1Some time later King Nahash of Ammon died, and his son Hanun became king. 2King David said, “I must show loyal friendship to Hanun, as his father Nahash did to me.” So David sent messengers to express his sympathy.
When they arrived in Ammon, 3the Ammonite leaders said to the king, “Do you think that it is in your father's honour that David has sent these men to express sympathy to you? Of course not! He has sent them here as spies to explore the city, so that he can conquer us!”
4Hanun seized David's messengers, shaved off one side of their beards, cut off their clothes at the hips, and sent them away. 5They were too ashamed to return home. When David heard about what had happened, he sent word that they should stay in Jericho and not return until their beards had grown again.
6The Ammonites realized that they had made David their enemy, so they hired 20,000 Syrian soldiers from Bethrehob and Zobah, 12,000 men from Tob, and the king of Maacah with a thousand men. 7David heard of it and sent Joab against them with the whole army. 8The Ammonites marched out and took up their position at the entrance to Rabbah, their capital city, while the others, both the Syrians and the men from Tob and Maacah, took up their position in the open countryside.
9Joab saw that the enemy troops would attack him in front and from the rear, so he chose the best of Israel's soldiers and put them in position facing the Syrians. 10He placed the rest of his troops under the command of his brother Abishai, who put them in position facing the Ammonites. 11Joab said to him, “If you see that the Syrians are defeating me, come and help me, and if the Ammonites are defeating you, I will go and help you. 12Be strong and courageous! Let's fight hard for our people and for the cities of our God. And may the LORD's will be done!”
13Joab and his men advanced to attack, and the Syrians fled. 14When the Ammonites saw the Syrians running away, they fled from Abishai and retreated into the city. Then Joab turned back from fighting the Ammonites and went back to Jerusalem.
15The Syrians realized that they had been defeated by the Israelites, so they called all their troops together. 16King Hadadezer sent for the Syrians who were on the east side of the River Euphrates, and they came to Helam under the command of Shobach, commander of the army of King Hadadezer of Zobah. 17When David heard of it, he gathered the Israelite troops, crossed the River Jordan, and marched to Helam, where the Syrians took up their position facing him. The fighting began, 18and the Israelites drove the Syrian army back. David and his men killed 700 Syrian chariot drivers and 40,000 horsemen, and they wounded Shobach, the enemy commander, who died on the battlefield. 19When the kings who were subject to Hadadezer realized that they had been defeated by the Israelites, they made peace with them and became their subjects. And the Syrians were afraid to help the Ammonites any more.