And it came to pass after this, that the king of the children of Ammon died, and Hanun his son reigned in his stead.
B.C. 1037. An. Ex. Is. 454. king.
Then said David, I will shew kindness unto Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father shewed 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.
as his father
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?
Thinkest thou that David doth
Heb. In thine eyes doth David. not.
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.
The beard is held in high respect and greatly valued in the East: the possessor considers it as his greatest ornament; often swears by it; and, in matters of great importance, pledges it; and nothing can be more secure than such a pledge; for its owner will redeem it at the hazard of his life. The beard was never cut off but in mourning, or as a sign of slavery. It is customary to shave the Ottoman princes, as a mark of their subjection to the reigning emperor. The beard is a mark of authority and liberty among the Mohammedans. The Persians who clip the beard, and shave above the jaw, are reputed heretics. They who serve in the seraglios have their beards shaven, as a sign of servitude; nor do they suffer them to grow till the sultan has set them at liberty. Among the Arabians, it is more infamous for anyone to appear with his beard cut off, than among us to be publicly whipped or branded; and many would prefer death to such a punishment.
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.
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.
Syrians of Beth-rehob
or, the men of Tob.
And when David heard of it, he sent Joab, and all the host of the mighty men.
all the host
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.
at the entering
This was at the city of Medeba, a city upon the borders of the Ammonites, and in their possession.
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:
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.
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.
Be of good
This is a very animating address, and equal to any thing of the kind in ancient or modern times. Ye fight pro aris et focis; for every good, sacred and civil; for God, for your families, and for your countries. Such harangues, especially in very trying circumstances, are very natural, and may perhaps be found in the records of every nation. Several instances might be quoted from Roman and Grecian history; but few are more remarkable than that of Tyrtaeus, the lame Athenian poet, to whom the command of the army was given in one of the Messenian wars. The Spartans had at that time suffered great losses, and all their stratagems proved ineffectual, so that they began to despair of success; when the poet, by his lectures on honour and courage, delivered in moving verse to the army, ravished them to such a degree with the thoughts of dying for their country, that, rushing on with a furious transport to meet their enemies, they gave them an entire overthrow, and by one decisive battle brought the war to a happy conclusion.
And Joab drew nigh, and the people that were with him, unto the battle against the Syrians: and they fled before him.
And when the Syrians saw that they were smitten before Israel, they gathered themselves together.
A. M. 2968. B.C. 1036. An. Ex. Is. 455. gathered
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.
i.e., Euphrates. Shobach. or, Shophach.
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.
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.
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.