David is on friendly terms with the Ammonites under king Nahash. When he dies, David is willing to continue that relationship with his son out of respect. But that plan is shorn in half.
Let’s start off with a firm fact about David. He was NOT perfect. He did NOT always follow God’s commands. I wanted that out of the way first because what happens in today’s story relates to God’s command regarding the nations living in the land.
God told Israel not to make any covenants with the people in the land nor their gods. They were to drive them out. During his conquests, David became on friendly terms with at least two kings. The one we see here today and Toi, king of Hamath. Both kings decided to be friendly to David because “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” And David had defeated their biggest enemy; Hadadezer.
We are NOT told that David allowed their gods into Israel. But by not removing them from the land he set up an opportunity for them to later bring their gods into Israel, just as God said would happen.
I can certainly understand David’s reasons. Israel has been battling on all sides. Some were done in defense of their own lives where others were done to gain independence from their current oppressors. Other battles were done offensively to increase Israel’s territory. They were nowhere near the land boundaries of the land God had promised when He brought them in.
God told them in the beginning though that they were going to take the land in stages because it was too much for them with their current numbers. I wonder if they ever filled out the whole land God assigned to them. Their current boundaries still don’t match up but they are closer than they were in David’s time.
All this is to remind us that David, well intentioned, wasn’t living up to the letter of the Law God laid out for His people.
On the other side of the coin, Hanun should have fired his advisors! They were the ones who set this mess in motion. David sent condolences to Hanun on behalf of his father. Their relationship was peaceful and he intended to keep it as such. But his advisors saw evil where there was none. And they acted with contempt for David and those who represented him.
I noticed that these men were not called ‘advisors’ but “princes.” Were they trying to get the throne for themselves by setting up Hanun? Were they his brothers? Or were they tribal leaders under the authority of the king?
What did they think would happen?! David was already famous for his victories in battle. Everywhere he reached God blessed. Now they painted a target on Ammon like never before. And they knew it! That is why they hired other nations to help them defeat David. Again, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” attitude.
Did you notice that David didn’t immediately retaliate for the mistreatment of his men? He came out and met his men but told them to remain in Jericho until their beards grew back. He didn’t rise up in indignation at their treatment. I have little doubt that he thought about it but he chose to wait and see what happened.
Ammon recognized their own mistake; their new status with David. THEY took the next step. They hired everyone they could find to help them fight against David. They hired people from three different lands; 33,000 total.
This number is close to what we see from the battles where all Israel was called out to war. But David didn’t respond with that same king of forces. “He sent Joab and all the hose of the mighty men” (verse 7). IF his “mighty men” were all he sent, the forces stacked up 33,000 to about 37 (these numbers don’t even include the Ammonites themselves). David could have sent the mighty men in charge of other soldiers but we are not told that. This would definitely be a “God fought” battle if it were only the “mighty men” who stood against them. It was a “God fought” battle either way as they faced enemies on all fronts and defeated EVERYONE arrayed against them.
Joab divided the forces he had in half. Both halves of the troops of Israel were outnumbered, in the physical world, but Joab wasn’t counting on them to overwhelm them by size. Joab and David’s mighty men had Someone even bigger on their side. “Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to Him” (verse 12). Joab was relying on God. And He did NOT let them down. Both fronts fled before Israel.
The Syrians didn’t learn their lesson from this encounter. They regrouped and came back out in even greater numbers. This time David “gathered all Israel together” and went out to meet them in battle. David was part of this battle. The Syrians lost more in this battle than they supplied in the last one. They finally learned their lesson. They would NOT be backing another Ammonite revolt. Instead they would ALL be subject to Israel.
I stated a couple days ago that I don’t like war but did support defensive battles. Both of these battles were defensive. Not than one is less bloody than the other, but standing against those who threaten you appeals more to me. Standing for those who can’t stand for themselves is also something I support. I just truly wish there were no needs for war.
Giving the outcome into God’s hands is the BEST solution. That goes for any decision in our lives. I need to learn that lesson better in my own life.
Thank You Father for standing for those who are being wronged. Thank You for protecting Your people too. I would rather be on the side You support, no matter the odds, than be against you.