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20 A worthless troublemaker, Sheba the Benjaminite, the son of Bichri, blasted a trumpet and silenced everyone.

Sheba: We don’t have any share in David, no interest in the son of Jesse! Israel, let’s go back to our tents and show loyalty to only our own tribes!

So the people of Israel stopped following David and followed Sheba, son of Bichri; but the people of Judah faithfully accompanied David back from the Jordan to Jerusalem.

David came back to his palace at Jerusalem, and he took the 10 members of his harem he had left behind to look after things—the concubines whom Absalom had used sexually—and put them away in a house, under guard. He took care of them, but he never slept with them again as long as they lived. They lived shut away as if they were widows.

David (to Amasa): Go and tell the men of Judah they have three days to get here, and you come with them.

So Amasa went out to call Judah together, but he was delayed beyond his deadline.

David (to Abishai): Sheba, Bichri’s son, will do more damage to us than Absalom if he’s left untouched. Take my men and pursue him. If we’re not careful, he’ll escape into a fortified city and continue to cause trouble.

So Joab took his troops with the mercenary corps of Cherethites and Pelethites, and all these warriors went from Jerusalem in pursuit of Sheba, Bichri’s son. When they reached the great boulder at Gibeon, Amasa met them. Joab was dressed for battle, with his sword strapped on at the waist; and as he went forward to meet Amasa, Joab’s sword slipped out of its sheath.

Joab: How are you, my brother?

With his right hand, Joab held Amasa’s face to kiss him, 10 but Amasa did not see the sword in Joab’s left hand. With one motion, Joab ripped open Amasa’s belly; his intestines spilled onto the ground, and he died. Then Joab and his brother Abishai went off in pursuit of Sheba, Bichri’s son. 11 One of Joab’s men stood by Amasa’s body and shouted,

Joab’s Soldier: If you’re for Joab and David, then follow Joab!

12 Amasa lay agonizing in his blood on the highway, and the soldier saw that everyone was stopping to look. He dragged Amasa off the road into a field and threw a coat over him. 13 Once that distraction was removed, all the soldiers followed Joab to find Sheba, son of Bichri.

14 Sheba marched across all the tribal lands of Israel until he came to Abel in Beth-maacah; and all his kinsmen, the Berites, gathered and followed him inside the fortified city. 15 When Joab’s army arrived, they put Abel Beth-maacah under siege. They built an earthen rampart up onto the wall, while others with Joab tried to break the wall down. 16 Then a wise woman called out from the city.

Woman: Listen to me! Tell Joab that I want to talk to him!

17 Joab came close enough to hear her.

Woman: Are you Joab?

Joab: Yes, I am.

Woman: I, your servant, have something to tell you.

Joab: All right. I am listening.

Woman: 18 In the old days, people used to say, “Let’s ask for guidance at Abel,” and there they would resolve their differences. 19 I am one of the many in Israel who are faithful and peaceful. Why would you destroy a city that has been a mother to Israel? Why would you knock down what the Eternal One has built?

Joab: 20 I’m certainly not here to destroy the city. 21 That’s the last thing I want to do! But we are pursuing a man from the hill country of Ephraim: Sheba, Bichri’s son, who has raised up a rebellion against David the king. If you will hand him over to us, then we will lift the siege and go home.

Woman: Then stay alert—we’ll throw his head over the wall to you.

22 The wise woman talked to all the people about her plan to save the city. They cut off Sheba’s head and threw it over the wall for Joab. Then Joab blew the trumpet to halt his attack. The troops went to their homes, and Joab returned to the king at Jerusalem.

23 With Amasa dead, Joab again commanded all the army of Israel. Benaiah, Jehoiada’s son, commanded the mercenary companies of Cherethites and Pelethites. 24 Adoram commanded all the forced laborers. Jehoshaphat, Ahilud’s son, was the recorder, 25 and Sheva was the royal secretary. Zadok and Abiathar were priests, 26 and Ira the Jairite was David’s priest.

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