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Sheba raises an insurrection, and gains a party in Israel, 2 Samuel 20:1, 2 Samuel 20:2. David shuts up the ten concubines who were defiled by Absalom, 2 Samuel 20:3. Amasa is sent to assemble the men of Judah, 2 Samuel 20:4, 2 Samuel 20:5. And in the mean time Abishai is sent to pursue Sheba, 2 Samuel 20:6, 2 Samuel 20:7. Joab treacherously murders Amasa, 2 Samuel 20:8-12. Joab and the army continue the pursuit of Sheba, 2 Samuel 20:13, 2 Samuel 20:14. He is besieged in Abel; and, by the counsels of a wise woman, the people of Abel cut off his head, and throw it over the wall to Joab; who blows the trumpet of peace, and he and his men return to Jerusalem, 2 Samuel 20:15-22. Account of David‘s civil and military officers, 2 Samuel 20:23-26.
Sheba, the son of Bichri - As this man was a Benjamite, he probably belonged to the family of Saul; and he seems to have had considerable influence in Israel to raise such an insurrection: but we know nothing farther of him than what is related in this place.
We have no part in David - We of Israel, we of the ten tribes, are under no obligation to the house of David. Leave him, and let every man fall into the ranks under his own leader.
The ten women - He could not well divorce them; he could not punish them, as they were not in the transgression; he could no more be familiar with them, because they had been defiled by his son; and to have married them to other men might have been dangerous to the state: therefore he shut them up and fed them - made them quite comfortable, and they continued as widows to their death.
Then said the king to Amasa - Thus he invests him with the command of the army, and sends him to collect the men of Judah, and to come back to receive his orders in relation to Sheba, in three days. It appears that Amasa found more difficulty in collecting his country-men than was at first supposed; and this detaining him beyond the three days, David, fearing that Sheba‘s rebellion would get head, sent Abishai, who it appears was accompanied by Joab, to pursue after Sheba.
Amasa, it seems, got up with them at Gibeon, 2 Samuel 20:8, where he was treacherously murdered by the execrable Joab.
Joab‘s garment - It appears that this was not a military garment; and that Joab had no arms but a short sword, which he had concealed in his girdle; and this sword, or knife, was so loose in its sheath that it could be easily drawn out. It is thought farther, that Joab, in passing to Amasa, stumbled, (for so some of the versions, and able critics, understand the words it fell out). and that the sword fell down when he stumbled; that he took it up with his left hand as if he had no bad intention; and then, taking Amasa by the beard with his right hand, pretending to kiss him, he, with his sword in his left hand, ripped up his bowels. This seems to be the meaning of this very obscure verse. It is worthy of remark that in the Eastern country it is the beard, not the man, which is usually kissed.
In the fifth rib - I believe חמש (chomesh), which we render here and elsewhere the fifth rib, means any part of the abdominal region. The Septuagint translate it την ψοαν , the groin; the Targum, the right side of the thigh, i.e., (the phrase of the Targumist being interpreted), the privy parts. That it means some part of the abdominal region, is evident from what follows, And shed out his bowels to the ground. It appears from this that, in plain English, he ripped up his belly.
He that favoureth Joab - As if he had said, There is now no other commander besides Joab; and Joab is steadily attached to David: let those therefore who are loyal follow Joab.
Amasa wallowed in blood - It is very likely that Amasa did not immediately die; I have known instances of persons living several hours after their bowels had been shed out.
Unto Abel - This is supposed to have been the capital of the district called Abilene in St. Luke‘s Gospel, Luke 3:1.
Beth-maachah - Is supposed to have been in the northern part of the Holy Land, on the confines of Syria, and probably in the tribe of Naphtali.
They cast up a bank against the city - The word סללה (solelah), which we render bank, means, most probably, a battering engine of some kind, or a tower overlooking the walls, on which archers and slingers could stand and annoy the inhabitants, while others of the besiegers could proceed to sap the walls. That it cannot be a bank that stood in the trench, is evident from the circumstance thus expressed.
A wise woman - She was probably governess.
They shall surely ask counsel at Abel - This is a proverb, but from what it originated we know not; nor can we exactly say what it means: much must be supplied to bring it to speak sense. Abel was probably famed for the wisdom of its inhabitants; and parties who had disputes appealed to their judgment, which appears to have been in such high reputation as to be final by consent of all parties. To this the wise woman refers, and intimates to Joab that he should have proceeded in this way before he began to storm the city, and destroy the peaceable inhabitants.
I - peaceable and faithful in Israel - I am for peace, not contention of any kind; I am faithful - I adhere to David, and neither seek nor shall sanction any rebellion or anarchy in the land. Why then dost thou proceed in such a violent manner? Perhaps the woman speaks here in the name and on behalf of the city: “I am a peaceable city, and am faithful to the king.”
A mother in Israel - That is, a chief city of a district; for it is very likely that the woman speaks of the city, not of herself.
His head shall be thrown to thee - Thus it appears she had great sway in the counsels of the city; and that the punishment of a state rebel was then, what it is now in this kingdom, beheading.
Joab was over all the host - He had murdered Amasa, and seized on the supreme command: and such was his power at present, and the service which he had rendered to the state by quelling the rebellion of Sheba, that David was obliged to continue him; and dared not to call him to account for his murders without endangering the safety of the state by a civil war.
Benaiah - over the Cherethites - Benaiah was over the archers and slingers.
See the notes on 2 Samuel 8:18.
Adoram was over the tribute - Probably the chief receiver of the taxes; or Chancellor of the Exchequer, as we term it.
Jehoshaphat - recorder - The registrar of public events.
Shevah was scribe - The king‘s secretary.
Ira - was a chief ruler about David - The Hebrew is כהן לדויד (cohen ledavid), a priest to David; and so the Vulgate, Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic. The Chaldee has רב (rab), a prince, or chief. He was probably a sort of domestic chaplain to the king. We know that the kings of Judah had their seers, which is nearly the same: Gad was David‘s seer, 2 Samuel 24:11, and Jeduthun was the seer of King Josiah, 2 Chronicles 35:16.
The conclusion of this chapter is very similar to the conclusion of 2 Samuel 8:16-18 (note), where see the notes.