Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 20:1
Sheba's Rebellion. - Sa2 20:1. There happened to be a worthless man there, named Sheba, a Benjaminite. He blew the trumpet, and said, "We have no part in David, nor inheritance in the son of Jesse. Every man to his tents, O Israel!" "To his tents," i.e., to his home, as in Sa2 19:9, etc.
All the men of Israel responded to this call, and went up (to the mountains) away from David and after Sheba; but the men of Judah adhered to their king from the Jordan to Jerusalem. The construction of דּבק with ועד ... מן is a pregnant one: they adhered to and followed him. The expression "from Jordan" does not prove that Sheba's rebellion broke out at the Jordan itself, and before David's arrival in Gilgal, but may be accounted for from the fact that the men of Judah had already fetched the king back across the Jordan.
As soon as David returned to his palace at Jerusalem, he brought the ten concubines whom he had left behind, and with whom Absalom had lain, into a place of safety, and took care of them, without going in unto them any more. The masculine suffixes attached to יתּגם, יכלכּלם, and אליהם are used, as they frequently are, as being the more general and indefinite, instead of the feminine, which is the more definite form. Thus were they shut up in lifelong widowhood until the day of their death. אלמנוּת is an adverbial accusative, and חיּוּת signifies "condition in life;" literally, in widowhood of life.
David then ordered Amasa to call the men of Judah to pursue Sheba the rebel, and attack him within three days, and then to present himself to him again. This commission was intended as the commencement of the fulfilment of the promise which David had given to Amasa (Sa2 19:14). It was no doubt his intention to give him the command over the army that marched against Sheba, and after the defeat of the rebel to make him commander-in-chief. But this first step towards the fulfilment of the promise was a very imprudent act, like the promise itself, since Joab, who had been commander of the army for so many years, was grievously offended by it; and moreover, being a well-tried general, he had incomparably more distinction in the tribe of Judah than Amasa, who had taken part in Absalom's rebellion and even led the rebel army, could possibly have.
But when Amasa stayed out beyond the time fixed for the execution of the royal commission (the Chethib וייחר is the Piel וייחר, whilst the Keri is either the Hiphil ויּוחר, or the imperfect Kal of יחר = אחר, cf. תּחז, Sa2 20:9, and is quite unnecessary), probably because the men of Judah distrusted him, and were not very ready to respond to his summons, David said to Abishai, "Now will Sheba the son of Bichri be more injurious (more dangerous) to us than Absalom. Take thou the servants (soldiers) of thy lord and pursue after him, lest he reach fortified cities, and tear out our eye," i.e., do us a serious injury. This is the correct explanation given by Bttcher, who refers to Deu 32:10 and Zac 2:12, where the apple of the eye is the figure used to signify the most valuable possession; for the general explanation, "and withdraw from our eye," cannot be grammatically sustained.
Thus there went after him (Abishai) Joab's men (the corps commanded by Joab), and the Crethi and Plethi (see at Sa2 8:18), out of Jerusalem, to pursue Sheba.
"When they were by the great stone at Gibeon, and Amasa came to meet them (there), Joab was girded with his armour-coat as his clothing, and the girdle of the sword was bound over it upon his loins in its sheath, which came out, and it fell (i.e., the sheath came out of the sword-belt in which it was fastened, and the sword fell to the ground), Joab said to Amasa," etc. The eighth verse contains only circumstantial clauses, the latter of which (from ויואב onwards) are subordinate to the earlier ones, so that ויּאמר (Sa2 20:9) is attached to the first clause, which describes the meeting between the advancing army and Amasa.
There is something striking, however, in the fact that Joab appears among them, and indeed, as we see from what follows, as the commander of the forces; for according to Sa2 20:6, David had commissioned Abishai, Joab's brother, to pursue Sheba, and even in Sa2 20:7 Joab's men only are mentioned. This difficulty can hardly be solved in any other manner than by the simple assumption that David had told Abishai to go out with Joab, and that this circumstance is passed over in the brief account in Sa2 20:6, in which the principal facts alone are given, and consequently the name of Joab does not occur there. Clericus adopts the following explanation. "Mention," he says, "has hitherto been made simply of the command given to Abishai, but this included an order to Joab to go as well; and there is nothing to preclude the supposition that Joab's name was mentioned by the king, although this is not distinctly stated in the brief account before us."
(Note: This difficulty cannot be removed by emendations of the text, inasmuch as all the early translators, with the exception of the Syriac, had our Hebrew text before them. Thenius does indeed propose to alter Abishai into Joab in Sa2 20:6, after the example of Josephus and the Syriac; but, as Bttcher observes, if Joab had originally formed part of the text, it could not have been altered into Abishai either accidentally or intentionally, and the Syriac translators and Josephus have inserted Joab merely from conjecture, because they inferred from what follows that Joab's name ought to be found here. But whilst this is perfectly true, there is no ground for Bttcher's own conjecture, that in the original text Sa2 20:6 read as follows: "Then David said to Joab, Behold, the three days are gone: shall we wait for Amasa?" and through the copyist's carelessness a whole line was left out. For this conjecture has no tenable support in the senseless reading of the Cod. Vat., πρὸς Ἀμεσσαΐ́ for Ἀβισαΐ́.)
Joab asked Amasa how he was, and laid hold of his bear with his right hand to kiss him. And as Amasa took no heed of the sword in Joab's hand, he smote him with it in the paunch (abdomen), and shed out his bowels upon the ground, "and repeated not (the stroke) to him" (cf. Sa1 26:8). Laying hold of the beard to kiss is still customary among Arabs and Turks as a sign of friendly welcome (vid., Arvieux, Merkwrdige Nachrichten, iv. p. 182, and Harmar, Beobachtungen, ii. p. 61). The reason for this assassination was Joab's jealousy of Amasa. Joab and Abishai then followed Sheba.
One of Joab's attendants remained standing by him (Amasa), no doubt at Joab's command, and said to the people who came thither, i.e., to the men of Judah who were collected together by Amasa (vid., Sa2 20:4), "He that favoureth Joab, and he that (is) for David, let him (go) after Joab," i.e., follow him to battle against Sheba.
Amasa lay wallowing in blood in the midst of the road; and when the man (the attendant) saw that all the people stood still (by the corpse), he turned (pushed) Amasa from the road to the field, and threw a cloth over him, whereupon they all passed by and went after Joab.
But Joab "went through all the tribes of Israel to Abela, and Beth-maacah, and all Berim." Abela (Sa2 20:15), or Abel (Sa2 20:18), has been preserved in the large Christian village of Abil, a place with ruins, and called Abil-el-Kamh on account of its excellent wheat (Kamh), which lies to the north-west of Lake Huleh, upon a Tell on the eastern side of the river Derdra; not in Ibl-el-Hawa, a place to the north of this, upon the ridge between Merj Ayun and Wady et Teim (vid., Ritter, Erdk. xv. pp. 240, 241; Robinson, Bibl. Researches, pp. 372-3; and v. de Velde, Mem. p. 280). Beth-maacah was quite close to Abela; so that the names of the two places are connected together in Sa2 20:15, and afterwards, as Abel-beth-maacah (vid., Kg1 15:20, and Kg2 15:29), also called Abel-maim in Ch2 16:4. Berim is the name of a district which is unknown to us; and even the early translators did not know how to render it. There is nothing, however, either in the πάντες ἐν χαῤῥί is the lxx or the omnes viri electi of the Vulgate, to warrant an alteration of the text. The latter, in fact, rests upon a mere conjecture, which is altogether unsuitable; for the subject to ויּקּהלוּ cannot be כּל־הבּרים on account of the vav consec., but must be obtained from ישׂראל בּכל־שׁבטי. The Chethib ויקלהו is evidently a slip of the pen for ויּקּהלוּ.
They besieged him (Sheba) in Abel-beth-maacah, and piled up a rampart against the city, so that it rose up by the town-moat (חל, the moat with the low wall belonging to it); and all the people with Joab destroyed to throw down the wall.
Then a wise woman of the city desired to speak to Joab, and said (from the wall) to him (Sa2 20:18), "They were formerly accustomed to say, ask Abel; and so they brought (a thing) to pass." These words show that Abel had formerly been celebrated for the wisdom of its inhabitants.
"I am of the peaceable, faithful in Israel: thou seekest to slay a city and mother in Israel; wherefore wilt thou destroy the inheritance of Jehovah?" The construing of אנכי with a predicate in the plural may be explained on the simple ground that the woman spoke in the name of the city as well as in its favour, and therefore had the citizens in her mind at the time, as is very evident from the figurative expression אם (mother) for mother-city or capital.
(Note: The correctness of the text is not to be called in question, as Thenius and Bttcher suppose, for the simple reason that all the older translators have followed the Hebrew text, including even the lxx with their ἐγώ εἰμι εἰρηνικὰ τῶν στηριγμάτων ἐν Ἰσραήλ; whereas the words ἅ ἔθεντο οἱ πιστοὶ τοῦ Ἰσραήλ, which some of the MSS contain at the close of Sa2 20:18 after ει ̓ ἐξέλιπον, and upon which Thenius and Bttcher have founded their conjectures, are evidently a gloss or paraphrase of התמּוּ וכן, and of so little value on critical grounds, that Tischendorf did not even think the reading worth mentioning in his edition of the Septuagint.)
The woman gave Joab to understand, in the first place, that he ought to have asked the inhabitants of Abela whether they intended to fight for Sheba before commencing the siege and destruction of the town, according to the law laid down in Deu 20:10. with reference to the siege of foreign towns; and secondly, that he ought to have taken into consideration the peaceableness and fidelity of the citizens of Abela, and not to destroy the peace-loving citizens and members of the nation of God.
The woman's words made an impression upon Joab. He felt the truthfulness of her reproaches, and replied, "Far be it, far be it from me, to swallow up or destroy." אם, as in the case of oaths: "truly not."
"It is not so (sc., as thou sayest), but a man of the mountains of Ephraim (which extended into the tribe of Benjamin: see at Sa1 1:1), Sheba the son of Bichri, hath lifted up his hand against the king David. Only give him up, and I will draw away from the city." The woman promised him this: "Behold, his head shall be thrown out to thee over the wall."
She then came to all the people (i.e., the citizens of the town) "with her wisdom," i.e., with the wise counsel which she had given to Joab, and which he had accepted; whereupon the citizens cut off Sheba's head, and threw it out to Joab. Then Joab had a trumpet blown for a retreat, and the men disbanded, whilst he himself returned to Jerusalem to the king.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 20:23
David's Ministers of State. - The second section of the history of David's reign closes, like the first (Sa2 8:16.), with a list of the leading ministers of state. The author evidently found the two lists in his sources, and included them both in his work, for the simple reason that they belonged to different periods, as the difference in the names of some of the officers clearly shows, and that they supplemented on another. The list before us belongs to a later period of David's reign than the one in Sa2 8:16-18. In addition to the office-bearers mentioned in 2 Samuel 8, we find here Adoram over the tribute, and Ira the Kairite a confidential counsellor (cohen: see at Sa2 8:18), in the place of the sons of David noticed in Sa2 8:18. The others are the same in both lists. The Chethib הכרי is to be read הכּרי (cf. Kg2 11:4, Kg2 11:19), from כוּר, perfodit, and is synonymous with הכּרתי (see at Sa2 8:18). Adoram is the same person as Adoniram, who is mentioned in Kg1 4:6 and Kg1 5:14 as overseer over the tributary service in the time of Solomon; as we may see from the fact, that the latter is also called Adoram in Kg1 12:18, and Hadoram in Ch2 10:18. Hadoram is apparently only a contracted form of the name, and not merely a copyist's mistake for Adoniram. But when we find that, according to the passage cited, the same man filled this office under three kings, we must bear in mind that he did not enter upon it till the close of David's reign, as he is not mentioned in Sa2 8:16., and that his name only occurs in connection with Rehoboam's ascent of the throne; so that there is no ground for assuming that he filled the office for any length of time under that monarch. המּס does not mean vectigal, i.e., tribute or tributary service, but tributary labourers. The derivation of the word is uncertain, and has been disputed. The appointment of a special prefect over the tributary labourers can hardly have taken place before the closing years of David's reign, when the king organized the internal administration of the kingdom more firmly than before. On the tributary labourers, see at Kg1 5:13. Ira the Jairite is never mentioned again. There is no ground for altering Jairi (the Jairite) into Jithri (the Jithrite), as Thenius proposes, since the rendering given in the Syriac ("from Jathir") is merely an inference from Sa2 23:38; and the assumption upon which this conclusion is founded, viz., that Ira, the hero mentioned in Sa2 23:38, is the same person as Ira the royal cohen, is altogether unfounded.