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Humiliation and Consequences (2 Samuel 10 and 1 Chronicles 19)

In our reading today, we see a chain of events that quickly spirals out of control and disaster results. A good deed is misinterpreted, and the next thing you know, tens of thousands of people fall in battle. So what’s the deal with this, and why did God preserve this historical event in His Word for us to read today?

When the king of the Ammonites died, David decided to send a delegation to pay respect for the man who did him some favor in the past (the Bible does not tell us what this favor was). However, Hanun, the former king’s son, took some bad advice from his advisors and things quickly went off the rails. They told the king that David’s men were there under false pretenses to spy on the kingdom, and so Hanun had the delegates humiliated. Half of their beards were shaved off, and it appears that he also had a panel on the rear of their garments removed, exposing their posteriors.

I’m sure that the Ammonites found this funny as they sent the delegates on their way, and one can’t help but wonder if this particular stunt was proposed, considered, and executed during a feast where a large amount of alcohol was involved. Regardless of the motivation, sometime later, the Ammonites realized that there would be consequences for their actions and so they amassed an army and hired an Aramean mercenary force to support them. David sent out forces under the command of Joab who routed the Ammonites. David then gathered additional troops and marched out to finish the job. He won a decisive victory, killing more than forty thousand of the enemy.

So why did God see fit to record these events in His Word? Well, the main reason is probably context. You see, in the very next chapter in 2 Samuel, we see the account of David sinning with Bathsheba, a pivotal (and embarrassing) event in Israel’s history. And in the beginning of 2 Samuel 11, we learn that David’s affair with Bathsheba took place during the first battle of 2 Samuel 10 when David had sent his troops out to fight the Ammonites under the command of Joab. It was during this battle too that David arranged for Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, to be killed under Joab’s command.

Reflecting on this interesting piece of history from our text, a few different lessons bubble to the top. First, it’s easy to see how quickly a misunderstanding can spiral out of control. If Hanun had better advisors, then this whole event would probably never have happened. Of course, that would mean chapter 11 wouldn’t happen either (at least not the same way that it played out), and therefore Solomon might never have been born. Regardless, both of the battles from 2 Samuel 10 were completely unnecessary and it’s instructive to see how one good deed that was misinterpreted quickly escalated to the point where tens of thousands of people died as a result. Second, we should always be weary of humiliating others, even our enemies. The conflict didn’t arise as a result of mistrust, it was because of the way Hanun treated David’s emissaries. Had the new king simply dismissed them and respectfully sent them on their way, he would likely have avoided disaster.

There is simply no reason to humiliate anyone, even our enemies. Wounding a person’s pride will generally cause them to burn with anger and to seek revenge. There is nothing constructive in doing so, and modeling this behavior points no one to Christ.

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