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Sheba’s Rebellion

20 A good-for-nothing man by the name of Sheba, Bichri’s son, from the tribe of Benjamin happened to be at Gilgal. He blew a ram’s horn to announce,

“We have no share in David’s kingdom.
We won’t receive an inheritance from Jesse’s son.
    Everyone to his own tent, Israel!”

So all the people of Israel left David to follow Sheba, Bichri’s son. But the people of Judah remained loyal to their king on his way from the Jordan River to Jerusalem.

When David came to his palace in Jerusalem, he took the ten concubines[a] he had left to look after the palace and put them in a house under guard. He provided for them but no longer slept with them. So they lived like widows in confinement until they died.

The king told Amasa, “Call the people of Judah together for me, and in three days be here yourself.” Amasa went to call Judah together, but he took longer to do it than David had given him.

David then told Abishai, “Sheba, son of Bichri, will do us more harm than Absalom. Take my men and go after him, or he will find some fortified cities and take the best ones for himself.”[b]

So Joab’s men, the Cherethites, Pelethites, and all the soldiers went with Abishai. They left Jerusalem to pursue Sheba, Bichri’s son. When they were at the large rock in Gibeon, Amasa met them there. Joab wore a military uniform, and strapped over it at his hip was a sword in a scabbard. As he stepped forward, the sword dropped into his hand. “How are you, my brother?” Joab asked Amasa. He took hold of Amasa’s beard with his right hand to kiss him. 10 Amasa wasn’t on his guard against the sword in Joab’s left hand. Joab stabbed him in the stomach, and his intestines poured out on the ground. (He died without being stabbed again.) Then Joab and his brother Abishai pursued Sheba, son of Bichri. 11 One of Joab’s young men stood beside Amasa[c] and said, “Anyone who favors Joab and is on David’s side should follow Joab.” 12 Amasa was wallowing in his blood in the middle of the road. When the man saw that all the troops stopped as they came to the body, he carried Amasa from the road to the field and threw a sheet over him. 13 As soon as he was moved from the road, everyone followed Joab and pursued Sheba, Bichri’s son.

14 Sheba passed through all the tribes of Israel to Abel (Beth Maacah). All the Berites were gathered together and followed him to the city. 15 Joab’s army came and attacked him in Abel (Beth Maacah). They put up a dirt ramp against the city, and it stood level with the outer wall. All the troops with Joab were trying to destroy the wall and tear it down.

16 Then a clever woman called from the city, “Listen, listen! Tell Joab to come here so that I can talk to him.”

17 He came near, and she asked, “Are you Joab?”

“I am,” he answered.

“Listen to what I have to say,” she told him.

“I’m listening,” he answered.

18 So she said, “There’s an old saying: ‘Be sure to ask at Abel before doing anything. That’s the way they settle matters.’ 19 We are peaceful and faithful Israelites. Are you trying to destroy a mother city in Israel? Why should you swallow up what belongs to Yahweh?”

20 Joab answered, “That’s unthinkable! I don’t wish to swallow it up or destroy it. 21 That isn’t the case. A man from the mountains of Ephraim by the name of Sheba, son of Bichri, has rebelled against King David. Give him to me, and I’ll withdraw from the city.”

“That’s fine,” the woman told Joab. “His head will be thrown to you from the wall.” 22 Then the woman went to all the people with her clever plan. They cut off Sheba’s head and threw it to Joab. He blew the ram’s horn, and everyone scattered and withdrew from the city and went home. Joab went back to the king in Jerusalem.

David’s Officials

23 Now, Joab was put in charge of Israel’s whole army. Benaiah, son of Jehoiada, was in charge of the Cherethites and Pelethites. 24 Adoram was in charge of forced labor. Jehoshaphat, son of Ahilud, was the royal historian. 25 Sheva was the royal scribe. Zadok and Abiathar were priests. 26 And Ira, a descendant of Jair, was a priest to David.


  1. 2 Samuel 20:3 Hebrew “concubines/wives”; a concubine is considered a wife except she has fewer rights under the law.
  2. 2 Samuel 20:6 Hebrew meaning of this phrase uncertain.
  3. 2 Samuel 20:11 Greek, Latin; Masoretic Text “him.”

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