2 Samuel 20:6
And David said to Abishai, Now shall Sheba the son of Bichri do us more harm than did Absalom: take thou thy lord's servants, and pursue after him, lest he get him fenced cities, and escape us.
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(6) David said to Abishai.—David is determined to pass over Joab, and, therefore, when Amasa fails in this crisis, requiring immediate action, he summons Abishai, and puts him in command of such forces as were at hand in Jerusalem, and gives him orders for the rapid pursuit of Sheba. The clause “escape us” is difficult, and doubtful in the original, and the English follows the Vulg. Others translate “pluck out our eye,” i.e., do us great harm; others as the LXX., “over shadow our eye,” meaning either cause us anxiety, or hide where we cannot find him.

2 Samuel 20:6-7. Then David said to Abishai — Not to Joab; lest by this means he should recover his place, and Amasa be discontented, and David’s fidelity in making good his promise to Amasa be questioned. Now shall Sheba do us more harm than Absalom — If he have time to gather an army; the people being highly incensed by the provocation which the men of Judah had given them. Take thy lord’s servants — The guards that attended David, and the standing forces which were always kept in readiness. There went out after him Joab’s men — A body of men whom he particularly commanded, with whom Joab also might go in some character, watching an opportunity to do what he designed.

20:4-13 Joab barbarously murdered Amasa. The more plot there is in a sin, the worse it is. Joab contentedly sacrificed the interest both of the king and the kingdom to his personal revenge. But one would wonder with what face a murderer could pursue a traitor; and how, under such a load of guilt, he had courage to enter upon danger: his conscience was seared.To Abishai - Probably, as the king was on bad terms with Joab, and wished to deprive him of his post as Captain of the host, he gave his orders to Abishai, and weakly connived at the execution of them by Joab, which was inevitable. 4. Then said the king to Amasa, Assemble me the men of Judah within three days—Amasa is now installed in the command which David had promised him. The revolt of the ten tribes, probably, hastened the public declaration of this appointment, which he hoped would be popular with them, and Amasa was ordered within three days to levy a force from Judah sufficient to put down the insurrection. The appointment was a blunder, and the king soon perceived his error. The specified time passed, but Amasa could not muster the men. Dreading the loss of time, the king gave the commission to Abishai, and not to Joab—a new affront, which, no doubt, wounded the pride of the stern and haughty old general. But he hastened with his attached soldiers to go as second to his brother, determined to take the first opportunity of wreaking his vengeance on his successful rival. David said to Abishai; not to Joab, lest by this means he should recover his place, and Amasa be discontented, and David’s fidelity in making good his promise to Amasa be questioned.

Thy lord’s servants, i.e. my guards that attend upon my person, and the other soldiers who are now present with me. He speaks of himself in the third person, as is very frequent. For it is not probable he would now call Joab his lord, whom he had lately deposed; nor Amasa, who had not yet taken actual possession of his place, nor had the command over the king’s guards.

And David said to Abishai,.... For it seems he would have nothing to say to Joab, being displeased with him for slaying Absalom, and having removed him from his posts; and therefore speaks to the next officer in his army, Abishai; though Josephus (p) says, he addressed himself to Joab, contrary to the express words of the text:

now shall Sheba the son of Bichri do us more harm than did Absalom; gain a greater party, and give more trouble to subdue him, unless suppressed in time:

take thou thy lord's servants, and pursue after him; without waiting for Amasa, and the troops he was assembling; delays in such a case as an insurrection being dangerous, which ought to be nipped in the bud, and crushed as soon as possible; in order to which, he bids him take his servants that were about him, his bodyguards, and pursue Sheba:

lest he get him fenced cities; where he may secure himself, and hold out a siege a long time, and give a great deal of trouble:

and escape us; for the present; or "escape our eyes", as the "Keri", or marginal reading is; we shall lose sight of him, and not know which way he is gone, if he is not pursued quickly.

(p) Antiqu. l. 7. c. 11. sect. 6.

And David said to Abishai, Now shall Sheba the son of Bichri do us more harm than did Absalom: take thou thy {f} lord's servants, and pursue after him, lest he get him fenced cities, and escape us.

(f) Either those who had been under Joab or David's men.

6. to Abishai] David now gave his orders to Abishai, being determined at any rate to supersede Joab. For the moment Joab seemed to acquiesce, and marched out under his brother’s command (2 Samuel 20:7), intending to wait his opportunity. This speedily presented itself: without scruple he murdered his rival, and then by Abishai’s consent, resumed his old position as commander-in-chief (2 Samuel 20:10-11).

thy lord’s servants] The bodies of troops mentioned in 2 Samuel 20:7, which formed a small standing army.

escape us] A phrase of doubtful meaning, found nowhere else. Either as E. V. following the Vulg. escape us: or pluck out our eye = do us serious injury: or as the Sept. overshadow our eyes = cause us anxiety.

Verse 6. - David said to Abishai. David thus gives the command to the younger brother, and we find in ver. 7 that even "Joab's men," his own special troop, were placed under Abishai's command. There seems always to have been a firm friendship between the brothers, and at first Joab acquiesces. The king was, in fact, in so grim a humour that he probably felt that he had better keep with his men, who would protect him, instead of remaining at Jerusalem, where he would be in David's power. When Amasa joined them, Abishai would have to resign to him the command; and David probably expected that, after a successful campaign, and with the aid of the men of Judah, who were rebels like himself, Amasa would be able to crush Joab. But Joab did not intend to wait for this; and immediately on meeting his rival he murders him, and assumes the command. Thy lord's servants. These are the men enumerated in ver. 7, and formed David's usual military attendants. When war broke out, they were reinforced by a levy of the people. And escape us. The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain. It may signify, "and withdraw himself from our eyes," which gives the sense of the Authorized Version, and is supported by the Vulgate. The Septuagint renders, "and overshadow our eyes," which might have the same meaning, but, as others think, may signify, "and cause us anxiety." Many modern commentators render, "and pluck out our eye;" that is, do us painful damage. Either this or the Authorized Version gives a good sense, and, anyhow, rapid action was necessary, or Sheba's revolt might become dangerous. 2 Samuel 20:6But when Amasa stayed out beyond the time fixed for the execution of the royal commission (the Chethib וייחר is the Piel וייחר, whilst the Keri is either the Hiphil ויּוחר, or the imperfect Kal of יחר equals אחר, cf. תּחז, 2 Samuel 20:9, and is quite unnecessary), probably because the men of Judah distrusted him, and were not very ready to respond to his summons, David said to Abishai, "Now will Sheba the son of Bichri be more injurious (more dangerous) to us than Absalom. Take thou the servants (soldiers) of thy lord and pursue after him, lest he reach fortified cities, and tear out our eye," i.e., do us a serious injury. This is the correct explanation given by Bttcher, who refers to Deuteronomy 32:10 and Zechariah 2:12, where the apple of the eye is the figure used to signify the most valuable possession; for the general explanation, "and withdraw from our eye," cannot be grammatically sustained.
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