2 Samuel 23:13-17 And three of the thirty chief men went down and came about harvest time to David at the cave of Adullam, when a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. 14 David was then in the stronghold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then at Bethlehem. 15 And David said longingly, “Oh, that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!” 16 Then the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate and carried and brought it to David. But he would not drink of it. He poured it out to the Lord 17 and said, “Far be it from me, O Lord, that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of the men who went at the risk of their lives?” Therefore he would not drink it.
These things the three mighty men did.The incident described in these verses could have occurred before David became king, while he was still fleeing from Saul. The “cave of Adullam” is first mentioned in 1 Samuel 22:1. This is where David located after he fled from Gath. It is where a number of his kinsmen joined him, along with others who were also out of favor with Saul. At some point in time, David and his men were in this cave while they were at war with the Philistines. The Philistines had taken possession of David’s hometown of Bethlehem and were garrisoned there. Perhaps as they were running out of water and David was thirsty, he verbalized what was meant only as a wish. If only he could have but a drink from that well in Bethlehem. No doubt he had drunk from it many times in his younger years and grown particularly fond of the water it provided.
Some of his men could not help but overhear what David said. He had given no orders to fetch him some water from that well. He had not even intended that anyone would be prompted by his words to attempt to get some water from it. But to these three brave men, David’s wish was their command. The men left the safety of the cave, marched some 12 miles or so to Bethlehem, broke through the enemy lines, drew water for David, and then marched back another 12 miles to bring it to him.
When presented with this water, David did what at first seems very unusual 125– he refused to drink the water, and instead poured it out on the ground. This is not because he disdained the efforts of these courageous men, nor because he did not wish to drink the water. I believe his actions demonstrated that he refused to drink the water because the courage of those who obtained it was too noble to do otherwise. David never intended to put these men’s lives at risk, merely to satisfy his own desires.126 The kind of devotion his men showed to him was the kind of devotion that belonged to God. Pouring this water out before the Lord was David’s highest expression of appreciation and regard for these men. The water was a symbol of the blood these men nearly shed, serving him. The highest use to which this water could be put was the worship of God, and so David poured it out to the Lord.