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2 Then David said, “I will show kindness to Hanun the son of Nahash, just as his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent some of his servants to console him concerning his father. But when David’s servants came to the land of the Ammonites,
3 the princes of the Ammonites said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think that David is honoring your father because he has sent consolers to you? Has David not sent his servants to you in order to search the city, to spy it out and overthrow it?” (2 Samuel 10:2-4)

My only reading language is English, and I am reading and researching the New American Standard Bible.

This was in my regular study today, and my study of I Samuel is recent enough that the reference to a "showing of kindness" to David confused me.

Searching for an act of kindness. I find no reference to Nahash (or any other Ammonite king) showing kindness to David.

Searching for Nahash, king of Ammonites. In I Samuel 11, it is Nahash's siege of Jabesh-Gilead that brings in Saul as a deliverer, and thus sets him on the throne, which ultimately leads to David ascending to the throne of the united kingdom forty years later. That might be stretched enough to call it a kindness, but I would have questions about the wisdom of an ethics professor who presented that theory of kindness to me in a classroom setting.
At any rate, that happened before David was born.

Is it possible that David is being ironic (or something else) when he sends the servants? Was he, in fact, sending them to spy out the land?

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  • Thank you for the answer regarding II Sam 10 with Hanun. I was curious to find a prior reference, but could not find one. Then I looked online and found your answer. I, too figured it was considered as to have happened w/o recording. However, your reference to II Sam 17 is a great recording to further strengthen the assumption.
    – Deborah
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 15:05

4 Answers 4

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This is a great question.

Most commentators suggest that Nahash had most likely offered him some assistance and security during the time of his flight from Saul. After all, Moab and Philistine (see 1 Sam. 21 and 22) were eager to extend their protection to David (not out of compassion but because Saul was their common enemy), so it is not far fetched that Ammon did the same. Though this is never mentioned directly in the bible, there is some evidence later in 2 Samuel 17:27-30 to suggest this:

When David came to Mahanaim, Shobi son of Nahash from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and Makir son of Ammiel from Lo Debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim brought bedding and bowls and articles of pottery. They also brought wheat and barley, flour and roasted grain, beans and lentils,[g] 29 honey and curds, sheep, and cheese from cows’ milk for David and his people to eat. For they said, “The people have become exhausted and hungry and thirsty in the wilderness.”

In this scenario David is fleeing Absalom, not Saul, and a certain Shobi son of Nahash shows up among the loyal friends of David who provide him with food and shelter from his enemies. It is extremely likely that Shobi son of Nahash is none other than than the son of Nahash king of Ammon himslef, and that he was David's old acquaintance from many years before while he was fleeing Saul. The descriptions match up very well with what we know of Nahash king of Ammon. So it seems likely that Nahash had offered David some protection while he was fleeing Saul (as Saul was their common enemy) and that David now felt obligated to return this favor to his son Hanun.

It is worth noting that Shobi remained loyal to David even after David had waged war with king Hanun and conquered Rabbah (ibid. 12:26) Shobi's homeland. This raises some possibilities; namely that Shobi himself was his brother Hanun's (most likely his half-brother) most sworn enemy and a viable candidate for the throne as well, and was hoping now to secure favor in David's eyes and strengthen his alliance with Israel by showing him support when he needed it most, however this is pure speculation and beyond the scope of this question.

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  • If I am correctly understanding your answer, we can use what we KNOW to fill in the gaps.
    – Papa Pat
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 16:29
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    Trapped by five-minute edit limitation again! Here's what I was TRYING to say: If I am correctly understanding your answer, we can use what we KNOW to fill in the gaps. KNOWN: David receives outside help when he flees Saul: Philistines, I Sam 21,27; Moab I Sam 22; Individual Hittites, I Sam 23,26, II Sam 11; Carmel, I Sam 25. KNOWN: David says Nahash was kind to him. KNOWN: Shobi, son of Nahash, helps David later, when he is fleeing again. THEREFORE, the kindness was probably rendered to David when he was fleeing Saul. That seems quite logical to me!
    – Papa Pat
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 16:40
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    Yes that's what I'm saying. I'm glad you found my evidence compelling.
    – bach
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 18:49
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    Additionally, some have speculated that Shobi was a vassal placed on the throne by David after the latter's victory over Hanun.
    – A.O.
    Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 18:54
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Was looking into this and wondering if Nahash was the one who provided protection from Saul and help David with his mother and father keeping them safe. I Samuel 22:3-4

3 And David went thence to Mizpeh of Moab: and he said unto the king of Moab, Let my father and my mother, I pray thee, come forth, and be with you, till I know what God will do for me. 4 And he brought them before the king of Moab: and they dwelt with him all the while that David was in the hold.

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Herewith we are making a case that Nahash could be argued as David's biological father and Jesse as the adoptive one, with a possible motivation by God to infuse the qualities of a successful military leader into the lineage of the king of Judah.

So Nahash was showing kindness by being David’s father. This would explain the David’s loyalty to the other Nahash’s son being his (step)brother.

Nahash was a king of the Ammonites, a group often in conflict with Israel, yet possessing strong military leaders. This military prowess could be seen as beneficial for David's lineage, particularly as he was to lead the Israelites in many battles. The Ammonites and the tribe of Judah had intertwined histories, with land disputes often at the center of their conflicts. The Ammonites claimed rights to parts of the land of Canaan based on their descent from Lot and their historical occupation of the land (Deuteronomy 2:19).

In the time of Samuel, the Israelites demanded a king to lead them like other nations, signaling a transition from a tribal confederation to a monarchy. This request was granted in the form of Saul, and later David took over (1 Samuel 12:12-13). The need for a king arose from the necessity of organized military leadership and governance, and a leader of Ammonite descent like Nahash could be seen as meeting these needs due to the Ammonites' known military capabilities.

The assertion that David was not the biological son of Jesse but was instead the son of Nahash can be inferred from several passages. For instance, the cryptic mention of Abigail as the daughter of Nahash in 2 Samuel 17:25 may suggest a closer relationship between David and Nahash.

Furthermore, Psalm 51 provides a window into David's own perception of his sinful nature from birth (Psalm 51:5). The emphasis on sinfulness from conception could be seen as an allusion to a controversial or non-traditional lineage.

Finally, the questioning of David's lineage in 1 Samuel 17:58 could imply uncertainty or ambiguity about his paternal ancestry.

This hypothesis suggests a deliberate divine intervention to strengthen Israel through the qualities of a formidable leader like Nahash, thus ensuring the survival and success of David's kingship and the people of Israel.

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As i hit this road block today. I have read what has been said, and most can be probable. I can't agree wit the thought that David is Nahash's son. I am wondering if their are other writings that are not in the authorized version that show an instance within the time period between Davids beginning of having military power to the point we get to 2 Samuel chapter 10. I may be missing the understanding and thought of how 2 Samuel 17 has anything to do with chapter 10:2 incident. Hopefully i can find a DIRECT reference to prove what David is saying in 2 Samuel 10:2.

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