David’s last words

Chapter 23

David’s last words

v1 These are the last words of David.

          David was the son of Jesse.

          David was the man whom God made great.

          David was the person whom the God of Jacob *anointed.

          David was the lovely singer of *Israel.

          David said,

          v2 ‘The Spirit of the *Lord spoke by me.

                      I spoke his word.

          v3 The God of *Israel spoke.

                      He is *Israel’s Rock (*Israel’s security).

          He said to me,

          “A ruler must rule men in the right way.

          As he rules, he must respect God.

          v4 That person is like the light that shines at dawn.

                      The light shines when there are no clouds.

                      Or the light shines after the rain.

                                  It makes the new grass grow from the earth.”

          v5 God has established my family.

          He made a promise to me that he will always *keep.

          God has arranged this promise so that it is certain.

          So, God will save me and he will keep me safe.

          He will give me everything that I desire.

          v6 But wicked men are like bushes with many sharp points.

                      People do not gather such bushes by hand.

          v7 Nobody touches the bushes.

                      Instead, people use an iron or wooden tool.

                                  And they burn the bushes where they lie on the ground.’

In this poem, David did not describe the great things that he had done. But he described what God had done for him.

Verse 1 David wrote this poem when he was old. It was his last official statement to the *Israelites. David had been a good king. And David gave the honour for his success to God. David wanted people in the future to know that. When he was young, he was an ordinary person. But God established him as the most important person in *Israel. God made David the king.

Jacob was Abraham’s grandson. God changed Jacob’s name to ‘Israel’ (Genesis 32:24-28). So ‘God of Jacob’ refers to God as God of all the *Israelites.

David was a musician and he wrote many poems. He sang the songs to *worship the *Lord. You can read some of his songs and poems in the Book of Psalms.

Verse 2 David wrote as a *prophet. So, he did not merely describe his own ideas. Instead, he heard what the *Lord said. Then David spoke the *Lord’s words.

Verse 3 Again David referred to the *Lord as a rock. In other words, God provides security in our lives. God is fair (Jeremiah 9:24). So, God wants leaders and kings to rule in the right way. They should care about the people. And they should always be fair. That would show that they respect God.

Verse 4 David described a good ruler. He said that a good ruler is like bright sunlight. Everyone benefits when a country has a good ruler. And people benefit from the sunlight. People enjoy a sunny morning. The sunshine that comes after rain makes plants grow. So, people have a good life and they have enough food because of the sunshine. And when a country has a good ruler, people enjoy their lives in that country. God *blesses that country. David had been a good king because he obeyed God.

Verse 5 In chapter 7, Nathan the *prophet told David what God had promised to him. God had already made David a great king. And God saved David from all his enemies. So, David knew that he could trust God’s promises. David’s sons caused trouble for David, but God loved Solomon (12:24-25). Solomon became the king after David (1 Kings chapter 1).

Verses 6-7 contrast wicked men with good rulers in verse 4. So, this probably refers to wicked rulers rather than wicked people in general. The sharp bushes covered the ground so that other plants could not grow. When a farmer cleared his ground, these bushes could hurt him. So, he had to burn them in order to remove them. The bushes were no use and they were dangerous. Wicked men always cause trouble for people and for countries because they oppose God. The fire refers to God’s judgement. God *blesses people who obey him. But he will punish people who oppose him.

David’s brave men

v8 These are the names of David’s brave men:

Josheb-Basshebeth belonged to the people called Tahkemonites. He was the leader of the three bravest men. He took his *spear and he killed 800 men in one battle.

v9 The next brave man was Eleazar, the son of Dodai. He belonged to the people called Ahohites. He was one of the three bravest soldiers. He was with David when they insulted the *Philistines. The *Philistines had gathered for a battle. The other *Israelites had gone away. v10 But Eleazar remained there. He alone continued to fight and to kill the *Philistines. His hand became so stiff that he could not take his hand off his sword. The *Lord brought about a great success that day. The *Israelite army returned later but there was nobody for them to fight. So they simply took away the possessions from the dead *Philistines.

v11 The third brave man was Shammah, the son of Agee. He belonged to the people called Hararites. The *Philistine army gathered in a field of lentils (type of vegetable). The *Israelites ran away from the *Philistines. v12 But Shammah stood in the middle of the field. He defended it and he killed the *Philistines. The *Lord gave great success that day.

v13 During the harvest time, three of the 30 brave men went down to David. He was in the cave at Adullam. The *Philistines had camped in the valley called Rephaim. v14 At that time, David was in the *stronghold and a group of *Philistines were at Bethlehem. v15 David really wanted a drink of water. He said, ‘There is a well near the gate at Bethlehem. I wish that someone would get me some water from that well.’ v16 So the three brave men forced their way through the *Philistine camp. They took water from the well. (This well was near the gate that led into Bethlehem.) They brought it back to David. But he refused to drink it. Instead, he poured it out in front of the *Lord. v17 David said, ‘*Lord, I could never drink this. It would be like drinking the blood of the men who risked their lives.’ So, David would not drink it.

These were the deeds of the three brave men.

(Verses 8-39 See also 1 Chronicles 11:10-41.)

David achieved a lot because he had many brave soldiers. They helped him. The account in 1 Chronicles gives some extra information. Some of the names are different. People and towns may have had more than one name at that time.

The three bravest men were a famous group. The Bible does not record these three brave men anywhere else. Verses 8-12 record one event for each man. This was probably the most important event in each man’s life. However, the men did not fight just with their own power. The writer shows that the *Lord gave them success.

We do not know whether the three bravest men were part of the group of 30. In verse 13, the three men were probably not the special group of three men.

This event probably happened during the time of the account in 5:17-25. The *Philistines had attacked the southern part of *Judah. But the *Lord gave David success and he defeated the *Philistines. David had hidden in the cave at Adullam when Saul chased him (1 Samuel chapter 22). So, David knew where to hide from his enemies. David came from the town of Bethlehem. The valley of Rephaim was near to Bethlehem. Some of the *Philistines soldiers had attacked the town and they were living there. David needed a drink. He knew that there was good cold water in Bethlehem. He probably wished that he was at home in Bethlehem. He wanted peace and not war. Three of David’s men were very brave and loyal. They were also unselfish. We can see that they loved David. They even risked their own lives to get some water for David. They had to walk about 19 kilometres (12 miles) from Adullam to Bethlehem. Then they had to fight the *Philistines. David realised how brave and loyal the men were. David was humble. He could not be selfish and drink the water. He cared about his men too much. So David gave this water to the *Lord as he poured it onto the ground. This water seemed too precious for David to drink it. Only the *Lord deserved something that was so valuable.

v18 Abishai was the brother of Joab and a son of Zeruiah. Abishai was the leader of the three bravest men. Abishai fought 300 men whom he killed. So, he became as famous as the three bravest men.v19 And he had more honour than they did. He became their leader although he was not one of the three bravest men.

v20 Benaiah was a strong man who came from Kabzeel. He was the son of Jehoiada. Benaiah did many brave acts. He killed two strong men who came from Moab. Also, he went down into a deep hole in the ground when it had been snowing. He killed the lion that was in the hole. v21 Also, he killed a very large Egyptian man (a man who came from Egypt). The Egyptian man had a *spear in his hand. But Benaiah fought him with a heavy stick. He seized the Egyptian man’s *spear and he killed him with that *spear. v22 These were the brave deeds of Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada. Benaiah was as famous as the three bravest men were. v23 He had more honour than the thirty (30) brave men. But he did not become one of the three bravest men. David made him the leader of the guards who protected him.

This chapter does not include Joab in the lists of brave soldiers. This was because Joab was already the leader of the whole *Israelite army.

Verses 18-23 show why Abishai and Benaiah were not part of the special group. Abishai had led the army for a short time but he was not as important as Joab. But Abishai had more honour than the other men did. David rewarded Benaiah and he made him a leader of the men from Kereth and Peleth (8:18). (In 1 Samuel 22:14, David had been the leader of the guards who protected King Saul.)

v24 The other members of ‘The Thirty (30)’ were

Asahel, the brother of Joab;

Elhanan, the son of Dodo who came from Bethlehem;

v25 Shammah who came from Harod;

Elika who came from Harod;

v26 Helez, who belonged to the people called Paltites;

Ira, the son of Ikkesh who came from Tekoa;

v27 Abiezer who came from Anathoth;

Mebunnai who came from Hushah;

v28 Zalmon, who belonged to the people called Ahohites;

Maharai who came from Netophah;

v29 Heled, the son of Baanah who came from Netophah;

Ithai, the son of Ribai, who came from Gibeah in the land of Benjamin;

v30 Benaiah who came from Pirathon;

Hiddai who came from the valleys called Gaash;

v31 Abi-Albon, who belonged to the people called Arbathites;

Azmaveth who came from Bahurim;

v32 Eliahba who came from Shaalbon;

the sons of Jashen;

Jonathan v33 the son of Shammah who belonged to the people called Hararites;

Ahiam, the son of Sharar who belonged to the people called Hararites;

v34 Eliphelet, the son of Ahasbai who came from Maacah;

Eliam, the son of Ahithophel who came from Giloh;

v35 Hezro who came from Carmel;

Paarai who came from Arab;

v36 Igal, the son of Nathan who came from Zobah;

Bani who came from Gad’s family;

v37 Zelek who came from Ammon;

Naharai, who came from Beeroth. He carried the *weapons and clothes for Joab, the son of Zeruiah;

v38 Ira, who belonged to the people called Ithrites;

Gareb, who belonged to the people called Ithrites

v39 and Uriah, who belonged to the people called Hittites.

There were 37 members of this group.

The writer calls these men ‘The Thirty (30)’, but there were 37 soldiers. There were probably 30 men in the group. Perhaps if one man died, they chose another man. Or perhaps the name of the group did not mean that there were only 30 members.

Abner killed Joab’s brother Asahel, who is in verse 24 (2:18-23). David killed Uriah who was Bathsheba’s husband. Uriah is in verse 39. Eliam is in verse 34. Eliam was probably Bathsheba’s father (11:3). Eliam was also the son of Ahithophel. Ahithophel had advised David but then he followed Absalom (15:12).

Many of these men came from the area of *Judah where David lived. Some came from Saul’s land of Benjamin. But some of them were foreigners. They came from the countries where David had fought his enemies (for example Ammon in verse 37). They became loyal to David after he had defeated their countries. But every man on this list was a famous brave soldier. They served King David. And David gave them honour.