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
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
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
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
9 “When Joab saw that the front of the battle was against him before
and behind, he
chose of all the choice men of
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
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
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
And when the Syrians
saw that they were smitten before
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
affair, and undertake the management of it himself. He therefore summons
troops from all the Aramean states on
both sides of the
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
17 “And when it was told David, he gathered all
themselves in array against David, and fought with him.”
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
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
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
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
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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Vers. 1-5. —
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
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. —
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
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
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
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
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.
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).
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.)
“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. 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
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
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
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
“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”
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
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
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.)
“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
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
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
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
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
(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
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
(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
(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
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.