secretary. His job was probably similar to that of a secretary, or perhaps of an accountant, in our day.

Next we learn that Zadok and Abiathar were both together, sharing the office as high priests. Note this carefully, for this is setting up God’s word to Eli! Abiathar is the descendant of Eli, but Eli’s family was under a curse. None of them would live to old age, until they would see a rival priest contending for their same office. Eventually he would win out, and they would have to go to him to beg for some lowly priestly position in order to earn food to eat. Zadok is now seen to be that rival, and, while they both are in equal positions now, the prophecy is moving on, and soon enough Abiathar and his line will be demoted to face their final fate, told by the LORD so many years before.

26. and Ira the Jairite was a chief minister under David.

The last official we read of is Ira the Jairite. Ira means “Watchful of a City,” and a Jairite was a descendant of Jair, who one of the judges who had formerly ruled Israel. He had been from Gilead, the land east of the Jordan, so this Ira probably is from there as well. “Chief minister” is actually the Hebrew kohen or “priest,” so he was a priest about David. Whether this means that he was one of Jehovah’s priests who ministered especially to David, or whether this means that he was David’s “priest” or go-between between David and the people, it is hard to say. The translators clearly took this to mean the latter when they made it “minister” here. A priest is one who stands between two parties, and so this might be what is meant. Yet the word is the word for “priest,” and we should not lose sight of this. Of course, not knowing exactly how David’s court ran, we do not know exactly what his job was, nor what any job of any of David’s officials was.

So Ira ends this, the list of David’s officials during the latter part of his reign. Again we see that it is different somewhat from the list in chapter 8 from the early part of his reign, though some of the names are the same.