I Chronicles 19

The Word Made Fresh

1Time passed, and King Nahash of Ammon died and was succeeded by his son, Hanun. 2David said, “I will be fair to Hanun son of Nahash; his father was fair to me.” He sent messengers to convey his consolation, but when they reached Ammon and approached Hanon to convey David’s message, 3Hanun’s advisors said, “Don’t think for a moment that David is interested in consoling you or honoring your father. His people have come here to spy on the land for the purpose of overthrowing you.” 4Hanun had David’s messengers seized. Then he had them shaved and their clothing cut off from their hips down. Then he released them. 5 David was told what had happened, and knew they were deeply humiliated. He sent word for them to remain at Jericho until their beards had grown.

6When the Ammonites realized they had insulted David, Hanun and the Ammonites paid thirty-seven tons of silver to hire mercenaries from Mesopotamia, Arammaacah, and Zobah. 7They hired thirty-two thousand chariots, and the king of Maacah with his army who came and camped at Medeba. All the Ammonites were summoned from their homes and came prepared for battle.

8When David heard of these preparations he sent Joab with his army. 9The Ammonites drew a line of battle at the entrance of their capital, while the kings whom they had hired came and camped in the countryside. 10When Joab saw that he had enemies in front of and behind him he selected some of his best soldiers and sent them against the Arameans. 11The rest of his army he put under the command of his brother Abishai, and they prepared to face the Ammonites. 12He said, “If the Arameans are too much for me, you come to my aid. If the Ammonites are too strong for you, I’ll come to your aid. 13Be strong! Be courageous for the people of Israel and for the cities of our God, and may the LORD do what is good and right.”

14Then Joab and his soldiers attacked the Arameans and put them to flight. 15When the Ammonites saw this they also fled before Joab’s brother Abishai and retreated back into the city. Joab then returned to Jerusalem.

16The Arameans Joab had defeated, however, sent for reinforcements from other Arameans who lived beyond the Euphrates. The army of Hadadezer came, with their general Shophach leading them. 17David was informed and summoned all the men of Israel. They crossed the Jordan and drew up their lines against Shophach’s forces, and the battle began. 18The Arameans fled before the Israelites and David, and seven thousand Aramean charioteers and forty thousand foot soldiers were killed, plus Shophach their commander. 19When Hadadezer’s officials saw they had been defeated by Israel they surrendered to David for peace and became his subjects; and the Arameans were not willing to come to the aid of the Ammonites after that.


1-9: The insult to David’s envoys (and to him) and the subsequent war against the Ammonites are described in 2 Samuel 10. Aside from some differences in the numbers of troops involved the accounts are essentially the same. Note that David sends Joab to fight the initial battle.

10-15: The battle tactics used by Joab are interesting and are used as a case study in the military training of Israeli troops even today. He divides his army to face the enemy on two fronts. Both the Arameans and the Ammonites give way, and the rout is on. The Ammonites retreat behind the walls of their capital, Rabbah, and having neutralized them Joab returns to Jerusalem to report to David.

16-19: Other Arameans under the command of Shophach are sent to reinforce the Ammonites. David receives Joab’s report and musters the remainder of his army to go up against the Arameans, now strengthened by reinforcements sent by Hadadezer. The Israelites are victorious, Shophach and many Aramean troops are killed in the battle, and Hadadezer sues for peace, which ends the alliance between the Arameans and the Ammonites and removes the final significant threat to David’s kingdom. The Arameans become subject to David, and the Ammonites are holed up in Rabbah, no longer on the offensive.


David now rules over a vast territory that reaches from the Sinai wilderness to the Euphrates. Israel’s expansion under his leadership has been meteoric and reaches limits that will not be held by subsequent kings of Israel.