Matthew Poole's Commentary
And it came to pass after this, that the king of the children of Ammon died, and Hanun his son reigned in his stead.David sendeth messengers to comfort the king of the Ammonites: he abuseth them, 2 Samuel 10:1-5. The Ammonites and Syrians prepare to fight against the Israelites; and are overcome by Joab and Abishai, 2 Kings 10:6-14. They renewing their forces, are again conquered by David, 2 Kings 10:15-19.
The king of the children of Ammon; Nahash, 2 Samuel 10:2; probably the same whose army Saul defeated and destroyed, 1Sa 11, who out of enmity to Saul showed kindness to David, as it follows; hoping also by fomenting the differences between Saul and David, to make way for his future conquests.
Then said David, I will shew kindness unto Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father shewed kindness unto me. And David sent to comfort him by the hand of his servants for his father. And David's servants came into the land of the children of Ammon.Therefore there had hitherto been peace and friendship between David and him; and therefore the spoils of the children of Ammon are mentioned 2 Samuel 8:12, by way of anticipation, and with respect to the story here following.
As his father showed kindness unto me; which he might do either by offering him his help, if he needed it; or by supplying him with military or other provisions upon occasion, or many other ways.
And the princes of the children of Ammon said unto Hanun their lord, Thinkest thou that David doth honour thy father, that he hath sent comforters unto thee? hath not David rather sent his servants unto thee, to search the city, and to spy it out, and to overthrow it?To observe where the city is weakest, and may soonest be taken. The ground of this suspicion was, partly, the conscience of their ill deserts and carriage towards the Israelites, whose quarrel David had espoused; partly, the opinion they had of David’s policy; and partly, the severity of God’s law, particularly against them, Deu 23:6, which might easily come to their ears. And they knew David was a zealous asserter of God’s laws.
Wherefore Hanun took David's servants, and shaved off the one half of their beards, and cut off their garments in the middle, even to their buttocks, and sent them away.Shaved off the one half of their beards; partly that he might compel them to bear a part in their mourning, and that in such a way as was usual with them, but forbidden to the Israelites, Leviticus 19:27 Deu 14:1; which probably was not unknown to them; and partly to fasten this as a reproach upon them, and to make them ridiculous and contemptible. Compare Isaiah 20:4 47:2 50:6.
Even to their buttocks: this was worse than the former, because the Israelites wore no breeches, and so their nakedness was hereby uncovered. Compare Isaiah 20:4.
When they told it unto David, he sent to meet them, because the men were greatly ashamed: and the king said, Tarry at Jericho until your beards be grown, and then return.He sent to meet them; he sent them clothes and other necessaries.
Tarry at Jericho; both because this was one of the first places which they came to in Canaan; and because it was now a very obscure village, and therefore fittest for them in their circumstances; for it was not built as a city till after this time, 1 Kings 16:34.
Until your beards be grown; for the want or loss of beards was esteemed a reproach among the Israelites.
And when the children of Ammon saw that they stank before David, the children of Ammon sent and hired the Syrians of Bethrehob, and the Syrians of Zoba, twenty thousand footmen, and of king Maacah a thousand men, and of Ishtob twelve thousand men.Beth-rehob, near Hamath, Numbers 13:21.
Zoba; of which see 1 Samuel 14:47 2 Samuel 8:3.
Of king Maacah, i. e. of that part of Syria which was under king Maacah; for Syria was a large country, and there were divers kings in the several parts of it. This part was near Gilead. See Deu 3:14.
Of Ish-tob; or, of the men of Tob, the country where Jephthah dwelt, Judges 11:3. Besides these, they hired others out of Aram-naharaim, or Mesopotamia, as appears from 1 Chronicles 19:6 Psalm 60:1. And all these were forward enough to combine against David, both to revenge their former losses and reproaches, and to give check to his growing greatness.
And when David heard of it, he sent Joab, and all the host of the mighty men.Choosing wisely to carry the war into their country, rather than to expect it in his own.
And the children of Ammon came out, and put the battle in array at the entering in of the gate: and the Syrians of Zoba, and of Rehob, and Ishtob, and Maacah, were by themselves in the field.Of the gate, to wit, of Medeba, as it is expressed, 1 Chronicles 19:7, which was a frontier city. See Numbers 21:30. This place they chose for the fight, that they might both defend that city and their country, whereof that was the entrance, and, if need were, might retreat into it. The Syrians were by themselves in the field; that by their numerous forces they might fall upon the Israelites on the other side. Which were the most valiant and expert soldiers.
When Joab saw that the front of the battle was against him before and behind, he chose of all the choice men of Israel, and put them in array against the Syrians:Which were the most valuable valiant and expert soldiers.
And the rest of the people he delivered into the hand of Abishai his brother, that he might put them in array against the children of Ammon.No text from Poole on this verse.
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 come and help thee.No text from Poole on this verse.
Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the LORD do that which seemeth him good.For our people; for the preservation of ourselves and all our brethren from that utter ruin which our enemies design for us. Our war is not vainly undertaken to enlarge our empire or glory, but for our own just and necessary defence; and therefore we may hope for God’s blessing and assistance in it.
For the cities of our God; which are devoted to his worship and service, and therefore he will plead their cause against his enemies.
The Lord do that which seemeth him good; let us do our parts, and quietly refer ourselves and the event to God’s good pleasure, which we have no reason to distrust.
And Joab drew nigh, and the people that were with him, unto the battle against the Syrians: and they fled before him.He prudently falls upon them first, because they were but mercenaries, and not concerned so much in the success as the Ammonites were, all whose interest lay at stake; and therefore not likely to venture too far in their defence.
And when the children of Ammon saw that the Syrians were fled, then fled they also before Abishai, and entered into the city. So Joab returned from the children of Ammon, and came to Jerusalem.That the Syrians were fled; in whose numbers and prowess they had the most confidence.
Joab returned from the children of Ammon; not judging it convenient or safe to pursue them, because the forces were not utterly ruined, but only dispersed and put to flight, and so might easily rally together.
And when the Syrians saw that they were smitten before Israel, they gathered themselves together.Partly, to wipe out the stain of cowardice which they had now contracted; partly, to prevent that vengeance which they supposed David would execute upon them for their last attempt; and partly, to shake off the yoke that David had lately put upon them.
And Hadarezer sent, and brought out the Syrians that were beyond the river: and they came to Helam; and Shobach the captain of the host of Hadarezer went before them.Hadarezer; the same with Hadadezer, 2 Samuel 8:3.
The Syrians that were beyond the river; who having engaged themselves in the former expedition, as was noted before, were now obliged to proceed in their own defence, being also persuaded and hired to this second expedition, 2 Samuel 10:19. Shobach, or Shopach, 1 Chronicles 19:16.
And when it was told David, he gathered all Israel together, and passed over Jordan, and came to Helam. And the Syrians set themselves in array against David, and fought with him.All Israel, i.e. the chosen and valiant men picked out of all Israel.
And the Syrians fled before Israel; and David slew the men of seven hundred chariots of the Syrians, and forty thousand horsemen, and smote Shobach the captain of their host, who died there.The men of seven hundred chariots; Heb. seven hundred chariots, i.e. the men belonging to them, that fought in or with them; as plainly appears,
1. Because the men only, and not the chariots, were capable of being killed, as these are said to have been.
2. Because it is thus explained in the Book of Chronicles, which was written after this book, for this end, to explain what was dark or doubtful, and to supply what was omitted here; where, instead of these words, are seven thousand men which fought in chariots, 1 Chronicles 19:18. And this is a very common metonymy; of which see above, 2 Samuel 8:4, and the notes on 1 Samuel 13:5. Although there might be seven thousand chariots in all, whereof seven hundred where chosen ones; according to the distinction made Exodus 14:7.
Forty thousand horsemen; for which in 1 Chronicles 19:18, is forty thousand footmen; which may be reconciled divers ways.
1. Both these may be true, that he slew forty thousand horsemen, which being the most considerable part and strength of the army, it might seem sufficient to name them, and every one could easily understand that the footmen in that case were certainly cut off; and that he slew also forty thousand footmen, as is said in 1 Chronicles where he mentions them only, because they were omitted in 2 Samuel, and the horsemen being expressed here, it was needless to repeat them in 1Ch 2. The horsemen may be here called footmen, in opposition to those that fought in chariots; because they sometimes fought on horseback, and sometimes came down from their horses, and fought on foot, when the place of the battle was more commodious for footmen than for horsemen; which it is not improbable was their case here; for David being a soldier of great prudence and experience, and understanding the great numbers of the Syrian horsemen, whereas the Israelites had but very few, Deu 17:16, would doubtless endeavour to choose a place as inconvenient for their horsemen as he could.
3. Peradventure the Syrians designed to bring the war into David’s country, and therefore hastened their march, and for that end put their footmen on horseback, (as hath been frequently done in like cases,) who, when they came to the place of battle, carne down from their horses, and fought on foot. So there is no need of acknowledging an error of the scribe in the sacred text; which yet if it were granted in such historical passages of no moment to the doctrine of faith and good life, it would not shake the foundation of our faith in matters of great importance, which it might reasonably be presumed the providence of God would more watchfully preserve from all depravation or corruption.
And when all the kings that were servants to Hadarezer saw that they were smitten before Israel, they made peace with Israel, and served them. So the Syrians feared to help the children of Ammon any more.The kings that were servants to Hadarezer, to wit, for that time, or in that expedition to which he hired them.