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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

2 Samuel 10

 

 

Verses 1-19

EXPOSITION

2 Samuel 10:1

The king of the children of Ammon died. This war is very briefly referred to in 2 Samuel 8:12; but we have now entered upon a narrative, the interest of which is altogether unlike all that has gone before. There we saw David crowned with earthly glory, and made the monarch of a vast empire; he is also a prophet, and, as such, not only restores, but enriches and enlarges, the worship of the sanctuary; and, as prophet and king, he becomes not only the type, but the ancestor of the Messiah. In this narrative he is a sinner, punished with terrible, though merited, severity, and must henceforth walk humbly and sorrowfully as a penitent before God. From 1 Chronicles 19:1 we learn that the king's name was Nahash; but whether he was the same as the Nahash mentioned in 1 Samuel 11:1 is uncertain. There was an interval of more than forty years between, but Nahash was probably a young man, just seated on the throne, when he attacked Jabesh-Gilead; and Saul, who repelled him, might have been still alive but for the battle of Gilbea. The name means a "serpent," and is used in Job 26:1-14 :18 of the constellation Draco. It may thus have been a name assumed by several Ammonite kings, the dragon representing majesty and power, and being the symbol on their seal, just as it is the Chinese imperial emblem now. The phrase, "It came to pass after this," has no chronological significance either hero or in 2 Samuel 8:1. It is simply a form of transition from one subject to another.

2 Samuel 10:2

His father showed kindness unto me. This makes it probable that it was the same Nahash as Saul's enemy. The smart of the defeat caused by Saul's energy would make him regard with friendship any one who was a thorn in the side of the man who had so unexpectedly stopped him in his career, and hence his kindness to David.

2 Samuel 10:3

Thinkest thou that David doth honour thy father! This insinuation arose probably from ill will, stirred up by David's success in war; and, with that distrust with which neighbouring nations too often regard one another, they see in his embassy only a purpose of spying into their defences with view to future attack. Rabbah, their city, was a place strong beth naturally and by reason of its fortifications.

2 Samuel 10:4

Hanun … shaved off the one half of their beards. To an Oriental the beard was the mark of his being a free man, and to cut it off on one side was not merely an insult to David's ambassadors, but the treating them like slaves. Moreover, as only the priests wore underclothing, and as the ordinary dress of men consisted of a tunic and a loose flowing robe thrown over it, the cutting of this robe short up to the hip was a vile and abominable affront. Of course, Hanun intended this as a challenge to war, whereas David had meant peace and friendship.

2 Samuel 10:6

That they stank (see notes on 1 Samuel 13:4; 1 Samuel 27:12). As the Hebrew literally means, had made themselves stink, the Revised Version rightly translates "had made themselves odious." The children of Ammon sent and hired the Syrians. From 1 Chronicles 19:6 we learn that his mercenaries from Aram cost Hanun a thousand talents of silver, or nearly five hundred thousand pounds—a vast sum, especially considering the great relative value of silver in those days. The mercenaries, moreover, were gathered out of numerous districts of Aram—from Rehob, Zoba, Beth-Maacah, and Tob; the margin being right in rendering "the men of Tob," instead of "Ish-tob." So, too, the Revised Version, "The men of Tob twelve thousand men." It was to this land that Jephthah fled ( 11:3). The whole number of the allies was thirty-three thousand, with which total the parallel place agrees, as they are described there as "thirty-two thousand, and the King of Maacah and his people," who are here said to have been a thousand strong. The text, however, there must be corrupt, as it describes them all as horsemen (Authorized Version, "chariots;" 1 Chronicles 19:7); here footmen only are mentioned, with which the narrative agrees (see note on 1 Chronicles 19:18).

2 Samuel 10:7

And all the host of the mighty men. The Hebrew is, and all the host, mighty men. By this is meant, not "the mighties," but that the Israelites had now become practised in war, and veterans.

2 Samuel 10:8

The Syrians … were by themselves in the field. We learn from 1 Chronicles 19:7 that the rendezvous of the Arameans was at Medeba, a small town situated upon a hill in the Mishor, or treeless prairie land, called "the plain" in Joshua 13:16. As it was four miles southeast of Heshbon, and more than twenty miles distant from Rabbah, it is plain that they were marching northward, and that Joab was only just in time to prevent a junction of the two armies. The Ammonites, who were expecting their allies, and knew of their approach, had come outside of Rabbah, but had only posted themselves in fighting order "at the entering in of the gate."

2 Samuel 10:9

The front of the battle. The object of Joab was to prevent at all hazards the junction of the Syrians with the Ammonites, and he was only just in time to throw himself between them. This was resolute but dangerous policy, as, in case of defeat, he would have a powerful enemy in his rear. Apparently, however, he was aware that his real work lay with the Syrian mercenaries, who were dangerous enough by themselves, and would become more than a match for him if they were reinforced by the men of Rabbah. He therefore leaves Abishai with such troops as he could spare to watch the Ammonites, feeling sure that they would not hazard an attack unless they saw matters going ill with him; and, taking with him all his bravest men, "the choice man of Israel," he prepares with them to give battle to the Syrians.

2 Samuel 10:11

And he said, etc. Thenius remarks, "We have here the briefest of warlike exhortations, but one most full of point and meaning." Joab recognized the full danger of their situation; for should he meet with any check in his attack on this vast host of mercenaries, he was well aware that the Ammonites, watching the battle with eager interest, would, on the first news of victory, rush upon Abishai with exulting fury; and the men with him, being only ordinary troops, would be disheartened by Joab's failure, so that without extraordinary bravery on their leader's part, they would give way, and all would be lost.

2 Samuel 10:12

Be of good courage, and let us play the men. The Hebrew employs two conjugations of the same verb, literally, be strong, and let us show ourselves strong. And need there was for bravery; for the welfare, as he went on to show, of all Israel, and the honour of Israel's God, were in jeopardy. Finally he adds, The Lord do that which seemeth him good. They are the words not so much of confidence as of determined resolution. Come good or ill, he and Abishai would do their utmost.

2 Samuel 10:14

So Joab returned. It seems strange to us that Joab should have made no attempt to follow up his victory. But as the Ammonites were posted close to the gate of their city, they would withdraw into it without less as soon as they learned that their allies were defeated. There was thus the certainty of a long siege before Rabbah could be taken. We gather from 2 Samuel 11:1 that it was late in the year when Joab won this victory, and it was part of the weakness of ancient warfare that a long campaign was beyond the power of either side.

2 Samuel 10:16

Hadarezer (see note on 2 Samuel 8:3). Hadarezer probably had been well content to let his subjects receive the pay of the Ammonites, and extend his empire at their cost. But as paramount king in Aram, the defeat of the mercenaries obliged him to make the war a national affair, and undertake the management of it himself. He therefore summons troops from all the Aramean states on both sides of the Euphrates, and places his own general, Shobach, in command, and makes Helam the place of gathering. Helam. No such place is known, and the word might mean "their army," in which case the translation would be, "and they came in full force." The Vulgate takes it in this way, but makes the verb the causative singular, and translates, "and he brought their army." On the other hand, the LXX; the Syriac, and the Chaldee make it a proper name here, as even the Vulgate necessarily does in 2 Samuel 10:17, where there can be no doubt. In the parallel place (1 Chronicles 19:16,1 Chronicles 19:17) it is omitted in the first place, and in the second we find in its stead, "upon them." Either, therefore, the chronicler did not know of such a place, or the text is corrupt. Ewald and others suppose that Helam may be identified with Alamata; but we learn from 1 Chronicles 18:3 that the battle was fought near Hamath, and Alamata is on the Euphrates, too far away for David to have made his attack there.

2 Samuel 10:17

David … gathered all Israel together. Some commentators see in this an indication of dissatisfaction with Joab. Really it was a matter of course that in so great a war the king should place himself at the head of his levies. For not only was he possessed of great military genius, but his personal presence would make the men of Israel, a race of sturdy free men, assemble in greater numbers, and would give them confidence. If David himself went there would be no shirking the war and finding excuses to stay at home, and in the camp there would be prompt alacrity and zeal.

2 Samuel 10:18

David slew, etc. (see note on 2 Samuel 8:4). We have seen there that the word translated "chariots" means any vehicle or animal for riding. The numbers here are seven hundred chariots with their charioteers, and forty thousand horsemen; in 2 Samuel 8:4 we have seventeen hundred horsemen and twenty thousand footmen; finally, in 1 Chronicles 19:18 we find seven thousand chariots and charioteers, and forty thousand footmen. It is impossible to reconcile these conflicting numbers, but as David had no cavalry, the numbers in 2 Samuel 8:4 are the more probable, namely, seventeen hundred cavalry and chariots, and twenty thousand infantry. The Syriac Version gives us here very reasonable numbers, namely, "seven hundred chariots, four thousand cavalry, and much people."

2 Samuel 10:19

The kings … served them. It is evident from this that the petty kings of Rehob, Tob, and Maacah had been subject to Hadarezer; they now acknowledged the supremacy of David, and paid to him the tribute which they had previously paid to Zobah, and would be bound to supply him with a contingent of men in case of a war in their neighbourhood. The wars with Damascus and Edom, mentioned in 2 Samuel 8:5, 2 Samuel 8:13, probably followed immediately upon Hadarezer's defeat, but are not referred to here, as the interest now centres in David's personal conduct.

HOMILETICS

2 Samuel 10:1-5

Rejected friendliness.

The facts are:

1. On the death of the King of Ammon, David resolves to send a kindly message to Hanun, in remembrance of favours received from his father Nahash.

2. On the arrival of David's servants, the chief men of Ammon suggest to the new king that their message of condolence is a piece of trickery on the part of David for political ends.

3. Listening to these insinuations, Hanun shows his contempt for David by cutting off one side of the beard of his ambassadors, and exposing the lower part of their person.

4. On hearing of this humiliation, David sends a message to them on their way home, directing them to remain at Jericho till their beards were gown again. The question as to the chronological order of the events mentioned in this chapter as compared with 2 Samuel 8:1-18. does not affect the character of the facts or the lessons conveyed. The supposition that David deserved the insult he met with at the hand of Hanun, in consequence of showing friendliness to one of Israel's traditional foes, is not justified, because of the explicit reference to David's remembrance of acts of kindness. As in the case of Mephibosheth remembrance of Jonathan's kindness is referred to by way of explaining the conduct described, so here it is evidently regarded as a corresponding excellence in David that he was mindful also of the kindness of aliens. The object of the historian is obviously to bring out into view the king's broad generosity. In this light, then, we may regard the narrative as showing—

I. THE EXISTENCE IN HUMAN INTERCOURSE OF UNREQUITED AND UNRECORDED ACTS OF KINDNESS. Had not this 2 Samuel 8:2 been written we might never have known that the pagan Nahash had showed kindness to the Lord's anointed. Possibly few in Israel knew of the actual service rendered by Nahash to David at some period of his exile. No record of it existed save in the king's memory; and Nahash died before his consideration for one in trouble was acknowledged in regal form. Possibly he may have felt it strange that no notice was taken of the past when David came into power. The fact that we have this incidental reference to the kindness suggests what we often observe to be true, that many kindly deeds are done of which history takes no note, and which in the hurry and strife of life are lost to sight and mind. There is more good in the world than is tabulated. Thousands of considerate friendly deeds, revealing the true brotherhood of man and the latent worth of human nature, are being daily performed, but of which the mass of mankind will know nothing, and which, perhaps, will lie for a long time, through unavoidable circumstances, unrequited. We ought to bear this in mind when we strive to form an estimate of the state of the world, and it should set us at ease if our own generous acts do not figure in the annals of our time, and are to all appearance disregarded and unproductive of reciprocal Conduct. It is the course of life; and yet nothing is lost, nothing is in vain.

II. THE GENEROSITY OF A TRUE HEART PASSES BEYOND CONVENTIONAL BOUNDS. To some it would seem strange that the King of Israel should cherish kindly sentiments towards an alien monarch, and even go out of the ordinary course to express those sentiments. Bigotry and a narrow interpretation of fidelity to the theocratic principle on which David's government was based would restrict generous feelings to one's own nationality. But David saw that man was before citizen, and the law of love before political expediency; and, as the Saviour later on saw a man and brother in the Samaritan and in every human creature, so now David saw in a kindly Nahash a kinship prior to and more radical than even the bonds which held him to his own nation. It is in these goings out of the best hearts of ancient times in kindliness towards the politically alien that we see a prefigurement of the broad evangelical charity which would embrace in its consideration every child of Adam. It is the delight of the good to recognize good in all men. The restrictive influences of sect and party, of nationality and race, are to be guarded against. The conventional is transitory; nature is permanent. The sentiments proper to nature must, if possible, rise above the accidental sentiments springing from the casual and fleeting forms of life.

III. IT IS SOMETIMES THE MISFORTUNE OF THE BEST CONDUCT TO BE MISJUDGED. David's conduct was pure in motive, correct in form, and beneficial in tendency; yet it, was regarded by astute men with suspicion, and repaid by the most malicious insult. This was no new thing in his experience. We have seen how again and again, during his early trials, he was misunderstood by Saul, and his very deeds of kindness returned by more bitter persecution. This is the portion of not a few in all ages. The world is dark, and men cannot or will not see the colours of good. It is one of the sad forms of confusion brought about by sin. The merciful Redeemer blessed men, but he was despised and rejected of them. The most lovely character that ever adorned the earth was clothed by the foul imagination of men with the horrible attributes of Satan (Luke 11:15-18). The same treatment in a milder form was to be expected by his disciples (Matthew 5:11; Matthew 10:17, Matthew 10:18). We may be comforted, when the like experience happens to us, that it is all foreseen and provided for. The clouds that pass over the sky are not endued with permanence. They are incident to a changeful atmosphere.

IV. THE SOURCE OF THE MISJUDGMENT IS INTELLECTUAL AND MORAL. The men who persuaded Harem to scorn David's friendliness did not know David. It was ignorance of the actual intentions and the inner character of the king that gave scope for the base moral element to come in and impute to him vile motives (2 Samuel 8:3). They really supposed him to be a man like unto themselves, and, cherishing ill will, they found no difficulty in tracing his conduct to such considerations as would have influenced themselves had they been in his position. There is in all men affected by what is called the spirit of the world, a primary suspicion and distrust of others. It is a sort of first principle in business, in diplomacy, in casual intercourse. In the absence of perfect knowledge of the heart, the imagination is set to work to find out the possible motives at work. The existence of the slightest dislike will assuredly cause the imagination to see something evil, and hence the deeds most worthy in origin and design may be treated as base and deceitful. Ignorance and dislike combined to slay the Lord of glory (John 8:37-45; 1 Corinthians 2:8). If such things happened to the Master, the servants may be patient and trustful should they also happen to them.

V. WICKEDNESS AND FOLLY, BY THEIR MISJUDGMENT, TURN AN ACT OF FRIENDLINESS INTO AN OCCASION OF DESTRUCTION. The conceit and ill will of these Ammonites, acting on Hanun, first misjudged David's conduct, and then, by a natural process of evil, gave rise to a deed which proved the occasion of turning the friendliness of David into retributive anger which issued in their ruin. The men capable of reasoning and feeling as these did were certainly capable of the deed of shameful insult to David in the persons of his ambassadors (2 Samuel 8:4). When men allow an ill-informed mind to be swayed by a malicious spirit, there is no telling to what lengths they may go in sin. Evil deeds are blind deeds. Their folly is parallel with their depravity. The most conspicuous instance of this is in the case of the people who misjudged Christ and rejected his friendliness. That which was to have been a rock on which they could build a great and blessed future became a stone to grind them to powder (Matthew 21:40-44; Matthew 23:37; 1 Peter 2:7, 1 Peter 2:8). It is also the wanton rejection of Christ's kindness which will prove the occasion of the bitterest woe to individuals (Matthew 10:14, Matthew 10:15; Matthew 11:20-24; cf. Proverbs 1:24-27). All rejections of friendliness involve ultimate loss; rejection of Christ's friendliness involves loss proportionate to his greatness and glory.

2 Samuel 10:6-19

International quarrels.

The facts are:

1. The Ammonites, discovering the displeasure of David, hire mercenaries of the neighbouring peoples.

2. As a countermovement, David sends out a strong force under Joab.

3. The opposing forces coming into contact, Joab arranges that he should confront the Syrians, while Abishai deals with the Ammonites.

4. Joab, exhorting Abishai to courage, in dependence on God, arranges also for mutual support, in case of need, in their respective attacks.

5. On the Syrians yielding to the assault of Joab, the Ammonites also flee from before Abishai, whereupon Joab returns to Jerusalem.

6. Another effort of the Syrians under Hadarezer, aided by others from beyond the Euphrates, draws out David at the head of a large army to the eastern side of Jordan.

7. A great battle, issuing in the complete defeat of the Syrians; the tributary kings under Hadarezer make peace with Israel and serve them. We have here a record of quarrels and entanglements, which to the eye of a sacred historian have a bearing on the development of the kingdom of Israel, and consequently on the ultimate advent of the "Prince of the kings of the earth." In that respect the events form a section of the intricate movements of Providence for the furtherance of spiritual interests, and they have their natural place in the Divine moral order, allowing for human freedom, as truly as the formation of the igneous and sedimentary rocks have in the physical order. The narrative may thus be taken as typical of a class. But we may regard the record as suggesting, or illustrating, truths which, while prominent in international quarrels, have also a wider application to human life in general. These chiefly are as follows.

I. THE MAINTENANCE OF HONOUR IS A DUTY. It was right for David to resent the indignity and insult. Meekness and gentleness are qualities consistent with assertion of what is due to self as a man, as a ruler, as a representative of a people and of a Divine institution. A king's honour is his strength, because of the trust of his people, the sentiment of loyalty, the force of his decrees, his silent restraint of the turbulent, and, in David's case, also because of the Divine institution of his government. How kings and individuals may best maintain their honour is a question to be decided by the circumstances of the case; in some way the holiest and kindest may do it and ought to do it.

II. THE REPROACH AND DISPLEASURE OF THE JUST IS ITSELF THE BEGINNING OF PUNISHMENT. That the Ammonites "stank before David"—a monarch so wise, just, and generous—was a brand on them of demerit, and the natural forerunner of chastisement to come. Whoever by his deeds falls righteously under the displeasure of a just man, is ipso facto branded as base, is classed by his own conscience and all honourable observers as a criminal. This changing of the face of the just towards the wicked is the primary social punishment of sin ordained by God, and, as the gathering clouds precede the storm, it is the token of further providential chastisements. The course of nature in the long run follows in the course of moral right.

III. SINFUL FOLLY IS SURE TO BRING ON PERPLEXITIES AND PERILS. No doubt there was great mirth in the court of Hanun when the Hebrew ambassadors were half shorn of their beards and apparel. But the mirth was as "the crackling of thorns under a pot" (Ecclesiastes 7:6). It was soon found that this cheap mirth was, in fact, dearly bought; for the displeasure of so mighty a king as David was soon discovered to mean for them great perplexity and peril. So is it with all sin, which is a sort of moral madness. It may give passing gratification, and all may seem secure, but it leads to perplexities and perils from which there is no escape as long as a Righteous One sits on his throne. The irony of the preacher is painfully true (Ecclesiastes 11:9).

IV. ONE EVIL DEED REQUIRES OTHER DEVICES TO SUSTAIN IT. The sinful folly of the Ammonites necessitated the device of hiring mercenary troops to ward off the blow that was impending as a consequence of their sin. It is quite true that in any progressive life action must be sustained by action, but in the case of evil doing the device is to stave off something which ought not to come, and which would not be feared but for the previous wrong. Sin cannot remain sole. If there is not immediate repentance there will be an effort to get out of the self-caused difficulties by other questionable means. The liar has to take ceaseless precautions because of his lie. The man who rejects Christ is conscious of much uneasiness, and has to exercise ingenuity to escape this consequence. Troops of mercenaries are hired.

V. WELL STORED RESOURCES ADMIT OF PROMPT ACTION IN EMERGENCIES. David had during the five years of his reign paid great attention to the administration of the affairs of his kingdom, and, as a consequence, he was now able at once to avail himself of the resources that had been treasured up. He sent "Joab, and all the host of mighty men" (2 Samuel 10:7). The fruits of prescience and care were now available without confusion or delay. In kingdoms, as in homes and in business, providence and orderly arrangement give great advantages for action when unexpected and trying events transpire. The same is true of early education and culture, of Church organization, of the personal spiritual life. The world is evil; events at cross purposes with our plans and adverse to our peace will arise; it is "impossible but that offences come." The moral is, lay up in store continuously, and so be ready for action, and therefore ready for victory.

VI. SOUND PRINCIPLES PERTAINING TO CONDUCT AFFORD MORAL SUPPORT IN TIMES OF GREAT STRESS AND DANGER. Joab showed the better side of his nature when he exhorted Abishai, in face of the foe, to act as a man for the honour and safety of his people and cities, leaving the consequences in the hands of God (2 Samuel 10:12). Not for military display, not for aggrandizement, not for personal gain, but to vindicate a people whose head had been insulted,—this was the principle on which the battle should be fought. In this was duty; consequences were with God, who cares for the just. History reveals instances in which men have been made strong by the just principle for which they contended. A righteous cause is itself equivalent to an armed force, both in the moral tone it gives to those engaged in it, and in the secret depression of those on the other side. It would be interesting to trace out the physical bearings of moral influences. Let us see to it that out' great efforts are under the guidance of clear moral principles.

VII. IN THE CONFLICTS OF LIFE AN ASSURANCE OF MUTUAL HELPFULNESS IS A HELP AGAINST DISASTER. The arrangement for mutual help in case of pressure (2 Samuel 10:11) was helpful, in that it anticipated a possible evil, and it inspired each with the courage that comes of sympathy and support. In human affairs, secular and religious, the possibility of disaster must be taken into account, because of personal imperfection and of the unascertained forces against us. We do not possess the knowledge by which we can always dispose of our strength in the right quarter, and, even when we do possess it, there may be sudden moral paralysis. None of us contend alone, or for self only. Hence we can be mutually helpful, as were Joab and Abishai. More of this in things sacred and secular would save from many a disaster.

VIII. UNWISE ALLIANCES LEAD ON TO SERIOUS ENTANGLEMENTS. The Syrians lent themselves for gain (2 Samuel 10:6) to an alliance with the Ammonites. This compact, destitute of sound principle, involved the Syrians in what appeared to them to be the necessity of maintaining their reputation in spite of defeat; and hence further arrangements were made with Syrians "beyond the river." A Syrian war, with the whole of Israel's army under the leadership of the invincible David, was the consequence. Such difficulties arise when men make unholy alliances against a just cause. If men cannot unite without evil it is better to stand aloof. Nature has formed certain elements to combine, and others to keep apart. Whoever tries to put together what is contrary to nature will get into difficulty. Whoever forms an unholy alliance in human affairs, national or personal, is seeking to bring about advantages which it is in the course of moral order to prevent; and sooner or later greater embarrassments will arise. In moral matters simplicity and direct submission to the moral order are true wisdom.

IX. ADVERSE BEGINNINGS MAY, FOR THE JUST, ISSUE IN GOOD ENDINGS. It is a pain and annoyance to David to have his friendliness so wantonly rejected (2 Samuel 10:4), but the event issued in the extension of his power and the surer peace of his people (2 Samuel 10:18, 2 Samuel 10:19). Man has the beginnings of things in his hand, but a Mightier One works them up towards issues of his own. The persecution of the early Church resulted in the wider diffusion of the gospel. The rejection of Christ by the Jewish nation is to issue in a greater glory. Many things in our personal experience may pain and injure us, but by stirring up our strength, by awakening more trust in God and leading to greater caution and courage, we may in the end achieve conquests once never thought of.

HOMILIES BY B. DALE

2 Samuel 10:1-4

(1 Chronicles 19:1-4). (RABBAH.)

Requiting evil for good.

The Ammonites appear to have remained quiet since their defeat by Saul, nearly half a century before (1 Samuel 11:1-15.). Nahash their king (perhaps a son of the former Nahaeh) had rendered friendly service to David. But on the accession of Hanun, his son, the old hostility of the children of Ammon revived, and showed itself in a way that made conflict inevitable. To this the growing power of David and his recent subjugation of their kindred, the Moabites (2 Samuel 8:2), doubtless contributed. Their deliberate, wanton, and shameless treatment of his messengers was the occasion of "the fiercest struggle, and, so far as the Israelitish kingdom of God was concerned, the most dangerous, that it ever had to sustain during the reign of David." In it we see—

I. A PERSONAL CONTRAST. David requited the kindness of Nahash with kindness to his son; condolence on his bereavement, congratulation on his accession (2 Samuel 10:2); but Hanun requited the kindness of David with insult and injury to his servants (2 Samuel 10:4; Isaiah 20:4). The conduct of the one displayed gratitude, sympathy, confidence, and benevolence; that of the other ingratitude, contempt, distrust, and malignity.

1. How different in character the men who hold similar positions! David and Hanun were both kings, their heads were pressed by the same "crown of pure gold" (2 Samuel 12:30; Psalms 21:3); but in spirit they were wholly unlike.

2. How different the construction put on similar actions! Such actions are regarded by men as good or evil, according to their ruling disposition; just as the same objects appear of different hue according to the colour of the medium through which they are viewed. Hence what is well meant is often ill interpreted.

3. How different the consequences that flow from similar influences! Kindness is like sunshine, that melts the ice and hardens the clay; causes pleasure to the healthy and torture to the diseased eye. It tests, manifests, and intensifies the good or evil in the heart, and leads to opposite courses of conduct. Its proper tendency is to produce its like; but its actual effect is often the contrary (John 13:27). Even the kindness of God is perverted by hardness of heart to more abounding wickedness (Isaiah 26:10; Romans 2:4, Romans 2:5). If it be sinful to "recompense evil for evil" (Romans 12:17), how much more to recompense evil for good (1 Samuel 25:21)!

II. A PUBLIC DISHONOUR. It was not a private and personal indignity put on these ambassadors, but an open and national insult offered to their king and people, by Hanun and his court (2 Samuel 10:3), who probably expressed therein the prevalent suspicion and hatred of the children of Ammon.

1. How prejudicial the indulgence of jealousy and suspicion to the maintenance of peace and good will among nations!

2. How pernicious the influence of evil counsel and calumny on the political principles and policy of rulers! "We see in this the bitter fruits which evil counsel to princes, especially to those who are young and inexperienced, produces" (Guild). "The slanderer inflicts a threefold wound at one stroke. He wounds himself by his breach of charity; he wounds his victim by injuring his good name; he wounds his hearers by poisoning their minds against the accused" (St. Bernard).

3. How provocative the exhibition of ingratitude, injustice, and contempt to resentment and retaliation (2 Samuel 10:6)! It turns kindness into wrath, seems to justify the drawing of the sword, and inspires the hope of victory (2 Samuel 10:12). "Thou knowest not what may show itself when thy contempt awakes the lion of a sleeping mind."

III. A PRESUMPTUOUS AND FATAL DEFIANCE. It was a challenge by the worshippers of Moloch, confident in their strength and success, to the people of Jehovah; the first step of a renewed attack "against Jehovah and against his Anointed" (Psalms 2:1-12.). The opposition of the ungodly to the kingdom of God, though it slumber for a season, ever breaks forth afresh.

1. How infatuated their hostility! They are heedless of the warnings afforded by the past.

2. How groundless their confidence! "They trust in vanity."

3. How certain their overthrow!

"He that sitteth in the heavens laughs,

The Lord hath them in derision," etc.

(Psalms 2:4-9.)

The evil which they do returns on their own heads (2 Samuel 10:14); and "their end is destruction" (2 Samuel 12:31). "These shall make war with the Lamb," etc. (Revelation 17:14).

CONCLUSION.

1. We should not be deterred from doing good by the fear that it may be requited with evil.

2. Although others may render evil for good, we should render good for evil (1 Samuel 11:12, 1 Samuel 11:13).

3. The noblest victories are those which are gained by patience, forbearance, and all-conquering love (Romans 12:21).—D.

2 Samuel 10:4, 2 Samuel 10:5

(1 Chronicles 19:4, 1 Chronicles 19:5). (JERICHO.)

Ridicule.

"Tarry at Jericho until your beards be grown, and then return" (2 Samuel 10:5). It has been the endeavour of men in all ages to make the objects of their aversion appear contemptible and ridiculous. Few things are more painful and humiliating than exposure to popular derision. The fear of it, no doubt, sometimes exerts a salutary influence in restraining from what is unseemly and wrong; but it also frequently exercises an opposite influence in deterring from what is becoming and right. Of ridicule, together with the sense of dishonour (2 Samuel 10:5, former part) which it naturally produces, observe that it is often—

I. INCURRED BY FIDELITY. Like the servants of David, the servants of Christ are made the object of scornful raillery (a common and effective instrument of persecution):

1. In the faithful performance of duty, in obedience to the will of their Lord; conveying his message of kindness, acting as his representatives. "For righteousness' sake;" "For my sake" (Matthew 5:10, Matthew 5:11; Matthew 10:22). It is not the suffering, but the cause, that makes the martyr (1 Peter 2:20; 1 Peter 4:15).

2. By those who hate and misrepresent them and him whom they serve, and whose hostility is due to their diverse character and principles. "If ye were of the world," etc. (John 15:19).

3. After the example of the faithful in past time. "Others had trial of mockings" (Hebrews 11:36). "Herod with his soldiers set him at nought, and mocked him," etc. (Luke 23:11, Luke 23:35, Luke 23:36).

II. MODERATED BY SYMPATHY. "And they told it unto David, and he sent to meet them," etc. Those who, in the way of duty, suffer the reproach of the bad, enjoy the sympathy of the good; and especially of the Master himself:

1. Whose sympathy is inexpressibly precious.

2. Who has suffered the same, and is therefore able to feel with them and for them (2 Samuel 6:20).

3. Who also expresses it in the most appropriate and effectual manner. He regards what is done to them as done to himself, affords them wise and friendly counsel, takes them under his protection, and stands ready to defend and avenge them. "They departed,… rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the Name" (Acts 5:41; Acts 16:25; 1 Thessalonians 2:2).

III. REMEDIED BY PATIENCE. "Tarry," etc. They were probably disposed to go up at once to Jerusalem, and proclaim their wrongs; but David, out of consideration for their position in public estimation, bade them remain in obscurity, and "bide their time"—a piece of advice sometimes given (though not always in a like spirit) to persons who are about to attempt something for which they are unfit, on account of their immaturity or want of due preparation; or in which they have already failed.

1. Those who would attain success and honour in any position or enterprise should consider well their ability to accomplish what is necessary for their purpose (Luke 14:28).

2. Inconsiderate and rash endeavours are likely to issue in a result which those who make them neither expect nor desire.

3. The lapse of time soothes many a smart; and the wise and patient employment of it qualifies for and ensures honourable achievements. "Ye have need of patience" (Hebrews 10:36). "Let us learn not to lay too much to heart unjust reproaches; after a while they will wear off of themselves, and turn only to the shame of their authors; while the injured reputation in a little time grows again, as these beards did" (Matthew Henry).

IV. SUCCEEDED BY HONOUR. "And then return" to the holy city, where they would be honoured (instead of being despised) with:

1. The public commendation of the king.

2. The general admiration of the people.

3. All the more because of the indignity and ridicule which they had previously endured.

"If ye are reproached for the Name of Christ, blessed are ye," etc. (1 Peter 4:14); "great is your reward in heaven" (Matthew 5:12).—D.

2 Samuel 10:6-11

(1 Chronicles 19:6-12). (MEDEBA.)

An agreement of mutual help.

"If the Syrians be too strong for me, then thou shalt help me: but if the children of Ammon be too strong for thee, then I will come and help thee" (2 Samuel 10:11).

1. On perceiving the effect of their treatment of David s ambassadors (2 Samuel 10:6; "That they had made themselves odious," 1 Chronicles 19:6), the Ammonites obtained, for "a thousand talents of silver," the aid of the Syrians of Beth-rehob and of Zobah (under Hadarezer, the most powerful of David's adversaries), the King of Maacah and the men of Tob; "who came and pitched before Medeba" (1 Chronicles 19:7), twenty miles southwest cf Rabbah, with their infantry, cavalry, and war chariots. "And the children of Ammon gathered themselves together from their cities" to the capital (Rabbah), and put themselves in battle array before the gate.

2. Hearing of their warlike preparations, David had sent forth "all the host, the mighty men," under Joab (2 Samuel 3:22-30), who now found himself between the two hostile forces; and, selecting a portion of the army, placed himself opposite to the Syrians, whilst he left the rest, under Abishai, to cover his rear and hold the Ammonites in check. He doubtless hoped to defeat the enemy in successive engagements.

3. But fearing a simultaneous attack, he made an agreement with his brother, that if either of them were worsted, the other should hasten to his relief. Such an agreement is prudent, needful, and beneficial among those also who are engaged in spiritual warfare against the enemies of the kingdom of God. It—

I. CONFIRMS AN OBVIOUS DUTY. For it is plainly the duty of brethren:

1. To consider each other's condition, to sympathize with each other's weakness and distress, and not to be concerned about themselves alone. "Not looking each of you to his own things," etc. (Philippians 2:4; 1 Corinthians 10:24).

2. To make use of their power, to "strengthen their brethren," especially when taking part in the same conflict as themselves. The strong should help the weak.

3. To afford them help, opportunely, promptly, with all their might, and even at much sacrifice and hazard to themselves. If the ungodly "helped every one his neighbour; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage" Isaiah 41:6), much more ought the godly to do the same. "But if ye will not do so, behold ye have sinned against the Lord: and he sure your sin will find you out" (Numbers 32:23). And the agreement to render mutual help in time of need makes the obligation to do so more distinct, impressive, and effective.

II. CONTEMPLATES A POSSIBLE REVERSE. "If the Syrians be too strong for me," etc.; indicating a conviction of:

1. The great power of the enemy and the serious nature of the struggle (1 Samuel 13:1-7). It would he madness to despise them.

2. The possibility of failure in the wisest plans and disappointment in the most sanguine expectations. "We do not hinder our successes by preparing for disappointment." Although those who "contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints" cannot be generally and permanently defeated, yet particular organizations, methods, and hopes may be overthrown. None, however strong, can be certain of never needing help; whilst the promise of help furnishes the weak with a special claim to it.

3. The necessity of taking every precaution for repairing defect in the weakest part, lest it should issue in disaster to the whole. "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the Law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).

III. CONDUCES TO SIGNAL SUCCESS. By:

1. Giving them to feel their mutual dependence, and bringing them into closer union in the spirit of a common enterprise.

2. Affording assurance of the advantages arising from cooperation toward a common end. These advantages are inestimable. "Two are better than one … And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

3. Inspiring them with increased confidence arising therefrom; and inciting them to greater individual effort than they might otherwise have put forth on behalf of each other and their common safety, welfare, and honour. Both the Syrians and Ammonites were routed (Isaiah 41:13, Isaiah 41:14). "It was, perhaps, the first time in his life that Hadarezer suffered defeat" (Ewald); and this defeat was followed ere long by another (by David at Helam) still more overwhelming; so that "all the kings that were servants to Hadarezer made peace with Israel, and served them," etc. (Isaiah 41:15-19; 2 Samuel 8:3, 2 Samuel 8:4).—D.

2 Samuel 10:12

(1 Chronicles 19:13). (MEDEBA.)

Martial courage.

"Be of good courage," etc. Human life is a warfare, unavoidable, arduous, enduring; and spiritual life, more especially, is a warfare of a similar kind. In this conflict nothing is more needful than manly or martial courage ("virtue," 1 Peter 1:5). It is that quality of mind which meets difficulty, danger, pain, or death, calmly and fearlessly. It has been reckoned by moralists among the four cardinal virtues (prudence, temperance, fortitude, justice), and, in its highest form, it is often enjoined in the Scriptures. "As it is necessarily requisite to the susception of all other virtues, so it is their main support, guardian, and establishment. Without this, every other virtue is precarious, and lies at the mercy of every cross accident" (J. Norris). "All the noble deeds that have beat their marches through succeeding ages have proceeded from men of courage" (O. Felltham) This brief and significant warlike exhortation of Joab was pitched in a higher key than we might have expected; but the devout feeling which it expressed, though genuine, was probably superficial and transient, passing away with the critical occasion which called it forth. We have now to consider, not the character of the speaker, but the import of his words. They indicate the nature, motive, and pervading principle of godly martial courage; that it should be displayed—

I. IN STRENUOUS OPPOSITION TO THE ENEMIES OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD. "Be strong" (in spirit), "and show yourselves strong" (in action) in your struggle with numerous and powerful foes; not private, but public enemies; not men as such, but as imbued with principles and devoted to practices which are antagonistic to the righteous and beneficent purposes of God; "principalities and powers," etc. (Ephesians 6:12). "Who will rise up for me against the evil doers?" etc. (Psalms 96:1-13 :16). There must be:

1. Firm resistance to their attack. "Whom resist steadfast in the faith" (1 Peter 5:9).

2. Patient endurance of the sufferings which such resistance involves. "Here is the patience of the saints."

3. Active endeavour for their defeat and subjection. "The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits" (Daniel 11:32). "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong" (1 Corinthians 16:13). The chief instrument of this opposition is "the sword of the Spirit." "A humble Christian battling against the world, the flesh, and the devil, is a greater hero than Alexander the Great."

II. FROM SINCERE DESIRE FOR THE WELFARE OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD. Not for pay and plunder (like the mercenary Syrians), nor for glory, nor even for personal safety or life; but "for our people" (to whom we are bound by the closest ties), "and for the cities of our God", imperilled by the attack of his enemies and ours. Pro aris et focis. "Thrice is he armed that hath his quarrel just"' This, however, is an appeal, not merely to a sense of justice, but also and chiefly to patriotism and piety, which, in the men of Israel, were inseparably Blended. There is a place for patriotism in the heart of a Christian (1 Samuel 23:1-6). But his love for his country must be held in harmony with and subordination to his love for the Christian brotherhood, united in spiritual fellowship and confined to no nation; "the people of God" (1 Peter 2:9, 1 Peter 2:10), "his inheritance" (Ephesians 1:18), "the Church which is his body" (Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 5:25; Acts 20:28), the light of the world, and the salt of the earth. "I endure all things for the elect's sakes" (2 Timothy 2:10; Colossians 1:24).

1. The preservation of their faith and holiness, their unity and peace, from corrupting and destructive influences.

2. The maintenance of their privileges and services, their freedom and independence.

3. The promotion of their prosperity and progress.

4. The fulfilment of their purposes, aims, and hopes. "They shall prosper that love thee" (Psalms 122:4-9; Psalms 137:7).

III. WITH STRONG CONFIDENCE IN THE RECEPTION OF THE HELP OF GOD. "And the Lord do that which seemeth him good" (Authorized Version); expressive of humble submission to the Divine will. "It may be understood as the language of:

1. In his readiness to cooperate with us, when we strive against the enemies of his kingdom and for the welfare of his people. "The Lord is on my side, I will not fear."

2. In the sufficiency of his might to strengthen the weakest and overthrow the strongest. "Fear not; for they that be with us are more than they that be with them" (2 Kings 6:16; 1 Samuel 14:1-15).

3. In the certainty of his affording to his faithful servants all the help they need. Even though he should permit a temporary reverse, he will surely give them the victory over all their adversaries. Such confidence is warranted by his relation to them, his regard for them, his express promises, and his past achievements. "The battle is the Lord's." "If God is for us, who is against us?" (Romans 9:31 -39).—D.

HOMILIES BY G. WOOD

2 Samuel 10:2-4

Kindness misinterpreted and ill requited.

"I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war" (Psalms 120:7). It is not probable that these words were written by David, but they might have been with truth. It does not appear that he desired war with the neighbouring peoples; but for a time he was continually at war with one or other of them. Jealous of the growing greatness and power of Israel under his rule, they sought to humble them, but only to their own discomfiture and subjugation. And as the kingdom extended, more distant nations feared for themselves, and were ready to combine against what seemed the common foe. This is probably the real explanation of the transactions recorded in this chapter, including the most serious struggle which the rising kingdom had had to maintain. Nahash, "the king of the children of Ammon," having died, David, to whom Nahash had in some way shown kindness, sent ambassadors to Hanun, his son and successor, with a message of condolence. But the young king, induced by the princes to regard the ambassadors as spies, who had been sent to obtain such knowledge of the city as might facilitate its overthrow, treated them with the grossest contumely and indecency, and so dismissed them. Hence sprang a deadly war, in which the Ammonites were aided by other and more powerful peoples—a war which taxed to the utmost the strength of Israel, and issued in the complete overthrow of their enemies. The first step in all this commotion and destruction was the false interpretation put upon the kind act of David; and, regarding it as an illustration of a too common evil, we take occasion to remark upon the evil itself—misinterpretation of good deeds.

I. THE CAUSES OF IT.

1. Knowledge of the world. There is so much evil in it, so much evil which conceals itself under the pretence of good; the actions which at first appear good are so often, on closer acquaintance, discovered to be evil; that experience of the world tends to produce a suspicious spirit, which is slow to believe in the reality of goodness in any particular instance, quick to think the worst of the conduct of others, especially of strangers.

2. Evil in one's self. Which may be conscious or unconscious. We are indisposed to believe others to be better than we know ourselves to be; and prone to suspect others of motives we are conscious of indulging ourselves. And, without distinct consciousness, we are influenced in our judgments of others by our own character; and may be so far under the influence of evil as to be blind to the good in others. The cold, selfish, illiberal, cannot credit others with the opposite virtues; but suspect the appearance of them to be only a semblance adopted for some unworthy purpose.

3. Enmity. If on any account we cherish ill will towards another, we are ever ready to think evil rather than good of him; and specially slow to think he can intend good to us. If another has failed to show as high an esteem for ourselves as we think we deserve, our mortified pride is apt to vent itself in depreciation of him. Prejudice is one kind of enmity, more or less virulent. It commonly exists in those of one party in religion or politics towards those of the opposite party, and predisposes them to misinterpret whatever they do.

4. Fear. Which was one of the motives that prompted Hanun and his advisers.

5. Conceit of sagacity. A cheap and easy way of appearing very wise, and of obtaining from some a reputation for wisdom, is to affect to discover unworthy motives in good actions.

6. Bad advisers. Such as those of Hanun. Those who might be otherwise disposed to a just estimate of good deeds will seldom want advisers to poison their minds, if they will listen to them.

II. THE EVIL OF IT.

1. In itself. It is inherently base. It is contrary to:

2. In its effects.

III. HOW IT SHOULD AFFECT US.

1. It should not surprise us. Considering what men are, we should regard it as quite possible that any good we may do will be misrepresented, or at least fail to be duly appreciated and acknowledged even by those whose benefit we seek.

2. It should not deter us from doing good. The great motives for good deeds abide the same. They are quite independent of human appreciation. They should be our chief motives, the hope of approval or suitable return from men occupying a very subordinate position. Let us study and labour to be accepted of God (2 Corinthians 5:9), and be content with his approval, let men think what they may.

3. If men misrepresent our conduct, let us exercise charity towards them, hoping, if we cannot confidently believe, that they have sinned through ignorance or inconsideration rather than ill will. If compelled to vindicate ourselves, let us do it with meekness. We should also reflect whether we have given any occasion in the manner of our conduct for misunderstanding of its real quality; and avoid the error in future. And, if we are really reproached for that which is good, without just occasion, let us be mindful that we are fellow sufferers with our Lord and many of the best men of all ages.

4. Let us be watchful against every temptation to depreciate and misrepresent the good which is practised by others.—G.W.

2 Samuel 10:11, 2 Samuel 10:12

Cooperation, courage, and resignation.

Joab here appears at his best. A great occasion, involving great peril for the army and the kingdom, calls forth, not only his eminent military qualities, but sentiments of piety and religious patriotism worthy of David himself. He presents an example worthy of imitation by commanders of armies; but we take his words as adapted to guide and animate the soldiers of Christ in their warfare against error and sin. They Call attention to three duties incumbent upon individual Christians, the several bands of each division of the Christian army, and the several divisions themselves.

I. MUTUAL HELP. (2 Samuel 10:11.) The servants of Christ are engaged in the endeavour to conquer the world for him, and, in pursuing it, have to fight against enemies of various kinds. In this warfare they ought to cheerfully cooperate, and, as opportunity may arise, help each other. Much mutual assistance they cannot but render, however any might desire to confine the benefits of their activity to their own party. Every hymn book testifies to this. No individual or section can do good work without helping others. But there should be more of conscious and hearty cooperation.

1. Why it should be so.

2. Why it often is not so.

(a) The real nature of the kingdom of Christ. That it is essentially spiritual, consisting in "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost;" that "he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men" (Romans 14:17, Romans 14:18); and that in Christ Jesus nothing avails but "a new creature," "faith which worketh by love," and "the keeping of the commandments of God" (Galatians 6:15; Galatians 5:6; 1 Corinthians 7:19).

(b) The essential qualities of Christ's soldiers, which are not the dress they wear, nor the particular drill to which they are accustomed, but love and loyalty to Christ.

3. Who should take the lead in effecting cooperation? Joab addresses Abishai, his fellow commander; and it is just the leaders and commanders in Christ's army who should be foremost in promoting a good understanding between its various bands, and inducing them to work together. But, alas! they are often foremost in promoting alienation and separation. The people are frequently more disposed to be friendly towards each other than the clergy.

II. COURAGE. (2 Samuel 10:12.) In war this is essential to success. In the Christian warfare it is not so obviously or universally required. It is, however, still required in many cases. When unpopular truth has to be proclaimed, when strongholds of sin or superstition have to be assailed, when the evangelization of barbarous tribes is attempted, or perilous climates have to be encountered, the Christian soldier must be prepared to endure hardship, suffering, or death. Even the ridicule which not unfrequently assails the earnest Christian calls for a good deal of courage. Joab sought to inspire his brother, and through him the soldiers under his command, with courage, by reminding him that it was "for our people, and for the cities of our God," that they were about to fight. In like manner Christians may be exhorted to "be of good courage" and "play the men" for the Church of God, and for the sake of the world which they aim to conquer for Christ. Joab might have added, "for our king;" and the strongest and most animating consideration for us is that we are witnessing and working and fighting for our great King, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is worth living for, suffering for, dying for. He has gone before us in the labour and the suffering. He is present with us. His eye is upon each of us. He will overlook no true-hearted soldier of his when he distributes the rewards of victory. "If we suffer, we shall also reign with him" (2 Timothy 2:12).

III. RESIGNATION. Those who engage in war, though they may hope for victory, must be prepared for defeat. "The battle" is not always "to the strong" (Ecclesiastes 9:11) or the brave. Nor in the better warfare can we "command success" in this or that particular encounter, however faithful or brave or zealous we may be. We are to recognize, like Joab, that "the Lord" is over all, and be content that he should "do that which seemeth him good." Not that we are required to be resigned to ultimate failure, for we are assured of final and complete victory.

"The saints in all this glorious war

Shall conquer, though they're slain."

Nor are the courage and devotedness of any single soldier lost. All the faithful contribute to the final triumph, and all shall unite in the song of victory, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ." "Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!" "And he shall reign forever and ever" Revelation 11:15; Revelation 19:6).—G.W.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 10:4". The Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/2-samuel-10.html. 1897.

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