Now it came to pass after this, that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon died, and his son reigned in his stead.
Verse 1. - Nahash. It is possible that this may be the Nahash of 1 Samuel 11:1, 2 and 1 Sam 12:12, who, being signally defeated by Saul, may have been the more inclined to show partiality to David. But it would appear that nearly sixty years had elapsed, and if so, it must be held very unlikely, and would point to the conclusion that it was his son whose death is here in question. With this the statement of Josephus ('Ant.,' 6:05, § 3), would tally, which says that the Nahash of 1 Samuel 11. was killed in the destruction of the Ammonite army then wrought by Saul. Possibly the word "Nahash" was the official title of kings of the Ammonites (and, though considering its signification, i.e. serpent, scarcely a flattering one from a modern point of view, yet this is overruled by the association of the attribute of wisdom with the serpent in olden time, of which we have more than a trace in Matthew 10:16), as "Pharaoh" of kings of Egypt, etc.
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.
Verse 2. - Because his father showed kindness to me. The instance of kindness here alluded to is not recorded. There may have been many opportunities and calls for it during David's persecuted life, and when the Ammonite king would feel a motive beyond any intrinsic goodness of heart to "show kindness" to the youth who was Saul's object of hatred. It is, however, very remarkable that we find a genuine kindliness towards David still cleaving to the succession of Ammonite kings, even after the events of this chapter (2 Samuel 17:27-29). Hanna. Nothing else is known of this Hanun. Though here the name of an Ammonite king, we find it in Nehemiah 3:13, 30, the name of two of those who helped repair the city. The Assyrian Inscriptions contain the name as that of a Philistine king, tributary to Tiglath-pileser (see 'Speaker's Commentary').
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?
Verse 3. - Thinkest thou that David, etc.? The Hebrew is, "In thine eyes doth David?" The order of to overthrow, and to spy out is reversed in Samuel.
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.
Verse 4. - The classical scholar will not fail to be reminded, so far as the shaving here spoken of is concerned, of the account contained in Herodotus, 2:121. The parallel place makes the resemblance close, in that it tells us that "one-half of their beards" was shaved. To shave them was an affront to their customs, dignity, and religion: to shave them half added mockery; and to cut off half their garments completed the tale of ignominious and contemptuous insult (Isaiah 20:4). The beard was held almost in reverence by Easterns.
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.
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.
Verse 6. - Made themselves odious. The Hebrew root of very strong force, בָּאשׁ, is here employed, and which our Authorized Version translates, both in the parallel place and elsewhere, far more uncompromisingly than here. A thousand talents. Not stated in Samuel. This talent was of three thousand shekels, believed to be equivalent to f 342. Mesopotamia. The parallel place has Aram-beth-rehob, instead of our Aram-naharaim ("Syria of the Two Rivers," i.e. Tigris and Euphrates; Authorized Version, "Mesopotamia"). From comparing this verso with ver. 16, it may seem probable that those strictly called "of Mesopotamia" lent either no aid at first or but very partial. It is observable that the numbers of men supplied by Beth-rehob, Zobah, and Ishtob in the parallel place (viz. thirty-two thousand) agree with the numbers of this verse, from which we may conclude that, whatever Aram-beth-rehob (probably either Reho-both on the Euphrates, or Rehob last of Lebanon) and Aram-naharaim may strictly stand for respectively, they here substantially mean the same. It is possible that the difference is that of a corrupt text or careless copying. The Aram-naharaim (Mesopotamia), which comes before us first in Genesis 24:10, passes out of Scripture language after the defeats of this chapter - the tract of country which it designated (some seven hundred miles by twenty to two hundred and fifty) being absorbed, first by Assyria, and afterwards by Babylon. The Assyrian Inscriptions reveal the fact that Mesopotamia was the prey of a largo number of small separate tribes at the period of the judges and the early Jewish monarchy, which is quite consistent with the glimpses we here get of it and its people. Aram-maachah probably designates the tract of country north of East Manasseh, bordering on Palestine, and bounded by the Jordan, Mount Hermon, and on its east, Salcah. Zobah (see 1 Chronicles 18:3, note; 1 Samuel 14:47). The parallel place adds also "the men of Ishtob."
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.
Verse 7. - Thirty and two thousand chariots. The reading in the parallel place is evidently what is intended (comp. 1 Chronicles 18:4 with its parallel, 2 Samuel 8:4). Clearly a stop should follow the numeral, which designates the number of the men under arms. Medeba. Some four miles south-cast of Heshbon (Numbers 21:30; Joshua 13:9, 16; Isaiah 15:2), or others give it as nine miles. It is not given in Samuel.
And when David heard of it, he sent Joab, and all the host of 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.
Verse 9. - The kings. Compare this and ver. 19 with ver. 19 of the parallel chapter, and also with ver. 8 (2 Samuel 10:19, 8).
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.
Verse 10. - The meaning in brief of this Terse is that, as Joab found there were practically two enemies, and two armies to face, he avoided the mistake of being shut up between them more than necessary, and divided his own hosts. He took the flower of all, under his own command, to face the Syrians in the field, who were the most formidable of the enemy. The rest he put under his brother Abishai, to face the Ammonites at the gate, i.e. of the city Medeba. The plan succeeded, for if Abishai had only done as much as hold back the Ammonites awhile, so soon as they saw the Syrians break and flee they knew that Joab and his army would be free to "help" Abishai.
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.
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.
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.
So Joab and the people that were with him drew nigh before the Syrians unto the battle; and they fled before him.
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.
Verse 15. - Then Joab came to Jerusalem. This is equivalent to saying that, for what he deemed sufficient reasons, Joab did not stay to besiege the Ammonites in the city, within the wails of which they had taken refuge, nor to pursue the Syrians. Hence we find these latter soon made bold to rally and to get additional aid.
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.
Verse 16. - Beyond the river; i.e. the river Euphrates. Shophach. In the parallel place spelt Shobach. Of him nothing else is known except his death, as recorded in ver. 18 and in 2 Samuel 10:18.
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.
Verse 17. - Came upon them. The reading of the parallel passage is probably correct, i.e. they "came to Helam," inasmuch as the place is repeated, both in ver. 16 and ver. 17. Nothing else, however, is known of Helam. The Septuagint has Αἱλάμ.
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.
Verse 18. - Seven thousand men which fought in chariots. The parallel passage has the men of seven hundred chariots. There could not be ten fighting men to a chariot. The reading of Samuel is more likely to be correct than our present reading. Forty thousand footmen. The parallel place shows "horsemen."
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.
Verse 19. - Became his servants; i.e. his tributaries and vassals.