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Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]


1. King of Ammon. Offered the citizens of Jabesh Gilead a covenant only on condition they should thrust out their right eyes, as a reproach upon all Israel (1 Samuel 11). Saul, enraged at this cruel demand, summoned all Israel, slew, and dispersed the Ammonite host. Among the causes which led Israel to desire a king had been the terror of Nahash's approach ( 1 Samuel 12:12). So successful had he been in his marauding campaigns that he self confidently thought it impossible any Israelite army could rescue Jabesh Gilead; so he gave them the seven days' respite they craved, the result of which was their deliverance, and his defeat by Saul. If he perished, then the Nahash who befriended David was his son. That father and son bore the same name makes it, likely that Nahash was a common title of the kings of Ammon, the serpent being the emblem of wisdom, the Egyptian Kneph also being the eternal Spirit represented as a serpent. Jewish tradition makes the service to David consist in Nahash having protected David's brother, when he escaped from the massacre perpetrated by the treacherous king of Moab on David's family, who had been entrusted to him ( 1 Samuel 22:3-4).

Nahash the younger would naturally help David in his wanderings from the face of Saul, their common foe. Hence at Nahash's death David sent a message of condolence to his son. (See Hanun .) The insult by that young king brought on him a terrible retribution (2 Samuel 10). Yet we read Nahash's son Shobi ( 2 Samuel 17:27-29) was one of the three trans-jordanic chieftains who rendered munificent hospitality to David in his hour of need, at Mahanaim, near Jabesh Gilead, when fleeing from Absalom. No forger would have introduced an incident so seemingly improbable at first sight. Reflection suggests the solution. The old kindness between Nahash and David, and the consciousness that Hanun his brother's insolence had caused the war which ended so disastrously for Ammon, doubtless led Shobi gladly to embrace the opportunity of showing practical sympathy toward David in his time of distress.

2. Father of the sisters Abigail and Zeruiah, whose mother on Nahash's death married Jesse, to whom she bore David ( 2 Samuel 17:25).  1 Chronicles 2:16 accordingly names Abigail and Zeruiah as "David's sisters," but not as Jesse's daughters. Nahash is made by Stanley the king of Ammon, which is not impossible, considering Jesse's descent from Ruth a Moabitess, and also David's connection with Nahash of Ammon; but is improbable, since if the Nahash father of Abigail were the king of Ammon it would have been stated. Jewish tradition makes Nahash that same as Jesse. But if so, how is it that only in  2 Samuel 17:25 "Nahash" stands for Jesse, whereas in all other places "Jesse" is named as David's father.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

NAHASH. 1 . A king of Ammon, who demanded the surrender of the men of Jabesh-gilead, with the loss of the right eye of each (  1 Samuel 11:1 f.). So sure was he of their helplessness that he allowed them seven days’ respite in which to appeal for help. Saul, newly designated as Israel’s future king, was ploughing in the fields when the news was brought to him. He sacrificed the oxen sent parts of the sacrifice to his fellow-countrymen with a command to muster, and promptly destroyed the Ammonites. Probably this is the Nahash who was kind to Saul’s enemy David (  2 Samuel 10:2 ,   1 Chronicles 19:1 ), and whos son Shobi (  2 Samuel 17:27 ) brought supplies to David a Mahanaim. 2 . Father of David’s half-sisters, Abigai and Zeruiah, if the text of   2 Samuel 17:25 is correct, which is doubtful. According to Buchanan Gray, ‘daughte of Nahash’ may have crept into the text from ‘son of Nahash’ in   2 Samuel 17:27; cf.   1 Chronicles 2:16 .

J. H. Stevenson.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [3]

1. Ammonite king who encamped against Jabesh-gilead, and who tauntingly agreed to make its inhabitants tributary on condition that he should thrust out the right eye of each for a reproach on all Israel. Saul raised an army and the Ammonites were defeated.  1 Samuel 11:1,2;  1 Samuel 12:12 . Josephus relates that Nahash had successfully oppressed the tribes on the east of the Jordan, which gave him self-confidence in making his terms to Jabesh-gilead; and says that Nahash was slain. Perhaps the same as the father of Hanun who insulted David's ambassadors.  2 Samuel 10:2;  2 Samuel 17:27;  1 Chronicles 19:1,2 .

2. Apparently father or mother of Abigail and Zeruiah.   2 Samuel 17:25 . In  1 Chronicles 2:16 Abigail and Zeruiah are called the sisters of Jesse's sons. The Rabbis say that Nahash was another name for Jesse (as in the margin); others suppose Nahash was Jesse's wife; and again others judge that Nahash was a former husband of Jesse's wife.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [4]

Na'hash. (Serpent).

1. King of the Ammonites, who dictated to the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead, that cruel alternative of the loss of their right eyes or slavery, which roused the swift wrath of Saul, and caused the destruction of the Ammonite force.  1 Samuel 11:2-11. (B.C. 1092). "Nahaph" would seem to have been the title of the king of the Ammonites, rather than the name of an individual. Nahash, the father of Hanun, had rendered David, some special and valuable service, which David was anxious for an opportunity of requiting.  2 Samuel 10:2.

2. A person mentioned once only -  2 Samuel 17:25 - in stating the parentage of Amasa, the commander-in-chief of Absalom's army. Amasa is there said to have been the son of a certain Ithra, by Abigail, "daughter of Nahash, and sister to Zeruiah." (B.C. before 1023).

Easton's Bible Dictionary [5]

  • The father of Amasa, who was commander-in-chief of Abasolom's army ( 2 Samuel 17:25 ). Jesse's wife had apparently been first married to this man, to whom she bore Abigail and Zeruiah, who were thus David's sisters, but only on the mother's side ( 1 Chronicles 2:16 ).

    Copyright Statement These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., DD Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.

    Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'Nahash'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. 1897.

  • Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [6]

    There are several of this name in Scripture. Two kings of the Ammorites. (See  1 Samuel 11:1 and  2 Samuel 17:27) And there was a third, Nahash, father of Abigail, ( 2 Samuel 17:25) it is somewhat singular to find persons of this name, for it is derived from Nachash, serpent. And so the serpent is called,  Genesis 3:1.

    People's Dictionary of the Bible [7]

    Nahash ( Nâ'H Ăsh ), Serpent. 1. An Ammonite king. He offered to Jabesh-gilead a treaty on condition that the citizens should submit to the loss of their right eyes. This cruelty aroused the indignation of Saul, who defeated their enemies. At a subsequent period he was on friendly relations with David.  2 Samuel 10:2. 2. Mentioned as father of Abigail.  2 Samuel 17:25. Some identify him with Jesse, and others with Nahash, king of the Ammonites.

    American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [8]

    1. A king of the Ammonites, defeated by Saul while besieging Ramothgilead,  1 Samuel 11:1-15 . He, or as some think, his son of the same name, was on friendly terms with David,  2 Samuel 10:2

    2. The father of Zeruiah and Abigail, David's half-sisters,  2 Samuel 17:25   1 Chronicles 2:13-16 . Nahash, however, may have been another name for Jesse; or possibly the name of his wife.

    Holman Bible Dictionary [9]

     1 Samuel 11:1-11 2 Samuel 10:1-2 2 Samuel 10:3-5 2 Samuel 17:27 2 2 Samuel 17:25 2 Samuel 17:25  1 Chronicles 2:16

    Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [10]

    (Heb. Nachash', נָחָשׁ , Serpent, as often; Sept. Ναάς ; Joseph. Ναάσης ; Vuilg. Naas), the name of two persons. For the city of Nahash (Auth. Vers.  1 Chronicles 4:12, marg.), (See Ir-Nahash).

    '''I''' A king of the Ammonites. near the beginning of Saul's reign. B.C. 1092. A message came from the people of Jabesh-gilead soliciting immediate help against the fierce hostility of this Ammonitish chief. He has apparently acquired a name for his military achievements before directing an assault against the city of Jabesh (see  1 Samuel 12:12); for though it was a wellfortified place, and the largest town in the transjordanic territory of Manasseh, the inhabitants seem to have thought it a hopeless matter to contend against so formidable an adversary. They were ready to submit to his supremacy if he would enter into covenant with them on somewhat reasonable terms; but as he, in the pride and insolence of power, declared he would insist on plucking out all their right eyes, and casting it as a reproach on Israel, the inhabitants were obliged to appeal to their fellow- countrymen. The mutilating barbarity proposed to the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead by Nahash is a practice that was formerly very common in the East. Mr. Hanway, in his Journey in Persia, gives several instances of it. (See Eye).

    Accordingly the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead obtained a truce of seven days, and despatched messengers to Gibeah to inform Saul of their extremity ( 1 Samuel 11:1-4). Saul felt the greatness of the emergency, and took prompt measures to relieve the place and discomfit the army of Nahash. (See Jabesh-Gilead).

    In this he was perfectly successfil; and neither Nahash nor his people ventured any more to attack Israel during the reign of Saul. (See Saul).

    If we might rely on the testimony of Josephus (Ant. 6:5, 3), Nahash himself fell in the rout that ensued. But of this the sacred narrative is entirely silent; and the probability is (for we have no reason to suppose Nahash to have been an official designation or a common name among the Ammonites) that the Nahash whom Saul discomfited was the same who afterwards showed kindness to David. How this kindness was exhibited, or at what particular time, we are not told; but we can have little doubt that it occurred some time during the fierce persecutions which David endured at the hands of Saul,when the king of Ammon,like the king of Gath, might deem it a stroke of policy, in respect to Saul, to befriend the man whom he was pursuing as an enemy. Jewish traditions affirm that it consisted in his having afforded protection to one of David's brothers, who escaped alone when his family were massacred by the treacherous king of Moab, to whose care they had been intrusted by David ( 1 Samuel 22:3-4), and who found an asylum with Nahash. (See the Midrash of R. Tanchum, as quoted by S. Jarchi on  2 Samuel 10:2.) (See David).

    David was not unmindful of the kindness he had received from Nahash; and wishing to cultivate peaceful relations with his son and successor Hanun, he sent messengers to condole with him on receiving intelligence of the death of Nahash ( 2 Samuel 10:2). By the follv of Hanun this well-meant embassy turned into the occasion of a bloody war, which placed David for a time in some peril, but from which he at last emerged completely triumphant. (See Hanun).

    Mention is made in the history of David's flight from the presence of Absalom of a "Shobi, the son of Nahash of Rabbah of the children of Ammon," coming along with others to David at Mahanaim, with food and refreshments ( 2 Samuel 17:27-29). It is possible that this was a son of Nahash, the former king, though it cannot be regarded as at all certain. That an Ammonite, however, should at such a time have so readily proffered his liberality to David is a striking proof that even after the terrible Ammonitish war there still were bosoms among the children of Ammon which stood well affected to the person and the cause of David. (See Shobi).

    '''Ii.''' A person mentioned once only ( 2 Samuel 17:25) in stating the parentage of Amasa, the commander-in-chief of Absalom's army. Amasa is there said to have been the son (perhaps illegitimate) of a certain Ithra, by Abigail, "daughter of Nahash, and sister (Alex. Sept. Brother) to Zeruiah." B.C. ante 1023. By the geneaiogy of  1 Chronicles 2:16 it appears that Zeruiah and Abigail were sisters of David and the other children of Jesse. The question then arises, How could Abigail have been at the same time daughter of Nahash and sister to the children of Jesse? To this four answers may be given:

    1. The universal tradition of the rabbins is that Nabash and Jesse were identical (see the citations from the Talmud in Meyer, Seder Olam, 569; also Jerome, Qucest. Hebr. ad loc.). "Nahash," says Solomon Jarchi (in his commentary on  2 Samuel 17:25), " was Jesse the father of David, because he died without sin, by the counsel of the serpent" (Nachash); i.e., by the infirmity of his fallen human nature only.

    2. The explanation first put forth by Prof. Stanley (Hist. Of The Jewish Church, 2:50), that Nahash was the king of the Ammonites, and that the same woman had first been his wife or concubine in which capacity she had given birth to Abigail and Zeruiah and afterwards wife to Jesse, and the mother of his children. In this manner Abigail and Zeruiah would be sisters to David, without being at the same time daughters of Jesse. This has in its favor the guarded statement of  1 Chronicles 2:16 that the two women were not themselves Jesse's children, but sisters of his children; and the improbability (otherwise extreme) of so close a connection between an Israelite and an Ammonitish king is alleviated by Jesse's known descent from a Moabitess, and by the connection which has been shown above to have existed between David and Nahash of Ammon.

    3. A third possible explanation is that Nahash was the name, not of Jesse, nor of a former husband of his wife, but of his wife herself. There is nothing in the name to prevent its being borne equally by either sex, and other instances may be quoted of women who are given in the genealogies as the daughters, not of their fathers, but of their mothers: e.g. Mehetabel, daughter of Matred, daughter of Mezahab. Still it seems very improbable that Jesse's wife would be suddenly intruded into the narrative, as she is if this hypothesis be adopted.

    4. The most natural supposition under all the circumstances is that Abigail and Zeruiah were sisters of Davild merely on the mother's side: and that the mother. before she became the wife of Jesse. had been married to some person (apparently an Israelite, but otherwise unknown) named Nahash, to whom she had borne Abigail and Zeruiah. This seems to be countenanced by the peculiar manner in which they are mentioned in the genealogy of Chronicles not as Jesse's daughters, but as David's sisters as if their relationship to him were what alone entitled them to a place in it.

    International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [11]

    nā´hash ( נחשׁ , nāḥāsh , "serpent"; Ναάς , Naás ):

    (1) The father of Abigail and Zeruiah, the sisters of David ( 2 Samuel 17:25; compare  1 Chronicles 2:16 ). The text in 2 S, where this reference is made, is hopelessly corrupt; for that reason there are various explanations. The rabbis maintain that Nahash is another name for Jesse, David's father. Others think that Nahash was the name of Jesse's wife; but it is not probable that Nahash could have been the name of a woman. Others explain the passage by making Nahash the first husband of Jesse's wife, so that Abigail and Zeruiah were half-sisters to King David.

    (2) A king of Ammon, who, at the very beginning of Saul's reign, attacked Jabesh-gilead so successfully, that the inhabitants sued for peace at almost any cost, for they were willing to pay tribute and serve the Ammonites ( 1 Samuel 11:1 ff). The harsh king, not satisfied with tribute and slavery, demanded in addition that the right eye of every man should be put out, as "a reproach upon Israel." They were given seven days to comply with these cruel terms. Before the expiration of this time, Saul, the newly anointed king, appeared on the scene with an army which utterly routed the Ammonites (  1 Samuel 11:1 ff), and, according to Josephus, killed King Nahash ( Ant. , VI, v, 3).

    If the Nahash of  2 Samuel 10:2 be the same as the king mentioned in   1 Samuel 11:1-15 , this statement of Josephus cannot be true, for he lived till the early part of David's reign, 40 or more years latcr. It is, of course, possible that Nahash, the father of Hanun, was a son or grandson of the king defeated at Jabesh-gilead by Saul. There is but little agreement among commentators in regard to this matter. Some writers go so far as to claim that "all passages in which this name (Nahash) is found refer to the same individual."

    (3) A resident of Rabbath-ammon, the capital of Ammon  2 Samuel 17:27 . Perhaps the same as Nahash (2), which see. His son Shobi, with other trans-Jordanic chieftains, welcomed David at Mahanaim with sympathy and substantial gifts when the old king was fleeing before his rebel son Absalom. Some believe that Shobi was a brother of Hanun, king of Ammon  2 Samuel 10:1 .

    Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [12]

    Nahash, 1

    Na´hash (a serpent), a person named only in; and as he is there described as the father of Abigail and Zeruiah, who are elsewhere called the sisters of David, this must have been either another name for Jesse, or, as some suppose, of a former husband of David's mother.

    Nahash, 2

    Nahash, king of the Ammonites, noted for the barbarous terms of capitulation which he offered to the town of Jabesh-Gilead, and for his subsequent defeat by Saul [JABESH].