2 Samuel 23:16
And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto the LORD.
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(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.

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." 2 Samuel 23:16The three heroes then broke through the camp of the Philistines at Bethlehem, i.e., the outpost that occupied the space before the gate, fetched water out of the well, and brought it to David. He would not drink it, however, but poured it out upon the ground to the Lord, as a drink-offering for Jehovah. "He poured it out upon the earth, rendering Him thanks for the return of the three brave men" (Clericus). And he said, "Far be it from me, O Jehovah, to do this! The blood of the men who went with their lives (i.e., at the risk of their lives)," sc., should I drink it? The verb אשׁתּה is wanting in our text, but is not to be inserted according to the Chronicles as though it had fallen out; the sentence is rather to be regarded as an aposiopesis. יהוה after לי חלילה is a vocative, and is not to be altered into מיהוה according to the מאלחי of the Chronicles. The fact that the vocative does not occur in other passages after לי חלילה proves nothing. It is equivalent to the oath יהוה חי (1 Samuel 14:45). The chronicler has endeavoured to simplify David's exclamation by completing the sentence. בּנפשׁותם, "for the price of their souls," i.e., at the risk of their lives. The water drawn and fetched at the risk of their lives is compared to the soul itself, and the soul is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11). Drinking this water, therefore, would be nothing else than drinking their blood.
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