1 Chronicles
Introduction 1-5 The Messengers of David Humiliated 6-19 The Ammonites and Syrians Defeated
Introduction

This chapter is devoted to a separate description of David’s war against the Ammonites and the Arameans, or Syrians, nations already mentioned in the previous chapter (cf. 2Sam 10:1-191Now it happened afterwards that the king of the Ammonites died, and Hanun his son became king in his place.2Then David said, “I will show kindness to Hanun the son of Nahash, just as his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent some of his servants to console him concerning his father. But when David’s servants came to the land of the Ammonites,3the princes of the Ammonites said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think that David is honoring your father because he has sent consolers to you? Has David not sent his servants to you in order to search the city, to spy it out and overthrow it?”4So Hanun took David’s servants and shaved off half of their beards, and cut off their garments in the middle as far as their hips, and sent them away.5When they told [it] to David, he sent to meet them, for the men were greatly humiliated. And the king said, “Stay at Jericho until your beards grow, and [then] return.”6Now when the sons of Ammon saw that they had become odious to David, the sons of Ammon sent and hired the Arameans of Beth-rehob and the Arameans of Zobah, 20,000 foot soldiers, and the king of Maacah with 1,000 men, and the men of Tob with 12,000 men.7When David heard [of it], he sent Joab and all the army, the mighty men.8The sons of Ammon came out and drew up in battle array at the entrance of the city, while the Arameans of Zobah and of Rehob and the men of Tob and Maacah [were] by themselves in the field.9Now when Joab saw that the battle was set against him in front and in the rear, he selected from all the choice men of Israel, and arrayed [them] against the Arameans.10But the remainder of the people he placed in the hand of Abishai his brother, and he arrayed [them] against the sons of Ammon.11He said, “If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you shall help me, but if the sons of Ammon are too strong for you, then I will come to help you.12Be strong, and let us show ourselves courageous for the sake of our people and for the cities of our God; and may the LORD do what is good in His sight.”13So Joab and the people who were with him drew near to the battle against the Arameans, and they fled before him.14When the sons of Ammon saw that the Arameans fled, they [also] fled before Abishai and entered the city. Then Joab returned from [fighting] against the sons of Ammon and came to Jerusalem.15When the Arameans saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they gathered themselves together.16And Hadadezer sent and brought out the Arameans who were beyond the River, and they came to Helam; and Shobach the commander of the army of Hadadezer led them.17Now when it was told David, he gathered all Israel together and crossed the Jordan, and came to Helam. And the Arameans arrayed themselves to meet David and fought against him.18But the Arameans fled before Israel, and David killed 700 charioteers of the Arameans and 40,000 horsemen and struck down Shobach the commander of their army, and he died there.19When all the kings, servants of Hadadezer, saw that they were defeated by Israel, they made peace with Israel and served them. So the Arameans feared to help the sons of Ammon anymore.).


The Messengers of David Humiliated

1Now it came about after this, that Nahash the king of the sons of Ammon died, and his son became king in his place. 2Then David said, “I will show kindness to Hanun the son of Nahash, because his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent messengers to console him concerning his father. And David’s servants came into the land of the sons of Ammon to Hanun to console him. 3But the princes of the sons of Ammon said to Hanun, “Do you think that David is honoring your father, in that he has sent comforters to you? Have not his servants come to you to search and to overthrow and to spy out the land?” 4So Hanun took David’s servants and shaved them and cut off their garments in the middle as far as their hips, and sent them away. 5Then [certain persons] went and told David about the men. And he sent to meet them, for the men were greatly humiliated. And the king said, “Stay at Jericho until your beards grow, and [then] return.”

A proof of kindness of David is the reason for the war with the Ammonites is. Nahash, the king of the Ammonites, dies. David wants to console his son and successor, Hanun. This proof of kindness is misunderstood. The reaction to David’s condolences (verse 44So Hanun took David’s servants and shaved them and cut off their garments in the middle as far as their hips, and sent them away.) is a straightforward declaration of war.

Hanun shows in this chapter a very different attitude to David’s kindness than Mephibosheth has shown (2Sam 9:1-81Then David said, “Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”2Now there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba, and they called him to David; and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” And he said, “[I am] your servant.”3The king said, “Is there not yet anyone of the house of Saul to whom I may show the kindness of God?” And Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan who is crippled in both feet.”4So the king said to him, “Where is he?” And Ziba said to the king, “Behold, he is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel in Lo-debar.”5Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, from Lo-debar.6Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and prostrated himself. And David said, “Mephibosheth.” And he said, “Here is your servant!”7David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly.”8Again he prostrated himself and said, “What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me?”). There is suspicion that David’s true intentions are not of a peaceful nature. The princes of the Ammonites suggest that he tries to subdue them to himself by a feigned condolences. Hanun shows that he does not know David. What David does is seen by him as hypocrisy.

The messengers of David are being treated unjustly and sent away. For an Easterner, shaving the beard is a deep humiliation. Sending the half-naked on the street is also an unprecedented humiliation. A more deeply hurtful treatment is hardly conceivable. When David hears the humiliation, he realizes that what is done to his messengers is in fact directed against him. Yet his first reaction is not to seek retaliation for himself, but his first concern are his humiliated messengers. He lets them say they have to take time to recover.

David is an example of the Lord Jesus in this. His attention always goes first and foremost to his own suffering for Him and not to retaliation for those who cause this suffering to His own. At His time comes also the retribution.

Like Hanun there are many people in the world. If you talk to them about the love of God and the Lord Jesus, they don't want to hear anything about it. They do not allow Him to come into their lives. They see Him as an intruder, as One Who has not good intentions, but bad intention with them.

Whoever bears witness of his Lord out of love for the lost man, may come across the same treatment as the messengers of David and, what is more, the same treatment as the Lord Jesus received: “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (Jn 15:20a20Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.). By the way, it suits us to be good and compassionate neighbors and also to be grateful for all the kindness that is shown to us.


The Ammonites and Syrians Defeated

6When the sons of Ammon saw that they had made themselves odious to David, Hanun and the sons of Ammon sent 1,000 talents of silver to hire for themselves chariots and horsemen from Mesopotamia, from Aram-maacah and from Zobah. 7So they hired for themselves 32,000 chariots, and the king of Maacah and his people, who came and camped before Medeba. And the sons of Ammon gathered together from their cities and came to battle. 8When David heard [of it], he sent Joab and all the army, the mighty men. 9The sons of Ammon came out and drew up in battle array at the entrance of the city, and the kings who had come were by themselves in the field. 10Now when Joab saw that the battle was set against him in front and in the rear, he selected from all the choice men of Israel and they arrayed themselves against the Arameans. 11But the remainder of the people he placed in the hand of Abshai his brother; and they arrayed themselves against the sons of Ammon. 12He said, “If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you shall help me; but if the sons of Ammon are too strong for you, then I will help you. 13Be strong, and let us show ourselves courageous for the sake of our people and for the cities of our God; and may the LORD do what is good in His sight.” 14So Joab and the people who were with him drew near to the battle against the Arameans, and they fled before him. 15When the sons of Ammon saw that the Arameans fled, they also fled before Abshai his brother and entered the city. Then Joab came to Jerusalem. 16When the Arameans saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they sent messengers and brought out the Arameans who were beyond the River, with Shophach the commander of the army of Hadadezer leading them. 17When it was told David, he gathered all Israel together and crossed the Jordan, and came upon them and drew up in formation against them. And when David drew up in battle array against the Arameans, they fought against him. 18The Arameans fled before Israel, and David killed of the Arameans 7,000 charioteers and 40,000 foot soldiers, and put to death Shophach the commander of the army. 19So when the servants of Hadadezer saw that they were defeated by Israel, they made peace with David and served him. Thus the Arameans were not willing to help the sons of Ammon anymore.

The enemies now realize that David cannot simply let their insults pass by (verses 6-76When the sons of Ammon saw that they had made themselves odious to David, Hanun and the sons of Ammon sent 1,000 talents of silver to hire for themselves chariots and horsemen from Mesopotamia, from Aram-maacah and from Zobah.7So they hired for themselves 32,000 chariots, and the king of Maacah and his people, who came and camped before Medeba. And the sons of Ammon gathered together from their cities and came to battle.). They strengthen themselves and join together, a part near the city and a part in the field. Then Joab is sent to battle by David (verse 88When David heard [of it], he sent Joab and all the army, the mighty men.). The enemies then draw up in battle array (verse 99The sons of Ammon came out and drew up in battle array at the entrance of the city, and the kings who had come were by themselves in the field.). Joab oversees the situation and notices that he is enclosed. That doesn’t cause him to panic. As an experienced general with great military insight he determines a tactic, together with Abshai, in which they divide the forces (verses 10-1210Now when Joab saw that the battle was set against him in front and in the rear, he selected from all the choice men of Israel and they arrayed themselves against the Arameans.11But the remainder of the people he placed in the hand of Abshai his brother; and they arrayed themselves against the sons of Ammon.12He said, “If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you shall help me; but if the sons of Ammon are too strong for you, then I will help you.). They agree to help each other when the other gets into trouble.

Joab encourages Abshai, and himself, and encourages to be strong and show themselves courageous (verse 1313Be strong, and let us show ourselves courageous for the sake of our people and for the cities of our God; and may the LORD do what is good in His sight.”). These are not things of feeling or circumstances, but a choice to be strong and courageous. He points out that it is about “our people and … the cities of our God”. The people, their people, and God’s cities are at stake. That is the challenge of the fight. With the words “may the LORD do what is good in His sight” he further puts the matter in the hands of the LORD. We see here that besides the appeal to the responsibility to be strong and to take courage (cf. 1Cor 16:1313Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.) there is also the awareness that everything depends on what the LORD does (cf. Phil 2:12-1312So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;13for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for [His] good pleasure.).

The enemy allies are contested by Joab with wisdom, while we also hear from his mouth a certain faith. In this book, Joab’s actual attitude – that he ultimately puts his own interests higher than David’s – does not come to the fore. His real motives, his going after his own interest, we see more in 2 Samuel. After determining the tactics and inspiring words, Joab fights with the Syrians, who flee before him (verse 1414So Joab and the people who were with him drew near to the battle against the Arameans, and they fled before him.).

His victory has a positive effect on his brother Abshai, who is fighting with the Ammonites. When the Ammonites see that their allies have been defeated and have fled, they no longer have the courage to fight on. They also flee (verse 1515When the sons of Ammon saw that the Arameans fled, they also fled before Abshai his brother and entered the city. Then Joab came to Jerusalem.). Every victory we achieve weakens the enemy and often also means a victory for our fellow fighters over their enemies. After the battle Joab goes to Jerusalem, probably to report to David.

After their defeat, the Syrians regrouped and strengthened themselves with other fellow countrymen (verse 1616When the Arameans saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they sent messengers and brought out the Arameans who were beyond the River, with Shophach the commander of the army of Hadadezer leading them.). When David hears about it, he himself goes to war. He gathers “all Israel” and defeats the enemy. All Israel is under the authority of David and he is acknowledged by them as king. This unity is important in view of the building of the temple. For the building of the temple, in addition to the already mentioned materials, the factors of peace and safety and the unity of the people are of great importance.

After David’s punishment, the Syrians make peace with him and surrender to him. The Syrians also do no longer establish a connection with Israel’s other enemy, Ammon.


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