2 Sam 10.1-19 tells us that after the wars in Chapter 9, David sends messengers to the king of Ammon named Hanun (“gracious”) to console the king after the death of his father, who showed kindness to David. David sent them to Nachash (“serpent”) not because he had any great love for David, but he hated Saul for what he did at Jabesh-gilead (1 Sam 11).
But advisors and nobles of the king mistrust what David is doing, and will advise the king that these people are spies, so they mistreat these messengers. David’s messengers (“malakim” in Hebrew, where we get “angel”) didn’t shave or tear their clothes in mourning because the Torah instructed them not to do it. They could not cut a bald spot on their head, shave their beard, cut the skin or have tatoos for the dead (Lev 19.27-28, 21.4-5; Deut 14.1).
Because these Jewish messengers did not do these pagan mourning practices, the Ammonites suspected them as spies and shaved off half of their beards and cut off their garments in the middle, and sent them away humiliated. When David was told about what they did, he sent messengers out to meet them with clothes and told them to stay at Jericho until their beards grew back.
Now, the Ammonites saw that David was angry, and the Ammonites have brought on themselves trouble. As a result, they hired some Syrian mercenaries from Beth-rehob and of Zobah (2 Sam 8.3). 1 Chr 19.6 says they paid 1000 talents to the Syrians. He also hired some men from Maacah (“oppression”) and from Tob (“good”). This is the same as Ish-tob where Yiftach (Jepthah) fled (Judges 11.3). When David heard this, he sent Joab and all the army, and the “mighty men” or “givorim.” These mighty men did some extraordinary things, but they didn’t start out as these super heroes. They were with David at first, and they were some of the troubled, debt-ridden, depressed people who followed David since his days at the cave of Adullam (1 Sam 22.1-2). Adino the Eznite killed 800 people at one time (2 Sam 23.8). Jashobeam, the son of a Hachimonite, killed 300 (1 Chr 11.11). Benaiah killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day and took on a huge Egyptian warrior and killed him with his own spear (1 Chr 11.22-23).
The Ammonites came out at the entrance of Medeba (1 Chr 19.7) while the Syrians were by themselves in a field. The Ammonites didn’t trust the Syrians in their city, so they are going to stay close. This will allow the Ammonites and the Syrians to fight on two fronts. Now, Joab is an experienced warrior and he looks over the battlefield and sees how the Ammonites and Syrians have set themselves for battle. They were set up to fight in front of Joab, and to his rear. Joab knew that the Syrians were out there in the field alone, and the cowardly Ammontites were staying close and very near to their city gate in order to take cover if things got bad. The battle was over before it started. This story is a great example for our own spiritual battles.
He selects all the best warriors to go to the front where the Syrians were. His strategy is this. He is going to set his best warriors against “hired guns” who are only in it for the money. They can’t spend their money if they are dead, so they will lose heart and give up quickly. Abishai and Joab were sons of David’s sister, so they were David’s nephews. Abishai was against the Ammonites on a second front, and would chase the Ammonites back into their city because they were cowards. Then Joab said that if the Syrians are too strong for him, that Abishai was to come and help him. On the other hand, if the Ammonites were too strong for Abishai, then Joab would come and help. This is a true case of being surrounded, and having the enemy right where you want them. He doesn’t even consider that the combination of the Syrians and Ammonites might be too strong for both of them because the outcome of the battle was in the hands of the Lord anyway. He had to make do with what he had.
He then exhorted Abishai to be strong for the sake of “our people” because they need to be defended. Then he says something very important. He says, “and may Yehovah do what is right in his sight.” Here is an important concept. It’s up to the Lord as to what happens. We have to do all we can, especially in a spiritual battle. Job 12.23-25 says, “He makes the nations great, then destroys them; he enlarges the nations, then leads them away (they make treaties to not go to war, then they go to war if he wants them to). He deprives of intelligence the chiefs of the earth’s people (like presidents, rulers, kings), and makes them wander in a pathless place (confused). They grope in darkness with no light, and makes them stagger like a drunken man.” Today’s news is nothing but a bunch of fools speaking their foolish minds. Lam 3.37 says, “Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded.” We can’t confess something into existence or make things happen unless it is the will of Yehovah to begin with.
Joab is not being presumptuous here. He has put his best warriors against the weaker in mind hired guns, who when pressed, will run. When they do, he can join Abishai against the Ammonites. But that is all he can do. After that, it is up to the Lord who will determine the outcome of the battle according to his will and purposes. So Joab draws near to fight against the Syrians, and they turn and run because God was with Israel. Then when the Ammonites saw that the Syrians had fled, they also ran before Abishai and entered the city of Rabbah. There was no battle at all. The Lord promised to do this in Deut 28.7.
Joab returns to Jerusalem and when the Syrians saw that they had been defeated, they were embarrassed and wanted to face David and his army again. They united with Hadadezer (2 Sam 8.3) and he sent for and brought the Syrians from beyond the Euphrates, and they came to fight again. David found out and he gathered the army to prevent these Syrian reinforcements from getting any further. They engage David, who seems to be personally involved here, and Israel again defeats the Syrians, and they fled. 700 chariots and their men, and 40,000 horsemen were killed. Shobach, their commander, was also killed. When all the kings under Hadadezer saw that they were defeated, they made peace with Israel. They would not help the Ammonites again, who now stood alone. They will be easily conquered by David. This is a picture of what will happen when Yeshua, a descendant of David, will come to set up his kingdom. The people will serve the Lord like the Syrians will serve David, and all of God’s enemies will be subdued.
Now, the Ammonites have fallen back to their city in Rabbah (2 Sam 11.1). In the spring, David will send Joab and the army out again to finish them off. We will pick up here in Part 10.