It was a time of reflection for David; 2 Samuel Chapter 23 begins by telling us these were the last words that David spoke. Now whether or not they were literally the last words that he spoke, or the last words of importance that he spoke, or the last recorded words he spoke, we don’t know. We just know that these were pretty important words, spoken by David, the King of Israel. And after he has spoken these words, which revealed the covenant between those who would follow him and God, David begins to reflect on where he’s been, the struggles that brought him to this point and the people who helped him to achieve everything he had achieved. And that brings us to the scripture that Ruth read this morning, which contains the story of the Mighty Men of David.
And so in this reflection of the people who made David what he was he begins by naming three. Ishbosheth, Eleazar and Shammah. Three different men, from three different backgrounds with one common goal. And that was to serve the one they called King.
Their stories are stories of incredible bravery and military prowess. To start with we are told that Ishbosheth killed eight hundred men with his spear. Eight hundred men with a spear, now these weren’t unarmed men, we aren’t talking about Ishbosheth in the same way that people talked about Lt. William Caley during the Vietnam War. This was war and Ishbosheth was involved in a battle against other armed men. As my grandmother would have said “he must have been some mighty awful good.” We don’t have the details only the highlights.
Eleazar was the next on the list and we are told that he stood alongside David in a battle with the Philistines and fought until his hand was cramped and he couldn’t let go of his sword. Of course, Eleazar had probably learned how to be tough at a very early age considering how he was identified in the bible as “Eleazar the son of Dodo.” And you thought you got picked on in school.
And then there was Shammah, who is credited with defending a field of peas against the Philistines, man there must have been whole different set of priorities back then, my kids would have said, “Hey guys you can have the peas, and the brussel sprout field as well.
But those aren’t the exploits that I want to deal with this morning. They were just introductory remarks, for the writer of 2 Samuel and for me.
The real story starts around vs. 13. Let me tell you about it. The story happened many years before 2 Samuel was written, as a matter of fact it happened when King David was still just plain old Dave.
If you remember your bible stories you’ll recall how David the Shepherd boy had saved the day when the Giant Goliath challenged the army of Israel to battle. Nobody was willing to take the giant on but David stepped forward and defeated the philistine giant with his slingshot. You do remember that don’t you? From that point David went on to become King Saul’s most effective officer, leading the kings army into several victories. After a time though Saul started to get jealous of David’s success and began to feel threatened and so he decided to kill David” Well David wasn’t amused and not wanting to be killed he headed for the hills.