1 Chronicles 19:1-19 – Gotta Get to Know The Backstory!

Posted: May 7, 2020 in 99-Uncategorized

1 Chronicles 19:1-19

David Defeats the Ammonites

The Back Story Makes It A Better Story

There is always a backstory and connecting the backstories in the Bible adds to the richness of our understanding of God’s Word. For example, without understanding who the Sadducees and the Pharisees were, what the Sanhedrin was in 1st century Jewish society, understanding the uneasy détente between the Jewish religious/civic leaders and the Roman occupation forces and government, you really can’t grasp the true richness of the story of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry as presented in the four gospels. So, here in this passage for today. The backstory is intriguing because the Bible itself does not fully connect the dots for us and we have to rely not only on it but also upon the Jewish religious/historical writings in the Talmud for additional background.

The first thing that you have to remember here was that, in general, the Israelites and the Ammonites did not like each other. The Ammonites were a Semitic people, closely related to the Israelites. Despite that relationship, they were more often counted enemies than friends. Lot, Abraham’s nephew, was the progenitor of the Ammonites. After Abraham and Lot separated (Genesis 13), Lot settled in the city of Sodom. When God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness, Lot and his daughters fled to the hill country on the southern end of the Dead Sea. Probably thinking they were the only people left on the earth, Lot’s daughters got him drunk and had incestuous relations with him to produce children (Genesis 19:37-38). The older daughter had a son named Moab (“from father”), and the younger gave birth to Ben-Ammi (“son of my people”). The Ammonites, descendants of Ben-Ammi, were a nomadic people who lived in the territory of modern-day Jordan, and the name of the capital city, Amman, reflects the name of those ancient inhabitants.

Nahash and David were friendly with one another. David had no trouble out of the Ammonites while Nahash was the Ammonite king. Although Nahash was no great friend of Israel, he had shown kindness to David while David was on the run and Saul was king. So, while David and Nahash held their thrones at the same time, there was a time of peace between the Ammonites and the Israelites. Further, Some scholars believe David’s sisters, Abigail and Zeruiah, may have been his half-sisters and that their father was not Jesse but Nahash.

The book of 2 Samuel refers to Abigail as the daughter of Nahash: “Absalom had appointed Amasa over the army in place of Joab. Amasa was the son of a man named Jether, an Israelite who had married Abigail, the daughter of Nahash and sister of Zeruiah the mother of Joab” (2 Samuel 17:25). Nahash was an Ammonite king (1 Samuel 11:1). Speculation suggests that David’s mother had been married to Nahash when she bore the half-sisters and then later became the second wife of Jesse. Further speculation implies that David’s mother was not yet married to Jesse when she became pregnant—that perhaps she was still married to Nahash when she conceived David. These theories could explain why David was not accepted by his family: “I am a foreigner to my own family, a stranger to my own mother’s children” (Psalm 69:8). David was left to tend the flocks when the prophet Samuel invited all of Jesse’s sons to a sacrifice (1 Samuel 16:5). God had told Samuel that He would choose one of the sons to be anointed king, but the family never even considered David as a possibility (1 Samuel 16:11). The theories might also shed some light on Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (ESV).

This would explain the fondness that Nahash and David had for one another. They were was a link between them – David’s mom, if you believe the Jewish traditions in the Talmud (which are not considered by Christians to be divinely inspired, but rather human interpretations and historical information that supports the Old Testament record). When you consider though some of David’s comments in the Psalms about his ancestry, one may begin to think that there is some substance to the tradition as written in the Talmud. Since there was this fondness and this link between Nahash and David, then, as a result, David was going to extend the same kindness to Nahash’s son and successor to the Ammonite throne, Hanun. David’s logic was that if he was Nahash’s son, then, that’s good enough for me to continue good relations with the Ammonites.

The Current Story

As often happens with succeeding generations, the importance of events and relationships and so on that were oh so important to the previous generations, become less so for the succeeding generations. For example, we are now 75 years removed from the end of World War II, there are very few remaining heroes and civilians of that era that are still alive today. My granddaughter’s generation will most likely not care a hoot about the sacrifices that were made by our country and the people that were alive at that time. It is so far removed from their frame of reference it is simply not going to be an important event to them. Even the horrors of September 11, 2001 will not be as important to her as they are to me and to my granddaughter’s parents. Now, the pandemic of 2020 will be important to her. It will be examined for many years to come as to what it did to us as a society and so on. She will be interested in that. It’s in her frame of reference.

I think it is the same for Hanun. He did not know the whole backstory as we have presented it here. He had no attachments to David and his mom. He just knew the history of animosity between the two countries. He just knew as a king that you’re not supposed to “trust Greeks bearing gifts” as the old saying goes. That’s what’s going on here. Let’s read the passage, 1 Chronicles 19:1-19, now:

Chapter 19

1 Some time after this, King Nahash of the Ammonites died, and his son Hanun[a] became king. 2 David said, “I am going to show loyalty to Hanun because his father, Nahash, was always loyal to me.” So David sent messengers to express sympathy to Hanun about his father’s death.

But when David’s ambassadors arrived in the land of Ammon, 3 the Ammonite commanders said to Hanun, “Do you really think these men are coming here to honor your father? No! David has sent them to spy out the land so they can come in and conquer it!” 4 So Hanun seized David’s ambassadors and shaved them, cut off their robes at the buttocks, and sent them back to David in shame.

5 When David heard what had happened to the men, he sent messengers to tell them, “Stay at Jericho until your beards grow out, and then come back.” For they felt deep shame because of their appearance.

6 When the people of Ammon realized how seriously they had angered David, Hanun and the Ammonites sent 75,000 pounds[b] of silver to hire chariots and charioteers from Aram-naharaim, Aram-maacah, and Zobah. 7 They also hired 32,000 chariots and secured the support of the king of Maacah and his army. These forces camped at Medeba, where they were joined by the Ammonite troops that Hanun had recruited from his own towns. 8 When David heard about this, he sent Joab and all his warriors to fight them. 9 The Ammonite troops came out and drew up their battle lines at the entrance of the city, while the other kings positioned themselves to fight in the open fields.

10 When Joab saw that he would have to fight on both the front and the rear, he chose some of Israel’s elite troops and placed them under his personal command to fight the Arameans in the fields. 11 He left the rest of the army under the command of his brother Abishai, who was to attack the Ammonites. 12 “If the Arameans are too strong for me, then come over and help me,” Joab told his brother. “And if the Ammonites are too strong for you, I will help you. 13 Be courageous! Let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. May the Lord’s will be done.”

14 When Joab and his troops attacked, the Arameans began to run away. 15 And when the Ammonites saw the Arameans running, they also ran from Abishai and retreated into the city. Then Joab returned to Jerusalem.

16 The Arameans now realized that they were no match for Israel, so they sent messengers and summoned additional Aramean troops from the other side of the Euphrates River.[c] These troops were under the command of Shobach,[d] the commander of Hadadezer’s forces.

17 When David heard what was happening, he mobilized all Israel, crossed the Jordan River, and positioned his troops in battle formation. Then David engaged the Arameans in battle, and they fought against him. 18 But again the Arameans fled from the Israelites. This time David’s forces killed 7,000 charioteers and 40,000 foot soldiers, including Shobach, the commander of their army. 19 When Hadadezer’s allies saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they surrendered to David and became his subjects. After that, the Arameans were no longer willing to help the Ammonites.

Scripture Analysis

In this passage, Hanun misread David’s intentions. He did not know the backstory, I guess, well enough to understand that David’s intentions were pure. Hanun was overly suspicious and brought disaster upon himself. Because of past experiences and a general distrust of others, we can end up questioning the real motives of those around us and second-guess their every move. While we should be “wise as serpents” and discern and study a situation, we must be “peaceful as doves” and not automatically assume others’ actions and motives for them are ill-intended (ref. Matt 10:16).

However, rather than admit his mistake and seek forgiveness and reconciliation, Hanun spent an enormous amount of money and other resources in pridefully covering up his error. His cover-up cost him dearly. It often costs more to cover up an error than to admit it honestly. Rather than compound an error through defensiveness, Hanun teaches us by his actions/errors that we should seek forgiveness and reconciliation as soon as we realize that we have made a mistake.

Takeaway

I think there are two for today. First, everybody’s got a backstory and it effects how we interact with the world around us. Most of the time, we do not consider other people’s backstories. We only see how they are coming at us and see it only as how it affects us. We only see a situation or conflict from our own perspective. Jesus knows our backstories but yet He accepts us and forgives us and makes us His own. We should not just see life from own view. If you are in conflict with someone, try to get to the bottom of why the person is coming at you the way that they are. There’s always more to it than the content of the conflict. There’s a process that has brought about the conflict. We need to love others enough to get to know their backstories so that we know what their triggers are, what’s important to them, what’s painful to them. Then, we can be more of Jesus to them than we are now. Second, from Hanun, we need to learn some humility and be willing to recognize when we are wrong and come out with it. We often make bigger messes of things when we try to cover up our mistakes. How much more will people actually end up respecting us when we admit that we are wrong and stop the flow of events caused by us not admitting it. In both these lessons, it’s about reconciliation. It’s about restoration. That’s what we as Christians are here for – the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18). We are here to do whatever it takes to reconcile people to God. Conflict is of the devil. We must seek reconciliation. When people are reconciled to us, they are more likely to see and hear Jesus than when they are in conflict. Conflict is Satan’s white noise that keeps us from hearing Jesus.

Amen and Amen.

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