This chapter marks the beginning of a new phase in David’s life. The prosperity in all that he has undertaken and the increase in the power of his rule have in a way made him independent of the LORD. The feeling of undisturbed happiness has made him receptive to wicked desires. This led him to stain his soul with adultery and also with blood guilt. Thus the man who is so high exalted by the LORD his God falls deep into sin. This happens during the war against the Ammonites and Arameans, when after the subjugation of Arameans Joab with the army besieged the capital of the Ammonites and David remains in Jerusalem (2Sam 11:1).
Because of the twofold sin – the adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uria – the LORD announces the punishment to the high placed sinner. That punishment is that the sword shall not depart from his house and that his wives shall be slept with in public (2Sam 12:11).
Despite David’s sincere repentance and confession of sin, the fruit of sin, the child born of Bathsheba, dies. But not only that. Also the announced judgments about his house are carried out. This happens because his firstborn son Amnon rapes his half-sister Tamar, for which brother Absalom kills him (2 Samuel 13). Absalom then flees to his father-in-law in Geshur. When Absalom is again accepted in grace by his father, king David (2 Samuel 14), he revolts against David. As a result David almost loses his throne and his life (2 Samuel 15-17:23).
After the demise of Absalom (2 Samuel 17:24-19:1) and the return of David to the throne (2 Samuel 19:2-40) there is still the rebellion of the Benjamite Sheba. This rebellion will only be overcome after this rebel has been killed in Abel Beth-maacah (2 Samuel 19:41-20:26).
1 - 5 The Men of David Greatly Humiliated
1 Now it happened afterwards that the king of the Ammonites died, and Hanun his son became king in his place. 2 Then David said, “I will show kindness to Hanun the son of Nahash, just as his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent some of his servants to console him concerning his father. But when David’s servants came to the land of the Ammonites, 3 the princes of the Ammonites said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think that David is honoring your father because he has sent consolers to you? Has David not sent his servants to you in order to search the city, to spy it out and overthrow it?” 4 So Hanun took David’s servants and shaved off half of their beards, and cut off their garments in the middle as far as their hips, and sent them away. 5 When they told [it] to David, he sent to meet them, for the men were greatly humiliated. And the king said, “Stay at Jericho until your beards grow, and [then] return.”
The word “afterwards” means that the history that follows takes place after the story of the previous chapter. There is a connection between the two chapters and that is kindness. After the kindness of the previous chapter to the remnant of Israel – in the picture of Mephibosheth – David also wants to show kindness to the nations – in the picture of Hanun. It is the son of Nahash who was fought by Saul (1Sam 11:1-11). To this Nahash David has shown kindness, possibly because David was pursued by Saul.
David wants to answer the kindness that Nahash has shown to him by showing kindness to his son Hanun. The reason for this is the death of Nahash. David does not forget the kindness which has been shown to him. In the same way, the Lord Jesus does not forget anything of what has been done to Him even by those who have no connection with Him. He gives them a message of grace. The question is what is done with the offer of grace. Many reject grace, as Hanun does with the kindness that David wants to show him. Those who reject grace will be judged, just as Hanun will be judged.
Hanun has advisers who tell him not to trust David. Hanun listens to his advisers. So it often happens that people reject the gospel because others make the gospel suspicious by presenting it as monetization or only to win souls. The goodness of David is not recognized. Their response to grace is a vile treatment of the messengers of grace. How totally different from the reaction of Mephibosheth we have seen in the previous chapter.
What David does is interpreted as hypocrisy. There is suspicion that his true intentions are not of a peaceful nature, but that he tries to submit the Ammonites to himself through a played sympathy. Hanun shows that he does not know David. There are many people in the world who do not know the Lord Jesus. If you talk to them about the love of God and the Lord Jesus, they will not hear about it. They do not allow Him to come into their lives. They see Him as an intruder, Who does not seek the good for them, but the evil.
Whosoever bears witness of his Lord may receive the same treatment as the messengers of David. The messengers of David are treated insultingly and sent away. Hanun shaves off half of the beards of David’s men, that is to say, he shaves off the beard on one side. This is one of the worst mockery for a man in an eastern country (cf. Isa 15:2b; 20:4). For such a person, the beard is one of the greatest decorations. This insult is further enhanced by cutting off their clothes that cover their entire body, revealing the lower half of their body.
By these insults Hanun also casts libel upon the person of their lord, King David. He who rejects the servant rejects the Lord. He who offends the servant, offends the Lord. He feels the insult that is done to His own as His own insult and stands up for His own.
David hears of the humiliation and lets his messengers say that they have to take time for recovery.
6 - 14 David Sends Joab to Battle
6 Now when the sons of Ammon saw that they had become odious to David, the sons of Ammon sent and hired the Arameans of Beth-rehob and the Arameans of Zobah, 20,000 foot soldiers, and the king of Maacah with 1,000 men, and the men of Tob with 12,000 men. 7 When David heard [of it], he sent Joab and all the army, the mighty men. 8 The sons of Ammon came out and drew up in battle array at the entrance of the city, while the Arameans of Zobah and of Rehob and the men of Tob and Maacah [were] by themselves in the field. 9 Now when Joab saw that the battle was set against him in front and in the rear, he selected from all the choice men of Israel, and arrayed [them] against the Arameans. 10 But the remainder of the people he placed in the hand of Abishai his brother, and he arrayed [them] against the sons of Ammon. 11 He said, “If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you shall help me, but if the sons of Ammon are too strong for you, then I will come to help you. 12 Be strong, and let us show ourselves courageous for the sake of our people and for the cities of our God; and may the LORD do what is good in His sight.” 13 So Joab and the people who were with him drew near to the battle against the Arameans, and they fled before him. 14 When the sons of Ammon saw that the Arameans fled, they [also] fled before Abishai and entered the city. Then Joab returned from [fighting] against the sons of Ammon and came to Jerusalem.
The enemies know that David can’t just let this pass by. They strengthen and pull together, a part near the city and a part in the field. Joab is sent to battle by David. He follows a tactic, together with Abishai, in which they divide the forces. They agree to come to each other’s aid if the other person gets into trouble. This contains an important lesson. We see here an example of brotherly love that is willing to help the other, when necessary. The strong must support and help the weak. Those who, by grace, have gained a victory over temptations, can counsel and comfort those who are tempted, and pray for them. In this way the members of the body help each other (1Cor 12:21,25).
Joab encourages Abishai and himself (verse 12). He points out what it is all about, namely “our people” and “the cities of our God”. Furthermore, with a “may the LORD do what is good in His sight” he puts the matter in the hands of the LORD. They gain the victory.
Despite his beautiful words Joab is a wicked man. He is cunning, also in His piety. He separates what he and others do and what the LORD will do. It seems nice, but here is a man who knows well what he himself is capable of and who at the same time theoretically also knows that God is there. For this he lives in a religious people. His motto is: ‘Help yourself, so God helps you.’ Each for himself and God for all of us. This is liberal theology. In reality God does not play a role in his plans at all.
In the judgment that David exercises over the Gentiles, after the proof of grace in Mephiboseth to the remnant, we see prophetically how things will go in the end times.
15 - 19 David Goes to War
15 When the Arameans saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they gathered themselves together. 16 And Hadadezer sent and brought out the Arameans who were beyond the River, and they came to Helam; and Shobach the commander of the army of Hadadezer led them. 17 Now when it was told David, he gathered all Israel together and crossed the Jordan, and came to Helam. And the Arameans arrayed themselves to meet David and fought against him. 18 But the Arameans fled before Israel, and David killed 700 charioteers of the Arameans and 40,000 horsemen and struck down Shobach the commander of their army, and he died there. 19 When all the kings, servants of Hadadezer, saw that they were defeated by Israel, they made peace with Israel and served them. So the Arameans feared to help the sons of Ammon anymore.
The Arameans regroup (verse 15). Now David himself goes to war (verse 17). The enemy is defeated, makes peace and submits to Israel (verse 19). Also, for fear of the consequences, they no longer connect with Israel’s other enemy, Ammon. The result is that the remnant of the nations make peace with David.
In these verses we see a prophetic picture of the coming of the Lord Jesus to defeat the gathered armies after two thousand years of grace has been offered to the nations. The great King David beats them. Here we can think of the battle in Harmagedon (Rev 16:16).
We can learn the following from this whole history. It may happen that a kindness of ours in the Name of the Lord Jesus, is misinterpreted and answered with insult. We may know that when this happens to us, He makes Himself one with us and makes our cause His. If we give everything into His hands, the result is that we have lasting peace in our hearts (1Pet 2:23b; Phil 4:6-7).
We also see that resistance and revolt only result in the authority of the Lord Jesus being established all the more strongly. It is useless to fight against the power of the King chosen by God.