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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

1 Chronicles 11

Verse 9

1 Chronicles 11:9

So David waxed greater and greater; for the Lord of hosts was with him

David’s prosperity


God is the true source of prosperity.

God determines the real nature of prosperity.

God fixes the exact time of prosperity. (J. Wolfendale.)

God’s favour helpful to prosperity

When I resided in a wooded part of Scotland, I used to notice that the trees nearest the light at the edge of a dense forest had larger branches than those in the interior, and that the same tree would throw out a long branch towards the light and a short one towards the dark recess of the forest. (J. Thain Davidson, D. D.)

God’s blessing is necessary to prosperity

If we turn to Him, and become recipients of His grace, then will our talents and faculties develop, and be used in the right direction.

Verses 15-19

1 Chronicles 11:15-19

Now three of the thirty captains went down to the rock to David.

The water of the well of Bethlehem

This incident, although it rests upon a basis of conspicuous bravery, evidently owes its cardinal importance to far deeper considerations. Some might be tempted to think that David’s conduct in pouring out the water was fantastic and wasteful--an ill-timed intrusion of a poetic sentiment on the stern realities of life. On the contrary his conduct is penetrated with the sense of the value of life, with deep appreciation of heroism and with a high-minded shrinking from any mean appropriation of the unselfish devotion of his fellow-men. Some lives there are that whatever is done for them are never thrilled by any self-abasing surprise; no sacrifice is above their merit--their bottomless egotism could swallow worlds.

The base acceptance of the incalculable risks and toils and sorrows of other men is to be noted in--

1. Those in whom is developed the undue love of command and the imperious appetite for personal distinction. The monarchs of the older world who remorselessly sacrificed blood and treasure to build themselves impregnable cities, or to erect stately sepulchres. The Eastern chieftain who bade his warrior take the needless death-leap. Napoleon Bonaparte.

2. In those simply selfish ones who have not yet risen high enough to afford themselves the luxury of tyranny. Their maxim is “Everybody for himself.” I have heard of a farmer, whose parcel of ground one might ride round in a couple of hours, express an eager desire for a war between two great powers, since it would probably enrich him. Merchants and millowners have not been free from such wishes. All this is to batten on flesh and blood.

3. In the indifferent many of us are like the receivers of stolen property, only too satisfied to receive and to ask no questions. We expect all the machinery of our life to work with regularity, but are coldly indifferent to the means. Let us learn from David a view of life diviner and therefore more humane.

Think of the heroic water-fetching that lies behind our own life.

1. Historically. Whole civilisations lie behind us; the Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Greek, and Roman--each has contributed its quota and we inherit the best of each. Do we reflect, with sufficient gratitude to God and man, on that costly part of which we are--the result?

2. The present day. Our life is enriched by the multitudinous toil of those who remain unknown, and often scantily rewarded. David’s words are not without meaning to us under existing social conditions.

3. Let us step on to more personal ground.

(1) Some of us are where we are through the wonderful devotion of our parents.

(2) Some of us, later on in life, have been saved by the generous resolve and clinging faithfulness of those whom it cost a great effort to befriend us.

What does David’s view lead us to?

1. Solemn thoughtfulness. What are we that all this should have been done for us? We ought to learn reverence for that majesty of history which the children of the market-place deride. We ought to view our privileges with a more anxious sense of responsibility.

2. The acceptance of such services as have been referred to is inevitable, for we cannot unmake history or sever ourselves from the complex influences of the present order of society. But what does rest in every man’s power is to form his own estimate of the value of such services and to decide what use their sacred splendour or gentle unselfishness urge him to put them to.

3. The impulse to self-abnegation which we see in David. This is the practical tendency of all such lives and deeds. The legend of Curtius, self-devoted that he might save the State, may have been simply a concrete personification of the general patriotism of early Rome; but it gave memorable impulses to later generations. It was not absent from the mind of Regulus; it helped to cheer the Roman legions in Parthia and Persia and amid the German swamps and forests. God has set our lives in a framework of noble and unceasing sacrifice. In this old Jewish story we have a significant though undesigned illustration of the transcendent sacrifice of Christ. He has brought us the true “living water.” (T. Rhys Evans.)

Jashobeam, and courageous companions

It was just like David with his intense nature to speak and act in the way recorded in these verses. Just as an Italian in a northern region longs for the fruits and blue skies of his own land, so David longed for the water. We have here--

A manifestation of devoted loyalty. What ought we to venture for our King Jesus?

High appreciation of service. David pours it out before the Lord as the only One who is worthy to receive so great a sacrifice. Some might blame him for appearing to throw a slight on the act of the brave men--judicious waste. Some had indignation when the woman broke the alabaster box of ointment over Christ’s feet; but He looked at it in another light--He approved that loving, loyal, lavish “waste.” Only selfish souls could be indifferent to the lives of others. His act was not like that of the Pasha in the Russo-Turkish war who, when English doctors went to him at a great cost, eager to help the wounded Turkish soldiers, repulsed them and firmly declined to receive their services. What ought to be our feeling towards our King who has broken through the ranks of evil, to gain for us the water of Life? (J. Hastings.)

Longing for the associations of child-hood

There are times in life when our childhood comes up with new meaning and with new appeal. We long for the old homestead, for the mountains which girdled us round in early life, for the friends who heard our first speech and answered our first desires; we want to leave the far country and go home again, and, forgetting all the burden of the past, start life with all that is richest in experience. Any water would have quenched David’s thirst, but there are times when mere necessaries are not enough; we must have the subtle touch, the mysterious association, the romantic impulse, all the poetry of life. In our spiritual life we cannot be satisfied with great conceptions, brilliant thoughts, miracles of genius, words employed by the tongue of the master; we need a tone, a look, a touch, a peculiar and distinctive something which belongs to the very root and core of life, being charged with a poetry and a force all its own. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Water poured out as a libation

Some years ago in the State House of Georgia, at Atlanta, this scene occurred: A coloured minister, standing in the State House, said he was thirsty, and he was looking for something to drink. A white gentleman standing by, said, “I’ll get you a drink,” and departed from the room. As the white gentleman was coming back with a glass of water for this black clergyman some one said to the clergyman, “Do you know who that is who is bringing you a glass of water?” “No I who is it?” “That is Governor Colquitt.” Then the black man took the glass of water and said, “Thank you, Governor, but I cannot drink this under such circumstances,” and he poured it on the floor, saying: “I pour this out as a libation on the altar of Christian feeling between the two races.” Dramatic? Yes, but Christian. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

A modern hero

A window in the chapel of the Lichfield Cathedral has a special meaning. It is one of several windows presented by the officers and men who had served in New Zealand during the Maori War, in token of their gratitude for Bishop Selwyn’s attention to their welfare in that campaign. It is a medallion depicting David in the act of pouring out the longed-for “water of the well of Bethlehem,” procured for him by “the three mighty men” at the risk of their lives. This medallion commemorates the similar heroic action of a Christian Maori who had been a pupil of Dr. Selwyn’s when he was Bishop of New Zealand. This Maori, Henere Taratoa, when the war broke out, felt hound to join his tribe. He was placed in charge of a fortified village known as the formidable “Gate Psalm” The British troops stormed the pa, and were repulsed with great slaughter. Several wounded officers were left inside the village, mad one of them feebly moaned for water. There was no water to be had, the nearest being within the British lines. At night this young Christian Maori crept down, at the risk of his life, within the line of English sentries, filled a vessel with water, and carried it back to the pa to refresh his dying enemy’s lips. The next day the British again stormed the place, and Henere was killed. On his person was found the text of Holy Scripture which had suggested the deed: “If thine enemy thirst, give him drink!” (Sunday Companion.)


That which especially distinguishes a high order of man from a low order of man--that which constitutes human goodness, human nobleness--is surely not the degree of enlightenment with which men pursue their own advantage; but it is self-forgetfulness, it is self-sacrifice, it is the disregard of personal pleasure and personal indulgence, personal advantages remote or present. (A. Froude.)

Verse 22

1 Chronicles 11:22

The son of a valiant man of Kabzeel.

Valiant men

If we are to expect the virtues of the fathers repeated in the sons, what wonderful progress the ages ought to have seen? It is a marvellous fact that whatever a father may be able to bequeath to his children he is unable to give them the information which he himself has acquired. Every man must learn the alphabet for himself. Some degree of mental force maybe traceable to heredity, and unquestionably it is so; at the same time that mental force is to be exercised by its owner on quite independent grounds. We cannot live long on the reputation of our fathers. A curious law of recession seems to operate on the progress of mankind. The son of Aristotle is not Aristotle plus; he may indeed be Aristotle minus in an alarming degree, quite an indifferent figure, an incapable person, a living irony upon the greatness of the father to whom he belongs; yet in the next generation there may be a distinct advance, and even the original greatness may be transcended. We must never forget the responsibility of having a great father. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Verse 28

1 Chronicles 11:28

And he slew an Egyptian.

The spiritual slaughter

We too are called upon to slay, to destroy and to overthrow. Are we anxious to slay a lion?

1. There is a lion to be fought by every man--Satan (1 Peter 5:8). We are called upon to fight against--

2. Self-indulgence.

3. Worldly fashion.

4. Worldly ambition.

Truly there is battle enough now to be done. Whosoever will set himself against the customs of his time, the popular policies of the circle in which he moves, the prejudices of the persons whose friendship he values, will find that he must have a sword in his right hand, and that even whilst he sleeps he must have his armour so near that at a moment’s notice he can be once more in the fray. (J. Parker, D. D.)

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Chronicles 11". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.