The recent fighting in Afghanistan has cast the spotlight on extraordinary soldiers, referred to as Special Operations or Special Forces. All major armies have their elite troops, who are reserved for difficult missions, requiring bravery and skill in superlative degree. The Israeli Defense Force has its celebrated paratroopers. The British have the Special Air Service (SAS) and the Royal Marines. While the United States military has numerous different Special Operations units (e.g. The Navy Seals; Marine Recon teams & Scout-Snipers; & the Army Rangers, Green Berets, & Delta Force.) In Biblical times, there were also valiant warriors, who possessed courage, loyalty, & faith. Champions like Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson performed great martial exploits in delivering Israel from their enemies. Perhaps no other group of men in the Scriptures deserve the title of Special Forces more than David's Mighty Men.
Most great military leaders form their commando squads from the ranks of experienced professional soldiers, who are ideal physical specimens. Furthermore, wise commanders seek intelligent men, who have a strong sense of espirit de corps. In our day, we might look for university-trained officers, products of our prestigious military academies, or at least, graduates of officers candidate school. In the case of the mighty men, however, David recruited unlikely heroes under extreme conditions. 1 Sam.22:1-2 gives the account of the arrival of his first troops: "David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father's house heard it, they went down thither to him. And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men." (Italics mine) Truly, David garnered the nucleus of his armed forces from a motley crew of disenfranchised and disenchanted wanderers. They came to him when he was rejected and unrecognized by the nation of Israel. Saul sought to murder him, and he was reduced to dwelling in a cave. Many of the Mighty Men first joined David at this low point in his history.
David's recruiting policy of taking in defaulters and other vulnerable people reminds one of the Lord Jesus' tactics in forming His forces. His servants are culled from the teeming masses of slaves to vice, enemies of God, recalcitrant rebels, and spiritually debilitated debtors. As Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29: "For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence." Ordinary human thinking would seek followers from the upper echelon of society; but God changes His soldiers from the inside out into a "new creature." (2 Cor.5:17) In the Master's service, the hated tax collector (Matthew) and ardent political partisan (Simon the Zealot) are changed into devoted apostles of Christ. Fishermen become fishers of men (e.g. Peter & John); and council members bow to the "Wonderful Counselor" (e.g. Nicodemus & Joseph of Arimathea.) Only the Lord Jesus could take an inveterate enemy of the Gospel like Saul of Tarsus and transform him into its greatest proponent. In more modern times, committed atheists like C.S. Lewis have converted to Christ, as well as sinners of every demographic and description.
It is interesting to note the authority structure of David's Mighty Men. Officers' ranks were attained by first proving oneself on the battlefield. For example, Josheb-basshebeth, the first man on the list in 2 Sam.23, was rewarded with high position in the army on account of his loyalty and accomplishments in combat. He also earned the nickname Adino the Eznite (loosely translated, "One of the sharp spear") due to his slaying of eight hundred enemy soldiers on one day. This remarkable feat was performed without the aid of modern firearms or explosives; Adino did it with just a spear! Such a heroic performance was rewarded with a responsible position: "the chief of the captains" (probably the equivalent of our modern Major General-Joab would have been over him as the supreme general of the armed forces. See 1 Chr.11:4-6.) Similarly, the Lord Jesus apportions positions of service based on diligence in lesser tasks. In the assembly, He says that an elder is not to be "a novice." (1 Tim.3:6) The men who were put in charge of the distribution to the widows of the early church were "Ã