She remains unnamed even though credited for saving her city from devastation. Yet, preserved are the names of both the rebel who sheltered within its walls and the ruthless general who, like a rabid dog, pursued him there.
No sooner had Absalom’s revolt against King David been quashed, than Sheba, stirring swirling tribal unrest, raised his own rebellion. The king reacted by changing generals. He sent the word out: “And say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my bone and my flesh? God do so to me and more also, if you are not commander of my army from now on in place of Joab’” (2 Samuel 19:13 ESV).
What? Thrown under the chariot! He who had been the king’s general for decades! He who had never lost a battle! Never been disloyal to his king and uncle! Hadn’t he followed the king’s written order to send Bathsheba’s husband where he would be killed at Rabbah? Yeah, yeah, he did disobey the king’s order not to kill Absalom the other day. But that was for his own good. Uncle David was always weak when it came to his favorite son. Alive, Absalom would never be anything but a seething cauldron of disaster.
Conceiving a cruel strategy to take back command of the army, Joab disguised his rage and jealousy. First, he pretended to give his unwary cousin a welcome kiss. “But Amasa did not observe the sword that was in Joab’s hand. So Joab struck him with it in the stomach and spilled his entrails to the ground without striking a second blow, and he died. Then Joab and Abishai his brother pursued Sheba the son of Bichri” (2 Samuel 20:10 ESV).
“And all the men who were with Joab came and besieged him in Abel of Beth-maacah. They cast up a mound against the city, and it stood against the rampart, and they were battering the wall to throw it down” (2 Samuel 20:15 ESV).
From the other side of the wall, a lone woman summoned courage to parley with Joab. Upon hearing his terms, “Then the woman went to all the people in her wisdom. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri and threw it out to Joab. So he blew the trumpet, and they dispersed from the city, every man to his home. And Joab returned to Jerusalem to the king” (2 Samuel 20:22 ESV).
Woman or not, you may be forever unnamed; but that does not mean you have not made a difference. Several years ago, I was transferring bags of groceries from a shopping cart to my car when I saw a man briskly walking toward the store. As he was about to pass me, I said, “Cheer up. It will get better.”
The man abruptly stopped and stepped closer. As I looked up into the face of a stranger towering head and shoulders above me, he demanded, “What did you say?”
“Cheer up. It will get better.”
He stood stiff and still so long that I became creepy scared of what might happen next. Finally, he spoke. “You’ll never know what that means to me.”
To this day I do not know his name, nor does he know mine.