There are two records which list David’s mighty men.The first one is in 1 Chronicles 11, where the catalogue of names occurs in the context of David’s coronation in Hebron. The second is in 2 Samuel 23, and forms part of the last words of David. So, here we have a list of faithful men at the beginning of David’s reign and a list at the end of David’s reign. Not only were these men amazing warriors but they were stalwarts and bookends of David’s entire reign. They are being portrayed as loyal servants, prepared to stick with their king through thick and thin.

In each list we read of 37 men and both accounts contain mostly the same names. But just think about that—to be listed in this army you had to be in the top 37 men of the entire army. 2 Samuel 24:9 tells us that there were 1.3 million warriors in David’s army, so you would have exactly .002% chance of being listed amongst these men—these were incredibly elite warriors.

2 Samuel 23 divides the mighty men into three classes.

The first class is found in verses 8-17 and is made up of the three mightiest warriors of David’s army—Jashobeam, Eleazar, and Shammah.

Jashobeam (or Adino the Tachmonite in v8), the first, slew 800 enemies at one time. The record in 1 Chronicles 11:11 tells us it was 300 at one time, which suggests that the lower number was the initial starting force and the higher number was the total that came out against him when they realised their forces were not making headway in the first attack. If he killed 800 people at one time—let’s assume he kills a person every minute—that’s 13 hours 20 minutes—and that’s without taking a break! It is an incredible display of might and endurance.

The second is Eleazer the son of Dodo (v9-10), whom we will consider later.

The third is Shammah, the son of Agee (v11- 12). The record informs us that he stood against a troop. How seemingly ridiculous is that? What is one man going to do against a troop of men? And over a field of lentils, no less! If it had been me, I would have let them have that small parcel of land! Possibly, you might think about standing against a troop in a ravine where no one could surround you; but definitely not in an open field. It would only take one person to slip behind you, or one archer/ slinger to aim that vital shot and that’s the end for you?! What an incredible display of bravery and might—to bring a whole troop to a standstill, by yourself, in a field.

Then we are told in verses 13-17 that this remarkable trio teamed up when David was thirsty, and they determined to walk through the Philistine camp to the closest well to find water for their king. And then, when the Philistines were well and truly alerted to this, they would need to fight their way back through the middle of them to return to David. And they got away with it!

The second class is found in verses 18-24 and consisted of two mighty men—Abishai and Benaiah.

Abishai is the brother of Joab, the son of Zeruiah (the word “three” in v18-19 should be “thirty” as per the RSV/ESV ). He is the captain of the thirty mighty men in verses 24-39, but doesn’t attain to the first three mighty men. Benaiah is the son of Jehoidah (v20-23) and in David’s time he was over the bodyguards, and in Solomon’s time he was captain of the army.

The third class is the final level of mighty men. They are found in verses 24-39 and there are several notable characters found in this list, including: verse 24—Asahel (the brother of Abishai and Joab), verse 34—Eliam the son of Ahithophel (Bathsheba’s father) and verse 39—Uriah the Hittite (the husband of Bathsheba).

Eleazer the son of Dodo

These are all fantastic warriors and have incredible stories, however, my favourite is the second mighty man—Eleazer the son of Dodo, the Ahoahite. His story is found in verses 9-10 and in 1 Chronicles 11:12-14.

So who was he? Well he has a couple of relations listed among the mighty men: Zalmon (2 Sam 23:28) and Ilai (1 Chron 11:29). His father, Dodo, was notable among the leaders of Israel (in 1 Chron 27:4 he is called Dodai and was the leader of the host in the second month after Jashobeam). Even Ahoah (the first Ahoahite), also called Iri, was a head of Benjamin and a mighty man of valour (1 Chron 7:7). He came from an incredible family, which had many elite warriors.

So if he came from a leading family in Benjamin, why not support Saul? As we mentioned before, 1 Chronicles 11 was a list given at the start of David’s reign, and in verse13 we learn that “he was with David at Pasdammim” (or Ephes-dammim). This was where David killed Goliath (1 Sam 17:1) and some commentators mention that it’s possible that the event in 2 Samuel 23:9 is the same event as 1 Samuel 17. There is some circumstantial evidence supporting this:

  •  They both occurred at the time of harvest/ Passover.
  • “Great deliverance” is a phrase only used in the context of mighty men (cp David and Goliath, 1 Sam 19:5 and Samson, Jud 15:18).
  • At both battles, all Israel fled.

Whether it is the same event or not is supposition, but we can at least conclude that the similarities would have struck Eleazer and he would have drawn inspiration from David. That’s why he joined David not Saul. He saw what happens when God is with you—and God was with David. In our next article we will examine the deeds of Eleazer.

(to be continued)