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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 20

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2982. B.C. 1022.

A new rebellion raised by Sheba, 2 Samuel 20:1 , 2 Samuel 20:2 . David confines his ten concubines for life, 2 Samuel 20:3 . Joab murders Amasa, 2 Samuel 20:4-12 . Pursues Sheba to Abel, 2 Samuel 20:13-15 . He is delivered up, 2 Samuel 20:16-22 . David’s great officers, 2 Samuel 20:23-26 .

Verse 1

2 Samuel 20:1. There happened to be there, &c. His presence was casual in itself, though ordered by God’s providence. A man of Belial A wicked and lawless person, one who attempted to shake off the yoke of civil authority. A Benjamite And therefore grieved at the translation of the kingdom from Saul and that tribe, to David and the tribe of Judah. We have no part in David The tribe of Judah have monopolized the king to themselves, and will not allow us any share in him; let them therefore enjoy him alone, and let us seek out a new king. The son of Jesse An expression of contempt, implying that he was no more to be owned as their king, but as a private person, as the son of Jesse. To his tents Let us all desist from that unthankful office, of bringing the king back, and go each to our homes, that we may consider, and then meet together to choose a new king.

Verse 2

2 Samuel 20:2. So every man of Israel went up from after David Instead of going home, the generality of those Israelites who were present followed their seditious incendiary. But the men of Judah clave to their king None of them stirred from him, but conducted him from Jordan to Jerusalem. Nor is it to be supposed that all the men of Israel forsook him; but only a very great number of them.

Verse 3

2 Samuel 20:3. But went not in unto them He looked upon them as become impure to him, having been defiled by his son. They were shut up to the day of their death, living in widowhood Being royal wives, it was not proper they should be married to any one else, and therefore David did not give them a bill of divorce, but shut them up close, that no man might have converse with them. And indeed it would not have been prudent to have let them be so much as seen abroad, as that would have renewed the remembrance of Absalom’s crime.

Verses 4-5

2 Samuel 20:4-5 . Assemble me the men of Judah David here made good his promise to Amasa, which was a great encouragement to others in the tribe of Judah to adhere to him. And by this means also the seditious Israelites might be the sooner brought to reason, when they saw their old general in the field against them. He tarried longer than the set time Finding some difficulty in the business, either because the people, being wearied out by the late war, were not forward to engage in another; or because the soldiers had more affection to Joab than to their new general.

Verses 6-7

2 Samuel 20:6-7. Then David said to Abishai Not to Joab; lest by this means he should recover his place, and Amasa be discontented, and David’s fidelity in making good his promise to Amasa be questioned. Now shall Sheba do us more harm than Absalom If he have time to gather an army; the people being highly incensed by the provocation which the men of Judah had given them. Take thy lord’s servants The guards that attended David, and the standing forces which were always kept in readiness. There went out after him Joab’s men A body of men whom he particularly commanded, with whom Joab also might go in some character, watching an opportunity to do what he designed.

Verse 8

2 Samuel 20:8. Amasa went before them As their commander-in-chief. Having gathered some forces, and given due orders for the rest to follow him, he returned to Jerusalem, and by the king’s command went after those mentioned 2 Samuel 20:7, and being come up to them at the place where they waited for him, he put himself at the head of Joab’s men, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites, and such as he had brought along with him, and marched before them as their general. Joab’s garment was girded unto him After the manner of travellers and soldiers: for he had now no armour on, but only such a garment as soldiers wore, closely girt to him. Upon it a girdle with a sword A belt, in which a sword hung by his side. As he went forth To meet and salute Amasa, who was coming toward him to do him honour; it fell out Having, probably, been designedly so hung by Joab, that upon some particular motion of his body, it might drop out of the sheath, and he might take it up without awaking Amasa’s suspicion.

Verse 9

2 Samuel 20:9. Joab took Amasa by the beard As the manner of ancient times was when they saluted one another, and, it appears, is still a custom among some of the eastern people, who take one another by the chin or the beard when they would give a hearty salute. Thevenot says it is often done among the Turks, although at the same time he assures us it is a great affront to take one by the beard on any other account than to kiss him.

Verse 10

2 Samuel 20:10. Amasa took no heed to the sword Which, falling out, as it seemed, casually, he supposed that Joab intended only to put into its scabbard, and therefore took no care to defend himself against the stroke. So Joab and Abishai pursued after Sheba He boldly and immediately resumed his former place, and marched at the head of the army. It may appear strange that Amasa’s soldiers did not attempt to revenge his death; but it must be observed that not many of them were yet come up, as the following verses show, and Joab’s interest and authority with the military men were very great, especially with David’s guards, who were here present, and who had neither confidence in nor affection for Amasa, as having been the general of the rebellious army; and, as they probably thought, not fit to be put into a place of such great trust.

Verses 11-13

2 Samuel 20:11-13. One of Joab’s men stood by him By the command of his master, who knew that this would occasion disorder among Amasa’s soldiers, and therefore left a man there on purpose to deliver the following message: He that favoureth Joab He that would have Joab to be general, rather than such a perfidious rebel as Amasa. And he that is for David He that wisheth David good success against Sheba, and against all rebels. He cunningly joins David and Joab together, as if their interests were inseparable. When the man saw that all the people stood still Wondering at the spectacle, and inquiring into the occasion of it. He removed Amasa out of the highway Perceiving that it both incensed them against Joab, and hindered the king’s service. And cast a cloth upon him But the covering of blood with a cloth cannot stop its cry to God for vengeance. All the people went on after Joab They that were behind did not know that Amasa was killed, and so marched on without any scruple.

Verse 14

2 Samuel 20:14. He went through all the tribes That is, Sheba, who marched from tribe to tribe to stir them up to sedition. Unto Abel, and to Beth- maachah Or rather, unto Abel-beth-maachah, as this place is called in the Hebrew text of the next verse, to distinguish it from other Abels, and to signify that this was that Abel which was in the northern border of Canaan, toward that part of Syria called Maachah, 2 Samuel 10:8. In this city Sheba at last fixed himself, and resolved to defend it, being unable, it is likely, to raise such an army as to keep the field. All the Berites The inhabitants of the city and territory of Beroth of Benjamin, Joshua 18:25; who, being of the same tribe, if not of the same city with Sheba, adhered to him, and followed him through all the tribes of Israel.

Verse 15

2 Samuel 20:15. They came and besieged him Joab and his army pursued him thither. And cast up a bank They raised a very large mound of earth, equal, probably, to the height of the walls, from whence they might either batter the walls, or throw darts, or shoot at those that defended them. It stood in the trench This bank or mound was carried on so far, that it now stood in or near to the trench and foot of the wall; so that the city was in great danger of being taken.

Verse 16

2 Samuel 20:16. Then cried a wise woman A woman of great understanding, who also could speak well. Many such there were in Israel, as appears by the woman of Tekoah, by Abigail, and the mother of Lemuel. It seems none of all the men of Abel offered to treat with Joab: no, not when they were reduced to extremity; but one wise woman saved the city. Souls know no difference of sex: many a manly heart is lodged in a female breast. Nor is the treasure of wisdom the less valuable for being lodged in the weaker vessel.

Verses 17-18

2 Samuel 20:17-18. He answered, I do hear He did not despise her because she was a woman; but, as became a wise man, gave her a favourable audience, and attended to what she said. They shall surely ask counsel at Abel She begins with praising the city of Abel, as famous even to a proverb, time out of mind, for wisdom, and judging rightly of things. As if she had said, This city, which thou art about to destroy, is no mean and contemptible one; but so honourable and considerable for its wisdom, that when any differences arose among any of the neighbours, they used proverbially to say, We will ask the opinion and advice of the men of Abel about it, and we will stand to their arbitration; and so all parties were satisfied, and disputes ended.

Verse 19

2 Samuel 20:19. I am one of them that are peaceable, &c. She speaks in the name of the whole city, which was of a peaceable spirit, and had been faithful to David in the time of the late revolt. Thou seekest to destroy a city and a mother in Israel A great city which had many towns depending upon it. Great cities were commonly called mothers; as lesser towns or villages subject to them were called their daughters. Why wilt thou swallow up the inheritance of the Lord? By depopulating a city of that country which God hath peculiarly chosen for his people. The destruction which thou art about to bring upon us is an injury to Israel, and to the God of Israel.

Verse 21

2 Samuel 20:21. A man of mount Ephraim He is said before, 2 Samuel 20:1, to be of the tribe of Benjamin. Either, therefore, he lived in mount Ephraim, or a place in Benjamin is here called so, probably because it was upon the borders of Ephraim, or for some notable action or event of the Ephraimites in that place. His head shall be thrown to thee Which she undertook, because she knew the present temper of the citizens and soldiers too. And it is not unlikely that this woman might be a governess in that city. For, though this office was commonly performed by men, yet women were sometimes employed in the government; as we see in Deborah, who judged Israel, Judges 4:4.

Verse 22

2 Samuel 20:22. The woman went unto the people in her wisdom Prudently treated with them about it, representing to them the certainty and nearness of their ruin, if they did not speedily comply with her desires, and certain deliverance if they did. They immediately complied, and cut off the head of Sheba. He blew a trumpet, and they retired from the city Raised the siege and went home. It appears by this that it was usual to discharge them, as well as call them together, by the sound of the trumpet.

Verses 23-24

2 Samuel 20:23-24. Joab was over all the host The king continued him in the chief command of the army, because the good success of this, and of the former expedition under his conduct, had so fixed his interest with the soldiers, and others of David’s fastest friends, that he could not be displaced without danger. Adoram was over the tribute That is, he was the treasurer or receiver of the king’s revenue. Jehoshaphat was recorder See on 2 Samuel 8:16.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20". Benson's Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/2-samuel-20.html. 1857.
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