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II Samuel 10; I Chronicles 19; Psalm 20 Listen
The Ammonite prank turns ugly (II Samuel 10; I Chronicles 19)
II Samuel 10
I Chronicles 19
|1 It happened after this that the king of the people of Ammon died, and Hanun his son reigned in his place.
2 Then David said, “I will show kindness to Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father showed kindness to me.” ¶ So David sent by the hand of his servants to comfort him concerning his father. And David’s servants came into the land of the people of Ammon.
3 And the princes of the people of Ammon said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think that David really honors your father because he has sent comforters to you? Has David not rather sent his servants to you to search the city, to spy it out, and to overthrow it?”
4 ¶ Therefore Hanun took David’s servants, shaved off half of their beards, cut off their garments in the middle, at their buttocks, and sent them away.
5 When they told David, he sent to meet them, because the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, “Wait at Jericho until your beards have grown, and then return.”
6 ¶ When the people of Ammon saw that they had made themselves repulsive to David, the people of Ammon sent and hired the Syrians of Beth Rehob and the Syrians of Zoba, twenty thousand foot soldiers; and from the king of Maacah one thousand men, and from Ish-tob twelve thousand men.
7 Now when David heard of it, he sent Joab and all the army of the mighty men.
8 Then the people of Ammon came out and put themselves in battle array at the entrance of the gate. And the Syrians of Zoba, Beth Rehob, Ish-tob, and Maacah were by themselves in the field.
9 ¶ When Joab saw that the battle line was against him before and behind, he chose some of Israel’s best and put them in battle array against the Syrians.
10 And the rest of the people he put under the command of Abishai his brother, that he might set them in battle array against the people of Ammon.
11 Then he said, “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me; but if the people of Ammon are too strong for you, then I will come and help you.
12 Be of good courage, and let us be strong for our people and for the cities of our God. And may the LORD do what is good in His sight.”
13 ¶ So Joab and the people who were with him drew near for the battle against the Syrians, and they fled before him.
14 When the people of Ammon saw that the Syrians were fleeing, they also fled before Abishai, and entered the city. So Joab returned from the people of Ammon and went to Jerusalem.
15 ¶ When the Syrians saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they gathered together.
16 Then Hadadezer sent and brought out the Syrians who were beyond the River, and they came to Helam. And Shobach the commander of Hadadezer’s army went before them.
17 When it was told David, he gathered all Israel, crossed over the Jordan, and came to Helam. And the Syrians set themselves in battle array against David and fought with him.
18 Then the Syrians fled before Israel; and David killed seven hundred charioteers and forty thousand horsemen of the Syrians, and struck Shobach the commander of their army, who died there.
19 And when all the kings who were servants to Hadadezer saw that they were defeated by Israel, they made peace with Israel and served them. So the Syrians were afraid to help the people of Ammon anymore.
1 It happened after this that Nahash the king of the people of Ammon died, and his son reigned in his place.
The Ammonites were descendants, by incest, from Abrahams nephew Lot (Genesis 19:30-38, see notes). As such, God made provisions for their protection from the Israelites - a kindness they never seemed to be able to accept. All the way back to the preparation for Moses and company to enter Canaan from the east, God had instructed Israel to spare the Ammonites; notice Deuteronomy 2:19 (see notes), "And when you come near the people of Ammon, do not harass them or meddle with them, for I will not give you any of the land of the people of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the descendants of Lot as a possession." That's great - a free pass! However, that whole ugly episode with Balaam (Numbers 22-31, see notes) being hired to curse the whole nation of Israel was the brain child of the Ammonites and Moabites (Deuteronomy 23:3-4, see notes). They flexed their muscles again against Israel years later while Jephthah was judge in Judges 11 (see notes); as a result they were soundly defeated by Israel (Judges 11:33). All they had to do is just leave Israel alone, and Israel would have left them alone. They just couldn't seem to bring themselves to do that.
Verse 2 (of both accounts) indicates that Ammonite King Nahash had previously shown kindness to David. We're not told the details of that kindness in scripture, but King Saul's first recorded act as King of Israel was to do battle against King Nahash when this Ammonite king wanted to gouge out the right eyes of all the men of Jabesh in I Samuel 11 (see notes) as one of the conditions of a treaty with them. Saul and his new Israeli army gave the Ammonites a proper thrashing at that time. There's no doubt that King Nahash and King Saul would have been sworn enemies after that incident. It is therefore reasonable to assume that Nahash would have taken every opportunity to assist David as he was a fugitive from Saul later on.
So...here we go; these pesky Ammonites are at it again! When the Ammonite king (Nahash) died, David sought to show kindness to the new king (Hanun) after the death of his Dad by sending some ambassadors to see if he could help out somehow. However, the impressionable son who took over as king mistrusted David's overtures of friendship. Then...the ultimate insult - suspecting evil intent, the new king of the Ammonites is advised by his not-so-bright advisors to humiliate David's ambassadors by shaving off half their beards (a severe oriental insult) and cutting off their garments at the waist (exposing their...well...you know); they sent them away in that humiliating condition. David meets up with his ambassadors in Jericho; they were ashamed to come home, and David allows them to stay deployed until their beards grow back.
I like II Samuel 10:6 which starts out, "When the people of Ammon saw that they had made themselves repulsive to David..." David doesn't think the beard prank is amusing, and his goodwill has its limits. Realizing what a great error in judgment he had made, the king of the Ammonites goes out and hires a mercenary army (from among several Syrian tribes) for his ill-conceived aggression against Israel. The stage is set for a great battle campaign. Imagine Joab's surprise when he discovers he's not fighting just one army, but two (or actually...several). In fact, they surround David's army headed by Joab, but Joab divides his army up into divisions and fights all the fronts simultaneously with his brother, Abishai, commanding the other division; he soundly defeats all the enemy armies. Joab then calls David to the front to be part of the final kill. At the end of the battle, over 40,000 Syrians were dead and the Syrians were subjects of David's Kingdom. And...all of this happened because the Ammonite king cut off the robes and half-shaved the beards of David's ambassadors. Now that's an expensive shave!
Incidentally, one of the mercenary Syrian armies was headed up by Hadadezer. He had fought against David back in II Samuel 8 (see notes) and was soundly defeated. Perhaps that is why Joab has David come to the front against this pesky Hadadezer for a second thrashing.
We'll put our trust in God (Psalm 20)
To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.
1 ¶ May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble;
May the name of the God of Jacob defend you;
2 May He send you help from the sanctuary,
And strengthen you out of Zion;
3 May He remember all your offerings,
And accept your burnt sacrifice.
4 May He grant you according to your heart’s desire,
And fulfill all your purpose.
5 We will rejoice in your salvation,
And in the name of our God we will set up our banners!
May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.
6 Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed;
He will answer him from His holy heaven
With the saving strength of His right hand.
7 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.
8 They have bowed down and fallen;
But we have risen and stand upright.
9 Save, LORD!
May the King answer us when we call.
The subtitle attributes this Psalm to David. It's in the form of a prayer and could have been in preparation for battle. The pronouns "you" and "your" are references to the anointed king, David, as seen in verse 6. I particularly like verse 7, "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God." Others may trust in military might. We're trusting in God.
"Zion" is David's alternate name for "Jerusalem."