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Benaiah-Israel's Warrior and Lion Killer

Updated on January 17, 2017

Find Benaiah in 1 Kings 1:32-45 and 2 Sam. 23:20-22; 1 Chr. 11:22-24


In Hebrew בְּנָיָהוּ (Benayahu) means "YAHWEH has built".

Life in ancient Israel was a time of turmoil, war, the making of kings and the tearing down of kingdoms. People worked hard, loved recklessly and fought relentlessly for freedom, truth and justice much like we do in our own time. Many men were noticed for their valor and became a vital part of the elite fighting forces that kept a ruler in power or removed him from the throne.

Benaiah was such a man, a warrior that lived life to its fullest, never compromising or backing down. This man Benaiah was certainly larger than life. He was like a movie hero that gets caught up in action, fighting, feats of endurance and wonder but always stays focused on his King. He was a man’s man with his bravery and fighting skills and a woman’s heart throb because of his dashing and heroic exploits. He was making a name for himself even before David became king and was noticed by this chosen man who was destined to be king of Israel. And indeed he became a great fighting man in the armies of King David and King Solomon.

Benaiah came from good stock. He was from the tribe of Ephraim and his father was Jehoiada, the priest. His mother is not mentioned but I like to think she was the incredibly brave Jehosheba who saved King Josiah’s life when he was a baby. He remained devoted to the Lord God Jehovah and part of his duties included being responsible for priestly duty during the third month. This was actually in the temple itself and was quite an honor. David always remained focused on God and it is natural that he would choose godly men for his closest and most trusted guards.

Benaiah earned this honor with blood, sweat and most likely, tears. Records show that he emulated David’s example of giant killer. He killed an Egyptian 7 ½ feet tall with his own spear. He went right up to the giant and hit the giant with his staff, apparently stunning the big guy, then took his own spear right out of his hand and killed the man with it. The account says this spear was the size of a weaver’s beam so it was about 2-3 inches in diameter. Another notation of a spear this size puts the tip at 15 pounds. This gives us an idea of Benaiah’s strength and physical condition.

At another time, Benaiah encountered two men from Moab who are recorded as being “lionlike.” So they were ferocious, without mercy, and determined. But our hero took them both on and killed them. The Moabs were descendents of Lot by his oldest daughter and were not believers of God like the Israelites. They worshipped an idol named Chemosh and practiced child sacrifice. King Saul had fought them and David sent his own mother and father to Moab for safety when he was fleeing Saul’s persecution.

We do not know why Benaiah attacked and killed them or the entire account of the fight. Since they were “lionlike”, they most likely were warriors and were antagonistic. Can you imagine one man taking on two of these fierce men at the same time? Men who killed little children certainly would not allow him to live if they got the upper hand.

Killing the seemingly undefeatable was just practice for Benaiah though. One winter day when he was out and about he came across a lion. It was probably hungry since food is hard to come by in winter, perhaps it was searching for a stray sheep or other lone animal. When Benaiah saw it, he did not wait for it to attack. He went after the lion and chased it into a pit! He fought with the lion and killed it.

Most people would run and hide from a lion. Our guy decided to confront the danger though and eliminate it even at the risk of being in an enclosed area with it. The snow would have made the ground slick and precarious. The pit (possibly a cave or the lion’s den) would have been dim and dark, making it hard to see or to dodge sharp claws and teeth. Benaiah probably endured a few moments of fright but persevered and emerged victorious.

And it all paid off when his outrageous exploits were recognized by David. Once chosen, Benaiah never looked back. He remained loyal to the king through whatever came. When they were running from Saul, he was with David and when the king’s son Adonijah rebelled, Benaiah never swayed or failed to support his regent. Later when Solomon became king, he ordered Benaiah to execute Adonijah and he obeyed without question. But that was much later and a lifetime of service and sacrifice came first.

King David chose thirty special servicemen to be part of an elite force. These were men who had shown tremendous courage, loyalty and bravery. They had a very special and important assignment. The king trusted them implicitly and they were always ready to act at a moment’s notice to fulfill his command. They fought loyally with and for him.

Benaiah was the leader of this special squad made up of the bravest men who could be found. Therefore he was the bravest of the brave. He commanded the Cherethite and Pelethite divisions which were comprised more than 24,000 soldiers.

Yet there were three extra special men who were even more elite and close to the king. Benaiah was not one of the three. It must have galled him and I wonder if some of his actions were meant to earn his way there. He was appointed over King David’s bodyguard however and his life was given voluntarily to that service.

Many years into David’s reign and as he was growing old and ill, his son Adonijah decided to usurp the kingdom and become ruler even though his father was still alive. He recruited some of David’s most loyal and trusted advisors to his side. Adonijah invited all of his brothers and all of the royal court to a public event where he showed himself to be king. But Benaiah was not one of those who would betray David and records reflect that he was never even asked to change sides. Everyone knew where his heart stood.

David was on his sickbed and knew himself to be dying. He had promised that Solomon would be king, not Adonijah. He sent several trusted men to protect Solomon and to coronate him as king, even though David was still alive. This was most extraordinary and proof of David’s faith in there advisors. They went to Solomon, set him on David’s own mule; Nathan the prophet anointed him with oil as a sign and a trumpet was blown to make it known to all the people.

Benaiah was forever the king’s man and became as valuable to Solomon as he had been to David. He was chosen to remove the threats to the throne and was dispatched to kill the traitorous Adonijah and others who had proven disloyal. And he killed him that very day, without waiting, fulfilling the new king’s orders.

Then Joab who had been one of the men who turned against David was the next target. But he ran into the temple and actually held onto the alter, refusing to come out. This put Benaiah in a quandary. He could not kill the man right there where sacrifices to God were given. But upon seeking advice, Solomon ordered him to go ahead with it. So Benaiah went back and executed Joab right there on the alter.

As a sign of favor, Solomon made Benaiah commander over Joab’s army and later commanded him to kill another man who had betrayed the nation.


Be a Lion Killer

How can Benaiah be an example and inspiration to us today? We can study him to learn how faith strengthens us and allows us to accomplish the impossible. Benaiah certainly did not attack a giant, two mean men and a lion depending only on his own ability. He knew he was on the side of righteousness and that God was with him. Likewise we can stride confidently into situations where the odds are not in our favor.

This is happening all over the world in countries and areas where missionaries and workers take on inhumane conditions, working tirelessly to relieve pain, misery and injustices. They are taking on the lion in its own den.

Rosa Parks was a lion killer. She refused to back out of the bus den and changed life for people everywhere. Mother Teresa was one too. She fought relentlessly for suffering people the world over. She was as loyal to her King as Benaiah was to his. You and I can be like that also when we refuse to compromise morals, values and truth and stand firm in the face of adversity.

When good people turn and run, when we leave the fight to others, we become the lion’s dinner and give him free reign to terrorize others. This is not the action of a warrior and the chosen elite of the King. Rather we must look for threats and go bravely and confront it face to face. Benaiah did this. So did Clara Barton, who served wounded soldiers on the battlefields during the Civil War and founded the Red Cross.

Oskar Schindler made a list of names and saved over one thousand people. Their descendants now number in to the tens of thousands. He played cards for one woman and took her out of the concentration camp which meant certain death. The Commandant thought Schindler wanted her for sexual favors and was allowed his disillusion while she was safely taken away.

John F. Kennedy was a Navy commander of a PT boat struck by enemy fire. Despite being wounded himself, he held onto the wrecked boat and swam for hours until he got it and the men aboard to shore. He suffered with back pain for the rest of his life but never regretted his actions.

In 1989 the People’s Liberation Army drove tanks down Tiananmen Square to stop protestors against the communist government. One man stepped in front of a long line of 60 ton tanks and refused to move. His bravery spurred others to actions, freeing millions of oppressed people over the world.

Mahatma Gandhi marched 248 miles all the way from Salt March to Dandi, bringing awareness to the world of India’s revolt against British imperialism.

The list could continue into the millions because there has always been a time when someone took on the lion and won. A man, woman or child refused to kneel before the giant and be slaughtered, but rose up and fought back.

We are facing a choice every day. We must choose whom to serve, God or Satan, peace or war, love or hate, compassion or cruelty. You might be the next Benaiah, the next Martin Luther King or I might become a Nelson Mandela, a Cesar Chavez, a Crazy Horse or another Lydia Marie Child. You may not recognize some of these names. Look them up. Google them and read all about these elite few. They belong to people who chased lions into the pit and removed the threat, ones who strode up to a giant, took his own spear from his hand and killed him with it, leaving a safe passage for ones who follow in the future. Susie King Taylor and Todd Beaver stood tall, swallowed fear and selfishness thereby opening the way for others to live with freedom of choice.

The actions and choices of one brave person can literally change the world forever. Will you be that one? Will I?

© 2011 Brenda Barnes


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