II Samuel 20

 

 

(vs. 1-13) The facts are:

 

1. Among the men who discuss the question of priority with Judah is a

worthless man named Sheba, and he raises the cry of revolt against David,

and the men of Israel follow him, while those of Judah cleave to the king.

2. David enters his house and makes arrangement for the sustenance of his

concubines, who henceforth live in virtual widowhood.

3. David, observing that Amasa was tardy in executing his orders to gather

the men of Judah, directs Abishai to go out with Joab’s men in pursuit of

Sheba.

4. While they are obeying the king’s orders, Amasa joins them at Gibeon;

whereupon Joab, under pretext of saluting Amasa and inquiring concerning

his health, smites him, while off his guard, unto death.

5. While the pursuit after Sheba continues, one of Joab’s partisans calls

upon the people to show their preference for Joab and David by following

after Joab, which they do when the bleeding corpse is no longer on the

road to arrest their progress.

 

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." There happened to be there a man of Belial. The fierce

words of the men of Judah led to evil results. It was a time when all wise

and thoughtful persons would have labored for peace, and tried to soothe

and appease the angry passions fomented by the late war. Instead of this,

the men of Judah irritated the Israelites with insult and contumely, and the

day, intended as one of rejoicing and of the restoration of David to his

throne by common consent, saw the rebellion break forth afresh. Among

those who had taken part in the discussion with Judah was Sheba, a man of

Belial, that is, a worthless fellow, but possibly possessed of rank and

influence; for, according to many commentators, ben-Bichri does not mean

the son of Bichri, but “a descendant of Becher,” the second son of

Benjamin (Genesis 46:21), and possibly the representative of the

mishpachah descended from him. But it is remarkable that this son of

Benjamin disappears from the genealogies, and that no mishpachah of

Bichrites is mentioned either in Numbers 26:38 or in I Chronicles

8:1. In both places Ashbel, who is enumerated as the third son in

Genesis 46:21, takes the second place. We must be content, therefore,

to leave this matter in uncertainty; but evidently Sheba had come with

Shimei and Ziba to welcome David back, and, with the rest of the thousand

Benjamites, had rushed with loud cries of welcome across the Jordan, and,

but for this altercation, would have remained faithful. But tribal jealousies

were always ready to break forth, and were a permanent source of

weakness; and now, stung by some jibe at Benjamin, Sheba gave orders to

a trumpeter to give the signal for the breaking up of the meeting, and, as is

commonly the case in large and excited gatherings, the crowd obeyed the

unauthorized dictation of one man. His words are contemptuous enough.

David is no king, but a private person, and the son, not of a great chief, but

of Jesse merely, a yeoman of Bethlehem. Every man to his tents. “To his

tent” meant “to his home” (see ch. 18:17). But this withdrawal

home signified the rejection of David’s government. Almost the same

words are used in I Kings 12:16.

 

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."   So every man of Israel, etc.; literally, so all the

men of Israel went up from after David after Sheba. They had come down to

Jordan to bring the king back in triumph, but, on finding that the men of Judah

had forestalled them, they had a quarrel, and as no one endeavored to allay it

and mediate between them, it ended in open revolt, and they transferred

their allegiance to the worthless Sheba. Nothing could more clearly prove

the want of cohesion among the tribes, and how little Saul and David had

done to knit them together. We need not, therefore, seek for any deep

reasons of state, or for proofs of failure in David’s government, to account

for the rapid success of Absalom’s rebellion. Israel was a confused mass of

discordant elements, kept in a state of repulsion (in America today, it seems

to me that this is the goal of a liberal bias in the mass media - CY - 2018) by the

sturdy independence of the tribes and their jealousy one of another. Even David’s

victories had failed to infuse into them any feeling of national unity, nor did the

long glory of Solomon’s reign and the magnificence of the temple succeed better.

The kings were not as yet much more than the judges had been — leaders in war,

but with little authority in times of peace. What is so extraordinary is that David

had lost the allegiance of his own tribe; and it now, on returning to its duty,

spoiled by its violence the whole matter.  The day must have been a great

disappointment to David. He was to have gone back conducted gloriously by

all the tribes of Israel; but he had fancied that Judah was holding back, and

grieving over Absalom. He had secret dealing therefore with it, in order that the

day might not be marred by its absence. It came, but only to do mischief; and

David went home with only its escort, and with all the rest in open rebellion.

 

 

Man’s Revolt Against Christ (vs. 1-2)

 

The hot controversy between the men of Israel and Judah issued in more

than words. The discussion took its rise in a pretended interest in the

restoration of David to the throne, but, becoming mixed up with personal

matters, it first developed an alienation of one part of the nation from

another; and then the more humiliated section turned their alienation from

their brethren into the more dangerous form of revolt against the authority

of the king whom those brethren claimed as specially theirs (ch. 19:42-43).

There is always in human society some restless, unscrupulous

spirit ready to take advantage of divergent sentiments, and form them into

expressions of positive opinion and antagonistic action. The man of Belial

used up the elements of discord for securing what, at first, was not

contemplated — namely, an open repudiation of the right of David to

exercise kingly authority over the people. In this revolt against David, the

Lord’s anointed, we have an illustration of the nature and some of the

causes and pleas of man’s revolt against Christ.

 

  • MAN’S REVOLT AGAINST CHRIST CONSISTS ESSENTIALLY

OF A REJECTION OF A DIVINE CLAIM. Sheba not only would not

have David as his king, but he distinctly indicates as chief reason his

rejection of the Divine claim of David to the throne, and which the nation

had previously recognized. In speaking contemptuously of him as the “son

of Jesse,” he clearly ignores the selection and anointing of him by Samuel

in the name of God. David is not the Lord’s anointed; only Jesse’s son — a

mere man, to be treated as any other man. The people also who followed

Sheba did so on this basis — that whatever may have been once, there was

now in David no more right than in any other man; he was not endowed

with Divine authority. This is exactly the case with modern infidelity

men will not submit to Christ. They repudiate all claim to Divine authority.

To them He is a mere man — possessing no eternal and unchallengeable

right to demand the obedience of all men to His yoke. He is the Nazarene,

the carpenter’s Son, not the beloved Son of God, anointed of God to be

Prince and Saviour. It is a simple matter of choice whether they shall

accept His testimony and do what He declares is right. This spirit of revolt

against the Divine in Christ is the essence of every form of modern

infidelity, be it:

 

Ø      scientific rejection of the supernatural or

Ø      pure agnosticism.

 

Once recognize Him as the anointed Lord of all, all forms of submission to

His teaching and will follow; once reject Him in this respect, and high

treason is the practical issue.

 

  • A REJECTION OF CHRIST’S DIVINE CLAIM PROCEEDS FROM

UNBELIEF IN GOD’S SELF-REVELATION TO MAN. If ever Sheba

was a believer in Samuel’s mission, he had certainly ceased to be so now,

or else had come to believe that revelation had ceased. No one could hold

to the Divine appointment of Moses and of Samuel to gradually unfold the

purpose of God to Israel, and at the same time logically refuse to submit to

David as king, unless he could show that God had set up another. This

revolt, therefore, was the expression of a practical unbelief in the fact of a

revelation of God to the Jewish people. In like manner, when we look into

the reason for the rejection of the Divine claim of Christ, it is to he found in

a prior assumption, namely, that a self-revelation of God to mankind by

special means distinct from natural law, though not in contravention of it,

is a fiction. With a dogmatism evidently based on ignorance, the

supernatural is said to be impossible, i.e. we know so well the constitution

of all things, and the only possible relation of God to all things, that we can

affirm that no such a Divine Lord and King as Christ is said to be, could be

a reality. He was simply a much misunderstood man. It is obvious that, as

Sheba’s unbelief in Samuel’s mission was no credit to his memory or

historic knowledge (I Samuel 16:3,13), so the unbelief in God’s self-revelation

to man is no credit to man’s humility or judgment.

 

  • REVOLT AGAINST CHRIST’S CLAIMS THUS ORIGINATING

IS SUSTAINED BY VARIOUS PLEAS. Sheba’s unbelief was in the

background, his pleas were in front. He could not have gained so many

over to his side by any enunciation of abstract views as to the reality or

continuance of a revelation of God’s purpose. Men are influenced in action

by more superficial and concrete forms of thought. The mistakes of

David’s government, his reputed partiality to the son whom he fought

against, his errors of conduct in the case of Bathsheba, his apparent

preference for Judah, and the apprehension that Judah would gain an

ascendency in public affairs, — these pleas would give an appearance of

public reason for the conduct pursued. Nor did he or his followers care to

consider that incidents in a fallible life do not annihilate a Divine purpose

running through that life. We find the same course adopted in relation to

the authority of Christ. Though none can convict Him of sin, advantage is

taken of the mistakes of the Church, the seemingly tardy progress of

Christianity, the peculiar structure of Old Testament history, and what

seem to be occasional discrepancies in the gospel record, and, in fact,

anything that can be construed into a weakness, in order to justify a total

rejection of CHRIST'S SUPREME AUTHORITY.  An ingenious mind, bent

on resisting the holy Saviour, will never lack plausible reasons for open revolt.

 

  • REVOLT AGAINST CHRIST IS A COURSE OF CONDUCT

DEVOID OF POSITIVE REGULATIVE PRINCIPLE. Sheba’s principles,

so far as he had any, were negative. There was nothing in his words or

deeds that indicated any definite principle on which the state was to be

governed. Hitherto the theocratic principle, enunciated and enforced by

Samuel, regulated the setting up and setting aside of rulers. The spiritual

interests of the nation were the prime concern. Now, Divine authority

being ignored, there was no principle to determine the destiny of the

people. The conflicting whims and passions of men were to contend for

supremacy, and the grand purpose for which the nation had been hitherto

supposed to exist in relation to Messiah and the world was lost to view. In

the same way, the course of human affairs, WITHOUT CHRIST is aimless,

chaotic. Under agnosticism and infidelity, individual life is as a

ship WITHOUT A HELM!

 

  • GENERAL LESSONS.

 

Ø      There is always in human nature a latent tendency to restlessness under

authority, and we should both be on our guard against this in our own

lives, and also avoid whatever may develop it in others.

Ø      The quarrels and disputes of Christian men on matters of government

and precedence may generate, by degrees, feelings of alienation from

religion.

Ø      In this life we should not be surprised if, like David, we find the pathway

of returning prosperity shaded by some transient clouds.

Ø      The zeal of crowds in a bad cause is more due to the influence of clever

and restless leaders than to any profound convictions or intelligent views

in the people themselves.

 

 

Departure from and Adherence to Christ (vs. 1-2)

 

A sudden change in the aspect of affairs. The occasion was a fierce dispute

between the Israelites and the men of Judah as to the right of the latter to

go so far towards the restoration of the king without consulting the former.

The causes, however, are to be found partly in old jealousies between the

tribes; partly in the unallayed resentment of the Benjamites on account of

the setting aside of the house of Saul from the royalty, and its transfer to

the tribe of Judah; partly in the excitement of men’s minds by the rebellion

under Absalom, and its suppression. A spark only was wanted to produce

another desolating flame, and that was supplied by the sudden summons of

Sheba to the men of Israel. Hence another insurrection, which seems to

have been begun without consideration, and which was brought to an end

speedily and ignominiously. The men of Israel followed Sheba; but those

of Judah “clave unto their king,” and conducted him “from Jordan even to

Jerusalem.” The division thus for the time produced has its counterpart in

the spiritual sphere. It may serve to illustrate especially the more open and

manifest departures from the Divine King which at times occur, under,

perhaps, some leader, and the steadfast adherence to him of his friends,

which, at such times, becomes more pronounced and manifest.

 

  • THE NATURE AND CAUSES OF DEFECTION FROM CHRIST.

 

Ø      Its nature. It is the casting off of His rule over mind, heart, life. It may be

secret or it may be open, and may be with or without emphatic declaration,

with or without open adherence to a leader of rebellion against Him. But it

ought not to be confounded with separation from a particular Church, or

renunciation of a particular humanly constructed creed. We do wrong if we

condemn any one as having departed from Christ because he has departed

from us. There is room for great variety of conception and expression as to

Christian truth, and of modes of sincerely and truly serving Christ; and He

recognizes, as loyal subjects of His, many in all Churches, and not a few

outside all Churches. At the same time, it must be, and ought to be,

distinctly maintained that to reject His supreme authority in matters of belief

and practice, to think and express our thoughts without regard to His

teaching, to feel and act without recognition of His commands, is to reject

Him; to openly declare that we no longer recognize His authority is open

rebellion against Him.

 

Ø      Its causes.

 

o        Original unreality in professed adherence to Christ. The religion of

many is hereditary and traditional, and therefore only formal. They have

experienced no radical change of heart. They are without true faith and

love. “They have no root,” and so “in time of temptation fall away.”

(Luke 8:13)

o        Dislike of the government and laws of Christ. Their holiness, the

extent of their requirements, their unbending nature, the restraints they

impose.  Pride revolts against them, and self-will, and carnality in

general; and the propounders of religions that are more indulgent

to the lower nature are eagerly listened to and accepted.

o        Superficial feeling as to the need of Christ.

§         He is not felt to be indispensable to the soul;

§         to part from Him is not felt to involve very serious loss.

o        Neglect of devotion. It is by habits of prayer and other spiritual

exercises that the soul is kept in communion with Christ, and His

Spirit received, through whose influences faith, love, and obedience

are maintained in vigor. The kingdom of Christ is spiritual, and can

be realized ONLY THROUGH THE POWER OF THE HOLY

GHOST!

o        Dissatisfaction with the results of serving Christ. A superficial

religion must be unsatisfactory.; and when the vanity of its exercises

and fruits is felt, no wonder if it should be given up altogether. To

experience the substantial blessedness of serving Christ, we must

commit ourselves to Him heartily and wholly. Then we shall know

too well His preciousness to heed those who would entice us to

forsake Him.  ("My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not."

(Proverbs 1:10)

o        The influence of others. The men of Israel would not have deserted

David when they did, if Sheba had not blown his trumpet and

summoned them to follow him. In like manner, the latent disloyalty

of men to Christ may remain concealed, and they may appear to be,

and regard themselves as being, His good subjects, until some bolder

spirit heads a revolt, and “draws away disciples after him!”

(Acts 20:30). Or the pernicious influence may come from inconsistent

Christians, unworthy ministers of religion, or corrupt Churches.

Men do not sufficiently distinguish between Christ and His professed

representatives, and find in the evil discerned in them an excuse for

deserting Him.

o        Disbelief of Christ’s power, or will, to execute justice on those who

are unfaithful to Him. Did men realize the tremendous issues involved

in cleaving to or rejecting Christ, they would not:

·         so loosely hold their religion or

·         so readily abandon it.

Did they seriously regard His picture of the doom of those who will

not have Him for their King (Luke 19:27) as representing an awful

reality, they would be more concerned to escape it.

 

  • REASONS WHICH INDUCE THE FAITHFUL TO CLEAVE TO

THEIR KING, WHOEVER MAY DESERT HIM.

 

Ø      Faith in His Divine authority. That He is King by Divine right, and must

and will reign, and make all His foes his footstool (Psalm 2; 110:1;

I Corinthians 15:25).

 

Ø      Love to Him. Originating in gratitude for His redeeming love, becoming

attachment to Him from discernment and approval of His infinite

excellences, and to His government and laws, because the renewed heart

is in harmony with them.

 

Ø      Experience of the blessings of His reign. In the heart, the home, the

people who truly serve Him. Hence, intense satisfaction with His service.

 

Ø      Hope of a yet happier experience when His reign is fully established and

perfected. Hope, as the “anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast”

(Hebrews 6:19), keeps the soul steadfast when storms of temptation

arise. To give up Christ would be, it is felt, to give up hope of glory in His

“everlasting kingdom” (II Peter 1:11).

 

Ø      Perception of the worthlessness of His rivals. Observe the contrast

presented between Sheba and David — the one “a man of Belial”

(worthlessness), the other “their king.” Similarly, when “many of Christ’s

disciples went back, and walked no more with him,” and he, turning to the

twelve, asked, “Will ye also go away?” Peter exclaimed, “Lord, to whom

shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are

sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God (John 6:66-69).

And still we may ask, “To whom shall we go?” Where shall we find one to

take the place of Christ? Who has equal claims on our confidence and

affection? Who can confer equal benefits? Not the irreligious multitude,

whether of the coarser or the more refined sort. Not the leaders of

skeptical thought, some of whom simply ignore all that renders Christ

precious to the Christian; others maintain that nothing can be known of

God, and that all that is believed respecting Him and His relation to men

belongs to the region of imagination, not of truth; and others proffer a

religion without a God? The Christian sees that all who would tempt him to

forsake his Lord can offer him as substitutes only “vain things, which

cannot profit nor deliver” (I Samuel 12:21).

 

Ø      Expectation of the coming of Christ when:

o        accounts will be  rendered,

o        judgments pronounced, and

o        rewards and punishments will be distributed.

The certainty that “he,” and only he, “that shall endure unto the

end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13). For these reasons, and such as

these, some of which are felt most by one, and some by another; whilst

many may follow this or that pretender, Christians who are really such will

“cleave unto their King.”

 

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."

They were shut up. We are not to conclude that all widows

had to live in seclusion, but only that those women who belonged to the

royal harem, but had been taken by another, were not allowed to return to

it, but condemned to a sort of imprisonment. Living in widowhood. This

is explained by the Chaldee as lasting only during David’s life, its rendering

being, “in widowhood while their husband was alive.”

 

 

The Insurrection of Sheba (vs. 1-3)

 

“We have no part in David,

And we have no inheritance in the son of Jesse;

    Every man to his tents, O Israel!”

(v. 1; I Kings 12:16.)

 

Before the restoration of David was completed, a new rebellion broke out.

The people were still disquieted, like the sea after a storm; the independent

action of Judah in conducting the king over the Jordan aroused the jealousy

of the other tribes; at Gilgal (I Samuel 11:15; 13:8-10; 15:12-13),

where the representatives of the latter assembled and met the king, a fierce

altercation ensued (ch. 19:40-43); and shortly afterwards the trumpet was blown

by Sheba the Bichrite (Genesis 46:21). “He who lately (with the rest of Israel)

claimed ten parts in David as king, disclaims and disowns him now, as having

no part in him at all. David before had raised his hand against a faithful subject,

Uriah, and therefore now a faithless subject raises his hand against him; as a

man sinneth, so ofttimes he is punished. And as bees, when they are once up in

a swarm, are ready to light upon every bough, so the Israelites, being stirred up

by the late rebellion of Absalom, are apt here also to follow Sheba; especially

finding nothing but clemency, and David’s passing by their former revolt” (Guild).

Concerning this insurrection, observe that (like others which have since

occurred):

 

  • IT AROSE OUT OF AN EVIL DISPOSITION INDULGED BY THE

PEOPLE. They were:

 

Ø      Discontented with the government of David; the restlessness,

lawlessness, and ungodliness which they displayed in joining Absalom’s

revolt were only partial? corrected by recent chastisement (ch. 19:9-10);

their complaint to the king concerning the conduct of “the men

of Judah” (v. 41) was due more to regard for their own honor than zeal

for his; and was an indirect expression of their dissatisfaction at the

disrespect which he had shown toward them, for “very probably it had

been learned that he had a hand in the movement.”

 

Ø      Contentious in their treatment of their “brethren;” ready to find occasion

of offence “because of envy” and ill will; their anger being increased by the

proud and contemptuous bearing of the latter. Whatever may have been the

motives of the men of Judah in their recent action, they were now as

blamable as the men of Israel; each party sought to exalt itself and

depreciate the other; and “the words of the men of Judah were more

violent than the words of the men of Israel” (v. 43). “Grievous words stir

up anger” (Proverbs 15:1, 18; 25:15; 29:22). How differently had

Gideon spoken to the men of Ephraim under similar circumstances

(Judges 8:1-3)!

 

Ø      Self-blinded. They were indifferent to their true interests, without proper

self-control, liable to surrender themselves to the guidance of an ambitious

leader, and prepared for open rebellion. Having violated the spirit of unity,

they were ready to destroy the formal union of the tribes, which it had cost

so much to bring about, and on which their strength and prosperity so

much depended. “Where jealousy and. faction are, there is confusion and

every vile deed” (James 3:16; 4:1, 11).

 

  • IT WAS INSTIGATED BY A WORTHLESS LEADER, “A man of

Belial, a Benjamite (like Shimei, ch. 16:11); “a man of the

mountains of Ephraim” (v. 21); who probably took an active part in the

late rebellion, and had numerous dependents. “He was one of the great

rogues of the high nobility, who had a large retinue among the people, and

consideration or name, as Cataline at Rome” (Luther).

 

Ø      The worst (as well as the best) elements of a people find their chief

embodiment in some one man, who is the product of the prevailing

spirit of his time, and adapted to be its leader.

 

“Avarice, envy, pride,

Three fatal sparks, have set the hearts of all

On fire.”  (Dante.)

In his selfish ambition, Sheba sought for himself individually what

the men of Israel sought for themselves as a whole.

 

Ø      Such a man clearly perceives the popular feeling and tendency, with

which he sympathizes, and finds therein his opportunity for effecting his

own purposes. The design of Sheba was, doubtless, to become head of a

new combination of the northern tribes.

 

Ø      He seizes a suitable moment for raising his seditious cry; and, instead of

quenching the sparks of discord, kindles them into a blaze. “They claim

David as their own. Let them have him. We disclaim him altogether. The

son of Jesse! Let every man cast off his yoke, return home, and unite with

me in securing liberty, equality, and fraternity!” What at another time

would have been without effect, is now irresistible with the people.

Nothing is more unstable than a multitude; one day crying, “Hosanna!”

another, “Not this Man, but Barabbas!”

 

  • IT ATTAINED A DANGEROUS MAGNITUDE. “And all the men

of Israel went up from after David, and followed Sheba the son of Bichri

(v. 2); “Now will Sheba do us more harm than Absalom (v. 6). The

insurrection:

 

Ø      Was joined in by great numbers of the people.

Ø      Spread over the greater portion of the country. “He went through all

the tribes of Israel,” rousing them to action, and gaining possession

of the fortified cities.

Ø      Threatened to produce a permanent disruption of the kingdom. “It was,

in fact, all but an anticipation of the revolt of Jeroboam. It was not, as in

the case of Absalom, a mere conflict between two factions in the court

of Judah, but a struggle arising out of that conflict, on the part of the

tribe of Benjamin to recover its lost ascendency” (Stanley). With what

anxieties must it have filled the mind of the restored monarch! And

how must it have led him to feel his dependence upon God! The

influence for evil which one bad man sometimes exerts is enormous

(Ecclesiastes 9:18). It is, nevertheless, limited; and, though it prevail

for a season, it is at length “brought to naught” (Psalm 37:12, 20, 35-40).

 

  • IT ENDED IN UTTER DISCOMFITURE. The first act of David, on

arriving at Jerusalem, attended by the men of Judah, who “clave unto the

king” (after setting his house in order, v. 3), was to adopt energetic

measures to put down the insurrection; and these succeeded (though in a

different manner from what he expected).

 

Ø      Many who at first followed Sheba deserted him when they had time for

reflection and saw the approach of the king’s army; so that he found it

necessary to seek safety in the far north.

Ø      He was beheaded by those among whom he sought refuge; and

“rewarded according to his wickedness” (ch. 3:39). “Evil

pursueth sinners” (Proverbs 11:19;13:21).

Ø      All the people returned to their allegiance. “While to men’s eyes the

cooperation of many evil powers seems to endanger the kingdom of God

to the utmost, and its affairs appear to be confused and disturbed in the

unhappiest fashion, the wonderful working of the living God reveals

itself most gloriously in the unravelment of the worst entanglements,

and in the introduction of new and unexpected triumphs for His

government” (Erdmann).

 

4 "Then said the king to Amasa, Assemble me the men of Judah within three

days, and be thou here present."  Then said the king to Amasa. David thus takes

the first step towards depriving Joab of the command (see ch.19:13). This

was a most unwise step, however guilty Joab may have been in slaying

Absalom. With all his faults, Joab had always been faithful to David, and it

was chiefly his skill in war and statesmanlike qualities which had raised the

kingdom to a position of great power. Just now, too, he had crushed with

smaller forces a rebellion in which Amasa had taken the lead. To cast him

off and put Amasa in his place might please conspirators, and reconcile

them to their defeat, but it would certainly offend all those who had been

faithful to David in his troubles. Throughout David acts as one whose

affections were stronger than his sense of duty, and his conduct goes far to

justify Joab’s complaint, “This day I perceive, that if Absalom had lived,

and all we had died this day, then it had pleased thee well” (ch. 19:6).

If David, in the administration of his kingdom, acted with as little

forethought as in the slight he cast-upon the ten tribes in negotiating with

Judah to be the first to restore him, as it had been the first tribe to rebel,

instead of waiting for the rest, and doing his best to make the day of his

return one of general concord and good will; or with as little justice as in

the matter of Ziba and Mephibosheth; or with as little tact and good sense

as in substituting at the end of a revolt the rebel general for the brave

soldier who had “saved his life, and the lives of his sons and of his

daughters, and the lives of his wives and of his concubines” (ch. 19:5);

we cannot wonder that he had failed to secure the allegiance of a

race so self-willed and stubborn as the Israelites. One cannot help half

suspecting that Joab had used the power he had gained over the king by the

part he had taken in the murder of Uriah tyrannically, and for cruel

purposes, and that David groaned under the burden. But if so, it was his

own sin that was finding him out.

 

5 "So Amasa went to assemble the men of Judah: but he tarried

longer than the set time which he had appointed him."

He tarried longer than the set time. But not longer than was to

be expected. For the appointment was so surprising that everybody must

have been agape with astonishment. They would naturally have expected

that Amasa would he punished. Instead of this, he is commissioned to

gather the militia in David’s name. And men would hesitate about joining

such a leader. Was he really loyal? or would he embark them in a new

rebellion? And what would Joab do? He was not a man likely to bear such

a slight tamely, and David ought to have foreseen that he was sowing for

himself a crop of discord and enmity.

 

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."

David said to Abishai. David thus gives the command to the

younger brother, and we find in v. 7 that even Joab’s men,” his own

special troop, were placed under Abishai’s command. There seems always

to have been a firm friendship between the brothers, and at first Joab

acquiesces. The king was, in fact, in so grim a humor that he probably felt

that he had better keep with his men, who would protect him, instead of

remaining at Jerusalem, where he would be in David’s power. When

Amasa joined them, Abishai would have to resign to him the command;

and David probably expected that, after a successful campaign, and with

the aid of the men of Judah, who were rebels like himself, Amasa would be

able to crush Joab. But Joab did not intend to wait for this; and

immediately on meeting his rival he murders him, and assumes the

command. Thy lord’s servants. These are the men enumerated in v. 7,

and formed David’s usual military attendants. When war broke out, they

were reinforced by a levy of the people. And escape us. The meaning of

the Hebrew is uncertain. It may signify, “and withdraw himself from our

eyes,” which gives the sense of the Authorized Version, and is supported

by the Vulgate. The Septuagint renders, “and overshadow our eyes,” which

might have the same meaning, but, as others think, may signify, “and cause

us anxiety.” Many modern commentators render, “and pluck out our eye;”

that is, do us painful damage. Either this or the Authorized Version gives a

good sense, and, anyhow, rapid action was necessary, or Sheba’s revolt

might become dangerous.

 

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."  There went out after him — that is,

under Abishai’s command (compare v. 2) — Joab’s men. The men who formed

his regular attendants, and to whose number belonged the ten armor bearers who

slew Absalom (ch.18:15). Joab retained their command, and

probably they would not have served under any other person. It is evident

from the enumeration in this verse that the “men of Judah,” after escorting

David to Jerusalem, had all dispersed to their own homes.

 

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."  The great stone which is in Gibeon. Gibeon is

situated in the mountains of Ephraim, in the tribe of Benjamin, northwest of

Jerusalem.  The great stone was probably some isolated rock well known in the

neighborhood. Amasa went before them; Hebrew, Amasa came before

them; that is, came in view with the levy of men he had raised in Judah.

And Joab’s garment, etc.; more correctly, and Joab was girded with his

military coat as his garment, and over it was the strap of his sword in its

sheath, and it (masculine, equivalent to “the sheath”) came out, and it

(feminine, equivalent to “the sword”) fell. This change of gender is very

harsh, and has caused the Authorized Version to apply the masculine verb

to Joab, and translate, and as he went forth it fell; but a very slight change,

supported by the Septuagint, gives us a more satisfactory sense, namely,

and it (the sword) came out and fell. It is generally assumed that all this

was arranged beforehand on Joab’s part, who had so placed his sword that

he could shake it out of the sheath. More probably it was an accident, of

which he took instant advantage. He had felt that his position was insecure,

and that if David had the support of Amasa, and a powerful band of the

men of Judah at Jerusalem, he would probably order his execution for

slaying Absalom; and Amasa would carry out the command willingly

enough, as he thereby would secure the high position offered him. We

know David’s feelings towards Joab from his dying command to Solomon

(I Kings 2:5-6), and probably he had given various indications of his deep

seated resentment. Joab, therefore, determined to stop Amasa’s growth in

power, and also to give David a rough lesson. And this accident gave him

an early opportunity, which he used with ruthless energy.

 

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."

In the fifth rib; in the abdomen (see note on ch. 2:23). He struck him not

again. When his sword fell out of its sheath, Joab picked it up with his left

hand, which was not the hand for action, and as he could not put it into its

place without taking it into his right hand, his continuing to hold it while he

took his cousin’s beard in his right hand and kissed him, was too natural to

awaken any suspicion. But holding down Amasa’s head, he struck him with

his left hand so fiercely that no second blow was necessary; and then continued

his march forward as if what had occurred was a matter of little importance.

 

11"And one of Joab’s men stood by him, and said, He that favoreth

Joab, and he that is for David, let him go after Joab." 

One of Joab’s men. Joab left one of his personal followers to

prevent any halt of the people round Amasa’s body, and to suggest that he

was a traitor. For he was to say to them as they came up, not only that

“whosoever had pleasure in Joab,” but also that “all who were for David,

were to go after Joab.” All loyal men were to regard him as captain of the

host, and to disobey him would be rebellion. Naturally they would

conclude from this that Amasa had not really been true to David, and that

his death was the punishment inflicted on him for his past guilt.

 

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." 

He removed Amasa. The admonition to move on failed; for

the sight was terrible and tragic, and all as they came along stopped to see

what had happened, and inquire the cause (compare ch. 2:23). The

man, therefore, had the corpse carried out of the way, and threw over it a

cloth, really a coat — the loose upper mantle worn over the tunic (see note

on beged, I Samuel 19:13). Whereupon the people renewed their

march, most of them not knowing what had occurred, and the rest urged to

it by the warning voice of Joab’s servitor.

 

 

The Murder of Amasa (vs. 4-13)

 

“And Amasa took no heed to the sword that was in Joab’s hand” (v. 10).

Amasa (son of Abigail, David’s sister, and Jether an Ishmaelite, and first

cousin of Joab, (ch. 17:25) joined Absalom in his rebellion; and

must have been a man of great ability, courage, and influence, from the fact

that he was appointed by him “captain of the host instead of Joab,” and

afterwards promised by David the same post (ch. 19:13). This

promise “involved no injustice to Joab himself, for he had long been

notorious for too great severity in war, and had just acted with such direct

disobedience to the royal command in Absalom’s case, that it was

impossible to overlook his offence without endangering the royal

prerogative” (Ewald). Whilst it was adapted to conciliate the men of Judah,

it was, nevertheless, certain to give offense to Joab and cause future

trouble. It does not appear that he was formally replaced by Amasa; but the

commission given to the latter (v. 4) “was intended as the

commencement of the fulfillment of the promise” (Keil). And when he

exhibited undue delay in its fulfillment (v. 5), David, “wishing to have

nothing to do with Joab,” sent Abishai to pursue after Sheba (v. 6). “And

there went out after him Joab’s men” (v. 7) under Joab (who deemed

himself still commander-in-chief). At “the great stone which is in Gibeon

(ch. 2:13; 21:1; I Chronicles 21:29) he met Amasa returning

with his military levies, and on saluting him with the kiss of peace, dealt

him his death blow (vs. 8-10); passed on, followed (after a brief

hesitation at the spectacle of their murdered captain) by “all the people;”

finished the war, and returned to Jerusalem. In this tragedy notice:

 

1. The danger of holding a responsible position by one who is ill-qualified

for it through want of natural ability, proper antecedents, timely

appointment, public confidence, adequate zeal and energy. “The cause of

Amasa’s delay is not stated. It may have been the unwillingness of the men

of Judah to place themselves under the orders of Amasa (contrast vs. 13

and 14), or it may have been caused by a wavering or hesitation in the

loyalty of Amasa himself. This last is evidently insinuated in v. 11, and no

doubt this was the pretext., whether grounded in fact or not, by which Joab

justified the murder of Amasa before David” (‘Speaker’s Commentary’).

 

2. The tendency of repeated crimes to induce more daring criminality.

This was Joab’s third murder (ch. 3:27; 18:14), in addition to his

complicity in the death of Uriah; less excusable, more guileful, malicious,

and reckless than any other; his motive being jealousy of a rival. “No life is

safe that stands in his way, but from policy he never sacrifices the most

insignificant life without a purpose” (ch. 2:27-30; 18:16; v. 20).

“By degrees men grow more and more bold and unfeeling in the

commission of crimes of every kind; until they vindicate and glory in their

villainies; and when such daring offenders are actuated by ambition or

revenge, they will not be restrained by the ties of relationship or friendship;

nay, they will employ the guise and language of love to obtain the

opportunity of perpetrating the most atrocious murders. The beginning of

evil should therefore in everything be decisively resisted” (Scott).

 

3. The infliction of deserved punishment by an unauthorized and wicked

hand. Amasa is innocent of the crime of seeking Joab’s place, for which

he is murdered by him, yet he is guilty before God for his siding with

Absalom. Whereupon we collect that oft-times men suffer innocently for

some crimes that are laid to their charge, and in respect of the persons who

are the pursuers; yet in God’s judgment they are justly punished for other

sins, wherein either they have been spared or else have not been noted to

the world; and as many at the hour of their death and execution, publicly

have acknowledged” (Guild).

 

4. The commission of a great crime by one who possesses great abilities

and renders great public services. Alas! that a man of such military skill,

practical sagacity, and tried fidelity as Joab (now far advanced in life),

should have been so “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin”! (Hebrews 3:13)

Once more he saved the monarchy; and once more David was compelled to

bear with him (ch. 3:39; 19:13). “He probably felt obliged to show some

indulgence to a man who was indispensable to him as a soldier, and who,

notwithstanding his culpable ferocity, never lost sight of his master’s

interests.” His indulgence was doubtless also due, in part, to the

consciousness of his own sin (Psalm 51:3), which made him unwilling

to inflict the penalty of the law on one who had been his partner in guilt.

But at length judgment overtakes the transgressor; the Law is vindicated;

and the ways of God to men are justified (I Kings 2:5-6, 28-35). Near

the very spot where his crowning act of perfidy was perpetrated, Joab

received his death blow from the hand of Benaiah (I Chronicles 16:39).

 

 

Unsanctified Power (vs. 7-13)

 

We pass over David’s provision for his concubines, simply noting how

wise and considerate he was in thus cutting himself free from old

associations full of reminiscences of sorrow, and at the same time doing no

injustice to any one concerned. The chief figure in the narrative before us is

Joab, who here stands out as a strong man bent on a definite purpose, and

able to carry out his will in spite of moral, social, and loyal considerations.

All the other men referred to are as pigmies beside him, and the orders

even of the king are so far bent to his will that he becomes practically

master of the situation. Regarding him as an illustration of unsanctified

power, we notice:

 

  • GREAT ABILITIES. Joab was a man of great natural abilities. This is

obvious throughout his career. There was not one in the army to compare

with him. Great natural abilities are the base of power among men. In some

men they are purely intellectual, in others they are those of will. For

influencing action and obtaining an ascendency over multitudes, will force

must be strong. This partly accounts for success in commerce, in

statesmanship, in Church government, in popular movements.

 

  • STRONG PASSIONS. Passions are not abilities; they are rather the

fire that feeds the energy of the will. Joab was a man whose passions were

very strong, though not boisterous and impulsive. His jealousy and hatred

of Amass, who had been appointed to supersede him in command, were

intense. These, blended with contempt for his inferiority, disgust at David’s

choice, and a lofty pride which would not deign to remonstrate with the

king, formed such a strenuous force on the naturally powerful will, that to

kill his rival was a decision which no ordinary obstacles could hinder in

accomplishment. When unholy passions, deliberately cherished,

concentrate on a powerful will, there results one of the most formidable

instances of unsanctified power. Such men are to be dreaded. They cannot

but make a great impression on weaker natures, and bend them to their

own designs. They are illustrations of what woe comes to mankind when

distinguished powers, incorporated in the constitution of man, receive a

bent of evil rather than of good. A being who becomes a Miltonic Satan

might be a real archangel. It is the spirit that makes the one or the other.

 

  • A DREAD SECRET. To many the bearing of Joab toward the

authority of David in this matter of Amasa may be an enigma, seeing that

he raised no revolt, but was rather zealous for the king. But that which

made Joab so terrible an example of unsanctified power was his possession

of the dreadful secret of Uriah’s death (ch. 11:14-25). He knew

too much of David’s former guilt; and so all his great natural abilities were

concentrated in holding a firm grip on the king’s public reputation. It is

true, David had found forgiveness with God, and was a new man; but he

knew that Joab had him in his power in matters that came nearest to a

man’s life, and Joab perfectly understood that David dared not do what

otherwise he would doubtless have done. This possession of secret

knowledge concerning others always gives increased power. Whoever

knows of the financial weakness of a commercial firm, or the private

delinquencies of individuals, or of original social inferiority of persons

aiming to figure in society, if it be known that he knows, holds a power

over these parties which they dread, and which, if he be unholy, he can use

in most painful form. Those are to be pitied indeed who have caused their

failings and sins to become the secret of unholy men.

 

  • FAMILIARITY WITH SUFFERING. Bad as great power is in a man

of strong passions and possessed of special knowledge, it is a more terrible

thing when the moral sensibilities have been blunted by familiarity with

sufferings. Joab had seen many a man dying in agonies. War does not

improve the feelings of men. It was with no compunctions of conscience,

as far as we can see, that he slew Amasa. What was a bleeding corpse to

the man who had smitten many a hero, and who now was governed by

jealousy, hatred, contempt, and pride? It is this loss of moral sensibility

which has made such men as Napoleon I so terrible a scourge. There are

other men of, perhaps, equally strong will, but their moral susceptibilities

restrain them from brutality.

 

  • CLEARLY DEFINED PURPOSE. Joab knew what he intended to do.

The narrative shows that he watched for opportunity. He did not wish to

encourage revolt against royal authority, but he did wish and purpose to

avenge his displacement from supreme command by the death of his rival,

to prove his power to David by actually assuming the leadership and

suppressing the revolt, and to vindicate before the people his superiority in

the state. Purpose, clearly defined, is a practical addition to power. It

avoids waste of energy, and converts subsidiary appliances into instruments

of great significance. By such purpose the whole nature of the man and all

his strong and unhallowed passions are condensed and concentrated into

one channel.

 

  • GENERAL LESSONS.

 

Ø      We see the supreme importance of prayer for the converting power of

the Holy Spirit, so that men of great natural powers may have them

governed by a principle according to the will of God.

Ø      The appearance of unhallowed feelings in the heart should be at once

an occasion of prayer and self-control, as they will be sure to combine

to influence us to deeds of wrong.

Ø      There is more real honor in being a man of lowly abilities, but under the

sway of holy dispositions, than in possessing the highest powers destitute

of such a disposition.

Ø      If we can only secure progress in life or continued possession of

privileges by using abilities wickedly, it is infinitely better to lose

all than thus sink deeper in moral and spiritual degradation.

Ø      According to our abilities will be the account we shall have to give unto

God.

 

 

(vs. 14-26)  The facts are:

 

1. Joab and his forces, pursuing Sheba till they came upon him in the city of

Abel, lay siege to it.

2. A wise woman of the city remonstrates with Joab for attacking the city,

and refers to the fact that when Sheba with his armed followers threw

themselves into the city, the people felt sure that when the pursuing foes

came up they would open negotiations with the authorities, and so bring

the conflict to an end.

3. Urging the impolicy and wrong of seeking to destroy a part of the

inheritance of the Lord — a city which was as a mother in Israel — she

obtains from Joab a disclaimer, and a declaration that it was only the rebel

and traitor Sheba that he was fighting against.

4. The wise woman, conferring with the inhabitants, secures that the head

of Sheba be thrown over the wall to Joab, who then retires with his men to

Jerusalem.

5. A reorganization of the officers of state is made, and Joab regains his

former position as head of the army. The patriotism of Joab and a rough

kind of fidelity to David manifested itself in his prompt and eager pursuit of

the rebel force till it took refuge in a city and began to act on the defensive.

There is no evidence that the inhabitants had formally identified themselves

with the cause of Sheba, though probably there as elsewhere some

disaffected men of Belial were to be found. It is not always within the

competence of a city to prevent an armed force entering within its walls

and virtually turning its resources against pursuers. The conflict between

the opposing forces was becoming desperate, and threatened, if persisted

in, to result in the destruction of the city. The horrors and wasting issues of

civil war were impending. At this juncture, the more peaceably inclined

portion of the inhabitants, encouraged by a woman who had gained

reputation for wisdom, were anxious to avoid the calamities of continued

strife, and probably having in mind the old law of Deuteronomy 20:11-12,

remonstrated with Joab because he had not sought to come to terms

before having recourse to arms. And here we see a fact embodying a

principle, namely, that a people of one nation, speech, religion, and

covenant relation to God, pause while engaged in a ruinous strife, and that

it is pre-eminently desirable and right on occasions of strife to seek some

basis of reconciliation.

 

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."  And he went through, etc. It was not Joab, but

Sheba, who, by David’s prompt action, was compelled to make a rapid retreat,

seeking help in vain from tribe after tribe, but rejected of all, and unable to

make any defense until he had reached the extreme north of the land of Israel.

Unto Abel, and to Beth-Maachah. The conjunction probably ought to be

omitted, as the proper name of the place, is Abel-beth-Maachah, and it is

so given in v. 15 (see below), and in I Kings 15:20; II Kings 15:29.

It is the place called Abel-Maim, the “water meadow,” in II Chronicles 16:4

— an abel being a place where the grass grows rankly from the abundance of

springs. It thus forms part of the name of various places, as Abel-Mizraim

(Genesis 50:11), Abel-Meholah (I Kings 4:12), etc. Abel-beth-Maachah was a

fortress in the most northerly part of the tribe of Naphtali, and is identified

with the modem village of Abel, a few miles above Lake Huleh, the ancient

“Waters of Merom.” And all the Berites. No place or people of this name can

be found, but Jerome, when translating the Vulgate, had before him a different

reading, which seems clearly right, “And all the chosen men of war were

gathered together, and went after him.”

 

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.  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."   

It stood in the trench. This is a literal translation, and yet

gives a wrong sense. The Hebrew “stood” means “rose up to,” “stood level

with;” and the “trench” is what in modern fortifications is called “the

glacis,” and includes the outer wall of defense. The Revised Version

renders, “it stood against the rampart.” The usual way of capturing cities in

ancient times was to cast up a bank or mound of earth against them

(Isaiah 29:3; 37:33; Jeremiah 6:6); and Joab’s work had advanced

so far as to be level with the outer line of defense. The name of the city in

the Hebrew is not Abel of Beth-Maachah, but Abel-beth-Maachah.

Battered. This is a word taken from Roman warfare. The Hebrew says,

“And all the people that were with Joab were destroying the wall to make

it fall,” most probably by undermining it. Ewald even asserts that this is the

meaning of the verb, and translates, “were digging pits under the wall.”

The Revised Version adopts this for the margin, where it gives

“undermined.” The Septuagint and Chaldee have a different and probable

reading, “And all Joab’s people were devising (contriving) means to throw

down the wall.” This would be the next operation after the mound had

been carried up to a level with it.

 

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."  They were wont to speak, etc. The Hebrew literally is, they

used to say in old time, They shall surely ask at Abel; and so they finished

(the matter). But of these words two completely distinct interpretations are

given. The Jewish Targum records the one: “Remember now that which is

written in the book of the Law, to ask a city concerning peace at the first.

Hast thou done so, to ask of Abel if they will make peace?” The woman,

that is, was referring to the command in Deuteronomy 20:10, not to

besiege a city until peace had been offered to the inhabitants on condition

of their paying tribute. When a city was captured the lot of the inhabitants,

as the woman declares in v. 19, was utter destruction; and the Law

mercifully gave them the chance of escaping such a fate. Joab had not

complied with this enactment, but had assumed that the people would

support Sheba, and was proceeding to the last extremity without consulting

them. This interpretation gives an excellent sense, but cannot be wrung out

of the present Hebrew text without violence. The other interpretation is

that of the Authorized Version, that the woman was commending her

words to Joab, by reminding him that Abel had been famed in early times

for its wisdom, and had probably been the seat of an oracle in the old

Canaanite times. When, therefore, people had carried their dispute to Abel,

both sides were content to abide by the answer given them, and so the

controversy was ended. Literally, these words mean, “they shall surely

inquire at Abel,” the verb being that specially used of inquiring of God.

 

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."

I am one of them that are, etc. The Authorized Version

translates in this way, because, while “I” is singular, “peaceable” and

“faithful” are plural. Really this construction shows that the woman speaks

in the name of the city, and consequently the Authorized Version, while

preserving the grammar, loses the sense. It should be translated, we are

peaceable, faithful people in Israel. A city and a mother; that is, a

mother city, a metropolis, the chief town of that district.

 

 

Peaceableness and Faithfulness (v. 19)

 

“I am one of them that are peaceable and faithful in Israel.” The wise

woman probably spoke in these words, not so much for herself, as for the

inhabitants of her town, which Joab was besieging. Hence the adjectives

are plural. She pleads the peacefulness and fidelity of the people as a

reason for sparing them. It was no fault of theirs that a traitor had taken

refuge amongst them. Joab acknowledges the force of her plea, and

promises to depart if Sheba were delivered up to him — a promise which

he fulfilled when the head of the traitor had been flung to him over the

wall. The qualities here mentioned are of inestimable value; in an individual

in relation to his neighbors, fellow citizens, and fellow Christians; in a

family as between its members, and in relation to other families; in a town,

between its inhabitants, and in respect to other towns; in a country,

between the various classes of the people, between the people and their

rulers, and in relation to other countries; and in a Church, as between its

members, and in its relations with other Churches and with the community

at large. They are the subject of many Scripture injunctions and promises.

They are fruits of the Spirit; essential parts of the character of a Christian;

the natural product of the gospel in those who really believe it. “The

kingdom of God is righteousness and peace” (Romans 14:17); “The

fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness,

faithfulness, meekness” (Galatians 5:22, Revised Version); “Love truth

and peace” (Zechariah 8:19, Revised Version).

 

  • PEACEABLENESS. This Christian virtue is very frequently inculcated

in the Scriptures, especially the New Testament.

 

Ø      Its nature. It consists in a disposition to live in harmony and friendliness

with all. It shows itself by courtesy and kindness; by avoidance of

contention and quarrels; by carefulness not to give just or needless

provocation to others; by meek endurance of provocation and even

injustice from others; by readiness to give and receive explanation and

apology; by quiet, unobtrusive performance of one’s own duties, and

abstinence from intermeddling with other people’s business; by

overlooking small offences, and readiness to forgive greater.

 

Ø      Its sources. In some it is a natural disposition. As a Christian virtue it

springs from:

 

o        Christian love — love to Christian brethren as such, and love to all.

This prompts those in whom it reigns to seek the happiness of others,

and to put the most charitable construction on their conduct. It also

subdues the irascible dispositions, and the selfishness which so

readily leads to alienation and contention.

 

o        Christian humility. “By pride cometh contention” (Proverbs 13:10).

The proud exaggerate their own claims, expect too much from others,

resent slight offense, insist on unreasonable reparation. But the humble

avoid, without effort, such occasions of strife. Thus love and humility

promote peace; and all the influences and motives which produce and

foster the former are equally favorable to the latter.

 

Ø      Its benefits.

 

o        To the peaceable themselves. It is itself happiness. It secures the good

will of others, the enjoyment of which is happiness. It is a frame of

mind favorable to the cultivation and growth of all Christian

virtues; and to all those devout exercises by which these are nourished

and the favor of God realized.

 

o        To society. The absence of the annoyance and discomfort which the

contentious occasion. The enjoyment of quietness and rest. The

peaceable are also peacemakers, and promote a pacific disposition

in others. If all men were peaceable, wars, small and great alike,

would cease.

 

  • FAITHFULNESS. “Faithful,” on the lips of the wise woman, probably

meant “loyal” to the king. It might well include also uprightness in general.

“We are a people not only peaceful, but (as the word is) reliable,

trustworthy. We are honest, just, steadily occupied with a faithful discharge

of our duties, at once to God, to each other, and to the state.” Fidelity

must be associated with peaceableness to form a noble Christian character;

fidelity to Christ and God, to conscience and conviction, to truth and duty,

to promises and engagements; fidelity to those to whom we are variously

related in family, social, ecclesiastical, and national life. This gives strength

to the character, as gentleness and peacefulness give beauty. The two

qualities are not incompatible, but mutually helpful. A peaceful spirit

prevents fidelity from becoming harsh, censorious, meddlesome, fierce.

Fidelity prevents peacefulness from becoming an immoral weakness, which

disregards justice and truth, is ever making unworthy compromises, and

would rather sacrifice the highest principles than run the risk of arousing

the passions of men by asserting and defending them. Only “the wisdom

that is from above,” which “is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be

entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without variance, without

hypocrisy” (James 3:17, Revised Version); in other words, the teaching

of the Holy Spirit, — can enable us to give to each of these virtues,

peacefulness and faithfulness, its due place.

 

 

Seeking to Destroy God’s Inheritance (v. 19)

 

“Why wilt thou swallow up the inheritance of the Lord?” The nation of

Israel was called the “inheritance” of God, because specially chosen and set

apart for Himself, and therefore specially valued and cared for (see

Deuteronomy 4:20; 9:26, 29). The “wise woman,” in remonstrating

with Joab against his assault on Abel, applies the term to that part of the

people which dwelt there. It was an assertion of their right, as belonging to

the chosen people, to be protected, not destroyed. The corresponding

word in the New Testament is used of the everlasting possession which

Christians will inherit, not of Christians themselves (unless Ephesians

1:18 be an exception). But the idea is presented in other words (see

I Peter 2:9, “a people for God’s own possession,” Revised Version), and the

remonstrance might be appropriately addressed to any who seek to destroy

the Church of God.

 

  • CHRISTIANS ARE THE LORD’S INHERITANCE. That part of

mankind which is specially His.  (I recommend Deuteronomy ch. 32 v.9 -

God's Inheritance by Arthur Pink - # 95 - this website - CY - 2018)

 

Ø      Which He has peculiarly appropriated. All the world is His; but, while He

has left the larger portion of it for a time comparatively waste, He has in a

special manner claimed and separated this for Himself.

Ø      For which He specially cares, bestowing upon it peculiar culture,

watching over it with special interest.

Ø      From which He expects and receives special returns. Of thought, love,

confidence, praise, “fruits of righteousness” (Philippians 1:11), glory

(Matthew 5:16). The words, “inheritance of the Lord,” may be applied

to the whole Church; or (according to the analogy of the text) to any part

of it, any Christian society; or to individual Christians. And it is fitted to

awaken in them reflections as to the degree in which they are worthy of the

name, and to encourage the sincere to expect the special protection and

blessing of God.  "Walk worthy

 

  • THERE ARE ATTEMPTS TO DESTROY GOD’S INHERITANCE.

Some are wrongly charged with such attempts. Joab declared truly that his

aim was not to “swallow up or destroy” (v. 20). He only wished to

punish a traitor, by doing which he would serve instead of injuring “the

inheritance of the Lord.” In like manner, men who endeavor to purify the

Church from error and sinful practices may be wrongly charged with

seeking to destroy what their desire is to conserve. Reformers are often

regarded as destructives. Such, however, do need to be cautioned lest

anything in their spirit or measures should injure what is good more than

correct what is evil. Some, again, injure God’s inheritance without

deliberate intention. Unworthy ministers of religion, hypocrites, and

inconsistent Christians are of this class. But others are chargeable with

endeavouring to destroy God’s inheritance.

 

Ø      Such as attempt to destroy faith in the great Christian verities. Could

they succeed, there would be no Christianity, no Church, no “inheritance of

the Lord,” left in the world.

Ø      Persecutors of Christians in general, or of particular sections of them.

Various bodies of Christians have in turn sought not to convince (which is

right), but to root out, their fellow Christians, employing the civil power, if

that were at their command, or, if not, using their wealth or social influence

to oppress or entice in order to suppress.

 

  • THE EXPOSTULATION OF THE TEXT MAY BE JUSTLY

ADDRESSED TO THOSE WHO MAKE SUCH ATTEMPTS. “Why wilt

thou swallow up,” etc.? The words may be used to urge consideration of:

 

Ø      The reasons and motives which prompt the attempts. Such as:

o        Hatred of piety and holiness. This often impels infidels in their assaults

on the faith of Christians; but many who are called Christians, if they

examined themselves, would find that it was also the motive of their

endeavors to suppress Christians more in earnest than themselves.

o        Love of domination.

o        Pride of superiority, real or imagined.

o        Indignation at faithful testimony or reproof.

o        Inability to discern the marks of God’s true people. The external being

regarded to the exclusion of the internal and spiritual; the essential

qualities being overlooked because dissociated from certain over-

estimated accidentals. A blindness produced by a narrow education,

or exclusive fellowship with one kind of Christians.

o        Unholy zeal, such as actuated St. Paul before his conversion (Acts

26:9; Philippians 3:6; compare John 16:2). The assailants of the

Church or any part or member of it may well be urged to pause and

consider their real spirit and motives; and whether these will bear

reflection, or are capable of justification.

Ø      The impiety and unrighteousness of such attempts. The wise woman

suggests to Joab, by the words she uses, that he would be guilty of these

sins if he persisted in his assault on the town. So those who assail the

Church of God:

o        Sin against God. Whose inheritance they are invading. So far as they

succeed, they lessen God’s part in society and its affairs; they injure

those who are precious in His sight (“He that toucheth you toucheth

the apple of His eye,” Zechariah 2:8; compare Acts 9:4; Romans

4:15, 20; I Corinthians 8:12). The friends of God should shrink from

any conduct which tends to lessen the testimony for Him in the world,

and cripple those who are desirous of promoting His kingdom

according to their lights.

o        They violate the rights of Christians. Every part of the Christian

community is entitled to liberty of profession and “prophesying”

and to sympathy and all possible help from the rest. All good

citizens are entitled to the protection of the state, and cannot

be justly persecuted by it on account of their religion.

Ø      Their futility. “The inheritance of the Lord” cannot be really swallowed

up, although certain portions of it may for a time be injured. “Upon this

rock I will build my Church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail

against it” (Matthew 16:18).

Ø      The retribution which will surely follow them. Christians who, in their

blindness, make them in any degree, receive loss and injury thereby in their

own souls and in their influence for good; the enemies of God will find that

HE IS TOO MIGHTY FOR THEM!  He will “plead His own cause”

(Psalm 74:22), and “avenge His elect” (Luke 18:7-8).

 

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."  The matter is not so. It seems from this verse that

the citizens did not quite understand why Joab attacked them. Sheba had

thrown himself into the city and Joab, in hot pursuit, finding the gate closed —  a

measure of ordinary precaution upon the approach of a body of men — at

once blockaded the town, and began to cast up the mount. At all events,

they were ready to come to terms now, and would probably have given up

Sheba at first, if Joab had demanded his surrender. A man of Mount

Ephraim. Sheba was a Benjamite, but the hills of Ephraim extended into

the territory of Benjamin, and retained their name (see I Samuel 1:1).

Over the wall; Hebrew, through the wall, being the word rendered “at” a

window in Genesis 26:8. It probably means through one of the apertures

made for the archers.

 

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." 

In her wisdom; that is, with her wise counsel. The story in

Ecclesiastes 9:13-15 probably refers to this narrative. They retired;

Hebrew, they dispersed themselves each to his tent; that is, his home. This

refers to Amasa’s levies, who were glad to depart, and whom Joab did not

want at Jerusalem. He took thither with him all those mentioned in v. 7.

Incensed as David must have been at the murder of Amasa following so

quickly upon that of Absalom, yet that very act proved Joab’s

determination, and left the king powerless. He must have felt, too, that

Joab was indispensable for the maintenance of peace and order in his

dominions, and that he was at the least faithful to himself.

 

 

A Peacemaker (vs. 15-22)

 

“Then cried a wise woman out of the city, Hear! hear?” (v. 16).

 

1. Hard pressed by the forces of Joab, Sheba threw himself into the

fortified city of Abel-beth-Maachah (in the northwest extremity of

Palestine). The feelings of its inhabitants toward him are not stated. But

Joab soon appeared; and, without entering into any negotiations with them,

made preparations for attack. “Taking advantage of an oblong knoll of

natural rock that rises above the surrounding plain, the original inhabitants

raised a high mound sufficiently large for the city. With a deep trench and

strong wall it must have been almost impregnable. The besiegers cast up a

mount against the city, ‘and it stood in the trench’” etc. (Thomson, ‘The

Land and the Book’). A deadly conflict was imminent.

 

2. At this juncture a wise woman presented herself at the wall; and, having

obtained a hearing, sought to make peace; nor was her endeavor fruitless.

There was a little city,” etc. (Ecclesiastes 9:14-15). “Wisdom is better

than strength. Wisdom is better than weapons of war; but one sinner

destroyeth much good” (Ecclesiastes 9:16, 18). As one bad man

exposed the city to destruction, so one good woman effected its

deliverance.

 

3. There is often much need of a peacemaker to heal the strife that arises

between individuals, families, cities, Churches, and nations. Regarded as an

example to others, this “wise woman” of Abel:

 

  • POSSESSED AN EXCELLENT SPIRIT; observant, prudent,

sagacious, peaceful, faithful, just, and benevolent. Hence she was prompted

to go of her own accord, individually and independently, to “seek peace,

and pursue it” (I Peter 3:11; Psalm 34:12-16; Genesis 13:8-9).

 

Ø      Being grieved at the sight of strife between brethren, and the prospect

of the miseries which they were about to inflict on each other.

Ø      Being desirous of preventing the evil which threatened them, and

promoting their welfare. Her chief concern was about her own city, which

was likely to be the greater sufferer; but she was also (like Joab, v. 20)

concerned about others, and the general good of Israel, in which Abel was

“a mother city,” a part of “the inheritance of Jehovah” (v. 19).

Ø      Having faith in the common sense of men, their regard for their own

interest (when they saw it, not blinded by prejudice), their love of justice,

their generally good intentions (when not under the influence of wrath and

revenge), and their susceptibility to the power of persuasion.

Ø      Being determined to make every possible effort and sacrifice, and

undergo any personal risk and suffering for the sake of peace. She was

doubtless willing (as others have been) to lay down her own life if thereby

the lives of others might be spared. “Peacemakers are fire quenchers, who,

although they may with plying of engines and much ado, rescue a pile of

buildings from the flames, yet their eyes will be sure to smart with the

smoke” (R. Harris).

 

  • ADOPTED AN ADMIRABLE METHOD; thereby justifying the

“wisdom” with which she was credited. Perceiving that there was some

misunderstanding between the contending parties, her aim was to clear it

up; if there were any real cause of contention, to remove it; and thus

dispose them to peace. This she endeavored to effect by:

 

Ø      Seizing the opportune moment for interposition; promptly availing

herself of the pause before the attack. Instead of “battered the wall”

(Authorized Version), read, “were devising to throw down the wall.”

There is generally such a time for the work of a peacemaker, which,

if it be neglected, may be afterwards too late.

Ø      Making use of courteous, gentle, reasonable, and impressive speech.

“Hear the words of thine handmaid.” Like the woman of Tekoah

(ch. 14:4), she was a mistress in the art of persuasion. “The tongue of

the wise is health” (Proverbs 12:18); “a tree of life” (ibid. ch. 10:20; 

15:4; 18:21).

Ø      Ascertaining the nature of the misunderstanding, and the occasion of

complaint; and, for this purpose, going directly and separately to the

persons concerned, and learning it from their own lips. She knew the

sentiments of her people, especially that they felt aggrieved that no

communications should have been made to them by Joab, and suspected

his destructive and merciless designs. And now she sought to discover

what were his real thoughts and purposes in relation to them. How much

mischief would be prevented if contending parties would only be at

pains to understand one another!

Ø      Removing all misconception, and producing the conviction in each

party of the just aims and good intentions of the other. To Joab she

said, “You evidently deem this city deficient in good sense; whereas

it has been always noted for its wisdom and conciliatory disposition

and counsel. You think the people contentious and rebellious; I assure

you in their name that we are among the most peaceable and faithful

in Israel. Yet, without any communication with us, so as to ascertain

our feelings, and without any reasonable cause, you are about to give

an important city of Israel to the devouring sword. Why will you bring

to ruin what belongs to the Lord?”  On the other hand, from his reply,

it was made apparent that he was not desirous of their destruction

(as they supposed), but only sought to inflict a just punishment on a

notorious traitor in their midst, and was under the necessity (if, as he

had supposed, they harbored him, participated with him in rebellion,

and resolved to defend him to the utmost) of making an attack upon

them for that purpose. “Far be it, far be it from me… The matter

is not so,” etc. (vs. 20-21). Misunderstanding was now at an end,

but a real occasion of difference remained.

 

Ø      Obtaining needful concessions on both sides. “Deliver him only, and I

will depart from the city... Behold, his head shall be thrown to thee

 through the wall.” If (as is doubtful) the people had (from whatever

reason) at first shown favor to the cause of Sheba, they were now

persuaded by her to do otherwise, “and so they ended the matter.”

 

Ø      Requiring no sacrifice of principle; but only urging a course

conformable to “goodness, righteousness, and truth,” and consistent with

professed obedience to the will of the Lord. “The just punishment of

one atrocious criminal is frequently mercy to great numbers”

(Scott). “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which

no man shall see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14; Romans 14:19;

James 3:17-18).

 

  • ACHIEVED AN EMINENT TRIUMPH — the triumph of peace.

“And he blew the trumpet” (v. 22) summoning to peace, as Sheba had

blown it summoning to war (v. 1). It was a victory over error, distrust,

wilfullness, wrath, injustice, rebellion; and one by which:

 

Ø      An immense evil was prevented.

Ø      The general good was promoted.

Ø      The Divine kingdom (as represented in the government of David) was

confirmed.

Ø      The peacemaker’s joy was fulfilled. The wise woman accomplished

what she had set her heart upon; and in blessing others was herself

blessed. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” etc. (Matthew 5:9).

“Of the following things,” said a Jewish rabbi, “men reap the fruits

both in the present and the future life — honoring father and mother,

bestowing benefits, and making peace between men.”

 

  • REMARKS.

 

Ø      It is hardly possible to estimate too highly the worth of peace among

men.

Ø      Those who would make peace between others must themselves be at

peace with God, with their own hearts, and with their neighbors. The

peacemaker must not be a peace-breaker.

Ø      The greatest Peacemaker the world has ever seen is Jesus Christ,

who is “our Peace” (Ephesians 2:14) and "the Prince of Peace".

(Isaiah 9:6)

Ø      In proportion as we partake of His spirit we shall endeavor to heal

allunholy strife and promote “peace on earth.”

 

23 "Now Joab was over all the host of Israel: and Benaiah the son of

Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and over the Pelethites:"

Now Joab, etc. With this list of his chief officers, the narrator

closes the history of David’s reign; for the remaining four chapters form a

kind of appendix. A similar list closes ch. 8., where, too, there is a break in

the history, the previous narrative having been a summary of the rapid rise

of David’s empire. In this section, ch. 9-20, we have a more full and

detailed account of David’s wars, leading on to his crime and its

punishment. The rest of David’s life we may trust was calm and uneventful,

but it was the life of a sorrow stricken man; and the sword again woke up

against his family when his end was approaching, and filled his dying hours

with grief and trouble. This list is much later in date than that previously

given, though most of the officers are the same. Cherethites. This is a

correction of the Massorites to make the passage agree with ch. 8:18.

The K’tib has cari, a word which occurs in II Kings 11:4, 19,

where in the Authorized Version it is translated “captains,” but in the

Revised Version Carites, which here appears only in the margin. But there

is no reason why the place of the Cherethites should not have been taken

by Carian mercenaries later on in David’s reign, though really we know too

little about such matters to be able to form a judgment. Some

commentators translate cari “digger,” and suppose that it means

executioner; but why a digger should have such a meaning is inexplicable.

It may be interesting to add that the Carians were famous in old times as

mercenaries. During the reign of Manasseh, Psammetichus won the throne

of all Egypt by the aid of Carians, and from that period they took a leading

part in all Egyptian wars. The age of David is much more antique, but as

there was constant communication between Phoenicia and Asia Minor and

Greece, there is nothing improbable in David taking Carians into his service

in place of the Philistine Cherethites. His connection with them would soon

cease after he left Ziklag.

 

24 "And Adoram was over the tribute: and Jehoshaphat the son of

Ahilud was recorder:"   Adoram was over the tribute. This was a new officer,

and a new thing. For the Hebrew word mas does not mean “tribute,” but “forced

labor.” This was one of the most oppressive exactions of old time, and it

continued to be practiced in Europe throughout the Middle Ages until it

was abolished at the end of the eighteenth century by the French

Revolution, except in Russia, where the serfs were freed from it by the late

emperor Alexander II. Nevertheless, it was probably made almost

necessary at first by the absence of money. As there was no money for the

payment of taxes, the dues of the king or lord could only be rendered by

personal service. Yet even so it was exceedingly liable to be abused, and

the people might be taken from their own homes and fields just when their

presence there was most needed. One most painful result was that the

women had to endure, upon the farm and among the cattle, a drudgery to

which they were unsuited. We gather from this passage that it was David

who began this practice in Israel, exacting probably only from the

descendants of the Canaanites (who, nevertheless, formed a considerable

portion of the inhabitants of Palestine) forced labor employed in preparing

for the building of the temple, and in the fortifications of his fenced cities.

Under Solomon it seems to have been extended to other classes (I Kings 5:13-14;

but see ibid. ch. 9:20-22), and reduced to a system, which pressed so heavily

upon the people that it was the principal cause of the revolt of the ten tribes

from Rehoboam (ibid. ch. 12:4). Unless the Israelites had themselves suffered

severely from this exaction, they would not have been driven into rebellion 

by sympathy with the remains of the native races. Subsequently we find

Jeremiah accusing Jehoiakim of employing forced labor (Jeremiah 22:13),

but the severity with which he condemned it suggests that it had then ceased

to be customary. Adoram. His appointment to this office was probably at a

late period in David’s reign, as he continued to hold the office under

Solomon (I Kings 4:6; 5:14, where he is called Adoniram), and even down

to the beginning of Rehoboam’s reign (ibid. ch.12:18). We there read that he

paid the penalty of his hateful office with his life. In II Chronicles 10:18 he is

called Hadoram.

 

25 "And Sheva was scribe: and Zadok and Abiathar were the priests:"

Sheva. He is called Seraiah in ch. 8:17.

 

26 "And Ira also the Jairite was a chief ruler about David."

Ira… was a chief ruler; Hebrew, cohen, priest, minister (see

on this term, ibid. v. 18). We there find David’s sons holding this

confidential office; but the feuds which resulted from David’s sin had

destroyed the concord of the family, and the usefulness of David’s children.

In their degradation from this office we see also a preparation for their

being set aside from the succession, and the throne given to Solomon.

 

 

ADDITIONAL NOTE.

 

With this chapter ends the second section of David’s history; for, as we

have already seen, the last four chapters are not arranged in chronological

order, but form an appendix remarkable both for the singularly varied

nature of its contents, and also for its omissions. The Second Book of

Samuel is so thoroughly a history of David, that we should naturally have

expected some account of his latter years, and of his manner of

government after his return to power. But such details would have been

interesting politically rather than spiritually, and the two narratives which

have gone before are complete each in itself; and in each David is regarded

from an entirely distinct point of view.

 

  • In the first eight chapters we have the history of David as the theocratic king.

As such he takes the heathen for his inheritance, and founds an empire. Even

more remarkable are the alterations he makes in the worship of Jehovah.

To the old Levitical sacrifices he added a far more spiritual service of psalms

and minstrelsy, without which Judaism would have been unable to develop

the evangelical realities which lay embedded in its ritual and legal ordinances.

And it is important to notice that his service of sacred song is called

“prophecy” (I Chronicles 25:1-3), from which we learn two things.

 

Ø      The first that David’s service was essentially the same as that

established by Samuel at Ramah. There, too, we read of the

company of the prophets prophesying (I Samuel 19:20),

their service undoubtedly being one of minstrelsy

(ibid. ch. 10:5, 10-11); and without Samuel’s authority David

would scarcely have ventured upon so great an innovation. Even so,

this consecration of music by Samuel, and David’s ordinance

whereby there was established a daily service, morning and evening,

of thanksgiving and praise (1 Chronicles 23:30; Nehemiah 12:24),

is a most remarkable step forward; and by it the service of God ceased

to be mere ritual, and became “a reasonable service” (Romans 12:1),

such as was repeatedly commended by St. Paul to the members of the

Christian Church (Colossians 3:16, etc.).

 

Ø      But secondly, it drew the minds of the people to the evangelic meaning

of the Levitical ordinances. To this day hymns form a most important

part of our solemn services, and seem especially adapted to draw out

the inner and deeper meaning of rites and doctrines.  They did not,

indeed, begin with David. There are psalms older than his reign;

but this consecration of them to the public daily service of God led

to an outburst of Divine psalmody which raised the minds of the people

above the material and grosser elements of their worship, and taught

them the true nature of God, and made them ascribe to Him high and

spiritual attributes in wonderful contrast with the groveling frivolities

of heathenism. The Levitical worship was necessarily typical: in the

psalms the people learned that God desireth not sacrifice, but the

offering of a broken and contrite heart. Even prophecy, in its sense

of speaking for God, would scarcely have reached the high eminence

of future days but for the psalms. For only in a nation deeply imbued

with poetry and song could an Isaiah have arisen, capable of giving

in so perfect an outward form:

 

o       the mysteries of Christ’s incarnation,

o       His vicarious sacrifice, and

o       His universal kingdom.

 

  • In the second section, neither the theocratic nor the prophetic element is in

the forefront. It is the history of a fearful sin, and of its stern punishment.

The sinner is the theocratic king: the punishment is the pollution of his house

by incest and murder; the ruin of the glory of his realm, the rending asunder

of his empire, begun in his days and consummated in those of his grandson;

his own disgrace and flight; and his sorrowful return to his throne, impotent

to avenge either the murder of his son or that of the man whom he had

chosen in the hope that he would release him from the stern grip of the

ruthless Joab. The moral lessons of this sad story are beyond number.

We see the saint changed into a sinner. No privileges save him from

hateful crime; no repentance from draining the last dregs of the

bitter cup of retribution. But never was the power of repentance in cleansing

the heart and giving peace to the conscience more clearly shown; and the

psalms written by David as a penitent, and during his flight from Absalom,

are the most spiritual and choice and edifying of the whole Psalter. Without

them the depths of self-abasement would have been left without inspired

expression. The sinner in his greatest need, when crushed with the conviction

of sin, when earnestly longing for forgiveness, when thirsting for the restored

presence of God within his soul, and when feeling that, vile as he was, yet

that he was not shut out from mercy, but that access to God’s presence was

still permitted him; — at all such times he would have gone to his Bible,

and it would have been silent. These psalms are still the sinner’s comfort,

 and give him the words which best express what is present in his heart.

Without them the Jewish Church would never have reached that fervid

purity of spiritual feeling which so animated the prophets; and even the

Christian Church would possibly have stopped short of that full doctrine

of repentance which she now holds. It is, indeed, the Christian’s privilege

to unite the doctrine of repentance with the thought of all that Christ has

done and suffered for us, and so to  understand why repentance avails to

cleanse the heart; but even with this knowledge no Christian writer has ever

reached so high a level of spirituality as David, though we may thankfully

acknowledge that many of our best hymns do not fall far short of it.

 

It is easy, then, to see that these two histories are not only of primary

importance, but that no narrative after the time of the Exodus equals them

in value. They form the very kernel of the Book of the Earlier Prophets,

giving us, in the first, the true meaning and spiritual import of the

settlement of Israel in Palestine; and setting before us, in the second, the

nature of repentance, and so preparing the way for the revelation of the

gospel of pardon and peace.

 

  • They are followed by an appendix containing several narratives recorded

apparently for their intrinsic value. Commentators have endeavored to

trace a connection between them, but their arguments are farfetched, and

their conclusions unsatisfactory. It is better to regard them as separate and

complete, each one in itself. They are six in number:

 

Ø      the visitation of famine because of Saul’s cruelty to the Gibeonites;

Ø      some incidents in the war with the Philistines, illustrating the heroic

character of David’s worthies;

Ø      David’s psalm of deliverance;

Ø      David’s last words;

Ø      a list of the Gibborim, with special records of acts of bravery and

devotion;

Ø      the visitation of pestilence because of David’s numbering the people.

 

The third and fourth sections especially are of the highest interest; while

the second makes it plain that David’s bravery in encountering the giant of

Gath lit up an equally bright flame of patriotic heroism in the armies of

Israel.

 

 

       The Causes and Remedies of Religious Strife (vs. 14-26)

 

  • THE TRUE CONDITION OF THE PROFESSED SERVANTS OF

CHRIST IS THAT OF UNITY AND CONCORD. The strife between

Joab’s forces and the people of this city was unnatural. They were

brethren, the chosen race, called and separated from all nations to work out

a blessed purpose in which all men were concerned. Unity and concord

became them. How good and beautiful a thing for them to dwell in

harmony! (Psalm 133:1)  The siege of Abel was a sign of an abnormal state

of things. This is just what is taught in the New Testament. Christ’s disciples

are a holy nation, a peculiar people, called to show forth the glory of God

and to bless mankind (I Peter 2:9), and in His last most solemn discourses

and great prayer He sets forth their unity and concord as the only state

befitting them, and congruous with His spirit (John 14-17).

 

  • THE BREAKING OUT OF RELIGIOUS STRIFE IS PRODUCTIVE

OF SERIOUS MISCHIEF, AND THREATENS THE CHURCH AND

THE WORLD WITH GREAT CALAMITIES. The fact of the strife is

itself an evil, and indicates the presence somewhere of a mind alien to the

mind of Christ; but also it generates evils of varied form, and intensifies

their action in proportion as the spirit of strife is intense. Leaving out of

view just now the revolt of Sheba against the lawful authority of David —

regarding him in that respect as a type of the men who reject the authority

of Christ — we see that there existed a strife between men who had not

rejected David’s authority. Joab was contending against the whole city of

Abel as though it were hostile to him, and many in the city were

contending against him as though he were an enemy. The evils of this were

obvious: bad feelings were engendered and strengthened the longer the

siege continued, desolation and anguish were being brought on many

homes, the city as a center of influence — a mother of children — was

having its power for good cut off, and the one kingdom to which all

belonged was being checked in its progress. That was the belief of the wise

woman and her friends, and it was in accordance with facts. Precisely the

same evils attend our more modern strifes. When subjects of the same Lord

are engaged in conflict, whatever the passing occasion, there is not only a

dire evil in the fact itself, but inevitably bitter unhallowed feelings find

scope, many a Christian heart and home are made desolate and sad,

Churches and organizations that should embody in themselves all the kindly

fostering influences of mothers have their proper spiritual influence.

weakened, and the progress of the kingdom of love, peace, and

righteousness receives a check. “The inheritance of the Lord” is laid waste.

“The boar out of the wood doth waste it” (Psalm 80:13).

 

  • THE CAUSES OF RELIGIOUS STRIFE MAY LIE IN MUTUAL

MISUNDERSTANDING AND NEGLECT OF PRIMARY

OBLIGATIONS. Joab fought against this city on the supposition that it

was in sympathy with Sheba; and the people themselves for a while were

constrained by his assaults to assume a defensive attitude. Had he at first,

in accordance with Deuteronomy 20:11-12, sought an interview with

the elders, and had they been willing, in the spirit of that ancient rule, to

receive his communications, the strife had earlier come to a close, and

brethren would have been one. The beginnings of strife are very subtle, and

it is hard to unravel the true causes from among the intricate thoughts and

feelings of the human mind; and the incidents which occasion the

appearance of strife may be as far beyond the control of communities as

was the sudden throwing of an armed force by Sheba into this unguarded

city. But most often strife is kept up through mutual misunderstandings.

Opinions are supposed to be held which, if fairly looked at in an early

stage, would not be ascribed, and motives are imagined which would

disappear on closer acquaintance. Perhaps it is inevitable that, differently

constituted and educated as men are, judgments must differ as to the form

of expressing truth and doing Christian work; but these need not cause

actual strife, if formed in a prayerful loving spirit, and all for the glory of

Christ, and especially may much contention be avoided if men will but

discharge the primary obligation laid down in the ancient law (John 15:12;

Matthew 5:44), of loving and praying for one another, and being

frank and generous in fellowship (Matthew 18:15-16).

 

  • IT IS THE DUTY OF PERSONS OF REPUTED WISDOM TO

BRING ALL THEIR INFLUENCE TO BEAR ON THE PROMOTION

OF PEACE AND HARMONY. The “wise woman” and those of her mind

in the city were but discharging a duty they owed to their city, their king,

and the kingdom, when, amidst the discords of the time, they brought their

superior intelligence to bear on a solution of the difficulties of the case.

They evidently saw that, if more light were thrown upon the affair, and

proper kindly influences were brought to bear on Joab, those would

become friends who now were m the unnatural position of enemies. The

leaders of opinion in the city showed their good feeling in being willing to

come to terms, and their discretion in availing themselves of the superior

gifts and qualities of this “wise woman.” The proper place of intelligence

and wisdom is at the head of movements in the direction of concord. A

serious injury is inflicted on the Church in seasons of trial and conflict

when men of character and repute keep in the background, and leave the

conduct of affairs to inferior minds. Acquired reputation is a precious gift

that should be cheerfully laid at the service of the Church, especially in

seasons of sorrow. The soothing, healing power of the noblest minds is a

great blessing.

 

  • THE OCCASION OF STRIFE BEING ASCERTAINED, EVERY

EFFORT SHOULD BE MADE TO PUT IT AWAY. The occasion of the

strife in this instance was the presence within the city of a rebel and a

traitor. Had it not been for Sheba entering the city, Joab and the people

would not have so misunderstood each other as to come to actual conflict.

Mutual inquiry and explanations revealed the fact that Sheba was the occasion

of trouble; and therefore the citizens devised means of getting rid of him in

accordance with the rude and swift justice of those times. If in our religious

strifes, whether as between communities or within separate organizations,

we, in our desire for peace, search out some removable occasion of them,

it then becomes an imperative duty that we not only wish to see the

occasion removed, but that we make vigorous efforts, though full of pain

and sorrow, to put them away. What the disturbing cause may be — evil

minded men, or narrow ideas of our own, or unhallowed feeling, or an

exacting temper, or undue pressure of the influence of the world — can

only be found out by conscientious rigorous search; and, when found out,

it will probably demand a very high and holy resolve to cast it away.

Probably one chief reason why there is not more peace and harmony

among Christians is that they have not the heart to go deep down into the

moral causes of strife, and less heart to cut off those causes when

discovered. It takes very much grace to be a thoroughgoing Christian.

 

  • GENERAL LESSONS.

 

Ø      Communities and individuals should watch carefully against the intrusion

within themselves of whatever may bring on a disruption of our peaceable

relations to the fellowship of the saints.

Ø      It is possible to imagine others to be hostile in feeling to us, when, on

full inquiry, it may turn out that they have been misjudged; and hence we

should be careful not to be rash in imputing motives to persons who are

casually placed in circumstances of seeming antagonism.  (Get it

straight or leave it alone, the conclusion that you come to may be your

own.  CY - 2018)

Ø      The influence of cities in a nation and of Christian communities in the

world being maternal in character, their purity, peacefulness, and power

should be most jealously guarded.

Ø      The influence of woman in promoting peace in the Church of God is

worthy of the consideration of all, seeing that it is often underestimated,

and that its power is of the most subtle and persuasive kind.

Ø      We see in the removal of Sheba, the occasion of the trouble in the

earthly kingdom, and the subsequent harmony of the chosen nation during

the reign of David, a foreshadowing of the final removal of the great spirit

of discord from the Church of God, and the consequent peace and unity of

the redeemed.

 

 

 

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