The Antiquities of the Jews, 7.117–7.129

Flavius Josephus  translated by William Whiston

« J. AJ 7.96–7.116 | J. AJ 7.117–7.129 | J. AJ 7.130–7.161 | About This Work »

1171. This were the honors that such as were left of Saul’s and Jonathan’s lineage received from David. About this time died Nahash, the king of the Ammonites, who was a friend of David’s; and when his son had succeeded his father in the kingdom, David sent ambassadors to him to comfort him; and exhorted him to take his father’s death patiently, and to expect that he would continue the same kindness to himself which he had shown to his father. 118But the princes of the Ammonites took this message in evil part, and not as David’s kind dispositions gave reason to take it; and they excited the king to resent it; and said that David had sent men to spy out the country, and what strength it had, under the pretense of humanity and kindness. They further advised him to have a care, and not to give heed to David’s words, lest he should be deluded by him, and so fall into an inconsolable calamity. 119Accordingly Nahash’s [son], the king of the Ammonites, thought these princes spake what was more probable than the truth would admit, and so abused the ambassadors after a very harsh manner; for he shaved the one half of their beards, and cut off one half of their garments, and sent his answer, not in words, but in deeds. 120When the king of Israel saw this, he had indignation at it, and showed openly that he would not overlook this injurious and contumelious treatment, but would make war with the Ammonites, and would avenge this wicked treatment of his ambassadors on their king. 121So that king’s intimate friends and commanders, understanding that they had violated their league, and were liable to be punished for the same, made preparations for war; they also sent a thousand talents to the Syrian king of Mesopotamia, and endeavored to prevail with him to assist them for that pay, and Shobach. Now these kings had twenty thousand footmen. They also hired the king of the country called Maacah, and a fourth king, by name Ishtob; which last had twelve thousand armed men.

1222. But David was under no consternation at this confederacy, nor at the forces of the Ammonites; and putting his trust in God, because he was going to war in a just cause, on account of the injurious treatment he had met with, he immediately sent Joab, the captain of his host, against them, and gave him the flower of his army, 123who pitched his camp by Rabbah, the metropolis of the Ammonites; whereupon the enemy came out, and set themselves in array, not all of them together, but in two bodies; for the auxiliaries were set in array in the plain by themselves, but the army of the Ammonites at the gates over against the Hebrews. 124When Joab saw this, he opposed one stratagem against another, and chose out the most hardy part of his men, and set them in opposition to the king of Syria, and the kings that were with him, and gave the other part to his brother Abishai, and bid him set them in opposition to the Ammonites; and said to him, that in case he should see that the Syrians distressed him, and were too hard for him, he should order his troops to turn about and assist him; and he said that he himself would do the same to him, if he saw him in the like distress from the Ammonites. 125So he sent his brother before, and encouraged him to do every thing courageously and with alacrity, which would teach them to be afraid of disgrace, and to fight manfully; and so he dismissed him to fight with the Ammonites, while he fell upon the Syrians. 126And though they made a strong opposition for a while, Joab slew many of them, but compelled the rest to betake themselves to flight; which, when the Ammonites saw, and were withal afraid of Abishai and his army, they staid no longer, but imitated their auxiliaries, and fled to the city. So Joab, when he had thus overcome the enemy, returned with great joy to Jerusalem to the king.

1273. This defeat did not still induce the Ammonites to be quiet, nor to own those that were superior to them to be so, and be still, but they sent to Chalaman, the king of the Syrians, beyond Euphrates, and hired him for an auxiliary. He had Shobach for the captain of his host, with eighty thousand footmen, and ten thousand horsemen. 128Now when the king of the Hebrews understood that the Ammonites had again gathered so great an army together, he determined to make war with them no longer by his generals, but he passed over the river Jordan himself with all his army; and when he met them he joined battle with them, and overcame them, and slew forty thousand of their footmen, and seven thousand of their horsemen. He also wounded Shobach, the general of Chalaman’s forces, who died of that stroke; 129but the people of Mesopotamia, upon such a conclusion of the battle, delivered themselves up to David, and sent him presents, who at winter time returned to Jerusalem. But at the beginning of the spring he sent Joab, the captain of his host, to fight against the Ammonites, who overran all their country, and laid it waste, and shut them up in their metropolis Rabbah, and besieged them therein.

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