Jesus the Greater: David’s Mighty Men

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. David was then in the stronghold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then at Bethlehem. And David said longingly, “Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!” 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 took it and brought it to David. But David would not drink it. He poured it out to the LORD and said, “Far be it from me before my God that I should do this. Shall I drink the lifeblood of these men? For at the risk of their lives they brought it.” Therefore he would not drink it. These things did the three mighty men. (1 Chronicles 11:15–19)

While reading this morning I came upon this story once again. With fresh eyes I was struck by several themes, so I thought I’d write them down. This isn’t particularly well mulled over, so I appreciate your grace in the mess of my thoughts.


Near the middle portion of 1 Chronicles we get accounts of the famed “Mighty Men of David.” As this section of Scripture tells us, David’s Mighty Men are extremely accomplished men of war. Our passage here references one particular act by David’s three mightiest men.

Here, David is on the run from Saul, but is still fighting the Philistines (a reoccurring enemy of Israel). Just after a battle where “the LORD saved them by a great victory” (v. 14) David says – likely out of exhaustion and nostalgia – that he longs for a drink of water from the well in his hometown of Bethlehem (v. 17). Maybe that’s just the best cup of water he’s ever had. Maybe he’s remembering how his childhood wasn’t this difficult and he thinks a cup from that place might bring some of the good ol’ days with it. Regardless of the reason, David wants a drink from a very particular well, in a very particular place, for (I’m sure) a very particular reason.

An actual shot of David’s Mighty Men as David pours out the water.

David’s three mightiest men hear his request and with their Nike mentality they just do it. They fight their way past the Philistines all the way to the well. They grab a cup, dunk it, and work their way back. (v. 18). However, upon their return, instead of hearing “well done, good and faithful servants,” the three men watch – in what I can only assume was sheer shock – as David pours the water out on the ground.

David replies to their effort by saying that he’s not worthy of the water. He refers to it as their “lifeblood.” David stands in awe of the dedication of these men. He’s amazed and humbled that they would risk their lives to simply see his longing satisfied (v. 19).

Jesus the Greater

This is a fun story that many Christians and non-Christians, alike, are familiar with. There are a lot of threads we can pull on here, but let’s just tug at a few.

Jesus is the greater David

  • David ached for something he once had, but had no ability to restore. Jesus stepped down from glory and went into the battlefield himself to set the wrong things right.
  • David longed to satisfy his own thirst. Jesus, instead, was poured out to satisfy the spiritual thirst of others.

Jesus is the greater version of David’s Mighty Men

  • They went to the Philistines, risking possible harm and loss of life. Jesus went into enemy territory knowing full well he would be killed for it.
  • They overcame their enemy with force. Jesus defeated the enemy through weakness.

Jesus is the greater well

  • The well was merely David’s sentimental memory he thought could bring satisfaction. Jesus is the true well our souls remember, and he alone will truly satisfy.

Jesus is the greater water

  • The water was fought for and not used. Jesus, through his life, death, and resurrection is the life-giving water that all his Redeemed will drink.
  • The water represented the fidelity of David’s followers to their King. Jesus, the true King, poured out his actual lifeblood to satisfy the thirst of his to-be followers (his enemies).

Wrapping it up

I’m sure there are many other ways that Christ is foreshadowed in this story. This was just a freestyle based on my thoughts this morning. So I guess you can take that as my disclaimer that I know this isn’t an exhaustive list. There are also many ways that we can draw lines to us (pre and post regeneration), the Church, etc., but we can save those for another time.

Photo credit: @eckfarms