Around 3,000 years ago, an intimidating Hebrew warrior called Benaiah, right-hand-man of King David and one of my ultimate biblical heroes, performed what the Bible calls “great exploits” (2 Samuel 23:20 & 1 Chronicles 11:22). One of these was that he “went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.” This feat, along with others in Benaiah’s resume (listed in the verses immediately after those quoted above), is not explained in any detail, although someone with a vivid imagination graphically described the scene in the 2017 novel, Succession Plan.
We may well ask why the Bible contains records of such events. Perhaps it’s because, like all good writers, those who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to record such things knew their readers. Assuming that roughly 50% of Bible readers are men suggests that action as well as fact is required in the narrative.
Benaiah’s life can be understood more completely by undertaking a study of the times in which he lived. David (particularly in his years as a fugitive) and his men were known to hang out at places like the cave of Adullam, the Crags of the Wild Goats and the Desert of Maon. These were men who knew how to survive and thrive in the wilderness for extended periods. In fact, it’s a common theme right through the Bible – men being summoned to the mountains or wild places in order to hear from God. Moses didn’t receive the Ten Commandments whilst sunbaking around the pool at a desert resort. He was called to Mount Sinai and ended up staying there for forty days and nights. He later sent some of his trusted men to check out Canaan for the same time period (that didn’t end so well in the short term). Elijah’s showdown with the prophets of Baal took place on Mount Carmel. Later, being pursued to the death, Elijah withdrew to a cave on a mountain where he would hear from God. Interestingly, it was quite possibly the same mountain (Sinai) for the same time frame (forty days) as that frequented by Moses.
Jesus, of course, spent forty days in the wilderness where he was tempted to abandon his mission. Scripture tells us that he regularly retreated to the mountains or wilderness to spend time with his father. An event which clearly had a profound influence on Peter, James and John as witnesses was Jesus’ transfiguration (Matthew 17, Mark 9, Luke 9 & 2 Peter 1:16-18). At this time, Jesus led them up a “high mountain” – probably Mount Hermon, an imposing snow clad peak near the border of Israel and Lebanon and roughly 1.5 times the elevation of Mount Bogong!
It seems there has always been an intriguing connection between wilderness experiences, men and their Creator. I wonder what God will do amongst a group of 13 men for 5 days on the spectacular Bogong High Plains?