I am still smiling about the steadfast love (חֶסֶד or ḥesed) David showed to Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9. As we come to our chapter today we are wondering if we’ll have similar results, “After this the king of the Ammonites died, and Hanun his son reigned in his place. And David said, ‘I will deal loyally (חֶסֶד or ḥesed) with Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father dealt loyally (חֶסֶד or ḥesed) with me’” (2 Sam. 10:1-2a). At some point in time Nahash had shown steadfast love (חֶסֶד or ḥesed) to David, and David had not forgotten this. Perhaps it was when David was on the run from Saul. David sends messengers, servants, to Hanun as an appropriate response to the news of the death of Nahash. Now the death of Nahash didn’t hit David like that of Saul or particularly of Jonathan (see 2 Sam. 1:11-12). Nevertheless, David sought to extend that covenant loyalty, or steadfast love (חֶסֶד or ḥesed), to Hanun. Too bad Hanun was a fool.
Hanun was a fool for listening to the princes of the Ammonites (2 Sam. 10:3), much like Rehoboam was for listening to the young men who grew up with him rather than his father Solomon’s advisors (see 1 Kings 12:1-11). Rehoboam speaks harshly to the people, and Hanun takes David’s servants and humiliates them twofold. He cuts off their beards and cuts off their garments from the waist down. Hanun must have seen David’s act as insincere, disguised as a mere spy operation (see 2 Sam. 10:3b). Perhaps you know someone who is very fond of their beard, and you can imagine their reaction if half of it was shaved off. Not recommended. Dale Ralph Davis writes, “Hanun could hardly have inflicted a more shameful insult: the men’s manliness was both marred (beard) and exposed (buttocks/private parts)” (2 Samuel: Out of Every Adversity, 130).
Consider Leviticus 19:27 which says, “You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.” To cut off half of their beards, as Hanun had done, was a direct attack on these men as Israelites. Also, Israelite garments had tassels on them (see Numbers 15:37-41) to remind them to keep the commandments of Yahweh (Num. 15:39, 40). Cutting off the men’s garments is an attack on God’s word, and so it is not surprising that we find David’s response to stomping of his act of steadfast love (חֶסֶד or ḥesed) is all out warfare.
When we read direct quotations of certain passages of Scripture, it is easy for us to see that the biblical author intends for us to take that quoted passage into our thought process as we interpret and understand a specific text. But the biblical authors don’t have to only give us direct quotations for them to direct us to certain passages of Scriptures. That is what we see in 2 Samuel 10. No direct quotation to Psalm 2 (like Acts 4:25-26) is present, but certainly it ought to direct our attention there. In 2 Samuel 10:6 we have kings and peoples gathering together “against Yahweh and against His anointed” (Ps. 2:2b). The results?! “And when all the kings who were servants of Hadadezer saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they made peace with Israel and became subject to them. So the Syrians were afraid to save the Ammonites anymore” (2 Sam. 10:19). Peter Leithart says in his commentary, “The wicked attack the godly, but that is simply God’s way of bringing the wicked out on the battlefield, where He can rout them” (A Son to Me: An Exposition of 1 & 2 Samuel, 212).
You could say we’ve been hard on Joab when we’ve looked at him in our devotional series so far, but it was all well deserved. Being too hard on him would be to say he is merely faking it in v. 12 when he tells Abishai his brother, “Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may Yahweh do what seems best to Him.” Keep in mind when battling the Ammonites, Joab is faithfully off with the army, and David is in Jerusalem on the roof of his house (2 Sam. 11:1-2). We’ll have more to discuss in 2 Samuel 11 of course about David’s failures, but for now, let’s not miss that David shows steadfast love to those in Israel (2 Sam. 9) and those outside Israel (2 Sam. 10). May our love have a wideness to include not only one another, fellow believers, but everyone. For as 1 Thessalonians 5:15 says, “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.”