05 April 2014

The Insurrection of Sheba—Expositor's Bible

As a mediator of deep-seated interpersonal conflicts, and author of the free downloadable book, Party-Directed Mediation: Facilitating Dialogue Between Individuals, I loved the comments from the Expositor's Bible on our Christian duty to work out disagreements with others (see the Insurrection of Sheba, 2 Samuel 19:41 20:26):

"DAVID was now virtually restored to his kingdom; but he had not even left Gilgal when fresh troubles began. The jealousy between Judah and Israel broke out in spite of him. The cause of complaint was on the part of the ten tribes; they were offended at not having been waited for to take part in escorting the king to Jerusalem. First, the men of Israel, in harsh language, accused the men of Judah of having stolen the king away, because they had transported him over the Jordan. To this the men of Judah replied that the king was of their kin; therefore they had taken the lead, but they had received no special reward or honour in consequence. The men of Israel, however, had an argument in reply to this: they were ten tribes, and therefore had so much more right to the king; and Judah had treated them with contempt in not consulting or co-operating with them in bringing him back. It is added that the words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel.

It is in a poor and paltry light that both sides appear in this inglorious dispute. There was no solid grievance whatever, nothing that might not have been easily settled if the soft answer that turneth away wrath had been resorted to instead of fierce and exasperating words. Alas I that miserable tendency of our nature to take offence when we think we have been overlooked, - what mischief and misery has it bred in the world! The men of Israel were foolish to take offence; but the men of Judah were neither magnanimous nor forbearing in dealing with their unreasonable humour. The noble spirit of clemency that David had shown awakened but little permanent response. What was the result? Any one acquainted with human nature might have foretold it with tolerable certainty. Given on one side a proneness to take offence, a readiness to think that one has been overlooked, and on the other a want of forbearance, a readiness to retaliate, - it is easy to see that the result will be a serious breach. Much inflammable material being thus provided, a casual spark speedily set it on fire, Sheba, an artful Benjamite, raised the standard of revolt against David, and the excited ten tribes, smarting with the fierce words of the men of Judah, flocked to his standard.

And here it cannot be amiss to call attention to the very great neglect of the rules and spirit of Christianity that is apt, even at the present day, to show itself among professing Christians in connection with their disputes. This is so very apparent that one is apt to think that the settlement of quarrels is the very last matter to which Christ’s followers learn to apply the example and instructions of their Master. When men begin in earnest to follow Christ, they usually pay considerable attention to certain of His precepts ... But alas! when they fall into differences, they are prone in dealing with them to leave all Christ’s precepts behind them ... See in what an unlovely and unloving spirit the controversies of Christians have usually been conducted; how much of bitterness and personal animosity they show, how little forbearance and generosity; how readily they seem to abandon themselves to the impulses of their own hearts. Controversy rouses temper, and temper creates a tempest through which you cannot see clearly.

... Who remembers, even in its spirit, the precept in the Sermon on the Mount, 'If any man smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also'? Who remembers the beatitude, 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God'? Who bears in mind the Apostle’s horror at the unseemly spectacle of saints carrying their quarrels to heathen tribunals, instead of settling them as Christians quietly among themselves? Who weighs the earnest counsel, 'Endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace'? Who prizes our gracious Lord’s most blessed legacy, 'Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth give I unto you'? Do not all such texts show that it is incumbent on Christians to be most careful and watchful, when any difference arises, to guard against carnal feeling of every kind, and strive to the very utmost to manifest the spirit of Christ?

... But let us return to King David and his people. The author of the insurrection was 'a man of Belial, whose name was Sheba.' He is called 'the son of Bichri, a Benjamite.' Benjamin had a son whose name was Becher, and the adjective formed from that would be Bichrite; some have thought that Bichri denotes not his father, but his family. Saul appears to have been of the same family (see Speaker’s Commentary in loco). It is thus quite possible that Sheba was a relation of Saul, and that he had always cherished a grudge against David for taking the throne which he had filled."

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