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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
2 Samuel 10

 

 

Introduction

SECTION 6. David And His House Are Established And He Is Promised That His Kingship Through His Seed Will Be For Ever (5:6-10:19).

In this section we will see how David’s rule is established far and wide as the nations come in submission to him, some voluntarily, others as a result of being overcome. It covers the whole of his reign in a series of vignettes which demonstrate his widespread glory, and builds up to YHWH’s promise that the kingship of his house will last for ever. But their order is not chronological, but topical. They are a depiction of David’s growing greatness and power, leading up to the guarantee that the kingship of his house will last for ever, and a description of the defeat of his most powerful enemies. Thus:

1). David initially purified Israel. He removed the one remaining specifically Canaanite bastion which was situated right in the middle of his kingdom, thus making clear the triumph of Yahwism, and the fact of the purifying of the land. At the same time he replaced the idolatrous king-priest of Jerusalem by establishing himself as YHWH’s priest-king over Jerusalem. He would see this as what Mechi-zedek had been before him when he had been ‘the priest of the Most High God’ who had ministered to Abraham. The idea was therefore based on a hallowed tradition (see Genesis 14:18-20). Like Judah previously (Judges 1:7) David had already shown his reverence for Jerusalem when he had brought the head of Goliath there (1 Samuel 17:54). This would either have been because he was patterning his behaviour on that of Abraham who had paid tithes to Jerusalem after his victory (Genesis 14:18-20) or because the tradition had grown up that saw Jerusalem as having been built on the mountains of Moriah, where Abraham had offered up Isaac (see 2 Chronicles 3:1). This reception of an ancient, traditionally respectable, priesthood would add a new religious dimension to his reign. Now David could be seen as lord over the whole land and as the nation’s intercessory priest, with the priests and Levites fulfilling their duties in accordance with the Law subject to his priestly control as priest of the Most High God (see 1 Chronicles 9:10-34; 1 Chronicles 15:16-24), something which he took advantage of in setting up the worship at the Tabernacle and Tent of Meeting (e.g. 1 Chronicles 9:23; 1 Chronicles 15:16).

2). David’s Kingship was seen as established because he dwelt in a house of cedar. David’s palace was built for him by the ‘princes’ of palace building, the Tyrians, in a clear act of treaty friendship from the greatest maritime nation in the world, which was thereby demonstrating its respect for David. Like the greatest of kings David now dwelt in a house of cedar. YHWH had upraised him so that he might join them in their glory. But we should recognise that this is symbolically preparatory for the even better ‘house’ that YHWH has destined for David (2 Samuel 7).

3). David produced a prolific number of sons and daughters. This was something seen in those days as very necessary to a great king, and as demonstrating the blessing of YHWH. David thus had a quiver full of children demonstrating that he was blessed by God (Psalms 127:5).

4). David triumphed over the Philistines twice, driving them back and routing them, while at the same time seizing their gods which he himself takes possession of (and burns), thus demonstrating to all the superiority of YHWH. It fully avenges the time when the Philistines had previously seized the Ark of God, and had publicly displayed it (1 Samuel 5-7). Now David was again the Smiter of the Philistines.

5). Having taken Jerusalem David brought the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH, the Ark of The Name of Him Who sits between the Cherubim, into Jerusalem and established it in its own special Tent as an indication that from now on this was to be where YHWH symbolically dwelt and ruled, making Jerusalem YHWH’s royal city with David as His intercessory priest-king. David was thus revealed as YHWH’s triumphant War-leader and Prince who by YHWH’s power had established YHWH as King in Jerusalem.

6). The house of Saul loses its final opportunity of participating in the blessing as a result of Michal’s barrenness resulting from her attitude towards David’s worship of YHWH.

7). David’s ‘House’ (his dynasty) was to be established for ever in its place in the purposes of God, something which will culminate in the everlasting king over the everlasting kingdom (e.g. Genesis 49:10-12; 1 Samuel 2:10; Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:1-4; Ezekiel 37:25; Daniel 7:13-14; Psalms 2:7-12). The reign of David’s house was thus to be everlasting.

8). David exercises his priestly ministry in a prayer of thanksgiving to YHWH.

9). Through the help and power of YHWH David triumphs over all who oppose him bringing wealth into the Tabernacle and greatness to his name.

10). David’s sons themselves become priests.

11). David fulfils his promise to Jonathan and establishes his son both in his ancestral lands and at the royal court, thus showing favour to the house of Saul for Jonathan’s sake as he had promised. In contrast with Michal Mephibosheth has a son, demonstrating YHWH’s compassion on what remains of the house of Saul.

12). David defeats the greatest current threat to Israel by defeating the Aramaean Empires and rendering their kings harmless.

It must be noted that underlying what is described here, and indeed underlying the whole Davidic narrative, are the words, ‘And the Spirit of YHWH came on David from that day forward’ (1 Samuel 16:13). That was the reason why David was so continually successful and what enabled him to glorify YHWH in all aspects of life. (And it was that same Spirit Who would later empower the everlasting King).

We can thus analyse this Section as follows:

Analysis.

a David Reacts To Taunts And Captures Jerusalem Thus Purifying And Uniting The Land (2 Samuel 5:6-10).

b Hiram Builds David A House Of Cedar Which Demonstrates the Establishment Of His House And Kingship On Behalf Of God’s People (2 Samuel 5:11-12).

c David Bears Many Sons (2 Samuel 5:13-16).

d David Utterly Defeats The Philistines Releasing Their Grip For Ever On Israel (2 Samuel 5:17-25).

e David Brings The Ark Of God Containing the Covenant Into Jerusalem With Rejoicing Expressing His Love For And Dedication To YHWH (2 Samuel 6:1-19).

f Michal Expresses Her Disgust At David’s Behaviour Resulting In The Barrenness Of The House Of Saul (2 Samuel 6:20-23).

g David Wishes To Build A House Of Cedar For YHWH And Learns That YHWH Is Above Houses Of Cedar (2 Samuel 7:1-7).

f The House Of David Is To Be Fruitful Result In An Everlasting Kingship (2 Samuel 7:8-17).

e David’s Prayer Expresses His Gratitude To YHWH For All His Goodness (2 Samuel 7:18-19).

d David Utterly Defeats All His Enemies Round About Freeing Israel From The Threat Of Invasion (2 Samuel 8:1-15).

c David’s Sons Become ‘Priests’ (2 Samuel 8:16-18).

b David Establishes The House Of Saul By Receiving Jonathan’s Son At Court and Giving Him Back His Ancestral Lands (2 Samuel 9:1-13).

a David Reacts To Taunts And Defeats The Greater Powers Who Threaten His Borders Thus Establishing The Land (2 Samuel 10:1-19).

David’s Victory Over Ammon And Their Aramaean Allies (2 Samuel 10:1-19).

The greatest threat to Israel at this time, with both Egypt and Mesopotamia in a weak condition, was a burgeoning Aramaean empire to his immediate north (8:3). This was something that Saul had had to combat in its infancy (1 Samuel 14:47), and it would appear that it was now stirring up some of the minor Transjordanian powers (note the connection of Zobah with the Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites in 1 Samuel 14:47) to act against Israel. It may well have been their influence on Moab which had resulted in their continual aggravation of David, which had made him have to deal so harshly with them (8:2), and we learn of a similar connection of the Aramaeans with the Edomites in 8:13. David had earlier removed the threat which had been in the middle of his land (the Jebusites of Jerusalem), now he would have to deal with this empire, which itself was seeking expansion and stirring up trouble on every quarter.

It was not, however, initially a consequence of David’s choice. Paradoxically it arose because he wanted to show kindness to the son of Nahash, the king of Ammon who had previously shown kindness towards him. But in view of what follows we must surely see the attitude of the princes of Ammon as inspired because of their intrigues with their Aramaean ‘allies’. Those who are suspicious of other people’s attempts at spying usually have something to hide. Perhaps they did not want David to be aware of the fact that they themselves were building up their armed forces, and even had Aramaean advisers among them. And the sudden availability of a combined Aramaean army can surely not have been coincidental. It smacks of preparedness. (You do not just contact someone and say, ‘Oh by the way, I think I have offended David. Do you think that you could lend me three armies from scratch’ and expect them to arrive in time to deal with his reprisal).


Verses 1-5

David’s Victory Over Ammon And Their Aramaean Allies (2 Samuel 10:1-19).

The greatest threat to Israel at this time, with both Egypt and Mesopotamia in a weak condition, was a burgeoning Aramaean empire to his immediate north (2 Samuel 8:3). This was something that Saul had had to combat in its infancy (1 Samuel 14:47), and it would appear that it was now stirring up some of the minor Transjordanian powers (note the connection of Zobah with the Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites in 1 Samuel 14:47) to act against Israel. It may well have been their influence on Moab which had resulted in their continual aggravation of David, which had made him have to deal so harshly with them (2 Samuel 8:2), and we learn of a similar connection of the Aramaeans with the Edomites in 2 Samuel 8:13. David had earlier removed the threat which had been in the middle of his land (the Jebusites of Jerusalem), now he would have to deal with this empire, which itself was seeking expansion and stirring up trouble on every quarter.

It was not, however, initially a consequence of David’s choice. Paradoxically it arose because he wanted to show kindness to the son of Nahash, the king of Ammon who had previously shown kindness towards him. But in view of what follows we must surely see the attitude of the princes of Ammon as inspired because of their intrigues with their Aramaean ‘allies’. Those who are suspicious of other people’s attempts at spying usually have something to hide. Perhaps they did not want David to be aware of the fact that they themselves were building up their armed forces, and even had Aramaean advisers among them. And the sudden availability of a combined Aramaean army can surely not have been coincidental. It smacks of preparedness. (You do not just contact someone and say, ‘Oh by the way, I think I have offended David. Do you think that you could lend me three armies from scratch’ and expect them to arrive in time to deal with his reprisal).

The Suspicions of The Ammonites Cause Them To Insult David’s Ambassadors (2 Samuel 10:1-5).

On the death of Nahash, king of Ammon, his son Hanun came to the throne, and because Nahash had shown him kindness in the past David sent ambassadors to him with messages of condolence. This, however, raised the suspicions of the princes of Ammon, who simply saw the ambassadors as spies, with the consequence that they treated them in such a way as deliberately to insult David. The usual cause of suspicions like that is that those who are suspicious have something to hide. Messages of condolence on the death of a king would not usually arouse suspicions. This seems to be confirmed in what follows, which, while only covered briefly, suggests a major and protracted war with major powers with which David had to contend, who would have had no reason for coming to the aid of the Ammonites other than because they had already had communications with them with David in mind.

The rise of David would have pleased no one in the area around Palestine, and we know already that the Moabites must somehow have behaved abominably. Given that David had reason to be grateful to them for looking after his parents when he was fleeing from Saul (1 Samuel 22:3-5), and that he tended to be generous in his appreciation of those who were kind to him (2 Samuel 9:3; 2 Samuel 10:2), his harsh treatment of them (2 Samuel 8:2) could only possibly have arisen as a result of some heinous behaviour on their part, while the necessity of culling their forces so severely suggests that he had larger problems to deal with and could not risk having to deal with their further activities. This might be seen as indicating that he already knew that he was facing the threat of action from elsewhere. And as the Philistines had already been dealt with, and the Egyptians were busy with their own affairs, that could only be from enemies in the north.

But those enemies were seemingly still unsure of their ground, and it would appear that they had therefore approached some of the princes of the Ammonites and the Edomites as potential allies with a view to arousing them against David, the Moabites having already responded to their suggestions and having been mercilessly crushed (they would not be the first to act in expectation of help from others, only to discover that the help did not materialise). This very crushing of and treatment towards the Moabites would in itself have aroused fears and dislike among the Ammonites and Edomites. Who knew whom David would savage next? (They would not consider that the Moabites may have brought it on themselves. The Moabites were their friends).

This pernicious influence of the Aramaeans would serve to explain why they are seen as connected with both the Ammonites (2 Samuel 10:6) and the Edomites (2 Samuel 8:13), and as so willing to assist them. They had, however, seemingly made no firm commitment, for on David’s forces being gathered to attack the Ammonites, it resulted in the Ammonites appealing to the Aramaeans and paying them a large sum (a thousand talents of silver - 1 Chronicles 19:6) to come to their aid. As so often, those who were mainly responsible for the trouble and had stirred it up did not want to get their hands dirty unless it was made worth their while. It may well have been tribute.

Analysis.

a And it came about after this, that the king of the children of Ammon died, and Hanun his son reigned in his stead. And David said, “I will show kindness to Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father showed kindness to me” (2 Samuel 1:1-2 a).

b So David sent by his servants to comfort him concerning his father. And David’s servants came into the land of the children of Ammon (2 Samuel 10:2 b).

c But the princes of the children of Ammon said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think that David is doing honour to your father, in that he has sent comforters to you? Has not David sent his servants to you to search the city, and to spy it out, and to overthrow it?” (2 Samuel 10:3).

b So Hanun took David’s servants, and shaved off the one half of their beards, and cut off their garments in the middle, even to their buttocks, and sent them away’ (2 Samuel 10:4).

a When they told it to David, he sent to meet them; for the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, “Wait at Jericho until your beards are grown, and then return” (2 Samuel 10:5).

Note that in ‘a’ David aims to show kindness to the Ammonite king, and in the parallel we have an indication of the rebuttal of that kindness. In ‘b’ the ambassadors are sent and come into the land of the children of Ammon, and in the parallel they are shamed and sent away. Centrally in ‘c’ we learn of the reason for the bad treatment of the ambassadors.

2 Samuel 10:1

And it came about after this, that the king of the children of Ammon died, and Hanun his son reigned in his stead.’

The passage commences with the background to what follows. All arose as a result of the death of the current king of Ammon, Nahash, who was seemingly on good terms with David. He had been replaced by his son Hanun. The end of a long reign was often the time when men began to think about how the current situation could be altered, especially if they were egged on by others.

2 Samuel 10:2

And David said, “I will show kindness to Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent by his servants to comfort him concerning his father. And David’s servants came into the land of the children of Ammon.’

News of Nahash’s death reached David who immediately determined to show his sympathy and offer friendship to Hanun, because Nahash had previously shown kindness towards him. We have no indication of what this kindness was, and it may have been related to his time when he was a fugitive from Saul. On the other hand it may simply indicate that they had maintained good relations during their respective reigns, with each helping the other. It parallels David’s intention of showing kindness to the house of Saul in 2 Samuel 9:1, the only difference being that this time it backfired against him.

So David sent messengers of comfort to Hanun, and his messengers accordingly entered the land of the children of Ammon.

2 Samuel 10:3

But the princes of the children of Ammon said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think that David is doing honour to your father, in that he has sent comforters to you? Has not David sent his servants to you to search the city, and to spy it out, and to overthrow it?” ’

The princes of Ammon, however, far from being grateful, sought to persuade their new king against David. The death of Nahash had increased their ability to influence the throne, and it must seem very probable that these half wild princes of a half wild people (situated between the more sophisticated Moabites and the even wilder Arabian nomads) had been stirred up by outside troublemakers to take this attitude in view of the fact that they were opposing the view of their late king. It was in fact regularly during an interregnum and the commencement of a new reign that such troublemakers would seek to take advantage of the situation to stir up trouble, and if Moab had been ‘pacified’ fairly recently it would explain their attitude even more. Thus these princes, possibly taking advantage of his innocence, suggested to the new young king that what David was doing was not genuinely showing honour to his dead father, but simply spying on them and assessing their capabilities with a view to an invasion. It is doubtful if they really thought this, for there had been a fairly long period of peace between Israel and Ammon (although it is quite true that it was at the commencement of a new reign that a potential aggressor might have such intentions). It is far more likely that they were being influenced by troublemakers from outside, namely the Aramaeans, who did not want to attack Israel themselves, but were hoping to foment trouble with that aim eventually in view.

2 Samuel 10:4

So Hanun took David’s servants, and shaved off the one half of their beards, and cut off their garments in the middle, even to their buttocks, and sent them away.’

The result of their urgings was that the new and rather naive king, no doubt egged on by his princes, decided to show David what he thought of him, and took David’s ambassadors, and shaved off half their beards, and cut their robes so that their buttocks were revealed, and then sent them away. This was a deliberate insult of a most serious kind. To a Near-Easterner to have the beard shaved off was looked on as a major insult, and indeed warranted a death sentence on the culprit. Men would rather die than had their beards shaved off. And to shave off only half their beard added to the insult. There are a number of examples throughout history which demonstrate how deeply such insults were felt. Furthermore to have the buttocks bared was equally shameful (compare Isaiah 20:4). The ambassadors thus arrived back in Jericho feeling utterly shamed and humiliated, and in doing it to his ambassadors Ammon had in effect done it to David.

2 Samuel 10:5

When they told it to David, he sent to meet them; for the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, “Wait at Jericho until your beards are grown, and then return.” ’

When David heard what had happened to his messengers he sent messages of sympathy and support to them at Jericho and told them that they could wait there until their beards had re-grown. Then they were to return to court. Meanwhile the insult was so great that retaliation was inevitable. No king could have held his head up after such treatment if he did not do something about it. So, as the Ammonites clearly recognised with some trepidation, an aggressive response to the insult would only take a matter of time.


Verses 6-19

David’s Response To Ammon And The Consequent War With Ammon and Aram (2 Samuel 10:6-19).

The Ammonites did not wait for David to attack but immediately sent messages to the Aramaeans along with a thousand talents of silver (a considerable sum) calling on them to come to their aid. This tends to confirm that there had already been contact with the Aramaeans, otherwise why would there have been such an immediate response to their request? It suggests that the Ammonites had in fact succumbed to Aramaean troublemaking suggestions, and were now looking for their assistance in facing up to the repercussions. In view of the fact that they knew that they could not face David alone they would hardly have deliberately insulted David in the way that they had unless they had had some plan already in mind which they had reason to think would be successful. They must have been absolutely confident that the Aramaeans would respond.

The Aramaeans did immediately respond. It gave them their opportunity to test David in battle without actually invading Israel, or Israel invading them. But what they had certainly not anticipated was the skill of David’s highly trained forces, and such a resounding defeat of their own forces. To put it in the way that the writer puts it, they had failed to recognise that YHWH was with Israel (2 Samuel 8:6; 2 Samuel 8:14; 2 Samuel 10:12).

Analysis.

a And when the children of Ammon saw that they were become odious to David, the children of Ammon sent and hired the Aramaeans of Beth-rehob, and the Aramaeans of Zobah, twenty thousand footmen, and the king of Maacah with a thousand men, and the men of Tob twelve thousand men (2 Samuel 10:6).

b And when David heard of it, he sent Joab, and all the host of the mighty men (2 Samuel 10:7).

c And the children of Ammon came out, and put the battle in array at the entrance of the gate, and the Aramaeans of Zobah and of Rehob, and the men of Tob and Maacah, were by themselves in the countryside (2 Samuel 10:8).

d 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 Aramaeans, and the rest of the people he committed into the hand of Abishai his brother, and he put them in array against the children of Ammon (2 Samuel 10:9-10).

e And he said, “If the Aramaeans prove too strong for me, then you shall help me, but if the children of Ammon prove too strong for you, then I will come and help you. Be of good courage, and let us play the man for our people, and for the cities of our God, and YHWH do what seems good to him” (2 Samuel 10:11-12).

d So Joab and the people who were with him drew nigh to the battle against the Aramaeans, and they fled before him, and when the children of Ammon saw that the Aramaeans were fled, they likewise fled before Abishai, and entered into the city. Then Joab returned from the children of Ammon, and came to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 10:13-14).

c And when the Aramaeans saw that they were put to the worse before Israel, they gathered themselves together, and Hadarezer sent, and brought out the Syrians who were beyond the River, and they came to Helam, with Shobach the captain of the host of Hadarezer at their head (2 Samuel 10:15-16).

b And it was told to David, and he gathered all Israel together, and passed over the Jordan, and came to Helam. And the Aramaeans set themselves in array against David, and fought with him (2 Samuel 10:17).

a And the Aramaeans fled before Israel, and David slew of the Aramaeans the men of seven units (hundred) of chariots, and forty units (thousands) of horsemen, and smote Shobach the captain of their host, so that he died there. And when all the kings who were servants to Hadarezer saw that they were put to the worse before Israel, they made peace with Israel, and served them. So the Aramaeans feared to help the children of Ammon any more (2 Samuel 10:18-19).

Note that in ‘a’ the Ammonites called on the help of the Aramaeans and their numbers are given, and in the parallel the Aramaeans feared to help the Ammonites any more and the numbers of their dead are given. In ‘b’ David sends out all his troops and his mighty men with Joab, and in the parallel he himself takes out the host and fights with the Aramaeans. In ‘c’ the children of Ammon set themselves in array against Israel and the Aramaeans are gathered together for that purpose, and in the parallel the Aramaeans are gathered together for the purpose of facing Israel. In ‘d’ Joab divides his forces between himself and Abishai, and in the parallel Joab and Abishai defeat their respective enemies. In ‘e’ and centrally the call is to have good courage and defend ‘the cities of our God’ and the assurance is that YHWH will do what seems right to Him.

2 Samuel 10:6

And when the children of Ammon saw that they were become odious to David, the children of Ammon sent and hired the Aramaeans (Syrians) of Beth-rehob, and the Aramaeans of Zobah, twenty thousand footmen, and the king of Maacah with a thousand men, and the men of Tob twelve thousand men.’

It would not have taken much intelligence for the Ammonites to realise that having deeply insulted David they must expect repercussions. Indeed that must surely have been their intention. It therefore suggests that what follows was already pre-planned. For the Ammonites sent a thousand talents of silver (1 Chronicles 19:6) to the Aramaeans (Syrians) and their allies seeking for their assistance. It was a kind of tribute. The result was that twenty units of footmen were provided by the Aramaeans of Beth-rehub and Zobah, a further unit by the Aramaean king of Maacah, and twelve units by ‘the men of Tob’.

For Beth-rehob see Numbers 13:21; Judges 18:28, in which case it was at Lebo-Hamath (or ‘the entering in of Hamath’), and north of Laish/Dan. The kings of Zobah are mentioned in 1 Samuel 14:47 alongside Ammon, Moab and Edom as neighbouring tribes, and as this chapter now indicates (2 Samuel 10:3; 2 Samuel 10:5; 2 Samuel 10:9), it was to be found in the vicinity of Damascus and Hamath, and was thus to the north of Israel, and probably north-east of Damascus. For ‘the land of Tob’ as just north of Gilead see Judges 11:3.

1 Chronicles 19:6 tells us that ‘they hired chariots and horsemen’ amounting to thirty two military units, which came from Aram Naharaim (Paddan-aram), and out of Aram Maacah, and out of Aram Zobah. The mention of Aram Naharaim may suggest that this number had in mind all the chariot units that were used during what would turn out to be a protracted conflict (2 Samuel 10:16) and not only the initial ones sent, for initially Aram Naharaim does not appear to have been initially involved. Thus the figure in Chronicles (thirty two units of chariots), appearing in an abbreviated account, may have in mind the total range of resources available to the Aramaeans over the whole conflict, not only those of the original invasion. It may thus have included chariot forces and horsemen that had to be faced later (compare 2 Samuel 10:18). Chronicles in fact is not in the least interested in the footmen. It would appear therefore that the Chronicler was rather impressed with the chariot power that they finally had to face, and felt that it said all that needed to be said. To him this revealed what a formidable foe they were facing, and that such an army necessarily had a large number of footmen would go without saying. Both accounts, therefore, would appear to have taken their information from a more detailed source, selecting what they saw as giving the impression that they wanted to convey. Samuel perhaps gives a better picture of the initial forces faced by Joab, with its massed army of footmen gathered near Rabbah. Perhaps the hope was that their very numbers would make Israel withdraw. The chariots may have been held in reserve in a place more suitable for chariots. They are said by the Chronicler to have amassed at Medeba in the territory of Reuben, which was on the King’s Highway. Possibly the intention was in order to secure and protect the trade route. (2 Samuel 10:18 makes clear that the writer of Samuel was aware that chariots and horsemen were involved at some stage, but not seemingly at the beginning).

2 Samuel 10:7

And when David heard of it, he sent Joab, and all the host of the mighty men.’

As soon as David heard of the hiring of the Aramaean contingents he mustered his army and sent ‘Joab and all the host of the mighty men’ to the land of the children of Ammon, in order to avenge the insult to his messengers, and to him.

2 Samuel 10:8

And the children of Ammon came out, and put the battle in array at the entrance of the gate, and the Aramaeans of Zobah and of Rehob, and the men of Tob and Maacah, were by themselves in the countryside.’

Once the Israelite army approached, the warriors of the children of Ammon ‘came out’ from their various cities and stood ready to do battle at the gate of the city at which battle was to be joined. That would enable them if necessary to retreat into the city. We are not given the name of the city in either account, but 11:1 may suggest that it was Rabbah, their capital city Meanwhile the Aramaean footmen had congregated out in the countryside. Israel were thus faced with the prospect of having to fight on two fronts at once.

2 Samuel 10:9-10

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 Aramaeans, and the rest of the people he committed into the hand of Abishai his brother, and he put them in array against the children of Ammon.’

Immediately summing up the situation Joab divided his forces into two. He himself took the best trained and most effective units in order to deal with the sophisticated Aramaeans, while he gave to Abishai the remainder of his forces in order that they might meanwhile keep the Ammonites at bay. He did not want to meet the Aramaeans and at the same time be attacked from behind.

2 Samuel 10:11

And he said, “If the Aramaeans prove too strong for me, then you shall help me, but if the children of Ammon prove too strong for you, then I will come and help you.”’

Then he instructed his brother to face up to the Ammonites, probably without attacking them unless necessary, while also keeping an eye out so that if Joab and his forces seemed to be failing he could send troops to assist him. Meanwhile he would do the same for Abishai if the Ammonites did attack.

2 Samuel 10:12

Be of good courage, and let us play the man for our people, and for the cities of our God, and YHWH do what seems good to him.”

After this he gave the instruction that to the writer was all important. It was to the effect that they should be of good courage and play the man, for the sake of their people and for the cities of their God, and then he committed the result to YHWH. Here would be the secret of their success. His very words suggest his awareness of the seeming superiority of the forces that were arraigned against them.

2 Samuel 10:13

So Joab and the people who were with him drew nigh to the battle against the Aramaeans, and they fled before him.’

Then Joab and his elite forces advanced on the Aramaeans and dealt with them so effectively that the Aramaeans fled before them. David’s highly trained forces, led by his mighty men, were too much for the Aramaeans.

2 Samuel 10:14

And when the children of Ammon saw that the Aramaeans were fled, they likewise fled before Abishai, and entered into the city. Then Joab returned from the children of Ammon, and came to Jerusalem.’

As soon as the Ammonites saw that the Aramaeans had been put to flight they panicked, and fled before Abishai, seeking refuge in their city. At this point Joab, recognising that they had not seen the last of the Aramaeans, decided to leave the Ammonites cooped up in their city (possibly with containing troops surrounding it) and returned to Jerusalem, no doubt to warn David of what the situation was and in order to prepare for a major war with the Aramaeans. The Ammonites could wait.

2 Samuel 10:15-16

And when the Aramaeans saw that they were put to the worse before Israel, they gathered themselves together. And Hadarezer sent, and brought out the Aramaeans who were beyond the River, and they came to Helam, with Shobach the captain of the host of Hadarezer at their head.’

Recognising that his forces had been put to the worse by Israel Hadarezer gathered together, along with the remainder of his own forces, reinforcements from Beyond the River (from the Aramaeans in Mesopotamia proper). It was probably now that the majority of the Chronicler’s thirty two units of chariots come into play, along with a multitude of horsemen (1 Chronicles 19:6-7). This was going to be the real test for David and his men. This powerful army then made for Helam, and were personally commanded by Shobach, Hadarezer’s commander-in-chief (who is mainly mentioned because he will shortly be slain). Helam was in northern Transjordan and may have been modern ‘Alma.

2 Samuel 10:17

And it was told to David, and he gathered all Israel together, and passed over the Jordan, and came to Helam. And the Aramaeans set themselves in array against David, and fought with him.’

Once David learned of this major force approaching northern Transjordan he gathered all his forces and, crossing over the Jordan, went out to meet them. And there at Helam battle was joined.

2 Samuel 10:18

And the Aramaeans fled before Israel, and David slew of the Syrians the men of seven units (hundreds) of chariots, and forty units (thousands) of horsemen, and smote Shobach the captain of their host, so that he died there.’

The result of the battle was that the Aramaeans were totally defeated and fled before Israel, with David killing Shobach the Aramaean commander-in-chief and destroying seven units of chariots, and forty units of horsemen. These figures agree with the figures in 1 Chronicles 19:18, although in Chronicles the word used for military units of chariots is eleph (‘thousands’) rather than meoth (‘hundreds’). The two terms appear to have been interchangeable when used of military units.

2 Samuel 10:19

And when all the kings who were servants to Hadarezer saw that they were put to the worse before Israel, they made peace with Israel, and served them. So the Aramaeans feared to help the children of Ammon any more.’

The result of David’s string of victories was that all the kings who had been vassals of Hadarezer noted how David had totally defeated him, and quietly switched their allegiance to David, accepting him as their overlord, becoming his vassals and paying him tribute. And the final result was that the Ammonites no longer had allies to look to and were left to rue having insulted David so grievously.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 10:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/2-samuel-10.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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