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2 Samuel 10:4. Wherefore Hanum took David's servants, &c.— The wearing of long beards and garments was then, as it still is, the fashion of the East, where they were deemed badges of honour; and, consequently, the cutting off or curtailing of either was regarded as the greatest indignity. Nay, in some places, the cutting off of the beard was not only looked upon as matter of the highest reproach, but also of the severest punishment. So it was anciently among the Indians, and is at this day among the Persians. It was one of the most infamous punishments of cowardice in Sparta, that they who turned their backs in the day of battle were obliged to appear abroad with one half of their beard shaved, and the other half unshaved. There were two reasons which caused the Easterns of old, as well as at present, to look upon the beard as venerable: in the first place, they considered it as a natural ornament designed to distinguish men from women; secondly, it was the mark of a free man in opposition to slaves: so that, in every view, the insult of Hanun to the ambassadors of David was capital. It was a violation of the laws of hospitality, and of the right of nations. See Tavernier's Voyages to the Indies, part 2: book 2 chap. 7.
2 Samuel 10:5. Tarry at Jericho— As Jericho had not been rebuilt since the day on which it was miraculously overthrown, the king humanely judged that his ambassadors would be glad to conceal themselves to more advantage in the desolations of that city till their beards were grown. It should seem from the text, that the ambassadors had taken refuge there before David sent to them to tarry there. Possibly Jericho might have been then pretty much in the same condition in which Mr. Baumgarten found it in the beginning of the 15th century. He tells us, that Zaccheus's house was the only one then standing there, and even that without a roof. He then adds, "There are round about, about a dozen of small cottages, if I may properly call them so; for nothing of building is to be seen in them, being only fenced with tall hedges of thorns, having within a large place for cattle to stand and be shut up in: but in the middle they have huts or tents, where men used to shelter themselves and their goods from the inclemency of the sun and rain." See Churchill's Travels, vol. 1: p. 420.
REFLECTIONS.—When David sits on the throne of his kingdom, no former favours shewn him shall want a recompence.
1. He sends compliments of condolence to Hanun, the son of Nahash, king of the Ammonites, on his father's death, as mindful of the kindnesses which during his state of exile Nahash had shewn to him, not indeed out of love to Israel, but rather out of enmity to Saul: however, at that time they were to David very obliging, and he intended now to make an equal return. Note; (1.) We are not to scrutinise the motives from which good is done us; if we are relieved, we are bound to bless the friendly hand. (2.) It is kind to mourn with the afflicted, and by partaking to alleviate their sorrows.
2. The ambassadors meet with a very ill reception. Hanun might himself have treated them with dignity, as they deserved; but his suspicious courtiers suggested that they came on a base design, as spies: and Hanun, as kings are too often governed by their servants, hearkened to their insinuations, used the ambassadors most infamously, in violation of the law of nations, and sent them back with marks of the highest insult and contempt. Note; (1.) There are seldom wanting, in courts, flatterers who seek to instill poison, instead of wholesome counsel, into the ears of kings. (2.) A base mind is ever most suspicious. (3.) They who will be ambassadors for the Son of David must sometimes expect the like insult and ill usage, and have their messages of peace misconstrued into the vilest meaning.
3. David's concern for his ambassadors was as great as his resentment for the insolence against himself, thus affronted in their persons. He sends, therefore, to meet them, and appoints them a retirement at Jericho. Note; (1.) Patience will wear off many reproaches; and time, the great revealer of truth, rescue the injured from the cruel and unjust aspersions of their defamers. (2.) It has been the lot of many an innocent man under calumny to be driven into obscurity, whose righteousness will by and by shine as the light.
2 Samuel 10:6. Saw that they stank— See Gen 34:30 and 1 Chronicles 19:6. The children of Ammon, instead of apologizing, or making any reparation for the insult to David's ambassadors, joined their own forces to a Syrian army of 33,000 men, which aggravated their former outrage, and rendered them worthy of the most signal chastisement. Beth-rehob was a city belonging to the Canaanites rather than the Syrians, which stood in the tribe of Asher, though the Canaanites kept possession of it. Maacah was a city of Palestine beyond Jordan, situated in the tribe of Manasseh, and Ish-tob, which might be rendered the men of Tob, was the place whither Jephthah fled from the cruelty of his brethren, Judges 11:3.
2 Samuel 10:7. And all the host of the mighty men— Which Houbigant renders the chosen strength of the army; the flower of the troops. Some understand thereby the worthies mentioned in the 23rd chapter. See Schmidt's Observations. The 94th Psalm is supposed to have been written upon this occasion.
2 Samuel 10:12. Be of good courage, &c.— There cannot be a more noble martial speech than this. We may learn from it, how naturally great dangers inspire sentiments of true religion, even in some who upon other occasions manifest too little of its spirit.
2 Samuel 10:16. The Syrians that were beyond the river— Beyond the river Euphrates. Hadarezer is the same with Hadadezer, mentioned chap. 2 Samuel 8:3. Houbigant says, that he found it wrote Hadadezer in five manuscripts which he consulted. It is probable that Helam was situated upon the banks of the river Euphrates.
2 Samuel 10:18. Slew the men of seven hundred chariots, &c.— Though this reading is the same in the Vulgate, LXX, and Chaldee, yet in the Syriac it is seven hundred chariots, and four thousand horse: in the Arabic, one thousand six hundred chariots, and four thousand horse. The parallel place, 1Ch 19:18 reads, seven thousand men that fought in chariots, and fifty thousand footmen. Dr. Kennicott says, that the verse should be read thus: David destroyed seven thousand horsemen, seven hundred chariots, and forty thousand foot.
2 Samuel 10:19. When all the kings, &c.— Thus the arms of David were blessed, and God accomplished the promises which he had made to Abraham, and renewed to Joshua. Genesis 15:18. Joshua 2:4. Thus, in the space of nineteen or twenty years, David was enabled to finish gloriously eight wars, all righteously undertaken, and all honourably terminated: namely, 1. The civil war with Ish-bosheth; 2. The war against the Jebusites; 3. Against the Philistines and their allies; 4. Against the Philistines alone; 5. Against the Moabites; 6. Against Hadadezer; 7. Against the Idumeans; 8. Against the Ammonites and Syrians. We shall soon see this last entirely completed by the conquest of the kingdom of the Ammonites, abandoned by their allies. What glory for the monarch of Israel, had not the splendor of this illustrious epocha been obscured by a complication of crimes, of which one could never have suspected him to be capable!
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 10". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany