2 Samuel 20:17
When he had come near to her, the woman asked, "Are you Joab?" "I am," he replied. "Listen to the words of your servant," she said. "I am listening," he answered.
A PeacemakerB. Dale 2 Samuel 20:15-22
Abel's Oracle; or Prudence and PeaceablenessF. Hastings.2 Samuel 20:16-22

2 Samuel 20:15-22. - (ABEL-BETH-MAACAH.)
Then cried a wise woman out of the city, Hear! hear? (ver. 16).

1. Hard pressed by the forces of Joab, Sheba threw himself into the fortified city of Abel-beth-Maachah (in the northwest extremity of Palestine). The feelings of its inhabitants toward him are not stated. But Joab soon appeared; and, without entering into any negotiations with them, made preparations for attack. "Taking advantage of an oblong knoll of natural rock that rises above the surrounding plain, the original inhabitants raised a high mound sufficiently large for the city. With a deep trench and strong wall it must have been almost impregnable. The besiegers cast up a mount against the city, 'and it stood in the trench'" etc. (Thomson, 'The Land and the Book'). A deadly conflict was imminent.

2. At this juncture a wise woman presented herself at the wall; and, having obtained a hearing, sought to make peace; nor was her endeavour fruitless. "There was a little city," etc. (Ecclesiastes 9:14, 15). "Wisdom is better than strength. Wisdom is better than weapons of war; but one sinner destroyeth much good" (Ecclesiastes 9:16, 18). As one bad man exposed the city to destruction, so one good woman effected its deliverance.

3. There is often much need of a peacemaker to heal the strife that arises between individuals, families, cities, Churches, and nations. Regarded as an example to others, this "wise woman" of Abel -

I. POSSESSED AN EXCELLENT SPIRIT; observant, prudent, sagacious, peaceful, faithful, just, and benevolent. Hence she was prompted to go of her own accord, individually and independently, to "seek peace, and pursue it" (1 Peter 3:11; Psalm 34:12-16; Genesis 13:8, 9).

1. Being grieved at the sight of strife between brethren, and the prospect of the miseries which they were about to inflict on each other.

2. Being desirous of preventing the evil which threatened them, and promoting their welfare. Her chief concern was about her own city, which was likely to be the greater sufferer; but she was also (like Joab, ver. 20) concerned about others, and the general good of Israel, in which Abel was "a mother city," a part of "the inheritance of Jehovah" (ver. 19).

3. Having faith in the common sense of men, their regard for their own interest (when they saw it, not blinded by prejudice), their love of justice, their generally good intentions (when not under the influence of wrath and revenge), and their susceptibility to the power of persuasion.

4. Being determined to make every possible effort and sacrifice, and undergo any personal risk and suffering for the sake of peace. She was doubtless willing (as others have been) to lay down her own life if thereby the lives of others might be spared. "Peacemakers are fire quenchers, who, although they may with plying of engines and much ado, rescue a pile of buildings from the flames, yet their eyes will be sure to smart with the smoke" (R. Harris).

II. ADOPTED AN ADMIRABLE METHOD; thereby justifying the "wisdom" with which she was credited. Perceiving that there was some misunderstanding between the contending parties, her aim was to clear it up; if there were any real cause of contention, to remove it; and thus dispose them to peace. This she endeavoured to effect by:

1. Seizing the opportune moment for interposition; promptly availing herself of the pause before the attack. Instead of "battered the wall" (Authorized Version), read, "were devising to throw down the wall." There is generally such a time for the work of a peacemaker, which, if it be neglected, may be afterwards too late.

2. Making use of courteous, gentle, reasonable, and impressive speech. "Hear the words of thine handmaid." Like the woman of Tekoah (2 Samuel 14:4), she was a mistress in the art of persuasion. "The tongue of the wise is health" (Proverbs 12:18); "a tree of life" (Proverbs 15:4; Proverbs 10:20; Proverbs 18:21).

3. Ascertaining the nature of the misunderstanding, and the occasion of complaint; and, for this purpose, going directly and separately to the persons concerned, and learning it from their own lips. She knew the sentiments of her people, especially that they felt aggrieved that no communications should have been made to them by Joab, and suspected his destructive and merciless designs. And now she sought to discover what were his real thoughts and purposes in relation to them. How much mischief would be prevented if contending parties would only be at pains to understand one another!

4. Removing all misconception, and producing the conviction in each party of the just aims and good intentions of the other. To Joab she said, "You evidently deem this city deficient in good sense; whereas it has been always noted for its wisdom and conciliatory disposition and counsel. You think the people contentious and rebellious; I assure you in their name that we are among the most peaceable and faithful in Israel. Yet, without any communication with us, so as to ascertain our feelings, and without any reasonable cause, you are about to give an important city of Israel to the devouring sword. Why will you bring to ruin what belongs to the Lord?" On the other hand, from his reply, it was made apparent that he was not desirous of their destruction (as they supposed), but only sought to inflict a just punishment on a notorious traitor in their midst, and was under the necessity (if, as he had supposed, they harboured him, participated with him in rebellion, and resolved to defend him to the utmost) of making an attack upon them for that purpose. "Far be it, far be it from me... The matter is not so," etc. (vers. 20, 21). Misunderstanding was now at an end, but a real occasion of difference remained.

5. Obtaining needful concessions on both sides. "Deliver him only, and I will depart from the city... Behold, his head shall be thrown to thee through the wall." If (as is doubtful) the people had (from whatever reason) at first shown favour to the cause of Sheba, they were now persuaded by her to do otherwise, "and so they ended the matter."

6. Requiring no sacrifice of principle; but only urging a course conformable to "goodness, righteousness, and truth," and consistent with professed obedience to the will of the Lord. "The just punishment of one atrocious criminal is frequently mercy to great numbers" (Scott). "Follow peace with all men, and holiness" (Hebrews 12:14; Romans 14:19; James 3:17, 18).

III. ACHIEVED AN EMINENT TRIUMPH - the triumph of peace. "And he blew the trumpet" (ver. 22) summoning to peace, as Sheba had blown it summoning to war (ver. 1). It was a victory over error, distrust, wilfulness, wrath, injustice, rebellion; and one by which:

1. An immense evil was prevented.

2. The general good was promoted.

3. The Divine kingdom (as represented in the government of David) was confirmed.

4. The peacemaker's joy was fulfilled. The wise woman accomplished what she had set her heart upon; and in blessing others was herself blessed. "Blessed are the peacemakers," etc. (Matthew 5:9). "Of the following things," said a Jewish rabbi, "men reap the fruits both in the present and the future life - honouring father and mother, bestowing benefits, and making peace between men."


1. It is hardly possible to estimate too highly the worth of peace among men.

2. Those who would make peace between others must themselves be at peace with God, with their own hearts, and with their neighbours. The peacemaker must not be a peacebreaker.

3. The greatest Peacemaker the world has ever seer. is Jesus Christ, who is "our Peace" (Ephesians 2:14).

4. In proportion as we partake of his spirit we shall endeavour to heal all unholy strife and promote "peace on earth." D.

Then cried a wise woman out of the city.
I. THE PEOPLE IN ABEL OF BETHMAACHAH ARE ON THE VERGE OF RUIN, for Joab is battering away at the walls. Soon his soldiers will be pouring into the city, and the sword will devour and destroy. Now if a man could do wrong and suffer alone it would be more tolerable. No man can, how, ever, suffer alone. We always suffer in greater or less degree by any sin committed by our fellows. We are all so co-related, interwoven. We may even, as one has said, "sin in the persons of other men," for those who received an evil influence from us may go on sinning through that influence, and so suffer through their own sin and ours. Even when we have passed from this stage of existence our influence will still live. "Being dead we speak," either for evil or for good. It is so hard to check evil once committed, much more to stop it altogether. Every day we meet with instances of similar suffering. A father has forged a cheque, and his children must suffer, although it is not their fault that they are his children. A mother is fretful and gloomy, and the whole household is made wretched. A brother defrauds another; or over-speculates with money entrusted to him, and his sisters are ruined; or a marriage just about to take place is checked, and the sister's hopes blighted. Sin is terrible. Its near and remote consequences are beyond our power of conception. The deed of folly and sin soaks into the lives of others, and breaks out or flows on in channels undreamt of. We can do nothing that shall have an end in ourselves. "One sinner destroyeth much good." The rough, unskilled hand touching a picture, or attempting to repair the delicate mechanism of a watch, may do much greater damage than can be conceived. So one Sheba can imperil a city. So one hidden sin can endanger salvation — can ruin a soul.

II. But we see, on the other hand, that the POWER OF AN INDIVIDUAL TO BLESS MAY BALANCE THE EVIL WROUGHT BY THE CARELESS AND SELFISH. While Joab's soldiers are battering the walls, above the din is heard the voice of a woman — "Hear! listen! listen, I pray you!" "Deliver him up, and I will depart from the city." This was the concession the wise woman wanted, and soon Sheba's head was thrown over the wall. Then Joab blew the trumpet of recall, and his soldiers dropped their arms and refrained from further attack. The city was saved.

1. We may learn that as no city is safe with a traitor in it, so no heart is safe where a single sin is cherished. We must pluck out or cut off the sin that besets or absorbs us.

2. We should in all circumstances seek to act in a commonsense manner. Wisdom is not merely extraordinary knowledge, but perception.

3. There was no sacrifice of principle in the action of the woman or of the citizens. Caiaphas in after ages suggested that it was better that Christ should die than that the whole nation should perish. Caiaphas cared not that Christ was innocent. Christ had not brought the evil Sheba had. It was better for a nation to suffer than to permit an innocent man to be condemned.

4. The wise woman chose a suitable time for ending the strife. Some good projects are marred through being inopportune, but it was not so in this ease. The woman had done all she could to save the city. Conclusion. In the matter of our salvation, we would say, let not the traitor of pride and procrastination be permitted to remain within the soul. Cast away self-will and pride, and seek peace. Law is terrible, so long as we are not in harmony with it, not when our sin is forgiven. Christ has come to make peace. He is our peace. He saw our danger. At the right moment he interposed. He allowed Himself to bear contumely and crucifixion that we might be delivered. He took, as it were, the place of Sheba. He was made sin for us, and permitted Himself to be case out, that we might be saved. He died in our place, for sin-enslaved, defiant, rebellious souls. He did it unasked. He did it from pure love. He saw not one man, but a whole world perishing, and He said, "Better that I should die than that all these should perish."

(F. Hastings.)

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
Approached, Ear, Giving, Handmaid, Hearing, I'm, Joab, Jo'ab, Listen, Listening, Maidservant, Servant, Servant's
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 20:1-22

     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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