2 Samuel 1: David hears of Saul’s death

2 Sep

David and his men had been back at Ziklag for 3 days when they finally heard about the defeat and Saul’s death. The man who brought this news, gave a different version of the story of Saul’s death from 1 Samuel 31. He claimed that Saul had asked him to kill him, and that he not only killed Saul but brought David his royal headband and bracelet.

David and his men, all mourned not only Saul’s death but that of Jonathan and the defeat of the army of Israel for the rest of the day. Then David went back to the man who claimed to have killed Saul. He questioned the man and specifically asked him why he had no fear of killing Israel’s anointed king. Finally he asked one of his soldiers to kill the man for killing Saul. David then composed a song of lament for Saul, Jonathan and Israel. This chapter claims that he made Judah learn it by heart but this probably happened later when he left Ziglag.

David showed consistency in behaviour and values. He had always been clear that killing Saul was not acceptable. This man probably thought David would welcome him with his loot. He clearly did not know David very well. David treated the man as he would have expected himself to be treated if he had killed Saul.

One could say that this was a selfish strategic move – since David was in line to be the next king and he probably would not want everyone trying to kill him. But, as we shall see, the succession was not clear to David or Israel. David would seek the answers from God and Israel would resort to civil war with various factions before settling on David as king. In addition, David, had never acted specifically to protect himself but always put Saul’s life above his own. Even later in his life when he sinned with Bathsheba, David did not place himself above God’s law – he accepted his transgression and the  punishment for his chosen actions.

When everyone one was jostling for power, David was mourning his friends and king.

1 Samuel 31: Saul’s death

1 Sep

While David hunted and fought the Amalekites, Saul and the Philistines were in battle too. At a stage in the fight, the Israelites were in retreat, Jonathan and his brothers (Abinadab and Malki-Shua) were dead and Saul had been mortally wounded. Saul begged his armour bearer to kill him so that the Philistines could not say they had killed him. When the man refused to kill his king, Saul fell on his sword. The armour bearer did the same thing when he realised Saul was dead.

The Philistines displayed Saul’s armour and body in celebration, but men of Jabesh Gilead stole his body back. He was buried with his sons under a tamarisk tree at Jabesh.

And so ended the reign of King Saul, the first king of Israel. He died as he had lived most of his life, in despair. Somehow, in the same situation, I think David would have carried on fighting and taken as many Philistines with him as he could – like Samson had done. But Saul had no personal reserves of faith, he had no resilience – a word that has become so popular I hesitate to use it but in Saul’s case it is true. Saul crumpled under stress because he did not or could not turn to God, the same God who gave David his inner strength and resilience.

1 Samuel 30: David and the Amalekites

31 Aug

Just as we are anticipating the great battle between the Philistines and the Israelites under Saul, we have a diversion to follow David home to Ziklag. When David and his men arrived home they found the city burnt and all the women and children taken. Verse 6 gives an insight into the situation and David’s response:
“David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God.” (New International Version).

This appears to be the greatest challenge to David’s leadership, even when he chose not to kill Saul his men did not react against him with this anger. Yet David firstly sought God personally and found strength in Him, then he sought Him publicly through the ephod. Even now, when David was in personal danger, he did not lose his faith and strength of heart. David had a routine of presenting his life to God and seeking God’s wisdom – so he simply did this again.

When God told David and his men that they would be successful in finding their families again, they left immediately. They had already traveled for 3 days at this point. When they reached Bensor Ravine, two hundred of the six hundred men stayed behind as they were too tired to continue.

David’s men found an Egyptian slave abandoned in a field. After he was fed David spoke with him. David and his men conducted themselves during this time in such a way that the man felt he could say:
“Swear to me before God that you will not kill me or hand me over to my master, and I will take you down to them.” (Verse 15, NIV).

With the Egyptian’s help, they find the raiders celebrating and fight through the night and the following day to defeat them. The Amalekites had been raiding for a while and so when David’s men retrieved their families and goods, they also found plenty more plunder. Instead of fighting the Israelites and earning plunder that way, they had fought the Amalekites and returned to Bensor Ravine with plenty of spoils.

At this point, it is noted that David started a process which he later made law in Israel – everyone shares equally in the plunder from a raid, even those who stay behind with the supplies. David’s generosity continued as he sent portions of the plunder to all the leaders in Israel who had helped him and his men over time. He sent goods to elders in Bethel, Ramoth Negev,Jattir, Aroer, Siphmoth, Eshtomoa, Racal, Hormah, Bor Ashan, Athach and Hebron, as well as to the Jerahmeelite and Kenite towns.

Another quick note

31 Aug

You’ll know that, in spite of all my good intentions, I have disappeared into a blogless land for a while again. I lost my balance between work and home and me when my mother had an accident and my sister and I needed to share her care in order to keep working. Of course I was already just keeping the balance and fighting back to level after moving, so this time impacted everything.

The good thing is that I realised how much I like my new home, even with boxes still being unpacked and drills and vacuum cleaners left where they were used. Whilst my desks are still covered in random stuff I have managed to find a space where keyboard, mouse, screen and printer are easy to plug in when I return with my little laptop. It took another trip to IKEA to have light (not the first day or even the first trip). This time I took the new lamp which did not work and made them test it and then open the 2 new light bulbs and make sure they worked. Last time I got home and fought the ridiculous packaging that is clearly not useful for protecting the bulb only to find no light at all. With a new lamp and a chopped and crumbled mess of packaging and a suspect bulb, it seemed sensible to make an IKEA person fight the packaging next time. One not so happy customer service person later I have light! YIPPEE!

Again I commit to blog a chapter a day, thank you for your patience.

1 Samuel 29: David almost fights for the Philistines

14 Aug

Achish trusted David enough to have him as his personal body guard, and in this capacity he brought David and his men to the battlefield with the Philistines. The other Philistines refused to allow David to stay and insisted Achish send David away.

It is interesting to reflect on this chapter as the Philistines responded in the way I would have done in their place. They quoted from the victory songs after David killed Goliath in their argument with Achish. Yet Achish told David that he completely trusted him and apologised for sending him away. David must have been a very charismatic man as he had this ability to build complete loyalty from others, even men who should have been his enemy.

We know that David would never have attacked Saul, so perhaps David was playing a dangerous game at this time. He knew (either by pure common sense or because God told him) that the other Philistines would never trust him to fight alongside Achish, so he went along to the battlefield expecting to be sent home. In this way he did not damage his relationship with Achish, but he also did not have to fight Saul.

David seemed to be completely open and transparent most of the time and always with his men, yet political enough to lie to Achish about who he had raided each day. To be fair, David did not kill Philistines when he lived with Achish – perhaps because that would have been too difficult to hide?

I am looking forward to seeing how David’s relationship with Achish unfolds in the future when he is king of Isreal. David could be a man worth studying when considering how to live in our modern world without respect for God – he managed to be unrelenting in his faith and religion yet made friends and allies with many men through wisdom which I conclude came from God.

1 Samuel 28: Saul gets desperate and does another stupid thing

13 Aug

On the eve of battle with the Philistines, Saul decides he needs to speak to Samuel. This is in spite of the fact that Samuel is dead and Saul, himself, rid the land of mediums who communicated with the dead. His men, as usual are ready to help, and tell him about a woman at Endor who escaped his purges.

This woman is far wiser than Saul and tries to avoid doing as he asks, even before she recognises him as the king. A spirit who looks like Samuel appears and gives Saul a message that makes him collapse in fear. The spirit says that Saul will be killed in battle with his sons the next day.

The woman and Saul’s men make him eat and they then leave to return to the battle field. So many people want to know the future and think they would like to know about their death. Saul gets this wish answered. God and the spirit which claimed to be Samuel both decree that consulting mediums is wrong. God does not say it does not work, he simply says it is not right for us to do so.

This story reminds me of another king who was given prophecies from women. Even though Shakespeare’s Macbeth is historically not particularly accurate (much like Hollywood blockbusters today), it does confront us with the challenge – is it useful or good to be given prophecies? It is an endless debate whether Macbeth would have killed King Duncan if the witches had not planted to seed in his mind, supported by that other woman Lady Macbeth.

I believe God does not want us to know the future because it can still be influenced by our choices and also He is sufficient for us. We don’t need to know the future when we know that we have been guided by God in the past. 

Saul had none of this security and his fear was compounded by the knowledge he received against his own better judgement.

1 Samuel 27: David settles in Philistine country

11 Aug

David decided that if he left Israel Saul would give up hunting him. Perhaps David realised that sooner or later his men and those of Saul would meet and fight, and he wanted to avoid what would have been civil war. Perhaps he simply was tired of being on the run.

David asked one of the Philistine kings, Achish, for a village to live in and was given Ziglag. It amazes me that the man who killed Goliath was being given refuge by the Philistines. Achish seemed to think that because David was being hunted by Saul that David was essentially a man for hire. David encouraged him to believe this by telling him that they were raiding Israelite settlements and settlements of people allied to the Israelites, when in reality he was raiding the traditional Israelite enemies of Geshurites, Girzites and Amalekites.

David and his men settled down in Ziklag, bringing their families to live with them. David’s wives Ahinoam and Abigail also joined him. The raiding parties always came home with livestock and clothing and other spoils of war. In this way David “earned a living”.

I suppose that as a follower of God, it makes sense that David was continuing to wipe out the tribes which God had identified as enemies marked for Holy War. It  jars with my modern day sensibilities that the man who wrote so many psalms and who knew God’s heart was also a merciless raider who left no one alive.

 

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