What did Eleazer do?

We read in 2 Samuel 23:9-10, “And after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David, when they defied the Philistines that were there gathered together to battle, and the men of Israel were gone away: He arose, and smote the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clave unto the sword: and the Lord wrought a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to spoil.”

He “arose”. Can you imagine that? You are facing an entire army, and you are not sure how big it is, but it would have been a significant number. Let’s take a conservative estimate and assume 1000 men. You have 1000 men charging at you; and Joab, Abishai and the 30 mighty men were not present to provide any support and you’re on your own. This was a formidable foe and some would say a foolish move by Eleazer to think he could stop an entire army by himself.

And what were they fighting over? Verse 11 tells us it is a field of lentils—certainly a second-rate crop. What self-respecting man would stand and fight over a field of lentils? But this is not how Eleazer saw it. He saw it, as 1 Chronicles 11:13 describes it as a parcel of land. When this phrase is used elsewhere it’s in the context of God’s inheritance (Gen 33:19; Ruth 2:3; 2 Kings 9:25). Eleazer realised this wasn’t just any piece of land. It came from God and he would defend it – come what may.

So he fights and he fights and he fights. He fights so much that in the end “his hand clave to the sword” (2 Sam 23:10). By the end of it he didn’t even have strength to let go of the sword. None of the Israelites came back to help him! Verse 10 tells us that the people only returned to take the spoils.They weren’t prepared to fight but they were prepared to take the spoil and Eleazar made no commotion about that; didn’t insist that it was unfair or anything like that. Instead the record simply says “and the Lord wrought a great victory”. He doesn’t take any credit; he simply gives God the glory.

Was Eleazer a mighty man because he killed lots of people?

Eleazar was mighty because he defended God’s inheritance against the enemy – the uncircumcised. In verses 6-7, however, we note that the list of mighty men follows the declaration by David that the sons of Belial need to be dealt with. If you want to be a warrior of David, you need to be able to handle the men of Belial. We are given another clue about the value of these mighty men to David in verse 39. The total number of men is 37, but if you count the names there are only 36. Who’s missing? The answer is in 1 Chronicles 11, where we are told of the heroic acts of Joab and how he took Jerusalem. But he is omitted from the list. How could that be? Most commentators agree that he was one of the original 37 but was later removed. Why, you might ask? It is likely that Joab’s ungodly behaviour disqualified him for the high office. As Proverbs 16:19 states, “Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud”. (Read also Prov 16:29-33 with this context in mind.)

Controlling your spirit

We also have inspiring, mighty men amongst us don’t we:

  • Grandparents/Seniors—outstanding examples of 50-60+ years’ service
  • Young people who are keen and eager to talk about God’s ways
  • Converts from the world who don’t have a Christadelphian background
  • Those who don’t miss a meeting… mothers who have been up all night and still come…and more
  • Those who defend the inheritance of God against the assault of the enemy

But like the mighty men, it’s just what they do. It’s just who they are and what they do for you and me, and without them we would be lost.

First lesson

All these mighty men took extreme risks for the Israelites. They realised that people relied on them to look after them. They recognised the importance of God’s inheritance. How much are you doing for your brothers and sisters? These mighty men went to the enth degree to keep their brothers and sisters safe and to preserve their inheritance. What effort are you putting in to keep your brothers and sisters safe? When we notice someone hasn’t been attending, do we check up on them? Do we ask how they are going? How many lonely and sick have we checked on this year? When we are at the meeting, are we thinking about discussing something that will encourage and inspire our brothers and sisters? How many times have we said sorry or admitted we weren’t as right as we thought? How many tough conversations have we had? Or did we just leave it for someone else? These mighty men were incredibly committed and determined to keep their brothers and sisters safe: are we? In the emblems we have the bread that represents a body broken. Christ gave his life for his brothers and sisters, and those that are part of the loaf, each little grain has also been crushed and broken. They sacrificed for the whole. Perhaps if we saw our walk as life and death, as they did, we would act differently. Because whether we like it or not, or whether we realise it or not, people rely on us.

Second lesson

Projecting ourselves forward we find, in type, that the entire stream of humanity has been defeated by the tyrant of sin and death. However, there was one man who stood against the tide. Christ was the only one who put his trust entirely in his God. All his friends were fleeing but he persevered in faith and truly recognised the enormity of this fight. We read of his struggle in the garden of Gethsemane, where he stayed up all night praying and sweating blood; fighting against his natural instinct of self-preservation. He knew he was the only one who could save the world. He knew that his brothers and sisters were relying on him. He knew that the fate of the promised land rested on his shoulders. So, he put his life in God’s hands, defeated sin and overcame death.

And what do we have to do? Well, all we must do is stop fleeing, turn around and go back to Christ’s side. We need to return to the battlefield and collect the spoils, as it were, because the victory has been won (Isa 53:12). Christ has defeated sin and death; the war has been won. All we need to do is take up the whole armour of God and join the ranks of our Lord’s mighty men. We will flee, we will yield ground, we will experience setbacks every day, but as long as we return to be with Christ, we will overcome. We can do all things through Christ who is our strength.

When we come to the spoil, how do we come? Are we depressed and sad that we haven’t been able to overcome ourselves? Do we kick the dust and beat ourselves up? No, everyone that ever comes to the spoil suddenly becomes energetic; the weight is lifted off  their shoulders; they lift up their head. There’s relief and there’s joy; there’s praise; there’s confidence; there’s gratitude and there is exultation. That’s how we need to approach our God. The battle has been won, the enemy is defeated; let’s forge ahead with joy and confidence. As Paul so wonderfully put it, “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph 6:13).