King David's Mighty Men!

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Who were the mighty men who supported David before and after he became king? Who were "the three mighties?" What made their exploits especially heroic and unique?

´╗┐King David, while he was avoiding Saul's wrath, attracted a motley crew of malcontents and dissatisfied men (1Samuel 22:2, 1Chronicles 12). Some of them, however, would mature into courageous fighters and perform astonishing acts of bravery.

There were thirty-seven elite warriors, divided into three groups, collectively known as the "mighty men" (1Chronicles 11:11). They were the king's most prized fighters who had distinguished themselves on the battlefield (1Chronicles 11, 2Samuel 23). The first and greatest of the three groups, composed of Jashobeam, Eleazar, and Shammah, were labeled "the three mighties" (1Chronicles 11:12, KJV).

The second group, composed of Abishai (1Chronicles 11:20 - 21, 2Samuel 23:18 - 19) and Benaiah (1Chronicles 11:22 - 25, 2Samuel 23:20 - 23), also carried out heroic deeds but were not considered by David to be one of the three mightiest.

Carrara Marble of David
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1623 - 24

The third group of men consisted of thirty-two others, the last of which was Uriah the Hittite (2Samuel 23:39). Uriah is the man David had killed in battle in order to cover up his sin of adultery with his wife Bathsheba (2Samuel 11:3 - 5).

The Mighty Three

Jashobeam (Josheb-Basshebeth in 2Samuel 23:8) was considered the greatest of the three mighty men. He was the "chief of the captains" (1Chronicles 11:11) and led a division of 24,000 soldiers (1Chronicles 27:2). He gained a reputation for his prowess in battle by withstanding and killing eight hundred at one time.

These are the names of the mighty men whom David had: Josheb-Basshebeth the Tachmonite, chief of the three; he was called Adino the Eznite because of the eight hundred he killed at one time. (2Samuel 23:8, HBFV).

Eleazar gained recognition by fighting with David at Pas Dammim. The Philistines, Israel's fiercest enemy, had attacked God's people and caused many of them to flee. Eleazar, however, stood firm in the middle of a field and defended it. He courageously fought for such a long period that his hand grew weary and cramped tightly around his sword. With God's help, he turned the tide of battle and won a great victory!

And after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there to battle; and the men of Israel had gone up;

He arose and struck the Philistines until his hand was weary, and until his hand clung to the sword . . . (2Samuel 23:9 - 10, HBFV, see also 1Chronicles 11:12 - 14).

Shammah became of the three mighty men when, during a particular battle with the Philistines, he stood his ground as the Israelites fled. During his brave fight in the middle of a lentil field, he slaughtered the enemy and won the day!

And next was Shammah the son of Agee the Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered together into a troop, where there was a piece of ground full of lentils. And the people fled from the Philistines.

But he stood in the middle of the ground and delivered it, and killed the Philistines. And the Lord worked a great victory. (2Samuel 23:11 - 12, HBFV).

A Most Heroic Act

The most well known heroic act accomplished by any of the king's military forces was the daring retrieval of water from a Bethlehem well.

The Philistines, after hearing David was made king of a united Israel (2Samuel 5:17, 1Chronicles 14:8), begin to seek him out to battle. Wary of an attack, he travels to a secure area referred to as the cave of Adullam (2Samuel 23:13) to plan his response.

Three of David's mighty men (commentaries disagree on which of the thirty-seven they were) visit him during harvest time. They overhear the king, who was born in Bethlehem, lament that he longed for a drink from one of its wells. The problem was that the Philistines not only had troops nearby they also had a military garrison in the city!

And David was then in a stronghold, and the fort of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. And David longed and said, "Oh that someone would give me a drink from the water of the well of Bethlehem by the gate!" (2Samuel 23:14 - 15, HBFV).

The three men, unbeknownst to the king, immediately set out on a quest to retrieve water from his hometown. After they break through a Philistine camp in the valley of Rephaim (valley of the giants) they arrive at Bethlehem. They then quietly gather some of its water and bring it back to King David. Profoundly moved by the mighty act of bravery, he refuses to drink the water and instead pours it out as an offering to God.

And the three mighty men broke through the army of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David. But he would not drink of it, but poured it out to the Lord. (2Samuel 23:16).

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