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2 Samuel 23:1
Now these be the last words of David. A long interval separates this psalm from the preceding. The one was written when David had just reached the zenith of his power, and, when still unstained by foul crime, he could claim God's favour as due to his innocence. These last words were David's latest inspired utterance, written, probably, towards the end of the calm period which followed upon his restoration to his throne, and when time and the sense of God's renewed favour had healed the wounds of his soul. David the son of Jesse said. It was probably this account of the author, and its personal character, which caused the exclusion of this hymn from the Book of Psalms. It seemed to belong rather to David's private history than to a collection made for use in the public services of the temple. Said. The word is one usually applied to a message coming directly from God. It is used, however, four times in Numbers 24:1-25. of the words of Balaam, and in Proverbs 30:1-33. of those of Agur. The solemnity of the word indicates the fatness of its inspiration. The sweet psalmist; literally, he who is pleasant in the psalms of Israel. David might well claim this title, as, under God, we owe the Psalter to him.
2 Samuel 23:3, 2 Samuel 23:4
He that ruleth, etc. This rendering of the Hebrew is very beautiful, and fit to be graven on the hearts of rulers. There is often almost an inspiration in the renderings of the Authorized Version. Grammatically, nevertheless, the psalm declares the blessedness of the king who is just, and may be translated as follows:—
"He that ruleth over men righteously,
That ruleth in the fear of God—
And as the morning light shall he be,
when the sun riseth,
A morning without clouds;
Yea, as the tender grass from the earth,
from sunshine, from rain."
A king who rules his people justly is as glorious as the sun rising in its strength to drive away the works of darkness, and give men, by precept and example, the light of clear knowledge of their duty. But the last metaphor is especially beautiful. In the summer, vegetation dries up under the burning heat of the sun; all is bare and brown, and a few withered stalks of the coarser plants alone remain. But when the rains come, followed by bright sunshine, nature at one burst flashes into beauty, and the hillsides and plains are covered with the soft green of the reviving grass, through which myriads of flowers soon push their way, and clothe the landscape with bright colours. So a just and upright government calls into being countless forms of human activity, and fosters all that is morally beautiful, while it checks the blighting influences of unregulated passion and selfish greed.
2 Samuel 23:5
Although my house, etc. The rendering of the Authorized Version is that of the ancient versions, and is to be retained. David could not but feel that his house was too stained with sin upon sin for him to be able to lay claim to have been in fact that which the theocratic king was in theory, and which David ought to have been as the representative of Christ, and himself the christ, or anointed of Israel's God. But most modern commentators take the negatives as interrogative, and, therefore, as strong assertions.
"For is not my house so with God?
For he had made with me an eternal covenant,
Ordered in all things, and secure:
For all my salvation and all my desire,
Shall he not make it to grow?"
But surely David had failed in realizing the better purposes of his heart, and it was of God's good pleasure that the covenant, in spite of personal failure, remained firm and secure.
2 Samuel 23:6, 2 Samuel 23:7
The sons of Belial; Hebrew, belial; not a proper name, but a word signifying "worthlessness," and especially vicious worthlessness (see note on 1 Samuel 1:16). It is from this worthlessness that opposition arises to the just king, and he recognizes it as that which thwarts his efforts. The words may be rendered ―
"But the ungodly are as thorns, to be all of them thrust away;
For they may not be taken hold of with the hand.
And the man that would touch them
Must arm himself with iron and the staff of a spear;
And they shall be utterly burned with fire unto nothingness."
The vicious worthlessness which opposes righteous government must be treated like thorns, too prickly and sharp pointed for gentle dealing. They must be torn up by an iron hook fixed to the end of a spear-handle, and then burnt. The word translated in the same place in the Authorized Version is rendered by Jerome "even to nothing;" and it is just the sort of phrase for which his authority is greatest; for he went to Palestine, and remained there several years, to study the language under Hebrew teachers on the spot. The Septuagint must have had a different reading, as it translates "their shame."
2 Samuel 23:8
These be the names. A similar list is given in 1 Chronicles 11:10-47, with several variations, and sixteen more names. It is given there in connection with David's elevation to the throne of all Israel, and the conquest of Jerusalem. Such catalogues might possibly be revised from time to time, and new names inserted as there were vacancies caused by death. And this seems to have been the ease with the list in Chronicles, which contains the names of all who were admitted during David's reign into the order of the mighties. The present is the actual list of the order as it existed on the day when David, at Hebron, was anointed king over all the twelve tribes. And we can well conceive that, on so grand an occasion, David founded this, the first order of chivalry, and gave his thirty knights, as they would be now called, their special rank and high privileges. The Tachmonite. This verse is extremely corrupt. A man could not be a Tachmonite and an Eznite at the same time. In the Revised Version the corruption is confessed in the mildest terms, but there is something painfully ludicrous in giving Josheb-basshebeth as the man's name. The reading "Jashobeam the son of a Hachmonite," in 1 Chronicles 11:11, is confirmed by 1 Chronicles 12:6, where Jashobeam is mentioned among those who joined David at Ziklag, and by 1 Chronicles 27:2, where we find him appointed commander of the first brigade of twenty-four thousand men. The error in the present text arose from the scribe's eye being misled by catching sight of basshebeth in the line above, it being the word translated "in the same place" in the Authorized Version. He Adino the Eznite. These unmeaning words are a corruption of the right reading preserved in Chronicles, "he lifted up his spear." The number of men whom he slew at one time is there stated as having been three hundred; but, as Abishai accomplished this feat, and yet held only inferior rank, eight hundred is probably right. And possibly it is not meant that he slew them all with his own hand, though that is quite possible. He was chief of the captains. The word for "captain," shalish, is derived from the numeral "three;" and probably it was the title of the three who formed the first rank of the mighties. But in course of time it seems to have been applied to the commanders of the body guard (2 Kings 10:25); and we find Bidcar so styled when in personal attendance upon Jehu (2 Kings 9:25); and Pekah used the opportunities afforded by this office for the murder of Pekahiah (2 Kings 15:25). It is not used of military officers generally. Those admitted to the list were evidently the outlaws who had been with David in his wanderings and at Ziklag. They now received their reward, and became, moreover, the stay of David's throne. It is their past history which accounts for the strange composition of the list. A large number came from Judah, and especially from Bethlehem. Several are David's own relatives. Seven towns or families furnish sixteen out of the whole list. We find a father and his son, and pairs of brothers. There are, moreover, numerous foreigners—Hittites, Ammonites, Moabites, a Syrian from Zobah, and Gideonites, descended from the aboriginal inhabitants of the land. Such a list would have been sorely resented had it not been formed out of men who had earned it by their past services and their fidelity to David.
2 Samuel 23:9
Dodo. The Hebrew has Dodai, and "Dodo" is a mere correction of the Massorites to bring the name into verbal agreement with 1 Chronicles 11:12; but in 1 Chronicles 27:4 he is called Dodai, and we there find him in command of the second division of the army. For "Dodai," however, we ought to read there "Eleazar the son of Dodai." Ahohite; Hebrew, the son of an Ahohite, and probably a member of the family descended from Ahoah, a son of Benjamin (1 Chronicles 8:4). He would thus belong to the most warlike tribe of Israel, though not mentioned among the Benjamites who joined David at Ziklag (1 Chronicles 12:1-7). He joined him, apparently, at an earlier date. That were there gathered together. The word "there" implies the previous mention of some place, and though the text in the parallel passage in Chronicles is more corrupt than that before us, it has, nevertheless, preserved the name of the spot where the encounter took place. In Chronicles the name of Shammah is omitted, and his achievement is mixed up in a strange fashion with that of Eleazar. Here the two heroes have each his separate record, and it is only on minor matters that the text there is more correct. Restored from the readings in Chronicles, the narrative is as follows: "He was with David at Pas-dammim, and the Philistines were gathered there to battle, and the men of Israel were gone up: and he stood (that is, made a stand) and smote," etc. Pas-dammim is called Ephes-dammim in 1 Samuel 17:1. It was situated in the valley of Elah, and, as being upon the border, was the scene of numerous conflicts, whence its name, "the boundary of blood." It was there that David slew Goliath. Were gone away; Hebrew, went up; that is, to battle. The idea that the Israelites had fled is taken from the parallel place in Chronicles, where, however, it refers to Shammah's exploit. In 1 Samuel 17:9 and 1 Samuel 17:11 there, the phrase, "the Philistines were gathered together," occurs twice, and the scribe, having accidentally omitted the intervening words, has confused together the exploits of Eleazar and Shammah. In this battle Eleazar withstood the Philistine onset, and smote them till his hand clave to his sword hilt. Many such instances of cramp are recorded, and Mr. Kirkpatrick, in his commentary, quotes one in which the muscles of a warrior's hand could be relaxed, after hard fighting, only by fomentations of hot water.
2 Samuel 23:10
Victory; Hebrew, salvation; and so also in 2 Samuel 23:12 and 1 Samuel 11:13; 1 Samuel 19:5. Returned after him. This does not imply that they had fled, but simply that they turned in whichever way he turned, and followed him. Battles in old time depended very much upon the prowess of the leaders.
2 Samuel 23:11
Into a troop. Josephus renders it "to Lehi," the scene of Samson's exploit. The word is rare, but occurs again in 2 Samuel 23:13, where, however, we find in Chronicles the ordinary name for a host substituted for it. The Revisers have retained in the margin, "or, for foraging:" but its occurrence in Psalms 68:10, where it is tendered "thy congregation," and in the margin of the Revised Version," troop" makes it probable that" troop" is the right rendering here. Lentiles. In 1 Chronicles 11:13, "barley." The difference is probably caused by a transposition of letters. The Philistines seem to have made this incursion in order to carry off or destroy the crops of the Israelites.
2 Samuel 23:13
And three. The Hebrew text has "thirty," for which both the Authorized Version and the Revised Version silently substitute "three," as is correctly given in Chronicles. The absence of the article shows that these three were not Jashobeam, Eleazar, and Shammah, but probably Abishai, Be-naiah, and another whose name and exploits have been purposely omitted both here and in Chronicles. Apparently this narrative, so interesting as showing the fascination which David exercised over his men, is given as having led to the institution of this second order of three in the brotherhood of the mighties. In the harvest time. The Hebrew is "to harvest," but in 1 Chronicles 11:15 "to the rock." As the preposition used here cannot mean "in," this is probably the right reading. In this ease, also, it is the similarity of the words that has led to the con. fusion. Is it possible that these lists were taken from very old and worn catalogues, which it was very difficult to decipher?
2 Samuel 23:14
An hold; Hebrew, the hold. The definite article here and in 2 Samuel 5:17, and the mention of the Philistines as being in the valley of Rephaim, seem to indicate that David had abandoned Jerusalem upon the invasion of the Philistines, and sought refuge at Adullam (see note on 2 Samuel 5:17). In its neighbourhood is an isolated hill, on which, probably, was a frontier fortress, in which David prepared to defend himself.
2 Samuel 23:15
The well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate. Bethlehem is now supplied with water by an aqueduct, and the wells close to the town have ceased to exist. The cistern of "deep, clear, cool water," descsribed by Ritter, in his 'Geography of Palestine,' and now called David's Well, is three quarters of a mile to the north of Bethlehem, and too distant to be that which David meant.
2 Samuel 23:16, 2 Samuel 23:17
Brake through the host (or, camp) of the Philistines. The Philistine camp was pitched in the valley of Rephaim, and to reach Bethlehem, which was more than twenty or twenty-five miles distant, these three heroes must pass close to the ground occupied by the enemy. The valley of Rephaim, in fact, extended from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, and, to guard their position, the Philistines held Bethlehem with a strong garrison. Of course the heroes would use every precaution; for to be discovered would be certain death. The story of their perils and presence of mind in danger, and hairbreadth escape, would be full of interest; but we are told only that they succeeded, and returned in safety, bearing their precious burden; but David would not drink, and poured it out unto Jehovah. The word is that used of a sacrificial libation; for David regarded it as holy, and consecrated to God, because it had been bought with blood—at the risk, that is, of the lives of these gallant men. Nothing is recorded in the romances of the Middle Ages, when knightly chivalry was at its height, more gallant and noble than the exploit of these men. And the very essence of its devotion lay in the fact that it was done to gratify a mere sick longing, and therefore out of pure love. Sick, no doubt, David was, and burning with fever; and even more depressed by the apparent hopelessness of his position. The exploit changed the course of his thoughts. What could he not do with such heroes! Though racked during their absence with anxiety and self-reproach, yet on their return he would be dispirited no longer, but filled with confidence. The words, "Shall I drink?" inserted in the Revised Version, have apparently dropped out of the text by accident. They are found in the parallel place in Chronicles, and in the Septuagint and Vulgate here. The Syriac has, "At the peril of their life's blood these men went."
2 Samuel 23:18
Abishai … was chief among three. The sense is obscured in the Authorized Version by the translators having failed to notice the presence of the definite article. Abishai, by reason of this exploit, became "chief of the three;" that is, of the second order of three established in the fraternity of the mighties. At the end of the verse, and in 2 Samuel 23:19, the Authorized Version strangely puts the article where it is absent in the Hebrew, and omits it where it is present. The right rendering and meaning is, "He had a name, that is, rank, reputation, among the three. Was he not the most honourable of the three? For this he was made their captain: yet he attained not to equal dignity with the first three."
2 Samuel 23:20
Benaiah the son of Jehoiada. He was a very important person throughout David's reign, being the commander of the body guard' (2 Samuel 8:18), and general of the third brigade of twenty-four thousand men (1 Chronicles 27:5). The meaning of the description given of him there is disputed; but probably it should be translated, "Benaiah the son of Jehoiada the priest, as head," that is, of the brigade. He was thus the son of the Jehoiada who was leader of the house of Aaron, and whose coming to Hebron with three thousand seven hundred martial priests did so much to make David king of all Israel (1 Chronicles 12:27). Subsequently he took the side of Solomon against Adonijah, and was rewarded by being made commander-in-chief, in place of Joab (1 Kings 2:35). Kabzeel. An unidentified place in the south of Judah, on the Edomite border (Joshua 15:21), called Jekabzeel in Nehemiah 11:25. Two lionlike men of Moab. The Septuagint reads, "the two sons of Ariel of Moab." which the Revised Version adopts. "Ariel" means "lion of God," and is a name given to Jerusalem in Isaiah 29:1, Isaiah 29:2. The Syriac supports the Authorized Version in understanding by the term "heroes," or "champions;" but the use of poetical language in a prosaic catalogue is so strange that the Septuagint is probably right. If so, Ariel is the proper name of the King of Moab and the achievement took place in the war recorded in 2 Samuel 8:2. A lion. This achievement would be as gratefully remembered as the killing of a man eating tiger by the natives in India. A lion, driven by the cold from the forests, had made its lair in a dry tank near some town, and thence preyed upon the inhabitants as they went in and out of the city. And Benaiah had pity upon them, and came to the rescue, and went down into the pit, and, at the risk of his life, slew the lion.
2 Samuel 23:21
A goodly man. The Hebrew text has "who a sight," for which the Massorites read, "a man of sight," that is, handsome, and worth looking at. In Chronicles 2 Samuel 11:23 we find what, no doubt, is the right reading, "a man of measure [equivalent to 'a tall man'], five cubits high." The height of Goliath was six cubits and a span (1 Samuel 17:4).
2 Samuel 23:23
David set him over his guard. We have already seen (upon 1 Samuel 22:14) that the words mean that David made him a member of his privy council. Literally the words are, and David appointed him to his audience. In 1 Chronicles 27:34 mention is made of "Jehoiada the son of Benaiah" as being next in the council to Ahithophel, and many commentators think that the names have been transposed, and that we ought to read, "Benaiah the son of Jehoiada."
2 Samuel 23:24
The thirty. This order of knighthood consisted originally of thirty-three men, of whom three were of higher rank, and presided, probably, each over ten, while Joab was chief over them all. This arrangement of men in tens, with an officer over them. was, in fact, the normal rule among the Hebrews. The second triad is unusual, but is explained by the history. In honour of the exploit of bringing the water from the well of Bethlehem, this second order of three was instituted, lower than the three chiefs, but higher than the rest. The third of these is not mentioned, and the disappearance of the name is not the result of accident, but of purpose. Had it been a scribe's error, there would have been some trace of it in the versions. But if the name was erased, it must have been blotted out for treason, and we thus have two candidates for the vacant niche: one is Amasa, and the other Ahithophel. The name of Joab we cannot for one moment admit. He never was a traitor to David, nor would the latter, though king, have ventured to degrade one so powerful, and who continued to be commander-in-chief until David's death. Now, if Amasa is the same as the Amasai in 1 Chronicles 12:18, who was chief of the captains who came from Judah and Benjamin to David when he was in the hold, it is difficult to account for the absence of his name from the list of the thirty. Plainly, however, David did not regard his treason with strong displeasure, but was prepared, after Absalom's death, to make him commander-in-chief. But we must remember that a place in this second triad was gained by one exploit. The three were those who broke through the Philistine host, and fetched the water from Bethlehem. Such a deed would account for the close attachment between David and Ahithophel. He was the king's companion, and his familiar friend. It would account also for his suicide. His love to David had, for some unknown reason, turned to bitter hatred. He sought, not only David's life, but his dishonour. His feelings must have been highly excited before he could have worked himself up to such a pitch; and the reaction and disappointment would be equally extreme. He never could have faced David again, remembering the warmth of former love, and the shamelessness with which he had sought, not only his life, but to bring upon him public shame and ignominy. And his name would have been totally erased, and gone down into silence. Of Ahithophel's personal accomplishments as a brave warrior, we cannot doubt (see 2 Samuel 17:1), and his son Eliam was one of the mighties. (On a son and father both belonging to the order, see note on 1 Chronicles 12:33.) Elhanan (see note on 2 Samuel 21:19).
2 Samuel 23:25
Shammah the Harodite. The town Harod was in the plains of Jezreel, near Mount Gilboa. In 1 Chronicles 11:27 he is called "Shammoth the Harorite," the latter word being an easy corruption of Harodite; and in 1 Chronicles 27:8 he appears as "Shammuth the Izrahite," and has the command of the fifth brigade. "Izrahite" is by some regarded as an error for "the Zarhite," that is, a member of the clan descended from Zerah the son of Judah. But if so, how did he get to Hared? Elika. Omitted in Chronicles, probably through the repetition of the word "Harodite."
2 Samuel 23:26
Helez. He is twice called a Pelonite in Chronicles, and was general of the seventh brigade (1 Chronicles 27:10), where he is said to have belonged to the tribe of Ephraim. Whether Paltite or Pelonite is right, no one knows; but Beth-Palet was a town in the tribe of Judah, and not in Ephraim. Ira. Ira had the command of the sixth brigade (1 Chronicles 27:9). Tekoah (see note on 2 Samuel 14:2). This Ira is a distinct person from his namesake, David's confidential minister (2 Samuel 20:26).
2 Samuel 23:27
Abiezer. He had the command of the ninth brigade (1 Chronicles 27:12). Anathoth, now Mata, was a priestly city in Benjamin (Joshua 21:18), the home of Abiathar (1 Kings 2:26), and the birthplace of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:1). Anethothite and Antothite, in the parallel places in Chronicles, are merely different ways of pronouncing the same Hebrew consonants. Mebunnai. Written Sibbechai in 2 Samuel 21:18, and, as the name is so written in both the parallel places in Chronicles, Mebunnai is probably a mistake. In 1 Chronicles 27:11 he is said to have been commander of the eighth brigade, and to have been a Zarhite of the town of Hushah, in the tribe of Judah (see 1 Chronicles 4:4).
2 Samuel 23:28
Zalmon. He is called Ilai in 1 Chronicles 11:29. Ahohite (see note on 1 Chronicles 11:9). Maharai the Netophathite. Netophah, in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem (Ezra 2:22), was chiefly inhabited, after the exile, by the singers (Nehemiah 12:28). Robinson identifies it with Beit-Netif, to the south of Jerusalem; but probably erroneously, as Beit-Netif is too far from Bethlehem. Maharai was commander of the tenth brigade, and was a Zarhite, and therefore belonged to the tribe of Judah.
2 Samuel 23:29
Heleb. He is called Heled and Heldai in the parallel places in Chronicles, where we are told that he was a descendant of Othniel, and commander of the twelfth brigade. Ittai. He is called Ithai, by a very slight change, in Chronicles. Gibeah is the Geba so closely connected with the history of Saul (see 1Sa 13:3, 1 Samuel 13:15, etc.). (For Ittai the Philistine, a distinct person, see 2 Samuel 15:19.)
2 Samuel 23:30
Benaiah. He was an Ephraimite, and had the command of the eleventh brigade. Pirathon was a town in Ephraim (Judges 12:15). Hiddai. Called Hurai in 1 Chronicles 11:32, by the common confusion of d and r. The brooks of Gaash. "Nahale-Gaash," the ravines of Gaash, was probably the name of some village, of which nothing is now known.
2 Samuel 23:31
Abi-albon. He is called Abiel in 1 Chronicles 11:32. He belonged to the town of Beth-Arabah (Joshua 15:61; Joshua 18:22), called also Arabah (Joshua 18:18), in the wilderness of Judah. Azmaveth the Barhumite. He was of Bahurim, for which see note on 2 Samuel 3:16.
2 Samuel 23:32
Eliahba. He was of Shaalabbin, in the tribe of Dan (Joshua 19:42). St. Jerome calls the place Selebi, the modern Sebbit. Of the sons of Jashen, Jonathan, Shammah the Hararite. In 1 Chronicles 11:34, "The sons of Hashem the Gizonite, Jonathan the son of Shage the Hararite." The word "of" is not in the Hebrew, and is inserted in the Authorized Version to make sense. Really, b'ne, sons, is a careless repetition of the three last letters of the name "Shaalbonite," and should be omitted. The text in Chronicles then goes on regularly, "Hashem the Gizonite, Jonathan the son of Shage the Hararite;" but see note on next verse.
2 Samuel 23:33
Shammah the Hararite. He was really one of the first three (see 2 Samuel 23:11). (For the reading in Chronicles, see above.) A very probable correction would be "Jonathan the son of Shammah, the son of Agee the Hararite." Thus both father and son would be in the number of the thirty, Ahiam. He is called "the son of Sacar" in 1 Chronicles 11:35.
2 Samuel 23:34
Eliphelet the son of Ahasbai, the son of the Maachathite. In Chronicles this becomes "Elipha the son of Ur, Hepher the Mecherathite." If the text here is correct, Eliphelet must be a native of Beth-Maachah, a town in Naphtali (2 Samuel 20:14). Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite. Instead of this, we find "Ahijah the Pelonite" in 1 Chronicles 11:36. Eliam is supposed by many to have been Bathsheba's father (see note on 2 Samuel 11:3; and for Ahithophel the Gilonite, note on 2 Samuel 15:12).
2 Samuel 23:35
Hezrai. The Hebrew text has Hezro, as in 1 Chronicles 11:37. His native place was Carmel, for which see note on 1 Samuel 15:12. Paarai the Arbite. A native of Arab, in Judah. In Chronicles he is called "Naarai the son of Ezbai."
2 Samuel 23:36
Igal the son of Nathan of Zobah. In Chronicles, "Joel the brother of Nathan," Igal and Joel in Hebrew being almost the same. If the text here is correct, he was by birth a Syrian of Zobah, for which see note on 2 Samuel 10:6. Bani the Gadite. In Chronicles, "Mibhar the son of Haggeri," "Mibhar" taking the place of "from Zobah;" "the son," ben, that of "Bani;" and Haggadi, "the Gadite," becoming "Haggeri."
2 Samuel 23:37
Zelek the Ammonite. The presence of an Ammonite among the thirty reminds us of the fidelity of Shobi, the son of Nahash the Ammonite king, to David (see 2 Samuel 17:27). Armourbearer. The written text has the plural, "armourbearers," for which the K'ri has substituted the singular. The plural is probably right, and if so, both Joab's chief armourbearers, or squires, were foreigners, Zelek being an Ammonite, and Nahari a Gibeonite (see note on 2 Samuel 4:2). In actual warfare we find Joab attended by ten esquires (2 Samuel 18:15).
2 Samuel 23:38
Ithrite. Of the family of Jether, of Kirjath-jearim (1 Chronicles 2:53). unless Ira and Gareb were two brothers of Amasa, and sons of Jether the husband of Abigail, David's sister (2 Samuel 17:25).
2 Samuel 23:39
Uriah the Hittite (see note on 2 Samuel 11:3). Thirty and seven in all. "The thirty" became a technical name, and might receive additional members. But if we suppose Asahel's place to have been filled up, the number is exact, there being thirty ordinary members, three chiefs of the first class, and three of the second, of whom, however, one name is omitted. In Chronicles sixteen additional names are given, who were probably men admitted to the order to fill up vacancies.
2 Samuel 23:1-7
The fruitful lessons of David's last words.
The facts are:
1. There is a statement that these are the last words of David, who is spoken of in a fourfold respect.
2. It is affirmed that the utterance which follows is expressly by the Spirit of God.
3. The true ruler is described as one who is just and one fearing God; and the effects of his government are compared to the light of a bright morning, and the tender grass after rain.
4. David affirms that his house is specially characterized as one with which God has made a sure and everlasting covenant, and that, consequently, the whole salvation he cares for and desires will be advanced and realized.
5. He refers to worthless men having no sympathy with the desires of his heart and the purposes of his house—as being like thorns fit only to be ultimately burned. A larger space is given in the Bible to the life of David than to any other except that of his great Antitype; and herein do we see the beautiful harmony of the sacred book as an organic whole, for just as in the New Testament there is great prominence given to the death of Christ and its relation to sin, corresponding to the prominence in the Old Testament of the sacrifices which foreshadowed it, so the position of the eternal King in Zion in the one book is in the same relative proportion to that of the temporal king who so conspicuously shadowed forth his reign in the other. The great interest thus attaching to the life of David renders his last words of unusual importance. We shall best bring out their teaching by noting in succession the very fruitful topics suggested by this section.
I. THE INFLUENCE or DYING WORDS OF GOOD MEN. We feel that there is a value in these last words of David, not simply by what an examination of their strict sense may yield, but because they are his last words. All last words are weighty in comparison with others; for they close the record, or end the intercourse, or give, as in dying words, the matured expression of one's long experience. The last words of Jacob, of Moses, of Paul, and above all of Christ, are very rich in instruction by virtue of being last. The last words of children, parents, friends who sleep in Jesus, are most precious; they are treasured forever. There are special reasons for attaching weight to them.
1. They are reflective, and touched by the influence of the eternal world. Men are earnest, sincere, uttering only what a review of the past and a prospect of the future will warrant.
2. The mind is usually calm. The passions of life are gone, the strife of tongues is no more heard, the spirit is open to the still, small voice.
3. Worldly influences are in abeyance. The pomps and fashions of this world are reduced to their proper position. There is scope for things eternal to get their legitimate hold on the thoughts, and so to form aright the conceptions of duty.
4. The action of the Holy Spirit is more direct and strong. The great hindrances to his blessed fellowship are reduced to a minimum, and hence a truer estimate is formed of life, its purpose and perils; of Christ, his love and power.
5. The affections are most pure and tender. The heart goes out freely toward the Saviour and toward men. Silver and gold and the perishable things of active life are now as dross, and words flow forth steeped in love and tender concern for others, and delight in God's great salvation. Dying saints preach powerful sermons. Their memory is blessed. Their words are rich in all that is good and helpful.
II. THE HONOUR AND RESPONSIBILITY OF RICH MENTAL ENDOWMENTS. David was the man raised up on high, the anointed of God, the sweet psalmist of Israel. These words necessarily imply the coexistence in time of varied mental endowments—wisdom and discretion for ruling, lofty conceptions of the theocracy and the far reaching character of God's dealings with Israel, and all the qualities requisite for the sweetest poetry. He was certainly most honoured of men in that age, and hence his responsibility was very great. The references to the ideal ruler (2 Samuel 23:3) indicate how conscious he was of solemn obligations. The fact is, every gift of God bestowed on man is honour put on him, and in its nature it is a talent for use, that the world may be the better for its existence. The possession of great and varied gifts—of thought, emotion, willpower, and of aptitude to do the right thing at the right time—is a wonderful boon. The men of ten talents may well ponder their responsibilities to God and man. What blessing or woe comes to the world according to the direction in which great gifts are used!
III. THE INFLUENCE OF SACRED SONG ON THE RELIGIOUS LIFE. The incidental reference to the "sweet psalmist" throws a sudden and unexpected light on the immense influence exerted by David on the spiritual thought and feeling of his own and subsequent ages. He had touched the deepest feelings of the people, and by his psalms done, perhaps, more to conserve their faith and hope than by all his acts of formal legislation and words of distinct exhortation. His influence will never cease. The saints of all ages are cheered and comforted by his sweet words of song; and they find relief in using, language which so aptly expresses the holiest and purest feelings and thoughts of their life. He blessed Israel with a wise and just rule, and the entire world by the most enduring influence of sacred song. The place of sacred song in the Church is most important. It elevates thought, nourishes the more fine and tender sentiments, strengthens the most secret and radical elements of the religious life by giving form and occasion for their exercise, enriches the memory with strains that spring up in hours of weakness and sorrow, and stores the minds of young and old with a treasury of precious Christian truth. He who writes a good hymn blesses the generations to come.
IV. THE UNKNOWN WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. When David said, "The Spirit of the Lord spake by me," he seemed to speak of what was a familiar truth. He was no stranger to such Divine help, as our Lord's testimony to the Psalms indicates (cf. Psalms 51:11). Yet if we confine our attention to the bare historic record of his life, we find scarcely any distinct reference to his consciousness of the direct aid of the Holy Spirit. For aught we can see in distinct words, there was none. His holy influence has no full record. Thus the most important spiritual element in David's spiritual life was to onlookers unknown. There are two aspects of this fact in our Christian life.
1. We do not know the great extent to which we are indebted to the Holy Spirit for our perseverance, our highest thoughts, our purest feelings, and general growth in excellence.
2. The non-Christian world does not know the great work which the Holy Spirit achieves in Christian lives. "The world knoweth him not" (John 14:17). It becomes us to remember what we owe to him, and how incessant his action, though men live as though he were not. Religion is at a low ebb whenever the work of the Holy Spirit is forgotten.
V. THE MODEL RULER. In his closing days David remembered that he had been raised on high to be a ruler over Israel; and doubtless, in reviewing the past, he was humbled in observing the instances in which he had failed to be as a man after God's own heart. But in the assurance of forgiveness he could now reflect on the ideal which had ever stood before him, and for the instruction of others he indicates his hope of the ideal being approximately realized in his immediate successor, and his faith that in the coming Christ it would be perfectly realized. The two elements of the ideal ruler are justice and the fear of God. These qualities being in full exercise, all things will be done for the good of man and the glory of God. Human obligations—morality on the human side—must be combined with religious feeling—supreme regard in everything to the Divine will. The effect of such ruling on saints is
(1) what the bright light of morning is on the earth, i.e. it is conducive to safety, cheerfulness, full development of activities, and extended knowledge and usefulness;
(2) what the abundance of rich verdure is in a tropical climate, i.e. it is wealth, beauty, restfulness, contrast. The history of civil and ecclesiastical communities illustrates the truth of this. There are conditions of prosperity which can only be fulfilled by the ruled, but here we have to do with the natural tendency of the just and godly ruling. The ruler may be king, president, parent, or pastor, and wherever the standard of ruling is high, so in proportion will these effects follow. Bad as the subjects ruled may be, the model ruler will to some extent secure for them these blessings. The most perfect illustration of the truth is to be found in Christ. He rules justly, and in harmony with the mind of the Eternal. An examination of the principles of his kingdom, its discipline and spirit, will show that it is perfectly equitable and is an expression of the Divine mind. The effects that flow from it in proportion as it is submitted to, are exactly those here set forth. Heaven and earth testify (Psalms 72:1-20.).
VI. THE ORDERED COVENANT. Through Samuel and Nathan (1 Samuel 15:28; 2 Samuel 7:12-17), God had declared his promise to David, and David on his part had solemnly recognized the goodness of God, and virtually pledged himself to fulfil his side of the sacred engagement (2 Samuel 7:24-29). Throughout his singular life, amidst all his frailties, he had found God gracious and merciful. Though manifold dangers had arisen which seemed at one time to frustrate the promise and hand over his kingdom to anarchy and his family to disgrace, Divine wisdom had so ordered all things that now, at the close of life, the throne is firm and succession is sure and promising. His mind evidently ponders a threefold covenant:
1. Personal. This God was his God, and he could say, "I am thine" (Psalms 119:94; cf. Psalms 61:5).
2. Official. He had been chosen to be king, and God had guaranteed to him all needful help and blessing.
3. Messianic,. The private and official covenant was to him a type of that wider and more blessed covenant of grace which is exemplified in the working out of the redemptive purpose in Christ (Psalms 2:1-12; cf. Isaiah 53:10-12). In respect to each of these the characteristics "everlasting," "ordered in all things," and "sure," were most precious to David's heart. The covenant made with us in Christ is thus most blessed. It is a covenant of pure mercy, originated by God, designed to elevate us to highest dignity, sustained in its development by all the resources of the Eternal; and as to duration, from everlasting to everlasting (Matthew 25:34; John 17:23; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 17:8; cf. John 3:16); as to execution, ordered in all things, everything pertaining to its development and issue being so foreseen and provided for that nothing is left to chance or the exigencies of the hour (Luke 24:26, Luke 24:27; Acts 2:23-28; Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 1:10; 2 Peter 3:9; cf. Genesis 22:14; Romans 11:33; Philippians 4:19); as to stability, "sure," resting on the unchangeable faithfulness of the all-wise and all-powerful God (Psalms 89:1; Isa 25:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; cf. Acts 2:30; Hebrews 6:17).
VII. GOD'S FAITHFULNESS MAN'S CONSOLATION. Who can tell the consolation brought to David by the fact that the covenant of God was so "sure"? Reflection on his own frailty and on the dangers of life could not but awaken shame and dread; but this sure, well ordered, enduring covenant, no Words suffice to set forth its preciousness! In this we have a common experience with David. Our hearts are sad and pained by our own shortcomings; we see perils to our salvation on every side; the resolutions we frame for the future partake of our infirmity; the struggle to attain to the likeness of Christ seems to be interminable; and the possibility of so changing our discordant and shattered nature as to present it blameless before his face, seems to us very slight. But the bruised and crushed spirit finds healing and rest in this—that God is true, and has resolved, to save us. Blessed knowledge! Instead of inducing indifference or carelessness, it supplements the comfort it brings by a calm and steady flow of energy toward the holy goal, and develops gratitude in form of more entire consecration. In health, in sickness, amidst earthly strifes and fears, and when the chilly hand of death lays hold of us, we rest in him who cannot die, and who has said, "Because I live, ye shall live also." Truly we have "abundant consolation."
VIII. JOY IN THE REVEALED PURPOSE OF GOD. To see God's blessed covenant unfold towards realization of the Divine purpose was all David's salvation and desire. His heart was bound up with it. His joys and his sorrows were more deeply interwoven with the spiritual kingdom than with personal ease or regal splendour. Our Saviour sets forth the same more illustriously in his life. It was his meat and drink to do his Father's will. To see the blessings of the covenant spread to all mankind was the absorbing passion of his heart. For this he endured the cross and despised the shame. The prospect of the issue of his death gave him satisfaction in the hour of death (Psa 53:1-6 :10). The secret of his life was oneness with the Father's will. The Apostle Paul exhibits, in his measure, the same delight in God's purpose. It is a mark of high Christian feeling that we pass from our own personal interest in redemption to delight in the merciful purpose being realized in others. This is the spring of enterprise, the purifier of the heart from spiritual selfishness, the sure mark of having the mind that was in Christ.
IX. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A WICKED LIFE. David, in verses 5, 6, contrasts the men of Belial with those who rejoice in and work along the lines of God's covenant. Their power often terrifies the good, causes much mischief, and seems for a while to tend to their permanent prosperity. But their power is barren of good result, noxious in its influence, and destined to be cut short. Here we have the truth exemplified in the case of all who are alien to the gracious purpose of God as revealed in his covenant of mercy. The life of the wicked is:
1. Barren as thorns. Whatever promise of good there may be at one time, it never passes from the bare thorn condition to that of fruitfulness. In highest moral and simplest religious fruitfulness their lives are worth nothing.
2. It is noxious as thorns. A wicked life pierces and wounds those who come under its influence; it tends not to healing and comfort, but to pain and distress.
3. It is fleeting in power, as thorns destined to be crushed by a mightier force and consumed. The wicked may be in great power, but the day will come when it will be said of him, "He is not" (Psalms 37:35, Psalms 37:36). These contrasts of the righteous and the wicked should strengthen the hearts of those who endure persecution and trial.
2 Samuel 23:8-39
The facts are:
1. A general statement of the names of David's mighty men, with a comparative reference to some of their deeds.
2. A more special account of the daring of three who procured water for David at the risk of their lives.
3. The refusal of the king to drink that which had been obtained at so great a risk.
The account here of the heroes who figured in the course of David's life is supplementary to the general history, and, while intended to set forth incidents in his career, is also most probably designed to give a place of honour in the national records to those whose strength and valour contributed to establish the kingdom. There are deeds of mighty men recorded in the annals of the Church, and we may note—
I. THAT A PLACE OF HONOUR IS IN RESERVE FOR THOSE WHO RENDER HIGH SERVICE. Because of great service these men were honoured with a place in the record which is to be read by all mankind. In subduing the world to Christ there is scope for great energies and efforts. Those who by prayer, self-denial, holy living, written or spoken words, or other means and weapons, go forth daily in the name of Christ and achieve great things, will be honoured in the esteem of the coming ages and in the esteem of Christ. While all good men shall shine as with the brightness of the firmament, these shall shine forth more distinctly as the "stars" forever and ever (Daniel 12:3; 1 Corinthians 15:41).
II. THAT THE GROUND OF THE HONOUR LIES IN THEIR OVERCOMING MUCH EVIL. These men smote gigantic foes. They contributed to the stability and splendour of David's reign by sweeping away the evils which would have checked the progress of his wise and just methods of government. The honour of Christian soldiers lies in ridding the world of gigantic evils, the preliminary step to the perfection of good. Those who smite the greatest evils or a multitude of the most pervasive sins, confer unspeakable benefits on mankind, and clear the way for the positive development of those holy principles which are the glory of the kingdom of Christ. The riddance of sin and the introduction of holiness are concurrent acts in Christian warfare. Some men are marvellous warriors as compared with others.
III. THAT THE SPIRIT WHICH RENDERS SUCH TRIUMPHS POSSIBLE IS THAT OF DEVOTION TO THE KING. These men followed David, were under his guidance, caught his spirit, sought to establish his supremacy, and hence were nerved by a definite inspiring purpose. Consecration to Christ is the key to our victories. Wherever there is true devotion to him; and in proportion to its depth, there will be great deeds done in his name. Hence the apostolic allusions to fighting the good fight under the leadership of the great Captain of our salvation.
Christ's tribute to Christian devotion.
The exclamation of David, "Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem!" was probably the natural unpremeditated outcome of an intense feeling of thirst when hemmed in by the Philistines. There is no evidence that it was a pretext to draw forth some special proof of devotion to himself. The incidental knowledge acquired of his actual need, nevertheless, developed in the hearts of these brave men a determination to obtain drink for him, even at the risk of their own lives. Where true loyalty exists there is no waiting for formal commands. The refusal of the king to drink what they so nobly obtained, doubtless, at first, filled them with surprise, and possibly caused annoyance. But the generous sentiment expressed—that he valued their generous devotion so highly that he could not at such a risk indulge in any personal satisfaction, deeming the offering too costly for mortal acceptance—this must have removed all disappointment, and strengthened the bond of allegiance. Here we may see a parable setting forth Christ's tribute to the devotion of his followers.
I. THE HIGHEST DEVOTION RISKS ALL FOR GOD. As these men went forth, risking life for their king, so the truest devotion leads men to risk all for Christ. There are forms of devotion in which little is given up, and much reserve is made. The stories of the rich young man in the gospel and of the going first to prove the purchased oxen exhibit a profession of attachment too frequent in Christendom. The Apostle Peter came nearer the truth of the case when he declared that he and others had "left all" to follow Christ. The mind to forsake, if need be, father and mother, houses and land, and to give up life, is stated to be the condition of the acceptable service. Wherever there is a real appreciation of who Christ is, what we are, what his vast mercy to us is, and the infinite claims of his love upon heart and life, devotion to him becomes so complete and absorbing that pain, loss, and possibly death among the heathen are faced with composure when they stand between the soul and the advancing of his interests.
II. THIS RISK OF LIFE IS AN OFFERING WORTHY OF CHRIST. The position of David as the anointed of the Lord and distinct ruler of the kingdom of God on earth, rendered it right and reasonable for the personal risk on his account. For the covenant with David and all the great issues involved were at stake. And so, apart from the subjective feeling which prompts to full devotion to Christ, there is in him and the vast enterprise of working out the redemption of man everything to justify this devotion. The surrender of life and all is an offering most worthy. Our mortal interests are as nothing compared to the requirements of his kingdom. He is worthy of all might, all riches, all life, all that men or angels can lay at his feet.
III. CHRIST HAS NO JOY IN THE LOSS OF HIS SERVANTS WHEN SEEKING TO SERVE HIM. David felt no satisfaction that such valued lives were risked for him. It was no pleasure to think that widows might have had cause to weep in consequence of noble devotion in his service. He was always tenderly regardful of the lives and comfort of his people. And although, from the necessities of the case in a world where evil has to be fought at all costs, many a noble life has to be sacrificed and many a pain endured, yet Christ finds no pleasure in the sufferings of his people any more than he had in his own. His and their sufferings were to him a painful condition of conquest over sin. He feels for them in their woes.
IV. BUT CHRIST PAYS HONOUR TO THE SPIRIT WHICH FREELY FACES GREAT RISKS. David's refusal to drink the water, and his pouring it out before the Lord as though it were too sacred for mortal lips to touch, was his way of paying honour to these devoted men. His feeling in regard to their personal devotion is, so far as the human may be a symbol and measure of the Divine, a representation of the feeling cherished by Christ with respect to noble deeds in his service and the spirit from which they spring. He looks with admiration on the self-consuming zeal of his followers; he sees in it the reflection of that spirit of self-sacrifice which enters into his own sufferings and death for men. They are partakers with him of the cup of which some have not the courage to drink (Matthew 20:20-23). Those who have won great honours in his service are to be welcomed as "good and faithful servants," and to be made "rulers over many things." The loss of parents and houses and lands is to be compensated by others more enduring, with life eternal (Mark 10:30). His care and love assured to them in trial, his grace given according to their need, his distinct promise of distinction among the redeemed, all point to the tribute which he bears to the noble self-sacrificing spirit which animates them (John 14:18, John 14:19, John 14:27; Joh 15:18-21; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:10-12).
HOMILIES BY B. DALE
2 Samuel 23:1-7
The son of Jesse, and the Son of David.
The relation of David to Jesus, regarded in the light of prophecy and history, was one of:
1. Hereditary connection; inasmuch as he not only belonged to the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10; Hebrews 7:14; Revelation 5:5) and the house of Jesse the Bethlehemite (Isaiah 11:1), but was ancestor of Jesus (Matthew 1:16; Luke 3:23); who was thus legal heir to "the throne of his father David," and was born in "the city of David" (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:6).
2. Typical representation, in his office as theocratic king, divinely chosen, "the Lord's anointed" (messiah, christ), the representative of God and of the people; his devotion to the purpose of his calling, fulfilling the will of God, contending against his enemies, and ruling his people righteously; his exaltation, through suffering (1 Peter 1:11), by the mighty hand of God, to power, honour, and dominion; his influence in securing national deliverance, religious benefits, temporal order, prosperity, and happiness; whereby he foreshadowed an incomparably greater Ruler of a kingdom "not of this world," who saves his people from their sins, reconciles them to God, and gives them eternal life.
3. Historical resemblance (closely associated with the former, but without, so far as is revealed, being expressly designed by God), in his lowly birth, youthful consecration (1 Samuel 16:12; Luke 2:49), and humble occupation; his decisive conflict (1 Samuel 17:50; Matthew 4:11), public services, and bitter persecutions; his attracting around him a band of faithful followers (1 Samuel 22:1; Matthew 10:1), increasing fame, and popular recognition (2 Samuel 2:4; John 6:15; Matthew 21:9); his great achievements, spiritual utterances, and beneficent influence (2 Samuel 6:1-23; 2 Samuel 8:1-18.); his rejection (2 Samuel 15:13), betrayal, and overwhelming sorrows (2 Samuel 15:30); his final victory (2 Samuel 18:1-33.; John 12:31, John 12:32), glorious restoration, and diligent preparation for an enduring reign of peace.
4. Extraordinary contrast. Even wherein the first prefigured the second David (Ezekiel 34:23), the imperfection of the former stands opposed to the perfection of the latter. And Jesus is "the Son of God" (Luke 1:35) in the highest sense, David's Lord (Mark 12:37); was without sin and always well pleasing to the Father; came to establish, not an earthly kingdom (as the Jews expected), but a spiritual one, and only by moral means (truth, righteousness, and love); died as a sacrifice for sin, rose again, and ascended into the heavens" (Acts 2:34); "who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen" (Romans 9:5).—D.
2 Samuel 23:1-3
David's last words.
[The closing years of David's life (after the insurrection of Sheba was subdued, 2 Samuel 20:1-26.) were spent in peace. Having secured a site for the altar (2 Samuel 24:25; 1 Chronicles 21:28), he made preparations for the building of the temple (1 Chronicles 22:1-19.). At length his strength began to fail; but, when made acquainted with the conspiracy of Adonijah, he displayed something of his former energy in hastening the accession of Solomon (1 Kings 1:1-53.). He also "gathered together the princes of Israel," etc. (1 Chronicles 23:1, 1 Chronicles 23:2), made numerous arrangements, sacred and civil (1 Chronicles 23:3-32; 24-27.), addressed a convocation of princes, gave a charge to his successor, and offered thanksgiving to God (1 Chronicles 28:1-21.; 1 Chronicles 29:1-25). He subsequently gave further counsel to Solomon (1 Kings 2:1-9). About the same time, probably, he uttered these last prophetic words; and then, at the age of seventy, he "fell on sleep" (1 Kings 2:10; 1 Chronicles 29:26-28). "The omission of David's death in the conclusion of this work is satisfactorily explained from the theocratic character and aim of the composition, since in this conclusion the fulfilment of the theocratic mission of David is completed" (Erdmann).]
"And these are the last words of David:
An oracle of David, son of Jesse,
And an oracle of the hero highly exalted,
Anointed of the God of Jacob,
And pleasant (in) Israel's songs of praise.
The Spirit of Jehovah speaks within me,
And his word is on my tongue;
Says the God of Israel,
To me speaks the Rock of Israel," etc.
How varied are the last words of men! How significant of their ruling passion! And how instructive to others (Genesis 48:21, Genesis 48:22; Genesis 49:1; Deuteronomy 33:1; Joshua 23:14; Jos 24:27; 2 Kings 13:19; Luke 2:29; Acts 7:59; 2 Timothy 4:6-8)! Here is David, "the man of God's own choice," about to go "the way of all the earth" (2 Samuel 7:12; 1 Kings 2:2). Highly exalted as he was, he must die like other men. "We walk different ways in life, but in death we are all united." Ere he departs his spirit kindles with unwonted lustre, as not unfrequently happens in the case of others; he is under the immediate inspiration of God (Numbers 24:3, Numbers 24:4), and sings his last song of praise, sweet as the fabled notes of the dying swan. "No prince, and certainly no one who had not acquired his kingdom by inheritance, could possibly close his life with a more blessed repose in God and a brighter glance of confidence into the future. This is the real stamp of true greatness" (Ewald). "These are the words of the prophecy of David, which he prophesied concerning the end of the age, concerning the days of consolation which are to come" (Targum). They show that he has in death (what it is also the privilege of other servants of God in some measure to possess)—
I. GRATEFUL MEMORIES of the favour of God; which has been manifested:
1. Toward one of lowly origin and condition. "A son of Jesse." "Who am I?" etc. (1 Samuel 18:18). "I am the least in my father's house" (Judges 6:15). He recognizes his natural relationships, recalls his early life, renounces all special claim to Divine favour, and is filled with humility. "What hast thou that thou didst not receive?" (1 Corinthians 4:7).
2. In raising him up to exalted honour. "The man [hero] who was highly exalted." Earthly distinction is the portion of a few, but spiritual distinction is the possession of every good man; he is a partaker of the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), raised; up with Christ, and made to sit with him in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), and an heir of all things (1 Corinthians 3:23). "The Christian believes himself to be a king, how mean soever he be, and how great soever he be; yet he thinks himself not too good to be servant to the poorest saint" (Bacon, 'Christian Paradoxes').
3. In appointing him to royal dominion over men. "Anointed," etc. He has "an anointing from the Holy One," and shares in the dominion of Christ. "To him will I give power over the nations," etc. (Revelation 2:26).
4. In conferring upon him excellent endowments, in the exercise of which he quickens the spiritual susceptibilities of men, furnishes them with "acceptable words" in their approach to God, and becomes a helper of their noblest life and joy. Pleasant [lovely] in [by means of] the praise songs of [sung by] Israel." "He was not only the founder of the monarchy, but the founder of the Psalter. He is the first great poet of Israel. Although before his time there had been occasional bursts of Hebrew poetry, David is he who first gave it its fixed place in Israelite worship" (Stanley).
"The harp the monarch minstrel swept,
The king of men, the loved of Heaven,
Which Music hallow'd, while she wept
O'er tones her heart of hearts had given;
Redoubled be her tears, its chords are riven!
It soften'd men of iron mould,
It gave them virtues not their own;
No ear so dull, no soul so cold,
That felt not, fired not to the tone,
Till David's lyre grew mightier than his throne!"
(Byron, 'Hebrew Melodies')
Although his greatness was peculiar, yet a measure of true greatness belongs to every one of the "royal priesthood" (1 Peter 2:6, 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6) of the spiritual Israel. He has power with God and with men, represents God to men and men to God, employs his power with God on behalf of men, and his power with men on behalf of God; and if, by the culture and use of the gifts bestowed upon him, he has contributed to the highest good of men—this (together with all the Divine benefits he has received) is a matter of grateful remembrance and fervent thanksgiving (Psalms 37:25, Psalms 37:37, Psalms 37:39; Psalms 103:1-22.). "It is not what we have done, but what God has done for us and through us, that gives true peace when we come to the end."
II. GRACIOUS COMMUNICATIONS by the Spirit of God; inasmuch as he is:
1. Filled with Divine inspiration. "The Spirit of Jehovah speaks within me." Such inspiration is of various kinds and degrees, and given for different special purposes. "Men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16). But every one who has fellowship with God is inhabited, pervaded, inspired by his Spirit, enlightening, purifying, elevating, gladdening, and strengthening him. Some are "full of the Holy Ghost." In a dying hour, what a marvellous elevation of thought and feeling have they sometimes attained! "Holy men at their death have good inspirations" (see 'Last Words of Remarkable Persons;' ' Life's Last Hours;' Jacox, 'At Nightfall,' etc.; S. Ward, 'The Life of Faith in Death;' J. Hawes, 'Confessions of Dying Men,' etc.).
2. Enabled to utter the Divine Word. "And his Word is on my tongue." Even though there be no new, definite, and infallible revelation of the Word of God, there is often a new indication of its meaning and application, and a fresh, fervid, and forcible expression thereof. "As the Spirit gave them utterance."
3. Made a recipient of Divine promises. "The God of Israel says." He who entered into a covenant relation with Israel, and promised to be their God, gave to David the promise of an everlasting kingdom (2 Samuel 7:12-16), and still gives it, with an inner voice that cannot be mistaken. He also "speaks all the promises," not only in the written Word, but also in the soul of every one to whom that Word comes in "much assurance."
"Oh, might I hear thy heavenly voice
But whisper, 'Thou art mine!'
Those gentle words should raise my song
To notes almost Divine."
4. Constituted a witness of the Divine faithfulness in the fulfilment of the promises. "To me speaks the Rock of Israel" (1Sa 2:2; 2 Samuel 22:2, 2 Samuel 22:3, 2 Samuel 22:32, 2 Samuel 22:47). "He is faithful that promised" (Hebrews 10:23). His faithfulness is the foundation of his promises. "And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O Jehovah: and thy faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones" (Psalms 89:1, Psalms 89:2, Psalms 89:5, Psalms 89:8, Psalms 89:24, Psalms 89:33). On this the believer rests when all things fail, and of this he testifies in death, committing his soul into the hands of God, as "unto a faithful Creator" (1 Peter 4:19; Psalms 31:5).
III. GLORIOUS ANTICIPATIONS of the kingdom of God; wherein the glory of the present merges into the greater glory of the future, and earth and heaven are one (2 Samuel 23:3-5; Psalms 85:11). He sees:
1. The majesty of the King of righteousness; like the splendour of the rising sun. His view of the ideal theocratic ruler of the future has its perfect realization in him who is "King of kings, and Lord of lords." The chief object of the Christian's contemplation in death is the glory of Christ. "Herein would I live; herein would I die; herein would I dwell in my thoughts and affections, to the withdrawing and consumption of all the painted beauties of this world, unto the crucifixion of all things here below, until they become unto me a dead and deformed thing, no way meet for affectionate embraces" (Owen).
2. The brightness of a heavenly day; "the drawing near of the kingdom of the heavens," and abounding life and happiness forever (2 Samuel 22:51; 2 Samuel 22:5). "Nevertheless we according to his promise," etc. (2 Peter 3:13).
3. The realization of a blessed hope; the hope of personal salvation (2 Samuel 23:5), associated with and assured in the immortal life of the King and his people (Psalms 16:9-11; Psalms 17:15; Psalms 49:15; Psalms 73:24; John 14:19).
4. The destruction of all iniquity. (2 Samuel 23:6.) The people shall be all righteous. "The dying eyes see on the horizon of the far off future the form of him who is to be a just and perfect Ruler; before the brightness of whose presence, and the refreshing of whose influence, verdure and beauty shall clothe the world. As the shades gather, that radiant glory to come brightens. He departs in peace, having seen the salvation from afar. It was fitting that this fullest of his prophecies should be the last of his strains, as if the rapture which thrilled the trembling strings had snapped them in twain" (Maclaren).
"They who watch by him see not; but he sees—
Sees and exults. Were ever dreams like these?
Those who watch by him hear not; but he hears,
And earth recedes, and heaven itself appears."
"His funeral obsequies were celebrated with the greatest pomp ever yet known in Israel, and his arms were preserved as sacred relics in the temple; but the lapse of time only increased the reverence in which his memory was held in the national heart, until it finally culminated in a glowing desire to behold him once again upon the earth, and to see the advent of a second David" (Ewald).—D.
2 Samuel 23:3-7
An oracle concerning the King Messiah.
1. The hope of salvation, and more especially of the establishment of the kingdom of heaven upon earth, was, in some measure, fulfilled in the reign of David, the Lord's messiah. In his character as theocratic ruler he was a type (prefigurement or anticipatory outline) of Christ (1 Samuel 2:10). "The type is prophecy in deed."
2. Under Divine inspiration, he formed an ideal of a theocratic ruler, in connection with his own personality and history. Hence the representations contained in the Messianic psalms (16, 22.), in some things transcend his experience, and in others are mingled with his infirmities.
3. In this oracle or Divine saying (as in Psalms 110:1-7; and perhaps others) he looked forward to the realization of his ideal at a future time. "No part whatever of the Old Testament is introduced with a greater majesty of language, or more excites the expectation of some splendid and glorious sense, than the last words of David" (Kennicott). The promise of eternal dominion to his house was joined with an intimation of his death (2 Samuel 7:12); and "these last words show how, in consequence of the consciousness of his own guilt, the image of the Messiah was separated from his subjectivity, and came before him as a majestic form of the future. He, the highly favoured one, who had considered himself immortal (Psalms 16:1-11.), must now die! He therefore grasps the pillars of the promise, ceases to connect the Messianic hopes with himself, and as a prophet beholds the future of his seed" (Delitzsch). "These words are not merely a lyric effusion of the promise, but a prophetic declaration concerning the true king of the kingdom of God" (Keil). "They form the keystone of his life; his prophetic legacy; to which the cycle of psalms 138-145, must be regarded as supplementary" (Hengstenberg). "If there is any part of Scripture which betrays the movements of the human individual soul, it is this precious fragment of David's life. If there be any part which claims for itself, and which gives evidence of the breathings of the Spirit of God, it is this also. Such a rugged two-edged monument is a fitting memorial of the man who was at once the king and the prophet, the penitent and the saint of the ancient Church" (Stanley).
4. The ideal of a theocratic ruler was only partially realized in Solomon and other kings of the house of David (Psalms 45:1-17; Psalms 72:1-20; Isaiah 32:1-20.).
5. Although the hope of a more adequate realization thereof was again and again disappointed, it was not extinguished, but became more and more spiritual and exalted (Riehm, 'Messianic Prophecy;' C.A. Row, 'The Jesus of the Evangelists;' W.F. Adeney, 'The Hebrew Utopia').
6. At length the hope of Israel was perfectly fulfilled in the Person, work, and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Luke 1:32; Matthew 22:43; Acts 2:36; Ephesians 1:20-22; Revelation 1:18.) "In using the Old Testament now, especially for purposes of edification, we should feel that we fail to do justice to the Old Testament, if, when expounding any truth taught in it, we do not bring into connection with the passage explained the highest form of the truth as revealed in the New Testament" (A.B. Davidson, 'Messianic Prophecy,' Expositor, 8.). What is here said must, on this principle, be referred to Christ; and it may be referred to him, with more or less propriety, in his earthly life, in his heavenly dominion, or at his second appearing. It indicates—
I. HIS EXALTED CHARACTER and principles of government. As if present at the commencement of "the golden age," David beholds
"A ruler over men [literally, in man'], just
A ruler fearing God!"
Many a ruler, like "the unjust judge," neither fears God nor regards man. He acquires his position by craft and bloodshed, and exercises his power in oppression and ungodliness. Not so the ruler here depicted; who is distinguished by:
1. Rectitude of heart, of speech, and of conduct; in the laws according to which he rules, and his administration of them, rendering to every man according to his deeds; herein resembling, reflecting, and representing the rectitude of God; and protecting and promoting the best interests of men (Psalms 72:4; Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 11:1-10; Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:23, Ezekiel 34:24; Hosea 3:5; Micah 5:1-15 :l-5; Zechariah 9:9, Zechariah 9:10). "The history of the actual David supplies the subject matter for these idealizations. David is the original prototype on which they are formed, and round whose person they cluster. They may be described as David idealized" (C.A. Row).
2. Piety; the fear of offending God, reverence for his Name, delight in his fellowship, obedience to his will, opposition to his adversaries, dependence on his strength, and devotion to his honour and glory. "When he that rules is just, it is as if he did not rule, but the fear of the Lord ruled in the earth" (Barrett, 'A Synopsis of Criticisms').
3. Rectitude united with piety; founded upon it, pervaded by it, and expressive of it; his supreme aim and constant endeavour being the establishment of the kingdom of God. All this is realized, even beyond expectation, in the wonderful Person of Christ, and his just and merciful reign over mankind. "Put together your ideal of true greatness of soul—power combined with gentleness; dignity with no pride; benevolence with no weakness; sympathy and love for humanity as it is, and especially for the poor, the sad, the suffering. Let your ideal be stainless, and even unsuspected of stain; and let him cheerfully and patiently live and die for men who misunderstood and even hated him. This is what you will see in the history of Christ … the Messiah of humanity as well as the Jews" (J.M. Wilson). "The type set up in the Gospels as the Christian type is the essence of man's moral nature clothed with a personality so vivid and intense as to excite through all ages the most intense affection; yet divested of all those peculiar characteristics and accidents of place and time by which human personalities are marked. What other notion than this can philosophy form of Divinity manifest on earth?'.
II. HIS BENEFICENT INFLUENCE.
"And (his appearance is) as the light of morning, (at) the rising of the sun,
A morning without clouds; (and the effect thereof as when)
From brightness (and) from lain verdure (springs) from (out of) the earth."
As the influence of an unjust and ungodly ruler is powerful for evil, so the influence of the King Messiah is powerful for good, and much more abundantly (Psalms 72:6, Psalms 72:7, Psalms 72:16). It is like that of
" …the great minister
Of nature, that upon the world imprints
The virtue of the heaven, and doles out
Time for us with his beam."
The sun is the source of light, heat, and force; of life, health, fertility, beauty, and gladness. What a change takes place in the whole aspect of nature at the approach of "the powerful king of day"! A similar change takes place in the moral and spiritual world at the rising of the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2; Isaiah 60:2). In him, who is "the Light of the world," Jehovah himself becomes manifest to men, "visits and redeems his people," and "gives light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death," etc. (Luke 1:68-79). "Even as the light of the morning shall he arise, Jehovah the Sun" (Pye Smith, 'Scripture Testimony to the Messiah'). At his appearance, and under his influence:
1. Darkness is dispersed; the long dreary night of ignorance, error, injustice, impiety, oppression, discord, and misery, "and the veil that is spread over all nations" (Isaiah 25:7).
2. Light is diffused; the light of truth, pure and bright; revelations of heavenly love and mercy; a spirit of gentleness and tenderness, "of wisdom and might;" guiding, quickening, healing, and saving.
3. Life abounds with the peaceful fruits of righteousness; spontaneously, readily, universally; as, when (after a season of drought, or in spring) heavy showers have fallen and bright sunshine breaks forth, the earth clothes itself in fresh and "tender green" (Isaiah 35:1, Isaiah 35:2). "The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." The one true King of men has come, his influence is powerfully and widely felt, and it is constantly, increasing; nevertheless we see not yet all things subdued unto him. Like prophets and kings of old, we still wait for his appearing. "For he must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet" (1 Corinthians 15:25).
III. HIS ASSURED MANIFESTATION.
"For (there is sure pound for my expectation, for) is not my house (not myself merely) thus with (related to) God (that out of it such an exalted ruler and his beneficial influence shall proceed)?
For (because) he has established to me an everlasting covenant (to this effect),
Arranged in all (respects) and kept;
For (therefore) all my salvation (involved therein) and all (his) good pleasure (expressed therein)
For (therefore, I say) will he not cause (them) to sprout (to be fully accomplished)?"
"The pedge of this just ruler was the eternal covenant which God had concluded with him" (Tholuck). The whole oracle is founded upon this covenant (solemn promise, sacred engagement, arrangement, constitution, dispensation), securing eternal dominion to his house and the blessings of salvation to the subjects of his kingdom (2 Samuel 7:13, 2 Samuel 7:10, 2 Samuel 7:24). "The Davidic covenant is the embodiment of the hope of David, and the theme of his last meditations. In this swanlike song David clings to the Messianic promise as his greatest delight" (C.A. Briggs, 'Messianic Prophecy').
1. It cannot fail of fulfilment, in the appearing and reign of the Messiah; because of:
(1) The faithfulness of God, "the Rock of Israel" (2 Samuel 23:3), its Author;
(2) its having been actually made,
(3) with the express assurance of these things,
(4) "to David, and his seed forever" (2 Samuel 22:51);
(5) carefully arranged, provided with everything adapted to effect the proper end thereof, and to avert failure, even through apostasy (2 Samuel 7:14, 2 Samuel 7:15);
(6) and its being constantly preserved, guarded, watched over, until completely fulfilled.
2. In its fulfilment, the promised salvation of the people of God, and his gracious purposes concerning them, will be accomplished. "All my salvation," etc. "The dying Israelite looked forward to the grand destiny of his people, and lost his personality in the larger life of the nation, and thus triumphed over death through the thought of the immortality and future blessedness of the collective Israel" (W.F. Adeney); or rather he expected to share with them, in some way, their glorious inheritance (Psalms 61:5, Psalms 61:6; Psalms 73:23, Psalms 73:26; Isaiah 54:10-14; Isaiah 55:3, Isaiah 55:4; Daniel 12:3, Daniel 12:4, Daniel 12:13).
3. On this the servant of God rests with strong confidence and blessed hope, in life and death (Genesis 49:18). "We are saved by hope." And "when Christ, who is our Life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory" (Col 3:4; 1 John 3:2; 2 Peter 3:13).
"My God, the covenant of thy love
Abides forever sure;
And in its matchless grace I feel
My happiness secure."
IV. HIS FINAL JUDGMENT on the wicked.
"And worthlessness [literally, 'Belial, ungodly men']
as thorns thrust away (are) all of them;
For (because) not with the (unarmed) hand are they seized;
And (but) the man who touches them
Is filled (fills his hand, provides himself) with iron,
And shaft of spear (i.e. a long spear),
And with fire are they utterly burned on the spot."
It is the tart of a just and godly ruler to punish evil doers. The undue leniency of David was followed by disastrous consequences (2 Samuel 3:39; 2 Samuel 13:21; 2 Samuel 14:33; 2 Samuel 19:23; 2 Samuel 20:10); and, at the close of his life, he charged his successor to vindicate the Law wherein he had himself failed to do so (1 Kings 2:1-9). The coming King is not only a Saviour, but also a Judge; and to him all judgment is committed (John 5:22, John 5:27). "There rises up before him (David) a field overrun with thorns, which the Divine ministers pluck up with gauntleted hands, and beat down with their burnished spears, and commit to the consuming flames" (S. Cox, 'Expositor's Note-Book'). His judgment is:
The day of grace, during which forbearance has been shown in vain, is followed by the day of wrath (Malachi 4:1; Matthew 3:12; Matthew 13:40-43; Hebrews 6:7).—D.
2 Samuel 23:8-12
(1 Chronicles 11:10-14).
The first three heroes.
Jashobeam the son of Hach-moni (Zabdiel, 1 Chronicles 27:2), who came to David at Ziklag (1 Chronicles 12:6), and became general of the first division of the army; Eleazar the son of Dodo the Ahohite, general of the second division (1 Chronicles 27:4); and Shammah the son of Agee the Hararite. "They served in the most direct manner by their work one who was the representative of the Divine government on earth" (Krummacher). "Such traits of warlike courage (as they displayed) are more significant than anything else; they recall to us completely those few periods of history, otherwise unknown to us, in which a marvellous aspiration for the possession of some higher blessing, such as freedom or immortality, has taken hold of an entire nation, and so has produced, through special instruments of exceptional power, even military exploits which appear incredible to ordinary men" (Ewald). "Christ the Son of David has his worthies too, who, like David's, are influenced by his example, fight his battles against the spiritual enemies of his kingdom, and in his strength are more than conquerors" (Matthew Henry). In these battles, neither physical prowess nor intellectual strength is of so much importance as moral and spiritual qualifications, and especially eminent faith; such as that by which many "from weakness were made strong, waxed mighty in war, turned to flight armies of aliens" (Hebrews 11:34). It ensures success by means of—
I. FEARLESSNESS and daring courage (2 Samuel 23:8). "He lifted his spear against eight hundred [three hundred], slain at one time;" went undismayed "against a multitude" (2 Chronicles 14:11), and alone (or possibly aided by others) overcame them (Judges 3:31; Judges 15:15). Instances of a similar kind are recorded in history (see 'Pictorial Bible' in 1 Chronicles 11:1-47.): "Ajax beating down the Trojan leader with a rock which two ordinary men could scarcely lift; Horatius defending the bridge against an army; Richard, the lion-hearted, spurring along the whole Saracen line without finding an enemy to stand his assault; Robert Bruce crushing with one blow the helmet and the head of Sir Henry Bohun, in sight of the whole army of England and Scotland;—such are the heroes of a dark age. In such an age, bodily vigour is the most indispensable qualification for a warrior" (Macaulay, 'History of England'). Even in modern times (when the superiority of strength of mind has been so manifest) it has accomplished extraordinary feats. But how much greater and nobler have been the achievements wrought by moral courage and spiritual weapons (2 Corinthians 10:4)!
II. INDEPENDENCE and single-handed effort (2 Samuel 23:9, 2 Samuel 23:10). When "he alone remained" (Josephus), "he arose and smote the Philistines, until his hand was weary, and his hand clave unto the sword," etc. In like manner, when "the people fled from the Philistines" (2 Samuel 23:11, 2 Samuel 23:12), Shammah stood alone against their attack. The valour of some men depends upon the presence, sympathy, and help of others, and fails when they are left to themselves.
1. Under such circumstances, the courage of a true hero is fully brought out (Isaiah 63:3).
2. He is independent of men because he depends upon God.
3. By his single-handed effort, one such man is sometimes able to "chase a thousand" (Joshua 23:10).
4. His courage and success infuse fresh vigour into fearful hearts; and "the people return after him" though it be "only to spoil." He alone is fit to be a leader of men.
III. STEADFASTNESS in passive endurance and active endeavour. "He stood in the midst of the ground" which was "full of lentiles," or barley, "defended it, and slew the Philistines" (who had probably come up to carry away the ripe crops); like Eleazar, he "endured to the end," and conquered. It is not enough to exhibit fearlessness and independence at first; we must continue to do so (Luke 9:51), otherwise nothing will be gained, but everything be lost. "Whatever is each man's post, chosen by himself as the bettor part, or appointed by his leader, there, as it appears to me, he ought to stay in spite of danger; taking no account of death or anything else in comparison with dishonour" ('The Apology of Socrates'). This is the crowning quality: "Having done all, to stand [hold the field]. Stand therefore," etc. (Ephesians 6:14); "Be ye steadfast," etc. (1Ch 15:1-29 :58; Galatians 6:9); "Stand fast in the Lord."
IV. DIVINE HELP. "And Jehovah wrought a great deliverance" (2 Samuel 23:10, repeated in 2 Samuel 23:12). Here is the chief source of success. Human effort is needful, but in itself ineffectual. It avails only through the help of God (Psalms 126:1; Psalms 121:2). Nor is this withheld from such as seek and rely upon it. He will fight for those who fight for him. How often has he enabled them to prevail against an overwhelming host! "Salvation is of the Lord." To him it should be ascribed. And every great deliverance calls for great thanksgiving.—D.
2 Samuel 23:13-17
(1 Chronicles 11:15-19).
The well of Bethlehem.
When a shepherd-youth, David doubtless often sat beside "the well by the gate," and refreshed himself with its cold, clear, sparkling water. But those days have long since departed; and he is now a king, with many cares. Bethlehem is occupied by a part of the Philistine host, and he is once more in "the hold" (2 Samuel 5:17; 1 Samuel 21:1), accompanied by his heroic band of men, to whom his every wish is equivalent to a command. "What a circle of names are associated with his name. some of them names and scarce anything beside—men who would have been unheard of but for the occasions which brought them into temporary connection with so famous a man, and of whose lives, apart from that connection, we know nothing; yet all of whom had a life, had a character, were as precious as individuals in the eye of God as the great soul to whom they owe what little interest they have in the eyes of men!" The names of these three "knights" are not recorded; but their chivalrous achievement is immortalized. "God knows them, as he knows the noble acts of all his saints and martyrs, and will reward them at the great day" (Wordsworth). In the threefold scene here described we have—
I. THE NATURAL WISH expressed by the king. "Oh that one would give me drink!" etc. (2 Samuel 23:15). It is:
1. Involuntarily excited. "In the harvest time," oppressed with heat, and exhausted by conflict and toil, David is parched with thirst, and overcome with a great longing for a refreshing draught from the well of Bethlehem, whose familiar walls he, perchance, sees from a distance. So men sometimes desire, not merely the satisfaction of bodily appetites, but also the gratification of deeper yearnings, for youth and home, and happier conditions and experiences. "Oh that I had wings like the dove!" etc. (Psalms 55:6).
2. In itself innocent. Many a wish, even for objects at present out of reach and beset by difficulty and peril, is as blameless as the thirst of a traveller "in a dry and weary land where no water is." Although it may be "according to nature" (in the best sense), it nevertheless requires to be controlled, regulated, and subordinated to a higher law than that of pleasing ourselves; and it is, too frequently:
3. Inordinately indulged; so that it becomes a dominant selfish impulse. "The habit of wishing and hankering for those things which Providence denies, though natural to us and often given way to, even by godly men, in an unguarded hour, is a degree of rebellion against the Lord; and it shows the remaining sensuality and selfishness of the heart, and leads to many snares and evils" (Scott).
4. Inconsiderately uttered. David may not intend his men to hear what he says (still less to challenge their devotion); he may hardly be aware of their presence. But, knowing their character and his relation to them, he is none the less responsible for the effect of his words upon them; and should have put a bridle on his tongue (Psalms 39:1; Psalms 106:33; Psalms 141:3). Unregulated impulses and imprudent speech—what mischief have they wrought in the world! "Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation."
II. THE HEROIC DEED performed by his followers. "And the three mighty men broke through the host," etc. (2 Samuel 23:16). "It was a foolhardy thing to do," some one says; "they might easily have seen that a draught of water was not worth the conflict and hazard necessary to obtain it." Happily they did not see it; else we had never heard of their heroic enterprise. Without calculating consequences, they act from a sense of duty, an impulse of unselfish devotion, a spirit of chivalry, "which shrinks from no sacrifice in order to do the smallest service for the object of its devotion;" therein exhibiting:
1. An intense attachment to their leader, love to his person, sympathy with his need, loyalty to his office, desire to please him and to do his will (as they interpreted it). It could have been inspired in them only by a man of great ability, generosity, and enthusiasm. They learnt it of him (1 Samuel 17:50). His self-indulgent and momentary wish was no true index of his prevailing disposition.
2. A spontaneous, prompt, and cheerful purpose and endeavour. They say nothing and do not hesitate, but go together "into the jaws of death."
3. Invincible courage; a principle which is as needful in moral and spiritual conflict as in physical warfare (2 Samuel 10:12). "Most probably it made such an impression as rendered the host of the Philistines an easy prey to the Israelites" (Blaikie).
4. Entire self-denial and self-sacrifice; disregarding alike their own pleasure and peril, and laying down their lives for his sake. "Greater love hath no man," etc. (John 15:13). "Pure love has its measure in itself, and disregards in its outward expression every critic (Matthew 26:7-13). This exploit of the three heroes was a sacrifice offered, not so much to the man David, as rather in him to the 'Anointed of the Lord,' and therefore to the Lord himself" (Krummacher). How does it rebuke our lack of devotion so our Divine King] Were we as ardent, loyal, courageous, and self-sacrificing as they, what victories should we gain over his adversaries and ours!
III. THE SACRED OFFERING presented before the Lord. "And he would not drink thereof," etc. For the first time, probably, he becomes acquainted with their desperate exploit, when they come into his presence, stained with blood, and place the vessel, containing the water for which he longed, in his hands. To him it is as if it were their blood, and he cannot drink it (Le 2 Samuel 17:11, 2 Samuel 17:12). To do so would be to justify his former wish, and gratify himself at the hazard of their lives. Their devotion evokes within him a nobler feeling and impulse than he before displayed; so that he practically confesses his fault, personally shares their suffering and self-denial, and publicly testifies his thankfulness for their preservation and his devotion to their welfare. And this he does in the highest and most effectual manner—by making of their gift a libation (1 Samuel 7:6), or drink offering, and thereby giving honour to God. "It was too sacred for him to drink, but it was on that very account deemed by him as worthy to be consecrated in sacrifice to God as any of the prescribed offerings of the Levitical ritual. Pure chivalry and pure religion there found an absolute union" (Stanley). Alexander denied himself of a draught of water because he could not bear to drink it alone, and the cup was too small to be divided among all his soldiers; Sir Philip Sidney, that he might give it to a wounded soldier, whose necessity appeared to him greater than his own ('Percy Anecdotes'); David, that he might present it unto God. "He never was more magnanimous than at this moment. This deed was a psalm, sublime in its significance, and forever sweet to all loving hearts in its pure simplicity." In his offering there is:
1. An exalted estimate of the value of human life.
2. A humble renunciation of the power even of a king to make use of it according to his own pleasure or for a selfish end.
3. A solemn recognition of the sovereignty of God over "life and breath and all things."
4. An unreserved submission, surrender, and sacrifice of every gift to him who alone is worthy. David's offering must have deepened the attachment of his three heroes, and exerted no small moral and spiritual influence on all his followers. How much greater is the "offering" of the Son of David (Ephesians 5:2; Hebrews 9:14), and his claim on our affection, gratitude, and self-consecration! Constrained by his love, we should live in the spirit of his life (Romans 12:1; 2 Corinthians 5:15; Philippians 2:17, "poured out as a libation;" 2 Timothy 4:6).
1. An impulse of a lower kind is most effectually overcome by one of a higher order.
2. A wish in itself blameless may, in certain circumstances, be sinful and injurious.
3. An action which is mistaken and imprudent sometimes affords occasion for the display of the noblest principles.
4. The self-denial of some silently reproves the self-indulgence of others, and incites in them a similar spirit.
5. The highest return that can be made of gifts received from men is to consecrate them to God.
6. A gift made to God is not "wasted," but is a means of conferring manifold benefits on men.
7. The sacrifice of self enriches the soul by enabling it to partake more fully of the life and love of him for whose sake it is made.—D.
2 Samuel 23:18-23
(1 Chronicles 11:22-25).
The heroism of Benaiah.
He was son of Jehoiada, chief priest and leader of the Aaronites who came to David at Hebron (1 Chronicles 12:27); one of (a second) three "mighties" (with Abishai and, perhaps, Asahel), and above the thirty (1 Chronicles 27:5, 1 Chronicles 27:6); captain of the host for the third month; and commander of the body guard (2 Samuel 8:18; 2 Samuel 20:23). He remained faithful to Solomon in the conspiracy of Adonijah, was commissioned to execute Joab, and appointed commander-in-chief in his stead (1 Kings 1:26, 1 Kings 1:36; 1 Kings 2:29, 1 Kings 2:35). He was "a valiant man, of many illustrious deeds." His name (equivalent to "built by Jah") is suggestive of the Divine source of his strength, valour, and successful conflicts with the enemies of the people of God. He slew
(1) two Moabitish champions, or princes, "lions of God" (2 Samuel 8:2);
(2) a ferocious lion, which had been driven by a heavy fall of snow into the neighbourhood of human habitations, to the terror of the inhabitants, and had taken refuge in a pit or (empty) cistern; and
(3) an Egyptian giant (fighting on the side of the Philistines). "His valour and virtues are recorded, not only for commemoration and remembrance, but likewise for example and imitation of his virtues, and to show how great works the Lord wrought by weak means" (Guild).
1. We ought never to contend, except in a good cause; for truth, justice, and liberty, the honour of God, the kingdom of Christ, and the welfare of men. "If it be possible," etc. (Romans 12:18).
2. We cannot avoid conflict altogether without sin, captivity, dishonour, and destruction. In a world like this there is often no choice but to fight or be slain. "Curse ye Meroz," etc. (Judges 5:23). "Contend earnestly for the faith," etc. (Jude 1:3). "Now we must fight if we would reign."
3. We must not be dismayed by the power of the enemy; "in nothing affrighted by the adversaries" (Philippians 1:28); their strength, their number (two to one, 2 Samuel 23:20), their formidable appearance, their varied character, natural or spiritual; lionlike men, real lions, or "your adversary the devil," who, "as a roaring lion, walketh about," etc. (1 Peter 5:8). Be strong and fear not.
4. We should not be unduly concerned about our own safety; but seek, above all things, to do our duty faithfully, and use our best endeavours to secure the ends for which we strive. Having traced the footprints of the lion in the snow, "he went down" (voluntarily placing his own life in imminent peril to secure the safety of others.) "and slew the lion in the pit" (knowing that he must succeed or perish) "in a time of snow" (which is apt to benumb man's strength and to cool their courage, and when beasts of prey are most fierce and ravenous from hunger). "None of these things move me," etc. (Acts 20:24; Act 21:13; 2 Timothy 4:16, 2 Timothy 4:17).
5. We must make the best of our resources, however inadequate they may appear; and not shrink from the conflict until we are as fully armed as our opponents. "He went down to him with [only] a staff" (2 Samuel 23:22); skilfully and adroitly deprived him of his spear ("like a weaver's beam"), rendered him defenceless, and turned his weapon against himself. We must fight with such means as we have.
6. We should never forget the example of our great Leader (1 Samuel 17:50); that he sees us, is ready to help us, and will greatly honour "him that overcometh" (2 Samuel 23:22, 2 Samuel 23:23; Revelation 2:26).
"Though the sons of night blaspheme,
More there are with us than them;
Hell is nigh, but Christ is nigher,
Circling us with hosts of fire."
7. We should be encouraged by the remembrance of past successes, achieved by ourselves and others. These are a sure earnest of the final victory of the kingdom of light over the kingdom of darkness. "Greater is he that is in you," etc. (1 John 4:4).—D.
HOMILIES BY G. WOOD
2 Samuel 23:1-7
The righteous Ruler.
David, in his last days, like Jacob and Moses, received the spirit of prophecy, and was thus enabled to predict the coming of the perfect King, sprung from himself; the blessings of his reign, and his triumph over his enemies. These "last words" of his are, indeed, regarded by some as primarily a description of what a ruler of men should be, and as only secondarily, if at all, relating to the Christ. Our Authorized Version favours this interpretation by introducing in 2 Samuel 23:3 the words, "must be." But the obvious truth that rulers ought to be just would hardly have been prefaced by so solemn an introduction, asserting in such varied words and phrases that the declaration was owing to the special inspiration of God. Nor would the reference to the "everlasting covenant" be so appropriate.
I. THE HUMAN SPEAKER. The terms used indicate:
1. His origin. "David the son of Jesse." The royal son was not ashamed of his father.
2. His exaltation. "Raised up on high".
3. His Divine appointment as king. "The anointed of the God of Jacob."
4. His gifts and works as a sacred poet. "The sweet psalmist of Israel" (Hebrew, "pleasant in the psalms of Israel") "As David, on the one hand, had firmly established the kingdom of God in an earthly and political respect as the anointed of Jehovah, i.e. as king; so had he, on the other, as the composer of Israel's songs of praise, promoted the spiritual edification of that kingdom" (Keil and Delitzsch).
II. THE DIVINE SPEAKER. This is intimated by the word used twice in 2 Samuel 23:1 and translated "said." It is the word commonly used of the utterances of God by his prophets, and, without any addition, indicates that the saying is a Divine oracle. Further, that what is said here is from God is distinctly declared by the assertion, "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" (2 Samuel 23:2, 2 Samuel 23:3). Such a preamble prepares us for an utterance of great weight and importance, and is adapted to excite the utmost confidence in it as one of "the true sayings of God" (Revelation 19:9).
III. THE WORDS SPOKEN. David was himself a divinely appointed king over God's nation. He had ruled on the whole justly, and had, with his people, enjoyed much of the benefit which righteous rule secures. He was, however, conscious of not having realized his ideal, partly through his own weakness and sinfulness, partly through the opposition he had encountered and the impracticableness of the materials which he had had to mould. But before he leaves the world he has a Divine assurance that One should arise out of his own house, who should be, as a Ruler, all, and more than all, that he had himself aimed to be—should diffuse amongst his subjects the greatest blessings, and thoroughly master and destroy all that should oppose his designs. Note:
1. His descent. The reference to the "everlasting covenant" in 2 Samuel 23:5, compared with the covenant itself in the promise of God through Nathan (2 Samuel 7:16), sufficiently indicates that David discerned that the King of whom he was prophesying would spring from himself. He was to be "of the seed of David according to the flesh" (Romans 1:3).
2. His character. "Just, ruling in the fear of God."
(1) The fear of God (equivalent to "godliness, piety") would be at the foundation of his character. He would rule with constant regard to the will and the glory of God (comp. Isaiah 11:2, "the spirit of … the fear of the Lord"). How much this feature was found in the character of our Lord Jesus the Gospels everywhere testify.
(2) He would be eminently "just." This characteristic of the coming King of men appears frequently in the prophecies respecting him (see Psalms 45:6, Psalms 45:7; Psalms 72:2; Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 11:3-5; Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 9:9). It was a welcome thought in a world filled with injustice, which was unredressed by its rulers, yea, often perpetrated by them—a world in which the poor and feeble, the widows and the fatherless, instead of being protected by the mighty, were often trampled down by them, that at length a Ruler would arise who would be just, and would cause justice everywhere to triumph. These prophecies receive their fulfilment in the character and reign of the Lord Jesus.
(a) He is personally just. Hence he is called "that Just One" (Acts 22:14); "the Holy One and the Just" (Acts 3:14). He was like other men in all but this, that he was "without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). He "knew no sin" (2 Corinthians 5:21). He "did no sin" (1 Peter 2:22). In his addresses to God there is no confession of sin or prayer for pardon. Before men he could boldly say, "Which of you convicteth me of sin?' (John 8:46, Revised Version). His exaltation is attributed to his love of righteousness and hatred of iniquity (Hebrews 1:9).
(b) Justice distinguishes the salvation he effects. For this King is also Saviour (Zechariah 9:9). David felt that in some way his own salvation depended on him (2 Samuel 23:5). In the light of the New Testament the truth becomes clear. Jesus the Son of David, the Divine King, works salvation. Now, in doing this, he displays the highest regard for righteousness. He does not deliver in violation of justice; does not take the part of the sinner against God as righteous Ruler. By his death he makes propitiation for sin, that God "might be just" while "the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Romans 3:25, Romans 3:26). Moreover, he saves from sin to righteousness (Romans 8:4), so that all who are his become just.
(c) His laws are just. The very lairs of some kingdoms are tainted with injustice. They are oppressive or partial, favouring one class of the people at the cost of others, etc. Not so with the laws of the Christ. They prescribe all that is right, and only what is right, both towards God and towards men. Were they obeyed, all injustice and wrong doing would cease, and all the evil dispositions from which they proceed.
(d) His rule is just. Good laws are sometimes ineffective through bad administration of them. Commonly the enforcement of them requires money; and those who have little of it must submit to injustice for want of the means to set the machinery of the law in motion. Sometimes the magistrates are corrupt, and decide in favour of those who bribe them, or too indolent and indifferent to examine sufficiently into the merits of the cases brought before them. Practical injustice also springs from the ignorance or weakness of rulers. But this Ruler will see that full justice is done to all under his sway. He knows exactly the character of each and all; he is powerful to execute judgment. Mighty oppressors find him stronger than they. Secret plotters against the just discover that nothing is hidden from him. With him sophistry has no weight, rank and wealth no influence. "He shall reward every man according to his works" (Matthew 16:27).
(e) His whole power and influence are promotive of righteousness, and ensure its ultimate prevalence.
3. The blessings of his reign." [He (or, 'it') shall be] as the light of the morning when the sun riseth, a morning without clouds; [when] the tender grass [springeth] out of the earth, through clear shining after rain" (2 Samuel 23:4, Revised Version). Under the reign of this Ruler shall be:
(1) Unclouded light in place of darkness. Truth, holiness, and happiness shall abound.
(2) Fruitfulness. Growth and increase of goodness and the good (Psalms 72:6, Psalms 72:7, Psalms 72:16).
(3) Beauty. Like the flush of the tender grass just sprung up and shining in the light of the morning sun. These are the effects which the Lord Christ does produce in heart and home and country, wherever and so far as he is received and obeyed. History confirms prophecy, and gives additional assurance of its fulfilment.
4. The fate of the wicked under his rule. (2 Samuel 23:6, 2 Samuel 23:7.) The reign of One so just and powerful ensures the destruction of the wicked as well as the salvation of the righteous. He comes, indeed, to subdue the wicked by truth and love, and render them righteous. But many remain obdurate, refuse submission to him, perhaps oppose him actively; these he destroys. Note:
(1) Their worthlessness. They are "Belial" (equivalent to "worthlessness"); good for nothing; "thorns, to be thrust away" and "burned."
(2) The difficulty of getting rid of them. Like thorns, difficult to handle and "thrust away," requiring whoever would deal with them to be "armed with iron and the staff of a spear." Laws cannot restrain them, example is lost upon them, benevolent efforts are wasted upon them, legal punishments only harden them, the gospel itself renders them more perverse.
(3) Their certain destruction. "They shall be utterly burned with fire in their place" (Revised Version); "on the hearth" (Dean Stanley). See Matthew 3:10, Matthew 3:12; John 15:6; Hebrews 6:8. Let sinners tremble and repent before it is too late.
IV. THE COMFORT WHICH THE PROPHECY GAVE TO DAVID HIMSELF. (Hebrews 6:5.) The words are obscure, and variously interpreted. Most modern scholars translate substantially as in the margin of the Revised Version, "For is not my house so with God? for he … for all my salvation and all my desire, will he not make it to grow?" So taken, the words are altogether words of assured confidence and hope. But taken as in the Authorized Version, and substantially in the text of the Revised Version, shadows mingle with the brightness. The glorious vision of the future reminds David of the contrast presented by the past and present. His own reign has not corresponded, or only in a small measure, with the picture he has drawn. Yet he finds consolation in the "everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure." He doubts not that the promise given him through Nathan (Hebrews 7:1-28.) will be fulfilled; and in its fulfilment he recognizes the fulfilment of his own ardent "desire," and the accomplishment of his "salvation."
So let us, amid all the blighted hopes, the fears and troubles of the present, stay ourselves on God, and admit to our hearts the comfort which springs from his covenant in Christ, and the conviction that it cannot but be faithfully and fully performed.—G.W.
2 Samuel 23:5
Comfort from the everlasting covenant.
David, as he approached the close of life, had this vision (2 Samuel 23:2-7) of the just king, and the happiness which would attend his reign. It reminded him of what ought to have been the character of his own rule, and what might have been its blessedness. The perfect realization of the picture by himself and his subjects was not, indeed, possible; but the actual condition of things was not inevitable. He knew that he himself had largely contributed to the sins and troubles of his "house" and of the nation. And now life was nearly over; and as the past could not be undone, neither could he hope to repair the mischief it had produced. Under the sadness of his reflections, he finds relief and consolation in the memory of the "everlasting covenant" which God had "made with" him, which ensured that from his house should arise One in and by whom would be realized the perfect ideal of a Divine King and kingdom. His utmost "desire" would then be fulfilled, and his "salvation" effected. For it seems that as David, in the hundred and tenth psalm, calls his great Son his "Lord," so here he recognizes him as his Saviour. These words of David have often been used by godly people for their own comfort; and the hymn of Dr. Doddridge, founded upon them, commencing, "My God, the covenant of thy love," has ministered consolation to thousands. We shall see that there is good reason for such an application of them.
I. THE COVENANT. The word properly signifies a mutual agreement between two or more persons. When used, however, of a transaction or arrangement between God and men, the idea of agreement as between two contracting parties retires into the background, or vanishes altogether; and the word designates, on the one hand, the promises of God, and, on the other, his requirements. In this passage it refers to the Divine promise to David and his house of an everlasting kingdom (2 Samuel 7:12-16), which was in fact the promise of the Christ, and of all the blessings (poetically set forth in 2 Samuel 23:4) which his coming and reign involved. In the time of Isaiah it was seen that this covenant was in effect made with all repentant and believing souls, and that the "sure mercies of David" (the blessings promised to him) included the spiritual mercies for which they hunger and thirst (see Isaiah 55:1-3). Indeed, in the fourth verse of that chapter, David and his illustrious Descendant are identified, as in other Scriptures the latter is called "David" (Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:23, Ezekiel 34:24; Ezekiel 37:24, Ezekiel 37:25; Hosea 3:5). It will thus be seen that our text may be used by Christians in its original purport. But if there were any doubt of this, the direct application of the term "everlasting covenant" to the promises of God in and through the "Lord Jesus," and sealed with his "blood" (Hebrews 13:20)—promises made to all who have faith in Christ—establishes the propriety of the use of the words by Christians, though it were in a sense only analogous to that which they originally bore. Notice:
1. The contents of the covenant.
(1) The promises of "all spiritual blessings," yea, of all needful temporal blessings—pardon, renewal, adoption, sanctification, guidance, support, comfort, preservation, etc; terminating in eternal life; in a word, salvation.
(2) The requirements of faith in Christ and obedience to his laws.
2. Its qualities.
(1) "Ordered in all things." Well arranged; the product of perfect wisdom, and worthy of it; so constituted as to be adapted to its purpose, fitted for the wants of men, suited to reveal and glorify God.
(2) "Sure." More literally, "guarded," "preserved," and therefore secure and sure. God takes care of his own Word. Enemies may assail it, but he watches over and preserves it. Foolish friends or professed friends may misinterpret it, may narrow it so as to make it speak the language of their own particular sect, and promise good only to its members, may overlay it by traditional interpretations, or otherwise veil it from the sight of men as if it were too sacred for common eyes, or substitute for it "another gospel, which is not another" (Galatians 1:6, Galatians 1:7), which they regard as more in harmony with the advanced intelligence of the times; but, amid and through all, God's covenant abides sure, the only basis of his gracious dealings with men, the secure basis of men's hopes and life.
(3) Everlasting. An assertion that might be made in respect to its origin in the eternal thought and purpose of God, but which is made of its enduring character. It is a covenant which abides the same evermore, which God will never alter, and will be eternally fulfilling in the experience of his children. "The Word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the Word which by the gospel is preached unto you" (1 Peter 1:25).
3. With whom it is made. "With me." The covenant was made to David directly and personally, through Nathan. The covenant of God in the gospel is with all those who conform to its requirements—all who repent, believe, and obey. Whoever sincerely accepts Christ as Saviour and Lord, is warranted to regard the promises of God as made to himself, and will be able to do so with increasing confidence as his faith, love, and holiness increase. These are at once the work of the Holy Spirit, and his witness to each Christian that he is a Christian indeed, one of "the children of God," who are "heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:16, Romans 8:17).
II. THE ESTIMATION IN WHICH IT IS HELD. The believer values it as beyond all price, because:
1. It assures him of salvation. "This is all my salvation"—salvation in the fullest sense, salvation from all evil to the enjoyment of all blessing, a salvation everlasting as the covenant.
2. It meets and satisfies his best, his utmost longings. "All my desire"—delight, pleasure. The aspirations after perfect communion with God, and likeness to him and eternal happiness in him, all are met and satisfied by the promises of God.
III. THE COMFORT IT AFFORDS. "Although my house,… yet," etc. Similarly, the Christian may realize unfailing support and consolation from the consciousness of being interested in the everlasting covenant.
1. In view of his past and present life. Its unfulfilled ideals, disappointed hopes, broken vows, wasted energies, poor results (material or spiritual); in view of sins committed, work undone or ill done; after sad experience of the unreliableness of the promises of men (whether through changed mind, or changed circumstances, or death); or again, when he thinks with sad heart of the moral condition of his "house" (often a distressing sight to godly parents), or the painful circumstances in which it may be placed through bereavements or worldly misfortunes; or finally, when he looks upon himself, contrasting what he might have become with what he is—it is a thought to bring rest and hope that God has made with him an everlasting covenant, which remains secure and unchanged amid all changes, and assures of forgiveness of all that has been wrong and defective, and eternal profit from all that has been painful, and final and complete deliverance from all sin and sorrow.
2. In anticipation of the future.
(1) The future of this life. Its uncertainties, its possible or probable troubles, personal, domestic, national, etc. "I know not what is before me, but this I know, that God has made with me a covenant which cannot fail."
(2) Its approaching end and the eternal future. The possible suddenness or painfulness of the end; its possible loneliness, through the deaths or removals of those who it had been hoped would be near to impart consolation; in the case of the aged, the certainty that departure from this world cannot be long delayed; the dimness and strangeness of the invisible world, and the awfulness of eternity; the constitutional dread of death which haunts some; the dread, at least the awe, which sometimes visits all as they think of the account to be given of life to the holy Judge. How blessed under all anxieties and forebodings to say, "' I know whom I have believed" (2 Timothy 1:12); I am sure he will not forsake me, but will 'deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom' (2 Timothy 4:18); for 'he hath made with me an everlasting covenant,' etc."!
Let Christians aim so to live that they may ever enjoy such consolation. Let all seek to make it their own; for it is available for all. Hear the Word of the Lord before referred to: "Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David" (Isaiah 55:3).—G.W.
2 Samuel 23:8
The king's mighty men.
From this verse to the end of the chapter is given an account of men who had distinguished themselves in the service of David by their might and prowess, and who were rewarded with promotion and a place in this honourable list. Our King, Jesus Christ, has also his mighty ones—men, women, and children—whose exploits are not forgotten.
I. THEIR QUALITIES.
1. What they are. They are the ordinary characteristics of a Christian existing in a high degree of strength and fervour.
(1) Strong faith. The eye that sees the invisible; the hand that grasps the promises; strong confidence in God and Christ (see Hebrews 11:1-40.).
(2) Ardent love. Warm attachment and devoted loyalty to their King; love to his kingdom and all who belong to it; love to men in general; love disinterested, unselfish. A selfish man cannot be a hero.
(3) A strong sense of duty, overpowering the desire for ease, safety, pleasure, or gain.
(4) Intense prayerfulness. Earnest prayer is "power with God and with men" (Genesis 32:28).
(5) Clear and impressive knowledge. "Knowledge is power." "A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength" (Proverbs 24:5). Knowledge adds strength to the character of its possessor, and is a powerful weapon in the service of our King. It is by "the truth" that Christ's battles are fought and victories won. "The gospel is the power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16). Christ's "mighty men" are "mighty in the Scriptures" (Acts 18:24).
(6) Dauntless courage.
(7) Unwavering constancy and perseverance.
2. Whence they spring. David was brave himself, and inspired his men with bravery. They became "mighty men" through the influence of a mighty leader. Consciously or unconsciously, they imbibed his spirit and imitated him. In like manner, our "Leader and Commander of the people" (Isaiah Iv. 4) infuses his own Spirit into his faithful followers. They become mighty through close union and association with him. They are "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might' (Ephesians 6:10); "strengthened with might by God's Spirit in the inner man" (Ephesians 3:16).
II. THEM WORKS. Their might is exercised:
1. In resisting and overcoming temptation. In conquering the enemies of Christ as they assail and would destroy themselves. A man may be a hero in the service of his country and a miserable coward and slave morally and spiritually, yielding without resistance to the impulses of lust and passion, covetousness and ambition, led "captive by the devil at his will" (2 Timothy 2:26).
2. In patient endurance of suffering. Martyrs, confessors, ordinary sufferers. Some of the noblest of Christ's "mighty ones" are found in sick chambers, enduring pain and perhaps privation for long months or years without a murmur.
3. In assailing and conquering religious errors or practical evils. Especially when the many favour them, and not only opposition, but obloquy, has to be encountered.
4. In promoting the salvation and welfare of men. David's "mighty men" displayed their strength and courage chiefly in destroying men's lives; Christ's in saving and blessing; though occasionally they too are called to take up material weapons in the service of their King. In this service the noblest heroic qualities are often called into exercise, as in the ease of missionaries bearing their message among savages or into perilous climates; ministers of religion at home patiently and lovingly labouring on in obscurity and poverty; visitors of those suffering from infectious diseases; teachers in ragged schools, etc.
III. THEIR VARIETIES. David's "mighty men" were from various tribes of Israel, some even Gentiles, and had each his own peculiarities of character and achievement. But all were alike loyal to their king and brave in serving him. Thus it is also with Christ's mighty ones. They are from every country and nation where he is known, from every section of his Church, from every class of society; and they all bear some marks of their origin. But they all are one in their devoted love to their King, and their readiness to labour and suffer for him even unto death. They differ also in respect of the special elements and manifestations of their power. Some owe their pre-eminence in part to physical peculiarities; others are great in spite of theirs. Some have the might of intellect; others, of heart. Some, the power of inflexible determination; others, of gentleness and tenderness. Some conquer by intense activity; others, by passive endurance or quiet influence. Some are powerful through their ability to attract and lead numbers; others, acting alone. The special sphere of some is the home; of others, the Church; of others, the exchange, the factory, the workshop, or the public meeting. Some are mighty in argument; others, in appeal; some, in instructing; others, in consoling, etc.
IV. THEIR REWARD.
1. Promotion. David promoted those of his men who distinguished themselves by their bravery to posts of honour (2 Samuel 23:23). Similarly, our Lord teaches us that those who are faithful to him shall be advanced to higher positions of trust and power (Luke 19:17, Luke 19:19; Revelation 2:26-28; Revelation 3:12, Revelation 3:21). The display and exercise of noble qualities increases their vigour, and thus prepares for and ensures higher and wider service.
2. Honourable record. As here, "These be the names," etc; Christ's heroes also have their names, characters, and deeds recorded.
(1) Some on earth. In the Divine book; in ordinary biographies; in the memories of men.
(2) All in heaven (comp. Philippians 4:3). Not all who are mentioned in the earthly lists are in the heavenly; for some obtain a reputation here to which they are not justly entitled. Not all in the heavenly list are in the earthly; for good men are not omniscient, nor can they always discern superior worth, though it be before their eyes. The chief desire of us all should be to have a place in the heavenly records—to be "accepted of him" (2 Corinthians 5:9), whoever may reject or overlook us.
1. We should not be content just to exist as Christians, but should aim to be "mighty." This is possible to all, through union with the "strong Son of God," maintained and increased by vigorous exercises of faith, meditation, and prayer; and through faithful use of such power as they possess.
2. Whatever our might or achievements, we should ascribe all, and be sincerely concerned that others should ascribe all, to God. (2Sa 23:10, 2 Samuel 23:12.)—G.W.
2 Samuel 23:15-17
Love, courage, and stir-sacrifice.
This narrative is highly creditable to both David and these three brave men. It shows the power he had of awakening in his soldiers passionate attachment and devotedness to himself, his high appreciation of such qualities, and, at the same time his unwillingness that they should be displayed in enterprises which hazarded precious lives for no corresponding advantage. In the pouring of the water out as an offering unto the Lord, because it was too costly and sacred for ordinary use, "pure chivalry and pure religion found an absolute union" (Dean Stanley). On the other hand, the heroism of these men, stirred by their love and loyalty to their chief, although displayed in a rash enterprise, is worthy of great admiration. We are reminded of similar qualities found amongst the servants of the Son of David, our Lord Jesus Christ. Notice—
I. THE DEVOTED LOVE OF CHRIST'S FAITHFUL SERVANTS TO HIMSELF.
1. They show sincere and practical regard to his every wish. They do not need explicit commands in detail, still less accompanying threatenings. Enough if they can ascertain what he desires; and their love for him and converse with him enable them to know his wishes without definite verbal revelations or laws. A large portion of the life of many modem Christians, especially in the departments of Christian zeal and benevolence, is founded on no express command, but springs from love and sympathy—from that participation of the Spirit of Christ which produces intuitive discernment of his will, and that devoted attachment which prompts to the gratification of his every wish.
2. They are ready to encounter danger in his service. The work of Christ makes at times great demands on love, zeal, and courage. It cannot be done without hazard; but his true-hearted friends are prepared to endure the toil and brave the peril. Not a few in our own day may be described as "men that have hazarded their lives for the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 15:26). This spirit of Christian heroism is not confined to the more hardy races, but among' the softer tribes of Polynesia and India, the knowledge, of Christ has produced a similar courage. Converted natives offer themselves for service in the most dangerous fields of missionary enterprise; and when some fall at the hand of savages, or through attacks of deadly diseases, others eagerly press forward to take the vacant places. The language of St. Paul is still the language of faithful Christians, "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself," etc.; "I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die … for the Name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 20:24; Acts 21:13).
3. They are sometimes moved to extraordinary manifestations of their regard. Like the three heroes whose exploit is here recorded. Like Mary in her lavish anointing of her Lord (John 12:3). Warm love prompts to generous deeds and gifts. There is need of these in the service of Christ; and if ardent love to him were more common, they would be more frequent. Love should, however, submit to the guidance of wisdom, lest it become wasteful or injurious. Our Lord will accept mistaken offerings, but it is well that the offerings should themselves be such as he can approve. One safeguard against mistake is the remembrance that he desires no display of love which is fantastic or useless, no self-denial or daring which answers no proportionate end in the advancement of his kingdom and the promotion of the good either of our own souls or of our fellow men. There is abundant room for all possible generosity, self-denial, and bravery in the practical service of Christ and man; to expend these in fruitless ways is to expose our works to condemnation, however good and acceptable may be our motives. We are to serve God with our reason as well as our feelings.
II. THE REASONABLENESS AND RIGHTNESS OF SUCH LOVE. Because of:
1. His self-sacrificing love for them. "The love of Christ constraineth us" (2 Corinthians 5:14) is their sufficient answer to any who allege that they are "beside themselves" (2 Corinthians 5:13). His love requires and justifies the utmost consecration to him of heart and life.
2. His injunctions. He claims from all who follow him that they should love him more than their nearest relations more than their own life (Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26), and that, in serving him, they should be fearless of death (Luke 12:4).
3. His example. Of love to the Father, and complete devotedness to his will and glory (John 14:31; John 4:34; Matthew 26:39, Matthew 26:42; John 12:27, John 12:28).
4. The effects of such love. In purifying and ennobling the character of those who cherish it, and promoting through them the well being of mankind. It is love for all excellence, stimulates to its pursuit and greatly aids its attainment. It is the inspiration and support of the highest and most persistent benevolence; for he who is loved is the Incarnation of Divine holiness and love, and the great Friend and Benefactor of the human race, and the return he asks for his love to us is not a barren, sentimental devotion, but practical obedience (John 14:15, John 14:21, John 14:23), and especially a fruitful love to our brethren (John 15:12-14; 1 John 3:16-18), whom he teaches us to regard as being himself (Matthew 25:35-45). Love to Jesus Christ has been, and still is, the strongest motive-power in the world in favour of all godliness and goodness.
5. Its rewards. Love to Christ is not mercenary, and makes no stipulation for recompense. It is its own reward. Yet in the midst of a cold and unbelieving world it needs all supports. These are to be found in the assurance of the approval and affection of Christ himself, and of the Father (John 14:21, John 14:23; John 16:27), and the prospect of sharing the glory and joy of Christ forever (John 17:24; 2 Timothy 4:8; Matthew 19:29; James 1:12; James 2:5). On the other hand, to be destitute of love to Christ is to be lost (1 Corinthians 16:22).—G.W.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 23". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany