On the road from Jordan to Jerusalem, the tribes of Judah and Israel clashed over their respective claims over David as their king. The other tribes had taken offence when their king yet again sided with his own tribe. Among them was Sheba, son of Bikri, who was the most vocal in expressing his disdain for David. Following his lead, the other tribes of Israel deserted David and went with Sheba. This did not bode well with David, as the king was furious with the son of Bikri and feared that he would stage a coup in the near future.
David said to Abishai, “Now Sheba son of Bikri will do us more harm than Absalom did. Take your master’s men and pursue him, or he will find fortified cities and escape from us.” So Joab’s men and the Kerethites and Pelethites and all the mighty warriors went out under the command of Abishai. They marched out from Jerusalem to pursue Sheba son of Bikri.2 Samuel 20:6-7 (NIV)
Joab Gets His Revenge
As the men reached the region of Gibeon, the brothers, Joab and Abishai, met Amasa, who was returning from an errand for the king. David had sent him to gather the men of Judah as they needed all hands on deck should a possible war erupt with Sheba and the rest of the Benjamites. When Joab saw Amasa alone and so far away from Jerusalem, he took his opportunity (as he had done before with Abner) and killed the man who had replaced him as the commander of Israel.
In his plea to the tribe of Judah, David had committed to reinstating the right-hand man of his son Absalom, Amasa, as the commander of his forces. Perhaps he was angry at Joab for killing his son Absalom and that prompted him to embrace the switch to a new commander. However, the stamp of approval that the king had given to his cousin Amasa, did not deter Joab from pursuing his own interests. Joab has always gone by the beat of his own drum and his actions in the past have brought favourable results for the kingdom.
One of Joab’s men stood beside Amasa and said, “Whoever favors Joab, and whoever is for David, let him follow Joab!” Amasa lay wallowing in his blood in the middle of the road, and the man saw that all the troops came to a halt there. When he realized that everyone who came up to Amasa stopped, he dragged him from the road into a field and threw a garment over him. After Amasa had been removed from the road, everyone went on with Joab to pursue Sheba son of Bikri.2 Samuel 20:11-13 (NIV)
Seeing Amasa’s lifeless corpse became a mental block for the men of Judah, as they could not pass his body. They had their trust in David and believed that Amasa’s appointment would reign in a new dawn for the kingdom. They went into a state of shock, as the body had to be removed from the road before they could move forward. It was clear from this that not everybody was on board with the idea of David and Joab being back in charge at Jerusalem and perhaps that is why Joab took this step to draw the battle lines within his own tribe.
The Wise Woman of Abel
Meanwhile, Sheba had gone through the northern kingdom all the way to Abel Beth Maakah and hid in the fortified city hoping to have the support of its residents. But when Joab and his men came knocking, the people knew that they would not stop till they had killed Sheba even if it meant tearing their little town apart. So they sent a wise woman who lived in Abel to convince Joab to turn around and return to Jerusalem. The woman did not mince words as she knew the warpath David and his men were on but simply struck a deal for Abel’s sovereignty in exchange for Sheba’s severed head.
Then the woman went to all the people with her wise advice, and they cut off the head of Sheba son of Bikri and threw it to Joab. So he sounded the trumpet, and his men dispersed from the city, each returning to his home. And Joab went back to the king in Jerusalem.2 Samuel 20:22 (NIV)
The city was supposedly neutral and did not wish to be dragged into a tussle for the throne. They instead enjoy their peace rather than have one of their own rule the land. Due to the quick actions of the wise woman, the city was rescued from impending doom as the war with the men of Judah was subverted. In the end, they sided with David and Joab as they were ready to throw Sheba to the wolves with his head chopped off.
With the execution of Sheba, son of Bikri, a message would have been sent throughout the land to deter anyone who planned any further sedition against the king. It is a shame that David could not be so ruthless with his own son when he staged a coup against him as that would have saved countless lives. However, he has no qualms in granting the execution of the sons of Saul when the Gibeonites came looking for their blood.
During his final years as the king of Israel, we see David’s once close relationship with God decimated as he is reduced to political ploys that would garner the favour of the people than accomplish the will of the Father. The minute David started caring about the opinion of the elders of the tribe of Judah, he abandoned the path of God. We see him further drift away from God in the final chapters as Israel undergoes a severe famine, the first of its kind during the reigns of both Saul and David.
When we start caring about the voices around us, we inevitably muffle out the voice of God from our lives. We tend to bend our faith and let go of our former beliefs to please those around us. Seeing the contrast in David’s relationship with God during his formative years and his later years, we must go back to our roots. Reclaim our connections with God that helped us come to him initially. Muffle out the voices of this world that force us to bind by its traditions and rituals and simply obey the voice of God to accomplish His will in our lives.
- 2 Samuel 20:6 – Why is David planning his military Strategies with Abishai and not Joab?
- 2 Samuel 20:10 – Why did Joab kill Amasa when things were getting back to normal?
- 2 Samuel 20:13 – Why was seeing Amasa’s lifeless corpse a mental block for the men of Judah?
- 2 Samuel 20:22 – Was killing Sheba the only way to bring back peace in the land?