The Word Made Fresh
1The king of Ammon died and was succeeded by his son, Hanun. 2David decided, “I will deal well with Hanun son of Nahash, because his father was fair to me.” He sent representatives to console him about his father’s death.
But when they arrived in Ammon, 3the Ammonite princes said to their king Hanun, “Do you really think this David is honoring your father just because he sent these people to you with their condolences? He has sent them to spy out the city and plans to attack.” Hanun ordered the arrest of David’s ambassadors. He had their beards shaved on one side, cut off their clothes from their hips down, and sent them away.
5When word of it came to David he sent some men to meet them, knowing they would be terribly embarrassed. He told them to remain at Jericho until their beards had grown, and then they could return.
6When the Ammonites realized how much they had offended David, they hired mercenaries from among the Arameans at Beth-Rehob and Zobah — twenty thousand footsoldiers. They also hired the king of Maacah with a thousand men, and twelve thousand men from Tob.
7When David heard about their preparations for war he summoned Joab and his army and his mercenaries. 8The Ammonites formed battle lines at their gate and left the soldiers from Zobah and Rehob and the men of Maacah together in the countryside.
9Joab recognized that the plot was to trap him front and rear. He picked some of the Israelite soldiers and sent them against the Arameans, 10but the rest of his forces he put under his brother Abishai and sent them against the Ammonites. He told him “If the Arameans are too much for me, come help me. If the Ammonites are too strong for you, I’ll come to your aid. 12Be strong and have courage for the sake of our people and the cities of our God and put yourselves in the LORD’s hands.”
13Then Joab and his troops attacked the Arameans and put them to flight. 14When the Ammonites saw it, they fled from Abishai and re-entered their city. Then Joab returned to Jerusalem.
15The Arameans, reeling from their defeat by Israel, gathered together. 16Hadadezer sent for more Arameans from beyond the Euphrates. They came to Helam, led by Hadadezer’s general, Shobach. 17When the news reached David, he summoned soldiers from all over Israel. They crossed the Jordan and came to Helam. The Arameans attacked David, 18but were defeated and fled, and David killed seven hundred of their charioteers and forty thousand horse soldiers. They also wounded Shobach, the enemy general, and he died there.
19When all the kings who followed Hadadezer saw what was happening, they sued Israel for peace, and became their servants, and the Arameans were afraid to be allied with the Ammonites anymore.
1-5: The king of the neighboring Ammonite territory dies. His son Hanun ascends to the throne, and David sends envoys with condolences. Ammon is the territory east of the Jordan opposite Jericho. Hanun’s father was Nahash who, years before when Saul was king of Israel, besieged Jabesh-Gilead. It was Saul’s first military campaign, and Nahash was defeated (I Samuel 11). Now it seems Nahash somewhere along the way became an ally of David; either that or was a vassal king under David’s authority. That would explain the suspicion with which his envoy is treated. They are arrested, humiliated and sent back to David.
6-8: Hanun’s actions are tantamount to a declaration of war, and the Ammonites prepare for battle. They hastily arrange a coalition of troops from the surrounding Aramean territories, which sounds like the coalition David had defeated in chapter 8 (Hadadezer is mentioned in 8:8 and in 10:16). The Ammonites defend the gates (presumably of Rabbah, their capital city) while the Arameans stay in the open country, so that when Joab brings his forces to attack Rabbah he will be outflanked.
9-14: Joab recognizes the situation and deploys his troops accordingly, dividing them into two armies under him and his brother Abishai. The Arameans quickly melt before Joab’s forces (after all, it isn’tÂ theirÂ city, is it?), and the Ammonites retreat into the walled city. Joab leaves Abishai to blockade the city while he returns to Jerusalem to report to David.
15-19: The Arameans reorganize themselves under Hadadezer (who had been defeated by David before — see the 8thÂ chapter) and recruit allies further afield to come to their aid. David takes the field against them and defeats them soundly. They surrender and David annexes their territory.
David is now king of a rather substantial nation. He is able to defend Israel and then go on the offensive to defeat a substantial array of enemies. The surrounding nations and peoples are learning quickly that it is best to be David’s friends and make peace with him before he sees an opportunity to acquire more vassal states.