And it came to pass after this, that the king of the children of Ammon died, and Hanun his son reigned in his stead.2 Samuel 10:1. The king of the children of Ammon died — Who, it appears by the next verse, was Nahash, to whom Saul gave a very great defeat at Jabesh-Gilead, 1 Samuel 11.
Then said David, I will shew kindness unto Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father shewed kindness unto me. And David sent to comfort him by the hand of his servants for his father. And David's servants came into the land of the children of Ammon.2 Samuel 10:2. As his father showed kindness unto me — All generous minds are full of gratitude and compassion. David here remembers the ancient benefits which he had received from Nahash, and pitied his son, who had lost such a father. What those benefits were is uncertain. It is probable, however, that, being an enemy to Saul, who had given him a great overthrow, he proved a friend to David when he was persecuted by him, sent him relief and assistance, and perhaps offered him his protection. David sent to comfort him — According to the present custom among princes, who send some of their courtiers to condole with those, under any loss or suffering, with whom they live in friendship. And as, it appears, there had hitherto been friendship between David and him, we must conclude that what is said of the spoils of the children of Ammon, 2 Samuel 8:12, is mentioned by way of anticipation, and is to be understood of the spoils taken after the victory spoken of in this chapter.
And the princes of the children of Ammon said unto Hanun their lord, Thinkest thou that David doth honour thy father, that he hath sent comforters unto thee? hath not David rather sent his servants unto thee, to search the city, and to spy it out, and to overthrow it?2 Samuel 10:3-4. Hath not David sent to search the city? — Nothing is so well meant, but it maybe ill interpreted; and is wont to be so by men who love none but themselves. And shaved off the one half of their beards, and cut off their garments in the middle — He must not only have been very credulous, but of a bad and hasty temper; otherwise he would have dismissed them civilly, how much soever his courtiers suspected them; or have kept them in an honourable custody till the truth had been discovered. But this was the highest disgrace he could put upon them. For the wearing of long beards and long garments was then, as it is still, the fashion of the East, where they were deemed badges of honour; and consequently the cutting off and curtailing of either was regarded as the greatest indignity; nay, in some places, the cutting off the beard was not only looked upon as a matter of the highest reproach, but also of the severest punishment. So it was anciently among the Indians, as we learn from Nicholas Damascenus, mentioned by Stobæus, who says, that the king commanded the greatest offenders to be shaven, as the greatest punishment he could inflict upon them. And so it is at this day among the Persians. And it was one of the most infamous punishments of cowardice in Sparta, that they who turned their backs in the day of battle were obliged to appear abroad with one half of their beards shaved, and the other unshaved. There were two reasons which caused the eastern people of old, as they cause them at present, to look upon the beard as venerable: 1st, They considered it as a natural ornament, designed to distinguish men from women. 2d, It was the mark of a free man, in opposition to slaves. So that, in every view, the indignity offered by Hanun to the ambassadors of David was capital, and, it seems, the greatest he could have done them. It was a violation of the law of nature, of hospitality, and the right of nations. Insult and contumely were added to the disgrace; half the beard was cut off to make them look ridiculous, and half the robe to make their figures at once more contemptible and indecent. — Delaney, Bishop Patrick, and Plut. in Agesilao.
Wherefore Hanun took David's servants, and shaved off the one half of their beards, and cut off their garments in the middle, even to their buttocks, and sent them away.
When they told it unto David, he sent to meet them, because the men were greatly ashamed: and the king said, Tarry at Jericho until your beards be grown, and then return.2 Samuel 10:5. Tarry at Jericho — Which was the first place to which they came in the land of Canaan, and then a private village, where they might remain obscure till they were fit to appear in public. Until your beards be grown — For though it was well known how they came to be deprived of them, yet it was not fit that persons of their quality should appear unlike all other men.
And when the children of Ammon saw that they stank before David, the children of Ammon sent and hired the Syrians of Bethrehob, and the Syrians of Zoba, twenty thousand footmen, and of king Maacah a thousand men, and of Ishtob twelve thousand men.2 Samuel 10:6. When the children of Ammon saw that they stank, &c, — They wanted not intelligence how heinously David resented the barbarous usage of his ambassadors; which is expressed by a phrase signifying that they were become very odious to him.
And when David heard of it, he sent Joab, and all the host of the mighty men.2 Samuel 10:7-8. He sent Joab and all the host — He did not think it prudent to stay till they assaulted him in his own country, but went and invaded theirs. And the children of Ammon came out, &c. — They drew up their army, either before Rabbah, the metropolis of the country, or before Medeba, in the borders of it, where their confederates were pitched, 1 Chronicles 19:7.
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 Ishtob, and Maacah, were by themselves in the field.
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:2 Samuel 10:9. The front of the battle — Hebrew, the face of the battle; was against him before, and behind — That is, they had divided their forces, the Syrians appearing before him, and the Ammonites behind him. He put them in array against the Syrians — He also, like an expert commander, presently divided his army into two bodies, and picked out the best soldiers to engage the Syrians, who, it seems, were the strongest, or the most valiant.
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.
And he said, 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.
Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the LORD do that which seemeth him good.2 Samuel 10:12. Be of good courage, &c. — These words, it is likely, were not spoken to Abishai alone, but to all the army by their officers, that they might not be disheartened at the sight of such numerous forces as in a manner encompassed them, but be so much the more resolute for the preservation of their country. And the Lord do that which seemeth him good — If they did their duty, he trusted Divine Providence would favour them. But if not, he would be resigned to God’s will: he would piously leave the issue with him. And when we have done our part, according to the duty of our place, we may, with the greatest satisfaction, leave the event with God; not thinking that our efforts bind him to prosper us, but that he may still do as he pleaseth, and yet hoping for his salvation in his own way and time.
And Joab drew nigh, and the people that were with him, unto the battle against the Syrians: and they fled before him.2 Samuel 10:13-14. Joab drew nigh unto battle against the Syrians — He acted very wisely in assaulting the mercenary army first; for they that are hired to fight generally take great care to save themselves, having little regard to the cause for which they fight. Then fled they also — They seem not to have struck a stroke, but provided for their safety by retiring into the city, near to which their army was drawn up. So Joab returned — Here is no account of the number of the slain, who, probably, were few, because they did not fight, but flee. The year also seems to have been so far spent that it was not a fit season for laying siege to the city. See 2 Samuel 11:1.
And when the children of Ammon saw that the Syrians were fled, then fled they also before Abishai, and entered into the city. So Joab returned from the children of Ammon, and came to Jerusalem.
And when the Syrians saw that they were smitten before Israel, they gathered themselves together.2 Samuel 10:15-16. They gathered themselves together — Fearing David would fall upon them for assisting his enemies, they resolved to be beforehand with him, and therefore levied a new army to invade his territories. And Hadarezer — Who was king of Aram Zoba, in Mesopotamia; sent and brought out the Syrians that were beyond the river — That is, beyond Euphrates, which was the bound of his territories eastward, 2 Samuel 8:3.
And Hadarezer sent, and brought out the Syrians that were beyond the river: and they came to Helam; and Shobach the captain of the host of Hadarezer went before them.
And when it was told David, he gathered all Israel together, and passed over Jordan, and came to Helam. And the Syrians set themselves in array against David, and fought with him.2 Samuel 10:17-18. David passed over Jordan — In this expedition David seems to have commanded his army in his own person. But, notwithstanding, the Syrians appear to have begun the fight. David slew the men of seven hundred chariots, &c. — The parallel place, 1 Chronicles 19:18, reads, seven thousand men that fought in chariots, and forty thousand footmen, and not horsemen, as here. It is probable, either that horse and foot were mixed together, and that, in all, there were slain forty thousand of them, part horsemen and part footmen; or, as many learned men suppose, that some error has crept into the text in one of the places. Houbigant is of opinion, that the text here, corrected from the parallel passage, should be read, David destroyed seven thousand horsemen, seven hundred chariots, and forty thousand footmen.
And the Syrians fled before Israel; and David slew the men of seven hundred chariots of the Syrians, and forty thousand horsemen, and smote Shobach the captain of their host, who died there.
And when all the kings that were servants to Hadarezer saw that they were smitten before Israel, they made peace with Israel, and served them. So the Syrians feared to help the children of Ammon any more.2 Samuel 10:19. The kings that were servants to Hadarezer — He being the most powerful prince in those parts, it appears there were several petty kings that were subject to him. They made peace with Israel, and served them — As it is likely Hadarezer himself also did: whereby God fulfilled his promise to Abraham, (which was renewed to Joshua,) of enlarging the dominion of his posterity as far as Euphrates. See Genesis 15:18; Joshua 1:2-4. Wonderful to reflect on! kingdoms and vast tracts of country, which were promised by God, ages before, to the posterity of a man who had not one foot of property in them, we see here all falling, with a very particular exactness, under the dominion of one of the posterity of him to whom they had been promised! So faithful is God, and all his purposes will be fulfilled! Thus, in the space of nineteen or twenty years, David had the happiness of finishing gloriously eight wars, all righteously undertaken, and all honourably terminated; namely, 1st, The civil war with Ish-bosheth: 2d, The war against the Jebusites: 3d, Against the Philistines and their allies: 4th, Against the Philistines alone: 5th, Against the Moabites: 6th, Against Hadadezer: 7th, Against the Idumeans: 8th, Against the Ammonites and Syrians. We shall soon see this last entirely completed, by the conquest of the kingdom of the Ammonites, abandoned by their allies. What glory for the monarch of Israel, had not the splendour of this illustrious epocha been obscured by a complication of crimes, of which one could never have even suspected him! See Delaney.