Friday, March 30, 2012

2 Samuel 20

1 Now a troublemaker named Sheba son of Bikri, a Benjamite, happened to be there. He sounded the trumpet and shouted,
“We have no share in David,
no part in Jesse’s son!
Everyone to your tents, Israel!”
2 So all the men of Israel deserted David to follow Sheba son of Bikri. But the men of Judah stayed by their king all the way from the Jordan to Jerusalem.
3 When David returned to his palace in Jerusalem, he took the ten concubines he had left to take care of the palace and put them in a house under guard. He provided for them but had no sexual relations with them. They were kept in confinement till the day of their death, living as widows.
4 Then the king said to Amasa, “Summon the men of Judah to come to me within three days, and be here yourself.” 5 But when Amasa went to summon Judah, he took longer than the time the king had set for him.
6 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.” 7 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.
8 While they were at the great rock in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Joab was wearing his military tunic, and strapped over it at his waist was a belt with a dagger in its sheath. As he stepped forward, it dropped out of its sheath.
9 Joab said to Amasa, “How are you, my brother?” Then Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. 10 Amasa was not on his guard against the dagger in Joab’s hand, and Joab plunged it into his belly, and his intestines spilled out on the ground. Without being stabbed again, Amasa died. Then Joab and his brother Abishai pursued Sheba son of Bikri.
11 One of Joab’s men stood beside Amasa and said, “Whoever favors Joab, and whoever is for David, let him follow Joab!” 12 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. 13 After Amasa had been removed from the road, everyone went on with Joab to pursue Sheba son of Bikri.
14 Sheba passed through all the tribes of Israel to Abel Beth Maakah and through the entire region of the Bikrites, who gathered together and followed him. 15 All the troops with Joab came and besieged Sheba in Abel Beth Maakah. They built a siege ramp up to the city, and it stood against the outer fortifications. While they were battering the wall to bring it down, 16 a wise woman called from the city, “Listen! Listen! Tell Joab to come here so I can speak to him.” 17 He went toward her, and she asked, “Are you Joab?”
“I am,” he answered.
She said, “Listen to what your servant has to say.”
“I’m listening,” he said.
18 She continued, “Long ago they used to say, ‘Get your answer at Abel,’ and that settled it. 19 We are the peaceful and faithful in Israel. You are trying to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why do you want to swallow up the LORD’s inheritance?”
20 “Far be it from me!” Joab replied, “Far be it from me to swallow up or destroy! 21 That is not the case. A man named Sheba son of Bikri, from the hill country of Ephraim, has lifted up his hand against the king, against David. Hand over this one man, and I’ll withdraw from the city.”
The woman said to Joab, “His head will be thrown to you from the wall.”
22 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.
23 Joab was over Israel’s entire army; Benaiah son of Jehoiada was over the Kerethites and Pelethites; 24Adoniram was in charge of forced labor; Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was recorder; 25 Sheva was secretary; Zadok and Abiathar were priests; 26 and Ira the Jairite was David’s priest.

Points of Interest
  • ‘a troublemaker named Sheba’--as the last chapter ends, after the collapse of Absalom’s rebellion, all of the tribes are clambering over one another trying to show that they’ve always been loyal to David. They’re all so insistent that they start to get on one another’s nerves. Sheba uses the confusion of this moment of bad temper to start yet another rebellion.
  • ‘He provided for them but had no sexual relations with them’--these ten concubines have been through a lot. And it would just be too much, for everyone, for them to be passed back and forth between father and son. So, David gives them a quiet retirement.
  • ‘the king said to Amasa’--as part of the peace settlement after the battle with Absalom’s forces, the king makes Amasa, Absalom’s general, the commander of the army.
  • ‘he took longer than the time the king had set for him’--Amasa’s weakness as a general seems to be slowness to muster. Just as he let David get across the Jordan to a fortified position, he’s now letting Sheba get away.
  • ‘Take your master’s men’--that would be Abishai’s brother Joab’s men. In the reorganization of the military caused by Amasa’s promotion, Joab is made the commander of special forces: the Kerithites, the Pelithites, and the Mighty Men.
  • ‘Amasa came to meet them’--Joab’s special forces roll out quickly and catch up with Sheba, but Amasa finally arrives with the bulk of the army before Joab’s men have a chance to engage in battle.
  • ‘Amasa was not on his guard against the dagger in Joab’s hand’--Joab is what I call a complicated man: one part voice of reason, one part psychotic killer. He often shows better military and even political judgement than David: he’s the one who brokered the earlier peace between Absalom and David; he kept his head during the whole Rabbah campaign and Uriah incident when David did not; he kept the army together and avoided a wider war during the battle with Absalom. Again and again, he proves himself a good general and statesman. And yet, he’ll murder a personal rival without so much as a blink of an eye. There’s no way he’s going to let this young upstart give him orders.
  • ‘whoever is for David, let him follow Joab’--regardless of what David might say about it, Joab regains command of the army.
  • ‘Joab came and besieged Sheba in Abel Beth Maakah’--what at first looked like a widespread rebellion turns out to be just Sheba’s own clan. Joab is able to quickly contain him.
  • ‘Far be it from me to swallow up or destroy!’--this reminds me of a mafia godfather saying, ‘I’m a family man, a simple importer of olive oil.’ The guy who just poked the king’s son through with javelins and stabbed his rival in the gut with a hidden dagger is saying, ‘Who, me? I’m a man of peace.’ To his credit, though, he has proven willing to avoid unnecessary bloodshed in battle.
  • ‘they cut off the head of Sheba son of Bikri and threw it to Joab’--he may be family and all, but in the end, the town is not willing to die for the sake of Sheba’s ill-conceived, slapdash rebellion.
  • ‘Adoniram was in charge of forced labor’--the soldiers of defeated armies were often assigned hard labor as a punishment. The point of this paragraph as a whole, by the way, seems to be that David has re-established control. His administration is firmly in place again.
Taking it Home
  • For you: As we’ve done all week, we’re responding to today’s passage with a psalm of David. See the beginning of the week for some thoughts about how to use the psalm.
Psalm 5
1 Listen to my words, LORD,
consider my lament.
2 Hear my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
3 In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.
4 For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;
with you, evil people are not welcome.
5 The arrogant cannot stand
in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong;
6 you destroy those who tell lies.
The bloodthirsty and deceitful
you, LORD, detest.
7 But I, by your great love,
can come into your house;
in reverence I bow down
toward your holy temple.
8 Lead me, LORD, in your righteousness
because of my enemies—
make your way straight before me.
9 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
their heart is filled with malice.
Their throat is an open grave;
with their tongues they tell lies.
10 Declare them guilty, O God!
Let their intrigues be their downfall.
Banish them for their many sins,
for they have rebelled against you.
11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
12 Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
  • For your six: You have to think it was rather devastating for David to have Sheba turn on him just as the trouble with Absalom was ending. ‘Who’s next?’ he must have wondered. Ask God to comfort your six over any ways that they have been abandoned by people--whether it was recently or long ago. Pray that they wouldn't continue to carry that feeling of abandonment, but that God would give them a sense of belonging. Ask God to take away any feelings of loneliness they might be experiencing and to give them a strong community of support.
  • For our church: The woman from Abel Beth Maakah becomes an unlikely ally to Joab and his troops. Ask God to give our church alliances with unlikely people, institutions, and sectors of society. Pray that God would make the dream our church has of influencing secular culture a reality, and that he would do so through unique and creative partnerships.
  • For families: Take a look at your family’s Lent poster on the project God is calling you to as a family in this time. Have you already taken any actions on this? How is it going? Ask God to show you any unlikely people that might help you take the next step toward his idea for your family. If you sense that he’s giving you a name, go talk to that person and see what they might offer.