Who Was Amasa in the Bible?


In this blog post, we will explore the life and significance of Amasa, a lesser-known yet influential character in the Old Testament. Amasa’s story can be found in the books of 2 Samuel and 1 Kings, where he plays a crucial role during the time of King David’s reign. Although Amasa’s actions and experiences may not be as well-known as those of other biblical figures, they still offer valuable insights into the themes of loyalty, power, and the complexities of human relationships.

To understand Amasa’s story, it is essential to delve into the historical context in which he lived, as well as to examine his familial connections to King David. By doing so, we can gain a deeper appreciation of the intricate dynamics that shaped the biblical narrative and ultimately led to Amasa’s untimely demise. Let’s begin by tracing Amasa’s lineage and establishing his place within the biblical narrative.

Who Was Amasa in the Bible?

Amasa’s Lineage and Connection to King David

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Amasa was a son of Abigail, the sister of King David’s mother, Zeruiah, making him David’s cousin (1 Chronicles 2:16-17). Amasa’s father was Jether, an Ishmaelite, which explains his mixed Israelite and Ishmaelite heritage. As a close relative to King David, Amasa was deeply connected to the monarchy and its affairs.

Amasa as the Commander of Absalom’s Army

Amasa first appears in the biblical narrative when he is appointed as the commander of Absalom’s army during Absalom’s rebellion against his father, King David (2 Samuel 17:25). This appointment was strategic, as Absalom sought to strengthen his claim to the throne by involving a close relative of David in his rebellion.

Despite his blood ties to David, Amasa proved to be a loyal commander to Absalom, leading the rebel army against David’s forces. However, the rebellion ultimately failed, and Absalom was killed by Joab, the commander of David’s army and Amasa’s cousin (2 Samuel 18:14-15).

Amasa’s Appointment as Commander of David’s Army

In an attempt to unite the kingdom and heal the divisions caused by the rebellion, David replaced Joab with Amasa as the commander of his army (2 Samuel 19:13). This decision was not without controversy, as Amasa had previously fought against David as the commander of the rebel army. David likely made this choice to show his willingness to forgive past transgressions and to bridge the gap between the factions within his kingdom.

The Revolt of Sheba and Amasa’s Death

Amasa’s tenure as commander of David’s army was short-lived, as he was soon tasked with quelling a new rebellion led by Sheba, a Benjaminite (2 Samuel 20:1-2). David instructed Amasa to gather the men of Judah within three days and join him in the pursuit of Sheba (2 Samuel 20:4). However, Amasa failed to meet the deadline, possibly due to his lack of experience or the lingering resentment among the people for his role in Absalom’s rebellion.

With time running out, David sent Joab’s brother, Abishai, to pursue Sheba, fearing that Sheba’s rebellion could cause more damage to the kingdom than Absalom’s had (2 Samuel 20:6). Joab accompanied Abishai, and they encountered Amasa at the great stone in Gibeon (2 Samuel 20:8). In a deceitful move, Joab pretended to greet Amasa warmly, seizing him by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. Simultaneously, Joab stabbed Amasa in the abdomen with the sword in his left hand, killing him (2 Samuel 20:9-10). This act of treachery was likely motivated by Joab’s resentment of Amasa’s appointment as commander and his desire to regain his former position.

After Amasa’s murder, Joab resumed command of David’s army and successfully pursued Sheba, eventually besieging the city of Abel of Beth Maacah, where Sheba had taken refuge (2 Samuel 20:14-15). A wise woman from the city negotiated with Joab, agreeing to deliver Sheba’s head in exchange for the safety of the city’s inhabitants (2 Samuel 20:16-22). With Sheba’s rebellion crushed, Joab returned to Jerusalem and remained the commander of David’s army until his death.

Lessons from Amasa’s Life

The story of Amasa serves as a reminder of the complexities of human relationships, especially within the context of power struggles and politics. Despite being a close relative of King David, Amasa chose to side with Absalom during his rebellion, demonstrating the potential for family ties to be tested by ambition and loyalty.

Additionally, Amasa’s appointment as commander of David’s army and his subsequent failure to meet David’s expectations in the pursuit of Sheba highlight the importance of competence and trustworthiness in leadership positions. David’s decision to replace Joab with Amasa was a strategic move to heal divisions within the kingdom, but it ultimately backfired due to Amasa’s inability to fulfill his duties and Joab’s vengeful actions.

Finally, the treacherous manner in which Joab murdered Amasa underscores the danger of allowing personal grievances to fester and drive one to commit heinous acts. Joab’s quest for power and resentment towards Amasa led him to betray his own family, ultimately resulting in Amasa’s tragic demise.


The story of Amasa in the Bible, though not as well-known as other biblical narratives, offers valuable insights into the complexities of human relationships and the consequences of power struggles. As a close relative of King David, Amasa found himself caught in the midst of political turmoil and familial strife, ultimately leading to his untimely death.

Amasa’s life serves as a cautionary tale, reminding us of the importance of loyalty, competence, and the potential dangers of power struggles within families and political spheres. By examining Amasa’s story, we can gain a deeper understanding of the intricate dynamics that shape human relationships and the factors that can lead to both unity and division.

As we reflect on Amasa’s life, let us strive to learn from his experiences and to apply the lessons gleaned from his story to our own lives. May we be ever mindful of the importance of loyalty, the need for competence in leadership, and the consequences of allowing personal grievances to drive our actions. In doing so, we can grow in wisdom and strengthen our relationships with those around us, ultimately fostering a spirit of unity and understanding.

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