Josheb-Basshebeth, a Tahkemonite, was chief of the Three; he raised his spear against eight hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter.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, 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.Next to him was Shammah son of Agee the Hararite. When the Philistines banded together at a place where there was a field full of lentils, Israel’s troops fled from them. But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field. He defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the Lord brought about a great victory.
- 1 Samuel 23:8-12
Three quick snapshots of three mighty men. Three quick snapshots of courage in battle. Their experiences are, in so many ways, unlike ours.
Why are stories like this even in the Bible? Do you ever find yourself asking this question? The violence can be disturbing. And, in light of the new way of living we’ve learned from Jesus, these scenes can feel alien to us.
It’s okay to feel dissonance with a biblical text. We’re at our best when we acknowledge that dissonance and lean into it, when we take a learning posture instead of a judging posture, when we ask the Lord to show us what a text like this means for us today and how we can respond to it in healthy ways.
We’ve found, as we’ve listened to this text, a significant value for the courage of these men. Standing up to 800 opponents requires guts. Fighting until your hand freezes to your sword shows resilience. And how brave it is to hold the line even when your companions flee.
David surrounded himself with people marked by courage. He doesn’t feel threatened by their success and victories. He’s willing for their stories to be told and shared. And, as we’ll see in a few days, he’s willing to honor the unique possibilities made possible by their unique experiences.
On a day when the virtue of courage is publicly celebrated, perhaps it’s appropriate for us to look close to home for examples of courage. When we find them, we can show honor, express gratitude, and thank God.
How do you respond to courage? How might you be encouraged by and accepting of the courageous rather than threatened or shamed by them? What new possibilities might this acceptance make possible for you?