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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 19

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Introduction

First Chronicles Chapter 19

1 Chronicles 19:1 "Now it came to pass after this, that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon died, and his son reigned in his stead."

"Nahash" means serpent. This could be a name, or a title for the king of the Ammonites. They, probably, used this name to cause others to fear them. In 2 Samuel chapter 10 beginning with verse 1, we find a very similar account of the same event that is mentioned here.

1 Chronicles 19:2 "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."

The offer of condolence on the death of another leader is done even today. Sometimes, heads of state will go half-way around the world to another leader’s funeral. This act of kindness from David was explained, for some favor the king had done for David in the past. David had to find help from many different people, when he was fleeing from Saul. David did not go himself, but sent his servants to carry his message of comfort from him to the king’s children.

1 Chronicles 19:3 "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?"

It seemed, the children of Ammon were not as smart as their king who died. They were suspicious of David, and thought he would take advantage of their time of grief to overthrow them. They did not count David’s servants as messengers of good will, but as spies.

1 Chronicles 19:4 "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."

The shaving of these men was to humiliate them. It shamed them. It was a direct statement against their religion, and their customs. A man who had grown a beard had spent quite a long time in the process. This, to them, was a great humiliation. They shamed them further by cutting off half their garment. In some societies, the beard is a symbol of standing in the community. This whole thing is a terrible insult.

1 Chronicles 19:5 "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."

They could quickly get a new garment to wear, but it would take some time for their beards to grow out. David gave them permission not to come into the camp, until their beards had grown out, again. They, probably, found a favorable home to dwell in at Jericho.

1 Chronicles 19:6 "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 Syria-maachah, and out of Zobah."

The word "odious" means dimness of sight. David had offered them friendship, now he could not even see them for his anger at what they had done to his men. In 2 Samuel where this is stated, the word "stank" is used in place of odious. They suddenly realized they had incited the anger of David and hired them mercenaries to fight for them against David. In this particular case, 3,000 shekels made up one talent, so we can quickly see this is a tremendous amount of money. It would total 3,000,000 shekels of silver. The names of the places they sent for soldiers vary a little, but that is not important here. This was such a foolish thing to do, and now, they will pay for it. In the parallel Scripture in 2 Samuel 10:6, we find they hired 33,000 men to fight for them.

1 Chronicles 19:7 "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."

It is not a difficult situation for the number to vary 100 men. They now felt confident that they could kill David and his men. Medeba is a few miles southeast of Heshbon. The only thing these Ammonites had not taken into consideration, was the God of David.

1 Chronicles 19:8 "And when David heard [of it], he sent Joab, and all the host of the mighty men."

Joab was the leader of David’s army. The army that Joab led, in this, was a much smaller group, but with the help of the LORD, they would defeat this mighty army the Ammonites had hired to fight them.

1 Chronicles 19:9 "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."

It appears, from this, that the troops of the Ammonites were separated from the troops they had hired to fight for them . The Ammonites remained close enough to their city, so they might run for safety to the city. The hired troops were a good way out in the field from the city.

1 Chronicles 19:10 "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."

It seems that, Joab was between the two groups of soldiers. The Syrians would have been the more skilled of the two armies Joab faced. Joab chose the most skilled of his men to go against the Syrians. Joab would lead the group of elite soldiers in battle against the Syrians.

1 Chronicles 19:11 "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."

God was with them, and the LORD had put this plan into the heart of Joab. Abishai would attack the Ammonites, and Joab would attack the Syrians. This would keep one of the armies from attacking them from the rear, and getting them in a cross fire. Joab and Abishai would have their backs to each other. No one would slip up behind them.

1 Chronicles 19:12 "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."

This way they could quickly tell which side needed more soldiers. Whichever one was winning their battle, could send additional soldiers to help the other one.

1 Chronicles 19:13 "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."

This was Joab telling Abishai and all of the men to be of good courage, that God would help them. Joab was an unusually brave man, and it caused the men under his command to be couragous, as well. Joab says, "If the LORD wants us to win this battle, we will".

1 Chronicles 19:14 "So Joab and the people that [were] with him drew nigh before the Syrians unto the battle; and they fled before him."

We must remember, the Syrians were hired soldiers. They did not have as good a reason to stand and fight as Joab and his men. The bravery portrayed in the attack of these few whom Joab led, caused the Syrians to fear and run for safety.

1 Chronicles 19:15 "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."

The troops with Abishai had hardly begun to advance, when the Ammonites saw the Syrians running for their lives. The Ammonites ran for safety into their city. It appears that, Joab felt the battle was over, and went back to Jerusalem to proclaim the victory.

1 Chronicles 19:16 "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."

The Syrians, that Joab thought were defeated and would not be back, got additional help from the other Syrians. They were refortifying their troops to come against Israel, again. They had retreated to get more help.

1 Chronicles 19:17 "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."

David had sent his army that was in ready before. Now, he called for all the able soldiers to come to fight this enemy. It appears that, David 116 led his troops in this. It, also, appears that, he attacked the Syrians. The troops would, probably, fight more bravely with their king at the battlefront.

1 Chronicles 19:18 "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."

This was a fierce battle, and we see that David and his men killed over 40,000 of the Syrians. The Syrians, who were not killed, fled for their lives. Shopach had been the general of the Syrian armies.

1 Chronicles 19:19 "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."

The Syrians, that fled, surrendered to David and became his servants. One of the agreements they made with David, was that they would not help the Ammonites against Israel anymore.

1 Chronicles 19 Questions

1. ___________ the king of the children of Ammon died.

2. What does "Nahash" mean?

3. Why did David want to show kindness to the children of Nahash?

4. What did the princes think of the men David sent?

5. What terrible thing did they do to David’s servants?

6. What was the beard in some societies?

7. What did David tell them to do, to keep from being further embarrassed?

8. What does "odious" mean?

9. What word is used in 2 Samuel for odious?

10. When they realized that David was angry, what did they do?

11. How many shekels of silver did they send to pay them?

12. How many chariots did they hire?

13. When David heard of this army, who did he send to fight them?

14. Where did the children of Ammon set up for battle?

15. Where were the hired soldiers set up to fight?

16. What did Joab do, when he realized he was between the two armies?

17. Who would go against the Syrians?

18. Who led the troops against the Ammonites?

19. What advantage would this be to the Israelites?

20. What encouragement did Joab give the men?

21. What happened, when Joab and his men attacked Syria?

22. Where did the Ammonites retreat to?

23. When the Syrians got out of danger, what did they do?

24. What did David do, when he heard this?

25. How many Syrians did David and his men kill?

26. What did the servants, that did not die in battle, do?

Verses 1-5

1Ch 19:1-5

1 Chronicles 19:1-5

AMMONITES AND SYRIANS MAKE WAR AGAINST DAVID;

DAVID’S MESSENGERS OF GOOD WILL INSULTED

“And it came to pass after this, that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon died, and his son reigned in his stead. And David said, I will show kindness unto Hanun the son of Nahash, because his father showed kindness to me. So David sent messengers to comfort him concerning his father. And David’s messengers came into the land of the children of Ammon to Hanun, to comfort him. But the princes of the children of Ammon said to Hanun, Thinkest thou that David doth honor thy father, in that he hath sent comforters unto thee? are not his servants come unto thee to search, to overthrow, and to spy out the land? Then Hanun took David’s servants, and shaved them, and cut off their garments in the middle, even to their buttocks, and sent them away. Then there went certain persons, 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.”

E.M. Zerr:

1 Chronicles 19:1-2. Gratitude is one of the finest principles, and David always manifested a great degree of it. His kingdom was secular as well as religious, hence he would have more or less to do with the kingdoms around him. Such dealings might be agreeable or otherwise, depending on the conduct of those kingdoms. The Ammonites had been generally against the Israelites, but one particular king of that people had shown some kind of favor to David. We are not told what that was, but David sought to show his gratitude by expressing his sympathy to his son.

1 Chronicles 19:3. Gratitude is indeed an excellent trait, and therefore to reject it is an indication of an opposite one. Without any investigation that we know of, the son of the former king of the Ammonites listened to the suggestions of his princes, who imputed to David a bad motive in sending his servants to console him.

1 Chronicles 19:4. Hanun did not wish to do any bodily harm to the servants of David; he planned only to humiliate them. Most men wore their beards at the natural length in those days. They were cherished because of the masculine significance. To rob a man of the natural ornament meant to deprive him of one sign of manhood. And men usually wore outer garments consisting of long robes, reaching nearly to the ground. To cut away the lower half of these garments not only exposed their bodies to shame, but would force them to become an offense to others. Hanun imposed both these indignities on the servants of David.

1 Chronicles 19:5. Being under orders from their king, the men were faithfully journeying on their return although very much humiliated. Some persons informed David of the circumstance and his humane spirit again showed itself. The replacement of the clothing could have been done at once, but it would take some time to grow another beard. Jericho was not a very conspicuous city, so the king permitted his servants to remain there until their beards were grown.

Verses 6-9

1Ch 19:6-9

1 Chronicles 19:6-9

HANUN PREPARES FOR WAR AGAINST DAVID

"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 Aram-Maacah, and out of Zobah. So they hired them thirty and two thousand chariots, and the king of Maacah and his people, who came and encamped before Medeba. And the children of Ammon gathered themselves from their cities, and came to battle. 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 at the gate of the city: and the kings that were come were by themselves in the field."

E.M. Zerr:

1 Chronicles 19:6-8. Odious means they realized they had offended David. They could have avoided serious trouble with him by proper acknowledgements, but their pride prevented them from doing so. They concluded that David would make war on them, for their insults to his men meant insults to him. They prepared for the conflict by hiring men out of Mesopotamia and other places, to come and help them in their conflict with David. Such allies today are called mercenaries, meaning men who fight for money and not because of sympathy for the cause for which they pretend to be fighting. Mesopotamia was the country east of the Euphrates, and Syria-maachah was a small district in the territory of Syria, which lay nearer Palestine. Military forces from these communities were induced to come to the aid of Hanun, and they pitched their camp before Medeba, a town just east of the Jordan. The Ammonites brought their forces and joined themselves to their hired allies to fight against David.

1 Chronicles 19:9. While the Ammonites were allies in this battle, they arrayed themselves as units distinct from the forces hired to help them. They operated near the gate of the city, and their hired allies were out in the field. That was a piece of good strategy, because it presented two fronts to the other side.

Verses 10-15

1Ch 19:10-15

1 Chronicles 19:10-15

THE INITIAL DEFEAT OF THE AMMONITES

"Now when Joab saw that the battle was set against him before and behind, he chose of all the choice men of Israel, and put them in array against the Syrians. And the rest of the people he committed into the hand of his brother Abishai; and they put themselves in array against the children of Ammon. And he said, If the Syrians be too much 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 play the man for our people, and for the cities of our God: and Jehovah do that which seemeth to him good. 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."

E.M. Zerr:

1 Chronicles 19:10-11. Joab was an expert in war, however, and planned at once to meet the challenge. He formed a special detachment from the Israelites, composed of the choice men. The original for this means a young man. With this special group he proposed to contact the hired forces, and gave the rest of the Israelite soldiers into the hands of his brother Abishai to contact the Ammonites, the ones starting the war.

1 Chronicles 19:12. This verse shows more good judgment. No one could tell in advance which unit of an enemy would be the stronger, and to make special plans of attack with that question in doubt would be a risk; the method David proposed would avoid that uncertainty. Another lesson we may obtain from the circumstance is that of cooperation and the strong helping the weak. The New Testament puts much stress on that idea as may be seen in Romans 15:1 and 1 Corinthians 12.

1 Chronicles 19:13. David showed a fine spirit of resignation to the will of God in his statement to his brother. He proposed that they do their best in the battle, then leave the result with the Lord. That should be the motive of all who profess to serve God. We are not responsible for the results of doing right. If we do what God directs us to do, he will take all the care about what comes from it. On the other hand, if we act upon our own wisdom and desires, we must be held responsible for all.

1 Chronicles 19:14. The very sight of Joab with his forces caused the hired soldiers to flee. Having no interest at stake but the money they were to receive, they would not stand their ground against danger.

1 Chronicles 19:15. Fear is contagious. Seeing their allies were running from the contest, the Ammonites fled also. They entered the city which was Medeba. As the enemy had all deserted the field of action, David returned to Jerusalem which was his capital.

Verses 16-19

1Ch 19:16-19

1 Chronicles 19:16-19

THE SYRIAN ALLIES OF AMMON CRUSHED BY DAVID

"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, with Shophach the captain of the host of Hadarezer at their head. And it was told David; and he gathered all Israel together, and passed over the 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. And the Syrians fled before Israel; and David slew of the Syrians the men of seven thousand chariots, and forty thousand footmen, and killed Shophach the captain of the host. And when the servants of Hadarezer saw that they were put to the worse before Israel, they made peace with David, and served him: neither would the Syrians help the children of Ammon any more."

We have thoroughly discussed these nineteen verses in chapter 10 of 2Samuel, where they are found parallel to all that is written here.

E.M. Zerr:

1 Chronicles 19:16. The Syrians had very little interest in the cause when they entered the alliance with the Ammonites, except the money they were to receive. But the "pride of life" is another strong sentiment, and they were goaded by it into trying once more to "save their face" by calling on their own people for help. The river means the Euphrates, which was one boundary of Mesopotamia. The terms Syria and - Assyria are sometimes used interchangeably because of some points of relation common to both. But when the subject under consideration is strictly geographical and political, Syria was directly north of Palestine and Damascus was the capital. Assyria was east of the Euphrates and Nineveh was the capital.

1 Chronicles 19:17. When David heard of the new plans of the enemy he did not wait for their advances. Crossing over Jordan, (since that territory was a part of the promised land according to Genesis 15:18), he moved on the enemy.

1 Chronicles 19:18. The chariots mentioned in the Bible usually are vehicles used in war. To state that a number of chariots was slain means the men of those chariots were slain. Some men in the war forces were on foot, and 40,000 of such soldiers were slain by David in the encounter. The captain of all the forces also was slain.

1 Chronicles 19:19. The servants had offered to fight with the Syrian leaders against David. When they saw that it was a losing battle they came to terms with him. The Syrians realized also that it was foolish to think of overcoming the children of Israel, so they refused any further alliance with the Ammonites.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Chronicles 19". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/1-chronicles-19.html.
 
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