Christian Churches of God

No. CB93




David’s Conquests


(Edition 1.0 20061208-20061208)


Under David’s rule the nation of Israel prospered as the Lord had promised. They defeated their enemies and the borders of Israel were thus secured. David wanted to build a Temple for the Lord but he was not allowed to do that. However, God did promise David that his house and kingdom would last forever. This paper has been adapted from Chapters 98-102 of The Bible Story Volume IV by Basil Wolverton, published by Ambassador College Press.



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(Copyright ã 2006 Christian Churches of God, Ed. Wade Cox)


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David’s Conquests


We continue here from the paper King David (No. CB92).


God’s promise to David

After David had moved into the palace that had been a gift from Hiram, king of Tyre, he began to consider how much better his personal surroundings were than those of the Ark, which was housed only in a tent.


"The Ark should rest in a more elegant place than that in which I live," David told Nathan the prophet. "What do you think of my planning a Temple to house the Ark?"


"Surely God would be pleased by such a respectful act," Nathan replied. "I should think that He would bless you and all Israel for carrying out such a wonderful idea."


That night, however, the Lord contacted Nathan in a vision to tell him that David's plan wasn't according to what God approved.


"Tell David not to do it. I haven't required anything more than a Tent or a Tabernacle for my Presence since the Israelites came out of Egypt," the Lord informed Nathan. "I have never complained to Israel’s leaders or suggested that I want or need any other kind of dwelling for the Ark.


“Now give this message to David: ‘I chose you as a leader of my people. I have been with you wherever you have gone and have destroyed your enemies, and I will make your name great. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and they will not be disturbed again. There will be no more war against you and your descendants shall rule this land for generations to come. When you die I will put one of your sons upon your throne and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build me a Temple. I will be his Father and he shall be my son. If he sins I will use other nations to punish him, but my love and kindness will not leave him as I took it from Saul. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever" (2Sam. 7:1-16; 1Chr. 17:1-14).


Next morning Nathan told David of his vision and all that God had said to him. David wasn't disappointed to learn that God didn't want him to build a special house for the Ark. Instead, he was happily excited to learn that he would have a son whom God would direct in building a Temple that would be dedicated to the Creator, and which would be an appropriate resting place for the Ark. David immediately sought a place of privacy to sit in meditation before God and give thanks for God's wonderful promises and blessings to himself and to Israel (2Sam. 7:17-29; 1Chr. 17:15-27).


Because of David's obedience and because the people were looking more and more to God for the right ways to live, a period of release from pressure by surrounding enemies began to dawn for all Israel. Since Israel didn't completely trust God for divine protection, however, this security came about only after furious battles through which David led his troops with God's miraculous help. Even though Israel didn't fully rely on God, He kept His promise and delivered them from their enemies.


Victories for David

One of David's first military victories at that time was to defeat the Philistines and subdue them. The Israelites seized some of their main cities and occupied them for several years. This reversed conditions for the Israelites who had long been subject to the demands of the Philistines (2Sam. 8:1; 1Chr. 18:1).


David also defeated the Moabites. He made them lie down side by side in rows. Two-thirds of each row, as measured with a tape, were butchered, and one-third were spared to become David’s servants. Those who were spared were forced to pay a regular tribute to Israel to make up for what they had taken in former raids into Canaan (2Sam. 8:1; 1Chr. 18:2).


David also fought the forces of King Hadadezer of Zobah in a battle at the Euphrates River. He captured a thousand of his chariots, seven thousand charioteers and twenty thousand foot soldiers; then he lamed all the chariot horses except for one hundred teams. He also slaughtered twenty-two thousand Arameans (Syrians) from Damascus when they came to help Hadadezer (2Sam. 8:3-5; 1Chr. 18:5).


God had commanded Israel not to accumulate great numbers of warhorses, lest they start depending upon warhorses instead of upon God for protection (Deut. 17:16). That is the reason David ordered the warhorses killed except for the hundred he saved for use by the Israelites. Much metal was stripped from the chariots, as well as valuable trappings (1Chr. 18:3-4).


David's men gathered more of the spoils of war. These were sent to Jerusalem as an offering of gratitude to God to add greatly to the wealth of Israel. At the same time, David left many of his soldiers in that region to guard the borders of Canaan. As with the Moabites, the Syrians became subject to David and a regular tribute was demanded from them (2Sam. 8:6-8; 1Chr. 18:6-8).


For the time being the Syrians had learned their lesson. Their punishment came because they had stolen grazing lands that God had formerly given to three tribes of Israel (1Chr. 5:3, 9-11, 18-23). So the Lord gave David victory wherever he went.


It wasn't long before Toi, ruler of the nearby city of Hamath, heard what had happened. He and Hadadezer were enemies and their armies were often at war. Toi was apparently pleased to know that the Israelites had defeated the entire army of Hadadezer.


Accordingly, he sent his son, Joram, to head a delegation to visit David and congratulate him on his latest triumphs in battle. To prove his father's friendship for the king of Israel, Joram presented David with a costly array of articles made of bronze, silver and gold. All these David added to the special treasury being built from valuable articles taken from the subdued people of other nations and he dedicated them to the Lord. He hoped that this wealth would eventually be used to help build the Temple for God (2Sam. 8:9-12; 1Chr.18:9-11).


The triumphant wars against the nations pressing in against Israel caused David to be even more respected by his enemies as well as by his people. At last the Promised Land of Canaan was inhabited and held to all its borders by the people of Israel. Meanwhile, David worked toward establishing a just government. He retained in high offices men who were most capable. He was the kind of king who publicly and privately gave credit to his men when credit was due to them, instead of trying to take the honours for himself (2Sam. 8:15-18; 1Chr.18:14-17).


David teaches loyalty

Joab, although he had greatly roused David's anger in the past, was kept on as the general of the army of Israel. David had promised that office to anyone who could successfully lead troops into Jerusalem during the attack on that city by the Israelites, and Joab earned the reward. He was a capable military leader, though he was callous and loved violent action. With his brother, Abishai, who became next in rank under him, Joab carried out his duties well.


In the last battle of that particular time when the Israelites cleared out their enemies from southeast Canaan, it was Abishai who handled the troops. Their record was so notable that eighteen thousand Edomite soldiers were slain (2Sam. 8:13-14; 1Chr. 18:12-13). God uses all kinds of people to carry out His many plans. But His true servants must be obedient to the Creator's physical and spiritual laws.


David and Mephibosheth

David's desire to be fair in matters of government led him to wonder if there were any of Saul's family who were still living. If there were, it was the king's desire to help them for the sake of the memory of Saul's son Jonathan, who was David's closest friend when he was a very young man employed by Saul as a musician and armour-bearer (2Sam. 9:1).


Eventually a man called Ziba who had been a servant in Saul's employ was brought to Jerusalem.


The king asked him if there was anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom he could show God’s kindness. David knew one should be loyal to old friends (Pro.17:17; 18:24; 27:10).


Ziba told David that there was still a son of Jonathan, called Mephibosheth, who was crippled in both feet (see 2Sam. 4:4).


Ziba then told him that the boy was living with a kind and hospitable man named Makir in the town of Lo-Debar.


So King David sent for him. When Mephibosheth came before David he bowed down to pay him honour.


"I am your servant, sir!" he muttered fearfully (2Sam. 9:2-6).


"Don't be afraid,” David said to him, “for I only want to show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”


"What reason would you have to do that?" Mephibosheth asked. "Surely I am nothing more than a dead dog to you" (vv. 7-8).


Then the king summoned Ziba and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. You and your family and servants are to assume all the duties that should be carried out to make the estate productive for Mephibosheth and for you and all who will live or work there."


Ziba was obviously pleased by these arrangements. He had fifteen sons who were capable of working. He also had twenty servants whom he wished to keep employed.


"It is my pleasure to do whatever the king commands," Ziba said.


The young man was overwhelmed. He profusely thanked David, who was pleased at the opportunity to do something for Jonathan's son.


Mephibosheth sent for his wife, and they were very comfortable in their new home. To make life more pleasant, God blessed them with a son whom they named Micha. The three of them were treated as royalty, and were often invited to David's house for dinner and other social occasions (vv. 9-13).


David defeats the Ammonites

In the course of time David was informed that the king of the Ammonites had died. The Bible doesn't mention what connection David had with this man, but obviously he had in some way befriended David, possibly during the time he had sought refuge from Saul outside Canaan. David wanted the king's son, Hanun, to know that the king of Israel was sorry to hear of the death of his father. David sent a delegation with gifts to the land of the Ammonites east of the Salt (Dead) Sea to deliver David's message of sympathy (2Sam. 10:1-2; 1Chr. 19:1-2).


Hanun graciously received the Israelites, but after they had been taken to guest quarters for a night of rest before starting back to Jerusalem, some of the young Ammonite chiefs who were unfriendly toward the Israelites came to talk to Hanun.


"If the king of Israel ever cared anything about your father, he is only using it as an excuse to send spies here," they told Hanun. "These men with gifts are surely looking our city over so that they can take back information. It means that Israel is planning to attack us soon!"


Hanun was troubled by this opinion. By next morning he decided that the chiefs were probably right, and he gave orders to arrest the Israelites. Each man's beard was half removed, and their robes were hacked off almost to their waists. In that condition they were sneeringly told to go back to Jerusalem and tell David that his attempt to spy on the Ammonites was as ridiculous as his emissaries would look when they returned.


News of this insulting act somehow reached David before the embarrassed delegation could reach the Jordan River. David sent men to bring them new clothes at the site of the wrecked city of Jericho. They were told to remain there until their beards were evenly grown out.


Meanwhile, Hanun also received some news that caused him to hastily call together the rash Ammonite chiefs who had talked him into mistreating the Israelites (1Sam. 10:3-5; 1Chr. 19:3-5).


King Hanun of Ammon later learned that he had been most unwise to insult David’s men. Reports kept coming to him that the Israelites were so angry that they were almost certain to attack the Ammonites in the region east of the Dead Sea.


The army of Hanun was very small compared to King David's army. Hanun realised that the only possible way to meet his enemy on anything resembling an equal basis would be to hire troops from nearby Aramaean and Mesopotamian nations.


Hanun managed to secure 33,000 soldiers – many of them horsemen and charioteers – from four of those neighbouring kings (2Sam. 10:6; 1Chr. 19:6-7).


When David heard this he was more disappointed than worried. He had hoped that wars could be avoided for many more years, but now he knew that, since Israel didn't trust God for protection, Israel's army would have to be sent out again. Although the people of Israel, and especially David, were angry because of what Hanun had done to the men who had come to the Ammonites for a friendly purpose, David hadn't planned on waging major warfare over the matter. But the Ammonites had now invited attack on themselves for the second time.


The Philistines posed no threat to Israel at that time, so most of Israel's army was sent out to meet the enemy. David remained in Jerusalem, sending Joab as head of the fighting force, and Abishai, Joab's brother, as second in command (2Sam. 10:7; 1Chr. 19:8).


The Ammonites defended the gates of their city while the Syrians fought in the fields. When Joab realised he would have to fight on two fronts he chose the best soldiers of the army to go against the 33,000 Syrians. The remaining Israelite troops were put under Abishai's command to be used against the Ammonites.


Joab then told the Israelite army, “If the Syrians are too strong for me, come quickly with your men to help me. If the Ammonites prove too strong for you, I'll rush back to help you. Don't be concerned about being defeated. If God sees fit, He will help us win" (2Sam. 10:8-12; 1Chr. 19:9-13).


A trap turned to victory

Joab's last remark could be considered a bit odd for one who was an expert soldier and who believed in force and violence to settle matters. Nevertheless, he believed in God's great power, even though he wasn't usually inclined to obey God's Laws. He probably never realised to what an extent God was using him to deliver the unbelieving, sinful Israelites from their neighbours.


At Joab's command the stronger part of the army suddenly reformed their lines to face the Syrians. When the Syrians realised that they, instead of the Ammonites, were the first objects of attack, they fell into a noisy state of panic. They raced away from Medeba with such frantic haste that Joab commanded his men not to tire themselves in futile pursuit.


About the same time Abishai's troops rushed at the Ammonites, who were so discouraged at the retreat of the Syrians that they ran too and retreated into the city. Afterwards Joab returned to Jerusalem (2Sam.10:13-14; 1Chr. 19:14-15).


The Syrians realised that they were no match for the Israelites. So the leaders schemed for immediate reprisal. The man who was eager to champion their cause was Hadadezer. He was the Syrian king who previously had lost thousands of men and many horses and chariots to the army of Israel. By this time Hadadezer had rebuilt an army. Combined with the men of other Syrian kings, this made a sizable fighting machine. But Hadadezer wasn't satisfied until he had recruited many more Aramaean soldiers from Mesopotamia. These troops arrived at Helam under the command of Shobach, the commander-in-chief of Hadadezer’s forces (2Sam. 10:15-16; 1Chr. 19:16).


When he heard this, David decided that he would personally lead the army to Helam where the Syrians attacked them. But again the Syrians fled from the Israelites. They left seven hundred charioteers dead on the fields, also forty thousand cavalrymen, including General Shobach.


When all the kings who were vassals of Hadadezer saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they made peace with the Israelites and became subject to them (2Sam. 10:17-19; 1Chr. 19:17-19).


David and Bathsheba

The next year, when weather permitted more favourable movement of troops, David sent Joab out with the king’s army and the whole Israelite army against the Ammonites. David wasn't concerned with vengeance. He wanted to curb the war-loving, ambitious Ammonites before they could build an army strong enough to trouble Israel in the future.


They destroyed the Ammonites and captured the city of Rabbah. But David stayed in Jerusalem (2Sam. 11:1; 1Chr. 20:1).


One night David went up and walked around the roof of his palace. From the roof he saw a young woman bathing and David saw that she was very beautiful. There wasn't anything very unusual about a person bathing in sight of others in those times. Privacy was something not everyone could afford but modesty demanded that the person was clothed when bathing in rivers or in such a manner.


On inquiring who the woman was, David learned that her name was Bathsheba, and that she was the wife of a man named Uriah, a Hittite. (The Hittites were living in the region around the headwaters of the Jordan River when the Israelites had come to Canaan.) Uriah was one of the thousands of soldiers in the army of Israel that had gone to attack the Ammonites. He was also one of David's thirty-seven great military heroes, a general of Israel (2Sam. 23:39). Even though David didn't know her, the possibility of taking her for a wife was growing in his mind. He was unwisely allowing himself to be influenced by lust for physical beauty alone.


It spite of his usual ability for fairness and good judgment, David continued to think about Bathsheba. He impulsively decided to do something about it. Then David sent messengers to get her. So she came to him and David slept with her. Then she returned home.


Instead of removing the tempting thoughts out of his mind, David had yielded to them. The result was going to be the start of the most miserable era in his life. He had broken the Seventh and the Tenth Commandments. Now trouble was certain to come (2Sam. 11:4).


The first blow came to David when he received a message from Bathsheba informing him that she was going to have a child several months later. The only possible way to escape from this miserable situation, he thought to himself, was to get Uriah back to his wife at once. If Uriah stayed with his wife a few days, he would think the baby was his.


David lost no time in sending a fast messenger to Joab, requesting him to get Bathsheba's husband back to Jerusalem by the swiftest means available to report on the progress of the war. Uriah rushed back and was brought to David.


When Uriah came to him David asked him how Joab and the soldiers were and asked about the war.


David finally said to Uriah. "Go down to your home and wash your feet" (2Sam. 11:2-8).


David's scheme backfires

The king sighed with relief as he watched Uriah stride out the door. The questioning was only an act to disguise the real reason for the Hittite being returned to Jerusalem.


Added to that was the gnawing feeling of guilt, especially strong in the presence of the heroic and faithful officer he had wronged. To try to lessen the uncomfortable feeling, David sent a present to Uriah’s home.


The next day David was greeted with an unpleasant surprise. He was informed that Uriah hadn't gone home. Instead, he had spent the time sleeping in the servants' quarters of the king's house.


"Why didn't you spend last night at your home with your wife?" the king asked when Uriah was brought before him.


"Weren't you anxious to see her after having been away from her for so long?"


"I wanted very much to be with my wife." Uriah explained, "but I felt that while my commander and fellow soldiers were having to sleep on the ground and the rocks, I shouldn't be taking advantage of anything better. How could I go to my house and eat and drink and be with my wife? I would never do such a thing" (vv. 9-11).


"Well, stay here tonight,” David said, “and tomorrow I'll send you back to rejoin the army."


So Uriah stayed around the palace. He ate and drank with David and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah did not go home as David had hoped but again went to sleep in the servants’ quarters (vv. 12-13).


Another scheme

Causing Uriah to become drunk had been a waste of effort. Even in that condition the strong-willed Uriah resisted visiting his wife, who was so close at hand. He felt that he shouldn't enjoy any part of home life while his fellow soldiers were enduring hardships in the campaign against the Ammonites.


David was very worried at the thought of what would happen if the public should learn that he was to be the father of a child by another man's wife. In a frantic attempt to escape from the situation, David decided to do a terrible thing. He sent a sealed letter to Joab, commander of his army, with Uriah as the bearer. Uriah hurriedly returned, just as he wished, to where the Israelite forces were encamped.


On opening the letter, even the callous Joab was a little moved. He was instructed to place Uriah in the foremost ranks in the battle with the Ammonites. Then he was to suddenly withdraw his soldiers and not let them rescue or help Uriah in any way. This loyal soldier had been given his own death warrant by David, and had unknowingly delivered it to the man who had the power to carry out the vicious order (vv. 14-15).


While Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were. When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab some of the men in David’s army fell. Moreover, Uriah was among them. Some Ammonite took Uriah's life, but it was David who was responsible for the Hittite's death (vv.16-17).


Joab sent a messenger to David to give him a full account of the battle.


“The enemy came out against us,” he said, “and as we chased them back to the city gates, the men on the wall attacked us and some of our men were killed. Uriah the Hittite is dead too.”


"I know that Joab must be troubled because of how the Ammonites tricked him," David remarked to the messenger. "When you return, tell him not be overly concerned. Remind him for me that certain ones have to die in battle. Tell him that it's my desire that he forget past incidents and put his mind to taking the city of Rabbah, even though months may be required to do so" (vv. 18-25).


When Bathsheba heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. After she had gone through the usual period of mourning, David had her brought to the palace and she became one of his wives.


Under these adverse circumstances David added another wife, and eventually another son.


If God had been asleep, David might have lived through this disastrous episode without his people learning of his disgraceful desires, scandalous schemes and infamous deeds. Truth can be withheld from whole nations as well as from individuals.


But God doesn't sleep. He can't be deceived. And God was displeased by what David had done. Even the king of Israel, like anyone else, was certain to run into calamity because of breaking some of the God’s Commandments (vv. 26-27).


Nathan rebukes David

God began David's punishment by instructing Nathan, one of God's prophets, in what he should say to the king.


When he came to the king, Nathan told him about two men who were neighbours. One was wealthy and the other was poor. The wealthy one had many flocks of sheep and herds of cattle. The poor man's stock consisted of only one lamb that had been raised in his household. It had been a close pet for the children, and was almost like one of the family.


“Trouble arose when a friend came to visit the wealthy man," Nathan continued. "Instead of telling his servants to slaughter one of his own animals for food for his guest, he went to the home of his poor neighbour and took and then slaughtered his only animal, his pet lamb. The lamb was served to the wealthy man's guest" (2Sam. 12:1-4).


David angrily exclaimed, "That man should restore to his neighbour four lambs to replace the one that he took. Furthermore, because he was so miserably selfish and had no compassion for his poor neighbour, he deserves to die" (vv. 5-6).


"You don't need to go outside your home to find the man who has been so inconsiderate and heartless," Nathan said.  “You are that man!”


Then Nathan said, "You have angered God by your vile conduct of late. He protected you many times from Saul and his soldiers. He made it possible for you to have power in Israel, the home and wealth you enjoy and the several wives you have chosen. If you had needed anything else, God would have given it to you. Considering the wonderful things your Creator has done for you, why have you broken His Commandments? You planned the death of the loyal and trusting man with whose wife you committed adultery! Uriah the Hittite died by your hand through your enemies, the Ammonites. Then you took Uriah's widow to be your wife lest your adultery be discovered" (vv. 7-9).


"God further instructed me to tell you what will happen because you have slipped into such deep sin," Nathan went on. "From now on death will be hovering over your house. It will strike at unexpected times. Other evil things will take place in your house. A neighbour will take your wives from you. You did some base things in secret, but the one who takes your wives will brazenly do the same things in the light of day and in full view of the public"  (vv. 10-12).


"I acknowledge my sin. I have acted in a depraved and heartless manner," David confessed after a short while. "I have carelessly done these things in God's sight without considering others. I deserve to die!" (Psalm 51 is David's prayer of repentance.)


"Now that you realise how wrong you have been and have repented, God will forgive you,” Nathan advised. "He will not take your life. However, because your action will provide God's enemies with reason to point you out as a favoured playboy and a murderer, the son born to you will surely die."


Hence there was a time of greater suffering ahead. It started to take place shortly after his son was born to Bathsheba. The baby suddenly became very ill. In spite of Nathan's prediction that the infant would surely die, David frantically prayed and fasted that it would live. He spent the nights lying on the stone floor (vv. 13-16).


The elders of the house tried to talk him into going to bed, but he refused and would not eat any food.


The baby died on the seventh day of his sickness. Servants feared to tell the king. They reasoned that his behaviour had been so extreme while the baby was alive that he would do something very desperate if he were told that the baby was dead. When David noticed them whispering among themselves, he knew what had happened.


"Is the baby dead?” he asked.


“Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.”


Then David got up off the ground, washed himself, brushed his hair, changed his clothes, and went to the Tabernacle and worshipped God. Then he returned to the palace and ate (vv. 17-20).


"How can you feel better, now that your child is dead?" someone asked.


David explained, "Now that the child is dead, there's no reason to continue fasting and praying for him. I hoped that he would live, but now that he is gone, there is nothing I can do to bring him back."


After regaining his strength, David went to comfort Bathsheba because of the loss of their son. Later, another son was born to David and Bathsheba. Because they were now free to be married, God looked with favour on their marriage by giving them this second child. The Lord loved him and he sent word through Nathan the prophet to call him Jedidiah, which meant Beloved of God (Yah[o]). David had named him Solomon, which meant Peaceable (vv. 21-25). Psalm 127:2, written by Solomon, carries the name Yedid or beloved, which was the name God gave to Solomon through Nathan.


Meanwhile, from the time that Uriah the Hittite had been killed till after David repented, Joab and the Israelite army had fought against Rabbah of the Ammonites and captured the royal citadel.


Later, Joab sent messengers to Jerusalem to tell David that they had fought against Rabbah and taken possession of the water supply there. The message was also a suggestion that David should come to Rabbah with additional troops to besiege the city and capture it. Otherwise, if Joab took the city it would be named after him (vv. 26-28).


Ammonites finally subdued

David agreed, and went with the entire army to join Joab. They attacked Rabbah and captured it. David took the crown of their king, which was the crown of Milcom, named for their god, and it was placed on his own head (vv. 29-30).


1Chronicles 20:1-3 says Joab went to Rabbah and besieged it, but David remained in Jerusalem. After it had been besieged David went there. He removed the crown from the head, which is assumed to be the head of the king-idol Milcom, the god of the Ammonites. David put the people to work reducing the city to rubble with saws and iron tools. As with all the Ammonite towns, the people were taken and consigned to do menial labour for the Israelites.


The Bible doesn't say what happened to the Ammonite king, but he was most probably slain. The crown referred to here, as the crown of the king, weighed more than a hundred pounds. It had many precious stones in it, and the gold alone was worth an enormous amount of money.  The crown was understood to have been placed on the head of the idol and the placement of the crown on David’s head was a transfer of authority from their false worship to the king of the nation of Israel under the One True God.


The crown was only a small part of the wealth taken by the Israelites from Rabbah. They also took a great quantity of plunder from the city. This, along with much spoil from other cities there, was all taken back to Jerusalem when David and his troops returned.


We will continue the Bible story in the paper Trouble in David’s Family (No. CB 94).