THE BOOK OF 1 SAMUEL
Lesson 9: Chapters 25-27
The Death of Samuel and
David Extends Mercy to Saul a Second Time
We thank You for the mercy and compassion that You are constantly pouring out upon the human race. You ask us to show our gratitude to You by extending our mercy and compassion to our brothers and sisters in the human family without expecting an earthly reward. David even extended mercy to his enemies because it was more important to please You by living in righteousness then to seek vengeance. He trusted You to direct the path of his life, and his example sets a standard for all of us who read his story. Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our lesson, Lord, as we study the fine examples of righteousness, mercy, and loyalty demonstrated in the lives of David and Jonathan. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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choirmaster Tune: "Lilies..." of David.
You know well the insults, the shame and disgrace I endure. Every one of my oppressors is known to you. Insult has broken my heart past cure. I hoped for sympathy, but in vain, for consolers, not one to be found.
Charge them with crime after crime, exclude them from your saving justice, erase them from the Book of Life, do not enroll them among the upright. For myself, wounded wretch that I am, by your saving power raise me up! I will praise God's name in song, I will extol him by thanksgiving, for this will please Yahweh more than an ox, than a bullock horned and hoofed. The humble have seen and are glad. Let your courage revive, you who seek God.
Psalm 69:19-20, 27-32
Saul's failure was not in defeating Israel's enemies, nor was he deficient in strengthening Israel's power in establishing an effective central government (14:52). His failure was from his neglect of and disobedience to God's commands in his decisions that put his will above God's will in deciding "what was right in his own eyes" instead of what was "right in God's eyes"; it is the reoccurring theme from the Book of Judges (cf. Judg 2:12; 3:7, 12 twice; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1; 17:6; 21:25). Do we want to be like Adam, Eve, Saul and many others in deciding for ourselves what is right or wrong/what is righteous and what is evil, or will we submit to God's loving and wise sovereignty over our lives by admitting that His view of eternity as expressed to us through Sacred Scripture and the teachings of Mother Church is superior to our earth-bound view? This temptation to decide for ourselves what is right instead of being obedient to the will of God is the constant struggle that requires continual conversion in the lives of Christians.
Chapter 25: The Death of Samuel and the Story of Nabal and Abigail
13 Samuel was the beloved of his Lord; prophet
of the Lord, he instituted the kingdom, and anointed rulers over his people. 14 By the Law of the Lord he judged the
assembly, and the Lord watched over Jacob. 15
By his loyalty he was recognized as a prophet, by his words he was known
to be a trustworthy seer... 19 Before
the time of his everlasting rest he bore witness to the Lord and his anointed,
"Of no property, not even a pair of sandals, have I ever deprived a soul." Nor
did anyone accuse him. 20 And,
having fallen asleep, he prophesied again, warning the king of his end; he
spoke from the depths of the earth in prophecy, to blot out the wickedness of
Sirach 46:13-15, 19-20
1 Samuel 25:1-8 ~ Samuel's death and David's appeal to Nabal
1 Samuel died and
all Israel assembled to mourn for him. They buried him at his home in Ramah.
1b David then set off and went down to the desert of Maon. 2 Now, there was a man in Maon whose business was at Carmel; the man was very rich: he owned three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. He was then at Carmel, having his sheep shorn. 3 The man's name was Nabal and his wife's Abigail. She was a woman of intelligence and beauty, but the man was miserly and churlish. He was a Calebite. 4 When David heard in the desert that Nabal was at his sheep shearing, 5 he sent ten men off, having said to them, "Go up to Carmel, visit Nabal and greet him from me. 6 And this is what you are to say to my brother, 'Peace to you, peace to your family, peace to all that is yours! 7 I hear that you now have the shearers; your shepherds were with us recently: we did not molest them, nor did they lose anything all the while they were at Carmel. 8 Ask your young men and they will tell you. I hope that you will give the men a welcome, coming as we do on a festival. Whatever you have to hand please give to your servants and to your son David.'"
Thus Samuel's story begins and ends at Ramah, the home of his parents (1 Sam 1:19). With Samuel dead, David must have felt more isolated than ever. Samuel was the only one who understood David's true calling. After Samuel's death, David went into the desert of Maon. The region of Maon was named for one of the descendants of Caleb, the Gentile convert and hero of the conquest (see 1 Chron 2:45; Josh 15:55). Maon is one of several descendants of Caleb, all of whose given names are also place-names (1 Chron 2:42-50) that are located within a six to twelve mile radius of Hebron, the city and surrounding territory awarded to Caleb and his descendants.(1)
Nabal is probably a descendant of Caleb. Unfortunately, Nabal has inherited none of his ancestor's good qualities. The mention that Nabal is a Calebite may have a double meaning since the Hebrew word kalibi can also mean "doglike" but in a negative sense. The season of sheep-shearing in the spring was a festival time in which some of the sheep were slaughtered and communal feasts were celebrated. David sends respectful greetings to the wealthy landowner and makes the request that he might share some of the year's bounty with David's men. No amount is mentioned: Whatever you have to hand please give... The amount of the gift is left up to the generosity of Nabal. The gift of the food to your servants (meaning David's men) and to your son David are expressions of deference and humility to the wealthy, powerful, and presumably older Nabal.
Question: Why does David feel he is justified in
requesting some food from Nabal for his men? Also see verses 14-16.
Question: When David's men were camped by the flocks of Nabal near the oasis of En-Gedi, David's men did not take any of the sheep but instead protected the shepherds and their sheep from thieves and predators. Therefore, it would be a reasonable gesture for Nabal to compensate them for their protection of Nabal's shepherds and flocks against pillage and rewarding their efforts with some food and drink.
1 Samuel 25:9-13 ~ Nabal's reply to David's Men
9 David's men went and said all this to Nabal for David, and waited. 10 Nabal retorted to the men in David's service, "Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? 11 There are many servants nowadays who run away from their masters. Am I to take my bread and my wine and the [my] meat that I have slaughtered for my shearers and [shall I] give it to men who come from I know not where?" 12 David's men turned on their heels and went back, and on their arrival told him exactly what had been said. 13 David then said to his men, "Every man buckle on his sword!" And they buckled on their swords, and David buckled on his too; about four hundred followed David while two hundred stayed with the baggage. [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 782.
Question: In what two ways does Nabal sarcastically
characterize David and what does this suggest about Nabal? The Hebrew word
translated "servant" can also mean "slave."
Answer: He refers to David disrespectfully as a no-body who is only "the son of Jesse" (like Saul also refers to David) and a servant or slave who has run away for his "master" (another reference to Saul). His response suggests that he is a hard and churlish man.
Nabal's rhetorical questions "Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse?" express his contempt for David and his band of dispossessed man "who come from I know not where?" These words reflect the view of a selfish propertied man and slave owner who has contempt for all landless rebels who threaten the established social hierarchy, but there is also the suggestion that David is also a runaway slave. In the Hebrew text there are eight grammatical expressions of the first person singular in the one sentence of verse 11 (Robert Alter, Ancient Israel, page 387). David is not a parody of a saint; he is a red-blooded young warrior and he is deeply offended by Nabal's ingratitude and rudeness. David feels that Nabal's insult requires him to defend his honor and reputation. He decides to take revenge on a man who he believes has declared himself his enemy.
1 Samuel 25:14-17 ~ The Shepherds inform Abigail of
Nabal's rudeness to David
14 Now one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal's wife. He said, "David sent messengers from the desert to greet our master, but he flared up at them. 15 Now these men were very good to us; they did not molest us and we lost nothing all the time we had anything to do with them while we were out in the country. 16 Night and day, they were like a rampart [wall of protection] to us, all the time we were with them, minding the sheep. 17 So now make up your mind what you should do, for the ruin of our master and his whole family is a certainty, and he is such a brute that no one can say a word to him." [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page xxx.
The young men who are Nabal's shepherds realize that their master's response to David's request was not only rude but dangerous. They inform Abigail of the kindness of David's men using the significant words "a wall of protection" in the literal Hebrew translation, and they ask Abigail to take action herself to avert a catastrophe. Watch for the contrast between the "wall of protection" David's men provided Nabal's shepherds and David's threat to kill everyone who "urinates against the wall," the literal Hebrew translation in verses 22 and 34. There are several word-plays and examples of irony in this story.
1 Samuel 25:18-35 ~Abigail's Intervention
18 Abigail hastily took two hundred loaves, two skins of wine, five sheep already prepared, five measures of roasted grain, a hundred bunches of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs and loaded them on donkeys. 19 She said to her servants, "Go on ahead, I shall follow you," but she did not tell her husband Nabal. 20 As she was riding her donkey down behind a fold in the mountain, David and his men happened to be coming down in her direction; and she met them. 21 Now, David had decided, "It was a waste of time my guarding all this man's property in the desert so that he lost nothing at all! He has repaid me bad for good. 22 May God bring unnamable ills on David and worse ones, too, if by morning I leave a single manjack [one who urinates against the wall] alive of all who belong to him!" 23 As soon as Abigail saw David, she quickly dismounted from the donkey and, falling on her face in front of David, prostrated herself on the ground. 24 She fell at his feet and said, "Let me take the blame, my lord. Let your servant speak in your ear; listen to what your servant has to say! 25 My lord, please pay no attention to this brute Nabal for his nature is like his name; "Brute" [fool] is his name and brutal [foolish] he is. But I, your servant, did not see the men whom my lord sent. 26 And now, my lord, as Yahweh lives and as your soul lives, by Yahweh who kept you from the crime of bloodshed and from taking vengeance with your own hand, may your enemies and all those ill-disposed towards you become like Nabal. 27 As for the present which your servant has brought my lord, I should like this to be given to the men in your service. 28 Please forgive your servant for any offence I have given you, for Yahweh will certainly assure you of a lasting dynasty, since you are fighting Yahweh's battles and no fault has been found in you throughout your life. 29 Should anyone set out to hunt you down and try to kill you, your life will be kept close in the wallet [pouch] of life with Yahweh your God, while your enemies' lives he will fling out of the pouch of the sling. 30 Once Yahweh has done for you all the good things which he has said he will do for you, and made you ruler [nagid] of Israel, 31 you must have no anxiety, my lord, no remorse, over having wantonly shed blood, over having taken a revenge. When Yahweh has done well by you, then remember your servant."
32 David said to Abigail, "Blessed be Yahweh, God of Israel, who sent you to me today! 33 Blessed be your wisdom and blessed you yourself for today having restrained me from the crime of bloodshed and from exacting revenge! 34 But as Yahweh, God of Israel, lives, who prevented me from harming you, had you not hurried out to meet me, I swear Nabal would not have had a single manjack [one who urinates against the wall] left alive by morning!" 35 David then accepted what she had brought him and said, "Go home in peace; yes, I have listened to you and have pardoned you." [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page xxx.
Imagine the suspense of the two parties on the same mountain path coming closer and closer to each other: the angry David and his men who are out for blood and the brave and beautiful woman with her provisions. David doesn't see her at first because she is coming down the sheltered slope of the mountain, but she sees him and his men who are armed with swords and girded for battle. Before he sees Abigail David is very angry and is thinking how he will take revenge for Nabal's insult.
Question: In his anger, what phrase does David use
in the literal Hebrew text to describe those who will be subject to his wrath
in verse 22 and what is the word play between this phrase and the description
of how David's men had protected Nabal's shepherds in verse 16?
Answer: David has decided that he and his men will kill anyone who "urinates against the wall" in Nabal's household. The phrase is in contrast to the "wall of protection" Nabal's shepherds told Abigail that David and his men offered when they camped near them.
David used the phrase "urinates against the wall" in verse 22 and will again in verse 34 in his anger over of Nabal's ingratitude and rudeness and his threat to kill every man in Nabal's service. Look for the ironic fulfillment of David's phrase later in the narrative. By killing "everyone who urinates against the wall" (verse 22), David is referring only to every man in Nabal's service. Perhaps he was thinking that the shepherds his men guarded were not grateful for the protection David's men gave them and had not expressed their gratitude of their master. The phrase "urinates against the wall" in Hebrew is a crude epithet for "male" that fits David's frame of mind. It is a phrase that occurs only in curses six times in Scripture (1 Sam 25:22, 34; 1 Kng 14:10; 16:11; 21:21; 2 Kng 9:8); it can also be translated more vividly as "pisses against the wall" (see King James Version and Robert Alter, Ancient Israel, page 389).
Question: Abigail realizes that she is in danger
and immediately, before speaking a word, what does she do and why?
Answer: Abigail has no way of knowing if David or his men will immediately kill her. She does not know that David will limit the threat of death only to the males of Nabal's household. Therefore, her first move is to demonstrate extravagant gestures of submission by prostrating herself on the ground before him and in her first words she takes the blame for her husband's rudeness.
David realizes that she is not responsible, but he is moved by her courage. In her next words she quickly transfers the blame to where it belongs: to her contemptible husband. Abigail says that her husband is the epitome of foolishness. It is probably not that his name literally means "fool" or "foolishness" but Nabal's behavior in the narrative contributed to his name coming to mean "fool" in Hebrew. It is obvious that Abigail is not happy in her marriage to a wealthy but churlish man who is probably much older than she is.
1 Samuel 25:28-29 ~ Please forgive your servant for
any offence I have given you, for Yahweh will certainly assure you of a lasting
dynasty, since you are fighting Yahweh's battles and no fault has been found in
you throughout your life. 29 Should
anyone set out to hunt you down and try to kill you, your life will be kept
close in the wallet [pouch] of life with Yahweh your God, while your enemies'
lives he will fling out of the pouch of the sling.
In verse 28 Abigail once again deferentially speaks as though the fault was hers, though she has made it quite clear that it is her husband who is the guilty party. It seems that Abigail, probably like most Israelites, knows the story about David’s anointing. She believes he will become Israel's king and will, unlike Saul, found a lasting dynasty if he continues in God's favor. She is asking David not to jeopardize that future by committing an unjust act.
The term "wallet or pouch of life" carries with it the idea that God keeps the righteous close to Him like a man or woman keeps treasures that are dear with them in a pouch. Or it may be a reference to the pouch in which shepherds kept a stone as a tally of every live sheep in their care the way God keeps count of those destined for eternal life. In the same way that God keeps David close to Him, God will fling out David's enemies as one might cast a stone from one's pouch with a sling. The metaphorical imagery of God's pouch is similar to the Book of Life that holds the names of the righteous (see Ps 69:28; Is 4:3; Dan 12:1 and Rev 3:5). Notice the contrast between the blessing of the "pouch of life" and the judgment of the "pouch of the sling."
1 Samuel 25:30-31 ~ Once
Yahweh has done for you all the good things which he has said he will do for
you, and made you ruler [nagid] of Israel, 31
you must have no anxiety, my lord, no remorse, over having wantonly shed
blood, over having taken a revenge. When Yahweh has done well by you, then
remember your servant."
Again Abigail urges David not to risk incurring bloodguilt that would tarnish his future as Israel's king. Many Israelites like Abigail must have been supporting David, believing he is destined by Yahweh to rule Israel. Abigail has cooled David's anger by her gift and her humility, but she also has the courage to offer David sound advice in this extraordinary speech.
Question: What advice does Abigail give David?
Answer: Abigail points out that David has lived a blameless life. Does he want to jeopardize that blameless reputation and God's divine protection because of his anger against a foolish man caused him to commit blood-guilt by killing the innocent? He should let God take care of his enemies and when that happens to please remember her.
Abigail's final words in verse 31 are both strategic and discreet. Her suggestion that when "Yahweh has done well by you" that David should "remember" her will become a turning point in her life.
In verse 22 David pronounced a curse against himself if he does not kill every man in Nabal's household by morning: 22 "May God bring unnamable ills on David and worse ones, too, if by morning I leave a single manjack [one who urinates against the wall] alive of all who belong to him!" In verse 26 Abigail used the formula oath: as Yahweh lives and your soul lives... to convince David to be merciful and not to seek retribution. Now, since Abigail pointed out that David must not commit bloodguilt that would offend God and tarnish his reputation as Israel's king, David has relented and forfeits his oath. Instead he uses a half oath formula similar to hers in verse 34 swearing that he will not harm Nabal's household: But as Yahweh, God of Israel, lives, who prevented me from harming you, had you not hurried out to meet me, I swear Nabal would not have had a single manjack [one who urinates against the wall] left alive by morning!" 35 David then accepted what she had brought him and said, "Go home in peace; yes, I have listened to you and have pardoned you."
Question: Compare David's rash oath with Saul's
rash oath in 14:24-28, 43-44 and the attitude of the two men toward an oath
they should not have made.
Answer: David made a rash oath but he would rather humble himself and withdraw from the oath rather than commit an act that is contrary to righteousness and the will of God. David's actions are totally unlike Saul in the case of his rash oath in which he was too proud to renege and was willing to sacrifice Jonathan's life rather than admit that he was wrong.
1 Samuel 25:36-44 ~ Nabal's Fate and David's
generosity to Abigail
36 Abigail returned to Nabal. He was holding a feast, a princely feast, in his house; Nabal was in high spirits, and as he was very drunk she told him nothing at all till it was daylight. 37 In the morning, when Nabal's wine had left him [the wine was going out of him] and his wife told him everything that had happened, his heart died within him and he became like a stone. 38 About ten days later Yahweh struck Nabal, and he died.
39 When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, "Blessed be Yahweh for having restrained his servant from doing wrong! Yahweh has made Nabal's wickedness rebound on his own head!" 40 David then sent Abigail an offer of marriage. When the men in David's service came to Abigail at Carmel, they said, "David has sent us to take you to him, to be his wife." 41 She stood up, then prostrated herself on the ground. "Consider your servant a slave," she said, "To wash the feet of my lord's servants." 42 Quickly Abigail stood up again and mounted a donkey; followed by five of her servant-girls, she followed David's messengers and became his wife. 43 David had also married Ahinoam of Jezreel and he kept them both as wives. Saul had given his daughter Michal, David's wife, to Palti son of Laish, from Gallim. [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 785-86.
When Abigail returns her husband is drunk on wine. The
next morning Abigail tells her husband what transpired from her meeting with
David as Nabal is urinating what was last night's wine. Hearing that David had
been on his way with four hundred men and was prepared to kill every man in his
household so shocks him that he has what was probably a heart attack ("his
heart died within him"); he will die ten days later. The descriptive phrase
that he became like a stone fits Abigail's descriptive imagery of God
casting David's enemies out like a stone out of a sling.
Question: What is the irony concerning the oath David swore to punish Nabal and Nabal's fate?
Answer: David swore that everyone who "urinates against the wall" in Nabal's household would be dead by morning. But because David did not seek his own revenge, God has taken up his cause and ironically God has punished Nabal in the morning as he was urinating "while the wine was going out of him" that he refused to share with David and his men. Nabal's heart died within him and he became lifeless like a stone.
There may be a pun on Nabal's Calebite clan name (caleb means "dog" in Hebrew) and David's threat to punish every man who "urinates against a wall" like a dog. There is also probably a pun on the Hebrew word for wineskin, nebel, and Nabal's name. The wine Nabal drank the night before at the banquet was kept in a wineskin; wineskins were made from the bladders of animals. It was when Nabal was emptying his bladder that God's judgment fell upon him.
|David's men were "a wall of protection" for Nabal's shepherds (25:16).||David threatens to kill those who "urinate against the wall" (25:22 and 34).|
|Nabal refuses to share his wine (25:11). David threatens to kill those who "urinate against the wall" by morning (25:22 and 34).||God's judgment came upon Nabal in the morning as he was urinating and the "wine was going out of him" (25:37).|
|Abigail speaks of the blessing of God's "pouch of life" for the righteous (25:30).||Abigail speaks of the judgment of God's "pouch of the sling" for the wicked (25:30).|
|Nabal became drunk on wine (25:36). Wine was kept in wineskins that were animal bladders.||Nabal was emptying his bladder when God struck him (25:37). The Hebrew word for bladder is nebel, which sounds very like Nabal's name.|
|Nabal is a Calebite, kalibi in Hebrew (25:5). Caleb means "dog" and Calebite means "doglike." David threatens to kill every man who "urinates against the wall" like a dog (25:22 and 34).||God fulfilled David's threat by killing the doglike Nabal the Calebite ten days after he was urinating (25:38).|
|Abigail told David your enemies' lives he [God] will fling out of the pouch of the sling, using the imagery of a stone being cast in a sling like David killed Goliath (25:30).||When God struck Nabal, his heart died within him and he became like a stone (25:37).|
|David "calls out" (qore') to Saul on the mountain (26:14).*||Saul hunts David like a "partridge" (qara) on the mountain (24:20).*|
|Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2014|
*Qara (partridge) is a homonym for qore' ("he who calls out"). David is "he who calls out" to the king on the mountain; the pun being "he who calls out" on the mountain is pursued like a "partridge" on the mountain (Alter, Anceint Israel, page 398).
David was impressed with Abigail's courage, her intelligence, and her beauty. Now that she is a widow David remembers her as she requested and offers marriage to Abigail who accepts. She is willing to leave her wealthy and secure life to live the uncertain life as the wife of an outlaw because she believes David is God's anointed.(2) David now has two wives but his first wife, Saul's daughter Michal, has been given in marriage to another man.
Question: What is the political motivation for
Saul to marry his daughter to another man?
Answer: Saul has deprived David of one claim to the throne by severing David's connection by marriage to the royal family.
Chapter 26: David Spares Saul's Life a Second Time
choirmaster. On stringed instruments. Poem of David: When the Ziphites went
to Saul and said, "Is not David hiding with us?"
God, save me by your name, in your power vindicate me. God, hear my prayer, listen to the words I speak. Arrogant men are attacking me, bullies hounding me to death, no room in their thoughts for God. But now God is coming to my help, the Lord, among those who sustain me. May their wickedness recoil on those who lie in wait for me. Yahweh, in your constancy destroy them. How gladly will I offer you sacrifice, and praise your name, for it is good, for it has rescued me from all my troubles, and my eye has feasted on my enemies.
1 Samuel 26:1-5 ~ David is betrayed by some men from
1 Some men from Ziph went to Saul at Gibeah and said, "Look, David is hiding on the Hill of Hachilah on the edge of the wastelands!" 2 So Saul set off and went down to the desert of Ziph, accompanied by three thousand picked men of Israel, to search for David in the desert of Ziph. 3 Saul pitched camp on the Hill of Hachilah, which is on the edge of the wastelands near the road. David was then living in the desert and saw that Saul had come after him into the desert. 4 Accordingly, David sent out spies and learned that Saul had indeed arrived. 5 Setting off, David went to the place where Saul had pitched camp. He saw the place where Saul and Abner son of Ner, commander of his army, had bedded down. Saul had bedded down inside the camp with the troops bivouacking round him.
Some men from Ziph went to Saul and offered to betray David. The Ziphites are descendants of Caleb, the hero of the conquest (Josh 14:6-15; Judg 1:10-15; 1 Chr 4:16) and chieftain of the tribe of Judah. Their city was located in the hill country of southern Judah (Josh 15:55) and gave its name to the Judean wilderness between the city and the Dead Sea at En-Gedi (1 Sam 23:14-15, 24; 26:2). Saul's remorse for the way he has treated David in 24:17-22 and his thankfulness for David sparing his life is short-lived. He is back to relentlessly hunting down David and his men with an army of three thousand men to David's six hundred. The Hill of Hachilah is an unknown site located in the wilderness of southern Judah not far from Hebron. David hid from Saul there in 1 Samuel 23:19 and in 26:1 Saul pitches his camp there. Saul is looking for David, but David has better spies and locates Saul's camp first.
Question: Who is Abner son of Ner? See 1 Sam 14:50-51 and 26:5.
Answer: He is Saul's cousin and the commander of Saul's army.
1 Samuel 26:6-12 ~ David goes down into Saul's Camp
6 Speaking to Ahimelech the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah and brother of Joab, David said, "Who will come down with me to the camp, to Saul?" Abishai answered, "I will go down with you." 7 So in the dark David and Abishai made their way towards the force, where they found Saul lying asleep inside the camp, his spear stuck in the ground beside his head, with Abner and the troops laying round him. 8 Abishai then said to David, "Today God has put your enemy in your power; so now let me pin him to the ground with his own spear. Just one stroke! I shall not need to strike him twice." 9 David said to Abishai, "Do not kill him, for who could raise his hand against Yahweh's anointed and go unpunished? 10 As Yahweh lives," David said, "Yahweh himself will strike him down: either the day will come for him to die, or he will go into battle and perish then. 11 Yahweh forbid that I should raise my hand against Yahweh's anointed! But now let us take [you take] the spear beside his head and the pitcher of water, and let us go away." 12 David took the spear and the pitcher of water from beside Saul's head, and they made off. No one saw, no one knew, no one woke up; they were all asleep, because a torpor from Yahweh [tardenat YHWH] had fallen on them. [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 787.
David had a Hittite named Ahimelech serving in his band. The term "Hittite" is a designation for one of the groups of Canaanite peoples, and in this case does not necessarily refer to the Indo-European state that originated in Anatolia (Turkey). Abraham had a Hittite friend in Genesis 23:10-11. That David had a non-Israelite serving in his inner circle of trusted warriors suggests David welcomed foreigners who were also looking for a better life.
Question: Who is Zeruiah and who are her sons?
See 1 Chr 2:11-16.
Answer: Zeruiah is David's sister and Abishai, Joab, and Asahel are her sons and David's nephews.
Zeruiah is an elder sister and her sons, who are David's nephews, are probably about his same age. David will make them commanders in his small army, and Joab will become David's commanding general when David is king. All three men are courageous. Abishai and Asahel are also impetuous while Joab is both ruthless and calculating.
1 Samuel 26:7-8 ~ So
in the dark David and Abishai made their way towards the force, where they
found Saul lying asleep inside the camp, his spear stuck in the ground beside
his head, with Abner and the troops laying round him. 8 Abishai then said to David, "Today God has put
your enemy in your power; so now let me pin him to the ground with his own
spear. Just one stroke! I shall not need to strike him twice."
Abishai goes with David on a reconnaissance mission down into Saul's camp.
Question: What does Abishai suggest in verse 8 and how is what he says very similar to what David's men said in 1 Samuel 24:5?
Answer: Abishai suggests that God has put Saul into David's hands. His words echo the words of David's men when they discovered Saul alone in the cave in chapter 24.
Question: Abishai's boast that it will only take
one blow to "pin him to the ground" with Saul's spear recalls what event in
18:11 and 19:10?
Answer: In 18:11 Saul twice tried to "pin David to the wall" with the same spear and tried again in 19:10.
1 Samuel 26:9-11 ~ David
said to Abishai, "Do not kill him, for who could raise his hand against
Yahweh's anointed and go unpunished? 10 As
Yahweh lives," David said, "Yahweh himself will strike him down: either the day
will come for him to die, or he will go into battle and perish then. 11 Yahweh forbid that I should raise my hand
against Yahweh's anointed!
David forbids his nephew to raise his hand against Yahweh's anointed. Abishai is apparently so shocked by David's refusal that David feels it is necessary to explain to him that God will judge Saul and his death is in God's hands.
David tells Abishai: "But now [you] take the spear beside his head and the pitcher of water, and let us go away" (Hebrew translation, IBHE, vol. I, page 787;Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel, pages 599 and 601). In the literal Hebrew text David tells Abishai to take the spear and the water pitcher; but then David takes them himself, perhaps deciding that it would be too much of a temptation for the impetuous Abishai to have the spear in his hands. David takes Saul's spear and the pitcher of water as proof that he has entered the camp and that Saul's life was again spared by David. It is an action similar to cutting a piece of Saul's cloak in 24:5, 12. No one in the camp awoke because God's deep slumber had fallen upon them. The Lord has again intervened directly to aid David.(3)
1 Samuel 26:13-20 ~ David addresses Saul's Camp
13 David crossed to the other side and halted on the top of the mountain a long way off; there was a wide space between them. 14 David then called out to the troops and to Abner son of Ner, "Abner, why don't you answer?" Abner replied, "Who is that calling [out to the king]?"* 15 David said to Abner, "Are you not a man? Who is your equal in Israel? Why, then, did you not guard the king your lord? One of the people came to kill the king your lord. 16 What you did was not well done. As Yahweh lives, you all [you] deserve to die since you did not guard your lord, Yahweh's anointed. Look where the king's spear is now, and the pitcher of water which was beside his head!" 17 Recognizing David's voice, Saul said, "Is that your voice, my son David?" David replied, "It is my voice, my lord king. 18 Why is my lord pursuing his servant [and what evil is in my hand]?" he said. "What have I done? What crime have I committed? 19 May my lord king now listen to his servant's words: if Yahweh has incited you against me, may he be appeased with an offering; but if human beings have done it, may they be accursed before Yahweh, since they have as effectively banished me today from sharing in Yahweh's heritage as if they had said, 'Go and serve other gods!' 20 So I pray now that my blood shall not be shed on soil remote from Yahweh's presence, when the king of Israel has mounted an expedition to take my life [seek a single flea], as one might hunt a partridge in the mountains!" [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 788. The "you" in verse 16 is plural.
David retreats to the safety of the other side of a gorge from Saul's camp. He shouts from the prominence across the gorge to Abner in Saul's camp. It is dark since it is the middle of the night or very early morning. *Some versions omit "to the king" in verse 14 because David has called out to Abner and not to Saul. But David's shouting across the gorge occurs in the middle of the night and has awakened the men in Saul's camp from not just a sound sleep but a God-induced stupor, so Abner may not have understood what David first shouted.
As you will recall, Abner is Saul's cousin and the
commanding general of his army. Abner hears the voice and demands to know who
is disturbing the king's rest (verse 14b).
Question: What charge does David make against Abner?
Answer: Abner has not adequately protected his king from intruders into the camp, meaning David and Abishai.
It is interesting that David chose to address Abner, Saul's commander. He does this to stress the sacred responsibility of those who have sworn to protect the king. When he says in verse 15: One of the people came to kill the king your lord, David is referring to Abishai but the implication is that David could also have killed Saul.
1 Samuel 26:16 ~ What
you did was not well done. As Yahweh lives, you all [you] deserve to die since
you did not guard your lord, Yahweh's anointed. Look where the king's spear is
now, and the pitcher of water which was beside his head!"
The "you" is plural and therefore the English translators have added "all" to convey that David is accusing Saul's personal bodyguard and commander of negligence. This idea of a death sentence against Saul's entire entourage is a bit over the top, but there is also the implication that they have supported the persecution of the innocent and deserve death. Abner, who David respects as an honorable man, will die a violent death.
1 Samuel 26:17 ~ Recognizing
David's voice, Saul said, "Is that your voice, my son David?"
Once again, Saul calls out affectionately to David with the identical words he used in his last encounter with David outside the cave near En-Gedi. However, his expression of affection means as much as it did in 24:17 which is nothing.
In verses 17b-20 David makes his second appeal to Saul to
stop pursuing him (see 24:9-16). In verse 18 David asks: Why is my lord pursuing his servant and what
evil is in my hand?" in the literal Hebrew text. As elsewhere in
Scripture, "hand" and "in my hand" have multiple meanings.
Question: What is it that David has in his hand that has symbolic significance?
Answer: He is holding Saul's spear, an instrument of death and the sign of Saul's kingship.
1 Samuel 26:18b-19a ~ he said. "What have I done?
What crime have I committed? 19 May
my lord king now listen to his servant's words: if Yahweh has incited you
against me, may he be appeased with an offering; but if human beings have done
it, may they be accursed before Yahweh ...
David again asks two of the three rhetorical questions he put to Jonathan in 20:1. They are similar to the two questions Jonathan asked Saul concerning David in 20:32 that addressed David's state of innocence and questioned the motive for Saul's pursuit of David.
Question: In verse 19 David puts forward what two
alternatives that give Saul a way out of being responsible for persecuting
David's two alternatives are a diplomatic maneuver. He doesn't want to put the blame solely on Saul because that will only make Saul angrier. Instead, David proposes that he king either was incited by God for some unknown reason or incited by malicious servants.
Question: David even presents a solution to the
two alternatives; what is the solution?
In the case of a trial, the two or three witnesses will either offer proof against David or according to the Law the false witnesses will pay the price with their lives (Dt 17:15-21).
1 Samuel 26:12b-20 ~ since they have as effectively
banished me today from sharing in Yahweh's heritage as if they had said, 'Go
and serve other gods!' 20 So I
pray now that my blood shall not be shed on soil remote from Yahweh's presence,
when the king of Israel has mounted an expedition to take my life [seek a
single flea], as one might hunt a partridge in the mountains!"
Question: What is David's point if the current situation is to continue?
Answer: He has been in effect excommunicated from his people and from worshiping his God.
The language in this passage is an echo of the words David used to conclude his speech outside the cave, "On whose trail is the king of Israel campaigning? Whom are you pursuing? On the trail of a dead dog, of a flea! 16 May Yahweh be the judge and decide between me and you; may he examine and defend my cause and give judgment for me by rescuing me from your clutches" (24:15-16), but the dead dog has been replaced by a partridge. Several commentators have commented that this second speech contains a witty pun in that the Hebrew word for partridge (qore') is a homonym for "he who calls out" (qara). David is "he who calls out" to the king on the mountain (verse 14); the pun being "he who calls out" on the mountain is being pursued like a "partridge" on the mountain (Alter, Anceint Israel, page 398).
1 Samuel 26:21-25 ~ Saul's response to David's Plea
21 Saul replied, "I have done wrong! Come back, my son David; I shall never harm you again, since today you have shown respect for my life. Yes, I have behaved like a fool; I have been profoundly in the wrong." 22 In reply, David said, "Here is the king's spear. Let one of the men come across and get it. 23 May Yahweh reward each as each has been upright and loyal. Today Yahweh put you in my power but I would not raise my hand against Yahweh's anointed. 24 As today I set great value by your life, so may Yahweh set great value by my life and deliver me from every tribulation!" 25 Saul then said, "May you be blessed, my son David! In what you undertake, you will certainly succeed." David then went on his way and Saul returned home.
This is the second time Saul has confessed to having been guilty of wronging David (see 24:18-21), but this time he does say he shall never harm David again. 22 In reply, David said, "Here is the king's spear. Let one of the men come across and get it. Notice that David does not immediately respond to Saul's renewed profession of regret; he has heard it before.
Question: In the last encounter in chapter 24,
David swore he would not harm Saul's descendants. What does David do
symbolically to show he intends to keep that oath?
Answer: He returns Saul's spear, the symbol of Israelite kingship.
At this point, David no longer trusts Saul or his promises. Instead David expresses the hope that God will take note of his proper conduct and will protect him, saying: "May Yahweh reward each as each has been upright and loyal. Today Yahweh put you in my power but I would not raise my hand against Yahweh's anointed. 24 As today I set great value by your life, so may Yahweh set great value by my life and deliver me from every tribulation!"
1 Samuel 26:25 ~ Saul
then said, "May you be blessed, my son David! In what you undertake, you will
certainly succeed." David then went on his way and Saul returned home.
These words of fatherly blessing are the last word Saul will ever speak to David. It is a blessing God will fulfill. This is the end of the Saul versus David narrative. David continues on the path God had set for him while Saul goes back to being Saul.
Chapter 27: David among the Philistines
choirmaster, Psalm of David:
Blessed be Yahweh who works for me miracles of his faithful love (in a fortified city)! In a state of terror I cried, "I have been cut off from your sight!" Yet you heard my plea for help when I cried out to you. Love Yahweh, all his faithful: Yahweh protects his loyal servants, but he repays the arrogant with interest. Be brave, take hear, all who put your hope in Yahweh.
1 Samuel 27:1-4 ~ David takes refuge at Gath
1 "One of these days," David thought, "I shall perish at the hand of Saul. The best thing that I can do is to get away into the country of the Philistines; then Saul will give up tracking me through the length and breadth of Israel and I shall be safe from him." 2 So David set off and went over, he and his six hundred men, to Achish son of Maoch, king of Gath. 3 He settled at Gath with Achish, he and his men, each with his family and David with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail widow of Nabal of Carmel. 4 When news reached Saul that David had fled to Gath, he stopped searching for him.
In 26:19 David said that his relentless pursuit has effectively
banished me today from sharing in Yahweh's heritage... He cannot live on the
land of his heritage nor does he have access to the Sanctuary to make offerings
to God. David does not believe Saul's promise to give up pursuing him and his
followers (26:21). This is the second interior monologue given by David. The
first was on his journey to punish Nabal in 25:21-22. He now decides to do
what he was fearful of doing in 26:20: So
I pray now that my blood shall not be shed on soil remote from Yahweh's
presence... and he decides to seek sanctuary for his followers and himself in
Philistine territory. This is the second time David has gone to Achish of
Gath. The first time was when he was alone in 21:11-16. This time the
situation is different because David has more to offer the Philistine ruler; he
has a trained army of six hundred warriors. Achish accepts David as his vassal
and settles the Israelites at Gath.
Question: How does this move put David and his men in a very precarious position?
Answer: The Philistines are at war with Israel. What will David do if he is commanded to attack Israelites?
1 Samuel 27:5-12 ~ David becomes a Philistine Vassal
5 David said to Achish, "If I have won your favor, let me be given a place in one of the outlying towns, where I can live. Why should your servant live in the royal city with you?" 6 That very day Achish gave him Ziklag; and this is why Ziklag has been property of the kings of Judah to the present day. 7 The time that David stayed in Philistine territory amounted to a year and four months. 8 David and his men went out on raids against the Geshurites, Girzites and Amalekite, for these are the tribes inhabiting the region which, from Telam goes in the direction of Shur, as far as Egypt. 9 David laid the countryside waste and left neither man nor woman alive; he carried off the sheep and cattle, the donkeys, camels and clothing, and then came back again to Achish. 10 Achish would ask, "Where did you go raiding today?" David would reply, "Against the Negeb of Judah," or "the Negeb of Jerahmeel," or "the Negeb of the Kenites." 11 David spared neither man nor woman to bring back alive to Gath, "in case", as he thought, "they inform on us and say, 'David did such and such.'" This was the way David conducted his raids all the time he stayed in Philistine territory. 12 Achish trusted David, "He has made himself detested by his own people Israel," he thought, "and so will be my servant forever."
David does not want to live in the pagan city of Gath.
Question: What request does David make of his new lord? What do you know about Ziklag from Josh 15:31; 19:5.
Answer: Achish agrees to settle David's followers in the town of Ziklag. It is a town in what is now Philistine territory but had originally belonged to the tribal lands of Judah and Simeon.
1 Samuel 27:6 ~ That
very day Achish gave him Ziklag; and this is why Ziklag has been property of
the kings of Judah to the present day.
Ziklag was located in the Negev, the wilderness area west and south of the Dead Sea. It's location cannot be determined with any certainty today. The city became David's home and the center of his military operations for a year and four months (27:5-12). From the time of David's occupation of Ziklag, the town was no longer shared between Judah and Simeon but became the property of the tribal lands of Judah (see 1 Chr 4:30).
Question: David came up with a plan to avoid
having to attack Israelite towns to bring tribute to his Philistine master.
What did he do instead? Note that the Geshurites, Girzities/Girgashites, and
Amalekites were among the original inhabitants of Canaan who had not been
conquered in the first two phases of the conquest. They were also hostile to
Answer: David only attacked foreign peoples who God intended Israel to dispossess from the land. He renewed the conquest of Canaan and also served his Philistine lord by removing his enemies.
Geshurites lived in southern Israel and were left unconquered in the initial conquest (see Josh 13:2). Girzites or Girgashites (see Gen 15:18-21) were one of the peoples God displaced for the Israelites at the time of the first conquest in Joshua's time (Gen 15:21; Josh 3:10). According to the genealogy in Genesis chapter 10:16, they were the descendants of Canaan, the cursed son of Ham (Gen 9:25). The Amalekites were Israel's perennial enemies (Ex 17:8-16; Dt 25:17-19; 1 Sam 15:3). All these peoples are inhabitants of Canaan that were to be put under the ban of herem; David is not only renewing but completing the conquest of the Canaanites.
It should be noted, however, that David did not impose total herem against these three groups: he carried off the sheep and cattle, the donkeys, camels and clothing, and then came back again to Achish (verse 9). He took possession of the livestock to feed and increase the wealth of his people and to pay tribute to his Philistine overlord.
1 Samuel 27:10-11 ~ Achish
would ask, "Where did you go raiding today?" David would reply, "Against the
Negeb of Judah," or "the Negeb of Jerahmeel," or "the Negeb of the Kenites." 11 David spared neither man nor woman to bring
back alive to Gath, "in case", as he thought, "they inform on us and say, David
did such and such.'" This was the way David conducted his raids all the time
he stayed in Philistine territory.
Achish is, of course, curious where David is getting the tribute gifts. David answers with a lie by claiming he has conducted raids against his own tribe and against two ethnic groups attached to Judah. He does not want the Philistine king to know he is still serving the interests of Israel.
1 Samuel 27:12 ~ Achish trusted David, "He has made
himself detested by his own people Israel," he thought, "and so will be my
Achish accepts the lie and comes to trust David, believing that David's military actions against his own people will mean that David will never be forgiven by the Israelites and he will remain Achish's vassal forever.
The outlaw period of David's life couldn't have lasted more than three or four years since he will become King of Israel when he is thirty years old after having been king of Judah for seven years (2 Sam 5:4-5). That means, if David was twenty when he entered Saul's service as a warrior, that he was only twenty-three when he became king of Judah and continued as king of Judah until he was twenty-nine (as the ancients counted). If that was the case, David spent a year and eight months as an outlaw and a year and four months as a mercenary for the king of Gath. Of course, when Saul conscripted David after his victory over Goliath (17:48-51) and refused to let David return to Bethlehem (18:2), David could have been a year younger than the required twenty years since Saul was not one to be strictly observant of the Law.
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Abigail's wise counsel causes David to resist his desire to seek revenge against Nabal. Read Deuteronomy 32:35-36, Romans 12:19-21 and Hebrews 10:30-31; what do these passages teach about seeking personal revenge? What did David's descendant, Jesus of Nazareth, teach in Matthew 5:43-48 and Luke 6:27-38 about seeking revenge? See the Catechism references listed at the end of the lesson.
1. Some scholars identify Biblical Maon with Tel Ma'in which is located eight and a half miles south of Hebron.
2. Abigail will bear David a son named Chileab (2 Sam 3:3) who may not have lived to adulthood and another son named Daniel who is listed in the genealogical list in 1 Chronicles 3:1.
3. The same word for a God's imposed slumber (tardenat YHWH) is found in Genesis 2:21 when God put Adam into a deep sleep before forming Eve from his rib, in Genesis 15:12 when God put Abram into a slumber before God walked between the cut animals in the covenant ritual, and in Isaiah 29:10 when God imposed a lethargy on the people of Jerusalem as a judgment that caused them not to listen to the prophets.
Hebrews 10:30-31 (CCC 679)
Matthew 5:43-44 (CCC 1933, 2844); 5:44-45 (CCC 2303, 2608); 5:44 (CCC 1825, 1968, 2262); 5:46-47; (CCC 2054) 5:47 (CCC 1693); 5:48 (CCC 443, 1693, 1968, 2013, 2842)
Luke 6:28 (CCC 1669); 6:31 (CCC 1789, 1970); 6:36 (CCC 1458, 2842)
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