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David’s Mighty Men

Updated on July 14, 2012

Text: 2 Samuel 23:8-23 (Read also 1 Chron 11:10-47)

Why has this list of David’s mighty men been put up in the Bible? What is its spiritual significance? If you read the list, you will find that the mighty men have been grouped into 3 categories: i. The first three; ii. The next three; and iii. The thirty (actually 37).

We are going to examine the spiritual significance of the ‘first three’, i.e. Jashobeam, Eleazar and Shammah. Jashobeam (who has the much longer name of Josheb-Bashebeth the Tachmonite. Btw, that means ‘One who sits in the seat’!) was one who lifted up his spear and slew 800 at one time. Eleazar the son of Dodo the Ahohite attacked the Philistines until his hand was weary and stuck to his sword. Shammah the son of Agee the Hararite defended a field full of lentils, or barley as mentioned in 1 Chronicles 11.

David’s great enemies were the Philistines. They are called the uncircumcised Philistines in the Bible. And uncircumcised means they have no experience of the inward cross in their lives. They are not broken. They depend on their natural wisdom. Examples of modern day Philistines are those who are uncrucified Christians, those who are proud of their intellectual ability (notably, the Calvinists and proponents of what is called Reformed Theology).

In the ‘next three’ we have Abishai who slew 300 with his spear. Then we have Benaiah the son of Jehoida, a valiant man from Kabzeel. Benaiah killed two lion-like heroes of Moab, and also a lion in the midst of a pit on a snowy day. He also killed an Egyptian with the Egyptian’s own spear.

As regards the ‘first three’ we are told that they risked their lives for David by drawing water from the well in Bethlehem, despite it being surrounded by the Philistines. The well, as we see in John 4, speaks of the Holy Spirit – the living water that Christ gives. Bethlehem is related to Christ, being the place of His birth.

Now we come to the spiritual discussion. Just as David’s mighty men are divided into 3 ranks, we find in the New Testament that there are i. Seventy disciples (Luke 10); ii. The twelve apostles; and iii. The inner circle of Peter, James & John. Similarly, in Romans 16, in the list of believers in Rome, we have Paul classifying the believers into at least 4 categories. We have Prisca and Aquila, in Rom 16.4, who risked their lives for Paul. So also in the first rank are Adronicus & Junius, and Phebe. In the second rank, we have Persis, Mary, Rufus (a choice man). Observe the terms Paul uses: ‘beloved’, ‘approved’, ‘laboured’ and ‘laboured much’. He says some ‘worked’, but others ‘worked hard’ (Rom 16.12). In Rom 16:14-15 we just have the names of the saints. And others are nameless.

Let us now try to understand what exactly is the significance of the heroic deeds of the ‘first three’ heroes. Eleazar’s hand clung to his sword. The sword in the Bible speaks of the Word of God. A child of God lives on the promises of God, not on mere information provided through ‘Bible knowledge’. We overcome Satan by faith in the promises of God. When we honor God’s Word, the Lord will give us victory. That is the victory of faith.

Again, when we read about Shammah and how he defended a ‘plot of lentils’ or a ‘plot of barley’, we understand something more about the Word of God. Whether lentils or barley, it is food that is being protected from the ravages of the Philistines. We believe that the Word of God is infallible. Barley speaks of resurrection; it is the first crop that emerges after winter. We stand upon the Word of God, and do not go by the opinions of fallible men. Hence we are not followers of Calvin or Augustine, or of any human philosophy. A true believer does not hold to any –ism, be it Calvinism or Methodism or Pentecostalism.

When we come to Jashobeam or Josheb-Basshebeth, we find that he was called Adino the Eznite, because he killed 800 men at one time. He killed them with his spear. You will find that the word ‘spear’ is hardly mentioned in the New Testament. In John 19.34, the soldier pierced the side of our Lord and blood and water came out. The spear is associated with the Cross. And a true believer clings to the word of the cross, 1 Cor 1.18. In 1 John 5.6 we read that the Lord Jesus came by water and by blood. While some prefer to think of water as referring to God’s word, there is evidence to show that water refers to baptism – our Lord’s baptism in the river Jordan – which speaks of His death. The blood, of course, refers to the blood of the cross. As crucified and baptized believers, we become mighty instruments in the hand of God – to overcome our natural enemies, the Philistines. Today, we have a horde of theologians and scholars who think that with their natural wisdom they can understand the Bible. Not so, the Bible is a spiritual Book understood only by spiritual people. When we go through the deep experiences of the Cross, and are utterly dependent on God’s Word, only then can we become mighty warriors for God.

© Pratonix/ Roland Olivier

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