2 Samuel 23:16
And the three mighty men broke through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out to the LORD.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) Poured it out unto the Lord.—The brave act of the three heroes shows strikingly the personal power of David over his followers and the enthusiasm with which he inspired them. Yet, on the other hand, David would not suffer his own longing to be gratified by the hazard of men’s lives. Taking the water, therefore, he “poured it out unto the Lord.” The word is the technical term for the sacrificial libation, and David assimilated his act to a sacrifice by a solemn consecration of this dangerously won water to the Lord.

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.Brake through the host - Their camp was pitched in the valley of Rephaim 2 Samuel 23:13; 1 Chronicles 11:15. It follows from this that the way from Adullam to Bethlehem lay through or across the valley of Rephaim.

Poured it out unto the Lord - It was too costly for his own use, none but the Lord was worthy of it. For libations, see Judges 6:20 note.

15, 16. the well of Beth-lehem—An ancient cistern, with four or five holes in the solid rock, at about ten minutes distance to the north of the eastern corner of the hill of Beth-lehem, is pointed out by the natives as Bir-Daoud; that is, David's well. Dr. Robinson doubts the identity of the well; but others think that there are no good grounds for doing so. Certainly, considering this to be the ancient well, Beth-lehem must have once extended ten minutes further to the north, and must have lain in times of old, not as now, on the summit, but on the northern rise of the hill; for the well is by or (1Ch 11:7) at the gate. I find in the description of travellers, that the common opinion is, that David's captains had come from the southeast, in order to obtain, at the risk of their lives, the so-much-longed-for water; while it is supposed that David himself was then in the great cave that is not far to the southeast of Beth-lehem; which cave is generally held to have been that of Adullam. But (Jos 15:35) Adullam lay "in the valley"; that is, in the undulating plain at the western base of the mountains of Judea and consequently to the southwest of Beth-lehem. Be this as it may, David's men had in any case to break through the host of the Philistines, in order to reach the well; and the position of Bir-Daoud agrees well with this [Van De Velde]. The host of the Philistines was in the valley of Rephaim, 2 Samuel 23:13, and in the way to Beth-lehem.

He would not drink thereof; lest by gratifying himself upon such terms, he should seem either to set too high a price upon the satisfaction of his appetite, or too low a price upon the lives of his soldiers, or should encourage others to the like vain-glorious and foolish attempts.

Poured it out unto the Lord, as a kind of drink-offering, and acknowledgment of God’s goodness in preserving the lives of his captains in so dangerous an enterprise; and to show that he esteemed it as a sacred thing, which, considering all things, it was not fit for him to drink it. And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines,.... Which lay in the valley of Rephaim, between the hold in which David was and the well of Bethlehem; these three men hearing David express himself in the above manner, though without any view that any should risk their lives to obtain it, only in a general way said, oh for a draught of the water of the well of Bethlehem! immediately set out, and made their way through the army of the Philistines to the well:

and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate,

and took it, and brought it to David; in a vessel which they probably carried with them for that purpose:

nevertheless he would not drink thereof; because, say they who take these words in a spiritual sense, it was not this water, but spiritual water, he desired: but the reason is given in 2 Samuel 23:17,

but poured it out unto the Lord; as a libation to him, it being rather blood than water, being fetched at the hazard of men's lives, and therefore more fit to be offered as a sacrifice to God than to be drank by him; and this he might do in thankfulness to God for preserving the lives of the men. Gersom thinks it was now the feast of tabernacles, which was the feast of ingathering the fruits of the earth, when great quantities of water were drawn and poured out at the altar, which was done to obtain the blessing of the former rain; See Gill on John 7:37 and See Gill on John 7:38.

And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but {k} poured it out unto the LORD.

(k) Bridling his affection, and also desiring God not to be offended for that rash enterprise.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. brake through the host of the Philistines] A striking proof of the enthusiasm which David inspired in his followers, and a noble instance of the true spirit of chivalry, which fears no danger and shrinks from no self-sacrifice, in order to do the smallest service for the object of its devotion; the spirit which is perfected in the highest example of love (John 15:13).

poured it out unto the Lord] The sacrificial term for pouring out a drink-offering or libation (Genesis 35:14, &c.). “That which had been won by the lives of those three gallant chiefs 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 formed an absolute union.” Stanley’s Lect. II. 54.Verses 16, 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." "After him (i.e., next to him in rank) was Eleazar the son of Dodai the Ahohite, among the three heroes with David when they defied the Philistines, who had assembled there, and the Israelites drew near." The Chethib דדי is to be read דּודי, Dodai, according to 1 Chronicles 27:4, and the form דּודו (Dodo) in the parallel text (1 Chronicles 11:12) is only a variation in the form of the name. Instead of בּן־אחחי (the son of Ahohi) we find העחחי (the Ahohite) in the Chronicles; but the בּן must not be struck out on that account as spurious, for "the son of an Ahohite" is the same as "the Ahohite." For גּבּרים בּשׁלשׁה we must read הגּבּרים בּשׁלשׁה, according to the Keri and the Chronicles. שׁלשׁה is not to be altered, since the numerals are sometimes attached to substantives in the absolute state (see Ges. 120, 1). "The three heroes" are Jashobeam, Eleazar, and Shammah (2 Samuel 23:11), who reached the first rank, according to 2 Samuel 23:19, among the heroes of David. Instead of בּפּלשׁתּים בּחרפם (when they defied the Philistines), we find in the Chronicles והפּלשׁתּים דּמּים בּפּס, "at Pas-dammim," i.e., most probably Ephes-dammim (1 Samuel 17:1), where the Philistines were encamped when Goliath defied the Israelites. Thenius, Bertheau, and Bttcher therefore propose to alter our text so as to make it correspond to that of the Chronicles, and adduce as the reason the fact that in other passages חרף is construed with the accusative, and that שׁם, which follows, presupposes the previous mention of the place referred to. But the reasons are neither of them decisive. חרף .evisiced is not construed with the accusative alone, but also with ל (2 Chronicles 32:17), so that the construction with ב is quite a possible one, and is not at variance with the idea of the word. שׁם again may also be understood as referring to the place, not named, where the Philistines fought with the Israelites. The omission of אשׁר before נעספוּ is more difficult to explain; and והפּלשׁתּים, which we find in the Chronicles, has probably dropped out after בּפּלשׁתּים. The reading in the Chronicles דּמּים בּפּס (בּאפס) is probably only a more exact description of the locality, which is but obscurely indicated in our text by בּפּלשׁתּים בּחרפם; for these words affirm that the battle took place where the Israelites had once been defied by the Philistines (1 Samuel 17:10), and where they repaid them for this defiance in a subsequent conflict. The Philistines are at any rate to be regarded as the subject to נעספוּ, and these words are a circumstantial clause: the Philistines had assembled together there to battle, and the Israelites had advanced to the attack. The heroic act of Eleazar is introduced with "he arose." He arose and smote the Philistines till his hand was weary and clave to his sword, i.e., was so cramped as to be stiffened to the sword. Through this Jehovah wrought a great salvation for Israel on that day, "and the people (the soldiers) turned after him only to plunder," sc., because he had put the enemy to flight by himself. אחריו שׁוּב does not mean to turn back from flight after him, but is the opposite of מאחרי שׁוּב, to turn away from a person (1 Samuel 15:11, etc.), so that it signifies "to turn to a person and follow behind him." Three lines have dropped out from the parallel text of the Chronicles, in consequence of the eye of a copyist having wandered from נעספוּ פלשׁתּים in 2 Samuel 23:9 to פלשׁתּים ויּעספוּ in 2 Samuel 23:11.
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