Sheba started a revolt against David and David sent his men to put a stop to it. Amasa was supposed to have gotten the troops organized for David, but he failed to do so. Either he had been pathetically incompetent or willfully – and traitorously – stalling. After Amasa didn’t meet David’s deadline for assembling the army, David ordered Abishai to get the job done.
Joab, as always, would do anything to protect David and that included taking out his own cousin Amasa. Remember, Amasa, Joab and Abishai were all David’s nephews, sons of two of David’s sisters.
With Amasa dead, the men who’d been with him had a decision to make; and seeing Amasa’s writhing, dying body had to have made up their minds for them: they would join Joab and Abishai as part of David’s military forces in pursuit of Sheba.
“Meanwhile, Sheba traveled through all the tribes of Israel and eventually came to the town of Abel-beth-maacah. All the members of his own clan, the Bicrites, assembled for battle and followed him into the town. When Joab’s forces arrived, they attacked Abel-beth-maacah. They built a siege ramp against the town’s fortifications and began battering down the wall. But a wise woman in the town called out to Joab, ‘Listen to me, Joab. Come over here so I can talk to you.’ As he approached, the woman asked, ‘Are you Joab?’” (II Samuel 20:14-17a, NLT).
“‘I am,’ he replied. So she said, ‘Listen carefully to your servant.’ ‘I’m listening,’ he said” (II Samuel 20:17b).
“Then she continued, ‘There used to be a saying, ‘If you want to settle an argument, ask advice at the town of Abel.’ I am one who is peace loving and faithful in Israel. But you are destroying an important town in Israel. Why do you want to devour what belongs to the Lord?’” (II Samuel 20:18-19).
This woman was certainly brave! To call out to one of the leaders of the troops attacking her city took a great deal of courage. And Joab was courteous and wise enough to listen. She pointed out the value of her town, “Abel” (the shortened version of its name); and she declared herself a “peace loving and faithful” citizen. She wanted to know the exact intent of the attack by Joab and his men.
“Joab replied, ‘Believe me, I don’t want to devour or destroy your town! That’s not my purpose. All I want is a man named Sheba son of Bicri from the hill country of Ephraim, who has revolted against King David. If you hand over this one man to me, I will leave the town in peace” (II Samuel 20:20-21).
“‘All right,’ the woman replied, ‘we will throw his head over the wall to you.’ Then the woman went to all the people with her wise advice, and they cut off Sheba’s head and threw it out to Joab. So he blew the ram’s horn and called his troops back from the attack. They all returned to their homes, and Joab returned to the king at Jerusalem” (II Samuel 20:21b-22).
Sheba’s rebellion against God’s anointed one cost him his own life and undoubtedly other lives, too, but one unnamed wise woman and one wise man, Joab, prevented what could have been a great deal more bloodshed, including the destruction of an entire town.
A lesser man would have ignored this woman’s request to speak with him. But not Joab. Brutal though he may have been, he was faithful to David and wise enough to be willing to listen – even to a woman.
“A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he gets to know something.” (Wilson Mizner)
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates