Reading through the Bible together
By now we have learned a lot about the historiographer of David’s life. Shortly after David’s death he selected parts that the scribes wrote on bits and pieces and daily diaries. The palace scribes and the military scribes with Joab provided some of these sources. (This dependence on sources is what Luke did when he wrote the gospel Luke 1:1-3). But we need to remember that the Holy Spirit is the Editor and He oversaw that the historiographer did not focus just romantically on David as the great Strategist or just on the good deeds of the king. The Holy Spirit reported things with realism, without omitting evil choices that David made.
The chapter begins with a mini-rebellion by Sheba who pulled the men of Israel behind him. The Holy Spirit and the scribe used the word Belial to describe him, which literally means “no worth” (v. 1). David went to his house in Jerusalem and took the ten women, his ceremonial married concubines from each tribe of Israel and locked them up and did not enter with them any longer. They lived as widows. Normally, these ladies of ceremonial marriages were sources of information about palace news for each tribe from which they came. The king’s family life was havoc already and his situation deteriorated even more.
David wanted to quickly put down Sheba’s rebellion before it spread. So he by-passed Joab, his own general, forgave Amasa, the former general of Absalom and asked him to bring together the men of Judah and go after Sheba. But for some reason, Amasa delayed (2 Samuel 20:5). Job was angry that he was by-passed and his young close relative was put in charge. When they met at Gibeon, Joab, like a Judas Iscariot, stepped forward, kissed Amasa, but as he did so pushed the sword through his stomach (2 Samuel 20:10). As they body of Amasa lay bleeding in the road, Job’s men stopped and stood still. Then a young man made a call for loyalty to David by following Joab. Then the body was removed and the men followed Joab. The Holy Spirit wants us to see the results of sin and the failures of wrong political action.
Joab and his men went on and came to the city in Israel where Sheba was hiding, Abel Beth-Maacah. They were about to topple the walls when a woman came out full of wisdom. She said that to destroy the city is to destroy one of the mothers of Israel and to destroy that is to destroy the inheritance of the Lord (2 Samuel 20:19). Joab listened to the woman and defended himself that he is not to swallow up or destroy the city but only seek for Sheba. If he is handed over, Joab will leave. So the woman went in and they cut off the head of Sheba and threw it over the wall. Gruesome times, all because of loyalty to the monarchy, a system that all the people chose even though they were warned of the consequences of doing so back in Saul’s day (1 Samuel 8:11-18) by the prophet Samuel. After Sheba was dead, the men went back home and Joab went back to Jerusalem.
The wages of sin is death and nearly every biblical anecdote has some of this warning to share with us. We cannot but agree with Samuel, that the monarchy is not an ideal system and in essence, no system will satisfy as long as we are living in this world of Satan and sin.
Your Word is truth and You are our King of Kings. We worship you first before we pay any loyalty to any other political ruler, religious or otherwise. Give us the wisdom to stand for your principles though the heavens may fall, and in times of chaos, to speak wisely. In Jesus name. Amen
Koot van Wyk
Kyungpook National University
Sangju, South Korea