Hough The Horses
(2 Samuel 8:3) David smote also Hadadezer, the son of Rehob, king of Zobah, as he went to recover his border at the river Euphrates. (2 Samuel 8:4) And David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen: and David houghed all the chariot horses, but reserved of them for an hundred chariots. David had recently been made king over all of Israel's tribes (2SAM 5:1-5), and God had made him “...a great name, like unto the names of the great men that are in the earth” (2SAM 7:9). David was also renowned as a man of war (1CH 28:3) from the time of his slaying of Goliath (1SAM 17:48-51) and forward. David's shedding of much blood forbade him from building a house for God so that work fell to his son Solomon, a man whose name and reign were “peaceful” (1CH 22:8-10). Better is it that the house of God be built by a man of peace than by a man of war: “And the servant of the Lord must not strive...” (2TI 2:24), “...no striker....not a brawler...” (1TI 3:3). Although a gospel minister must be a “...good soldier...” (2TI 2:3), his warfare is not carnal but spiritual (2CO 10:4-5). The church's true Builder (MAT 16:18) is the Prince of Peace (ISA 9:6) and His hired masterbuilders (1CO 3:10) should follow His lead. In today's text, David routed the army of the king of Zobah. When he collected the spoils of victory, David “...houghed all the chariot horses...” (v. 4), mostly. Hough (pronounced 'hock') means “to disable by cutting the sinew or tendons of the hough; to hamstring” (O.E.D.). This lames the animal so as to disable it from effective movement. The horse would be useless for military purposes, so (I speculate) if Israel's forces were unable to provide for all the seized horses, the animals' lives could at least be spared but should they ever limp back to the Syrians (cp. 2SAM 10:6), the enemy could not reuse them for future warfare. I suppose also that in desperate times of famine (war and famine do tend to coincide, JER 14:18), if an ass's head would suffice (2KI 6:25), horse meat would be even better (though both beasts were normally forbidden food in Israel, LEV 11:1-8). With enough horses, one could even become a Burger King. What David did was actually in accord with what God had earlier instructed Joshua when he fought against the Canaanites (JOS 11:4-9): “Hough the horses.” For some reason, God did not want excess healthy military horses around. NOTE: by nature we were obstinate combatants against God and His righteousness (TIT 3:3), hard-hearted, hard-headed and stiff-necked (like an iron sinew, ISA 48:4). Remember that houghing means, “to disable by cutting the sinew...” When we grieve His spirit by lusts or pride (EPH 4:30 c/w 1JO 2:16), it is as if we are trying to return to our former master (sin). God may well in effect hough us by His chastenings (HEB 12:5-11), make us humble by a troubling thorn in the flesh (2CO 12:7) that limits us, let us live when we deserve death but make us much less serviceable to Satan and sin. Better to live and walk with a limp, smarting from a hard lesson learned or humbled like Jacob whose sinew God shrank (GEN 32:32), than to be turned back over to Satan or slain immediately for our folly. Remember Lot's wife (LUK 17:32 c/w GEN 19:17-26), King Saul (1SAM 16:14), Ananias and Sapphira (ACT 5:1-11). And “Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle...” (PSA 32:9), whose will must be directed and limited by applied pain. I will reserve further comments for another meditation.