Posted: January 17, 2016 in When the Wolf Howls
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Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 32

When king David sent his servants to express sympathy to king Hanun on the death of his father, the act of kindness had been misinterpreted. The sons of Hanun, kings advisors like Absalom, had unfortunately thought the worst of David’s gesture of kindness. “They are not consolers but conspirators,” they said to Hanun, “spying out your land.”

Hanun, the young Ammonite king humiliated David’s servants “Shave off half their beards and cut half their robes off at the buttocks and send them home half naked. That will give a strong message to David not to pry into our affairs.” This was not a good move in improving relations with Israel. In fact, it amounted to a declaration of war.

News got back to David fairly quickly and when Absalom heard the story of David’s humiliated servants, he laughed until tears flowed down his face. David was furious. “You should be grateful that I sent my servants and not my sons.” David said, and Absalom regained his composure immediately. He was also grateful that David had not sent his sons. He could never have borne such humiliation himself.

Knowing how his servants must feel, David sent men out to meet them, “Clothe them and send them to Jericho until their beards have regrown, and treat them with respect.”

“His kingdom is under our authority anyway. Why did you send your servants to him in the first place?” Absalom said. He was personally more interested in how easy it had been for Hanun to become king after his father died and the power he obviously exercised. The transition from father to son had been almost immediate.

“When I heard of the death of king Nahash,” David said, “it reminded me of the day that king Saul had died and how Jonathan if he had lived, could have been the heir to the throne, and after him, Jonathan’s sons. I showed kindness to Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth, and made a friend of a possible enemy. It made sense to me that I should also show kindness to this grieving son who had just lost his father. It didn’t occur to me that he would abuse my sympathy.”

Hanun did not understand that king David was a man of God who genuinely desired to show the kindness of God to those around him. He started preparing himself for war by hiring mercenaries; 20,000 Aramean foot soldiers; 1,000 men from king Maacah and 12,000 men from Tob.

Speculation of war increased and in David’s court the situation was discussed. When definite news came, Absalom heard David give the order.

“Joab, you are to head up the operation with the very best of our warriors. According to reports from Hushai and Ahithophel, the Ammonites have arranged their men and mercenaries in a way that would leave you fighting in the middle. They have placed their own men by their city gate and the more experienced mercenaries in the field. Take this into account as you go.”

Joab was no fool. He saw the battle arrangement immediately and took action. He selected highly experienced men to fight against the mercenaries, and the remainder to fight against the Ammonites, with the understanding if one needed the other’s help that they would come.

“You are fighting for your families and for the cities of God.” he told his soldiers and they immediately responded to the task at hand. He knew that men of war treasured their families as much as king David treasured his. Joab understood this principle too in the context of warfare. He shouted, “We fight for our families, cities full of God’s chosen people, not for property or authority or for our own glory.” And then Joab also recognised that whatever the outcome, it was in the Lord’s hands, “May the Lord do what is good in His sight.”

The mercenaries were no match for Joab. They fled before him.

When the Ammonites saw that the mercenaries had fled they also took flight into the city. Rather than trying to storm the city Joab went back to Jerusalem to await further orders.

Meanwhile, the mercenaries regathered themselves under king Hadadezer, who sent for some more backups, placing them under the command of general Shobach.

David heard reports about these new developments from Hushai and gathered his army. One day David would cross the Jordan in flight himself, but in this instance, he crossed the river to face the Aramean mercenaries.

Again the Arameans fled before Israel and a lot of men died, including 700 charioteers. Something made Absalom shiver when he heard about them. 40,000 horsemen died that day, including Commander Shobach himself.

Hadadezer did the only thing that he could do. He surrendered and became a vassal of king David; his people reduced now to a servant nation. All that remained was to take the Ammonite capital. It had not been wise for Hanun to fight against the army of Jehovah Sabaoth, Lord of hosts.


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