Profiles in Courage

II Samuel 23

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
July 2022

Today, we come to two very different topics: last words and heroes.  This chapter deals with David’s message and David’s men.[1]

II Samuel 23 begins, “These are the last words of David” (II Samuel 23:1 NIV).  Before we look at David’s last words, what will your last words be?  What would you want to tell people before you died?  What would you say to your wife or husband?

What would you say to your kids?  What would you say to your friends?  If you could say anything to anyone before you died, what would it be?  If you are saying goodbye for the last time?

Would it be an apology for something you did?  Would it be a confession?   Would you say, “I love you.”  Would it be a thank you for something that someone did?

There are many last words in the Bible.  The last words of the thief on the cross were “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42 NIV).

Stephen’s last words as he was being stoned was “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:59-60 NIV).

Jesus’ last words in the Gospel of John were “It is finished” (John 19:30) but those were not His last words.

His last words are found in Luke.  He says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46 NIV).  Luke says, “When he had said this, he breathed his last.”  Jesus’ last words were a prayer to God.

Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to people.  Many years later, He appeared to the Apostle John and spoke to Him.  In the Book of Revelation, we have the last words of Jesus in the Bible to the church.  He says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” (Revelation 22:20 NIV).

In II Samuel 23, we have King David’s last words.  He speaks more in this chapter (II Samuel 23:15-17).  He speaks again in II Samuel 24.  These are NOT David’s last spoken words.

They were his last WRITTEN words.  They were his last INSPIRED words.  These were David’s last prophetic utterance.  These are the last words he wrote as Scripture by divine inspiration.

These last words are short.  They are only seven verses long.  They mention the Trinity.

David mentions The Holy Spirit – “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me” (II Samuel 23:2).

He mentions God the Father – “The God of Israel spoke” (II Samuel 23:3).  

He mentions Jesus – “The Rock of Israel said to me” (II Samuel 23:3).  Jesus is described in the NT as a rock (I Corinthians 10:4).  Even some rabbinic writers took this passage as Messianic (Targum of Jonathan).

David describes himself in these last words. He says what he wants people to know about him before he dies but what he says is NOT what you would expect him to say.

David does not describe himself as the one who killed Goliath, the one who killed big giants in the land.  He does not talk about his great exploits with giants.  He does not describe himself by his military accomplishments on the battlefield, defeating the Philistines.

He does not describe himself as the only one who is called “a man after God’s own heart.”  He does not describe himself as the one who was the first king of Israel or the one who captured the city of Jerusalem from the Jebusites and brought the ark back home.  Instead, he says five things about himself.

These are the last words of David: “The inspired utterance of David son of Jesse, the utterance of the man exalted by the Most High, the man anointed by the God of Jacob, the hero of Israel’s songs: “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; his word was on my tongue (II Samuel 23:1-2 NIV)

David’s Incredible Story

1) He came from humble beginnings

He calls himself “David the son of JESSE” (II Samuel 23:1 NIV).  He does not mention the name of his mom, but he does mention the name of his dad (Jesse) and he was NOT famous.  David came from humble upbringings in an obscure village.

His family was not famous, and he was the eighth son of the family.  He was young and the baby of the family.  Nobody took him seriously.  His older brothers certainly did not.  As the TV preachers say, “God loves to turn nobodies into somebodies.”

2) He was raised up by God from obscurity

David calls himself “the man EXALTED by the Most High” (II Samuel 23:1 NIV).  David gives God the credit here.  He was the one who raised him up and exalted him.  David did not say, “I raised myself up.  I lifted myself up from my own bootstraps.”

God was the one who exalted David, put him on the throne and made him famous.  David said in the last chapter, “You save the humble, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low” (II Samuel 22:28 NIV).

God knows how to exalt the lowly and humble those who are proud.  That is what he did for David.  David was a nobody, but he was raised up by God and God still does the same thing today.

3) He was divinely anointed for office

He calls himself “the man ANOINTED by the God of Jacob” (II Samuel 23:1 NIV).  He was anointed right in front of his family.  That was a shock and an insult.  Many of his brothers thought they should have been anointed instead.  They were better qualified.  Samuel anointed him but did not live long enough to see him ever become king.

4) He was used by God as a writer

David was not only a warrior; he was also a writer.  David calls himself “the sweet psalmist of Israel” (KJV, NKJV, NASB).  David was the one who wrote Psalm 23.  He was the one who said, “The Lord is my Shepherd.  I shall not want.”  It may be the most popular book of the Bible.

David wrote at least seventy-three psalms.  He wrote half of the psalms that we have in our Bible.  They are great for doing devotions.  If you want a great passage for use for devotions, choose a psalm.  You can thank David for a lot of your devotions.  He wrote many of those psalms.

5) He spoke for God as a prophet

David was not just a politician.  He was a prophet.  Even the NT calls David a prophet (Acts 2:30).  In this chapter, we are told that David got a word from God, God’s words were on his lips and God spoke through David.

“The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; his word was on my tongue. (II Samuel 23:2 NIV)

“The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me” (2 Sam. 23:3 NIV).

We have people today who claim to be prophets with words from God, but none of them are writing book of Scripture.  David wrote Scripture.  He wrote INSPIED SCRIPURE.  God still speaks to people today, but no one is writing books of the Bible today, like David did.

The INSPIRED UTTERANCE of David son of Jesse (II Samuel 23:1 NIV).

What David says here is a very important passage on the inspiration of the Bible.  The Bible is a book that is inspired by God.  We see that, not just in the NT, but also in the OT.

In this passage, we see that the Bible teaches, not just the inspiration of the Bible but the VERBAL INSPIRATION of the Bible.  The WORDS of Scripture are inspired, not just the thoughts or ideas.

Inspiration goes down to words.  We are told that God’s Word was on David’s tongue (II Samuel 23:2) and God spoke through him (II Samuel 23:2; Acts 1:16).

David’s Three Inspired Statements

1) His statement about ideal rulers

The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: ‘When one rules over people IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, when he rules IN THE FEAR OF GOD, 4 he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings grass from the earth.’ (II Samuel 23:3-4 NIV)

David’s first statement is what a good ruler looks like.  We need good rulers today.  We used to live in a day when rulers feared God.  Unfortunately, today that is no longer true.  We live in a secular society.  Rulers today often do not fear God.  Some do not even believe in him and many today do not rule in righteousness.  All you have to do is watch the news for one night.

2) His statement about God’s Covenant

“Is it not my family God has chosen? Yes, he has made an everlasting covenant with me. His agreement is arranged and guaranteed in every detail. He will ensure my safety and success. (II Samuel 23:5 NLT)

This statement focuses on God’s covenant that He made with David.  It was the Davidic Covenant.  He calls it “an everlasting covenant.”  If it is an everlasting covenant, the covenant must still be in effect.  God built David a dynasty.  He promised that the Messiah will come from him.  David’s success all goes back to this covenant.

3) His statement about the wicked

But evil men are all to be cast aside like thorns, which are not gathered with the hand. 7 Whoever touches thorns uses a tool of iron or the shaft of a spear; they are burned up where they lie (II Samuel 23:6-7 NIV).

The wicked will be judged.  People who oppose the will, plan and program of God, and fight against it, will ultimately be judged.  They are compared to thorns which you do not even touch.  You use tools to touch them.  They are thrown in a fire and are burned up.  David must have been a Baptist.

David’s Mighty Men

Now we come to a much different topic. Most people who read the last part of the chapter think it is boring.  You can’t even pronounce all of the names.  Some preachers skip over this chapter.  That is a huge mistake.  This section is fascinating.

It deals with the topic of heroes.  All of these heroes were soldiers.  They were military heroes.  They were heroes on the battlefield.  This chapter contain a list of David’s bravest fighters.  They are called David’s Mighty Men (II Samuel 23:8).

David had a lot of women with all of his wives.  He had a lot of MIGHTY WOMEN around him.  He was a polygamist.  Today, we are going to learn about David’s MIGHTY MEN (gibborim).

His mighty men were an elite group of highly trained soldiers.  They were fighters.  They were not just any fighters.  These fighters were the best of the best.  They were the top fighters of the nation.

These were like thirty Navy Seals or thirty Army Rangers.  These were Jewish Green Berets.  They did special covert operations that no one else would do or could do.

These mighty men were “loved by David, feared by the Philistines and Amalekites, and admired by the Israelite women and children they defend.”[2]  They were also remembered and honored by God.  Why do we have this list?  We have it because “People are important to God.  He knows you name, and He never forgets what you do for him.”[3]

Why is this important to us today?  David had some mighty men in his army.  We need some mighty men in the church today.  We need mighty men in homes.

We do not just need men who are physically strong.  We need men who are spiritually strong.  Some men have all kinds of physical muscles.  They work out but they are spiritually weak and lethargic.

We are in a spiritual war today in the church.  We do not battle flesh and blood.  Our struggle is not physical.  It is spiritual.  We need mighty men of faith.

We need mighty men of courage.  The Marines is looking for a few good men and so is God.  God is looking for people who can do spiritually what these men did physically.

Now, you can see why this chapter has been used in some men’s conferences.[4] It is a big topic for men.  What did these men do?

There are three lists of them in this chapter.  We see the first three mighty men in II Samuel 23:8-12.  They were Josheb-Basshebeth, Eleazar, and Shammah. We have the second three mighty men in II Samuel 23:13-23.  We have a bigger list of thirty mighty men in II Samuel 23:26-47.

The number changed as soldiers died and new people were added but it was around thirty. I Chronicles 11 has another list of the thirty with some different names on the list, but that is at the beginning of David’s reign.

Why are there three lists?  Why not just one?  David had a lot of mighty men in his army, but certain ones seem to really stand out above the others.

It is an honor to be included in a special list of David’s mighty men but some of them seem to distinguish themselves even more.  God is looking for men and women today just like them.  How do we become like them today?

How to be Mighty Men and Women of God

1) Take a stand when no one else will

One sign of that you are a mighty man or woman of God is that you are willing to take a stand when no one else will.  It is easy to take a stand for something when everyone else does.  It is easy to do it when it is popular.  It is not so easy to do it when you are the only one doing it.

David fought Goliath when no one else would.  No one else had the courage to go toe-to-toe with the great giant.  David did.  II Samuel gives another example of this.

Next to him was Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite. As one of the three mighty warriors, he was with David when they taunted the Philistines gathered at Pas Dammim for battle. Then the Israelites retreated, 10 but Eleazar stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. The Lord brought about a great victory that day. The troops returned to Eleazar, but only to strip the dead. (II Samuel 23:9-10 NIV)

Most of the mighty men were from the tribe of Judah but Eleazar was from the tribe of Benjamin.  When the Israelites were fighting the Philistines, everyone retreated, except Eleazar.  He kept fighting.

He kept fighting, even though he faced strong opposition.

He kept fighting, even though he was outnumbered.

He kept fighting, even though the others fled.

He kept fighting, even though his hands were tired.

How many of us have the courage to take a stand alone in these circumstances?

2) Live to serve the needs of others

During harvest time, three of the thirty chief warriors came down to David at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. 14 At that time David was in the stronghold, and the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem. 15 David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!”

16 So the three mighty warriors broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the Lord. 17 “Far be it from me, Lord, to do this!” he said. “Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?” And David would not drink it. (II Samuel 23:13-17 NIV)

We have another example of three of these mighty men who were known for their loyalty to David.  They did not live to serve themselves.  They lived to serve others.  David just expressed a desire for something, water from Bethlehem.

This was when he was living in caves.  It was when he was on the run from Saul before he became king.  David did not command them to do this.  He just expressed a desire for something and these three mighty men.

These three men are not even named, but they risked their lives, and went into enemy territory to get David some water and they were remembered for what they did.  They risked their lives for something that they did not have to do and were not even commanded to do.

How many of us would put the needs of other ahead of our own safety?  We are thinking about others so much that we do not even think about our own needs.  Does that describe you?

3) Try to do difficult things which challenge you

David killed a giant.  Two of these mighty men also killed a giant.  Sibbekai (II Samuel 21:18; 23:27), and Abishai (II Samuel 21:15-17; 23:18) killed giants.

Benaiah also killed a lion (II Samuel 23:20).  The lion did not attack him.  He went into the pit and attacked a hungry lion.  That is what you call “no fear.”

There are only three people in the Bible who killed a lion and Benaiah was one of them.  The other two were David and Samson.

Abishai defeated three hundred men by himself (II Samuel 23:18-19).

We are not called to do great physical feats but to do great spiritual feats.  We do not battle against flesh and blood.

We are supernaturally empowered by God.  We are filled with the Holy Spirit.  We have Jesus living inside us.  The One living in us is greater that one that is in the world.  We can do supernatural things with God’s help.  We can engage in spiritual warfare against real demonic forces.

4) Be men and women of integrity

Are you a person of integrity and honor?  In order to be a mighty man or woman of God, you have to be a person of integrity.  Notice who is last on the list – Uriah.  David murdered him.  He murdered one of his own mighty men.

Uriah was not only a mighty man; he was a moral man.  He was a man of integrity.  That is why he would not spend time with his wife while the battle was still raging.

Notice the one man who is not on David’s list of might men.  It is Joab.  Joab was his head of the army, but he did not make the cut.  Two of his brothers were on this list mentioned (II Samuel 23:18, 24) and so was his armor bearer (II Samuel 23:37) but he was not.

Joab was a great soldier.  He was a great general, but he was not a great person.  He was cruel.  He was heartless.  He was ruthless.  He was a cold-blooded killer.  Next week, we will look at the last chapter of the book.


[1] John G. Butler, Analytical Bible Expositor: I & II Samuel (Clinton, IA: LBC Publications, 2010), 817.

[2] Huffman, John. David’s Mighty Men (Xulon Press). Kindle Edition.

[3] Jerry Vines, “Catastrophic Matters” (II Samuel 24).  Spoken Recording from the series “Your Heart Matters” (1997)



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