Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I Samuel 29

I Samuel 29: Achish Sends David Back to Ziklag

Synopsis

As mentioned in the last passage, the Philistines are getting ready to battle the Israelites, and Achish has made it clear that he wants David and his men to accompany him into battle. David agreed, leaving me to wonder how far into sin David was going, when agreeing to fight the Israelites with the Philistines. My assumption is that David would have turned on the Philistines, during the battle.

But as it turns out, we won’t find out what David would have done; the other Philistine leaders take Achish aside, and tell him that they don’t trust David. They assume that when the battle starts, David will turn against them.

But the Philistine commanders were angry with him and said, “Send the man back, that he may return to the place you assigned him. He must not go with us into battle, or he will turn against us during the fighting. How better could he regain his master’s favor than by taking the heads of our own men? Isn’t this the David they sang about in their dances:

“‘Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands’?”

(verses 4–5)


So Achish relents, and sends David back. He assures David that “as surely as the LORD lives,” he has been reliable, but he doesn’t want to do anything to displease the other Philistine rulers (verses 6–7). But then David seems hurt!

“But what have I done?” asked David. “What have you found against your servant from the day I came to you until now? Why can’t I go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king?” (verse 8)

Wow. I’m still convinced that David is planning to turn on the Philistines during the battle, but he’s pouring it on thick.

In any event, David and his men return to the land of the Philistines, while the Philistines go into battle.

Thoughts

The other Philistine rulers seem to be better judges of the situation than Achish is. They’re right about David, and Achish is wrong. They’re even right about Saul being David’s master; Achish believes that David has made himself a stench in Saul’s nostrils (I don’t know if that phrase was used, but it’s a common one in the Old Testament), but in actual fact, David has never stopped considering Saul to be his master, since Saul is the LORD’s anointed king.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I Samuel 28

I Samuel 28: Saul and the Witch of Endor

Synopsis

This passage starts with a bit of a prologue, before the actual action takes place. There is a battle coming, between the Philistines and the Israelites, and Achish (the Philistine king) comes to David, to make it clear that David and his men are expected to join the Philistines in fighting the Israelites. But David tells Achish that this is fine; “Then you will see for yourself what your servant can do,” he tells him, in verse 2. We are also reminded that Samuel is dead, and we are told that Saul has expelled all mediums and spiritists from the land, which will become important.

The time comes for the Israelites and the Philistines to assemble against each other, and when Saul sees the Philistine army, terror fills his heart. He inquires of the LORD, but unfortunately, the LORD is not responding to him, either in dreams, or through the Urim, or through prophets. So he asks his attendants to find him a medium, and they inform him that there is such a women in Endor. So Saul finds an Imperial shuttle, steals some access codes, and set off for the moon of Endor. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Saul and some of his men set off for Endor—which, I assume, is an Israelite town—to find the medium. Saul disguises himself, goes to see her, and asks her to bring up a particular spirit, but the woman is not having it.

But the woman said to him, “Surely you know what Saul has done. He has cut off the mediums and spiritists from the land. Why have you set a trap for my life to bring about my death?”

Saul swore to her by the LORD, “As surely as the LORD lives, you will not be punished for this.”

(verses 9–10)


I guess this convinces the woman, because she asks Saul to whom he wants to speak, and he tells her Samuel. So she brings up Samuel, but as soon as she sees him, she realizes that it is Saul she’s speaking to.

When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out at the top of her voice and said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!”

The king said to her, “Don’t be afraid. What do you see?”

The woman said, “I see a spirit coming up out of the ground.”

“What does he look like?” he asked.

“An old man wearing a robe is coming up,” she said.

Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.

(verses 12–14)


Why “an old man wearing a robe” is enough to convince Saul that it’s Samuel I don’t know, but apparently it is.

Samuel’s first question to Saul is why Saul has disturbed Samuel by brining him up. Saul tells him that the Philistines are fighting him, and the LORD has stopped responding to him, so he’s brought Samuel up to ask him what to do.

Samuel said, “Why do you consult me, now that the LORD has turned away from you and become your enemy? The LORD has done what he predicted through me. The LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors—to David. Because you did not obey the LORD or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the LORD has done this to you today. The LORD will hand over both Israel and you to the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also hand over the army of Israel to the Philistines.” (verses 16–19)

At this, Saul’s strength leaves him, and he falls to the ground. We’re told that it’s even worse because Saul hasn’t eaten in a couple of days. So the medium approaches Saul, and urges him to eat something, but he refuses. When his men join the woman in urging him to eat, he finally relents, and the woman prepares some food for the men.

Thoughts

Previous passages have made it clear that David has not abandoned his loyalty to the Israelites, so I’m sure any readers of this passage are expecting David to turn on the Philistines, when the time comes. I always wonder when I read this passage, though, how far into sin David is going, by lying to the Philistine ruler.

This is another of the passages in the Old Testament that I find very bizarre. Saul consults a medium, and she is actually able to bring Samuel up from the dead—but when he appears, his first question to Saul is “Why have you disturbed me?” (The whole thing is so bizarre, it reminds me of a scene in The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.) I don’t tend to believe anyone who mentions seeing ghosts, but based on this passage, I have to admit that it is possible. (There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in my philosophy.)

This passage points out the desperation in the human heart to depend on anything other than God. We are commanded—again and again, especially in the New Testament—to trust in the LORD, and in Him only. He will provide what needs to be provided, even if He doesn’t do it in your timeline. (And He rarely does things according to our timelines.) He may not provide what you want, but He will provide what is best. But we always want to know in advance what is going to happen; it’s no wonder that horoscopes and mediums and other such things are so popular, and always have been. Rather than depending on God, it seems better to us to try and find out what is going to happen, so that we can prepare for it—even though He already knows exactly what is going to happen, and is already preparing for it.

As an aside, this is also another example of Saul sort of doing the right thing, but not completely. He has expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land—but that doesn’t mean that he’s not above trying to consult one, when he’s in trouble.

Whoops

I haven’t posted here in over a month. My duties at work have changed slightly, making it harder to post during the day, and I haven’t yet been able to adjust my overall schedule, to compensate.

But I’m not in a hurry. I already know that it will take years to get through the entire Bible, so a missed month isn’t a big deal in the grand scale. (Although this isn’t about “getting through the Bible,” it’s about my own personal study…)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Samuel 27

I Samuel 27: David Among the Philistines

Synopsis

In the last passage, Saul tried—again!—to kill David, and when David confronted him, he—again!—repented. But David is learning his lesson, and in this passage he decides to leave Israel and go and live with the Philistines, so that Saul will stop chasing him. So he and his six hundred men go and settle in Gath, where the king’s name is Achish. (And Saul stops chasing him, so I guess it was a good idea.)

He tells Achish that he doesn’t want to live in the royal city with the king, so Achish gives him a town called Ziklag to live in. (The passage tells us that Ziklag has belonged to the kings of Israel ever since—meaning up until the time that the book of I Samuel was written.)

But once David has settled in, he starts raiding the surrounding peoples; the Geshurites, Girzites and Amalekites. But what he tells Achish is that he’s raiding the Israelites. Whenever he does one of his raids, he takes the plunder, but doesn’t leave alive a single man or woman, so that word won’t get back to Achish what David is really doing. And his subterfuge works, because Achish becomes convinced that David has become “odious” to his own people, and that therefore he’ll have no choice but to remain in Gath, and serve Achish.

In all, the passage tells us that David and his men live there for a year and four months.

Thoughts

Obviously David’s heart never left Israel. Even after he left the country, afraid for his life, he still fought her enemies, and served the LORD. I wonder, though, if there’s something to be said here about David’s deception; would the LORD have been pleased with him about it? Does it show a lack of faith—maybe if he’d stayed in Israel, and not had to be deceptive, the LORD would have protected him there? I don’t know, and don’t even have an opinion, just asking the question.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I Samuel 26

I Samuel 26: David Again Spares Saul’s Life

Synopsis

Only a chapter ago Saul repented of trying to kill David, and yet in this passage he’s back to trying to kill David again. David is in the Desert of Ziph, and the Ziphites report it to Saul. Saul brings his army after David, and when David hears that Saul is after him again he sends out some scouts to confirm it, which they do.

That night, David and a man named Abishai sneak into Saul’s camp—which isn’t too hard, since the LORD has caused everyone to fall into a deep sleep. They come to where Saul is sleeping, with his spear and his water jug nearby, and Abishai volunteers to kill Saul for David. But David forbids it; Saul is the LORD’s anointed, and you can’t kill the LORD’s anointed without incurring guilt:

But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the LORD lives,” he said, “the LORD himself will strike him; either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the LORD forbid that I should lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go.” (verses 9–11)

So they do, and sneak back out of the camp.

David and Abishai then go to a hill, fairly far away from Saul’s camp (but still within shouting distance), and then starts teasing Abner, the leader of Saul’s army. He asks Abner why he didn’t protect his king, and why he let someone into the king’s camp without stopping him. And as proof, he asks Abner where the king’s spear and water jug are.

Saul hears this conversation, and steps in.

Saul recognized David’s voice and said, “Is that your voice, David my son?”

David replied, “Yes it is, my lord the king.” And he added, “Why is my lord pursuing his servant? What have I done, and what wrong am I guilty of? Now let my lord the king listen to his servant’s words. If the LORD has incited you against me, then may he accept an offering. If, however, men have done it, may they be cursed before the LORD! They have now driven me from my share in the LORD’s inheritance and have said, ‘Go, serve other gods.’ Now do not let my blood fall to the ground far from the presence of the LORD. The king of Israel has come out to look for a flea—as one hunts a partridge in the mountains.”

(verses 17–20)


As usual—you know the drill by now—Saul repents, and tells David that he won’t try to harm him again. So David returns Saul’s spear, and reiterates to Saul that because Saul is the LORD’s anointed, David will not lay a hand on him. David then goes back on his way, and Saul returns home. Again.

Thoughts

So if David didn’t intend to kill Saul, why did he want to sneak into Saul’s camp? It’s possible that he planned all along to steal something from Saul, to prove that he intended Saul no harm, but it doesn’t seem like that to me. It seems like he was just sort of playing it by ear, rather than having any real plan of what he wanted to do.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I Samuel 25

I Samuel 25: David, Nabal and Abigail

Synopsis

This passage starts out with mention of the passing of Samuel—so obviously Samuel himself didn’t write the books of I and II Samuel (or at least not all of them).

David goes to the desert of Maon, where there happens to live a man named Nabal—a man who is “surly and mean in his dealings”—and his wife Abigail—a woman who is “an intelligent and beautiful woman” (verse 3). Nabal is very wealthy, and it’s currently sheep-shearing time, so David sends some of his servants to ask Nabal for a handout. After all, David’s men have been protecting Nabal’s property, and have never stolen anything belonging to Nabal, nor mistreated his servants.

However, Nabal doesn’t answer favourably. (One might even say that he is “surly,” and “mean in his dealing” with David’s men.)

Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?” (verses 10–11)

When David’s servants bring this message back to him, he immediately springs into action; he straps on his sword, and four hundred of his men strap on theirs, to go and teach Nabal a lesson. (A permanent lesson.)

Luckily, however, Nabal’s servants approach Abigail, and let her know what’s going on. They seem to beleive that Nabal should have given David’s men something, because of all that David has done for them, but they’re also afraid of what is going to happen; they know that they can’t go to Nabal about this, because, “He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him” (verse 17). Abigail immediately loads a bunch of food onto donkeys, and brings them to David, but doesn’t tell Nabal.

As Abigail meets David, he is in the middle of a tirade:

As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her, and she met them. David had just said, “It’s been useless—all my watching over this fellow’s property in the desert so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good. May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!” (verses 20–22)

(Okay, so she actually meets him just after his tirade.)

Abigail gets off her donkey, and bows down before David. She asks him to let the blame fall on her, and, in essence, says that Nabal isn’t to blame because he’s a fool, and you can’t really expect much from a fool. (The name Nabal actually means fool, according to Abigail.) If Abigail had known about David’s request, she would have responded better.

She then asks David to accept her gift, and keep himself from revenge. She asks David to leave revenge to the LORD, so that David will not have on his conscience “the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself” (verse 31). David is convinced:

David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. Otherwise, as surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.” (verses 32–34)

So Abigail goes home in peace. When she returns, she finds that Nabal is in the middle of a banquet, one that is “like that of a king” (verse 36). He’s in high spirits, and very drunk, so she decides not to tell him what has happened. She waits until the next morning, when he has sobered up, and then tells him everything that has happened.

When Nabal realizes what has happened, his heart fails him, and he becomes like a stone. He stays in this state for ten days, and then the LORD takes his life.

When David hears about this, he praises the LORD, who kept David from doing wrong, and brought Nabal’s sin down on his own head. He then sends some servants to ask Abigail to become his wife. She agrees.

We are told that, although Saul has given David’s previous wife Michal to another man, David does have a second wife, named Ahinoam. So David is currently married to Ahinoam and Abigail. (As I recall, in a later chapter when David returns to Jerusalem, he’ll take Michal back as his wife.)

Thoughts

A question I have: Even though Nabal was selfish and mean in his dealing with David, would David actually have been justified in killing him? My feeling is that no, he wouldn’t have been. Yes, Nabal should have dealt better with David, but that’s different from actively wronging him. So when David is convinced by Abigail to leave Nabal to the LORD, it’s not just a matter of leaving vengeance in His hands; I think that it’s also the case the David would have been guilty of murder, if he’d gone through with it. I could very well be wrong on this point; I don’t claim to be an expert on Old-Testament-Israel law.

Which might speak, again, to David’s youth; I believe David is still a young-ish man at this point. (I wonder what the age difference would have been between David and Abigail? Were they similar ages? Was Abigail older? I don’t see any indication either way, unless the Hebrew word translated “woman” in verse 3 indicates an older or younger woman.)

In any event, whether David would have been justified in attacking Nabal or not, it seems to me that the LORD is punishing Nabal for his actions. (The passage doesn’t specifically say that Nabal’s death is a punishment, but it seems pretty clear to me that this would be the reason that the LORD strikes him dead.) So whether he specifically sinned against David or not, he definitely sinned. Perhaps we should remember this example the next time we’re on the street and a homeless person asks for change.

This passage also brings up the question of polygamy, since David is now married to two or three women (depending on if you count Michal). But I’ve talked about polygamy before, and don’t have any further insights to add at this time.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I Samuel 24

I Samuel 24: David Spares Saul’s Life

Synopsis

As we enter this passage, Saul is still pursuing David. He hears about David’s whereabouts, and follows him there. Along the way, Saul enters a cave to relieve himself, and as it turns out, David is hiding in that cave, with some of his men! Immediately, David’s men see this as an opportunity from the LORD; this must be the day He spoke of, when He promised to deliver David’s enemy into his hands, to do with as he wishes.

But rather than killing Saul, as one might expect, he instead creeps up unnoticed, and cuts off a corner of Saul’s robe. And is then immediately conscience-stricken, for having done such a thing to the king, the LORD’s anointed. He then rebukes his men, and prevents them from attacking Saul.

But David is not just letting the matter drop, either. He then goes out of the cave, and calls out to Saul. When Saul turns around to see David, David prostrates himself, and calls Saul “My lord the king” (verse 8). He asks Saul why Saul would listen to people who claim that David is trying to harm him. (I don’t think Saul has actually listened to anyone, I think he decided this himself, but I don’t know what David knows and what he doesn’t.) David then points out that the LORD has delivered Saul into David’s hands, by sending him into the cave, but David spared Saul, since Saul is the LORD’s anointed king. He even shows Saul the corner of his robe, which was cut off in the cave, as proof that David could have killed Saul, if he’d been so inclined. Therefore, Saul should recognize that David has done nothing wrong, and that he is not guilty of any rebellion. Then he says:

May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. As the old saying goes, “From evildoers come evil deeds,” so my hand will not touch you.

Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea?

(verses 12–14)


I especially like that last line.

And Saul appears to heed David’s words.

When David finished saying this, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, David my son?” And he wept aloud. “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. You have just now told me of the good you did to me; the LORD delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the LORD reward you well for the way you treated me today. I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. Now swear to me by the LORD that you will not cut off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.” (verses 16–21)

So David gives Saul this oath, Saul returns home, and David returns to his stronghold.

Thoughts

I’ve heard people say that the Bible is not realistic, because it doesn’t include things like people going to the bathroom. To which I say:
  1. They obviously haven’t read this passage, and
  2. It wouldn’t matter even if the Bible didn’t include this, because very rarely does someone going to the bathroom introduce an important plot point for the stories included. (This is obviously an exception to the rule.)
I also find that God introduces a lot of “coincidences” into the story between Saul and David. Saul and his men are encircling a mountain, and David and his men are creeping away from Saul on the other side; Saul goes into a cave to relieve himself, and David happens to be hiding there. Being in control of the situation, God is very much emphasizing David’s responses to Saul—largely, I believe, for our benefit, who are reading about it thousands of years later.

It’s interesting that David rebukes his men, after becoming conscience-stricken for cutting off the corner of Saul’s robe. This tells me that his men are really pushing for him to kill Saul, but I wonder if he’s also partially blaming them for goading him into cutting off the piece of Saul’s robe in the first place? It seems to me that we’re watching David grow up, in the book of I Samuel; he starts out a boy, and is growing up a little more with each story we read.

Once again, in this chapter, we see Saul seeming to come to his senses, but I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing soon that Saul will be back to his old ways, and trying to kill David. David definitely doesn’t go back to serve in Saul’s court, he goes to his stronghold instead, so he’s probably thinking the same thing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Samuel 23:7–29

I Samuel 23:7–29: Saul Pursues David

Synopsis

Saul hears that David has gone to Keilah (refer to the last passage), which is a city which has gates and bars. So he assumes that God has handed David over to him, by having David go to a city where he will be imprisoned. He gets his men together and heads for Keilah, intent on besieging it, to capture David.

However, David hears about it. He has Abiathar bring the ephod, so that he can inquire of God, and God confirms that yes, Saul is on his way, and when he gets here, the people of Keilah will give David up to him. So David and his men—about six hundred, at this time—leave Keilah, and keep moving from place to place. Saul hears about it, and doesn’t bother continuing on to Keilah, but he does continue his search for David. But God doesn’t give David into his hands.

And then an interesting thing happens:

While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” The two of them made a covenant before the LORD. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh. (verses 15–18)

So Saul and Jonathan know that David is going to be king.

At one point, the Ziphites approach Saul, because the places David is hiding all seem to be within their territory. They offer to hand him over to Saul, but Saul doesn’t think they’ll actually be able to do it, because David is very crafty. He tells them to come back to him with definite information, and then he’ll come for David. And they must get such information, because David is currently hiding in the Desert of Maon, and Saul heads over there to find him. And then God providentially intervenes again:

Saul was going along one side of the mountain, and David and his men were on the other side, hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his forces were closing in on David and his men to capture them, a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Come quickly! The Philistines are raiding the land.” Then Saul broke off his pursuit of David and went to meet the Philistines. That is why they call this place Sela Hammahlekoth. And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of En Gedi. (verses 26–29)

According to the footnote for verse 28, “Sela Hammahlekoth” means “rock of parting.”

Thoughts

When Saul hears that David has the potential to be trapped in Keilah, it’s interesting that he thinks the LORD is handing David over to him. Jonathan seems to think that Saul knows David is going to be king, but at the same time Saul thinks that God is helping him capture David? Again, I think that Saul has some mental problems.

I don’t necessarily judge the people of Keilah for giving David up to Saul. (They didn’t actually do it, but the LORD said that they would have, if David had stayed.) After all, when the king of your country shows up and asks you to give up a “criminal,” you can’t be blamed for doing it. I suppose I shouldn’t judge the Ziphites, either, for the same reason, but somehow their actions seem more vile to me.

I’ve been going under the assumption, so far, that Saul has been a bit paranoid about David succeeding him as king. I know that David is going to be king, since I’m looking back in history, but from Saul’s perspective, David has never done anything except faithfully serve Saul. But according to Jonathan, he and Saul both know that David is going to become king. So really, Saul is trying to prevent the LORD’s will from happening—which is always a fool’s errand.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Samuel 23:1–6

I Samuel 23:1–6: David Saves Keilah

Synopsis

David hears that a place called Keilah—which I assume, based on the context, is an Israelite town—is under attack from the Philistines, so he inquires of the LORD, who tells him to attack the Philistines and save Keilah. (We’re told in verse 6 that Abiathar brought the ephod with him, when he escaped to David’s camp, so I guess that’s how they’re inquiring of the LORD.) David tells this to his men, but they tell him that if they’re afraid in Judah, how much more afraid would they be to go to Keilah, and fight against the Philistines.

This seems to give David second thoughts, because he inquires of the LORD again, but he gets the same answer, so they go. They fight the Philistines, inflict heavy losses on them, and carry off their livestock.

Thoughts

David must be a good leader if he’s able to get his people to go and fight the Philistines when they’re already so scared of Saul. Their first impulse must have been to simply stay hidden, and, if they had to fight someone, they probably would have preferred to fight Saul. (Not that anyone has said so, to this point.) But, as usual, the LORD gave David success in his battle with the Philistines. He simply has to do the LORD’s will, whether he’s doing it as a servant of Saul, or as an outcast.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I Samuel 22:6–23

I Samuel 22:6–23: Saul Kills the Priests of Nob

Synopsis

David is currently hiding from Saul, but Saul is not sitting idle, he’s looking for David. He finds out that David has been discovered, but he doesn’t yet know where David is. So Saul gathers his officials, and gives them a talking to:

Saul said to them, “Listen, men of Benjamin! Will the son of Jesse give all of you fields and vineyards? Will he make all of you commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? Is that why you have all conspired against me? No one tells me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse. None of you is concerned about me or tells me that my son has incited my servant to lie in wait for me, as he does today.” (verses 7–8)

Unfortunately, Doeg happens to be there, and he reports to Saul that he saw David at Nob, and that Ahimelech inquired of the LORD for David, and gave him bread and a sword. So Saul summons Ahimelech, along with his father’s entire family, and questions them. In fact, he accuses Ahimelech of conspiring with David, and helping him to rebel against Saul and lie in wait for him. Ahimelech is righteously indignant; first of all, he doesn’t believe David would do anything against Saul, since nobody in Saul’s service is as loyal as David—not to mention the fact that David inquires of God all the time, so inquiring of God in this particular instance wasn’t in any way unusual—and secondly, Ahimelech knows nothing about what’s going on.

This isn’t good enough for Saul, who orders his guards to kill Ahimelech and his father’s entire family. Saul’s officials aren’t willing to kill the priests of the LORD, but Doeg is, and he carries out the execution. Not only that, but he puts to the sword the entire town of Nob, which is a Levite town, including the women and children, and even the livestock.

The only person who escapes is Abiathar, Ahimelech’s son. He goes to join David, and tells him what has happened. David immediately blames himself; he remembers that he’d seen Doeg, when he was at Nob, and he knew that he would be sure to tell Saul. He tells Abiathar to stay with him, and he’ll be safe.

Thoughts

Again, in this passage, Saul sounds a lot more paranoid than prudent. It’s true that there might have been a valid concern that David would take over as king if David were anyone else, but Saul should know David well enough to know that David wants to serve Saul faithfully. And for Ahimelech to tell Saul that nobody is as faithful as David was probably the wrong thing to say—I’m sure that just enraged Saul more.

I don’t think it was a good thing for David to tell Abiathar that it’s his fault that Abiathar’s whole family was killed, though. When I read David taking responsibility, and saying that he knew Doeg would tell Saul, it just makes him sound very irresponsible to me. If David knew that Doeg would tell Saul, then why did he put Ahimelech’s life in danger? And even once that mistake was made, he shouldn’t have told that to Abiathar, who would—rightfully—blame David for his family’s death. (Not that this passage says Abiathar did blame David. Maybe he didn’t.) But again, I’m reminded of the fact that he is still young. He may be a man after God’s own heart, but he doesn’t yet have a lot of experience.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I Samuel 22:1–5

I Samuel 22:1–5: David develops a following

Synopsis

This passage continues with David’s wanderings, as he seeks to escape Saul.

After his meeting with Achish in the last passage, David leaves Gath and hides in a cave in a place called Adullam. It’s not a great secret that he’s there, though, because many people hear about it, and join him there:

All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him. (verse 2)

In order to protect his family, David approaches the king of Moab, and asks if his parents can stay in Moab, temporarily, until David can figure out what God will do for him. The king gives permission, so David leaves his parents there, and goes back to his cave (which this passage sometimes calls his “stronghold.”)

However, a prophet named Gad tells David not to stay in the stronghold, but that he should go to Judah instead. So David does, and goes to the forest of Hereth.

Thoughts

It’s interesting that David feels comfortable enough with the king of Moab to ask permission to hide his parents there, even though the Moabites are enemies of Israel. In fact, in Chapter 14 it is mentioned that Saul has been inflicting punishment on his enemies, including the Moabites, so it’s possible that the king of Moab thinks David will be an ally—or, at the very least, that he won’t be as bad as Saul. Or maybe the king doesn’t think that David will ever become Israel’s ruler, but he just thinks that any enemy of Saul’s is a friend of his.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I Samuel 21:10–15

I Samuel 21:10–15: David at Gath

Synopsis

David is still fleeing from Saul, and leaves Israel altogether. He goes to a place called Gath, where the king’s name is Achish. But when he gets there, there is a misunderstanding; the king’s servants have heard people saying, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (verse 11), and they mistakenly think this means that David is the king of Israel. (Exactly the type of thing Saul was afraid of!)

When David realizes that the people of Gath think he’s the king of Israel, he gets scared, and pretends to e insane. Achish buys the act:

Achish said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?” (verses 14–15)

Thoughts

I don’t have much to say about this passage, except that it’s interesting to see the future king of Israel, a man whom the Bible often says is a man after God’s own heart, acting insane because he’s afraid of the Gathites. Not that I blame him, I’m just saying, it’s interesting to read.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I Samuel 21:1–9

I Samuel 21:1–9: David at Nob

Synopsis

David is now in hiding, and he goes to a place called Nob, where he meets with the priest, Ahimelech. But when Ahimelech sees that David is alone, he gets scared; why is nobody with David? David makes up a story to explain this situation, saying that he’s on a secret mission for the king, and that he will be meeting up with his men somewhere else.

That being taken care of, David asks the priest if he has anything to eat. Ahimelech answers that he doesn’t have any “ordinary” bread handy (verse 4), but that there is some consecrated bread. He tells David that if the men have kept themselves from women—meaning that they are ceremonially clean—they can have that bread. David replies that of course women have been kept from his men, because that’s how it always is on David’s missions. So the priest gives David the consecrated bread.

David also tells Ahimelech that his business for the king was so urgent that he left without bringing a sword or a spear, and he asks if there are any weapons he can have. Ahimelech tells him that he has the sword of Goliath, so David takes it.

Unfortunately, one of Saul’s servants, named Doeg, also happens to be at Nob when David is talking with Ahimelech. This will turn out to be important, later on.

Thoughts

Again, when David talks to Ahimelech about a “secret mission” that the king has sent him on, it sounds like the type of thing that an adventurous boy would say, rather than a grown man. To me.

I think this is the incident that Jesus is referring to in Matthew 12:1–14. However, Jesus talks about “David and his companions” eating the bread, and there are no companions with David at this point, so it might have been a different incident that he was referring to. (It’s also mentioned in Mark 2:23–28, but Jesus talks about David doing this during the time of Abiathar the high priest; I’m not sure if Abiathar is the high priest right now. (I’m sure Ahimelech isn’t the high priest, he’s just a priest.)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I Samuel 20

I Samuel 20: David and Jonathan

Synopsis

In the last passage Saul tried to kill David, and David had to flee for his life. However, in this passage we find out that Jonathan didn’t know about it. David goes to Jonathan to find out what his crime might have been, that Saul would be out to kill him, and Jonathan tells David that Saul couldn’t possibly be trying to kill him—he would never do anything so important without telling Jonathan about it. But David counters that Saul probably didn’t tell Jonathan because he knew about his friendship with David.

This seems to make sense to Jonathan, because he asks David what he can do for him. David hatches a plan: It’s the time for the New Moon festival, and David decides not to go. (That’s not the clever bit.) He tells Jonathan to make an excuse for him, and if Saul is fine with David being absent, it means that everything is fine, but if Saul gets angry about it, it means that he really does want to kill David. And, if Saul wants to kill David, he asks for Jonathan’s mercy—or, if David really is guilty of something, Jonathan can kill David himself. Of course, Jonathan tells David that if his father really wanted to kill him, Jonathan would tell him.

David is worried about how he’ll get word from Jonathan, so they hatch an additional plan: Jonathan figures it will be a couple of days before Saul asks about David’s absence, so they make plans to meet at this field in a couple of days. David is to hide, and Jonathan will come with a servant, and shoot some arrows. When the servant goes to retrieve the arrows, Jonathan will use a code:

“Then I will send a boy and say, ‘Go, find the arrows.’ If I say to him, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you; bring them here,’ then come, because, as surely as the LORD lives, you are safe; there is no danger. But if I say to the boy, ‘Look, the arrows are beyond you,’ then you must go, because the LORD has sent you away.’” (verses 21–22)

So David goes off to hide, and Jonathan goes to the New Moon festival with Saul. The first day that David is gone is no big deal, but on the second day Saul asks Jonathan about it. Jonathan gives the story he had agreed on with David, and Saul blows his top.

Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he must die!”

“Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” Jonathan asked his father. But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David.

(verses 30–33)


So Jonathan gets up and leaves, angry with is father, and doesn’t eat for the rest of the day, because of his anger. He goes out to the field, and they go through the thing with the arrows, except that when he tells his servant that the arrow is beyond him—the code for David to know that Saul really does intend to kill him—Jonathan loses control, and says “Hurry! Go quickly! Don’t stop!” (verse 38)—which must have been strange for the servant, who didn’t know what was going on.

But David doesn’t hurry, he waits until the servant is gone, and then goes to Jonathan, and they weep and say goodbye.

Thoughts

I don’t know how old David and Jonathan are at this point, but I believe they’re still fairly young. Which might explain why they keep coming up with these little plans; “I’ll shoot an arrow, and then make up a code to tell you the results of my talk with Dad.” It sounds like the type of thing boys would do. It’s especially amusing when Jonathan shouts for David to hurry and run, but David doesn’t; he just waits to say goodbye to Jonathan.

It’s interesting that Saul tells Jonathan that as long as David lives, Jonathan’s kingdom will never be established. This is more than the ranting of a crazy man, it’s also Saul’s worry that David will claim the kingship, and kill all of Saul’s descendants—a common practice, at the time, to prevent the old king’s descendants from seeking revenge. One might also consider it a prophecy; with all of Saul’s prophesying in previous passages, did he foresee this?

Monday, October 06, 2008

I Samuel 19

I Samuel 19: Saul Tries to Kill David

Synopsis

In the last passage, Saul became jealous of David, but we’re not told how David felt about it—or if he was even aware of it. In this passage, however, there will be no mistake about it. In fact, the passage begins with Saul commanding Jonathan and his attendants to kill David.

But Jonathan likes David, so he has David hide. He promises to have a talk with his father, and find out what’s going on. David does go into hiding, and Jonathan has a talk with his father, in which he tries to convince him that David has done nothing but serve Saul, and that God has given David success. Saul seems to change his mind, and swears to Jonathan that he won’t put David to death, so David comes back into Saul’s service, as before. And there is also a battle with the Philistines, in which David—as usual—has great success in routing them.

But after this, an episode happens which is almost exactly the same as something that happened in the last passage: Saul’s evil spirit comes upon him, and David is playing the harp, when Saul takes a spear and tries to pin David to the wall. Again, David manages to elude him, and escape. The next morning Saul sends men to David’s house to kill him, but Michal warns him to flee, and lowers him down through a window. She then takes an idol and puts it in David’s bed, with some goat hair at its head. The men—with or without Saul, I’m not clear on that—find the idol, and Saul questions Michal as to why she would deceive him, and let his enemy escape. But Michal tells Saul that David had threatened to kill her, if she didn’t let him get away.

David goes to Samuel, and they both head to a place called Naioth. Saul hears about it, and sends some men to Naioth to capture him, but when they get there the Spirit of the LORD comes upon them, and they begin prophesying. Saul hears about this and sends a second group, but they also end up prophesying. And he sends a third group, which also ends up prophesying. Finally, Saul himself goes to Naioth, but the Spirit even comes upon him, and he prophesies too. In fact…

He stripped off his robes and also prophesied in Samuel’s presence. He lay that way all that day and night. This is why people say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (verse 24)

For such a bad king, Saul spent a lot of time prophesying!

Thoughts

When Jonathan has his heart-to-heart with Saul, my guess—although I wouldn’t be surprised if I was wrong—is that Saul really does change his mind, and decide not to kill David. I don’t think it’s a ruse, just to try and get him back. I think Saul just has mental issues, caused by his evil spirit.

It’s interesting that Michal claims David had threatened to kill her, if she didn’t let him get away. But we can clearly see by this point that Saul is bent on murdering David, so I’m sure she was just afraid for her life.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

I Samuel 18

I Samuel 18: Saul’s Jealousy of David

Synopsis

Let’s just jump right into this one, shall we?

After his defeat of Goliath, David and Jonathan become very good friends. (Verse 1 tells us that Jonathan becomes “one in spirit with David.”) Saul decides to keep David in his service full time—meaning that David doesn’t return to his father’s house—and Jonathan gives David his armour (his robe and tunic, sword, bow, and belt). Saul also gives David a high rank in the army because everything he gives David to do, David does successfully. David’s new position pleases the people and it pleases Saul’s officers, so obviously it’s not just Saul who is impressed with David’s success and ability.

However, this doesn’t last long, in Saul’s eyes:

When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes. As they danced, they sang:

“Saul has slain his thousands,
  and David his tens of thousands.”

Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.

(verses 6–9)


The next day, Saul’s evil spirit comes upon him in force, and he begins prophesying. (At least, I assume the prophesying is because of the spirit, and that Saul wasn’t prophesying before the spirit came upon him. The text isn’t quite clear on that.) David is playing his lute, as usual, but Saul gets the idea to take his spear and run David through, pinning him to the wall. He tries twice, but David eludes him both times.

I don’t know if it’s because of this event, or just the general way his mind is going, but Saul realizes that the LORD has left him, and is with David, and Saul becomes afraid of David. So he sends David away, in command over a thousand men, and David has great success leading them (because the LORD is with him). All of the Israelites love David, because of his success in leading them in their campaigns, which makes Saul continue to fear him.

And then Saul has an idea: He’ll give his daughter Merab to David in marriage, as long as David will serve him faithfully in fighting the Philistines. He’s hoping that David will be killed by the Philistines, and then Saul won’t have to raise his own hand against David—probably because he fears what the people will do, if Saul kills the man whom they are currently adoring. But Saul’s plan backfires, because David is too humble to marry the king’s daughter! He tells Saul that he can’t marry Merab, because he’s not worthy to become the king’s son-in-law. Verse 19 tells us that when it is time for Merab to be given to David, she is given in marriage to another man, instead, but since David had already said he wouldn’t marry Merab, I’m not sure why it ever would have been time for her to be given to him.

But then Saul gets a second chance: He finds out that his other daughter, Michal, is in love with David, and believes that he has a second chance for David to be killed by the Philistines. (He also says that Michal will be a “snare” to him (verse 21), but I’m not sure if he means because she’ll be the cause of David’s death at the hands of the Philistines, or if he is referring to some personality trait of Michal herself.) He tells David that he has a second chance to become his son-in-law, and then has his attendants approach David too, and tell him that the king is pleased with him, so he should go for it. But David won’t do it; he tells them that it’s no small thing to be the king’s son-in-law, and that he is too poor and little-known. (Actually, that last part is kind of funny; I’m sure David is one of the more well-known men in the land, at this point.) But this time, Saul comes up with a further idea: he’ll put a task before David, for David to earn Michal’s hand in marriage. All Saul asks is for David to bring him a hundred Philistine foreskins.

When David hears this, he is pleased to do it. I guess he feels that this time he’s actually earning his way into the family. David is not killed by the Philistines; he and his men go out and kill two hundred Philistines, and bring their foreskins to Saul. So Saul gives Michal in marriage to David. Once again, Saul sees how the LORD is with David, and he also sees how Michal is in love with him, and he becomes even more afraid. In fact, verse 29 tells us that he becomes David’s enemy, and remains so for the rest of his days.

But David seems unaware of this. Every time the Israelites go into battle with the Philistines, David meets with more success than Saul’s other officers (or, as an alternative suggested in the footnote, maybe he “acts more wisely”), and his name becomes well known.

Thoughts

I’m not sure what exactly it signifies when Jonathan gives David his armour/clothes. A sign of respect? Friendship? Equality?

Saul’s jealousy of David seems a bit much. But I think the evil spirit which is tormenting him has something to do with it. (Is that an obvious thing to say?) Especially when David refuses to marry Saul’s daughter, because he doesn’t feel worthy to become the king’s son-in-law—does that sound like the action of a man who wants to overthrow the king?

Speaking of which, it doesn’t explicitly say, but I think Saul’s fear of David is a fear that David will take away his kingdom. I don’t think he regards David as a judgement from God, or anything like that.

It might sound odd that Saul is asking David for Philistine foreskins—why not heads, or something like that?—but I’m guessing it’s a mix of practicality and contempt for non-Jewish people. Practicality because only the Israelites would be circumcised, nobody else would, so David wouldn’t be able to cheat and kill a hundred Israelite men for their foreskins. But the Israelites sometimes referred to non-Israelites as uncircumcised, with circumcision standing as a sign of Jewishness, so I wonder if that played a part, too.

For the most part, in this passage David seems unaware of Saul’s ill intent toward him. But if that’s so, I don’t know if he’s ignoring the incident where Saul tried to run him through with a spear, or if he’s just chalking it up to Saul’s insanity, caused by the evil spirit. Or maybe David is completely aware of what is going on, and just trying to deal with the cards God has dealt him.