Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said,Heroism
2 Samuel 23:15-16
It is abundantly clear that no one sent the three on their splendid errand. It is highly probable that had David known of their project he would have forbidden it. Some one had heard a few words of the king's soliloquy. His wish was whispered through the camp. And these men went forth unknown to him to meet it. Nor was the journey of the three through the enemy's lines mere bravado, or for fame's sake. They of all men had least temptation in these directions. It were vain to boast a courage that all men knew, and unnecessary to seek a fame already won. Each man had found his place long since. They had been the heroes of many a fight.
I. Let us look for the lesson of their deed. Let us look for the gospel of heroism, the inner history of brave hearts. Heroism is one of life's timeless things. It belongs to no age or place. It needs no interpretation. It tells its own story and wins its meed of acknowledgment. Do not misunderstand that. Heroism is a quiet thing. The hero is not often an orator; and even if he should be, his own heroism would never seem to him to be a fit subject for an oration.
The hero does not think about the reward though he wins it. He does not think about the deed, he does it. He does not hold his life cheap. He does not think of his life. It does not enter into his reckonings. There are no reckonings for it to enter into. Calculation is never a strong point with the hero. The truest heroisms can be shown to have been part of the day's work for those who did them. Yes, and part of their essential character too. The deed does not make the hero: it manifests him.
II. We have looked and seen something of the heroic spirit. We have looked beneath the surface, and we have at least prepared ourselves to believe that the voice that spake to three soldiers one summer day and sent them cheerful and determined across the death-haunted valley of Rephaim, is speaking also in our lives. We have looked at simple heroism stripped of any accidental trappings—taken out of those martial or romantic settings which have led so many to misunderstand it. We have seen that heroism is an inward and spiritual thing born of an unselfish attitude and a heart full of love. And now, I say, it is not such a far cry from the valley of Rephaim to the office in the city, the warehouse, the counter, and the street.
III. There is a sense in which we cannot have too high a conception of heroism. When in our mind we paint the picture of the ideal hero, we cannot make the light in his eyes too beautiful and the poise of his head too kingly. It is altogether good that we should so think of heroism as to prevent our offering the hero's crown to the essentially unheroic life. But we must lift our conception of life and the true terms of it and the spiritual setting of it and the constant issues of it till we come to see that the one man who can ever hope to do justice to life is the hero.
We have many ways of picturing the religious life. We have the picture of the pilgrim leaning on his staff, and shading his eyes to catch a glimpse of the city of light. We have the picture of the steward ordering all things fitly against his master's coming. We have the soldier standing bravely by his comrades and his king. But there is one picture perfectly familiar to the mediaeval mind that we can ill afford to lose, and that is the picture of the saint and the dragon. If there is one thing above another that the modern saint needs it is a personal interview with a dragon.
IV. And now, after all, we should leave the highest truth about heroism unuttered if we forgot to say that the central element of it is always personal. There is no exception to that. Men have done brave deeds for the sake of great causes; but even if they themselves knew it not, it was the response of their spirit to the spirit of those who had made the causes great. Here, in our story, it is plain to see that, though David knew nothing about the errand of his three soldiers, yet it was he who sent them out to do it. He had won their love and their loyalty. They went for their leader's sake. And when we turn to this great fight of life, this peril-haunted valley of the world, and see a man going forth unregardful of himself, uncareful of his life, to fulfil a ministry of refreshment and help, to offer some service of love, we know what to say of that man. We know he is a Christ's man; and that the hand that feels for the sword-hilt is tingling with the touch of that wounded palm.
—P. Ainsworth, The Pilgrim Church, p. 147.
References.—XXIII. 15.—J. S. Maver, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liv. 1898, p. 287. Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxv. 1904, p. 317. E. B. Speirs, A Present Advent, p. 292. R. J. Campbell, Sermons Addressed to Individuals, p. 191. XXIII. 15, 16, 17.—S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, vol. ii. p. 194. C. F. Aked, Old Events and Modern Meanings, p. 45. J. Baines, Sermons, p. 126. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—2 Samuel, etc., p. 141. XXIV. 1.—J. B. Mozley, Sermons Parochial and Occasional, p. 72.
The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.
The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.
And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.
Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.
But the sons of Belial shall be all of them as thorns thrust away, because they cannot be taken with hands:
But the man that shall touch them must be fenced with iron and the staff of a spear; and they shall be utterly burned with fire in the same place.
These be the names of the mighty men whom David had: The Tachmonite that sat in the seat, chief among the captains; the same was Adino the Eznite: he lift up his spear against eight hundred, whom he slew at one time.
And after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David, when they defied the Philistines that were there gathered together to battle, and the men of Israel were gone away:
He arose, and smote the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clave unto the sword: and the LORD wrought a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to spoil.
And after him was Shammah the son of Agee the Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered together into a troop, where was a piece of ground full of lentiles: and the people fled from the Philistines.
But he stood in the midst of the ground, and defended it, and slew the Philistines: and the LORD wrought a great victory.
And three of the thirty chief went down, and came to David in the harvest time unto the cave of Adullam: and the troop of the Philistines pitched in the valley of Rephaim.
And David was then in an hold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem.
And David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!
And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto the LORD.
And he said, Be it far from me, O LORD, that I should do this: is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives? therefore he would not drink it. These things did these three mighty men.
And Abishai, the brother of Joab, the son of Zeruiah, was chief among three. And he lifted up his spear against three hundred, and slew them, and had the name among three.
Was he not most honourable of three? therefore he was their captain: howbeit he attained not unto the first three.
And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man, of Kabzeel, who had done many acts, he slew two lionlike men of Moab: he went down also and slew a lion in the midst of a pit in time of snow:
And he slew an Egyptian, a goodly man: and the Egyptian had a spear in his hand; but he went down to him with a staff, and plucked the spear out of the Egyptian's hand, and slew him with his own spear.
These things did Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and had the name among three mighty men.
He was more honourable than the thirty, but he attained not to the first three. And David set him over his guard.
Asahel the brother of Joab was one of the thirty; Elhanan the son of Dodo of Bethlehem,
Shammah the Harodite, Elika the Harodite,
Helez the Paltite, Ira the son of Ikkesh the Tekoite,
Abiezer the Anethothite, Mebunnai the Hushathite,
Zalmon the Ahohite, Maharai the Netophathite,
Heleb the son of Baanah, a Netophathite, Ittai the son of Ribai out of Gibeah of the children of Benjamin,
Benaiah the Pirathonite, Hiddai of the brooks of Gaash,
Abialbon the Arbathite, Azmaveth the Barhumite,
Eliahba the Shaalbonite, of the sons of Jashen, Jonathan,
Shammah the Hararite, Ahiam the son of Sharar the Hararite,
Eliphelet the son of Ahasbai, the son of the Maachathite, Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite,
Hezrai the Carmelite, Paarai the Arbite,
Igal the son of Nathan of Zobah, Bani the Gadite,
Zelek the Ammonite, Naharai the Beerothite, armourbearer to Joab the son of Zeruiah,
Ira an Ithrite, Gareb an Ithrite,
Uriah the Hittite: thirty and seven in all.