Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible

2 Samuel 20

Verse 1

2 SAMUEL CHAPTER 20

By occasion of this quarrel Sheba stirreth up Israel to sedition, 2 Samuel 20:1,2. David’s ten concubines are shut up in perpetual prison, 2 Samuel 20:3. Amasa is slain by Joab, 2 Samuel 20:4-10. He and Abishai pursue Sheba unto Abel, 2 Samuel 20:11-15. The citizens, by the advice of a wise woman, cut off his head, and cast it over the wall to Joab, 2 Samuel 20:16-22. David’s officers, 2 Samuel 20:23-26.

There happened to be there; his presence was casual in itself, though certain, and ordered by God’s providence.

Man of Belial; a lawless person, one that attempted to shake off the yoke of civil authority. See Deuteronomy 13:13.

Benjamite; aggrieved at the translation of the kingdom from Saul and that tribe to David.

We have no part in David: the tribe of Judah have monopolized the king to themselves, and will not allow us any share in him; let them therefore enjoy him alone, and let us seek out a new king.

The son of Jesse; an expression of contempt, implying their rejection of him, that he was no more to be owned as their king, but as a private person, as the son of Jesse.

Every man to his tents; let us all desist from this unthankful office of bringing the king back, and go each to our homes, that we may consider, and then meet together to choose a new king.

Verse 2

Every man of Israel, i.e. the generality of those Israelites who were present.

Verse 3

Put them in ward; partly, because they had not vigorously opposed Absalom’s lustful desire, as they should have done, even with the hazard of their lives; and partly, lest the sight of them should renew the memory of Absalom’s filthiness, and of their own and David’s reproach, which it was fit to bury in-perpetual oblivion; and partly, because it might appear incestuous to have to do with those who had been defiled by his own son; and partly, because as David would not, so it was not now convenient that any other man should have any conjugal conversation with them.

Verse 4

Assemble me the men of Judah, and march in the head of them as their general, as I have promised thee, 2 Samuel 19:13.

Within three days; which he supposed Amasa, having been their late general, could easily do; and the business required haste.

Be thou here present within that time to receive orders and instructions from me.

Verse 5

Either because the people, being wearied out by the late civil war, were not forward to engage in another; or because the soldiers had more affection to Joab than to their new general, to whose ill conduct possibly they might impute their unsuccessfulness in the last battle; or because Amasa for his own interest might seek delays, to render himself more necessary and useful to the king, and to keep up his honourable and profitable employment, which is the common policy of such men.

Verse 6

David said to Abishai; not to Joab, lest by this means he should recover his place, and Amasa be discontented, and David’s fidelity in making good his promise to Amasa be questioned.

Thy lord’s servants, i.e. my guards that attend upon my person, and the other soldiers who are now present with me. He speaks of himself in the third person, as is very frequent. For it is not probable he would now call Joab his lord, whom he had lately deposed; nor Amasa, who had not yet taken actual possession of his place, nor had the command over the king’s guards.

Verse 7

Joab’s men; the remainders of Joab’s army who were there present, with whom also Joab might go as a reformade, watching an opportunity to do what he designed. Of the Cherethites and the Pelethites, See Poole on "2 Samuel 8:18".

Verse 8

Amasa went before them; having gathered some forces, and given due orders for the rest to follow him, he returned to Jerusalem, and by the king’s command went after those mentioned 2 Samuel 20:7; and being come up to them at the place where they waited for him, he put himself into the head of Joab’s men, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites, and such as he had brought along with him, and marched before them as their chief and general.

Girded unto him, after the manner of travellers and soldiers.

As he went forth to meet and salute Amasa, who was coming towards him to do him honour.

It fell out; things having (it is likely) been so contrived by Joab, that upon the least motion of his body his sword should drop out, and he might take it up without raising Amasa’s suspicion.

Verse 9

As the manner of ancient times was, when they kissed and saluted one another.

Verse 10

The sword that was in Joab’s hand; which falling out, as it seemed, casually, he supposed that Joab intended only to put it into its scabbard, and therefore took no care to defend himself against the stroke.

In the fifth rib: See Poole on "2 Samuel 2:23". Struck him not again; he despatched him at one stroke, or gave him his death’s wound at the first blow, and needed not to smite him again.

Joab now boldly resumed his former place, and marched in the head of the army. It is not strange that Amasa’s soldiers did not fight to revenge his death; partly because not many of them were yet come up, but came by degrees, as the following verses show; and partly because Joab’s interest and authority with the military men was very great, especially with David’s guards, who were here present, and who had no kindness for Amasa, as having been the general of the rebellious army; and, as they might think, was not fit to be put into a place of so great power and trust.

Verse 11

One of Joab’s men, left there on purpose to deliver the following message.

He that favoureth Joab; he that would have Joab to be general, rather than such a perfidious rebel and traitor as Amasa.

He that is for David; he that wisheth David good success against Sheba, and against all rebels; whereby he implies that though this fact of his was done against the king’s command, yet it was for his interest and defence.

Verse 12

Wallowed, Heb. rolled himself, being in the pangs of death; yet having so much life left as to move himself a little, though not to raise himself up from his place.

In blood; in his own blood, which was shed there.

All the people, to wit, the soldiers which were upon their march.

Stood still; wondering at the spectacle, and inquiring into the author and occasion of it.

He removed Amasa out of the highway into the field; perceiving that it both incensed them against Joab, and hindered the king’s present service.

Verse 14

He went; either,

1. Joab, who pursued Sheba through all the tribes as far as Abel. Or rather,

2. Sheba, who was last mentioned, who marched from tribe to tribe to stir them up to sedition; and to him the following words seem best to agree.

Unto Abel, and to Beth-aachah, or rather, to Abel, even to Beth-maachah, i.e. unto Abel-beth-maachah, as this place is called here in the Hebrew text, 2 Samuel 20:15 1 Kings 15:20 2 Kings 15:29, to distinguish it from other Abels; and to signify that this was that Abel which was in the tribe of Naphtali in the northern border of Canaan, towards that part of Syria called Maachah, 2 Samuel 10:8.

The Berites; such as lived in the city or territory of Beeroth of Benjamin, Joshua 18:25, who being of the same tribe, if not city, with Sheba, and his greatest acquaintance and friends, or being most implacable against David, adhered to Sheba, and followed him through all the tribes of Israel.

They were gathered together, to wit, the tribes of Israel, i. e. a considerable number of them; as might well be expected, when the discontents were so high and general.

After him, i.e. after Sheba.

Verse 15

They came, i.e. Joab and his army, which is easily understood, both from the foregoing and following verses.

They cast up a bank; from whence they might either batter the wall, or shoot at those who defended it against them who should assault it. See 2 Kings 19:32 Jeremiah 32:24 33:4. Otherwise, they threw down the bank of the city, which they had raised up to defend the city on the weakest side.

It stood in the trench, i.e. the bank stood in or near to the trench, or wall of the city; so that the city was in great danger of being taken. Otherwise, the city stood within the trench, or wall, being defended only by a single trench, or a weak wall; the bank which was raised up there to defend it being thrown down.

Verse 18

According to this translation the sense is, This city which thou art about to destroy is no mean and contemptible one, but so honourable and considerable for its wisdom, and the wise people in it, that when any differences did arise among any of the neighbours, they used proverbially to say, We will ask the opinion and advice of the men of Abel about it, and we will stand to their arbitration; and so all parties were satisfied, and disputes ended. But there is another translation in the margin, embraced also by some others, which seems to be the best:

They (i. e. the citizens of this city) plainly (or, commonly) spake (among themselves) in the beginning, (to wit, when Sheba and his men first came into the city, and they were informed, that Joab was pursuing him,) saying, Surely they will ask of Abel, and so make an end. They will peaceably expostulate the business with us, and inquire why we received Sheba into our city; and whether we would deliver him up into their hands, and would inform us of the reason of their hostile attempt upon us, and offer to us conditions of peace, which by God’s law, Deuteronomy 20:10, they were to do even to strange, and much more to Israelitish cities. So she doth both modestly reprove Joab for the neglect of this duty, and oblige him to the performance of it.

Verse 19

Or, I (to wit, the city of Abel, in whose name and person she speaks this) am one of the

peaceable and faithful cities of Israel. Whatsoever Sheba may design, whom we have innocently received into our city before we well understood the matter, we of this city abhor the thoughts of warring and rebelling against the king, as having had no hand in Absalom’s late rebellion: which is probable enough, considering both their situation in the utmost borders of the land, very remote from the seat of that civil war; and their open profession of their peaceableness and fidelity or loyalty to the king; which had been impudent if they had been so lately involved in the last war and rebellion.

A city and a mother, i.e. a mother; for great cities are commonly called mothers; as lesser towns or villages subject to them, and depending upon them for direction and defence, are called their daughters, as Ezekiel 16:27,46.

The inheritance of the Lord, i.e. a considerable part of that land which God hath chosen for his peculiar possession. The destruction which thou art about to bring upon us is an injury also to Israel, and to the God of Israel.

Verse 20

A man of Mount Ephraim.

Quest. How can this be so when he is called a Benjamite, 2 Samuel 20:1?

Answ, Either he was a Benjamite by birth, but dwelt in the tribe of Ephraim, as many did upon several occasions dwell out of their own tribes; or Mount Ephraim was a place in Benjamin, which might be so called, either because it was upon the borders of Ephraim, and looked towards it; or from some notable action or event of the Ephraimites in that place. Compare 2 Samuel 18:6. Hath lift up his hand, i.e. taken up arms, or raised rebellion. His head shall be thrown, to thee over the wall; which she undertook, because she knew the present temper and great fears of the citizens, and soldiers too; and that considering their evident and extreme danger, they were generally desirous of peace, from which they were restrained only by Sheba’s authority and interest; and therefore did not doubt by God’s blessing upon her wise counsel to effect it, as indeed she did. And it is not unlikely that this woman might be a governess in that city for though this office was commonly performed by men, yet were not the women wholly excluded, but sometimes employed in the government; as we see in Deborah, who judged Israel, Jude 4:4; and queen Athaliah, 2Ki 11.

Verse 21

A man of Mount Ephraim.

Quest. How can this be so when he is called a Benjamite, 2 Samuel 20:1?

Answ. Either he was a Benjamite by birth, but dwelt in the tribe of Ephraim, as many did upon several occasions dwell out of their own tribes; or Mount Ephraim was a place in Benjamin, which might be so called, either because it was upon the borders of Ephraim, and looked towards it; or from some notable action or event of the Ephraimites in that place. Compare 1 Samuel 18:6. Hath lift up his hand, i.e. taken up arms, or raised rebellion. His head shall be thrown, to thee over the wall; which she undertook, because she knew the present temper and great fears of the citizens, and soldiers too; and that considering their evident and extreme danger, they were generally desirous of peace, from which they were restrained only by Sheba’s authority and interest; and therefore did not doubt by God’s blessing upon her wise counsel to effect it, as indeed she did. And it is not unlikely that this woman might be a governess in that city for though this office was commonly performed by men, yet were not the women wholly excluded, but sometimes employed in the government; as we see in Deborah, who judged Israel, Jude 4:4; and queen Athaliah, 2Ki 11.

Verse 22

In her wisdom prudently treated with them about it, either severally or jointly, as she saw fit; representing to them the certainty and nearness of all their ruin, if they did not speedily comply with her desires, and certain deliverance if they did.

They retired; Joab and his army which besieged them.

Verse 23

Joab was over all the host of Israel: the good success of this and of the former expedition, under the conduct of Joab, had so fixed his interest in the army, and others of David’s fastest friends, that the king could not without danger to the public weal displace him.

Verse 24

Over the tribute; the receiver and manager of the king’s public revenue. See Poole on "1 Kings 4:6".

Jehoshaphat was recorder: See Poole on "2 Samuel 8:16".

Verse 26

The Jairite; so called from his birth or dwelling in the country of Jair in Gilead, Numbers 32:41 Jude 10:4.

A chief ruler; either the president of the king’s council; or his chief minister (as the Hebrew word cohen signifies) of state, instead of Ahithophel; or in some other very high place near the king’s person. Compare 2 Samuel 8:18, where this title is given to David’s sons, the chief of which were now cut off. And these things are here repeated with some alteration to show that David was now fully re-established in his former estate.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://pro.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/2-samuel-20.html. 1685.