2 Samuel 20

Sheba’s Rebellion

1Now a wicked man
Heb “a man of worthlessness.”
named Sheba son of Bicri, a Benjaminite,
The expression used here יְמִינִי (yemini) is a short form of the more common “Benjamin.” It appears elsewhere in 1 Sam 9:4 and Esth 2:5. Cf. 1 Sam 9:1.
happened to be there. He blew the trumpet
Heb “the shophar” (the ram’s horn trumpet). So also v. 22.
and said,

“We have no share in David;
we have no inheritance in this son of Jesse!
Every man go home,
The MT reads לְאֹהָלָיו (leohalav, “to his tents”). For a similar idiom, see 19:9. An ancient scribal tradition understands the reading to be לְאלֹהָיו (lelohav, “to his gods”). The word is a tiqqun sopherim, and the scribes indicate that they changed the word from “gods” to “tents” so as to soften its theological implications. In a consonantal Hebrew text the change involved only the metathesis of two letters.
O Israel!”
2 So all the men of Israel deserted
Heb “went up from after.”
David and followed Sheba son of Bicri. But the men of Judah stuck by their king all the way from the Jordan River
The word “River” is not in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation for clarity.
to Jerusalem.

3 Then David went to his palace
Heb “house.”
in Jerusalem. The king took the ten concubines he had left to care for the palace and placed them under confinement.
Heb “and he placed them in a guarded house.”
Though he provided for their needs, he did not have sexual relations with them.
Heb “he did not come to them”; NAB “has no further relations with them”; NIV “did not lie with them”; TEV “did not have intercourse with them”; NLT “would no longer sleep with them.”
They remained in confinement until the day they died, living out the rest of their lives as widows.

4 Then the king said to Amasa, “Call the men of Judah together for me in three days,
The present translation follows the Masoretic accentuation, with the major mark of disjunction (i.e., the atnach) placed at the word “days.” However, some scholars have suggested moving the atnach to “Judah” a couple of words earlier. This would yield the following sense: “Three days, and you be present here with them.” The difference in meaning is slight, and the MT is acceptable as it stands.
and you be present here with them too.”
5So Amasa went out to call Judah together. But in doing so he took longer than the time that the king had allotted him.

6 Then David said to Abishai, “Now Sheba son of Bicri will cause greater disaster for us than Absalom did! Take your lord’s servants and pursue him. Otherwise he will secure
Heb “find.” The perfect verbal form is unexpected with the preceding word “otherwise.” We should probably read instead the imperfect. Although it is possible to understand the perfect here as indicating that the feared result is thought of as already having taken place (cf. BDB 814 s.v. פֶּן 2), it is more likely that the perfect is simply the result of scribal error. In this context the imperfect would be more consistent with the following verb וְהִצִּיל (vehitsil, “and he will get away”).
fortified cities for himself and get away from us.”
7So Joab’s men, accompanied by the Kerethites, the Pelethites, and all the warriors, left Jerusalem to pursue Sheba son of Bicri.

8 When they were near the big rock that is in Gibeon, Amasa came to them. Now Joab was dressed in military attire and had a dagger in its sheath belted to his waist. When he advanced, it fell out.
The significance of the statement it fell out here is unclear. If the dagger fell out of its sheath before Joab got to Amasa, how then did he kill him? Josephus, Ant. 7.11.7 (7.284), suggested that as Joab approached Amasa he deliberately caused the dagger to fall to the ground at an opportune moment as though by accident. When he bent over and picked it up, he then stabbed Amasa with it. Others have tried to make a case for thinking that two swords are referred to – the one that fell out and another that Joab kept concealed until the last moment. But nothing in the text clearly supports this view. Perhaps Josephus’ understanding is best, but it is by no means obvious in the text either.

9 Joab said to Amasa, “How are you, my brother?” With his right hand Joab took hold of Amasa’s beard as if to greet him with a kiss. 10Amasa did not protect himself from the knife in Joab’s other hand, and Joab
Heb “he”; the referent (Joab) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
stabbed him in the abdomen, causing Amasa’s
Heb “his”; the referent (Amasa) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
intestines to spill out on the ground. There was no need to stab him again; the first blow was fatal.
Heb “and he did not repeat concerning him, and he died.”
Then Joab and his brother Abishai pursued Sheba son of Bicri.

11 One of Joab’s soldiers who stood over Amasa said, “Whoever is for
Heb “takes delight in.”
Joab and whoever is for David, follow Joab!”
12Amasa was squirming in his own blood in the middle of the path, and this man had noticed that all the soldiers stopped. Having noticed that everyone who came across Amasa
Heb “him”; the referent (Amasa) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
stopped, the man
Heb “he”; the referent (the man who spoke up in v. 11) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
pulled him
Heb “Amasa.” For stylistic reasons the name has been replaced by the pronoun (“him”) in the translation.
away from the path and into the field and threw a garment over him.
13Once he had removed Amasa
Heb “him”; the referent (Amasa) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
from the path, everyone followed Joab to pursue Sheba son of Bicri.

14 Sheba
Heb “he”; the referent (Sheba) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
traveled through all the tribes of Israel to Abel of
In keeping with the form of the name in v. 15, the translation deletes the “and” found in the MT.
Beth Maacah and all the Berite region. When they had assembled,
The translation follows the Qere, many medieval Hebrew mss, and the ancient versions in reading וַיִּקָּהֲלוּ (vayyiqqahalu, “and they were gathered together”) rather than the Kethib of the MT וַיִּקְלֻהוּ (vayyiqluhu, “and they cursed him”). The Kethib is the result of metathesis.
they too joined him.
15So Joab’s men
Heb “they.” The following context makes it clear that this refers to Joab and his army.
came and laid siege against him in Abel of Beth Maacah. They prepared a siege ramp outside the city which stood against its outer rampart. As all of Joab’s soldiers were trying to break through
The LXX has here ἐνοοῦσαν (enoousan, “were devising”), which apparently presupposes the Hebrew word מַחֲשָׁבִים (makhashavim) rather than the MT מַשְׁחִיתִם (mashkhitim, “were destroying”). With a number of other scholars Driver thinks that the Greek variant may preserve the original reading, but this seems to be an unnecessary conclusion (but see S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text and the Topography of the Books of Samuel, 346).
the wall so that it would collapse,
16a wise woman called out from the city, “Listen up! Listen up! Tell Joab, ‘Come near so that I may speak to you.’”

17 When he approached her, the woman asked, “Are you Joab?” He replied, “I am.” She said to him, “Listen to the words of your servant.” He said, “Go ahead. I’m listening.” 18She said, “In the past they would always say, ‘Let them inquire in Abel,’ and that is how they settled things. 19I represent the peaceful and the faithful in Israel. You are attempting to destroy an important city
Heb “a city and a mother.” The expression is a hendiadys, meaning that this city was an important one in Israel and had smaller cities dependent on it.
in Israel. Why should you swallow up the Lord’s inheritance?”

20 Joab answered, “Get serious!
Heb “Far be it, far be it from me.” The expression is clearly emphatic, as may be seen in part by the repetition. P. K. McCarter, however, understands it to be coarser than the translation adopted here. He renders it as “I’ll be damned if…” (II Samuel [AB], 426, 429), which (while it is not a literal translation) may not be too far removed from the way a soldier might have expressed himself.
I don’t want to swallow up or destroy anything!
21That’s not the way things are. There is a man from the hill country of Ephraim named Sheba son of Bicri. He has rebelled
Heb “lifted his hand.”
against King David. Give me just this one man, and I will leave the city.” The woman said to Joab, “This very minute
Heb “Look!”
his head will be thrown over the wall to you!”

22 Then the woman went to all the people with her wise advice and they cut off Sheba’s head and threw it out to Joab. Joab
Heb “he”; the referent (Joab) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
blew the trumpet, and his men
Heb “they”; the referent (Joab’s men) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
dispersed from the city, each going to his own home.
Heb “his tents.”
Joab returned to the king in Jerusalem.

23 Now Joab was the general in command of all the army of Israel. Benaiah the son of Jehoida was over the Kerethites and the Perethites. 24Adoniram
Heb “Adoram” (so KJV, NAB, NRSV, CEV), but see 1 Kgs 4:6; 5:14.
was supervisor of the work crews.
Heb “was over the forced labor.”
Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was the secretary.
25Sheva was the scribe, and Zadok and Abiathar were the priests. 26Ira the Jairite was David’s personal priest.
Heb “priest for David.” KJV (“a chief ruler about David”) and ASV (“chief minister unto David”) regarded this office as political.

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