David defeats the Ammonites
v1 Some time later, Nahash, the king of the *Ammonites, died. His son Hanun became king. v2 David thought, ‘I will be kind to Hanun because his father Nahash was kind to me.’ So, David sent some of his servants to Hanun. David wanted to show sympathy to Hanun after his father’s death.
David’s men came to the country called Ammon. v3 The leaders in Ammon said to the king, ‘Do not imagine that David really feels sympathy for you. He does not really want to give honour to your father. No! David has sent his servants to explore our city. They will see everything. Then David’s army will be able to overcome us.’
v4 So Hanun took David’s servants. He shaved off half of each man’s beard. He cut off their clothes level with their bottoms. Then Hanun sent them away. They were ashamed.
v5 David heard what had happened. He sent a message to the men because they were so ashamed. David said, ‘Stay in the town of Jericho until your beards have grown again. Then come home.’
(Verses 1-19 See also 1 Chronicles 19:1-19.)
The country of Ammon was on the east side of *Israel, across the river Jordan. King Saul had fought against King Nahash and the *Ammonites in 1 Samuel chapter 11. But David had peace with them. 2 Samuel 8:12 says that David defeated Ammon. This account may describe how it happened. The word ‘kind’ is the same word that described David’s kindness to Mephibosheth. Perhaps David made a promise to Nahash to be kind to him.
A new king often rules a country in a different way. So David wanted to show that he still had a peace agreement with the *Ammonites. The capital city of Ammon was probably Rabbah (11:1). It was about 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Jerusalem. The *Ammonite leaders knew that *Israel was a powerful country. They were afraid of David. They did not trust him. If a king defeated the capital city of a country, he could rule the whole country. Hanun insulted David’s servants and he made them look foolish. By this act, Hanun insulted King David too. David cared about his servants. They went home when they did not still feel ashamed. It seems that all *Israelite men had beards at that time. So, David’s servants did not want just to shave their beards off completely.
v6 The *Ammonites realised that they had greatly offended David. So they hired 20 000 *Aramean soldiers. The soldiers came from Beth Rehob and Zobah. They also hired 1000 men from the king of Maacah. And 12 000 men came from Tob.
v7 David heard about this. So he sent Joab and the whole *Israelite army to fight them. v8 The *Ammonites came out. They prepared to fight at the entrance of their city. The *Arameans from Zobah and Rehob and the men from Tob and Maacah formed another army in the open country.
v9 Joab saw that his enemies were in front of him and behind him. So he chose some of the best *Israelite soldiers to fight with him against the *Arameans. v10 Joab made his brother Abishai the leader of the rest of the army. They fought against the *Ammonites.
v11 Joab said, ‘If the *Arameans are too strong for me, then you must come to help me. But if the *Ammonites are too strong for you, I will come to help you. v12 Be strong. Fight bravely to save our people and the cities of God. The *Lord will do what is right.’
Hanun was a new king. Maybe he did not realise that his action would offend David. Or perhaps he wanted to start a war with David. Ammon was a small country. It could not fight *Israel by itself. So, Hanun had to get soldiers from other countries. A huge army went to fight the *Israelites. In those days, kings often had to hire soldiers from other countries to help them in a war.
Joab was the captain of the *Israelite army (8:16). He knew that this would not be an easy battle. He prepared his plans carefully. However, he knew that the *Lord would help the *Israelites (verse 12). Joab wanted to protect the *Israelites. He also wanted to save the whole country that God had given to them.
v13 When Joab and his soldiers went to attack the *Arameans, they ran away. v14 The *Ammonites saw that the *Arameans were running away. So the *Ammonites ran away from Abishai. They went back into their city. After the battle had finished, Joab returned to Jerusalem.
v15 The *Arameans realised that the *Israelites had defeated them. So the *Arameans gathered together again. v16 Some *Aramean soldiers were on the east side of the river Euphrates. King Hadadezer sent a message to them. They came to the city of Helam. Their leader was Shobach. He was the leader of Hadadezer’s army.
v17 When David heard about this, he gathered all the *Israelites together. They crossed over the river Jordan and they went to Helam. The *Arameans prepared for battle. Then they attacked David and his army.
v18 But the *Arameans ran away from the *Israelites. David’s army killed 700 men who drove *chariots. His army killed 40 000 men who rode horses. And David’s men also killed Shobach, who was the leader of the *Aramean army.
v19 Hadadezer had controlled the kings of several countries. These kings saw that the *Israelites had defeated the *Arameans. The kings wanted peace with the *Israelites. So they agreed to serve the *Israelites. And the *Arameans were afraid to help the *Ammonites again.
The *Israelites won the first part of the battle easily. The enemy ran away from them. Then the *Arameans decided to fight the *Israelites again. David led the *Israelites that time. But the *Arameans ran away again. David killed many *Arameans. He even killed the leader of their army. David ruled over the *Arameans. In the past, many kings from smaller countries had served the *Arameans. In other words, these countries paid taxes to the *Arameans. And these kings had to send soldiers to help the *Arameans in their battles. Verse 8 records some of the countries. Those kings made their own peace agreements with David.
David now controlled all the nations on the east and north sides of *Israel. This means that he controlled all their roads too. People travelled along these roads to trade in many countries. The trade routes were very important roads. So, David became even more powerful.