2 Samuel 20:1
Now a worthless man named Sheba son of Bichri, a Benjamite, happened to be there, and he blew the ram's horn and shouted: "We have no share in David, no inheritance in Jesse's son. Every man to his tent, O Israel!"
Departure from and Adherence to ChristG. Wood 2 Samuel 20:1, 2
The Insurrection of ShebaB. Dale 2 Samuel 20:1-3
Disunion the Devil's PolicySpurgeon, Charles Haddon2 Samuel 20:1-5
Rebellion of ShebaC. Ness.2 Samuel 20:1-5
Revolt and Pursuit of ShebaJ. Parker, D. D.2 Samuel 20:1-5

2 Samuel 20:1-3. - (GILGAL.)

"We have no part in David,
And we have no inheritance in the son of Jesse;
Every man to his tents, O Israel!"

(Ver. 1; 1 Kings 12:16.) Before the restoration of David was completed, a new rebellion broke out. The people were still disquieted, like the sea after a storm; the independent action of Judah in conducting the king over the Jordan aroused the jealousy of the other tribes; at Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:15; 1 Samuel 13:8-10; 1 Samuel 15:12, 13), where the representatives of the latter assembled and met the king, a fierce altercation ensued (2 Samuel 19:40-43); and shortly afterwards the trumpet was blown by Sheba the Bichrite (Genesis 46:21). "He who lately (with the rest of Israel) claimed ten parts in David as king, disclaims and disowns him now, as having no part in him at all. David before had raised his hand against a faithful subject, Uriah, and therefore now a faithless subject raises his hand against him; as a man sinneth, so ofttimes he is punished. And as bees, when they are once up in a swarm, are ready to light upon every bough, so the Israelites, being stirred up by the late rebellion of Absalom, are apt here also to follow Sheba; especially finding nothing but clemency, and David's passing by their former revolt" (Guild). Concerning this insurrection, observe that (like others which have since occurred) -


1. Discontented with the government of David; the restlessness, lawlessness, and ungodliness which they displayed in joining Absalom's revolt were only partial? corrected by recent chastisement (2 Samuel 19:9, 10); their complaint to the king concerning the conduct of "the men of Judah" (ver. 41) was due more to regard for their own honour than zeal for his; and was an indirect expression of their dissatisfaction at the disrespect which he bad shown toward them, for "very probably it had been learned that he had a hand in the movement."

2. Contentious in their treatment of their "brethren;" ready to find occasion of offence "because of envy" and ill will; their auger being increased by the proud and contemptuous bearing of the latter. Whatever may have been the motives of the men of Judah in their recent action, they were now as blamable as the men of Israel; each party sought to exalt itself and depreciate the other; and "the words of the men of Judah were more violent than the words of the men of Israel" (ver. 43). "Grievous words stir up anger" (Proverbs 15:1, 18; Proverbs 25:15; Proverbs 29:22). How differently had Gideon spoken to the men of Ephraim under similar circumstances (Judges 8:1-3)!

3. Self-blinded. Indifferent to their true interests, without proper self-control, liable to surrender themselves to the guidance of an ambitious leader, and prepared for open rebellion. Having violated the spirit of unity, they were ready to destroy the formal union of the tribes, which it had cost so much to bring about, and on which their strength and prosperity so much depended. "Where jealousy and. faction are, there is confusion and every vile deed" (James 3:16; James 4:1, 11).

II. IT WAS INSTIGATED BY A WORTHLESS LEADER, "A man of Belial, a Benjamite" (like Shimei, 2 Samuel 16:11); "a man of the mountains of Ephraim" (ver. 21); who probably took an active part in the late rebellion, and had numerous dependents. "He was one of the great rogues of the high nobility, who had a large retinue among the people, and consideration or name, as Cataline at Rome" (Luther).

1. The worst (as well as the best) elements of a people find their chief embodiment in some one man, who is the product of the prevailing spirit of his time, and adapted to be its leader.

"Avarice, envy, pride,
Three fatal sparks, have set the hearts of all
On fire."

(Dante.) In his selfish ambition, Sheba sought for himself individually what the men of Israel sought for themselves as a whole.

2. Such a man clearly perceives the popular feeling and tendency, with which he sympathizes, and finds therein his opportunity for effecting his own purposes. The design of Sheba was, doubtless, to become head of a new combination of the northern tribes.

3. He seizes a suitable moment for raising his seditious cry; and, instead of quenching the sparks of discord, kindles them into a blaze. "They claim David as their own. Let them have him. We disclaim him altogether. The son of Jesse! Let every man cast off his yoke, return home, and unite with me in securing liberty, equality, and fraternity!" What at another time would have been without effect, is now irresistible with the people. Nothing is more unstable than a multitude; one day crying, "Hosanna!" another, "Not this Man, but Barabbas!"

III. IT ATTAINED A DANGEROUS MAGNITUDE. "And all the men of Israel went up from after David, and followed Sheba the son of Bichri" (ver. 2); "Now will Sheba do us more harm than Absalom" (ver. 6). The insurrection:

1. Was joined in by great numbers of the people.

2. Spread over the greater portion of the country. "He went through all the tribes of Israel," rousing them to action, and gaining possession of the fortified cities.

3. Threatened to produce a permanent disruption of the kingdom. "It was, in fact, all but an anticipation of the revolt of Jeroboam. It was not, as in the case of Absalom, a mere conflict between two factions in the court of Judah, but a struggle arising out of that conflict, on the part of the tribe of Benjamin to recover its lost ascendency" (Stanley). With what anxieties must it have filled the mind of the restored monarch! And how must it have led him to feel his dependence upon God! The influence for evil which one bad man sometimes exerts is enormous (Ecclesiastes 9:18). It is, nevertheless, limited; and, though it prevail for a season, it is at length "brought to nought" (Psalm 37:12, 20, 35-40).

IV. IT ENDED IN UTTER DISCOMFITURE. The first act of David, on arriving at Jerusalem, attended by the men of Judah, who "clave unto the king" (after setting his house in order, ver. 3), was to adopt energetic measures to put down the insurrection; and these succeeded (though in a different manner from what he expected).

1. Many who at first followed Sheba deserted him when they had time for reflection and saw the approach of the king's army; so that he found it necessary to seek safety in the far north.

2. He was beheaded by those among whom he sought refuge; and "rewarded according to his wickedness" (2 Samuel 3:39). "Evil pursueth sinners" (Proverbs 13:21; Proverbs 11:19).

3. All the people returned to their allegiance. "While to men's eyes the cooperation of many evil powers seems to endanger the kingdom of God to the utmost, and its affairs appear to be confused and disturbed in the unhappiest fashion, the wonderful working of the living God reveals itself most gloriously in the unravelment of the worst entanglements, and in the introduction of new and unexpected triumphs for his government" (Erdmann). - D.

This chapter is a relation of Sheba's rebellion.

1. The trumpet of this new rebellion was a son of Belial, Sheba the son of Bichri, whom God by His providence ordered to be present when this paroxism or hot fit of contention happened betwixt the tribe of Judah and the tribes of Israel as before. The Devil (who loves to fish in troubled waters) strikes in with this opportunity, as a fit hour of temptation for him, and excites this Belialist to blow a trumpet and to sound a retreat in the ears of those Israelites, saying [Seeing the men of Judah say that we have no part in David, but they do monopolize him to themselves] let them have him, and let us choose another for ourselves, hoping that they would choose him, because he was a Benjamite akin to Saul, and supposed to be the chiefest captain under Amasa to Absalom (ver. 1.)

2. This Belialist (so-called) was for casting off the yoke of David (as the Hebrew word Belial signifies) and being grieved that the kingdom was translated from Saul's house to David, he bespatters David, calling him the son of Jesse, a private person, so the crown could not descend upon David by inheritance, and therefore (saith he) we are at liberty to choose a new king. This opprobrious title that Sheba gave David here did savour of Saul (who had oft called him so in contempt) and of the old enmity: and possibly Sheba might aggravate to those Israelites, that David had sent Zadock and Abiathar to the men of Judah that they might be persuaded to fetch back the King, but he sent them not to our elders; therefore seeing he hath so slighted us, let us look to our own concerns, and let him look to his (ver. 1.)

3. Behold how great a flame of fire a little spark doth kindle (Jam. 8-5) when God gives way thereunto, Sheba's presence and influence upon those Israelites, though casual in itself, and as to men, yet was it ordered so by the providence of God, who permitted the devil to blow up this blast of rebellion for several reasons: as(1) first, For a further exercise of David's faith and patience;(2) secondly, To purge out of David's kingdom all factious and seditious spirits;(3) thirdly, To punish Sheba the ringleader of those rebels;(4) fourthly, To animadvert David to his betraying Uriah, and of his spearing Shimei, and (as some add) of his unjust dealing with his dear Mephibosheth, &c., for these and other sins of David God was pleased to correct him again with this new affliction, before he was well got out of the old.

(C. Ness.)

1. We are first introduced to Sheba, the son of Bichri, or, as it is read by recent commentators, the Bichrite — that is, a member of the family of Becher, the second son of Benjamin. This man was, therefore, by so much related to the clan of Saul. It is difficult to get the old taint out of the blood. Sheba is a minimised Saul, full of hostility to David and all his interests. Even bad men have their opportunity in life. We have seen again and again how easy it is to do mischief. Sheba, a man who probably had no power to construct a positive fame by deeds of beneficence and the origination of statesmanlike policies, had it in his power to set fire to dangerous substances and bring into peril a movement which promised to consummate itself in the happiest results to Israel. The historical instance ought to be a continual lesson. The meanest man may pull down a wall, or set fire to a palace, or whisper a slander concerning the character of a king. The remarkable thing is that whilst society is well aware of all this possibility, it is willing to lend an ear to every wicked speaker Who arises, insisting upon the old and detestable sophism flint although the report may not be wholly and literally true, there yet must be some foundation for it.

2. Sheba is described in the text. as "a man of Belial," in other words, a child of the devil. A man's spiriutal parentage is known by the deeds in which he delights. We have in the first verse a kind of double genealogy of Sheba; he is called "the son of Bichri, a Benjamite," and he is also described as "a man of Belial." It would seem as if in some cases men had a lineal physical descent, and had also a direct spiritual ancestry. Account for it as we may, there are practical differences in spirit and character which would seem almost to suggest two different grades or qualities of human nature. Whilst it is profoundly and sadly true that all men are apostates, and that there is none righteous, no, not one, it is also undeniable that there are chiefs in the army of evil, princes of sin, royal and dominating personages in the whole kingdom of wickedness. They are ingenious in the device of evil; their imagination is afire with the very spirit of perdition; they can invent new departures, striking policies, undreamed-of cruelties, unimaginable wanderings from the path of rectitude. It is most certain that many men simply "follow a multitude to do evil"; they have little or no invention of their own; they would never originate rebellions or lead insurrections, or devise plots involving great disasters; they are but followers, imitators, echoes not voices, persons who go by the bulk and not by detail, being only of consequence in proportion to their multiudinousness, having no independent spirit of their own when taken one by one.

3. David, being now impatient of the insolence of Joab, and willing to avail himself of an opportunity of superseding that able but arrogant captain, gave an appointment to Amasa. As Amasa went forth he encountered an unexpected foe in the person of Joab. It is explained in the text how Joab by a peculiar arrangement of his dress — a girdle bound round his military coat — had contrived to conceal a dagger which would fall out as lie advanced. The dagger falling out thus gave Joab an opportunity of naturally picking it up, as he wished to use it, without exciting the suspicion of Amasa. Thus even in so small a trick the depravity of Joab is made manifest. Taking Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him, Joab smote him in the fifth rib, with but one blow; but that a fatal stroke. Joab would thus tolerate no rivals by whomsoever they might have been appointed. This desperateness of spirit was really part of the greatness of the man, — that is to say, apart from such desperateness he never could have brought to bear all his various faculties of statesman and soldier. Morality has often commented upon the circumstance that great talents should be turned to base uses. So it is the world over: the completer the education as a merely intellectual exercise, the more disastrous is the power to do evil, unless the education has been supported and chastened by adequate moral training. It is mere idolatry to admire greatness alone: when that greatness is held in check by enlightened consciousness, then its recognition really involves an act of worship to him who is the Spirit of Righteousness and the teacher of the world. It is but lust, however, to say that we are not to judge Joab by the morality of a much later age. Morality itself is part of an infinite but most beneficent evolution. Even a good cause may have bad supporters. The cause in which Joab was now engaged was unquestionably a good one, being nothing less than the restoration of David to his kingly position in Israel, and by so much the fulfilment of a divine covenant. Joab had a good cause, but he brought to its support a very questionable character. Is not this same instance repeating itself along the whole line of history? Is not the Church indebted to many a man whose heart is in the world and whose ambition is his only god? Are there not some men eloquent of tongue whose hearts are silent as to true worship? Is not good money often given by polluted hands?

(J. Parker, D. D.)

, H. O. Mackey.
"Cyrus, in Herodotus, going to fight against Scythia, coming to a broad river, and not being able to pass over it, cut and divided it into divers arms and sluices, and so made it passable for all his army. This is the devil's policy; he laboureth to divide the people of God, and separate us into divers sects and factions, that so he may easily overcome us." This needs no comment. What is needed is that by a spirit of brotherly love we promote the unity of all the churches, and the peace and concord of that to which we belong. May the peace of the church be "as a river." Unity is strength. "Divide and conquer" is Satan's watchword to his myrmidons.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)When the South Carolina convention broke up with a declaration of secession from the north, and the Civil War was thereby proclaimed, there were great jubilations. Bells were rung, cannon saluted, and the street,s were filled with the noise and display of great parades. But what a drama of blood it led to, and what a tragedy of disastrous defeat was its end!

(H. O. Mackey.)

Abel, Abiathar, Abishai, Absalom, Adoram, Ahilud, Amasa, Benaiah, Berites, Bichri, Bichrites, Cherethites, Dan, David, Gibeon, Ira, Jehoiada, Jehoshaphat, Jesse, Joab, Kerethites, Maacah, Pelethites, Sheva, Zadok
Abel-beth-maacah, Gibeon, Jerusalem, Jordan River
Base, Benjamite, Bichri, Bicri, Blew, David, Fellow, Inheritance, Jesse, Jesse's, Named, O, Portion, Share, Sheba, Shouted, Sounded, Tent, Tents, Trumpet
1. By occasion of the quarrel, Sheba rebels in Israel
3. David's ten concubines are put in confinement for life
4. Amasa, made captain over Judah, is slain by Joab
14. Joab pursues Sheba to Abel
16. A wise woman saves the city by Sheba's head
23. David's officers

Dictionary of Bible Themes
2 Samuel 20:1

     5578   tents
     5595   trumpet

2 Samuel 20:1-22

     5087   David, reign of

Appendix 2 Extracts from the Babylon Talmud
Massecheth Berachoth, or Tractate on Benedictions [76] Mishnah--From what time is the "Shema" said in the evening? From the hour that the priests entered to eat of their therumah [77] until the end of the first night watch. [78] These are the words of Rabbi Eliezer. But the sages say: Till midnight. Rabban Gamaliel says: Until the column of the morning (the dawn) rises. It happened, that his sons came back from a banquet. They said to him: "We have not said the Shema.'" He said to them, "If the column
Alfred Edersheim—Sketches of Jewish Social Life

The Sixth Commandment
Thou shalt not kill.' Exod 20: 13. In this commandment is a sin forbidden, which is murder, Thou shalt not kill,' and a duty implied, which is, to preserve our own life, and the life of others. The sin forbidden is murder: Thou shalt not kill.' Here two things are to be understood, the not injuring another, nor ourselves. I. The not injuring another. [1] We must not injure another in his name. A good name is a precious balsam.' It is a great cruelty to murder a man in his name. We injure others in
Thomas Watson—The Ten Commandments

Alike from the literary and the historical point of view, the book[1] of Samuel stands midway between the book of Judges and the book of Kings. As we have already seen, the Deuteronomic book of Judges in all probability ran into Samuel and ended in ch. xii.; while the story of David, begun in Samuel, embraces the first two chapters of the first book of Kings. The book of Samuel is not very happily named, as much of it is devoted to Saul and the greater part to David; yet it is not altogether inappropriate,
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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