1 - 2 Rebellion of Sheba
1 Now a worthless fellow happened to be there whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjamite; and he blew the trumpet and said,
“We have no portion in David,
Nor do we have inheritance in the son of Jesse;
Every man to his tents, O Israel!”
2 So all the men of Israel withdrew from following David [and] followed Sheba the son of Bichri; but the men of Judah remained steadfast to their king, from the Jordan even to Jerusalem.
When the tribes argue, the enemy sends a man who stimulates division. Sheba, “a worthless fellow”, abuses the situation of disagreement between Judah and Israel to withdraw Israel from following David. He wants to take advantage of the disagreement. He turns against David. Similarly, a division with evil motives is always directed against the Lord Jesus.
All men of Israel listen to the call of Sheba. Those who have just spoken in favor of David withdraw from him again to follow a wicked man. Those who have called that “ten parts of the king” are of them (2Sam 19:43), now call that they “have no inheritance in the son of Jesse”, that is, that they have no portion in him. That is how it went when the Lord Jesus was here. First they were calling ‘hosanna’ and shortly thereafter ‘crucify Him’.
Only Judah remains faithful to David. They follow him from the Jordan to Jerusalem. If we apply this spiritually, we see an important way. The Jordan is a picture of the death and resurrection of Christ, and Jerusalem is the place that the LORD has chosen to make his Name dwell there. When the people who had left Egypt had passed through the Jordan, they came into the promised land.
Thus we may be aware that we died and rose with Christ and are thereby brought into the heavenly places, of which the promised land is picture. As a result, we shall want to be in the place that is now the dwelling place of God, the church. In practical terms, this means visiting the local church where we see what the church is being expressed (Mt 18:15-20).
3 - 10 Joab Kills Amasa
3 Then David came to his house at Jerusalem, and the king took the ten women, the concubines whom he had left to keep the house, and placed them under guard and provided them with sustenance, but did not go in to them. So they were shut up until the day of their death, living as widows. 4 Then the king said to Amasa, “Call out the men of Judah for me within three days, and be present here yourself.” 5 So Amasa went to call out [the men of] Judah, but he delayed longer than the set time which he had appointed him. 6 And David said to Abishai, “Now Sheba the son of Bichri will do us more harm than Absalom; take your lord’s servants and pursue him, so that he does not find for himself fortified cities and escape from our sight.” 7 So Joab’s men went out after him, along with the Cherethites and the Pelethites and all the mighty men; and they went out from Jerusalem to pursue Sheba the son of Bichri. 8 When they were at the large stone which is in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Now Joab was dressed in his military attire, and over it was a belt with a sword in its sheath fastened at his waist; and as he went forward, it fell out. 9 Joab said to Amasa, “Is it well with you, my brother?” And Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. 10 But Amasa was not on guard against the sword which was in Joab’s hand so he struck him in the belly with it and poured out his inward parts on the ground, and did not [strike] him again, and he died. Then Joab and Abishai his brother pursued Sheba the son of Bichri.
What David does with the concubines is right. He cares for them, but no longer has sexual relations with them, because they were taken over by Absalom (2Sam 16:21-22). He must also have been ashamed that he made these women the prey of his rebellious son. What he does with the concubines may be right, but for the women it is a bad consequence of his wrong actions. They are condemned to widowhood, without the freedom to belong again to a man. That was a hard fate for a woman at the time.
When he has put things in order internally, he wants to secure the support of the men of Judah. He orders Amasa to bring the men of Judah to him within three days. But it is all very difficult. Amasa needs more time. Were the men of Judah so difficult to mobilize? Did they no longer like fighting? Unfortunately, there are also many Christians who boast of belonging to the Lord Jesus, but who, when it comes to battle, they don’t want to go. They were too attached to their peace and ease to venture a new adventure with Him.
Amasa does not seem to be the right man for the task. In any case, he cannot manage to bring the men from Judah to David within three days. Maybe he was not David’s good choice. David therefore sees the danger looming that Sheba will strengthen and a new uprising will break out. That is why he sends Abishai out for it.
Joab has not received a command, but he is there too. He sees his chance to solve a problem that bothers him. How is exactly is with the sword that falls out is not clear. It can be a cunning act of Joab. By pretending that the sword is falling, he can take it in his hand, without it constituting a threatening and disturbing movement for Amasa. In any case he has the sword in his hand when he meets Amasa. With feigned interest he asks Amasa how he is doing, while he takes his beard to greet him with a kiss. Just like his feigned words, this expression of love is also feigned. It is the ‘Judas kiss’ in the Old Testament, the kiss behind which lies a treacherous and murderous heart.
The way in which Joab works is described in detail to indicate that he works in a cool, deliberative and calculating way. It’s almost inevitable that Joab acts out of jealousy. He is passed by as a general by David, possibly because of his murder of Abner or the murder of Absalom or both. But he cannot accept his relegation.
Things can happen in a person’s life that disables him from leading. It is often difficult to accept that. Some can never accept it and will do everything to restore themselves to their lost position, often at the expense of others.
11 - 22 Joab Lets Sheba Kill
11 Now there stood by him one of Joab’s young men, and said, “Whoever favors Joab and whoever is for David, [let him] follow Joab.” 12 But Amasa lay wallowing in [his] blood in the middle of the highway. And when the man saw that all the people stood still, he removed Amasa from the highway into the field and threw a garment over him when he saw that everyone who came by him stood still. 13 As soon as he was removed from the highway, all the men passed on after Joab to pursue Sheba the son of Bichri. 14 Now he went through all the tribes of Israel to Abel, even Beth-maacah, and all the Berites; and they were gathered together and also went after him. 15 They came and besieged him in Abel Beth-maacah, and they cast up a siege ramp against the city, and it stood by the rampart; and all the people who were with Joab were wreaking destruction in order to topple the wall. 16 Then a wise woman called from the city, “Hear, hear! Please tell Joab, ‘Come here that I may speak with you.’” 17 So he approached her, and the woman said, “Are you Joab?” And he answered, “I am.” Then she said to him, “Listen to the words of your maidservant.” And he answered, “I am listening.” 18 Then she spoke, saying, “Formerly they used to say, ‘They will surely ask [advice] at Abel,’ and thus they ended [the dispute]. 19 I am of those who are peaceable [and] faithful in Israel. You are seeking to destroy a city, even a mother in Israel. Why would you swallow up the inheritance of the LORD?” 20 Joab replied, “Far be it, far be it from me that I should swallow up or destroy! 21 Such is not the case. But a man from the hill country of Ephraim, Sheba the son of Bichri by name, has lifted up his hand against King David. Only hand him over, and I will depart from the city.” And the woman said to Joab, “Behold, his head will be thrown to you over the wall.” 22 Then the woman wisely came to all the people. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri and threw it to Joab. So he blew the trumpet, and they were dispersed from the city, each to his tent. Joab also returned to the king at Jerusalem.
Immediately after the murder of Amasa, Joab takes over command. This crime brings delay in the pursuit. After the dead body of Amasa is removed from the road, the men of Joab continue the hunt for Sheba. Sheba appears to have entrenched himself in Abel. When Joab besieges the city and starts demolishing it, a wise woman appears on the city wall. She asks for the reason of the siege and destruction of the city. Joab responds in a way that demonstrates his political and diplomatic gifts. However, God does not play any role in the negotiations between the woman and Joab.
The woman agrees with Joab’s demand and convinces the people in the city. The result is that the head of Sheba is cut off and thrown to Joab. Thus, through the intervention of a wise woman, the judgment of the culprit is carried out and the city is spared. Her wisdom is shown in this that by handing over a worthless fellow, she spares an entire city.
Another example of a wise woman is Esther, who also saved a people by her performance. The wise actions of a few have consequences for the whole. By this one act the peace for the city returns (cf. Ecc 9:13-15). Because there was no such wisdom in the church of Corinth, there was division there and they had lawsuits with each other (1Cor 6:2-5).
At Abel obviously many wise people dwelt. That call came from the city. We can apply this to a local church. There are big differences between local churches. In one is death in the pot, in the other is brotherly love and fellowship. From a local church a testimony goes out. This can be a testimony of wisdom or love or freshness from one person or a few persons, like here from this one woman. In the church too, the actions of a single person can have consequences for the whole.
23 - 26 David’s Officers
23 Now Joab was over the whole army of Israel, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites; 24 and Adoram was over the forced labor, and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was the recorder; 25 and Sheva was scribe, and Zadok and Abiathar were priests; 26 and Ira the Jairite was also a priest to David.
At the end of the chapter the officials of David are mentioned. For good governance of his kingdom, David has people around him who help him to do so. Joab is again the commander over the whole army of Israel, because he has eliminated his competitor. David is condemned to him by his weakness. Also some priests are mentioned, because approaching God is of the utmost importance. Honoring and consulting God is the basis for peace in the realm.
Perhaps the general lesson of this chapter is that fidelity to David leads to a certain victory, although sometimes everything seems lost. There is also something to be learned from the behavior of the subjects of David. Jealousy, dissatisfaction with the position that we ourselves or others get among the people and also among the leaders, leads to a wrong practice, as we notice in the actions of Sheba and Joab. The lesson here is that we must be content with the way the Lord wants to use us and accept how He wants to use others. That will save us from jealous and competitive struggle, where we disadvantage others in favor of ourselves.