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Sheba ben Bichri


SHEBA BEN BICHRI, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. Sheba ben Bichri belonged to the clan of Becher, whose eponymous ancestor was the second son of Benjamin (Gen. 46:21; i Chron. 7:6).

Playing on the jealousy which was aroused among the tribes of Israel by David's apparent favoritism in arranging to have Judah welcome him back first at the Jordan after the crushing of the revolt of *Absalom in Transjordan, Sheba blew a horn with the cry, "We have no share in David, neither have we any portion in the son of Jesse; every man to his tents, O Israel" (ii Sam. 19:41–44; 20:1); and instead of escorting David to Jerusalem, the men of Israel marched ahead after Sheba to their homeland. Had David not taken successful steps to assert his authority over Israel, Sheba would presumably have tried to induce Israel to make him king. But David did assert his authority. David, who in order to woo Judah had sent, while still in Transjordan, a promise to *Amasa to make him army commander in place of *Joab (ii Sam. 19:14), assigned to Amasa and the men of Judah the task of pursuing and liquidating Sheba. He gave Amasa three days in which to raise the levies of Judah, but because Amasa was delayed, the king sent out *Abishai with his men and Joab with the rest of the professional fighting units. When Amasa arrived tardily at the rallying point, Joab treacherously, but understandably, murdered his rival. Then he and Abishai marched through Israel all the way to Abel of Beth-Maacah in the north. Though the last five words of ii Samuel 20:14 are unclear, it seems that the population of the districts through which Joab's men marched actually joined them. Evidently, whatever knowledge they may have had of the incident at the Jordan did not make them sufficiently anxious to secede from David and to make them want to risk clashing with the troops that had so decisively crushed the rebellion of Absalom. When Joab attacked Abel of Beth-Maacah, "a wise woman" of the town (probably with the approval of the townspeople) stepped onto the wall and asked for a parley with him; on receiving his assurance that he would not hurt the town or any of its inhabitants provided they surrendered Sheba, she went and got the people of the town to toss Sheba's head over the wall to the besiegers.

On the consequences of the rebellion for David's kingdom, army, and chief officers, see *David; *Amasai; *Joab.

[Harold Louis Ginsberg]

In the Aggadah:

The immediate cause of Sheba's rebellion against David was the fact that he saw portents that the kingdom should be divided. His error was that he falsely and vaingloriously interpreted these signs to refer to his own elevation and to the throne (Sanh. 101b). He is also condemned as an idolator (Tanḥ. B. Va-Yera, 12).


H.P. Smith, Book of Samuel (icc, 1912), 366–71; M.Z. Segal, Sefer Shemu'el (1956), 356–72; Bright, Hist, 188. in the aggadah: Ginzberg, Legends, index; I. Ḥasida, Ishei ha-Tanakh (1964), 397.

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