Haftarah-Vayechi-Reading the Text-David and Yoav II-Amasa Introduction

Jan 5th, 2012 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week
“Now you yourself know what Yoav son of Zeruiah did to me—what he did to the two commanders of Israel’s armies, Abner son of Ner and Amasa son of Yeter. He killed them, shedding their blood in peacetime as if in battle, and with that blood he stained the belt around his waist and the sandals on his feet. Deal with him according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to the grave in peace (I Kings 2:5-6).”

We have studied the confrontation between Yoav and Avner over the issue of balance that David is addressing in his charge to Solomon. We now begin to examine why Yoav’s assassination of Amasa belongs in this opening paragraph of “Balance.”

Who was Amasa?


  • David’s nephew and Yoav’s cousin,

  • He was the person who successfully defended David’s lineage by quoting Samuel’s ruling. (Yevamot 77a)

  • He is described, together with his cousin Avishai, as a “Lion in Torah.” (Yerushalmi, Peiah 1:1)

  • Refused, with Avishai to murder the Kohanim of Nov at Saul’s order (Midrash Tehillim 52:5).

  • Had a history of standing up against the king when he felt halachically justified (Midrash HaGadol).

  • Brought all of Israel to invite David back as king, just as Avner had done See: Abner I (Kadmoniyot HaYehudim II 159).

  • Yoav considered him to have the halachic status of one who rebelled against the king for having led Avshalom’s armies (II Samuel 17:25), and he was justified in killing him (Sanhedrin 49a).


Historical Background: A Time of Instability

Avshalom, David’s oldest son, plots a conspiracy, forming an army and winning the hearts of the Israel through displays of warmth and kindness. Supported by David’s chief counselor, Avshalom goes to Hebron where his followers pronounce him king. Informed of this event, David flees from Jerusalem with his men, and the people of the countryside weep as he marches by.

One of Saul’s relatives, Shimi ben Geira, a relative of King Saul, however, curses and throws stones at the band, gloating over David’s demise. David forbids his attendants, including Yoav’s brother, Avishai, to punish the man.

Yoav ignores David’s instructions to treat Avshalom gently and drives three spears into Avshalom’s hanging body (something David does not mention in his instructions to Solomon).

When David is notified of Avshalom’s death, he weeps, screaming repeatedly, “O my son Avshalom, O Avshalom, my son, my son (19:4)!” Yoav is furious with David for mourning the son who rebelled against him.

Shimi ben Geira knows that he’s in danger and meets David and begs forgiveness. Avishai insists on killing him, to which David replies: “What does this have to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? What right do you have to interfere? Should anyone be put to death in Israel today? Don’t I know that today I am king over Israel (II Samuel 19:23).”

To the frustration of his officials, David shows mercy to all of Avshalom’s supporters who approach him for forgiveness, especially Avshalom’s commander Amasa. David sends messengers to the leaders of Judah, and the tribe welcomes him back to Jerusalem. The remaining tribes—Avshalom’s chief supporters—fear that David will be angry at them. An uprising ensues.

Text: David Takes Immediate and Decisive Action

“Then the king said to Amasa, ‘Summon the men of Judah to come to me within three days, and be here yourself.’ But when Amasa went to summon Judah, he took longer than the time the king had set for him.

David said to Avishai, ‘Now Sheva ben Bichri will do us more harm than Absalom did. Take your master’s men and pursue him, or he will find fortified cities and escape from us.’ So Yoav’s men and the Kereti and Peleti and all the mighty warriors went out under the command of Avishai. They marched out from Jerusalem to pursue Sheva ben Bichri.

While they were at the great rock in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Yoav was wearing his military tunic, and strapped over it at his waist was a belt with a dagger in its sheath. As he stepped forward, it dropped out of its sheath.

Yoav said to Amasa, ‘How are you, my brother?’ Then Yoav took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. Amasa was not on his guard against the dagger in Yoav’s hand, and Yoav plunged it into his belly, and his intestines spilled out on the ground. Without being stabbed again, Amasa died. Then Yoav and his brother Avishai pursued Sheva ben Bichri.

One of Yoav’s men stood beside Amasa and said, ‘Whoever favors Yoav, and whoever is for David, let him follow Yoav!’ Amasa lay wallowing in his blood in the middle of the road, and the man saw that all the troops came to a halt there. When he realized that everyone who came up to Amasa stopped, he dragged him from the road into a field and threw a garment over him. After Amasa had been removed from the road, everyone went on with Yoav to pursue Sheva ben Bichri (II Samuel 20:4-13).”

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

Share