We must not think it strange while in this world if the end of one trouble be the beginning of another,
but God will bring us victoriously through them all,
if we but trust in His wisdom.
II Samuel 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.
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.
3 ¶ And 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 ward, and fed them, but went not in unto them. So they were shut up unto the day of their death, living in widowhood.
4 ¶ Then said the king to Amasa, Assemble me the men of Judah within three days, and be thou here present.
5 So Amasa went to assemble the men of Judah: but he tarried longer than the set time which he had appointed him.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
13 When he was removed out of the highway, all the people went on after Joab, to pursue after Sheba the son of Bichri.
14 ¶ And he went through all the tribes of Israel unto Abel, and to Beth-maachah, and all the Berites: and they were gathered together, and went also after him.
15 And they came and besieged him in Abel of Beth-maachah, 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.
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.
17 And when he was come near unto her, the woman said, Art thou Joab? And he answered, I am he. Then she said unto him, Hear the words of thine handmaid. And he answered, I do hear.
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.
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?
20 And Joab answered and said, Far be it, far be it from me, that I should swallow up or destroy.
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.
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.
23 ¶ Now Joab was over all the host of Israel: and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and over the Pelethites:
24 And Adoram was over the tribute: and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder:
25 And Sheva was scribe: and Zadok and Abiathar were the priests:
26 And Ira also the Jairite was a chief ruler about David.
II Samuel 1 – J. Vernon McGee
2 Samuel 20:1-13 – Pursuing Another Rebel
Like Shimei, Sheba belonged to the tribe of Benjamin. The old Saul-faction was always breaking out in rebellion, and Nathan’s prediction that the sword would never cease from David’s house was literally fulfilled. We must always watch against the return of our old sins.
Amasa’s appointment was a mistake. He had already proved his incompetence under Absalom, and now his delay threatened disaster. David had chosen him only because he wished, at any cost, to rid himself of Joab. He could not forgive that general for slaying Absalom. The proud spirit of the old leader, however, would not brook the division of the military command, and Joab treated Amasa as he had treated Abner. An attempt was afterward made to justify the deed by casting suspicion on Amasa’s loyalty. See II Samuel 20:11. But jealousy will catch at a straw to justify its crimes.
We turn from these deeds of blood, mindful that the heart of man is still capable of them. We are daily taught in the present European crisis, to what lengths men will go. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Only God knows it, only God can cleanse it, and only God can create a clean heart and renew a right spirit.
2 Samuel 20:2—The men of Judah clave unto their King.
We are reminded of the exhortation of the good Barnabas, that with purpose of heart the converts of Antioch should cleave unto the Lord. This is the test of a true faith. We often come to the dividing of the paths. We stand on the watershed of the hills: that way leads back to Moab with its fascinations; this on to Canaan with its spiritual attractions. Orpah and Ruth must choose. Each is equally profuse in speeches and tears; but the ultimate test of love is whether they will stay or go. Which will cleave to the widowed Naomi? She is the truest lover; her fidelity will attest the fervor and strength of her affection. Orpah kissed her mother in law, and returned to her people and her gods, while Ruth “cleaved unto her” (Ruth 1:14).
We must cleave to Jesus, in spite of the derision of the multitude. We must be prepared to stand with Him when He stands alone, or goes forth alone to die. We must be willing to stem the mighty tide of the world which has left Him and pours past us. Though all forsake Him, yet we must cleave.
We must cleave to Jesus, in spite of the rebellion of the flesh. Our whole nature may sometimes rise in insurrection, demanding some forbidden fruit. It is no child’s play then for the lonely will to stand by itself in unshaken fidelity and loyalty; but it must.
We must cleave to Jesus when He seems to rebuff us. Only those who can stand so sharp an ordeal are exposed to it. But sometimes we are called to pass through it as Job, that angels may learn how Christ’s lovers cling to Him, not for his gifts, but for Himself.
2 Samuel 20:14-26 – One Head Saves Many
This wise woman, by her intervention, saved many lives, and reminds us of the value of presence of mind in a great crisis. She gave Joab to understand, first, that he ought to have given the inhabitants of Abel the opportunity of saying whether or not they intended to fight for Sheba, Deuteronomy 20:10, etc.; and, secondly, that he ought to have taken into account the peaceableness and fidelity of the citizens of that city. A great deal of misunderstanding and bloodshed would be prevented if contending parties would only confer with each other. There is crying and universal need for boards of compulsory arbitration.
Sheba’s head saved the city. Bishop Hall says: “Spiritually the case is ours; every man’s breast is a city enclosed; every sin is a traitor that lurks within the walls. If we love the head of one traitor above the life of our soul, we shall justly perish. We cannot be more willing to part with our sin than our merciful God is to withdraw His judgments.” Oh, that every reader of these lines would heed the command of the Savior, Matthew 5:29-30, so as to enter into everlasting life!