2 Samuel Chapter 10


The Peak of David’s Reign (10:1-20:26)

David Defeats the Ammonites (10:1-19)

      • Later the king of the Ammonites died and his son, Hanun, succeeded him as king. David said, “I will deal loyally with Hanun, Nahash’s son, just as his father dealt loyally with me.” So David sent his servants to him with a message expressing sympathy for his father’s death. However, when David’s servants arrived in the land of Ammon, the Ammonite officials said to their lord Hanun, “Do you think David is honoring your father by sending these servants with a message of sympathy to you? Instead, hasn’t David sent his servants to you in order to search the city, spy it out, and overthrow it?”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Following the interlude of ch 9, the narrative returns to David’s military feats. The Ammonites were likely the dominant political power in Transjordan (the area east of the Jordan) during Saul’s reign and the early years of David’s reign.”

      • ESV Study Bible explains, “The Ammonite war is the background of the next three chapters. As far as David’s empire went, it led to his domination of the Syrian kingdoms (see 8:3-12; 10:15-19). More importantly to the biblical writer, however, it was the setting for David’s great sin (11:1-12:25)…Nahash was presumably the Nahash of 1 Samuel 11. David wants to deal loyally with Hanun because of his father Nahash, who showed ‘loyalty’ to David in accordance with their treaty. While his loyalty, or ‘kindness’ (Hb hesed), toward Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9) was ‘for Jonathan’s sake,’ this ‘kindness’ is for diplomatic reasons: David wants to keep the Ammonites as peaceful neighbors. It may be that the princes of the Ammonites [rendered ‘Ammonite officials above] (10:3) are alarmed by the representatives of David, who had conquered Moab (8:2), the country directly south of them…”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible provides additional context, “In the ancient world, heads of state generally did not travel to other countries on diplomatic missions. Messengers were used who, like ambassadors, were understood as fully representing the person and authority of the king. They spoke as the king and they were to be treated as if they were the king.”

      • So Hanun siezed David’s servants, shaved off half of each one’s beard, cut the lower part of their clothing off so that their buttocks were exposed, and sent them away. When David was told about this, he sent messengers to meet them because they were thoroughly humiliated. The king said, “Stay in Jericho until your beards have grown back, then you may return.”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible writes, “The records from the ancient Near East reveal no direct parallels to the treatment given to David’s representatives, so it is difficult to unpack the specific symbolism. But, Hanun’s treatment of the envoys clearly constituted a calculated, direct affront to David…David’s beard was in effect shaved half off, and his garments were cut off at the buttocks.”

      • On the shaving of the beards, ESV Archaeology Study Bible notes, “In the ancient Near East, a beard was a sign of masculinity. This is perhaps best exemplified by the full beard characteristic of Assyrian kings as depicted in relief and in statuary. In the relief below from the palace at Nimrud (ancient Kalhu), Assurnasirpal II is represented with a long and full curly beard, signifying his manliness, virility, and strength. This is in contrast to the two men on either side of the king. Although both are muscular and have a full head of thick hair, neither has the signature beard, thus identifying them as eunuchs. A false beard was a standard part of the royal costume worn by Egyptian pharaohs.”

Photo: Alabaster relief from Kalhu depicting Assurnasirpal II with eunuchs on either side. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr., 1932
        • On the cutting of the clothing, Guzik cites the following from Trapp, “That the shame of their nakedness might appear, and especially that of their circumcision, so derided by the heathen.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible continues, “The city of Jericho had not yet been formally reconstructed (see 1 Kgs 16:34), but the site was located adjacent to the largest and most plentiful spring in the land, so people continued to dwell in the area. Anyone traveling from Ammon to Jerusalem would pass right by it. It was a place of seclusion from the men’s humiliation.”

      • When the Ammonites realized they had become repulsive to David, they hired 20,000 Aramean foot soldiers from Beth Rehob and Zobah, 1,000 men from the king of Maacah, and 12,000 men from Tob.

        • ESV Study Bible says, “After purposely humiliating ambassadors sent by David, the Ammonites prepared for David’s response by calling for help from the king of Maacah, the men of Tob, and the Syrians living in Beth-rehob and Zobah…Beth-rehob, Zobah, Maacah, and Tob were Syrian kingdoms in the northern Transjordan and Lebanon Valley…Hiring armies was not uncommon (2 Kings 7:6)…Syrians can also be translated ‘Aram’ or ‘Arameans,’ the normal term for Syria or the Syrians. ‘Aramaic,’ the later common language (cf 1 Kings 18:26), was the language of Syria.”

      • On hearing this, David sent Joab out with the entire army. The Ammonites came out and drew up in battle formation at the entrance of gate, while the Arameans of Zobah and Rehob along with the men of Maacah and Tob were by themselves in the field. When Joab saw that there were battle lines both in front of him and behind him, he selected some of the best of Israel’s men and deployed them against the Arameans. He put his brother Abishai in charge of the rest of the army and deployed them against the Ammonites. Joab said, “If the Arameans are too strong for me, you come help me, and if the Ammonites are too strong for you, I’ll come help you. Be strong and let’s fight bravely for our people and for our God’s cities! May Yahweh do according to His will.”

          • ESV Study Bible writes, “The gate is that of the city of Rabbah (11:1), the capital of Ammon, near present-day Amman, Jordan. Joab expresses both faith in God and a resolve to fight with all his strength. Faith and human effort are not incompatible with each other. Joab is a complicated figure; as here, he can express sturdy piety (e.g., 24:3), and he can also display a chilling ruthlessness in preserving David’s and his own position (e.g., 18:14-15; 20:9-10, 20-22). It is not surprising that David does not trust him to treat Solomon well after Joab supported Adonijah (1 Kings 1:7, 19; 2:5-6).”

      • Joab and his men marched out to fight the Arameans and they ran away in front of him. When the Ammonites saw the Arameans running away, they ran away from his brother Abishai and went into the city. So Joab withdrew from the attack against the Ammonites and went to Jerusalem.

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible says, “How Joab found himself caught between the Aramean and the Ammonite forces is a matter of conjecture. Perhaps he made a tactical mistake by marching directly to Rabbah…via Jericho or Heshbon, rather than crossing the Jordan at Adam and intercepting the Aramean forces in the region of Helam…as David apparently did in v. 17. Whether Joab arrived in his initial predicament by strategic error or simply because it could not be avoided, his decision to divide his troops and fight on two fronts was, though risky, ultimately successful, at least to the point of a draw. No enemy casualties are mentioned in the text however, only the enemy’s flight, with the Ammonites escaping to the safety of their city, after which Joab returned to Jerusalem. It remained for David, in a second encounter, to soundly defeat the Arameans (vv. 15-19).”

      • When the Arameans realized that Israel had defeated them, they gathered themselves together. Hadadezer sent messengers to bring the Arameans who were across the Euphrates River, and they came to Helam. Shobach, the commander of Hadadezer’s army was leading them.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible points out, “King Hadadezer appears in 10:1-19 as David’s active and capable foe (10:16), yet in 8:1-18 David had defeated him (8:3) and plundered his city (8:7, 12). Either Hadadezer was still alive, had regrouped, and revolted in 10:1-19; or possibly 10:1-19 unpacks the events of 8:1-18 as a prelude to 11:1-27.”

      • When this was reported to David, he gathered all of Israel, crossed the Jordan River, and came to Helam. The Arameans formed their battle lines and fought against David. But the Arameans ran away from Israel. David killed 700 Aramean charioteers and 40,000 foot soldiers. He also struck down Shobach, the commander of their army, and he died there. When all the kings who were subject to Hadadezer saw that Israel had defeated them, they made peace with Israel, and became Israel’s subjects. After this, the Arameans were afraid to help the Ammonites anymore.

        • HCSB notes another textual inconsistency, “Did David’s army kill 700 or 7,000 Aramean charioteers? The figure given here is one-tenth the total in the parallel passage, 1 Ch 19:18. As in other numeric disagreements between 1 and 2 Sm and 1 and 2 Ch…one of the two verses must incorporate a scribal error introduced after the original manuscript was written. It is not possible today to determine which reading is the original…”


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