New York, London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo, Singapore, Dubai, what comes to mind about these cities? Business, fashion, art, gourmet food, progressive architecture? What about advice? That’s right! What city in our modern world is known for its wisdom? This was the case for the city of Abel-beth-maacah. This town was located in northern Israel between Lebanon and Syria. It was situated in a location of major highways that connected Mesopotamia to Egypt. It was known as the Via Maris (by the way of the sea) as it traveled along the coast of Israel. Much like the 101 is the major highway that runs along California’s coast connecting Los Angeles to Olympia, Washington.
This story is found in 2 Samuel, chapter 20. At that time, David was king over Israel. Earlier, his son Absalom tried to take the kingdom from him. In this chapter, a man whose name was Sheba, the son of Bicri from the tribe of Benjamin was out to do the same. He was a troublemaker. To make a long story short, most of David’s men who were not of the tribe of Judah left him to follow Sheba. The king told Amasa (who was his nephew who had been involved in the coup against David when Absalom tried to take over) to mobilize an army and go after Sheba. But Amasa drug his feet and waited three days. David then tells Abishi how serious this situation was. It makes one wonder if David said this to Abishi because he knew he would go after Sheba. That’s exactly what he did and he invited Joab to go with him. Joab was David’s sister’s son, another nephew who was a warrior. Abishi and Joab meet up with Amasa along the way and Joab stabs his cousin, Amasa and he dies. This act gives us a clue that Joab is a “take charge” kind of guy. Probably someone who acts on impulse.
In the meantime, Sheba ends up hiding out in the town Abel-beth-maacah. This city was known as a “mother city” as most cities were considered “daughters” of “mother” Israel. This place was important because the Israelites from all over would go there to get advice to settle an argument because the people there were known to be wise. Joab hears the news that Sheba is there and goes to hunt him down. He begins attacking the town by building a siege ramp against its fortification and begins battering the wall of the city (2 Samuel 20:25). Towns at that time had walls surrounding them for protection, and because Abel was along the major highway where people from all over traveled, so the wall was important. It probably made the people afraid and angry that Joab would do this.
This is where our anonymous woman comes in. There is nothing written about who she was, except we can see in this story she has “hutspah” which means confidence and audacity. She has the courage to reach out to Joab, especially as women didn’t usually have a prominent place in society. She may have been a mature woman as it says in Job 12:12, “Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old.” (NLT) She recognizes Joab and approaches him in humility, referring to herself as a servant. This wise action gave her Joab’s ear. He was willing to listen to her. She tells Joab that their town was important to Israel and that she was peace loving and faithful. Instead of rebuking him, she asks him what they could do to help him. Joab responds by telling her to hand him over to him. She replies with “we will throw his head over the wall to you.” (2 Samuel 20:21) She keeps her promise to Joab and the people kill Sheba and throw his head over the wall (2 Samuel 20:22). This seems pretty extreme, but it not only saved her town, but ended the possible takeover of David’s monarchy. It was through her wise advice that also gave Joab a promotion. The king makes Joab the commander of the Army of Israel (2 Samuel 20:23).
We can learn a lot from this woman. Wisdom is the key to living, especially these days. There is evil everywhere. When we look back at Genesis, we see God wanted to wipe out the evil that had spread with the flood. It wasn’t long after, that two cities Sodom and Gommorah (Genesis 18:16-33) had become sin-filled and God wanted to destroy them. But Abraham pleaded with God not to if he found one man who was righteous enough to save it. We know what eventually happens to these two cities. God wanted to preserve His people so generations later, He would instead send one righteous man, His son Jesus to save not one city, but the whole world.
As we read from the book of wisdom which is Proverbs, we discover that Jesus is the embodiment of wisdom. It’s not something, but someone. When we invite Him into our lives, the Holy Spirit then dwells within us and gives us access to the way of thinking in of the Kingdom of God. The more we spend time reading God’s word, the more understanding and knowledge we gain of living in humility, peace, and love. This is so different from this world’s ways which is pride, strife, and fear. James 1:5 says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” (NLT) It’s God’s pleasure to give us wisdom. It is what separates us from the world.
The wise woman of Abel-beth-maacah is encouraging. It’s a reminder that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). This woman saved her town from destruction. As children of God, when we walk in wisdom we can bring change to our own families as well as our communities. Even more importantly, we can lead people to Jesus, who is wisdom. It’s the voice you hear that lets you consider other actions that you won’t regret later. As it says in Proverbs 4:5-7, “Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. 6 Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. 7 Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefor, get wisdom.” (NKJV)
Scriptures that lead us to wisdom!
Proverbs 1:7, NKJV: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 2:10-15, NIV: For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who have left the straight paths to walk in dark ways, who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways.”
Proverbs 2:20, NLT: So follow the steps of the good, and stay on the paths of the righteous.
Proverbs 3:3-4, NLT: Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will earn a good reputation.
Proverbs 3:5-6, NKJV: Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:27-29, NKJV: Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in the power of your hand to do so. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come back, And tomorrow I will give it,” When you have it with you. Do not devise evil against your neighbor, For he dwells by you for safety’s sake.
Proverbs 10:19, NLT: Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.
Proverbs 16:23, NKJV: The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, And adds learning to his lips.
Proverbs 19:20, NIV: Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.
Luke 8:16, NKJV: “No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light.