we have ten parts in the king; being ten tribes, reckoning Simeon in the tribe of Judah, within which it lay, Joshua 19:1,
and we have, also more right in David than ye; being more numerous than they; or, according to the Targum, they had more affection and good will towards David than the men of Judah, though he was of their tribe, and dwelt among them; since the rebellion was begun, and was cherished and carried on among them:
why then did ye despise us, that our advice should not be first had in bringing back our king? they were as ready and as desirous as they to fetch the king back; and since they were far the largest body of men, and the far greater part of the nation, they thought they ought to have been consulted in an affair of so much importance, and that doing it without them was slighting them, and casting contempt upon them, and insinuating as if they were enemies to the king; or, as the Targum expresses it,"was not my word first to bring back my king?''the first motion was from them, as appears from 2 Samuel 19:11; and therefore the thing should not have been done without them; they should have been apprized of it, that they might at least have joined them, and shared in the honour with them of bringing the king back:
and the words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel; not those that are here recorded, but what followed, and are not written, being so very warm and indecent; and David being silent in this hot dispute between them, which was interpreted taking the part of Judah, the men of Israel were incensed at it; and hence arose a new rebellion, of which more in the next chapter how it began, and was crushed.
INTRODUCTION TO SECOND SAMUEL 20
This chapter gives an account of a new rebellion raised by Sheba, 2 Samuel 20:1; of David's shutting up his concubines unto the day of their death, whom Absalom had lain with, 2 Samuel 20:3; of Amasa being ordered to assemble the men of Judah to crush the rebellion, but being dilatory, Abishai is sent out with David's servants, and was followed by Joab with the men under him, 2 Samuel 20:4; and of the murder of Amasa by Joab, 2 Samuel 20:8; and of Sheba being shut up in the city Abel, 2 Samuel 20:14; whose head, by the means of a wise woman, was delivered to Joab, and so an end was put to the rebellion, 2 Samuel 20:16; and, lastly, of the chief officers in David's camp and court, 2 Samuel 20:23.
whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjamite; one perhaps that had been in the rebellion of Absalom, and had a grudge against David for the removal of the kingdom out of that tribe:
and he blew a trumpet; which was done to draw off the Israelites from David, and gather a party to himself:
and said, we have no part in David; so he interpreted what the men of Judah said, because they claimed kindred to David, the rest of the Israelites had no interest in him; thus they, who just before said they had ten parts in him, now had none at all:
neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse; so he calls David by way of contempt, as if he was no king, but a private person, and a descendant from a mean family:
every man to his tent, O Israel; there to consider what to do, and whom to choose to be their king, and let Judah take David for their king, and enjoy him alone, since they had so slighted, and dealt so injuriously and roughly with the rest of the tribes.
and followed Sheba the son of Bichri; and made him their captain, who was the author of their mutiny and sedition:
but the men of Judah clave unto their king, from Jordan to Jerusalem: never left him, after they had conducted him over Jordan, until they had brought him safely to Jerusalem.
and the king took the ten women his concubines, whom he had left to keep the house; when he fled from Jerusalem because of Absalom, 2 Samuel 15:16,
and put them in ward; partly as a punishment for easily yielding to the lust of Absalom, and partly that they might not be seen, which would bring to remembrance his sin:
and fed them; he did not put them to death, nor put them away, but kept them thus confined, and made a proper provision for them, not suffering them to marry any other, and be maintained by them:
but went not in unto them: into their apartments to lie with them, having been defiled by his son, 2 Samuel 16:22,
so they were shut up unto the day of their death; kept in the ward till they died:
living in widowhood; neither used by the king as his concubines, as they had been before, nor suffered to many any other; or "in the widowhood of life" (o), which is so expressed, to distinguish it from widowhood made by death; this was such sort of widowhood as obtained while their husband was living; so the Targum,"widows of their husband alive,''
(o) "in viduitate vitae", Pagninus, Montanus.
assemble me the men of Judah within three days; which was done by the sound of the trumpet, or by the proclamation of a herald; it seems that the men of Judah, who attended David to Jerusalem, were gone to their respective cities and places of abode, or there would have been no occasion for such a summons; though it is strange they should, when the men of Israel appeared so inclinable to a new rebellion:
and be thou here present; to take the command of them.
but he tarried longer than the set time which he had appointed him: than the three days; whether this was owing to the remissness of Amasa, or the unwillingness of the people to serve under him, who had been Absalom's general in the late rebellion, or not having time sufficient allowed him, is not certain.
now shall Sheba the son of Bichri do us more harm than did Absalom; gain a greater party, and give more trouble to subdue him, unless suppressed in time:
take thou thy lord's servants, and pursue after him; without waiting for Amasa, and the troops he was assembling; delays in such a case as an insurrection being dangerous, which ought to be nipped in the bud, and crushed as soon as possible; in order to which, he bids him take his servants that were about him, his bodyguards, and pursue Sheba:
lest he get him fenced cities; where he may secure himself, and hold out a siege a long time, and give a great deal of trouble:
and escape us; for the present; or "escape our eyes", as the "Keri", or marginal reading is; we shall lose sight of him, and not know which way he is gone, if he is not pursued quickly.
(p) Antiqu. l. 7. c. 11. sect. 6.
and the Cherethites, and the Pelethites; over whom Benaiah was, 2 Samuel 20:23; these attended David in his flight, and had now returned with him, 2 Samuel 15:18,
and all the mighty men; the military men that were at Jerusalem as many as could be spared:
and they went out of Jerusalem to pursue after Sheba the son of Bichri; with Abishai at the head of them; Josephus (q) says there were six hundred, besides the soldiers at Jerusalem that went on this pursuit.
(q) Antiqu. l. 7. c. 11. sect. 7.
Amasa went before them; as the general of them:
and Joab's garment that he had put on was girded unto him; who went along with his brother Abishai at the head of his own men, to which he was obliged by virtue of his commission; or went of himself to serve the common cause, and perhaps chiefly with a design to murder Amasa, whom he envied, because he was put into his post as general, and therefore accoutred himself for it; he put on, not a coat of mail, but a common garment which he girt about him, that it might be no incumbrance to him or hinderance of him, in doing what he intended, but that he might more expeditiously execute it:
and upon it a girdle with a sword fastened upon his loins in the sheath thereof; the sword in the belt was not on his thigh, but on his loins, on the outside of his clothes, and was put into a sheath too large, and placed in such a position, that with the least motion, when he pleased, it would easily drop out of it, without drawing it, and so give no suspicion of his design:
and as he went forth; to meet Amasa, just as he came to him:
it fell out; the sword fell out of the sheath to the ground.
(r) Antiqu. l. 7. c. 11. sect. 7. (s) Diodor. Sic. l. 2. p. 100. Vid. ib. p. 53. Herodot. Euterpe, c. 111.
art thou in health, my brother? this looked like a friendly salutation to ask of his health, and wish him it, and a loving appellation to call him brother; though they were near of kin, sisters' children, and so own cousins; thus he addressed him, to cover his design:
and Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him: as was usual for the eastern people to do when they addressed and saluted one another in an affectionate way, and as the Turks and Arabs do to this day, as travellers relate. Barthius (t) has collected passages from the Greek poets, which show it to be a custom, that when a man asked a favour of another, he caught hold of his beard with the right hand, and of his knee with the left; and in such a posture Joab might easily do what follows.
(t) Animadv. ad Claudian. de Raptu Proserp. l. 1. ver. 50. vid. Homer. Iliad. ver. 500, 501. Iliad. 8. ver. 371. & Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 2. c. 19.
so he smote him therewith in the fifth rib; in the same place where Abner smote Asahel, and Joab Abner; See Gill on 2 Samuel 2:23 and See Gill on 2 Samuel 3:27, he must strike him, as some observe, on the left side, because he was embracing him; and the stroke must be deadly, because he struck him in the pericardium, which surrounds the heart round with water, to refrigerate it; for the lower part of the heart reaches to the fifth rib; see John 19:34 (u):
and shed out his bowels to the ground; which fell out through the incision made by the sword:
and struck him not again: he gave him such a home thrust, there was no need to repeat it, he dispatched him at once:
and he died; and thus, though he was pardoned by David, and promoted to honour by him, yet the providence of God would not suffer him to go unpunished for joining with Absalom in an unnatural rebellion against his uncle:
so Joab and Abishai his brother pursued after Sheba the son of Bichri: for Amasa being slain, Joab without any ceremony reassumed his post as general, and, with his brother Abishai under him, made all the haste they could in pursuit of the rebel.
(u) Weemse's Portrait of Man, p. 25.
and said, he that favoureth Joab, and he that is for David, let him go after Joab: he that likes Joab should be general, and is in the interest of David, let him make no stay here, but follow after Joab; Joab and David are put together, as if their interests were the same; though there seems to be an indecency in placing Joab first.
and when the man saw that all the people stood still; gazing at the shocking sight, and could not be prevailed upon to go on:
he removed Amasa out of the highway into the field; which was adjoining to it:
and cast a cloth upon him; that the body might not be seen:
when he saw that everyone that came by him stood still; and so retarded the people in their march, to prevent which he took the above method, and it was a very prudent one.
all the people went on after Joab; made no stop at all, knowing nothing of the matter, or what had happened:
to pursue after Sheba the son of Bichri; these were the troops that Amasa had been assembling, which followed one another after him; for Joab and Abishai, with their men, were at Gibeon first.
unto Abel, and unto Bethmaachah; which were two places very near one another, if not one and the same place; since Abel is in 2 Samuel 20:15 called Abel of Bethmaachah, to distinguish it from any other place: it was a city that lay to the north of Israel near Syria; and from 2 Kings 15:29, it appears to be in the tribe of Naphtali. There was one city of this name of Abel, six miles from Philadelphia, another twelve miles from Gadara, and a third between Paneas and Damascus, which, of the three, Reland thinks (x), is most eligible to be the place here meant; though he rather chooses to look for it in Galilee, to the west or south of Paneas, than to the east or north in the way to Damascus; and so Adrichomius (y) calls it a city of upper Galilee, sixty furlongs or seven and an half miles from Jordan; and though he also places it in the tribe of Naphtali, in the plain of the country of Berim (from whence perhaps were the Berites next mentioned), not far from Caesarea Philippi; see 1 Kings 15:20,
and all the Berites; the inhabitants of Beeroth, in the tribe of Benjamin, of which tribe Sheba was, they followed him hither, as in the next clause:
and they were gathered together, and went also after him; unto Abel; of these, see Joshua 18:25; though perhaps these Berim or Berites were nearer to Abel; or rather that was in their country, as has been observed by Adrichomius.
(w) Ut supra. (Antiqu. l. 7. c. 11. sect. 7.) (x) Palestina Illustrata, tom. 2. p. 519. (y) Theatrum Terrae S. p. 101.
and they cast up a bank against the city; which some understand of a warlike machine or engine, with which stones were cast; but it rather seems to be a bank of earth thrown up, for the better working of such engines to more advantage against the city, by throwing from thence darts into the city, or stones against the walls of it, to batter it down; such banks were used in sieges, as that Caesar's soldiers raised in twenty five days, which was three hundred thirty feet broad, and eighty feet high (z); Kimchi interprets this of filling up the ditches round about the city with dust and earth, and so making it level, whereby they could come the more easily to the walls and batter them, or scale them, and take the city by storm:
and it stood in the trench; the army under Joab stood where the trench round the city had been, now filled up:
and all the people that were with Joab battered the wall to throw it down; with their engines, or whatever battering instruments they had; so, often, as Hesiod (a) says, a whole city suffers for one bad man.
(z) Caesar. Comment. l. 7. c. 24. (a) Opera & Dies, l. 1. ver. 236.
hear, hear; which she repeated to make them hear:
say, I pray you, unto Joab, come near hither, that I may speak with thee; tell your general I desire to speak with him; which was wisely done, to have nothing to say but to the general himself.
the woman said, art thou Joab? she was willing to be satisfied that he was really the general, before she would impart her mind to him:
and he answered, I am he; the very person you ask after:
and she said unto him, hear the words of thine handmaid; though a woman, vouchsafe to hear what I have to say:
and he answered, I do hear: am ready to hear, and shall patiently and attentively hear whatever may be spoken; which was giving her leave and encouragement to proceed.
saying, they shall surely ask counsel at Abel, and so they ended the matter. Abel, it seems, had been a city so famous for wise and prudent men, that it was common for the inhabitants of other cities, in the several parts of the kingdom, when any controversy arose among them, to say to one another, since we cannot agree this matter among ourselves, let us go to Abel, and take advice there, and leave it to their arbitration; and so they did, and things were presently brought to an issue, and happily concluded; nay, when the king had a mind to make a decree or law, as R. Isaiah observes, he used to send to Abel to know whether they would submit to it; and if they agreed to it, then he proceeded in it; for other cities followed their example, so famous was this city, and of so great account: now the woman argues from hence, that surely such a renowned city should not hastily be destroyed; but the Targum directs to another sense, and which perhaps is best, and is followed by Jarchi, Kimchi, and others, paraphrasing the words thus,"she spake, saying, I remember now what is written in the book of the law, to ask a city first, saying, (will ye make peace?) so shouldest thou have asked of Abel, will ye make peace, or receive terms of peace?''referring to the law in Deuteronomy 20:10; signifying, if that had been attended to as it ought (for if such methods were to be taken with Heathen cities, much more with a city of Israel, as Abel was), things would soon have been agreed and issued; had Joab upon approaching the city proposed his terms of peace, they would have immediately yielded to them, and so the matter would have ended at once; for they were a peaceable people, as it follows: though Dr. Lightfoot (b) gives another sense of these words, that Sheba and his party when they came to the city,"they at first certainly said thus, that they would ask Abel of its peace (or on whose side it was), and so they made the matter entire, or made a show of their own integrity:''by which this woman assured Joab, that the men of Abel had not invited, nor willingly received Sheba and his rebels into the city, but they had deceived them by fawning and false words, pretending only to inquire about the peace and welfare of their city.
(b) Works, vol. 2. p. 367.
thou seekest to destroy a city, and a mother in Israel; a metropolitan city, which had several towns and villages under its jurisdiction, which were as daughters to it. Some think she means herself, because very old, supposed (c) to be Serah, the daughter of Asher, a son of Jacob, which is improbable:
wilt why thou swallow up the inheritance of the Lord? a city which is a part of the land, that is the Lord's inheritance.
(c) Jarchi & Kimchi in loc. Hieron. Trad. Heb. in 2 Reg. fol. 79. L.
that I should swallow up or destroy; any in a violent and unrighteous manner, and especially a city of which she had given such a character for its greatness and worth, and for the peaceableness and fidelity of its inhabitants.
but a man of Mount Ephraim, Sheba the son of Bichri by name; for though he was by birth a Benjaminite, his dwelling was in Mount Ephraim in that tribe; unless there was a place of this name in the tribe of Benjamin, so called from any memorable event there, as the wood of Ephraim, 2 Samuel 18:6. This same man, says Joab:
hath lifted up his hand against the king, even against David; is in rebellion against the king, even so great and good a king as David; he has lifted up his hand, and blown a trumpet to draw off men from David, and after himself; he has committed acts of hostility and treason; he has drawn his sword, and raised an insurrection and rebellion in the nation:
deliver him only, and I will depart from the city: he did not desire any of his followers to be delivered up, only himself, knowing the rebellion would cease upon the delivery of him; and being unwilling that the blood of any Israelite should be shed, whom he had unawares drawn into this rebellion, and who he knew would return to their own cities upon this:
and the woman said unto Joab, behold, his head shall be thrown to thee over the wall; she knew the fright the inhabitants of the city were in, and how disposed they were to do anything to save their city; she knew what influence she had among them, and how weak Sheba's party was, and therefore could assure Joab that this should be done.
and they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri, and cast it out to Joab; whose face Joab knew full well, and was satisfied it was his head that was thrown over:
and he blew a trumpet; as a sign of retreat:
and they retired from the city, every man to his tent; the army under Joab broke up the siege, and departed, every man to his own city, as the Targum:
and Joab returned unto Jerusalem unto the king; to give him an account of his success, and how the rebellion was crushed; and this gave him courage and boldness to appear before the king, which one would wonder else he should have, when he had killed his general in cold blood, the king had sent out, and without his leave had reassumed his post as general of the army; but he was a bold daring man, a man of blood, and hardened in sin, and had power in the army, and over David himself, that he could not do what he would with him, but was obliged to be silent, and overlook things, and even to reestablish him in his office, as appears by what follows.
and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites, and over the Pelethites; was continued in his post, see 2 Samuel 8:18.
and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder; who was in this office before, and now continued and established in it, 2 Samuel 8:16.
and Zadok and Abiathar were the priests; as before; See Gill on 2 Samuel 8:17.