II Samuel 10

 

1 “And it came to pass after this, that the king of the children of Ammon died,

and Hanun his son reigned in his stead.”  The king of the children of Ammon

died. This war is very briefly referred to in ch. 8:12; but we have now entered upon

a narrative, the interest of which is altogether unlike all that has gone before.

There we saw David crowned with earthly glory, and made the monarch of

a vast empire; he is also a prophet, and, as such, not only restores, but

enriches and enlarges, the worship of the sanctuary; and, as prophet and

king, he becomes not only the type, but the ancestor of the Messiah. In this

narrative he is a sinner, punished with terrible, though merited, severity,

and must henceforth walk humbly and sorrowfully as a penitent before

God. From I Chronicles 19:1 we learn that the king’s name was

Nahash; but whether he was the same as the Nahash mentioned in

I Samuel 11:1 is uncertain. There was an interval of more than forty years

between, but Nahash was probably a young man, just seated on the throne,

when he attacked Jabesh-Gilead; and Saul, who repelled him, might have

been still alive but for the battle of Gilbea. The name means a “serpent,”

and is used in Job 26:13 of the constellation Draco. It may thus have

been a name assumed by several Ammonite kings, the dragon representing

majesty and power, and being the symbol on their seal, just as it is the

Chinese imperial emblem now. The phrase, “It came to pass after this,” has

no chronological significance either here or in ch. 8:1. It is simply a form of

transition from one subject to another.

 

 

2 “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.”  His father showed

kindness unto me. This makes it probable that it was the same Nahash as Saul’s

enemy. The smart of the defeat caused by Saul’s energy would make him regard

with friendship any one who was a thorn in the side of the man who had so

unexpectedly stopped him in his career, and hence his kindness to David.

 

3 “And the princes of the children of Ammon said unto Hanun their

Lord, Thinkest thou that David doth honor 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 honor thy father! This insinuation arose

probably from ill will, stirred up by David’s success in war; and, with that

distrust with which neighboring nations too often regard one another, they

see in his embassy only a purpose of spying into their defenses with view to

future attack. Rabbah, their city, was a place strong both naturally and by

reason of its fortifications.

 

4 “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.  5 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.”

Hanun… shaved off the one half of their beards. To an Oriental the beard was

the mark of his being a free man, and to cut it off on one side was not merely an

insult to David’s ambassadors, but the treating them like slaves. Moreover, as

only the priests wore underclothing, and as the ordinary dress of men consisted

of a tunic and a loose flowing robe thrown over it, the cutting of this robe short

up to the hip was a vile and abominable affront. Of course, Hanun intended this

as a challenge to war whereas David had meant peace and friendship.

 

6 “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.” That they stank (see notes on I Samuel 13:4; 27:12). As

the Hebrew literally means, had made themselves stink, the Revised

Version rightly translates “had made themselves odious.” The children of

Ammon sent and hired the Syrians. From I Chronicles 19:6 we learn

that his mercenaries from Aram cost Hanun a thousand talents of silver, or

nearly five hundred thousand pounds — a vast sum, especially considering

the great relative value of silver in those days. The mercenaries, moreover,

were gathered out of numerous districts of Aram — from Rehob, Zoba,

Beth-Maacah, and Tob; the margin being right in rendering “the men of

Tob,” instead of “Ish-tob.” So, too, the Revised Version, “The men of Tob

twelve thousand men.” It was to this land that Jephthah fled (Judges 11:3).

The whole number of the allies was thirty-three thousand, with

which total the parallel place agrees, as they are described there as “thirty-two

thousand, and the King of Maacah and his people,” who are here said

to have been a thousand strong. The text, however, there must be corrupt,

as it describes them all as horsemen (Authorized Version, “chariots;”

I Chronicles 19:7); here footmen only are mentioned, with which the

narrative agrees (see note on v. 18).

 

7 “And when David heard of it, he sent Joab, and all the host of the

mighty men.”  And all the host of the mighty men. The Hebrew is, and all

the host, mighty men. By this is meant, not “the mighties (ch. 23:8-38),

but that the Israelites had now become practiced in war, and veterans.

 

  8 “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.”

The Syrians... were by themselves in the field. We learn from

I Chronicles 19:7 that the rendezvous of the Arameans was at Medeba,

a small town situated upon a hill in the Mishor, or treeless prairie land,

called “the plain” in Joshua 13:16. As it was four miles southeast of

Heshbon, and more than twenty miles distant from Rabbah, it is plain that

they were marching northward, and that Joab was only just in time to

prevent a junction of the two armies. The Ammonites, who were expecting

their allies, and knew of their approach, had come outside of Rabbah, but

had only posted themselves in fighting order “at the entering in of the

gate.”

 

9 “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:  10 And the rest of the people he delivered

into the hand of Abishai his brother, that he might put them in array

against the children of Ammon.”  The front of the battle. The object of Joab

was to prevent at all hazards the junction of the Syrians with the Ammonites,

and he was only just in time to throw himself between them. This was resolute

but dangerous policy, as, in case of defeat, he would have a powerful enemy in

his rear. Apparently, however, he was aware that his real work lay with the

Syrian mercenaries, who were dangerous enough by themselves, and would

become more than a match for him if they were reinforced by the men of

Rabbah. He therefore leaves Abishai with such troops as he could spare to

watch the Ammonites, feeling sure that they would not hazard an attack

unless they saw matters going ill with him; and, taking with him all his

bravest men, “the choice man of Israel,” he prepares with them to give

battle to the Syrians.

 

11 “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.”   And he said, etc. Thenius remarks, “We have

here the briefest of warlike exhortations, but one most full of point and

meaning.” Joab recognized the full danger of their situation; for should he

meet with any check in his attack on this vast host of mercenaries, he was

well aware that the Ammonites, watching the battle with eager interest,

would, on the first news of victory, rush upon Abishai with exulting fury;

and the men with him, being only ordinary troops, would be disheartened

by Joab’s failure, so that without extraordinary bravery on their leader’s

part, they would give way, and all would be lost.

 

12 “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.  13 And Joab drew nigh, and the people that were with him, unto the

battle against the Syrians: and they fled before him.”  Be of good courage,

and let us play the men. The Hebrew employs two conjugations of the same verb,

literally, be strong, and let us show ourselves strong. And need there was for

bravery; for the welfare, as he went on to show, of all Israel, and the honor of

Israel’s God, were in jeopardy. Finally he adds, The Lord do that which seemeth

Him good.  They are the words not so much of confidence as of determined

resolution. Come good or ill, he and Abishai would do their utmost.

 

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

then fled they also before Abishai, and entered into the city. So

Joab returned from the children of Ammon, and came to Jerusalem.

15  And when the Syrians saw that they were smitten before Israel,

they gathered themselves together.  So Joab returned. It seems strange to

us that Joab should have made no attempt to follow up his victory. But as

the Ammonites were posted close to the gate of their city, they would withdraw

into it without loss as soon as they learned that their allies were defeated. There

was thus the certainty of a long siege before Rabbah could be taken. We gather

from ch. 11:1 that it was late in the year when Joab won this victory,

and it was part of the weakness of ancient warfare that a long campaign

was beyond the power of either side.

 

16 “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.”  Hadarezer (see note on ch. 8:3).

Hadarezer probably had been well content to let his subjects receive the pay

of the Ammonites, and extend his empire at their cost. But as paramount king

in Aram, the defeat of the mercenaries obliged him to make the war a national

affair, and undertake the management of it himself. He therefore summons

troops from all the Aramean states on both sides of the Euphrates, and

places his own general, Shobach, in command, and makes Helam the place

of gathering. Helam. No such place is known, and the word might mean

their army,” in which case the translation would be, “and they came in full

force.” The Vulgate takes it in this way, but makes the verb the causative

singular, and translates, “and he brought their army.” On the other hand,

the Septuagint, the Syriac, and the Chaldee make it a proper name here, as even

the Vulgate necessarily does in v. 17, where there can be no doubt. In the

parallel place (I Chronicles 19:16-17) it is omitted in the first place, and

in the second we find in its stead, “upon them.” Either, therefore, the

chronicler did not know of such a place, or the text is corrupt. Ewald and

others suppose that Helam may be identified with Alamata; but we learn

from I Chronicles 18:3 that the battle was fought near Hamath, and

Alamata is on the Euphrates, too far away for David to have made his

attack there.

 

17 “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.”

David… gathered all Israel together. Some commentators

see in this an indication of dissatisfaction with Joab. Really it was a matter

of course that in so great a war the king should place himself at the head of

his levies. For not only was he possessed of great military genius, but his

personal presence would make the men of Israel, a race of sturdy free men,

assemble in greater numbers, and would give them confidence. If David

himself went there would be no shirking the war and finding excuses to

stay at home, and in the camp there would be prompt alacrity and zeal.

 

18 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.”  David slew, etc. (see note on ch. 8:4). We have seen

there that the word translated “chariots” means any vehicle or animal for

riding. The numbers here are seven hundred chariots with their charioteers,

and forty thousand horsemen; there (ibid. ) we have seventeen hundred

horsemen and twenty thousand footmen; finally, in I Chronicles 19:18 we

find seven thousand chariots and charioteers, and forty thousand footmen.

It is impossible to reconcile these conflicting numbers, but as David had no

cavalry, the numbers in ch. 8:4 are the more probable, namely, seventeen

hundred cavalry and chariots, and twenty thousand infantry. The Syriac

Version gives us here very reasonable numbers, namely, “seven hundred

chariots, four thousand cavalry, and much people.”

 

19 “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.”  The kings... served them. It is evident from this that the petty

kings of Rehob, Tob, and Maacah had been subject to Hadarezer; they now

acknowledged the supremacy of David, and paid to him the tribute which

they had previously paid to Zobah, and would be bound to supply him with

a contingent of men in case of a war in their neighborhood. The wars with

Damascus and Edom, mentioned in ch. 8:5, 13, probably

followed immediately upon Hadarezer’s defeat, but are not referred to

here, as the interest now centers in David’s personal conduct.

 

 

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HOMILETICS.

Vers. 1-5.

Rejected friendliness.

The facts are:

1. On the death of the King of Ammon, David resolves to send a kindly

message to Hanun, in remembrance of favours received from his father

Nahash.

2. On the arrival of David’s servants, the chief men of Ammon suggest to

the new king that their message of condolence is a piece of trickery on the

part of David for political ends.

3. Listening to these insinuations, Hanun shows his contempt for David by

cutting off one side of the beard of his ambassadors, and exposing the

lower part of their person.

4. On hearing of this humiliation, David sends a message to them on their

way home, directing them to remain at Jericho till their beards were gown

again. The question as to the chronological order of the events mentioned

in this chapter as compared with ch. 8. does not affect the character of the

facts or the lessons conveyed. The supposition that David deserved the

insult he met with at the hand of Hanun, in consequence of showing

friendliness to one of Israel’s traditional foes, is not justified, because of

the explicit reference to David’s remembrance of acts of kindness. As in

the case of Mephibosheth remembrance of Jonathan’s kindness is referred

to by way of explaining the conduct described, so here it is evidently

regarded as a corresponding excellence in David that he was mindful also

of the kindness of aliens. The object of the historian is obviously to bring

out into view the king’s broad generosity. In this light, then, we may

regard the narrative as showing —

I. THE EXISTENCE IN HUMAN INTERCOURSE OF UNREQUITED

AND UNRECORDED ACTS OF KINDNESS. Had not this ver. 2 been

written we might never have known that the pagan Nahash had showed

kindness to the Lord’s anointed. Possibly few in Israel knew of the actual

service rendered by Nahash to David at some period of his exile. No record

of it existed save in the king’s memory; and Nahash died before his

consideration for one in trouble was acknowledged in regal form. Possibly

he may have felt it strange that no notice was taken of the past when David

came into power. The fact that we have this incidental reference to the

kindness suggests what we often observe to be true, that many kindly

deeds are done of which history takes no note, and which in the hurry and

strife of life are lost to sight and mind. There is more good in the world

than is tabulated. Thousands of considerate friendly deeds, revealing the

true brotherhood of man and the latent worth of human nature, are being

daily performed, but of which the mass of mankind will know nothing, and

which, perhaps, will lie for a long time, through unavoidable circumstances,

unrequited. We ought to bear this in mind when we strive to form an

estimate of the state of the world, and it should set us at ease if our own

generous acts do not figure in the annals of our time, and are to all

appearance disregarded and unproductive of reciprocal Conduct. It is the

course of life; and yet nothing is lost, nothing is in vain.

II. THE GENEROSITY OF A TRUE HEART PASSES BEYOND

CONVENTIONAL BOUNDS. To some it would seem strange that the

King of Israel should cherish kindly sentiments towards an alien monarch,

and even go out of the ordinary course to express those sentiments.

Bigotry and a narrow interpretation of fidelity to the theocratic principle on

which David’s government was based would restrict generous feelings to

one’s own nationality. But David saw that man was before citizen, and the

law of love before political expediency; and, as the Saviour later on saw a

man and brother in the Samaritan and in every human creature, so now

David saw in a kindly Nahash a kinship prior to and more radical than even

the bonds which held him to his own nation. It is in these goings out of the

best hearts of ancient times in kindliness towards the politically alien that

we see a prefigurement of the broad evangelical charity which would

embrace in its consideration every child of Adam. It is the delight of the

good to recognize good in all men. The restrictive influences of sect and

party, of nationality and race, are to be guarded against. The conventional

is transitory; nature is permanent. The sentiments proper to nature must, if

possible, rise above the accidental sentiments springing from the casual and

fleeting forms of life.

III. IT IS SOMETIMES THE MISFORTUNE OF THE BEST

CONDUCT TO BE MISJUDGED. David’s conduct was pure in motive,

correct in form, and beneficial in tendency; yet it, was regarded by astute

men with suspicion, and repaid by the most malicious insult. This was no

new thing in his experience. We have seen how again and again, during his

early trials, he was misunderstood by Saul, and his very deeds of kindness

returned by more bitter persecution. This is the portion of not a few in all

ages. The world is dark, and men cannot or will not see the colours of

good. It is one of the sad forms of confusion brought about by sin. The

merciful Redeemer blessed men, but he was despised and rejected of them.

The most lovely character that ever adorned the earth was clothed by the

foul imagination of men with the horrible attributes of Satan (<421115>Luke

11:15-18). The same treatment in a milder form was to be expected by his

disciples (<400511>Matthew 5:11; 10:17, 18). We may be comforted, when the

like experience happens to us, that it is all foreseen and provided for. The

clouds that pass over the sky are not endued with permanence. They are

incident to a changeful atmosphere.

IV. THE SOURCE OF THE MISJUDGMENT IS INTELLECTUAL

AND MORAL. The men who persuaded Harem to scorn David’s

friendliness did not know David. It was ignorance of the actual intentions

and the inner character of the king that gave scope for the base moral

element to come in and impute to him vile motives (ver. 3). They really

supposed him to be a man like unto themselves, and, cherishing ill will,

they found no difficulty in tracing his conduct to such considerations as

would have influenced themselves had they been in his position. There is in

all men affected by what is called the spirit of the world, a primary

suspicion and distrust of others. It is a sort of first principle in business, in

diplomacy, in casual intercourse. In the absence of perfect knowledge of

the heart, the imagination is set to work to find out the possible motives at

work. The existence of the slightest dislike will assuredly cause the

imagination to see something evil, and hence the deeds most worthy in

origin and design may be treated as base and deceitful. Ignorance and

dislike combined to slay the Lord of glory (<430837>John 8:37-45; <460208>1

Corinthians 2:8). If such things happened to the Master, the servants may

be patient and trustful should they also happen to them.

V. WICKEDNESS AND FOLLY, BY THEIR MISJUDGMENT, TURN

AN ACT OF FRIENDLINESS INTO AN OCCASION OF

DESTRUCTION. The conceit and ill will of these Ammonites, acting on

Hanun, first misjudged David’s conduct, and then, by a natural process of

evil, gave rise to a deed which proved the occasion of turning the

friendliness of David into retributive anger which issued in their ruin. The

men capable of reasoning and feeling as these did were certainly capable of

the deed of shameful insult to David in the persons of his ambassadors

(ver. 4). When men allow an ill-informed mind to be swayed by a malicious

spirit, there is no telling to what lengths they may go in sin. Evil deeds are

blind deeds. Their folly is parallel with their depravity. The most

conspicuous instance of this is in the case of the people who misjudged

Christ and rejected his friendliness. That which was to have been a rock on

which they could build a great and blessed future became a stone to grind

them to powder (<402140>Matthew 21:40-44; 23:37; <600207>1 Peter 2:7, 8). It is

also the wanton rejection of Christ’s kindness which will prove the

occasion of the bitterest woe to individuals (<401014>Matthew 10:14, 15; 11:20-

24; cf. <200124>Proverbs 1:24-27). All rejections of friendliness involve ultimate

loss; rejection of Christ’s friendliness involves loss proportionate to his

greatness and glory.

Vers. 6-19.

International quarrels.

The facts are:

1. The Ammonites, discovering the displeasure of David, hire mercenaries

of the neighbouring peoples.

2. As a countermovement, David sends out a strong force under Joab.

3. The opposing forces coming into contact, Joab arranges that he should

confront the Syrians, while Abishai deals with the Ammonites.

4. Joab, exhorting Abishai to courage, in dependence on God, arranges

also for mutual support, in case of need, in their respective attacks.

5. On the Syrians yielding to the assault of Joab, the Ammonites also flee

from before Abishai, whereupon Joab returns to Jerusalem.

6. Another effort of the Syrians under Hadarezer, aided by others from

beyond the Euphrates, draws out David at the head of a large army to the

eastern side of Jordan.

7. A great battle, issuing in the complete defeat of the Syrians; the tributary

kings under Hadarezer make peace with Israel and serve them. We have

here a record of quarrels and entanglements, which to the eye of a sacred

historian have a bearing on the development of the kingdom of Israel, and

consequently on the ultimate advent of the “Prince of the kings of the

earth.” In that respect the events form a section of the intricate movements

of Providence for the furtherance of spiritual interests, and they have their

natural place in the Divine moral order, allowing for human freedom, as

truly as the formation of the igneous and sedimentary rocks have in the

physical order. The narrative may thus be taken as typical of a class. But

we may regard the record as suggesting, or illustrating, truths which, while

prominent in international quarrels, have also a wider application to human

life in general. These chiefly are as follows.

I. THE MAINTENANCE OF HONOUR IS A DUTY. It was right for

David to resent the indignity and insult. Meekness and gentleness are

qualities consistent with assertion of what is due to self as a man, as a

ruler, as a representative of a people and of a Divine institution. A king’s

honour is his strength, because of the trust of his people, the sentiment of

loyalty, the force of his decrees, his silent restraint of the turbulent, and, in

David’s case, also because of the Divine institution of his government.

How kings and individuals may best maintain their honour is a question to

be decided by the circumstances of the case; in some way the holiest and

kindest may do it and ought to do it.

II. THE REPROACH AND DISPLEASURE OF THE JUST IS ITSELF

THE BEGINNING OF PUNISHMENT. That the Ammonites “stank

before David” — a monarch so wise, just, and generous — was a brand on

them of demerit, and the natural forerunner of chastisement to come.

Whoever by his deeds falls righteously under the displeasure of a just man,

is ipso facto branded as base, is classed by his own conscience and all

honourable observers as a criminal. This changing of the face of the just

towards the wicked is the primary social punishment of sin ordained by

God, and, as the gathering clouds precede the storm, it is the token of

further providential chastisements. The course of nature in the long run

follows in the course of moral right.

III. SINFUL FOLLY IS SURE TO BRING ON PERPLEXITIES AND

PERILS. No doubt there was great mirth in the court of Hanun when the

Hebrew ambassadors were half shorn of their beards and apparel. But the

mirth was as “the crackling of thorns under a pot” (<210706>Ecclesiastes 7:6). It

was soon found that this cheap mirth was, in fact, dearly bought; for the

displeasure of so mighty a king as David was soon discovered to mean for

them great perplexity and peril. So is it with all sin, which is a sort of moral

madness. It may give passing gratification, and all may seem secure, but it

leads to perplexities and perils from which there is no escape as long as a

Righteous One sits on his throne. The irony of the preacher is painfully true

(<211109>Ecclesiastes 11:9).

IV. ONE EVIL DEED REQUIRES OTHER DEVICES TO SUSTAIN

IT. The sinful folly of the Ammonites necessitated the device of hiring

mercenary troops to ward off the blow that was impending as a

consequence of their sin. It is quite true that in any progressive life action

must be sustained by action, but in the case of evil doing the device is to

stave off something which ought not to come, and which would not be

feared but for the previous wrong. Sin cannot remain sole. If there is not

immediate repentance there will be an effort to get out of the self-caused

difficulties by other questionable means. The liar has to take ceaseless

precautions because of his lie. The man who rejects Christ is conscious of

much uneasiness, and has to exercise ingenuity to escape this consequence.

Troops of mercenaries are hired.

V. WELL STORED RESOURCES ADMIT OF PROMPT ACTION IN

EMERGENCIES. David had during the five years of his reign paid great

attention to the administration of the affairs of his kingdom, and, as a

consequence, he was now able at once to avail himself of the resources that

had been treasured up. He sent “Joab, and all the host of mighty men” (ver.

7). The fruits of prescience and care were now available without confusion

or delay. In kingdoms, as in homes and in business, providence and orderly

arrangement give great advantages for action when unexpected and trying

events transpire. The same is true of early education and culture, of Church

organization, of the personal spiritual life. The world is evil; events at cross

purposes with our plans and adverse to our peace will arise; it is

“impossible but that offences come.” The moral is, lay up in store

continuously, and so be ready for action, and therefore ready for victory.

VI. SOUND PRINCIPLES PERTAINING TO CONDUCT AFFORD

MORAL SUPPORT IN TIMES OF GREAT STRESS AND DANGER.

Joab showed the better side of his nature when he exhorted Abishai, in face

of the foe, to act as a man for the honour and safety of his people and

cities, leaving the consequences in the hands of God (ver. 12). Not for

military display, not for aggrandizement, not for personal gain, but to

vindicate a people whose head had been insulted, — this was the principle

on which the battle should be fought. In this was duty; consequences were

with God, who cares for the just. History reveals instances in which men

have been made strong by the just principle for which they contended. A

righteous cause is itself equivalent to an armed force, both in the moral

tone it gives to those engaged in it, and in the secret depression of those on

the other side. It would be interesting to trace out the physical bearings of

moral influences. Let us see to it that out’ great efforts are under the

guidance of clear moral principles.

VII. IN THE CONFLICTS OF LIFE AN ASSURANCE OF MUTUAL

HELPFULNESS IS A HELP AGAINST DISASTER. The arrangement

for mutual help in case of pressure (ver. 11) was helpful, in that it

anticipated a possible evil, and it inspired each with the courage that comes

of sympathy and support. In human affairs, secular and religious, the

possibility of disaster must be taken into account, because of personal

imperfection and of the unascertained forces against us. We do not possess

the knowledge by which we can always dispose of our strength in the right

quarter, and, even when we do possess it, there may be sudden moral

paralysis. None of us contend alone, or for self only. Hence we can be

mutually helpful, as were Joab and Abishai. More of this in things sacred

and secular would save from many a disaster.

VIII. UNWISE ALLIANCES LEAD ON TO SERIOUS

ENTANGLEMENTS. The Syrians lent themselves for gain (ver. 6) to an

alliance with the Ammonites. This compact, destitute of sound principle,

involved the Syrians in what appeared to them to be the necessity of

maintaining their reputation in spite of defeat; and hence further

arrangements were made with Syrians “beyond the river.” A Syrian war,

with the whole of Israel’s army under the leadership of the invincible

David, was the consequence. Such difficulties arise when men make unholy

alliances against a just cause. If men cannot unite without evil it is better to

stand aloof. Nature has formed certain elements to combine, and others to

keep apart. Whoever tries to put together what is contrary to nature will

get into difficulty. Whoever forms an unholy alliance in human affairs,

national or personal, is seeking to bring about advantages which it is in the

course of moral order to prevent; and sooner or later greater

embarrassments will arise. In moral matters simplicity and direct

submission to the moral order are true wisdom.

IX. ADVERSE BEGINNINGS MAY, FOR THE JUST, ISSUE IN

GOOD ENDINGS. It is a pain and annoyance to David to have his

friendliness so wantonly rejected (ver. 4), but the event issued in the

extension of his power and the surer peace of his people (vers. 18, 19).

Man has the beginnings of things in his hand, but a Mightier One works

them up towards issues of his own. The persecution of the early Church

resulted in the wider diffusion of the gospel. The rejection of Christ by the

Jewish nation is to issue in a greater glory. Many things in our personal

experience may pain and injure us, but by stirring up our strength, by

awakening more trust in God and leading to greater caution and courage,

we may in the end achieve conquests once never thought of.

HOMILIES BY B. DALE.

Vers. 1-4 (<131901>1 Chronicles 19:1-4). — (RABBAH.)

Requiting evil for good.

The Ammonites appear to have remained quiet since their defeat by Saul,

nearly half a century before (1 Samuel 11.). Nahash their king (perhaps a

son of the former Nahaeh) had rendered friendly service to David. But on

the accession of Hanun, his son, the old hostility of the children of Ammon

revived, and showed itself in a way that made conflict inevitable. To this

the growing power of David and his recent subjugation of their kindred,

the Moabites (<100802>2 Samuel 8:2), doubtless contributed. Their deliberate,

wanton, and shameless treatment of his messengers was the occasion of

“the fiercest struggle, and, so far as the Israelitish kingdom of God was

concerned, the most dangerous, that it ever had to sustain during the reign

of David.” In it we see —

I. A PERSONAL CONTRAST. David requited the kindness of Nahash

with kindness to his son; condolence on his bereavement, congratulation on

his accession (ver. 2); but Hanun requited the kindness of David with insult

and injury to his servants (ver. 4; <232004>Isaiah 20:4). The conduct of the one

displayed gratitude, sympathy, confidence, and benevolence; that of the

other ingratitude, contempt, distrust, and malignity.

1. How different in character the men who hold similar positions! David

and Hanun were both kings, their heads were pressed by the same “crown

of pure gold” (<101230>2 Samuel 12:30; <192103>Psalm 21:3); but in spirit they were

wholly unlike.

2. How different the construction put on similar actions! Such actions are

regarded by men as good or evil, according to their ruling disposition; just

as the same objects appear of different hue according to the colour of the

medium through which they are viewed. Hence what is well meant is often

ill interpreted.

3. How different the consequences that flow from similar influences!

Kindness is like sunshine, that melts the ice and hardens the clay; causes

pleasure to the healthy and torture to the diseased eye. It tests, manifests,

and intensifies the good or evil in the heart, and leads to opposite courses

of conduct. Its proper tendency is to produce its like; but its actual effect is

often the contrary (<431327>John 13:27). Even the kindness of God is perverted

by hardness of heart to more abounding wickedness (<232610>Isaiah 26:10;

<450204>Romans 2:4, 5). If it be sinful to “recompense evil for evil”

(<451217>Romans 12:17), how much more to recompense evil for good (<092521>1

Samuel 25:21)!

II. A PUBLIC DISHONOUR. It was not a private and personal indignity

put on these ambassadors, but an open and national insult offered to their

king and people, by Hanun and his court (ver. 3), who probably expressed

therein the prevalent suspicion and hatred of the children of Ammon.

1. How prejudicial the indulgence of jealousy and suspicion to the

maintenance of peace and good will among nations!

2. How pernicious the influence of evil counsel and calumny on the

political principles and policy of rulers! “We see in this the bitter fruits

which evil counsel to princes, especially to those who are young and

inexperienced, produces” (Guild). “The slanderer inflicts a threefold wound

at one stroke. He wounds himself by his breach of charity; he wounds his

victim by injuring his good name; he wounds his hearers by poisoning their

minds against the accused” (St. Bernard).

3. How provocative the exhibition of ingratitude, injustice, and contempt

to resentment and retaliation (ver. 6)! It turns kindness into wrath, seems

to justify the drawing of the sword, and inspires the hope of victory (ver.

12). “Thou knowest not what may show itself when thy contempt awakes

the lion of a sleeping mind.”

III. A PRESUMPTUOUS AND FATAL DEFIANCE. It was a challenge

by the worshippers of Moloch, confident in their strength and success, to

the people of Jehovah; the first step of a renewed attack “against Jehovah

and against his Anointed” (Psalm 2.). The opposition of the ungodly to the

kingdom of God, though it slumber for a season, ever breaks forth afresh.

1. How infatuated their hostility! They are heedless of the warnings

afforded by the past.

2. How groundless their confidence! “They trust in vanity.”

3. How certain their overthrow!

“He that sitteth in the heavens laughs,

The Lord hath them in derision,” etc.

(<190204>Psalm 2:4-9.)

The evil which they do returns on their own heads (ver. 14); and “their end

is destruction” (<101231>2 Samuel 12:31). “These shall make war with the

Lamb,” etc. (<661714>Revelation 17:14).

CONCLUSION.

1. We should not be deterred from doing good by the fear that it may be

requited with evil.

2. Although others may render evil for good, we should render good for

evil (<091112>1 Samuel 11:12, 13).

3. The noblest victories are those which are gained by patience,

forbearance, and all-conquering love (<451221>Romans 12:21). — D.

Vers. 4, 5 (<131904>1 Chronicles 19:4, 5). — (JERICHO.)

Ridicule.

“Tarry at Jericho until your beards be grown, and then return” (ver. 5). It

has been the endeavour of men in all ages to make the objects of their

aversion appear contemptible and ridiculous. Few things are more painful

and humiliating than exposure to popular derision. The fear of it, no doubt,

sometimes exerts a salutary influence in restraining from what is unseemly

and wrong; but it also frequently exercises an opposite influence in

deterring from what is becoming and right. Of ridicule, together with the

sense of dishonour (ver. 5, former part) which it naturally produces,

observe that it is often —

I. INCURRED BY FIDELITY. Like the servants of David, the servants of

Christ are made the object of scornful raillery (a common and effective

instrument of persecution):

1. In the faithful performance of duty, in obedience to the will of their

Lord; conveying his message of kindness, acting as his representatives.

“For righteousness’ sake;” “For my sake” (<400510>Matthew 5:10, 11; 10:22).

It is not the suffering, but the cause, that makes the martyr (<600220>1 Peter

2:20; 4:15).

2. By those who hate and misrepresent them and him whom they serve,

and whose hostility is due to their diverse character and principles. “If ye

were of the world,” etc. (<431519>John 15:19).

3. After the example of the faithful in past time. “Others had trial of

mockings” (<581136>Hebrews 11:36). “Herod with his soldiers set him at

nought, and mocked him,” etc. (<422311>Luke 23:11, 35, 36).

II. MODERATED BY SYMPATHY. “And they told it unto David, and

he sent to meet them,” etc. Those who, in the way of duty, suffer the

reproach of the bad, enjoy the sympathy of the good; and especially of the

Master himself:

1. Whose sympathy is inexpressibly precious.

2. Who has suffered the same, and is therefore able to feel with them and

for them (<100620>2 Samuel 6:20).

3. Who also expresses it in the most appropriate and effectual manner. He

regards what is done to them as done to himself, affords them wise and

friendly counsel, takes them under his protection, and stands ready to

defend and avenge them. “They departed,… rejoicing that they were

counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the Name” (<440541>Acts 5:41; 16:25;

<520202>1 Thessalonians 2:2).

III. REMEDIED BY PATIENCE. “Tarry,” etc. They were probably

disposed to go up at once to Jerusalem, and proclaim their wrongs; but

David, out of consideration for their position in public estimation, bade

them remain in obscurity, and “bide their time” — a piece of advice

sometimes given (though not always in a like spirit) to persons who are

about to attempt something for which they are unfit, on account of their

immaturity or want of due preparation; or in which they have already

failed.

1. Those who would attain success and honour in any position or

enterprise should consider well their ability to accomplish what is

necessary for their purpose (<421428>Luke 14:28).

2. Inconsiderate and rash endeavours are likely to issue in a result which

those who make them neither expect nor desire.

3. The lapse of time soothes many a smart; and the wise and patient

employment of it qualifies for and ensures honourable achievements. “Ye

have need of patience” (<581036>Hebrews 10:36). “Let us learn not to lay too

much to heart unjust reproaches; after a while they will wear off of

themselves, and turn only to the shame of their authors; while the injured

reputation in a little time grows again, as these beards did” (Matthew

Henry).

IV. SUCCEEDED BY HONOUR. “And then return” to the holy city,

where they would be honoured (instead of being despised) with:

1. The public commendation of the king.

2. The general admiration of the people.

3. All the more because of the indignity and ridicule which they had

previously endured.

“If ye are reproached for the Name of Christ, blessed are ye,” etc. (<600414>1

Peter 4:14); “great is your reward in heaven” (<400512>Matthew 5:12). — D.

Vers. 6-11 (<131906>1 Chronicles 19:6-12). — (MEDEBA.)

An agreement of mutual help.

“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”

(ver. 11).

1. On perceiving the effect of their treatment of David s ambassadors (ver.

6; “That they had made themselves odious,” <131906>1 Chronicles 19:6), the

Ammonites obtained, for “a thousand talents of silver,” the aid of the

Syrians of Beth-rehob and of Zobah (under Hadarezer, the most powerful

of David’s adversaries), the King of Maacah and the men of Tob; “who

came and pitched before Medeba” (<131907>1 Chronicles 19:7), twenty miles

southwest cf Rabbah, with their infantry, cavalry, and war chariots. “And

the children of Ammon gathered themselves together from their cities” to

the capital (Rabbah), and put themselves in battle array before the gate.

2. Hearing of their warlike preparations, David had sent forth “all the host,

the mighty men,” under Joab (<100322>2 Samuel 3:22-30), who now found

himself between the two hostile forces; and, selecting a portion of the

army, placed himself opposite to the Syrians, whilst he left the rest, under

Abishai, to cover his rear and hold the Ammonites in check. He doubtless

hoped to defeat the enemy in successive engagements.

3. But fearing a simultaneous attack, he made an agreement with his

brother, that if either of them were worsted, the other should hasten to his

relief. Such an agreement is prudent, needful, and beneficial among those

also who are engaged in spiritual warfare against the enemies of the

kingdom of God. It —

I. CONFIRMS AN OBVIOUS DUTY. For it is plainly the duty of

brethren:

1. To consider each other’s condition, to sympathize with each other’s

weakness and distress, and not to be concerned about themselves alone.

“Not looking each of you to his own things,” etc. (<501104>Philippians 2:4;

<461024>1 Corinthians 10:24).

2. To make use of their power, to “strengthen their brethren,” especially

when taking part in the same conflict as themselves. The strong should help

the weak.

3. To afford them help, opportunely, promptly, with all their might, and

even at much sacrifice and hazard to themselves. If the ungodly “helped

every one his neighbour; and every one said to his brother, Be of good

courage” <234106>Isaiah 41:6), much more ought the godly to do the same.

“But if ye will not do so, behold ye have sinned against the Lord: and he

sure your sin will find you out” (<043223>Numbers 32:23). And the agreement

to render mutual help in time of need makes the obligation to do so more

distinct, impressive, and effective.

II. CONTEMPLATES A POSSIBLE REVERSE. “If the Syrians be too

strong for me,” etc.; indicating a conviction of:

1. The great power of the enemy and the serious nature of the struggle

(<091301>1 Samuel 13:1-7). It would he madness to despise them.

2. The possibility of failure in the wisest plans and disappointment in the

most sanguine expectations. “We do not hinder our successes by preparing

for disappointment.” Although those who “contend earnestly for the faith

once for all delivered to the saints” cannot be generally and permanently

defeated, yet particular organizations, methods, and hopes may be

overthrown. None, however strong, can be certain of never needing help;

whilst the promise of help furnishes the weak with a special claim to it.

3. The necessity of taking every precaution for repairing defect in the

weakest part, lest it should issue in disaster to the whole. “Bear ye one

another’s burdens, and so fulfil the Law of Christ” (<480602>Galatians 6:2).

III. CONDUCES TO SIGNAL SUCCESS. By:

1. Giving them to feel their mutual dependence, and bringing them into

closer union in the spirit of a common enterprise.

2. Affording assurance of the advantages arising from cooperation toward

a common end. These advantages are inestimable. “Two are better than

one… And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a

threefold cord is not quickly broken” (<210409>Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

3. Inspiring them with increased confidence arising therefrom; and inciting

them to greater individual effort than they might otherwise have put forth

on behalf of each other and their common safety, welfare, and honour.

Both the Syrians and Ammonites were routed (vers. 13, 14). “It was,

perhaps, the first time in his life that Hadarezer suffered defeat” (Ewald);

and this defeat was followed ere long by another (by David at Helam) still

more overwhelming; so that “all the kings that were servants to Hadarezer

made peace with Israel, and served them,” etc. (vers. 15-19; <100803>2 Samuel

8:3, 4). — D.

Ver. 12 (<131913>1 Chronicles 19:13). — (MEDEBA.)

Martial courage.

“Be of good courage,” etc. Human life is a warfare, unavoidable, arduous,

enduring; and spiritual life, more especially, is a warfare of a similar kind.

In this conflict nothing is more needful than manly or martial courage

(“virtue,” <600105>1 Peter 1:5). It is that quality of mind which meets difficulty,

danger, pain, or death, calmly and fearlessly. It has been reckoned by

moralists among the four cardinal virtues (prudence, temperance, fortitude,

justice), and, in its highest form, it is often enjoined in the Scriptures. “As it

is necessarily requisite to the susception of all other virtues, so it is their

main support, guardian, and establishment. Without this, every other virtue

is precarious, and lies at the mercy of every cross accident” (J. Norris).

“All the noble deeds that have beat their marches through succeeding ages

have proceeded from men of courage” (O. Felltham) This brief and

significant warlike exhortation of Joab was pitched in a higher key than we

might have expected; but the devout feeling which it expressed, though

genuine, was probably superficial and transient, passing away with the

critical occasion which called it forth. We have now to consider, not the

character of the speaker, but the import of his words. They indicate the

nature, motive, and pervading principle of godly martial courage; that it

should be displayed —

I. IN STRENUOUS OPPOSITION TO THE ENEMIES OF THE

KINGDOM OF GOD. “Be strong” (in spirit), “and show yourselves

strong” (in action) in your struggle with numerous and powerful foes; not

private, but public enemies; not men as such, but as imbued with principles

and devoted to practices which are antagonistic to the righteous and

beneficent purposes of God; “principalities and powers,” etc.

(<490612>Ephesians 6:12). “Who will rise up for me against the evil doers?” etc.

(<199601>Psalm 96:16). There must be:

1. Firm resistance to their attack. “Whom resist steadfast in the faith”

(<600509>1 Peter 5:9).

2. Patient endurance of the sufferings which such resistance involves.

“Here is the patience of the saints.”

3. Active endeavour for their defeat and subjection. “The people that do

know their God shall be strong, and do exploits” (<271132>Daniel 11:32).

“Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (<461613>1

Corinthians 16:13). The chief instrument of this opposition is “the sword of

the Spirit.” “A humble Christian battling against the world, the flesh, and

the devil, is a greater hero than Alexander the Great.”

II. FROM SINCERE DESIRE FOR THE WELFARE OF THE PEOPLE

OF GOD. Not for pay and plunder (like the mercenary Syrians), nor for

glory, nor even for personal safety or life; but “for our people” (to whom

we are bound by the closest ties), “and for the cities of our God” (his

chosen property and possession, the many separate centres where his

people dwell and his worship is maintained), imperilled by the attack of his

enemies and ours. Pro aris et focis. “Thrice is he armed that hath his

quarrel just”‘ This, however, is an appeal, not merely to a sense of justice,

but also and chiefly to patriotism and piety, which, in the men of Israel,

were inseparably Blended. There is a place for patriotism in the heart of a

Christian (<092301>1 Samuel 23:1-6). But his love for his country must be held

in harmony with and subordination to his love for the Christian

brotherhood, united in spiritual fellowship and confined to no nation; “the

people of God” (<600209>1 Peter 2:9, 10), “his inheritance” (<490118>Ephesians

1:18), “the Church which is his body” (<490122>Ephesians 1:22; 5:25; <442028>Acts

20:28), the light of the world, and the salt of the earth. “I endure all things

for the elect’s sakes” (<550210>2 Timothy 2:10; <510124>Colossians 1:24).

1. The preservation of their faith and holiness, their unity and peace, from

corrupting and destructive influences.

2. The maintenance of their privileges and services, their freedom and

independence.

3. The promotion of their prosperity and progress.

4. The fulfilment of their purposes, aims, and hopes. “They shall prosper

that love thee” (<19C204>Psalm 122:4-9; 137:7).

III. WITH STRONG CONFIDENCE IN THE RECEPTION OF THE

HELP OF GOD. “And the Lord do that which seemeth him good”

(Authorized Version); expressive of humble submission to the Divine will.

“It may be understood as the language of:

(1) Uncertainly and modesty.

(2) A firm persuasion that the event of war entirely depends upon the

providence of God.

(3) A humble submission to the disposal of Providence, let the event turn

out as it would.

(4) And it may intimate that, let the event be what it will, it will afford us

satisfaction to think that we have done the best we could” (Samuel

Davies). But the proper reading is, “And Jehovah will do that which is

good in his sight,” really good for his people. The root of Christian

courage, as of every Christian excellence, is faith in God.

1. In his readiness to cooperate with us, when we strive against the

enemies of his kingdom and for the welfare of his people. “The Lord is on

my side, I will not fear.”

2. In the sufficiency of his might to strengthen the weakest and overthrow

the strongest. “Fear not; for they that be with us are more than they that be

with them” (<120616>2 Kings 6:16; <091401>1 Samuel 14:1-15).

3. In the certainty of his affording to his faithful servants all the help they

need. Even though he should permit a temporary reverse, he will surely

give them the victory over all their adversaries. Such confidence is

warranted by his relation to them, his regard for them, his express

promises, and his past achievements. “The battle is the Lord’s.” “If God is

for us, who is against us?” (<450931>Romans 9:31-39). — D.

HOMILIES BY G. WOOD

Vers. 2-4.

____________Kindness misinterpreted and ill requited.

“I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war” (<19C007>Psalm 120:7). It

is not probable that these words were written by David, but they might

have been with truth. It does not appear that he desired war with the

neighbouring peoples; but for a time he was continually at war with one or

other of them. Jealous of the growing greatness and power of Israel under

his rule, they sought to humble them, but only to their own discomfiture

and subjugation. And as the kingdom extended, more distant nations feared

for themselves, and were ready to combine against what seemed the

common foe. This is probably the real explanation of the transactions

recorded in this chapter, including the most serious struggle which the

rising kingdom had had to maintain. Nahash, “the king of the children of

Ammon,” having died, David, to whom Nahash had in some way shown

kindness, sent ambassadors to Hanun, his son and successor, with a

message of condolence. But the young king, induced by the princes to

regard the ambassadors as spies, who had been sent to obtain such

knowledge of the city as might facilitate its overthrow, treated them with

the grossest contumely and indecency, and so dismissed them. Hence

sprang a deadly war, in which the Ammonites were aided by other and

more powerful peoples — a war which taxed to the utmost the strength of

Israel, and issued in the complete overthrow of their enemies. The first step

in all this commotion and destruction was the false interpretation put upon

the kind act of David; and, regarding it as an illustration of a too common

evil, we take occasion to remark upon the evil itself — misinterpretation of

good deeds.

I. THE CAUSES OF IT.

1. Knowledge of the world. There is so much evil in it, so much evil which

conceals itself under the pretence of good; the actions which at first appear

good are so often, on closer acquaintance, discovered to be evil; that

experience of the world tends to produce a suspicious spirit, which is slow

to believe in the reality of goodness in any particular instance, quick to

think the worst of the conduct of others, especially of strangers.

2. Evil in one’s self. Which may be conscious or unconscious. We are

indisposed to believe others to be better than we know ourselves to be; and

prone to suspect others of motives we are conscious of indulging

ourselves. And, without distinct consciousness, we are influenced in our

judgments of others by our own character; and may be so far under the

influence of evil as to be blind to the good in others. The cold, selfish,

illiberal, cannot credit others with the opposite virtues; but suspect the

appearance of them to be only a semblance adopted for some unworthy

purpose.

3. Enmity. If on any account we cherish ill will towards another, we are

ever ready to think evil rather than good of him; and specially slow to think

he can intend good to us. If another has failed to show as high an esteem

for ourselves as we think we deserve, our mortified pride is apt to vent

itself in depreciation of him. Prejudice is one kind of enmity, more or less

virulent. It commonly exists in those of one party in religion or politics

towards those of the opposite party, and predisposes them to misinterpret

whatever they do.

4. Fear. Which was one of the motives that prompted Hanun and his

advisers.

5. Conceit of sagacity. A cheap and easy way of appearing very wise, and

of obtaining from some a reputation for wisdom, is to affect to discover

unworthy motives in good actions.

6. Bad advisers. Such as those of Hanun. Those who might be otherwise

disposed to a just estimate of good deeds will seldom want advisers to

poison their minds, if they will listen to them.

II. THE EVIL OF IT.

1. In itself. It is inherently base. It is contrary to:

(1) Charity, which “believeth all things, hopeth all things” (<461307>1

Corinthians 13:7), whenever it is not manifestly impossible.

(2) Justice. Judgments which seem to be only charitable will often be

simply just.

(3) Gratitude, in the case of actions kind to ourselves. Better to waste a

little gratitude than indulge needless suspicion.

(4) The plain commands of our Lord. Such as “Judge not;” “Whatsoever

ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (<400701>Matthew

7:1, 12). It involves, further, an assumption of knowledge such as men do

not possess, and a usurpation of the office of him who alone searches the

heart (<460405>1 Corinthians 4:5). We are not, however, required to cherish a

blind credulity, nor to trust men with important interests without positive

knowledge of their moral worth, still less against plain evidence of the

contrary. Prudence is a virtue as well as charity. The Ammonites might

have rightly exercised such caution towards David’s messengers as would

have prevented their obtaining so much knowledge of the city as would

facilitate hostile measures against it, if these were really contemplated.

They did wrong in concluding that the seeming kindness was covert

hostility. To have returned civility for civility could have done them no

harm, and would have prevented the severe retribution for their barbarity

which followed.

2. In its effects.

(1) On those who are guilty of it. It deprives them of the happiness and

other good which they would gain from kindness exercised towards them,

were it duly appreciated and acknowledged; and of the benefit which it

would impart in the way of example and influence. It strengthens the bad

dispositions and habits from which it springs. It prompts to conduct (as in

this case) which may work incalculable mischief.

(2) On those towards whom it is indulged. Inflicting pain, producing

resentment, and perhaps active revenge, and discouraging them in the

practice of virtues which are liable to be so maligned.

(3) On others. Infecting with unjust suspicions some who would not

otherwise cherish them; encouraging disbelief in genuine goodness, and

thus loosening the bonds of mutual confidence by which society is held

together; disinclining also from good deeds, and so lessening the amount of

goodness in the world.

III. HOW IT SHOULD AFFECT US.

1. It should not surprise us. Considering what men are, we should regard it

as quite possible that any good we may do will be misrepresented, or at

least fail to be duly appreciated and acknowledged even by those whose

benefit we seek.

2. It should not deter us from doing good. The great motives for good

deeds abide the same. They are quite independent of human appreciation.

They should be our chief motives, the hope of approval or suitable return

from men occupying a very subordinate position. Let us study and labour

to be accepted of God (<470509>2 Corinthians 5:9), and be content with his

approval, let men think what they may.

3. If men misrepresent our conduct, let us exercise charity towards them,

hoping, if we cannot confidently believe, that they have sinned through

ignorance or inconsideration rather than ill will. If compelled to vindicate

ourselves, let us do it with meekness. We should also reflect whether we

have given any occasion in the manner of our conduct for

misunderstanding of its real quality; and avoid the error in future. And, if

we are really reproached for that which is good, without just occasion, let

us be mindful that we are fellow sufferers with our Lord and many of the

best men of all ages.

4. Let us be watchful against every temptation to depreciate and

misrepresent the good which is practised by others. — G.W.

Vers. 11, 12.

Cooperation, courage, and resignation.

Joab here appears at his best. A great occasion, involving great peril for the

army and the kingdom, calls forth, not only his eminent military qualities,

but sentiments of piety and religious patriotism worthy of David himself.

He presents an example worthy of imitation by commanders of armies; but

we take his words as adapted to guide and animate the soldiers of Christ in

their warfare against error and sin. They Call attention to three duties

incumbent upon individual Christians, the several bands of each division of

the Christian army, and the several divisions themselves.

I. MUTUAL HELP. (Ver. 11.) The servants of Christ are engaged in the

endeavour to conquer the world for him, and, in pursuing it, have to fight

against enemies of various kinds. In this warfare they ought to cheerfully

cooperate, and, as opportunity may arise, help each other. Much mutual

assistance they cannot but render, however any might desire to confine the

benefits of their activity to their own party. Every hymn book testifies to

this. No individual or section can do good work without helping others.

But there should be more of conscious and hearty cooperation.

1. Why it should be so.

(1) The cause is one — the cause of Christ our King, the defence and

extension of his kingdom, the cause of truth and righteousness and human

salvation.

(2) Christians are comrades in the same army. They should cherish the

feeling of brotherhood, realize that they are fighting against common foes,

and be glad to encourage and help each other. The success of any is the

success of all, and should be so regarded; the failure of any should be a

trouble to all; and, if any can aid their brethren to turn threatening defeat

into victory, their aid should be cheerfully afforded and joyfully accepted.

(3) The need is urgent. The spiritual necessities of men, the special needs in

particular cases. The field is extensive; the opposing forces numerous,

powerful, and incessantly vigilant and active. The utmost exertions of all

are required. To hold back, to refuse cooperation with fellow soldiers

because they belong not to our regiment or division of the army, to observe

with pleasure the failure of any of them, or to waste energies and resources

in fierce conflicts with one another, is to be disloyal to their Sovereign,,

unbrotherly to each other, and unfaithful to the souls of men.

2. Why it often is not so.

(1) Deficiency of spiritual insight. Incapacity, voluntary or involuntary, to

discern:

(a) The real nature of the kingdom of Christ. That it is essentially spiritual,

consisting in “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost;” that “he

that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of

men” (<451417>Romans 14:17, 18); and that in Christ Jesus nothing avails but “a

new creature,” “faith which worketh by love,” and “the keeping of the

commandments of God” (<480615>Galatians 6:15; 5:6; <460719>1 Corinthians 7:19).

(b) The essential qualities of Christ’s soldiers, which are not the dress they

wear, nor the particular drill to which they are accustomed, but love and

loyalty to Christ.

(2) Deficiency of spiritual affections. Want of supreme and ardent love for

Christ and his kingdom, and for his servants as such. These deficiencies of

mind and heart act and react on each other, and they open the way for all

kinds of blundering and perversity. Fellow soldiers are mistaken for

enemies, and treated as such. The great cause is made practically

subordinate to matters infinitely small in comparison. Sectarian rivalry

takes the place of Christian cooperation; or a worse thing happens — petty

personal ambition and selfishness, or likings and dislikings, dominate,

separating those who should be acting together, and introducing low,

worldly principles into a region where the spiritual should alone reign.

Pride, jealousy, envy, uncharitableness, perhaps the merest avarice, reduce

to a fraction, if they do not altogether extinguish, those noble Christian

feelings which Christianity inspires, and which would impel brothers to

own brothers, cordially to render or receive help in the common work, to

rejoice in each other’s successes, and sorrow for each other’s reverses.

3. Who should take the lead in effecting cooperation? Joab addresses

Abishai, his fellow commander; and it is just the leaders and commanders

in Christ’s army who should be foremost in promoting a good

understanding between its various bands, and inducing them to work

together. But, alas! they are often foremost in promoting alienation and

separation. The people are frequently more disposed to be friendly towards

each other than the clergy.

II. COURAGE. (Ver. 12.) In war this is essential to success. In the

Christian warfare it is not so obviously or universally required. It is,

however, still required in many cases. When unpopular truth has to be

proclaimed, when strongholds of sin or superstition have to be assailed,

when the evangelization of barbarous tribes is attempted, or perilous

climates have to be encountered, the Christian soldier must be prepared to

endure hardship, suffering, or death. Even the ridicule which not

unfrequently assails the earnest Christian calls for a good deal of courage.

Joab sought to inspire his brother, and through him the soldiers under his

command, with courage, by reminding him that it was “for our people, and

for the cities of our God,” that they were about to fight. In like manner

Christians may be exhorted to “be of good courage” and “play the men”

for the Church of God, and for the sake of the world which they aim to

conquer for Christ. Joab might have added, “for our king;” and the

strongest and most animating consideration for us is that we are witnessing

and working and fighting for our great King, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is

worth living for, suffering for, dying for. He has gone before us in the

labour and the suffering. He is present with us. His eye is upon each of us.

He will overlook no true-hearted soldier of his when he distributes the

rewards of victory. “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him” (<550212>2

Timothy 2:12).

III. RESIGNATION. Those who engage in war, though they may hope

for victory, must be prepared for defeat. “The battle” is not always “to the

strong” (<210911>Ecclesiastes 9:11) or the brave. Nor in the better warfare can

we “command success” in this or that particular encounter, however

faithful or brave or zealous we may be. We are to recognize, like Joab, that

“the Lord” is over all, and be content that he should “do that which

seemeth him good.” Not that we are required to be resigned to ultimate

failure, for we are assured of final and complete victory.

“The saints in all this glorious war

Shall conquer, though they’re slain.”

Nor are the courage and devotedness of any single soldier lost. All the

faithful contribute to the final triumph, and all shall unite in the song of

victory, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our

Lord, and of his Christ.” “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!”

“And he shall reign forever and ever” <661115>Revelation 11:15; 19:6). — G.W.