I Samuel 22 Collateral Damage – Saul’s Vengeance.

I Samuel 22 Collateral Damage – Saul’s Vengeance.

David had been anointed as king, but here he was hiding in a cave from Saul, along with “everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented. So he became captain over them.” (v. 2). From a human standpoint, not exactly a comfortable situation. After a stay in Moab, the prophet Gad told him to go to the land of Judah, so he went to the forest of Hereth. Saul was still intent on murdering David, and of all his servants only Doeg the Edomite came forward to tell Saul where he had seen David.

Here we see the history of the ungodly seed of Edom or Esau, continuing to conspire against the godly seed of promise. When Saul discovers that Ahimelech the priest at Nob had assisted David, Saul had Doeg murder him and 84 other priests with him, when his servants refused to do so. He also massacred every living thing in the city of Nob. Abiathar, one of Ahimelech’s sons escaped, and when he told David what had happened David acknowledged that letting the Edomite go back to Saul was likely to result in at least the death of Ahimelech’s house (v. 22).

I Samuel 21 David Bears True Covenantal Witness.

I Samuel 21 David Bears True Covenantal Witness.

David is in hiding from Saul, and to this end he lies to Ahimelech the priest at Nob in telling him that he was actually on the king’s business so that he might receive some bread, and the sword he took from Goliath. It was time for the showbread to be changed anyway, which in David’s mind returned the bread to a common use. David might have thought he needed a sword since one of Saul’s servants was also in town. On his way to Achish, king of Gath, David also learned that the king supposed that he was coming against him for war, so David also deceived him in behaving like a madman. As with Rahab and Michal, there is a place for lying and deception when it in fact involves bearing true covenantal witness. Jesus justified David’s actions in this example (Mt. 12:4; Mk. 2:25-26).

I Samuel 20 The Covenant Between David And Jonathan Is Extended To Include Their Houses.

I Samuel 20 The Covenant Between David And Jonathan Is Extended To Include Their Houses.

Clearly Jonathan had a more optimistic view of his father than David did (vv. 1-2). On oath David told Jon that his father would keep the knowledge of his murderous intent from him (v. 3). To this end David had a test, to which Jon agreed to cooperate with him on. The long and short was that they confirmed that it was again the intent of Saul to murder David, to which Jon acknowledged the LORD God of the covenant as witness (vv. 4-13, 18-32, 42). Jonathan’s only condition was that David continue to show favour to his family in spite of his father (vv. 14-15). Thus the covenant between David and Jonathan now extended to the latter’s family (vv. 16-17, 42). Jon appears to have finally got the message when his own father tried to impale him with a spear (v. 33).

I Samuel 19 David, Saul, Michal, Samuel, And The Spirit.

I Samuel 19 David, Saul, Michal, Samuel, And The Spirit.

Saul commanded his son and servants to kill David (v. 1). Was Saul justifying this as not being first degree pre-meditated murder because he was the king, and perhaps like David later with the Uriah was leaving open the possibility of continuing to try and get rid of David in battle (II Sam. 11)? He should have known by this time where Jonathan’s loyalty lay, as he warned David to hide in a secret place (v. 2). Once again Jon has to play the diplomat and discuss the matter with his father, seeking to pull him back from such evil (v. 3). Jon reminds him that David has always been his servant, has not sinned against him, and that his works up to that point have been nothing but good (v. 4). He risked his life in taking down Goliath, and Jon reminded his father that he himself rejoiced at this victory (v. 5a).

One could go on and point out that Saul promised his daughter to any man who would defeat Goliath, and that when he reneged on his word, David fulfilled a second condition, namely the taking of the foreskins of 100 Philistines, when David took 200. Long before this he surely could not forget that he pulled David away from his father in order to have him play the harp when a distressing spirit came upon him. The wicked soon forget the good deeds of the righteous, and thus they presume upon the mercy and patience of their God. Jon stated the bottom line to his father – like an advocate in a court of law. “Why then will you sin against innocent blood, to kill David without cause.” (v. 5b) In these words Jonathan was telling his father that no one was above the law, including the king.

Once again Saul changes his mind about having David murdered, and the latter returns to stand in Saul’s court (vv. 6-7). Also, once again, David was victorious over the Philistines (v. 8). But also once again “the distressing spirit” from the LORD came upon Saul (v. 9), and he again tries to kill David with a spear, but David escapes (v. 10). Again, Saul sends his servants out to murder David, but this time it is Michal that saves David by lying to her father twice (vv. 11-17). David took refuge with Samuel, which was finally told to Saul (vv. 18-19). However, when messengers were sent to him and Samuel, the Spirit came upon them so that they prophesied, no doubt with something that included not killing David, for even Saul prophesied when he made the trip (vv. 20-24)!

I Samuel 18:17-30 David’s Rise, Michal, And Saul’s Failures.

I Samuel 18:17-30 David’s Rise, Michal, And Saul’s Failures.

Saul had committed to giving his daughter to whoever defeated Goliath, whom one would assume would be his oldest Merab. It should not be assumed that daughters did not have a choice in the matter. David is humbled, but Saul breaks the engagement and gives Merab to another. They may have conspired together. In any case, Saul’s word could not be trusted. In acknowledging David’s victory Saul had no intention of simply honouring his word, rather he wanted to elevate David in the eyes of the Philistines that they might seek his death all the more (vv. 17-19).

We are not told here whether Saul also reneged on giving David riches or exempting his house from paying taxes. Today if one were granted the latter the former would be assured! It almost seems by contrast with Merab, that we are told that Michal, another of Saul’s daughters, loved David (v. 20a). However, clearly Saul only believed that Michal agreed to marry David, because Saul thought that in his daughter he had a mole, one who might be a snare to David, that the Philistines may be against him all the more.

Again, here we read of another double witness to Saul’s bearing of false witness, in that he states a second time to David that he would be his father-in-law when once should have been enough (vv. 20b-21). To ensure that he would have a supposed mole in Michal, Saul continued to conspire to assuage any misgivings that David might have, and to take advantage of the desire on David’s part to marry Michal Saul adds yet another condition besides the defeat of Goliath – no dowry but one hundred Philistines foreskins (vv. 22-25).

David complied with Saul’s condition by doubling the number of foreskins to two hundred (vv. 26-27). Saul had no choice but to give Michal to David in marriage. Saul was thus doubly defeated in his scheming. He had to acknowledge that the LORD was with David in his battles with the Philistines, and that Michal loved him (v. 28). For these reasons Saul was afraid of David so that he was more of an enemy than a trusted soldier. Nevertheless, when the Philistines rose up against the Israelites “David behaved more wisely than all the servants of Saul, so that his name became highly esteemed.” (v. 30)

I Samuel 18:1-16 Covenant Friendship And A Parting Of Ways.

I Samuel 18:1-16 Covenant Friendship And A Parting Of Ways.

Normally a king’s son would follow in succession, but Jonathan more than accepted David as his father’s successor, he made a covenant with David to show their commitment to each other. Jonathan also gave his prince’s robe and armour, “even to his sword and his bow and his belt” (v 4). David had proven himself to Saul who made him his right hand man and the commander of his military forces, a position accepted by all the people, including Saul’s servants (v. 5). However, Saul was one who did not fully accept David, for Saul was very angry when the women danced and shouted, “Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousand.” (v. 7). Where the women sang ‘and’, Saul heard ‘but’. It was from this point forward that Saul saw the threat that David posed to his hold on the kingdom (vv. 8-9).

Once more God sends a distressing spirit to Saul, but it says that he prophesied, which would suggest that the distressing spirit was none other than the Holy Spirit. Whatever Saul prophesied we know it would be true, and probably apropos for the occasion. Could it be that he prophesied the transfer of the kingdom to David? In any case, David’s playing of music did not calm Saul as before, rather Saul threw his spear at him trying to kill him. From this point forward, the enmity is Saul’s heart evidenced itself in David being banned from his presence, but only after David had escaped him twice, a double witness of the LORD’s providential protection. David was demoted to being simply a captain over a thousand (v. 13). However, Saul acknowledged that David behaved wisely in all his ways which made him afraid, but the people loved David (vv. 14-16).

I Samuel 17 David And Goliath.

I Samuel 17 David And Goliath.

The people of God faced a valley of decision, a battle they could not escape. Either they would finally be victorious or the Philistines would (vv. 1-3). The Philistines thought that if they could make it a fight between two representative persons that they could spare everyone the messiness of an all out war. The plan had some merit, but the man they sent to represent them was a giant among giants. From outward appearances Israel didn’t measure up. The challenge of Goliath made everyone, including Saul, afraid, except David. Forty days is symbolic for a time of testing, and this is what Goliath had given to Israel for them to answer (vv. 4-16).

David was sent by his father Jesse with supplies in support of the troops, and to bring back news to his father. David ensured that the sheep were cared for and he then obeyed his father and went. When he arrived he left the supplies with the supply keeper and went to the front line to greet his brothers. Unlike the others, David did not flee fear the uncircumcised Philistine. The adjective reveals that David believed that their covenant making and covenant keeping LORD would give them the victory (vv. 17-27). However, Eliab, Jesse’s oldest son, objected, no doubt still resentful of David being anointed as the new king.

Eliab supposed that David was behaving irresponsibly by leaving the sheep and running off, not knowing that he made arrangements for their care, and the supplies, while he obeyed the voice of his father. Furthermore, Eliab presumed to know David’s motives and his heart, something known only to God, and a reason why David was chosen above his brothers (v. 28). David was asking an honest question, which after forty days had not been answered – who was going to fight Goliath? David volunteers, and when Saul inquires as to what experience David had, David referred back the victories the LORD had given him over other beats, a lion and a bear (vv. 28-37).

Saul heard enough and proceeded to outfit David with his own armour, but David was accustomed to his own weapons, what had given him his victories before (vv. 38-39). The appearance of the boy David offended Goliath. He thought that the Israelites were mocking him. Little did he know that a single stone would crush his head and issue in their defeat. David had faith and a message he wanted all to hear. The LORD would deliver Goliath into David’s hand, and “then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword or spear; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hands” (v. 47).

One stone, strategically fired, was enough to put the giant down, and David used Goliath’s own sword to cut off his head (vv. 48-51a). The Philistines had no intention of becoming slaves, so they fled (v. 52b). Israel pursued them and drove them from the land and plundered their possessions on their return (v. 53). David took Goliath’s head to Jerusalem to Saul, and his armour he took to his own tent (v. 54). David had proved that faith in their covenant making and covenant keeping God would bring them victory without compromise, but David had to remind Saul that he was Jesse’s son (v. 58).

I Samuel 16 Conflicting Spirits – Saul And David.

I Samuel 16 Conflicting Spirits – Saul And David.

There is “a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Eccl. 3:4a). The LORD told Samuel that he had mourned long enough over Saul, especially when he was a bad choice to begin with. The LORD wanted Samuel and the people to move forward to accomplish the kingdom work that lay ahead. To this end the LORD chose the one who would be their leader – a man who would obey. Samuel feared the possible wrath of Saul if he knew the purpose of his journey. He was not asked to lie, for he was also traveling to Bethlehem to offer sacrifice, at which time the LORD would point out the one whom he had chosen to be anointed as king (vv. 1-3).

The elders did not know whether Samuel came in judgment or for peace. They must have been relieved to learn that he came to offer a sacrifice. All they had to do was to set themselves apart for this purpose, especially Jesse and his sons (vv. 4-5). Even Samuel was looking at appearances as he speculated on whom the LORD had chosen, “but the LORD looks at the heart” (v. 7). All seven of Jesse’s sons pass before Samuel until they are left with David, the youngest, who was tending the sheep. They had already decided it couldn’t be him because they had to pick someone to tend the sheep while they attended to this important matter (vv. 8-11a).

Samuel believed the word spoken by the LORD, and as a command to him he would not rest until all possibilities were exhausted. From mere appearances, no one imagined that the LORD would pick someone so young. While they could see potential in one who was “ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking,” only the LORD could see his heart that was ready and willing (vv. 11b-12). One can just imagine the thoughts of his older brothers as they saw David being anointed by Samuel. However, as with Saul, so now with David, the Spirit also came upon him, but unlike Saul it remained from that day forward. Then Samuel returned to his home (v. 13).

As the Spirit came upon David, even so he left Saul, and in his place a distressing spirit was sent (v. 14). This was a time when even servants understood how God moves upon men (v. 15). Whether out of genuine concern for Saul, or because of fear for what he would do under this condition, the servants suggested that they find a skillful player of the harp that this spirit might leave him, to which Saul agreed (vv. 16-17). Although the LORD saw David’s heart, it turns out that there was also much in appearance and reputation of character which also commended David. The important thing which the servants recognized was that the LORD was with him (v. 18).

All that Saul knew was that David was a shepherd, and so he demands of Jesse that he send the boy to him to play the harp (v. 19). Jesse must have wondered what would happen, especially if Saul found out that David was the new king. To this end he had sent gifts with David. Saul loved David so much, providing as he did relief from the distressing spirit, that Saul made him his armorbearer. To this end he also asked Jesse to have David stand before him as his right hand man. Here we see the sovereign hand of God opening the door for the new king who also found favour with Saul. Their wait was over, for the LORD made a way.

I Samuel 14:47-15:35 Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifice.

I Samuel 14:47-15:35 Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifice.

Saul continued to enjoy some success, no doubt under the leadership of Jonathan – against Moab, Ammon, Edom, Zobah, the Philistines and Amalekites. As predicted of kings, “when Saul saw any strong man or any valiant man, he took him for himself” (v. 52). However, Samuel reminded him that he had anointed him king over the LORD’s people, so that he must “heed the voice of the words of the LORD” (15:1). One such word was that he destroy Amalek who had ambushed the LORD’s people as they were leaving Egypt (Dt. 25:17-19 Cf. Nu. 24:20). Clearly he and the people had forgotten this earlier word from the LORD. This was a unique war directed by the LORD himself for a specific purpose (vv. 2-3).

To emphasize that this order had specific reference to the treatment of Israel by the Amelakites as they were fleeing from Egypt, Saul spares the Kenites who were in their midst (v. 6). They were victorious, but in sparing Agag the king and the best of the livestock, they were not heeding all the words of the LORD. They decided what and who could be spared, when the LORD wanted a total destruction. It was Saul’s penchant for following only parts of what the LORD commanded, making himself the arbiter of what should be obeyed, that would ultimately lead to the rejection of him as king (vv. 10-11).

Saul erected a monument to himself and boasted that he had obeyed the LORD (v. 12). In his mind it was right that they should save the best of the livestock, saying that he did so to offer sacrifice (vv. 13-15). Samuel preaches a word of judgment against Saul for not fully keeping the words spoken to him, even though he claimed that he had, again justifying the saving of the best of the livestock for sacrifices (vv. 16-21). It is in this context that we have the famous statement that “to obey is better than sacrifice” (v. 22). Failure to fully obey the word of the LORD was rebellion which was “as the sin of witchcraft” (v. 23).*

It was because he had rejected the word of the LORD that Saul was rejected as king (v. 26). Saul actually confessed that he feared the voice of the people more than the word of the LORD (v. 24). For this reason the kingdom would be given to another better than him (vv. 27-28). When Samuel tried to leave, Saul grabbed the edge of his robe and it ripped, which was symbolic of the kingdom being ripped away from him. The LORD would not relent concerning his decision (v. 29). At this point all Saul wanted was to not be humiliated in front of the people, although he claimed that he also wanted to be forgiven and to worship the LORD.

In any case, Samuel did stay (vv. 30-31), partly to ensure that the command of the LORD was fulfilled with the execution of Agag (vv. 32-33). This would be the last time these two men would be together until Samuel’s death (v. 34). “Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul, and the LORD regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel” (v. 35). Saul is a classic example of those who think that they can pick and choose what words from the LORD God they will obey, and what areas they think their own judgment to be better. Not obeying in whole is rebellion and ultimately idolatrous autonomy.

*Much is made of this sentiment expressed by the later prophets, but it is worth noting that this word first comes through one who was a priest as well as a prophet. However, David also surely learned the lesson as Saul’s successor. (Cf. Ps. 50:8-17; 51:16-17; Pr. 15:8; 21:3, 27; Eccl. 5:1; Is. 1:10-17; Jer. 6:19-20; 7:21-26; Hos. 6:6; Amos 5:21-24; Mic. 6:6-8).

I Samuel 14:24-46 Conflicting Oaths.

I Samuel 14:24-46 Conflicting Oaths.

When leaders make decisions there are consequences for everybody. Saul was so consumed with taking vengeance on his enemies that he would not even allow his men to take the time to eat and rest. “So none of the people tasted food” (v. 24). However, Jonathan had not heard Saul’s oath, so when the people were in the forest where there was honey he took some and “his countenance brightened” (v. 27), but the people who did not eat anything became faint (v. 28). Jonathan laments his father’s issuing of such an oath, because if the people had eaten their victory would have been greater (vv. 29-30).

Then, upon their victories from Michmash to Ajalon they did eat, but now they were so famished that they ate the meat with the blood, contrary to the law word of the covenant (vv. 31-33a Cf. Gen. 9:4; Lev. 3:17; 7:26-27; 17:10-12; 19:26; Dt. 15:23), something Ezekiel would also refer back to (33:25). When Saul heard about what the people did he then decided to do what should have been done in the first place, to make a sacrifice unto the LORD and have the people eat and restore themselves consistent with the law word of the covenant LORD (vv. 33b-34). This was the first altar which Saul built to the LORD (v. 35).

Saul then wanted to return to battle, and the people agreed to follow, but the priest said that they should first inquire of the LORD (v. 36). “So Saul asked counsel of God, ‘Shall I do down after the Philistines? Will you deliver them into the hand of Israel?’ But He did not answer him that day.” (v. 37). Saul, thinking that Jonathan’s sin was greater than his own, and thinking that he had made atonement for the people, asked that lots be cast, but Jonathan was selected, and the people fled. Saul thought that Jonathan was selected because of his transgressing of his oath, but the people were loyal to Jonathan.

The people knew that it was through Jonathan that they were victorious. Saul wanted his son to die, but the people rescued him (vv. 38-45a). Saul considered any violation of his rash and foolish oath as greater than the LORD’s approbation of the faith of his son Jonathan, but the people bore witness before the God, that Jonathan was the one favoured of the LORD (vv. 45b). Saul then ceased from his battle with the Philistines, and they returned to their own territory (v. 46). With his oath Saul broke the oath of the covenant with the LORD, and in so doing he also caused the people to transgress the law word of the covenant.