In 1 Kings 2 we read of David’s last personal words to his son Solomon: “Keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest” (v3).

It was an encouragement to faithfully live a life of obedience centred on God’s work and Word. It is similar, in some ways, to the charge that the apostles have left us as we await the appearing of our Lord from heaven (1 Tim 6:13-14). We have been counselled to remain steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Cor 15:58), ready and willing to keep our Lord’s commandments in every facet of our lives (John 14:15). It comes down to a matter of loyalty.

Before Solomon could consolidate his position upon the throne, he had to deal with a number of men who had proudly resisted his divinely appointed rule. These rebels included Adonijah, Joab, Shimei and Abiathar the priest. Their loyalty to David as God’s anointed had been sorely tested and had been found lacking. Now it was time to bring them to account. They had failed to be steadfast to the arrangements God had ordained. They had advanced their own ambition instead of humbly accepting the will of God in the appointment of Solomon to the throne.

When opportunities arise to take advantage of people’s weaknesses for our own advancement or prestige, then it is frequently the time when we are most transparent. The opportunity to take control of the nation at the time of David’s death was just too tempting to resist. Adonijah, full of the pride of life, sought to take the throne before the cross; to enjoy the prestige and luxury of kingship without the humility of first serving others.

But there were some faithful people who, despite the attractions of seizing power for themselves, remained both steadfast and loyal to the wishes of David and God. One of these men was Benaiah the son of Jehoiada. In the Hebrew his name means “Yah has built”, the son of one whom “Yahweh knows”. He stands as a type of those faithful brothers and sisters who are part and parcel of God’s building, known of Him and built by Him (1 Pet 2:5; 2 Tim 2:19).

1 Chronicles 27:5 informs us that his father, Jehoiada, was one of the chief priests. What this means is that Benaiah bore the twin roles of warrior and priest. He was entitled to minister in the office of the priesthood but chose, instead, to serve Solomon as a mighty one in the army.

Being described in the record as a kind of warrior-priest, he follows the pattern of Phinehas who took up the sword to defend the honour of God’s righteousness in Numbers 25:7-9. He also trod the same path as his predecessors who, at the time of the Exodus, went through the host at God’s command and slew all who had bowed down to the calf that Aaron made.

We learn from 1 Chronicles 12:27 that Benaiah’s father, Jehoiada, was a chief priest of the branch of Eleazar (Aaron’s 3rdson) who led 3700 priests to David in Hebron. This act of public allegiance was an evident token of the family’s support for David’s God-given role as king of the nation. Abner had declared his opposition to David, but Jehoiada’s decision to provide David with a fully functioning priesthood would have gladdened David’s heart. He could now institute public worship and sacrifice and invite the nation to participate—something he had not been able to do previously. Abner entertained no such lofty spiritual ideals.

Benaiah was a mighty man from the town of Kabzeel (2 Sam 23:20 – the Hebrew name means “God has gathered”). It was a border-town at the very extremities of the tribal area of Judah (Josh 15:21). In other words, it was a place on the edge of the Negev, a place which inevitably bred hardy and brave men; a place which may have been forgotten by the rest of the tribe because it was far removed from the capital, but nevertheless a place where God was still at work gathering faithful people to do His will.

Benaiah’s courage and bravery are outlined in 2 Samuel 23:20-21 and 1 Chronicles 11:22-24 where three of his mighty deeds are recorded. The first was when he slew two lion-like men of Moab. They would have been like Goliath of the Philistines—two powerful, fierce, undefeated champions from Moab. The implication is that he defeated these two men simultaneously. From a natural perspective the odds of victory were against him, but his courage and faith in God’s strength prevailed. How we need a similar kind of courage to conquer the seemingly impossible in our lives.

His second mighty deed was when “he went down and slew a lion in a pit in a snowy day”. This reveals another side to Benaiah. A severe winter had driven a ravenous lion in search of food into some village and it had become trapped in a cistern or well. A trapped lion is a doubly dangerous animal. But the point of the story is that this lion was not only a threat to human life; no one could draw water from that well as long as it remained at large. As such the incident becomes a parable of life. The water from a cistern is a well-known symbol of God’s life-giving truth and salvation (Isa 12:3; Jer 2:13; 17:13; John 4:14). Without access to that people will die of thirst and yet access is barred by a ferocious wild beast—sin. It has to be dealt with and it will take the bravery and courage of people like Benaiah to jump into that confined space and take on the enemy face to face. Do we have the same faith and courage to do that?

The last incident relates to Benaiah’s defeat of an Egyptian hero of extraordinary height. There is a remarkable parallel being drawn between this enemy and Goliath. Both were of great height, both had weapons like a weaver’s beam and both were slain with their own weapon (cp 1 Sam 17:4,7,51). Just as David faced Goliath with a humble sling, so Benaiah faced this Egyptian with just a staff. The record is presenting Benaiah as another David, full of faith and dependence upon God’s power. He too would have approached this enemy not with sword or spear, but in the name of Yahweh of hosts. He leaves us a compelling example of courage and bravery.

Benaiah was ranked in the second tier of mighty ones, and later “David set him over his guard” (2 Sam 23:23). The Hebrew word for “guard” is literally, “listening ones” and can refer to anyone in the royal court who performed the king’s bidding (cp 1 Sam 22:14). He was set over those who acted on behalf of the king in any matter, because he had that faithful, devoted frame of mind (1 Chron 27:1,5). He typifies those who do the will of their heavenly King in every aspect of their life (Matt 7:24).

Part of that guard which Benaiah commanded consisted of the Cherethites and Pelethites (2 Sam 20:23). Smith’s Bible Dictionary tells us that their names signify, “the cut off ones” and “the slipping away ones”. They had been cut off and exiled from Philistine society somehow and had become fugitives. They were Gentiles, living as a separate clan in the southern part of Philistia (1 Sam 30:14-16) and, somehow, they had attached themselves to David’s camp. Perhaps they felt a kinship with the wandering nature of David’s life. Perhaps David had spared them at some point. Whatever the reason, they were fiercely loyal to David, inseparably linked to him out of deep gratitude.

It was fitting that Benaiah ruled over them because he shared that same undivided loyalty and devotion to God’s anointed. Nothing could shake that allegiance. Insurrection, rebellion, humiliation, defection—nothing could overwhelm their devotion. When we examine ourselves, how do we match up against that kind of loyalty? God tests our allegiance to Him in many ways. It would be wonderful if we could affirm that nothing can separate us from the captain of our salvation.

The force of Benaiah’s character is revealed in 1 Kings 1–2. He saw right through Adonijah’s treachery and declared his steadfastness to David, even though the king was on his death bed. It is interesting that Adonijah didn’t even bother to invite Benaiah to his coronation because he knew that he would never accept the invitation (1:10). His loyalty was clearly known and declared many years before.

When David heard of the insurrection against Solomon he summoned his three closest councillors, one of which was Benaiah (v32). He commanded them to anoint Solomon and it is at this point that we hear Benaiah speak: “Amen: Yahweh God of my lord the king say so too. As Yahweh hath been with my lord the king, even so be he with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord king David” (v36-37).

He fully agreed with David’s decision, not so much because it came from David, but because it was the will of God expressed through David! God had decreed it (1 Chron 28:5) and that was why his passionate outburst was so strongly supportive of the decision.

Note how he saw David’s life—“Yahweh hath been with my lord”. This might have been clear before David sinned in the matter of Bathsheba, but it wasn’t evident to many afterwards. But Benaiah understood the providence of God. He understood that the evils that David had experienced were not because God had rejected him, but rather that God was with him to forgive and save him. Not many had come to grips with this!

A citizen would never dare suggest that the king’s throne would be exceeded in glory by his successor. But Benaiah was different. So too was David. They both knew God had assigned Solomon to greatness and to represent the Messiah in glory. David had the meekness to recognise this and Benaiah had no difficulty reflecting that same humility by transferring his allegiance from David to Solomon.

In 1 Kings 2, Solomon used Benaiah to execute judgment on his behalf. In verse 25 we read that Benaiah slew Adonijah—a man who refused to recognise God’s appointments and displayed absolute contempt for the will of God. In verses 29-30 Benaiah was sent to slay Joab. But Joab had grasped hold of the horns of the altar seeking refuge in the protecting power of God’s mercy. He knew that Adonijah had recently done this and had been spared (1 Kings 1:50-53) and so he probably reasoned that he could do the same. But the man who had never shown mercy in his life would not find mercy from God. When Benaiah came to administer justice, he found Joab clinging to the altar and that gave him pause to reflect on what Joab was seeking. Benaiah was not some unfeeling executioner. He understood what it was like to seek mercy and so he brought word back to the king, seeking further counsel. Solomon was insightful though. Joab had asked to die there at the altar and so, although this former captain of the host was seeking undeserved leniency, by his own words he stood condemned—and Solomon unhesitatingly granted his desire.

With the death of Joab, a man who was hard and cruel and held others in complete contempt, Solomon rewarded Benaiah with the captaincy of the host (v35). How deserving he was to attain to this honour, because he was first and foremost the spiritual champion of Israel’s army—full of integrity, courageous and absolutely loyal to the crown.

He stands in the record as the ideal warrior-priest. He portrays the work of the saints in the future age under the reign of a greater than Solomon, serving the king in every matter (1 Chron 27:1). May we have that same sense of loyalty and commitment, doing whatsoever our future King asks of us (John 15:14; 1 Cor 10:31).