Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
And it came to pass after this, that the king of the children of Ammon died, and Hanun his son reigned in his stead.
2Sa 10:1-5. David's Messengers, Sent to Comfort Hanun, Are Disgracefully Treated.
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. Then said David, I will show kindness unto Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father showed kindness unto me—It is probable that this was the Nahash against whom Saul waged war at Jabesh-gilead (1Sa 11:11). David, on leaving Gath, where his life was exposed to danger, found an asylum with the king of Moab; and as Nahash, king of the Ammonites, was his nearest neighbor, it may be that during the feud between Saul and David, he, through enmity to the former, was kind and hospitable to David.
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?
3. the princes of the children of Ammon said unto Hanun—Their suspicion was not warranted either by any overt act or by any cherished design of David: it must have originated in their knowledge of the denunciations of God's law against them (De 23:3-6), and of David's policy in steadfastly adhering to it.
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.
4. Hanun took David's servants, and shaved off the one half of their beards—From the long flowing dress of the Hebrews and other Orientals, the curtailment of their garments must have given them an aspect of gross indelicacy and ludicrousness. Besides, a knowledge of the extraordinary respect and value which has always been attached, and the gross insult that is implied in any indignity offered, to the beard in the East, will account for the shame which the deputies felt, and the determined spirit of revenge which burst out in all Israel on learning the outrage. Two instances are related in the modern history of Persia, of similar insults by kings of haughty and imperious temper, involving the nation in war; and we need not, therefore, be surprised that David vowed revenge for this wanton and public outrage.
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.
5. Tarry at Jericho—or in the neighborhood, after crossing the fords of the Jordan.
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.
2Sa 10:6-14. The Ammonites Overcome.
6-14. when the children of Ammon saw that they stank before David—To chastise those insolent and inhospitable Ammonites, who had violated the common law of nations, David sent a large army under the command of Joab, while they, informed of the impending attack, made energetic preparations to repel it by engaging the services of an immense number of Syrian mercenaries.
Beth-rehob—the capital of the low-lying region between Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon.
Zoba—(see on 2Sa 8:3).
of king Maacah—His territories lay on the other side of Jordan, near Gilead (De 3:14).
Ish-tob—that is, "the men of Tob"—the place of Jephthah's marauding adventures (see also 1Ch 19:6; Ps 60:1, title). As the Israelite soldiers poured into the Ammonite territory, that people met them at the frontier town of Medeba (1Ch 19:7-9), the native troops covering the city, while the Syrian mercenaries lay at some distance encamped in the fields. In making the attack, Joab divided his forces into two separate detachments—the one of which, under the command of his brother, Abishai, was to concentrate its attack upon the city, while he himself marched against the overwhelming host of mercenary auxiliaries. It was a just and necessary war that had been forced on Israel, and they could hope for the blessing of God upon their arms. With great judgment the battle opened against the mercenaries, who could not stand against the furious onset of Joab, and not feeling the cause their own, consulted their safety by flight. The Ammonites, who had placed their chief dependence upon a foreign aid, then retreated to entrench themselves within the walls of the town.
And when David heard of it, he sent Joab, and all the host of the mighty men.
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:
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.
And Joab drew nigh, and the people that were with him, unto the battle against the Syrians: and they fled before him.
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.
14. So Joab returned and came to Jerusalem—Probably the season was too far advanced for entering on a siege.
And when the Syrians saw that they were smitten before Israel, they gathered themselves together.
2Sa 10:15-19. The Syrians Defeated.
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.
16. Hadarezer sent and brought out the Syrians that were beyond the river—This prince had enjoyed a breathing time after his defeat (2Sa 8:3). But alarmed at the increasing power and greatness of David, as well as being an ally of the Ammonites, he levied a vast army not only in Syria, but in Mesopotamia, to invade the Hebrew kingdom. Shobach, his general, in pursuance of this design, had marched his troops as far as Kelam, a border town of eastern Manasseh, when David, crossing the Jordan by forced marches, suddenly surprised, defeated, and dispersed them. As a result of this great and decisive victory, all the petty kingdoms of Syria submitted and became his tributaries (see on 1Ch 19:1).
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.
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.