1 Chronicles 19


Matthew Henry, in his commentary, gives us a useful summary of this chapter.

‘The story is here repeated of David’s war with the Ammonites and the Syrians their allies, and the victories he obtained over them, which we read just as it is here related, 2 Samuel 10. Here is, 1. David’s civility to the king of Ammon, in sending an embassy of condolence to him on occasion of his father’s death, 1 Chronicles 19:1-2. 2. His great incivility to David, in the base usage he gave to his ambassadors, 1 Chronicles 19:3-4. 3. David’s just resentment of it, and the war which broke out thereupon, in which the Ammonites acted with policy in bringing the Syrians to their assistance, 1 Chronicles 19:6-7, Joab did bravely, 1 Chronicles 19:8-13, and Israel was once and again victorious,  1 Chronicles 19:14-19.’

David Defeats The Ammonites

‘In the course of time, Nahash king of the Ammonites died, and his son succeeded him as king. David thought, “I will show kindness to Hanun son of Nahash, because his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to Hanun concerning his father. When David’s envoys came to Hanun in the land of the Ammonites to express sympathy to him, the Ammonite commanders said to Hanun, “Do you think David is honouring your father by sending envoys to you to express sympathy? Haven’t his envoys come to you only to explore and spy out the country and overthrow it?” So Hanun seized David’s envoys, shaved them, cut off their garments at the buttocks, and sent them away. When someone came and told David about the men, he sent messengers to meet them, for they were greatly humiliated. The king said, “Stay at Jericho till your beards have grown, and then come back.” 1 Chronicles 19:1-5

In this chapter, we read about the war between David and the Ammonites, which explains 2 Samuel 8:12. We can also read more about this in 2 Samuel 10. The parallel passages to these verses are found in 2 Samuel 10:1-5.

We don’t know how long this period was when Nahash, the king of the Ammonites died and his son, Hanun took his place as king, but David thought he would show him kindness. David chooses to do this because Nahash before he died showed David some kindness.

Although it’s not clear what kindness David is referring to, some commentators believe that, since Nahash was a bitter enemy of Saul, 1 Samuel 11:1-11, he must have helped David when David was on the run from Saul and his men.

It’s clear that David’s intentions were honourable but the Ammonite commanders aren’t so sure, they think he’s spying out on the land to take it over. It’s easy to understand why they would think this way, especially when we remember that David slaughtered two-thirds of the Moabites earlier, 2 Samuel 8:1-2.

It’s also possible they remembered that God condemned them in His law, Deuteronomy 23:3-6. The Moabites and the Ammonites were related because both groups descended from Lot and his daughters, Genesis 19:36-38.

Because they didn’t trust David and his men, Hanun seized David’s envoys, and shaved off half of each man’s beard. To shave off any part of an Israelite’s beard was seen as a way of humiliating someone.

Hanun obviously wanted to totally humiliate them and so he also cuts off half of their garments, which would mean they would be exposed, Isaiah 20:4. It’s clear that Hanun has no respect for David or his men.

David’s respect for his men is seen when he tells them to wait in Jericho until their beards have grown back. He didn’t want them to feel undignified, embarrassed or humiliated by anyone.

‘When the Ammonites realized that they had become obnoxious to David, Hanun and the Ammonites sent a thousand talents of silver to hire chariots and charioteers from Aram Naharaim, Aram Maakah and Zobah. They hired thirty-two thousand chariots and charioteers, as well as the king of Maakah with his troops, who came and camped near Medeba, while the Ammonites were mustered from their towns and moved out for battle. On hearing this, David sent Joab out with the entire army of fighting men. The Ammonites came out and drew up in battle formation at the entrance to their city, while the kings who had come were by themselves in the open country. Joab saw that there were battle lines in front of him and behind him; so he selected some of the best troops in Israel and deployed them against the Arameans. He put the rest of the men under the command of Abishai his brother, and they were deployed against the Ammonites. Joab said, “If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you are to rescue me; but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will rescue you. Be strong and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The LORD will do what is good in his sight.” Then Joab and the troops with him advanced to fight the Arameans, and they fled before him. When the Ammonites realized that the Arameans were fleeing, they too fled before his brother Abishai and went inside the city. So Joab went back to Jerusalem.’ 1 Chronicles 19:6-15

Parallel passages to these verses are found in 2 Samuel 10:6-14. Although Nahash, Hanun’s father showed kindness to David, Hanun himself showed total disrespect. He knew exactly what he was doing when he treated David’s messengers with total disrespect.

He knew that this would cause trouble between the Ammonites and David, he knew that David would retaliate and so he prepares his men and the Syrians for war.

A 1,000 talents of silver is a huge amount of silver, which demonstrates how much the Ammonites feared David. In 2 Chronicles Amaziah hired 100,000 men for just 100 talents of silver, 2 Chronicles 25:6. The price is not given in Samuel.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following corning the hiring of 32,000 chariots.

‘The reading is corrupt. Such a number as 32,000 chariots alone was never brought into battle on any occasion. Compare the numbers in Exodus 14:7 / 1 Kings 10:26 / 2 Chronicles 12:3. The largest force that an Assyrian king ever speaks of encountering is 3,940. The words ‘and horsemen’ have probably fallen out of the text after the word ‘chariots’, 1 Chronicles 19:6. The 32,000 would be the number of the warriors serving on horseback or in chariots and this number would agree closely with 2 Samuel 10:6, as the following table shows.

2 Samuel 10:6 Men Syrians of Beth-Rehob and Zobah 20,000 Syrians of Ish-Tob 12,000 Syrians of Makah 1,000 Total 33,000, 1 Chronicles 19:7 Men Syrians of Zobah, etc. 32,000 Syrians of Makah (number not given) 1,000 Total 33,000.’

This battle against the Ammonites and the Syrians took place at the gate of Ammon. Joab and his brother, Abishai, split up to fight them separately and they were willing to fight because they believed that God was going to fight with them because this war was not justified and unwarranted.

After the Ammonites and the Syrians run away, Deuteronomy 28:7. Joab returned to Jerusalem. It’s difficult to understand why Joab called off the battle and returned to Jerusalem, especially since they were winning. One possible explanation was that it was winter or winter was on its way, most nations never fought against anyone else in winter seasons.

‘After the Arameans saw that they had been routed by Israel, they sent messengers and had Arameans brought from beyond the Euphrates River, with Shophak the commander of Hadadezer’s army leading them. When David was told of this, he gathered all of Israel and crossed the Jordan; he advanced against them and formed his battle lines opposite them. David formed his lines to meet the Arameans in battle, and they fought against him. But they fled before Israel, and David killed seven thousand of their charioteers and forty thousand of their foot soldiers. He also killed Shophak the commander of their army. When the vassals of Hadadezer saw that they had been routed by Israel, they made peace with David and became subject to him. So the Arameans were not willing to help the Ammonites anymore.’ 1 Chronicles 19:16-19

The parallel passages to this verse can be found in 2 Samuel 10:15-19. After fleeing from Joab and his brother Abishai the Arameans decide to regroup. Hadarezer was one of the most powerful leaders at this time in Syria, 2 Samuel 8:3, got his men together to fight David and his men again.

This time David would personally lead his men and the Arameans once again lost and fled although David killed Shobak, the commander of their army and a few hundred of their fighting men.

Notice the text says that David killed 7,000 charioteers whereas, 2 Samuel 10:18 says he killed 700 charioteers. The difference in the numbers can be explained in the fact that the charioteers drove the chariots while the armed men in the chariots carried out the battle.

They now know they can’t defeat Israel, so they offer to make peace with them, and they became subject to Israel and the good news is that they were also now afraid to help the Ammonites in the future.

Go To 1 Chronicles 20


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