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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 10

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-19

B. God’s Faithfulness despite David’s Unfaithfulness chs. 10-12

These chapters form a sub-section within the Court History portion of 2 Samuel. [Note: Youngblood, p. 920.] The phrase "Now it happened" or "Now it was" (2 Samuel 10:1; 2 Samuel 13:1) always opens a new section. [Note: Wolfgang Roth, "You Are the Man! Structural Interaction in 2 Samuel 10-12." Semeia 8 (1977):4; John I. Lawlor, "Theology and Art in the Narrative of the Ammonite War (2 Samuel 10-12)," Grace Theological Journal 3:2 (1982):193.] Descriptions of Israel’s victories over the Ammonites (2 Samuel 10:1 to 2 Samuel 11:1; 2 Samuel 12:26-31) frame the David and Bathsheba story. Similarly, descriptions of David sparing Saul’s life (1 Samuel 24, 26) frame the David and Abigail story (1 Samuel 25). The parallel passage in 1 Chronicles (2 Samuel 19:1 to 2 Samuel 20:3) spans 2 Samuel 10-12 while omitting the David and Bathsheba incident. The motif word salah ("send") appears 23 times in this section but only 21 times in the rest of the Court History. Its occurrence may signal the development of a power motif here. [Note: Lawlor, p. 196; Randall C. Bailey, David in Love and War: The Pursuit of Power in 2 Samuel 10-12.]

1. The Ammonite rebellion ch. 10

This section prepares for David’s adultery with Bathsheba (ch. 11) by giving us the historical context in which that sin took place. It also shows David’s growing power that led to his sinning. [Note: For a helpful study of the structure and narrative technique of this pericope, see Lawlor.] David’s growing power had previously led to his sinning by marrying Abigail (1 Samuel 25:39).

This event must have taken place early in David’s reign, probably after his goodness to Mephibosheth (ch. 9). Again David showed kindness to a son for his father’s sake, but this time the objects of David’s kindness were Gentiles. In this instance David’s kindness (Heb. hesed, 2 Samuel 10:2; cf. 2 Samuel 9:1) was neither appreciated nor reciprocated, as is still the case occasionally. The evidence for this is as follows.

King Nahash of Ammon had just died. This king had threatened Jabesh-gilead at the start of Saul’s reign (1 Samuel 11:1-11), so Nahash must have reigned longer than 40 years. However, he must not have reigned much longer than that. If he had done so, he would have had an unusually long reign. Furthermore, when the Ammonites humiliated David’s soldiers (2 Samuel 10:4), they showed no fear of Israel. This would have been their reaction only at the beginning of David’s reign, not after he had subdued all his enemies. Probably Hanun shaved the beards of David’s messengers vertically to make them look very foolish (cf. Isaiah 7:20). [Note: Youngblood, p. 922.] Military victors sometimes humiliated their captives by exposing their buttocks (cf. Isaiah 20:4). Notice that Hanun’s advisors assumed David’s worst motives rather than the best, which is a temptation for many people.

"As the hair on Samson’s shorn head ultimately grew back (Judges 16:22) and proved to be a bad omen for the Philistines, so also the regrowth of the beards of David’s men would portend disaster for the Ammonites." [Note: Ibid., p. 923.]

The fact that Zobah, Aramea, and other northeastern enemies of Israel would ally with Ammon also suggests that this event took place before David had brought them under his authority (2 Samuel 10:19; cf. 2 Samuel 8:3-8). Perhaps 993-990 B.C. are reasonable dates for the Ammonite wars with Israel. [Note: Merrill, Kingdom of . . ., p. 244.]

"One may also note that there is at least no explicit consultation of Yahweh, such as described in 2 Samuel 2:1 and 2 Samuel 5:19; 2 Samuel 5:23." [Note: Anderson, p. 149.]

The first battle took place at Medeba in Transjordan (2 Samuel 10:8; cf. 1 Chronicles 19:7). Note Joab’s commendable spirituality in 2 Samuel 10:12. David first had Joab lead his army against the enemy (2 Samuel 10:7), but later David himself went into battle and led his soldiers (2 Samuel 10:17). Later David would stay behind in Jerusalem and let Joab lead again (2 Samuel 11:1). Saul also got into trouble when he stayed behind rather than leading his people against their enemy (1 Samuel 14). Similarly, Jesus Christ is allowing His followers to engage in spiritual warfare now. However, the time is coming when He will personally return to the scene of opposition and subdue other Gentile enemies who have rejected his grace (cf. Revelation 19:11-16).

Another textual problem exists in 2 Samuel 10:18. Probably 1 Chronicles 19:18 is correct in recording 7,000 charioteers. [Note: See Keil and Delitzsch, p. 380.] Probably the writers of Samuel and Chronicles used different terms to describe the same fighting force in 2 Samuel 10:6 and 1 Chronicles 19:6-7 a, and in 2 Samuel 10:18 and 1 Chronicles 19:18. [Note: Zane C. Hodges, "Conflicts in the Biblical Account of the Ammonite-Syrian War," Bibliotheca Sacra 119:475 (July-September 1962):238-43.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 10". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/2-samuel-10.html. 2012.
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