And Abner said to Joab, “Let the young men arise and play before us!”

And Joab said, “Let them arise!” Bible other translations

“play.” The Hebrew word is sachaq (#07832 שָׂחַק), and it generally means “to laugh, play, mock” (older lexicons often have “make sport” when “sport” referred to laughing and playing). According to the HALOT Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, when combined with “in our presence” it means to struggle or fight. This was a fight or to-the-death contest in front of others. Although it has been suggested that is was some kind of winner-take-all battle, the context argues against that because that limited fight led to the larger battle (2 Sam. 2:17). Many different suggestions have been made for how to translate sachaq in this context: “fight” (NET); “fight it out” (CJB, NJB); “fight hand-to-hand” (NIV, NLT); “compete” (HCSB, ESV); “perform” (NAB); “hold a contest” (NASB); “play” (JPS, KJV, RSV); “make sport” (DBY, Rotherham). It may be that sachaq was used as a way for Joab to speak of the fight in a mocking and minimizing fashion even though lives were at stake, which they were.

Commentary for: 2 Samuel 2:14