In his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell contends that the form of hero stories in many cultures is the same no matter where it is told. This basic story line is found in fantasy epics and many novels.
Today’s passage describes the accomplishments of “the chiefs of David’s mighty warriors” (v. 10). Jashobeam raised his spear against 300 opponents (v. 11). Eleazar stood his ground and defended a plot of ground against the Philistines when the rest of the army fled from the enemy (vv. 12–14). Three men broke through the Philistine lines to bring water to David. (vv. 15–19). Abishai became as renowned as the three men who did this and had the honor of acting as their commander (vv. 20–21). Benaiah is credited with several feats (vv. 22–25). The remainder of chapter 11 lists the names and background of David’s “mighty warriors.” The accounts in this section all share two characteristics. First, they had bold faith. Each of those mentioned acted bravely despite overwhelming odds. Courage is not the absence of fear but the determination to act in the midst of fear. Faith is the expectation that God will accomplish His will through our action (and sometimes in spite of it). David’s mighty warriors not only acted heroically, they showed that they possessed a heroic faith.
Second, these accounts reflect the mutual devotion that was felt by David and his men. David’s warriors were devoted to their king, willing to risk their lives on his behalf. David in turn was devoted to his men. He did not take their sacrifice for granted. Instead of seeing it as a tribute to his own leadership, David viewed their courageous acts as something that should be offered to God.