When Joab saw the battle lines before him and behind him, he selected some of the best men of Israel and arrayed them against the Arameans.
In chapters 10. and 11. we see king David at his best and also at his worst. The second verse of the tenth chapter opens almost in the same spirit as the first verse of the ninth. In both instances David is determined to "show kindness." In the first instance he would show kindness to any survivor of the house of Saul, as we have just seen, and now he will show kindness unto Hanon the son of Nahash, because Hanun's father had shown kindness to David in the old times of distress. In both these historical instances David acts retrospectively, in the sense that he is not proposing to show kindness to living men for their own sakes but on account of some virtue or goodness on the part of their ancestors. A merely technical or literal nature would have been content with contemporary action — that is to say, would not have troubled about going back into yesterday in order to honour the memory of a dead man. But even in this generous retrospection David is faithful to his poetic nature and his religious enthusiasm. David is to be Credited with good retentions in this case, as he was in the case of proposing to build the temple and to do kindness to any survivor of the house of Saul Even good intentions hays a distinctive value of their own. Sweet waters do not rise from bitter fountains. To have one good wish, one unselfish desire, one generous impulse, is to have some degree of divine influence operating upon the heart, and so far is to show that the heart has not been given over to utter reprobation, This is a comforting thought for ourselves. Hanun responded to the counsels of his advisers in a manner which he supposed would increase his own popularity with his subjects. He "took David's servants, and shaved off the one half of their beards, and cut off their garments in the middle." it is little to the honour of human nature that there are not only insults which men can hurl at one another in moments of passion and defiance, but there are studied insults which are elaborated in cold blood and inflicted with a sense of enjoyment by the cruel men who have fashioned new modes of social humiliation. The insult inflicted upon Israel was not only personal, it was deeply religious. Not, only was David dishonoured, but God Himself was defied. In Leviticus 19:27, we see how stringent was the law regarding this matter of shaving the head. It, is not for us to enter into the value of any such ordinances; suffice it to say that they were the distinct ordinances of the people of Israel, and as such had religious value and significance. There is a cruelty in our own day which seeks to injure men- through the medium of their religious convictions. To-day men are kept out of pecuniary positions because of their religious faith. Social advancement is barred to not a few persons on account of their religious convictions. Were such men without conviction, light-headed, and light-hearted, ready to adopt any form or ceremony as they might adopt a change of garments, their course in life would be much smoother; but because they are earnest, even to agony, their convictions are made into so many stumbling-blocks by which their progress is hindered. The counsellors of Hanun the son of Nahash were too blinded by their own passion to foresee the results of their foolish policy. What was a practical jest to them was an occasion of just anger to the king whom they had insulted. It is well to take some account of the resources of the enemy before being too defiant or adopting a course of lofty superciliousness. But folly seldom sees both sides of a question. It is a notable characteristic of the genius of history that it is always faithful to its own time. As the action of David would now be out of place as between Christian nations, so any other course than that which he adopted would have been out of place in relation to his particular injury. Read history in its own light. It is essential to adopt this canon of interpretation in reading many portions of the Old Testament; otherwise the mind will be thrown often into a state of moral bewilderment, and be ready almost to cry out against the Spirit of God.
I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war (Psalm 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:
(1) Charity, which "believeth all things, hopeth all things" (1 Corinthians 13:7), whenever it is not manifestly impossible.
(2) Justice. Judgments which seem to be only charitable will often be simply just.
(3) Gratitude, in the case of actions kind to ourselves. Better to waste a little gratitude than indulge needless suspicion.
(4) The plain commands of our Lord. Such as "Judge not;" "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them" (Matthew 7:1, 12). It involves, further, an assumption of knowledge such as men do not possess, and a usurpation of the office of him who alone searches the heart (1 Corinthians 4:5). We are not, however, required to cherish a blind credulity, nor to trust men with important interests without positive knowledge of their moral worth, still less against plain evidence of the contrary. Prudence is a virtue as well as charity. The Ammonites might have rightly exercised such caution towards David's messengers as would have prevented their obtaining so much knowledge of the city as would facilitate hostile measures against it, if these were really contemplated. They did wrong in concluding that the seeming kindness was covert hostility. To have returned civility for civility could have done them no harm, and would have prevented the severe retribution for their barbarity which followed.
2. In its effects.
(1) On those who are guilty of it. It deprives them of the happiness and other good which they would gain from kindness exercised towards them, were it duly appreciated and acknowledged; and of the benefit which it would impart in the way of example and influence. It strengthens the bad dispositions and habits from which it springs. It prompts to conduct (as in this case) which may work incalculable mischief.
(2) On those towards whom it is indulged. Inflicting pain, producing resentment, and perhaps active revenge, and discouraging them in the practice of virtues which are liable to be so maligned.
(3) On others. Infecting with unjust suspicions some who would not otherwise cherish them; encouraging disbelief in genuine goodness, and thus loosening the bonds of mutual confidence by which society is held together; disinclining also from good deeds, and so lessening the amount of goodness in the world.
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.
I will show kindness unto Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father showed kindness unto me.
Powerful though David had proved himself in every direction in the art of war, his heart was inclined to peace. The position which he had gained as a warrior would naturally have made Hanun more afraid of David than David could be of Hanun. The king of Israel could not have failed to know this, and it might naturally occur to him that it would be a kindly act to the young king of Ammon to send him a message that showed that he might thoroughly rely on his friendly intentions. The message to Hanun was another emanation of a kindly heart. It is a happy thing for any country when its rulers and men of influence are ever on the watch for opportunities to strengthen the spirit of friendship. It is a happy thing in the Church when the leaders of different sections are more disposed to measures-that conciliate and heal than to measures that alienate and divide. In family life, and wherever men of different views and different tempers meet, this peace-loving spirit is of great price. Men that like fighting, and that are ever disposed to taunt, to. irritate, to divide, are the nuisances of society. Between the Ammonites and the Israelites collisions had occurred on two former occasions, on both of which the Ammonites appear to have been the aggressors The former of these was in the days of Jephthah. The second was the collision at Jabesh-gilead at the beginning of the reign of Saul. When the men of Jabesh, brought to bay, begged terms of peace, the bitter answer was returned that it would be granted only on condition that every man's right eye should be put out. It was then that Saul showed such courage and promptitude. In the briefest space he was at Jabesh-gilead in defence of his people, and by his successful tactics inflicted on the Ammonites a terrible defeat, killing a great multitude and scattering the remainder, so that not any two of them were left together. After such a defeat, Nahash could not have very friendly feelings to Saul. And when Saul proclaimed David his enemy, Nahash would naturally incline to David's side. It was long, long ago when it happened, but love has a long memory, and the remembrance was still pleasant to David. And now the king of Israel purposes to repay to the son the debt he had incurred to the father. Up to this point it is a pretty picture; and it is a great disappointment when we find the transaction miscarry, and a negotiation which began in all the warmth and sincerity of friendship terminate in the wild work of war. The fault of this miscarriage, however, was glaringly on the other side. Our difficulty is to understand how sane men could have acted in such a way. It is hardly necessary to say a word to bring out the outrageous character of their conduct.(1) There was the repulse of David's kindness. It was not even declined with civility; it was repelled with scorn. It is always a serious thing to reject overtures of kindness. Kindness is too rare a gem to be trampled under foot.(2) But Hanun not only repelled David's kindness, but charged him with meanness, and virtually flung in his face a challenge to war. To represent his apparent kindness as a mean cover of a hostile purpose was an act which Hanun might think little of, but which was fitted to wound David to the quick. Unscrupulous natures have a great advantage over others in the charge they may bring. In a street collision a man in dirty clothing is much more powerful for mischief than one in clean raiment. Rough, unscrupulous men are restrained by no delicacy from bringing atrocious charges against those to whom these charges are supremely odious. They have little sense of the din of them, and they toss them about without scruple. Such poisoned arrows inflict great pain, not because the charges are just, but because it is horrible to refined natures even to hear them.(3) To these offences Hanun added yet another — scornful treatment of David's ambassadors. In the eyes of all civilised nations the persons of ambassadors were held sacred, and any affront or injury to them was counted an odious crime. Very often men of eminent position, venerable age, and unblemished character were chosen for this function, and it is quite likely that David's ambassadors to Hanun were of this class. When therefore these men were treated with contumely — half their beards, which were in a manner sacred, shorn away, their garments mutilated, and their persons exposed — no grosser insult could have been inflicted. It is a painful moment when true worth and nobility lie at the mercy of insolence and coarseness, and have to bear their bitter revilings. Such things may happen in public controversy in a country where the utmost liberty of speech is allowed, and when men of ruffian mould find contumely and insult their handiest weapons. In times of religious persecution the most frightful charges have been hurled at the heads of godly men and women, whose real crime is to have striven to the utmost to obey God.
3. The Ammonites did not wait for a formal declaration of war by David. Nor did they flatter themselves, when they came to their senses, that against one who had gained such renown as a warrior they could stand alone. Their insult to King David turned out a costly affair.
4. It requires but a very little consideration to see that the wars which are so briefly recorded in this chapter must have been most serious and perilous undertakings. The record of them is so short, so unimpassioned, so simple, that many readers are disposed to think very little of them. But when we pause to think what it was for the king of Israel to meet, on foreign soil, confederates so numerous, so powerful, and so familiar with warfare, we cannot but see that these were tremendous wars. They were fitted to try the faith as well as the courage of David and his people to the very utmost.
In thousands of men, the mind, if unveiled, would be found to be a star-chamber filled with false witnesses and cruel judgments. If you were to go back into the old star-chamber of England, and read the records made of testimony given and sentences passed by men of partial information, what a literature of hell those records would be I But worse than these are the cruel, rash, hateful judgments which men form of each other in the silence of the mind, simply because they follow their interests, their feelings, their prejudices, and not their conscience, in ascertaining facts and coming to conclusions.
()A good man of my acquaintance died very suddenly the other day, and when it came to settling up the account, it was found that, while with his presence and work he was able to get a living for his family out of his share in the business, with him gone there was nothing left. All the children were grown up and able to support themselves, with the exception of one young man who had two years yet to spend in the medical school before he would be able to take up his profession as a doctor. It seemed at first that he must drop out, and work his way for awhile saving up money to go on. But just then a man came forward, who said: "Some years ago I was in a difficult place and needed a friend very much. Just at the critical time your father stepped into the breach, and in the gentlest, cheeriest way helped me out. I said then if ever I had a chance I would pay that kindness back. Now is my chance. You go back to the medical school and finish your course, and I will take care of the expenses. You can charge them up to your father's kindness account." He who sows a kind. deed may be sure that it is a long-lived, hardy crop, and certain to bring in its harvest by and by.
PeopleAbishai, Ammonites, Aram, David, Hadadezer, Hadarezer, Hanun, Israelites, Joab, Maacah, Nahash, Rehob, Shobach, Syrians
PlacesBeth-rehob, Euphrates River, Helam, Jericho, Jerusalem, Jordan River, Maacah, Rehob, Tob, Zobah
TopicsAram, Aramaeans, Arameans, Array, Arrayed, Battle, Behind, Best, Choice, Chooseth, Chose, Chosen, Deployed, Forces, Front, Joab, Jo'ab, Line, Lines, Meet, Picked, Position, Rear, Selected, Setteth, Syrians, Troops
Outline1. David's messengers, sent to comfort Hanun are villainously treated
6. The Ammonites, strengthened by the Syrians, overcome by Joab and Abishai
15. Shobuch, making a new supply of the Syrains at Helam, is slain by David
Dictionary of Bible Themes2 Samuel 10:1-19
5087 David, reign of
Library 'More than Conquerors through Him'
'And the children of Ammon came out, and put the battle in array at the entering in of the gate: and the Syrians of Zoba, and of Rehob, and Ish-tob, and Maacah, were by themselves in the field. 9. When Joab saw that the front of the battle was against him before and behind, he chose of all the choice men of Israel, and put them in array against the Syrians: 10. And the rest of the people he delivered into the hand of Abishai his brother, that he might put them in array against the children of Ammon. …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
BY REV. GEORGE MILLIGAN, M.A., D.D. "There is nothing," says Socrates to Cephalus in the Republic, "I like better than conversing with aged men. For I regard them as travellers who have gone a journey which I too may have to go, and of whom it is right to learn the character of the way, whether it is rugged or difficult, or smooth and easy" (p. 328 E.). It is to such an aged traveller that we are introduced in the person of Barzillai the Gileadite. And though he is one of the lesser-known characters …
George Milligan—Men of the Bible; Some Lesser-Known
I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. T hat which often passes amongst men for resolution, and the proof of a noble, courageous spirit, is, in reality, the effect of a weak and little mind. At least, it is chiefly owing to the presence of certain circumstances, which have a greater influence upon the conduct, than any inherent principle. Thus may persons who appear to set death and danger at defiance in the hour …
John Newton—Messiah Vol. 1
Alike from the literary and the historical point of view, the book of Samuel stands midway between the book of Judges and the book of Kings. As we have already seen, the Deuteronomic book of Judges in all probability ran into Samuel and ended in ch. xii.; while the story of David, begun in Samuel, embraces the first two chapters of the first book of Kings. The book of Samuel is not very happily named, as much of it is devoted to Saul and the greater part to David; yet it is not altogether inappropriate, …
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament
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