Manhood is a tricky thing. A man is expected to be masculine, but not too macho; to be sensitive, but not wimpy; to express his feelings, but not be too emotional. I talked to my dad on the phone the other day and he said, “Nathan, since you’re a resident parent and work with high school guys, why don’t you talk about what it means to be a Christian man? They’re in that weird teenage state where they’re no longer kids, but they’re not quite adults, so teaching them about manhood could be beneficial to them.” I liked the idea and he suggested 2 Samuel 10 as a good place to start. Now for those of you wary of the Old Testament and afraid that this will turn into a dusty history lesson, relax. All Scripture is profitable for teaching, even if it’s in the Old Testament (2 Timothy 3:16). Now join me as we look at
A Man Isn’t Paranoid (2 Sam. 10:1-4)
This story starts with a death, specifically the death of the king of Amnon. This king had shown kindness to David, and David (now king over all Israel) wished to repay that kindness to the king’s son, Hanun (the new king of Amnon). So David sends out servants to console Hanun about his father. But when the servants arrive, the counselors of Hanun approach him and say “Do you really think David wishes to console you in your grief? These servants are obviously spies sent to check out the city to overthrow it.” Hanun is paranoid, so he does the most irrational thing he can think of and cuts the servants beards in half and cuts their garments so their butts are showing, and then he sends them on their way. Paranoia makes a person do crazy things. If he truly knew who David was as a person, he might have rebuked his counselors. Or he could have told his counselors, “Let’s wait and see.” Now, we as Christians have no need to be paranoid, and especially as men, we need to calm ourselves down in moments of stress and think before we act. Jesus didn’t talk about paranoia per se, but he did talk about its kissing cousin, worry (Matt. 6:34). God is in control and we need to trust him.
A Man Is Kind (2 Sam. 10:5)
David had already showed kindness by trying to comfort Hanun, but he also showed kindness to his servants. As soon as he heard what had happened to them, he sent to meet them since they were so humiliated. He told them to stay in Jericho until their beards grew back and then return. David could have ignored his servants embarrassment and demanded they come back right then and get back to work, but he showed kindness instead and allowed them to stay somewhere else. There’s a quote by Malcolm Forbes that goes “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” David didn’t owe his servants anything. He was the king after all. But he still treated them kindly, despite them being of a different status. How about you? Do you treat your waiter kindly when they make a mistake or do you just blow up? How do you treat your subordinates at work? With kindness, or are they your personal slaves?
A Man Is Courageous (2 Sam. 10:6-14)
Now Hanun realizes that he’s made a mistake, but instead of apologizing (another manly trait that we should adopt) he prepares for war. He hires the Arameans to help him, along with the king of Maacah and the men of Tob. He’s got 20,000 foot soldiers from the Arameans helping him plus 1,000 soldiers of Maacah PLUS 12,000 of the men of Tob. As soon as David hears about this, he sends Joab (his general) and his army (along with the mighty men, arguably the toughest guys in Scripture) to meet Hanun. The way the battle is set up puts Joab at a terrible disadvantage. Hanun has his own army at the city gates in front of Joab. Easy enough. But behind Joab are all the armies of the Arameans.
Joab decides to split his army up. He takes the mighty men, the most brutal warriors of all Israel (example: one mighty guy fought a 7 foot tall Egyptian who was holding a spear, the guy stole the Egyptian’s spear and KILLED HIM WITH HIS OWN SPEAR!), and assigns them to fight with him against the Arameans behind them. He then assigns his brother Abishai to take the rest of the army and fight against Hanun at the city gate. Joab’s strategy is simple: if the Arameans prove too tough for him, Abishai will help him out; if Hanun’s army at the gates prove too difficult for Abishai, then Joab will help him.
Then Joab says the most awesome thing ever: “Be strong, and let us show ourselves courageous for the sake of our people and for the cities of our God; and may the Lord do what is good in His sight (2 Sam. 10:12).” The King James Version puts it as “Let us play [be] the men for our people.” Look at how much courage Joab has! He realizes that ultimately God is in control, but he’s not going to rest on his laurels. He’s going to do all he can. The stresses of this life can really take their toll on a man. Issues at work, issues with school, issues with family life, and issues with life can all cause us to throw in the towel. Joab had an army in front of him and an army behind. He trusted God and didn’t give up. Are you going to do the same? In conclusion, the Arameans actually fled before Joab. And Hanun’s army? As soon as he saw the Arameans flee, he retreated back into the city. After Joab finished fighting and being blessed with a victory from God, he went back to Jerusalem.
A Man Isn’t Prideful (2 Sam. 10:15-19)
Ah, look at you thinking the story was over. Not quite. Well, a new character emerges: the king of the Arameans, Hadadezer. He should have retreated and returned home, but his pride took the better of him. He calls the rest of the Arameans to cross the river Euphrates to join him as they gather in Helam. David hears about this and sends his army across the Jordan to fight Hadadezer. And just like last time, the Arameans flee before David, but not before his army killed 700 charioteers, 40,000 horsemen, and the general of Hadadezer’s army. It was such a great victory, that all the servants and rulers under Hadadezer surrendered, making peace with Israel and becoming their servants. Because of Hadadezer’s pride, his nation lost its status. We as Christians must avoid pride and instead put on humility. We have the greatest example of humility in Jesus Christ, who “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:8).” How can we, even for a second, get tangled up in the pride of our accomplishments when our accomplishments pale in comparison to the greatest task performed of all time: Jesus dying for the sins of humanity on a cross?
2 Sam. 10 is by far one of the most interesting stories in the Bible. Each character displays attributes for us to emulate and avoid. But like Joab said, let us as men be courageous!