Saturday, November 7, 2009


turn and face the change! significant and exciting changes are afoot at the central maryland vineyard. don’t miss this coming Sunday’s family meeting, where we will envision the way forward for our faith community!

(also: don’t forget next Sunday is our celebration of the past for this historic church within the Vineyard movement. we’ll be telling stories of what God has done. it will be a little like that line from the U2 song “window in the skies”: “O can’t you see what Love has done!!”)

see you there!


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Currently Delayed

we are currently delayed in terms of the bible study blog...hopefully we'll see you in a few weeks.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Authentic Faith and (Un)Civil War

one more week until we dive into 2 Samuel. Until then, you can listen to John Odean from the Central Maryland Vineyard teach on Jonathan and his authentic faith...

see you next week for the next teaching series: (Un)Civil War

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Finding God in the Wilderness

Next week we dive back into our text and enter 2 Samuel...

in the mean time, here is another teaching from Nick Sutton of the Coventry Vineyard in the UK, teaching through Samuel, Nick considers finding God in the wilderness of our lives...

see you next week!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lego 1 Samuel

a little first Samuel fun while we are in-between 1 and 2 Samuel:

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mythbusters - 5 of 5

Welcome to our final study in the current series, Mythbusters. If you missed our previous introduction and first few series, you can go back and start at the beginning:

If you are just joining the Mythbuster series, here is where we have been thus far:

Today's session should take between 45 minutes to an hour.

So, as usual, find a quiet space. Sit down and take a few breaths.

Ready? Let's begin...

Section one. The Medium and the Message.

OK, let's read 1 Samuel 28:1-12, then click back here.

The pace of the narrative picks up here as the gathering of forces for battle casts a shadow across the lives of our characters. Now that David is a vassal of a Philistine chieftain, is he going to fight against Israel in this war? The tension rises for the reader, but we are quickly carried off into the further and final obsessive quest of Saul for divine guidance.

The text introduces Saul's continued quest for divine guidance with a note that Samuel had died, and that previously - although unbeknownst to us - Saul had banished the practice of necromancy and driven mediums "from the land" or in this case, "underground". It's interesting to note that although the Hebrew literally says that "Saul had taken away 'obot and yidde'onim from the land," the translations are usually, "...ghosts and familiar spirits," spooky, huh? Gensenius' Lexicon gives us an understanding of 'obot, which is plainly translated as "container of water" but in context would pertain to one who evokes the dead by power of incantations or magical songs in order to give answers or tell the future. Gensenius specifically says that 'obot "specially, it denotes - (a) a python, or a soothsaying daemon, of which these men were believed to be possessed; Lev. 20:27..."a man or woman when a python is in them;" the picture - like an empty bottle filled with water - is of the person being filled with the daemon spirit and that the spirit enters their soul and unites with it. The yidde'onim were basically the spirits of divination.

Robert Alter explains all this talk of ghosts and spirits: "The two Hebrew terms, 'ovot and yid'onim, are generally paired, and both refer to the spirits of the dead. (The latter is derived from the verbal root y-d-', "to know," and so prepares the way for the reappearance of the theme of [withheld] knowledge that has been stalking Saul from the beginning of his story.) The ghosts and familiar spirits are linked metonymically with the necromancers who call them up - it is the latter who of course would have been the actual object of Saul's purge - but the terms themselves primarily designate the spirits...necromancy in the ancient Hebrew world is conceived not as mere hocus pocus but as a potentially efficacious technology of the realm of spirits which, however, has been prohibited by God, Who wants no human experts interfering in this realm."

Yet Saul is not to be denied this time, as his drought from YHWH even as our text says he inquired of YHWH but was answered...neither by dreams nor by Urim nor by prophets; thus he orders his men to seek out a medium. Notice the leitmotif of clothing again, Saul changes his clothes to disguise himself. Alter notes that this disguise of Saul is the unwitting symbolic gensture in that it is the penultimate instance of Saul divesting himself again of royalty and kingship.

The Hebrew word for medium is interesting: 'eset 'ob, which is translted by some as ghostwife. This marriage/relational language goes back to the Hebrew word-picture of being filled and united in your soul with this spirit; thus the relational language of marriage is used to tease out the depths at which she has joined herself with the spirits.

Thus, Saul is so desperate and has sunk to such depths that he disguises himself and by night rendevous he seeks out the shade of Samuel.

Now, let's read 1 Samuel 28:13-25, then return here.

Check out this dramatic "witch of endor" scene from a movie:

[did you notice that the voice of Samuel was that of Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek fame?]

I think Gleason Archer's comments on this episode are helpful for us, when asked what took place here, Archer says: "There is little doubt that satanic powers are able to produce illusionary images and communicate with the living by this means. Such "lying wonders" (2 Thess. 2:9) are part of the Devil's stock in trade. On the other hand, it certainly lies within God's power as well to present an appearance for the purpose of conveying His message by a special revelation. The oracle delivered by this shade or apparition sounded like an authentic message from God, with its announcement of doom on the guilty, unfaithful king. It even sounded like something Samuel himself would have said, had he remained alive after the massacre of Ahimelech and the priests of Nob (1 Sam. 22:11-19). Therefore, it is entirely possible that this appraition was the actual shade of Samuel should be observed that the witch herself was quite startled by this ghost visitor, as she said, "I see god [Heb. 'elohim] coming up from the earth" (v.13). This clearly implies that this authentic appearance of the dead (if such it was) was no result of her own witchcraft; rather, it was an act of God Himself that terrified her and that she had in no sense brought about in her own power...No scriptural basis for spiritism is furnished by this episode, nor for necromancy - both of which are sternly condemned as abominations before the Lord (Deut. 18:9-12; cf. Exod. 22:18; Lev. 19:26, 31; 20:6,27; Jer. 27:9-10)."

Commentators have been divided on the tone or attitude of Samuel's message. Certainly, he seems a bit disturbed to be called up like this, but then are his words biting toward Saul or do in fact they comfort Saul, knowing that he will be with his friend and mentor Samuel? Keith Bodner asks: "Is the prophet smug? If so, does he have a right to be? Or is he speaking more benevolently to the fearful king? According to the prophet, is it "Saul's own fault" that he is in this mess? What are the reasons Samuel provides for Saul's plight? Are Samuel's words "tomorrow you and your sons will be with me" designed to be comforting to Saul?"

One of the most interesting and poignant points to me in all this - although qualified in that we understand that necromancy and witchcraft are not to be dabbled with - Saul does indeed finally get his divine guidance via Samuel again. Samuel tells him exactly what will happen. Ironic, no? Of course from the theological perspective of the Chronicler (1 Chronicles 10:13) this is regarded as the most heinous of Saul's offenses.

One last comment on this episode toward the end. Do you think the medium is being kind to Saul by serving him a meal after she witnesses him being so weak and distraught? Is Saul weak and in shock? It takes quite a while to prepare this meal, as she slaughters the calf and makes bread and cooks the meal. Is Saul in shock and catatonic during this whole time? Bodner again asks: "Is she a wicked witch? Compare her speech with the prophet; is there a deliberate contrast, or is she simply acting out of self-preservation? After all, she is guilty of a serious legal violation. But is it not possible to construe the woman as having mercy on Saul, as she serves him his "last meal" with some dignity?"

Section two. Desperate Times, Despterate Measures

Let's read 1 Samuel 29:1-11, then return here.

The scene opens again focusing on the impending battle between the Philistines and the Israelites. The attention thus far has been with what is happening with Saul and the Israelites. Now we get a look into what is brewing on the Philistine side. Immediately the text gives us the sense that what is coming is big and this sense builds toward the actual battle and its immediate after-effect. In massing of the armies of the Philistines at Aphek, the text emphasises "all of the armies" of the 5 great cities of the Philstines have gathered, and one of them belongs to Achish of Gath, who in his retinue and employ is the anointed David and David's fighting men.

David and his men are stationed to the rear of Achish's men, in a particularly important place or guarding the rear from surprise attack, but possibly also in an attempt byu Achish to sort of hide them back there out of sight from the other Philistine chieftains and captains. Can we even imagine what is going through David's mind, and his men's, as they approach? They are gathering with the Philistines to battle their own people. Are they thinking "this will be the last step to truly become a traitor?" Or perhaps they are praying, asking for a way out, any way out of this terrible mess.

Yet, the Philstine chaieftains do notice this famous Israelite warrior among them, repeating the famous song that made Saiul so jealous: "Saul has slain his thousands and David his tens of thousands!" Again, the irony is not lost on us. Yet God intervenes to save David and his men from having to commit to this treasonous way in the battle. It is interesting to note that when Achish gives David the "bad news" that he can't partake in the battle and that the other Philistine leaders do not trust him, Achish, the foreign, uncircumsized Philistine, swears to David by YHWH. Was he just being politically-sensitive to David or is there more going on in that little telltale sign?

Peter Miscall notes a parallel with the scenes switching back-and-forth from what is happening with saul and the Israelites to what is happening with David and the Philistines: "Empasis is on departure at morning's first light. Does David's departure coincide with Saul's departure from Endor?"

OK, let's read 1 Samuel 30:1-31, then click back here.

It's always something with David, isn't it? Just when he is in the clear from having to battle the Israelites on the side of the Philistines, he gets word that Ziklag has been raided. Some see David as the ultimate survivor because things tend to turn out for the best when it comes to him, but trouble seems to follow him, and here - although it "excuses" him from the pending battle between the Philistines and Israelites - his wives and children are taken captive after the Amalekites attack Ziklag. I like what Peter Leithart has to say at this point: "When Jesus promises to send the Spirit, he describes the Spirit as the "Paraclete." This word is often translated as "Comforter," but the Greek word has a legal connotation and is actually closer to "Advocate" or even "Defense Attorney." A Paraclete doesn't "soothe" so much as "defend." That's a good thing, because everyone who receives the Spirit in Scripture needs a good bit of defending. The Spirit clothes judges like Gideon and Samson so they can slaughter Midianites and Philistines. When the Spirit comes upon Saul, He takes his army to deliver Jabesh-gilead from the Ammonites. In our sermon text, the Spirit comes on David and begins a lifetime of persecution, struggle, battle, and hardship. It's the Spirit-filled David who fights Goliath, dodges Saul's spear, and runs around the country just out of Saul's reach. It's the Spirit-filled David who fights Saul's son Ish-Bosheth and who has to deal with the bloodthirsty sons of Zeruiah. It's the Spirit-filled David who repeatedly cries out in the Psalms for deliverance from His enemies. Some of David's troubles are the result of His own sin. Still, as soon as the Spirit touches him, he's in for it. And so are we. This pattern doesn't change in the New Testament. As soon as the Spirit comes on Jesus, Satan shows up to tempt Him; just after Pentecost, the Jewish leaders are dragging Peter and John before the Sanhedrin and stoning Stephen. The Spirit is our Defender. But He also ensures that we need defense, because He impels us into the wilderness and pushes us into battle."

Another parallel can be seen here that contrasts Saul and David. When David gets the news he calls forth Abiathar and the ephod to consult YHWH on his next move. Again, he receives an abundat and quick answer to his questions, whereas Saul, having sought by dream, urim and prophet with only silence from YHWH, eventually pursued the medium at Endor. Even with an answer from God, the text is clear that David is stressed out by all this and races back to Ziklag as fast as he can; even to the point of exhausting his men. The Hebrew verb there is piger, related to peger or "corpse", which would render this word "dead tired".

Out of the frying pan and into the fire, huh? David escaped having to battle his own people, but then disaster seems to loom. This highlights David's precarious predicament, not just as being viewed by the public-at-large as a traitor, but by his leadership of his own men. David weeps with them, but as Robert Alter notes: "This moment is also a vivid reminder, as are others in the Saul-David story, of how precarious political power is: David, the charismatic and brilliant commander who has led his men through a host of dangers, suddenly discovers that those hard-bitten warriors are ready to kill jim because of the disastrous turn of events. It was he, after all, who drew them to the north with the Philistine army, leaving Ziklag exposed....[yet] he finds encouragement in the face of mortal despair - specifically, as the next verse explains, by calling for the oracle. In this fashion, he staves off the assault his men are contemplating by dramatically showing that they still have means of redress against the Amalekites, and that he has a special channel of communication with God."

Yet, despite overwhelming circumstances against him, David - and his men - overcome. I'm sure there is some sort of lesson there for us.

Lastly, note that the text gives us a clue what has been happening while David has been in Ziklag all this time. He has been sharing his plunder with the elders of Judah, building support and garnering loyalty among his kinsmen. Herbert Kupferberger's observation of David comes to mind at this point: "The King David who emerges from these pages is a masterful (and sometimes cunning) politician, a bold (and often opportunistic) warrior and a devoted (but also vindictive) ruler - the surprising human centerpiece of an ancient story few modern novelists can match for sheer drama."

Section three. O, How the Mighty Have Fallen!

Read 1 Samuel 31:1-13, then return here.

Let's begin with a comment from Peter Miscall, who highlights the parallel scenes we have been witnessing here: "Chapters 30 and 31 gain poignancy and power if we regard their events as simultaneous. In the far south, david is anxious about his own and about spoil, while in the far north Saul and the Israelite army perish. The contrast is increased by the length of the chapters - thirty-one verses in chapter 30 to thirteen verses in chapter 31. The defeat of Israel is so devastating that the Philistines are able to seize and inhabit Transjordan cities."

Again, note the clothing motif and the final divestiture of Saul: the Philistines strip him of his armour and cut off his head. This is actually eerily similar to what David had done to the Philistine warrior Goliath, isn't it? They cut off his head, take his weapons/armour to a sanctuary, and put the cut-off head on display. Revenge?

The courageous and honorable men of Jabesh-Gilead come to honor the dead Saul. Remember them from Saul's first exploit, back in 1 Samuel 11? Saul saved the city and people of Jabesh-Gilead from Nahash and the Ammonites. Since that time, they have been loyal to Saul and in his debt. They bravely rescue Saul's remains and bury them under a tamarisk tree. Thus the end of Israel's first king, the story which began with a feast when Saul meets Samuel, ends with a fast after his death.

In summing up 1 Samuel, Keith Bodner asks a series of questions: "The book of 1 Samuel is part of a larger work. How does this ending relate to both what comes before (e.g. the book of Judges) and what is to come (e.g. the book of 2 Samuel)?" Bodner also asks: "...if 1 Samuel is part of a continuous narrative from Joshua to 2 Kings, what difference does this make for one's reading? Paul House (1998: 236) notes, "This initial instance of kingship foreshadows God's assessment of every future king in the book of Kings." What kind of foreshadowing does the reader sense for the monarchy in Israel?"

Let's end today by watching this adaptation of the last battle of Saul and Jonathan as they are slain by Philistines on high places, while we also get a glimpse of David as King entering Jerusalem, a King like Jesus:

Section four. Assignments.
  • Think about these questions, begining with this quote from Keith Bodner: "Finally, comment on what Rolf Knierim (1978:20-51) refers to as "The Messianic Concept of the First Book of Samuel." Do you sense any messianic undercurrents in 1 Samuel?...if so, how would you articulate such a messianic dimension, and how does this integrate with a larger biblical theology?" Journal these questions and your thoughts and reflections regarding this messianic elemtn? Have you thought about how David is a foreshadow of Christ Jesus? If so, what are your thoughts on how, in 1 Samuel, David is like the Messiah Jesus?
  • 1 Samuel ends with a whole host of questions lingering over us...are the Philistines going to triumph and rule over the Israelites now that they have slaughtered their king and effected a military occupation of northern Israel? What will happen to David? Has God abandoned the people? We'll begin looking at those answers in the coming months here at the Vineyard Bible Study blog. We'll be back in a few weeks, so check back as to when the next series will begin!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mythbusters - 4 of 5

Welcome to our fourth study in the current series, Mythbusters.

If you missed our previous introduction and first few series, you can go back and start at the beginning:

If you are just joining the Mythbuster series, here is where we have been thus far:

Today's session should take about 45 minutes.

So, as usual, find a quiet space. Sit down and take a few breaths.

Ready? Let's begin...

Section one. Do the Clothes Make the Man?

OK, let's read 1 Samuel 23:1-29, then click back here.

Several things to note right at the beginning. In verse 15, we see David's friend Prince Jonathan appear again, visiting David and his men on-the-run from Jonathan's father Saul. It is a poignant scene. Jonathan is being loyal to his father by remaining and fighting with him against other enemies. But he does not seek David or turn him in to his father. Jonathan's comments in verse 17 are almost prophetic: "Do not be afraid, because the hand of Saul my father will not find you, and you will be king over Israel and I will be next to you; and Saul my father knows that also." While David will be king, Jonathan will not eventually stand by David's side. The Hebrew term used to descibe Jonathan's visit: wayhazzeq 'et-yado beyah-weh, literally means "and strengthened his hand in YHWH". This is a phrase used in sacred scripture to mean "encourage", like it does in Nehemiah 6:9.

It is interesting that Keilah - a city in Judah (see Joshua 15) - is seen as being deep in Philistine territory by David's men. In the Amarna Letters - diplomatic correspondence between the Pharoah in Egypt and his vassals in Canaan and Amurru - Keilah is a dependency of the Jebusite city we call Jerusalem, David's eventual capital for the kingdom of Israel.

As we mentioned previously David has gained an advantage of getting a priest with the ephod, thus he can inquire of God. P. Kyle McCarter notes: " ephod. That is, an instrument of divination (see note at 14:3). The answers received in vv 11b and 12b below are essentially of the "yes" or "no" type, and we may assume that the Urim and Thummim are employed (cf. tye note at 14:40-42)."

Keith Bodner also gives us some insight with his comment: "This chapter begins with a disproportionate amount of "oracular" inquiry. Notably, this episode comes right after the massacre at Nob, where Saul is probably incensed by discussion of David receiving a divine oracle. This serves to underscore a growing subplot of "seeking divine knowledge" during David's fugitive era, and also highlights Saul's lack of divine response. Many commentators point out that an "oracle" answer is usually binary, "yes or no". Observe that in this chapter David receives some rather loquacious divine responses on a couple of occasions. There is a pointed contrast, then, between David and Saul during this narrative stretch, and the growing frustration and failure (that will culminate in chapter 28)."

Penn State professor Baruch Halpern raises an interesting question about this period: what happened to the ark of the covenant? Did the failure of the ark to achieve victory over the Philistines and capture and retun from the Philistines earlier cause it to become tainted as a "power object" in the eyes of the people?

1 Samuel 6:21-7:2 tells us that the ark of YHWH was being kept in the house of Abinadab in Keriath Jearim, a Gibeonite town, which is in the same basic territory as Saul's hometown. Why, if Saul was not too far away, did he not go to inquire before the ark of God? Halpern claims: "The ark's absence in Saul's day is significant...Since Saul spent a good deal of energy attacking Gibeonites, and since Qiryath Yearim was a Gibeonite town, it is more than conceivable that the ark of God was not acknowledged by the king at that time...Not coincidentally, Saul also eradicated the priests of Shiloh, to whom Samuel traces the ark, at Nob (in the A source). And this in turn means that the narrative not just of David's own life but of the introduction of the monarchy itself is conditioned by dynastic politics: one of the goals of 1 Sam. 4-6 was to present the ark as a precious pan-Israelite legacy that had slipped from Israel's grasp and was now recovered..."

Halpern also brings the co-related passages from 1 Chronicles into our view, which helps to illumine their perspective of what had happened (from a much more theological-historical perspective, I might add): "The Chronicler in fact attributes Saul's death in part to his failure to "seek Yahweh." So David's first act as king in Jerusalem is to recover the ark, "for we did not seek it in Saul's time." [see 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 and 1 Chronicles 13:3]

Now, let's read 1 Samuel 24:1-22, then return here.

We have noted several times how clothing and garments have helped us to understand more of the context and what is going on in this narrative. From Samuels' priestly ephod and prophetic me'il, to Saul's armour, then Jonathan's armour and clothing, this has been an important indicator of office, power, status or somehow been a clue for us to take note of what is going on in the story. Context is always helpful, as Deuteronomy 25:5-10 helps us understand the "removing the sandal" ritual which Boaz is involved in Ruth 4.

In chapter 24, clothing again comes to the fore and if we can understand it in context, just might explain some things which may have been confusing while you read the text. In verse 5, David cuts the hem of Saul's robe off, and our text says: "David's conscience bothered him because he had cut off the edge of Saul's robe."

We have witnessed in 1 Samuel 15:28, the tearing of Samuel's robe ended up being a prophetic pronouncement of God tearing the kingdom of Israel away from Saul. Thus here again, as biblical scholar Ora Horn Prouser notes: "1 Samuel 24 in which David cuts off the hem of Saul's cloak while hiding in a cave. This has been understood as symbolizing David's taking of the kingdom from Saul. Although David claims that this act is a sign that he has no designs to kill Saul and is thus being pursued for naught, the symbolic meaning of cutting the hem of a cloak is unmistakable. Saul even took this as a sign from God that his kingdom was being given over to David. This symbolism is inherent in the Bible since elsewhere the imagery of rending garments is used for receiving and losing the kingdom. The prophet Ahijah ripped a garment into twelve pieces and told Jeroboam to take ten of them since God had declared, "I am tearing the kingdom from Solomon and I am giving you the ten tribes." (1 Kings 11.31)...Samuel's 'cloak' both a princely garment and a symbol of his calling and dignity."

Here is where David's conscience bothers him: he knows the significance of secretly cutting off the hem of Saul's garment. And while Saul act of reaching out to take hold of Samuel's hem as an act of submission and repentance tears it, David is more calculating in this scene...and his conscience is bothered by his action.

Even as Saul goes into the cave to relieve himself, Robert Alter comments regarding the realism of geography and topography in this part of the narrative: "The topography is quite realistic, for the cliffs overlooking the Dead Sea in the region of En-gedi are honeycombed with caves. Power and powerlessness are precarious balanced in this episode. David and his men are in all likelihood hiding in the far end of the cave from Saul's search party. Had a contingent of soldiers entered the cave, they would have been trapped. Instead, Saul comes in alone, and he is in a double sense exposed to David and his men."

One last note on this chapter, in this exchange with Saul, we get David's longest speech, a whole 26 lines. What is the significance at this point? Robert Polzin is persuaded that in this dialogue, both David's and Saul's self-interest are made bare for us to know some of their more base motivations. Also note that David - even though being anointed as a youth by Samuel - still considers and calls Saul "YHWH's mashiach" or God's anointed. We'll talk more about this rather unusual loyalty after we deal with the next chapter.

Section two. A Fool and His Wife Are Easily Parted.

Now, let's read 1 Samuel 25:1-44, then return here.

Thus Samuel dies, and as a fitting tribute, all Israel gathers and mourns for their former leader and prophet of God.

Biblical commentator David Roper gives us some perspective on chapter 25: "Samuel's death and David's flight to the wilderness of Paran are linked together, as though one were caused by the other. Samuel had been David's confidant and counselor, the one to whom he had gone in times of need, probably the only person in Israel who would stand against Saul. When Samuel died, David realized that his last hope for reconciliation with Saul was gone. He fled from Engedi, along the coast of the Dead Sea, because it was too close for comfort to Saul's headquarters. He fled south to the wilderness of Paran, the area in the northern part of the Sinai peninsula where the nation of Israel had wandered for thirty-eight years. As he flees south the story of Abigail and Nabal takes place."

Abigail - from the Hebrew meaning "my father's delight" - is described here as a smart, capable and beautiful woman. As we see, she is married to a fool, Nabal. Nabal is wicked or crooked in his dealings, which seems to point to him being sort of a swindler. He is obviously very wealthy, as our text says he was a chieftain of the Caleb clan, the largest clan in the tribe of Judah.

Writer and scholar Steven McKenzie - who is suspicious of David - has this perspective on the events with Nabal and Abigail: "One of the estates that David and his band threatened was that belonging to "Nabal" and his wife Abigail. Nabal (meaning "fool"...) was a wealthy and probably chief of the Calebites, the leading clan of Judah. His death, described in 1 Sam 25 as God's doing, occurred at a most propitious moment for David, who married Abigail and assumed Nabal's property and socail position. It would have been a shortstep from the Calebite chieftaincy to kingship over Judah. David would rule from the Calebite capital of Hebron during his seven and one-half tears as king of Judah." The word that is translated "feast" in which Nabal is throwing for friends, is not the usual word for "feast", but rather is mishteh, which is really a 'drinking party'. Again, God acts scandalously and strikes Nabal dead. There may be some question about David's role here and Abigail's role in this whole episode. Our text clearly and scandalously states that God is behind all these mysterious and propitious events that add wealth and status to david, as he essentially becomes the leader of the powerful clan of Caleb in Judah (remembering that David is himself of the tribe of Judah too.) This solidified his position among his own relatives.

Later in 1 Samuel, when the Amalekites attack David's base at Ziklag and steal his possession and wives and children, David takes 400 men with him and leaves 200 behind. Here in coming against Nabal, David employs the same strategy 400 men come siwth him, 200 stay behind; the implication is of course, is that he is going to raid this place and kill Nabal, and as David himself admits, put to death every male in this house. Of course, Abigail prevents this terrible thing and prevents David from incurring blood-guilt, which David has been fairly careful to not incur thus far.

The list of David's wives at the end of this chapter give further details of David partaking in that ancient near eastern tradition of marriage to secure alliances and create powerful connection. Even though he claimed not to be worthy of marrying into the house of Saul, David's first wife - who we will meet later in 2 Samuel even though our text tells us Saul has now given her to another man - was Michal, daughter of the Israelite king Saul. Then in this episode we see David solidify a powerful position as chieftain within the tribe of Judah by marrying Abigail. Our text also notes his marriage to Ahinoam from Jezreel, which is in the north. Thus, David solidifies his prominence in the south (in Judah) but also has some support (in Jezre'el) in the north, and technically has connections to the midlands (land of Benjamin) through his first marriage with Michal, daughter of Saul.

Section three. Traitor in the Arms of the Enemy?

Read 1 Samuel 26:1-25, then return here.

So we see again - just like the scene in 1 Samuel 24 - David could have taken advantage of a situation and killed Saul, but instead - this time - he takes his spear. Keith Bodner helps us understand a key difference between the two encounters where David could have taken Saul's life, buit did not: "There are a number of ways in which chapters 24 and 26 can be compared and contrasted. Most obviously, in both episodes David has a "chance" to strike Saul, yet declines. In chapter 24, Saul arrived at the cave by "coincidence." In chapter 26, David seems more calculated, as Miscall (1986:158) notes: "This is no chance encounter at Hachilah, as it was at Engedi. David "saw that Saul had come after him into the wilderness; David sent spies, and he knew that Saul had come.' David's approach and view are described in the detail befitting a careful plan." Compare Alter's (1999:162) comment: "this story will prove to be an inversion of the earlier one, David discovering Saul instead of the other way around." So after David determines that Saul has indeed come after him, does he carefully plan his encounter with Saul? Is it his visual perspective that is provided when the reader is confronted with the following: "So David and Abishai came into the army at night, and look, Saul was laying down, sleeping in the trench. His spear was thrust into the ground near his head, with Abner and the troops lying all around him"? Ironically, the "spear of Saul" usually foreshadows danger to someone else, but on this occasion the threat of the "spear" is on Saul personally."

Although this movie adaptation blends the two incidents (chapter 24 and 26), and replaces the spear with a sword, take a look at these scenes from the movie King David:

This is a sad scene, and the last encounter of David and Saul. Robert Alter notes: "These words of fatherly blessing are the last ones Saul speaks to David: the two never meet again."

Let's end today by reading 1 Samuel 27:1-12, then return here.

Thus David finally turns to the bitter enemies of the Israelites for protection. He is witnessed as becoming a vassal of the chieftain-king of Philistine Gath, Achish, which in classicial Greek means: the Achaean, one of the collective names used by Homer in his Iliad of "the Greeks". David serving the enemy of Israel? Scandalous!

Imagine, if you can, someone like Colin Powell - a war hero and distinguished in the halls of power - leaving under the shadow of night in a cloud of suspicion and ending up working for the North Koreans. Ludicrous you might say. Surely, he would be branded a traitor of the worse kind, a "Benedict Arnold". Well, I think this illustration sheds light on the predicament of David, the beloved of God.

You see everyone who was anyone was there when the Israelite tribes anointed and affirmed God's choice of Saul as King over Israel. But they weren't there at David's private anointing and affirmation...nor did Samuel and David have a press conference after this secret affair. yet, David goes on to become a war hero and military man and a trusted aid in King Saul's administration. Even best friends with Prince Jonathan. Yet, from the people of Israel's perspective, the falling out of Saul and David was unclear. They probably just came to understand that David was fleeing Saul as a fugitive, even though it looks so suspicious, right?

Then later after years of pursuit, David and a small fighting force, end up working for their dreaded enemy the Philistines, and David and his men were were so successful in military service (bringing in captured goods from others to enrich Achish likely) that the Philistines give David his own town, Ziklag, and they give him a primary position of power, as a member of the royal bodyguard of Achish. And it is quite a long sojourn that David and his men live in Ziklag under Philistine-Gath vassalship (even while running military operations against Israel's - and especially Judah's - enemies to the south). In the most of the populations eyes, does this not look clearly traitorous? I think it does. I learned all this perspective in a class at the Baltimore Hebrew University. We have to be careful when we read our scriptures, because we miss significant things like this, mainly because we are given an historical perspective that clues us in on insider information. If we lived at that time in the people of Israel, liklely we would have thought of David as a traitor and fugitive of the King's justice.

Seeing the issues from this perspective opened my eyes to bigger issues of life lived right now. I need the discernment of the Lord - His perspective - for I can't know some of the secret, insider information and events that propel people's lives and force them into making certain choices. I need the movement and spark of the Holy Spirit in me, because the Spirit has that perspective...that wider, knowing vision. Let's all pray for that kind of vision today, and be careful not to judge people who are forced to make hard choices in life. Have grace for them, and we may yet be illumined and given the very perspective and heart of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Section four. Assignments.
  • Have you ever had to take what others consider a scandalous position or course of action, bcause it was the right thing to do, even though it may be difficult and you had to suffer the consequences? God is scandalous in what He asks of us at-times, which we also see in Mary the mother of God, being pregnant with Jesus as an unwed teenage girl in the ancient world. Scandalous. Talk to God about this and journal your thoughts and what you think God is saying to you.
  • This week, take time to meditate on Abigail's wise approach and intercession with David, and David's response, in 1 Samuel 25:18-35. How does this depict intercession for us nowadays? Journal your thoughts on this as well.