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Deeper Commentary

2Sa 10:1 It happened after this, that the king of the children of Ammon died, and Hanun his son reigned in his place-
After this" can signal a change of subject rather than being chronologically significant. The same phrase is used in 2 Sam. 8:1, although the preceding chapter refers to events after and not before that time.

2Sa 10:2 David said, I will show kindness to Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father showed kindness to me. So David sent by his servants to comfort him concerning his father. David’s servants came into the land of the children of Ammon-
This continues the theme discussed on 2 Sam. 9:1, where the same phrase is used. David was proactively seeking to show grace to all and sundry. It was as if he was looking for an excuse to show grace by saying that Nahash king of the Ammonites had been kind to David; for Saul and David had had conflict with them (2 Sam. 8:12). But he fails to maintain that intensity; for when his grace is now abused, he reacts very harshly. Whereas when he abused God's grace, e.g. over Bathsheba, God was gentle with him. We note that he likewise shows grace to Shimei, and then finally asks Solomon to ensure that Shimei is slain. It is one thing to show grace or forgiveness in a moment, but to maintain that position long term, or when it is abused and rejected, is far harder. But that is what imitating God's grace is all about it.

2Sa 10:3 But the princes of the children of Ammon said to Hanun their lord, Do you think that David honours your father, in that he has sent comforters to you? Hasn’t David sent his servants to you to search the city, and to spy it out, and to overthrow it?-
Again, as with Mephibosheth's struggle to believe David's grace, these men couldn't believe David's grace, just as struggle to believe that of the Lord Jesus. Their logic is presented here as being exactly that of Joab in his angry, suspicious interpretation of Abner's visit to David (2 Sam. 3:24,25). Joab was wrong in his interpretation, and so were these princes. It is quite a theme of the historical records that kings are badly advised by their courtiers. We think also of Rehoboam's advisers. Perhaps this is to highlight how the only true interpretation of events and advice for action comes from God and not men.  

David sent messengers to Nabal meaning well to him, and they were rudely rebuffed, resulting in his anger which only Abigail’s grace and wisdom saved him from (1 Sam. 25). And yet the same situation repeated in its essence when he sent messengers to Hanun who were likewise misinterpreted and rebuffed (2 Sam. 10:3). Again, David got angry- but there was no Abigail to restrain him, and he did get into an impossible fight… from which by grace God delivered him. Could it not be that David failed to learn from his previous experience…? Circumstances repeat within our lives and between our lives and those of others in Biblical history; that we might learn the lessons and take comfort from the scriptures, that man is not alone.

2Sa 10:4 So 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-
Having a beard was then seen as a sign of being a free man; to have a half shaved beard was a sign of servanthood. Doing this was a direct provocation and effective declaration of war, claiming the Hebrews were their servants.

2Sa 10:5 When they told it to David, he sent to meet them; for the men were greatly ashamed. The king said, Wait at Jericho until your beards have grown, and then return-
We note David's ability to be very sensitive to the situation of others. And yet the same man shed blood abundantly, took no care for the feelings of Michal and Paltiel when he split their marriage up, let alone cared for Uriah... And yet this is the strange mixture of spirituality and unspirituality which we experience in ourselves and in others all the time.

2Sa 10:6 When the children of Ammon saw that they were become odious to David, the children of Ammon sent and hired the Syrians of Beth Rehob, and the Syrians of Zobah, twenty thousand footmen, and the king of Maacah with one thousand men, and the men of Tob with twelve thousand men-
They paid 1000 pieces of silver for the Syrians (1 Chron. 19:6). For "thousand" see on :18. This fearsome confederacy was all part of God's purpose, for the subsequent victories resulted in these smaller kings becoming subservient to David (see on :19). And this is how God uses our worst crises, ultimately towards our blessing. 2 Sam. 23:36 speaks of a Syrian man from Zobah being one of David's loyalest men.  Igal would have been a Syrian from Zobah, perhaps one of the soldiers who fought against David (2 Sam. 10:6) and then converted to him. The Gittites who followed David were likewise Philistines from Gath who were once his enemies but converted to his God, and devoted themselves zealously to Him. This is an incredible witness to the power of Yahweh to convert, because such willing defections of individuals to the people and God of their enemies, and being zealously committed to Him, was unheard of in their society.

2Sa 10:7 When David heard of it, he sent Joab, and all the army of the mighty men-
We wonder why David didn't go himself, although he does personally lead the army to the even greater battle with the Syrians which this one provoked. Perhaps this is to prepare us for the statement in 2 Sam. 11:1 that David's remaining in Jerusalem led to his sin with Bathsheba. And we wonder whether that relationship had not already started at this time, with Uriah away at the front so much.

2Sa 10:8 The children of Ammon came out, and put the battle in array at the entrance of the gate: and the Syrians of Zobah and of Rehob, and the men of Tob and Maacah, were by themselves in the field-
"By themselves" could mean that they had planned to combine with the Ammonite forces at Medeba (1 Chron. 19:7), about 20 miles from Rabbah of the Ammonites. It seems Joab marched at top speed to engage with them before the Ammonites and Syrians met up with each other as one large force. The Ammonites assembled their battle lines at the entrance to Rabbah, but it seems they didn't engage with the Israelites. They were waiting for the Syrians to arrive and combine their forces. When Joab makes the Syrians flee, the Ammonites fled back into their city gate.

2Sa 10:9 Now when Joab saw that the battle was set against him before and behind, he chose of all the choice men of Israel, and put them in array against the Syrians-
He saw the Syrians as a greater strength than the Ammonites. He placed himself between the two armies before they had time to join up with each other. This meant the Israelites would be sandwiched between them. It was a daring but dangerous move, which could easily have led to the annihilation of the entire Israelite army.

2Sa 10:10 The rest of the people he committed into the hand of Abishai his brother; and he put them in array against the children of Ammon-
That Joab took the most dangerous part of the engagement speaks much of his bravery. But as we will note on :12, bravery and passing mention of God are not the same as faith and true wisdom.

2Sa 10:11 He said-
The idea is, that he planned or thought. The Bible continually stresses that the thought is the word spoken. And the essence of Biblical spirituality is upon the heart, the thinking.

If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me; but if the children of Ammon are too strong for you, then I will come and help you-
This is playing on the name "Hadadezer" (:16), which means 'Helped ['ezer'] by Hadad', the sun god. We might have preferred to see Joab alluding to Yahweh being their help; but instead he thinks of help in terms of human strength.

2Sa 10:12 Be courageous, and let us be strong for our people, and for the cities of our God; and Yahweh do that which seems good to Him-
As explained on :9, this was a very daring maneuver by Joab. We wonder whether he had real faith in Yahweh, or whether his words here express fatalism rather than faith. There is a significant difference, and often what appears to be faith can be mere fatalism.

2Sa 10:13 So Joab and the people who were with him drew near to the battle against the Syrians: and they fled before him-
So often the Israelite victories were humanly speaking achieved by surprise attack from an unexpected angle, using unexpected and unusual tactics. It could be that this was due to Divine guidance, telling them to do what was unusual and against secular wisdom. For this is always God's path to victory, thereby demonstrating that victory and success are of His grace rather than human strength.

2Sa 10:14 When the children of Ammon saw that the Syrians had fled, they likewise fled before Abishai, and entered into the city. Then Joab returned from the children of Ammon, and came to Jerusalem-
We get the impression that Abishai didn't attack the Ammonites; the Syrians fled when Joab attacked them, and the Ammonites withdrew into Rabbah when they saw that.

2Sa 10:15 When the Syrians saw that they were defeated by Israel, they gathered themselves together-
They were mercenaries, and the fact they had failed to achieve what Ammon hoped for didn't require them to fight again. They did so, it seems, because of wounded pride. And this again (as noted on :13) is a feature of God's amazing victories. The pride of Gentile armies is brought down by smaller armies of Israelites using unusual, unexpected tactics because they were guided by Yahweh. Always pride is presented as the great weakness of man.

2Sa 10:16 Hadadezer sent, and brought out the Syrians who were beyond the River: and they came to Helam, with Shobach the captain of the army of Hadadezer at their head-
To gather soldiers from beyond the river Euphrates was a huge effort; and now the best general, as they thought, was placed over them. And it all arose from hurt pride and the desire by all means to defeat Israel in vengeance for Joab and his small army putting their army to flight previously, when they had been paid money to defeat Israel.

2Sa 10:17 It was told David; and he gathered all Israel together, and passed over the Jordan, and came to Helam. The Syrians set themselves in array against David, and fought with him-
The parallel is drawn between the Syrians coming from the other side of the Euphrates (:16) led by Shobach, and David and his men coming from the other side of the Jordan.

2Sa 10:18 The Syrians fled before Israel; and David killed of the Syrians seven hundred charioteers and forty thousand horsemen, and struck Shobach the captain of their army, so that he died there-
There are apparently different numbers given in 2 Sam. 8:4; 10:18 and 1 Chron. 19:18. I see no real problem here once we appreciate that the Hebrew word "thousand" used when giving numbers like this rarely means 1,000 as a number. It is also translated regiment, brigade, family, squadron etc. And to Israelites looking at the Syrian army, it could be described in various ways. There many regiments, families, groups, squadrons, but these subdivisions of an ancient army are all called a "thousand". Depending how one looks at the army and its subdivisions. A modern army would be subdivided into two to four corps, a corps has at least two divisions or legions, a division has two four brigades or regiments, a brigade has two or more regiments, a regiment has  two or more battalions, a battalion has a number of companies, a company has a number of platoons, a platoon has a number of squads or fire teams. The problem is that the Hebrew Bible uses the same word for all such military subdivisions, and it is translated "thousand" in many Bibles. Hence the apparently contradictory numbers.

2Sa 10:19 When all the kings who were servants to Hadadezer saw that they were defeated before Israel, they made peace with Israel, and served them. So the Syrians feared to help the children of Ammon any more
This meant that the smaller kings like Tob, Rehob and Maacah now paid tribute to David rather than to Hadadezer.