Category Archives: Faith

2 Samuel 15:1-16:14 The King betrayed

Discussion Question

As we observe the powers of this world gain strength (politically, commercially, wealth etc), how does it affect your commitment to Jesus?

Background (Context)

David taught us much about the kingdom of God which looks for faith rather than beauty. It looks for faithfulness rather than force. Then David’s sin with Bathsheba happened in Chapter 11 and we’ve watched the wonder of David’s partnership with God digress to a limping image of inaction.

Chapter 15 is different. Absalom becomes a background character after his initial acts of political spin and we will watch David portray something of the kingdom of God again.

Mephibosheth appears again in the story along with Ziba, his carer. The former was a grandson of Saul who was lame in both feet but was blessed by David, eating at his table.

We have learned back in Chapter 3 that Hebron was an important spiritual place for Israel. Another piece of background info is the description of Absalom in Chapter 14 as a beautiful man without blemish, with amazing hair and that the people loved him. He had ordered the death of his older brother, Amnon. Now, it seems, Absalom is the next in line to be king. At the end of Chapter 14, we read of Absalom and David being reconciled.

Read 2 Samuel 15-16:14

Read 2 Samuel 15 online here

Read 2 Samuel 16:1-14 online here

What did you see? (Observation)


  • Absalom’s political campaign (1-12)
  • The King walks the streets of Jerusalem (13-37)
  • The King’s hope (16:1-14)

Absalom’s political campaign (1-12)

“If only I were appointed judge in the land!” Absalom is a politician. A man who orchestrates devotion from the people. His play is to win the backing of Israel so that they will love him more than David. He builds his own entourage. He greets people at the gate and spins the truth to sound like the king has no time for his people. Except that we only read a chapter ago that David listened to a woman from a southern town in great detail. Lastly, Absalom recalls back to the days of the judges when there was action to resolve issues – neglecting the fact that the people of Israel wanted to end the days of the judges and move forward to having a king like the other nations. Absalom was playing a political game to weaken his father’s kingdom and make people feel like they needed him.

“…so he stole the hearts of the people of Israel.” Not only did he undermine his father’s kingdom and offer much to the people of Israel (more than he could really deliver) – but he showed much charisma. None of this ‘bow down and worship’ nonsense! No need to show honour and submission before this ‘man of the people’. Forget what you have known about the old days and welcome in a new age of Absalom!

“…Absalom said to the king, “Let me go to Hebron and fulfill a vow I made to the LORD.” His third move is to hint to the king that he is a reformed man of God. The story he gives the king about an oath does not seem credible. Nothing so far hints that this is a real story and the chapter will unfold to show that this is a big scheme to evoke spontaneous allegiance to Absalom as king. But we can imagine that the king’s heart is softened by this gesture of authentic worship. He gives the appearance of godliness.

“The king said to him, ‘Go in peace.’” That will be the last thing that David says to his son. Absalom wishes no peace on his father’s house. Absalom will force David to escape the palace and become a fugitive again like the days of King Saul.

“…as soon as you hear the trumpets, then say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’” This town, as we saw back in Chapter 2, was a spiritually significant one to Israel. Abraham had lived there and received promises from God there. David was sent there to be anointed king over Judah. It is the perfect location from Absalom to orchestrate a coup. Make no mistake. Everything is being choreographed by Absalom. The people are being manipulated to forget that they anointed David as their king and that David had won many battles for the people. The people of God will be mislead by the clever actions of Absalom.

“While Absalom was offering sacrifices…the conspiracy gained strength…” How can one give honour to God and at the same time spin lies throughout the land. Absalom cannot be trusted. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings…Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.” James 3:9-10. Jesus condemned the hypocrisy of religion that offers something to God but comes out of a man with hatred in his heart (Matthew 15:1-19 esp, Verse 8-9).

The King walks the streets of Jerusalem (13-37)

“We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin us and put the city to the sword.” David’s escape was not about saving his own skin but for the protection of the city and his people.

“The king set out, with his entire household following him…” Watch and listen for the imagery of this story now. David has been betrayed and is leaving the city and his faithful ones of his household will all follow him. The story has created an enemy of the kingdom – someone who everyone is easily trusting – but a small few who are named as the household of David. They will walk with him out of the city. Let’s keep listening for more clues about who this will remind us of (hint: it’s Jesus).

“…he left ten concubines to take care of the palace.” The fact that he had concubines is not good but it is not new information to us (see Chapter 5). Leaving them behind will end badly for them in Chapter 16) But it seems that David had ideas that he would return to the city again and he left them there. How they took care of the palace is unclear – but the palace was not left totally empty.

“…they halted at the edge of the city. All his men marched past him, along with all the Kerethites and the Pelethites; and al the six hundred Gittites who had accompanied him from Gath marched before the king.” King David was God’s King. The Messiah. The ancestors of Abraham were being manipulated to follow a false and lying betrayer while the entourage of the Messiah consisted of people from surrounding nations as well as some of the King’s own. They are the true Israel.

“Ittai [the Gittite] replied to the king, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.’” This is the true statement of a believer. We do not follow who looks to be winning but we follow the true king.

Verse 23: “The whole countryside wept aloud as all the people passed by. The king also crossed the Kidron Valley, and all the people moved on toward the wilderness.” Before you read my words, go and re-read Verse 23 and see what you can see…. The king, the Messiah, the chosen one of God has been betrayed by a smooth talking conspirator and he is walking away from Jerusalem, the city of God. This is a sad, sad day. The Kidron Valley lies between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. The reputation of this valley will increase in the Old Testament with the place that you throw unholy things (1 Ki 2:37; 2 Ki 23:12; 2 Ch 15:16; 29:16; 30:14; Jer 31:40). The only reference to it in the New Testament is in John 18:1. Jesus will one day walk the same road that David walked on this day. He too will be the rejected Messiah. Jesus will take on the place of the unholy and represent the sinners as he goes to the Mount of Olives. The final piece of sorrow is in the King leading the faithful back into the wilderness. They were leaving the promised land that God had blessed them with and headed back to the place of testing. No home. No Jerusalem. But they had the King.

“If I find favour in the LORD’s eyes, he will bring me back…” David is once again putting his faith in the LORD to deliver him, as we loved seeing him do in the past. He is no longer the inactive and passive, stand back and do nothing, kind of king. He is now the Messiah who lays down his life in the hope that God will raise him up again! Yes, I am reading the resurrection out of this. The point of the ark staying in Jerusalem instead of staying with the king is about David’s submission to God. David will be restored as King as God intends him when David is returned to Jerusalem – brought back to God’s presence. It is not God who is being expelled from the city, but David is willing to go and will wait for God’s reply. Meanwhile, he walks through the valley.

“But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot.” We see a king as vulnerable as a king can be. Weeping. Barefoot. Head lowered and hidden. At the point that Jesus went to the cross, we see his weakness too. Weeping and weak but allowing his betrayers to get what they want and putting his faith in God.

“…David prayed…” He prayed on the Mount of Olives. The prayer concern was not for the death of his son but for his council to be foolishness. He wanted the schemes of the evil one to be confused. The answer to the prayer occurred, in part, before he reached the end of his ‘prayer-walk’. He met Hushai who would become the confusing council in the house of Absalom. God’s prayers often do get answered quickly. And when they are answered, they are often as practical as that. Our partnership with God in prayer is exactly that: partnership. We pray for our concerns and that our concerns would match God’s concerns and that our actions will go hand in hand with God’s responses. We talk to God. We trust God. We walk with God. We do not simply take things into our own hands, nor do we pray and then leave it solely with Him. Our walk with God is a partnership, with him always in the lead.

“So Hushai, David’s confidant, arrived at Jerusalem as Absalom was entering the city.” The end of Chapter 15 highlights how narrowly David escaped the city before Absalom arrived. David had reached the summit of the Mount of Olives and, by the time Hushai descended back to Jerusalem, Absalom was arriving. David would be out of site of the city and on his way, but just in time. This is the reverse image of Jesus entering Jerusalem in Luke as he got to the summit and saw Jerusalem in his view – then he wept.

The King’s hope (16:1-14)

The king’s hope is that God will find favour in the LORD’s eyes and be brought back to see his dwelling place again (15:25). This hope is shown in the next two episodes with Ziba (1-4) and with Shimei (5-14).

“The king asked Ziba, ‘Why have you brought these?’” Ziba was the steward of Saul who was then given charge over Saul’s property on behalf of Saul’s grandson, Mephibosheth (Shebby). What we read in Verses 1-4 is a contrived story that makes Ziba look amazing and Shebby look bad. It maps a bit with Absalom’s lies to get the country behind him instead of David. Both Ziba and David seem to believe that the kingdom still belongs to David. What Ziba wants is for the deeds to his master Saul’s property. The support for this is found later when we hear from Shebby that Ziba had tricked him (2 Samuel 19:24-30).

“As he cursed, Shimei said, ‘Get out, get out, you murderer, you scoundrel! The LORD has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul…” Shimei does not stop cursing David. We must understand that he starts and then does not let up. His accusation against David is about bloodshed and so, this man has concluded that because of the many deaths David has made in battle (see the second half of 1 Samuel) that God has caught up on this. He is unlikely referring to Uriah since he mentions all the blood shed in Saul’s household. So, here is a man who has seen the king exiled and believes it is right in the eyes of the LORD. We may say that this man cannot fathom God’s will also including times of suffering and misfortune for His greater good. Shimei will ask for forgiveness in Chapter 19 when David is restored by God.

“Then Abishai…said to the king, ‘Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king?’” Abishai’s method of dealing with this (verbal and physical attacks) is to slay the man down. David took off the head of Goliath for mocking the people of God and therefore God. Why not the same approach with this ‘dead dog’ (that language ought to remind us of Goliath). But David’s response is to maintain that God will do what is right with David. Abishai will have some dejavu in Chapter 19.

“If he is cursing because the LORD said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’” David does have reason to feel that God has taken the kingdom away from him and needs this time of exile. Not only did he have Uriah put to death (a deed that God has forgiven and dealt with) but he watched as his eldest sons commited adultery and then murder. How is even David to know if this man is not a prophet, speaking the very message of God? He then explains himself well in Verses 11-12. Note particulary David’s hope that God will restore his covenant blessing – a promise that David’s throne would go on forever.

“The king and all the people with him arrived at their destination exhausted. And there he refreshed himself.” The walk to the destination, the fords in the wilderness (15:28), was made more exhausting by fact that Shimei son of Gera was throwing stones and dirt out over the head of David and all around him. Those who followed David had to endure what David endured. If he is cursed, then they would be too. No student is better than their teacher or servant better than their master. When they finally arrived, David refreshed himself. He had arrived and was only to wait now. Will David’s hope to be restored by God come to fruition. The kingdom is in God’s hands.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

The chosen one of Israel has been rejected by the descendants of Abraham who have been mislead by a want-to-be king. Although Absalom has the appearance of godliness, he wishes to fool everyone to submitting to him and giving him the kingdom that does not yet belong to him. David’s exile is one that foreshadows the exile of the Messiah to the cross. He walks the same path through the valley and the motive is both the same and also enlightening – the Messiah commits his hands into God’s will for the outcome. He goes out for the benefit of his followers. But his followers all share in the same suffering. David is back.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: Moving forward while leaving it to God. David prayed and then acted on solving his own prayer. David also hear the warnings about Absalom and retreated in wisdom, all the while trusting in God for the outcome. His walk with God is exactly that: a walk. He does not walk alone and he does not sit still in faith. He uses both his leg muscles and his faith muscles. I’ll pass on here four things I saw recently as healthy coping practices of the godly. 1) work together with God as partner. 2) Do what you can and put the rest in God’s hand. 3) Look to God for strength, support and guidance. 4) Ask others for prayer. These four interweave and overlap in practice but I see David demonstrating all of these as he walked through the valley, praying and making wise decisions as he went – all the while knowing that God has got this.

Topic B: Beware of those who appear to have God’s interests at heart. Absalom and Ziba both gave the appearance of generosity and kindness and a heart for God, while always they were just working out an inheritance for themselves that was not theirs to have (at least not yet). Read 2 Timothy 3:1-9. How do you compare this description with Absalom? How can we watch for people like this and how should we respond? 

Topic C: Praise God for Jesus’ darkest hour. We must not forget what this passage ultimately points us to: the suffering servant who did not treat his divinity as something to be godless with. He humbled himself to the place of a convicted human and suffered death on the cross for our sake. He gave over his future into the Father’s hands. The link between Jesus’ walk and David’s walk is made clear in John 18:1-14 and there is a similar echo in the words of Jesus who told Peter to put his sword away. He did not go to the cross to save himself but to save us. He is the King that we need and our walk with Him, through the toughest of times, is worth it knowing that He is the King that God pulled out of the grave (Romans 8:11; Galatians 1:1).

2 Samuel 13 – A King’s Legacy

Discussion Question

“Godly parents have often been afflicted with wicked children; grace does not run in the blood, but corruption does.” Matthew Henry wrote this with regard to 2 Samuel 13. Discuss what you think he means.

Background (Context)

Sons in the bible. When the curse of sin was pronounced in Genesis 3, there was also hope in Verse 15. A child of Eve will crush the serpent’s head. It is a brief line full of mystery that is only fully understood when we see that Jesus is that offspring. But for a long while, Adam and Eve and their descendants that followed might have wondered who will be the offspring of Eve to overcome the power of Satan? The first choice for this was Abel and Cain. But Genesis Chapter 4 describes one brother killing the other. The bible continues to tease its readers over the question of ‘what will this son be like?’ In 1 Samuel, we meet the child of Hannah who proves to be a great prophet and judge in Israel named – Samuel. We then meet his sons and find that they were wicked sons. God had spoken to David in 2 Samuel 7 about promising for his throne to never be without a son of his on it. Our chapter this week speaks into this theme of sons and what they will do as part of God’s unfolding story of salvation.

Sons of David. 1 Chronicles 3 lists the sons that were born to David in Hebron before relocating his throne room to Jerusalem and then the sons and daughters born to him by Bathsheba in Jerusalem. In 2 Samuel 13 we are concerned with Amnon who is David’s firstborn son and so the likely heir to the throne. Also Absalom, Amnon’s half brother and Absalom’s sister Tamar.

2 Samuel 11 and 12 dealt with the details and aftermath of David’s sin with Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife. It all began with David wandering around his palace and turning a brief glance into a moment of desire. That desire became fully grown into sin. 2 Samuel 13 will tell the story of his first son Amnon and the similarity of the story is scary.

Read 2 Samuel 13

Read 2 Samuel 13 online here

What did you see? (Observation)


  • Part 1: the sin (1-22)
    • Amnon’s “love” (1-14)
    • Amnon’s hatred (15-22)
  • Part 2: the vengeance (23-39)
    • Absalom’s vengeance (23-29)
    • The King’s response (30-39)

Part 1: the sin (1-22)

Amnon’s “love” (1-14)

“In the course of time, Amnon…fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David.” The story begins and introduces the problem straight away. Tamar is a half-sister of Amon. By the time the law of God is given to Moses, this is not acceptable (Leviticus 20:17; see also Ezekiel 22:11). But Amnon believes he is in love with Tamar when really he only desires her. Much like David had desired Bathsheba from his view of her bathing on the rooftop.

“Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill.” It’s difficult to imagine any obsession that is healthy and this one is far from it! This is a shut-down of any sober thought. He has fooled himself to thinking that Tamar is all that he needs and that life is not complete without her. Love-sickness is not so uncommon. It happens often amongst the young but not isolated to them. Grown-ups can get obsessed over people and things too. The need to have becomes greater than anything else. But to be sober-minded about all things is wise.

“She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her.” This guy just sounds sex-crazed. I don’t even mean that to be humorous. His desire to have her is sexual. All he can see are the obstacles preventing him from doing ‘anything to her.’ As the story unfolds and we learn of his later hatred toward her, he is not obsessing over her personality but over her body. He sees her as an object. What a terrible thing to do – see others as merely objects. The New Testament gives us this advice: “Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” (1 Timothy 5:1-2) He ought to have been slapped across the face and told to treat her as his sister with absolute purity. But his advisor gives terrible advice.

“…Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother.” This relationship is described again in Verse 32. David’s brother’s son makes him Amnon’s cousin.

“…a very shrewd man…” This is a description of one’s intelligence and quick response to things. It is neither positive nor negative. It does not mean wise, but clever. Perhaps a description of someone who knows how to get what they want out of a situation. Jonadab seems to be a sort of snake in the garden character in this story – he only needs to nudge Amnon and Absalom for them to fall.

“Amnon said to [David], ‘I would like my sister Tamar…’” There is not much to explain from Verses 4 to 7 but to highlight David’s passive role in this event. Should he have known about Amnon’s obsession? He doesn’t hesitate in ordering Tamar to go to Amnon. Does he not perceive what is happening? Or does he just hope that things won’t go bad. The King’s intervention would have been helpful at this point of the story and may have saved his son’s life!

“…made the bread in his sight and baked it…” She is cooking just as she was asked to do. We cannot read between the lines. The passage does not imply any evil on her part.

“…he refused to eat.” Amnon gives Tamar the first clue that there is something wrong. Up until now she has been making him bread. Now she is to become aware of his intentions.

“Come to bed with me, my sister.” He calls her his sister and the reply from her is to call him her brother. They are not using their names but the relationship that makes this wrong even more wrong.

“No, my brother! Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel!” This is not seduction, or two attracted people going where they both know they should not go. Leviticus 20:17.

“What about me…what about you…?” She is trying to be rational about all of this. After this fleeting act, there will be repercussions.

“Please speak to the king…” Tamar pleads with Amnon to include the king in this process. Rather than act as he wishes, he ought to ask for help. God’s law certainly forbade this marriage. Perhaps Tamar is clutching at straws now as she pleads with Amnon to rethink what he is doing. She is not dumbstruck with love/desire but is desperate for escape.

“…he refused to listen…he was stronger…he raped her.” Let nobody suggest that the bible encourages, excuses or implies a man forcing himself on a woman to be anywhere near acceptable (also a woman on a man). It is not. 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 talks of sex inside of marriage as the right place to experience this. To read 1 Corinthians 7 as forced sex is to be unkind to the message of the text. Sex inside of marriage is to be consenting – always. See also 1 Peter 3:7.

I think it ironic that this episode describes Amnon’s love for Tamar. Love is love, right? Well, no. This episode is about Amnon’s sin with Tamar. His lust. The cravings of his flesh which made himself ill and destroyed Tamar (and himself). What was called love is quickly exchanged for hatred.

Amnon’s hatred (15-22)

“Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred.” As passionately as he had ‘loved’ her, he now hates her. She was an object of lust initially and now she is an object of rejection. Even less of a person to him as she was before.

“Sending me away would be a greater wrong…” It was wrong enough what he did to her but now, by discarding her, he is leaving her with no future life (as it would play out in the Israel culture). This evil, she may learn to live with, but the penalty of being rejected by all because of something that she did not cause – that is perhaps greater. It is odd for us to consider living with a perpetrator as perhaps better. There is no silver lining here in this story. Sin is ugly. There are no dreams of a fairytale ending.

“But he refused to listen to her…” There is a mirror shape to this story. Verse 14 is at the center and what we read as we progress in the story is a reversal of what has previously happened. He refused to listen to her when she said, “No!” and now he refuses to listen to her again as she tries to reason with him. He will expel her out of his bedroom as aggressively as he lured her in.

“She was wearing an ornate robe…” The text tells us that this was a visual clue that she was a virgin daughter of the king. The language matches the coat that Joseph wore in Genesis 37:23.

“Her brother Absalom said to her, ‘Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you?’” It sounds like Absalom already despised Amnon. He didn’t need to ask any questions before deducing that this was Amnon’s doing. He had ‘been with’ her and Absalom knew it. Absalom was so aware of Amnon’s obsession, why wasn’t David clued into this?

“Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.” It would be quite out of character, given how this chapter continues, that Absalom is saying: don’t sweat it, he’s your bro, let it go. That is not what this means. Rather, it will be difficult to move forward with this accusation because he is her brother, the son of the king and now Absalom is instructing her not to put this matter onto her own heart since he will deal with this. In the first instance, he takes her in to his household. The rest of the chapter unfolds what Absalom intends to do to take vengeance.

“When King David heard all this, he was furious.” One would hope that his fury would give way to action – to bring justice to this event. It does not. David does nothing. Absalom remains silent and never interacts with his brother. But there is anger.

Part 2: the vengeance (23-39)

Absalom’s vengeance (23-29)

“Two years later…” This tells us something very important about what happened immediately after this terrible evil…nothing. David, though furious, did nothing. Absalom remained furious but was biding his time. The time lapse of two years makes the point of inaction toward evil by the right people an important theme in this account. If only David had been more involved from the beginning!

“Absalom’s sheepshearers were at Baal Hazor…” What we get here is an occasion for a party. A shearers celebration was about to happen NNE of Jerusalem and Absalom will take this opportunity to invite all of the sons of David to the party. Is two years enough time to let troubled water run under the bridge? Perhaps that’s what Absalom wanted his brothers to think.

“All of us should not go; we would only be a burden to you.” David is being respectful and polite but there is still a reluctance in this story for David to be engaged in the action. David is also suspicious of Amnon’s invitation, surely there is no reason for David to think that Absalom has forgotten what happened. But if the king will not go, then perhaps his prince.

“Strike Amnon down…kill him…Then all the king’s sons got up, mounted their mules and fled.” Amnon was the clear target and he was taken out. It shocked the other brothers though and they fled. After a two year coldness, Absalom struck down the guilty man in vengeance for his sister. He had taken her matter to his own heart and dealt with it. When David was doing nothing, Absalom did something.

The King’s response (30-39)

“…the report came to David: “Absalom has struck down all the king’s sons…” This messenger may have been speedy with his message but was terrible with the facts. This is called efficiency over effectiveness! While the sons of David were riding mules, this guy may have had a stallion! But then there’s the fact that David so quickly believes this false news! Surely it reveals how fearful David was of the pent up anger in Absalom.

“But Jonadab…said…” While David was reacting to the devastating news that all of his sons have been killed by another of his sons, Jonadab speaks some truth to the king. But, hang on, how does he know what has happened!? We were told earlier that he was a shrewd man but how does he know what happened at a distant location even before the king’s sons had made it back to the palace? Surely this says that Jonadab knew of these plans all along. The news was reported that Absalom struck down the king’s sons but Jonadab mentions they. Jonadab then reveals that this plan has been Absalom’s intentions for two years now. Jonadab knew this but did not reveal it to the king!

“Now the man standing watch looked up…” This is simply a description of the watchman on guard. He spots the people at a distance. This is good timing because Jonadab may have wanted a distraction from the fact that he knew so much about all of this.

“…the king’s sons came in, wailing loudly, The king, too, and all his attendants wept very bitterly.” Clearly a devastating outcome for the family. What they failed to act on two years earlier has boiled up and been taken care of for them. Now the family is divided, the sons of David against David’s son, Absalom.

“Absalom fled and went to …the king of Geshur.” This was his kinsmen. Absalom’s mother was from there.

“But David mourned many days for his son.” David grieved over the loss of Amnon. Did he grieve for Absalom also? It is unclear.

“…David longed to go to Absalom, for he was consoled concerning Amnon’s death.” John Woodhouse has reason to question the translations of this verse and it is worth mentioning, however, all of the main translations do not support his observation. He states that David mourned for Amnon for the rest of his life (day after day), and this held the king back from marching out against Absalom, but he mourned over Amnon, because he was dead. His point is that David did not pursue Absalom because he continued to grieve.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

The King remained mostly inactive against the sins that were occurring under his roof by his children. This is not a satisfactory account of David. His sons demonstrate, not being better than David but being worse in terms of their sin. And the penalty for sin is overlooked until vengeance is taken by the third child. What we do not see in this story is a righteous king who takes all sin seriously and acts justly against the wicked.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: The sorrow of expecting others to do any better with sin. It is a scary thing to say ‘like father like son’ when we recognise the sins of the father at first. David had fallen when he failed to be vigilent against sin in his own encounter with Uriah’s wife. It is foolish for us to think that the next generation will do any better than the last. The bible teaches us over and over that each generation fails to live righteous lives. In the passage today, we can learn about sabotaging sin when we stop obsessions from growing. We could learn about engaging in the life of others more so that we can steer one another correctly. And we can also learn that sin perpetuates. Our hope is not to fix the problem of sin ourselves but to give thanks and praise that God has fixed it and promised to cast all suggestion of sin out of the new heaven.

Topic B: God’s vengeance is promised. A well known sentence from the Old Testament is “vengeance is mine, says the LORD” (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30). King David demonstrates what it is like for a king to not act on behalf of the victims of evil. But we worship the God who promises to repay evil. This is how we differ from Amnon. He felt it necessary to repay his step-brother but God instructs us to trust Him with regards to judgement. Romans 12:19 instructs us that because it is God’s to avenge, we ought to leave pay-backs to Him. Hebrews 10:30-39 take the promise of God’s vengeance to give us perseverance in the present. Be assured that ‘it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.’  But it will not simply be the evil people by our standard who will face judgment. It will be all those who do not listen and respond to the gospel of the Lord Jesus. “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord…’ (2 Thessalonians 1:8). Our God will avenge. We can be assured of that.

Topic C: The Son and the brother who did better than the history of all sons. All of the offspring of Eve failed to crush Satan’s head. The sons of David were frequently disappointing. Even the good kings that followed him failed to turn the hearts of Israel completely toward God. There is only One Son who we can all look to and admire, praise and worship because he is perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Jesus said, don’t simply avoid adultery, but destroy the idea of lust. He said go further than not murdering, and learn to love your enemies. Jesus satisfied all of these ‘impossible’ commands and then laid down his life so that we could be called his brother and be called sons of God (John 1:12).

2 Samuel 10

A Despised King

Discussion Question

Is there anyone in the world that does not deserve the kindness of God?

Background (Context)

2 Samuel Chapter 10 contains a few place names that we need some background information on. A good bible dictionary can really speed up research like this but remember that 99% of what we need to know about places in the Old Testament come from the Old Testament itself. Therefore, a good bible search tool or cross-reference bible are both very helpful.

The Ammonites are descendants of Lot, Abraham’s nephew. The Israelites were commanded not to harm or take the land from the Ammonites in Deuteronomy 2:19 because God had made a separate promise to Lot. But the Ammonites were also forbidden to join in the Israelite blessing (Deuteronomy 23:3-6) because they had hired Balaam to prophesy against Israel. Nahesh, king of the Ammonites besieged Jabesh-Gilead (an Israelite town) at the time when Saul became king. Saul rescued Jabesh-Gilead. We are told in 2 Samuel 10:2 that David had a good relationship with King Nahesh.

In Chapter 8, we read of David defeating Hadadezar, king of Zobah. David took a lot of gold and bronze from Hadadezar. People from Damascus tried to help Hadadezar but failed. It appears that the people of Zobah and of Damascus and of Rehob are also part of a common group known as the Arameans – the Arameans of Damascus, of Zobah and of Rehob for example. Hadadezar oppressed the people of Hamath who then thanked David for defeating Hadadezar.

Joab was a commander in David’s army (2 Samuel 8:16).

The theme of Chapter 9 was about the kindness of God shown through David to Mephibosheth. The events of Chapter 10 continue the theme of God’s kindness but this time as it is directed to the nations around Israel.

Read 2 Samuel 10

10 In the course of time, the king of the Ammonites died, and his son Hanun succeeded him as king. David thought, “I will show kindness to Hanun son of Nahash, just as his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to Hanun concerning his father.

When David’s men came to the land of the Ammonites, the Ammonite commanders said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think David is honoring your father by sending envoys to you to express sympathy? Hasn’t David sent them to you only to explore the city and spy it out and overthrow it?” So Hanun seized David’s envoys, shaved off half of each man’s beard, cut off their garments at the buttocks, and sent them away.

When David was told about this, he sent messengers to meet the men, for they were greatly humiliated. The king said, “Stay at Jericho till your beards have grown, and then come back.”

When the Ammonites realized that they had become obnoxious to David, they hired twenty thousand Aramean foot soldiers from Beth Rehob and Zobah, as well as the king of Maakah with a thousand men, and also twelve thousand men from Tob.

On hearing this, David sent Joab out with the entire army of fighting men. The Ammonites came out and drew up in battle formation at the entrance of their city gate, while the Arameans of Zobah and Rehob and the men of Tob and Maakah were by themselves in the open country.

Joab saw that there were battle lines in front of him and behind him; so he selected some of the best troops in Israel and deployed them against the Arameans. 10 He put the rest of the men under the command of Abishai his brother and deployed them against the Ammonites. 11 Joab said, “If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you are to come to my rescue; but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come to rescue you. 12 Be strong, and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in his sight.”

13 Then Joab and the troops with him advanced to fight the Arameans, and they fled before him. 14 When the Ammonites realized that the Arameans were fleeing, they fled before Abishai and went inside the city. So Joab returned from fighting the Ammonites and came to Jerusalem.

15 After the Arameans saw that they had been routed by Israel, they regrouped. 16 Hadadezer had Arameans brought from beyond the Euphrates River; they went to Helam, with Shobak the commander of Hadadezer’s army leading them.

17 When David was told of this, he gathered all Israel, crossed the Jordan and went to Helam. The Arameans formed their battle lines to meet David and fought against him. 18 But they fled before Israel, and David killed seven hundred of their charioteers and forty thousand of their foot soldiers. He also struck down Shobak the commander of their army, and he died there. 19 When all the kings who were vassals of Hadadezer saw that they had been routed by Israel, they made peace with the Israelites and became subject to them.

So the Arameans were afraid to help the Ammonites anymore.

What did you see? (Observation)

For the sake of clarity, here is a quick summary of Chapter 10! David wanted to extend his friendship to the next king of the Ammonites but instead of friendship, king Hanun humiliated David’s men. The Ammonites then hired 20,000 Aramean foot soldiers and others. David sent Joab and his whole army to fight the Ammonites. The Ammonites stood outside their city to wait for Joab while the hired men went behind Joab. Joab took half of his men to turn and fight the Arameans while Abishai, his brother, took the other half to confront the Ammonites. The Arameans got scared and fled. The Ammonites got scared and retreated into their city. Joab returned to Jerusalem but the Arameans regrouped and descended, along with more men from the Euphrates to a town called Helam. David himself came out with his men to fight at Helam and he defeated them. Everyone who was once subject to Hadadezar now became willing subjects to David.


  • The King’s kindness extended (1-2)
  • The kindness rejected (3-5)
  • The conflict that followed (6-16)
  • The king who ended the conflict and those who thanked him (17-19)

The King’s kindness extended (1-2)

“In the course of time, the king of the Ammonites died…” As mentioned in the Context section, we may read this chapter as what happened when the Ammonite king died, rather than ‘what happened next’ chronologically. This chapter is a story about what happened when this king died. A time that is fragile for kingdoms – an opportune moment for other nations to take advantage of their transition.

“David thought, “I will show kindness…”” The theme of this chapter is also kindness just as Chapter 9. This kindness is stretched out beyond the borders of Israel. The Ammonites were East of the Jordan River. The Kingdom of David, which foreshadows the Kingdom of God, is to be an international blessing. Abraham was told that his descendants would be a blessing to all the nations.

“…just as his father showed kindness to me.” This is surprising since they had not shown kindness toward Saul but we take David at his word. At the least, there was no hostility between David and Nahash. Their relationship may have gone further but we do not know.

“So David sent a delegation to express his sympathy…” David sent messengers with his condolences. Although David did not go in person, he sent people with authority to announce his words. We may ponder how God has sent prophets and apostles into the world to announce His intentions for peace.

“When David’s men came to the land of the Ammonites…” Now the problem of the story is ready. David’s men have travelled across the Jordan into foreign territory to represent the king of Israel. What reception will they get?

The kindness rejected (3-5)

“…the Ammonite commanders said to…their lord, “Do you think…” In contrast to David being in command of his men and sending them based on his thinking, the commanders in Hanun’s court speak to their lord and try to influence his thinking. I’m not sure how big a deal this difference makes except to contrast David’s command with Hanun’s.

“So Hanun seized David’s envoys, shaved off half of each man’s beard, cut off their garments at the buttocks, and sent them away.” If I could put an emoji here it would be the one with no mouth and wide round eyes! David’s men may not have even had the opportunity to speak what they had been sent to say. King Hanun despised the kindness of King David. The half shaven beard and the trouserless men were sent away humiliated. The darker side of Nahash (1 Samuel 11:2) is seen in his son, Hanun.

“David…sent messengers to meet the men…”Stay in Jericho till your beards have grown…” David’s kindness is seen again. He was alert to the news of what had gone down and didn’t wait for the men to return to Jerusalem. He knew that they would be ashamed to come to Jerusalem as they were. Even if they had acquired clothing on their journey back, they still had their shaved beards to bare (see Leviticus 19:27; Jeremiah 48:37 and Ezekiel 5:1 for examples of how the beard was a sign of dignity).

The conflict that followed (6-16)

“When the Ammonites realised that they had become obnoxious to David…” Another clue here is given to show David’s care for his messengers. The way that his messengers were treated were directly felt by King David. They were truly his flesh and blood – part of the body of Israel with David as the head. We don’t hear what David thought of the Ammonites but they devised that they had become a stench to David. A strong rejection was felt from the point of view of the Ammonites. But what will they do in response to this awareness?

“…they hired twenty thousand Aramean foot soldiers…” They could have opted for an apology – to repent – but they chose to go all in and gather supporters. Enter the Arameans of Beth Rehob and Zobah (where Hadadezer is from) plus some from Maakah and Tob. See Romans 2:4 to remember the kindness of God toward sinners.

“On hearing this, David sent Joab out with the entire army of fighting men.” O-Oh…they’re in trouble! David has remained at Jerusalem but his whole fighting army has gone out with the commanding officer. We ought to picture a righteous response to the aggression initiated by the enemy of Israel. We ought also wonder what the result will be since David is not with them and there has not been that particular habit of enquiring of the LORD.

“The Ammonites came out…at the entrance of their city gate, while the Arameans…were…in the open country.” Picture the city of the Ammonites guarded by soldiers in front and the Israelite army approaching but a third army forming behind the Israelites. The people of God have been sent by God’s king into the world and the nations are hostile all around them.

“Joab saw that there were battle lines in front of him and behind him…” The surprise attack was revealed. Joab saw what was literally happening on the battlefield – in contrast to how the Ammonites saw that they had become obnoxious to David (Verse 6). The Ammonites were reacting to an inner fear while Joab was seeing real hostility forming around him.

“…best troops in Israel…against the Arameans.” The greater threat to Israel appeared to be the Arameans rather than the silly Ammonites who cut beards and dack their enemy.

“Joab said…” The speech from Joab is unexpectedly long in this passage. A good rule in reading the bible is to take note of what people say in the narratives. They reveal their intentions (derr) but the narrator (Holy Spirit driving the writer) uses speech to disclose important details.

“Be strong, and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God.” When brothers and sisters in the kingdom of God are in battle, spiritually and through interacting with the world we live in, how good is it to hear something like: take courage, be strong, think of what we are doing here. Let us support and rescue one another and be mindful that we are doing battle with the enemy of God. We need to unpack how this translates to Christians fighting which we will look at in the application.

“The LORD will do what is good in his sight.” After the plans of Joab have been laid out, we hear of his faith or at least his understanding of God’s sovereignty. The fighters in David’s kingdom know that they are part of the plans of God. They make the plans but God will direct the outcome. He may not know what God would do but he does know that whatever God does will be good.

Let me quote John Woodhouse on this speech from Joab…

“Joab’s words to Abishai stand at the heart of this chapter. He makes the only direct reference to God in the whole chapter, and what he said illuminates the whole episode. The words are a wonderful expression of faith in God. Faith is knowing that the Lord is good and that he does what is good. What is good is decided by God, not us.42 But with this faith we can face any enemy, any situation, any threat with a strength that comes from this faith. As we walk honestly before God, doing what he approves, he will give us strength that surpasses whatever power confronts us (cf. Romans 8:31–39).”

“…Joab returned from fighting the Ammonites and came to Jerusalem.” Both hostile armies fled. There was no need for Joab to support Abishai nor Abishai to support Joab. There were no recorded deaths in this battle. The enemy fled in both directions. The first outcome seems like a win for God’s people. Joab was able to return all the way to Jerusalem.

“After the Arameans saw…they regrouped.” The enemy gets their second wind. One battle had been won but the enemy takes every opportunity to attack. Even a quick beating will not resolve this situation. The enemy is relentless.

“Hadadezer…” He is mentioned in Verse 16 for the first time in this chapter but is named twice more. We met him in Chapter 8 when we heard of his defeat and David acquiring much gold and bronze from him. He is the king of Zobah and has therefore been part of this conflict since Verse 6. Hadadezer means “Hadad is [my] help”. Hadad was a pagan storm-god known as “the one who smashes.”

“…brought from beyond the Euphrates River; they went to Helam…” The enemy regrouped but came back even stronger and came to Helam. The location of Helam is not certain but way closer to home. Perhaps some 60km east of the Sea of Galilee.

While the Ammonites had retreated to their city, their hired help were now determined to show their strength against Israel. So far it has been a battle led by commanders, Joab and now Shobak. The enemy are poised to engage with more force than the first time.

The king who ended the conflict and those who thanked him (17-19)

“When David was told this…” The next stage of the story begins here – the resolution. David is now brought back into the story and we watch to see what he does.

“…he gathered Israel, crossed the Jordan and went to Helam.” He doesn’t send this time but he gathers and goes. The king is going to war.

“The Arameans formed their battle lines to meet David and fought against him.” Both sides are engaged to fight with all the force they can gather. It’s multiple tribes of the Arameans against David.

“But they fled before Israel…” It’s all over folks. Nothing to see here. David wins. This time, however, there is more than just the enemy fleeing…

“…David killed seven hundred of their charioteers and forty thousans of their foot soldiers. He also struck down Shoback the commander of their army, and he died there.” David not only won but he disabled any future attacks from this evil people. There were a few points in this chapter which would have allowed the enemy to live. They first of all should not have sided with the city that shunned David’s kindness. They should have also kept away after the first battle. These were a people bent on attacking God’s people.

“When all the kings who were vassals of Hadadezer saw…they made peace with the Israelites and became subject to them.” We learn here that Hadadezer, king of Zobah, was lord over other kingdoms too. These other kings were subject of him with a kind of feudal allegiance. He would not harm them if they saluted him. Likely they paid tribute or taxes and perhaps they would receive some protection from him. The details of the arrangement can differ but he was their dominant rival. They get to keep their land but as subjects of Hadadezer. But they see that David has defeated them. They make peace with David – accepting the kindness that was initially offered to the Ammonites. They reject the power of king Hadadezer and come to David now as their King.

“So the Arameans were afraid to help the Ammonites anymore.” The Arameans were defeated but the story leaves us to contemplate the future of the Ammonites. They were the ones that were offered David’s kindness. They rejected it. They did not relent but looked for help from others. Now, they do not have the kindness of King David nor the help from anybody else. They are left on their own. Alone in the world and without the friendship of God’s King.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

The kindness of God’s king is offered to the nations of the world. If only they would learn to trust in the offer that God makes instead of choosing to hate His friendship. Those who oppose the goodness of God will face the judgement of God. There are those in command who stand up against God’s kingdom but there is One True King who will receive all who come to Him and call Him Lord.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: The gospel for all nations. The story opens and closes with the message of kindness to nations outside of Israel. David opens his hand to a foreign king and it is rejected. But the conclusion of the story is of other nations coming to David – recognising that he is the king to be at peace with. The gospel is very much like this. Romans 10:9 tells us that salvation is about declaring Jesus as Lord. How can people do that if they do not know because they have not heard. Did you notice along the story how everybody acted on what they saw (V6, 9, 15, 19)  and on what they heard (V5, 7, 17). The gospel is not a secret to be kept but a message of what God has done, what He is like, and how He wants to make peace with all who will not stand up against Him.

Topic B: The encouragement of a Christian brother or sister. As noted, Joab’s speech is a significant one. It is a conversation between two brothers fighting for the same king and trusting in the same God. The battle ahead would be daunting especially when they felt trapped by two armies. But their trust was in the LORD to do what the LORD sees as good. They were of one mind with regard to their mission. Their faith was in God who they trust will do good. The word of encouragement is not simply to toughen up but to see the bigger picture and know that Yahweh is God. And to go even one step further, they are to be ready to rescue one another. It is important for us all to have friends. Not just work colleagues or fellow church goers but friends. It is so great when we have a friend who will talk to us about God and give us courage to keep trusting in the LORD.

Topic C: The trouble with kindness is that it is too subtle for fools. The kingdom of God has two faces – the face you see depends on your response to the kingdom. On the one hand there is kindness. God created a good world, damaged by the sin of humanity, but kept mercifully going by God, his wrath held back so that many can be saved. This is the loving kindness of God to the world that says, “God gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will…have eternal life.” What a wonderfully generous offer that we all ought to accept straight away! But the other face of the kingdom is punishment on fools who say that there is no God, or that God does not deserve to be recognised. John 3:16 implies that if we continue in our unbelief then we will perish.  John 3:36 puts it like this: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” All of humanity are experiencing the kindness of God while He refrains from pouring His wrath on those who have not yet turned to the King. Our race mistakes God’s kindness as idleness when really it means salvation. As Romans 2:4 says, “do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realising that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?