There are so many lessons to be learned in the stories of the Bible. It seems that no matter how many times I read through it, I always find something I hadn’t noticed before.
This time as I read through 2 Samuel I saw a woman, unnamed, uncelebrated, obscure, buried in the text in 2 Samuel 20.
Her story began when Sheba, son of Bikri, rebeled against King David. He instigated the people of Israel to desert David, while the people of Judah followed him. David knew that Sheba would do great damage to the kingdom, so he decided to have his men pursue and kill him.
Sheba was hiding in a walled city called Abel Beth Maakah. Joab, the leader of David’s army ordered his men to batter the wall to bring it down. Once inside, they would kill everyone and destroy everything, including Sheba.
As the men battered, they suddenly heard a voice above the noise.
A true woman of wisdom
A wise woman called from the city, “Listen! Listen! Tell Joab to come here so I can speak to him.” He went toward her, and she asked, “Are you Joab?”
“I am,” he answered.
She said, “Listen to what your servant has to say.”
“I’m listening,” he said.
She continued, “Long ago they used to say, ‘Get your answer at Abel,’ and that settled it. We are the peaceful and faithful in Israel. You are trying to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why do you want to swallow up the Lord’s inheritance?’ 2 Samuel 20:16-19
They were afraid
I can only imagine that the rest of the city was in a panic as they listened to the sound of the army battering the wall. They probably tried to escape or hide. They were probably frozen in fear.
But one wise woman stopped everything. One wise woman changed the course of history.
This woman the Bible calls wise spoke to those who were attacking her people. She spoke the truth with authority and in peace. I love that she told Joab, “you are trying to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why do you want to swallow up the Lord’s inheritance?”
She said, we belong to God! We are a mother to His people. Why do you want to destroy us?!
Sheba still wasn’t found
From there, the story goes on that Joab realized he was about to do something he would regret. He realized God had stopped him. But he still faced a problem that needed to be solved.
Sheba was still in there and was a threat to the King and his kingdom. So he opened up to the wise woman and shared with her what they were facing. He told her that Sheba must be stopped.
The wise woman made a statement right then and there that the head of this evil man, Sheba, would be handed over. She then went to the people in the city – the ones who were likely cowering in fear – and told them about Sheba.
In fact, the Bible says:
Then the woman went to all the people with her wise advice, and they cut off the head of Sheba son of Bikri and threw it to Joab. So he sounded the trumpet, and his men dispersed from the city, each returning to his home. And Joab went back to the king in Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 20: 22
She had wise advice to give, and she gave it. I wonder what would happen if we did the same.
A mother in Israel
The scriptures say that her people were a mother in Israel. She obviously communicated with God. She obviously heard Him, and she responded. There was about to be a war between two groups of people – who served the same God! One group was about to break down a protective wall and destroy a city.
But rather than prepare for war, this “wise woman” spoke up. She spoke truth in grace and the other group responded with fear of God. Joab said, “far be it from me to swallow up or destroy!” he didn’t want to do damage, he wanted to eradicate the enemy. And when they could stop and hear each other, they were able to do just that.
Can we be like that wise woman? When the noise of chaos is all around, when one group of people are hiding in fear and another is preparing to attack, can we step up and out and speak the truth in grace?
And then can we encourage the people to choose to eradicate the real enemy? Not one that is flesh and blood, but the one the Bible warns us about. Can we set our sights on that enemy and cut off his head?
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