In this chapter David speaks as a prophet about Christ. That is the difference with 2 Samuel 22, because there he speaks as king and in the picture we hear the Lord Jesus Himself speak.
We have two topics in this chapter. First we listen to the farewell words of king David (verses 1-7). Then follows a list of David’s heroes and their deeds, deeds that gave them an honorable position in his kingdom (verses 8-39).
1 - 7 The Last Words of David
1 Now these are the last words of David.
David the son of Jesse declares,
The man who was raised on high declares,
The anointed of the God of Jacob,
And the sweet psalmist of Israel,
2 “The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me,
And His word was on my tongue.
3 “The God of Israel said,
The Rock of Israel spoke to me,
‘He who rules over men righteously,
Who rules in the fear of God,
4 Is as the light of the morning [when] the sun rises,
A morning without clouds,
[When] the tender grass [springs] out of the earth,
Through sunshine after rain.’
5 “Truly is not my house so with God?
For He has made an everlasting covenant with me,
Ordered in all things, and secured;
For all my salvation and all [my] desire,
Will He not indeed make [it] grow?
6 “But the worthless, every one of them will be thrust away like thorns,
Because they cannot be taken in hand;
7 But the man who touches them
Must be armed with iron and the shaft of a spear,
And they will be completely burned with fire in [their] place.”
Here we have the last words of David as a poet, as a singer. He talks about the future as someone who is particularly privileged. Even more so, he speaks of a Ruler Who differs so much from what he has been as ruler.
The last words of someone always have a special value for the descendants and friends. Last words are permanent words. They are often words that arise from a rich experience of the past, while that past is seen in the light of the future, one’s final destination (verse 1a).
David first speaks about himself as a person in verse 1b. He begins by naming his name, “David,” which means “beloved”. He knows himself the object of God’s love; he is the man after God’s heart. At the same time he calls himself “the son of Jesse”. By doing so, he indicates that he is aware of his origins. He knows its humility, and doesn’t forget that.
He is also aware of the high position he has been given and as such he speaks (verse 1c). With this he refers to the fact that he was taken by the LORD from behind the sheep of his father to become the shepherd of His people. Grace has brought him to that high place.
He knows that he is “the anointed” (verse 1d). This indicates that he cannot act in his own power in the position he has received, but that this can only be done by the power of the Holy Spirit, which is reminiscent of anointing (1Jn 2:20,27). At the same time, here again he points to his own weakness by attributing the anointing to “the God of Jacob”, that is the God Who has always supported and helped the weak Jacob.
In the last line of verse 1 he places himself in connection with the whole people which he calls “Israel”, that is the people as God sees them according to His purpose. God sees His people as a people of praise. David took care of the songs of praise, that is to say, that the LORD brought him into so many circumstances that these psalms originated in his heart.
David knows himself the instrument of the Holy Spirit through whom he speaks God’s words (verse 2). This verse is one of the most beautiful verses in the Old Testament that teaches us something about inspiration. It is a speaking of the Spirit by someone. “His word was on my tongue” does not mean that David displays a general thought, but that the words are inspired by the Spirit. These are the words in which thoughts are expressed. It underlines the literal inspiration of the Word of God.
In verse 3 we see that God Himself speaks. David can say: “The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me” (verse 2) because, as it says in verse 3, the God of Israel first “spoke to” him. We can only speak words of God through the Spirit when those words have come to us first, when we have first absorbed them into our hearts. The words God speaks have His Messiah as their subject. With God it is always about His Son. In this verse the Messiah is clearly distinguished from God. The Messiah is the Man who reigns in the fear of God. He rules for God, although He Himself is God.
God speaks as “the God of Israel”, the God of His people. He also speaks as “the rock of Israel”, the Unshakable. The unshakable God puts Someone in the foreground who will be a righteous Ruler of men. This Ruler will not rule according to human standards, but “in the fear of God”, that is, all His actions will be governed by respect for God. “The fear of God” will be His personal feature.
The Ruler of verse 3 is not his son Solomon. Under the reign of Solomon there is partial fulfillment, but the full fulfillment only occurs at the reign of the Lord Jesus. Then Christ rises as “the light of the morning” (verse 4). He is “the Sun of righteousness” Who rises (Mal 4:2). That is the beginning of the empire of peace. With His government will come the “times of refreshing” and the “period of restoration of all things” (Acts 3:19-21).
Then the “morning without clouds” begins. The dark clouds of the great tribulation, the period in which it was night for the faithful remnant, have disappeared forever. Everything will be light and characterized by young and fresh life under the mighty action of the Spirit.
Salvation and joy come from the house of David as the fulfillment of what God has promised. It is the ultimate salvation for the whole people. David realizes that he does not speak about himself and his own home (verse 5). In this book 2 Samuel, the failure of David has all too clearly come to the fore. At the same time it is wonderful to see David clinging to the eternally covenant of God. As God has proposed, so it will happen. The time has not yet come, but salvation and joy will come. David expresses his unshakeable confidence that he will personally, “my”, participate in it.
Under the reign of the Messiah the wicked will be judged (verses 6-7). For all those who have not bowed before God, there is no place in the councils of God about which David has spoken in the preceding verses.
8 - 12 The First Three Heroes
8 These are the names of the mighty men whom David had: Josheb-basshebeth a Tahchemonite, chief of the captains, he was [called] Adino the Eznite, because of eight hundred slain [by him] at one time; 9 and after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there to battle and the men of Israel had withdrawn. 10 He arose and struck the Philistines until his hand was weary and clung to the sword, and the LORD brought about a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to strip [the slain]. 11 Now after him was Shammah the son of Agee a Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered into a troop where there was a plot of ground full of lentils, and the people fled from the Philistines. 12 But he took his stand in the midst of the plot, defended it and struck the Philistines; and the LORD brought about a great victory.
After the last words of David, which indicate how God has acted with him and how God will continue to act, now pass in review the heroes of David. They have served him in the acquisition and confirmation of the kingship. They stood firm for the people and the land he ruled. David was God’s chosen king, the people were God’s chosen people, the land was God’s chosen land.
The heroes of David are mentioned in direct connection with the above. There are thirty-seven. Three of them are heads (verses 8-17), two others are just below them (verses 18-23). Of the remaining thirty-two, only the names are mentioned (verses 24-39).
The heroes have done all kinds of deeds. Some of these acts have long been done. However, they have not been forgotten. Thus God forgets nothing of what His own have done for His Son. He will reward everything during the reign of the Messiah. Before the judgement seat all deeds be shall paid, both good and bad (2Cor 5:10). Here it is about the good ones.
Under David and also under Solomon these heroes get a high place. When David was still the rejected one, they stood by him. Thus we are now on the side of the rejected Christ (cf. Lk 22:28).
The three greatest heroes in verses 8-12 (Josheb-basshebeth, Eleazar and Shammah) we do not know from history. We only hear from them here. Yet they are called the greatest heroes. It will be the same before the judgment seat. The greatest heroes will be those whom we may not have known at all, who worked unobtrusively for the Lord Jesus, but with great results.
Next comes a group of thirty heroes. [The number ‘thirty’ should probably be seen as the designation of a group, because it concerns more than thirty heroes.] Of the thirty, two more heroes are distinguished whose deeds are called.
The first hero, Josheb-basshebeth, killed eight hundred men on one occasion. What kind of enemies they were, is not mentioned. The next two are heroes who caused a slaughter among the Philistines and by whom God gave a great victory. The result is that the people can take from the Philistines what they had robbed and that a piece of land with its harvest is preserved for the people.
The Philistines are a picture of the nominal Christians. They are still today the arch-enemies of God’s people who are in the land. Even today God can still give great victories over all human elements in the service to God – of which the Philistines are a picture – through people who are faithful to the Lord Jesus, the true David. Personal faithfulness in this has a blessed effect on the whole people.
It is a great danger that people take away the food of God’s Word from us. Then it’s great if someone defends the food. The inheritance and the food are preserved for God’s people.
13 - 17 Water for David
13 Then three of the thirty chief men went down and came to David in the harvest time to the cave of Adullam, while the troop of the Philistines was camping in the valley of Rephaim. 14 David was then in the stronghold, while the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. 15 David had a craving and said, “Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem which is by the gate!” 16 So the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines, and drew water from the well of Bethlehem which was by the gate, and took [it] and brought [it] to David. Nevertheless he would not drink it, but poured it out to the LORD; 17 and he said, “Be it far from me, O LORD, that I should do this. [Shall I drink] the blood of the men who went in [jeopardy] of their lives?” Therefore he would not drink it. These things the three mighty men did.
A special act of heroism is mentioned in this history. The previous actions were done with the people in mind. This heroic act is all about fulfilling a wish of David. He was thirsty. His longing for water, and that especially from the well of Bethlehem, he proclaimed as a kind of sigh, without addressing anyone in particular. His thirst has reminded him of the well of Bethlehem. Three heroes were so close to him that they heard his sigh. When we are close to the Lord Jesus, it will not be necessary for Him to cry against us, but we will also hear the gentle whispers of His voice.
When they come with the water to David, he pours it out. That is not an insult but a high appreciation. They made it at the risk of their lives. This water could not be drinking water for David. He gave it a higher purpose by making it a drink offering for the LORD and pouring it out to Him.
18 - 19 Abishai
18 Abishai, the brother of Joab, the son of Zeruiah, was chief of the thirty. And he swung his spear against three hundred and killed [them], and had a name as well as the three. 19 He was most honored of the thirty, therefore he became their commander; however, he did not attain to the three.
After the three most important heroes, another group of three is called heroes. Of these three, two are mentioned by name. The first is Abishai, who is called “most honored of the thirty”. He is mentioned several times in the history of David. However, the heroic deed mentioned here has not been mentioned before. He turns out to have once killed three hundred enemies with his spear.
20 - 23 Benaiah
20 Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man of Kabzeel, who had done mighty deeds, killed the two [sons of] Ariel of Moab. He also went down and killed a lion in the middle of a pit on a snowy day. 21 He killed an Egyptian, an impressive man. Now the Egyptian [had] a spear in his hand, but he went down to him with a club and snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear. 22 These [things] Benaiah the son of Jehoiada did, and had a name as well as the three mighty men. 23 He was honored among the thirty, but he did not attain to the three. And David appointed him over his guard.
The three actions Benaiah has performed are:
1. killing the two sons of Ariel of Moab,
2. killing a lion in a pit at a time when there was snow; and
3. killing an Egyptian with his own spear.
Benaiah was a very determined man. Nor is it the case that after one victory he thought it was all right. Benaiah is a man with great courage and perseverance.
From his achievements we can learn important spiritual lessons. We must remember, however, that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual [forces] of wickedness in the heavenly [places]” (Eph 6:12). The three enemies that Benaiah defeats and kills are a picture of three spiritual enemy powers that we face in our lives. We will see that Moab is a picture of the flesh in the believer, that the lion here is a picture of Satan and that the Egyptian is a picture of the world.
The first enemy consists of two sons of Ariel, in a different translation: two heroes, from Moab. Moab means ‘from the father’. Who is the father of Moab? That is Lot (Gen 19:36-37). From what the Bible says about Lot, we see what kind of man Lot was. He was a man who loved the world. He saw what was in sight. He was guided by the desires of the flesh (Gen 13:10-11), that is the old nature that every believer still has in him. In Moab we see a picture of the flesh and its works (Gal 5:19-21).
In the history of Moab, two characteristics are visible that stem from the desires of the flesh. One characteristic is laziness, the other is pride (Jer 48:11; Isa 16:6). We can give each of these two sons of Moab a name. The name of one son is Laziness and the name of the other son is Pride. These two ‘heroes’ are also a danger to our lives as Christians. They also want to exert their influence in our lives. Perhaps one ‘son’ is a greater danger than another. Be that as it may, we have to deal with them if we want to live dedicated to the Lord.
After Benaiah has defeated the two men from Moab, he doesn’t take it easy to enjoy his victory. He keeps an attentive eye on whether new danger is threatening somewhere. As soon as it presents itself, he acts with courage and determination.
What is the case? A lion has fallen into a pit. As a special feature is mentioned that it is a snowy day. Benaiah could have thought: ‘That lion is well there, it is no longer a threat to anyone; let him there, then it will die by itself.’ But Benaiah is not like that. We can imagine that he thought: ‘That lion may have slipped through the snow and ended up in the pit. What happened to the lion can also happen to a human being. For example, children love to play in the snow. Imagine that one of those children also slips and accidentally ends up in that pit. You can’t stand the thought. Benaiah doesn’t think about it, goes down into the pit and kills the lion. He does not think about himself, but about the risk for others.
Benaiah acts according to the meaning of his name. His name means ‘built by the LORD’. In his dealings with the LORD, the LORD has formed him into a man of character. He does not have the strength to fight the lion in himself. But he says, as it were: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). This is not the language of the boaster but the language of faith in the Almighty. For Him, the lion is a little one. Did not his king David also speak this language when he said, “For by You I can run upon a troop; and by my God I can leap over a wall.” (Psa 18:29)?
The lion is here a picture of the devil who is out to devour (1Pet 5:8). In the most impossible places, where we think he can’t do much, he tries to make victims. He also has a preference for children. We can learn from Benaiah, even though we may not have any children and we are not even married yet. It is a question of being aware of the dangers to which our children, those of ourselves and those of our brothers and sisters, are exposed. With what do children come into contact at school, on the street? It is cold in the world. There is a thick layer of snow. The snow makes the world attractive and makes the cold forget.
Unfortunately, it is no exception that the cold hits the children when they come home. No one is waiting for them to drink anything with them, no one is asking how they have been, no one to spontaneously to tell their story to. Yes, there is a ‘cuddle corner’. The PC is turned on or the smartphone is grabbed to go ‘on the net’ and the chat can start. With whom? There are always ‘nice’ people, to whom they can tell their story, who do have attention. The snow looks so attractive, the cold is forgotten, they are getting closer and closer to the pit … . If you recognize this, act as Benaiah.
We don’t read about spectators at his performance. Nor does it say that he took the dead lion out of the pit to show it triumphantly as a trophy to others. Maybe he never told others anything about it. But God has noticed it and has it recorded in His Word so that we can learn from it.
This fight with the lion in the pit, where no one was present or watched except the LORD, is reminiscent of fighting in the prayers, as we read of Epaphras: “Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God” (Col 4:12). Such a battle is fought hidden in the inner room (cf. Mt 6:6). Inconspicuous for people, but perceived by God we may fight for others in the prayers.
For those who may feel useless, there is an enormous opportunity here to serve fellow believers in a great way. He or she can fight in the prayers for the families of the believers, especially for their children. More than ever, it is necessary to pray for the families. That is what the devil’s attacks concentrate on. This call to prayer does not only apply to older believers. It is to be hoped that young people will also understand the need for it. Take more time to pray for the spiritual salvation of the children of the believers and for all the children we have in our circle of acquaintances. Thus we can become a hero of the true David.
In the victory Benaiah achieved in secret, he resembles David. David also defeated the lion in secret, and also the bear (1Sam 17:34-35).
Even after his second victory Benaiah isn’t keen on taking it easy. The enemy is also not the enemy to give up the battle after a defeat. He appears each time in a different form. This time Benaiah has to deal with an Egyptian. Just like the previous enemies, this one is also one of size. A gigantic stature of no less than two and a half meters looms up in front of him (1Chr 11:23). Such an appearance will have impressed many people in Israel, but not Benaiah.
Egypt is a picture of the world. We see that in the book of Exodus. It is the land that has kept the people of God in slavery for a long time. When God wanted to deliver His people from it, the king of Egypt offered fierce resistance. Even when the people of God had left, Pharaoh wanted to take them back and bring them back under his rule. This is an illustration of what happens when someone converts. Then he is saved by God from the present evil world (Gal 1:4).
But let’s not think that this will rescue us from this enemy forever. Certainly, he has no authority over us anymore. Yet he will try again and again to gain possession of a certain area of our lives. There remains the danger that certain patterns of our old lives will reappear with us. Surely it had its attractive sides, isn’t it? Not everything was wrong, was it? There are a lot of things we can enjoy, we don’t have to be foreign to the world, do we?
They are not in themselves reprehensible reasoning. But beware: are we certain that such reasoning is not intended to undo our break with the world and are we confident that it will not diminish our commitment to the Lord Jesus? In our old life we used to be absorbed in music or sports or we could only think of beautiful clothes or beautiful cars. That is with what we broken. Is it therefore wrong to listen to music, do sports, look good or use a car? No, but let’s remember that what we used to live in and for can become the pattern of our lives again if we don’t act like Benaiah with the Egyptian.
How does Benaiah get the victory? First of all, he goes there with a club or, better, a staff (Darby Translation). Someone is using a staff when he is on his way. The staff says something about being a pilgrim, a stranger on earth, someone on his way to his destination. For those who know Christ as Redeemer and Lord, the destiny is not this world. After all, he has been delivered from that. Our destination is heaven, to which we are on our way. If we are well aware of that, we have a weapon against the enemy. If the world wants to entice us to take part in its entertainment and join its efforts, let’s keep the staff up. By this we say: I do not belong to you, I belong to heaven.
With his staff in his hand Benaiah tears the spear out of the hand of the Egyptian. That speaks of a strong performance. He doesn’t ask if the Egyptian wants to be so kind as to hand over his spear, but he takes it from his hands by force. Then he gives the Egyptian with his own weapon the death blow. Here too he follows the example of his king, David. David used to kill the giant Goliath with his own weapon (1Sam 17:51). This points in a wonderful way to the Lord Jesus, who defeated the devil with his own weapon, death (Heb 2:14).
Colossians 3 tells us how to apply this killing of the Egyptian. We are called there to consider our members who are on earth as dead. One of the members mentioned there is “greed, which amounts to idolatry” (Col 3:5). Thus is written in the following verse: “And in them you also once walked, when you were living in them” (Col 3:7). That means it’s about things we used to live in. The challenge now is to radically deal with this as soon as we notice that something from the past is going to take hold of us again, when we feel feelings that we used to cherish in us again. We must not give them the chance to take possession of us again.
This is only possible by remembering what the Lord Jesus did for us on the cross to deliver us from it. There He won the great victory. We can stand up in this victory. We may say that we are more than victors by Him Who loved us (Rom 8:31-39). This is the death blow to the Egyptian.
24 - 39 Other Heroes
24 Asahel the brother of Joab was among the thirty; Elhanan the son of Dodo of Bethlehem, 25 Shammah the Harodite, Elika the Harodite, 26 Helez the Paltite, Ira the son of Ikkesh the Tekoite, 27 Abiezer the Anathothite, Mebunnai the Hushathite, 28 Zalmon the Ahohite, Maharai the Netophathite, 29 Heleb the son of Baanah the Netophathite, Ittai the son of Ribai of Gibeah of the sons of Benjamin, 30 Benaiah a Pirathonite, Hiddai of the brooks of Gaash, 31 Abi-albon the Arbathite, Azmaveth the Barhumite, 32 Eliahba the Shaalbonite, the sons of Jashen, Jonathan, 33 Shammah the Hararite, Ahiam the son of Sharar the Ararite, 34 Eliphelet the son of Ahasbai, the son of the Maacathite, Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite, 35 Hezro the Carmelite, Paarai the Arbite, 36 Igal the son of Nathan of Zobah, Bani the Gadite, 37 Zelek the Ammonite, Naharai the Beerothite, armor bearers of Joab the son of Zeruiah, 38 Ira the Ithrite, Gareb the Ithrite, 39 Uriah the Hittite; thirty-seven in all.
Of the rest of the heroes we only hear the name and the place where they came from. Some of these names we have also come across in the history of David, such as Asahel (verse 24) and Uriah (verse 39). Not one is forgotten. They are all known to God and their deeds are also recorded. In the same way, He forgets nothing that has been done out of love for the Lord Jesus.
The name of Uriah cannot be mentioned without recalling David’s sin with Bathsheba and the murder of Uria he had let kill. David got rid of him away because he felt compelled to do so by Uriah’s faithfulness to hide his sin. Here God commemorates the fidelity of this faithful warrior to David. Uriah gets his reward in the resurrection.
Remarkable is that in the row of David’s heroes the name of Joab is missing. His name is rightly missing, because he fought his own battle and not David’s, although his battle often turned out to be in David’s favor.
Although Joab is not mentioned among the heroes, his name is mentioned a few times. There are two references to “the brother of Joab” (verses 18,24) and one to “the armor bearer of Joab” (verse 37). The fact that Joab fought his own battle did not affect his brothers. They fought for David. Conversely, the fact that his brothers fought for David unfortunately had no influence on Joab.