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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

2 Samuel 23

Verses 1-39

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.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 23". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/2-samuel-23.html. 1910.