It happened after this that the king of the people of Ammon died, and Hanun his son reigned in his place. Then David said, “I will show kindness to Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent by the hand of his servants to comfort him concerning his father. And David’s servants came into the land of the people of Ammon. And the princes of the people of Ammon said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think that David really honors your father because he has sent comforters to you? Has David not rather sent his servants to you to search the city, to spy it out, and to overthrow it?” Therefore Hanun took David’s servants, shaved off half of their beards, cut off their garments in the middle, at their buttocks, and sent them away. When they told David, he sent to meet them, because the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, “Wait at Jericho until your beards have grown, and then return.” When the people of Ammon saw that they had made themselves repulsive to David, the people of Ammon sent and hired the Syrians of Beth Rehob and the Syrians of Zoba, twenty thousand foot soldiers; and from the king of Maacah one thousand men, and from Ish-Tob twelve thousand men. (2 Samuel 10:1-6)
Going To War On A Rumor
Wars are fought for many reasons. Despots try to impose their tyranny on the populous taking land from others and establishing empires through death and destruction. Political intrigue fuels the fires of conflict, economic jealousy conquers weaker nations, and prejudice extinguishes the lives of millions. Nations have almost gone to war over swine, chariot races, and a severed ear. During the reign of David, king of Israel, more than forty thousand soldiers will die over mistrust of an act of kindness.
David was a compassionate man seeking peace wherever he could find it. The Ammonites were descendants of Lot, nephew to Abraham and had long been a thorn in the side of Israel. When the king of Ammon died, David sent emissaries to the son Hanun as a token of returned kindness for something his father had done for David. The scriptures do not reveal what kindness the king of Ammon did for David but the result was the king of Israel showing compassion for the family at the king’s death. When the envoys arrived into the land of Ammon, they were not received with a spirit of kindness but distrust. The princes of Ammon worried David was seeking a war with them and advised the king to shame the messengers of David. It seemed inconceivable the king of Israel would show such kindness.
The new king did a most disgraceful thing to the messengers. Albert Barnes notes: “Cutting off a person’s beard is regarded by the Arabs as an indignity equal to flogging and branding among ourselves. The loss of their long garments, so essential to Oriental dignity, was no less insulting than that of their beards.” Returning home, the men were ashamed of the treatment by the Ammonites. David’s rich character shone through this terrible ordeal. He met with his envoys privately and told to stay in Jericho until their beards grew back. What a contrast of how a man of God approaches a problem and the Ammonites who did not serve the true God. The people of Ammon realized what they had done and secured the Syrian army to help them fight against David. More than forty thousand soldiers would die in battle because the princes of the people of Ammon mistook the kind gesture of David as an act of war.
Jesus said what comes out of the mouth flows from the heart. Anger, prejudice, gossip and slander derive their poison from hearts that are filled with distrust and hatred. A simple act of compassion turned to war and thousands of lives were lost. Wars are fought on the battlefield but more often than not, they are fought in living rooms and church pews because of gossip. The insidious language of modern day Ammonites interpret actions by others as fuel to spread rumors, innuendos with serious character defamation and prejudice. And the greatest tragedy of all is it is done by members of the body of Christ. Tales pass from ear to ear – weaving untruths into the story making the rumor more tantalizing. Gossips share their dirty tales with eyes sparkling with the toxic mix of lies. Good names are marred. Sterling characters are tarnished. Satan smiles at the power of his word. Tale-bearers and gossips are an abomination to the Lord God.
The princes of Ammon did not trust a simple act of kindness. Their hearts were filled with distrust and through their treachery, brought about a war. There is no less impact in the lives of God’s people today who revel in the swill of gossip. Honest hearts seek for honest motives and see the glory of God in their words, their actions and their hearts. Wars have been fought over senseless reasons and churches today have been torn apart for less. Idle talkers do not edify but tear down. God knows what is said in secret and He hears loudly the quiet whispers of the heart. Seeking peace with one another begins with trust. That trust begins at the throne of God. And that is a great story.
There is something murderous in the conspiracy of gossips. (Henry Edward Manning, Pastime Papers, 1892)