2 Samuel 23:18
And Abishai, the brother of Joab, the son of Zeruiah, was chief among three. And he lifted up his spear against three hundred, and slew them, and had the name among three.
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(18) Among three.—The Hebrew margin has “the three,” and so also the text in the following clause. “The three” are the triad of heroes just mentioned, of whom Abishai was first, Benaiah second, with an unnamed third. A somewhat similar feat of daring is told of Abishai in 1Samuel 26:6-12.

2 Samuel 23:18-19. Abishai was chief among three — The chief of those three mighty men before mentioned. See 1 Chronicles 11:20. Had the name among the three — That is, was most eminent and famous. Was he not most honourable? — Worthy to be the leader of them, for his superior valour and virtue? He attained not unto the first three — He fell short of them in strength and valour.

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.Three - "The three" 2 Samuel 23:22. It was Abishai's prowess on this occasion that raised him to be chief of this triad. 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]. He fought with and killed three hundred men in one battle.

Had the name among the three, i.e. was the most famous and eminent among them.

And Abishai, the brother of Joab, the son of Zeruiah, was chief among the three,.... Another triumvirate, of which he was the head:

and he lifted up his spear against three hundred, and slew them; Josephus (e) says six hundred; this seems to confirm the reading of 2 Samuel 23:8, that the number eight hundred is right, for if it was only three hundred, Abishai would have been equal to one, even the first, of the former three; which yet is denied him in 2 Samuel 23:19,

and had the name among three; of which he was one; and he had the chief name among them, or was the most famous of them.

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

And Abishai, the brother of Joab, the son of Zeruiah, was chief among three. And he lifted up his spear against three hundred, and slew them, and had the name among three.
18–23. Exploits of Abishai and Benaiah

18. Abishai] David’s valiant but hard-hearted nephew, who shared the command of the army with his brother Joab in the Ammonite war and in Absalom’s rebellion (ch. 2 Samuel 10:10; 2 Samuel 10:14, 2 Samuel 18:2). The characteristic trait of his nature was a blunt impetuous ferocity. See 1 Samuel 26:8; 2 Samuel 16:9; 2 Samuel 19:21.

chief among three] The Qrî reads chief of the three; those namely who were mentioned in 2 Samuel 23:17. But the Kthîbh has chief of the aides-de-camp, as in 2 Samuel 23:8.

among three] As before, among the three.

Verse 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 ver. 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 23:18Heroes of the second class. - 2 Samuel 23:18, 2 Samuel 23:19. Abishai, Joab's brother (see 1 Samuel 26:6), was also chief of the body-guard, like Jashobeam (2 Samuel 23:8 : the Chethib השּׁלשׁי is correct; see at 2 Samuel 23:8). He swung his spear over three hundred slain. "He had a name among the three," i.e., the three principal heroes, Jashobeam, Eleazar, and Shammah. The following words, מן־השּׁלשׁה, make no sense. השּׁלשׁה is an error in writing for השּׁלשׁים, as 2 Samuel 23:23 shows in both the texts (2 Samuel 23:25 of the Chronicles): an error the origin of which may easily be explained from the word שׁלשׁה, which stands immediately before. "He was certainly honoured before the thirty (heroes of David), and became their chief, but he did not come to the three," i.e., he was not equal to Jashobeam, Eleazar, and Shammah. הכי has the force of an energetic assurance: "Is it so that," i.e., it is certainly so (as in 2 Samuel 9:1; Genesis 27:36; Genesis 29:15).
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