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2 Samuel 20-24 Common English Bible (CEB)

Sheba’s rebellion

20 Now a despicable man named Sheba, Bichri’s son, from Benjamin, was also there. He sounded the trumpet and said:

“We don’t care about David!
    We have no stake in Jesse’s son!
        Go back to your homes, Israel!”

So all the Israelites left David to follow Bichri’s son Sheba. But all the people of Judah stayed close to their king from the Jordan River all the way to Jerusalem.

When David arrived at his palace in Jerusalem, the king took the ten secondary wives he had left to take care of the palace and put them in a house under guard. He provided for them, but he didn’t have sex with them. They were confined until the day they died, and lived like widows.

Then the king said to Amasa, “Call everyone in Judah here to me three days from now. You should be here too.” So Amasa went to call Judah together, but he took longer than the allotted time.

David told Abishai, “Bichri’s son Sheba will cause more trouble for us than Absalom did. Take your master’s servants and chase after him before he finds fortified cities and escapes from us.” So Joab’s men marched out after Sheba—this included the Cherethites, the Pelethites, and all the warriors. They marched out of Jerusalem to pursue Bichri’s son Sheba.

When they got to the great stone in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Joab was dressed in his soldier’s uniform. Over the tunic at his waist he wore a sword in its sheath. As Joab went forward it slipped out.

“How are you, my brother?” Joab asked Amasa, and with his right hand he took hold of Amasa’s beard as if to kiss him. 10 But Amasa didn’t notice the sword in Joab’s hand. Joab struck him in the stomach with it so that Amasa’s intestines spilled out on the ground. He died without Joab striking him a second time. Then Joab and his brother Abishai pursued Sheba, Bichri’s son.

11 One of Joab’s men stood by Amasa and said, “Whoever favors Joab, and whoever is for David, follow Joab!” 12 Amasa was writhing in blood in the middle of the road, and the man saw that everyone was stopping. When he saw this, he dragged Amasa from the road into a field and threw a robe over him. 13 Once Amasa was moved out of the road, everyone who followed Joab marched past in pursuit of Bichri’s son Sheba.

14 Sheba went through all the Israelite tribes up to Abel of Beth-maacah. All the Bichrites[a] assembled and followed Sheba in. 15 Then Joab’s men arrived and attacked Sheba at Abel of Beth-maacah. They piled up a ramp against the city, and it stood against the outer wall.[b] All of Joab’s troops were hammering the wall, trying to bring it down.

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

17 So Joab approached her, and the woman said, “Are you Joab?”

“I am,” he answered.

“Pay close attention to the words of your female servant,” she said.

“I’m listening,” Joab replied.

18 She said, “People used to say long ago: ‘Ask your question at Abel,’ and that settled the matter. 19 I am one of the peaceful and faithful in Israel, but you are trying to kill a city that is one of Israel’s mothers! Why would you annihilate the Lord’s inheritance?”

20 Joab answered, “I would never, ever annihilate or destroy such a thing! 21 That’s not the issue. A man named Sheba, Bichri’s son, who is from the Ephraim highlands, has rebelled against King David. Just hand him over, and I’ll leave the city alone.”

The woman said to Joab, “His head will be thrown over the wall to you!”

22 When the woman went to everyone with her wise counsel, they cut off the head of Sheba, Bichri’s son, and threw it out to Joab. Then Joab sounded the trumpet, and his troops left the city, returning to their homes. But Joab returned to the king in Jerusalem.

David’s officials

23 Now Joab was in command of Israel’s army; Jehoiada’s son Benaiah commanded the Cherethites and the Pelethites; 24 Adoram was in charge of the forced labor; Ahilud’s son Jehoshaphat was the recorder; 25 Sheva was secretary; Zadok and Abiathar were priests; 26 and Ira from Jair was also a priest for David.

Avenging the Gibeonites

21 There was a famine for three years in a row during David’s rule. David asked the Lord about this, and the Lord said, “It is caused by Saul and his household, who are guilty of bloodshed because he killed the people of Gibeon.” So the king called for the Gibeonites and spoke to them.

(Now the Gibeonites weren’t Israelites but were survivors of the Amorites. The Israelites had sworn a solemn pledge to spare them, but Saul tried to eliminate them in his enthusiasm for the people of Israel and Judah.)

David said to the Gibeonites, “What can I do for you? How can I fix matters so you can benefit from the Lord’s inheritance?”

The Gibeonites said to him, “We don’t want any silver or gold from Saul or his family, and it isn’t our right to have anyone in Israel killed.”

“What do you want?”[c] David asked. “I’ll do it for you.”

“Okay then,” they said to the king. “That man who opposed and oppressed[d] us, who planned to destroy us, keeping us from having a place to live anywhere in Israel— hand over seven of his sons to us, and we will hang them before the Lord at Gibeon[e] on the Lord’s mountain.”

“I will hand them over,” the king said.

But the king spared Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son and Saul’s grandson, because of the Lord’s solemn pledge that was between them—between David and Saul’s son Jonathan. So the king took the two sons of Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, Armoni and Mephibosheth, whom she had birthed for Saul; and the five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab,[f] whom she birthed for Adriel, Barzillai’s son, who was from Meholah, and he handed them over to the Gibeonites. They hanged them on the mountain before the Lord. The seven of them died at the same time. They were executed in the first days of the harvest, at the beginning of the barley harvest.

10 Aiah’s daughter Rizpah took funeral clothing and spread it out by herself on a rock. She stayed there from the beginning of the harvest until the rains poured down on the bodies from the sky, and she wouldn’t let any birds of prey land on the bodies during the day or let wild animals come at nighttime. 11 When David was told what Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, Saul’s secondary wife, had done, 12 he went and retrieved the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from the citizens of Jabesh-gilead, who had stolen the bones from the public square in Beth-shan, where the Philistines had hanged them on the day the Philistines killed Saul at Gilboa. 13 David brought the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from there and collected the bones of the men who had been hanged by the Gibeonites. 14 The bones of Saul and his son Jonathan were then buried in Zela, in Benjaminite territory, in the tomb of Saul’s father Kish. Once everything the king had commanded was done, God responded to prayers for the land.

War with the Philistines

15 Once again war broke out between the Philistines and Israel. David and the soldiers who were with him went down and fought the Philistines. When David grew tired, 16 Ishbi-benob, a descendant of the Raphah,[g] planned on killing David.[h] The weight of his spear was three hundred shekels of bronze, and he was wearing new armor. 17 But Zeruiah’s son Abishai came to David’s aid, striking the Philistine down and killing him. Then David’s men swore a solemn pledge to him: “You will never march out to battle with us again! You must not snuff out Israel’s lamp!”

18 Some time later, another battle with the Philistines took place at Gob. Then Sibbecai from Hushah killed Saph, a descendant of the Raphah. 19 There was yet another battle with the Philistines at Gob; and Elhanan, Jair’s son[i] from Bethlehem, killed Goliath from Gath, whose spear shaft was as strong as the bar on a weaver’s loom. 20 In another battle at Gath, there was a huge[j] man who had six fingers on his hands and six toes on his feet, twenty-four in all. He too was descended from the Raphah. 21 When he insulted Israel, Jonathan, who was the son of David’s brother Shimei, killed him. 22 These four Philistines were descended from the Raphah in Gath, and they fell by the hands of David and his servants.

David’s thanksgiving psalm

22 [k] David spoke the words of this song to the Lord after the Lord delivered him from the power of all his enemies and from Saul.

He said:
    The Lord is my solid rock, my fortress, my rescuer.
    My God is my rock—I take refuge in him!—
    he’s my shield and my salvation’s strength,
    my place of safety and my shelter.
    My savior! Save me from violence!
Because he is praiseworthy,[l]
    I cried out to the Lord,
    and I was saved from my enemies.
Death’s waves were all around me;
    rivers of wickedness terrified me.
The cords of the grave[m] surrounded me;
    death’s traps held me tight.
In my distress I cried out to the Lord;
    I cried out to my God.
God heard my voice from his temple;
    my cry for help reached his ears.

The earth rocked and shook;
    the sky’s foundations trembled
    and reeled because of God’s anger.
Smoke went up from God’s nostrils;
    out of his mouth came a devouring fire;
    flaming coals blazed out in front of him!
10 God parted the skies and came down;
    thick darkness was beneath his feet.
11 God mounted the heavenly creatures and flew;
    he was seen on the wind’s wings.
12 God made darkness his covering;
    water gathered in dense clouds!
13 Coals of fire blazed out of the brightness before him.
14 The Lord thundered from heaven;
    the Most High made his voice heard.
15 God shot arrows, scattering the enemy;
    he sent the lightning and whipped them into confusion.
16 The seabeds were exposed;
    the earth’s foundations were laid bare at the Lord’s rebuke,
        at the angry blast of air coming from his nostrils.

17 From on high God reached down and grabbed me;
    he took me out of deep waters.
18 God saved me from my powerful enemy,
    saved me from my foes, who were too much for me.
19 They came at me on the very day of my distress,
    but the Lord was my support.
20 He brought me out to wide-open spaces;
    he pulled me out, because he is pleased with me.
21 The Lord rewarded me for my righteousness;
    he restored me because my hands are clean,
22     because I have kept the Lord’s ways.
    I haven’t acted wickedly against my God.
23 All his rules are right in front of me;
    I haven’t turned away from any of his laws.
24 I have lived with integrity before him;
    I’ve kept myself from wrongdoing.
25 And so the Lord restored me for my righteousness,
    because I am clean in his eyes.

26 You deal faithfully with the faithful;
    you show integrity toward the one who has integrity.
27 You are pure toward the pure,
    but toward the crooked, you are tricky.
28 You are the one who saves people who suffer,
    but your eyes are against the proud.
    You bring them down!
29 You are my lamp, Lord;
    the Lord illumines my darkness.
30 With you I can charge into battle;
    with my God I can leap over a wall.
31 God! His way is perfect;
    the Lord’s word is tried and true.
    He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.

32 Now really, who is divine except the Lord?
    And who is a rock except our God?
33 Only God! My mighty fortress,
    who makes my way[n] perfect,
34 who makes my step[o] as sure as the deer’s,
    who lets me stand securely on the heights,
35 who trains my hands for war
    so my arms can bend a bronze bow.
36 You’ve given me the shield of your salvation;
        your help has made me great.
37 You’ve let me walk fast and safe,
    without even twisting an ankle.
38 I chased my enemies and destroyed them!
    I didn’t come home until I finished them off.
39 I ate them up! I struck them down!
    They couldn’t get up;
        they fell under my feet.
40 You equipped me with strength for war;
    you brought my adversaries down underneath me.
41 You made my enemies turn tail from me;
    I destroyed my foes.
42 They looked around, but there was no one to save them.
    They looked to the Lord, but he wouldn’t answer them.
43 I crushed them like dust on the ground;
    I stomped on them, trampled them like mud dumped in the streets.
44 You delivered me from struggles with many people;
    you appointed me the leader of many nations.
    Strangers come to serve me.
45 Foreigners grovel before me;
    after hearing about me, they obey me.
46     Foreigners lose their nerve;
    they come trembling out of their fortresses.[p]

47 The Lord lives! Bless God, my rock!
    Let my God, the rock of my salvation, be lifted high!
48 This is the God who avenges on my behalf,
    who subdues peoples before me,
49     who rescues me from my enemies.
You lifted me high above my adversaries;
    you delivered me from violent people.
50 That’s why I thank you, Lord, in the presence of the nations.
    That’s why I sing praises to your name.
51 You are the one who gives great victories to your king,
    who shows faithful love to your anointed one—
    to David and to his descendants forever.

David’s last words

23 These are David’s last words:

This is the declaration of Jesse’s son David,
    the declaration of a man raised high,
    a man anointed by the God of Jacob,
    a man favored by the strong one of Israel.[q]
The Lord’s spirit speaks through me;
    his word is on my tongue.
Israel’s God has spoken,
    Israel’s rock said to me:
“Whoever rules rightly over people,
    whoever rules in the fear of God,
    is like the light of sunrise
    on a morning with no clouds,
        like the bright gleam after the rain
        that brings grass from the ground.”
Yes, my house is this way with God![r]
    He has made an eternal covenant with me,
    laid out and secure in every detail.
Yes, he provides every one of my victories
    and brings my every desire to pass.
But despicable people are like thorns,
    all of them good for nothing,
    because they can’t be carried by hand.
No one can touch them,
except with iron bar or the shaft of a spear.
    They must be burned up with fire right on the spot!

David’s warriors

These are the names of David’s warriors: Jeshbaal[s] from Hachmon[t] was chief of the Three.[u] He raised his spear[v] against eight hundred, killing them on a single occasion.

Next in command was Eleazar, Dodo’s son and Ahohi’s grandson. He was among the three warriors with David when they insulted the Philistines who had gathered there for battle. The Israelites retreated, 10 but he stood his ground and fought the Philistines until his hand was weary and stuck to the sword. But the Lord accomplished a great victory that day. The troops then returned to Eleazar, but only to plunder the dead.

11 Next in command was Agee’s son Shammah, who was from Harar. The Philistines had gathered at Lehi, where there was a plot of land full of lentils. The troops fled from the Philistines, 12 but Shammah took a position in the middle of the plot, defended it, and struck down the Philistines. The Lord accomplished a great victory.

13 At harvesttime, three of the thirty chiefs went down and joined David at the fortress[w] of Adullam, while a force of Philistines were camped in the Rephaim Valley. 14 At that time, David was in the fortress, and a Philistine fort was in Bethlehem. 15 David had a craving and said, “If only someone could give me a drink of water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem.” 16 So the three warriors broke through the Philistine camp and drew water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem and brought it back to David. But he refused to drink it and poured it out to the Lord.

17 “The Lord forbid that I should do that,” he said. “Isn’t this the blood of men who risked their lives?” So he refused to drink it.

These were the kinds of things the three warriors did.

18 Now Zeruiah’s son Abishai, the brother of Joab, was chief of the Thirty.[x] He raised his spear against three hundred men, killed them, and made a name for himself along with the Three. 19 He was the most famous of the Thirty.[y] He became their commander, but he wasn’t among the Three.

20 Jehoiada’s son Benaiah was a hero from Kabzeel who performed great deeds. He killed the two sons[z] of Ariel from Moab. He once went down into a pit and killed a lion on a snowy day. 21 He also killed a giant[aa] Egyptian who had a spear in his hand. Benaiah went against him armed with a staff. He grabbed the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear. 22 These were the kinds of things Jehoiada’s son Benaiah did. He made a name for himself along with the three warriors. 23 He was famous among the Thirty, but he didn’t become one of the Three. David placed him in command of his own bodyguard.

24 Among the Thirty were:

Asahel, Joab’s brother;

Elhanan, Dodo’s son from Bethlehem;

25 Shammah from Harod;

Elika from Harod;

26 Helez from Pelet;

Ira, Ikkesh’s son from Tekoa;

27 Abiezer from Anathoth;

Mebunnai the Hushathite;

28 Zalmon from Ahoh;

Maharai from Netophah;

29 Heleb, Baanah’s son from Netophah;

Ittai, Ribai’s son from Gibeah in Benjamin;

30 Benaiah from Pirathon;

Hiddai from the Gaash ravines;

31 Abi-albon from the desert plain;

Azmaveth from Bahurim;

32 Eliahba from Shaalbon;

Jashen the Gizonite;[ab]

Jonathan, 33 Shammah’s son[ac] from Harar;

Ahiam, Sharar’s son from Harar;

34 Eliphelet, Ahasbai’s son from Maacah;

Eliam, Ahithophel’s son from Giloh;

35 Hezro from Carmel;

Paarai from Erab;

36 Igal, Nathan’s son from Zobah;

Bani the Gadite;

37 Zelek the Ammonite;

Naharai from Beeroth, and the armor-bearer for Zeruiah’s son Joab;

38 Ira from Ither;

Gaeb from Ither;

39 and Uriah the Hittite—

thirty-seven in all.

David’s census

24 The Lord burned with anger against Israel again, and he incited David against them: Go and count the people of Israel and Judah.

So the king said to Joab and the military commanders[ad] who were with him, “Go throughout all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beer-sheba, and take a census of the people so I know how many people there are.”

Joab said to the king, “May the Lord your God increase the number of people a hundred times while the eyes of my master the king can still see it! But why does my master the king want to do this?”

But the king’s word overruled Joab and the military commanders. So Joab and the commanders left the king’s presence to take a census of the Israelites. They crossed the Jordan River and began from Aroer and from[ae] the town that is in the middle of the valley of Gad, then on to Jazer. They continued to Gilead and on to Kadesh in Hittite territory.[af] They came to Dan[ag] and went around to Sidon. They went to the fortress of Tyre and to all the towns of the Hivites and the Canaanites. They went out to Beer-sheba in the arid southern plain of Judah. At the end of nine months and twenty days, after going through the entire country, they came back to Jerusalem. Joab reported to the king the number of the people who had been counted: in Israel there were eight hundred thousand strong men who could handle a sword; in Judah the total was five hundred thousand men.

10 But after this David felt terrible that he had counted the people. David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, Lord, please take away the guilt of your servant because I have done something very foolish.”

11 When David got up the next morning, the Lord’s word came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer: 12 Go and tell David, This is what the Lord says: I’m offering you three punishments. Choose one of them, and that is what I will do to you.

13 So Gad went to David and said to him, “Will three[ah] years of famine come on your land? Or will you run from your enemies for three months while they chase you? Or will there be three days of plague in your land? Decide now what answer I should take back to the one who sent me.”

14 “I’m in deep trouble,” David said to Gad. “Let’s fall into the Lord’s hands because his mercy is great, but don’t let me fall into human hands.”

15 So the Lord sent a plague on Israel from that very morning until the allotted time. Seventy thousand people died, from Dan to Beer-sheba. 16 But when the divine messenger stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord regretted doing this disaster and said to the messenger who was destroying the people, “That’s enough! Withdraw your hand.” At that time the Lord’s messenger was by the threshing floor of Araunah from Jebus.

17 When David saw the messenger who was striking down the people, he said, “I’m the one who sinned! I’m the one who has done wrong. But these sheep—what have they done wrong? Turn your hand against me and my household.”

18 That same day Gad came to David and told him, “Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah from Jebus.” 19 So David went up, following Gad’s instructions, just as the Lord had commanded.

20 Araunah looked up and saw the king and his servants approaching him. Araunah rushed out and bowed low before the king, his nose to the ground. 21 Araunah said, “Why has my master and king come to his servant?”

David said, “To buy this threshing floor from you to build an altar to the Lord, so the plague among the people may come to an end.”

22 Then Araunah said to David, “Take it for yourself, and may my master the king do what he thinks is best. Here are oxen for the entirely burned offering, and here are threshing boards and oxen yokes for wood. 23 All this, Your Majesty, Araunah gives to the king.” Then he added, “May the Lord your God respond favorably to you!”

24 “No,” the king said to Araunah. “I will buy them from you at a fair price. I won’t offer up to the Lord my God entirely burned offerings that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. 25 David built an altar there for the Lord and offered entirely burned offerings and well-being sacrifices. The Lord responded to the prayers for the land, and the plague against Israel came to an end.


  1. 2 Samuel 20:14 Cf LXX, Vulg; MT Berites
  2. 2 Samuel 20:15 Heb uncertain
  3. 2 Samuel 21:4 LXXL, OL; MT What are you saying?
  4. 2 Samuel 21:5 LXXB; MT annihilated us
  5. 2 Samuel 21:6 Correction; cf LXX and 21:9; MT at Gibeah of Saul, the Lord’s chosen one
  6. 2 Samuel 21:8 LXXLN; MT Michal (but cf 2 Sam 6:23)
  7. 2 Samuel 21:16 Or giants; also in 21:18, 20, 22
  8. 2 Samuel 21:16 LXX Joash’s son Dodo, a descendant of the Raphah (see previous note), captured David.
  9. 2 Samuel 21:19 See 1 Chron 20:5, LXXLMN (cf 2 Sam 23:24); Heb Jaare-oregim.
  10. 2 Samuel 21:20 See 1 Chron 20:6; MT a Midianite or a combative man.
  11. 2 Samuel 22:1 This poem also occurs in Psalm 18 with some variations.
  12. 2 Samuel 22:4 Heb uncertain
  13. 2 Samuel 22:6 Heb Sheol
  14. 2 Samuel 22:33 Qere; Kethib his way
  15. 2 Samuel 22:34 Qere; Kethib his step
  16. 2 Samuel 22:46 Or prisons
  17. 2 Samuel 23:1 Or Israel’s favorite singer or the favorite of Israel’s songs
  18. 2 Samuel 23:5 Or Yes, my house is surely with God!
  19. 2 Samuel 23:8 LXXL, OL; MT Josheb-bashebeth; cf 1 Chron 11:11
  20. 2 Samuel 23:8 See 1 Chron 11:11.
  21. 2 Samuel 23:8 LXXL, Vulg; cf 1 Chron 11:11; MT chief of the officers
  22. 2 Samuel 23:8 Cf 1 Chron 11:11; Heb uncertain
  23. 2 Samuel 23:13 Or cave; cf 2 Sam 23:14
  24. 2 Samuel 23:18 Some Heb manuscripts, Syr; MT third or three
  25. 2 Samuel 23:19 Syr; cf 1 Chron 11:25; MT Wasn’t he the most famous of the Three?
  26. 2 Samuel 23:20 LXX; MT lacks sons.
  27. 2 Samuel 23:21 MT handsome; cf 1 Chron 11:23
  28. 2 Samuel 23:32 Cf 1 Chron 11:34; MT Jashen’s sons
  29. 2 Samuel 23:33 LXX; MT lacks son.
  30. 2 Samuel 24:2 LXX and 2 Sam 24:4; MT commander
  31. 2 Samuel 24:5 LXX; MT camped in Aroer south of the city
  32. 2 Samuel 24:6 Hebrew uncertain; correction on to the area beneath Hermon
  33. 2 Samuel 24:6 LXXL; MT Dan-jaan
  34. 2 Samuel 24:13 LXX, 1 Chron 21:12; MT seven
Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

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