Sheba’s Rebellion. 1Now a scoundrel named Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjaminite, happened to be there. He sounded the horn and cried out,
“We have no share in David,
nor any heritage in the son of Jesse.
Everyone to your tents, O Israel!”a
2So all the Israelites left David to follow Sheba, son of Bichri. But the Judahites, from the Jordan to Jerusalem, remained loyal to their king. 3David came to his house in Jerusalem, and the king took the ten concubines whom he had left behind to care for the palace and placed them under guard. He provided for them, but never again saw them. And so they remained shut away to the day of their death, lifelong widows.b
Amasa’s Death. 4Then the king said to Amasa: “Summon the Judahites for me within three days. Then present yourself here.”c 5Accordingly Amasa set out to summon Judah, but delayed beyond the time set for him. 6Then David said to Abishai: “Sheba, son of Bichri, may now do us more harm than Absalom did. Take your lord’s servants and pursue him, lest he find fortified cities and take shelter while we look on.” 7So Joab and the Cherethites and Pelethites and all the warriors marched out behind Abishai from Jerusalem to campaign in pursuit of Sheba, son of Bichri.d 8* They were at the great stone in Gibeon when Amasa met them. Now Joab had a belt over his tunic, from which was slung a sword in its sheath at his thigh; the sword would slide out downwards.e 9Joab asked Amasa, “Is everything all right, my brother?” and with his right hand held Amasa’s beard as if to kiss him. 10And since Amasa was not on his guard against the sword in Joab’s other hand, Joab stabbed him in the abdomen with it, so that his entrails burst forth to the ground, and he died; there was no second thrust. Then Joab and Abishai his brother pursued Sheba, son of Bichri.f 11One of Joab’s attendants stood by Amasa and said, “Let him who favors Joab and is for David follow Joab.” 12Amasa lay covered with blood in the middle of the highroad, and the man noticed that all the soldiers were stopping. So he rolled Amasa away from the road to the field and spread a garment over him, because he saw how all who came upon him were stopping. 13When he had been removed from the road, everyone went on after Joab in pursuit of Sheba, son of Bichri.
Joab Pursues Sheba. 14Sheba had passed through all the tribes of Israel to Abel Beth-maacah. Then all the Bichrites assembled and they too entered the city after him. 15So all Joab’s troops came and besieged him in Abel Beth-maacah. They built up a mound against the city, so that it stood against the rampart, and were battering the wall to knock it down. 16Then a wise woman from the city called out, “Listen, listen! Tell Joab, ‘Come here, so I can speak with you.’” 17When Joab had come near her, the woman said, “Are you Joab?” And he replied, “Yes.” She said to him, “Listen to what your servant has to say.” He replied, “I am listening.” 18Then she went on to say: “There is a saying from long ago,* ‘Let them ask if they will in Abel or in Dan whether loyalty is finished 19or ended in Israel.’ You are seeking to batter down a city that is a mother in Israel. Why do you wish to swallow up the heritage of the LORD?”g 20Joab answered, “Not at all, not at all! I do not wish to swallow or batter anything. 21That is not the case at all. A man from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name is Sheba, son of Bichri, has rebelled against King David. Give him up, just him, and I will withdraw from the city.” Then the woman said to Joab, “His head shall be thrown to you across the wall.” 22In her wisdom, the woman went to all the people, and they cut off the head of Sheba, son of Bichri, and threw it out to Joab. He then sounded the horn, and they scattered from the city to their own tents, while Joab returned to Jerusalem to the king.
David’s Officials. 23Joab was in command of the whole army of Israel. Benaiah, son of Jehoiada, was in command of the Cherethites and Pelethites.h 24Adoram was in charge of the forced labor. Jehoshaphat, son of Ahilud, was the chancellor. 25Shawsha was the scribe. Zadok and Abiathar were priests.i 26Ira the Jairite was also David’s priest.
* [20:8] The text of this verse is quite uncertain.
* [20:18–19] This proverbial expression is obscure but seems to reflect a tradition that this Danite town was associated with oracles or other sorts of revelation. Cf. Mt 16:13–17; and the intertestamental Testament of Levi 2:3.
a. [20:1] 1 Kgs 12:16.
b. [20:3] 2 Sm 15:16; 16:20–22.
c. [20:4] 2 Sm 17:25; 19:14.
h. [20:23] 2 Sm 8:16–18; 23:20.