Shammah – A Character Study

There are at least five “Shammah’s” in Holy Writ.

The one we have to consider is the first of the three found in 2 Sam. 23 … a mighty man of valour, and, as his name is supposed to indicate, “a man of renown.” He is also the third of three mighty men mentioned in verses 8 to 18 of our chapter. Each of these men fought as if all depended upon them, and Jehovah gave them victory. The battle is ours …the victory is the Lord’s. Shammah in his single-handed contest prevails because Jehovah-Shammah was with him. This title is the last word of the prophecy of Ezekiel. There we find it connected with a city called” Jehovah-Shammah,” “The Lord is there”… because His presence and power will be there manifest. As believers we can be assured that if our heart’s affections are ever toward Him He is with us to guide and bless. “He withdraweth not His eyes from the righteous.” If we will to do His will and keep our eyes off unto Him, He will guide us with His eye.

The Old Testament will never lose its power over the hearts of men. It is so intensely, so delightfully human. We cannot forget the men and faces that move across its inspired pages. Indeed, “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning” (Rom. 15. 4), our warning (1 Cor. 10. 11), our uplifting (Ps. 30. 1). Nor have the sacred writings come to us in a form as bald and unpicturesque as that in which a nation’s laws are printed. On the contrary, He who has dipped even the desert flowers in hues so exquisitely various, and covers the rocks and ruins with lichen and ivy, appeals to every mental faculty in communicating to us the revelation of His will. Abstract principles often leave us cold, whereas they stir imagination, inspire the soul and provoke to emulation when given flesh and blood expression.

An Old-world Hero

Take for example the word portrait of Shammah. He was the son of Agee the Hararite. The Philistines were gathered together into a troop where was a piece of ground full of lentils, and the people fled from the Philistines. But he stood in the midst of the ground and defended it and slew the Philistines; and the Lord wrought a great victory. It is clear Shammah had the mind of God, because He gave the victory. Today all faithful believers are called upon to use the Sword of the Spirit in doing battle with the enemy.

The Hararites were the mountain people, and Shammah was a mountain of a man. He typifies those classes whose academies are the rough hillsides and places of drudgery, and his early environment gave tone to his constitution. He was strong, stable, immovable; a patriot of high purpose and noble spirit; clean, resourceful, greatly daring; a man with a face of flint and a heart of gold. Blest apparently with muscle and backbone, he yet distinguished himself on the moral plane. There are physical giants who are moral cowards. Not so Shammah, whose valour gained him” renown,” To bear him company awhile adds something to one’s spiritual stature. His quiet strength, his grand confidence, his glowing enthusiasm are contagious. God give us men like that today, men of the mountain type, with heads in the sky and feet on the Rock; men of principle and stainless honour, men of sterling piety and sanctified ingenuity, men who balance peace with righteousness and equity with truth.

The Greatness of the Small

Consider the deed that gained Shammah renown. At first sight it looks a tame affair. He defended a plot of lentils. He was not out to shake empires nor to storm cities, nor even to slay giants, as some of his contemporaries had done, HE DID A SMALL THING IN A GREAT WAY. He fought for a trifle because it involved a principle. “He who can take no interest in what is small” says Ruskin, “will take false interest in what is great. He who cannot make a bank sublime will make a mountain ridiculous.” Shammah “made his bank sublime,” He may have known the owner and that owner David; if so, that would give value in Shammah’s eyes. Seeing a foraging troop about to reap what Israel had sown he made a stand that has ever since added lustre to his name. Look at him and wonder. With no organization at his back, with no one to give him a cheer, he braced his nerves and, single-handed, challenged the foe. There is more here than meets the eye, for man is more than man when God lays hold of him. Thus stood Shammah, strong as if a thousand hearts were combined in one, fearless as if invisible battalions were at his back. He slew the Philistines, pointing the old lesson that victory AWAITS THE MAN WHO SIDES WITH GOD AND DARES TO STAND FOR THE RIGHT.

God and the Front Place

The character of his deed should be noted. In making a stand, Shammah was actuated by a sense of right which is an advance on the mere performance of duty. What he did was linked to the loftiest spiritual thoughts and reinforced by unearthly sanctions. Spiritually it makes little difference what our work is: it is the manner of our doing it. Shammah knew what he was fighting for. It was not for personal gains or glory; not for promotion or renown, although he ultimately became one of the first three of David’s mighty men. The plot he defended was God-given territory; the lentils were for the life of the community who at the time had a food shortage following the ravages of war.

Who can estimate the worth of men who reserve for God the front place in their lives. They are the salt of the earth. If men would only bring everything into the sweep of true religion - money matters, business matters, and all the complex relations of daily life! For if we offer anything to God we must offer EVERYTHING, as Paul says, “whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God “(1 Cor. 10. 31). Of necessity there must first be the acceptance of what He offers, namely, Christ as personal Saviour, and the acknowledgment of Him as Lord and Master. “And the Lord wrought a great victory.” Miss that and the story loses half its value. It shows how God’s plans materialize through consecrated personality. It pictures the Infinite making of man’s weakness a platform upon which to exhibit His mighty strength. Cross out the supernatural and the exploit becomes impossible, whereas” nothing is too hard for the Lord” (Jer. 32. 17).

Shammah’s story is not without points of contact with ourselves. Every redeemed life is an allotment; “Ye are God’s tillage”(tilled land) is the Pauline way of expressing it. The soil differs according to gifts and temperaments, so does the produce; but whether “the yield” be comparable to barley, wheat or lentils, matters little, provided it is the best yield possible. Though hedged by special Providence a believer’s life is still exposed to invasion, whilst nothing of good in it can be held without a fight. That is why John Bunyan in “The Holy War” gives prominent mention to Standfast (who might have sat for Shammah’s portrait) and Valiant for Truth.

How is it with the reader? Has sin turned into desolation what might have been a garden, or turned into a dumping ground for rubbish what ought to be a fruitful plot? Even so, the case is not hopeless; it is not God’s will that men should perish or become a prey to evil powers, though too often when threatened by the Philistines that are around us off or down they go.

What then is to become of the human plot of which the enemy has made havoc, leaving the owner nothing to defend? For answer we turn to a scene enacted eleven hundred years after Shammah, yet in a mystical way connected with his glorious deed. Yonder, at a place called Calvary, “Jehovah-Shammah” champions the cause of a lost world, and through death effects its deliverance. The scene is one of tragedy and triumph. The powers of hell have done their worst. Human hate and gibbet, following maltreatment and a mock trial. Now the Sun is veiled, the earth quakes, and it is both the darkest and the greatest hour in human history. Deserted by friends, derided by foes, “they crucified Him and two other with Him, on either side one and Jesus in the midst” (John 19. 18). Nevertheless “He wrought a great victory” for in dying He “slew the enmity” between man and God, spoiled principalities, and powers, and by virtue of His resurrection was declared to be both Saviour and Lord. And more; for as the Israelites who fled from the Philistines shared the victory wrought through Shammah, even so, we underserving sinners are privileged to share the benefits of Christ’s greater victory through faith in His name. And then, once He is trusted the life-plot presents a new aspect. It is redeemed, cultivated, and made productive of much fruit to His praise. Marvellous grace. Higher than the stars, deeper than the oceans, broader than the spheres. What shall we say to these things? “Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”