“Moreover the Philistines had yet war again with Israel; and David went down, and his servants with him, and fought against the Philistines: and David waxed faint. And Ishbibenob, which was of the sons of the giant, the weight of whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of brass in weight, he being girded with a new sword, thought to have slain David. But Abishai the son of Zeruiah succoured him, and smote the Philistine, and killed him. Then the men of David sware unto him, saying, Thou shalt go no more out with us to battle, that thou quench not the light of Israel. And it came to pass after this, that there was again a battle with the Philistines at Gob: then Sibbechai the Hushathite slew Saph, which was of the sons of the giant. And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaareoregim, a Bethlehemite, slew the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. And there was yet a battle in Gath, where was a man of great stature, that had on every hand six fingers, and on every foot six toes, four and twenty in number; and he also was born to the giant. And when he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimeah the brother of David slew him. These four were born to the giant in Gath, and fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants” (2 Samuel 21:15-22).
As with the previous study, several commentators inform us that this text is not meant to follow a chronological order, but appears to relate to an earlier time in David’s life. The passage relates three battles with the Philistines. While there is no real clue to when these events took place, they may be connected with the beginning of David’s reign, since 1 Chronicles 20 places the Philistine battles shortly after the taking of Rabbah from the Ammonites (see 2 Samuel 10). Nevertheless it simply could be a record of battles late in David’s life, and on that basis we leave the arguments over their timing for others to contend with. “These events seem to have taken place towards the end of David’s reign” (Matthew Henry).
The opening line informs us that David became weary during a battle with the Philistines, which they noticed and sought to take advantage of. “David fainted, but he did not flee, and God sent help in the time of need” (Matthew Henry). The giant Ishbibenob, saw David’s weakness and would have killed him except for the quick thinking and bravery of Abishai. Was there an element of fear in David’s heart as he faced this new Goliath? David’s men considered his exhaustion to be a liability and so asked him to leave the fight. Josephus, the Jewish historian, suggests that David was wearied after pursuing the Philistines. His men saw the “light of Israel” growing weaker and did not want it to be snuffed out. By giving him this title they were acknowledging that he was their true leader. “David is here considered as the lamp by which all Israel was guided, and without whom all the nation must be involved in darkness. The lamp is the emblem of direction and support” (Adam Clarke). “For the glory and wealth of the country stands in the preservation of the godly magistrate” (Geneva Bible Notes). It had been about forty-five years since David had killed Goliath, but though the giants still existed, they did not attempt to stand against him during that period, so we wonder if news had reached the Philistines of his frailty and considered the time was ripe for revenge.
Was David, the giant slayer, essential for Israel’s victory over the Philistines? The rest of our text appears to suggest that he was not. The giants of Philistia were descendants of the Nephilim who were on the earth before the flood and afterward producing a race of giants of extraordinary size and ability, mighty men of old, men of renown (Genesis 6:4, Jude :6), All of these giants were probably descendents of the much feared sons of Anak. Various giants are mentioned and each one is slain by members of David’s army. It seems that the Philistine’s kept on trusting in the stature of men, but each time they put a giant on the battlefield he was quickly eliminated. The Philistines were a stubborn and persistent enemy, so if these details relate to the latter end of David’s life, then they refused to stay subdued for long. As soon as they thought they had a worthy champion to overcome Israel, they did not hesitate to renew the war. The giant of Gath is mentioned last because of his stature and deformities. He was sent, just like Goliath, to intimidate Israel, but once again God gave them the victory over the Philistine’s mighty men. It is interesting that there is no more mention of giants after this. There is also no mention of David ever going out on the battlefield again after this event, which infers that this story relates to sometime during his final years.
The texts list the names of great men who slew the giants. Some of these are to be found elsewhere in 1 Chronicles. While we cannot take the time to study the exploits of these men, it seems that David chose them because they were brave and loyal to him and were willing to fight for the kingdom of Israel. If this passage of Scriptures teaches us anything, it must be that God protected David’s life in the face of great opposition and powerful enemies. Like David we can declare, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” (Psalm 118:6).