2 Samuel 20

Just then a good-for-nothing named Sheba son of Bicri the Benjaminite blew a blast on the ram’s horn trumpet, calling out,

We’ve got nothing to do with David,
    there’s no future for us with the son of Jesse!
Let’s get out of here, Israel—head for your tents!

So all the men of Israel deserted David and followed Sheba son of Bicri. But the men of Judah stayed committed, sticking with their king all the way from the Jordan to Jerusalem. When David arrived home in Jerusalem, the king took the ten concubines he had left to watch the palace and placed them in seclusion, under guard. He provided for their needs but didn’t visit them. They were virtual prisoners until they died, widows as long as they lived.

The king ordered Amasa, “Muster the men of Judah for me in three days; then report in.” Amasa went to carry out his orders, but he was late reporting back. So David told Abishai, “Sheba son of Bicri is going to hurt us even worse than Absalom did. Take your master’s servants and hunt him down before he gets holed up in some fortress city where we can’t get to him.” So under Abishai’s command, all the best men—Joab’s men and the Kerethites and Pelethites—left Jerusalem to hunt down Sheba son of Bicri. They were near the boulder at Gibeon when Amasa came their way. Joab was wearing a tunic with a sheathed sword strapped on his waist, but the sword slipped out and fell to the ground. Joab greeted Amasa, “How are you, brother?” and took Amasa’s beard in his right hand as if to kiss him. Amasa didn’t notice the sword in Joab’s other hand. Joab stuck him in the belly and his guts spilled to the ground. A second blow wasn’t needed; he was dead. Then Joab and his brother Abishai continued to chase Sheba son of Bicri.

One of Joab’s soldiers took up his post over the body and called out, “Everyone who sides with Joab and supports David, follow Joab!” Amasa was lying in a pool of blood in the middle of the road; the man realized that the whole army was going to stop and take a look, so he pulled Amasa’s corpse off the road into the field and threw a blanket over him so it wouldn’t collect spectators. As soon as he’d gotten him off the road, the traffic flowed normally, following Joab in the chase after Sheba son of Bicri. Sheba passed through all the tribes of Israel as far as Abel Beth Maacah; all the Bicrites clustered and followed him into the city.

Joab’s army arrived and laid siege to Sheba in Abel Beth Maacah. They built a siege-ramp up against the city’s fortification. The plan was to knock down the wall.

But a shrewd woman called out from the city, “Listen, everybody! Please tell Joab to come close so I can talk to him.” When he had come, the woman said, “Are you Joab?”

He said, “I am.”

“Then,” she said, “listen to what I have to say.”

He said, “I’m listening.”

“There’s an old saying in these parts: ‘If it’s answers you want, come to Abel and get it straight.’ We’re a peaceful people here, and reliable. And here you are, trying to tear down one of Israel’s mother cities. Why would you want to mess with God’s legacy like that?”

Joab protested, “Believe me, you’ve got me all wrong. I’m not here to hurt anyone or destroy anything—not on your life! But a man from the hill country of Ephraim, Sheba son of Bicri by name, revolted against King David; hand him over, him only, and we’ll get out of here.”

The woman told Joab, “Sounds good. His head will be tossed to you from the wall.”

The woman presented her strategy to the whole city and they did it: They cut off the head of Sheba son of Bicri and tossed it down to Joab. He then blew a blast on the ram’s horn trumpet and the soldiers all went home. Joab returned to the king in Jerusalem.

Joab was again commander of the whole army of Israel. Benaiah son of Jehoiada was over the Kerethites and Pelethites; Adoniram over the work crews; Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was clerk; Sheva was historian; Zadok and Abiathar were priests; Ira the Jairite was David’s chaplain.

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2 Samuel 21

Famine and War

There was a famine in David’s time. It went on year after year after year—three years. David went to God seeking the reason.

God said, “This is because there is blood on Saul and his house, from the time he massacred the Gibeonites.”

So the king called the Gibeonites together for consultation. (The Gibeonites were not part of Israel; they were what was left of the Amorites, and protected by a treaty with Israel. But Saul, a fanatic for the honor of Israel and Judah, tried to kill them off.)

David addressed the Gibeonites: “What can I do for you? How can I compensate you so that you will bless God’s legacy of land and people?”

The Gibeonites replied, “We don’t want any money from Saul and his family. And it’s not up to us to put anyone in Israel to death.”

But David persisted: “What are you saying I should do for you?”

Then they told the king, “The man who tried to get rid of us, who schemed to wipe us off the map of Israel—well, let seven of his sons be handed over to us to be executed—hanged before God at Gibeah of Saul, the holy mountain.”

And David agreed, “I’ll hand them over to you.”

The king spared Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, because of the promise David and Jonathan had spoken before God. But the king selected Armoni and Mephibosheth, the two sons that Rizpah daughter of Aiah had borne to Saul, plus the five sons that Saul’s daughter Merab had borne to Adriel son of Barzillai the Meholathite. He turned them over to the Gibeonites who hanged them on the mountain before God—all seven died together. Harvest was just getting underway, the beginning of the barley harvest, when they were executed.

Rizpah daughter of Aiah took rough burlap and spread it out for herself on a rock from the beginning of the harvest until the heavy rains started. She kept the birds away from the bodies by day and the wild animals by night.

David was told what she had done, this Rizpah daughter of Aiah and concubine of Saul. He then went and got the remains of Saul and Jonathan his son from the leaders at Jabesh Gilead (who had rescued them from the town square at Beth Shan where the Philistines had hung them after striking them down at Gilboa). He gathered up their remains and brought them together with the dead bodies of the seven who had just been hanged. The bodies were taken back to the land of Benjamin and given a decent burial in the tomb of Kish, Saul’s father.

They did everything the king ordered to be done. That cleared things up: from then on God responded to Israel’s prayers for the land.

War broke out again between the Philistines and Israel. David and his men went down to fight. David became exhausted. Ishbi-Benob, a warrior descended from Rapha, with a spear weighing nearly eight pounds and outfitted in brand-new armor, announced that he’d kill David. But Abishai son of Zeruiah came to the rescue, struck the Philistine, and killed him.

Then David’s men swore to him, “No more fighting on the front-lines for you! Don’t snuff out the lamp of Israel!”

Later there was another skirmish with the Philistines at Gob. That time Sibbecai the Hushathite killed Saph, another of the warriors descended from Rapha.

At yet another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jaar, the weaver of Bethlehem, killed Goliath the Gittite whose spear was as big as a flagpole.

Still another fight broke out in Gath. There was a giant there with six fingers on his hands and six toes on his feet—twenty-four fingers and toes! He was another of those descended from Rapha. He insulted Israel, and Jonathan son of Shimeah, David’s brother, killed him.

These four were descended from Rapha in Gath. And they all were killed by David and his soldiers.

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