2 Samuel 20:2
So all the men of Israel deserted David to follow Sheba son of Bichri. But the men of Judah stayed by their king all the way from the Jordan to Jerusalem.
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.

They shall surely ask counsel at Abel.
It will have to come to that again. Things cannot be settled really and lastingly except by counsel, wisdom, consent. The sword has had its day; it is a fool's argument. What is the idea of the text that is translatable into the practice of all places and all ages? Whether there was an oracle at Abel, whether there was a counsel of referees there, whether this one wise woman had in her own hand, as it were, the decision of important controversies, we can never determine: suffice it to know that there was a time, holy, sabbatic time, when men said, Let us go to the little town of Abel and talk this matter out: and so they ended the matter. The point to which we should direct attention is that there comes a moment when things must be settled by authority. Blessed are they who consent to the constitution of that authority; then it is no longer despotism or tyranny, it is settlement by consent. In old time men were wont to take counsel at Abel; and so they ended the matter. They discussed it, canvassed it, threshed it out, and went into it through and through, saw what it was made of, and then, having done so, they put out hand to hand, and were men and brothers once more. This same principle is amongst us like a ghost. Sometimes we get it in a concrete form and work it into the very practice of life, yet it is ever amongst us as a kind of spectre, some being more or less afraid of it, some offering it hospitality, all acknowledging that if it really could be brought into play on a large and just basis it would settle everything.

I. THE ABEL OF EXPERIENCE. There is an Abel, a venerable city, called Experience; why not go down to the Abel of experience, take counsel there: and so settle the matter? Experience ought to go for something. Experience is man's account of life. He tells you where he has been, what he has done, how he has conducted himself, and what results have accrued from the policies and the processes which he has adopted. We ought to hear that man. We always think there is a shorter cut than he took. Every age think it could work the programme better than Solomon worked it. For a long period this must go on, but the day will come when experience will go for something, when grey hairs will be taken as the symbols of philosophy, when the wrinkled face will itself be a title to be heard on all the practical questions and issues of life.

II. THE ABEL OF TIME. Why not go to another aspect of this same experience, another corner of this same Abel, and consult Time? Why not admit Time to our counsels? Why leap at new theories? Why bristle up when the unpronouncable name of some lager-beer drinker is associated with some new mare's nest in the realm of letters and theology? How many theories have come and gone! Where are they? Gone with the lager-beer! When men come to you with new theories, you should say, We must test these, or see them tested by long time. The Cross — the weird, grim, ghastly Cross — is nineteen centuries old, and it lifts itself up to-day the symbol of universal life. As for these theories and inventions of yours, it is only right that we should see how they bear the stress and the sifting of time. In old time our fathers were wont to come to the Abel of the Bible; venerable men would say, To the law and to the testimony! Perhaps they had too narrow a way of referring to the scriptures; they might make too much of a chapter and a verse, they might not sufficiently compare Scripture with Scripture and get their souls into the very genius of Divine revelation as to speak Biblically rather than textually: but their principle was right. They said, We know nothing of God but what is revealed, we know nothing of the future but what is written in the Book, we know nothing about sin and about redemption except what we are told by the revelation of God, as we believe it to be: therefore let us go to:

III. THE ABEL OF THE BIBLE, take counsel, and so end the matter. I am here to say in my own name, as the result of my own searching and experience, that I can get no answers to the greatest problems of mind and time equal in largeness, in precision, in hopefulness, to the answers that are given in the Bible. There are other answers, but I have found none that can stretch themselves with ease and dignity over the whole space of necessity.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

It has been supposed that the true interpretation of asking counsel at Abel is that Abel had become famous for its wisdom. In one of the Targums we read: "Remember now that which is written in the book of the law, to ask a city concerning peace at the first. Hast thou done so to ask of Abel if they will make peace." No certain interpretation can be given to the words; but we are at liberty to remember that even superstition has sometimes played a useful part in history. Men have attached importance to times, places, emotions, and by so much have been checked in their impulses and subdued in their fiery ambitions.

(J. Parker, D. D.).

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
TRUE, Bichri, Bicri, Clave, Cleave, Cleaved, David, Follow, Followed, Jerusalem, Joined, Jordan, Judah, Sheba, Stayed, Steadfast, Steadfastly, Turning, Withdrawing, Withdrew
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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