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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(Heb. Nachash', נָחָשׁ , serpent, as often; Sept. Ναάς; Joseph. Ναάσης; Vuilg. Naas), the name of two persons. For the city of Nahash (Auth. Vers. 1 Chronicles 4:12, marg.), (See IR-NAHASH).

I A king of the Ammonites. near the beginning of Saul's reign. B.C. 1092. A message came from the people of Jabesh-gilead soliciting immediate help against the fierce hostility of this Ammonitish chief. He has apparently acquired a name for his military achievements before directing an assault against the city of Jabesh (see 1 Samuel 12:12); for though it was a wellfortified place, and the largest town in the transjordanic territory of Manasseh, the inhabitants seem to have thought it a hopeless matter to contend against so formidable an adversary. They were ready to submit to his supremacy if he would enter into covenant with them on somewhat reasonable terms; but as he, in the pride and insolence of power, declared he would insist on plucking out all their right eyes, and casting it as a reproach on Israel, the inhabitants were obliged to appeal to their fellow- countrymen. The mutilating barbarity proposed to the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead by Nahash is a practice that was formerly very common in the East. Mr. Hanway, in his Journey in Persia, gives several instances of it. (See EYE).

Accordingly the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead obtained a truce of seven days, and despatched messengers to Gibeah to inform Saul of their extremity (1 Samuel 11:1-4). Saul felt the greatness of the emergency, and took prompt measures to relieve the place and discomfit the army of Nahash. (See JABESH-GILEAD).

In this he was perfectly successfil; and neither Nahash nor his people ventured any more to attack Israel during the reign of Saul. (See SAUL).

If we might rely on the testimony of Josephus (Ant. 6:5, 3), Nahash himself fell in the rout that ensued. But of this the sacred narrative is entirely silent; and the probability is (for we have no reason to suppose Nahash to have been an official designation or a common name among the Ammonites) that the Nahash whom Saul discomfited was the same who afterwards showed kindness to David. How this kindness was exhibited, or at what particular time, we are not told; but we can have little doubt that it occurred some time during the fierce persecutions which David endured at the hands of Saul,when the king of Ammon,like the king of Gath, might deem it a stroke of policy, in respect to Saul, to befriend the man whom he was pursuing as an enemy. Jewish traditions affirm that it consisted in his having afforded protection to one of David's brothers, who escaped alone when his family were massacred by the treacherous king of Moab, to whose care they had been intrusted by David (1 Samuel 22:3-4), and who found an asylum with Nahash. (See the Midrash of R. Tanchum, as quoted by S. Jarchi on 2 Samuel 10:2.) (See DAVID).

David was not unmindful of the kindness he had received from Nahash; and wishing to cultivate peaceful relations with his son and successor Hanun, he sent messengers to condole with him on receiving intelligence of the death of Nahash (2 Samuel 10:2). By the follv of Hanun this well-meant embassy turned into the occasion of a bloody war, which placed David for a time in some peril, but from which he at last emerged completely triumphant. (See HANUN).

Mention is made in the history of David's flight from the presence of Absalom of a "Shobi, the son of Nahash of Rabbah of the children of Ammon," coming along with others to David at Mahanaim, with food and refreshments (2 Samuel 17:27-29). It is possible that this was a son of Nahash, the former king, though it cannot be regarded as at all certain. That an Ammonite, however, should at such a time have so readily proffered his liberality to David is a striking proof that even after the terrible Ammonitish war there still were bosoms among the children of Ammon which stood well affected to the person and the cause of David. (See SHOBI).

II. A person mentioned once only (2 Samuel 17:25) in stating the parentage of Amasa, the commander-in-chief of Absalom's army. Amasa is there said to have been the son (perhaps illegitimate) of a certain Ithra, by Abigail, "daughter of Nahash, and sister (Alex. Sept. brother) to Zeruiah." B.C. ante 1023. By the geneaiogy of 1 Chronicles 2:16 it appears that Zeruiah and Abigail were sisters of David and the other children of Jesse. The question then arises, How could Abigail have been at the same time daughter of Nahash and sister to the children of Jesse? To this four answers may be given:

1. The universal tradition of the rabbins is that Nabash and Jesse were identical (see the citations from the Talmud in Meyer, Seder Olam, 569; also Jerome, Qucest. Hebr. ad loc.). "Nahash," says Solomon Jarchi (in his commentary on 2 Samuel 17:25), " was Jesse the father of David, because he died without sin, by the counsel of the serpent" (nachash); i.e., by the infirmity of his fallen human nature only.

2. The explanation first put forth by Prof. Stanley (Hist. of the Jewish Church, 2:50), that Nahash was the king of the Ammonites, and that the same woman had first been his wife or concubine in which capacity she had given birth to Abigail and Zeruiah and afterwards wife to Jesse, and the mother of his children. In this manner Abigail and Zeruiah would be sisters to David, without being at the same time daughters of Jesse. This has in its favor the guarded statement of 1 Chronicles 2:16 that the two women were not themselves Jesse's children, but sisters of his children; and the improbability (otherwise extreme) of so close a connection between an Israelite and an Ammonitish king is alleviated by Jesse's known descent from a Moabitess, and by the connection which has been shown above to have existed between David and Nahash of Ammon.

3. A third possible explanation is that Nahash was the name, not of Jesse, nor of a former husband of his wife, but of his wife herself. There is nothing in the name to prevent its being borne equally by either sex, and other instances may be quoted of women who are given in the genealogies as the daughters, not of their fathers, but of their mothers: e.g. Mehetabel, daughter of Matred, daughter of Mezahab. Still it seems very improbable that Jesse's wife would be suddenly intruded into the narrative, as she is if this hypothesis be adopted.

4. The most natural supposition under all the circumstances is that Abigail and Zeruiah were sisters of Davild merely on the mother's side: and that the mother. before she became the wife of Jesse. had been married to some person (apparently an Israelite, but otherwise unknown) named Nahash, to whom she had borne Abigail and Zeruiah. This seems to be countenanced by the peculiar manner in which they are mentioned in the genealogy of Chronicles not as Jesse's daughters, but as David's sisters as if their relationship to him were what alone entitled them to a place in it.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Nahash'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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