1. According to II Sam. xvii. 25, the son of Ithra, an Israelite; I Chron. ii. 17 calls his father Jether, the Ishmaelite. He was a nephew of David and cousin of Absalom, who made him chief of the army that rose against David (II Sam. xvii. 25). After the death of Absalom and the defeat of his army, David purposed making Amasa general-in-chief of his forces (II Sam. xix. 14). To him was entrusted the suppression of the uprising under Sheba, the son of Bichri (II Sam. xx.), but Joab murdered Amasa and took his place as leader of the host. For this treachery Joab was subsequently put to death (I Kings, ii. 5, 32). 2. Son of Hadlai, of the Bene Ephraim, who, obeying the words of the prophet Obed, refused to receive as captives the Judeans who had been taken from Ahaz, king of Judah, by the victorious Israelites under Pekah (II Chron. xxviii. 12).
The Jerusalem Talmud relates (Sanh. x. 29a) that when Amasa and Abner, Saul's guards, refused to be participants in the murder of the priests (I Sam. xxii. 17), Amasa boldly said to the king: "Can you lay claim to anything more than our belts and mantles (our marks of distinction)? Here they lie at your feet!" This did not offend Saul; and Amasa remained near him during his entire reign, accompanying him when he went to the witch of En-dor (Tan., ed. Buber, Emor, 4, and the parallel passages quoted there). It was quite natural, therefore, that David should appoint as commander-in-chief, in place of Joab, one already tested by Saul. Amasa did not, however, possess the martial spirit of Joab; and when he was sent to gather an army, he devoted himself to the study of the Torah. God's law seemed more important to him than the will of the king. It was, therefore, wrong on the part of Joab to execute Amasa for transgressing the king's orders (Sanh. 49a).