20:4 Then the king said to Amasa, “Call the men of Judah together for me in three days, 1 and you be present here with them too.” 20:5 So Amasa went out to call Judah together. But in doing so he took longer than the time that the king had allotted him.
20:6 Then David said to Abishai, “Now Sheba son of Bicri will cause greater disaster for us than Absalom did! Take your lord’s servants and pursue him. Otherwise he will secure 2 fortified cities for himself and get away from us.” 20:7 So Joab’s men, accompanied by the Kerethites, the Pelethites, and all the warriors, left Jerusalem to pursue Sheba son of Bicri.
20:8 When they were near the big rock that is in Gibeon, Amasa came to them. Now Joab was dressed in military attire and had a dagger in its sheath belted to his waist. When he advanced, it fell out. 3
20:9 Joab said to Amasa, “How are you, my brother?” With his right hand Joab took hold of Amasa’s beard as if to greet him with a kiss. 20:10 Amasa did not protect himself from the knife in Joab’s other hand, and Joab 4 stabbed him in the abdomen, causing Amasa’s 5 intestines to spill out on the ground. There was no need to stab him again; the first blow was fatal. 6 Then Joab and his brother Abishai pursued Sheba son of Bicri.
1 tn The present translation follows the Masoretic accentuation, with the major mark of disjunction (i.e., the atnach) placed at the word “days.” However, some scholars have suggested moving the atnach to “Judah” a couple of words earlier. This would yield the following sense: “Three days, and you be present here with them.” The difference in meaning is slight, and the MT is acceptable as it stands.
2 tn Heb “find.” The perfect verbal form is unexpected with the preceding word “otherwise.” We should probably read instead the imperfect. Although it is possible to understand the perfect here as indicating that the feared result is thought of as already having taken place (cf. BDB 814 s.v. פֶּן 2), it is more likely that the perfect is simply the result of scribal error. In this context the imperfect would be more consistent with the following verb וְהִצִּיל (vÿhitsil, “and he will get away”).
3 sn The significance of the statement it fell out here is unclear. If the dagger fell out of its sheath before Joab got to Amasa, how then did he kill him? Josephus, Ant. 7.11.7 (7.284), suggested that as Joab approached Amasa he deliberately caused the dagger to fall to the ground at an opportune moment as though by accident. When he bent over and picked it up, he then stabbed Amasa with it. Others have tried to make a case for thinking that two swords are referred to – the one that fell out and another that Joab kept concealed until the last moment. But nothing in the text clearly supports this view. Perhaps Josephus’ understanding is best, but it is by no means obvious in the text either.
4 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Joab) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
5 tn Heb “his”; the referent (Amasa) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
6 tn Heb “and he did not repeat concerning him, and he died.”