2 Samuel 20 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of 2 Samuel 20)

Verse 1

[1] And there happened to be there a man of Belial, whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjamite: and he blew a trumpet, and said, We have no part in David, neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: every man to his tents, O Israel.

Happened — His presence was casual in itself, though ordered by God's providence.

No part — The tribe of Judah have monopolized the king to themselves, and will not allow us any share in him; let them therefore enjoy him alone, and let us seek out a new king.

The son of Jesse — An expression of contempt, implying that he was no more to be owned as their king, but as a private person, as the son of Jesse.

To his tents — Let us all desist from this unthankful office, of bringing the king back, and go each to our homes, that we may consider, and then meet together to chuse a new king.

Verse 2

[2] So every man of Israel went up from after David, and followed Sheba the son of Bichri: but the men of Judah clave unto their king, from Jordan even to Jerusalem.

Every man — That is, the generality of those Israelites who were present.

Verse 5

[5] So Amasa went to assemble the men of Judah: but he tarried longer than the set time which he had appointed him.

Tarried — Either, because the people being wearied out by the late war, were not forward to engage in another: or because the soldiers had more affection to Joab, than to their new general.

Verse 6

[6] And David said to Abishai, Now shall Sheba the son of Bichri do us more harm than did Absalom: take thou thy lord's servants, and pursue after him, lest he get him fenced cities, and escape us.

Abishai — Not to Joab; lest by this means he should recover his place, and Amasa be discontented, and David's fidelity in making good his promise to Amasa be questioned.

Verse 7

[7] And there went out after him Joab's men, and the Cherethites, and the Pelethites, and all the mighty men: and they went out of Jerusalem, to pursue after Sheba the son of Bichri.

Joab's men — The remainders of Joab's army who were there present, with whom also Joab might go as a reformade, watching an opportunity to do what he designed.

Verse 8

[8] When they were at the great stone which is in Gibeon, Amasa went before them. And Joab's garment that he had put on was girded unto him, and upon it a girdle with a sword fastened upon his loins in the sheath thereof; and as he went forth it fell out.

Amasa went — Having gathered some forces, and given due orders for the rest to follow him, he returned to Jerusalem, and by the king's command went after those mentioned verse 7, and being come up to them at the place where they waited for him, he put himself in the head of Joab's men, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites, and such as he had brought along with him, and marched before them as their general.

Girded — After the manner of travellers and soldiers.

Went forth — To meet and salute Amasa, who was coming towards him to do him honour.

It fell — Things having (it is likely) been so contrived by Joab, that upon the least motion of his body, his sword should drop out, and he might take it up without raising Amasa's suspicion.

Verse 9

[9] And Joab said to Amasa, Art thou in health, my brother? And Joab took Amasa by the beard with the right hand to kiss him.

Beard — As the manner of ancient times was, when they saluted one another.

Verse 10

[10] But Amasa took no heed to the sword that was in Joab's hand: so he smote him therewith in the fifth rib, and shed out his bowels to the ground, and struck him not again; and he died. So Joab and Abishai his brother pursued after Sheba the son of Bichri.

The sword — Which falling out, as it seemed, casually, he supposed that Joab intended only to put it into its scabbard, and therefore took no care to defend himself against the stroke.

So Joab — Who now boldly resumed his former place, and marched in the head of the army. It is not strange, that Amasa's soldiers did not fight to revenge his death; partly, because not many of them were yet come up, as the following verses shew; and partly, because Joab's interest and authority with the military-men was very great; especially, with David's guards, who were here present, and who had no kindness for Amasa, as having been the general of the rebellious army; and, as they might think, not fit to be put into a place of so great trust.

Verse 11

[11] And one of Joab's men stood by him, and said, He that favoureth Joab, and he that is for David, let him go after Joab.

One — Left there on purpose to deliver the following message.

Favoureth Joab — He that would have Joab to be general, rather than such a perfidious rebel as Amasa.

For David — He that wisheth David good success against Sheba, and against all rebels.

Verse 12

[12] And Amasa wallowed in blood in the midst of the highway. And when the man saw that all the people stood still, he removed Amasa out of the highway into the field, and cast a cloth upon him, when he saw that every one that came by him stood still.

Stood still — Wondering at the spectacle, and enquiring into the author and occasion of it.

Removed — Perceiving, that it both incensed them against Joab and hindered the king's service.

Cast a cloth upon him — But the covering of blood with a cloth cannot stop its cry to God for vengeance.

Verse 14

[14] And he went through all the tribes of Israel unto Abel, and to Bethmaachah, and all the Berites: and they were gathered together, and went also after him.

He — Sheba, who marched from tribe to tribe to stir them up to sedition.

Abel — Unto Abel-beth-maachah, as this place is called here in the Hebrew text, verse 15, to distinguish it from other Abels; and to signify, that this was that Abel which was in the northern border of Canaan towards that part of Syria called Maachah, 2 Samuel 10:8.

Berites — Such as lived in the city, or territory of Beeroth of Benjamin, Joshua 18:25, who being of the same tribe, if not city with Sheba, adhered to him, and followed him through all the tribes of Israel.

They — The tribes of Israel; that is, a considerable number of them; as might well be expected, when the discontents were so high and general.

Verse 15

[15] And they came and besieged him in Abel of Bethmaachah, and they cast up a bank against the city, and it stood in the trench: and all the people that were with Joab battered the wall, to throw it down.

They — That is, Joab and his army.

A bank — From whence they might either batter the wall, or shoot at those who defended it.

It stood — The bank stood in, or near to the trench, or the wall of the city; so that the city was in great danger of being taken.

Verse 16

[16] Then cried a wise woman out of the city, Hear, hear; say, I pray you, unto Joab, Come near hither, that I may speak with thee.

Then cried a wise woman — It seems none of all the men of Abel, offered to treat with Joab: no, not when they were reduced to extremity: but one wise woman saved the city. Souls know no difference of sex: many a manly heart is lodged in a female breast. Nor is the treasure of wisdom the less valuable, for being lodged in the weaker vessel.

Verse 18

[18] Then she spake, saying, They were wont to speak in old time, saying, They shall surely ask counsel at Abel: and so they ended the matter.

Ask counsel — This city which thou art about to destroy, is no mean and contemptible one, but so honourable and considerable for its wisdom, that when any differences arose among any of the neighbours, they used proverbially to say, We will ask the opinion and advice as the men of Abel about it, and we will stand to their arbitration; and so all parties were satisfied, and disputes ended.

Verse 19

[19] I am one of them that are peaceable and faithful in Israel: thou seekest to destroy a city and a mother in Israel: why wilt thou swallow up the inheritance of the LORD?

A mother — Great cities are commonly called mothers; as lesser towns or villages subject to them, and depending upon them, are called their daughters.

Inheritance — That is, a considerable part of, that land which God hath chosen for his particular possession. The destruction which thou art about to bring upon us, is an injury to Israel, and to the God of Israel.

Verse 21

[21] The matter is not so: but a man of mount Ephraim, Sheba the son of Bichri by name, hath lifted up his hand against the king, even against David: deliver him only, and I will depart from the city. And the woman said unto Joab, Behold, his head shall be thrown to thee over the wall.

Ephraim — Probably mount Ephraim was a place in Benjamin so called, either because it was upon the borders of Ephraim or for some notable action or event of the Ephraimites in that place.

His head — Which she undertook, because she knew the present temper of the citizens, and soldiers too. And it is not unlikely, that this woman might be a governness in that city. For though this office was commonly performed by men; yet women were sometimes employed in the government: as we see in Deborah, who judged Israel, Judges 4:4.

Verse 22

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

Wisdom — Prudently treated with them about it, representing to them the certainty and nearness of their ruin, if they did not speedily comply with her desires, and certain deliverance if they did.

Verse 23

[23] Now Joab was over all the host of Israel: and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and over the Pelethites:

Over all the host — The good success of this, and of the former expedition, under the conduct of Joab, had so fixed his interest in the army, and others of David's fastest friends, that the king could not without danger displace him.