No sooner had King David put down the rebellion of his son Abaslom when a Benjamite by the name of Sheba led a rebellion against him. The men of Israel rebelled against David and followed Sheba, but the men of Judah remained loyal to the king.
Realizing that Sheba was a greater threat than Absalom had been, David called on Abishai to take servants (warriors) and capture Sheba. Joab’s men went out from Jerusalem to capture Sheba. This pursuit took Joab’s men all the way to the north of the Israelite territory, to a town named Abel-Beth-Maacah. Some English versions use Abel Beth Maacah, or a similar variant. In modern Israel this town is almost on the border with Lebanon between Kiryat Shmona and Metulla.
Sheba passed through all the tribes of Israel to Abel of Beth-maacah. All the Berites came together and followed him. Joab’s troops came and besieged Sheba in Abel of Beth-maacah. They built an assault ramp against the outer wall of the city. While all the troops with Joab were battering the wall to make it collapse, a wise woman called out from the city, “Listen! Listen! Please tell Joab to come here and let me speak with him.” (2 Samuel 20:14-16 CSB)
Our photo, looking east, shows the massive mound thought to be the site of Abel-Beth-Maacah. This photo was made in early May. The tell stands out distinctly from the surrounding apple orchards. The Beka Valley and the anti-Lebanon mountain range can be seen beyond the tel.
The wise woman reasons with Joab. She tells him that this town formerly was a place where people would ask for advice to end a dispute. She said,
I am a peaceful person, one of the faithful in Israel, but you’re trying to destroy a city that is like a mother in Israel. Why would you devour the LORD’s inheritance?” (2 Samuel 20:19 CSB)
Joab agreed that he would not destroy the city if she would hand over Sheba. She agreed to throw the head of Sheba over the wall. She did what she promised and the destruction was averted. Joab went back to the king in Jerusalem.
Abel-beth-Maacah is mentioned in at least two other passages.
- The city was conquered by Ben-hadad, king of Aram [Syria] (1 Kings 15:20).
- The city was captured by Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, in the days of Pekah of Israel.
Note. This is a revision of a post from December 19, 2008 with a more recent photo.