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Commentary on SAMUEL (or 1 & 2 Samuel) 9

By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons-London) DD

SECTION 5. David’s First Taste Of Kingship - The Death Final Disobedience And Of Saul (1 Samuel 27.1-2 Samuel 1.27). p< A). David Rises To Petty Kingship Over Ziklag And Continually Destroys The Amalekites (YHWH’s Enemies) While Saul Proceeds On In Darkness To His Doom (27.1-30.31).

In this subsection David and his Men flee to Gath, while with Samuel dead Saul falls further into error and confides in a spiritist medium because YHWH too has deserted him. David meanwhile becomes a petty king, continually defeats the Amalekites, YHWH’s enemies, and is spared from having to fight against his own people (27.1-30.31).

Analysis of 27.1-30.31.

  • a David leaves his haunts in Judah and goes over Achish of Gath to escape from Saul (27.1-4).
  • b David becomes a petty king under Achish and attacks and defeats the Amalekites, slaughtering them and obtaining great booty (27.5-12).
  • c David swears loyalty to Achish in view of the invasion of Israel (28.1-2).
  • d Saul seeks to consult Samuel through a necromancer and is reminded that he is rejected by YHWH (28.3-20).
  • e Saul shares hospitality with a woman condemned by YHWH and goes out into the night (28.21-25).
  • d David is accompanying the Philistines and is rejected by them (29.1-7).
  • c David swears loyalty to Achish in view of the invasion of Israel and goes out into the day (29.8-11).
  • b David finds his kingdom despoiled and attacks and defeats the Amalekites, slaughtering them and obtaining great booty (30.1-25).
  • a David shows his gratitude to those who had assisted him among the people of Judah when he was escaping from Saul (30.26-31).

Note than in ‘a’ David leaves his haunts in Judah and goes over to the Philistines in order to avoid Saul, and in the parallel he send gifts to his friends who had supported him while he was in his haunts in Judah escaping from Saul. In ‘b’ David slaughters the Amalekites, and in the parallel does the same. In ‘c’ David swears loyalty to Achish, and in the parallel does the same. In ‘d’ Saul is with a woman rejected by YHWH and is reminded that he too is rejected by YHWH, and in the parallel David is with the people rejected by YHWH (the Philistines) but is himself rejected by them. In ‘e’ Saul reaches the lowest stage in his fall from YHWH when he enjoys hospitality with a woman rejected by YHWH and goes out into the night.

In some ways the flight of David to Gath appears to conflict with all that has gone before, for up to this point YHWH had always ensured that David remained in Israel/Judah and had protected him there. Indeed when David had previously fled to Gath (21.10-15), it had resulted in his being humiliated and driven back into Israel, and this fact, combined with the later words of Gad the Prophet (22.5), suggests that being in Israel/Judah was God’s purpose for him at that time even though he was an outlaw. In this regard it has, indeed, been pointed out that in 27.1-28.2 there is no mention of God, with the inference being drawn that his action here was also not of God.

On the other hand it is questionable whether this latter fact can really be emphasised for we must bear in mind that we are only talking about fourteen verses, verses which are on the whole the kind where no mention of God was really required, and this is especially so as there are certainly previous passages elsewhere which have also not included the name of God, even when we might have expected it, without it there being especially significant. See for example, 13.15-23; 17.1-24; 17.55-18.9; and especially 14.47-52. Furthermore we should note that when the account of the stay among the Philistines continues the king of Gath is himself portrayed as swearing by YHWH (29.6, see also verse 9), something possibly intended to illustrate the influence that David has had on him, and certainly demonstrating that he recognised YHWH as David’s God and that YHWH was with him there. Thus there is no real indication that the writer sees this as a backward move. Rather he seems to portray it as demonstrating a sensible way of escaping from Saul’s prevarications, while immediately stressing that he finally took up refuge in Ziklag which was a Philistine occupied town of Judah in the Negeb (as he emphasises). So he had not permanently left Israel after all. The only question that does possibly spring to mind in this regard is as to why David did not at this stage ‘enquire of YHWH’ through the ephod. Precedent might suggest that he did in fact do so and that the writer simply does not mention the fact.

Certainly we should note that David would see no difficulty in consulting YHWH when he was in Ziklag (30.7-8), even though it was outside the current boundaries of Israel (although still in what was part of Israel’s inheritance). On the other hand we might argue that Ziklag had been appropriated from Judah/Simeon (Joshua 15.31; 19.5) by the Philistines, and could really therefore be seen as an ‘Israelite’ city. This might be seen as confirmed by the fact that the writer emphasises that from that time on Ziklag was seen as belonging to Judah (27.6). Consider also the fact that many fighting men of Israel came to join up with him there at this point, including men from Benjamin, Judah, Gad and Manasseh (1 Chronicles 12.1-7, 20-22). They too probably saw it as a haven from Saul and a kind of little Israel where they could be freer to behave as they wished, even though it did give them responsibilities towards a Philistine king, which YHWH would overrule.

We might thus argue that having established his popularity at home in Israel/Judah (apart from with the Ziphites), his rule over a semi-independent Ziklag with its surrounding territories was now intended by God to be the next stage in his training for the kingship, for through his time there he would be able to gain experience of ruling a city and its environs before he was finally faced up with the greater task of ruling Judah, and then all Israel. It is a reminder that God educates His people as and where He will.

That God was with him there comes out quite clearly in the narrative. Firstly in that he was given this convenient semi-independent position, in a place where YHWH could be consulted, and secondly in that he was later prevented from having to fight against his own countrymen, something which would surely have hindered his later rise to kingship. So whether his first move was pleasing to YHWH or not, it is clear that YHWH did not see him as having been grossly disobedient. (And all of us know of situations in which we have to make difficult decisions which have to be based on our own judgment at the time, and which might even be ‘wrong’, with God then acting graciously towards us on the basis of what we have done in all honesty, as He continues to lead us forward).

Furthermore there are good grounds for seeing the writer as deliberately wanting us to contrast this triumphant move into Philistia, along with David being given an honoured position there, with the debacle that had taken place on his previous visit to Gath when he had had to publicly humiliate himself and flee. Then it was clearly being portrayed as a move that he should not have made. Here it can be argued that, as a move that brought him honour and prestige and an opportunity to serve God in destroying the Amalekites, it was clearly of God.

But why should Achish have given Ziklag and its surrounding territories to David? The probable reason must be that it was a part of a suzerainty treaty whereby David was given his own independent city in a spot convenient for raids over the border, on condition that he made such raids and gave to Achish a certain proportion of any booty that he and his men collected. For we must surely recognise that the whole purpose of having David and his army under his umbrella was in order that David might earn his keep by raids over the border, while at the same time being available for any major offensive that had to be made. He would not want to continually provision David and his small tribe while they were idle, and continual raiding was considered to be the sport of kings (2 Samuel 11.1). There appears little doubt that such border raids constantly took place (e.g. 1 Samuel 23.1-6, and compare David’s earlier activities against the Philistines, not all of which can have been related to major invasions - 18.5, 27; 20.8) as we would in fact expect in those savage days. This certainly also serves to explain David’s subsequent activities.

David Decides To Move To Gath And Is Welcomed By Achish (27.1-4).

It is easy to understand the reason why David moved to Gath. He had at last realised that there was no hope of any further reconciliation with Saul, and had no doubt also recognised that a broody and constantly changing Saul would never finally leave him and his men to get on with their lives. Furthermore he was once again a married man, and his wives were with him, and it would appear that many of his men also had their families (‘households’ - 27.3) with them, possibly sheltering them from the vengeance of Saul. Life in the harsh wilderness was no life for such as them. Thus the idea of being mercenaries to the Philistines and living a ‘normal’ life must have appealed to them. While David had previously been rejected at Gath as an individual who had fairly recently slain Goliath, it was very unlikely that a strong band of Habiru mercenaries would be rejected by the Philistines, as previous references have suggested (14.21).

Analysis.

  • a And David said in his heart, “I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should escape into the land of the Philistines, and Saul will despair of me, to seek me any more in all the borders of Israel. So shall I escape out of his hand” (27.1).
  • b And David arose, and passed over, he and the six hundred men who were with him, to Achish the son of Maoch, king of Gath (27.2).
  • b And David dwelt with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, even David with his two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the Carmelitess, Nabal’s wife (27.3).
  • a And it was told Saul that David was fled to Gath, and he sought no more again for him (27.4).

Note than in ‘a’ David hoped by going to Gath to cause Saul to give up pursuing him, and in the parallel that is what happened. Centrally in ‘b’ David and his six hundred left Israel and took service under the King of Gath as an independent mercenary force, and in the parallel dwelt in Gath, along with their wives and children. (their ‘households’; compare 30.6).

27.1 ‘And David said in his heart, “I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should escape into the land of the Philistines, and Saul will despair of me, to seek me any more in all the borders of Israel. So shall I escape out of his hand.” ’

Musing in his heart over the whole situation that they faced David came to the conclusion that the time had at last arrived when he and his men must leave Israel. It had become quite clear to him that Saul was not to be trusted whatever he might say (which was, of course, partly due to his dreadful psychiatric illness which no one would have been able to understand), and that those of his men’s families who were with them could not be expected to go on living in wilderness conditions in constant fear of pursuit. Better then to take his now experienced military force and put them at the disposal of someone who would appreciate them. The employment of such mercenary forces was a feature of those times. It was something that was true over many centuries, for in a world where nations were continually seeking to grow rich at the expense of those around them (2 Samuel 11.1), kings were always looking to augment their own armies with experienced foreign mercenaries so as to make themselves more effective.

It was quite clear to him that once they had moved out of Israel the news would reach Saul so that he would cease to pursue them. They would no longer be his concern. Thus they would be able to relax and live without the constant fear of Saul being on their tails. Of course they would be required to earn their keep. They would be expected to take part in border raids and seize booty, and to take part in any major engagements that their employer required of them. But it would be better than living in the wilderness, surviving on minimal provisions.

There is much that we are not told. We are not told whether David consulted God, although in the light of what we know from elsewhere it seems very likely. Nor are we told why David seems always to have favoured Gath over the other main Philistine cities. Perhaps it was because Achish was famed as a warrior king, or because Gath was well known for welcoming migrants. Or it may have been because he knew that the king of Gath and Saul were sworn enemies so that there was no likelihood that Achish would hand him over to Saul. Or possibly it was simply because it was the nearest and had territories extending down to the Negeb. It was probably only a few miles/kilometres from Lachish, but its site has not yet been certainly identified.

27.2 ‘And David arose, and passed over, he and the six hundred men who were with him, to Achish the son of Maoch, king of Gath.’

Having come to his decision David made overtures to the king of Gath and clearly came to an understanding with him, for he and his ‘six hundred’ (six small but effective military units) passed over the border and went to Gath.

We do not know whether this Achish was the same as the Achish in 21.10-15. ‘Son of Maoch’ might be intended to make a distinction. Achish may have been a throne name (compare Abimelech in Genesis 20.2; 26.1; Psalm 34 heading). On the other hand there is no reason why they should not be the same person. An Achish, king of Gath, is also mentioned in 1 Kings 2.39-40, but there is no reason for thinking that Achish could not have had a long reign. It may be asked why Achish should accept David now when he had rejected him years before, but we should recognise that then it had been as a single suppliant seeking refuge and feigning madness, now it was as leader of an effective military force. The situation was totally different. How much the Philistines knew of his exploits we do not know, but they were certainly aware of his past fame (29.5).

27.3 ‘And David dwelt with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, even David with his two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the Carmelitess, Nabal’s wife.’

So David and his men, with their households of women and children, settled down in Gath, David having with him his two wives Ahinoam and Abigail.

27.4 ‘And it was told Saul that David was fled to Gath, and he sought no more again for him.’

The news that David had left Israel and was living in Gath reached Saul, and the result was that he stopped looking for him. It is clear that he did not expect the king of Gath to hand David over. The Philistines and the Israelites were at constant enmity and saw themselves as independent of each other. Thus David’s anticipated purpose (verse 1) had been fulfilled.

David Becomes A Petty King of Ziklag And Carries Out successful Raids To Obtain Booty, Thereby Consolidating His Position with The King Of Gath Who Thought That He Was Raiding Israel/Judah (27.5-28.2).

We need not doubt that there was far more to the discussions between Achish and David than we are told. It seems very probable that David was feeling constricted both physically and spiritually in Gath and that his men were possibly chafing through inactivity. There may also have been conflicts with local Gittites who objected to their presence. David may well therefore have proposed to the king that he and his men could achieve more by having their own city to operate from, a city ‘in the country’, that is, in a less occupied area from which raiding operations could be carried out.

Achish clearly saw the sense in this and gave David the city of Ziklag, with its environs, which was probably sparsely occupied at the time. Ziklag was in the far south, in the Negeb. (That it was near Beersheba is suggested by Nehemiah 11.28). There its surrounding area was especially vulnerable to attacks from the warlike tribes that roamed the Sinai peninsula. Achish may well therefore have seen this as a means of making that area, which was under his control, secure. And from there David in his turn attacked these tribes and obtained from them much booty, including large quantities of cattle, sheep and goats. Achish would receive his share of it, being informed erroneously that it had been obtained by attacking Israelite towns. Some of it was also distributed among the hardpressed people of Judah, to their eternal gratitude, so that they began to look on David with favour. He was a good neighbour to have.

Analysis.

  • a And David said to Achish, “If now I have found favour in your eyes, let them give me a place in one of the cities in the country, that I may dwell there. For why should your servant dwell in the royal city with you?” (27.5).
  • b Then Achish gave him Ziklag that day, which is why Ziklag pertains to the kings of Judah to this day. And the number of the days that David dwelt in the country of the Philistines was a full year and four months (27.6-7).
  • c And David and his men went up, and made a raid on the Geshurites, and the Girzites, and the Amalekites, for those nations were the inhabitants of the land, who were of old, as you go to Shur, even to the land of Egypt (27.8).
  • d And David smote the land, and saved neither man nor woman alive, and took away the sheep, and the oxen, and the asses, and the camels, and the clothing, and he returned, and came to Achish (27.9).
  • c And Achish said, “Against whom have you made a raid today?” And David said, “Against the South of Judah, and against the South of the Jerahmeelites, and against the South of the Kenites” (27.10).
  • b And David saved neither man nor woman alive, to bring them to Gath, saying, “Lest they should tell of us, saying, So did David, and so has been his way all the while he has dwelt in the country of the Philistines.” And Achish believed David, saying, “He has made his people Israel utterly to abhor him, therefore he shall be my servant for ever” (27.11-12).
  • a And it came about in those days, that the Philistines gathered their hosts together for warfare, to fight with Israel. And Achish said to David, “Know you assuredly, that you will go out with me in the host, you and your men.” And David said to Achish, “Therefore you will know what your servant will do.” And Achish said to David, “Therefore will I make you keeper of my head for ever” (28.1-2).

Note that in ‘a’ David had found favour in the eyes of Achish, and in the parallel that favour is clearly demonstrated. In ‘b’ we learn of the limited period for which David dwelt in the land of the Philistines, and in the parallel Achish mistakenly thought that he had him as his servant for ever. In ‘c’ we are told the names of the tribes which David raided, and in the parallel the names of those that he claimed to have raided. Central in ‘d’ is the fact that Achish received much tribute, thus enhancing David in his eyes..

27.5 ‘And David said to Achish, “If now I have found favour in your eyes, let them give me a place in one of the cities in the country, that I may dwell there. For why should your servant dwell in the royal city with you?” ’

Whatever the reasons David approached Achish and asked to be given a city some distance from Gath so as to avoid cramping the royal city. This probably indicates that many of the Gittite aristocracy were somewhat put out by the presence of David and his men, and were in some way expressing their hostility, claiming that this was the royal city of Gath, a place in which such a foreign element were not welcome. If this was so Achish would be aware of it and might well have seen David’s suggestion as very wise. He had little to lose and much to gain by giving to David a sparsely populated town guarding the approach from the south, especially if David was able to keep the surrounding area safe and use it as a base from which to carry out his foraging expeditions (compare 13.17), thus enhancing Achish’s wealth. It does, however, illustrate the confidence and trust that Achish had in David. He saw him as someone reliable.

27.6 ‘Then Achish gave him Ziklag that day, which is why Ziklag pertains to the kings of Judah to this day.’

So that day Achish gave Ziklag and its surrounds to David, for him to rule as a petty king over an independent city state under Achish’s suzerainty. That is why when David became king of Judah the city would become conjoined with Judah (with Achish still seeing David as his loyal vassal), and the city became seen as a Judean city under the control of whoever was king over Judah at the time. Thus anyone who ruled Judah, even if as a part of Israel, ruled Ziklag by right of the fact that it had been given to David and had been conjoined with Judah. It had, of course, always been seen as in Judah’s (and Simeon’s) territory (Joshua 15.31; 19.5) by the Israelites. That it was near Beersheba is suggested by Nehemiah 11.28.

There is no reason for suggesting that this phrase pinpoints the date of authorship of the final book, for all kings from David onwards were ‘kings of Judah’, and it was by virtue of this rather than as kings of Israel/Judah that they ruled Ziklag.

27.7 ‘And the number of the days that David dwelt in the country of the Philistines was a full year and four months.’

This may indicate the length of time that David was in Gath prior to moving to Ziklag, after which on moving to Ziklag he was seen by the writer as living in an independent city which was in territory allocated to Judah, even if Achish saw it differently. As far as the writer is concerned David was a patriot who was to be seen as having lived among the Philistines for as short a time as possible.

David appears to have ruled the city and its surrounds as an independent city state, while acknowledging Achish as his overlord. The terms on which he received the city would have been laid out in a suzerainty treaty. It would include the obtaining of booty, a proportion of which would be given to Achish, as a result of raids on ‘foreign territory’ (which Achish would see as including Judah), and an expression of willingness to serve Achish directly as mercenaries when called on. To this city and its environs flocked many who were disaffected by Saul’s rule, in order to serve under David who had once been a popular Israelite commander (1 Chronicles 12.1-7, 20-22). From it he sent ambassadors to Judean cities gaining their friendship (30.26-31). He was founding his own small kingdom and it was giving him great experience for the future, with an influence that Achish never dreamed of.

27.8 ‘And David and his men went up, and made a raid on (advanced militarily on) the Geshurites, and the Girzites, and the Amalekites, for those nations were the inhabitants of the land, who were of old, as you go to Shur, even to the land of Egypt.’

From Ziklag David made raids on fierce and warlike tribes in the Sinai peninsula. It appears that the Geshurites and the Girzites, of whom little else is known (but see Joshua 13.2), were similar to the Amalekites, and somewhat like modern Bedouin, although they may have been more settled than the nomadic Amalekites, in desert cities and oasis encampments. They no doubt constantly raided the Negeb of Judah, and the Negeb of the Philistines, and it is possible that these raids on Philistine territory were one reason why Achish was glad to place Ziklag as a buffer between them and Philistia. These tribesmen had been there in the Sinai peninsula up to the borders of Egypt for as long as men could remember, and they were seen as a constant threat to the more settled peoples of the Negeb, swooping down unexpectedly on unprotected areas and people, seizing both their cattle and flocks, and their people to sell into slavery.

We know that the Amalekites had been responsible for attacks on the children of Israel shortly after leaving Egypt (Exodus 17.8-16), the kind of act for which they later came under God’s curse (15.2-3; Deuteronomy 25.19). And while Saul had wiped out one of their prominent tribes they were very numerous and separated into a number of different tribes, some of which had escaped his intentions. The Geshurites and Girzites may well therefore have also been seen as coming under that general curse. David’s action would, in fact, partly be a retaliation for raids made on what he now saw as his territory.

27.9 ‘And David smote the land, and saved neither man nor woman alive, and took away the sheep, and the oxen, and the asses, and the camels, and the clothing, and he returned, and came to Achish.’

Wherever he could find them David, in defence of his territory, sought out these warrior tribes, smiting the land where they could be found, and slaughtering them all, including both men and women. And in the process he took away their sheep, oxen, asses, camels and clothware, most of which they themselves would have obtained by the same method. David’s policy of mass slaughter no doubt sounds harsh to us today, but it is doubtful if those who heard of it then thought the same. All knew that any Amalekites who were left alive would simply join up with other similar tribes, strengthening them for further raids on innocent people, while their womenfolk would be seen as wild, insular, and useless as wives, and likely producers of more raiders once they connected up with other tribes. They were probably as fierce as the men. Harsh as it may seem eradication was therefore seen as the only way of dealing with them (we can compare them with the pirates of later times who preyed on anyone and everyone and were subject to none). Any other route simply resulted in further problems of a particularly vicious kind.

David would then come to Achish bringing his spoils so that Achish could receive his no doubt generous share, and the remainder would be divided up among David’s men.

27.10 ‘And Achish said, “Against whom have you made a raid today?” And David said, “Against the South of Judah, and against the South of the Jerahmeelites, and against the South of the Kenites.” ’

Achish was naturally interested in where David had been carrying out his raids, and was erroneously informed that it had been ‘against the Negeb of Judah, and against the Negeb of the Jerahmeelites, and against the Negeb of the Kenites.’ These areas were far enough off and remote enough for Achish not to be aware of what was going on there, and they would anyway no doubt constantly experience raids of one kind or another. That was a consequence of living in such places, which was no doubt why Samuel had earlier sent his sons to act as war-leaders and judges there (8.2). There was also probably some truth in his statement. No doubt when he heard of Amalekite raids on those areas he entered them (with the consent of their elders) in order to deal with the Amalekite invaders within those territories.

‘The Negeb’ was a fairly vague term covering a large area of the dry south, with its lesser rainfall, which extended into the Sinai peninsula. Thus what David said was a half truth. He is not depicted as actually saying that he had attacked the peoples themselves, only their area. He may well have found Amalekites wandering in those areas. And there were Amalekite ‘cities’ in the Negeb.

The Jerahmeelites were a semi-independent clan similar to the Kenites, who had friendly relations with Judah, and gradually became Judeans by adoption (compare 1 Chronicles 2.9 ff). The Kenites had been spared by Saul when he had slaughtered the Amalekites (15.6), and had previous associations with Judah (Judges 1.16). They had assisted Israel on their journey through the wilderness. The Negeb may well have been at this time a fairly fruitful area as a result of careful use of what rainwater it experienced, which was cleverly used for irrigation, but it depended heavily on oases and springs. It was also an area suitable for grazing large flocks. It would thus be seen by the nomadic tribesmen (and by Achish) as a very suitable area from which to obtain booty.

27.11 ‘And David saved neither man nor woman alive, to bring them to Gath, saying, “Lest they should tell of us, saying, ‘So did David, and so has been his way all the while he has dwelt in the country of the Philistines’.” ’

The writer now tells us that one reason why David never left any living witnesses to his attacks was so that no one could inform on his activities. The only purpose for taking some alive would be to sell them as slaves, something which David forbore to do. However, we must not discount the fact that he also knew that they were under YHWH’s curse and therefore dealt with them accordingly. But it was clearly essential for him that none should be able to counteract what he had told Achish. The only alternative was to sell them as slaves, for simply letting them go would have meant that they were free to join up with a similar tribe and continue the attacks on innocents, or to produce those who did so. It would have been storing up trouble for the future. But had he turned up with only Amalekite, Geshurite and Gerzite slaves for sale it would have been a real give-away. Achish would have asked, where were the Judeans and Kenites?

He could ,of course, simply have let them go in which case they would never have had any connection with Gath, but that would then have left them free to attack innocent people again. So we must probably see his harsh measures as going beyond just preventing Achish from finding out the truth, and as tying in with the carrying out of YHWH’s curse on them, as a result of the fact that God had declared them worthy of the death sentence (Genesis 9.6) because of their savage behaviour.

To us, of course, all this killing is rightly abhorrent. But then most of us live in a society where there is an adequate police force, and where there are organised prisons. We do not live on our wits, faced with constant attacks from merciless tribesmen, with no one to protect us but ourselves. The sentence of death on them was the consequence of the fact that they were seen as regular murderers who would never learn their lesson and therefore needed to be finally dealt with in the only way possible to render them harmless, death (at a time when for all people death by violence was an everyday occurrence for their households, to be constantly warded off by killing others, especially in the Negeb).

27.12 ‘And Achish believed David, saying, “He has made his people Israel utterly to abhor him, therefore he shall be my servant for ever.” ’

Achish believed David’s half-truths, and gloated. He considered that by turning his own people and their allies against him it would mean that David for ever remained faithful to those who had not been turned against him, his employers. In other words, they would serve Achish faithfully, as bound to him, into the distant future. They had nowhere else to look.

28.1 ‘And it came about in those days, that the Philistines gathered their hosts together for warfare, to fight with Israel. And Achish said to David, “Know you assuredly, that you will go out with me in the host, you and your men.” ’

However, inevitably the day arrived when what David had probably constantly feared came about. A full scale invasion of Israel was planned by the Philistines, in contrast with mere border raids. This was not to be merely for booty. The time had come when the five lords of the Philistines wanted vengeance for past defeats, to re-subjugate Israel, and to expand their territory even further. This may partly have been initiated as a result of Saul’s activities in the valley of Jezreel by which he was cutting off the Philistine trade routes. With this in mind they had built up their strength and trained their troops, and now they mustered their whole armies, which would involve the muster of Canaanite farmers to bolster their numbers, and of course, any mercenaries. It was for activities such as this that mercenaries were mainly hired. Along with the Philistine standing armies they would be the core of the fighting strength, trained fighters who lived for nothing else but warfare. So it is not surprising that Achish called on David and his men and told them to stand ready. They would be required to go out with the Philistine host as part of his contribution to that host.

Achish now had no doubt about David’s faithfulness. Why, had he not already proved his willingness to despoil his own countrymen? Why then should he hesitate in taking part in an exercise that would bring him even more booty and reward?

28.2 ‘And David said to Achish, “Therefore you will know what your servant will do.” And Achish said to David, “Therefore will I make you keeper of my head for ever.”

When David was called on he assured the king that he ‘would know what David his servant would do’. To Achish this was an assurance of total loyalty and an indication of a desire for battle. To those who knew David better it might have appeared to be somewhat of an evasive answer. But Achish was satisfied, and assured David that it was because of his dedication and faithfulness that he would make him the permanent ‘keeper of his head’. In other words, David and his men would be his personal bodyguard and his constant protector. He knew that they were the toughest of his troops.

It is possible that the writer deliberately used a phrase which was ironical. We remember, as the writer did, how David had kept Goliath’s head and had taken it to Jerusalem as a trophy (17.54). But Achish was not to know that one day David would be his archenemy, so that he would never have dreamed of such an interpretation to his words.

A Spiritually Bankrupt Saul Seeks To Demonic Sources For Assistance Because Nothing Else Is Left To Him (28.3-25).

Having briefly summed up the situation from the Philistine point of view, the writer now switches to Saul’s situation as the king who had learned that his country was about to be invaded by an army much more powerful than his own. He had become aware of the large scale mustering of a massive Philistine army (28.1), something clearly much different from a border raid, and the question was, what was he to do? But when he turned to the sources from which he expected to obtain answers to his questions he received no response. YHWH was not answering him. That was why in desperation he determined to turn to forbidden sources. If God would not answer him he would try to contact Samuel through a necromancer.

This was one great difference between Saul and David. In such a situation David would have flung himself down before YHWH in tears, pleading to be shown where he had gone wrong, and repenting deeply. In the face of YHWH’s silence Saul rather preferred to turn to necromancers. He was lacking depth of soul.

We note that in this extreme situation it was to Samuel, the mentor of his youth, that he determined to turn, even though Samuel had been the instrument of his rejection. He apparently saw Samuel as a kind of back door to God. Samuel would no doubt know what was best for him to do. But Samuel was dead, and thus to contact him would involve him in the forbidden area of necromancy (necromancers purportedly contact the dead through familiar spirits).

The description of what follows inevitably leaves us with unanswered questions, simply because it is dealing with matters beyond our knowledge, for the thing that surprises us is that it appears that he was in fact actually able to contact Samuel. It should, however, be noted that the medium was equally as surprised as he was. She had not expected to see Samuel. She had expected her own ‘familiar spirit’. So what happened appears to have been outside her experience as well as his. It would seem probable therefore that God had in this case determined to act uniquely in order to again pronounce judgment on Saul and exalt David, a judgment which resulted from Saul’s earlier gross disobedience, a disobedience in respect of which he had never truly repented. And it was in fact God’s previous sentence on that disobedience that had preyed on his mind and had made a major contribution towards his illness, even though part of it probably resulted from traumas in his childhood. Now he was to be reminded of that disobedience again. It is a dreadful warning to us all that if we do not truly repent from our past sins and seek God’s forgiveness while we can, we too may end up in a state of hopelessness in which we are simply reminded of our past sins, and with our hearts hardened.

We should also note that it did not bring Saul what he was really seeking. What it brought home to him was not how to fight and win his battles, but rather the certainty of his forthcoming defeat and death. It was information that he would have been better without. Had it been left to the necromancer, of course, he would probably have received a comforting message. But in his case YHWH intervened. It reminds us that even at its best necromancy can only offer false comfort, for it never results in genuinely true benefit, even though initially it might appear to do so. It causes us to rest on false hopes.

Saul Consults A Necromancer And Samuel Appears To Him (28.3-19).

Having been unable to obtain any response from God, Saul, in desperation, determined to turn to a necromancer. It would, however, only be in order to receive bad news. For Samuel’s message to him would be that his case was hopeless. Thus instead of receiving help he would learn of coming failure and death. It is a reminder that those who treat God lightly can be sure that one day they will reap what they have sown, and that when they need Him they might well not find Him. We must seek Him while He is yet speaking to us. ‘Now is the acceptable time. Now is the Day of Salvation’. Tomorrow may be too late.

Analysis.

  • a Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land. And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and encamped in Shunem (28.3-4).
  • b And Saul gathered all Israel together, and they encamped in Gilboa. And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. And when Saul enquired of YHWH, YHWH did not answer him, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets (28.5-6).
  • c Then said Saul to his servants, “Seek me out a woman who has a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “Look, there is a woman who has a familiar spirit at En-dor.” And Saul disguised himself, and put on other clothing, and went, he and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night, and he said, “Divine to me, I pray you, by the familiar spirit, and bring me up whoever I shall name to you” (28.7-8).
  • d And the woman said to him, “Look, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off those who have familiar spirits, and the wizards (‘knowing ones’) out of the land. Why then do you lay a snare for my life, to cause me to die?” (28.9).
  • e And Saul swore to her by YHWH, saying, “As YHWH lives, there shall no punishment happen to you for this thing” (28.10).
  • d Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up to you?” And he said, “Bring me up Samuel.” And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice, and the woman spoke to Saul, saying, “Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul.” (28.11-12).
  • c And the king said to her, “Do not afraid, for what do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see an elohim (other world being) coming up out of the earth.” And he said to her, “Of what form is he?” And she said, “An old man comes up, and he is covered with a robe.” And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance. And Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disquieted me, to bring me up?” (28.13-15a).
  • b And Saul answered, “I am sore distressed, for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answers me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams, therefore I have called you, that you may make known to me what I shall do” (28.15b).
  • a And Samuel said, “Why then do you ask of me, seeing YHWH is departed from you, and is become your adversary? And YHWH has done to him (God’s adversary), as he spoke by me, and YHWH has rent the kingdom out of your hand, and given it to your compatriot, even to David, because you did not obey the voice of YHWH, and did not execute his fierce wrath on Amalek. Therefore has YHWH done this thing to you this day. Moreover YHWH will deliver Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow will you and your sons be with me. YHWH will deliver the host of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines” (28.16-19).

Note that in ‘a’ Samuel is dead and the Philistines are threatening, and in the parallel the Philistines will triumph, and Saul and his sons will join Samuel beyond the grave. In ‘b’ YHWH does not answer Saul by any means, and in the parallel that is precisely what Saul tells Samuel. In ‘c’ Saul seeks out a woman who has a ‘familiar spirit’, and in the parallel the woman whom he has found seeks to call on her familiar spirit. In ‘d’ the woman thinks that these strange men are seeking to entrap her, and in the parallel she thinks that that is precisely what Saul has done. Centrally in ‘e’ Saul swears by YHWH that she will not be punished.

28.3 ‘Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land.’ ‘Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city.’ For these words compare 25.1. Then it had introduced a situation where the second person whom Samuel had anointed (David) was going from triumph to triumph because his trust was in YHWH, and was continually revealing his obedience to YHWH. Now it introduces a situation where the first person whom Samuel had anointed (Saul) was in a hopelessly lost condition because of his gross disobedience to YHWH. He had previously retained for himself what had been ‘devoted to YHWH’, a crime of huge dimensions in the eyes of all who lived in those days. (Men would have spoken of it in hushed tones). And even though given a ‘second chance’ he had not repented. Rather he had allowed himself to be hardened by his sin, and had decided that he could carry on without Samuel’s blessing.

‘Those that had familiar spirits (ob), and the wizards (yid‘oni - ‘those who know’ by means of contact with spirits).’ An ob was a spirit, known to the medium (a familiar spirit), through which mediums claimed to contact the dead. The Scripture makes quite clear that it is sinful to use such ‘mediums’ and ‘knowers’ (Leviticus 19.31), and that they should be put to death (Leviticus 20.27). See also Deuteronomy 18.9-22. In obedience to the Law Saul had put all such out of the land in one way or another. It was a sign of his increasing degradation and despair that he would now turn to them.

28.4 ‘And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and encamped in Shunem. And Saul gathered all Israel together, and they encamped in Gilboa.’

The third item in the equation was that the Philistines had gathered themselves together and had come in massive force to encamp in Shunem. So the situation is laid bare. Samuel the prophet of YHWH was dead, all who claimed to consult the dead were no longer available, and the Philistines had gathered for the kill. This was a Philistia at the height of its power facing a bankrupt Saul.

Shunem was in the territory of Isacchar near Jezreel. It was on the south west lower slope of Mount Moreh opposite Mount Gilboa. The Philistines probably hoped to engage in battle in the plain of Esdraelon where their chariots would be most effective. They had learned that dealing with the Israelites in the mountains was a much more difficult proposition (compare 1 Kings 20.23). By taking up this position they had cut Saul off from the northern tribes, while at the same time occupying Israelite territory. (Compare how 31.7 speaks of the men of Israel who were on the other side of the valley. With the Philistines encamped where they were they were unable to reach Saul).

For the description of the gathering of the Philistines compare 17.1. Then that gathering had a different outcome because of one man, a YHWH inspired David. But now David was no longer with Saul, and YHWH had deserted him. He was on his own.

Saul meanwhile had little alternative but to react to Philistine belligerence and to send out to the tribes the call to arms in order to gather the armies of Israel together, for Israelite territory had been occupied. It was in accordance with treaty obligation under YHWH’s covenant with His people that in times of trouble all the tribes who could would muster in order to assist their fellow tribesmen, and this was even moreso now that they had a recognised King (melech) and Warleader (nagid). But not all could reach him in time (31.7).

Possibly had he had wise advice he would have withdrawn his army to the hills, where they would have had a far better chance of defeating the Philistines. But that would have meant leaving good portions of the lowlands of Israel open to the ravages of the Philistines, a price tougher generals would have been willing to pay. But it would have put Saul in a bad light before many of his countrymen and have diminished his popularity. They had got used to the idea of Saul confronting their enemies on the border. No wonder that he did not know what to do.

28.5 ‘And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly.’

Surveying the Philistine hosts from his position on Mount Gilboa (and no doubt by means of scouts) Saul was able to assess the size and weaponry of this massed Philistine army which clearly meant serious business. He did not like what he saw and was afraid. He knew that his own army was no match for them in view of their numbers, their skill in warfare and their superior iron weapons. Thus he was afraid, and his heart beat loudly. Perhaps he even began to wish that he had David with him. David was a skilled general and would surely have known what to do. We must not think that Saul was a coward. It was simply that he recognised the odds against him. What he needed was the good old-fashioned intervention of YHWH. Indeed he recognised that otherwise the cause was lost. For a long while now he had relied on a superficial relationship with YHWH. He had ‘done all the right things’, without really becoming too personally involved. YHWH had not very often entered his thoughts, partly because the Philistine menace had not been so great. But now that he wanted His activity as never before, he was to learn that God could not just be sidelined and then called on to be available when wanted. Rather He is near to those who are continually of a humble and contrite spirit (Isaiah 57.15). And that was what Saul was not. Furthermore such an attitude could not just be manufactured at any time for the sake of convenience. It was one that had to be developed

28.6 ‘And when Saul enquired of YHWH, YHWH did not answer him, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.’

Saul turned in desperation to YHWH, because he had nowhere else to turn. He ‘enquired of YHWH.’ He did it by every known means, but none worked. None of his dreamers and visionaries could have the right dreams. When he consulted the Urim and Thummim through the high priest and the ephod he obtained the message, ‘No answer’. The lot went against him. Even the prophets whom he called on informed him that they had no message from YHWH. Saul grew desperate. If only, he thought, Samuel had been here. He would have been able to obtain a word from YHWH. He would have known what to do.

We inevitably feel sorry for Saul. But we must recognise that he had chosen his own way, and when rebuked had shrugged off the rebuke rather than turning in deep repentance towards YHWH. He had also refused to become reconciled with Samuel, even though he had had a secret admiration for him and had feared to act against him. He had thus chosen his own road. Now he was to discover that he was on the road to destruction. He was to learn that, ‘God is not mocked. What a man sows, that will he also reap’ (Galatians 6.7).

Indeed the darkness in which he found himself was so intense that his thoughts turned to the forbidden way. Perhaps, he thought, if he consulted a necromancer he could get in touch with Samuel. Surely Samuel, who had once been his mentor, would be able to help him. The very fact that he could think in this way was an indication of the condition of his heart. It was typical of Saul’s religion. When it appeared to fail he did not turn in genuine repentance towards YHWH. Rather he tried some other method to get round it. His view was that YHWH could be manipulated. And he was to learn that he was wrong.

28.7 ‘Then said Saul to his servants, “Seek me out a woman who has a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “Look, there is a woman who has a familiar spirit at En-dor.’

So he called on his servants to seek out a woman who had a familiar spirit, a medium, one who had contact with the spirit world, so that he might go and enquire of her. Once again we see the superficial nature of Saul’s attitude towards YHWH. He was hoping to obtain advice from YHWH by using means forbidden by YHWH. He does not seem to have considered the fact that such a method was self-defeating. He should have known that the YHWH Who had delivered Israel would never stoop to working through such means (just as Christians today should know that to become involved in the occult is an act of gross disobedience to God).

It is possibly significant that his servants knew where to find such a medium. The days when Saul was thorough in obedience to YHWH were long past. Even though they were still forbidden, mediums had gradually crept back into the land. Thus his servants were able to inform him that in fact there was such a woman not far away, in En-dor (‘fountain of the dwelling’). We should note in passing that this woman was not a witch. She made no claim to be involved in magic. Her claim was to be able to contact the dead.

28.8 ‘And Saul disguised himself, and put on other clothing, and went, he and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night, and he said, “Divine to me, I pray you, by the familiar spirit, and bring me up whoever I shall name to you.” ’

So Saul divested himself of his royal robes and put on some common clothing. He wanted to ensure that he was not identified, otherwise he knew that the woman would not help him. Had he appeared as Saul he would have met a barrier of total silence. Then, sufficiently disguised, and taking two of his men with him, he set off by night and came to where the woman lived. The phrase ‘by night’ is pregnant with significance. He was walking into the darkness.

It was in fact a courageous act carried out by a desperate man, for the Philistines were nearby in large numbers, no doubt with their scouts out, and En-dor was not far from the Philistine camp. But it was also a disreputable act. By it he was demonstrating why YHWH would not help him. It was because his heart was not set towards righteousness and towards truth. He wanted YHWH with no strings attached, and by whatever means. And God is not available on those terms.

On reaching the woman, who did not recognise who he was, he called on her to contact her familiar spirit and raise up for him the one whom he named. He wanted her to enable him to contact his only hope, Samuel.

28.9 ‘And the woman said to him, “Look, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off those who have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land. Why then do you lay a snare for my life, to cause me to die?” ’

But the woman was wary. She knew of far too many of her fellow-mediums who had betrayed themselves in response to such a request. And so she replied that in the light of Saul’s treatment of mediums and ‘knowers’ she would not even admit that she could do so,. And she charged them with wanting to entrap her into suggesting that she was a medium. Did they not recognise that for someone to admit that they were a medium in Saul’s Israel, was to court death?

Her question brings out the depths of Saul’s hypocrisy. He who was supposed to be the champion of YHWH, and had to some extent been so, was now taking the way which was in the opposite direction to the will of YHWH. It is almost inconceivable that he did not realise how foolish he was being by expecting an answer from YHWH’s servant when he was using means which were condemned by YHWH. The only thing that does make it conceivable is the incredible way in which so-called Christians today can behave in a similar manner and yet convince themselves that there is no harm in it. The truth is that if we are not careful, when it comes to God we try to manipulate Him into being what we want Him to be, and then persuade ourselves that it is so.

28.10 ‘And Saul swore to her by YHWH, saying, “As YHWH lives, there shall no punishment happen to you for this thing.” ’

Saul took the only step that he could think of in order to convince her. He swore ‘by YHWH’ that ‘as YHWH lived’ no punishment would come on her. At this point his foolishness is seen to have reached its greatest height, for this was a contradiction in terms. The truth was that if he thought that YHWH truly lived he should have been casting this woman from the land in accordance with the covenant Law. He should not have been consulting her. It once again emphasises his religious superficiality.

However, the strength of his oath was such that it convinced the woman. She recognised that such an oath was to be taken seriously and was clearly binding. To go against it would have been to make an attack on the very life of YHWH. And she knew that no one who was here on behalf of Saul, and intended her harm, would have made such an oath. The oath had made her inviolable.

28.11 ‘Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up to you?” And he said, “Bring me up Samuel.” ’

So she asked the stranger who it was that he wanted to be called up, and Saul eagerly replied, ‘bring me up Samuel.’ This was not the give-away that it might seem to us because Samuel was famed as a giver of advice and it did not necessarily therefore mean that she was involved with Saul’s men.

28.12 ‘And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice, and the woman spoke to Saul, saying, “Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul.” ’

It was only when she actually saw Samuel that she became aware of the truth. This would most probably have been because some gesture of Samuel’s on rising made clear that he was aware that he was facing the king. Thus when she saw the gesture she knew that Saul must be the king because the gesture was one that would only have been made towards the king. That then was when she recognised that this stranger in front of her must be Saul. Turning to Saul in great distress she asked him bitterly why he had deceived her so utterly.

It should be noted that at this time she still did not realise that the figure who had come up was Samuel as her subsequent remarks make clear (‘I see an elohim -- an old man in a robe’). What must therefore have shaken her also, as well as her recognition of Saul, was that that this was not the usual image that she was used to seeing. This figure was unlike any that she had previously experienced, and was totally unexpected. This counts against any suggestion that she really could raise up genuine people.

28.13 ‘And the king said to her, “Do not afraid, for what do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see an elohim (spirit, other world being) coming up out of the earth.” ’

Saul, however, told her not to be afraid and asked what she saw. It is clear from this that the figure was invisible to all but the woman. She then described the figure as ‘an elohim’ (or ‘one of the elohim’). While elohim is plural it is clear from what follows in verse 14 that she was speaking of only one figure, and that Saul recognised that fact. Thus it would appear to have been a recognised term used for an individual spirit (‘one of the elohim’). The word ‘elohim’ is used of angels (‘sons of the elohim’) and of God (Elohim). It is also very occasionally used of those who represent God (Psalm 82.6; John 10.35). Here it clearly meant an ‘other world figure’, someone not of this world. And she describes him as ‘rising from the earth’. He was clearly not strictly physical, for Saul could not see him (and possibly never did) and his non-physical nature is confirmed by his rising from the earth. And yet the woman discerned his form and shape, and saw him as clothed. It is vain to speculate further.

(We may, of course, compare this with the visit of Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9.1-11), except that there they appeared in glory, and the appearing of angels in a similar way to the appearance here, which was visible to Elisha, and then to his servant, but clearly not visible to most human beings (2 Kings 6.17). It was not, of course, a strict resurrection of the dead. In this case it was a rather shadowy appearance arranged by God in order to rebuke Saul. All it tells us is that God can do what He will when He will).

28.14 ‘And he said to her, “Of what form is he?” And she said, “An old man comes up, and he is covered with a robe.” And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance.’

Unable to see what the woman saw Saul asked her to describe it, and she replied, ‘an old man comes up and he is covered with a robe’. The word ‘robe’ indicated to Saul the prophet’s mantle, and he thus recognised that what she was seeing as a phantasm was the form of Samuel himself. It was invisible to Saul. We might possibly say that it was an appearance in the light of the woman’s heightened perceptibilities rather than a genuine presence.

But conscious that Samuel must be present Saul bowed his face to the ground and did obeisance. He was not used to dealing with other worldly figures, and was awe-stricken. All this was outside of his experience. And he wanted to win Samuel over.

28.15 ‘And Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disquieted me, to bring me up?” And Saul answered, “I am sore distressed, for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answers me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams, therefore I have called you, that you may make known to me what I shall do.” ’

Samuel’s words that follow will now reveal that there was something genuine about the situation. It is clear that God had so arranged it in order that He could speak to Saul through Samuel, rather than through the woman’s familiar spirit. He wanted the lesson to come home.

Samuel’s first words were a word of rebuke. Samuel had been at peace. Why then had Saul disturbed him by bringing him up? It is one of the rare hints in the Old Testament that the truly godly who die are at peace.

Saul’s reply was that it was because he himself was not at peace. Indeed he was sore distressed, because the Philistines had arrived in massive force to make war ‘against him’. We immediately note the difference between Saul’s words here and those of David in 17.26, 36, 45. David had been offended because YHWH had been offended. Saul simply took it personally. It emphasises the difference in outlook of the two men.

Saul then explained that ‘God’ had departed from him. The use of God instead of YHWH illustrated the fact that Saul was far from YHWH. Possibly it also hinted at the fact that instead of Elohim he must make do with ‘one of the elohim’. And he then went on to point out that the result was that he could obtain no answer from Him, neither through prophets or dreams. Compare verse 6. He omitted mention of the Urim, but possibly he felt that to say that the Urim had also indicated ‘no answer’ was too damning against him. That then was why he had called on Samuel so that he could make known to him what he was to do. (Saul appears to have no sense of shame in having called on Samuel in this way. He was probably exultant that it had worked. It is a further indication of his religious shallowness in what was a very religious age).

28.16 ‘And Samuel said, “Why then do you ask of me, seeing YHWH is departed from you, and is become your adversary?”

Samuel pointed out that he had condemned himself out of his own mouth. If YHWH had departed from Saul and had become his adversary, how could he expect a faithful servant of YHWH to answer him? The idea was ludicrous.

28.17-18 “And YHWH has done to him, as he spoke by me, and YHWH has rent the kingdom out of your hand, and given it to your compatriot, even to David, because you did not obey the voice of YHWH, and did not execute his fierce wrath on Amalek. Therefore has YHWH done this thing to you this day.”

What Saul should recognise was that this situation was the outcome of his earlier gross sacrilege when he had taken for himself what should have been devoted to YHWH. As the anointed of YHWH he had failed to obey YHWH in the most sacred of tasks. YHWH was thus simply doing what He had promised at that time through Samuel, He was tearing the kingship out of Saul’s hands and giving it to his compatriot David.

The words ‘to him’ are emphasising the connection with God as Saul’s adversary. It is as God’s adversary that Saul is rejected. (In other words, ‘And God has done to God’s adversary as He spoke by me’).

28.19 “Moreover YHWH will deliver Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow will you and your sons be with me. YHWH will deliver the host of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.”

Samuel then removed from him all hope. He had had every opportunity to repent and had never done so. Now YHWH was about to deliver Israel into the hands of the Philistines, and the result was that on the morrow both Saul and his soldier sons would be in the after-world with Samuel. The fact that the host of Israel would be delivered into the hands of the Philistines is emphasised twice. It signals that the matter was certain and that nothing could be done about it. Thus instead of receiving assistance, Saul had, by his unforgivable behaviour, simply brought on himself a message of doom that he could well have done without. The one positive aspect of it was that it did, at least theoretically, give him the opportunity to repent.

We may rightly ask why, if Saul was doomed, YHWH had allowed Samuel to come to declare to him his fate. Why had He not just allowed Saul a false assurance from the medium? There can really only be one answer. Saul was still being offered the opportunity of repentance. Had he truly repented, and had he thrown himself before YHWH in tears over his sins and pleaded for mercy he might yet have had a hearing (compare Hezekiah in Isaiah 38; Manasseh in 2 Chronicles 33.12-13). But he did not do so. And the reason was because his heart was too hardened. It is a reminder to us that if we would get right with God, and are aware of stirrings within us that lead in that direction, we would be advised not to delay, and especially not to wait until the day prior to our death, for then it might well be too late as it was with Saul.

Saul’s Response To What He Had Heard (28.20-25).

Once Samuel had gone Saul’s response to his words are illuminating. It is clear that he had no thought of repentance or of calling on YHWH. Rather he was terrified as he considered the implications of what he had heard. We note again in this an indication of Saul’s surface religiosity. This is further emphasised by the fact that he had been fasting, no doubt in order to obtain some kind of divine help (compare 14.24). He seemingly thought that thereby he could move the hand of YHWH. But the only actual ‘benefit’ that he obtained from it was that he was in no physical condition to withstand the shock. As Isaiah would declare later, there was no point in fasting unless the heart was right towards God (Isaiah 58). Thus Saul gained nothing and was left distraught.

Note that Saul’s growing fear is emphasised throughout the chapter. In verse 5 he had been greatly afraid and his heart had trembled violently at the sight of the great host assembled against them. It was this naked terror that had driven him to do what he had done. Somehow as he had seen that host in front of his eyes he had probably known that it was the end. And now he was even more terrified, for his certain doom had been announced. And the result of that and the fasting was such that he physically collapsed.

And yet he still refused to eat. Perhaps it was because he clung tenaciously to the only exercise that he felt could bring him assistance in his hour of need, a desperate and superstitious attempt to manipulate YHWH, or perhaps it was because he knew that to accept the medium’s hospitality (thus declaring friendship) was to put him beyond the pale. He would be aligning himself with her. But whichever it was in the end he was persuaded to eat, and did so, probably because he came to the recognition that he could not go on unless he did so. He had reached the end of his tether.

Analysis.

  • a Then straight away Saul fell his full length on the earth, and was terrified (sore afraid), because of the words of Samuel, and there was no strength in him, for he had eaten no bread all the day, nor all the night (28.20).
  • b And the woman came to Saul, and saw that he was very much troubled, and said to him, “Look, your handmaid has listened to your voice, and I have put my life in my hand, and have listened to your words which you spoke to me. Now therefore, I pray you, you listen also to the voice of your handmaid, and let me set a morsel of bread before you, and eat, in order that you may have strength, when you go on your way” (28.21-22).
  • c But he refused, and said, “I will not eat” (28.23a).
  • b But his servants, together with the woman, constrained him, and he listened to their voice. So he arose from the earth, and sat on the bed, and the woman had a fatted calf in the house, and she acted hurriedly, and killed it, and she took flour, and kneaded it, and baked from it unleavened bread (28.23b-24).
  • a And she brought it before Saul, and before his servants, and they ate. Then they rose up, and went away in/into that night (28.25).

Note that in ‘a’ Saul had not eaten and was terrified, and in the parallel he ate and went out into ‘that night’. In ‘b’ the woman offers him food, and seeks to constrain him to eat, and in the parallel he is constrained and does eat. Central in ‘c’ was his desire not to eat (and possibly break a vow).

28.20 ‘Then straight away Saul fell his full length on the earth, and was terrified (sore afraid), because of the words of Samuel, and there was no strength in him, for he had eaten no bread all the day, nor all the night.’

This probably means that he fainted, and when he came to himself was filled with terror at the remembrance of what he had been told. We are then given the explanation for his fainting fit. It was because he had not been eating properly. He had eaten nothing since daybreak. From what we already know of Saul this was probably because he was hoping thereby to ensure victory (14.28). He was one of those who were superstitious and never learned from experience.

28.21 ‘And the woman came to Saul, and saw that he was very much troubled, and said to him, “Look, your handmaid has listened to your voice, and I have put my life in my hand, and have listened to your words which you spoke to me.”

Not surprisingly Saul was in great distress. The man whom he trusted more than any other had informed him ‘from the other side’ that the cause was already lost, and that there was no hope, at least in the short term. The hope of Israel, the one who might have made a difference, was far away (as this was the night before the battle he was possibly by this time back in Ziklag or chasing the Amalekites (chapters 29-30)).

The woman of Endor was very concerned for him. She pointed out to him that she had listened to his words, and had trusted him, even putting her life in his hands (note the threefold emphasis). Now she appealed for him to do the same for her, to listen to her and act accordingly.

28.22 “Now therefore, I pray you, you listen also to the voice of your handmaid, and let me set a morsel of bread before you, and eat, in order that you may have strength, when you go on your way.”

Accordingly she begged him at least to listen to her and eat something to revive his failing strength. Soon he would be on his way, and if he was to make it back to his camp some miles away he must have something to eat. ‘Morsel of bread’ was a slight under-exaggeration. She intended to give him a substantial meal.

28.23 ‘But he refused, and said, “I will not eat.” But his servants, together with the woman, constrained him, and he listened to their voice. So he arose from the earth, and sat on the bed.’

But Saul refused. He was an obstinate man and his religious inclinations which were based on false premises, were overriding his common sense. So he declared, “I will not eat.” Perhaps he also felt that to accept the hospitality of such a woman would put him in the wrong (such is the self-contradictory nature of human beings).

However, in the end, still lying faint on the floor, he did listen to the combined appeals of his men and of the woman, and agreed to eat. Then he picked himself up and sank onto the cushion-covered bench along the wall.

28.24 ‘And the woman had a fatted calf in the house, and she acted hurriedly, and killed it, and she took flour, and kneaded it, and baked from it unleavened bread.’

The woman then hurried out and fetched the fatted calf (a calf kept especially fattened up in case important guests came). Then she killed and cooked it, hurriedly made some unleavened bread (there was no time for leavening). It would be a hastily prepared meal but a substantial one, ‘fit for a king’. The later Bedouin in fact regularly cooked meat immediately after killing an animal, and prepared fresh bread for each meal. It was not therefore something unusual.

28.25 ‘And she brought it before Saul, and before his servants, and they ate. Then they rose up, and went away in/into that night.’

Then she brought it before Saul and his servants, and they all ate. Considerably strengthened they then went away ‘into that night’. They had come by night and they went out into the night. All was darkness. It was symbolic of their state of heart, and of what was to happen. It was the darkness before a dawn which would have such devastating consequences for Saul and for Israel. And it was symbolic of Saul’s life. Having refused the bread of YHWH he partook of the bread of darkness. By this time he had nowhere else to turn.

This whole incident is given in some detail because in the writer’s mind it summarised Saul’s life and superficiality. He looked for quick fixes without commitment. He was religiously orthodox as regards the externals, until it suited him to be otherwise, but he lacked heart. And he used his religion as a tool in order to obtain favour. However, once his heart was put to the test he failed. He was spiritually shallow. Unlike David he had no real conception of ‘the fear of God’.

The Philistines Gather In Readiness For The Invasion of Israel And Refuse To Have David In Their Company (29.1-11).

This passage brings out how very much the concentration of the writer of Samuel is on the personalities involved, and how little on the history. Here was one of the great moments of history when the massed hosts of the Philistines, stronger than ever before, were about to overwhelm Israel, and, probably for the first time since their arrival in Canaan, extend their empire over the River Jordan. It is covering the period of the establishment of the Philistine Empire at its largest, and the total subjugation of most of Israel. And what is the writer’s concentration on? The one who did not take part in the battle because he was not to be trusted by the Philistines (David), and what he meanwhile accomplished against a gathering of the tribes of Amalekites. In other words what the writer is interested in is what happened with David, and what subsequently happened to Saul (and had happened in chapter 28). His interest is in YHWH’s activity in history. The Philistines’ activities are simply colourful background. What he is concerned with here is the outworking of YHWH’s purposes. This is the story of YHWH.

David was certainly put on the spot as a result of the call to join in the invasion of Israel. Had he actually had to do so it is questionable whether he would ever have been able to re-establish his acceptability to the Israelites. But we are expected to see that YHWH intervened and prevented him from having to do so.

This being turned back was also providential for another reason, for while the Philistine army was on the march, unknown to anyone the Amalekites had taken advantage of the situation in order to invade the southern parts of Judah and Philistia, including Ziklag. With David on war duty, and gone for the duration, and both Judah and Philistia emptied of its main fighting troops, it was seen by them as too good an opportunity to be missed. And it would give them even more satisfaction in that they would be gaining vengeance for what David had done to their fellow-tribesmen (27.8-9). They never dreamed that because YHWH was at work watching over His people David might return so soon.

Analysis.

  • a Now the Philistines gathered together all their hosts to Aphek: and the Israelites encamped by the fountain which is in Jezreel (29.1).
  • b And the lords of the Philistines passed on by ‘hundreds’, and by ‘thousands’ (smaller and larger military units), and David and his men passed on in the rearward with Achish (29.2).
  • c Then said the princes of the Philistines, “What do these Hebrews here?” And Achish said to the princes of the Philistines, “Is not this David, the servant of Saul the king of Israel, who has been with me these days, or rather these years, and I have found no fault in him since he fell away to me unto this day?” But the princes of the Philistines were angry with him, and the princes of the Philistines said to him, “Make the man return, that he may go back to his place where you have appointed him, and let him not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he become an adversary to us. For by what method should this fellow reconcile himself to his lord? Should it not be with the heads of these men?” (29.3-4).
  • d “Is not this David, of whom they sang one to another in dances, saying, Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands?” (29.5).
  • e Then Achish called David, and said to him, “As YHWH lives, you have been upright, and your going out and your coming in with me in the host is good in my sight, for I have not found evil in you since the day of your coming to me to this day (29.6a).
  • f Nevertheless the lords do not favour you. For this reason now return, and go in peace, that you displease not the lords of the Philistines” (29.6b-7).
  • e And David said to Achish, “But what have I done? And what have you found in your servant for as long as I have been before you to this day, that I may not go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king?” (29.8).
  • d And Achish answered and said to David, “I know that you are good in my sight, as an angel of God.”
  • c “Notwithstanding the princes of the Philistines have said, ‘He shall not go up with us to the battle’. For this reason now rise up early in the morning with the servants of your lord who are come with you, and as soon as you are up early in the morning, and have light, depart” (29.9b-10).
  • b So David rose up early, he and his men, to depart in the morning, to return into the land of the Philistines (29.11a).
  • a And the Philistines went up to Jezreel (29.11b).

Note that in ‘a’ Israel were encamped by the spring which is in Jezreel, and in the parallel the Philistines went up to Jezreel. In ‘b’ David went up with the Philistines, and in the parallel he returns from following the Philistines. In ‘c’ the Philistines refuse to let him ‘go down to battle’ and command that he return to Philistia, and in the parallel Achish points this out and tells him to return to Philistia. In ‘d’ the women of Israel sang of David’s glory, and in the parallel Achish sees him as ‘like an angel of God’. In ‘e’ Achish declares him faithful and reliable and in the parallel David argues that he is faithful and reliable. In ‘f’ it is stressed that David is not favoured by the lords of the Philistines, and that he must therefore go in peace and return to Ziklag.

29.1 ‘Now the Philistines gathered together all their hosts to Aphek, and the Israelites encamped by the spring which is in Jezreel.’

The writer was not really interested in the details of the invasion, but only in its consequences. However, we can gather from what he does tell us something of what happened. It would appear that the speed of movement of the invasion forces had taken Saul by surprise, so that although the call went out to the tribes in the north and in Transjordan, neither sets of levies had time to reach him prior to the battle with the result that they could only watch in dismay, (the northern tribes from across the valley of Jezreel), while those whom Saul had been able to gather initially were cut to pieces, first at Jezreel and then as they fled over Mount Gilboa (31.7).

There are two possible scenarios depending on whether we take the Aphek here to be that near Bethhoron (4.1), or another Aphek further northward. Either is possible for we know that ‘Aphek’ in fact means ‘a fortress’ and we also know that there were a number of Apheks (fortress cities). Thus this Aphek may have been in or near the valley of Jezreel.

Some, however, see this verse as a flashback, referring to the initial gathering of the Philistine forces prior to their advance on Shunem (28.4). This would place the David incident in chapter 29 prior to the Philistine movement on Shunem. Others see it as occurring after the Philistines had initially gathered, and had arrived at Shunem, being the next stage in their advance towards Jezreel. This ties in better with the impression we get from chapter 28 that David was with Achish at Shunem.

Either way Saul may have encamped where he did, rather than further southward, precisely because he was in expectancy of being joined by the tribal levies from the northern tribes, and hoped that they might arrive before the Philistines did, something which unfortunately for him may never have occurred (31.7), simply because of the early Philistine arrival in Jezreel. If that is so it would appear that the Transjordanian levies also never had time to reach him (31.7).

On the other hand the ‘men of Israel’ mentioned in 31.7 may merely have been those left behind to guard their cities, in which case Saul would have had his full forces, with the description in 31.7 simply bringing out the consequence of the battle, that the cities of Israel were subjugated by the Philistines to an extent never known before, as the Philistine empire reached its maximum extent.

But the writer is not over interested in all this. What he is concerned to present is the fact that while Saul and all Israel were in process of being hopelessly defeated and decimated, as YHWH had declared, David was marching off towards victory and triumph, maintaining the integrity of his ‘kingdom’, again within the purposes of YHWH. The Philistine triumph would not be the end of Israel.

‘The spring of Jezreel.’ This spring is probably the present Ain Jalûd (or Ain Jalût, i.e. ‘Goliath's spring’, so called because it was regarded as the scene of the defeat of Goliath). It is a very large spring, which issues from a cleft in the rock at the foot of the mountain on the north-eastern border of Gilboa, forming a beautifully limpid pool of about forty or fifty feet in diameter, and then flowing in a stream through the valley, being sufficient to turn a millwheel.

29.2 ‘And the lords (seren - only used of Philistine ‘kings’) of the Philistines passed on by hundreds, and by thousands, and David and his men passed on in the rearward with Achish.’

Meanwhile the Philistines marched on Jezreel, perfectly organised in military units both small (‘hundreds’) and large (‘thousands’). And with them marched David and his ‘hundreds’, acting as bodyguards to Achish who was taking up the rear. The fact that he had made them his bodyguard demonstrated that he saw them as some of his best troops. It was an army to be feared.

29.3 ‘Then said the princes of the Philistines, “What do these Hebrews here?” And Achish said to the princes of the Philistines, “Is not this David, the servant of Saul the king of Israel, who has been with me these days, or rather these years, and I have found no fault in him since he fell away to me unto this day?”

But the other ‘lords’ of the Philistines, (here also described as ‘princes’, although this latter term may have indicated a wider group) were not pleased to see the Hebrew contingent among their forces. Possibly their memories went back to how Hebrew contingents had previously proved false when the heat of the battle was on (14.21). So they asked Achish why he had brought these Hebrews along. Achish’s reply was that this was David, the former servant of Saul, who had proved himself a loyal servant to Achish through the years. The detailed reply was probably intended by the writer to be seen in the light of 27.7-12, and to remind the reader and listener (when it was read out at feasts) how thoroughly David had duped Achish. He wanted David’s continued supremacy to be recognised. He was no one’s tool.

‘Is not this ---?’ Compare the similar question in verse 5. Note how the reply here parallels that in verse 5. This first reply indicates that Achish, while glorying in David’s faithfulness, has been deceived by David’s wiles and is therefore really the plaything of David, while verse 5 reveals David’s supremacy as a fighting man. In other words both are deliberately exalting David. This is part of the point of the passage. All are to recognise that he is YHWH’s man and no one else’s.

29.4 ‘But the princes of the Philistines were angry with him, and the princes of the Philistines said to him, “Make the man return, that he may go back to his place where you have appointed him, and let him not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he become an adversary to us. For by what method should this one reconcile himself to his lord? Should it not be with the heads of these men?” ’

The other leaders of the Philistines were, however, not impressed, and expressed their feelings forcefully. They demanded that David and his men return to the city that Achish had appointed him, and not go with them to battle, because they were afraid that in the heat of battle he might suddenly turn on them in order to win favour with Saul. They were, of course, totally unaware of the detailed history of the antipathy that Saul had for David. Given what had happened previously, and in the light of what they knew, their fears were perfectly justified.

It should be noted that they appear to have had nothing personal against David and his men (apart from viewing him with contempt as expressed by ‘the man’ and ‘this one’), and were quite content for Achish to employ them as mercenaries under any other circumstance. They were presumably even confident that David would not leave them and join up with Saul (what a difference it might have made). What they were not willing to do was have Hebrews among them when they were going to battle against Hebrews, and especially such a one as David. And they were clearly confident of their strength without him and his men.

29.5 “Is not this David, of whom they sang one to another in dances, saying, Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands?”

They then reminded Achish of David’s famed prowess in battle, and especially against Philistines. Had not the Israelite women in earlier days acclaimed him as the greatest warrior in Israel so that his name had become proverbial? For the citation compare 18.7; 21.11. This is the third time that it has been cited, emphasising the completeness of David’s superiority to Saul in the eyes of all. It brings out that his triumphs had never been forgotten in Israel, so much so that they were also well known in Philistia. (Had it only been said on one occasion it would not have become so prominently remembered. But it was clearly a sore point with the Philistines). They were thus pointing out to Achish that David was a famed slayer of Philistines. While they acknowledged that that was in the past they did not want that to happen again.

29.6 ‘Then Achish called David, and said to him, “As YHWH lives, you have been upright, and your going out and your coming in with me in the host is good in my sight, for I have not found evil in you since the day of your coming to me to this day. Nevertheless the lords do not favour you.”

Reluctantly Achish gave way to their request, and called David to him and explained that while he himself had every confidence in David’s loyalty, having never found any fault in him, the lords of the Philistines did not favour him, partly because he was a Hebrew (which was how foreigners would see him) and partly because of his reputation.

It is noteworthy that Achish swears by YHWH. This would presumably be because in his dealings with David he had become used to this as a regular form of oath used by David, with the familiar form of oath intended to appease David by expressing a show of sympathy with his position in a way that was familiar to him. It suggests that he wanted David to know that his heart was with him. (Compare Ittai the Gittite in 2 Samuel 15.21)

29.7 “For this reason now return, and go in peace, that you displease not the lords of the Philistines.”

So he now requested David to go in peace and return to Ziklag so that he might not displease or annoy the lords of the Philistines any further.

29.8 ‘And David said to Achish, “But what have I done? And what have you found in your servant for as long as I have been before you to this day, that I may not go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king?”

David’s response was to profess his total loyalty to Achish. He asked on what grounds he was being sent home, and challenged Achish to produce any evidence to support the doubt being cast on him. And he affirmed his willingness to fight on behalf of Achish against any of his enemies. By this David was ensuring that Achish would not have any suspicion about his being unwilling to fight.

It is difficult, however, to believe that David was not secretly relieved. He could not have been looking forward to entering into battle against his own countrymen, as his past behaviour brings out (27.10-12), and had he gone into battle alongside the Philistine forces he would almost certainly have lost the goodwill in Judah and Israel that he had carefully built up. But he would not want Achish to doubt his total loyalty, and thus strongly argued his position, probably quite well aware that any such argument would be pointless. The decision was no longer in Achish’s hands. Once again he is seen as leading Achish on a string. (It was probably Achish’s total confidence in David that prevented the Philistines from interfering with David’s later proclamation as king of Judah. He no doubt assured them that David was their man).

29.9 ‘And Achish answered and said to David, “I know that you are good in my sight, as an angel of God. Notwithstanding the princes of the Philistines have said, ‘He shall not go up with us to the battle.’ ”

Achish strove to assure David that he himself had no doubt at all about his loyalty. Indeed to him David was so highly esteemed that he was as a messenger from God (compare 2 Samuel 14.17, 20; 19.27). But he then pointed out that the issue was no longer in his hands. In the circumstances he had no alternative but to bow to the will of the other lords of the Philistines, and they had forbidden David’s presence at the coming battle.

29.10 “For this reason now rise up early in the morning with the servants of your lord who are come with you, and as soon as you are up early in the morning, and have light, depart.”

So David was ordered to depart for Ziklag, along with his men (the other servants of his lord, Achish, who were with him) as soon as the sun arose, and there was light. Note the threefold emphasis on ‘early in the morning’ in verses 10-11. There was to be no delay. It would seem that battle was about to be joined. In the writer’s mind there was also the knowledge of a further reason for haste, and that was that, unknown to all at this stage, Ziklag was under attack and would shortly lay in ruins.

The emphasis on the fact that David and his men must depart in the light of day stands in stark contrast to Saul who had departed into ‘that night’ (28.25). The threefold emphasis in respect of David may be intended to emphasise the contrast. We are to see that David was marching forward into the light of day, while Saul was heading into the dark, because one was living according to YHWH’s commandments, whereas the other had held YHWH at arm’s length and had finally turned away from Him completely.

Some see ‘servants of your lord’ as indicating their past service to Saul, but it is not likely that that is how Achish would see David and his men (in spite of verse 3).

29.11 ‘So David rose up early, he and his men, to depart in the morning, to return into the land of the Philistines. And the Philistines went up to Jezreel.’

So early the next morning David and his men rose up and returned to Philistia, while the Philistines themselves advanced on the valley of Jezreel, where battle would take place on Israelite soil. YHWH had ‘stepped in’ in order to prevent David from acting against his fellow-countrymen.

David Arrives At Ziklag To Find It In Ruins With All Its Inhabitants Taken To Be Sold Into Slavery By The Amalekites (30.1-31).

David and his men arrived back in Ziklag after a two day march only to discover that it had been sacked in their absence. Taking advantage of the Philistine invasion which had fully occupied the warriors of both Philistia and Israel, a confederation of tribes of the fierce and nomadic Amalekites took the opportunity to ravage the towns in the Negeb (the extreme South of Canaan). Their purpose was in order to obtain spoil and slaves to be sold in Egypt. The size of the spoil that they took demonstrates the large scale nature of their invasion. This was not just one wandering tribe, but a gathering of a good number of them.

The consequence was that all the women and children of David’s men had been taken to be sold into slavery. Indeed David’s men were so angered by the fact that they were considering stoning David. Was it not he who had persuaded them to take up residence in this vulnerable town? Was he not responsible for its defence? Why had he allowed it to be denuded of protectors? Things were looking very uncomfortable. David, however, in this emergency, sought to the only One Whom he knew could help him in these circumstance. He turned to YHWH for strength and guidance.

The writer may well have seen in this attack by the Amalekites on Ziklag, (a city which at the time contained the weak and the helpless of those who were to be the foundation of the new nation of Israel/Judah), a parallel to what had previously happened under Moses. When Moses had begun the journey through the wilderness with the new nation of Israel, and with the conquest of God’s inheritance (Canaan) in his mind’s eye, the first adversaries who had molested God’s people were the Amalekites (Exodus 17.8; Numbers 24.20; Deuteronomy 25.17-19), and they had attacked the weak and the helpless among God’s people (Deuteronomy 25.18), only to give Moses his first victory after leaving Egypt. Now the weak and the helpless of the people through whom YHWH was again shortly to deliver Israel had been molested by the Amalekites, and the Amalekites were to be defeated again, in accordance with Exodus 17.16, by the one who would then go on to take over God’s inheritance. The writer possibly saw history as repeating itself.

Analysis.

  • a And it came about that, when David and his men were come to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid on the Negeb, and on Ziklag, and had smitten Ziklag, and burned it with fire, and had taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They did not kill any, but carried them off, and went their way (30.1-2).
  • b And when David and his men came to the city, behold, it was burned with fire, and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captive (30.3).
  • c Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep (30.4).
  • And David’s two wives were taken captive, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite. And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters (30.5-6a).
  • a But David strengthened himself in YHWH his God (30.6b).

Note that in ‘a’ the tragic situation is described, and in the parallel David strengthens himself in YHWH. In ‘b’ the wives, sons and daughters are carried away captive, and in the parallel David has lost his wives and David’s men are grieved at losing their sons and daughters. Centrally in ‘c’ the great grief and loss of David and his men is described.

30.1-2 ‘And it came about that, when David and his men were come to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid on the Negeb, and on Ziklag, and had smitten Ziklag, and burned it with fire, and had taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They did not kill any, but carried them off, and went their way.’

After two days fast travel David and his men arrived back at Ziklag ‘on the third day’, only to discover that it had been invaded and burned with fire in their absence. For in their absence the various Amalekite tribesmen who inhabited the Sinai peninsula, seeing their opportunity to attack the vulnerable, had gathered in a confederation and had swooped down on the Negeb, including Ziklag, and had carried off the inhabitants to be sold into slavery in Egypt. Everyone had been taken, both small and great.

30.3 ‘And when David and his men came to the city, behold, it was burned with fire, and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captive.’

Thus on their arrival David and his men were confronted with a devastating scene. Their city had been burned with fire, and all their wives, sons and daughters had been taken captive. Not one remained. This was typical of Amalekite behaviour and helps to explain why their destruction was seen as necessary by YHWH with the safety of His people in mind. While Amalekites were roving around, no one was safe.

30.4 ‘Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep.’

The sight of their desolate city and the empty houses must have been devastating to David and his men, who had arrived with such hopes. It meant that all that they lived and fought for was lost to them. In one go they had lost everything that they cared for most. It is then no wonder that they wept at what they had lost until in the end they had no more tears. All that they loved was gone, and the situation appeared hopeless.

30.5 ‘And David’s two wives were taken captive, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite.’

Among those taken were David’s two beautiful wives, Ahinoam and Abigail, who were to be founders of his dynasty. Their separate mention emphasises the importance attached to them. But he was not alone in his loss. All the married men among them had lost wives.

30.6 ‘And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters.’

When he saw the desolation of his men, and recognised their bitterness towards him as a result, David was grieved at heart, not so much because they considered stoning him, as because of why they considered doing so. It was because they saw him as having failed them. For, along with their wives, all their sons and daughters had also been carried of, with the result that there were mutterings among the men about stoning David who as their leader had, in their view, to bear the responsibility for this dreadful circumstance. If only he had left behind sufficient men to defend the city, or if only he had not left it in the first place when he had clearly not been wanted, this catastrophe would not have happened. (We must remember that men do not think rationally under such circumstances. They have to find someone on whom to release their anger). And to a certain extent he knew that they were right. It had been his responsibility to ensure that the city could be defended, and that enough troops had been left behind for the purpose. And he had no doubt thought that he had, but he had been proved wrong. Thus he had failed them.

30.6b ‘But David strengthened himself in YHWH his God.’

But it is in such circumstances that combined spiritual and leadership qualities come out. Instead of despairing David promptly looked to YHWH and found strength. He knew that YHWH was with him and that while YHWH lived there was hope, even if he himself had made a mess of it. He knew that in his extremity YHWH was there with him.

David And His Men Pursue The Amalekites And Destroy Them, Recovering All That They Had Lost And More In Abundance (30.7-20).

The Amalekites, aware that any opposition to what they had done was safely out of the way taking part on one side or another in the Philistine invasion of Israel, were no doubt quite relaxed and thus not as careful as they might have been, both in respect of getting their captives to Egypt as quickly as possible, and of ensuring that they put as great a distance as possible between them and any pursuers. Indeed they were so confident that there would be no pursuers that they found time to stop for a period of celebration at the multiplicity of their spoils. They were totally confident that by the time the invasion was over and David returned they themselves would have split into their separate tribes and have been long gone. What they did not allow for was the intervention of YHWH.

Thus when David consulted YHWH through the ephod he received the message that there was yet time to recover all the womenfolk and children, together with all their spoils. As a result, greatly encouraged, he set out with all haste with his partly exhausted men (who had already just endured a three day march), and was able to overtake the Amalekites while they were celebrating, (and had no doubt got themselves into a drunken state), and give them a thorough trouncing, so thorough indeed that the only ones who were able to make their escape were four camel units of young men. The remainder of the tribe were mercilessly slaughtered. It should be noted that this was simply carrying out the requirements of YHWH with respect to these merciless brigands, brigands who were a constant threat towards all civilised people. They were the terrorists of their day. Thus while Saul was facing disaster because of his prior disobedience in respect of the Amalekites, David was obeying YHWH with respect to them. He was being obedient to God’s commandments

Analysis.

  • a And David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, “I pray you, bring me here the ephod. And Abiathar brought there the ephod to David (30.7).
  • b And David enquired of YHWH, saying, “If I pursue after this troop, will I overtake them?” And he answered him, “Pursue, for you will surely overtake them, and will without fail recover all” (30.8).
  • c So David went, he and the six hundred men who were with him, and came to the brook Besor, where those who were left behind stayed. But David pursued, he and four hundred men, for two hundred stayed behind, who were so faint that they could not go over the brook Besor (30.9-10).
  • d And they found an Egyptian in the field, and brought him to David, and gave him bread, and he ate, and they gave him water to drink, and they gave him a piece of a cake of figs, and two clusters of raisins, and when he had eaten, his spirit came again to him, for he had eaten no bread, nor drunk any water, three days and three nights (30.11-12).
  • e And David said to him, “To whom do you belong? And from where are you?” And he said, “I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite, and my master left me, because three days ago I fell sick” (30.13).
  • f “We made a raid upon the Negeb of the Cherethites, and on that which belongs to Judah, and on the Negeb of Caleb, and we burned Ziklag with fire” (30.14).
  • e And David said to him, “Will you bring me down to this band?” And he said, “Swear to me by God, that you will neither kill me, nor deliver me up into the hands of my master, and I will bring you down to this band” (30.15).
  • d And when he had brought him down, behold, they were spread abroad over all the ground, eating and drinking, and dancing, because of all the great spoil that they had taken out of the land of the Philistines, and out of the land of Judah (30.16).
  • c And David smote them from the twilight even to the evening of the next day: and there escaped not a man of them, save four hundred young men, who rode on camels and fled (30.17).
  • b And David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and David rescued his two wives. And there was nothing lacking to them, neither small nor great, neither sons nor daughters, neither spoil, nor anything that they had taken to them, David brought back all (30.18-19).
  • a And David took all the flocks and the herds, which they drove before those other cattle, and said, “This is David’s spoil” (30.20).

30.7 ‘And David said to Abiathar the priest, the son of Ahimelech, “I pray you, bring me here the ephod. And Abiathar brought there the ephod to David.’

Having had time to consider the situation in which they found themselves David called for Abiathar the High Priest so that he could consult YHWH. And he called on him to bring the ephod, which incorporated the breastpouch in which were the Urim and Thummim. For while Saul could obtain no answer through the Urim (demonstrating that Saul had set up a rival High Priest (Zadok) and had provided parallel vestments for him), David was able to do so. This was the difference between the two men. One was rejected by YHWH and out of touch, the other was in constant touch with YHWH (compare 23.9).

30.8 ‘And David enquired of YHWH, saying, “If I pursue after this troop, will I overtake them?” And he answered him, “Pursue, for you will surely overtake them, and will without fail recover all.” ’

Once Abiathar had brought the ephod David then submitted his questions. If it is correct that the Urim and Thummim could only answer ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘no answer’ he must clearly have asked two questions. Firstly whether they would overtake the Amalekites, and then whether they would recover all, these being then interpreted in depth by Abiathar. But what matters is that either way David obtained YHWH’s answer, “Pursue, for you will surely overtake them, and will without fail recover all.”

30.9 ‘So David went, he and the six hundred men who were with him, and came to the brook Besor, where those who were left behind stayed.’

Immediately on receiving the answer David summoned his men and set off after the Amalekites, not resting until they came to the Wadi Besor, where they no doubt stopped to refresh themselves. We do not know the identity of the Wadi Besor but we can presume that they must have travelled a good number of miles. We are given minimum information about what happened there, but we must probably see that David rapidly summed up the situation, recognised that a number of his men, through no fault of their own, were too exhausted to travel quickly enough and were thus holding them up, and that they were also being slowed down by the baggage that they had necessarily brought with them for a trip into the desert, and decided to reorganise his men into four active units of the most fit, and leave two units behind to recover themselves and guard the baggage (verse 24), while he and the four slimmed down units proceeded forward at all speed. (We may possibly see that the six units were under the command of ‘the first three’ and ‘the second three’, although that is only surmise (2 Samuel 23.8-23)). It is far more likely that David as a good general quickly summed up the situation, than that the exhausted men themselves, who had their pride to consider, drew back from crossing the wadi.

30.10 ‘But David pursued, he and four hundred men, for two hundred stayed behind, who were so faint that they could not go over the brook Besor.’

Now aware that they must be catching up with the Amalekite raiders David and his four reorganised units sped onwards, less encumbered by baggage, leaving behind them the two units made up of the men who had found crossing the Wadi Besor a step too far. These last would provide the base to which the remainder could return when their provisions ran out, or when victory had been accomplished.

30.11 ‘And they found an Egyptian in the field, and brought him to David, and gave him food, and he ate, and they gave him water to drink.’

David’s scouts then came across an Egyptian in the countryside, in the last stages of exhaustion and unable to communicate, and brought him to David, who arranged for him to receive the basic food and water which he clearly needed in his exhausted state. This discovery was of huge importance, for it was to identify who their enemies were, and where they had taken refuge. It was evidence that YHWH was aiding their search.

30.12 ‘And they gave him a piece of a cake of figs, and two clusters of raisins, and when he had eaten, his spirit came again to him, for he had eaten no bread, nor drunk any water, three days and three nights.’

The food that they gave him was energy producing food (as they would know by experience), easily digestible, with the result that he soon showed signs of coming back to full consciousness and eventually sat up. Their hope, of course, was that he might be able to give them some information about who had passed that way.

‘Three days and three nights’ is a phrase that, in spite of its seeming preciseness, can in fact simply indicate a day, two part days and two nights, e.g. in our terminology Monday to Wednesday, or Tuesday to Thursday, etc (compare verse 13 - ‘three days ago’). A part day could be spoken of as ‘a day and a night’ because the day was seen as including the night. It was simply a way of speaking. This was certainly so later among the Jews. (We can compare how Jesus was to be in the grave ‘three days and three nights’ (Matthew 12.40) and was yet raised again on ‘the third day’).

30.13 ‘And David said to him, “To whom do you belong? And from where are you?” And he said, “I am a young man of Egypt, servant to an Amalekite, and my master left me, because three days ago I fell sick.” ’

Seeing that the young man was now able to speak David immediately questioned him, asking him who he was and where he had come from. His answer must have quickened all their hearts, for he revealed that he was an Egyptian and that he had indeed been the slave of one of the men who had attacked Ziklag. But he had fallen sick and so had callously been left behind to die by his master, seemingly without any provision for his welfare. As a slave he was simply seen as dispensable. That had been a day or so before.

30.14 “We made a raid upon the Negeb of the Cherethites, and on that which belongs to Judah, even on the Negeb of Caleb, and we burned Ziklag with fire.”

He also identified the nature of the expedition that his master had been on. They had raided the Negeb of the Cherethites (like the Pelethites, the Cherethites were a section of the Philistines, compare 2 Samuel 15.18; Ezekiel 25.16; Zephaniah 2.5) and the Negeb of Caleb which belonged to Judah (Caleb was a sub-clan of Judah - Joshua 21.11-12), and had then burned Ziklag with fire. This last was probably as a specific reprisal against David, because of what he had previously done to them, carried out when his back was turned and the opportunity had thus arisen. (With regard to the descriptions of the places attacked compare with them verse 16 - ‘the great spoil that they had taken out of the land of the Philistines, and out of the land of Judah’).

The Negeb was the large area of half barren land, half pastureland which lay between Israel/Judah (and Philistia) proper and the Sinai desert. It had low rainfall but many oases (for the Negeb of Caleb compare Judges 1.15), and was suitable for pasturing flocks, and when irrigated through careful conservation of water from the Judean hills, could also be successfully cultivated. It was at this time seemingly occupied by the Calebites and other Judean sub-clans, by the Kenites and the Jerahmeelites, semi-independent allies of Judah, and by the Cherethites (Philistines).

30.15 ‘And David said to him, “Will you bring me down to this band?” And he said, “Swear to me by God, that you will neither kill me, nor deliver me up into the hands of my master, and I will bring you down to this band.” ’

Then David asked the Egyptian if he would lead them to where he knew the Amalekites would go, and the young man replied that if they would swear on oath that they would not kill him or hand him over to his master (whom he clearly hated and feared), then he would show them.

‘This band.’ The word is the regular one which indicates a band of roving plunderers, compare verses 8 and 23. See also Psalm 18.29.

30.16 ‘And when he had brought him down, behold, they were spread abroad over all the ground, eating and drinking, and dancing, because of all the great spoil that they had taken out of the land of the Philistines, and out of the land of Judah.’

True to his word the young man led them to the Amalekite encampment which would be at a well known oasis. And there they found the Amalekites rapturously celebrating their victories, gloating in their success and over the number of valuable slaves that they had taken, and quite content that there would be no pursuit, because all knew that David and his men were far away fighting against Saul and Israel. It had all been so easy, and they had brought back with them huge spoils, as well as the many slaves for the Egyptians to buy, both from the land of the Philistines (the Negeb of the Cherethites) and the land of Judah (the Negeb of Caleb). They were expecting no trouble and had thus decided to have a rest stage at this oasis, no doubt in order to divide the spoil and go their separate ways Thus as twilight came on they were almost certainly in a very drunken state.

30.17 ‘And David smote them from the twilight even to the evening of the next day: and there escaped not a man of them, save four hundred young men, who rode on camels and fled.’

They soon, however, discovered their error, for, waiting until twilight, David launched his attack catching them totally unprepared. They must have wondered who or what had hit them, and would certainly have had no idea of their numbers. They would be totally disoriented. (After all, in their view this was what they did, not what people did to them). The size of the Amalekite band comes out in that even so it took a full night and day before David’s men could finally stop the slaughter, for they were determined to search out and kill every last man wherever they hid themselves, so that no other roving band would ever dare to do the same thing again. It was in accordance with YHWH’s curse (Exodus 17.14, 15; Numbers 24.20; Deuteronomy 25.19). The only ones who escaped were four camel units of young men who fled on their camels, which again emphasises how large the band had been. When they fled they no doubt assumed that they were being attacked by a much larger force. The surprise had been complete.

30.18 ‘And David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and David rescued his two wives.’

The fighting finally over David took stock and discovered that they had recovered everything that had been stolen from them, and more besides, and that that very importantly included David’s two wives, the future queens of Israel, and founders of his dynasty. YHWH was watching over David.

30.19 ‘And there was nothing lacking to them, neither small nor great, neither sons nor daughters, neither spoil, nor anything that they had taken to them, David brought back all.’

Indeed it is emphasised by the writer that nothing of what had been taken was lacking. As YHWH had promised (verse 8) they had recovered everything, including their sons and their daughters whose delight and joy must have been beyond imagining. One moment they had been in a state of darkest despair and hopelessness, awaiting only life-long slavery, and the next they had realised that they were in process of being rescued and would soon be back in their fathers’ arms. They would no doubt have recognised the war cries of David’s men.

This preservation of captives was in fact common among such raiding tribesmen. One of the purposes of their raids was in fact in order to obtain slaves for sale. They had not been spared because of any idea of morality. The thought had been cynical and commercial. David’s concern, in contrast, was in order to prevent further raids. he was not looking for slaves.

30.20 ‘And David took all the flocks and the herds, which they drove before those cattle, and said, “This is David’s spoil.” ’

The idea here is presumably that ‘those cattle’ represented the cattle of their own which had been recovered, while ‘all the flocks and herds’ were those over and above what had been stolen from them, and were thus ‘David’s’ and evidences of his triumph.

The stress is on the size of the spoil and in the fact that it now belonged to David. something which was proudly and distinctly made clear by his men as they drove them before them and declared ‘This is David’s spoil’. This is in striking contrast with YHWH’s requirement to Saul when he slew the Amalekites, that no spoil should be taken because it was ‘devoted to YHWH’. But the circumstances were very different. That had been a solemn religious and sacred expedition, specifically carried out by YHWH’s anointed at His command, having in view the need to deal with the Amalekites as a people as a whole, as under YHWH’s curse because of their general behaviour towards Israel and others. All had had to see in those circumstances that Saul was not seeking any benefit for himself but was acting as YHWH’s judge and avenger. It was an act of sacred judgment being carried out as a direct result of YHWH’s command. Here on the other hand it was aggrieved and retaliatory parties who were recovering their own spoil, along with the extra which was to be returned to its presumed erstwhile owners (30.26-31), but which meanwhile could be seen as ‘David’s spoil’. It was not an act of judicial and sacred judgment.

David Declares That All Must Share The Credit For The Victory, Both Those Who Fought And Those Who Guarded The Baggage, because The Victory Was YHWH’s (30.21-31).

David’s concern for all his men is brought out by his treatment of the exhausted men whom he had left to guard the baggage at the Wadi Besor. He insisted that because all that had been won had been given to them by YHWH, all should be divided equally among all who had come on the expedition, both to those who had fought, and to those who had guarded their baggage and had thus ensured that they could move on swiftly and have somewhere to which they could turn if they ran out of supplies, or anything went wrong.

He then also proceeded to return to neighbouring friendly tribes and clans, something of what had been stolen from them, as a gesture of friendship and gratitude in return for the friendship that they had shown to him and his men when they had been hiding among them.

This last fact emphasises the huge amount of spoil that had been recovered. And it further indicates the large number of Amalekites who must have taken part in the raiding trips, almost certainly the result of the gathering together of a number of sub-tribes of Amalekites in a confederation, partly gathered in order to gain revenge on David because he had attacked and slaughtered their ‘brothers’, and also in order to take maximum advantage of the fact that Israelite and Philistine forces had been elsewhere.. This had been no ordinary raid by one tribe, as the fact that they had been able to take a fortified city like Ziklag demonstrated.

Analysis.

  • a And David came to the two hundred men, who were so faint that they could not follow David, whom also they had made to abide at the brook Besor, and they went forth to meet David, and to meet the people that were with him, and when David came near to the people, he saluted them (30.21).
  • b Then answered all the wicked men and base fellows, of those who went with David, and said, “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them anything of the spoil that we have recovered, save to every man his wife and his children, that he may lead them away, and depart (30.22).
  • c Then David said , “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what YHWH has given to us, who has preserved us, and delivered the band that came against us into our hand” (30.23).
  • b “And who will listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be that tarries by the baggage. They will share alike.” And it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel to this day (30.24-25).
  • a And when David came to Ziklag, he sent of the spoil to the elders of Judah, even to his friends, saying, “Look, a present for you from the spoil of the enemies of YHWH.” To those who were in Beth-el, and to those who were in Ramoth of the Negeb, and to those who were in Jattir, and to those who were in Aroer, and to those who were in Siphmoth, and to those who were in Eshtemoa, and to those who were in Racal, and to those who were in the cities of the Jerahmeelites, and to those who were in the cities of the Kenites, and to those who were in Hormah, and to those who that were in Bor-ashan, and to those who were in Athach, and to those who were in Hebron, and to all the places where David himself and his men were wont to haunt (30.26-31).

Note that in ‘a’ David saluted those who were his fellow-comrades and who guarded the baggage, and in the parallel he greeted the elders of Judah who were his friends and who had shown him and his men friendship in their time of need. In ‘b’ the base among the four hundred sought to hold all the spoils for themselves, because the others had not fought but had merely watched the baggage, and in the parallel David forbids it and lays down the rule the at the spoil will always be divided between all, both those who fought and those who watched over the baggage. Centrally in ‘c’ he emphasises that all the credit must go to YHWH,. and that therefore all is a gift from Him.

30.21 ‘And David came to the two hundred men, who were so faint that they could not follow David, whom also they had made to abide at the brook Besor, and they went forth to meet David, and to meet the people that were with him, and when David came near to the people, he saluted them.’

Returning triumphantly with their spoils David and his four hundred came back to the two hundred who had had to take time to rest and recover, the ones whom they had left at the Wadi Besor to watch over the baggage that they had stripped themselves of so that they could advance all the faster. And the two hundred, now fully recovered, came forward to meet and greet their comrades, and were themselves saluted by David. He knew that they had done all that they could, and did not want them to feel at all dishonoured. It was the act of a true leader.

The true man of God never despises those who do what they can, but are unable to reach the standard of others. He knows that very often they are the people whom God uses in His own way.

30.22 ‘Then answered all the wicked men and base fellows, of those who went with David, and said, “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them anything of the spoil that we have recovered, save to every man his wife and his children, that he may lead them away, and depart.” ’

But not all were as kind as David. There were some among the four hundred who, while doughty fighters, were lacking in compassion and human feeling. And these came to David and suggested that none of the spoil be given to the two hundred, apart from the returning to them of their wives and children. These should be given to them and then they should depart empty handed, made aware of their shame. They wanted all the spoil for themselves.

30.23 ‘Then David said , “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what YHWH has given to us, who has preserved us, and delivered the band that came against us into our hand.” ’

But David would have none of it. He pointed out that the spoil had been given to them by YHWH. It was YHWH who had preserved them and delivered the marauding band who had come against them into their hand. It was YHWH who had brought them back to Ziklag in time to be able to rectify matters. It was YHWH Who had sent them forth with the guarantee of victory. It was YHWH Who had arranged for them to find an Egyptian in the desert who could lead them to the marauders. It was YHWH who had arranged for the marauders to remain at the oasis in order to celebrate, and had got them into such a condition that they were in no condition to fight. All had been of YHWH.

30.24 “And who will listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be that tarries by the baggage. They will share alike.” ’

Then he asked them whom they thought would support them in their suggestion. He was confident that most of his men would agree that all who had taken part in the expedition should receive a fair share of the spoils. Indeed all had been necessary. They could never have left the excess baggage behind, knowing that it would be there when they came back, had it not been for those who were left to watch over it. So all were to share alike.

30.25 ‘And it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel to this day.’

And that was the ordinance and statute that he established in Israel from that day forward, and was true ‘to this day’. That those who fought, and those who watched the baggage, would all share equally.

30.26 ‘And when David came to Ziklag, he sent of the spoil to the elders of Judah, even to his friends, saying, “Look, a present for you from the spoil of the enemies of YHWH,” ’

In his victory David did not forget those who had been friends to them in their greatest time of need, the elders of Judah in the Negeb towns. Much of the spoil had been stolen from them, and so once they had reached Ziklag, he returned it to them in an act of reciprocal friendship, indicating that it was a present to them from YHWH, and from the spoils that YHWH had taken from his adversaries (who were His enemies because they were the enemies of His people).

30.27-31 ‘To those who were in Beth-el, and to those who were in Ramoth of the Negeb, and to those who were in Jattir, and to those who were in Aroer, and to those who were in Siphmoth, and to those who were in Eshtemoa, and to those who were in Racal, and to those who were in the cities of the Jerahmeelites, and to those who were in the cities of the Kenites, and to those who were in Hormah, and to those who that were in Bor-ashan, and to those who were in Athach, and to those who were in Hebron, and to all the places where David himself and his men were wont to haunt.’

There then follows a list of all the places which benefited, and their very number indicates the amount of spoil recovered (and therefore the size of the band of plunderers that they had defeated). Here we learn that all these peoples had welcomed David and his men when they had been fleeing from Saul. They were the places which David and his men ‘had been wont to haunt’, i.e. had been in the habit of sheltering near. Not all had been like the Ziphites.

The names are all of towns and cities in the Negeb, or in the mountains of Judah. ‘Bethel’ was also known as Bethuel or Bethul, and was in the neighbourhood of Ziklag and Hormah, being shared by Judah and Simeon (Joshua 15.30; 1 Chronicles 4.30). For Ramoth of the Negeb compare Joshua 19.8. It was possibly the home of Shimei the Ramathite, overseer of David’s vineyards (1 Chronicles 27.27). Jattir was a priestly city on the south-west escarpment of the mountains of Judah (Joshua 15.48; 19.4), possibly the home of Ira and Gareb the Ithrites (2 Samuel 23.38). Aroer (not the one near the Arnon) is probably still commemorated by the Wadi Ararah, being some miles south-east of Beersheba. Shama and Jehiel, the sons of Hothan the Aroerite, are mentioned among David’s mighty men (1 Chronicles 11.44). Siphmoth is unknown, but may connect with Zabdi the Shiphmite, steward of David’s wine cellars (1 Chronicles 27.27). Eshtemoa was a priestly city (Joshua 15.50; 21.14), some miles south-south-west of Hebron. Racal is unknown. The Jerahmeelites (see 1 Chronicles 2.9, 25) and Kenites (see Judges 1.16) were semi-independent peoples linked with Judah. Hormah (which means ‘put under the Ban, devoted’; compare Numbers 21.2-3) was a former Canaanite city in the Negeb assigned to Judah and Simeon (Joshua 15.30; 19.4). Borashan means ‘cystern of Ashan’ (compare Joshua 15.42; 19.7) and was in the Negeb. Athach is unidentified. Hebron was a very ancient city (Numbers 13.22), known to Abraham and later captured by Caleb (Joshua 14.13-15). It was the major city in the mountains of Judah, and would later become David’s first capital.

There is much discussion as to David’s motives in this distribution of spoil, but there is no real reason for doubting that it mainly arose from gratitude to those who had treated him and his men well in the past. That he also did it as a prospective king of Israel, a position that had been promised to him a number of times in the past, we need not doubt, for he had the heart of a king, but it is only said to be to those who had welcomed him and his men in the past. It should also be remembered that he had refused to kill Saul and claim the kingship, even when he knew that he had the support of Jonathan, and that even his later approach to Hebron was only made after consulting YHWH. Thus while he was certainly a man aware of his destiny, he was also one who was prepared for YHWH to bring it about when he willed. He was not just a cynical politician or a power-seeker. He was a man who was aware that YHWH had His hand upon him, and he acted accordingly.

The Thorough Defeat Of Israel And The Death Of Saul (1 Samuel 31.1-2 Samuel 1.27).

Having initially demonstrated how God’s purposes are moving forward in David, the writer now describes the humiliating defeat and death of Saul, slain by his own hand. It is the darkness before the dawn. But the dawn is clearly in mind. For the following chapters of 2 Samuel were in his eyes simply the continuation of the story. The original writer did not end on a note of anticlimax. That thought simply arises because of the historical accident of the division of the book into two.

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Further free Bible articles and commentaries

Commentary on Samuel - Contents

1 Samuel 1.1-4.1a The Birth of Samuel And His Subsequent Career

1 Samuel 4.1b-8.22 The Movements of the Ark of God and the Judgeship of Samuel

1 Samuel 9.1-12.25 Saul Becomes King

1 Samuel 13-15 The Downfall Of Saul

1 Samuel 16.1-18.4 David Is Anointed And Slays Goliath

1 Samuel 18.5-20.42 The Rise Of David And Jealousy Of Saul

1 Samuel 21.1-22.23 The Murder of The Priests, David Builds a Private Army

1 Samuel 23.1-26.25 Saul Constantly Harasses David, David And Nabal, David Twice Spares Saul’s Life

1 Samuel 31.1-2 Samuel 5.5. Saul and Jonathan Die On Mount Gilboa, David Is Anointed As King of Judah, Civil War In Israel, David Is Anointed As King Of Israel

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THE PENTATEUCH --- GENESIS ---EXODUS--- LEVITICUS --- NUMBERS --- DEUTERONOMY --- THE BOOK OF JOSHUA --- THE BOOK OF JUDGES --- THE BOOK OF RUTH --- SAMUEL --- KINGS --- I & II CHRONICLES --- EZRA---NEHEMIAH---ESTHER---PSALMS 1-73--- PROVERBS---ECCLESIASTES--- SONG OF SOLOMON --- ISAIAH --- JEREMIAH --- LAMENTATIONS --- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL --- --- HOSEA --- --- JOEL ------ AMOS --- --- OBADIAH --- --- JONAH --- --- MICAH --- --- NAHUM --- --- HABAKKUK--- --- ZEPHANIAH --- --- HAGGAI --- ZECHARIAH --- --- MALACHI --- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW ---THE GOSPEL OF MARK--- THE GOSPEL OF LUKE --- THE GOSPEL OF JOHN --- THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES --- READINGS IN ROMANS --- 1 CORINTHIANS --- 2 CORINTHIANS ---GALATIANS --- EPHESIANS--- PHILIPPIANS --- COLOSSIANS --- 1 THESSALONIANS --- 2 THESSALONIANS --- 1 TIMOTHY --- 2 TIMOTHY --- TITUS --- PHILEMON --- HEBREWS --- JAMES --- 1 & 2 PETER --- JOHN'S LETTERS --- JUDE --- REVELATION --- THE GOSPELS & ACTS