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
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
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
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
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
Shimei and Ziba to welcome David back, and, with the rest of the thousand
Benjamites, had rushed with loud cries of welcome across the
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.”
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
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."
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
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.
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
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
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).
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!”
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
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).
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
(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
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
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).
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
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,
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.
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
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.
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
And he blew a trumpet, and they retired from the city, every man to
his tent. And Joab returned to
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
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:
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).
“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;
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;
“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
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.”
Ø It is hardly possible to estimate too highly the worth of peace among
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".
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
The Causes and Remedies of Religious Strife (vs. 14-26)
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).
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).
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).
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
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.
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
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