Shmuel 2-Chapter 20: The rebellion of Sheva Ben Bichri

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Chapter 20: The rebellion of Sheva Ben Bichri

1. Sheva Ben Bichri gathers the people of Israel to rebel against Dovid:

  • [At the time of the controversy between the people of Israel and the people of Judah, as described in the end of the previous chapter[1]] there was a certain rebel by the name of Sheva Ben Bichri from the tribe of Benjamin [who had animosity against Dovid who took the kingship from Shaul who was from his tribe[2]].
  • The shofar of rebellion is sounded: He sounded the shofar [as a sign of rebellion[3]] and proclaimed [to the people present both from the tribe of Judah and the rest of Israel] that they do not have a portion amongst Dovid and they do not have an inheritance with the son of Yishaiy, and each man of Israel is for himself and should return to his own tent.
  • The people of Judah remained loyal to Dovid: When the people of Israel heard this, they left from following Dovid and began to follow Sheva Ben Bichri, however the tribe of Judah remained loyal to their king and traveled with him from the Jordan until Jerusalem.

2. Dovid segregates his concubines until the day of their death:

  • Dovid returned back to his home in Jerusalem. Upon his return, the king took his ten concubines which he had left in the castle to guard the home and he had them placed in a segregated area under guard, and he provided them with all their sustenance while there. He was not intimate with them any longer [since they had relations with his son Avshalom[4]], and they became living widows until the day of their death [as they were not allowed to marry any other men being that they were the concubines of the king[5]].

3. Dovid gatherers an army to fight the rebellion of Sheva Ben Bichri:

  • Amasa is summoned to gather an army but he stalls in the job: The king summoned Amasa [the new general of Dovid’s army[6]] and asked him to gather an army from the tribe of Judah within the next three days [in order to fight the rebellion, of Sheva Ben Bichri[7]] and then come back and stand before him [with the army that was gathered, immediately after the three days[8]]. So, Amasa went to gather the people of Judah and he ended up delaying from the set date of three days from appearing before the King [as he found the Jewish people learning Torah and he did not want to disturb them from their learning[9]].
  • Avishaiy is summoned to gather an army: [After the passing of three days when Dovid saw that Amasa had yet to return with an army[10]] Dovid summoned Avishaiy and said to him, “Sheva Ben Bichri has become a greater trouble for us than even Avshalom. Now, please take the servants of your master [i.e., the people that are found around us in the city[11], and the army of Yoav[12]] and chase after him. It is possible that he has taken refuge in a walled city in order to hide from us.” [However, he did not summon Yoav as he was angry at him for having killed his son Avshalom.[13]]
  • The Army leaves for battle: The men of Yoav followed him to battle, including the archers and Pleisi who were part of the Sanhedrin [and the slingers], and all of the warriors. They left Jerusalem to chase after Sheva Ben Bichri.

4. Amasa is murdered by Yoav:

  • They [i.e. Yoav and his men] were standing near a great stone which was in Givon when Amasa arrived to them. Yoav was wearing his uniform and armor and he had his sword within its casing strapped to his loins [resting horizontal to his body in a way that it can easily fall out of its casing[14]]. Yoav walked towards Amasa [and due to the way that he was wearing his sword] the sword slipped out and fell onto the floor [and Yoav bent down to pick it up and he held it in his right hand[15]]. Yoav then said to Amasa, “My brother, peace unto you,” and he then took his right hand and grabbed onto the beard of Amasa in order to give him a kiss. At this point, Amasa did not guard himself from the sword that was in the hands of Yoav, and Yoav took advantage of the situation and stabbed Amasa in the abdomen, causing his intestines to spill out onto the ground. The blow was so mighty that he did not need to stab him a second time as he immediately died.
  • Yoav and Avishaiy go out to war: Yoav and Avishaiy his brother then proceeded to chase after Sheva Ben Bichri.
  • The people gather around the dead body of Amasa and are told to leave the body and join the battle: [The people who are with Yoav gathered around the dead body of Amasa] and there was a certain man who stood over him [i.e. the body of Amasa] from amongst the lads of Yoav, and he proclaimed to everyone, “Whoever desires Yoav and whoever desires Dovid should now follow Yoav.” In the while, Amasa was waddling in his own blood in middle-of-the-road.
  • The body of Amasa is moved into the field and covered: The man saw that the entire nation had stopped to be with the body of Amasa, and so he took the corpse of Amasa, and he moved it from the road and dragged it into the field. He threw a garment onto Amasa, thus covering his body being that he saw everyone stopping by the body [and he wanted to prevent them from delaying going to war].
  • When the body was moved from the road, all the people followed Yoav to join the chase after Sheva Ben Bichri.

5. The battle against Sheva Ben Bichri:

  • Sheva Ben Bichri gathers followers: Sheva Ben Bichri traveled amongst all the tribes of Israel to seduce them to join the rebellion and crown him as king. He traveled until the city of Aveila, and Beis Macha [which were near each other[16]], and all the towns that were near the wells. He managed to gather all the people, and they followed after him.[17]
  • The siege of the cities of Sheva Ben Bichri by Yoav: Yoav and his men came and placed a siege on the city of Aveila and Beis Macha. They poured sand and earth opposite the walls of the city in order to be able to climb over the wall and battle the people. They managed to break through the external wall and were standing by the inner wall of the city, thus threatening the total capture of the city. The men of Yoav were destroying the walls of the city through the use of stone balls which were propelled towards the wall.
  • A dialogue begins between a woman in the city and Yoav: There was a certain wise woman in the city [i.e. Search Bas Asher[18]] who called and asked to meet with Yoav. She yelled towards the men of her city and said, “listen, listen, please tell Yoav that he should come here so I could speak to him.” So, Yoav came towards her, and the woman said to him, “Are you indeed Yoav?” and he answered that indeed he is. The woman then said to him, “please listen to the words of your servant,” and he replied that he is ready to hear. She said to him as follows, “You should have first tried to seek peace with the city prior to waging war against it. If you would have done so, they would’ve immediately made peace with you. I am from amongst the members of the city, and I can tell you that the members of the city are loyal to the king and his servants, and you nonetheless desire to destroy the city and annihilate a great multitude of people from amongst Israel? Why would you destroy an inheritance of G-d?”
  • A deal is reached to hand over Sheva Ben Bichri and have the city be saved: Yoav replied to her, “Heaven forfend that I would do such a thing, to annihilate and destroy a city amongst Israel. The issue is that there is a rebel from the mountain of the Efraim by the name of Sheva Ben Bichri who has raised his hand against the king, Dovid. I will give you an ultimatum, hand him over to us and we will leave the city alone.” The woman replied to Yoav that, “behold his head will be thrown to you over the city walls.”
  • Sheva Ben Bichri is killed, and his head is handed to Yoav: The woman came to the nation with her wisdom and managed to decapitate Sheva Ben Bichri. His head was then thrown to Yoav.
  • The Army of Yoav disperses from the city: After the above occurred, the shofar was blown [as a signal the end the siege[19]] and the soldiers left the city and returned each man to their home. Yoav returned back to Jerusalem to the king.

6. The positions held by the various personalities loyal to Dovid:

  • Yoav: Yoav was the general over the army of Israel.
  • Benaya Ben Yehoyada: Benaya Ben Yehoyada was in charge of the Kreisi Upleisi [i.e. the archers[20]; or the Sanhedrin[21]; or the nations named Kreisi and Pleisi[22]].
  • Adoram: Adoram was the tax collector [to collect taxes from the gentile nations that the Jews had sovereignty over[23], and likewise to collect the income tax from the Jewish people[24]].
  • Yehoshafat the son of Achilud: Yehoshafat the son of Achilud was the secretary [in charge of writing the Chronicles of history[25]].
  • Sheva: Sheva was the scribe of Dovid [in charge of the accounting of the treasury and taxes[26]].
  • Tzadok and Avyasar: Tzadok and Avyasar were the priests under Dovid [Tzadok being the high priest and Avyasar being his vice high priest[27]], as well as Ira Hayairi was a priest for Dovid [to whom Dovid would give all of his personal priestly gifts[28], and was appointed an aristocrat and advisor of Dovid and in charge of leading the Jewish people and as the Mashuach Milchama[29]].


[1] Metzudos Dovid 20:1

[2] Pirush Rav Yosef Karo 20:1

[3] Metzudos Dovid 20:1

[4] See Radak 20:3; Metzudos Dovid 20:3; Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 2:3

[5] See Ralbag 20:3

[6] See Radak and Metzudos Dovid on 20:4

[7] Rashi and Radak 20:4

[8] Rashi 20:4

[9] Rashi 20:5; Sanhedrin 49a

[10] Rashi 20:6

[11] Rashi 20:6

[12] Radak 20:6

[13] Metzudos Dovid 20:6

[14] Rashi 20:8

[15] Rashi 20:8

[16] Radak 20:14

[17] See the various Mefarshim, of which some interpret the verses as we wrote above [i.e. Rashi and Ralbag 20:14] while others interpret it going on Yoav, that he is the one who traveled all these places and gathered the Jewish people to follow after him in the chase. [Metzudos Dovid 20:14] See also Radak ibid

[18] Rashi 20:19

[19] Metzudos Dovid 20:22

[20] Radak 20:23

[21] Ralbag 20:23

[22] Pirush Riy Karo 20:23

[23] Ralbag 20:24

[24] Pirush Rav Yeshaya and Metzudos Dovid 20:24

[25] Metzudos Dovid 20:24

[26] See Ralbag 20:25

[27] Metzudos Dovid 20:26

[28] Rashi 20:26; Eiruvin 63a

[29] Metzudos Dovid 20:26

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