Scripture Focus: 2 Samuel 10
2 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, 3 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?” 4 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.
Reflection: Cost of Immature Leadership
By John Tillman
David, who mourned his enemy, Saul, sent peaceful envoys to express sympathy to Hanun, the young Ammonite king, on his father’s death. Nahash, the former king, had shown kindness to David, and he sought to return that kindness. But the young king’s advisors sowed suspicion, conspiracy, and fear. Hanun believed them. He chose the politics of humiliation and intimidation, treating the envoys horribly.
Wartime captives would be shaved and marched naked. Shaving half the envoy’s beards and cutting off half their clothing to expose their buttocks was more than rude. It implied they were on their way to being prisoners. What one did to a king’s representative was the same as doing it to that king. Hanun implied, intentionally or not, that David would soon be his humiliated captive. It was effectively a declaration of war. After the envoys left, Hanun seemed to realize he acted rashly and foolishly.
David showed compassion to his envoys, but wasn’t intimidated by Hunan’s rash actions. Despite insults and threats, David didn’t leap to war. He waited, moving to defend Israel after Hanun hired mercenary armies. Hanun spent big to cover his bluster, but desperate military spending couldn’t save him. Joab easily won the first conflict, and then David rode out to battle, eventually subduing Hanun and all the kingdoms called in as reinforcements. In the final battle, over 40,000 of the soldiers supporting Hanun died.
David’s envoys were naked for a time. Hanun’s foolishness lies naked for all time.
When kings are careless, spiteful, and insulting, war and death are often the result. Many times in recent years, violence has erupted after violent, careless words from political leaders. Many times, leaders have embraced the politics of humiliation and intimidation. Too often, Christians have applauded this. Many times, people have died for leaders’ careless and rash words.
David’s example is not always good. But in this case, he kept a level head in the face of insults and intimidation, had compassion on those humiliated by others, and acted decisively to defend against violence and threats.
May we distance ourselves from rash, immature leaders like Hanun. May we grow in our own leadership and influence, showing empathy, even to our enemies, acting compassionately toward victims and the oppressed, defending the humiliated, and refusing to bow to or tolerate violence.
Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Thus says Yahweh, “Let the sage boast no more of wisdom, nor the valiant of valor, nor the wealthy of riches! But let anyone who wants to boast, boast of this: of understanding and knowing me. For I am Yahweh, who acts with faithful love, justice, and uprightness on earth; yes, these are what please me,” Yahweh declares. — Jeremiah 9.22-24
Read more about Puking Prophets of Success
By hubris they are humiliated. By turning away they become blind. By not listening they become deaf.
Read more about Lament the Fall of Leaders (Even Bad Ones)
But despite their words of judgment to the kings and rulers of Judah and Israel, both men deeply loved their country, their kings, and the people.