1 Chronicles 11:20
And Abishai the brother of Joab, he was chief of the three: for lifting up his spear against three hundred, he slew them, and had a name among the three.
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(20-25) Feats of Abishai and Benaiah. (Comp. 2Samuel 23:18-23, of which the present passage is little more than a duplicate.)

(20) Abishai the brother of Joab.—Heb., Abshai, but in Samuel, Abishai. (Comp. Abram and Abiram.) Samuel adds “son of Zeruiah” after Joab. (Comp. 1Chronicles 2:16 and 1Chronicles 18:12; 1Chronicles 19:11 ff. for other deeds of Abishai.)

He was chief of the three.—Apparently the second triad, one of whose famous exploits has just been related (1Chronicles 11:15-19). The Hebrew text of Samuel seems to read “knights,” but some MSS., the Hebrew margin, and all the versions, agree with Chronicles.

For lifting up . . .—Literally, and he had bran. dished his spear over three hundred slain. The exploit of Jashobeam (1Chronicles 11:11).

And had a name among the three.—That is, among the second triad, of which he was captain.

1 Chronicles 11:20-21. Lifting up his spear against three hundred, he slew them — He vanquished them all, and slew a great number of them: it is, however, not said that he slew them all at one time, as it is said of Jashobeam, 1 Chronicles 11:11. He attained not unto the first three — He did not equal them in valiant exploits.

11:10-47 An account is given of David's worthies, the great men who served him. Yet David reckoned his success, not as from the mighty men that were with him, but from the mighty God, whose presence is all in all. In strengthening him, they strengthened themselves and their own interest, for his advancement was theirs. We shall gain by what we do in our places for the support of the kingdom of the Son of David; and those that are faithful to Him, shall find their names registered much more to their honour, than these are in the records of fame.Compare this passage with 2 Samuel 23:9-10.

Barley - In 2 Samuel 23:11, "lentiles." The words for barley and lentils are so similar in the Hebrew that we may fairly explain the diversity by an accidental corruption.

15-19. David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me drink … of the well of Beth-lehem—(See on [365]2Sa 23:15). This chivalrous act evinces the enthusiastic devotion of David's men, that they were ready to gratify his smallest wish at the risk of their lives. It is probable that, when uttering the wish, David had no recollection of the military posted at Beth-lehem. It is generally taken for granted that those who fought a way to the well of Beth-lehem were the three champions just mentioned [see on [366]1Ch 11:13]. But this is far from being clear. On the contrary, it would seem that three different heroes are referred to, for Abishai (1Ch 11:20) was one of them. The camp of the Philistines was in the valley of Rephaim (1Ch 11:15), which lay on the west of Jerusalem, but an outpost was stationed at Beth-lehem (1Ch 11:16), and through this garrison they had to force a passage. He slew them; he vanquished them all, and slew a great number of them; though it be not said that he slew them all at one time, as it is said of Jashobeam, above, 1 Chronicles 11:11.

And inquired not of the Lord,.... For though he did inquire in some sense in an external, careless, and hypocritical manner, yet not done seriously, sincerely, and heartily, nor with constancy; it was accounted as if he inquired not at all, 1 Samuel 28:6 the Targum adds another reason of his death, because he killed the priests of Nob; but that is not in the text:

therefore he slew him; or suffered him to be slain:

and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse; translated the kingdom of Israel out of Saul's family, upon his death, into Jesse's, even unto David; for the sake of which observation this short account is given of the last end of Saul.

And Abishai the brother of Joab, he was chief of the three: for lifting up his spear against three hundred, he slew them, and had a name among the three.
20. chief of the three] In 2 Samuel 23:18 (C’thîb) Abishai is called by the same title (Heb. rôsh hasshâlîshi) as Josheb-basshebeth (ib. 2 Samuel 23:8). This title probably means chief of the third part [of the army]; cp. 2 Samuel 23:11, note. Chief of the three is a faulty reading.

for lifting up his spear] R.V. for he lifted up his spear; cp. 1 Chronicles 11:11, note.

had a name among the three] Cp. 1 Chronicles 11:24, where the same thing is said of Benaiah. The three meant are either the three of 1 Chronicles 11:15-19 or else an unknown three; cp. next note.

Verse 20. - Abishai... was chief of the three. It is remarkable that again the name of one of the three is wanting, even if we take Benaiah of ver. 22 for the second. 1 Chronicles 11:20In 1 Chronicles 11:20-25 the second class of heroes, to which Abshai (Abishai) and Benaiah belonged, cf. 2 Samuel 23:18-23, is spoken of. They were not equal to the preceding three in heroic deeds, but yet stood higher than the list of heroes which follows in 1 Chronicles 11:26 and onwards. אבשׁי, as 1 Chronicles 2:16 and 2 Samuel 10:10, while in 2 Samuel 23:18 and elsewhere he is called אבישׁי, was one of the three sons of Zeruiah (1 Chronicles 2:16). It is difficult to explain השׁלושׁה ראשׁ, "he was the chief of the three," instead of which we find in 2 Samuel 23:23 השׁלשׁי, i.e., השּׁלשׁי, "chief of the body-guard" (knights). But owing to the succeeding שׁם (ולו) בּשּׁלושׁה ולא, where Samuel also has בּשּׁלשׁה, and to the recurrence of השׁלושׁה on two occasions in 1 Chronicles 11:21 (cf. 2 2 Samuel 23:19), it does not seem possible to alter the text with Thenius. Bertheau proposes to get rid of the difficulty by taking the word שׁלושׁה in two different significations-on the one hand as denoting the numeral three, and on the other as being an abstract substantive, "the totality of the thirty." He justifies the latter signification by comparison of 1 Chronicles 11:21 with 1 Chronicles 11:25, and of 2 Samuel 23:19 with 1 Chronicles 11:23, from which he deduces that שׁלושׁה and שׁלושׁים denote a larger company, in which both Abishai and Benaiah held a prominent place. But this signification cannot be made good from these passages. In both clauses of 1 Chronicles 11:25 (and 2 Samuel 23:23) השּׁלשׁים and השּׁלשׁה are contrasted, which would rather go to prove the contrary of Bertheau's proposition, viz., that השּׁלשׁה, the three, cannot at the same time denote the whole of the thirty, השּׁלשׁים. The truth of the matter may be gathered from a comparison of 1 Chronicles 11:18 with 1 Chronicles 11:15. In 1 Chronicles 11:18 השּׁלשׁה is synonymous with השּׁלושׁים מן השׁלושׁה, 1 Chronicles 11:15; i.e., the three in 1 Chronicles 11:18 are the same men who in 1 Chronicles 11:15, where they are first met with, are called three of the thirty; and consequently השּׁלשׁה, the three (triad), 1 Chronicles 11:21 and 1 Chronicles 11:25, can only denote the triad of heroes previously named. This is placed beyond doubt by a comparison of 1 Chronicles 11:24 with 1 Chronicles 11:25, since the הגּבּרים שׁלושׁה, the triad of heroes, 1 Chronicles 11:24, corresponds to the simple השּׁלשׁה of 1 Chronicles 11:25. The only remaining question is, whether by this triad of heroes we are to understand those spoken of in 1 Chronicles 11:11-14, - Jashobeam, Eleazar, and Shammah, - or the three whose names are not given, but whose exploit is narrated in 1 Chronicles 11:15-19. But the circumstance that the names of the three latter are not mentioned goes decidedly to show that השּׁלשׁה in 1 Chronicles 11:20-25 does not denote that nameless triad, whose exploit is manifestly adduced incidentally only as a similar case, but the three most valiant, who held the first rank among David's heroes. Bertheau's opinion, that in 1 Chronicles 11:20-25 one triad of heroes is distinguished from another, cannot be regarded as well-founded, for the three of whom Abishai was chief are not distinguished, and are not different from the three to whom, according to 1 Chronicles 11:21, he did not attain. Nor is there greater reason to believe that the triad of 1 Chronicles 11:20 and 1 Chronicles 11:21 is different from that in 1 Chronicles 11:24 and 1 Chronicles 11:25, among whom Benaiah made himself a name, and to whom he did not attain. The fact of being chief or prince over the three is not irreconcilably contradictory to the statement that he did not attain to them, i.e., did not come up to them in heroic strength, as is shown by the two classes being connected in 1 Chronicles 11:21. As to the rank which the triad held in the regular forces of David, we know nothing further than that Jashobeam was, according to 1 Chronicles 27:2, leader of that part of the army which was on duty during the first month. Eleazar the son of Dodo, and the Hararite Shammah the son of Aga, are not mentioned anywhere but in our list. Abishai, on the contrary, who had already distinguished himself by his audacious courage in David's struggle with Saul (1 Samuel 26:6.), conducted together with Joab the war against Abner (2 Samuel 2:24-3:30). Afterwards, in David's war with the Ammonites, he was under Joab in command of the second half of the host (2 Samuel 10:10.); in the war against Absalom he commanded a third part of the host (1 Chronicles 18:2.); and in the struggle with the rebel Sheba he commanded the vanguard of the royal troops sent against the rebel (1 Chronicles 20:6.); and in general held, along with Joab the commander-in-chief, the first place among David's captains. In this position he was chief of the three heroes before mentioned, and their leader (שׂר), and among them had made himself a name. ולא, 1 Chronicles 11:20, is an orthographical error for ולו, as in fifteen other passages, according to the Masora. See on Exodus 21:10 and Isaiah 63:9.
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