Philistines & Mighty Men - 2 Samuel 21:15-22 & 23:8-39
Prayer: Lord we thank you for faithful friends, those we know will love us and stand by us no matter what, they are such an amazing blessing!
Quickly Form Groups:
1. Why do we need friends? What benefits come from friendship?
David was a valiant warrior, but David didn't fight alone, he had this group of men from a wide variety of backgrounds/nations that had joined forces with him over the years & became his most trusted fellow-warriors & friends. They are affectionately labeled "David's Mighty Men", we're going to focus in on this group today. When these men are called "Mighty" this is no exaggeration, as you'll see when we read of some of their exploits - these were the best warriors of their day.
But before we get to these guys I'm going to take a sidetrack and investigate the Rephaites (descendants of Rapha), the Anakites/Anakim (descendants of Anak), and the Nephilim... I'm going to talk about giants, and I'm going to do some educated speculation - please keep in mind it is speculation, but speculation widely accepted within some Christian circles (theological differences). What I will say with conviction is that the Bible speaks of Giants, and I trust God's word to be true.
Genesis 6:4 - Ok, there's this group called Nephilim. These are "heroes of renown", apparently known for their ability in battle. There's this odd intermarriage being mentioned, about the sons of God taking the daughters of men & their offspring are these Nephilim. What's interesting is when they showed up, they are mentioned in the Bible just before the great flood... the logical conclusion is that their presence was part of the pre-flood problem, and that they were wiped out by the flood. But there's this odd phrase in the middle of the verse, they were on the earth pre-flood "and also afterward". Huh? If they're completely wiped out how do they get back? This is a problem, isn't it?
What if the Nephilim aren't a people-group as such, but rather a type of people that are a result of Demonic manipulation of human genes (by direct sexual contact or indirect means)? I warned you there would be speculation, but let's look to scripture to see why some think this is the case.
Numbers 13:27-28 & 33: When the people of Israel first spied out the promised land they found it was a rich fertile land, but with a big problem. There are these "sons of Anak" (Anakim), they are huge, the Israelites (at the time men averaged about 5' tall) felt like grasshoppers next to them. And the Bible tells us these descendants of Anak "come from the Nephilim". Is the same sort of Demonic manipulation happening again?
Deuteronomy 2:10-11 & 20-21: Anakites (descendants of Anak) are considered Rephaites, but they're not the only ones considered to be Rephaites. We are given the names of two other groups of notoriously tall & strong people: the Emites & the Zamzummites, which were also considered to be Rephaites. So the Rephaites appear to be a type of peoples, similar to or possibly the same as the Nephilim.
Deuteronomy 3:10-11: This passage records the demise of the "last of the Rephaites" King Og of Bashan, whose bed was about 14' long and 6' wide. Though he's mentioned as "the last" we know in David's time that the Rephaites are still around. In fact, even before we leave the book of Deuteronomy there are Rephaites around though they are called Anakites (sometimes called Anakim). Confusing isn't it?
It seems like in those days you no sooner killed off all these Rephaites / Nephilim, and they're showing up again somewhere else. So who is Rapha? Who is Anak? Are these the names of demonic beings? We don't know, but lest you think I'm grasping at straws... Acts 7:42b-43 (quoting Amos 5): apparently the name of one of the "gods" worshiped by the Israelites during their rebellion in the dessert (time of Exodus) was Rephan, it says his star was worshiped, that sounds an awful lot like demon worship.
Deuteronomy 9:1-3: Though some scholars try to excuse the report of the Israelite spies (which we read in Numbers 13) as being an exaggeration, the Bible doesn't treat it as such. The Israelites are being told they'll have to battle these giants, and their cities with "walls up to the sky", but that God is the one who will go before them to bring demise & allow them to defeat their enemies.
The book of Joshua records some of the Anakites being killed & removed, even naming some of them - so these must have been famous warriors. Even in David's early life we have him slaying the giant Goliath, who was recorded as being 9'9" tall, and is a descendant of Rapha.
I've had fun with our side trip, but we need to get to our passage for the week... which includes some additional descendants of Rapha.
2 Samuel 21:15-17 - David is an amazing warrior & strategist, but he's human, he gets exhausted. It's possible that this battle happened when David was older, but we don't know - it is simply one of many battles David was a part of. It's interesting that David isn't the hero this time, but instead is helped by another - his nephew Abishai (one of his generals). The head of the spear carried by Ishbi-Benob weighed about 7.5 pounds, that would have been a massive spear, though only 1/2 the weight of Goliath's - we'll learn later in the passage that he is a descendant of Rapha in Gath.
2 Samuel 21:18-19 - Sibbecai (one of David's Mighty Men) killed another descendant of Rapha named Saph. Elhanan (another of the Mighty Men) killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath, another descendant of Rapha. This passage calls him Goliath, but Chronicles clarifies that it's actually his brother - there's a literary "quirk" which may explain the disparity, having to do with the way that "Lahmi the brother of" looks nearly identical in Hebrew to "the Behlehemite". Lahmi, like his brother Goliath before him, had a spear with a shaft described to be like a weaver's rod.
2 Samuel 21:20-22 - Then there's this real huge man that goes unnamed, with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, he's also a descendant of Rapha... being that it's mentioned how huge he is I'm guessing he was big for a giant - eek! Jonathan, David's nephew not his best friend, is the Mighty Man credited with slaying this giant.
So ends the giant-slaying on the part of David's men, 4 giants in all were slain at their hands, 5 if you count David's slaying of Goliath at a tender young age. An interesting bit of trivia is the fact that David needed only one stone to slay Goliath - but he picked up 5 stones when he went through the brook on the way to defeat Goliath. Five stones for 5 descendants of Rapha? Perhaps...
We're going to skip ahead a bit (we'll come back in a couple weeks) to more about the Mighty Men & their exploits.
2 Samuel 23:8 - Josheb-Basshebeth (J-B) was the head of one group of 3 men, he killed 800 men in one encounter (one battle).
2 Samuel 23:9-10 - Eleazar was one of the three with J-B, he stayed and fought when the rest of the army had fled, he fought for so long his hand cramped around the sword. When the rest of the army returned all they could do to help was strip the dead bodies for booty.
2 Samuel 23:11-12 - Shammah was the third of the three with J-B, his account is almost identical to Eleazar's, he alone stayed behind and killed off the Philistines.
2 Samuel 23:13-17 - Three of David's Mighty Men risked their lives to get David a drink of water from the well at Bethlehem, but David refused to drink, pouring it out as an offering before God. Verse 17 implies this is the same 3 men mentioned earlier in the chapter, but there are some who disagree.
2 Samuel 23:18-19 - Abishai (David's nephew, brother of Joab, one of David's generals), single-handedly killed 300 men. He became the commander of "the Three" but was not considered one of them.
2 Samuel 23:20-23 - Benaiah was known for multiple exploits: he killed two of Moab's best warriors, he went into a pit & killed a lion, and he killed an Egyptian with his own spear. He was not considered one of "the Thirty" or one of "the Three", but he was put in charge of David's bodyguard & is considered one of David's 37 Mighty Men.
(skim) 2 Samuel 23:24-39 - Notice the wide varieties of nationalities - I quickly counted & came up with 20 non-Israelite nationalities, and notice the last name mentioned in the list. Uriah the Hittite was Bathsheba's former husband, the one that David had sent to the front lines so that he'd be killed.
Did you notice who was not mentioned in this passage? Joab is not mentioned, except for being Abishai's & Asahel's brother... though I'm sure he's included in the overall number it's interesting that he's not given honor here.
Closing Prayer: Thank You God for providing valiant warriors to come along side your servant David to help and to defend him & the nation of Israel. I thank you that you allowed people from all nations in, showing that even in Old Testament times all were welcome in your family. Help us Lord to appreciate the friends in our lives, the ones who are faithful to us and will do battle for us, and help us remember to express our love and appreciation to them - to acknowledge them. Amen!
Quickly Form Groups Again:
2. Share about a valiant friend in your life (names need not be given). What can you do to express your appreciation for this friend?
3. Pray for each other.