Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE WISDOM OF THE COMMUNITY. All Israel:
1. Made their choice with discernment. The nation did not act precipitately, blindly, with a rash and ruinous impulsiveness. It had good reason for what it did. It elected to elevate David to the supreme post because
(1) he could claim very close relationship: "We are thy bone and thy flesh;" a fact which ensured his deep interest and patriotism;
(2) he had rendered valuable service in past days: "Thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel" (ver. 2);
(3) Divine designation: "The Lord thy God said unto thee," etc. (ver. 2); - three excellent reasons for their procedure.
2. Acted afterwards with wise precaution, Instead of trusting absolutely to the lasting virtue of a good man, they bound him to royal fidelity with a solemn pledge: they met the king in Hebron, and "he made a covenant with them... before the Lord" (ver. 3). This was most wise; they did not then know for a certainty what manner of monarch David would prove. It would have been blind and foolish on their part, in the last degree, to have committed themselves absolutely and without any guarantee into the new king's hands. Here are lessons for all communities (nations, societies, Churches, etc.) for all time.
(1) Think well before taking an important step which involves large issues.
(2) Choose for a leader the man who is likely to cherish a real and living interest in the well-being of the community.
(3) Prefer the man who has given assurance, by past action, of integrity and ability.
(4) Make much of Divine indications.
(5) Have a distinct understanding, carefully and solemnly ratified, before actually entering on the new relationship. Let there be no possible mistake on either side as to what is expected.
II. THE WISDOM OF THE KING. David did two wise things on this occasion.
1. He commenced his reign over united Israel by an act of courage and patriotism (vers. 4, 5).
2. He gave prominence and power to the man who earned them by his merit (ver. 6). Here are two lessons for leaders of all times.
(1) Strive to start well. To make a favourable commencement of a ministry, or of a government or office of any kind, is not everything; but it is much. It is a great step toward a real success; therefore, in beginning a new work with new workers, put forth the utmost energy and start promisingly.
(2) Show favour to the deserving. Let not kinship, nor friendship, nor the commendations of others, but personal merit shown in the face of duty and difficulty, be the condition of honour. Let the prize be to him who has won it. Partiality will soon destroy confidence and wear away affection. Impartiality will secure respect and love. Then as "David dwelt in the castle," will the wise leader of the community dwell in the stronghold of the esteem and affection of the Church or the community. - C.
the people are the source of all power in the state; or may single out the word "covenant" here, and dwell on the fact that David is the first example in history of a constitutional monarchy. We look above and beyond these things, to a Divine Giver fulfilling a long-despaired-of promise. That the precedent may have all its weight of consolation for the despairing inheritors of God's promises, let us mark successively -
(1) The seeming impossibility of this promise being fulfilled; and
(2) its blessed and complete fulfilment.
I. OBSERVE THE SEEMING IMPOSSIBILITY OF DAVID'S PROMISE BEING FULFILLED. NOT many arguments are usually needed to drive us to despair. Many of us when all is brightest cannot believe the good word spoken to us. How much more David might have concluded that the fulfilment of this promise was utterly outside the reach of all possibility! Look at the arguments of despair with which Satan could assail him.
1. There was already a monarch established in his throne. The choice of the whole people. And at the time the promise was made to David everything indicated he was the worthy choice of Israel. He had the hold which popular election, Divine approval, a generous disposition, great physical courage and prowess, great natural kingliness, conspired to give him. Nor had he any lack of heirs. There were three conspicuous sons - Jonathan; Abinadab, Melchi-shua, all worthy to succeed him. One of them, by his noble generosity and kindness, which blended with the noblest martial qualities, made him the darling and pride of the nation. There were other sons and grandsons. How was it possible that all these should be superseded and he made king? Especially impossible would this seem when he remembered that:
2. He did not belong to a tribe whose rulership would be acceptable to Israel, and did not even belong to the chief family of that tribe. Ephraim aspired to be the leading tribe of Israel. Her land centrally situate, she had been, from the days of Joseph downward, the leading tribe. They might as their first king accept a man of Benjamin, not caring to press their claims when they were securing one from a tribe always in friendliest alliance with their own, and too small to dream of rivalling them in importance. But would Ephraim ever admit Judah her rival to give Israel a king? And even if they were willing, would the great families of Judah accept that of Jesse as the royal house, when the family of Caleb was still found in Hebron? Yea, if they were willing, would his own family be? There were his brothers, great in warlike force; the eldest sufficiently kingly for Samuel to deem him the chosen of the Lord. There was his uncle Joab, probably no older than himself, and his brothers, all of them capable of ambition. Why should he be the one? Did his pride or legitimate complacency venture to go back to the great day at Ephes-dammim when he slew Goliath? There was Eleazar, who in the same conflict had supported David and won a great renown, and Jashobeam, who "slew three hundred at one time," and half a score of others who had done deeds of romantic fame. So that even before the enmity of Saul broke out there was enough to make David despair of his ever seeing the promise fulfilled. Then next:
3. Saul with all his forces sets himself to destroy David. The insanity that overtook Saul seemed to leave David no hope. The enmity so persistent; the whole soldiery of the kingdom available and employed to seize and destroy him; the land a little land - not much larger than Yorkshire; - what chance was there of surviving such a pursuit? The only defenders he could find were the rabble of outlawed people or men of broken character and fortunes, who could not lose by any change, but possibly might gain. Should he meet Saul in battle, his name would have a stigma of rebellion fatal to all kingly hopes. Should he avoid a battle, it was hard to see by what other means he could avoid the certain fate which seemed awaiting him. And when year after year this lasted, and David was "hunted like a partridge on the mountains," how inevitably would all hope of the fulfilment of God's promise fade from his soul I And yet the greatest difficulty of all remains to be noted. At last he cuts the knot of suspense, and, giving up all hope of the crown, he seeks to secure his life, and actually:
4. He enlists in the service of the enemies of Israel. We know not with what reservations he enters the service of Achish, whether he had intended the treason of fighting against Israel, or the treason of siding with Israel against the Philistines after receiving their hospitality and pledging faithfulness to them. Despair was working its usual folly and recklessness; and he had put himself in one of those false positions which are above all things to be avoided. And doing so, he not only abandoned for ever all thought of being king, but seemed to make the throne impossible. But even here God steps in, and, by raising up opposition on the part of the lords of the Philistines, saves him from the shame which would have dishonoured him whether he had fought against Israel or Israel's enemies. But put all these together: the settledness of the dynasty of Saul; the disadvantages of David's birth; the persecutions of Saul; his own break-down in faith; - and would you in his circumstances have been ever able to hops for the fulfilment of this great promise? Would you not rather have looked back on it as the dream of a friendly nature and as nothing more? Are there more impediments to-day in the way of God's promise to you being fulfilled than studded the way to the fulfilment of these? Yet observe, spite of all these impossibilities -
II. THE COMPLETE AND BLESSED FULFILMENT OF ALL GOD'S PROMISES. Consider how many things go to this.
1. There is the opportunity for making himself known to all Israel.
2. Then, by marvellous providential deliverances and by restraints on the heart of Saul, every effort to destroy David is frustrate.
3. Then, God saves him from himself, from the complications of his own despair, by keeping him entirely out of the war between Saul and the Philistines.
4. Then, Saul and his three sons fall together at Gilboa, and the only son of Saul remaining is one without any of the strength requisite for kingship. The house of Judah accepts him as the ruler fittest to secure them from the Philistines, one whose very name is itself worth an army. And Benjamin, nearest to the Philistines, is glad to do the same. Then, while the conflict with Ishbosheth has the minimum of slaughter that could be found in civil war, it daily made the eminence of David more conspicuous. And so it happens that, without any effort, toil, or solicitude on God's part, all things are brought round so perfectly that at last all the tribes of Israel come and invite him to be king. And that at the right time, viz. as soon as he was fit for such a post. He reached it and held it forty years in the richest manner; his kingdom reaching dimensions and prosperity hitherto never dreamed of, and being transmitted to a long line of descendants, seventeen generations holding the throne before the Captivity broke the line. And even so, what is impossible with man ever proves to be possible with God. And the promise made to you - of pardon of your repented sins, or of grace to conquer indwelling evil, or of answer to your prayer, or of perseverance to the end, or of daily bread, or of help in every time of trouble - however impossible its fulfilment may seem, will be perfectly, easily, richly fulfilled by him whose love and power know none of the limits within which we have to work. - G.
2 Samuel 5:1-3). The repeated anointings in the presence of the heads of the kingdom seem to have been necessary to the general acknowledgment of the sovereign by the nation. In David we are to see Christ. In the "oneness of heart" to make him king (see 1 Chronicles 12:38), we see that love to Christ which constitutes all true subjects of the Saviour. It was simply love to himself which drew all these heroes around David. At his yearning for the water of the well of Bethlehem, it was this love that made them brave all danger, and, at the risk of their lives, "break through the host of the Philistines." In all this we see the personal love of the Lord's people to their King, Jesus. Love is the mighty bond - love to himself, love that will brave all dangers, love that will lay down its life for him - the reflection of his own shed abroad in their hearts. And the object of this great gathering was one, even as their hearts were one, viz. to make David king. Thus is it also the one desire of all the followers of Christ - that he shall be King. They would cast every crown at his feet and say, "Thou art worthy," and they long for the time when he shall be "King of kings and Lord of lords." But while they were "of one heart" to make David king, he, on his part, made a covenant with them. In this covenant he made himself over to them as their leader and captain, and that they should partake of the reward of his victories and of his glory. All this would be included in that covenant. In this, again, we see Christ, our true David, engaging to his faithful people all covenant blessings. "I will give unto you the sure mercies of David." His own wondrous love has bound them to himself, and that same love ensures to them, in a covenant that nothing can set aside, every spiritual and temporal blessing. "He hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." - W.
living God working in the sphere of material things for the highest good of his people.
I. GOD'S PROMISE OF THE THRONE TO DAVID. It had been made long years before, when David was but a youth (1 Samuel 16:13). It was made by the significant act of anointment, and by the inward witness of God's Spirit. But it was not accompanied with any assurance of immediate fulfilment. God's promises still may serve for years unto the culture of our dependence and trust, until he finds the fitting time for their realization. The Christian man now has the promise of the "inheritance undefiled," but only the promise; yet to him "faith is the substance of things hoped for."
II. WHEN THE PROMISE WAS GIVEN THE FULFILMENT SEEMED MOST UNLIKELY. Another king was actually seated on the throne. There were no outward signs of weakness in his rule; no perilous dissatisfactions among the people; and he was a strong, hale man, and likely to live and rule for many years. Moreover, this King Saul had a family, and, in the natural order of things, it would be expected that they should succeed him on the throne. And, as time advanced, Saul's enmity against David could not fail to create such party feeling as would greatly hinder, if not absolutely prevent, his ever securing the full allegiance of the nation. Taking these things fully into account, any one, looking on from his youth-time to David's future, would say that it was of all Possible things the most unlikely that he should ever occupy the royal throne. But one has skilfully said that "the unexpected is the thing that happens," and the seemingly impossible often becomes the fact. A man who holds fast God's promises need never be troubled by disadvantageous appearances. Following the Divine lead, a man's way unfolds step by step.
III. THOUGH HE HELD FAST THE PROMISE, DAVID NEVER FORCED ITS FULFILMENT; herein setting us a most noble and pious example. He never tried to make a national party; he never pressed himself into high court positions; he never resisted the enmity of Saul; when his enemy was actually in his power, and a spear-thrust appeared to be the step on to the throne, he would not take matters into his own hands (1 Samuel 26:9-11). And even when Saul was dead, David did not press forward or attempt to seize the full kingdom. It may be urged that this was good policy, but it was really something far deeper - it was that true piety, which finds its best expression in waiting on God and waiting for him. A common Christian sin is saying we trust God, yet taking life into our own hands.
IV. GOD MAKES HIS PROVIDENCES EVENTUALLY WORK OUT HIS PROMISES. We may conceive of all things and all events as under his control; and the hearts of all men are in his hands. He is the Divine Master of all man's wilfulnesses. The long ages are his to work in. He can not only use forces, but fit forces together, and compel them to serve his ends. Perhaps the greatest marvel of human life is the way in which things unfold, and seemingly impossible issues are reached. In St. Paul's thought, "All things work together for good." Full illustration is found in the events which led David to his throne. What, then, becomes the duty of the child of the Divine promises? Simply this - let him do the right, so far as he knows it, and in dependence on God's strength, day by day; and let him rest assured that the faithful Promise-keeper will find the fittings, and lead on to the final issues. - R.T.
I. HUMAN SOCIETY IS, ACCORDING TO THE APPOINTMENT OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE, COMPOSED OF THE LEADERS AND THE LED. Whilst in government there is much which is artificial, there is a natural foundation for the relationships which subsist. Parents direct the course of their children; elder brothers to some extent that of the younger; the capable, the self-confident, the experienced, are the natural leaders of the timid and submissive. In all human communities there are born leaders of men. If all distinctions were abolished to-day, to-morrow they would be revived in other forms. There is doubtless injustice in many political and social arrangements; but whilst the unjust acquisition and use of authority is of man, the principle of authority is from God.
II. LEADERSHIP OFTEN CALLS OUT GREAT QUALITIES. The fact of a man being placed in a position of influence and authority is sure, if he be capable and strong and under the domination of high principle, to elicit his best and most useful qualities. Especially will such a position foster habits of sound judgment and quick decision, habits of self-control and self-reliance, a just discernment of character, and aptness in recognizing ability and trustworthiness in others. Thus it is that a high position is fitted to lead to one yet higher (see this admirably shown in Henry Taylor's 'Philip van Artevelde'). It was leadership which made of the shepherd son of Jesse the warrior and King of Israel. As in other departments of life, so here, exercise promotes strength and development. Let none shrink from the responsibility of guiding others when Providence calls him to this work; strength and wisdom shall be "as his day."
III. IT IS FOR THE ADVANTAGE OF THOSE WHO ARE LED WHEN A SUITABLE AND CAPABLE LEADER IS PROVIDED BY THE DIVINE RULER. The power of "use and wont" is very strong. When men have been accustomed to be well led, their confidence in their leader grows with rapidity, and their attachment is consolidated by time. When the throne was vacant, the eyes of all Israel were turned to David. Their experience of his ability and valour, his designation by God's prophet, were the indications to them that the son of Jesse was the right man to rule over them. Events proved that they were not mistaken. The sway of David made the chosen people one great nation, and fitted them for the work appointed for them by the theocratic governor. There is in this passage a lesson specially suitable to young men of ability, education, and position. For such God in his providence has assuredly a work to do. It is for them quietly and patiently to await the indications of Divine providence, in the persuasion that faithfulness and diligence in present duty are the best preparation for future responsibilities. It is God's prerogative to train the workman and to provide the work. - T.
I. THE HUMAN AGENCY which led to David's accession to the throne. To many eyes no other than human agency was visible.
1. His own character and services marked David out as the one only ruler whom Israel could select and trust. Born a shepherd, he had yet within him the heart and the future of a king.
2. A popular election effected his elevation. It was the wish of "all Israel" that David should take the responsibilities of rule. In his election the old adage was verified - Vox populi vox Dei.
3. A senatorial requisition sanctioned and enforced the popular nomination. "All the elders of Israel" came to David, to express the general feeling and to prefer formally the national request. The appointment of the king was not the work of a moment of enthusiasm, was not the caprice of a mob; it was the deliberate act of the wisest and the noblest in the land.
II. THE DIVINE CAUSE of David's appointment to the throne. This may not have been apparent to all, but it is acknowledged with justice by the sacred historian.
1. A Divine prediction led to David's accession. The language of the people is very noticeable: "The Lord thy God said unto thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be ruler over my people Israel."
2. A prophetic designation foreshadowed it. The appointment, so we read, was made "according to the word of the Lord by Samuel" The same inspired seer who anointed Saul was directed to nominate his immediate successor.
3. A religious covenant ratified the nomination of David. When he "made a covenant with them in Hebron before the Lord," he acted in accordance with his religious convictions, but he acted also in a manner harmonizing with the theocratic position of Israel. Church and state were not merely allied, they were identical. Nothing more natural than that a sacred ceremony should accompany the public and political act. There is no trace of selfish ambition on David's part. He acknowledged the tremendous responsibilities of reigning. And in the sight of Jehovah his subjects undertook to co-operate with the monarch in seeking the general good.
PRACTICAL LESSONS of great value are suggested by this passage.
1. In all human history and biography there is a blending of the human and the Divine. Worldly men are in danger of looking only to "second causes;" possibly religious men may sometimes overlook these in an exclusive regard to the one great Divine Agent. We should seek the Divine in the human.
2. Elevation to great power involves great responsibility: A man who can think only of his own pleasure or magnificence, when Providence raises him to an exalted station, is not merely irreligious, he is unreasonable and unreflecting.
3. Social and political duties can only be discharged aright when fulfilled in a devout and prayerful spirit. The more responsible our position, the greater our need of a sincere confidence in the supreme Lord who is the supreme Guide of man. - T.
2 Samuel 2:13, 26, etc.), yet, in order of time, this passage is his first appearance, and only here have we the account of his prowess in taking Jebus, and his part in the building of the city of David. He probably had been chief captain of David's band of outlaws, but on this occasion he gained the position of general of the national army, and he became subsequently the great military statesman of the kingdom, and the chief king's counsellor. Probably he may be regarded as the man who exercised most influence over the king, and the careful review of their relations produces a deep impression that the influence was seldom a good one. He became David's master, and under his bondage David vainly writhed and struggled in his later years.
I. JOAB HIMSELF. The incidents by which he is made known to us are mainly the following: -
1. Abner's killing of Asahel, Joab's brother (2 Samuel 2:12-32), filled Joab with purposes of revenge.
2. Joab treacherously slew Abner (2 Samuel 3:6-39), and David felt himself too weak to do more than denounce the murder; he dare not punish the murderer.
3. Joab took a leading part in the wars of the reign, especially distinguishing himself against the Ammonites (2 Samuel 10:6-14).
4. Joab connived at David's sin in the matter of Bathsheba, and so gained the power over him which he so humiliatingly used afterwards.
5. Joab was faithful in the time of Absalom's rebellion.
6. He directly and insultingly disobeyed his king and lord in slaying Absalom.
7. He showed his mastery and his control of the army by killing Amass, who had been appointed chief general in his stead.
8. He properly remonstrated with David against his self-willed scheme of taking a census.
9. But after David's death he took the part of Adonijah, and was condemned by Solomon. He was strictly a man of the world, brave, daring, manly, generous, and persevering, but masterful, impatient of what he thought David's hesitancy and weakness; a man who saw clearly an end to be aimed at, and was in no way particular about the choice of means by which to reach it. He was unscrupulous, having no quick sensitiveness of conscience to that which is wrong. He ordered his life by the rule of the expedient, not the rule of the right, and was heedless of the claims of others if they stood in his way. A man who was a type of a class still to be found in business and social spheres, who are all for self, and do not mind who they trample down as they go up. "His character was ambitious, daring, unscrupulous, yet with an occasional show of piety" (2 Samuel 10:12). Wordsworth says, "Joab is the personification of worldly policy and secular expediency, and temporal ambition eager for its own personal aggrandizement, and especially for the maintenance of its own political ascendancy, and practising on the weaknesses of princes for its own self-interests; but at last the victim of its own Machiavellian shrewdness."
II. JOAB'S INFLUENCE ON DAVID. Sometimes it was good. He skilfully aided in the restoration of the banished Absalom; and he properly roused the king from the excessive grief he felt at the death of his favourite son. Again and again, with statesmanlike genius, he enabled David promptly to seize the occasions that promised success; and he had religion enough, or insight enough, to see where David was wrong in the matter of the census. But, as a whole, Joab's influence was bad. His unscrupulousness led David into crimes, and his masterfulness prevented David from properly punishing crimes. When conflict came between state necessity and religious duty, Joab gained the victory for mere policy, and so made David act in ways that were unworthy of one who was only Jehovah's vicegerent. It is never good for us to come into the power of any fellow-man. We should be ever in God's lead, but refuse any fellow-man's bonds. And no undue influence exerted by a fellow-man can ever relieve our responsibility before God. Craft, guile, policy, are no forces of blessing in any human spheres. - R.T.
I. THE TROPHY OF DAVID'S VALOUR. It was his prowess and that of his captain, Joab, that wrested the stronghold from the hands of the heathen.
II. THE STRUCTURE OF DAVID'S REGAL MAGNIFICENCE AND WARLIKE STRATEGY, Probably before this time it was nothing but a primitive fortress, strongly placed upon rocky heights. But David "built the city round about," and "Joab repaired the rest of the city." Henceforth "Jerusalem was a city compact together."
III. THE SCENE OF DAVID'S REIGN. Hebron was too far south to be a suitable capital for the united kingdom. Nature made Jerusalem for a metropolis. Here the king lived and ruled, prospered, sinned, suffered, and died.
IV. THE SEAT OF DAVID'S LINE. His son Solomon and the successive occupants of the throne of Judah held sway in this city, and some of them added to its splendour and its strength. Amidst its varying fortunes, its sieges, its dismantlements, its rebuildings, its festivities, Jerusalem retained the imperishable interest conferred by its association with the great founder of the Hebrew monarchy and dynasty. It was itself a memorial of its founder's name and life.
V. THE SCENE OF THE MINISTRY AND OF THE SEPULTURE OF DAVID'S SON AND LORD. Many of our Saviour's miracles were performed, many of Christ's discourses were delivered, in Jerusalem. It was over this city that Jesus wept; it was this city that Jesus entered in his lowly triumph; it was in this city that he died, for "it could not be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem;" and after our Lord's ascension, when his apostles preached his gospel, they were instructed to do so, "beginning at Jerusalem."
VI. IN ITS DESOLATION AND DESTRUCTION IT FURNISHED AN EXAMPLE OF RETRIBUTIVE JUSTICE EXECUTED ON DAVID'S POSTERITY. David's nation rejected David's Lord, and, according to his own prediction, their unbelief involved their metropolis in ruin.
"It moves me, Romans!
I. THE ELEMENTS OF DAVID'S GREATNESS. It consisted:
1. In warlike achievements. He was a man of war from his youth, and his manhood was occupied with the defence of his kingdom and the defeat of his foes.
2. In the valour of his captains. "Mighty men of valour" gathered around him, and contributed to his power and his fame.
3. In the prosperity of his people. That David's reign was an era of material prosperity is evident enough. If nothing else proved it, it would be established by the munificent offerings which the princes and the people presented at the close of David's reign towards the temple fund.
4. In the prevalence of religion. This appears from the establishment upon a grander scale of the Levitical and priestly orders, with the services, sacrifices, and festivals connected with the house of God. David's own psalms, sung as they were by the Levitical choirs, at once evidenced and furthered the prosperity of true religion.
II. THE GROWTH OF DAVID'S GREATNESS. He "waxed greater and greater." His career was one of continually advancing prosperity. As with most men favourably circumstanced, so in his case, success and prosperity were the cause of their own increase. "He went growing and growing."
III. THE EXPLANATION OF DAVID'S GREATNESS. "The Lord of hosts was with him." Cui adhoeres, praeest! the Lord God may better say than any earthly prince, He to whom I attach myself, he shall prosper. "The Lord of hosts was with David:"
1. To give him regal qualities.
2. To surround him with prudent counsellors, devoted friends, and faithful servants.
3. To give him favour with the people.
4. To reveal himself to his heart, as the Subject of praise, the Law of righteousness, the Lord of life.
1. It is within the power of all Christians, by the use of the means of grace, to grow constantly in true excellence.
2. Only by the presence and aid of the Most High can we be justified in looking for progress and true prosperity. - T.
I. HOW GOD'S PRESENCE PROVED AN ENLARGEMENT TO THE KING. It resulted in:
1. An increase in his territory. God prospered him in war; his enemies were beaten; his dominion was enlarged, so much so that the prophecy of Genesis 15:18-21 was fulfilled.
2. The growth of power and influence in his royal person. David became more and more established in the regard, the confidence, and the affection of Israel. The whole nation came to yield him a full and unhesitating allegiance.
3. The rise of national power and influence over neighbouring nations. The kingdom of Israel had been little or nothing to the surrounding peoples, Now, however, it acquired consideration. The potentates of the East were glad to make treaties, to be on amicable terms with it.
4. The enlargement of his spiritual nature. We cannot say that David's spiritual course was "the path of the just, shining brighter and brighter unto the perfect day." It certainly suffered temporary eclipse, even if it did not, after a certain period, steadily decline. But we may indulge the belief that, for some time after his elevation to supreme power, it was not only in circumstance but in soul that he" waxed greater and greater."
II. How GOD'S PRESENCE IS AN ENLARGEMENT TO OURSELVES. If God be with us, with his Divine favour, with his providing and protecting care, with his Spirit's influence, it may be that he will give us enlargement in the shape of:
2. Our views. We shall see, know, understand, more and more of himself, of ourselves, of the meaning and the capacity of our human life, of his holy will as revealed in his Word.
3. Our affections. He will "enlarge our heart" (Psalm 119:32). We shall embrace more in our kindly sympathies. Our purer, nobler, more generous feeling will flow forth to all those who are the most necessitous - to the "little ones" of Christ, to "them that are a far off."
4. Our influence. We shall become more of a blessing to those with whom we have to do. As God teaches us, disciplines us, ennobles us, we shall have a gathering and growing power over our kindred, our associates, our neighbours.
5. Our hopes. These will be gradually withdrawn from the small circle of time, and reach forth into the vast amplitude of eternity; and they will become ever higher and nobler as immortal life presents itself to us less as a mere endless enjoyment and more as a ceaseless service. - C.
I. THE OPEN AND APPARENT REASONS FOR HUMAN SUCCESS. We can so easily see - or fancy that we see - how they are due to human forces, such as exceptional talents; marvellous energy, such as that of the tradesman in Chicago, who raised a hut of the singed logs from his burnt warehouse, and put on it this sign, "All gone, save wife, children, and energy;" or a perseverance that will not yield to any hindrances or difficulties, that glories in triumphing over obstacles. Sometimes we say that success is due to a happy combination of circumstances, or good luck. And it does seem as if circumstances could favour individuals. Asaph, in the olden time, puzzled over the prosperity that seems to come so freely to bad men. And we may, with perfect propriety and full consistency with right religious feelings, recognize that human success is, as a rule, the appropriate reward of talent, and faculty, and perseverance, and good judgment. Success cannot be guaranteed as' the response to these; but it is their ordinary and natural result, the proper issue toward which they tend. And even from our Christian standpoint, we properly urge a careful attention to all those ordinary conditions on which the prosperity of life depends. It is quite true that "the blessing of the Lord maketh rich; but it is also true that the blessing comes as a gracious using and sanctifying of all right and worthy human endeavour. God will give his best to no man unless the man will do his best. God blesses no man's idleness and no man's thoughtlessness. We may lay on God's altar for acceptance only our best possible.
II. THE SECRET AND REAL REASONS FOR HUMAN SUCCESS.
1. Divine permission. God may withhold success. He may know that, in particular cases, it would not be the best thing; so "if the Lord will" must tone our very desire to win earthly prosperities.
2. Divine presence and blessing. "The Lord of hosts was with him," not only in the sense of giving his presence and gracious help, but in the further sense of approving his schemes and aiding in their accomplishment. Of the first kind of Divine presence we may be always assured. Of the second kind we can be assured only when we so fully hold ourselves open to the Divine love and lead that what we plan and purpose is only and exactly what the Lord would have us do. Still, we must realize that, for us, our true life-success may not be that which we fashion for ourselves; it can only be that which God fashions for us. We may be a long time finding out what God's success for us is. And it is so often difficult for us to read it aright and under- stand it worthily, because it often has this subtlety in it - God holds within it a design of personal culture, and that he counts to be the very highest form of life- success. The great thing to win is the "holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." - R.T.
I. THAT NO MAN, HOWEVER GREAT AND WISE, CAN DISPENSE WITH THE CO-OPERATION OF OTHERS. David's elevation to the throne was largely due to his own character and to his own deeds. That was noble and winning; these were great and worthy. But he could not and would not have become king over all Israel, had not these mighty men "strengthened themselves with him... to make him king" (ver. 10). And though the power and glory of his long reign were, to a great extent, the product of the king's own wisdom, valour, and loyalty to Jehovah, yet the deeds of his mighty men had much to do with the triumphs he won and the power he wielded. No Christian leader can accomplish great things without an active following on the part of brave and true men, who "strengthen themselves with him." Around the illustrious men whose names are household words and who wrought great things for Christ and for the world, there were gathered others, less in moral and spiritual stature than they, whose names were unwritten or have faded from view, but whose co-operation ensured success. All who would accomplish much must know how to surround themselves with others who will second their work and sustain their hands.
II. THAT MEN MAY SERVE A GOOD CAUSE ANIMATED BY VARIOUS MOTIVES. It is impossible to suppose that all those who "strengthened themselves with David... according to the word of the Lord" (ver. 10) took their part, then and afterwards, solely on the ground that they were thus carrying out the Divine will. Doubtless they had their personal ambitions. The court at Jerusalem was not without its rivalries and jealousies. The mighty men were no doubt stirred to more daring deeds because they hoped to "have a name among the three" (vers. 20, 24), if not the" first three" (ver. 21); or among "the thirty" (ver. 25), if not the three; or to be counted among "the valiant men of the armies" (ver. 26). In our Christian warfare we should be actuated by the very highest considerations - by the love of Christ and the love of man. we may also be affected, may let our zeal burn more steadily and brightly, by considerations less lofty than these - by the desire to gain the approval of our leaders, by the hope of a large reward, etc.
III. THAT MEN MAY DEDICATE THEIR PHYSICAL PROWESS TO THE SERVICE OF GOD AND OF THEIR KIND. The worthies whose deeds are here recorded were rendering a not unimportant service to their race. The reign of David had a certain serious bearing on the whole plan of Providence. It was, perhaps, an essential link in the whole redemptive chain. In this light the exploits of these heroes, who helped to place David in regal power and to sustain him on the throne of Israel, formed a contribution to the work of God and the redemption of man. The tendency of our nature is to overestimate such brilliant feats as those of this chapter (vers. 11-14, 20, 22, 23). But it is possible, by a reaction of thought, to under-estimate them, and even to deny them a place in the account of honourable service. Physical prowess has served and yet may serve the cause of truth, righteousness, wisdom.
IV. 'THAT USUALLY IN OTHER WAYS THAN THESE GOD ASKS AND ACCEPTS OUR SERVICE. Now, in these Christian times, it is
(1) by moral rather than by physical courage;
(2) in obscurity rather than in distinction;
(3) with the sword of the Spirit rather than with the sword of steel, that we are to win victories and render service to our Lord. - C.
I. HEROES COLLECT ABOUT A HERO. There are few qualities which are not more or less contagious. Corruption corrupts, and strength invigorates others. Honour sets its fashion, and vice finds many to copy it. The bad man has to answer, not only for the harm he does, but for the harm that he leads others to do. The good man has the reward of his service, which is great, but of his example as well, which is greater still. Here we see that one hero makes a multitude. After one man has fought and slain a gigantic foe, Benaiah can do the same. And Jashobeam and Eleazar can do their marvellous deeds, slaying foes by hundreds who come against them. The nobility of David's nature attracts and elevates kindred spirits. It attracts them; for even when an outcast and exile, they collect about him (see ch. 12.) in the cave of Adullam and in the land of the Philistines. All Saul's authority as king and kinsman does not prevent many of the bravest of the Benjamites attaching themselves to David, even in Saul's lifetime. A Moabite, and an Ammonite were among his chief captains; a Hittite, one of his thirty knights; from beyond Jordan many gather to him; and later on, from every tribe of Israel some are attracted to his standard. There is such an attraction about every great soul. The law of gravitation, I suppose, is true of souls, that they attract each other in the ratio of their masses; and if a nature be tenfold grander than another, it has tenfold more attraction. Great men cannot help attracting, and men less great from feeling the force of that attraction. And when the greatness is the rounded greatness in which generosity of nature meets with courage and with wisdom, there is no bound to the attraction exercised and the devotion yielded. If God has made you a kingly spirit, you need not be over-solicitous about the recognition of your claims. He whom God makes to be master is master by a law of gravitation, and finds his level as naturally as material things find theirs. Impatience to reach your throne only delays it. Be still, and if God means you to rule, there is nothing more certain than that you will. Meanwhile, as perhaps you have not that part to play, attach yourself as a learner and a follower to him whom you find better and wiser than yourself, and, sitting at his feet, you will, in the practice of obedience, learn the secret of command. David not only attracts, however, but elevates. Beneath the kindling inspiration of his valour all hearts grow brave. Courage seems so easy and fear so shameful that, with him as leader, each man is twice, ay, sometimes many times himself. A Bruce, a Cromwell, a Nelson, or a Wellington, will never lack brave following. "As iron sharpeneth iron, so does a man the countenance of his friend." Valour in one makes many valiant. King Arthur had his knights of the Round Table, and David had his, and all brave men have theirs. Such a fact is worthy of notice, for we are apt to think evil a stronger thing than good; the fact being that good is the most omnipotent thing on earth, kindling similar goodness in others' lives. Be brave and good, and you will not long be without companions.
II. A WISE KING CHOOSES BRAVE MEN FOR CAPTAINS, He did so because he recognized the validity of the principle we have just been considering. His valour infused into the captains; theirs would be infused into the men. In war an army wants brave leaders, not figure-heads. "Take the kings away every man out of his place, and put captains in their room," said the sensible military critics of Benhadad, who had made his first invasion of Israel with thirty-two kings as leaders of his troops. But it is not only in military matters, but in all others that courage is wanted. From the teacher of a Sunday school to a prime minister, from a minister of religion to a town councillor, whoever is at the head of his fellows should be brave; wise as well, but brave. Prudence without some daring and enterprise will so shrink from difficulties and risks that it will take ofttimes the most dangerous course of all - doing nothing. There is always at hand, available for whoever can use it, abundance of power to work reforms, to render needed service to mankind, if only there be leaders for it. Are you in a position of influence of any sort, in Church or state, with few or many? Remember that David would have none but heroic men for leaders, and if you have not courage to lead men forward, you should give place to those who have. Happy the village Church, the Sunday school, the school board, the town council, the land, whose leaders have brave hearts that do not slacken with languor or shrink from danger! With such leading, the community, like Israel, will find safety, prosperity, blessing, in richer measure than languid hearts ever dare to dream of. - G.
2 Samuel 23:8-24. David formed a military staff out of this "great host" that had gathered around him. The "mighty men," or "champions," of this staff were divided into three classes. The highest was Jashobeam, the son of Hachmoni; the second, Eleazar the son of Dodo, the Ahohite; the third, Shammah the son of Agee, the Hararite. These were of the first class or highest rank. In the second class were first Abishai the brother of Joab, the son of Zeruiah; the second, Benaiah the son of Jehoiada; the third, Asahel the brother of Joab. These were of the second rank. The third class were the thirty men enumerated in these chapters, of whom Asahel was the chief. There are thirty-one mentioned in the list, including Asahel, which, including the six of the two superior ranks, make thirty-seven. The first name in the chief rank, Jashobeam, was an office, or "seat" (2 Samuel 23:8). Adino the Eznite is said to have filled this office under Joab. The one who filled this seat was president of war. The three chief men who composed the ranks of each of the first two classes were chosen for their valour, and the remarkable manner in which they had distinguished themselves at, the time when David was Saul's general against the Philistines. The two chapters give in detail the account of the exploits performed by Jashobeam, Eleazar, Shammah, Abishai, Benaiah, and Asahel. These were the men who had so distinguished themselves under David when acting as Saul's general. Adino the Eznite is represented as sitting in Jashobeam's seat - probably acting for him as the president of the council of war. Jashobeam is said to have slain eight hundred men with "his own spear." The Philistines gathered together against David in a field of barley, or lentiles. There Eleazar met them, and fought "till his hand was weary," and it "clave unto the sword." The same battle was continued by Shammah after the exhaustion of Eleazar, and he, by his valour, preserved the field. To these two the Lord gave a great victory, and "the People returned after them only to spoil." These were the exploits of the three chief men of David's first rank. In his second rank, Abishai the brother of Joab slew with his own spear three hundred men. Benaiah the son of Jehoiada slew at one time two Moabitish giants; at another time, when snow covered the ground, he slew a lion in a pit; and at another an Egyptian giant with his own spear. Asahel, the third of the second rank, and brother also of Joab, is merely described as one of the valiant men. This "great host" had gathered to David in the cave of Adullam, situate within a few miles of Bethlehem. Drawn thither by personal attachment to himself, they preferred rejection and danger and every hardship of life. Let us learn a few spiritual lessons from this narrative. All those who are drawn around the true David, the Lord Jesus, are not only Christians but warriors. They are to be heroes in the Lord's service - to "fight the good fight of faith." And as with these "mighty men," according to their individual prowess will they be rewarded in the day of the true David's glory, Many of the noble acts of valour which distinguished these "mighty men" were done in secret, and on their own special ground, never heard of till now, and on this account were they chosen as David's "mighty men" now. Those who are fit to fight the Lord's battles in public are those who have conquered in secret, on their own home ground, and where no eye has seen but God's. The man who knows not, like David himself, what it is to have killed the "lion and the bear" in secret is not fit to stand in the public arena to contend with Goliath of Oath. Here we have the election of David to the throne by God, even while Saul was reigning. Just so is it now. The prince of this world reigns, but Jesus is God's chosen One. "Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take \counsel together, against the Lord, and against his Anointed Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion." The anointing of David by God is brought before us in 1 Samuel 16:12, 13. The election and anointing of David by the people is recorded in the chapter we are now considering. In these two passages we have the election of Jesus and his anointing by God shadowed forth in those of David, even while as yet the world's king was reigning. In the mean time David, thus chosen and anointed of God, is rejected and cast out by the people of God and by the Gentiles. This is shadowed forth in the rejection by Saul and by Achish, King of Gath (1 Samuel 21:10-15). Thus Jesus, the Chosen and Anointed of God, has been rejected by Jews and Gentiles. "Away with him! Crucify him!" was the united cry of both. The rejected king David takes refuge in the cave of Adullam, and there "a great host as the host of God" gather round him, drawn to him by devoted love, and preferring to be identified with him in his rejection than to be in honour under Saul. How fully we see Christ in all this! As the rejected One, Jesus is now hiding from the view of the world, like David in the cave of Adullam. He has ascended on high, as the Chosen and Anointed of God. He is King, "set upon his holy hill of Zion." And now "a great host, as the host of God," is being gathered out of this world, "a multitude which no man can number," drawn around this rejected One - drawn by his love, and preferring rejection with him to "enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season." The prince of this world is ruling still; but though in the world, his people are not of the world. Saul is not their king, but David; not Satan, but Jesus. "He is precious" to them - the "chief of ten thousand, the altogether lovely." And just as there was great joy in this outgathered host of David (1 Chronicles 12:40), so there is joy among the people of God. Jesus is their joy. He is coming to reign. They know it. And the joy which David's outgathered ones had in him was indeed only a faint shadow of that joy which is theirs, for they have "his joy fulfilled in themselves." And what was the character of those who were drawn to David as the rejected one in the cave of Adullam? "And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was bitter of soul, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them.' Could any passage more accurately describe those who flocked round the standard of the Lord Jesus when on earth? "Publicans and harlots, sinners," those out of whom had been east seven devils, the broken in heart, the out- cast, the blind and deaf and dumb, the naked and hungry and wretched, - such were those who were drawn to the true David when on earth - drawn by his love, and, with his love constraining them, content to "count all things as dung that they might win Christ, and be found in him." And such are they still who are drawn to the world's rejected One. They are in "distress" - they have nothing, and are full of want. Wearied with the mockery of a world that has ever cheated them, they have cast themselves, weary and heavy laden, on Jesus. Again and again they have uttered the cry, "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life." They are "in debt " - debtors to a broken Law, with the sword of Divine wrath hanging over their heads on account of guilt and sin. They are "bitter of soul;" for sin has wounded them, the world has wounded them, Satan has pierced them through and through. They had "no hope, and were without God in the world." They were "hateful and hating one another." They were "dead in trespasses and sins." Drawn to Jesus by his love, he is now their "All in all." He has risen from the dead and has ascended on high. He has "become a Captain over them " - the "Captain of their salvation, made perfect through sufferings." The host thus gathering round the true David is indeed "the host of God." It is increasing and shall increase till it becomes "a multitude that no man can number," which shall come with Jesus when he shall return in glory, and shall reign with him, "King of kings and Lord of lords." There is one very precious word in this narrative, "And David went on going and growing: for the Lord of hosts was with him" (see margin, 2 Samuel 5:10, and ver. 9 of this chapter). What a word for each of us - "going and growing"! Yes; they are inseparable! In your "walk" with God you must "grow." Oh, how many are in the way to heaven, but standing still! Reader, are you growing? Are you "walking" with God? then you must grow; but not otherwise. Less each day in your own eyes, but more in his. Growth in grace is a going down - a reversal - to ourselves. Christ's glory so rises till the soul is lost in it. "Going and growing"! And what was the secret of it? Not David's natural prowess; not the numbers who were daily flocking to his standard. No; none of these: "for the Lord of hosts was with him." Yes; God's presence - abiding in Jesus - is the secret of all "going and the secret of all growing." None without it. - W.
I. EXTRAORDINARY GIFTS OF BODY AND OF MIND ARE ALL FROM GOD. This is indeed true of all gifts. "We are his offspring." "In him we live, and move, and have our being." Yet how often is this truth forgotten in the presence of splendid endowments of strength and skill, genius and influence! Men take the praise to themselves for the powers which God has conferred, for the achievements which he has enabled them to accomplish. But it should ever be remembered that all human might is but a slight and evanescent glimmer of his glory.
II. EXTRAORDINARY GIFTS SHOULD BE EMPLOYED IN GOD'S SERVICE. There is a notion that high station and great genius absolve men from allegiance to the ordinary laws of morality and religion. What is regarded as proper for the multitude is sometimes deemed inapplicable to the exalted few. There can be no greater error. Great men have great power for good or for evil, and in their case it is pre-eminently of importance that the "five talents" should be employed in the service of the Divine Lard, who has a rightful claim to their consecration. "Spirits are not finely touched but to fine issues." II]'. EXTRAORDINARY GIFTS MUST BE ACCOUNTED FOR TO THEIR GIVER. There is nothing in the fact of their unusual number or magnitude that absolves from that responsibility which characterizes all moral and accountable natures. The Divine Judge will doubtless require a strict account at last. There is no principle more prominent in Christian teaching than this . "To whom much is given, of them much will be required."
1. Let those amply endowed with natural gifts beware of pride. There is nothing so unreasonable, nothing so spiritually disastrous, as is this sin.
2. Let such "great ones" remember to render to Heaven grateful acknowledgments, for to Heaven such acknowledgments are assuredly due. "What hast thou that thou didst not receive? Who hath made thee to differ?" - T.
I. THE LORD IS THE AUTHOR OF THIS SALVATION.
1. His mind designed it. The gospel is the good news of Divine compassion, and the expression of Divine wisdom. It bears the impress of his character. It witnesses to his attributes. It is his supreme word to the children of men.
2. His Son achieved it. The battle was fought when Jesus lived, was won when Jesus died. He is the Hero who girds his sword upon his thigh, and goes forth, conquering and to conquer.
3. His Spirit applies it. The deliverance has to be effected, not only for but in every ransomed and saved one who experiences the Saviour's interposition and shares his conquest.
II. THIS SALVATION IS GREAT, BEYOND ALL COMPARISON, BEYOND ALL PRAISE.
1. To understand the magnitude of the salvation, consider from what the redeemed of the Lord are saved. Israel had been saved from the bondage of Egypt, and in this book it appears they were repeatedly saved from the thraldom of the Philistines. From how much worse a slavery - a captivity - are men redeemed by the grace of God our Saviour, which appeared in Christi The gospel announces release from the bonds of sin and the yoke of Satan.
2. Consider at what a cost we are redeemed. "Not with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ."
3. Consider the nature of the safety - the salvation - which Christ secures for his people. It is not merely a deliverance from sin and death; it is a conferring of happiness, dignity, and joy; it is the impartation of the Divine favour, the bestowal of the Divine Spirit.
4. Consider its final, eternal character. It is a deliverance extending through time and into eternity, a salvation from which there is no return to bondage.
5. Consider for how great a multitude it is obtained. Many of all nations enjoy its benefits, and at last, "a great multitude which no man can number" shall join in the everlasting anthem ascribing salvation to God and the Lamb.
1. A great deliverance calls for great gratitude and great devotion from those who experience its blessings.
2. A great deliverance published is a great opportunity for the enslaved and oppressed. It is their privilege to accept the remission and the liberty proclaimed. - T.
I. THE KING'S MOMENTARY INCONSIDERATENESS. (Ver. 17.) David was not by any means thoughtless of his subjects. He was not made of the hard material of which some celebrated adventurers have been composed, which made them utterly heedless of the losses and sufferings of their followers. He had a warm and generous heart. But on this occasion he was betrayed into an inconsiderate act. When his thirst could not possibly be allayed without placing the lives of his men in the most imminent risk, he should have borne it in silence rather than have uttered his wish for water. He should have remembered that the wish of a sovereign would probably be interpreted as a command, or be seized upon as an occasion for distinction or a means of securing a large reward. To such default all men are liable. It requires unceasing prayer and sleepless vigilance to avoid being surprised and "overtaken in a fault."
II. THE DEVOTED LOYALTY OF HIS FOLLOWERS. (Ver. 18.) Three of his mighty men no sooner heard his utterance of strong desire than they set out to gratify it. Daring the utmost danger, their life in their hand, they "brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well." David had the rare faculty of attaching men to himself with enthusiastic devotion. He won, not only the fidelity, but the eager and loving devotion of his servants. Surely his "greater Son," the Prince of Peace, is far more worthy of the unhesitating, uncalculating devotion of his subjects. Surely they should eagerly watch his eye, should spring to do his bidding, should joyfully run greatest risks and make largest sacrifices to fulfil the good pleasure of his will.
III. THE REDEEMING AFTERTHOUGHT. (Vers. 18, 19.)
1. David disallowed his own selfishness. It is our habit to cover our wrong deeds with plausible pretexts. Our ingenuity is generally equal to the discovery of reasons which will extenuate or justify our errors and our sins. David might have done the same had he been less worthy than he was. But he took the nobler course. He rebuked himself and disallowed his deed, He shrank from the act of profiting by his own inconsiderateness. God forbid... shall I drink the blood of these won," etc.? Well would it have been for this oppressed world of ours if its kings and rulers had always shrunk thus from" drinking the blood" of the people. In itself it is doubtless better not to err than to err and afterwards to withdraw, but it is difficult for us not to be glad that David was guilty of this momentary thoughtlessness, inasmuch as it was directly followed by this noble and most honourable afterthought, that he would not gratify his taste through an act which had imperilled the lives of his followers. It was the readiest and most practical way of rebuking himself.
2. He rose into the region of self-denial and devotion. He "poured it out to the Lord." He made it quite impossible for him to drink, and, at the same time, he offered an oblation unto the Lord. Seldom does so unpromising a commencement issue in so excellent an ending. But for the profoundly religious character of David, it would not have done so. We learn that:
(1) Deep-seated principles of piety and virtue should correct a mistake into which we may be surprised.
(2) That self-denial and devotion are truer triumphs than military conquests. We do not think much of Jashobeam's exploit (ver. 11), but we shall never forget this penitential, self-sacrificing deed of David. - C.
I. DAVID'S DESIRE. He was, with his faithful band of valiant followers, in the stronghold upon the borders of the Philistine territory. The enemy were in possession of his native vale, the scene of his boyish happiness and youthful exploits. It was a position of danger and of privation - this which he occupied at this time. How natural, how human, his desire for a draught of the bright, cool water from the spring that gushed from the hillside near his father's fields! It was a longing for home, it was a clinging to the associations of childhood, it was the unchanged heart, that prompted the desire that found utterance in his words, "Oh that one would give me," etc.!
II. THE FEAT OF THE HEROES. The men David had around him were men ready for any daring exploit - bold, fearless, and prompt. Yet they had tender hearts, that could sympathize with such a wish as that their chief expressed. It was a gallant and heroic feat, this which they performed, in breaking through the ranks of the Philistines, and bringing to David the draught of water his soul desired from the dear well at Bethlehem.
III. THE SELF-SACRIFICING AND PIOUS ACT OF THE LEADER. David appreciated the faithfulness, the sympathy, the bravery, of the noble three. He could not drink the water, for it seemed to him like the life-blood of the heroes. It was too precious for any but for Jehovah. Accordingly he poured it out in a pious libation before the Lord, giving his best to God.
1. The sacredness and beauty of human feeling. The associations of childhood and of home are precious, and it is no sign of weakness to cherish them.
2. The beauty of self-sacrifice. What more admirable than the willingness to run all risks to serve, to make happy, those whom we honour and love?
3. The supremacy of the Divine claims. God has a right to our hearts and to all that is dear to them. Withhold not from him his own. - T.
2 Samuel 23:13-17. The "hold" that is mentioned is probably the frontier fortress of Adullam, on the Philistine border, "which, from its strength and position and the neighbourhood of the caverns, was judged by David to be the best place of defence against the invasions of the Philistines." Robinson says, "There is no well of living water in or near the town of Bethlehem." "There is, however, a cistern of 'deep, clear, cool water,' called by the monks David's well, about three-quarters of a mile to the north of Bethlehem. Possibly the old well has been filled up since the town was supplied with water by the aqueduct." Josephus speaks of the well as being near the gate. David would not drink of the water when it was brought him, for this reason - he looked upon it, not as water, but as blood, seeing that it had been procured at the hazard of men's lives; and, knowing that it was forbidden by the Law to drink blood (Leviticus 17:11, 12), he poured it out upon the ground as a solemn offering unto the Lord, and as a thanksgiving for the preservation of their lives.
I. DAVID'S HOME FEELINGS. In him there was strong family affection. This is seen in his relations with his grown-up sons. There was also strong attachment to his early home, the place of his youthful associations. Strong home feeling is usually found in the inhabitants of hilly and mountainous countries; as may be illustrated from the mal-du-pays, the characteristic sickness of the Swiss when away from their mountains. It does not appear that David did more than give utterance to a suddenly conceived wish. It was an impulsive utterance, which he did not mean should be taken as a command. Herein is given us a lesson on the importance of guarding carefully our speech, watching the door of our lips. He is not wise who utters all he feels. It is a great grace to be enabled to keep silence.
II. THE DEVOTION OF DAVID'S FOLLOWERS. This is one of the most interesting features of the incident. It brings to view the relations between David and his men, and helps us to realize the fascination which David exerted. Some men have this power over their fellows - a gracious power, if they use it to lead their fellow-men to higher and holier things; a fatal power, if they make it the means of dragging others down to their own doom. It may be pointed out that special gifts ensure this kind of leadership. Of these, grace of body, generosity of disposition, a skill of getting on others level, an absence of stir-assertive pride, and a winning geniality of manner, are important. If God gives grace of natural disposition, such as wins for us general favour, let us remember that this brings its holy burden of responsibility.
III. THE PROWESS IN WHICH DEVOTION FOUND EXPRESSION. Estimate it from a military point of view. It could but be regarded as a "foolhardy "enterprise; and yet the very suddenness and dash of it almost guaranteed its success. To gratify a wish these men would imperil their lives.
IV. THE PIOUS ESTIMATE OF THE VALUE OF LIFE. This tended to bind David's followers yet more closely to him. Such considerateness for them showed his loving and thoughtful and pious character. It was worth while serving one who eared for them so tenderly. Compare Wellington's personal interest in his soldiers, and the personal enthusiasm which he created. The sense of the value of human life is the very foundation of social morality, it stays man's hand from being lifted up against his fellow-man. And respect for man's best treasure - his life - finds varied expression in respect for all his other treasures and possessions. We will not injure him, in his life, nor in taking anything that is his. Lead on to show how the value of life is enhanced when we add to it two considerations -
(1) Man's immortality;
(2) man's salvation, through a sacrifice of infinite value. - R.T.
priest, son of a high priest, yet a warrior. To find one like him in office and quality one has to go back to the fighting bishops of the Middle Ages. We do not read of his ministering at the altar. Yet we must not, therefore, imagine him some degenerate son of Aaron, affording warning rather than example. For there is something savoury in his brief story, which occurs twice in the Bible, and just because of its unusual combinations of characteristics it is worth our lingering on it. Let me urge some simple lessons which may be of use, at least to the more combative of our readers. Observe -
I. THAT MANLINESS IS A GREAT DESIDERATUM IN A PRIESTHOOD. To make a true priest of God, the first and greatest thing required is godliness, and the second is like unto it - manliness; and on these two qualities hang all effective discharge of priestly duties. It may be objected that this remark does not necessarily spring from Benaiah, who, though of the tribe of Levi, might be an exception to rather than a specimen of the priestly order. And I should admit the relevancy of the remark were it not that the tribe of Levi seems, in Egypt, to have been conspicuous for its courage and leading qualities (for otherwise the eminence of Aaron before Moses received his commission would be inexplicable); that the tribe of Levi was called pre-eminently "the host," during all the encampments in the wilderness; that in David's time the tribe of Levi seems to have afforded one of the monthly army corps of twenty-four thousand men (1 Chronicles 27:5); that from the days of Phinehas to those of the Maccabees, and even later, the priesthood furnished many of Israel's noblest warriors; so that, without pressing or straining anything, we have the fact clear that the manliness of the tribe of the Levites was one reason of its selection for the priesthood, or at least one characteristic of it. There is a vulgar manliness, loud, blatant, coarse, unfamiliar with any of the finer questionings or feelings of the soul. Far from all priestly work be such. But the noblest manliness is not coarse. It blends gentleness with courage, is a thing of force of spirit rather than of bodily strength, marked by vigour and truth, daring rather than any braggart delight in blows. And it should be remembered that weak and feeble spirits are nowhere more out of place than in the Christian ministry. To make a true minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ you want essentially, as the raw material out of which God makes him - manliness. Courage to avow the faith when all may be denying it; to stand alone; to resist all seduction to smother doubt and to repeat hearsay; to dare to do right; to have the inspiring power which nerves others to dare it as well; to rebuke; to warn; to count and accept the cost of faithfulness to principles; to be a leader and commander to the people; - for these things is manliness not needed? is courage not supremely requisite? Peter said, Add to your faith manliness ( virtue in the Latin sense, not in the English). Christ said of Peter, "Thou art a rock, and on this rock I will build my Church." In Hebrews 11, you could almost substitute the word "courage" for the word "faith," so constantly and inseparably are they united. The great names of the Church are no less illustrious for courage than for spiritual insight. Paul, Athanasius standing "alone against the world," Luther, Calvin, Knox, Wesley, Carey, Williams, Livingstone; you have just to go over the great names of the Church's history to see that the names of those greatly good have been those pre-eminently of men greatly brave as well. Whatever your work, Christian, if you would be a true priest of God you must be brave. "Put on thy strength, O Zion." Religion never enervates when it is the real thing, but uses and increases all the braver qualities of the spirit. Faith is a fight in all directions. We have sometimes fostered a piety too sentimental, phrasy, and self-conscious. From the manliness which God approved in in the old priesthood, and which Benaiah had in prime fulness, learn that godliness and manliness should meet to make a thorough character. Observe (what, indeed, flows from this) -
II. THAT THE COMBATIVE QUALITY IN MAN, WHILE IT NEEDS HALLOWING, ADMITS OF IT. Man is very largely a fighting animal. His modes of attack come almost as instinctively as the various modes of assault used by the lower animals. The taste for conflict distinguishing all men, true religion does not destroy, but seeks to hallow it. The mental analyst will tell you that be needs some admixture of the combative element to produce some of the finest qualities of nature. It is that which gives hardness and a staying power to the man. There is no decision of character without it. We need the power of standing up against our enemies to stand up against ourselves. There is no pertinacity of purpose without it. He who has not a little of the combative element soon gives in. There is no conquest of difficulties without it. We shrink from every trouble, say a lion is in the street, if there is nothing of this quality in us. So that the combative quality is not one of nature's mistakes that grace has just to weed out, but something it has to hallow; an edged tool, in learning the uses of which we often cut our fingers, but something not on that account to be thrown away. It may be hallowed, but it needs a good deal of effort to secure a thorough hallowing of it. It is apt to he a reckless quality, striking wildly; the weapon of the passions rather than of the reason; used by and intensifying animosity; the source of strife and confusion, and the "every evil work" which attend them - shedding blood, devastating kingdoms, burdening conscience with guilt, running riotous in its wrong. When rightly used, one of the grandest blessings of life; when ill used, one of its great curses. If so valuable hallowed, so mischievous unhallowed, the question rises - When is it hallowed, and truly and divinely used? And I think Benaiah's case gives us, somewhat roughly, perhaps, but clearly, the true answer to the question. It is used rightly and hallowed when directed against the enemies of the public good. Sometimes against an Egyptian host mustered to battle, sometimes against the Moabites, and sometimes against the wild beasts. An evangelical generalization might not be far out of it which stated it that the combative clement is wisely employed when it operates against whatever injures our own character or our neighbour's well-being. The man fights foolishly who does not begin the conflict by fighting with himself. It were vain to fight against Egyptians and Moabites, and then give in and let some lion destroy the power so valuable - power which might have done such splendid service. To say "No" to our own weaknesses, to protect the interests of others, to oppose whatever by its falsehood, sin, or mischief threatens the true well-being of our friends and neighbours. Oh, how much there is that needs fighting! how much of evil in our own hearts! how much in the world! How much of evil is daily assailing and destroying the happiness and well-being of multitudes, but for want of brave hearts that think of more than merely getting to heaven themselves, and that are willing to make some sacrifice of comfort and ease and to risk what is dearer than either! "Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold on eternal life;" and oppose whatever harms your brethren.
III. THAT THERE ARE A GOOD MANY DIFFERENT KINDS OF ENEMIES TO BE TACKLED IN' THE COURSE OF OUR LIFE. Sometimes Egyptians; sometimes Moabites; sometimes lions; sometimes some other foe, like the Philistines encamped round Bethlehem, through whom Benaiah and two others broke to fetch David a draught of water from its well. Yes; there is more than one or two or even three sorts of enemies against which we have here to fight. Now it is a subtle whisper that denies there is any Providence here or heaven hereafter; now it is some passion that, rising up within us, clamours for mastery ever the reason and duty; now it is greed, which makes the fingers stick to the money they should part with; now it is one of what are called the minor faults, but which yet are capable of inflicting much pain and injury that needs to be put down; now it is the ignorance of the children of the people; now it is their vices, their drunkenness; now it is the system which is permitted to increase the wealth of individuals at the expense of corrupting the life of the people. Oh for a few Benaiahs, that in conflict with such evils will put forth a noble strength. Let us not live a merely private life. Rise and assail the foe which is injuring society, beginning, I must say again, with the enemies that fight in your own heart - unbelief in Christ, unwillingness to follow him, indulgence of your own weakness. There are too many Reubens in every age who, when great issues are being fought out big with bliss or woe to generations, "abide" ignobly "among the bleating of the sheep." Keener interest in all efforts of philanthropy and politics to further human well-being, is what is required at our hand. Lastly, observe that -
IV. IN ALL FIGHTING, THE SOUL IS THE MAIN THING. Doubtless Benaiah had great muscular strength, but that was but a little of his equipment. The splendid audacity that engaged with the Egyptian, meaning to kill him with his own spear. The fine superiority to thought of consequences to himself of engaging with that hungry lion on a winter's day, in close quarters, where neither could escape the other. It was that brave spirit in him which, never shrinking from attempts that seemed impossible, nor kept back by the discretion that seeks to save its skin, wrought its grand marvels. Oh, bow little of this grand courage marks us! How much solicitude we have about our name, our peace, what people may think of us, our money, the chance of failing] In this world the timid don't always go most safely. It is the brave heart that comes best out of all its conflicts. Pluck up a little strength, and call to God for more, and venture bravely wherever duty calls you, and, like Benaiah, you will find fame, safety, usefulness, attendant on your steps. - G.