I Chronicles 19



This chapter runs very closely parallel with II Samuel 10:1-19; a chapter

also of nineteen verses. The slight differences between them avail to make

one or the other narrative a little clearer or a little fuller. The time is only

marked, as in the first verse of the preceding chapter, by the too general

formula, “after this.” Between the last verse of the preceding chapter and

the first of this, we find interposed, in the Book of Samuel, the account of

David’s thoughts and deeds of kindness “for Jonathan’s sake” to

Mephibosheth “of the house of Saul,” who was a son of Jonathan, though

apparently not personally known at present to David.


The chapter gives an account of David’s war with Ammon and Aram allied

temporarily, and the ungracious cause of the war — the insult put upon

David’s messengers, when sent on a mission of kindly and sincere

condolence, on occasion of the death of Nahash, King of Ammon. Some

think that the contents of this chapter are in reality a narration at greater

length and in fuller detail, belonging to the space occupied by vs. 3-13 of

last chapter. They would, in like manner, identify II Samuel 10:1-19

with  Ibid.ch. 8:3-13.



A Bundle of Mistakes (vs. 1-19)


This is a chapter of mistakes. Everything goes wrong; except, indeed, that the wrong

is righted inasmuch as the wrong-doers are worsted, and made to pay a heavy penalty

for their folly. David may be said to have erred in acting as if it were true:



meant well; his spirit is much to be commended. Gratitude for past

kindnesses is a virtue which can hardly be over-praised; it is too often

absent from those in whom we have a right to look for it. But the Hebrew

king did not reckon on the churlishness of the Ammonite court. The

princes of Ammon were men of a low and froward type, and were

incapable of crediting a neighboring power with simple and genuine good

will. Hence an act of ingenuous goodness was entirely thrown away;

indeed, it acted as a spark to a magazine; it brought about an explosion of

national wrath. It is always well to wish to show kindness to any and every

one, but it is not always well to put our wish into practice. There is no

need to “cast pearls before swine” (Matthew 7).  Only we must take

care that this injunction of our Lord does not hinder us from deeds of

courageous kindness. Judgment and generosity must go together in the

path of good will.



COUNSELLORS. (v. 3.) Hanun himself was probably inclined to accept

David’s overture of condolence, but he allowed himself to be overruled by

his “princes.” It is wise to take counsel with others, but it is to be

remembered that there is often truth in the strong and bitter saying,

“Twelve wise men in counsel make one fool.” Experience shows that

where one man sees his way clearly, a number of men will often confuse

one another and come to an unsound conclusion. We are not to allow a

number of men to override a strong conviction, especially when that

conviction is reached after prayer and consultation of God’s Word, and

when it is on the side of generosity.



Doubtless these princes who ascribed David’s action to a sinister desire “to

spy out the land” (v. 3) considered themselves remarkably astute, and

believed that they had hit upon the truth. We know that they were utterly

wrong. If they had accepted the ostensible object of the mission as the real

one, if they had shown the smallest charity in their spirit and credited David

with kindliness of heart, they would have been in the right. As it was, their

suspicions only led them directly away from the truth. Be charitable,

and you will far more often be just than if you are habitually suspicious.


  • THAT ANYTHING IS GAINED BY INSULT. The shameful insult,

amounting to outrage in all international codes, that was perpetrated When

Hanun took David’s servants,” etc. (v. 4), wrought no good, and did an

immensity of harm to its authors. It led to disastrous defeat in war (v.15),

and to a strong exasperation of feeling against them on the part of a

powerful neighboring people. Insult never answers. It hardens the heart

which indulges it; it rankles in the breast of him against whom it is

leveled; and, sooner or later, it brings down retaliation and penalty.

Moreover, it provokes Divine condemnation (Matthew 5:22).




Ammonites think that this act of bravery and provocation would be

followed by the train of bitter consequences which ensued (vs. 6-15;

ch. 20:1-3)! How little did the Syrians, when they hired themselves to the

Ammonites (vs. 6-7), imagine that that mercenary militarism of theirs

would end in the double overthrow inflicted on them at the hand of David

(vs. 14, 16, 18)! We can never see how far our transactions will extend;

there may be the largest and longest issues latent in very humble

beginnings. Of nothing is this more true than strife (Proverbs 17:14;

James 3:5; Matthew 5:25-26).



GOD. In vain did Syrians draw forth Syrians “beyond the river” (v. 16)

to fight against Israel. The Lord was with David, “preserving him

whithersoever he went” (ch.18:6,13), and to persist in an endeavor to

overcome him was only to “fight against God” (Acts 5:39). When we

are seeking to crush truth, righteousness, piety, Christian earnestness

and zeal, WE ARE BOUND TO BE BEATEN!  (Wise counsel for the

MODERN SECULARISTS!  CY – 2012)   However persistent we

may be, we shall surely be overcome in the end. It is hard to kick against

the goads of God (Acts 9:5).



1 “Now it came to pass after this, that Nahash the king of the children

of Ammon died, and his son reigned in his stead.”  Nahash. It is possible

that this may be the Nahash of I Samuel 11:1-2 and 12:12, who, being signally

defeated by Saul, may have been the more inclined to show partiality to David.

But it would appear that nearly sixty years had elapsed, and if so, it must be held

very unlikely, and would point to the conclusion that it was his son whose death

is here in question. With this the statement of Josephus (‘Ant.,’ 6:5, § 3), would

tally, which says that the Nahash of I Samuel 11. was killed in the

destruction of the Ammonite army then wrought by Saul. Possibly the

word “Nahash” was the official title of kings of the Ammonites (and,

though considering its signification, i.e. serpent, scarcely a flattering one

from a modern point of view, yet this is overruled by the association of the

attribute of wisdom with the serpent in olden time, of which we have more

than a trace in Matthew 10:16), as “Pharaoh” of kings of Egypt, etc.


2 “And David said, I will shew kindness unto Hanun the son of

Nahash, because his father shewed kindness to me.” – The instance of

kindness here alluded to is not recorded. There may have been many

opportunities and calls for it during David’s persecuted life, and when the

Ammonite king would feel a motive beyond any intrinsic goodness of heart

to “show kindness” to the youth who was Saul’s object of hatred. It is,

however, very remarkable that we find a genuine kindliness towards David

still cleaving to the succession of Ammonite kings, even after the events of

this chapter (II Samuel 17:27-29).  Hanun.  Nothing else is known of this

Hanun.  Though here the name of an Ammonite king, we find it in

Nehemiah 3:13, 30, the name of two of those who helped repair the

city. The Assyrian Inscriptions contain the name as that of a Philistine

king, tributary to Tiglath-pileser (see ‘Speaker’s Commentary’). “And David

sent messengers to comfort him concerning his father. So the servants

of David came into the land of the children of Ammon to Hanun,

to comfort him.”



Kindness and Sympathy (v.2)


Stern warrior though David was, and capable of severe and even cruel actions,

he nevertheless had a warm and tender heart. So much might be gathered from

the story of his youthful affection for Jonathan, and from that of his subsequent

forbearance towards Saul. In more mature years he retained the warm sensibilities

of humanity. Thus, when the King of Ammon died, David felt sincerely for his son

and successor, and, that he might give expression to his kindly sympathy, “sent

 messengers to comfort him concerning his father.” His compassionate feelings,

and his courteous and graceful expression of them, are suggestive of some reflections

upon human kindness and sympathy.


  • Consider THE GROUND AND ORIGIN of these feelings. They lie

deep in human nature, and are, in fact, as much natural social principles, as

self-love is a principle of individual action. They are implanted by God,


 DISPOSTION.  He is a God of “love and kindness;” “in all our

afflictions He is afflicted” (Isaiah 63:9).  Especially is this apparent

in REDEMPTION!  It was compassion that animated the Divine

Father in His purpose to save our sinful race. It was love that


IMMANUEL!   The dispositions, then, of which we are treating



signs of human weakness, they are an honor and ornament of



  • Regard THE OCCASION of the manifestation of these dispositions.

Human life is such as to call them forth. No man, no woman, can go

through life without abundant opportunity for the display of these qualities.

In times of health and prosperity there is comparatively little occasion for

sympathy and tender kindness. But times of trouble, sickness, suffering,

adversity, bereavement, must come to all men. Such times are the

providentially appointed opportunities for kindly sympathy. Then the friend

will “show himself friendly” (Proverbs 18:24).  David’s heart was touched

by the tidings of his friend’s death, and he was drawn to show kindness to the

living son for the sake of the deceased father. A sense of gratitude naturally

and properly gave acuteness to these feelings. David had in former days

received kindness from Nahash, and on this account he all the more felt

the claim of the fatherless son upon his friendly sympathy.


  • Observe THE OUTWARD FORMS which these feelings assume.

These must be determined by circumstances, according to relative age,

social position, and character. Sometimes by sympathizing expression of

countenance and manner, sometimes by words spoken or written,

sometimes by services, sometimes by appropriate and seasonable gifts, we

may show our cordial sympathy, and thus rivet the sacred bonds of

humanity and of friendship. David on this occasion sent envoys to his

friend’s son, to condole with him and to assure him of his good feeling and

his good wishes. Such action must in the circumstances have proved

gratifying and strengthening. Wisdom and tact will discern the most

suitable way of acting in the several cases which may arise.


  • Reflect upon THE VALUE of these dispositions. To underestimate,

still more to despise kindness, is the sign of an unjust and an ignoble mind.

Shall we leave out of sight, in reckoning life’s riches, the precious

sympathy, the dear kindness, of our kindred and our friends? These

dispositions have a value which only the heats can appraise; they are in

themselves precious, and no just mind would barter them for diamonds and

gold. They have also a practical and substantial worth. When one friend is

taken from us for a season, it is no mean advantage to have another

 friend, upon whose counsel we may lean, and upon whose sympathy

and faithfulness we may count. Human kindness is a poor substitute for

DIVINE COMPASSION  but it may well prove one of its fairest

flowers, its richest fruits.


3 “But the princes of the children of Ammon said to Hanun, Thinkest

thou that David doth honor thy father,” - The Hebrew is, “In thine eyes

doth David?”  that he hath sent comforters unto thee? are not his

servants come unto thee for to search, and to overthrow, and to spy

out the land?” The order of to overthrow, and to spy out is reversed in

II Samuel 10:3.


4 “Wherefore Hanun took David’s servants, and shaved them, and cut

off their garments in the midst hard by their buttocks, and sent them away. 

5 Then there went certain, and told David how the men were served.

And he sent to meet them: for the men were greatly ashamed. And

the king said, Tarry at Jericho until your beards be grown, and then

return.”  The classical scholar will not fail to be reminded, so far as the

shaving here spoken of is concerned, of the account contained in

Herodotus, 2:121. The parallel place makes the resemblance close, in that

it tells us that “one-half of their beards” was shaved. (II Samuel 10:4). 

To shave them was an affront to their customs, dignity, and religion: to shave

them half added mockery; and to cut off half their garments completed the

tale of ignominious and contemptuous insult (Isaiah 20:4). The beard was

held almost in reverence by Easterns.


6 “And when the children of Ammon saw that they had made themselves

odious” – The Hebrew root of very strong force, vaB;, is here employed, and

which our Authorized Version translates, both in the parallel place and elsewhere,

far more uncompromisingly than here - “to David, Hanun and the children

of Ammon sent a thousand talents of silver” -  Not stated in Samuel.

This talent was of three thousand shekels, believed to be equivalent to

f342 - “to hire them chariots and horsemen out of  Mesopotamia,” –

The parallel place has Aram-beth-rehob, instead of our Aram-naharaim

(“Syria of the Two Rivers,” i.e. Tigris and Euphrates; Authorized Version, -

Mesopotamia). From comparing this verso with v. 16, it may seem probable

that those strictly called “of Mesopotamia” lent either no aid at first or but

very partial. It is observable that the numbers of men supplied by Beth-rehob,

Zobah, and Ishtob in the parallel place (viz. thirty-two thousand) agree with

the numbers of this verse, from which we may conclude that, whatever

Aram-beth-rehob (probably either Reho-both on the Euphrates, or Rehob

last of Lebanon) and Aram-naharaim may strictly stand for respectively,

they here substantially mean the same. It is possible that the difference is

that of a corrupt text or careless copying. The Aram-naharaim (Mesopotamia),

which comes before us first in Genesis 24:10, passes out of Scripture language

after the defeats of this chapter — the tract of country which it designated

(some seven hundred miles by twenty to two hundred and fifty) being

absorbed, first by Assyria, and afterwards by Babylon. The Assyrian Inscriptions

reveal the fact that Mesopotamia was the prey of a large number of small

separate tribes at the period of the judges and the early Jewish monarchy,

which is quite consistent with the glimpses we here get of it and its people.

 “ and out of Syria-maachah,” -  probably designates the tract of country north

of East Manasseh, bordering on Palestine, and bounded by the Jordan, Mount

Hermon, and on its east, Salcah - “and out of Zobah.” -  (see ch.18:3, note;

I Samuel 14:47). The parallel place adds also “the men of Ishtob.” (II Samuel



7 “So they hired thirty and two thousand chariots,” – The reading in the

parallel place  is evidently what is intended (compare ch.18:4 with its

parallel, II Samuel 8:4). Clearly a stop should follow the numeral, which

designates the number of the men under arms. “and the king of

Maachah and his people; who came and pitched before Medeba.”

Some four miles south-cast of Heshbon (Numbers 21:30; Joshua 13:9,16;

Isaiah 15:2), or others give it as nine miles. It is not given in Samuel.

“And the children of Ammon gathered themselves together from

their cities, and came to battle.  8 And when David heard of it, he sent

Joab, and all the host of the mighty men.”


9 “And the children of Ammon came out, and put the battle in array

before the gate of the city: and the kings that were come were by

themselves in the field.” The kings. Compare this and v. 19 with v.19 of

II Samuel 10:19, 8).


10 “Now when Joab saw that the battle was set against him before and

behind, he chose out of all the choice of Israel, and put them in array

against the Syrians.”  The meaning in brief of this verse is that, as Joab found

there were practically two enemies, and two armies to face, he avoided the

mistake of being shut up between them more than necessary, and divided

his own hosts. He took the flower of all, under his own command, to face

the Syrians in the field, who were the most formidable of the enemy. The

rest he put under his brother Abishai, to face the Ammonites at the gate,

i.e. of the city Medeba. The plan succeeded, for if Abishai had only done as

much as hold back the Ammonites awhile, so soon as they saw the Syrians

break and flee they knew that Joab and his army would be free to “help”



11 “And the rest of the people he delivered unto the hand of Abishai

his brother, and they set themselves in array against the children of

Ammon.  12 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 help thee.  13 Be of good courage, and let us behave ourselves valiantly

for our people, and for the cities of our God: and let the LORD do that

which is good in His sight.  14 So Joab and the people that were with him

drew nigh before the Syrians unto the battle; and they fled before him.”


15 “And when the children of Ammon saw that the Syrians were fled,

they likewise fled before Abishai his brother, and entered into the

city. Then Joab came to Jerusalem.”  This is equivalent to saying

that, for what he deemed sufficient reasons, Joab did not stay to besiege

the Ammonites in the city, within the wails of which they had taken refuge,

nor to pursue the Syrians. Hence we find these latter soon made bold to

rally and to get additional aid.


16 “And when the Syrians saw that they were put to the worse before

Israel, they sent messengers, and drew forth the Syrians that were

beyond the river:” -  i.e. the river Euphrates  - “and Shophach” -  In the

parallel place spelt Shobach. Of him nothing else is known except his

death, as recorded in v. 18 and in II Samuel 10:18 - “the captain of the host

of Hadarezer went before them.”


17 “And it was told David; and he gathered all Israel, and passed over

Jordan, and came upon them,” – The reading of the parallel passage is

probably correct, i.e. they “came to Helam,” inasmuch as the place is

repeated, both in vs. 16-17. Nothing else, however, is known of Helam.

The Septuagint has AiJla>m Hailam - “ and set the battle in array against

them. So when David had put the battle in array against the Syrians, they

fought with him.”



18 “But the Syrians fled before Israel; and David slew of the Syrians

seven thousand men which fought in chariots,” – The parallel

passage has the men of seven hundred chariots. There could not be ten

fighting men to a chariot. The reading of Samuel is more likely to be

correct than our present reading -  “and forty thousand footmen,” - 

The parallel place shows “horsemen.” -  “and killed Shophach the

captain of the host.”


19 “And when the servants of Hadarezer saw that they were put to

the worse before Israel, they made peace with David, and became his

servants:” – i.e. his tributaries and vassals - “ neither would the Syrians

help the children of Ammon any more.”



The Ill Work of Suspicion (vs. 1-19)


Human hearts, human life, make history; and according as these are willingly or

unwillingly beneath the strong overruling control of Divine providence do they make

history that gladdens the heart to read, or that makes ashamed.  It cannot be told

for how much civilized society has to be  thankful that it possesses such models as

the biography and history of Scripture  afford, and mankind that it is offered such

wealth of wisest and most needed instruction. The present chapter is notable for a

very simple tale of the weaving of unmitigated mischief by the swift play of

that little shuttle, the shuttle of suspicion. Kindness and goodness and

wisdom — the works of these are for it miserably unravelled; and neither

does it do itself any good, it incurs swift destruction. This portion of

history teaches:



was, some time had elapsed since his kindness to David. For that kindness

will have belonged to the time of David’s need. All this is reversed now.

Ingratitude would have all the sooner forgotten it, now that David’s

circumstances were so altered, had the heart of David been of the bad,

ungrateful sort. But this was not so, and the kindness of Nahash had

dropped a good seed in the good soil of David’s heart. It was not a mere

memory. It was not an action eagerly accepted in the pressing hour, but

disparaged, depreciated, discounted in selfish thought after that hour had

passed. It was not turned into a reason for avoiding the sight of the

person to whom debt was due, or for dropping communication with

him.  Kindnesses rendered often get treatment of this sort — i.e. no return

or ill return. But this is not the fault of the kindness. It lies at the door of the

bad, ungrateful heart of the person to whom it has been shown. Otherwise

seeds of kindness possess great vitality.




often grow in most untoward clime and place. They throw their roots

down with vigorous determination, in stony, rocky places. The little soil

they find in groove, chink, fissure, is often good and rich, however, and

they use it well, and ere long make the rift larger, and acquire thereby more

moisture and more deposit of soil. And it is so with kindness. The most

diverse nature will appreciate it most. Sometimes just because it is

unexpectedly offered to the foreigner, the outcast, the despised, the

undeserving, the notorious sinner, the man whom a thousand give up as a

hardened hopeless man, for one who entertains a contrary thought, it takes

amazingly to the soil, and becomes ere long a vast and fruitful growth. And

now, what had impressed David much was, that when his father and

mother, and king and people, had “forsaken” him (not all of choice by any

means), an Ammonite had “taken him up,” and shown kindness to him.



has been said, we do not know the exact length in this case. But a

considerable number of years had probably passed. And they were years

which had been crowded with the kind of events which would drive many

and many a thing out of the mind, and alter the proportions and the look of

things, and correct many an exaggerated estimate, and naturally help a

man to forget how hungry he once was, and how unsheltered, and

 how friendless, and how downcast in heart.




of Nahash about to show its remoter and its higher description of good result.

It had fulfilled its first office of real, practical, perhaps saving service to

David. But now its offspring, its scion of generous kind, was to become

apparent to God and to men. It was wishful to make its returns. It was

going to show the reproductive nature. No fault of its own, it is balked,

injured, cruelly blighted. It is a testimony that good things in this world are

not secure of their good influence, that goodness postulates not

unfrequently a good sphere. Once Goodness itself “came to its own,”

but its own “knew it not,” refused it, put it to open shame, crucified it!

(John 1:11)



No; in this case, for instance, it is only too explicable. Of the blights of

nature, it may be said, that they are free of blame to men, though not free

of disaster to them. They are borne on the winds of heaven, and in a sense

must be said to come of the will of heaven, much as those winds

themselves. No earthly power can stay them, or do more than partially

provide against their incursion — partially undo and recover their mischief.

But not so is it with the moral and spiritual blights we know and see in our

own life, in the larger area of human history. Here it is manifestly due to

two conspiring causes,


Ø      To the bad advisers of suspicion. The princes of the children of

Ammon, round Hanun, are wise above what was written, above

what was true. They were bad advisers, not because they meant ill

to their master, not because they were false to him, not because, like

Job’s comforters, they were hard and unsympathetic, and their

theology as shallow as it was presumptuous; but because they

were feeding on suspicion. Their philosophy of human nature was to

fault. They had experience, had had doubtless much experience of


induction of instances was insufficient, and thinking “themselves to

be wise, they became fools.”  (Romans 1:22)


Ø      To the weakness of the ruling head. Hanun himself had to make the

decision; he was answerable for the verdict; he presumably had more

material than his advisers within the compass of his knowledge, and he

might have overruled them and their suspicion. “In the multitude of

counsellors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14; 24:6), but the multitude

must be large enough, and varied enough, and representative enough,

and it was not so now. How many a ruler, from Rehoboam down to

our present age, has ruined himself and his nation, and involved

 them both in utterest curse of most devastating murderous war,

because of his individual lack of sound judgment, of wise and

 understanding heart, of prayer and piety unfeigned!

Suspicion has its use, with every other power of our nature, but now it

was misused. Suspicion is ever a faculty to be suspected of the wise

man. Suspiciousness is one of the unhappiest of all tendencies of the

disposition. It should be jealously used and scrupulously guarded.





Hence now came wars, and those who did the mischief were the first to

fly to the thought of war, and to prepare for battle. Their foolishness and

iniquity returned upon their own pate. But not there alone. How many

thousands of others were involved in the common slaughter!



ERROR, HUMAN SIN. David’s enemies, after all, are they who are

exterminated or nearly so. And some, who had “halted between two

opinions(I Kings 18:21), repented of their indecision. They “made

 peace with David and “became his servants” (v.19).  But, in addition

to this, they learned not to “help the children of Ammon any more.”

(Ibid.)  The victory was won for God. Strength was gained for His chosen

people, and confidence wrought afresh in them in their Divine Captain. And

withal surrounding nations learnt something of the truth, and with whom

peace were best to seek, surest to find.


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