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Amasa was David's nephew, the son of Abigail, who was David's sister.[1] He was also a cousin to Joab, the commander of David's army.  Absalom appointed Amasa as commander of his army, when he rebelled against David. After David's army defeated the rebel forces, and Joab had  killed Absalom, David forgave Amasa and appointed him commander of his army. In return for this kindness, Amasa convinced all the leaders of Judah to take back David as their king after the revolt of Absalom.[2]

When David sent Amasa to mobilize the troops to chase after Sheba, he met up with Joab and Abishai, who were leading the king's bodyguard on the same mission. Amasa and Joab went to greet each other, but Joab pulled out a sword and killed Amasa.[3]


The name Amasa (Hebrew: עֲמָשָׂא ) means "burden". As the son of an Ishmaelite proselyte named Jether (Israelite name was Ithra, a variant)[4] and Jesse's stepdaughter Abigail, an Ammonitess, this may have been a commentary on the regime of King Saul, who was harsh on his neighbors.

Background and family[]

Amasa was born to a Jether, an Ishmaelite who apparently lived among the Ammonites across the Jordan River from Bethlehem in Judah. His mother was a woman named Abigail, the daughter of Nahash, of Ammonite nobility[5]. Sometime before David was born, his father had married Abigail's mother, making her David's stepsister. She would have a half-sister named Zeruiah, Joab's mother[6].

As a child living in the same town with David, Amasa would have been quite aware of the manic Benjamite the people had selected for their king. Though a nephew of David, as a stepchild he was probably nearer to the age of his uncles than to his cousins. It is certain he would have been intrigued as Samuel came around to anoint young David. Having grown up an adopted Israelite, he knew that Yahweh worked among the people, in spite of the chaos.

Military career[]

David's son Absalom, having killed his older brother, had assumed that the crown was his by the rights of inheritance. However, David and the prophet Nathan had seen it necessary to preserve that right for Solomon. He looked to his extended family in Bethlehem for someone who knew his father well enough to help him in his rebellion, settling on his nephew Amasa. The son of Jepher chose to join the rebellion. Amasa had a numerical advantage[7] against the forces of his uncles Joab and Abishai, who had to divide their lesser forces to assure survival[8].

However, Amasa had been outmaneuvered by the more experienced commanders of David's army. The battle took place in a thick wood into which David's friend Hushai had misdirected Absalom's whole army[9], instead of following the better advice of David's trusted advisor Ahithophel, who had advised using a small strike force to kill David alone[10]. As a result, David was safe in the city while Absalom was trapped while trying to escape. The rebellion was quelched at the death of the usurper at the hand of Joab, a captain of David's forces.

Amasa's command under Absalom, though, had not gone unnoticed. As remnants of the rebellion remained, David made Amasa the Commander-in-chief of the army instead of Joab[11]. This was because he had given strict instructions against killing Absalom[12], but Joab had disobeyed[13]. Amasa's first assignment was to assemble the armies of Judah within three days, but for some reason, he did not succeed[14]. In the mean time, David sent out Joab and Abishai to capture a dangerous rebel named Sheba. So it came that Amasa met his cousin in the woods[15].

A Treacherous Death[]

Joab was not one to take rejection, or rebellion, easily. He was loyal to David, but did things his own way. When he came upon the former commander of Absalom's troops, the crimes of the usurper were still on his mind. His mission to capture Sheba could wait a bit longer.

Acting like he was glad to see Amasa, Joab reached out to kiss him upon the cheek. Taking the opportunity, he grabbed his cousin's beard and drew him close. Then he moved swiftly, slicing the startled soldier open, before moving on down the road. The rest of Joab's men, catching up with him, stopped to see David's nephew, and newly appointed Commander, dying in the road. One of them, pulled Amasa into the bushes, covering him with a garment[16]. Nothing is recorded as to his burial.


  1. 1 Chr. 2:17 (Link)
  2. 2 Sam. 19:14 (Link)
  3. 2 Sam. 20:8-10 (Link)
  4. 2 Sam. 17:25; 1 Chr. 2:17 (Link)
  5. 2 Sam. 17:25; 2 Sa 10:2 (Link)
  6. 1 Chr. 2:1-17 (Link)
  7. 2 Sam. 17:1 (Link)
  8. 2 Sam. 18:1-4 (Link)
  9. 2 Sam. 18:6-8 (Link)
  10. 2 Sam. 17:1-2 (Link)
  11. 2 Sam. 19:13 (Link)
  12. 2 Sam. 18:5, 12 (Link)
  13. 2 Sam. 18:14-15 (Link)
  14. 2 Sam. 20:4 (Link)
  15. 2 Sam. 20:5-8 (Link)
  16. 2 Sam. 20:9-12 (Link)