1 Chronicles 19 – “The Ammonite-Syrian War”

deepheadshave3Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The new Amonite king spurns David’s gestures of good will. The Amonites hire the Arameans to bolster their forces, but David vanquishes them both. The Arameans surrender and become David’s vassal state.

II. Photo
The Ammonite king provokes King David: “So Hanun seized David’s courtiers, shaved them, and cut away half of their garments up to the buttocks, and sent them off.” (v. 4)

III. Important Verses
vv. 1-5: Sometime afterward, Nahash the king of the Ammonites died, and his son succeeded him as king. David said, “I will keep faith with Hanun son of Nahash, since his father kept faith with me.” David sent messengers with condolences to him over his father. But when David’s courtiers came to the land of Ammon to Hanun, with condolences, the Ammonite officials said to Hanun, “Do you think David is really honoring your father just because he sent you men with condolences? Why, it is to explore, to subvert, and to spy out the land that his courtiers have come to you.” So Hanun seized David’s courtiers, shaved them, and cut away half of their garments up to the buttocks, and sent them off. When David was told about the men, he dispatched others to meet them, for the men were greatly embarrassed. And the king gave orders, “Stay in Jericho until your beards grow back; then you can return.”
vv. 10-13:  Joab saw that there was a battle line against him both front and rear. So he made a selection from all the picked men of Israel and arrayed them against the Arameans, and the rest of the troops he put under the command of his brother Abishai and arrayed them against the Ammonites. Joab said, “If the Arameans prove too strong for me, you come to my aid; and if the Ammonites prove too strong for you, I will come to your aid. Let us be strong and resolute for the sake of our people and the towns of our God; and the LORD will do what He deems right.”

IV. Outline
1-5. The Ammonites instigate David
6-13. Both sides prepare for battle
14-18. David wins, and goes on the offensive
19. Aram surrenders

V. Comment
Chapter 19 describes David’s battle with the Amonites and the Arameans. It describes how the Amonites hire the Arameans as mercenaries: “The Ammonites realized that they had incurred the wrath of David; so Hanun and the Ammonites sent 1,000 silver talents to hire chariots and horsemen from Aram-naharaim, Aram-maacah, and Zobah. They hired 32,000 chariots, the king of Maacah, and his army, who came and encamped before Medeba. The Ammonites were mobilized from their cities and came to do battle.” (vv. 6-7) Who were the people from Maacah, and where did they live? Schley writes: “[Maacah was a] Syrian kingdom S of Mt. Hermon in the N Transjordan. Maacah was located E of the Jordan valley and N of the Yarmuk basin. Together with the kingdom of Geshur, Maacah formed the northern boundary of the (sometimes) Israelite territory of BASHAN, which belonged to the inheritance of the half-tribe of Manasseh in the upper Transjordan (Deut 3:14; Josh 13:11). The city of Abel Beth-Maacah (2 Sam 20:14; cf. Abil-akka in the annals of Tiglath-pileser III, KAT 265), where Sheba ben Bichri fled during his revolt against David, was probably located on Israel’s northern border with Maacah.”
Schley continues: “When David began his historic expansion of Israelite power into the Transjordan, he was opposed by the Ammonites, whose capital lay opposite Jerusalem at the headwaters of the Jabbok. The Ammonites were joined in their opposition by several petty Syrian states (2 Sam 10:6–8), including Maacah, which probably had no difficulty in recognizing this threat. David’s army, under the command of Joab, was trapped between the Syrians and Ammonites in open country. Joab, however, escaped disaster by dividing his forces into two wings, one under the command of Abishai, his brother, the other under himself, and attacking both sides simultaneously. When the Ammonites saw their Syrian allies driven back, they retreated into their stronghold, to which Joab then laid siege. According to 1 Chr 19:6–7, this battle took place before Medeba on the plateau N of the Wadi Mujib (the biblical Arnon) in the central Transjordan. The Ammonites are said to have “hired” the army of Maacah, along with other Syrian elements (in extremely exaggerated numbers) from as far away as Mesopotamia.” (“Maacah” in the Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. IV p. 430)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Schley, D.G. “Maacah” in the Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. IV p. 430
De Vries, Simon J. “1 and 2 Chronicles,” The Forms of Old Testament Literature vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989).
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