2 Samuel 23:13
And three of the thirty chief went down, and came to David in the harvest time unto the cave of Adullam: and the troop of the Philistines pitched in the valley of Rephaim.
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(13) Three of the thirty.—For “three” the Hebrew text reads “thirty” by a manifest error, which is corrected in the margin. These are not the same three (since there is no definite article) with those just mentioned, but were another three more eminent than the rest of the thirty, two of them being, no doubt, Abishai and Benaiah (2Samuel 23:18; 2Samuel 23:23). “The thirty” seems to have been a common name for this band of heroes (comp. 2Samuel 23:23-24, &c), who were perhaps originally exactly thirty, but whose number varied from time to time, being here given (2Samuel 23:39) as thirty-seven.

In the harvest time.—“The preposition does not mean in, and the reading in 1Chronicles 11:15 ‘to the rock’ is perhaps the true one” (Kirkpatrick). On “the valley of Rephaim,” see Note on 2Samuel 5:18.

23:8-39 David once earnestly longed for the water at the well of Bethlehem. It seems to be an instance of weakness. He was thirsty; with the water of that well he had often refreshed himself when a youth, and it was without due thought that he desired it. Were his valiant men so forward to expose themselves, upon the least hint of their prince's mind, and so eager to please him, and shall not we long to approve ourselves to our Lord Jesus, by ready compliance with his will, as shown us by his word, Spirit, and providence? But David poured out the water as a drink-offering to the Lord. Thus he would cross his own foolish fancy, and punish himself for indulging it, and show that he had sober thoughts to correct his rash ones, and knew how to deny himself. Did David look upon that water as very precious which was got at the hazard of these men's blood, and shall not we much more value those benefits for purchasing which our blessed Saviour shed his blood? Let all beware of neglecting so great salvation.The feat at Bethlehem by three of the thirty was the occasion of their being formed into a distinct triad; Abishai 2 Samuel 23:18, Benaiah 2 Samuel 23:20, and a third not named, were probably the three.

In the harvest time - An error for "to the rock" (compare the marginal reference).

The troop of the Philistines - The word rendered "troop" occurs in this sense only here (and, according to some, in 2 Samuel 23:11), and perhaps in Psalm 68:11. In 1 Chronicles 11, as in 2 Samuel 23:16 the reading is "host" or "camp," which may be the true reading here.

Pitched - The same Hebrew word as "encamped" in 1 Chronicles 11:15.

Valley of Rephaim - Or Giants. See 2 Samuel 21:16 note.

2Sa 23:8-39. A Catalogue of His Mighty Men.

8. These be the names of the mighty men whom David had—This verse should be translated thus: He who sits in the seat of the Tachmonite (that is, of Jashobeam the Hachmonite), who was chief among the captains, the same is Adino the Eznite; he lift up his spear against eight hundred, whom he slew at one time. The text is corrupt in this passage; the number eight hundred should be three hundred [Davidson, Hermeneutics]. Under Joab he was chief or president of the council of war. The first or highest order was composed of him and his two colleagues, Eleazar and Shammah. Eleazar seems to have been left to fight the Philistines alone; and on his achieving the victory, they returned to the spoil. In like manner Shammah was left to stand alone in his glory, when the Lord, by him, wrought a great victory. It is not very easy to determine whether the exploits that are afterwards described were performed by the first or the second three.

Three of the thirty; either,

1. The three already named, as is generally supposed, because it is said of them, in the close of this history, 1 Chronicles 11:19, These things did these three mightiest. But in the Hebrew it is only these three mighty men, as the same words are rendered here, 2 Samuel 23:17. Or rather,

2. The following

three; for it is expressly said, both here, 2 Samuel 23:18, and 1 Chronicles 11:20, that

Abishai was chief, and therefore one of the three; and this three are plainly distinguished from the first three, 2 Samuel 23:19 1 Chronicles 11:25.

Unto the cave of Adullam; which was a strong place, where David had been before, 1 Samuel 22:1, &c., and where he had now again fortified himself in the beginning of his reign, when the Philistines were too strong for him.

In the valley of Rephaim; of which see above, @2 Samuel 5:18.

And three of the thirty chiefs went down,.... Or three that were chief of the thirty, superior to them; which some understand of the three before mentioned, so Josephus (w); and that having related some particular exploits of theirs, here observes one, in which they were all concerned; and others think the three next are meant, of whom Abishai was the chief, Benaiah the next, and the third Asahel; but the first sense is best:

and came to David in the harvest time, unto the cave of Adullam; not when he was there, upon his flight from Saul, 1 Samuel 22:1; but after he was king, when engaged in war with the Philistines; perhaps wheat harvest is here meant:

and the troop of the Philistines pitched in the valley of Rephaim; the army of the Philistines, as the Targum; of the valley of Rephaim; see Gill on Joshua 15:8.

(w) Antiqu. l. 7. c. 12. sect. 4.

And three of the thirty chief went down, and came to David in the harvest time unto the cave of Adullam: and the troop of the Philistines pitched in the valley of Rephaim.
13. three of the thirty chief] Not the three mentioned before, but in all probability Abishai, Benaiah, and a third not named, who were promoted from the “Thirty” to form a second triad as a reward for this feat of valour.

in the harvest time] The preposition does not mean in, and the reading of 1 Chronicles 11:15 to the rock is perhaps the true one.

the cave of Adullam] David’s old haunt in the valley of Elah. See note on 1 Samuel 22:1.

the valley of Rephaim] See note on ch. 2 Samuel 5:18. The mention of the “hold” and this valley together in both narratives makes it not improbable that the exploit of the three heroes occurred in the invasion related in ch. 2 Samuel 5:17 ff.

13–17. The water of the well at Beth-lehem

Verse 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 case, 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 23:13To this deed there is appended a similar heroic feat performed by three of the thirty heroes whose names are not given. The Chethib שׁלשׁים is evidently a slip of the pen for שׁלשׁה (Keri and Chronicles). The thirty chiefs are the heroes named afterwards. As שׁלשׁה has no article either in our text or the Chronicles, the three intended are not the three already mentioned (Jashobeam, Eleazar, and Shammah), but three others out of the number mentioned in 2 Samuel 23:24. These three came to David in the harvest time unto the cave of Adullam (see at 1 Samuel 22:1), when a troop of the Philistines was encamped in the valley of Rephaim, and David was on the mountain fortress, and a Philistian post was then in Bethlehem. And David longed for water, and said, "Oh that one would bring me water to drink out of the well of Bethlehem at the gate!" The encampment of the Philistines in the valley of Rephaim, and the position of David on the mountain fortress (בּמּצוּדה), render it probable that the feat mentioned here took place in the war with the Philistines described in 2 Samuel 5:17. Robinson could not discover any well in Bethlehem, "especially none 'by the gate,' except one connected with the aqueduct on the south" (Palestine, vol. ii. p. 158). בּשּׁער need not be understood, however, as signifying that the well was in or under the gate; but the well referred to may have been at the gate outside the city. The well to which tradition has given the name of "David's well" (cisterna David), is about a quarter of an hour's walk to the north-east of Bethlehem, and, according to Robinson's description, is "merely a deep and wide cistern or cavern now dry, with three or four narrow openings cut in the rock." But Ritter (Erdk. xvi. p. 286) describes it as "deep with clear cool water, into which there are three openings from above, which Tobler speaks of as bored;" and again as a cistern "built with peculiar beauty, from seventeen to twenty-one feet deep, whilst a house close by is pointed out to pilgrims as Jesse's house."
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