His Servants Insulted
2 Samuel 10
The next incident recorded in the life of David needs to be pondered from more than one viewpoint. This is intimated to us by the fact that in 2 Samuel 10 it is given immediately after the account of the grace which he showed unto Mephibosheth, whereas in 1 Chronicles 19 it is placed right after a parallel account of what is mentioned to 2 Samuel 8. Yet though the context of 2 Samuel 10 and 1 Chronicles 19 is so different, each of them opens with the same words: "And (‘Now’) it came to pass after this." Thereby it is suggested that inasmuch as this incident is described at length in almost identical language in 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles, it, possesses a twofold significance; and because it is given different settings that it requires to be considered separately in its relation to each one. We shall endeavor, then, to follow up this clue, viewing the subject first as it comes immediately after what was before us in the preceding chapter.
The king of the Ammonites having died, David purposed to express a neighborly and friendly sympathy for his son. Accordingly, he sent some of his servants "to comfort him." But instead of this kindly overture meeting with appreciation, it was regarded with distrustful suspicion. The princes of the Ammonites imagined that David had evil designs against their city, and that the men who had ostensibly come to console their bereaved master, were but spies, seeking information with a view to their overthrow. Whereupon Hanun the king grievously insulted his visitors and put them to an open shame. His action was a declaration of war against David, and so the king of Israel regarded it. The remainder of the chapter records the fighting to which their insult gave rise. But it is the typical and spiritual meaning of it with which we are desirous of being occupied. Nor should this be difficult to ascertain.
The link of connection between 2 Samuel 9 and 10 is obvious on the surface: the former opens with "and David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness For Jonathan’s sake?" the latter opens with, "And it came to pass after this, that the king of the children of Ammon died, and Hanun his son reigned in his stead. Then said David, I will show kindness unto Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father showed kindness unto me." But with the exception of the words we have just italicized everything else is in sharp and solemn contrast. In 2 Samuel 9 David shows kindness to an Israelite; in 2 Samuel 10 he shows kindness to an Ammonite. In the Former, it was to the descendant of his archenemy; in the latter, it was to the son of one who had befriended him. In the one, his gracious overtures were deeply appreciated; in the other, they were maliciously resented.
Now as we showed at length in our two chapters upon 2 Samuel 9, that chapter gives us a most lovely typical picture of the free and sovereign grace of God unto His elect. What, then, is it which is distinctively prefigured here in 2 Samuel 10? In seeking the answer to this question, as we attend closely to each word used in the first five verses of it, we notice a further contrast: throughout 2 Samuel 9 it is David himself who is prominent; whereas in 2 Samuel 10 it is his ambassadors who occupy the center of the stage. In verses 2-4 the servants of David are referred to no less than Four times; whereas his servants are not mentioned once in the preceding chapter. Here, then, is the key to our incident; typically, it is the ambassadors of the Son of David who are in view.
"But after that the kindness and pity (margin) of God our Saviour toward man appeared" (Titus 3:4). And wherein is that "kindness and pity of God our Saviour" revealed? In the Gospel. And to whom is His Gospel to be preached? To "every creature" (Mark 16:15). There are some of our readers—preachers—who need reminding of this. Christ has commissioned. His servants to preach the Gospel, to make known His "kindness and pity," not only to those who give evidence of having been awakened by the Holy Spirit, but also to the unregenerate. There is something seriously wrong with any creed or theological system which cramps and fetters the preacher in his free proclamation of the Gospel. They who imagine that the Gospel is only for the "elect," err grievously. On the other hand in order to "do the work of an evangelist" (2 Tim. 4:5) one does not have to believe either in a general redemption or in the free will of fallen man.
In the parable of the Sower, Christ makes it clear that He sowed the seed upon all parts of the field, and not on the "good ground" only. In the closing parable of Matthew 13, He represents the Gospel "net" as gathering in fish of all kinds, "bad" as well as "good." In the parable of the Great Supper, the servant is sent forth to say, "Come, for all things are now ready," and this, even unto those who "all with one consent began to make excuse" (Luke 14:17,18). In the closing section of the parable of the two sons, Christ declared concerning the elder brother (the self-righteous, hard-hearted Pharisee) "therefore came his Father out and entreated him" (Luke 15:28). O my dear brethren in the ministry, seek grace and wisdom to make your ministry square with that of Christ’s! He did not allow the eternal decrees of God to tie His hands or muzzle His mouth.
It was the same with those that immediately succeeded Christ, It was to a promiscuous audience (Acts 3:9), to those who were unbelievers (v. 17), that Peter said, "Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out" (Acts 3: 19)! "Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them" (Acts 8:5): we are not told that it was to a small and picked company, who had been quickened by the Spirit, but to "the city of Samaria" in general. And what was the theme of his preaching? Christ!—as an all-sufficient Saviour for the very chief of sinners. The apostle Paul was not cramped in his message: "Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21): the impenitent he called upon to repent and the unbelieving, he bade believe on the Saviour. Are not these very things recorded For our learning, as a precedent for us to follow!
That which we have sought to emphasize in the last three paragraphs receives striking illustration and confirmation in the incident we are here considering. If 2 Samuel 9 supplies a blessed representation of the kindness of God shown toward one of His elect, our present chapter gives an equally clear type of the overtures of the Lord’s kindness extended unto the non-elect. Here is the reason why the two incidents are placed side by side: the one supplements the other. If in the last chapter we beheld the "kindness" of David manifested unto one with whom he was in covenant relationship, in the chapter now before us we see his "kindness" being shown to one who was outside the commonwealth of Israel, to one who was a heathen. And it is in that particular fact lies the typical beauty of our passage, and the great evangelical lesson which we need to learn from it.
"And it came to pass after this, that the king of the children of Ammon died, and Hanun his son reigned in his stead. Then said David, I will show kindness unto Hanun the son of Nahash" (2 Sam. 10:1,2). It is only as we attend closely unto each detail here that we can appreciate the accuracy of our typical picture. Death provided the dark background for it. It was the decease of Nahash which supplied the opportunity for David to manifest the kindness of his heart! Once our minds are definitely focused on this item, what anointed eye can fail to perceive its spiritual signification? No "comfort" was needed by man in his unfallen state; the Gospel had been entirely unsuited to Adam during the brief season that he remained in unclouded communion with his Maker, But the entrance of sin entirely altered the case.
Adam’s transgression cast a pall of blackness over the fair scene of Eden; nor was its darkness in anywise relieved till the light of the Gospel (Gen. 3: 15) broke in on it. It is sin which exhibited the need for a Saviour; it was that spiritual death into which the fall plunged the whole family, which makes evident the glad tidings of life in Christ. The whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. And it was where sin abounded, that grace did much more abound. The sin of then brought out the marvellous grace that was in the heart of God. The Lord had by no means acted unjustly, had He eternally doomed the whole human race when their father and federal head apostatized from Him. But He did not do so: in wrath He "remembered mercy."
Here, then, is the first line in our typical picture: death provides for it a suitable background. The more the awfulness be felt of that spiritual death which it adumbrated, the more will we appreciate the blessedness of that wondrous "comfort" which divine mercy hath provided. The terrible fall which brought in spiritual death was of such an aggravated nature that it left all whom Adam represented without excuse. The nature of our spiritual death is described in Ephesians 4; 18, "Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart." it has wrought in us a carnal mind which "is enmity" against God (Rom. 8:7). Why, then, should the Lord have any regard for us? Why should He concern Himself about those who prefer darkness to light, evil to good, death to life? Had He totally abandoned us to our ruin and wretchedness, that had been all we deserved.
"Then said David, I will show kindness unto Hanun" (v. 2). Here is the second line in our typical picture, pointing us unto the One who is the Author of all that is good, gentle, sympathetic and unselfish in His creatures; and is Himself "of great kindness" (Jonah 4:2). O what kindness did the Lord show when He left Heaven’s glory and came down to this sin curst earth! What kindness for the Lord to take upon Himself the form of a servant, and minister unto others rather than be ministered unto. What compassion He exhibited when in the presence of want, suffering and misery; what kindness when He "healed all manner of sickness and all manner of disease" (Matthew 4:23). Thus did the kindness of David shadow forth the infinitely greater kindness of his Son and Lord.
"And David sent to comfort him by the hand of his servants" (v. 2). This gives the third line in our typical picture. During the days of His flesh, Christ announced, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised (Luke 4:18), Since His ascension, He has continued this gracious ministry through His ambassadors and servants: 2 Corinthians 5:20, Mark 16:20. O what a message of "comfort" have Christ’s ministers for every poor sinner that will give ear to them: a message which makes known a way of escape from the wrath to come, that tells of how the forgiveness of sins may be obtained; how peace, joy, everlasting life and bliss may become our portion.
The fourth line in our picture is given in the next words, "And the servants of David came into the land of the children of Ammon" (v. 2). These servants of David were not like Jonah, who demurred when called upon to preach unto the Ninevites. No, they made no objection against going outside the bounds of God’s covenant people, and journeying to a place of idolaters. As such, they prefigured the obedient servants of the Son of David, whose commission is "That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations" (Luke 24:47).
"And the princes of the children of Ammon said unto Hanun their Lord, Thinkest thou that David doth honor thy father, that he hath sent comforters unto thee? hath not David rather sent his servants unto thee to search the city, and to spy it out, and to overthrow it?" (v. 3). Is any interpreter required here? Is not this next line in our picture so clear that it speaks for itself! The common experience of the Christian evangelist is identical in substance with that which befell the servants of David. Though his intentions are of the best, they are interpreted as being evil. Though he comes with a message of true "comfort" the poor blinded dupes of Satan regard him as a "kill-joy." Though his only object be to make known the "kindness" of his royal Master, the vast majority of those to whom he comes, resent his mission. Alas, that now, in many circles of professing Christians, the true servant of Christ is not wanted, but rather looked upon with suspicion, as a "self-seeker" or "disturber of the peace."
"Wherefore Hanun took David’s servants, and shaved off the one half of their beards, and cut off their garments in the middle, even to their buttocks, and sent them away" (v. 4). This line in our picture is also so obvious that it needs little comment from us. It foreshadowed the treatment which the Son of David’s servants would receive from those whose welfare they sought. Those servants were mocked and insulted: not wanted, they were "sent away" in shame. Men today have other ways of insulting and disgracing the ministers of the Gospel beside the methods used by those Ammonites; but they are just as effective. Wrongful charges are made against them, false reports are spread, so that they are excluded from many places.
"When they told it unto David, he sent to meet them, because the men were greatly ashamed: and the king said, Tarry at Jericho until your beards be grown, and then return" (v. 5). Here is the sequel to the unkind treatment they had met with: the servants of David are called upon to retire from the public eye. They have to spend a season—one of some months at least—in, seclusion, cut off from fellowship. One wonders how many today are, like the writer, "tarrying at Jericho"! Not a few "teachers" are now "removed into a corner" (Isa. 30:20), for the time hath come "when they will not endure sound doctrine" (2 Tim. 4:3). Concerning Israel of old we read, "But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words, and misused His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy" (2 Chron. 36:16)—is this soon to be repeated in the history of Christendom?
The final line in our typical picture—occupying the remainder of 2 Samuel 10—is a solemn one: David avenged his insulted servants. He regarded the ignominy heaped on them as a direct affront upon himself. Thus it is in the antitype. Concerning His ministers, Christ has said, "He that heareth you, heareth Me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me" (Luke 10:16). He regards the ill-usage of them as a declaration of war against Himself. He has said, "Touch not Mine anointed, and do My prophets no harm" (Ps. 105:15), and He will not be disobeyed with impugnity. Solemn is it to look forward to the time when those who have despised, slandered, insulted and cast out His servants, will yet have to answer to the Son of David Himself.
Many and important are the lessons for the servants of Christ in this incident. Chief among them are: 1. They are to obediently carry out the orders of their royal Master, no matter how unreasonable they may appear or how distasteful they be unto themselves. 2. They must be prepared for their best intentions and kindest actions to expose them unto the basest suspicions. They must expect ingratitude, contempt and abuse; but sufficient for the servant to be as his Lord. 3. These things must not discourage them, for eventually, Christ Himself will plead their cause! 4. They must not attempt to avenge themselves, but rather follow the example left by their Master: 1 Peter 2:23. 5. if now, for a reason, they are required to "tarry at Jericho," they may take comfort from the fact that it is their Lord who has ordered that isolated seclusion.