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CRITICAL NOTES.] After this other wars with Ammon and Aram. The chapter corresponds with 2 Samuel 10:0.
1 Chronicles 19:1-5.—Insult to David’s messengers. Nahash (1 Samuel 11:1; 2 Samuel 10:1). Kindness, N. friendly with David, and an enemy to Saul. Comfort, condole him. Search thy capital. Shaved half the face. The beard greatly valued in East, to violate it the greatest insult. Tarry in seclusion till the mark of disgrace had disappeared.
1 Chronicles 19:6-7.—Ammon and Syria war with David. Odious, Israel universally roused to avenge the insult. Talents, equal to £342,100; to procure the help of foreign mercenaries. Chariots, also riders, or cavalry, accustomed to fight on horseback or in chariots, and occasionally on foot. Accepting this as the true rendering, the number of hired auxiliaries mentioned in this passage agrees exactly with the statement in 2 Samuel 10:6 (cf. Davidson’s Hermeneutics, p. 552).
1 Chronicles 19:8-15.—Joab defeats Ammon. Host, the whole forces of Israel engaged in this war. Beset by Ammonites in front and by Syrians behind, Joab resolves to attack the latter—the more numerous and formidable host—while he directed Abishai, with a suitable force, to attack the Ammonites (1 Chronicles 19:12-13). This brief address appeals to the courage, patriotism, and religion of his men. 1 Chronicles 19:15. Mercenaries defeated, the courage of the Ammonites failed, they took flight and entrenched themselves within fortified walls.
1 Chronicles 19:16-19.—Second victory over Aram. River, Euphrates. Shophach (2 Samuel 10:15-19). Seven thousand (cf. 2 Samuel 10:18). “Either the text in one of the books is corrupt (Keil, Davidson), or the accounts must be combined (Kennicott, Houbigant, Calmet)” [Jamieson]. 1 Chronicles 19:19. Servants, tributaries.
THE MESSAGE OF CONDOLENCE.—1 Chronicles 19:1-5
Nahash, a neighbourly king, friendly with David in the days of Saul, and perhaps congratulated him on accession to the throne. Hanun, son of Nahash, succeeded after his father’s death. To him David sent an embassy of condolence.
I. The generous message of David. Gratitude not absorbed by death. Expressions of sympathy needful. Nothing worthier than to requite kindness with thanks.
1. In its occasion. A time of bereavement and sorrow when such a message is seasonable.
2. In its form. The customary method of sending courtiers to condole with friends in loss or suffering. But Hanun’s loss was David’s loss. A true friend valued by relatives and neighbours, honoured in death and memory.
II. The disgraceful treatment of David’s messengers. If suspected, they might have been dismissed civilly, or kept in honourable custody till the truth was known. They were treated with the greatest indignity. Shaving their beards and shortening their garments a double insult in the East, where long beards and long garments are badges of honour. Many Orientals would rather die than lose their beards (signs of the dignity and ornament of freedom), and Turks used to regard beardless Europeans as runaway slaves.
III. The considerate kindness for the disgraced messengers. “Tarry at Jericho, &c.” The first place they reached in Canaan, a private village, where they might remain until fit to appear in public. Men of that character must not be seen dishonoured and unfit for duty. Character gives influence, commands admiration, and is the real power of men. “Men of character are the conscience of society to which they belong” [Emerson]. If character be lost, then nothing left worth saving. Ever be concerned for good character. Preserve and keep that from dishonour and impurity.
AVENGING AN INSULT.—1 Chronicles 19:6-19
Israel roused by the insult. The Ammonites knew that they had made themselves “odious” to David, and both sides prepared to engage in foolish war.
I. Insult springing from slight provocation. Hanun seems bereft of wisdom, acted most foolishly, and brought ruin to himself and his nation. “Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child.”
1. From a suspicious mind. Embassy treated as spies. Wicked men measure others by themselves, and put an evil construction upon the best intention. Bp. Patrick well says, “There is nothing so well meant but it may be ill interpreted, and is wont to be so by men who love nobody but themselves.”
2. From advice of jealous princes. “Thinkest thou that David doth honour thy father?” Nothing of the kind. They are come to inspect the capital, spy the land, and prepare for its conquest. These princes were jealous of the mighty growth of David’s kingdom, counselled the adoption of a hostile policy, and conveyed slight reproach in their question. The king was influenced, and the insult committed.
II. Insult leading to unjust war. This war, like many others, commenced by a wrongdoer, and might have been avoided by an honourable apology or better understanding. One evil leads to another. When men begin a quarrel, they know not where it will end. “It is one of the mad principles of wickedness,” says Bp. Hall, “that it is wickedness to relent, and rather to die than yield. Even ill causes, once undertaken, must be upheld, although with blood; whereas the gracious heart, finding his own mistaking, doth not only remit of an ungrounded displeasure, but studies to be revenged of itself, and to give satisfaction to the offended.”
III. War terminating in disgraceful overthrow. Syrians from three places hired and headed by powerful men, fought with chariots, cavalry, and infantry. A vigorous attack was made, and they fled, “as often happens,” says Bp. Patrick, “with those that fight for pay alone, without respect to the cause.”
1. Defeat most humiliating. Syrians first fled, and the Ammonites soon followed, without fighting at all. They retreated to the city, but stone walls are no defence without stout hearts.
2. Defeat most complete. The commander was killed, thousands were slain. Vassal princes submitted to David, and the Syrian nation forsook their allies, and became tributary to Israel. Persistence in evil-doing is sure to ruin. Strife spreads. One angry word leads to another. One look of revenge, one act of resentment, will kindle a fire that may set a neighbourhood or a nation into flame. “Therefore leave off contention before it be meddled with.”
“Contention, like a horse
Full of high feeding, madly hath broke loose,
And bears all before him” [Shakespeare].
THE WAR CRY.—1 Chronicles 19:10-13
The enemy appeared on the field, divided their forces, the Syrians in front and the Ammonites behind Joab. But, like an expert commander, he picked out the best soldiers to engage the Syrians, the strongest and most valiant. He gave a spirited address to his army, set a brave example, and left the issue with God.
I. The purpose for which they fought. Not for aggressive or ambitious purposes. For the cause of humanity, “for our people;” for religious freedom and the cause of God, “and for the cities of our God.”
II. The method in which they fought. Success always depends upon certain conditions. Joab owed his victory partly to sagacious command.
1. A wise economy of forces. Bravest in front, and less trained for less important work. A strong reserve force, not all concentrated on a given place. Naseby lost to Charles by Rupert pursuing fugitives too far. The king on the point of overpowering Fairfax. Cromwell hastened to his chief and decided the battle. Charles cried in vain to rally his men, “One more charge and we recover the day.” In the battle of life we should direct our physical and mental powers wisely—ever seek to have strength reserved for “the evil day.”
2. A determination to render mutual help. “If Syrians be too strong for me, then thou shalt help me, &c.” Unity and hearty co-operation essential. The strong should ever be ready to help the weak. Solitude is selfishness and death in moral warfare. “Two are better than one. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falleth.”
III. The spirit in which they fought. Joab’s advice admirable, though not always practised by himself. He shared David’s powers, but not David’s piety.
1. A spirit of exalted courage. “Let us behave ourselves valiantly” (1 Chronicles 19:13). Brave words from a brave heart. “A good leader must, out of his own abundance, put life and spirits into all others; if a lion lead sheep into the field, there is hope of victory” [Bishop Hall]. “Play the man,” Latimer’s motto; let it be ours in all conflicts and departments of life. Idlers, dreamers, and irresolute never win anything. “Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people” (2 Samuel 10:12).
2. A spirit of true patriotism. Personal glory and family reputation powerful motives. But when a country must be defended and a people delivered, then a true spirit required. “Remember the Lord which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”
3. A spirit of submission to God. “Let the Lord do that which is good in his sight” (1 Chronicles 19:13). An element of uncertainty in all events. Here an expression of confidence, not despair, nor fatalism. The heraldic motto on a broken helmet in Battle Abbey most suitable, “L’espoir est ma force.” Diligently prepare, bravely enter the battle, and humbly submit to God. “The fortune of war” not in our hands, but God’s. “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
1 Chronicles 19:2. David said. Let Hanun be as graceless as he will, David will show himself gracious by being grateful. The same Greek word (charis) signifieth both grace and gratitude. Neither doth the ill success he had argue that he did amiss, as Pellican will have it, for duty is to be done, however it speed or take with wicked persons. What if Hanun were a heathen king? Might not his friendship be therefore sought? might not his father’s courtesy be requited? If a very dog fawn upon us we stroke him on the head, and clap him on the side; much less is the common band of humanity untied by grace [Trapp].
1 Chronicles 19:4-7. One false step leadeth to another. “One injustice produces another, and drags men on irretardably to destruction by the resulting chain of sins and injustices. The King of Ammon, with sinful levity, lends his ear to the liars and calumniators that surround him; thence comes the most outrageous insolence towards David’s ambassadors, and the most abusive insult to the whole people of Israel; on this follows the hasty preparation and provocation of a wholly unjust, wicked war; therein the princes are forced to take part, and so to stake their land and people. The end is complete destruction” [Lange].
1 Chronicles 19:8-15. Joab’s word to Abishai is a prelude to the Lord’s word to Peter: “Strengthen thy brethren.” Heroic bravery in the war is to be combined—
1. With the recognition of those most sacred possessions and ends for which the struggle is to be made; thereby it is consecrated; and
2. With humble, trustful submission to the will of the Lord; thereby it is preserved from temerity and presumptuousness. The war is a just and holy one, undertaken for the defence of the possessions received from God, to guard the honour of God, and in the name of God [Ibid.]. 1 Chronicles 19:13. Bravery in battling for the highest object.
1. It is rooted in fidelity to God and to our brethren the people of God.
2. It is proven by devotion of body and soul and the whole life to the aims of the kingdom of God.
3. It is sanctified by unconditional submission to the purposes and doings of the will of God [Ibid.]. “Let us behave ourselves, &c.” United help by advice, sympathy, and hearty co-operation in contending for truth and Christ in the world. “United we stand, divided we fall.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 19
1 Chronicles 19:2. Kindness. How unsuitable is it for us, who live only by kindness (Titus 3:4-7), to be unkind! [Edwards].
1 Chronicles 19:3. Thinkest thou. To think well is the way to act rightly [Paley]. It is an easy thing to pick a quarrel where we intend a mischief [Bishop Hall]. Upright simplicity is the deepest wisdom, and perverse craft the merest shallowness [Barrow].
1 Chronicles 19:12. Unity and unanimous movement. The strength of the Church is, not as an army of irregular soldiers, regiments in loose disorder, unconnected with each other, but when she goeth forth by bands (Proverbs 30:27) united, concentrated, well disciplined, every officer at his post, every soldier in his ranks, each under rule, helpful to each other, and to their great cause! When shall it once be? Lord, heal our unhappy divisions. Unite our energies “in one holy bond of Truth and Peace, of Faith and Charity” [Bridges].
1 Chronicles 19:16-18. Syrians defeated a second time. So incurable is the folly and wickedness of some men that, though to reproofs and chidings you should add stripes and blows, they would not grow wiser and better. “An obstinate man does not hold opinions, they hold him” [Pope]. “Stiff in opinion, always in the wrong” [Dryden].
“You may as well
Forbid the sea for to obey the moon,
As, by oath remove, or counsel shake
The fabric of his folly” [Shakespeare].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 19". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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