David’s army will be in two parts, a professional, full-time army and a militia. The professional army will be in two parts, the Israeli’s and foreign troops or mercenaries. The militia will be a people’s army of reservists, called up only in a time of emergency. However, they will serve on active duty part of the year. The rest of the time they will be at home pursuing peace-time occupations, except for the minimum time of active duty.
The Israelite portion of the regular army was an out-growth of the small formation of fighting men that David collected around him during the time of his conflict with Saul. This army was described at one time as 400 men (1 Sam 22.2), then 600 men (1 Sam 23.12,27.2,25.13). These are elite forces were empowered by God and had to live under very hard conditions, running and fighting. They become seasoned troops, experienced and expert in warfare. They were conditioned and they knew every cave, water source and ravine (2 Sam 17.7-10).
One of the tactics of the Israeli army after the 1950’s was they sent their officers into the Negev desert to train. These were the elite forces and they became better than anyone or anything sent against them. They learned the terrain. There were forced marches all the time and this training is described in a book called “Portrait of a Hero” by Yonaton Netanyahu. Officers are chosen from among the troops because everyone starts out as a private.
At 18, you are drafted and if you desire to be an officer, you must go through a special type of selection. You are kept awake for three days, long runs up to 20 K’s are done in full gear. You are tested in math, map reading and your ability to command. If you fall one point short, you are out because you only have one chance. The desire to serve the country, not yourself, is the motivation.
It is not like in America were recruits are told “Be all you can be.” There is no school for officers like in the American military. None of the lower ranks have been to college because they were drafted when they were 18. The rank structure is Private, Commander, Sgt, Lt, Captain (and then college for a degree), Major, Colonel, Brigadier General, Major General, Chief of staff. You don’t go to college till you are a captain, then you can’t proceed to major or colonel without college.
From private to major can be a fast track. The motto for an officer is “after me” and being an officer is an invitation to die first. There is an illustration of this concept in American history.
In the revolutionary war, men were laying a beam for a fort. A corporal was yelling, but not helping. A man rides by and sees what is happening, and helps. He asks why the corporal didn’t help, and he said “I’m the corporal.” The man said if they needed any more help to call him. He said “My name is George Washington, commander-in-chief, and if I can help, why couldn’t you?” He then rode off.
In warfare, don’t ask another to do what you won’t do yourself. Officers sleep and live with their troops. It is not based on spit and polish, but effectiveness. Most don’t even wear insignia or salute officers. They call their officers by their first name.
In an article out of the Jerusalem Report called “Don’t Judge a Kid by His Leather” it says only 5% of the boys said they wouldn’t volunteer. 48% said they should serve three years. Only 9% of the girls said they would not serve, and 49% said they would for two years. This shows a tremendous attitude in the Israeli army.
1 Sam 22.1-2 is the beginning of David’s army, made up of 400 men, made up of family and disheartened men. They wander and eventually escape Saul and go to the Philistines as a mercenary, except against Israel. He is willing to fight for them at this time. At this point, David gathers Philistines and sea peoples who are going to be his mercenary army. He knows that he will be king someday so he is picking his own men.
David’s men protected farmers and shepherds and David initiated some of the institutions that would govern his army. 1 Chr 2.12-16 says that Joab, Abishai and Amasa were kinsmen of David and were commanders. In 2 Sam 23.10-47 we learn of the “mighty men” or “gibborim” and these thirty men were responsible for framing the internal army, regulations, promotions and appointments and all military matters. Joab was the commander and these duties were delegated to them. They also served as permanent commanders of the militia.
This veteran formation of the “thirty” and the men under them was the basic force of David. They were used in battles against the main foes of David and battles that required great mobility and speed. You can read about some of their exploits in 2 Sam 23.10-47.
The second group comprising the professional army were the foreigners. 2 Sam 15.18 mentions the Pelethites and the Cherethites. They were sea peoples related to the Philistines and bodyguards to David. They were an elite force, not related to David. They were Jewish converts and had Jewish wives. David’s first contact with them is when he is fleeing Philistia (1 Sam 27). Another interesting man is Attai the Gittite (a Philistine from Gath-2 Sam 15.19). He had 600 men with him, uncircumcised, but followed David.
Uriah the Hittite was one of the thirty “mighty men.” This is a picture of the last days, with Jewish and non-Jewish believers in Yeshua fleeing from the false messiah. In 2 Sam 18.1-4 we learn that one-third of David’s army against Absalom was under Ittai the Gittite. This army was made up of regulars and militia, all who had gathered to David. The rest of the people were deceived into thinking Absalom was who they wanted.
The majority of the people in this story were swayed into following Absalom, and in the future, most will be swayed into following the false messiah. Rather than make a stand, they went with the masses. Absalom’s followers were not willing to leave everything behind and go where God was going.
The militia eventually developed into a highly efficient fighting force. This is what Israel tries to do today. They have proved to be very good time and time again. In the Yom Kippur war, the standing army was wiped out and it was the reserves that won the war. The standing army paid the price and held off the Syrians until they came up.
One of the problems David faces is tribal jealousies. David needs to replace the tribal position with a strong central authority because the tribal system wasn’t working. From the time he does this, Israel will never be the same again.
In warfare, some tribes were larger than others and some were better warriors. Some used different weapons and David had to put all this together to make a cohesive unit. So, what David does is he organizes a militia in advance, with permanent units made up of 24,000 men and are called up by unit. Every region or tribe provides the basic units. If you were too small, you could still be part of the army for that region.
So David organizes several reserve armies and you belonged to that army, with the tribes providing to that army, and each being the same size. In a general call-up, all units come up. In a partial call-up, each tribe provides what is needed. The thirty “mighty men” would determine how many get called up. Each region has the same amount of archers and sling men, supply officers, infantry and so on.
This was quite different than the “rabble” Saul had. This system leaves the tribal chiefs in charge of the internal problems within the tribe. In a time of a local emergency, this allows the tribal chiefs to activate their units and rush them to a problem area. The tribes themselves organize their base units, determine a rotation roster and appoint commanders. The system also allows the central command to utilize the specific talents of the tribes.
Those who use bows, spears or proficient with a sling can be used. The leaders would actually lead in battle. They were very often the first casualties. They had a better view and could lead the men. David would take his best men, men that were proven in battle, brave and did exploits, and put them over the reserve army for a month. They would have the very best example at all times.
There was good unity between the army and the people because the tribal elders had a part in it, and the people contributed in a time of war by feeding and housing the warriors. In Vietnam, the nation was not behind the military for the most part, and very “uninvolved.”
In 1 Chr 27.1-15 we have a list of the “gibborim” or mighty men and their division of 24,000. Then in v 16-24 we have the tribal elders listed (“chief officer is “sarim” or prince). Now you know why. The professional warrior working alongside of the sarim, or tribal prince, made it possible to organize the militia, made up if twelve, 24,000 man units.
Twelve formations of equal strength, and not encroaching on the tribal authority or matters of clan or family links. David has pulled off a masterpiece. In capturing Jerusalem of the Jebusites, it was not under any tribal control and makes it his central governing place, avoiding tribal squabbles again.
Besides his permanent army, he now had 24,000 reserves ready to join him. You can see how the people went from unorganized to organized. This will apply to the “army” of the priesthood and musicians, to all areas.
In the ministry, you can get valuable insight from these chapters on how to organize. This can help you in business, family or any project because what happened before is still good for today. Much wisdom can be gained from using these concepts. There are also problems, and the problems are the people, not the system. People just make things harder to do.
In 2 Sam 24.1 God moves upon David and he numbers the men over 20 years old for military service. In 1 Chr 21.1 it says Satan moved David, but it was the Lord using Satan to accomplish his plan. The purpose of the census was to build the reserve army. Joab, being the petty, jealous man that he was, opposed it because he didn’t want the militia to have more power. He will kill his brother over it in 2 Sam 20.1-10. David never did count them because the Lord said that he would multiply the sons of Israel like the stars of heaven (1 Chr 27.23-24).
In Part 15, we are going to briefly look into David’s cavalry and chariot forces, then into his fortifications. Then we will move into the time of Solomon, all the while drawing concepts out that will help us in our spiritual warfare.