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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

2 Samuel 10

Verses 1-19

CRITICAL AND EXPOSITORY NOTES—

2 Samuel 10:2. “Nahash.” This may be the same Nahash mentioned in 1 Samuel 11:0; but as this was probably forty years after the event there recorded, it is more likely a son of the same name. “As his father showed kindness.” What this kindness was, or when shown is nowhere recorded; most likely some friendly act in the days of David’s exile.

2 Samuel 10:3. “The city.” Rabbah, or Rabbath-Ammon the capital city, which was a city of much importance from these days until the fourth century. Its position and defences would make it necessary that an enemy proposing to besiege it should examine it from within. The remains of this city which still exist are among the most remarkable in Syria; and although most of the buildings are said to be Roman, the citidel is said to be much more ancient, and Mr. Oliphant (Land of Gilead) refers some of the fortifications to the days of David. “Shaved off,” etc. “Cutting off a person’s beard is regarded by the Arabs as an indignity quite equal to flogging and branding among ourselves. Many would rather die than have their beards shaved off. Niebuhr relates a similar occurrence as having taken place in modern times. In the year 1764, a pretender to the Persian throne, named Kerim Khan, sent ambassadors to the prince of Bendervigk, on the Persian gulf, to destand tribute of him; but he in return cut off the ambassador’s beards. Kerim Khan was so enraged at this, that he made war upon the prince and took the city.” (Keil) “The Iraelites, except the priests, wore no breeches; so much the grosser, therefore, was the second insult.” (Erdmann).

2 Samuel 10:6. “Beth-rehob.” Probably identical with the present Rubaibeh, about twenty-five miles N.E. of Damascus. “Tobah,” see on 2 Samuel 8:3. “King Maacha,” rather, “king of Maacha.” A territory on the northern border of Bashan, on the south-west declivity of Hermon. (Deuteronomy 3:14.) “Ish-tob.” Rather the men of Tob, a region near the Ammonite territory, where Jephthah took refuge. (Judges 11:5.) Its exact location cannot be fixed. Twenty thousand footmen.” The account of the composition of the forces differs here from that in Chronicles, no chariots being here mentioned. There are copyists’ errors in both texts. For the Syrian troops consisted neither of footmen alone, nor of chariots and horsemen alone, but of infantry, cavalry, and war chariots, as is evident, not only from 2 Samuel 8:4, and 1 Chronicles 8:4, but also from the close of our narrative.” (Keil.)

2 Samuel 10:8. “Here the position of the Syrians in the field, i.e., on the broad plain of Medeba, is clearly distinguished from the Ammonites before the city, so that the position of Joab’s army is clear. He could (see 2 Samuel 10:9) be attacked both in front and rear.” (Erdmann.)

2 Samuel 10:12. “The cities of our God.” “Joab and Abishai were about to fight, in order that Jehovah’s possessions might not fall into the hands of the heathen, and become subject to their gods.” (Keil.)

2 Samuel 10:13. “They fled.” “As often happens for those that fight for pay alone, and not for the cause.” (Grotius.)

2 Samuel 10:14. “Joab returned.” As may be inferred from 2 Samuel 11:1, because it was too late in the season to besiege Rabbah. “Or also because the Syrians were not sufficiently broken, or he had not the materials for a siege.” (Biblical Commentary.)

2 Samuel 10:16. “Hadarezer.” (See on 2 Samuel 8:3.) “The river.” The Euphrates. This king had tributaries in Mesopotamia. (See 2 Samuel 8:3) “Helam.” The locality of this place is not known. “As this is the same battle that, according to 1 Chronicles 18:3, was fought at Hamath, it must be across the Jordan, (see 2 Samuel 10:17), not on the Euphrates, but further west than Hamath.” (Erdmann.) For Hamath, see 2 Samuel 8:9.

2 Samuel 10:18. “Seven hundred chariots,” etc. (See Keil’s remark at the close of 2 Samuel 10:6.) He and other scholars consider that in this chapter we have simply a more circumstantial account of the war of which the result is given in chap. 8. In support of this view it is urged that in the former chapter David is said to have subdued the Syrians and the children of Ammon, and there is nothing said here of a revolt from an authority previously acquired, but the circumstances which led to the subjugation of Ammon are here fully related on account of its connection with the death of Uriah in the next chapter.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE CHAPTER

DAVID AND THE AMMONITES

I. The wisdom and virtues of the parent are not necessarily found in the child. Although we have no further information concerning the father of Hanun than that which is furnished by the words of David, they are sufficient to show that he was a far wiser and better man than his son. It is reasonable to suppose that he showed kindness to David at that period in David’s life when nothing but a kindly disposition could have prompted him to the deed—when the present king of Israel was not in a position either to resent an insult or reward a service rendered. We may fairly then assume that this former king of the Ammonites was a man whose character was above the level of the monarchs by whom he was surrounded, and it is possible that, as a descendant of Lot, he cherished some regard for the nation of Israel, and some reverence for Israel’s God. But the conduct of his son is a proof of the painful truth that neither wisdom nor moral worth are hereditary. If Hanun had been only politically wise he would have given David’s ambassadors a different reception. If goodwill to his father’s old ally did not move him to continue the friendship, a wise man would have seen it would be politic to do so. For David was now a king himself, and a king whom it was worth while to propitiate. When, therefore, Hanun not merely cast from him an opportunity of strengthening his kingdom by alliance with David, but added great insult to his rejection, he showed himself as weak as he was wicked, and an unworthy son of a worthy parent.

II. Those who are in the wrong are often the first to strike the blow which leads to war. It does not appear that David took any steps to avenge the insult offered to himself and to his country—he probably felt he could afford to let it pass, and was willing to leave the Ammonites and their king in the hand of God. But Hanun and his followers measured David by their own standard, and concluding that he would be filled with feelings of revenge, hastened to follow up their first act of defiance by another, which compelled David to take action against them. Thus they forced upon Israel the battle which ended in their own destruction, for David would have failed in his duty had he not have now dealt out retribution. This principal is ever in operation in the various spheres of human life. Even in the play-ground the boy who is in the wrong is often more eager than the companion whom he has offended to settle the dispute by blows, and ascending to the unequal contest which rebellious man wages with his Maker, we find that all the defiance and active insolence is on the side of the offending human creature, and all the long-suffering and for bearance on that of the God against whom he has sinned. Let all in such case beware, lest, like these Ammonites, they force the sword of retribution to descend upon them.

III. If those who are in the wrong are bold, much more should those who are in the right show courage and determination. These Syrians and Ammonites were engaged in an unjust war—they had no possible excuse for the attack they made upon Israel, and therefore they could have had no conviction of being in the right to sustain them. Yet they came to the contest with bold hearts—venturing their liberties and their lives in a wrong cause. As we have before had occasion to notice, men will be brave in trying to advance wrong as well as in defending what is right. But seeing that they who are engaged in fighting for the righteous cause have God and conscience on their side, it behoves them at all times to equal, if not to surpass, their opponents in courage and devotion. Joab could here draw inspiration from the certainty that he was fighting for God in fighting against the heathen, and this thought enabled him to be of good cheer, and leave the issue in God’s hands. Although he was not a true servant of God, he was at this time engaged in a service for God’s people, and the consciousness of this seems to have lifted him for a time above his ordinary frame of mind, and filled him with a real religious devotion. If Joab could be thus animated and strengthened, surely no truly godly man ought to fear or falter in the day of righteous conflict.

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

2 Samuel 10:3. It is hard for a wicked heart to think well of any other; because it can think none better than itself and knows itself evil.—Bp. Hall.

2 Samuel 10:5.

1. We must beware of casting pearls before swine (2 Samuel 10:2). The Ammonites must have been known to David as a cruel and barbarous people.

2. Nothing is so offensive as a wanton insult in return for respect and kindness.
3. The gravest men are sensitive to ridicule of their personal appearance.
4. All persons of noble nature are considerate of the feelings of others.
5. Time heals many ills.—Tr. of Lange’s Commentary.

2 Samuel 10:6. It is one of the mad principles of wickedness, that it is a weakness 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.—Bp. Hall.

That is the way with an evil conscience; it flees before it is hunted. (Job 15:20.)—Cramer.

2 Samuel 10:12. That soldier can never answer it to God, that strikes not more as a justiciar, than as an enemy; neither doth he content himself with his own courage, but he animates others. The tongue of a commander fights more than his hand. It is enough for private men to exercise what life and limbs they have: 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. Lastly, when he hath done his best, he resolves to depend upon God for the issue, not trusting to his sword, or his bow, but to the providence of the Almighty, for success, as a man religiously awful, and awfully confident, while there should be no want in their own endeavours. He knew well that the race was not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; therefore he looks up above the hills whence cometh his salvation. All valour is cowardice to that which is built upon religion.—Bp. Hall.

Joab was a selfish, unscrupulous, unprincipled man; yet in entering upon a perilous battle he talks piously. So do almost all civil rulers and generals in any great emergency; not only because they know that the people feel their dependence upon God, but because in the hour of trial they feel it themselves. Such language under such circumstances does not clearly prove one to be devout, or to be hypocritical; it expresses a feeling which may be genuine, though transient and superficial.—Tr. of Lange’s Commentary.

I. Courage is an essential characteristic of a good soldier—not a savage ferocious violence; not a foolhardy insensibility of danger, or headstrong rashness to rush into it; not the fury of inflamed passions broke loose from the government of reason; but calm deliberate rational courage; a steady, judicious, thoughtful fortitude; the courage of a man, and not of a tiger.… This will render men vigilant and cautious against surprises, prudent and deliberate in concerting their measures, and steady and resolute in executing them.… II. It is of great importance to excite and keep up courage in such an expedition that we should be fully satisfied that we engage in a righteous cause—and in a cause of great moment; for we cannot prosecute a suspected, or wicked scheme which our own minds condemn, but with hesitation and timorous apprehensions; and we cannot engage with spirit and resolution in a trifling scheme, from which we can expect no consequences worth our vigorous pursuit.… The consideration of the justness and importance of the cause may also encourage hope that the Lord of Hosts will espouse it, and render its guardians successful. The event, however, is in His hands as the closing words of the text suggest. They may be looked upon in various views; as

1. The language of uncertainty and modesty.… Such language becomes us in all our undertakings; it sounds creature-like, and God approves of such self-diffident humility.…
2. It may be expressive of a firm persuasion that the event of war entirely depends upon the providence of God. q.d. Let us do our best; but after all, let us be sensible, that the success does not depend upon us.… It is no great exploit of faith to believe this; it is but a small advance upon atheism and downright infidelity.…

3. It may express an humble submission to the disposal of providence, let the event turn out as it would we have not the disposal of the event, nor do we know what it will be; but Jehovah knows and that is enough …
4. These words, in their connection, may intimate, that, let the event be what it will, it will afford us satisfaction to think that we have done the best we could. q.d. We cannot command success: but let us do all in our power to obtain it, and we have reason to hope we shall not be disappointed; but if it should please God to render all our endeavours vain, still we shall have the generous pleasure to reflect, that we have not been accessory to the ruin of our country, but have done all we could for its deliverance.—From a sermon by President Davies of New Jersey, preached on the invasion of British America by the French, 1755.

2 Samuel 10:13. Joab provided for the worst, and put the case that the Syrians or Ammonites might prove too strong for him; but he proved too strong for them both. We do not hinder our successes by preparing for disappointment.—(Henry).

2 Samuel 10:1-19. One injustice produces another, and drags men on irretardably to destruction by the resulting chain of sins and injustices.—(Lange’s Commentary).

Our Psalter contains several songs which betray an undeniable reference to the last wars and victories of David.… To these belong, in the first place the sixtieth … in which he begins by looking back on the invasion of the Syrians, in which his army had to lament sorrowful losses, and on all the terrors of war which had spread over the land. “O God, Thou hast cast us off, etc.… Thou hast given a banner, etc.… (i.e., Thou didst give them deliverance, and didst raise up that before them like an encouraging banner).” … He concludes with “God hath spoken in His holiness” (glorious promises has He given to me); “therefore” (i.e. on the ground of them) “I will rejoice: I will divide” (to Israel) “Shechem” (the land on this side of Jordan), and mete out the valley of Succoth” (the land on the farthest side of Jordan). The whole land David regards as his possession. But why does he name only these two places? He names them as denoting the two portions of the land, with a retrospective reference to the patriarch Jacob, who, after his return from Mesopotamia settled, first in Succoth, and then afterwards in Shechem, and there built an altar, thus foreshadowing the taking possession of the land at a later period.

The twentieth Psalm is a Davidic war song, belonging to the same days, … also the forty-fourth, and we have in the sixty-eighth Psalm, an animated song of triumph, which has reference, with its whole contents, to the issue, so glorious for Israel, of that most fearful of all their wars, the Syro-Ammonitish. The Psalmist begins it with joyful expressions of praise to Jehovah as the Protector of the righteous, and the inflexible Judge of the wicked. Then he recalls to remembrance the mighty deeds by which God had made himself glorious to Israel during their marchings in the wilderness, and the peaceful days which he had granted to his people after the conquest of Canaan till the erection of the tabernacle on Mount Zion. After a description of the glory of God, who, as the King of all kings sat enthroned in majesty on His holy hill of Zion, and had again shown himself, in the subjugation of all the enemies of His people, that He was the God of Israel, the Psalmist describes the festal procession in which the holy thing, the ark of the covenant, which had accompanied the army into the field during the Ammonitish war, was brought back again to Jerusalem. He names several tribes, among others those of Benjamin and Judah, Zebulun and Naphtali, which took part in this procession, as representatives of the whole nation. Then he sees in spirit the veil raised from the most distant future, and all the nations of the earth bending under the sceptre of the God of Israel. Then the song becomes Messianic, and closes with these words: “Ascribe ye strength unto God: His excellency is over Israel, and His strength is in the clouds. O God, Thou art terrible out of Thy holy places: the God of Israel is He that giveth strength and power unto His people. Blessed be God!”—(Krummacher).

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 10". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/2-samuel-10.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.