1 Chronicles 11:22
Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man of Kabzeel, who had done many acts; he slew two lion like men of Moab…
Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man of Kabzeel, who had done many acts; he slew two lionlike men of Moab: also he went down and slew a lion in a pit in a snowy day. And he slew an Egyptian, a man of great stature, five cubits high; and in the Egyptian's hand was a spear like a weaver's beam; and he went down to him with a staff, and plucked the spear out of the Egyptian's hand, and slew him with his own spear. I venture to treat of this hero, although far removed from any nineteenth-century characteristics. He was a 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.
Parallel VersesKJV: Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man of Kabzeel, who had done many acts; he slew two lionlike men of Moab: also he went down and slew a lion in a pit in a snowy day.
WEB: Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man of Kabzeel, who had done mighty deeds, he killed the two [sons of] Ariel of Moab: he went down also and killed a lion in the midst of a pit in time of snow.