2 Samuel 10


In this chapter we read about the war between David and the Ammonites, this is an explanation of 2 Samuel 8:12. We can also read more about this in 1 Chronicles 19:1-19.

‘In the course of time, the king of the Ammonites died, and his son Hanun succeeded him as king. David thought, ‘I will show kindness to Hanun son of Nahash, just as his father showed kindness to me.’ So David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to Hanun concerning his father. When David’s men came to the land of the Ammonites, the Ammonite commanders said to Hanun their lord, ‘Do you think David is honouring your father by sending envoys to you to express sympathy? Hasn’t David sent them to you only to explore the city and spy it out and overthrow it?’ So Hanun seized David’s envoys, shaved off half of each man’s beard, cut off their garments at the buttocks, and sent them away. When David was told about this, he sent messengers to meet the men, for they were greatly humiliated. The king said, ‘Stay at Jericho till your beards have grown, and then come back.’ 2 Samuel 10:1-5

David Defeats The Ammonites

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, they hired twenty thousand Aramean foot soldiers from Beth Rehob and Zobah, as well as the king of Maakah with a thousand men, and also twelve thousand men from Tob. 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 of their city gate, while the Arameans of Zobah and Rehob and the men of Tob and Maakah were by themselves in the open country.’ 2 Samuel 10:6-8

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.

‘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 deployed them against the Ammonites. Joab said, ‘If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you are to come to my rescue; but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come to 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 fled before Abishai and went inside the city. So Joab returned from fighting the Ammonites and came to Jerusalem.’ 2 Samuel 10:9-14

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, 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 regrouped. Hadadezer had Arameans brought from beyond the Euphrates River; they went to Helam, with Shobak the commander of Hadadezer’s army leading them. When David was told of this, he gathered all Israel, crossed the Jordan and went to Helam. The Arameans formed their battle lines to meet David and fought against him. But they fled before Israel, and David killed seven hundred of their charioteers and forty thousand of their foot soldiers. He also struck down Shobak the commander of their army, and he died there. When all the kings who were vassals of Hadadezer saw that they had been routed by Israel, they made peace with the Israelites and became subject to them. So the Arameans were afraid to help the Ammonites anymore.’ 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.

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 2 Samuel 11


"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."