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

And Joab said, “Let them arise!” Bible

“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-English lexicon, 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