If you hang out with Bible geeks, you’ll eventually hear someone bring up Benaiah, the man in the Bible who killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day. That’s a pretty legendary feat—but it’s not the only crazy accomplishment Benaiah pulled off.
In fact, Benaiah is one of those cool background characters that’s only mentioned a few times in the Bible, but whenever he shows up, he’s doing something incredible.
I pulled together a list of Benaiah’s feats.
1. Benaiah was in charge of David’s guard
The President of the United States has the Secret Service, and David had a personal guard as well. Benaiah was honored among David’s mighty men, and so David puts him over the bodyguards (2 Sa 23:23).
And boy, did David need bodyguards. There’s always going to be someone who wants the king dead, but David had some high-profile enemies. For example, half the book of First Samuel is about king Saul hunting David down. Saul knows God plans to give the kingdom to David, so Saul tries to kill off the threat to his throne.
And even after Saul dies, Benaiah has his work cut out for him. David’s son Absalom tries to steal the kingdom, and for a while David is on the run again.
But David lives. Benaiah does his job well.
2. Benaiah commands David’s mercenary forces
He didn’t oversee the Hebrew army (that was Joab’s job), but Benaiah did oversee the Cherethites and Pelethites: some nonJewish mercenary forces who fought for David.
Benaiah does, however, take a one-month shift once a year as the leader of David’s army (1 Ch 27:5–6).
3. Benaiah’s father is a priest
Jehoida was a leader among the priests, and had rallied 3,700 men to support David when he was crowned at Hebron (1 Ch 12:21). This means Benaiah is from the tribe of Levi, and a descendant of Aaron, the first high priest of Israel.
4. Benaiah’s grandfather was a valiant man, too
The authors of both Samuel and Chronicles tell us that Benaiah’s grandfather was a valiant man from the town of Kabzeel (2 Sa 23:20; 1 Ch 11:22). We don’t know anything else about him, though.
5. Benaiah killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day
That’s the part everyone remembers about Benaiah (2 Sa 23:20; 1 Ch 11:22), but there’s more to it than that. Right before telling us about the lion, the authors tell us something else Benaiah did …
6. Benaiah killed two Moabite heroes (Ariel)
Here’s where we miss some of the cool wordplay in the Bible. Our English versions will say something like, “he killed the two sons of Ariel of Moab” (2 Sa 23:20). That makes us think, “Oh, yeah. Some guy named Ariel had two sons, and Benaiah killed them.”
But OT scholars are still divided on what “sons of Ariel” means. The word Ariel is very similar to the Hebrew word for “lion,” aryeh. The KJV even translates Ariel as “lionlike men.”
If the word is related to lions, then that makes the passage about Benaiah even more epic: “Benaiah was a mighty man. He killed two heroes that were as strong and brave as lions. Also, the dude killed an actual lion.”
7. Benaiah killed an Egyptian giant
David killed Goliath, but he’s not the only giant slayer in the group. Benaiah kills a pretty tall Egyptian—five cubits, or about seven feet tall (1 Ch 11:23).
And he does it in a pretty impressive way, too. The Egyptian has an enormous spear (weaver’s beam–sized), and Benaiah has nothing but a little club. But no worries: Benaiah just snatches the spear from the Egyptian and kills him with that instead.
8. Benaiah makes Solomon king
David had sworn that his son Solomon would be king in his place, but not everyone is rooting for Solomon.
In fact, one of Solomon’s good-looking half-brothers , Adonijah, declares himself king … while David is still alive. Of course, Adonijah is out of line.
Benaiah, however, is loyal to David, and fully backs Solomon (1 Ki 1:36–37). His mercenary army parades Solomon to his coronation (1 Ki 1:38–40). And Benaiah is the one who kills off the men who oppose Solomon (1 Ki 2:24–25, 34, 46), including David’s treacherous army commander Joab.
9. Benaiah becomes Solomon’s general
Having secured the throne for Solomon, Benaiah receives a place of even higher honor in the kingdom. Solomon gives Benaiah Joab’s old position: commander of the king’s army (1 Ki 2:35, 4:4).