Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
The war with the sons of Ammon and their Aramæan allies. The chapter is a duplicate of 2 Samuel 10. The story of David’s kindness to Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9), creditable as it was to David, is omitted by the chronicler, as belonging rather to the private than the public history of the king.
Now it came to pass after this, that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon died, and his son reigned in his stead.(1) Now it came to pass after this.—The same phrase as at 1Chronicles 18:1; it has no chronological significance (see Note there). The conflict with Ammon, which has been glanced at in 1Chronicles 18:11, is now to be described at length (1Chronicles 19:1 to 1Chronicles 20:3), and in connection therewith the overthrow of Hadadezer (1Chronicles 18:3-8) is again related, with additional details.
And David said, I will shew kindness unto Hanun the son of Nahash, because his father shewed kindness to me. And David sent messengers to comfort him concerning his father. So the servants of David came into the land of the children of Ammon to Hanun, to comfort him.(2) Nahash Samuel omits, but adds “Hanun.” The omissions in each are perhaps accidental. Saul’s first campaign was against Nahash (1 Samuel 11).
Children of Ammon.—Sons of Ammon, like “sons of Israel.” The title calls attention to their tribal organisation.
Because.—For. Samuel, “according as.”
Shewed kindness to me.—The Hebrew phrase, which answers to the Greek of Luke 1:72. (See Revised Version.)
The rest of the verse is made more perspicuous than in 2Samuel 10:2 by slight changes and additions.
But the princes of the children of Ammon said to Hanun, Thinkest thou that David doth honour thy father, that he hath sent comforters unto thee? are not his servants come unto thee for to search, and to overthrow, and to spy out the land?(3) Are not his servants come . . . for to search, and to overthrow, and to spy out the land?—Literally, Is it not for to search . . . that his servants are come unto thee? This is hardly an improvement on Samuel: “Is it not to search the city (Rabbath-Ammon, the capital), and to spy it out, and to overthrow it, that David hath sent his servants unto thee?” The Syriac and Arabic agree with Samuel in reading “city;” LXX. and Vulg., “land.”
Wherefore Hanun took David's servants, and shaved them, and cut off their garments in the midst hard by their buttocks, and sent them away.(4) Shaved them—i.e., the half of their beards (Samuel).
Hard by their buttocks.—Literally, unto the extremities. The chronicler has substituted a more decorous term for the one which appears in Samuel.
Cut off their garments.—To look like captives (Isaiah 20:4).
Then there went certain, and told David how the men were served. And he sent to meet them: for the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, Tarry at Jericho until your beards be grown, and then return.(5) Ashamed.—Not the usual term (bôsh), but a stronger word, confounded (niklam; properly, pricked, wounded). (Comp. Psalm 35:4. where it forms a climax to the other.)
Be grown.—Sprout, or shoot (Judges 16:22, of Samson’s hair).
Jericho lay on their road to the capital.
And when the children of Ammon saw that they had made themselves odious to David, Hanun and the children of Ammon sent a thousand talents of silver to hire them chariots and horsemen out of Mesopotamia, and out of Syriamaachah, and out of Zobah.(6) And when the children of Ammon.—Up to this point the narrative has substantially coincided with 2 Samuel 10, and might have been derived immediately from it; but this and the following verses differ considerably from the older account, and add one or two material facts, which suggest another source.
Made themselves odious.—“Had become in bad odonr.” A unique (Aramaized) form of the same verb as is used in Samuel (hithbā’ăshû for nib’ăshû).
A thousand talents of silver.—The talent was a weight, not a coin, coined money being unknown at that epoch. The sum specified amounts to £400,000. estimating the silver talent at £400. This detail is peculiar to the Chronicles.
Out of Mesopotamia, and out of Syria-maachah, and out of Zobah.—Out of Aram-naharaïm, and out of Aram-maachah, &c Samuel has, “And they hired Aram-beth-rehob and Aram-zobah, 20,000 foot, and the king of Maachah, 1,000 men, and the men (or chieftain) of Tôb, 12,000men.”Aram-naharaïm, i.e., Aram of the two rivers, was the country between the Tigris and Euphrates (see Judges 3:8); Aram-beth-rehob may have been one of its political divisions, and is perhaps to be identified with Rehoboth-hannahar (1Chronicles 1:48), on the Euphrates. Another Rehoboth (“Rehoboth-ir,” Genesis 10:11) lay on the Tigris, north-east of Nineveh, and was a suburb of that great city. Aram-maachah imply the dominions of “the king of Maachah,” who is mentioned in 1Chronicles 19:7; and Zobah, the Aram-zobah of Samuel. The chronicler makes no separate mention of the “men of Tòb” (Judges 11:3), perhaps because they were subject to Hadadezer, and as such, included in his forces. The Syriac and Arabic here have “from Aram-naharaïm, Haran, Nisibis, and Edom.”
So they hired thirty and two thousand chariots, and the king of Maachah and his people; who came and pitched before Medeba. And the children of Ammon gathered themselves together from their cities, and came to battle.(7) So they hired thirty and two thousand chariots, and the king of Maachah and his people.—The account which the chronicler has followed here did not state the relative strength of the contingents, yet its estimate of the total number of the allied forces is in substantial accord with that of Samuel. The chronicler puts the total at 32,000 + the Maachathite contingent; Samuel at 32,000 + 1,000 Maachathites. The expression “32,000 chariotry” (rèkeb) is not to be pressed. The writer wished to lay proper stress on the chariots and cavalry as the chief arm of the Aramæan states, and at the same time to be as concise as possible. That he was not thinking of 32,000 chariots in the literal sense is clear, (1) because he must have known that an army would not consist of chariots only; (2) in 1Chronicles 18:4 he had already assigned to the army of Zobah its natural proportions of chariots, cavalry, and infantry. (Comp. 1Chronicles 19:18, below.) The present text of Samuel can hardly be right, as it makes the whole army consist of infantry. (Comp. 2Samuel 8:4.) The great plains of Aram were a natural training-ground for horsemen and charioteers.
Who came and pitched (their camp) before Medeba.—Another detail peculiar to the Chronicles. Medeba, the meeting-place of the Aramæan forces, lay south-east of Heshbon, on a site now known as Madibiya.
And the children of Ammon gathered themselves . . .—The muster of the Ammonites is not mentioned in Samuel.
And when David heard of it, he sent Joab, and all the host of the mighty men.(8) All the host of the mighty men.—So the Hebrew text. The Hebrew margin and Samuel read “all the host,” viz., the mighty men. The “mighty men” (gibbôrîm) were a special corps. (Comp. 1Samuel 23:13; 1Samuel 27:8; 2Samuel 2:3; 2Samuel 16:6; 1Kings 1:8.) Either, then, the term has a general sense here, or we must read, “and the mighty men.”
And the children of Ammon came out, and put the battle in array before the gate of the city: and the kings that were come were by themselves in the field.(9) Before the gate of the city.—Literally, in the outlet of the city. Samuel has “in the outlet of the gate.” The city appears to have been Medeba (1Chronicles 19:7).
And the kings that were come.—Samuel repeats the names: “And Aram-zobah and Rehob, and the men of Tôb and Maachah.”
Were.—Rather, put the battle in array (to be supplied from the former sentence).
Now when Joab saw that the battle was set against him before and behind, he chose out of all the choice of Israel, and put them in array against the Syrians.(10) The battle was set against him before and behind.—Literally, the front of the battle had become towards him, front and rear. The order of words is different in Samuel, and a preposition added (“on front and on rear”). The Ammonites lay in front of the city, their Aramæan allies at some distance away, in the plain. For Joab to attack either with his entire army would have been to expose his rear to the assault of the other. He therefore divided his forces.
The choice of Israel.—Literally, the chosen or young warriors (singular collective) in Israel (i.e., in the Israelitish army). These Joab himself led against the Aramæans, as the most dangerous enemy, while he sent a detachment, under his brother Abishai, to cope with the Ammonites.
And the rest of the people he delivered unto the hand of Abishai his brother, and they set themselves in array against the children of Ammon.(11) They sot themselves in array.—Samuel, singular, as in 1Chronicles 19:10.
And he said, If the Syrians be too strong for me, then thou shalt help me: but if the children of Ammon be too strong for thee, then I will help thee.(12) Literally, If Aram, prevail over me, thou shalt become to me for succour. The word “succour” here is tĕshû‘āh, a less frequent synonym of yĕshû‘āh, the term in Samuel.
I will help (succour) thee.—Samuel, “I will march to succour thee.” This verb is often rendered “to save,” and the cognate noun, “salvation.”
Be of good courage, and let us behave ourselves valiantly for our people, and for the cities of our God: and let the LORD do that which is good in his sight.(13) Be of good courage.—The same verb was rendered “be strong” in 1Chronicles 19:12.
Let us behave ourselves valiantly.—The same verb again, in reflexive form. Thus the whole runs literally: Be strong, and let us shew ourselves strong!
And let the Lord do . . .—Literally, And Jehovah—the good in his own eyes may he do! The order in the Hebrew of Samuel is that of the Authorised Version here. The chronicler lays stress on the auspicious word “good.” There is also emphasis on “Jehovah,” as leaving the issue in His hands who is Lord of hosts and God of battles; and on the verb, expressive of a pious wish that right may not miscarry. Evidently the spirit which inspired the prayer, “Thy will be done,” was not unknown to the warriors of the old theocracy.
So Joab and the people that were with him drew nigh before the Syrians unto the battle; and they fled before him.(14) Before the Syrians.—Rather, against Aram; so Samuel, with the more classical construction. The preposition used here was rendered to meet (1Chronicles 12:17).
And when the children of Ammon saw that the Syrians were fled, they likewise fled before Abishai his brother, and entered into the city. Then Joab came to Jerusalem.(15) And when the children of Amnion saw.—The Hebrew construction is quite different from that of 1Chronicles 19:6. Render, Now the sons of Ammon had seen that Aram was routed.
They likewise.—An explanatory addition to the text, as read in Samuel. So also “his brother.”
Then Joab came . . .—Abridged. (Comp. Samuel.)
And when the Syrians saw that they were put to the worse before Israel, they sent messengers, and drew forth the Syrians that were beyond the river: and Shophach the captain of the host of Hadarezer went before them.(16-19) The last effort of the Arameans. They are defeated, and become vassals to David.
(16) They sent messengers.—Samuel, “Hadarezer sent and drew forth” (literally, made to come out: i.e., to war, 1Chronicles 20:1). The name “Hadarezer” (Hadadezer) is important, as helping us to identify this campaign with that of 1Chronicles 18:3-8.
Beyond the river.—The Euphrates, called Purât, Purâtu, by the Babylonians and Assyrians, Furât by the Arabs, and Ufrâtus by the ancient Persians. The name is derived from the Accadian Pura-nunu (great river). The Assyrian Purât, Hebrew Pĕrâth, is simply the word Pura with a feminine ending; so that this well-known name means “The River par excellence. (Comp. Genesis 15:18; Isaiah 8:7.)
The use of this phrase, “beyond the river,” to denote the position of the Eastern Aramæans, shows that the narrative here borrowed by the chronicler was originally written in Palestine. The Syriac and Arabic add here, “and they came to Hîlâm.” (So Samuel; see next verse.)
Shophach.—Samuel, “Shobach.” The letters p and b are much alike in Hebrew. The Syriac has Sh’bûk. Shophach may be compared with the Arabic safaka, “to shed blood” (saffâk, a shedder of blood).
Went before them.—Commanded them. It thus appears that the suzerainty of Hadadezer was recognised by some Aramæan States lying east of the Euphrates.
And it was told David; and he gathered all Israel, and passed over Jordan, and came upon them, and set the battle in array against them. So when David had put the battle in array against the Syrians, they fought with him.(17) Came upon them.—Samuel, “came to Hêlâm.” The chronicler seems to have substituted an intelligible phrase for the name of an unknown locality. Professor Sayce has suggested to the writer that this mysterious Helam is no other than Aleppo, the Halman of the Assyrian monuments.
Upon them . . . against them.—Literally, unto them (’alêhem). The Hebrew term, “to Helam” (Helâmah), contains the same consonants as this prepositional phrase, with one extra. Perhaps, however, the term Helâmah was understood as a common noun implying to their army (hayil, hêl, army).
So when David had put the battle in array against the Syrians.—Literally, And David set the battle, &c., a needless repetition of the last clause. Probably Samuel is right: “And Aram put the battle in array against David.”
But the Syrians fled before Israel; and David slew of the Syrians seven thousand men which fought in chariots, and forty thousand footmen, and killed Shophach the captain of the host.(18) Seven thousand men which fought in chariots, and forty thousand footmen.—Heb., seven thousand chariotry (rèkeb), &c. Samuel reads, “seven hundred chariots, and forty thousand horse-men.” Such deviations seem to indicate independent sources. We can hardly choose between the two accounts; but “horsemen” may be more correct than “footmen.” (See 1Chronicles 18:4-5.)
And killed Shophach . . .—Abridged statement. (Comp. 2Samuel 10:18.)
And when the servants of Hadarezer saw that they were put to the worse before Israel, they made peace with David, and became his servants: neither would the Syrians help the children of Ammon any more.(19) And when the servants of Hadarezer.—Samuel is fuller and clearer: “And all the kings, servants of Hadarezer.” The tributaries of Hadadezer now transferred their fealty to David.
They made peace with David.—Samuel, “with Israel.”
And became his servants.—Literally, and served him. Samuel, “and served them.” To the writer of Samuel God’s people is the main topic; to the chronicler the divinely-anointed king. The difference, therefore, though slight, is characteristic.
Neither would the Syrians’ help.—And Aram was not willing to come to the help of the sons of Ammon. Samuel, “And Aram feared to come to the help,” &c.