The Antiquities of the Jews, 7.258–7.293

Flavius Josephus  translated by William Whiston

« J. AJ 7.232–7.257 | J. AJ 7.258–7.293 | J. AJ 7.294–7.317 | About This Work »

2581. Now those Hebrews that had been with Absalom, and had retired out of the battle, when they were all returned home, sent messengers to every city to put them in mind of what benefits David had bestowed upon them, and of that liberty which he had procured them, by delivering them from many and great wars. 259But they complained, that whereas they had ejected him out of his kingdom, and committed it to another governor, which other governor, whom they had set up, was already dead, they did not now beseech David to leave off his anger at them, and to become friends with them, and, as he used to do, to resume the care of their affairs, and take the kingdom again. 260This was often told to David. And, this notwithstanding, David sent to Zadok and Abiathar the high priests, that they should speak to the rulers of the tribe of Judah after the manner following: That it would be a reproach upon them to permit the other tribes to choose David for their king before their tribe, “and this,” said he, “while you are akin to him, and of the same common blood.” 261He commanded them also to say the same to Amasa the captain of their forces, That whereas he was his sister’s son, he had not persuaded the multitude to restore the kingdom to David; that he might expect from him not only a reconciliation, for that was already granted, but that supreme command of the army also which Absalom had bestowed upon him. 262Accordingly the high priests, when they had discoursed with the rulers of the tribe, and said what the king had ordered them, persuaded Amasa to undertake the care of his affairs. So he persuaded that tribe to send immediately ambassadors to him, to beseech him to return to his own kingdom. The same did all the Israelites, at the like persuasion of Amasa.

2632. When the ambassadors came to him, he came to Jerusalem; and the tribe of Judah was the first that came to meet the king at the river Jordan. And Shimei, the son of Gera, came with a thousand men, which he brought with him out of the tribe of Benjamin; and Ziba, the freed-man of Saul, with his sons, fifteen in number, and with his twenty servants. 264All these, as well as the tribe of Judah, laid a bridge [of boats] over the river, that the king, and those that were with him, might with ease pass over it. Now as soon as he was come to Jordan, the tribe of Judah saluted him. Shimei also came upon the bridge, and took hold of his feet, and prayed him to forgive him what he had offended, and not to be too bitter against him, nor to think fit to make him the first example of severity under his new authority; but to consider that he had repented of his failure of duty, and had taken care to come first of all to him. 265While he was thus entreating the king, and moving him to compassion, Abishai, Joab’s brother, said, “And shall not this man die for this, that he hath cursed that king whom God hath appointed to reign over us?” But David turned himself to him, and said, “Will you never leave off, ye sons of Zeruiah? Do not you, I pray, raise new troubles and seditions among us, now the former are over; 266for I would not have you ignorant that I this day begin my reign, and therefore swear to remit to all offenders their punishments, and not to animadvert on any one that has sinned. Be thou, therefore,” said he, “O Shimei, of good courage, and do not at all fear being put to death.” So he worshipped him, and went on before him.

2673. Mephibosheth also, Saul’s grandson, met David, clothed in a sordid garment, and having his hair thick and neglected; for after David was fled away, he was in such grief that he had not polled his head, nor had he washed his clothes, as dooming himself to undergo such hardships upon occasion of the change-of the king’s affairs. Now he had been unjustly calumniated to the king by Ziba, his steward. 268When he had saluted the king, and worshipped him, the king began to ask him why he did not go out of Jerusalem with him, and accompany him during his flight. He replied, that this piece of injustice was owing to Ziba; because, when he was ordered to get things ready for his going out with him, he took no care of it, but regarded him no more than if he had been a slave; 269“and, indeed, had I had my feet sound and strong, I had not deserted thee, for I could then have made use of them in my flight: but this is not all the injury that Ziba has done me, as to my duty to thee, my lord and master, but he hath calumniated me besides, and told lies about me of his own invention; but I know thy mind will not admit of such calumnies, but is righteously disposed, and a lover of truth, 270which it is also the will of God should prevail. For when thou wast in the greatest danger of suffering by my grandfather, and when, on that account, our whole family might justly have been destroyed, thou wast moderate and merciful, and didst then especially forget all those injuries, when, if thou hadst remembered them, thou hadst the power of punishing us for them; but thou hast judged me to be thy friend, and hast set me every day at thine own table; nor have I wanted any thing which one of thine own kinsmen, of greatest esteem with thee, could have expected.” 271When he had said this, David resolved neither to punish Mephibosheth, nor to condemn Ziba, as having belied his master; but said to him, that as he had [before] granted all his estate to Ziba, because he did not come along with him, so he [now] promised to forgive him, and ordered that the one half of his estate should be restored to him. Whereupon Mephibosheth said, “Nay, let Ziba take all; it suffices me that thou hast recovered thy kingdom.”

2724. But David desired Barzillai the Gileadite, that great and good man, and one that had made a plentiful provision for him at Mahanaim, and had conducted him as far as Jordan, to accompany him to Jerusalem, for he promised to treat him in his old age with all manner of respect—to take care of him, and provide for him. 273But Barzillai was so desirous to live at home, that he entreated him to excuse him from attendance on him; and said that his age was too great to enjoy the pleasures [of a court,] since he was fourscore years old, and was therefore making provision for his death and burial: so he desired him to gratify him in this request, and dismiss him; 274for he had no relish of his meat, or his drink, by reason of his age; and that his ears were too much shut up to hear the sound of pipes, or the melody of other musical instruments, such as all those that live with kings delight in. When he entreated for this so earnestly, the king said, “I dismiss thee, but thou shalt grant me thy son Chimham, and upon him I will bestow all sorts of good things.” 275So Barzillai left his son with him, and worshipped the king, and wished him a prosperous conclusion of all his affairs according to his own mind, and then returned home; but David came to Gilgal, having about him half the people [of Israel], and the [whole] tribe of Judah.

2765. Now the principal men of the country came to Gilgal to him with a great multitude, and complained of the tribe of Judah, that they had come to him in a private manner; whereas they ought all conjointly, and with one and the same intention, to have given him the meeting. But the rulers of the tribe of Judah desired them not to be displeased, if they had been prevented by them; for, said they, “We are David’s kinsmen, and on that account we the rather took care of him, and loved him, and so came first to him;” yet had they not, by their early coming, received any gifts from him, which might give them who came last any uneasiness. 277When the rulers of the tribe of Judah had said this, the rulers of the other tribes were not quiet, but said further, “O brethren, we cannot but wonder at you when you call the king your kinsman alone, whereas he that hath received from God the power over all of us in common ought to be esteemed a kinsman to us all; for which reason the whole people have eleven parts in him, and you but one part we are also elder than you; wherefore you have not done justly in coming to the king in this private and concealed manner.”

2786. While these rulers were thus disputing one with another, a certain wicked man, who took a pleasure in seditious practices, (his name was Sheba, the son of Bichri, of the tribe of Benjamin,) stood up in the midst of the multitude, and cried aloud, and spake thus to them: “We have no part in David, nor inheritance in the son of Jesse.” 279And when he had used those words, he blew with a trumpet, and declared war against the king; and they all left David, and followed him; the tribe of Judah alone staid with him, and settled him in his royal palace at Jerusalem. But as for his concubines, with whom Absalom his son had accompanied, truly he removed them to another house, and ordered those that had the care of them to make a plentiful provision for them, but he came not near them any more. 280He also appointed Amass for the captain of his forces, and gave him the same high office which Joab before had; and he commanded him to gather together, out of the tribe of Judah, as great an army as he could, and come to him within three days, that he might deliver to him his entire army, and might send him to fight against [Sheba] the son of Bichri. 281Now while Amass was gone out, and made some delay in gathering the army together, and so was not yet returned, on the third day the king said to Joab, “It is not fit we should make any delay in this affair of Sheba, lest he get a numerous army about him, and be the occasion of greater mischief, and hurt our affairs more than did Absalom himself; 282do not thou therefore wait any longer, but take such forces as thou hast at hand, and that [old] body of six hundred men, and thy brother Abishai, with thee, and pursue after our enemy, and endeavor to fight him wheresoever thou canst overtake him. Make haste to prevent him, lest he seize upon some fenced cities, and cause us great labor and pains before we take him.”

2837. So Joab resolved to make no delay, but taking with him his brother, and those six hundred men, and giving orders that the rest of the army which was at Jerusalem should follow him, he marched with great speed against Sheba; and when he was come to Gibeon, which is a village forty furlongs distant from Jerusalem, Amasa brought a great army with him, and met Joab. Now Joab was girded with a sword, and his breastplate on; 284and when Amasa came near him to salute him, he took particular care that his sword should fall out, as it were, of its own accord: so he took it up from the ground, and while he approached Amasa, who was then near him, as though he would kiss him, he took hold of Amasa’s beard with his other hand, and he smote him in his belly when he did not foresee it, and slew him. This impious and altogether profane action Joab did to a good young man, and his kinsman, and one that had done him no injury, and this out of jealousy that he would obtain the chief command of the army, and be in equal dignity with himself about the king; 285and for the same cause it was that he killed Abner. But as to that former wicked action, the death of his brother Asahel, which he seemed to revenge, afforded him a decent pretense, and made that crime a pardonable one; but in this murder of Amasa there was no such covering for it. 286Now when Joab had killed this general, he pursued after Sheba, having left a man with the dead body, who was ordered to proclaim aloud to the army, that Amasa was justly slain, and deservedly punished. “But,” said he, “if you be for the king, follow Joab his general, and Abishai, Joab’s brother:” 287but because the body lay on the road, and all the multitude came running to it, and, as is usual with the multitude, stood wondering a great while at it, he that guarded it removed it thence, and carried it to a certain place that was very remote from the road, and there laid it, and covered it with his garment. When this was done, all the people followed Joab. 288Now as he pursued Sheba through all the country of Israel, one told him that he was in a strong city, called Abelbeth-maachah. Hereupon Joab went thither, and set about it with his army, and cast up a bank round it, and ordered his soldiers to undermine the walls, and to overthrow them; and since the people in the city did not admit him, he was greatly displeased at them.

2898. Now there was a woman of small account, and yet both wise and intelligent, who seeing her native city lying at the last extremity, ascended upon the wall, and, by means of the armed men, called for Joab; and when he came to her, she began to say, That “God ordained kings and generals of armies, that they might cut off the enemies of the Hebrews, and introduce a universal peace among them; but thou art endeavoring to overthrow and depopulate a metropolis of the Israelites, which hath been guilty of no offense.” 290But he replied, “God continue to be merciful unto me: I am disposed to avoid killing any one of the people, much less would I destroy such a city as this; and if they will deliver me up Sheba, the son of Bichri, who hath rebelled against the king, I will leave off the siege, and withdraw the army from the place.” 291Now as soon as the woman heard what Joab said, she desired him to intermit the siege for a little while, for that he should have the head of his enemy thrown out to him presently. So she went down to the citizens, and said to them, “Will you be so wicked as to perish miserably, with your children and wives, for the sake of a vile fellow, and one whom nobody knows who he is? And will you have him for your king instead of David, who hath been so great a benefactor to you, and oppose your city alone to such a mighty and strong army?” 292So she prevailed with them, and they cut off the head of Sheba, and threw it into Joab’s army. When this was done, the king’s general sounded a retreat, and raised the siege. And when he was come to Jerusalem, he was again appointed to be general of all the people. 293The king also constituted Benaiah captain of the guards, and of the six hundred men. He also set Adoram over the tribute, and Sabathes and Achilaus over the records. He made Sheva the scribe, and appointed Zadok and Abiathar the high priests.

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