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Current study: Spiritual Warfare

02 May 2012

Week 18 - Why Did David Pour Out the Water -- "The Three"

A friend wrote me this week regarding my use of the term “the three”. Her question:

“What do you mean by exploits of “the three”?”

She wasn’t sure how to post a comment, so I will reply to her here – and I pray that my answer will give you more understanding of the living Word of God.

“The Three” is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 11 and 2 Samuel 23:

 This is an account of David’s mighty men: Jashobeam, a Hachmonite, was chief of the three. He wielded his spear against 300 whom he killed at one time. 12 And next to him among the three mighty men was Eleazar the son of Dodo, the Ahohite. 13 He was with David at Pas-dammim when the Philistines were gathered there for battle. There was a plot of ground full of barley, and the men fled from the Philistines. 14 But he took his stand in the midst of the plot and defended it and killed the Philistines. And the Lord saved them by a great victory. 15 Three of the thirty chief men went down to the rock to David at the cave of Adullam, when the army of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim.  1 Chron 11:11-15 (ESV)

These are the names of the mighty men whom David had: Josheb-basshebeth a Tahchemonite; he was chief of the three. He wielded his spear against eight hundred whom he killed at one time. 9 And next to him among the three mighty men was Eleazar the son of Dodo, son of Ahohi. He was with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there for battle, and the men of Israel withdrew. 10 He rose and struck down the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clung to the sword. And the Lord brought about a great victory that day, and the men returned after him only to strip the slain. 11 And next to him was Shammah, the son of Agee the Hararite. The Philistines gathered together at Lehi, where there was a plot of ground full of lentils, and the men fled from the Philistines. 12 But he took his stand in the midst of the plot and defended it and struck down the Philistines, and the Lord worked a great victory.

13 And three of the thirty chief men went down and came about harvest time to David at the cave of Adullam, when a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. 14 David was then in the stronghold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then at Bethlehem. 15 And David said longingly, “Oh, that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!” 16 Then the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate and carried and brought it to David. But he would not drink of it. He poured it out to the Lord 17 and said, “Far be it from me, O Lord, that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of the men who went at the risk of their lives?” Therefore he would not drink it. These things the three mighty men did.  2 Sam 23:8-17 (ESV)

Did this passage bother you? The three mighty warriors listened to the longings of the king and at the tremendous risk of their lives, broke through the Philistines’ camp, went to the well of Bethlehem, and obtained the desire of David’s heart.

Was David grateful? Absolutely. But he was also humbled. I think that his statement was probably wishful thinking – perhaps he was a bit homesick – and he never expected his friends and the leaders of his warriors to do anything about it.

In our culture, a hearty “thank you” and a long, refreshing drink would be considered polite. But that’s not what David did. He did what to us seems rude – he poured it out on the ground! Why did he do that? Did you read the whole phrase at the end of verse 17? “He poured it out to the Lord.

We studied the various offerings God set up for Israel earlier this year. One of those offerings was a drink offering.

And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had spoken with him, a pillar of stone. He poured out a drink offering on it and poured oil on it. Gen 35:14 (ESV)

And for the drink offering you shall offer a third of a hin of wine, a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Num 15:7 (ESV)

Was this a true drink offering? I don’t think so, but we see that David poured it out as to the Lord. He was giving thanks to God for the marvelous friendship and loyalty shown by The Three. However, David also saw the exploit as foolhardy. His friends could have been killed for acting on David’s [rash] comment. They would have shed their blood unnecessarily for David’s sake. In David’s mind, drinking that refreshing well water would be the same as drinking blood, and he had to pour it out, because God clearly stated:

If any one of the house of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. 11  For the life of the flesh is in the blood*, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls**, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. 12 Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood.  Lev 17:10-12 (ESV)

*“Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Matt 26:27-28 (ESV)
Also: Mark 14:24; Romans 3:25, 5:9; Hebrews 13:12; 1 John 1:7.

**Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Heb 9:22 (ESV)

I pray that you can see David’s response in a new light – not a rude throwing away of a precious gift from friends, but as an acknowledgment that his statement led to actions that could have dealt David a strategic blow, had his friends been killed. David’s response was the right one: to acknowledge that his actions caused a problem, and to pour the offering before the Lord, asking as he did for the forgiveness of his sins!


  1. Keep on writing, great job!

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  2. Thank you for this as I needed clarity on the meaning of this passage. Graditude to david men and God, humility in given God credit both for the quality of men & ablity to forgive him and them for rash behavior.


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