Shammah is one of my favorite heroes from the Old Testament. He was a member of a group of men who followed David to the cave of Adullam.
At this point, David was a young adult fleeing for his life from an unstable King Saul. David had years earlier killed his giants, lions, bears and under Saul, many Philistines.
And even though the prophet Samuel had declared David to be the next king, he was running for his life from the ‘old guard’ in Israel.
The warriors who had gathered with David were part of his 3-D club. They were in distress, in debt and discontented:
David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. So when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. 2 And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was[a]discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him. (1 Samuel 22:1-2 NKJV)
There were originally about 400 men who would go on to be trained by David and would become giant killers in their own right.
While circumstances, may have left David’s men as social outcasts (distressed, in debt and discontented with the religion of Saul), they chose the ‘religion’ of David (the God pleaser).
David mentored these social outcasts and turned them not only into a great army, but many of them became giant killers like David.
David had reproduced himself in these men. Many great leaders do not do this. When they die, their ministry dies with them.
Maybe this is why God chose David. He was not threatened by having a descendant who would be greater than him (the Messiah, Jesus).
As a member of this group, Shammah would distinguish himself by becoming one of David’s top three leaders and would later serve David after he became king.
So who was Shammah?
Though we only have a few verses to draw from, what we have provides some tantalizing insights into this warrior’s character.
First, his name must mean something, something great, something macho, right? Well, no, Shammah means ‘ruin, desolation, or waste.’
What were his parents thinking of?
He was also a Hororite which could mean ‘mountain man’, ‘miner’ or even ‘cave-dweller.’
What a handle for this Bible hero, who never bothered to change his name when he got older. This was a great beginning for a man of God, but there is more negative crap to throw at our budding hero.
During his time, when they were avoiding King Saul, David and his men were also protecting their Hebrew countrymen from the Philistines by placing soldiers in key places such as towns and crops to protect them from attack.
Often outnumbered, David’s elite warriors would have to take on much larger forces, and in return their Jewish countrymen would help feed and protect David from King Saul.
One of the favorite tricks of the Philistines was to send out raiding parties at harvest time. They would wait until God’s people had planted and then harvested their crops, and the Philistines would show up to steal the produce after the Jews had done all the work.
So this leads us to this incident after David had sent Shammah to guard a field of lentils. We don’t know what he had for a weapon, maybe a sword or a spear?
But it seems like he was under orders from the true king of Israel, so it did not matter if he had to face an army alone:
And after him was Shammah the son of Agee the Hararite. The Philistines had gathered together into a troop where there was a piece of ground full of lentils. So the people fled from the Philistines. 12 But he stationed himself in the middle of the field, defended it, and killed the Philistines. So the Lord brought about a great victory. (2 Samuel 23:11-12 NKJV)
On the day in question, the Philistines formed a raiding party described as a troop. The Hebrew word for ‘troop’ does not give us any clue of how many men this involved, but according to Strong’s dictionary it means ‘alive, fresh, strong company, congregation, fast, raw, running, springing troop.’
They were a strong, blitzkrieg type of fighting force and not a group you would want to face alone on a Monday morning, standing in your housecoat, before your first cup of coffee.
But Lentils were a cheap, staple food and important because the crop was absolutely necessary for survival of their families and the next generation.
On that fateful day, the Philistine raiding party showed up and in verse 11, we read that all but one Hebrew fled the field leaving it to be plundered by the raiders from the west.
Shammah, alone, stood his ground.
It seemed he had never heard the phrase, ‘live to fight another day,’ or ‘is this hill worth dying for?’
What is our attitude when our harvest field gets challenging?
Do I stand my ground because the king sent me?
I wonder what went through the minds of the Philistine raiders when they showed up and all ran away, but one?
But when God’s word gives what seems to be an insignificant detail about an event it’s always important.
The Bible says that Shammah was a hero because he stood in the middle of the filed.
Shammah was not there just to protect the harvesters, but the crops as well.
He could have been a brave soldier by fighting a retreating action, and have been the last man to leave the field.
But the Bible says that he placed himself in the ‘midst’ of the lentil patch. The Hebrew word here means center.
What makes this man a hero is that Shammah chose not to stand near a fire exit for a quick escape, which is where I would be standing, he was making a statement to the enemy. If you want our lentils, you have to go through me first.
By deliberately stationing himself in the center, Shammah was leaving no out for himself. He was 100% committed to this battle.
Today, we may rationalize that it’s just lentils. Give them up. It is not worth dying over. We can always draw a new line in the sand somewhere else.
But Shammah stood alone in the center with no escape because he was under orders from Israel’s true king, the giant killer.
The result of this encounter was that Shammah destroyed the enemy and verse 12 says that God brought about a great victory that day.
God is looking for vessels who will defy the enemy just like young David did with Goliath and Shammah did with the Philistines.
We need men and women today, who will not stand by the fire exit, but in the center of God’s work and defend it, because the future of the next generation of believers depends on it.
God wants people who will not back up and give ground.
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12 NKJV)
In a day, when so many support everything, we need men and women who will stand in the midst of truth and defend it.