Monday, February 4, 2013

CX - II Samuel 9-10 - Mephibosheth; The Ammonites

Chapter 9 - Mephibosheth

Remember Mephibosheth?  Remember Jonathan, Saul's son?  Mephibosheth was Jonathan's only son.  The day the Philistines killed Saul and Jonathan in battle, Mephibosheth's nurse fled, carrying the five year old child.  In her haste she dropped Mephibosheth, rendering him crippled in both of his legs.  As you remember Jonathan and David:  They were best friends.  Kindred spirits.  David loved Jonathan as he loved himself (I Samuel 20:17).  David made a vow to always protect Jonathan's family, no matter what.  As it turns out, Jonathan was killed in battle standing with his father Saul.  Jonathan may have been fighting for the wrong king, but Jonathan's heart was right, fighting along side his father.

Chapter 9  -  With his kingdom firmly established and his court organized and functioning, David looked back along the way he had come through God's providence.  During this period of reflection, David remembered his covenant with Jonathan, who had been his faithful freind when David was a fugitive from Saul's jealous rage.  Faithful to his word, David now sought some means of fulfilling his vow to Jonathan (I Sam. 20:14-17), and made inquiries as to whether there were any members of Jonathan's family still alive.

Vss 1-->  Into this setting the young man Mephibosheth entered as a somewhat forlorn figure.  He had been a cripple since he was five years old, through no fault of his own.  He had been living in virtual exile in Lodebar.  In those times it was not unusual for the head of a new dynasty to eliminate possible contenders for his throne by killing all the members of his predecessor's family.  {This practice has been commonplace throughout the centuries.  As recently as the 1930s when the Bolshovics revolted in Russia, their first order of business was to kill the entire Rominov family.  They succeeded with the exception of the baby Anistasia, who many think was smuggled to the United States.}  Thus we can imagine Mephibosheth's fear and dread as he responded to the royal summons to Jerusalem and prostrated himself before David (vs 6).  But David, being a true man of God, had a pleasant shock for the young Mephibosheth.  Mephibosheth was not merely given a reprieve to keep on living; he was to be shown genuine kindness for his father Jonathan's sake.  Beyond that, all the land that had been his grandfather Saul's was to be restored to Mephibosheth.  And further more, Mephibosheth was to live in the royal palace as David's permanent guest.  Further yet, (vss 9-13) all of Ziba's household including his family and servants (more than thirty five men) were to work the land and serve Mephibosheth his entire life.  {Not bad, huh?}  Mephibosheth's sole responsibility was to manage the estate, which served to keep Mephibosheth's spirits alive as a contributor to the nation and society.  {David was smart enough to know that total care given to a person without blessing him with some kind of responsibility was destructive.  He was right.}

Chapter 10  -  The Scripture abruptly shifts subjects going from chapter 9 to chapter 10.  This chapter deals with the Ammonites and Syrian mercenaries (soldiers for hire).  The Ammonite people were located east of the Jordan River.  Based on vs 2, David and Nahash, king of the Ammonites, were good friends and had treated each other with kindness and respect for a number of years.  Chapter 10 opens with the news that Nahash had died, and his son Hanun had succeeded his father as king of the Ammonites.  David, as a jesture of respect, sent a delegation of his high ranking officials to Hanun to express Israel's condolences in the death of the king, being the new king's father.  {Again, David was a smart and diplomatic leader.}  But let's bear in mind that David had built such a powerful military that they were feared throughout the populated world.  David's army defeated whomever was foolish enough to stand against him and God.  Bear in mind also that all of David's friendly dealings were with Nahash, not his son Hanun.  Therefore (vs 3) Hanun and his advisors were convinced that Israel's delegation were coming to spy on the Ammonites to find their weaknesses for a future attack.  So Hanun then made a HUGE mistake.  He captured the delegation from Israel, cut off half of their individual beards, and cut off their garments just below the buttocks.  This was the ultimate in humiliation, and totally uncalled for.

When David heard of this he was furious.  But his first concern was for his men who had been humiliated.  He sent word for them to stay in Jerecho until their beards grew back.  {This was a compassionate act, thinking of the humiliated men first.}  Then David turned his attention to the Ammonites.  He sent Joab (military commander) out with an army to deal with the Ammonites.  Hanun was of course fearful of these Israelites so he hired twenty thousand Aramean soldiers, twelve thousand soldiers from Tob, and hired the king of Maakah and his thousand men, all in addition to the sizable Ammonite army.  Hanun wanted to keep the Ammonite army together so he had all the mercenaries to hide and attack Israel from the rear.  (A tactic Joshua invented more than a century ago.)  But Joab, the captain of the Israelite military saw what was happening and split his army, making provisions for the the worst case scenario (vss 9-12).  Of course both sections of Joab's army were victorious and scattered the enemy completely.

But the Ammonites and the Arameans regrouped as time allowed.  {I must interject at this time that all of these mercenaries were Syrians, a mighty warring people located to the extreme north, with military might to equal that of the Philistines.  These Syrians are going to play an important but terrible role in Israel's History, as we will see later.}  Such large groups of powerful military gathering is a difficult thing to hide.  So of course David learned of it.  This time (vss 17-19) David didn't send Joab to lead an army against these men.  David went himself.  David and his army quickly and brutally defeated both the Ammonites and the Arameans.  He killed seven hundred charioteers and forty thousand foot soldiers.  David also made it a point to kill their military commander Shobak.  {The Scripture does not mention here about the fate of the Ammonite king Hanun, who was ultimately responsible for this whole mess.  Knowing David, he might have spared Hanun's life out of respect for Hanun's father Nahash, with whom David had a friendly History.}

Next post:  David and Bathsheba

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