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The Well By The Gate

The Well By The Gate     Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Well By The Gate Of Bethlehem

By James L. Thornton

2 Samuel 23:15. “And David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!
16. And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto the LORD.
17. And he said, Be it far from me, O LORD, that I should do this: is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives? therefore he would not drink it. These things did these three mighty men.

There are some stories to which we can add nothing--they are so sacred--the mere reading of them lifts us into a higher plane. This chapter (2 Samuel 23) is made up of such stories. It tells of a few of the exploits of some of the mighty men in David’s small rag-tag army.

When I was a small boy I would read the stories of these battles and in my imagination I put myself right along side of them and fought the Philistines. I would stand with Eleazar (2 Samuel 23:9-10) and fight until my hand was weary like his, and my hand would cleave to my sword. Then I would stand back to back with Shammah (v. 11-12) in defense of his small patch of beans.

Some people may wonder why these kinds of stories are preserved in the Bible. I feel it is to remind us that there are some things worth fighting for. A small patch of beans, why risk your life for a few rows of beans? Why not just let the Philistines have them and stay in the safety of the cave?

The answer God wants to show us is, the more we give up without a fight, the more the enemy is going to take from us. Another answer is that God wants us to know that there are going to be some heroes, some mighty men and women who are not going to give in to the enemy, but will fight the good fight of faith until the victory is won.

 The Courage Of These Mighty Men:

One of the first things we notice in this chapter (2 Samuel 23) is the terrific odds that were against those mighty warriors of David. Even though they were out numbered by a large army, they stood and fought without running and hiding and giving up. The victory came only after terrific battles and effort. If it were not for these battles, and the courage these men exhibited, the world would never have known they ever lived.

From whence their courage sprang. David was brave himself, and inspired his men with bravery. They became “mighty men” through the influence of a mighty leader. Consciously or unconsciously, they imbibed his spirit and imitated him.

In like manner, our “Leader and Commander of the people” (Isaiah 55:4) infuses his own Spirit into his faithful followers. They become mighty through close union and association with him. They are “strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Ephesians 6:10); “strengthened with might by God’s Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16).

“And Jehovah wrought a great victory” (2 Samuel 23:10, repeated in ver. 12). Here is the chief source of success. Human effort is needful, but in itself ineffectual. It avails only through the help of God (Psalm 126:1; 121:1-2). Nor is His help withheld from such as seek and rely upon it. God will fight for those who fight for him. How often has he enabled them to prevail against an overwhelming host! “Salvation is of the Lord.” To him it should be acknowledged. And every great deliverance calls for great thanksgiving.

Mighty Men Of Various Origins:

David’s “mighty men” were from various tribes of Israel, some even Gentiles, and had each his own peculiarities of character and achievement. But all were alike loyal to their king and brave in serving him. Thus it is also with Christ’s mighty ones. They are from every country and nation where he is known, from every section of his Church, from every class of society; and they all bear some marks of their origin. But they all are one in their devoted love to their King, and their readiness to labour and suffer for him even unto death.

They differ also in respect of the special elements and manifestations of their power. Some owe their pre-eminence in part to physical peculiarities and strength; others are great in spite of theirs. Some have the might of intellect; others, of heart. Some, the power of inflexible determination; others, of gentleness and tenderness. Some conquer by intense activity; others, by passive endurance or quiet influence.

Some are powerful through their ability to attract and lead numbers; others, acting alone. The special sphere of some is the home; of others, the Church; of others, the market-place, the factory, the workshop, or the public meeting. Some are mighty in argument; others, in appeal; some, in instructing; others, in consoling, etc.

Rewarded For Their Faithfullness:


1. Promotion. David promoted those of his men who distinguished themselves by their bravery to posts of honor (2 Samuel 23:23). Similarly, our Lord teaches us that those who are faithful to him shall be advanced to higher positions of trust and power (Luke 19:17, 19; Revelation 2:26-28; 3:12, 21). The display and exercise of noble qualities increases their vigor, and thus prepares for and ensures higher and wider service.

2. Honourable record. As here, “These be the names,” etc., Christ’s heroes also have their names, characters, and deeds recorded. Some on earth. Some in the Divine book (Hebrews 11); in ordinary biographies; and some in the memories of men.

All are recorded in heaven (Philippians 4:3). Not all who are mentioned in the earthly lists are in the heavenly; for some obtain a reputation here to which they are not justly entitled. Not all in the heavenly list are in the earthly; for good men are not omniscient, nor can they always discern superior worth, though it be before their eyes. The chief desire of us all should be to have a place in the heavenly records — to be “accepted of him” (2 Corinthians 5:9), whoever may reject or overlook us.

The Well By The Gate of Bethlehem:

The chief thing we want to think about in this study is found in our opening text of (2 Samuel 23:15-17). These were among the last words of David, he is reminiscing.

When a shepherd-youth, David doubtless often sat beside “the well by the gate,” and refreshed himself with its cold, clear, sparkling water. But those days have long since departed; and he is now a king, with many cares. He thinks back when Bethlehem is occupied by a part of the Philistine host, and he is once more in “the hold” (2 Samuel 5:17); accompanied by his heroic band of men, to whom his every wish is equivalent to a command.

What a circle of names are associated with his name. Some of them names and scarce anything beside — men who would have been unheard of but for the occasions which brought them into temporary connection with so famous a man, and of whose lives, apart from that connection, we know nothing; yet all of whom had a life, had a character, were as precious as individuals in the eye of God as the great soul to whom they owe what little interest they have in the eyes of men!

The names of these three “knights” are not recorded; but their heroic achievement is immortalized. God knows them, as he knows the noble acts of all his saints and martyrs, and will reward them at the great day.

The incident happened during the time when David was a fugitive, hiding in caves among the rocks. At the time of our story he was dwelling in a cave at Adullan.

The country around was full of memories of his youth. At the foot of the hill he had fought Goliath. This famous battle had marked him as Israel’s future king. Within sight were the hills where he had kept his father’s sheep.

Bethlehem was lying just in the distance, which was the home of his boyhood. Just inside the gate, which he could probably make out from where he stood, was a well, not just any well, but the well from which David, as a youth, had quenched his thirst many times after a day in the field. From this well he had filled his canteen every morning before leading his sheep out to pasture.

Between where David stood and the gate of Bethlehem was a camp of Philistines. It was harvest time and they had come to raid the crops. “And David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate! (2 Samuel 23:15) “Oh that one would give me drink!” It was THE NATURAL WISH expressed by their leader.

David’s mind fled his own predicament, his manhood, his success, his house of cedar, to his boyhood days and to a well of water. “Davis longed,” he had a consuming desire for a taste of the water from that well by the gate of Bethlehem. The canteen which hangs by his side would not quench his thirst.

This wish was involuntarily excited, probably muttered under his breath.
It was “the harvest time,” oppressed with heat, and exhausted by conflict and toil, David is parched with thirst, and overcome with a great longing for a refreshing draught from the well of Bethlehem, whose familiar walls he, perchance, sees from a distance. So men sometimes desire, not merely the satisfaction of bodily appetites, but also the gratification of deeper yearnings, for youth and home, and happier conditions and experiences. “Oh that I had wings like the dove!” he would express at another time (Psalm 55:6).

David may not have intended for his men to hear what he says (still less to challenge their devotion); he may hardly be aware of their presence. But, knowing their character and his relation to them, he is none the less responsible for the effect of his words upon them

Three of his mighty men over-heard him. They waited for no command, they sounded no trumpets, they solicited no help, yet they periled their lives to fulfill David’s longing. The story of their perils and presence of mind in danger, and hairbreadth escape, would be full of interest; but we are told only that they succeeded, and returned in safety, bearing their precious burden; but David would not drink, and poured it out unto Jehovah.

The word is that used of a sacrificial libation (the act of pouring out a drink offering); for David regarded it as holy, and consecrated to God, because it had been bought with blood — at the risk, that is, of the lives of these gallant men. Thus he would honor God and give glory to Him. The water purchased at this rate he thought too precious for his own drinking and fit only to be poured out to God as a drink offering. If it was the blood of these men, it was God’s due, for the blood was always His.

As David look upon that water as very precious which was gotten at the hazard of these men’s blood, and shall not we much more those benefits for the purchasing of which our blessed Savior shed His blood?

We hope you enjoyed this article on one of the incidents in the life of David. We hope you will read the other articles on our web pages.

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, James L. Thornton 


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