The Monarchy - David Part 3

So Saul took three thousand chosen men
from all Israel and set out to look for David
and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats.

–1 Samuel 24:2


David on the Run

Chapter 21 - With Jonathan's help, David is able to verify Saul's intentions. He and Jonathan depart as friends, but David has no weapons, no men, and no clear idea of how to proceed, so he goes to Nob, midway between Saul's city of Gibeah and Jerusalem. This is where they are holding temple services after the fall of Shiloh in chapter five, though the ark is still in Kiriath Jearim. The priest Ahimelech knows David and is trembling when they meet. David deceitfully tell Ahimelech he is on a secret mission for the king and will meet his men at a "certain place". David asks for bread for his men, but the priest only has consecrated bread; David can have it as long as his men have kept themselves from women. David assures Ahimelech and then asks if there are any weapons. Ahimelech answers that there is only the sword of Goliath, but David was welcome to it. So, David accepts the sword.

All the while David and Ahimelech talk, one of Saul's shepherds, Doeg, was in the temple listening. After David leaves Nob, he travels to Gath, Goliath's home town. David basically took refuge among the Philistines, but he was now famous and the king of Gath, Achish knew who he was. David launched a ruse as that of a madman; marking the walls outside the gate and drooling on himself. The ruse worked, they paid him no mind.

This incident with the bread of the Presence is quoted by Jesus in Matthew 12:3-4 He answered, "Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread--which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Also in 1 Samuel 17:54 , after David kills Goliath, he puts the giants weapons in his tent; probably as a personal trophy. Since the sword is in the temple at Nob, David had likely dedicated it to the Lord as the true victor over Goliath.

Chapter 22 - David would spend much of his time on the run in the southern most areas of Judah, close to the border of other Canaanite peoples. When he left Gath, he took shelter in the caves of Adullam. His father's household heard where he was and joined him there along with four hundred men who were social outcasts; the bible says, "All those who were in distress, or in debt, or discontented." Generally people in similar circumstances as David. David traveled east to Moab and asked the king to allow his parents to stay there, which he allowed. Verse five introduces the prophet Gad. David is being provisioned by God in every way including a prophet. Gad was a musician and a historian. He would assist David in writing the Psalms and likely wrote much of Judges and Samuel and he would later rebuke David for the census.

Back in Gibeah, Saul had heard of where David was and was berating his own men and accusing them of conspiracy against him. Doeg the Shepherd, came forward and said that he had seen David at the temple. Saul sent for Ahimelech and had his whole family brought before the king as Saul accuses them of complicity in the affair. Ahimelech declares his innocence, but Saul orders his guards to kill the priests. They refuse and so Saul orders Doeg to do it.

1Samuel 22:18-19 18. The king then ordered Doeg, "You turn and strike down the priests." So Doeg the Edomite turned and struck them down. That day he killed eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod. 19. He also put to the sword Nob, the town of the priests, with its men and women, its children and infants, and its cattle, donkeys and sheep.

Ahimelech's son Abiathar (also a priest, also's got an ephod) is able to escape the carnage and he makes his way to David. When David hears what happened, he takes responsibility and asks Abiathar to stay with him. Now David has a prophet and a priest.

Having the priest Abiathar and his ephod is important. Remember the ephod contains the Urim and Thummim and will allow David to make inquiries to God.

Chapter 23 - While David is in the wilderness and residing in caves, word comes that the Philistines are attacking the Israelite town of Keilah. David's men are reluctant to go into battle because there is not many of them and they are fugitives. David inquires of the Lord if he should attack and the Lord says yes, so David and his men went and fought the Philistines at Keilah, inflicting heavy casualties and carrying off the Philistine livestock. Saul hears of David's victory and considers it a sign that God has given David to him since David will be trapped inside a walled city. Saul leads his army to Keilah. When David hears that Saul is coming, he inquires of the Lord if the town will give him up to Saul; God say that it will and David and his men, now around six hundred, left Keilah and kept moving until they arrived at the Desert of Ziph. When Saul heard that David had left Keilah, he did not go there.

Saul continued the search for a while but went back to Gibeah. The Ziphites went to Saul and told him David was living among them. He blesses them and orders them back to spy on David's movements. Saul then heads south to capture David, but as his army is closing in on David's army, a message came that the Philistines were raiding the land. Saul broke off his pursuit of David to fight the Philistines.

Chapter 24 - When Saul returned, David had moved to En Gedi on Judah's eastern border near the Crags of the Wild Goats. The king went into a cave to relieve himself, but David and his men were further back in the cave. David's men goaded him to attack and kill Saul, but David crept up quietly and cut a corner off of the king's robe. After this, David became remorseful and rebuked his men. Saul was still the king in Israel and more importantly, he was God's anointed; it was not David's prerogative to change this. As Saul is walking out of the cave, David comes out, bows before him, and addresses him as "my lord the king!" David goes on to defend his innocence and shows Saul the corner he had cut off of his robe. Saul now becomes remorseful and publicly proclaims David's righteous behavior and acknowledged David's inevitable kingship. Saul asks David to vow to not cut off his descendants and David give his oath to Saul. Saul goes back to Gibeah, David goes back to the cave.



David, Nabal, and Abigail

Chapter 25 - This is an interesting chapter. No, really.

It starts with the death of Samuel. He was buried in his hometown of Ramah and all of Israel mourned. David had moved a little further south to the Desert of Maon. There was a wealthy descendant of Caleb named Nabal, the bible says he was "surly and mean." Now when Nabal's shepherds were out tending his flocks, David's men would assist in standing guard against predators and thieves. When the shearing festival came, David sent a contingent of ten men to Nabal to ask for a portion of the bounty. Nabal flat out refuses and dismisses David as a rebellious servant. When this news reaches David, he becomes outraged and tells his men to prepare for battle. He is going to kill every male in Nabal's household.

Meanwhile, Nabal's servants appealed to Nabal's wife, Abigail, making the case that David is entitled to a share of the harvest. The bible describes Abigail as intelligent and beautiful; she wasted no time and prepared a generous offering for David and his men.

1Samuel 25:18-19 18. Abigail lost no time. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. 19. Then she told her servants, "Go on ahead; I'll follow you." But she did not tell her husband Nabal.

Abigail meets David and asks him to lay blame for the treatment of his men on her. She concedes that her husband is a fool and recognizes that God will make David king. David realizes that her presence is an act of God preventing from such devastating bloodshed. He accepts the gift from Abigail. When she returns home, her husband is holding a banquet and is stupid drunk, so she still doesn't tell him what she has done. The next morning when Nabal is sober, Abigail tells him what she has done "and his heart failed him and he became like stone." Ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died.

When David hears of the death of Nabal, he praises God who had kept him from killing innocent men in Nabal's household and still defended David against Nabal's contempt. David sent word to Abigail asking her to become his wife and she accepts. Here we see that Abigail is David's second (third??) wife. He had married Ahinoam of Jezreel and now Abigail of Carmel. David's first wife was Michal, the king's daughter, but in David's absence, Michal has been given to someone else by Saul.

So why is this interesting? This story parallels what is happening between Saul and David. The name Nabal in Hebrew literally means "fool". It takes place in Carmel, where Saul had erected a monument to himself after defeating the Amalekites and foolishly offending God. Nabal has a disdainful opinion of David, just like Saul, even though David had greatly benefited both. David's first reaction is to take vengeance on Nabal, like his first reaction to Saul in the cave, but ultimately would show restraint to both. Abigail is provisioning David and his men despite her husband's will, just like God provisioned David and his men despite Saul's will. Saul takes away David's first wife just as God is bringing David Abigail. The death of Nabal foreshadows the death of Saul. If you were trying to create a literary device to explains an event, it would be difficult to top this. Really.



Rinse and Repeat

Chapter 26 - Once again, the Ziphites (the guys living in the Desert of Ziph) go to Saul and tell him where David is hiding. Once again Saul takes his standing army of three thousand and pursues David. David hears of it and sends scouts to find where Saul is camping. When David finds Saul's army, the Lord had put them in a deep sleep (v.12). David and a fellow named Abishai sneak into camp and Abishai offers to kill Saul on David's behalf. David rebukes him and instead, they take the spear and water jug that are by Saul's head. David moves to a safe distance and calls to Abner, Saul's army commander. David taunts Abner and Saul's men for failing to protect the king and shows them the water jug and spear that he had just taken. Once again, Saul acknowledges his sin before his men and before David and they all go home. Or back to the cave.

Chapter 27 - David realizes Saul is not going to quit trying to kill him so, like before, David seeks refuge in the Philistine city of Gath. Achish is still king and recognizes David, but this time David is not playing the fool, and he has an army, six hundred men each with a wife and children. Achish knows David is at odds with Saul and welcomes him with caution. David asks the king for a place he and his men can live outside of the royal city. Achish gives them Ziklag, a town about ten miles south of Gath. This is perfect for David: It's on the south edge of Philistine territory, adjacent to other Canaanite people but still with access to Judah. David and his men raid the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites, completely killing every man and woman so when they return to Achish there is no one to tell him different. David tells Achish, however, that he is raiding Israelite territories. This ingratiates David to the Philistine king.



The Witch of Endor

Chapter 28 - Another interesting chapter. As in chapter twenty-five (David and Abigail,) started with the death of Samuel and literally changed the narrative in the first verse, Chapter twenty-eight kind of does that, too. Verses one and two depict the Philistines preparing for war with Israel and Achish informing David that he is going to participate in the battle against his own people. But verse three starts a whole new story.

War is brewing with the Philistines. The atmosphere is reminiscent of the forty-day stand off that was broken when David killed Goliath. The prophet Samuel is dead and Saul is having to prepare for war with no guidance from God. Saul did inquired of the Lord, but received no answer, not by dreams, or Urim, or prophets. The Philistines are assembling at Shunem and the Israelites at Gilboa with a valley between them. Saul is a long way from home.

Verse three says Saul had expelled the mediums and spiritist from the land. This is probably a euphemism for having killed them. Since God is not answering Saul's inquiries, the king asks his attendants to find him a woman who is a medium so he can go to her. They know of one a little further north in Endor. Saul disguises himself and goes to the woman, but she balks.

1Samuel 28:9 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 assures the woman she will not be punished and asks her to bring up Samuel. When she sees Samuel, she realized who Saul is and cries out but Saul calms her once again and asks her what she sees.

1Samuel 28:15-19 15. Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?" "I am in great distress," Saul said. "The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has turned away from me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams. So I have called on you to tell me what to do." 16. Samuel said, "Why do you consult me, now that the Lord has turned away from you and become your enemy? 17. 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. 18. Because you did not obey the Lord or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the Lord has done this to you today. 19. 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."

Saul's sin. Last week, I was talking to Brian discussing things that Saul could have done to salvage his relationship with God. I said, "No, it's like Saul committed an unpardonable sin — and I immediately regretted saying that. Saul's sin was not unpardonable, but I think a better word would have been unrecoverable. Remember that the old testament has very different concepts of heaven and hell. Everybody went down to Sheol. And here, Saul will too. Think of it like Moses not getting to enter the promised land. It didn't mean God didn't love him. If you push dad too hard, he will take the car away.



The Winds of War

Chapter 29 - The narrative that started in the first two verses of chapter twenty-eight pick right back up with David and his men accompanying king Achish on the way to the battle lines. The other Philistine commanders objected to David's presence remembering how the Israelites living among them had turned on them before and told Achish David could not fight along side them. Reluctantly, Achish sends David home. (I'm not one to read into scripture something that isn't there, but if you read chapter twenty-nine, it's clear that turning on the Philistines is exactly what David intended. Just sayin')

Chapter 30 - From the battle lines, Ziklag was a three day walk. When David and his men reached home, they discovered the Amalekites had raided and carried off all of the women and children. David and his men were grief stricken and David was particularly distressed because his men started talk of stoning him. David called for Abiathar to bring the ephod and he inquired of the Lord as to whether he should go after the Amalekites. God affirms that David will be successful, so six hundred men set out to engage the Amalekites. When they came to a ravine, two hundred men stayed behind due to exhaustion: They had just walked from Shunem for three days and spent a day weeping. David continued with four hundred men.

They found an Egyptian in a field and gave him some food and water. He had been a slave to the Amalekites and was abandoned when he became ill. He had been with the Amalekites when they burned Ziklag but he agreed to take David to them is David wouldn't kill him. David agrees and when they encounter the Amalekites David fights them from dusk until evening the next day. David's men kill all but four hundred young Amalekites that got away on camels. More importantly, they recovered everything the Amalekites had taken. Nothing was missing. Additionally, David was able to seize a considerable plunder of flocks and herds.

David's men drove the flocks heading back to Ziklag but when the came to the two hundred who had stayed at the ravine, some of the "evil men" and "troublemakers" started grumbling saying, "Because they did not go out with us, we will not share with them the plunder we recovered. However, each man may take his wife and children and go." David puts an end to this and points out that the plunder was provided by God and they would all be sharing equally. He made this a statute in Israel.

I'm not sure how big this plunder was, but it must've been huge. Verses twenty-seven through thirty-one says David sent portions of it as tribute to well over fourteen different places. Yuge!

Chapter 31 - The Death of Saul - This short chapter opens with a bang. The battle is raging with the first verse. The Philistines brought their 'A' game and Saul's three sons, Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malki-Shua are killed right off. Saul is critically wounded by a Philistine archer. He calls to his armor-bearer to kill him so the Philistines won't be able to torture him, but the armor-bearer can't do it. Saul takes out his sword and falls on it. When the armor-bearer sees his dead king, he falls on his own sword. Saul and his sons were dead.

When Israel's army began fleeing, many Israelites in the surrounding towns abandoned their land. The Philistines would come an occupy them. When the Philistine soldiers were stripping the dead the next day and discovered Saul and his sons, they cut off Saul's head and stripped off his armor. They put the armor in one of their temples and fastened their bodies to the wall of Beth Shan. The people of Jabesh Gilead sent men to take down the bodies, burn the remains, and bury the boned in Jabesh.