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II Samuel Chapter 10

Memory verses for this week: Psa 95:1 O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.

Overview of II Samuel 10: The continuing inspired history of the reign of David continues. Specifically, record is made of the Ammonite-Syrian War with Israel.

This chapter gives an account of the ill treatment of David’s messengers to the king of Ammon, who were sent to console the death of his father, and were distastefully treated by him, which David resented. The Ammonites perceiving them to be spies, prepared for war, and conspired with the Syrians to be confederates with them.

David being informed sent Joab and Abishai into their country. Joab divided the army between he and Abishai, and attacked the Ammonites and Syrians with great courage. God blessed them and they routed both armies. Joab and Abishai returned again after the Syrians gathered together again to fight with David, who went out to meet them, and got an entire conquest over them, and made them servants to him.

I. The Ammonite – Syrian war.

2 Sam 10:1 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 Sam 10:2 Then said David, I will show kindness unto Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father showed 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.

Nahash, the king of the children of Ammon died, and Hanun his son reigned in his stead. Ammon was both a city and also considered a region.

It is the same city David, as a gesture of diplomacy, sent a delegation to Ammon to meet Hanun and offer condolences upon the death of his father Nahash.

During the early years of David when he was pursued by Saul, Nahash king of Ammon had befriended David, sending him aide and offering him protection. This may have been the incident in II Samuel 22:3-4 when David sent his elderly parents to the king of Moab for refuge.

Moab was adjacent to Ammon and may have been one and the same at that time. Though an enemy of Saul, Nahash had befriended David. David’s motive for sending a delegation to Ammon at this time was pure. He simply desired to be kind to the son of his friend, Nahash. However, the Ammonites would prove themselves to be fools in this matter.

2 Sam 10:3 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 Sam 10:4 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.

2 Sam 10:5 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.

Rather than receive the delegation of David kindly, the Ammonites returned to them evil for their good. The young princes of the realm were suspicious. With an attitude similar to what Rehoboam’s counselors would have later, these young princes counseled the new king that David rather had sent these as spies in preparation for a complete conquest. The act of Hanun clearly was to humiliate David’s delegation. He not only accosted David’s diplomats, but he cut off half their beards.

Apparently, they shaved one side of their faces, but not the other. That was a humiliation which would take months to grow back. Moreover, he ordered their robes cut off at the buttocks. This was not only immodest, but the cause of utter embarrassment. Hanun had purposely given total affront to Israel and the reign of David. Not only had they been fools in misreading David’s motives, it seems they were stupid. Israel under David at that time was the most powerful nation in that part of the world. They had only succeeded in guaranteeing that David would wreak retribution upon them.

In Verse five, word was sent back to David of what had happened. David's delegation evidently had journeyed back as far as Jericho. David instructed them to stay there until their beards had grown back out.

II. Children of Ammon Recognize their Condition

2 Sam 10:6 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 Sam 10:7 And when David heard of it, he sent Joab, and all the host of the mighty men.

2 Sam 10:8 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.

The leaders in Ammon finally figured out what they had done. The Ammonites realizing the predicament they had brought upon themselves quickly sent word to some of David’s enemies. They hired 20,000 mercenary soldiers from Bethrehob and Zoba of which Hadadezer was the king. Maacah was a region within Manasseh from which the Israelites had never expelled the Canaanites. See Joshua 13:11,13.

      Josh 13:11 And Gilead, and the border of the Geshurites and Maachathites, and all mount Hermon, and all Bashan unto Salcah;

      Josh 13:12 All the kingdom of Og in Bashan, which reigned in Ashtaroth and in Edrei, who remained of the remnant of the giants: for these did Moses smite, and cast them out.

      Josh 13:13 Nevertheless the children of Israel expelled not the Geshurites, nor the Maachathites: but the Geshurites and the Maachathites dwell among the Israelites until this day.

The failure of Israel 400 years earlier was still a thorn in their side. The Maachathites sent one-thousand men as mercenary soldiers to aide Ammon. Ishtob (or the land of Tob) was another area of Canaanites living just to the north and east of Ammon. It was to this land that Jephthah had fled when abused by his brethren. They sent twelve thousand men.

      Josh 11:3 And to the Canaanite on the east and on the west, and to the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Jebusite in the mountains, and to the Hivite under Hermon in the land of Mizpeh.

      Josh 11:4 And they went out, they and all their hosts with them, much people, even as the sand that is upon the sea shore in multitude, with horses and chariots very many.

      Josh 11:5 And when all these kings were met together, they came and pitched together at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel.

David, being informed of the events sent Joab, and all the host of the mighty men. Joab, David’s nephew, remained his chief commander. David thus sent Joab with an army against Ammon.

Matthew Henry had this to say about the Ammonites

Here we have,. The preparation which the Ammonites made for war, v. 6. They saw they had made themselves very odious to David and obnoxious to his just displeasure. This they might easily have foreseen when they abused his ambassadors, which was no other than a challenge to war, and a bold defiance of him. Yet, it seems, they had not considered how unable they were, with their thousands, to meet his; for now they found themselves an unequal match, and were forced to hire forces of other nations into their service. Thus sinners daringly provoke God, and expose themselves to his wrath, and never consider that he is stronger than they, 1 Co. 10:22. The Ammonites gave the affront first, and they were the first that raised forces to justify it. Had they humbled themselves, and begged David’s pardon, probably an honorary satisfaction might have atoned for the offence. But, when they were thus desperately resolved to stand by what they had done, they courted their own ruin.

In verse 8, we have record that when the Ammonites saw the army of Israel advancing upon them, the Ammonites placed their own forces outside the city gate in defense thereof. However, they deployed their mercenary forces apart in the nearby countryside. The reason is not clear. It may be that they did not trust these mercenaries or it may be that they planned to ambush Joab’s army from the flanks or from behind. The following account gives sufficient evidence the intent would be to attack from behind.

2 Sam 10:9 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 Sam 10:10 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.

Upon joining action with the Ammonites in front of their city, they were attacked from behind by the mercenary forces (collectively called the Syrians). In realizing the predicament he was in, Joab determined to send his best units against the Syrians. His strategy likely was to defeat them first and then deal with the Ammonites later. To his lieutenant commander, Abishai which was Joab's brother, he directed the rest of his forces against the Ammonites.

2 Sam 10:11 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.

2 Sam 10:12 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.

Joab further shared his battle plans with his brother. “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.”

Their plan was simple. Where help was needed most, they would assist the other. A flexible strategy was developed to react to the battle as it developed.

Joab concluded his strategy session with Abishai with this exhortation;

      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.”

The word translated as let us play the men (qzx chazaq) has the sense of being strong, like men). Joab thus sent Abishai out with the charge to be courageous and strong. Their people, their nation, and the testimony of their God was at stake. Moreover, he entrusted the battle to the Lord: “and the LORD do that which seemeth him good.” He committed the battle to God.

2 Sam 10:13 And Joab drew nigh, and the people that were with him, unto the battle against the Syrians: and they fled before him.

2 Sam 10:14 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.

The battle turned into a rout for the Israelites. Joab ferociously attacked against the Syrians who promptly fled. They apparently had received payment for their services in advance. It appears they “grabbed the money and ran.”

They had shown up but they were not about to be killed by Joab. When the Ammonite forces saw the Syrians being routed, they retreated into their city.

Implied is that Joab thus surrounded it and prepared for a siege. Joab himself returned to Jerusalem, undoubtedly to report the situation to David.

Joab was a strong man that was not fearful to go to battle. When you look at Jesus Christ, you see a man who was not afraid to face the ultimate death on the Cross. Charles Spurgeon, in one of his sermons, commented about how Jesus was God, and yet he faced the trials of being a man.

But God he is; and here, in this house, we must and will adore him. With the multitude of his redeemed we will sing: Jesus is worthy to receive, Honour and power divine, And blessings more, than we can give “Be Lord for ever thine.” To preach Christ, however, we must also preach his true humanity. We must never make him to be less manlike because he was perfectly divine. I love that hymn of Hart which begins—“A man there was—a real man, Who once on Calvary died.” Real man!” I think we do not often realize that manhood of Christ; we do not see that he was bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh; feeling, thinking, acting, suffering, doing, just like ourselves—one of our fellows, and only above us because he is “exalted with the oil of gladness above his fellows.” We must have a human Christ, and we must have one of real flesh and blood too; not of shadows or filmy fancies. We must have one to whom we can talk, one with whom we can walk, one “Who in his measure feels afresh What every member bears;” who is so intimately connected with us in ties of blood, that he is as with us one, the head of the family, first-born among many brethren. I am never more glad than when I am preaching a personal Christ. A doctrinal Christ, a practical Christ, or an experimental Christ, as some good men make him to be according to the temper of their minds, I do not feel to be sufficient for the people of God. We want a personal Christ. 2

III. Syrians Gather Together

2 Sam 10:15 And when the Syrians saw that they were smitten before Israel, they gathered themselves together.

2 Sam 10:16 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.

2 Sam 10:17 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 Sam 10:18 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.

Though routed in the initial battle, it appears that the Syrians regrouped perhaps in a more defensible position.

“And when the Syrians saw that they were smitten before Israel, they gathered themselves together. “

The word of their defeat had reached home. Hadadezer, one of the kings of the region of Syria, sent reinforcements. The Jewish historian Josephus claims that Hadarezer sent a force of 80,000 men under the command of Shobach. They marched southward to a place called Helam which was somewhere in Gilead to the north of Ammon. (This is all in present day Jordan.)

The king of Syria is here called Hadarezer. However, he is one and the same as Hadadezer mentioned in 8:12.

ln verse 17, when David learned of this new threat, his attention was diverted from Ammon. Whether or not a siege force was left there, it is not clear. David thus mobilized his national reserves and marched out against the combined forces of Syria. It seems apparent that David personally commanded his forces. (This is in distinct contrast to him tarrying at Jerusalem as noted in the next chapter.)

The battle was joined at Helam and there David utterly defeated the Syrian forces. Of those who escaped the sword, they fled in a rout. Seven hundred chariot men of the Syrians were destroyed. That would be roughly analogous to knocking out seven hundred tanks in modern warfare. Also, 40,000 cavalry of Syria were slain. Their commander, Shobach was also killed in the battle.

2 Sam 10:19 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.

All the kings that were servants to Hadarezer saw that they were beaten and made peace with Israel. The several lessor kings mentioned earlier in the chapter realized that they were beaten. Also noted is that they were under the lordship of Hadarezer (Hadadezer). The Syrians had learned a lesson.

Though they were not friends of Israel, they would never again give military aid to Ammon. Though the battle with the Syrians was over for the time being, the score with Ammon had not been fully settled. That battle would resume as noted in the next chapter. It also was at this time when the infamous sin in David’s life took place.

The Christian may learn not to lay to heart the reproaches he receives for Christ’s sake, for they will soon wear off and turn eventually to the shame of their authors.


Internet Bible Studies are prepared and distributed free of charge. The lessons may not be sold without consent. If you have questions or wish to discuss the lessons, or possibly need help in finding Jesus Christ as your Personal Lord and Savior, contact David Parham at 940-322-4343.

Prov 4:18 But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.

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