AMASA (Heb. עֲמָשָׂא), military commander of *Absalom's army in his rebellion against his father David (ii Sam. 17:25) and of Judah after the rebellion of Absalom (ii Sam. 20:5; i Kings 2:32). Amasa was the son of Jether or Ithra the Ishmaelite, and Abigail the sister of David (ii Sam. 19:14; i Chron. 2:17). According to ii Samuel 17:25, he was the son of Ithra the Jesraelite (lxx–Jezreelite) and Abigail the daughter of Nahash.
Amasa can probably be identified with Amasai (Heb.עֲמָשַׂי), the leader of the 30 "mighty men" who joined David at Adullam (i Chron. 12:18). This makes it necessary, however, to assume that Jether the Ishmaelite married Abigail the daughter of Jesse long before David came to the court of Saul, and that Amasa was later deposed from his position in the service of David, since in the list of those who arrived with David in Ziklag, it is Ishmaiah the Gibeonite who commands the 30 "mighty men" (i Chron. 12:4); but it has the advantage of offering an explanation for Amasa's siding with Absalom against David – he was embittered over the fact that David had removed him from his duties. Absalom appointed Amasa military commander because he was a relative and a doughty warrior. After defeating Absalom, David tried to reconcile Amasa and any hostile elements in Judah by appointing Amasa as his commander instead of Joab, who had aroused his anger by killing Absalom (ii Sam. 19:14). After his appointment, Amasa regained the loyalty of all Judah to David's side (ibid. 19:15).
Amasa was then ordered to assemble the men of Judah to subdue the rebellion of *Sheba the son of Bichri (ibid. 20:4–5). He did not succeed in this, and David therefore placed *Abishai at the head of his servants to suppress the rebellion. The latter was then joined by Joab and David's "mighty men" (ibid. 20:7). On their way, in Gibeon, Joab encountered Amasa and treacherously slew him (ibid. 20:9–10). This murder aroused David's anger, and in his last days he ordered Solomon to take revenge on Joab for this act (i Kings 2:5).
In the Aggadah
Amasa, together with Abner, refused to be a party to the massacre of the priests of Nob (i Sam. 22:17); and he said to Saul: "What more do we owe you than our arms and insignia, which you have given us? Here they are at your feet" (tj Sanh. 10:2, 52b). He did however accompany Saul to the witch of Endor (Lev. R. 26:7). He vigorously defended David's legitimacy, despite his descent from Ruth the Moabitess, challenging his opponents with the words: "Whoever will not obey the following halakhah will be stabbed with the sword; I have this tradition from Samuel the Ramathite: 'An Ammonite, but not an Ammonitess, a Moabite, but not a Moabitess,' are excluded from the congregation of Israel" (Yev. 76b).
His piety brought about his death. When challenged by Solomon at the heavenly court, Joab pleaded that he murdered Amasa because he had been tardy in obeying David's order to gather an army (i Sam. 20:4–5). The real reason for the delay, however, was that Amasa was loath to interrupt the studies of those whom he was to summon, considering that study overrode his duty to obey the royal command (Sanh. 49a).
Bright, Hist, 188f.; De Vaux, Anc Isr, 161; Mazar, in: Sefer David Ben-Gurion (1964), 251 ff. (includes bibl.); M.Z. Segal, Sifrei Shemu'el (1964), 341 ff.; S.R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text of the Books of Samuel (1913), 372.