Leave No Man Behind

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: 1Samuel 30-31; Luke 13:23-35


When the Israelites across the valley and across the Jordan learned that the Israelite army had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned their towns and fled. So the Philistines came and occupied the towns.

The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the dead, they found Saul and his three sons lying dead on Mount Gilboa. They cut off Saul’s head and stripped off his armor, and then sent word throughout Philistine territory, carrying the good news to their gods’ temples and to their people. 10 They put Saul’s armor in the temple of Astarte, and hung his body on the wall of Beth-shan.

11 But when all the people of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 the bravest of their men set out, traveled all night long, and took the bodies of Saul and his sons off the wall of Beth-shan. Then they went back to Jabesh, where they burned them. 13 Then they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and they fasted seven days (1 Samuel 31:7-13, Common English Bible).

In truth, I have no idea if the Israelites of Saul and David’s era knew concept of “No Man Left Behind). Many of us (I was one until I started researching from this post) believed wrongly that the saying had its origins in the various branches of the US military which in one form or another has held it as part of the policy (a part that, historically we haven’t done all that well in keeping over the years). Still the intentions are good. I first heard the saying while in Navy bootcamp. It wasn’t said for the Navy as a whole. I think everyone on a ship understood that if a ship goes down there is a pretty good chance we are going to leave some sailors behind no matter how valient the efforts to save them might be. I heard it said  tied to the Navy Seals. Years later, when my oldest son Wayne enlisted in the Marine Corps, I heard it again. It is a big deal for anyone in the militray but it is a huge deal for a Marine. It is also part of the Army and Air Forces’ creed that they will not leave a soldier or airman (respectively) behind. It is also in the DNA of Army Rangers.

In truth the saying probably has its roots a couple of thousand years ago, but could also have been aroun about as long as war has been around. We do know the Romans had a saying, “nemo resideo” or “Leave no one behind.”

What we do know is, when the Israelites heard the dispicable things the Philistines did to their king and his sons, they were not going to leave these men behind. The official mission could easily have been made because of the king and his sons. Still, knowing folks, remembering folks like my great-grandfather who served in World War I, my Uncle Jim who served in World War II, my dad who was in the Navy during the Korean conflict, numberous friends who were in the military during Vietnam and others who have spent more time in the Middle East than they care to recall, I believed the soldiers of Israel would have searched with close to equal determination for the guy fighting next to them as they were for the king and his sons.

Israel’s army of old was determined to not leave their king behind. Many since then have had equal determination to leave no one behind. Most of us do not face the opportunities or the hazards that go with such a promise and determination. We do, however, face the equal responsibility to leave no one behind, in a spiritual sense, when we leave this life. Solider’s, sailors, Marines, and airmen will risk their lives to leave no one behind. Will we risk looking foolish to hopefully leave no one behind for eternity?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,


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