When the Philistines were at war again with Israel, David and his servants with him went down and fought against the Philistines; and David grew faint.
– 2 Samuel 21:15
Are you worried about something big in your life? Do you feel like a big fearsome giant is shadowing you, just waiting until you grow tired so he can strike and bring you down? Life is filled with giants. Giants can be people, or giants can be circumstances. Whatever the giant is that you are facing, you won’t win the battle without God’s grace. We need God’s grace to face the giants in our lives. And this study in the life of David is aimed at helping you understand how you might find that grace to face the giants in your life.
In 2 Samuel 21, David is getting to the point in his life where he is old and does not have the stamina to battle as he once did. God’s gentle grace protects him from harm and surrounds him with those who will help him. God gives grace in the gray years of life. God is faithful to provide whatever His children need in whatever season of life they are living.
There’s something to observe from the start here; the giants keep coming. No matter how old we are or how many battles we fought, the giants will still come at us until our dying days. And when we are “faint,” they will mercilessly try to do us in. There are no Marcus of Queensbury rules with the giants in life. There will always be giants to fight in life.
15 When the Philistines were at war again with Israel, David and his servants with him went down and fought against the Philistines; and David grew faint. 16 Then Ishbi-Benob, who was one of the sons of the giant, the weight of whose bronze spear was three hundred shekels, who was bearing a new sword, thought he could kill David.
David went out to war with his men against the Philistines. Kings who “went out to war” did not always actually go into battle with his men, but David seems to be one who did. This time while David entered the fight, he “grew faint,” made him vulnerable. Then Ishbi-Benob,” (whose name means “his dwelling is in Nob”), seeing that David was vulnerable, thought he might have an opportunity to kill David. The renown of David for having defeated and killed Goliath, seems to have been a piece of history that Goliath’s descendants or followers hoped to avenge one day. This Ishbi-Benob “was one of the sons of the giant,” a descendant no doubt of Goliath.
Giants. The history of the “giants” in scripture traces their origins to the Flood (Genesis 6:1-4). These giants were the product of “the sons of God” which refers to spiritual beings (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7) having intercourse with “the daughters of men” whose unnatural and unholy relations produced “giants” (Nephilim). This unnatural interaction is coupled with the dissent into depravity that caused God to judge the world with a global Flood (Genesis 6:5).
“Giant” here in 2 Samuel 21, is translated from the Hebrew rapha and means tall. The Rephaim were intricately connected to the Amorites who were associated with being giants. The Anakim, mentioned in Deuteronomy 2 and 3 and Numbers 13, and referred to as “the sons of Anak,” are expressly said to have come from the Nephilim. Those east of the Jordan (outside Canaan) referred to the Anakim as Rephaim and are associated with the Ammonites (Amos 2:9-10). The identifying labels of Canaanite, Hittite, and Amorite were probably umbrella terms for the occupants of the Promised Land.
Rephaim and demons. What is interesting is that Jews of the Second Temple period believed that when a Rephaim was killed, their disembodied spirits became demons or “unclean spirits.” The idea behind being “unclean,” was forbidden mixture, which was how these disembodied spirits were viewed. These disembodied spirits, after being relegated to the underworld, would arise from the underworld looking to reinhabit a body and cause havoc with people (e.g., Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 16 and 32). 
Giants after the flood. Since the Flood wiped out all living land creatures, how do we again see mention of “giants” in the land? “Giants” intimidated ten of the twelve spies sent by Moses to investigate the Promised land (Numbers 13:33). The Anakim were considered giants (Deuteronomy 2:11), as were the Zamzummim (Deuteronomy 2:20). Og, king of Bashan had a thirteen-foot-long iron bed and was believed to be of the giants (Deuteronomy 3:11; Joshua 12:4;13:12). In fact, Bashan is referred to as “the land of the giants” (Deuteronomy 3:20). The forest lands of the Perizzites in Canaan were associated with giants (Joshua 17:15). David fought the giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17). And we see the defeat of giants in 2 Samuel 21 here that we a e studying.
So how did such giants reappear? Did they reappear? Some contend that the Flood was not global but only regional, and that some giants had survived. But that contradicts scripture that says God, “destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground” (Genesis 7:4 and 23). The two other options explaining the presence of “giants” post-Flood are first, that more “sons of God” repeated their offense with “the daughters of men” post flood and therefore creating more “giants.” This would be supported by the reference in Genesis 6:4 that says giants existed then “and also afterward.” The extra-biblical book of Enoch would support this view. Another view is that all the giants perished in the Flood, but since they were “men of renown” (Genesis 6:4), reference to them could be used to describe someone of great stature, such as we do, “They are a giant of a man/woman.” Whatever their source is, these “giants” were abnormally huge beings, formidable and fierce.
It says of Ishbi-Benob’s weaponry that, “the weight of whose bronze spear was three hundred shekels,” or a little over seven pounds. Now that might not sound like much but try to throw a five-pound weight and you’ll find a seven-pound spear took some strength and would do some serious damage it if hit someone, especially an elderly David.
17 But Abishai the son of Zeruiah came to his aid, and struck the Philistine and killed him. Then the men of David swore to him, saying, “You shall go out no more with us to battle, lest you quench the lamp of Israel.”
Grace. What do I mean when I use the word “grace”? The usual definition of grace is God’s unmerited favor. That is a good definition, but we need to put a bit more meat on those bones. God’s grace starts with being God’s Redemption At Christ’s Expense. Now, our passage is in the Old Testament and while Jesus is not explicitly named, He and God’s grace are there. For instance, a few chapters earlier in 2 Samuel, God covenanted with David telling him “And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16). That “forever,” was and is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who is referred to with the messianic title “Son of David.” God’s grace was extended to king David through the extension of his kingdom.
In this covenant with God, David would learn about God’s grace. Though David would fall into sin with Bathsheba, murder her husband, hide his sin, be exposed to public shame, make a mess of his family, and certainly show that he was by no means perfect, God still kept the covenant with David. That is grace.
The last chapters of David’s life are a painting of grace. We see God’s grace as God’s Redemption At Christ’s Expense in that David had a tender heart toward God and a solid trust in Him from an early age. When we look at the Psalms of David, they are full of faith and God’s gracious provision. David worshipped God for His salvation, but David also worshipped God for His provision. Grace is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense, or God’s Resources At Christ’s Expense.
Now I say God’s grace is redemption, riches and resources in Christ, because the New Testament testifies to that. The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed. The new Testament is the Old Testament revealed. We know the old by the new and the new by the old. They are intertwined and each is essential to understanding either. The new Testament tells us all sin is forgiven in Christ. God passed over old Testament sins until the cross. On the cross of Christ, all the debt of all sins before, during and after the cross of Christ, were propitiated or legally dealt with to God’s high just standard, forgiven (Romans 3:21-26). In Christ, God is both just and the Justifier. That is abundant grace.
But God’s grace doesn’t stop there. In the new life found through faith in Christ by God’s grace, God continues to provide and help and supply for our needs. That is why we also say grace is God’s Resources At Christ’s Expense. And those resources are abundantly evident in the life of David. The portion of scripture under study here is a perfect example of this.
By God’s grace Abishai came to David’s protection and killed the giant Philistine. And then it was clear to David’s men that no longer should he go out to battle with them. He was not able. And he was too precious to them to risk losing him in battle.
God’s Grace to Face Giants!
The battles with the Philistines and the giant descendants of Goliath continued.
18 Now it happened afterward that there was again a battle with the Philistines at Gob. Then Sibbechai the Hushathite killed Saph, who was one of the sons of the giant. 19 Again there was war at Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaare-Oregim the Bethlehemite killed the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.
“Saph” means tall. A common characteristic of these “giants” was that they were tall. And yet God’s people were able to defeat them. This too speaks of God’s providential hand and the courage of His warriors to trust Him to defeat “tall” enemies.
20 Yet again there was war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number; and he also was born to the giant. 21 So when he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David’s brother, killed him.
22 These four were born to the giant in Gath, and fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.
These giants were abnormal. One of them mentioned here had six fingers on his hands and feet. But as scary and abnormal as these giants were, God’s people courageously went up against them and defeated them. Goliath was slain by David, and the rest of Goliath’s offspring were put down by David’s mighty men.
So, what, based on this passage, can we say the grace of God provides for us to face the giants in our lives? God’s grace is not only God’s Redemption At Christ’s Expense, but also God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense, it is God’s Resources At Christ’s Expense. We see the following manifestation of the grace of God in this passage:
First, God’s grace moves us to face the giants (2 Samuel 21:15). The Philistines, from whom the giants came, were perennial enemies of God’s people. Similarly, we are at war with the principalities, powers, and rulers of darkness (Ephesians 6:12). Fighting the forces of darkness is part of God’s grace. God’s grace and the gospel of grace in Christ pits us against the darkness of the world. God’s grace moves us to face the giants of darkness (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). If faith is like a muscle, it will only grow by being used, strained, tested. God allows giants in our lives to build our faith as we trust Him through the battle.
Second, God’s grace informs us that the giants believe they can destroy us (2 Samuel 21:16). Ishbi-Benob thought he could slay David in his “faint” state. The enemy always thinks they can defeat us. They want to take us over and manipulate us to their dark ends. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
Under the New Covenant the Holy Spirit gives us spiritual gifts such as the gift of knowledge and the gift of discernment (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). When we are born again, the Holy Spirit also gives us an anointing which helps us to discern false teaching (cf. 1 John 2:18-27). God provides us with gracious resources, an early warning system so to speak, intelligence information about our adversaries, to help us prepare and oppose enemies that come against us. Therefore, even though we face an adversary who thinks they have the upper hand, we can be victorious. God provides us with armor and weapons so we can be victorious (Ephesians 6:12-18).
Third, God’s grace provides helpers to protect and carry on the battle (2 Samuel 21:17a). David grew faint and was apparently at the mercy of Ishbi-Benob, but Abishai intervened to protect David and slay Ishbi-Benob. God provides helpers to protect us and bring victory. As) we bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and attend fellowship (Hebrews 10:24-25), and love one another (John 13:35), God provides helpers, protectors, those who come along side us to lift us up. God’s grace provides Abashis to step in and fight on our behalf. I thank God for the Abishis in my life.
Sometimes, due to a thinly veiled pride, we resist help from others. A rugged individualism. Sometimes people rely too much on others, taking advantage of them. They have an attitude of entitlement and insensitivity that borders on abuse toward those helping them. The first example is rooted in pride. Those who are too proud to accept help should remember, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5-6). There’s no such thing as a maverick Christian. Those who take advantage of others do so because of a lack of faith and lace of love. Jesus calls us to have a servant’s heart. That is true no matter what state or condition we are in. There are very few situations where someone cannot serve someone else in some way. Even if physically incapacitated, a person can serve by encouraging others or praying for others. God, by His grace, sends us Abishis, don’t refuse them, but don’t abuse them either.
Fourth, God’s grace also provides instruction about battling (2 Samuel 21:17b). In response to David’s peril and close call, his men “swore to” David that he would no longer go out into the battle with them. This was gracious guidance from the Lord for David’s good and protection. David was wise enough to accept this instruction. It is always wise to accept God’s gracious instructions. Be teachable. Receive instruction. Be a person familiar with the book of Proverbs. Submit yourself to God’s word and instruction therein.
Fifth, God’s grace empowers us to keep on fighting (2 Samuel 21:18). Again, there was war with the Philistines. Sibbechai the Hushathite killed Saph, who was another son of the giant (i.e., Goliath). The battles and wars continued. Battles and wars don’t stop with age; sometimes they get more perilous. The truth and reality we need to understand is that, in this life, there will be tribulations and trials and hardship and tough times, but in Christ and by God’s grace, we can overcome (John 16:33). God’s grace makes us strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). In Christ, we have all we need to “do all things” (Philippians 4:13). All our needs are met in Jesus (Philippians 4:19). Therefore, God’s grace enables us to keep fighting when the enemy keeps attacking. God’s grace propels us into perpetual battles.
Sixth, God’s grace gives us courage to fight (2 Samuel 21:19-21). When faced with formidable foes, such as a brother of Goliath “whose spear was like a weaver’s beam,” and “a man of great stature, who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot . . . also born to the giant,” they were able to courageously confront and defeat them. The average person of these Biblical times was in the five-foot-six-inch range. A “giant” nine or ten foot tall or more, would present a pretty intimidating foe. But God’s grace gave them courage to fight. God’s grace encourages us to fight courageously no matter the intimidation factor of our foes. Remember what David says in his Psalm:
- Psalm 18:32 – It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect.
Read the context of that psalm. David had courage to fight because of His relationship with God.
That is a gift, one of the greatest gifts, of God’s grace.
Seventh, God’s grace is available to those willing to serve (2 Samuel 21:22). Those who were victorious were David and “his servants.” “Servants” here (Hebrew ebed) refers to those bound, a servant, a slave, a worshipper, a minister. This is someone willing to serve. Someone who binds and commits themselves to serve as here, in battle. To those willing to fight the enemies of God, to protect other leaders and soldiers of God, to protect God’s people, God will give grace.
God gives grace to face giants. They could be literal physical giants, or other things described as giant obstacles in our lives. Whatever it is that comes against us or that we go up against in the name of the Lord, God’s grace will be sufficient (e.g., 2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Sin can be a mighty big giant in life. Sin can be like a bully giant, sitting on your chest, demanding, demeaning, depressing, destroying. Yes, the biggest giant is sin. But God’s grace in Christ has provided a rescue. Jesus can be your Abishai, stepping in to defeat that giant. If you will turn from your and come to God asking forgiveness, if you trust in Jesus alone as Savior and giant slayer, God will forgive you and the Holy Spirit will give you a new life, eternal life in Jesus Christ. If that is your heart’s desire, you could pray something like this:
“Dear God, I have sinned and disobeyed Your Laws. I admit I deserve eternal punishment. But I repent; I confess my sins to You and forsake them. I ask that You please forgive me, not because of any good works I have done, but because I believe Jesus paid the just penalty for my sins by dying for me on the cross. I believe He rose from the dead. I believe that with all my heart. I receive it by faith, as a gift of Your grace. Help me to live for You. Please Holy Spirit fill me, give me spiritual life, eternal life. Please help me to know you Father, Son Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit. Help me grow in a relationship with You. Help me by Your grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
If you prayed that prayer, congratulations! Welcome to the Family of God. Welcome to God’s eternal life. Now you can grow in His grace. How do you do that? Begin praying and reading your Bible daily, regularly. Find a church that believes in and teaches the Bible as the word of God. Find a church where the Gospel is preached, and people believe in being born again. Find such a church and become a part of your new eternal family. And tell someone else about what God has done for you. Don’t go by feelings, live by faith in Jesus. He is faithful. He will help you. Remember this:
2 Corinthians 5:17 – 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
1 Corinthians 10:13 – 13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
2 Timothy 2:15 – 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
2 Timothy 3:16–17 – 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.