2 Samuel 10:1-19
10 The king of Ammon died. His son Hanun became the next king after him. 2 David thought, “I’m going to be kind to Hanun. His father Nahash was kind to me.” So David sent messengers to Hanun. He wanted them to tell Hanun how sad he was that Hanun’s father had died. David’s messengers went to the land of Ammon. 3 The Ammonite nobles spoke to their master Hanun. They said, “David has sent messengers to tell you he is sad. They say he wants to honor your father. But the real reason they’ve come is to look the city over. They want to destroy it.” 4 So Hanun grabbed hold of David’s men. He shaved off half of each man’s beard. He cut their clothes off just below the waist and left them half naked. Then he sent them away. 5 David was told about it. So he sent messengers to his men because they were filled with shame. King David said to them, “Stay at Jericho until your beards grow out again. Then come back here.” 6 The Ammonites realized that what they had done had made David very angry with them. So they hired 20,000 Aramean soldiers who were on foot. The soldiers came from Beth Rehob and Zobah. The Ammonites also hired the king of Maacah and 1,000 men. And they hired 12,000 men from Tob. 7 David heard about it. So he sent Joab out with the entire army of Israel’s fighting men. 8 The Ammonites marched out. They took up their battle positions at the entrance of their city gate. The Arameans of Zobah and Rehob gathered their troops together in the open country. So did the men of Tob and Maacah. 9 Joab saw that there were lines of soldiers in front of him and behind him. So he chose some of the best troops in Israel. He sent them to march out against the Arameans. 10 He put the rest of the men under the command of his brother Abishai. Joab sent them to march out against the Ammonites. 11 He said, “Suppose the Arameans are too strong for me. Then you must come and help me. But suppose the Ammonites are too strong for you. Then I’ll come and help you. 12 “Be strong. Let’s be brave as we fight for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what he thinks is best.” 13 Then Joab and the troops who were with him marched out to attack the Arameans. They ran away from him. 14 The Ammonites saw that the Arameans were running away. So they ran away from Abishai. They went inside the city. After Joab had fought against the Ammonites, he went back to Jerusalem. 15 The Arameans saw that they had been driven away by Israel. So they brought their troops together. 16 Hadadezer had some Arameans brought from east of the Euphrates River. They went to Helam under the command of Shobach. He was the commander of Hadadezer’s army. 17 David was told about it. So he gathered the whole army of Israel together. They went across the Jordan River to Helam. The Arameans lined up their soldiers to go to war against David. They began to fight against him. 18 But then they ran away from Israel. David killed 700 of their chariot riders. He killed 40,000 of their soldiers who were on foot. He also struck down Shobach, the commander of their army. Shobach died there. 19 All of the kings who were under the rule of Hadadezer saw that Israel had won the battle over them. So they made a peace treaty with the Israelites. They were brought under Israel’s rule. After that, the Arameans were afraid to help the Ammonites anymore.
When Israel was coming out of the wilderness into their promised land, the Ammonites and Moabites had refused to help them and had tried to curse them. God warns (Deuteronomy 23:6) “As long as you live, you must never promote the welfare and prosperity of the Ammonites or Moabites”.
David wants to honour the loyalty of Ammon’s king Nahosh with loyalty to his son Hanun. Loyalty and honour are consistent parts of David’s character and deserve praise. But this time it’s different to what God said.
Hanun and his commanders think they are clever. David says he’s coming in friendship but they “know better”. The ambassadors sent to honour them are sent back with a message of the greatest dishonour. War is the inevitable consequence.
Again Hanun thinks he’s clever, hiring a large mercenary army to fight for him. But he doesn’t seem to trust them and keeps them separate, outside the city. Joab exploits this with a clever strategy, placing the Israelite army between the Ammonites and their mercenaries. The mercenaries are cut off from what they are fighting for and flee.
Hanun hires an even bigger mercenary army. Perhaps accepting money to fight their dangerous neighbour seemed a clever idea to Hanun’s allies, but they are soundly defeated and end up as David’s subjects.
Before Ammon falls in chapter 12, David will have an affair with Bathsheeba and have some “clever ideas” about how to fix things, with tragic consequences.
All these clever ideas: some honourable, some effective, some foolish, some shameful and some disastrous. But if only David had heeded God’s warning about the Ammonites …
Cleverness is highly honoured in our culture, well ahead of wisdom.
Father, give me wisdom before cleverness, and above all the wisdom to listen to you ahead of my own ideas.
Written by David Cornell