(Verses 1 through 3) Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite: and he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD were there.
We are here introduced to the parents of Samuel. Samuel was from Ephratah, and he must have been of the lineage the priests or the Levites, for, as we shall see, he served as a priest and judge for many years, and was approved of God. Samuel’s father, Elkanah, had two wives, One of these wives, named Peninnah had children, but Samuel’s mother, Hannah, was barren for a long time. Every year Elkanah took his family with him, and went up to Shiloh, where the ark of the covenant of the LORD was set, to worship the LORD of hosts, and to make his sacrifices. In those days, an old man, Eli, and his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were the priests; and they dwelt at Shiloh.
(Verses 4 through 8) And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and daughters, portions: but unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the LORD had shut up her womb. And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb. And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat. Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?
This text shows what was the attitude of the Israelites toward a barren woman. They looked upon her as almost a disgrace just because she was barren. The mind set of the Israelites, and, indeed, all the other people of those times, was that bearing children was the primary role of a woman, that she might thereby build up her family, her community, and her tribe. The usual desire was for all the children they could get. So Elkanah’s wife who had children was always trying to provoke his barren wife. On the present occasion, she succeeded to the point that Hannah was weeping, and would not eat. Elkanah tried to comfort her, but, apparently, in vain.
(Verses 9 through 13) So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the LORD. And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore. And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if Thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head. And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth. Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.
After the sacrificial meal Hannah was still in great sorrow. So after she left the place of their eating she began praying to the LORD. Eli the priest was sitting near where Hannah was praying. And although she was praying silently, her lips moved as she spoke to the LORD. And Eli thought she was drunk. But she was praying that God would give her a son; and she vowed that if He answered her prayer favorably she would give that son to the LORD as long as he lived.
(Verses 14 through 18) And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee. And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD. Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto. Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of Him. And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad.
Eli rebuked Hannah because he thought she was drunk. But she set him right about the matter, and told him that because of very deep sorrow she had been pouring out her soul unto the LORD. He, recognizing her sincerity, blessed her, and she went her way, and did eat and cheer up.
(Verses 19 through 23) And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the LORD, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew his wife; and the LORD remembered her. Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the LORD. And the man Elkanah, and all his house went up to offer unto the LORD the yearly sacrifice, and his vow. But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the LORD, and there abide forever. And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Do what seemeth thee good; tarry until thou hast weaned him; only the LORD establish his word. So the woman abode, and gave her son suck until she had weaned him.
After Elkanah and his family returned home, the LORD gave a favorable answer to the prayer of Hannah, and she conceived and bore a son. The next year, at the time of their yearly sacrifice, Elkanah and his household prepared to go up to Shiloh, as usual. But Hannah told him that she would not go there until the baby was old enough to be weaned, and he agreed thereto. She said that when the child was weaned she would take him up to the house of the LORD, and there leave him that he might remain before the LORD all his life. It is commonly thought that the temple built by Solomon was the first temple the Israelites had unto the LORD. And, so far as is recorded, it is the first built expressly as a temple. But in verse 7 the place of sacrifice at Shiloh is called, “the house of the LORD,” and in verse 9 it is called, “the temple of the LORD.” So Hannah purposed to let Samuel remain at the temple of the LORD.
(Verses 24 through 28) And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of the LORD in Shiloh: and the child was young. And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli. And she said, Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the LORD. For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of Him: therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there.
So Hannah fulfilled the vow she had made to the LORD concerning the child Samuel. The name Samuel means, “heard of God.” Therefore when God answered her prayer by granting her petition, she had named the child Samuel.
(Verses 1 through 11) And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in Thy salvation. There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside Thee: neither is there any rock like our God. Talk no more exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength. They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children hath waxed feeble. The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: He bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: He bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and He hath set the world upon them. He will keep the feet of His saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail. The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall He thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth, and He shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of His anointed. And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house. And the child did minister unto the LORD before Eli the priest.
Having brought Samuel to Shiloh, and established that he was to stay there and minister before Eli the priest, Hannah was so overjoyed that she prayed this prayer of thanksgiving unto the LORD for His wonderful blessings to her, In it we can see just how serious a matter it was considered for a woman to be barren. She calls for her enemies, those who had reproached her for her barrenness, to quit being so proud and arrogant. She, in verses 3 through 12, declares the power, and the right of the LORD to abase the rich and powerful, and exalt the lowly, He will break to pieces all his enemies, and especially in verse 10, she declares that He “shall judge the ends of the earth; and He shall give strength unto His King, and exalt the horn of His Anointed. Since at that time there was no king in Israel, and the LORD had never commanded Israel to set up a king, this evidently is a prophecy of the coming of our Lord Christ Jesus Who is indeed His king, and His Anointed. And she left Samuel with Eli.
(Verses 12 through 17) Now the sons of Eli were sons Belial, they knew not the LORD. And the priest’s custom with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant came, while the flesh was in seething, with a fleshhook of three teeth in his hand; and he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh, unto all the Israelites that came thither. Also before they burnt the fat, the priest’s servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw. And if the man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would answer him, Nay; but thou shalt give it me now; and if not, I will take it by force. Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.
This seems to be very clear as to the conduct of the sons of Eli in their office as priests. But what could be expected of men who did not know the LORD, but were sons of Belial (sons of the devil.) As a result of their actions the people began to actually hate the offering of the LORD. This was indeed a great sin; and it would certainly bring their downfall.
(Verses 18 through 21) But Samuel ministered before the LORD, being a child, girded with a linen ephod. Moreover his mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, The LORD give thee seed of this woman for the loan which is lent unto the LORD. And they went unto their own home. And the LORD visited Hannah, so she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the LORD.
As we remarked earlier, there is nothing said about whether or not Samuel was of the Levitical lineage, he must have been, for he is here said to minister “before the LORD, being a child, girded with a linen ephod.” His father and mother continued to come to Shiloh to make their yearly offering. And when she came, his mother brought him a little coat. Since he was a growing child, he would certainly need a new coat at least yearly. Eli blessed Samuel’s father and mother, and the LORD granted them five more children, three sons, and two daughters.
(Verses 22 through 26) Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the LORD’S people to transgress. If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall entreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them. And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the LORD, and also with men.
The sons of Eli were not only dishonoring the sacrifices of the LORD, and those who were offering them, but they were also carrying on immoral activities with the women who gathered at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. Of course, Eli heard the report of these things; and he tried to get his sons to quit such things, reminding them that if one man wronged another the matter could be brought before the judge for trial, but when a man sinned against the LORD, there was none to plead for him. But Eli was old, and not able to force his sons to obey him. And they, being sons of Belial, continued on in their evil ways. But Samuel grew, and was in the favor of both the LORD, and the people.
(Verses 27 through 30) And there came a man of God unto Eli, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Did I plainly appear unto the house of thy father, when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh’s house? And did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be My priest, to offer upon Mine altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before Me? and did I give unto the house of thy father all the offerings made by fire of the children of Israel? Wherefore kick ye at My sacrifice and at Mine offerings, which I have commanded in My habitation; and honourest thy sons above Me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel My people? Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before Me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from Me; for them that honour Me I will honour, and they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.
The series of questions this man of God asked Eli, would, in our modern way of speaking, be asked, “Did I not” do this, or that, instead of as here recorded. But the meaning is the same in both ways of saying it. For the LORD is impressing upon the mind of Eli the fact that this is exactly what He did. Nevertheless since Eli has not been able to control his sons the priests, the LORD declares that He is hereby canceling all these privileges that have been enjoyed by Eli and his household. Instead of continuing His blessings upon Eli’s household for the sake of His promise, He will honor those who honor Him, and have little respect for those who despise Him.
(Verses 31 through 36) Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father’s house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house. And thou shalt see an enemy in My habitation, in all the wealth which God shall give Israel: and there shall not be an old man in thine house for ever. And the man of thine, whom I shall not cut off from Mine altar, shall be to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thine heart: and all the increase of thine house shall die in the flower of their age. And this shall be a sign unto thee, that shall come upon thy sons, on Hophni and Phinehas; in one day they shall die both of them. And I will raise Me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in Mine heart and in My mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before Mine anointed for ever. And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left in thine house shall come and crouch to him for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread, and shall say, Put me, I pray thee, into one of the priest’s offices, that I may eat a piece of bread.
This, although it does not signify the cutting off of the house of Aaron as the lineage of the priests, it does signal the cutting off of the house of Eli, who was a descendant of Aaron. The LORD told him that his two sons would die in one day, and that the remainder of his descendants would die in the flower of their age, so that there would never be an old man among them. And even any one of his descendants that remained would be brought down so that he would have to come before the one who should be high priest in his day, and beg him to place him in one of the priest’s offices that he might have bread to eat. This certainly must not have been a very pleasing message to Eli.
(Verses 1 through 10) And the child Samuel ministered unto the LORD before Eli. And the word of the LORD was precious in those days; there was no open vision. And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see; and ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep: that the LORD called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I. And he ran to Eli, and said, Here am I, for thou calledst me. And he said, I called not; lie down again. And he went and lay down. And the LORD called yet again, Samuel. And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I, for thou didst call me. And he answered, I called not, my son; lie down again. Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, neither was the word of the LORD yet revealed unto him. And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And Eli perceived that the LORD had called the child. Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if He call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak, LORD, for Thy servant heareth.
This gives us the details of the calling of Samuel. Although he had been ministering before the LORD for some time in the temple, Samuel did not yet know the LORD. This should be a lesson for all of us, even today. No matter how long one may have been going to church services, and even taking part in the activities of the church, he still will never know the LORD until the LORD Himself calls him. Remember that Jesus said, “All things are delivered unto Me of My Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.” (Matt. 11:27) This same principle was true in Samuel’s day also. After the third time the LORD called, Eli was given to know that it was the LORD Who was calling. And he instructed Samuel in what he should do. Then the LORD again called Samuel, and Samuel followed Eli’s instructions.
(Verses 11 through 14) And the LORD said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle. In that day I will perform against Eli all the things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth, because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever.
So the LORD gives Samuel a message concerning what He will do to Eli, and to his house. They shall be for ever cut off from the priesthood because of the sins of Hophni and Phinehas the sons of Eli, and for Eli’s failure to restrain them. Perhaps he could not restrain them after he had become old. But he had failed when they were younger, to “train them up in the way they should go.” And for that he bore part of their judgment. The LORD told Samuel that sacrifices and offerings would never purge this sin from the house of Eli.
(Verses 15 through 18) And Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of the house of the LORD. And Samuel feared to show Eli the vision. Then Eli called Samuel, and said, Samuel, my son. And he answered him, Here am I. And he said, What is the thing that the LORD hath said unto thee? I pray thee hide it not from me: God do so to thee, and more also, if thou hide any thing from me of all the things that He said unto thee. And Samuel told him every whit, and hid nothing from him. And he said, It is the LORD: let Him do what seemeth good to Him.
Samuel did not get up until time to get up and open the doors of the house of the LORD. After he had opened them, Eli called him, and asked of him what the LORD had said unto him. Samuel was afraid to tell Eli all that the LORD had said. But Eli demanded that he tell him all, and leave out nothing, which he finally did. Then Eli acknowledged that it was the LORD Who had spoken: and he said, “Let Him do what seemeth him good.”
(Verses 19 through 21) And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan even to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the LORD. And the LORD appeared again in Shiloh: for the LORD revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the LORD.
As Samuel grew the LORD was with him, and caused all that he said to come to pass, so that all Israel knew that the LORD had established Samuel as His prophet in Shiloh.
(Verses 1 and 2) And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Eben-ezer; and the Philistines pitched in Aphek. And the Philistines put themselves in array against Israel: and when they joined battle, Israel was smitten before the Philistines: and they slew of the army in the field about four thousand men.
As Samuel grew, the LORD blessed him, and caused all Israel to receive his prophecies. There then came a war between Israel and the Philistines, and the two armies set themselves in array for battle. The result of this battle was that Israel was defeated by the Philistines, and the Philistines killed about four thousand of Israel’s soldiers.
(Verses 3 through 9) And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the LORD smitten us today before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh unto us, that when it cometh among us it may save us out of the hand of our enemies. So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from thence the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh, Which dwelleth between the cherubims: and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. And when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again. And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What meaneth this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews? And they understood that the ark of the LORD was come into the camp. And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore. Woe unto us! who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty Gods? These are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness. Be strong, and quit yourselves like men, O ye Philistines, that ye be not servants unto the Hebrews, as they have been to you: quit yourselves like men, and fight.
Thus we have the preparation for the second day of battle. How like many of us today were the children of Israel! They thought that it did not matter that they had not been serving the LORD as they should, if only they kept the formality of their religion. They thought that to bring forth the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and keep it with them during the battle, they could defeat the foe, whether or not they obeyed Him. So they sent for the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and brought it from Shiloh into their camp. When it arrived, they put forth a great shout of joy for they thought their troubles were over. But as we shall soon see, this, instead of giving them the victory, had the opposite effect. It scared the Philistines so much that they resolved to fight even harder lest they be taken captive by the Israelites. As we look back at earlier statements of the LORD to Eli, we can see that this whole incident was brought about by the LORD that He might fulfill His judgment upon the household of Eli for the terrible sin of his sons.
(Verses 10 through 18) And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man into his tent: and there was a great slaughter; and there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen. And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain. And there ran a man of Benjamin out of the army, and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes rent, and with earth on his head. And when he came, lo, Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside watching: for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into the city, and told it, all the city cried out. And when Eli heard the noise of the crying, he said, What meaneth the noise of this tumult? And the man came in hastily, and told Eli. Now Eli was ninety and eight years old, and his eyes were dim, that he could not see. And the man said unto Eli, I am he that came out of the army, and I fled today out of the army. And he said, What is there done, my son? And the messenger answered and said, Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God is taken. And it came to pass, when he made mention of the ark of God, that he fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died: for he was an old man, and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years.
In this battle the Philistines fought with extra valor, and Israel was put to rout, losing about thirty thousand men. Hophni and Phinehas were killed, and the ark of the covenant of the LORD was taken by the Philistines. One of the fleeing Israelites came to Shiloh, and reported the matter, whereupon there was a great tumult among the people. Eli was ninety eight years old, so he was sitting by the wayside in great fear for the safety of the ark of the LORD. When he heard the great noise of the crying of the Israelites at the news of the defeat of Israel, he, not being able to hear what was the cause of such called the man of the army to him, and inquired concerning what had been done. Then the messenger told him the whole story, including the fact that both of Eli’s sons were killed, and the ark of the LORD was taken. When Eli heard the news that the ark of the covenant had been taken, he fell off his seat, broke his neck, and died. So not only did both his sons die in the same day, as the LORD had told him, but even he died also on that day. Eli had judged Israel forty years.
(Verses 19 through 22) And his daughter in law, Phinehas’s wife, was with child; near to be delivered: and when she heard the tidings that the ark of God was taken, and that her father in law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and travailed; for her pains were upon her. And about the time of her death the women that stood by her said unto her, Fear not; for thou hast borne a son. But she answered not, neither did she regard it. And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband. And she said, The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken.
This is a very clearly set forth account of the death of the wife of Phinehas, and the birth of his son, except that one might be a little confused about just how long the woman lived after the birth of her son. Although verse 20 says, “And about the time of her death the women that stood by her said unto her, ‘Fear not; for thou hast borne a son,’ but she answered not, neither did she regard it.” And verses 21 and 22 give some more of what she did and said. We have to understand that she did not die at the same time that the baby was born. But at about the time of her death is when the women told her to not be afraid; for she had borne a son. By this time she was so near death that she made no reply. The name Ichabod means, “inglorious, or the glory is departed.”
(Verses 1 and 2) And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it from Eben-ezer unto Ashdod. When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon.
Dagon was the greatest of the gods of the Philistines. The name means either “corn”, (that is, small grain such as wheat) or “a fish.” However, as we shall soon see, the Philistines, evidently used a man-like statue to represent him. It was a very common thing for any people in those days, when they had conquered some nation that worshipped some god other than the one, or ones that they worshipped, to capture, if possible the god of the nation they had overcome. So the Philistines took the ark of God, and placed it beside Dagon in the house of Dagon, which they considered as rendering honor to the ark of God. They knew nothing of the LORD’S declaration that He will not share His glory with another. As we shall see, they were in for a rude awakening.
(Verses 3 through 9) And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the LORD. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again. And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him. Therefore neither the priests of Dagon, nor any that come into Dagon’s house, tread upon the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod unto this day. But the hand of the LORD was heavy upon them of Ashdod, and He destroyed them, and smote them with emerods, even Ashdod and the coasts thereof. And when the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, The ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us: for His hand is sore upon us, and upon Dagon our god. They sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines unto them, and said, What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel? And they said, Let the ark of the God of Israel be carried about to Gath. And they carried the ark of the God of Israel about thither. And it was so, that, after they had carried it about, the hand of the LORD was against the city with a very great destruction: and He smote the men of the city, both small and great, and they had emerods in their secret parts.
Ashdod was one of the principal cities of the Philistines. And, of course, that is where the Philistines wanted to show off the ark of the LORD, which they had captured. But when they set the ark of the LORD up in the house of their god Dagon, not only did the LORD cause the statue of Dagon to fall down, and be mutilated, but He also sent upon the people a great plague. And it did not take the people of Ashdod long to decide that they did not want the ark of God in their city. After conference with the other lords of the Philistines, they decided to move the ark to Gath, another of their cities. When they set up the ark in Gath, they experienced about the same trouble they had experienced in Ashdod. So they were in terrible straits because of the ark of the God of Israel.
(Verses 10 through 12) Therefore they sent the ark of God to Ekron. And it came to pass, as the ark of God came to Ekron, that the Ekronites cried out, saying, They have brought about the ark of the God of Israel to us, to slay us and our people. So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said, Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it go again to His own place, that it slay us not, and our people: for there was a deadly destruction throughout all the city; the hand of God was heavy there. And the men that died not were smitten with emerods: and the cry of the city went up to heaven.
Wherever the Philistines carried the ark of the LORD, God sent upon the people great destruction. Those who did not die were smitten with the plague of the emerods. So they decided that the only thing they could do was to send the ark of the LORD back to its rightful place.
(Verses 1 through 9) And the ark of the LORD was in the country of the Philistines seven months. And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, What shall we do to the ark of the LORD? tell us wherewith we shall send it to His place And they said, If ye send away the ark of the God of Israel, send it not empty; but in any wise return Him a trespass offering: then ye shall be healed, and it shall be known to you why His hand is not removed from you. Then they said, What shall be the trespass offering which we shall return to Him? They answered, Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines: for one plague was on you all, and on your lords. Wherefore ye shall make images of your emerods, and images of your mice that mar the land; and ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel: peradventure He will lighten His hand from off you, and from off your goods, and from off your land. Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? When He had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed? Now therefore make a new cart, and take two milch kine, on which there hath come no yoke, and tie the kine to the cart, and bring their calves home from them: and take the ark of the LORD, and lay it upon the cart; and put the jewels of gold, which ye return Him for a trespass offering, in a coffer by the side thereof; and send it away, that it may go. And see, if it goeth up by the way of His own coast to Beth-shemesh, then He hath done us this great evil: but if not, then we shall know that it is not His hand that smote us: it was a chance that happened to us.
The ark of the LORD was kept by the Philistines for seven months. And all that time there were such plagues among the Philistines that they wanted to know what to do to stop them. So, as was their custom, they asked their soothsayers what they could do to stop these plagues. Their answer was to send the ark back to its rightful place, and to send with it a trespass offering for their trespass in taking it in the first place. The trespass offering which they sent was not at all unusual in that time. But the manner of their sending the ark back to its place was quite strange. It was even designed to show them whether the plagues had been brought on by their taking the ark, or if it was “a chance that happened to us.” The whole matter is clearly detailed in the text.
(Verses 10 through 15) And the men did so, and took two milch kine, and tied them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home: and they laid the ark of the LORD upon the cart, and the coffer with the mice of gold and the images of their emerods. And the kine took the straight way to the way of Beth-shemesh, and went along the highway, lowing as they went, and turned not to the right hand or to the left; and the lords of the Philistines went after them unto the border of Beth-shemesh. And they of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley: and they lifted up their eyes, and saw the ark, and rejoiced to see it. And the cart came into the field of Joshua, a Beth-shemite, and stood there, where there was a great stone: and they clave the wood of the cart, and offered the kine a burnt offering unto the LORD. And the Levites took down the ark of the LORD, and the coffer that was with it, wherein the jewels of gold were, and put them on the great stone: and the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices the same day unto the LORD.
The men of the Philistines did as their soothsayers had told them. They loaded the ark and the coffer of golden images they had made on the cart, tied two milch cows to it, and shut up their calves at home. Then they turned the cows loose with the cart. The cows then went straight up the road toward Beth-shemesh, and finally stopped in the field of Joshua, a Beth-shemite. This caused great rejoicing among the people of Beth-shemesh, who set the ark and the coffer of images upon a great stone that was near, took the wood of the cart to make a fire, and burned the cows as a burnt offering to the LORD.
(Verses 16 through 18) And when the five lords of the Philistines had seen it, they returned to Ekron the same day. And these are the golden emerods which the Philistines returned for a trespass offering unto the LORD; for Ashdod one, for Gaza one, for Ashkelon one, for Gath one, for Ekron one; and the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both of fenced cities, and of country villages, even unto the great stone of Abel, whereon they set down the ark of the LORD: which stone remaineth unto this day in the field of Joshua the Beth-shemite.
The five lords of the Philistines had followed the cart that carried the ark of the LORD until it reached the field of Joshua. They stopped at the border of Beth-shemesh, and watched the proceedings until the sacrifices and offerings had been offered. Then they returned to their homes. We are here given a list of the cities for which the golden images were offered as a trespass offering. And this was for both the fenced cities and for the unwalled country villages. Apparently the ark of the LORD and the coffer of the images given by the Philistines as a trespass offering were set up on the great rock in the field of Joshua, for the moment.
(Verses 19 through 21) And He smote the men of Beth-shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the Lord, even He smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the LORD had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter. And the men of Beth-shemesh said, Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God? and to whom shall He go up from us? And they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kirjath-jearim, saying, The Philistines have brought again the ark of the LORD; come ye down, and fetch it up to you.
The men of Beth-shemesh did not treat the ark of the LORD with proper respect, but opened it, and looked inside, which they had no authority to do. And because of this the LORD caused fifty thousand and seventy of them to die. Certainly this alarmed the people of Beth-shemesh; so they were afraid to keep the ark with them. Therefore they called the inhabitants of Kirjath-jearim to send some one down to get the ark, and take it out of their care.
(Verses 1 and 2) And the men of Kirjath-jearim came, and fetched up the ark of the LORD, and brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill, and sanctified Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the LORD. And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjath-jearim that the time was long; for it was twenty years: and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.
In answer to the call of the Beth-shemites, the men of Kirjath-jearim went down to Beth-shemesh, and took the ark of the LORD, carried it to Kirjath-jearim, and set it up in the house of Abinadab. Then they consecrated his son Eleazar to keep the ark of the LORD. This arrangement, apparently lasted at least twenty years. In verse 15 the Levites are mentioned as having taken down the ark of the LORD and the coffer of the trespass offering offered by the Philistines; but neither Levite nor priest is mentioned again so far. We are not even told whether or not Eleazar the son of Abinadab was a priest. We are only told that the men of Kirjath-jearim consecrated him to keep the ark of the LORD. It may be that the worship of the idols of the nations around them had so polluted the Israelites’ manner of worship that they for a while did not recognize the priests of the LORD, as they were supposed to do. Nevertheless, the ark of the LORD remained in Kirjath-jearim for twenty years, “and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.”
(Verses 3 through 6) And Samuel spake unto the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve Him only: and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines. Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the LORD only. And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the LORD. And they gathered together to Mizpeh, and drew water, and poured it out before the LORD, and fasted on that day, and said there, We have sinned against the LORD. And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh.
How long the LORD had spared Israel even though they were serving Baalim and Ashtaroth we do not know. But Samuel made an announcement to all Israel that if they would really serve the LORD, they must cast aside all these other gods. If they would do this the LORD would deliver them out of the hands of the Philistines who for so long had oppressed them. He further told them to gather themselves together at Mizpeh, and he would pray to the LORD for them. So they did, indeed, put aside all their idols, and gather together at Mizpeh, where they drew water, and poured it out before the LORD as a drink offering. This act might not have such great significance to us as it did to them. But in such an arid area as much of the land of Canaan was, this was the most important drink offering that could be offered. While at Mizpeh, Samuel had all Israel bring before him their controversies, and he judged them.
(Verses 7 and 8) And when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpeh, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines. And the children of Israel said to Samuel, Cease not to cry unto the LORD our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines.
Of course, the Philistines heard of the gathering together of the children of Israel: and they thought Israel was gathering together to make war upon them. So they also prepared for battle. When the Israelites heard this, they were afraid of the Philistines. Then they called upon Samuel to continuously pray for them that the LORD would deliver them from the Philistines.
(Verses 9 through 12) And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto the LORD: and Samuel cried unto the LORD for Israel, and the LORD heard him. And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the LORD thundered a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them ; and they were smitten before Israel. And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them, until they came under Beth-car. Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.
This clearly sets forth the fact that the LORD is able to help those who sincerely call upon Him, whatever the odds that may seem stacked against them. It was He, and not the Israelites that won the victory in this battle. One might be interested in the names that are mentioned here. “Mizpeh,” or “Mizpah,” as it is sometimes spelled, means “watch tower.” Eben-ezer” is “stone of help.” And “Shen,” means “tooth,” and was so named because it is a large rock shaped like a tooth. The name, “Beth-car,” means, “the house of the battering rams.”
(Verses 13 through 17) So the Philistines were subdued, and they came no more into the coast of Israel: and the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. And the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron even unto Gath, and the coasts thereof did Israel deliver out of the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites. And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. And he went from year to year in circuit to Beth-el, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel in all those places. And his return was to Ramah; for there was his house; and there he judged Israel; and there he built an altar unto the LORD.
After this battle the Philistines were subdued all the days of the life of Samuel. And there also was peace with the Amorites. Samuel judged Israel all the remainder of his life. His home was in Ramah, but he also traveled in circuit to Beth-el, Gilgal, and Mizpeh to judge Israel.
(Verses 1 through 5) And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel. Now the name o his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beer-sheba. And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment. Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, and said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
Just as so often comes to pass in this world, a man can live a very exemplary life, and because of that his sons may be placed in positions of honor; but they do not follow in his examples, the sons of Samson became crooked judges, taking bribes, and perverting judgment because of their love of wealth. Samuel was so old that he, probably, could not do anything to control them if he had tried. And like many are, he may have been somewhat blinded to their faults. At any rate, the matter became so irritating to the elders of Israel that they all came to Samuel demanding that he make them a king, so they would be like all the nations. This is what many among the people of the LORD want today, conformity to the practices of those around us. However the LORD had commanded Israel that they should never make themselves a king. But regardless of His commandments they decided that they knew better than He what would be for their good. Human nature was the same then as now. It has not changed.
(Verses 6 through 9) But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. and Samuel prayed unto the LORD. And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken Me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.
Samuel was somewhat displeased at the request of the elders; so he prayed to the LORD concerning the matter. But the LORD told him to go ahead and do what the people wanted him to do. He further told him that the people were not rejecting Samuel, but were, instead, actually rejecting Him, the LORD, that He should not reign over them. This was in perfect keeping with their rebellious ways ever since He had brought them out of the land of Egypt. So Samuel was to warn them very solemnly as to what kind of a king they would have to rule over them, but he was, nevertheless to give them a king.
(Verses 10 through 18) And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king. And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: he will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth part of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in the day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.
The LORD had commanded Samuel to tell the children of Israel exactly what kind of a king they would get. That is, how he would act toward them. And this he proceeded to do. His description of their king is very clear. The only excuse they could have for continuing to demand a king is that they did not believe what the LORD had told them by the mouth of Samuel. If they did not believe His word in this, it was because they did not believe Him in anything which He had commanded them. And that had, of course, been their condition all the time.
(Verses 19 through 22) Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; that we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles. And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.
As was to be expected, the people refused to obey the word of Samuel, and continued to demand a king. It is worthy of note that the first reason they gave for wanting a king is “that they might be like all the nations.” The LORD had chosen them to be His special nation, and He gave them His laws that they, by obeying them , would be different from all other nations, and He promised that if they did obey Him, He would bless them above all other nations. But now they wanted to be “like all the nations.” We seem to be following exactly in their footsteps. Our Lord Jesus has, by His own precious blood,” redeemed us from our sins, and has, by the pen of the Apostle Paul, told us, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2) Yet, it seems that more and more we are trying to be “like all the nations.” That is, we are more and more conforming to the ways of the world. There was a time, and that within the days of my own memory, that the church required its members to attempt to walk after the commandments of the LORD. But now, most of our churches, even when knowing that some of there members are making no attempt to live according to the commandments of God, not only say nothing about their failure to walk as Christians, but even want to hold them in honorable positions in the church. The men of Israel refused to heed the LORD’S warning concerning the king they would set up. So Samuel went again to the LORD concerning their answer. But the LORD told him to give them what they asked for. So Samuel dismissed them, and they all went to their own homes.
(Verses 1 through 4) Now there was a man of Benjamin, whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bechorath, the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite, a mighty man of power. And he had a son, whose name was Saul, a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from the shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people. And the asses of Kish Saul’s father were lost. And Kish said to Saul his son, Take now one of the servants with thee, and arise, go seek the asses. And he passed through mount Ephraim, and passed through the land of Shalishah, but they were not: and he passed through the land of the Benjamites, but they found them not.
Here we have the introduction of Saul of Benjamin. The narrative so far is clear enough that it should need no explanation. But the real significance of this text is that Saul was the man that would be made king over Israel, and this is only the details of his coming to this appointment, as we shall shortly see. This is another piece of evidence that proves that the LORD brings all things to pass as He sees fit. He even uses small things to bring about His purposes.
(Verses 5 through 10) And when they were come to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant that was with him, Come, and let us return; lest my father leave caring for the asses, and take thought for us. And he said unto him, Behold now, there is in this city a man of God, and he is an honourable man; all that he saith cometh surely to pass: peradventure he can shew us our way that we should go. Then Saul said to his servant, But, behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man? for the bread is spent in our vessels, and there is not a present to bring to the man of God: what have we? And the servant answered Saul again, and said, Behold, I have here at hand the fourth part of a shekel of silver: that will I give to the man of God, to tell us our way. (Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a seer.) Then said Saul to his servant, Well said; come, let us go. So they went unto the city where the man of God was.
Now Saul and his servant had come to the city where Samuel was. And after counting their assets the servant found that he had what they considered a sufficient amount of money to offer to the seer, Samuel, that he might tell them which way they should go. The servant’s first statement concerning Samuel is noteworthy. “Behold now, there is in this city a man of God, and he is an honourable man; all that he saith cometh surely to pass.” This seems to indicate that others who claimed to be “men of God” might not have been honorable, and that what they said might not be always reliable. Sadly, that is also the situation today. Saul and his servant decided to inquire of the LORD by Samuel. So they went unto the city where he was.
(Verses 11 through 14) And as they went up the hill to the city, they found young maidens going out to draw water, and said unto them, Is the seer here? And they answered them, and said, He is; behold, he is before you: make haste now, for he came today to the city; for there is a sacrifice of the people today in the high place; As soon as ye be come into the city, ye shall straightway find him, before ye go up to the high place to eat: for the people will not eat until he come, because he doth bless the sacrifice; and afterwards they eat that are bidden. Now therefore get you up into the city: and when they were come into the city, behold, Samuel came out against them, for to go to the high place.
It is not ours to judge this matter, but there seem to be some irregularities concerning this sacrifice. The LORD had commanded the children of Israel to bring their sacrifices and offerings to the tabernacle of the congregation to offer them, while this sacrifice was made at one of the “high places” of Israel, and not at the tabernacle of the congregation, or the house of God. Nevertheless Samuel a chosen man of God, and a Prophet of the LORD officiated at it, for it was he who blessed the sacrifice before the people began eating. So evidently the LORD blessed these proceedings. Perhaps, it was not considered as actually a sacrifice, but only a feast that was being held because Samuel was to be there.
(Verses 15 through 20) Now the LORD had told Samuel in his ear a day before Saul came, saying, Tomorrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over My people Israel, that he may save My people out of the hand of the Philistines: for I have looked upon My people, because their cry is come unto Me. And when Samuel saw Saul, the LORD said unto him, Behold the man whom I spake to thee of! this same shall reign over My people. Then Saul drew near to Samuel in the gate, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, where the seer’s house is. And Samuel answered Saul, and said, I am the seer: go up before me unto the high place; for ye shall eat with me today, and tomorrow I will let thee go, and will tell thee all that is in thine heart. And as for the asses that were lost three days ago, set not thy mind on them; for they are found. And on whom is all the desire of Israel? Is it not on thee, and on all thy father’s house?
As Saul approached the city, he met Samuel in the gate, and inquired of him where the Seer’s house was. Samuel had already been instructed of the LORD that on this day the LORD would send to him the man whom he should anoint as king over Israel. And as Saul approached, the LORD told Samuel that this was the man of whom He had spoken to him before. So Samuel told Saul to come with him to the sacrifice, and that he was to remain with him until the next day, and He would tell him “all that is in thine heart.” He also told Saul that the asses he was seeking had already been found. And he said to Saul, “And on whom is all the desire of Israel? Is it not on thee, and on all thy father’s house?” No doubt, this seemed a strange statement to Saul.
(Verses 21 through 24) And Saul answered and said, Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? wherefore then speakest thou so unto me? And Samuel took Saul and his servant, and brought them into the parlour, and made them sit in the chiefest place among them that were bidden, which were about thirty persons. And Samuel said unto the cook, bring the portion which I gave thee, of which I said unto thee, Set it by thee. And the cook took up the shoulder, and that which was upon it, and set it before Saul. And Samuel said, Behold that which is left! set it before thee, and eat: for unto this time hath it been kept for thee since I invited the people. So Saul did eat with Samuel that day.
Saul was indeed perplexed by what Samuel had said to him, and he inquired why he should speak so, since he did not consider his family or himself to be of any prominence in Israel. But Samuel did not enlighten him concerning the matter at that time. Samuel had made preparation for Saul to be his guest at the feast, even before he invited the other guests; and now he called for the portion that was reserved for the guest of honor to be brought forth and set before Saul. So Saul dined with Samuel that day.
(Verses 25 through 27) And when they were come down from the high place into the city, Samuel communed with Saul upon the top of the house. And they arose early: and it came to pass about the spring of the day, that Samuel called Saul to the top of the house, saying, Up, that I may send thee away. And Saul arose, and they went out both of them, he and Samuel, abroad. And as they were going down to the end of the city, Samuel said to Saul, Bid thy servant pass on before us, (and he passed on,) that I may shew thee the word of God.
Most of the houses in that area were made with flat tops which, in good weather, were ideal places to sit and visit with friends. So there is nothing unusual with Samuel and Saul communing together on the housetop. Samuel walked with Saul and his servant as they left his house. He had Saul send his servant on before them that he might speak to him in private, and show him the word of God.
(Verses 1 through 8) Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over His inheritance? When thou art departed from me today, then shalt thou find two men at Rachel’s sepulchre in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah; and they shall say unto thee, The asses which thou wentest to seek are found: and, lo, thy father hath left the care of the asses, and sorroweth for you, saying, What shall I do for my son? Then shalt thou go on from thence, and thou shalt come to the plain of Tabor, and there shall meet thee three men going up to Beth-el, one carrying three kids, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a bottle of wine: and they shall salute thee, and give thee two loaves of bread; which thou shalt receive of their hands. After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy: and the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man. And let it be, when these signs are come unto thee, that thou do as occasion serve thee; for God is with thee. And thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal; and, behold, I will come down unto thee, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice peace offerings: seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come to thee, and shew thee what thou shalt do.
So Samuel took a vial of oil, and with it anointed Saul, and kissed him, declaring to him that the LORD had chosen him to be captain over the inheritance of the LORD. Then he told him which way he was to go on his journey, and just whom he would meet on that way, as well as what those he met would do and what he must do. He even told him that at a certain point the Spirit of the LORD would come upon him, and he would be changed into another man; that is, he would have a complete personality change. And when these things came to pass, he was to simply follow the lead of his mind in what he would do; for the LORD would be leading him. Finally he was to go to Gilgal and remain there for seven days. At the end of the seven days he, Samuel, would come to Gilgal to offer burnt offerings and sacrifices. Then he would further instruct Saul.
(Verses 9 through 13) And it was so, that when he turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart: and all those signs came to pass that day. And when they came thither to the hill, behold, a company of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among the prophets, then the people said one to another, What is this that is come upon the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets? And one of the same place answered and said, But who is their father? Therefore it became a proverb, Is Saul also among the prophets? And when he had made an end of prophesying, he came to the high place.
There was no delay concerning the things Samuel had said would come to pass with Saul. They began to take place immediately after he turned to leave Samuel. The first change was, that “God gave him another heart.” That is, the LORD completely changed his outlook on life, and gave him a completely different personality. When he met the prophets about whom Samuel had told him, the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he prophesied among them. As the people observed this great change in Saul, they wanted to know what had befallen the son of Kish, and began asking, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” This prompted an answering question from one among the crowd, “But who is their father?” This was, probably, only what we would today label as “a smart answer,” and it caused the question, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” to be continued as a proverb. After this incident he came to the high place of which Samuel had told him.
(Verses 14 through 16) And Saul’s uncle said unto him and to his servant, Whither went ye? And he said, To seek the asses: and when we saw that they were no where, we came to Samuel. And Saul’s uncle said, Tell me, I pray thee, what Samuel said unto you. And Saul said unto his uncle, He told us plainly that the asses were found. But of the matter of the kingdom, whereof Samuel spake, he told him not.
This is simply the story of Saul’s conversation with his uncle, and tells us nothing that has not already been covered, except that Saul told his uncle only of Samuel’s assurance to him that the asses had been found, but he told him nothing about what Samuel had said concerning the kingdom.
(Verses 17 through 21) And Samuel called the people together unto the LORD to Mizpeh; and said unto the children of Israel, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all kingdoms, and of them that oppressed you: and ye have this day rejected your God, Who Himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations; and ye have said unto Him, Nay, but set a king over us. Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes, and by your thousands. And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was taken. When he caused the tribe of Benjamin to come near by their families the family of Matri was taken, and Saul the son of Kish was taken: and when they sought him, he could not be found.
Samuel came to Mizpeh, and there called all the children of Israel together. Then he made an announcement to all of them. He first declared to them that the LORD had said they had rejected Him from ruling over them in spite of the great mercy, care, and protection He had given them from His bringing them out of the Egyptian bondage to the present time. But since they had demanded a king, the LORD would give them one. Then he cast lots for the tribe from which the king should be taken, and the tribe of Benjamin was chosen. Then He brought the selection down to the families of Benjamin, and the family of Matri was chosen. And finally Saul the son of Kish was chosen. But he could not be found.
(Verses 22 through 25) Therefore they inquired of the LORD further, if the man should yet come thither. And the LORD answered, Behold, he hath hid himself among the stuff, And they ran and fetched him thence: and when he stood among the people, he was higher than any of the people from his shoulders upward. And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the LORD hath chosen, that there is none like him among the people? And all the people shouted, God save the king. Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the LORD. And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house.
Saul was, apparently a very shy sort of person, at least concerning being made king. So he hid himself away: but the people had Samuel inquire of the LORD as to his whereabouts, and the LORD told them where he had hidden himself. When they brought him before the people, no doubt, he was very impressive because of his height, for he was from his shoulders up taller that any of the people. Then Samuel declared him to be the LORD’S choice as their king. Then he wrote what we would today call the constitution of the kingdom in a book, and laid it up before the LORD. Then he dismissed the people, and let them go home.
(Verses 26 and 27) And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched. But the children of Belial said, How shall this man save us? And they despised him, and brought him no presents. But he held his peace.
As in all kingdoms of men, there will be at least two parties, so there were in Israel. And since the kingdom was set up, and the king appointed, by God Himself, it follows that those whose hearts God had touched would follow the king, and those evil ones whose hearts the LORD had not touched would be against the king. So some went with Saul; but those whose hearts were evil despised him, and would make no contribution to him. But, for the moment Saul said nothing about this.
(Verses 1 through 3) Then Nahash the Ammonite came up, and encamped against Jabesh-gilead: and all the men of Jabesh said unto Nahash, Make a covenant with us, and we will serve thee. And Nahash the Ammonite answered them, On this condition will I make a covenant with you, that I may thrust out all your right eyes, and lay it for a reproach upon all Israel. And the elders of Jabesh said unto him, Give us seven days’ respite, that we may send messengers unto all the coasts of Israel: and then, if there be no man to save us, we will come out to thee.
This seems a somewhat strange situation. The Ammonites were the descendants of Lot the nephew of Abraham. Therefore one might expect to find some friendliness and compassion between them and Israel. But, apparently there was none. It also seems strange that Nahash would agree to give the men of Jabesh seven days in which to send for help before engaging them in battle, seeing that he evidently had a much superior army than the people of Jabesh, and could, likely, overcome them, and do what he wanted to do before that much time expired. The men of Jabesh knew that they could not fight off Nahash and his army. Nevertheless Nahash must have granted them the time they requested.
(Verses 4 through 11) Then came the messengers to Gibeah of Saul, and told the tidings in the ears of the people: and all the people lifted up their voices, and wept. And, behold, Saul came after the herd out of the field; and Saul said, What aileth the people that they weep? And they told him the tidings of the men of Jabesh. And the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard those tidings, and his anger was kindled greatly. And he took a yoke of oxen, and hewed them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the coasts of Israel by the hands of messengers, saying, Whosoever cometh not forth after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done unto his oxen. And the fear of the LORD fell on the people, and they came with one consent. And when he numbered them in Bezek, the children of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand. And they said unto the messengers that came, Thus shall ye say unto the men of Jabesh-gilead, Tomorrow, by that time the sun be hot, ye shall have help. And the messengers came and shewed it to the men of Jabesh; and they were glad. Therefore the men of Jabesh said, Tomorrow we will come out unto you, and ye shall do with us all that seemeth good unto you, And it was so on the morrow, that Saul put the people in three companies; and they came into the midst of the host in the morning watch, and slew the Ammonites until the heat of the day: and it came to pass, that they which remained were scattered, so that two of them were not together.
Until this time Saul had evidently not made any effort to take over the role of king. When the messengers came from Jabesh-gilead, he was not with the people, but was watching over his herd in the field. As He came in from the field he found the people weeping loudly because of the word the messengers of Jabesh-gilead had brought. So He inquired as to what the trouble might be, and was told about the situation. This greatly angered him, and at the same time the Spirit of the LORD came upon him. So he took a yoke of oxen, cut them up into pieces, and sent them throughout all Israel, declaring that anyone who refused to join him and Samuel would have a like thing done to his oxen. The fear of the LORD so moved the people that all came together as one to follow Saul and Samuel. Saul sent word to the men of Kadesh-gilead that on the next day, by the time the sun got hot they would have help. So they sent word out to Nahash that they would come out to him the next day, and he could do as he pleased with them. But in the morning watch of the next day Saul and his army came upon the Ammonites, and completely destroyed them so that no two of them were even left together.
(Verses 12 through 15) And the people said unto Samuel. Who is he that said, Shall Saul reign over us? bring the men, that we may put them to death. And Saul said, There shall not a man be put to death this day: for today the LORD hath wrought salvation in Israel. Then said Samuel to the people, Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there. And all the people went to Gilgal; and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal; and there they sacrificed sacrifices of peace offerings before the LORD; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.
(Verses 1 through 5) And Samuel said unto all Israel, Behold, I have hearkened unto your voice in all that ye said unto me, and have made a king over you. And now, behold, the king walketh before you: and I am old and grayheaded; and, behold, my sons are with you: and I have walked before you from my childhood unto this day. Behold, here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you. And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken aught of any man’s hand. And he said unto them, The LORD is witness against you, and His anointed is witness this day, that ye have not found aught in my hand. And they answered, He is witness.
This is Samuel’s speech to the people wherein he called upon them to bear witness if he had ever done anything in his dealings with them that was not completely just, And they declared that they found no fault in him. Then he called upon them to acknowledge that the Lord and His anointed were witnesses before them of this declaration, and they acknowledged the same. So they publicly declared him clear in all things.
(Verses 6 through 11) And Samuel said unto the people, It is the LORD that advanced Moses and Aaron, and that brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt. Now therefore stand still, that I may reason with you before the LORD of all the righteous acts of the LORD, which He did to you and to your fathers. When Jacob was come into Egypt, and your fathers cried unto the LORD, then the LORD sent Moses and Aaron, which brought forth your fathers out of Egypt, and made them dwell in this place. And when they forgat the LORD their God, He sold them into the hand of Sisera, captain of the host of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab, and they fought against them. And they cried unto the LORD, and said, We have sinned, because we have forsaken the LORD, and have served Baalim and Ashtaroth: but now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve Thee. And the LORD sent Jerubbaal, and Bedan, and Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and ye dwelled safe.
Samuel gives a very abbreviated account of the LORD’S wonderful care of Israel from their coming out of Egypt down to their present time. In all this He gives the LORD the glory for His wonderful care of them, and shows that they have always been rebellious, even from the beginning.
(Verses 12 through 15) And when ye saw that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon came against you, ye said unto me, Nay; but a king shall reign over us: when the LORD your God was your king. Now therefore behold the king whom ye have chosen, and whom ye have desired! And, behold, the LORD hath set a king over you. If ye will fear the LORD, and serve Him, and obey His voice, and not rebel against the commandment pf the LORD, then shall both ye and also the king that reigneth over you continue following the LORD your God: but if ye will not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall the hand of the LORD be against you, as it was against your fathers.
The final incident Samuel mentioned was that of Nahash and the Ammonites and their attack upon Jabesh-gilead. When the Israelites saw this, they wanted a king instead of the LORD to rule over them. And this the LORD granted them. Samuel then set before them two possibilities. One was that if they and their king would follow the commandments of the LORD, He would still keep them. But if they did not, He would be against them as He was against their fathers.
(Verses 16 through 19) Now therefore stand and see this great thing, which the LORD will do before your eyes. Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call unto the LORD, and He shall send thunder and rain; that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which ye have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking you a king. So Samuel called unto the LORD; and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day: and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel. And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the LORD thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king.
Having completed his address to Israel, Samuel commanded them to stand and watch while the LORD brought forth a wonderful sign to show them just how evil was their desire to have a king. The time of wheat harvest was in a time that was always a dry season. So the sign that was to be shown was that there would be thunder and rain that day, which was during the time of wheat harvest, and had never occurred before. Rain during wheat harvest would certainly damage the wheat; and this was their punishment for demanding a king. When this sign was brought about the people were very much afraid of the LORD, and of Samuel, So they begged Samuel to pray for them. And although they confessed that they had sinned in demanding a king, they did not turn away from that demand, and they did not even claim the LORD as their God. They said, “Pray for thy servants unto the LORD thy God, that we die not.” They did not say, “Pray for thy servants unto the LORD our God.” There is quite a difference.
(Verses 20 through 25) And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart; and turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain. For the LORD will not forsake His people for His great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you His people. Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way: only fear the LORD, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider how great things He hath done for you. But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both you and your king.
Thus Samuel assures the people that the LORD will not turn away from His people, and that he will not cease to pray for them. But he also commands them to follow the LORD without turning away from Him, because He has done so many wonderful things for them. However, if they shall still do wickedly, He will destroy them and their king.
(Verses 1 through 4) Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel, Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel; whereof two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and in mount Beth-el, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin: and the rest of the people he sent every man to his tent. And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, Let the Hebrews hear. And all Israel heard say that Saul had smitten a garrison of the Philistines, and that Israel also was had in abomination with the Philistines. And the people were called together after Saul to Gibeah.
Apparently Saul did not even set up what we would call, “a standing army,” until he had been king for two years. Then he made choice of three thousand men for his army, and divided it into two parts. One part, consisting of two thousand men he kept under his command in mount Beth-el; while the other part, about one thousand men, he placed under the command of his son Jonathan, and stationed them in Gibeah of Benjamin. Jonathan took his company and destroyed the garrison of the Philistines at Geba. This, of course, angered the Philistines, and a state of war existed between the Israelites and the Philistines. So Saul put forth a call for all Israel to prepare for war; and the people all came together after Saul at Gilgal.
(Verses 5 through 7) And the Philistines gathered themselves together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude: and they came up, and pitched in Michmash, eastward from Beth-aven. When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait, (for the people were distressed,) then the people did hide themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits. And some of the Hebrews went over Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.
When the people of Israel saw the great multitude of the Philistines that were gathered to fight against them, they were greatly afraid, and began to hide themselves wherever they could. Some of them even crossed over Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. But Saul still waited in Gilgal, and those that followed him were fearful and trembling.
(Verses 8 through 10) And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering. And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him that he might salute him.
Samuel had appointed a time that he would come to Saul at Gilgal. So Saul waited the appointed seven days. And when Samuel was a little late in arriving, Saul became impatient, and offered a burnt offering unto the LORD, which was something he was not authorized of the LORD to do. And just as he finished this offering Samuel arrived. So Saul went out to greet him.
(Verses 11 through 16) And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash; therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering. And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which I commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought a man after His own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over His people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee. And Samuel arose, and gat him up from Gilgal unto Gibeah of Benjamin. And Saul numbered the people that were present with him, about six hundred men. And Saul, and Jonathan his son, and the people that were present with them, abode in Gibeah of Benjamin: but the Philistines encamped in Michmash.
Apparently Samuel, after rebuking Saul for not obeying the commandment of the LORD, which he, Samuel, had delivered to him, did not even offer the peace offerings to God that had been prepared, but went immediately to Gibeah. After his departure, Saul numbered the people who remained with him, and found that there were only about six hundred of what apparently was the remnant of both his two thousand, and the thousand that had followed Jonathan. Certainly this did not seem very encouraging for him.
(Verses 17 and 18) And the spoilers came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies: one company turned unto the way that leadeth to Ophrah, unto the land of Shual: and another company turned to the way of Beth-horon: and another company turned to the way of the border that looketh to the valley of Zeboim toward the wilderness.
This seems clear enough to need no explanation, But it certainly must have been very disturbing to Saul and Jonathan, and the few men who were with them.
(Verses 19 through 23) Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears: but all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock. Yet they had a file for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads. So it came to pass in the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan: but with Saul and Jonathan his son was there found. And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the passage of Michmash.
Thus is described the conditions of the Israelites so far as being armed for war is concerned. It was a seemingly hopeless situation.
(Verses 1 through 3) Now it came to pass upon a day, that Jonathan the son of Saul said unto the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over to the Philistines garrison, that is on the other side. But he told not his father. And Saul tarried in the uttermost part of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree which is in Migron: and the people that were with him were about six hundred men; and Ahiah, the son of Ahitub, Ichabod’s brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the LORD’S priest in Shiloh, wearing an ephod. And the people knew not that Jonathan was gone.
Saul was encamped under a pomegranate tree in Migron, with the six hundred men who remained with him. He also had with him a priest, Abiah by name, a descendant of Eli who had been priest in Shiloh, and before whom Samuel had been trained. Saul’s son Jonathan took his armor bearer with him, and made a secret excursion to the garrison of the Philistines.
(Verses 4 through 10) And between the passages, by which Jonathan sought to go over unto the Philistines’ garrison, there was a sharp rock on the one side, and a sharp rock on the other side: and the name of the one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh. The forefront of the one was situate northward over against Michmash, and the other southward over against Gibeah. And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few. And his armour bearer said unto him, Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart. Then said Jonathan, Behold, we will pass over unto these men, and we will discover ourselves unto them. If they say thus unto us, Tarry until we come to you; then we will stand still in our place, and will not go up unto them. But if they say thus, Come up unto us; then we will go up: for the LORD hath delivered them into our hand: and this shall be a sign unto us.
No doubt this whole incident is one that was brought about by the LORD. So, surely, this signal which Jonathan gave to his armor bearer was also given him of the LORD. And. As we shall see, it worked exactly as Jonathan had predicted that it would.
(Verses 11 through 18) And both of them discovered themselves unto the garrison of the Philistines: and the Philistines said, Behold, the Hebrews come forth out of the holes where they hid themselves. And the men of the garrison answered Jonathan and his armour bearer, and said, Come up to us, and we will shew you a thing. And Jonathan said unto his armour bearer, Come up after me: for the LORD hath delivered them into the hand of Israel. And Jonathan climbed up upon his hands and upon his feet, and his armour-bearer after him: and they fell before Jonathan; and his armour bearer slew after him. And that first slaughter, which Jonathan and his armour-bearer made, was about twenty men, within as it were an half acre of land, which a yoke of oxen might plow. And there was trembling in the host, in the field, and among all the people: the garrison, and the spoilers, they also trembled, and the earth quaked: so it was a very great trembling. And the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked, and, behold, the multitude melted away, and they went on beating down one another. Then said Saul unto the people that were with him, Number now, and see who is gone from us. And when they had numbered, behold, Jonathan and his armour bearer were not there. And Saul said unto Ahiah, Bring hither the ark of God. For the ark of God was at that time with the children of Israel.
When Jonathan and his armor bearer showed themselves to the men of the garrison, those men were, likely, a little surprised, but they called to Jonathan and his companion, and said for them to come up to them, and they would show them a thing. We never find out what it was that they thought they would show them, for as Jonathan came up to them, they fell down, and his armor bearer killed them as they fell. In a space of about a half acre, they killed about twenty men. At the same time, the LORD caused an earthquake, which so confused the Philistines that they began fighting each other. In this manner the whole multitude destroyed themselves. Saul’s watchmen saw this, and called it to his attention. So he commanded a census to be taken of those present so that he might know who, if anyone, was missing. Thus they determined that Jonathan and his armor bearer were not present. So Saul called Ahiah the priest, and told him to bring to him the ark of God, which was at that time still with them.
(Verses 19 through 23) And it came to pass, while Saul talked unto the priest, that the noise that was in the host of the Philistines went on and increased: and Saul said unto the priest, Withdraw thine hand. And Saul and all the people that were with him assembled themselves, and came to the battle: and, behold, every man’s sword was against his fellow, and there was a great discomfiture. Moreover the Hebrews that were with the Philistines before that time, which went up with them into the camp from the country about, even they also turned to be with the Israelites that were with Saul and Jonathan. Likewise all the men of Israel which had hid themselves in mount Ephraim, when they heard that the Philistines fled, even they also followed hard after them in the battle. So the LORD saved Israel that day, and the battle passed over unto Beth-aven.
This was quite an unusual battle, but it seems to be clearly enough described to need no explanation. Of course, as with any of the miracles the LORD has done and had recorded in the Bible, there are many who will say that it could not have taken place that way. But they also will tell you that the world was not created by God, but just happened to be an explosion off the sun, or some other “natural phenomenon.” But even that leaves another great question: if the earth is just an explosion off the sun, or some other heavenly body, where did that body come from? I have no difficulty believing that God created the heaven and the earth just as he has told us He did: and neither do I have any difficulty in believing the account here recorded of that battle.
(Verses 24 through 27) And the men of Israel were distressed that day: for Saul had adjured the people, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies. So none of the people tasted any food. And all they of the land came to a wood; and there was honey upon the ground. And when the people were come into the wood, behold, the honey dropped; but no man put his hand to his mouth: for the people feared the oath. But Jonathan heard not when his father charged the people with the oath:: wherefore he put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in an honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened.
Here we have an instance in which Jonathan the son of Saul ignorantly disobeyed a commandment of his father. Saul had pronounced a curse upon any Israelite who even so much as tasted any food, before he was avenged upon the Philistines, or before the end of the day. But Jonathan did not hear him when he said this. And as they passed through a wooded area, there, apparently, were so many bees in the area, and they had made so much honey that it even had dripped down from the trees in which they were. And as Jonathan passed through the area, he dipped the end of the rod he carried into the honey, took some of the honey off the rod with his finger, and ate it. Since at this time all the Israelites were about to faint from hunger, the statement, “and his eyes were enlightened,” may simply mean that it refreshed him so that with renewed strength he could see more clearly, or it may mean that at that time the LORD gave him a clearer insight into the situation.
(Verses 28 through 32) Then answered one of the people, and said, Thy father straitly charged the people with an oath, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food this day. And the people were faint. Then said Jonathan, My father hath troubled the land: see, I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened, because I tasted a little of this honey. How much more, if haply the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies which they found? for had there not now been a much greater slaughter among the Philistines? And they smote the Philistines that day from Michmash to Aijalon: and the people were very faint. And the people flew upon the spoil, and took sheep, and oxen, and calves, and slew them on the ground: and the people did eat them with the blood.
When one of his fellows told Jonathan about the curse under which Saul had placed all the people, he said his father had “troubled the land.” As his own case proved, if the Israelites had all eaten of the spoil of their enemies, they would have had a much greater victory than even that which the LORD had given them. As the day wore on there was a great slaughter among the Philistines. That is, as they had begun, so they continued to kill one another. And although the Israelites were faint from hunger, they also fought against the Philistines all the way from Michmash to Aijalon. When the battle was over, the men of Israel were so hungry that they began to kill sheep and oxen, and eat them with the blood. This is a violation of not only the law that the LORD had given to Israel by Moses, but also one that antedates that by many years. God gave the commandment to Noah, that no man should eat blood.
(Verses 33 through 35) Then they told Saul, saying, Behold, the people sin against the LORD, in that they eat with the blood. And he said, Ye have transgressed: roll a great stone unto me this day. And Saul said, Disperse yourselves among the people, and say unto them, Bring me hither every man his ox, and every man his sheep, and slay them here, and eat; and sin not against the LORD in eating with the blood. And all the people brought every man his ox with him that night, and slew them there. And Saul built an altar unto the LORD: the same was the first altar that he built unto the LORD.
When Saul was made aware of the fact that the people were eating with the blood, he commanded that a big stone be brought, and that the people bring all their oxen and sheep to that rock to slaughter them, and that they not eat the blood. This was done, and all the people did as commanded. And there Saul built his first altar unto the LORD.
(Verses 36 through 40) And Saul said, Let us go down after the Philistines by night, and spoil them until the morning light, and let us not leave a man of them. And they said, Do whatsoever seemeth good unto thee. Then said the priest, Let us draw near hither unto God. And Saul asked counsel of God, Shall I go down after the Philistines? wilt Thou deliver them into the hand of Israel? But He answered him not that day, And Saul said, Draw ye near hither, all the chief of the people: and know and see wherein this sin hath been this day. For, as the LORD liveth, Which saveth Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die. But there was not a man among all the people that answered him. Then said he unto all Israel, Be ye on one side, and I and Jonathan my son will be on the other side. And the people said, Do what seemeth good unto thee.
When Saul decided to go against the Philistines that night, the priest wanted him first to ask the counsel of the LORD concerning the venture. And when he did this, he received no answer from the LORD. So he set up a test to find out whose sin it was that caused the LORD to give him no answer. He had all the men of Israel to be on one side while he and Jonathan were on the other side, in preparation for casting lots to find out who was to be blamed.
(Verses 41 through 46) Therefore Saul said unto the LORD God of Israel, Give a perfect lot. And Saul and Jonathan were taken: but the people escaped. And Saul said, Cast lots between me and Jonathan my son. And Jonathan was taken. Then Saul said to Jonathan, Tell me what thou hast done. And Jonathan told him, and said, I did but taste a little honey with the end of the rod that was in my hand, and, lo, I must die. And Saul answered, God do so and more also: for thou shalt surely die, Jonathan. And the people said unto Saul, Shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel? God forbid: as the LORD liveth, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground; for he hath wrought with God this day. So the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not. Then Saul went up from following the Philistines: and the Philistines went to their own place.
So as the lots were cast the final lot fell on Jonathan. Then Saul demanded of him that he tell him what he had done. And when Jonathan told of the incident of the honey, Saul wanted to kill him. But the people rescued Jonathan from that sentence because it was he by whom the LORD had saved Israel that day from the Philistines.
(Verses 47 through 52) So Saul took the kingdom over Israel, and fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, and against the children of Ammon, and against Edom, and against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines: and whithersoever he turned himself, he vexed them. And he gathered an host, and smote the Amalekites, and delivered Israel out of the hands of them that spoiled them. Now the sons of Saul were Jonathan, and Ishui, and Melchishua: and the names of his daughters were these; the name of the firstborn Merab, and the name of the younger Michal: and the Saul’s wife was Ahinoam, the daughter of Ahimaaz: and the name of the captain of his host was Abner the son of Ner, Saul’s uncle. And Kish was the father of Saul; and Ner the father of Abner was the son of Abiel. And there was sore war against the Philistines all the days of Saul: and when Saul saw any strong man, or any valiant man, he took him unto him.
Here we are told more details concerning the family of Saul. And it all seems to be clear enough without further comments. During his reign, he fought against all the enemies of Israel, most of whom are named herein. And all his life he was at war against the Philistines. Therefore he was on the constant lookout for strong and valiant men for his army.
(Verses 1 through 5) Samuel said also unto Saul, The LORD sent me to anoint thee to be king over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. And Sail gathered the people together, and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand men of Judah. And Saul came to a city of Amalek, and laid wait in the valley.
Samuel gave Saul a commission from the LORD. There seem to be many today that do not believe that God could give such a command as the one He gave to Saul at this time by the voice of Samuel. They will tell us that God is far too gentle and loving to give such commandments. However He had Samuel to tell Saul that He remembered what Amalek had done to Israel when Israel came up from Egypt. Amalek had tried to ambush Israel to destroy them. So now the command is that Saul go and utterly destroy the Amalekites and all that they have. Not even women and babies are to be spared, but all are to be slain, and all their animals destroyed also. So Saul gathered a total force of two hundred and ten thousand to do this operation. The first city of the Amalekites to which he came, he set an ambush against it.
(Verses 6 through 9) And Saul said unto the Kenites, Go, depart , get you down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them: for ye shewed kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt. So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt. And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.
Before Saul started his battle against the Amalekites, he warned all the Kenites that lived among them to get themselves out from among them, and leave the area so that he would do them no harm, since they had shown kindness to Israel when Israel came up out of Egypt. And this they did. Then he started his war against the Amalekites. He was successful in this war, and overran all the country of the Amalekites, destroying all the people except their king, Agag, and all the best of their cattle. These they spared in spite of the LORD’S commandment to destroy everything they owned.
(Verses 10 through 15) Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying, It repenteth Me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following Me, and hath not performed My commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night. And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, it was told Samuel, saying, Saul came to Carmel, and, behold, he set him up a place, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal. And Samuel came to Saul; and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD. And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear? And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.
This is one of the most outstanding events of its kind recorded in the scriptures. If the matter had stopped here, we, probably would have passed it over, thinking that Saul had been obedient to the commandment of the LORD. After all, he had gone as the LORD had commanded him, and he had destroyed all the Amalekites except their king, Agag, and all their substance except the very best of their sheep and cattle. Would not we consider that he had done the most important things he had been commanded to do? He was very proud of himself for having thus destroyed the enemies of the LORD. So he said to Samuel, “I have performed the commandment of the LORD.” But God had already told Samuel that Saul had not done what He had told him to do. And Samuel then asked him, “What meaneth then the bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” Dead sheep do not bleat, and neither do dead oxen low. Therefore had he performed the commandment of the LORD as delivered to him, these sounds could not have occurred. But like so many of us, when we are “caught up with” concerning something we have done wrong, he tried to make an excuse. First, he tried to lay all the blame on the people. And second, he tried to claim it was for a good cause. He said, “They (the people) have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice them unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.” He failed to realize that since the people were under his command, he was responsible for whatever they did. Therefore it was he who must bear the blame for not completely destroying both Agag, and all the sheep and oxen.
(Verses 16 through 23) Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the LORD hath said unto me this night. And he said unto him, Say on. And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel? And the LORD sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed. Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the LORD? And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal. And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, He hath also rejected thee from being king.
Samuel delivered quite a rebuke to Saul. He reminded Saul that when Saul was humble, the LORD chose him to be king over Israel. But now that he is the king, he has thrown aside the commandment of the LORD Who told him to go and utterly destroy the Amalekites and all that they had; and, instead of completely destroying them, he has spared their king, and kept some of their sheep and cattle. The fact that he claims the animals that he spared were to be offered as sacrifices to the LORD, makes no difference in the matter. For the LORD is more pleased by obedience to His commands than with any number of sacrifices and offerings. Saul’s excuse that it was the people who had spared these animals for sacrifice is not to be recognized. Saul was in charge of the operation, and therefore what was done was his responsibility, and the blame is his instead of being on the people. He further tells him that “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” Some might say that he was not rebellious, but he just thought the LORD would be pleased with so many burnt offerings and sacrifices. But, whatever our reason for doing so, when we substitute our thoughts for the commandments of the LORD, we are guilty of rebellion, which is as the sin of witchcraft. And when we continue to try to justify our wrongs by claiming that we did them so that we might do something we think is better than that which He has commanded, we are being stubborn, which is as iniquity and idolatry. It is always better to follow what the LORD has commanded exactly as He has ordered it, instead of substituting our ideas for His. So Samuel said to Saul, “Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, He hath also rejected thee from being king.” There is nothing said about giving Saul another chance: he has been rejected by the LORD.
(Verses 24 through 31) And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD. And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel. And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent. And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou. And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for He is not a man, that He should repent. Then he said, I have sinned: yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD thy God. So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped the LORD.
After Samuel rebuked Saul, and turned away from him, Saul confessed that he had sinned in disobeying the commandment of the LORD, but he still wanted to lay the blame on the people, saying that he was afraid of the people, and therefore obeyed their word instead of the word of the LORD, Then he asked Samuel to pardon his sin, and turn back with him to worship the LORD. But Samuel refused to even worship the LORD with him, because since he had rejected the commandment of the LORD, the LORD had also rejected him from being king of Israel. As Samuel started to leave, Saul caught hold of the skirt of his mantle, and tore it. Then Samuel told him that the LORD had rent the kingdom from his (Saul’s) hand, and had given it to a neighbor of Saul, “one that is better than thou.” He also told Saul that this was final because “the Strength of Israel will not repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.” Men are always saying what they will do, and then changing their minds, and not doing what they say. But that is not God’s way, for He is not a man. Then Saul again confessed that he had sinned, and begged Samuel to honor him one more time before the elders of the people, and “turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD thy God.” Notice that Saul said, “the LORD thy God,” not “the LORD my God,” seemingly afraid to claim the LORD as his God. So Samuel granted him this request, and “Saul worshipped the LORD.”
(Verses 32 and 33) Then said Samuel, Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came unto him delicately. And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is passed. And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal.
So Samuel finished the work the LORD had commanded Saul to do. When he called for Agag to be brought before him, Agag thought that the threat of death was over for him. But Samuel himself took a sword and killed him therewith. The statement, “And
Samuel hewed Agag to pieces before the LORD in Gilgal,” seems to indicate that the killing of Agag was really the offering of a sacrifice to the LORD. For it was done before the LORD in Gilgal. It was in the place where the Israelites had been making their offerings to the LORD.
(Verses 34 and 35) Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house to Gibeah of Saul. And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.
This seems to be abundantly clear, except that men have for ages argued over whether or not God can repent of anything in the same sense as do men. But since His ways and His thoughts are as high above ours as the heavens are above the earth, where do we get the authority for such arguments. Whether this means that the LORD was actually sorry that He had made Saul king of Israel, or whether it simply means that He withdrew His blessings from him, and gave the kingdom to another is none of our business. And we will never know the answer unless, and until the LORD does Himself explain it to us.
(Verses 1 through 5) And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Beth-lehemite: for I have provided Me a king among his sons. And Samuel said, How can I go? If Saul hear it, he will kill me. And the LORD said, take an heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice unto the LORD. And call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will shew thee what thou shalt do: and thou shalt anoint unto Me him whom I shall name unto thee. And Samuel did that which the LORD spake, and came to Beth-lehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, Comest thou peaceably? And he said, Peaceably: I am come to sacrifice unto the LORD: sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice. And he sanctified Jesse and his sons, and called them to the sacrifice.
Apparently Samuel was very sorrowful because the LORD had rejected Saul from being king over Israel, and he mourned for Saul for a while, although Saul continued to hold the position of king for some time, as we shall see in the following account. But the LORD spoke to Samuel, lightly scolding him for taking too long in mourning the rejection of Saul, and telling him that it was time to move away from this situation. He instructed Samuel to take his horn of oil, and go to Beth-lehem to the house of Jesse, and there among his sons he would find the one He had chosen as king. Samuel was afraid that if he went on this errand Saul would hear of it, and kill him: but the LORD gave him instructions as to how he should go. And when he arrived at Beth-lehem the elders of the town were very much afraid, and they asked him if he came peaceably. He answered affirmatively, and told them that he had come to sacrifice unto the LORD, and he invited them to the sacrifice. He also sanctified Jesse and his sons, and bid them to the sacrifice.
(Verses 6 through13) And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD’S anointed is before Him. But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart. Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this. Then Jesse made Shammah to pass by. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this. And Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, there remainest yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we shall not sit down till he come hither. And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he. Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.
This is the account of the anointing of David to be king over Israel. Of course, this does not mean that David immediately took over the reins of the government, nor that he was immediately crowned as king, but the LORD would bring this about in His own time. No doubt it might have seemed quite discouraging to Samuel as he looked upon Jesse’s sons individually, and the LORD kept telling him, “This is not he.” But finally the LORD’S choice was brought before them, and the LORD commanded Samuel to anoint him, which he immediately did. Then, perhaps in fear that Saul would hear of this event, and be very angry, Samuel returned immediately to Ramah. From that day, the Spirit of the LORD came upon David.
(Verses 14 through 18) But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him. And Saul’s servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee. Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well. And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me. Then answered one of his servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Beth-lehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him.
The Spirit of the LORD had come upon David when Samuel anointed him. But at this time the Spirit of the LORD now left Saul, and in its place, the LORD sent upon Saul an evil spirit that troubled him greatly. The argument is sure to be raised by some, that since this spirit was from the LORD, the word, “evil,” as applied to the spirit cannot mean evil in the sense we usually associate with this word. However, as we continue on with this story, we shall find that this evil spirit certainly led Saul to do evil in the same sense we usually apply to this word. So I will not attempt to alleviate the word in this application. Saul’s servants, recognizing the detrimental effects of this spirit on Saul, suggested that he get someone who was s skilful player of the harp, and let him play before him when these attacks came upon him, in the hope that such would counteract the effects of this spirit. And one of Saul’s servants had seen and heard David play the harp. So he suggested that Saul get David to come and play for him.
(Verses 19 through 23) Wherefore Saul sent messengers unto Jesse, and said, Send me David thy son, which is with the sheep. And Jesse took an ass laden with bread, and a bottle of wine, and a kid, and sent them by David his son unto Saul. And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armour bearer. And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me; for he hath found favour in my sight. And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.
Saul took the counsel of his servants, and sent to Jesse, David’s father, asking that he send David to him. Jesse did this, and sent with David a present to Saul. When Saul saw David, he was so impressed with him that asked Jesse to let David stay with him. So he became Saul’s armor bearer, and also played his harp for him when the evil spirit from the LORD came upon him. When David thus played for him the evil spirit departed from him.
(Verses 1 through 3) Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Shochoh, which belongeth to Judah, and pitched between Shochoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines. And the Philistines stood on a mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on a mountain on the other side: and there was a valley between them.
As we have already been told, there was war between Israel and the Philistines all the days of Saul. And this was one of the times they were gathered in battle array against one another. They stood on opposing hills, with a valley between them.
(Verses 4 through 11) And there went a champion out of the army of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. (Nine feet and six inches). And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass. And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders. And the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam; and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him. And he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? Chose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us. And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man that we may fight together. When Saul and all Israel heard this, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.
No doubt, this was one of the low points in the career of Saul. Back in Chapter 14, we have seen Saul victorious over the Philistines, at a time when the men of Israel did not even have a sword or a spear among them, only Saul and Jonathan had swords, because the Philistines had not allowed anyone else in Israel to have any kind of weapon. After that battle, Saul had been able, by the help of the LORD to overcome all the enemies around Israel. He had even gone at the command of the LORD, and made war on the Amalekites, and had destroyed all of them except their king, whom he had spared until Samuel came to him, and killed that king before the LORD in Gilgal. Now with his armies set in array against the Philistines, one man of the Philistines comes forth, and demands that Israel send one man to fight against him. And if the man of Israel is victorious, the Philistines will be the servants of Israel; but if the Philistine gains the victory the Israelites will be servants to the Philistines. And he, Saul, together with all his armies is afraid of that man. They cannot even give him an answer.
(Verses 12 through 19) Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Beth-lehem-judah, whose name was Jesse; and he had eight sons: and the man went among men for an old man in the days of Saul. And the three eldest sons of Jesse went and followed Saul to the battle: and the names of his three sons that went to battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. And David was the youngest: and the three eldest followed Saul. But David went and returned from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Beth-lehem. And the Philistine drew near morning and evening, and presented himself forty days. And Jesse said unto David his son, Take now for thy brethren an ephah of this parched corn, and these ten loaves, and run to the camp to thy brethren; and carry these ten cheeses unto the captain of their thousand; and look how thy brethren fare, and take their pledge. Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.
It may seem a little strange that, since Saul had made David his armor bearer, he did not have David go with him to the war against the Philistines. Three of David’s oldest brothers were in Saul’s army; but David had been sent home to his father in the time of this battle, to keep his father’s sheep. After the stalemate caused by Goliath had been going on for forty days, Jesse, probably not knowing anything about how the war was progressing, sent David to take some supplies to his brothers and a present to the captain of their thousand, and to inquire about how his brothers were getting along. At this time Saul and his army were in the valley of Elah, and fighting against the Philistines.
(Verses 20 through 27) And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came to the trench, as the host was going forth to fight, and shouted for the battle. For Israel and the Philistines had put the battle in array, army against army. And David left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage, and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren. And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, and spake according to the same words: and David heard them. And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid. And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king shall enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father’s house free in Israel. And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach of Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? And the people answered him after this manner, saying, So shall it be done to the man that killeth him.
When David had found his brothers, and while he was talking to them, the Philistine Goliath, who had been coming out and demanding that Israel send out one man to fight him, and let the outcome of the war be decided by who won that fight. Just as had been the case ever since he had started this challenge, all the men of Israel were afraid to answer the challenge. In fact, they even fled from him. They began to talk about how greatly the king would honor any man who would go out and kill this man. Whether Saul had announced such or not may be debatable, but it was the common rumor that the king would make such a man rich, give him his daughter for his wife, and make his house free in Israel. This again reinforces what we have often remarked was the condition of women in that day, not only in Israel, but among other nations as well. They were considered more as property, and thus as bargaining chips, than as part of the family. If a man wanted a woman as his wife, and her father was willing, she became his wife, without consulting her as to the matter, except to tell her that thus it was. When David heard all of this, he asked those around him of the truth of this rumor, and they confirmed it as truth. But David appeared to be more interested in avenging the insult this man was laying upon Israel, and also upon the LORD God of Israel.
(Verses 28 through 31) And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle. And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause? And he turned from him toward another, and spake after the same manner: and the people answered him again after the former manner. And when the words were heard which David spake, they rehearsed them before Saul: and he sent for him.
As older brothers often do, Eliab apparently thought David too young to even come among the soldiers at the time of battle. And he was angry against David for speaking as he had concerning Goliath, for such speech seemed to be criticism of every soldier. So he rebuked David, and accused him of having come just to be entertained by the battle, forgetting that his father had sent David to bring supplies to him and his brothers. At this point David turned away from him, and spoke to another soldier who was present. He continued asking the same questions he had asked before, and received the same answers as previously. Meanwhile some one reported his questions to Saul who immediately sent for him.
(Verses 32 through 37) And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go out and fight with this Philistine. And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth. And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: and I went after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he rose up against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of the Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee.
Our Lord Jesus has told us that unwavering faith can move mountains. And this is one of the most outstanding illustrations of this that can be found. David knew that it was the LORD Who delivered him from the lion, and from the bear. And because of that experience he was ready to serve the LORD in this cause, and trust Him to deliver him from the Philistine, although the whole army of Israel was afraid of that man. King Saul did not believe that such a youth could do anything in a fight with such a man of war as was the Philistine. But David declared to him that it was the LORD Who delivered him from the lion and the bear. So, even though he still may not have believed that David could do anything in such a fight, he gave permission for him to go. And he bade him Godspeed.
(Verses 38 through 44) And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail. And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these, for I have not proved them. And David put them off. And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine. And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man that bare the shield went before him. And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of fair countenance. And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistines cursed David by his gods. And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.
Having tried on all the armor that Saul wanted to provide for him, David decided that he could not use it because he had not proved it. He had never been accustomed to wearing armor, but had only dressed in the common working clothes of the people as he tended his father’s sheep. So, he put off all the armor, and reverted to the same clothing of the shepherd that he had been familiar with. For weapons, he had his staff, his sling, and his scrip with five smooth stones in it. There are many who will try to “spiritualize” these stones, and tell you what they think they represent. But having, when I was a boy, made and used similar slings to that of David, I am convinced that the only significance of these five stones is that, first, he took that many to be sure that he had plenty of ammunition, and second, smooth stones throw much more accurately than do rough ones. This sling was not what we today call a “slingshot,” which is only capable of shooting marble sized rocks, but a leather cradle with two strings attached. And it is capable of throwing stones as large as one’s fist, and even larger. When the Philistine saw David, he, no doubt, thought this some kind of a joke: and he began to ridicule David, curse him by his gods, and threaten to feed him to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field.
(Verses 45 through 50) Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, Whom thou hast defied. This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the hosts of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD’S, and He will give it into our hands. And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David.
This account is so clearly written that none should misunderstand what took place. One can, of course see the hand of the LORD in the whole incident. Those who trust completely in Him shall not be let down or brought to shame. David had no weapon of war in his hand. He only had the weapon of a shepherd. But the LORD gave him the victory over one who was a great champion among his people, and had been trained in all the actions of war, even from his youth. The LORD had brought to naught all his boasts. The last statement of verse 50 is very outstanding, “But there was no sword in the hand of David.”
(Verses 51 through 54) Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled. And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, until thou come to the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell down by the way to Shaaraim, even unto Gath, and to Ekron. And the children of Israel returned from chasing after the Philistines, and they spoiled their tents. And David took the head of the Philistine, and brought it to Jerusalem; but he put his armour in his tent.
David’s victory over the Philistine caused all the army of the Philistines to try to run away. They evidently did not intend to fulfill the promise their champion had made concerning their becoming servants of Israel. But the army of Israel pursued after them, and made a great slaughter of them. David carried the head of Goliath to Jerusalem, but he put the Philistine’s armor in his tent.
(Verses 55 through 58) And when Saul saw David go forth against the Philistine, he said to Abner, the captain of the host, Abner, whose son is this youth? And Abner said, as thy soul liveth, O king, I cannot tell. And the king said, Inquire thou whose son the stripling is. And as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. And Saul said unto him, Whose son art thou, thou young man? And David answered, I am the son of thy servant Jesse the Beth-lehemite.
This text seems a little strange, in that Saul did not know who David was, inasmuch as he had made David his armor bearer until the time of this war, and had let him go back to his father when it started. But for some reason neither he nor Abner knew who he was. So he made inquiry of David, and David told him that he was the son of Jesse the Beth-lehemite.
(Verses 1 through 4) And it came to pass, when he made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father’s house. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.
Thus the writer introduces us to the special friendship that bound David and Jonathan together as long as Jonathan lived, and even caused David, after he became king of Israel, to seek out any descendant of Jonathan that he could find, to whom he could show kindness for Jonathan’s sake. At this first audience of David with Saul after killing the Philistine, their friendship was kindled, and was from the beginning so intense that Jonathan, the son of king Saul, took off his royal robe, and his weapons of war, and gave them to David. And unlike many friendships, it remained the same through good times and extremely bad times. From this time forward Saul kept David, and would not let him go home any more, that is, to stay.
(Verses 5 through 9) And David went out whithersoever Saul sent him, and behaved himself wisely: and Saul set him over his men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of Saul’s servants. And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of music. And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands. And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands. And to me they have ascribed but thousands: what can he have more but the kingdom? And Saul eyed David from that day forward.
Saul took David with him wherever he went; and when David had returned from the slaughter of Goliath, wherever Saul’s procession went, the women came out to welcome him with music and dancing. At such times they would say, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” Thus they ascribed more glory to David for his exploits than to Saul for his. And although David’s exploits were indeed greater than those of Saul, their saying greatly angered Saul. And he became very jealous of David, fearing that he would take the kingdom from him. So from that time forward he looked upon David with suspicion.
(Verses 10 through 16) And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul’s hand. And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice. And Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him, and was departed from Saul. Therefore Saul removed him from him, and made him his captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people. And David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the LORD was with him. Wherefore when Saul saw that he behaved himself very wisely, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them.
One who becomes extremely jealous of anyone is likely to be headed for trouble, particularly when the one of whom he is jealous is under his authority, and he is afraid of the public reaction to any drastic action he may take to rid himself of the object of his jealousy. And thus it was in this case. So Saul demoted David from being his constant companion to being only an officer in his army. He had already twice attempted to murder David, and both attempts failed. In spite of his demotion, David continued to behave himself wisely, and was in great favor of the people of Israel.
(Verses 17 through 21) And Saul said to David, Behold my elder daughter Merab, her will I give thee to wife: only be thou valiant for me, and fight the LORD’S battles. For Saul said, Let not mine hand be upon him, but let the hand of the Philistines be upon him. And David said unto Saul, Who am I? and what is my life, or my father’s family in Israel, that I should be son in law to the king? But it came to pass at the time when Merab Saul’s daughter should have been given to David, that she was given unto Adriel the Meholathite to wife. And Michal Saul’s daughter loved David: and they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. And Saul said, I will give him her, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him. Wherefore Saul said to David, Thou shalt this day be my son in law in one of the twain.
In Chapter 17, when David was talking with some of the men in the army concerning the threats of Goliath against Israel, it was confirmed to him that the king would give his daughter in marriage to any man who killed the Philistine. However when David had, by the help of the LORD, performed this task, nothing more was ever said about that. Now, not because of the great service David had rendered to Saul and to Israel, but in an effort to set David up to be killed by the Philistines, Saul offers to give David his older daughter Merab as wife. But the catch to it was that David should be very aggressive against Saul’s enemies the Philistines.
Evidently, David was fulfilling his part of the agreement, but when the time appointed for Merab to be given him, she was given to another man. But David made no great uproar about this. Then Saul was told that his younger daughter Michal loved David. And Saul thought this would give him another opportunity to get the Philistines to kill David. So he approached David about the matter.
(Verses 22 through 27) And Saul commanded his servants, saying, Commune with David secretly, and say, Behold, the king hath delight in thee, and all his servants love thee: now therefore be the king’s son in law. And Saul’s servants spake those words in the ears of David. And David said, Seemeth it to you a light thing to be a king’s son in law, seeing that I am a poor man, and lightly esteemed? And the servants of Saul told him, saying, On this manner spake David. And Saul said, Thus shall ye say to David, The king desireth no dowry, but an hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to be avenged of the king’s enemies. But Saul sought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king’s son in law: and the days were not expired. Wherefore David arose and went, he and his men, and slew of the Philistines two hundred men; and David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full tale to the king, that he might be his son in law. And Saul gave him Michal his daughter to wife.
This account needs no explanation: but it is another example of Saul’s devious tricks that back fired on him. David not only fulfilled Saul’s requirement for Michal to be his wife, but he even doubled it. So there was nothing Saul could do about the matter except fulfill his part of the bargain.
(Verses 28 through 30) And Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David, and that Michal Saul’s daughter loved him. And Saul was yet more afraid of David; and Saul became David’s enemy continually. Then the princes of the Philistines went forth; and it came to pass, after they went forth, that David behaved himself more wisely than all the servants of Saul; so that his name was much set by,
This account is very simple except the expression, “Then the princes of the Philistines went forth.” Since the Philistines were not completely driven out of the territory, but still lived in certain parts of the land of Canaan, it may have reference to their going forth to wage war upon other of the neighboring nations, as is mentioned in a few other places as “the times when kings go forth to war.” Otherwise we have no explanation given of the statement. However, at such times as these princes went forth, David was extremely careful to conduct himself wisely. And all Israel had great regard for him.
(Verses 1 through 3) And Saul spake to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, that they should kill David. But Jonathan Saul’s son delighted much in David: and Jonathan told David, saying Saul my father seeketh to kill thee: now therefore, I pray thee, take heed to thyself until the morning, and abide in a secret place, and hide thyself: and I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where thou art, and I will commune with my father of thee; and what I see, that I will tell thee.
Saul, having failed to get David slain by the Philistines, became so obsessed with killing him, that he commanded his servants, and even his son Jonathan to kill David. Since Jonathan and David were such close friends, Jonathan told David of the plot, and declared that he would try to talk his father out of this evil. So he arranged for David to hide in a certain field. He would then come to the field, and have a conversation with him about the matter; and whatever his father said he would report to David.
(Verses 4 through 7) And Jonathan spake good of David unto Saul his father, and said unto him, Let not the king sin against his servant, against David; because he hath not sinned against thee, and because his works have been to thee-ward very good: for he did put his life in his hand, and slew the Philistine, and the LORD wrought a great salvation for all Israel: thou sawest it, and didst rejoice: wherefore then wilt thou sin against innocent blood, to slay David without a cause? And Saul hearkened unto the voice of Jonathan: and Saul sware, As the LORD liveth, he shall not be slain. And Jonathan called David, and Jonathan shewed him all those things. And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence, as in times past.
Jonathan kept his word to David, in that he and Saul came out to the field and discussed the matter of the threat against David. And Saul agreed with Jonathan, and took an oath that David should not be slain. After this, Jonathan found David, and brought him to Saul. And, for a time, their relationship seemed to be as had been in times past.
(Verses 8 through 11) And there was war again: and David went out, and fought with the Philistines, and slew them with a great slaughter; and they fled from him. And the evil spirit from the LORD was upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his javelin in his hand: and David played with his hand. And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin; but he slipped away out of Saul’s presence, and he smote the javelin into the wall: and David fled, and escaped that night. Saul also sent messengers unto David’s house, to watch him, and to slay him in the morning: and Michal David’s wife told him, saying, If thou save not thy life tonight, tomorrow thou shalt be slain.
We were told earlier that there was trouble with the Philistines all the time of Saul’s life. Here is another occasion of war with them. David led the forces of Israel against them at this time, and the LORD gave him a great victory over them. And, as usual, when Saul saw the blessing of God upon David, the evil spirit from the LORD came upon him, and he tried to kill David. This time he failed, as he had before; but he even sent messengers to David’s house to lie in wait for him to kill him. But Michal, David’s wife warned him of the plot against him, and told him that he must escape that night, or he would be slain the next day.
(Verses 12 through 17) So Michal let David down through a window: and he went, and escaped. And Michal took an image, and laid it in the bed, and put a pillow of goats’ hair for his bolster, and covered it with a cloth. And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, He is sick. And Saul sent the messengers again to see David, saying, Bring him to me in the bed, that I may slay him. And when the messengers were come in, behold, there was an image in the bed, with a pillow of goats’ hair for his bolster. And Saul said unto Michal, Why hast thou deceived me so, and sent away mine enemy, that he is escaped? And Michal answered Saul, He said unto me, Let me go; why should I kill thee?
Even though David’s wife was the daughter of Saul, she was faithful to David, and let him down through a window so he could escape. And she also placed objects in his bed to make it look as if he were still there. When Saul sent his messengers to arrest David, she told them that he was sick. And when they reported this to Saul, he ordered them to bring David to him even in the bed, that he might kill him. So when they went this time, they found that he was gone. Then Saul accused Michal of deceiving him, and letting his enemy escape. She told him that David had told her that if he were found at home, her life would also be in danger, so she let him go.
(Verses 18 through 24) So David fled, and escaped, and came to Samuel to Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth. And it was told Saul, saying, Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah. And Saul sent messengers to take David: and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed over them, the Spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied. And when it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they prophesied likewise. And Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they prophesied also. Then went he also to Ramah, and came to a great well that is in Sechu: and he asked and said, Where are Samuel and David? And one said, Behold, they be at Naioth in Ramah. And he went thither to Naioth in Ramah: and the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on, and prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?
Although it is certainly not difficult to understand this account, it is difficult to understand why a man would be as stubborn as Saul. He already knew that Samuel was, and had been all his life, under the protection of the LORD. He also knew that the LORD had blessed David in whatever he set his hand to. Yet, with both of them together, he three times sent men to take David to bring him back to him so that he could kill him. And when they all failed in such a miraculous a manner, he went himself to take David. And all he got out of his effort was ridicule. The people made up a saying concerning him, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”
(Verses 1 through 3) And David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and came and said before Jonathan, What have I done? what is mine iniquity? and what is my sin before thy father, that he seeketh my life? And he said unto him, God forbid: thou shalt not die: behold, my father will do nothing either great or small, but that he will shew it me: and why should my father hide this thing from me? it is not so. And David sware moreover, and said, Thy father certainly knoweth that I have found grace in thine eyes; and he saith, Let not Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved: but truly as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death.
As soon as he could, David fled from Naioth, and went to find Jonathan and tell him of his predicament. It seems that Jonathan was not aware of Saul’s recent efforts to kill David, and since he had previously talked Saul out of doing this, he thought everything was progressing in a friendly manner But David convinced him to investigate the matter, and let him know what he found out.
(Verses 4 through 10) Then said Jonathan unto David, Whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will even do it for thee. And David said unto Jonathan, Behold, tomorrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king at meat: but let me go, that I may hide myself in the field unto the third day at even. If thy father at all miss me, then say, David earnestly asked leave of me that he might run to Beth-lehem his city; for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the family. And if he say thus, It is well; thy servant shall have peace: but if he be very wroth, then be sure that evil is determined by him. Therefore thou shalt deal kindly with thy servant; for thou hast brought thy servant into a covenant of the LORD with thee: notwithstanding, if there be in me iniquity, slay me thyself; for why shouldest thou bring me to thy father? And Jonathan said, Far be it from thee: for if I knew certainly that evil were determined by my father to come upon thee, then would not I tell it thee? Then said David to Jonathan, Who shall tell me? or what if thy father answer thee roughly?
Jonathan promised to do whatever David thought he should about this matter, and David told him how to find out the truth of the matter without even asking about it. Then he asked Jonathan who would bring him the answer to the matter. And this they would work out before they parted from each other.
(Verses 11 through 16) And Jonathan said unto David, Come, let us go out into the field. And they went out, both of them into the field. And Jonathan said unto David, O LORD God of Israel, when I have sounded my father about tomorrow any time, or the third day, and, behold, if there be good toward David, and I then send not unto thee, and shew it thee; the LORD do so and much more to Jonathan: but if it please my father to do thee evil, then I will shew it thee, and send thee away, that thou mayest go in peace: and the LORD be with thee, as he hath been with my father. And thou shalt not only while yet I live shew me the kindness of the LORD, that I die not: but also thou shalt not cut off thy kindness from my house for ever: no, not when the LORD hath cut off the enemies of David every one from the face of the earth. So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, Let the LORD even require it at the hand of David’s enemies.
Jonathan and David went out into the field, apparently, to make sure that their conversation would be heard by no one else. As they discussed the matter, Jonathan promised David that he surely would let him know whether Saul had relented in his determination to kill David, or was still steadfastly set to destroy him. And they made a covenant together that not only David himself, but the house (family) of David would continue their kindness to the house of Jonathan, even through their generations. Apparently, Jonathan was already aware that the LORD would confirm the kingdom to David instead of letting it continue with the house of Saul.
(Verses 17 through 23) And Jonathan caused David to swear again, because he loved him: for he loved him as he loved his own soul. Then Jonathan said to David, Tomorrow is the new moon: and thou shalt be missed, because thy seat will be empty. And when thou hast stayed three days, then shalt thou go down quickly, and come to the place where thou didst hide thyself when the business was in hand, and shalt remain by the stone Ezel. And I will shoot three arrows on the side thereof, as though I shot at a mark. And, behold, I will send a lad, saying, Go, find out the arrows. If I expressly say unto the lad, Behold , the arrows are on this side of thee, take them; then come thou: for there is peace to thee, and no hurt; as the LORD liveth. But if I say thus unto the young man, Behold, the arrows are beyond thee; go thy way: for the LORD hath sent thee away. And as touching the matter which thou and I have spoken of, Behold, the LORD be between thee and me for ever.
Thus Jonathan and David concluded their arrangements for getting the decision of Saul to David in time for him to make his get away if such proved to be necessary. It was a very simple plan, and would alert no one else as to what was being done.
(Verses 24 through 29) So David hid himself in the field: and when the new moon was come, the king sat down to eat meat. And the king sat upon his seat, as at other times, even upon a seat by the wall: and Jonathan arose, and Abner sat by Saul’s side, and David’s place was empty. Nevertheless Saul spake not any thing that day: for he thought, Something hath befallen him, he is not clean; surely he is not clean. And it came to pass on the morrow, which was the second day of the month, that David’s place was empty: and Saul said to Jonathan his son, Wherefore cometh not the son of Jesse to meat, neither yesterday, nor today? And Jonathan answered Saul, David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Beth-lehem: and he said, Let me go, I pray thee; for our family hath a sacrifice in the city; and my brother, he hath commanded me to be there: and now, if I have found favour in thine eyes, let me get away, I pray thee, and see my brethren. Therefore he cometh not unto the king’s table.
David according to plan hid himself, and waited for Jonathan’s report. When the day of the new moon, which was also the time for the feast, came the feast was prepared, and Saul sat down in his accustomed seat, with the seats of others arranged according to protocol. But David’s place was empty. For the first day, Saul said nothing about David’s absence. But on the second day David’s seat was still vacant, and Saul asked about him. Then Jonathan told him what he and David had already agreed that he should say. That is, that David had asked leave of him to go to Beth-lehem to a sacrifice that his family held annually in that city.
(Verses 30 through 34) Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him, Thou son of the perverse and rebellious woman, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, and unto the confusion of thy mother’s nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse liveth upon the ground, thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom, Wherefore now send and fetch him unto me, for he shall surely die. And Jonathan answered Saul his father, and said unto him, Wherefore shall he be slain? What hath he done? And Saul cast a javelin at him to smite him: whereby Jonathan knew that it was determined of his father to slay David. So Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger, and did eat no meat the second day of the month: for he was grieved for David, because his father had done him shame.
Saul became very angry at Jonathan, because he had let David stay away from the feast. And he upbraided him greatly for that, and even attempted to kill Jonathan because he spoke up for David. So Jonathan arose from the table in great anger himself, because his father was treating David shamefully. So, apparently Jonathan left the feast.
(Verses 35 through 40) And it came to pass in the morning, that Jonathan went out into the field at the time appointed with David, and a little lad was with him. And he said unto the lad, Run, find out now the arrows which I shoot. And as the lad ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. And when the lad was come to the place of the arrow which Jonathan had shot, Jonathan cried after the lad, Make speed, haste, stay not. And Jonathan’s lad gathered up the arrows, and came to his master. But the lad knew not any thing: only Jonathan and David knew the matter. And Jonathan gave his artillery unto the lad, and said unto him, Go, carry them to the city.
Thus Jonathan carried out the plan which he and David had devised for getting the news of the matter to David, without revealing it to anyone else.
(Verses 41 and 42) And as soon as the lad was gone, David arose out of a place toward the south, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times: and they kissed one another, and wept until David exceeded. And Jonathan said to David, Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of the LORD, saying, The LORD be between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed for ever. And he arose and departed: and Jonathan went into the city.
When the lad was gone David came out of his hiding place, and he and Jonathan bade each other farewell, and wept greatly. They both knew that this would likely be their last opportunity to see each other, at least for a long time, and, possibly, for life. Some of our people of today might have some criticism to make concerning their kissing one another, but in that day, and even today in the Middle East, that is the common manner of greeting even among men, while in western culture the handshake is more common.
(Verses 1 through 8) Then David came to Nob to Ahimelech the priest: and Ahimelech was afraid at the meeting of David, and said unto him, Why art thou alone, and no man with thee? And David said unto Ahimelech the priest, The king hath commanded me a business, and hath said unto me, Let no man know any thing of the business whereabout I have commanded thee: and I have appointed my servants to such and such a place. Now therefore what is under thine hand? give me five loaves of bread in my hand, or what there is present. And the priest answered David, and said, There is no common bread under mine hand, but there is hallowed bread; if the young men have kept themselves at least from women. And David answered the priest, and said unto him, Of a truth women have been kept from us about these three days, since I came out, and the vessels of the young men are holy, and the bread is in a manner common, yea, though it were sanctified this day in the vessel. So the priest gave him hallowed bread: for there was no bread but the shewbread, that was taken from before the LORD, to put hot bread in the day when it was taken away. Now a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the LORD; and his name was Doeg, an Edomite, the chiefest of the herdsmen that belonged to Saul.
Evidently Ahimelech had been accustomed to seeing David travel with an army instead of with only a few men. He had so few with him on this excursion that Ahimelech considered him alone; and because of this he was afraid. But David explained that he was on a very secret mission for the king, and he asked Ahimelech to supply some bread for him and his men. The only bread available was the shewbread, which it was not lawful to eat. But since that was all that was available, they took it. One of Saul’s servants, an Edomite by the name of Doeg was also there at this time.
(Verses 8 and 9) And David said unto Ahimelech, And is there not here under thine hand spear or sword? For I have neither brought my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king’s business required haste. And the priest said, The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom thou slewest in the valley of Elah, behold, it is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod: if thou wilt take that, take it: for there is no other save that here. And David said, There is none like that; give it me.
David also enquired as to the availability of weapons; and Ahimelech told him that there were no weapons there except the sword of Goliath whom David had slain in the valley of Elah. So David took that.
(Verses 10 through 15) And David arose, and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. And the servants of Achish said unto him, Is not this David the king of the land? did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands? And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath. And he changed his behaviour before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard. Then said Achish unto his servants, Lo, ye see the man is mad: wherefore then have ye brought him to me? Have I need of mad men, that ye have brought this fellow to play the mad man in my presence? shall this fellow come into my house?
So David fled from Nob, and went to Achish the king of Gath. But when the servants of Achish began to talk of how the Israelites had sung his praises after he had slain Goliath, David became somewhat afraid of what Achish might do. Then he pretended to be insane; and Achish wanted no part with any mad man around him. So David had to find somewhere else to go.
(Verses 1 and 2) David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard it, they went down thither to him. And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.
So David left Gath, and went down into the wilderness to the cave Adullam. Then there began to gather to him all of his father’s house, together with all who felt to be oppressed by Saul, all that were in debt, and those who were discontented. It was just such a company as usually start a rebellion. David was their captain, and there were about four hundred of the men who followed him.
(Verses 3 through 5) And David went thence to Mizpeh of Moab: and he said unto the king of Moab, Let my father and mother, I pray thee, come forth, and be with you, till I know what God will do for me. And he brought them before the king of Moab: and they dwelt with him all the while that David was in the hold. And the prophet Gad said unto David, Abide not in the hold; depart, and get thee into the land of Judah. Then David departed, and came into the forest of Hareth.
David went to Mizpeh to the king of Moab, and made arrangements for his father and mother to live there while his future remained uncertain. Then the prophet Gad advised him to leave the cave where he had been staying, and go into the land of Judah. So this he did.
(Verses 6 through 8) When Saul heard that David was discovered, and the men that were with him, ( now Saul abode in Gibeah under a tree in Ramah, having his spear in his hand, and all his servants were standing about him;) then Saul said unto his servants that stood about him, Hear now, ye Benjamites; will the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards, and make you all captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds; that all of you have conspired against me, and there is none that sheweth me that my son hath made a league with the son of Jesse, and there is none of you sorry for me, or sheweth unto me that my son hath stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as at this day?
When Saul heard that David had been seen accompanied by his men, he still stayed at Ramah. He had all his servants gathered around him as he stood under a tree with his spear in his hand. Then he began to try to drum up sympathy for himself among his servants, accusing Jonathan of having made a conspiracy with David against him. Then he even accused them of also being in a conspiracy against him, and none of them were willing to tell him about it. He even said that none of them were sorry for him because of the supposed conspiracy that Jonathan had made with David.
(Verses 9 through 16) Then answered Doeg the Edomite, which was set over the servants of Saul, and said, I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob, to Ahimelech the son of Ahitub. And he inquired of the LORD for him, and gave him victuals, and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine. Then the king sent to call Ahimelech the priest, the son of Ahitub, and all his father’s house, the priests that were in Nob: and they came all of them to the king. And Saul said, Hear now, thou son of Ahitub. And he answered, Here I am, my lord. And Saul said unto him, Why have ye conspired against me, thou and the son of Jesse, in that thou hast given him bread, and a sword, and hast inquired of God for him, that he should rise against me, to lie in wait, as at this day? Then Ahimelech answered the king, and said, And who is so faithful among thy servants as David, which is the king’s son in law, and goeth at thy bidding, and is honourable in thine house? Did I then begin to inquire of God for him? be it far from me: let not the king impute any thing unto his servant, nor to all the house of my father: for I knew nothing of all this, less or more. And the king said, Thou shalt surely die, Ahimelech, thou, and all thy father’s house.
When David was at Nob, a certain man by the name of Doeg, also happened to be there. He was an Edomite, that is, a descendant of Esau, but he was one of Saul’s chief servants. And at the time Saul was making all these accusations he was present, and in answer to Saul’s speech, he told of having seen David at Nob, and about Ahimelech having given David bread and a sword, as well as inquiring of the LORD for him. So Saul sent for Ahimelech and all his father’s household, that is, all the priests that were at Nob. And they all came to the king. Then Saul accused Ahimelech of conspiring with David against him. And in spite of Ahimelech’s defense he sentenced Ahimelech and all the priests that were with him to death. To any reasonable man, Ahimelech’s defense would have been acceptable; but Saul had become so obsessed with his idea that there was a conspiracy against him that he was determined to kill everyone whom he thought could possibly have anything to do with such.
(Verses 17 through 19) And the king said unto the footmen that stood about him, Turn, and slay the priests of the LORD; because their hand is with David, and because they knew when he fled, and did not shew it to me. But the servants of the king would not put forth their hand to fall upon the priests of the LORD. And the king said to Doeg, Turn thou, and fall upon the priests. And Doeg the Edomite turned, and he fell upon the priests, and slew on that day fourscore and five persons that did wear the linen ephod. And Nob, the city of the priests, smote he with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and sucklings, and oxen, and asses, and sheep, with the edge of the sword.
The footmen that stood about Saul were evidently soldiers whom he had for his bodyguard. And he ordered them to kill all these priests. But since they were, apparently, all Israelites, they would not kill the priests of the LORD. So Saul ordered Doeg to kill them. And, since he, being an Edomite, had no reluctance about killing a priest, killed all of them. There were eighty five of them whom he killed that day. Then he went to Nob, and killed everyone, and everything he could find there. He killed men, women, children, and even nursing babies, as well as all the livestock he could find. Doeg is said to be the evil man about whom David wrote Psalm 52.
(Verses 20 through 23) And one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped, and fled after David. And Abiathar shewed David that Saul had slain the LORD’S priests. And David said unto Abiathar, I knew it that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would tell Saul: I have occasioned the death of all the persons of thy father’s house. Abide thou with me, fear not: for he that seeketh my life seeketh thy life: but with me thou shalt be in safeguard.
When Doeg was destroying the priests of the LORD and their city, one of them escaped. He was Abiathar the son of Ahimelech. He immediately fled away, and found David. When he told David about the massacre of the priests, David confessed that he had known when he saw Doeg in Nob, that he would tell Saul. And he therefore considered himself as the cause of the massacre of the priests. And he told Abiathar to abide with him for safety, because the same one who sought to kill one of them was also seeking to kill the other; but Abiathar would be safe with him.
(Verses 1 through 6) Then they told David, saying, Behold, the Philistines fight against Keilah, and they rob the threshingfloors. Therefore David inquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go and smite the Philistines? And the LORD said unto David, Go, and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah. And David’s men said unto him, Behold, we be afraid here in Judah: how much more then if we come to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines? Then David inquired of the LORD yet again. And the LORD answered him and said, Arise, go down to Keilah: for I will deliver the Philistines into thine hand. So David and his men went to Keilah, and fought with the Philistines, and brought away their cattle, and smote them with a great slaughter. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah. And it came to pass, when Abiathar the son of Ahimelech fled to David to Keilah, that he came down with an ephod in his hand.
It may be possible that verse 6 is in retrospect. That is, it may be telling us that When Abiathar came to David, even before he went to Keilah, that he brought with him an ephod; and that this is the means whereby David made his inquiries of the LORD. For this was the usual manner in which such inquiries were made. News came to David that the Philistines had stirred up trouble for the people of Keilah, So he inquired of the LORD whether or not he should go and fight against those Philistines that had made this inroad upon Keilah. And the LORD told him, “Go, and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah.” However his men were afraid to leave Judah to go to Keilah. So he again inquired of the LORD: and the LORD told him to go, and that He would deliver the Philistines into his hand. So He and his men went to Keilah, made a great slaughter of the Philistines, and saved the inhabitants of Keilah.
(Verses 7 through 12) And it was told Saul that David was come to Keilah. And Saul said, God hath delivered him into mine hand; for he is shut in, by entering into a town that hath gates and bars. And Saul called all the people together to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men. And David knew that Saul secretly practised mischief against him; and he said to Abiathar the priest, Bring hither the ephod. Then said David, O LORD God of Israel, thy servant hath certainly heard that Saul seeketh to destroy the city for my sake. Will the men of Keilah deliver me into his hand? will Saul come down, as thy servant hath heard? O LORD God of Israel, I beseech Thee, tell Thy servant. And the LORD said, He will come down. Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the LORD said, They will deliver thee up.
When Saul heard that David was in Keilah, he thought he had him where there would be no escape, since that was a walled town with gates and bars. So he made preparations to go down and besiege Keilah. In the mean time David made inquiries of the LORD as to what the men of Keilah would do when Saul came against them. and the LORD told him that they would deliver them up to Saul. This seems to be a very ungrateful manner of action on their part, seeing that David and his men had slaughtered the Philistines, and set Keilah free from them. But, perhaps the men of Keilah felt that David’s forces were not strong enough to protect the town, and their wisest plan would be to try to curry favor with Saul and his army.
(Verses 13 through 18) Then David and his men, which were about six hundred, arose and departed out of Keilah, and went whithersoever they could go. And it was told Saul that David was escaped from Keilah; and he forbare to go forth. And David abode in the wilderness in strong holds, and remained in a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand. And David saw that Saul was come out to seek his life: and David was in the wilderness of Ziph in a wood. And Jonathan Saul’s son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God. And he said unto him, Fear not: for the hand of Saul my father shall not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee; and that my father knoweth. And they two made a covenant before the LORD: and David abode in the wood, and Jonathan went to his house.
When David was at the cave Adullam, his army was only about four hundred men, and now it has grown to six hundred. That still seems a very small number, when compared to the many tens of thousands of the army of Israel, which was under the command of king Saul. But The LORD has many times shown that He can with a very small number defeat a great army. And David had with him a priest of the LORD by whom he could inquire of the LORD what action would be most profitable for him and his men. David and his army escaped from Keilah, and were for a while, for their own protection scattered. Saul and his army continued to hunt them, but with the help of the LORD, they escaped his searches. Jonathan found David, and had a conversation with him, in which he told David that Saul knew that David would be king of Israel, and that he, Jonathan would be his second in command. And concerning this, they made a covenant. As we shall see, David was finally made king over Israel, but not until the death of both Saul and Jonathan. So Jonathan’s part of the covenant did not come to completion.
(Verses 19 through 26) Then came up the Ziphites to Saul to Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself with us in strong holds in the wood, in the hill of Hachilah, which is on the south of Jeshimon? Now therefore, O king, come down according to all the desire of thy soul to come down; and our part shall be to deliver him into the king’s hand. And Saul said, Blessed be ye of the LORD; for ye have had compassion on me. Go, I pray you, prepare yet, and know and see his place where his haunt is, and who hath seen him there: for it is told me that he dealeth very subtilly. See therefore, and take knowledge of all the lurking places where he hideth himself, and come ye again to me with the certainty, and I will go with you: and it shall come to pass, if he be in the land, that I will search him out throughout all the thousands of Judah. And they arose, and went to Ziph before Saul: but David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the plain on the south of Jeshimon. Saul also and his men went to seek him. And they told David: wherefore he came down into a rock, and abode in the wilderness of Maon. And when Saul heard that, he pursued after David in the wilderness of Maon. And Saul went on this side of the mountain, and David and his men on that side of the mountain: and David made haste to get away for fear of Saul; for Saul and his men compassed David and his men round about to take them.
The Ziphites, or as they are sometimes called, “the Ziphims,” went to Saul, and told him that David and his men were hiding in their area, and that if he would come down there, they would deliver David into his hands. So he told them to make certain of exactly where David and his men were, and let him know, and he would come down and take him. Accordingly, they sent him word, and he came down after David. But as he went on one side of the mountain, David and his men went on the other. But finally Saul’s army did have David and his men surrounded, and were making preparation to take them.
(Verses 27 through 29) But there came a messenger unto Saul, saying, Haste thee, and come; for the Philistines have invaded the land. Wherefore Saul returned from pursuing after David, and went against the Philistines: therefore they called that place Sela-hammahlekoth. And David went up from thence, and dwelt in strong holds at En-gedi.
After all Saul’s planning and effort, just as he thought he was about to apprehend David, the Philistines invaded Israel, and he had to take his army to fight against them. Thus the LORD delivered David once more. They named that place Sela-hammahlekoth, which means “the rock of division.” Then David moved from that location to the strong holds at En-gedi.
(Verses 1 through 8) And it came to pass, when Saul was returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him, saying, Behold, David is in the wilderness of En-gedi. Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats: and he came to the sheepcotes by the way, where was a cave; and Saul went in to cover his feet: and David and his men remained in the sides of the cave. And the men of David said unto him, Behold, the day of which the LORD said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee. Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe privily. And it came to pass afterward, that David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt. The LORD forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the LORD’S anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD. So David stayed his servants with these words, and suffered them not to rise against Saul. But Saul rose up out of the cave, and went on his way. David also arose afterward, and went out of the cave, and cried after Saul, saying, My lord the king, And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed himself.
This account seems to be clearly enough written as to allow no explanation. But the most outstanding thing about it is the mercy David showed to Saul. It would have taken no great effort to kill Saul instead of just cutting off the skirt of his robe. And, indeed David’s men tried to get him to do exactly that, or let one of them do it. Nevertheless, since, in spite of all his disobedience to God, and his cruel obsession with trying to kill David, he was still the one whom Samuel had, at the commandment of God, anointed king of Israel. Therefore David would not commit what he considered sacrilege by inflicting any damage upon the anointed of the LORD
(Verses 9 through 15) And David said to Saul, Wherefore hearest thou men’s words, saying, Behold, David seeketh thy hurt? Behold, this day thine eyes have seen how that the LORD had delivered thee today into mine hand in the cave: and some bade me to kill thee; and I said, I will not put forth mine hand against my lord; for he is the LORD’S anointed. Moreover, my father, see, yea, see the skirt of thy robe in my hand: for in that I cut off the skirt of thy robe, and killed thee not, know thou and see that there is neither evil nor transgression in mine hand, and I have not sinned against thee; yet thou huntest my soul to take it. The LORD judge between me and thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee. As saith the proverb of the ancients, Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked: but mine hand shall not be upon thee. After whom is the king of Israel come out? after whom dost thou pursue? after a dead dog, after a flea. The LORD judge between me and thee, and see, and plead my cause, and deliver me out of thine hand.
David rebuked Saul for listening to evil reports that men might make about him, and becoming so upset at them that he came out with his army to try to kill him, although he knew that it was Saul himself that was starting all these accusations against him, instead of being others bringing evil reports to him. He showed to Saul the piece of his robe that he had cut off, and declared to him that he could easily have killed him if that had been his intent/ Then He called upon the LORD to judge between him and Saul concerning the matter.
(Verses 16 through 22) And it came to pass, when David had made an end of speaking these words unto Saul, that Saul said, Is this thy voice, my son David? And Saul lifted up his voice and wept. And he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil. And thou hast shewed this day how that thou hast dealt well with me: forasmuch as when the LORD had delivered me into thine hand, thou killedst me not. For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away? Wherefore the LORD reward thee good for that thou hast done unto me this day. And now, behold, I know well that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand. Swear now therefore unto me by the LORD, that thou wilt not cut off my seed after me, and that thou wilt not destroy my name out of my father’s house. And David sware unto Saul. And Saul went home; but David and his men gat them up unto the hold.
After David finished his speech, Saul acknowledged that it was he, and not David, who was in the wrong, even as David had that day proven by his actions in the cave. Then he confessed that he knew that David would certainly be established as king over Israel, and he asked David to swear that when that came to pass, he would not completely obliterate Saul and his name from the house of his father, and that he would not cut off Saul’s descendants. To this David did indeed swear, just as Saul had asked. Then they separated, with Saul returning home, and David and his men going to their strong hold.
(Verses 1 through 3) And Samuel died; and all the Israelites were gathered together, and lamented him, and buried him in his house in Ramah. And David arose, and went down to the wilderness of Paran. And there was a man in Maon, whose possessions were in Carmel; and the man was very great, and he had three thousand sheep, and a thousand goats: and he was shearing his sheep in Carmel. Now the name of the man was Nabal; and the name of his wife was Abigail: and she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb.
Samuel had judged Israel for a long time, but now he died, and was buried at his home in Ramah, with all of Israel lamenting him. And David, with his men, went down to the wilderness of Paran. At Maon lived a man who was a descendant of Caleb. This man was very rich, and had his possessions in Carmel. Although he was an evil and churlish man, he had a wife, who was a very intelligent and beautiful woman. Nabal was at Carmel, shearing his sheep at this time.
(Verses 4 through 9) And David heard in the wilderness that Nabal did shear his sheep. And David sent ten young men, and David said unto the young men, Get you up to Carmel, and greet him in my name: and thus shall ye say to him that liveth in prosperity, Peace be both to thee, and peace be to thine house, and peace be unto all that thou hast. And now I have heard that thou hast shearers: now thy shepherds which were with us, we hurt them not, neither was there aught missing unto them all the while they were in Carmel. Ask thy young men, and they will shew thee. Wherefore let the young men find favour in thine eyes: for we come in a good day: give, I pray thee, whatsoever cometh to thine hand unto thy servants, and to thy son David. And when David’s young men came, they spake to Nabal according to all these words in the name of David, and ceased.
When David heard that Nabal was having a sheep shearing, he sent representatives to him, telling him that all the time his shepherds had been with them in the wilderness, they had protected them and their flocks, and asking him to give to them whatever he could afford in the way of provisions. This may, to us, seem a little like asking for a handout. But since David and his men had, no doubt, been a great protection to the shepherds and their flocks, it would only be reasonable that Nabal should give them something in appreciation for that.
(Verses 19 through 13) And Nabal answered David’s servants, and said, Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master. Shall I take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be? So David’s young men turned their way, and went again, and came and told him all these sayings. And David said unto his men, Gird on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword: and there went up after David about four hundred men, and two hundred abode by the stuff.
When David’s men returned, and told him what Nabal had said, he was angry, and he ordered his men to dress for battle. Then he took about four hundred of them with him, and left two hundred to guard their possessions.
(Verses 14 through 17) But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, saying, Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to salute our master; and he railed on them. But the men were very good unto us, and we were not hurt, neither missed we any thing, as long as we were conversant with them, when we were in the fields: they were a wall unto us both by night and day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep. Now therefore know and consider what thou wilt do; for evil is determined against our master, and against all his household: for he is such a son of Belial, that a man cannot speak to him.
One of Nabal’s young men who was present when David’s men had come to Nabal, recognized that there would be trouble as the result of what Nabal had told them, and he went to Nabal’s wife Abigail, and told her of the incident, and suggested that she do whatever she must to rectify the situation before it was too late. His description of Nabal seems to fit many others as well: “He is such a son of Belial that, a man cannot speak to him.”
(Verses 18 through 20) Then Abigail made haste, and took two hundred loaves, and two bottles of wine, and five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched corn, and an hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid them on asses. And she said unto her servants, Go on before me; behold, I come after you. But she told not her husband Nabal. And it was so, as she rode on the ass, that she came down by the covert of the hill, and, behold, David and his men came down against her; and she met them.
We noticed earlier that Abigail was an intelligent woman. And when she heard the report from the young man who told her of Nabal’s treatment of David’s messengers, she immediately set to work packing supplies for David’s men, and, instead of sending them to David, she took them herself. And as she went down the mountain, she met him and his men.
(Verses 21 through 31) Now David had said, Surely in vain have I kept all that this fellow hath in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that pertained to him: and he hath requited me evil for good. So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall. And when Abigail saw David, she hasted, and lighted off the ass, and fell before David on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and fell at his feet, and said, Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be: and let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak in thine audience, and hear the words of thine handmaid. Let not, my lord, I pray thee, regard this man of Belial, even Nabal: for as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him: but I thine handmaid saw not the young men of my lord, whom thou didst send. Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, seeing the LORD hath withholden thee from coming to shed blood, and from avenging thyself with thine own hand, now let thine enemies, and they that seek evil to my lord, be as Nabal. And now this blessing which thine handmaid hath brought unto my lord, let it even be given unto the young men that follow my lord. I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid: for the LORD will certainly make my lord a sure house; because my lord fighteth the battles of the LORD, and evil hath not been found in thee all thy days. Yet a man is risen to pursue thee, and to seek thy soul: but the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the LORD thy God, and the souls of thine enemies, them shall He sling out, as out of the middle of a sling. And it shall come to pass, when the LORD shall have done to my lord all the good that He hath spoken concerning thee, and shall have appointed thee ruler over Israel; that this shall be no grief unto thee, nor offence of heart unto my lord, either that he hath shed blood causelessly, or that my lord hath avenged himself: but when the LORD shall have dealt well with my lord, then remember thine handmaid.
David declared to his men that surely it was not worthwhile for him and them to have taken the care of Nabal’s men and his herds as they had while in the wilderness, seeing that he had no appreciation for it. And it was his intention to attack Nabal and his men and kill every one of them, not leaving a man of them alive. But when Abigail met him, she begged him not to do what he had planned, as much for his own integrity as for any other reason. She confessed that Nabal certainly lived up to his name, seeing that his name means “fool, or impious,” and he certainly had acted a fool, and also showed that he had no respect for God. In her speech we see that she was well aware that David had not done anything to cause Saul to be so adamant about killing him. But she declared that the LORD would surely fulfill His promise, and make David ruler of Israel. And she requested, that when the LORD had done all the good to David that He had promised, he would remember her.
(Verses 32 through 35) And David said to Abigail, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me: and blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand. For in very deed, as the LORD God of Israel liveth, Which hath kept me back from hurting thee, except thou hadst hasted and come to meet me, surely there had not been left unto Nabal by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall. So David received of her that which she had brought him, and said unto her, Go up in peace to thine house; see, I have hearkened to thy voice, and have accepted thy person.
David was glad that Abigail had come with her present, and had asked him to leave off the effort to avenge himself on Nabal. So he accepted the present she brought, and sent her home in peace with the promise that he would not attack Nabal and his servants.
(Verses 36 through 38) And Abigail came to Nabal, and, behold, he held a feast in his house, like the feast of a king; and Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was drunken: wherefore she told him nothing, less, or more, until the morning light. But it came to pass in the morning, when the wine was gone out of Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became as a stone. And it came to pass about ten days after, that the LORD smote Nabal, that he died.
When Abigail reached home she found Nabal having a great feast, and so drunk that he was in a very merry mood. But she deemed him unable to receive the news she had to report. So, she waited until the next morning when he had sobered up enough to listen to her, and told him what had taken place, and, apparently, just how near he had come to getting himself, and all of his men killed. Apparently, this caused him to have a stroke that totally disabled him, and about ten days later he died.
(Verses 39 through 44) And when David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, Blessed be the LORD, that hath pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal, and hath kept His servant from evil: for the LORD hath returned the wickedness of Nabal upon his own head. And David sent and communed with Abigail, to take her to him to wife. And when the servants of David were come to Abigail to Carmel, they spake unto her, saying, David sent us unto thee, to take you to him to wife. And she arose, and bowed herself on her face to the earth, and said, Behold, let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord. And Abigail hasted, and arose, and rode upon an ass, with five damsels of hers that went after her, and she went after the messengers of David, and became his wife. David also took Ahinoam of Jezreel; and they were also both of them his wives. But Saul had given Michal his daughter, David’s wife, to Phalti the son of Laish, which was of Gallim.
When David heard that Nabal was dead, he thanked the LORD for having removed his enemy, and for having kept him from avenging himself on the man. We do not know anything about how long David waited before sending messengers to Abigail requesting her to come to him, and be his wife. This is, perhaps about as short a courtship as we have on record. As soon as the messengers came to her, Abigail was ready to go to David, and be his wife. He also took another woman, Ahinoam of Jezreel, as his wife. He had previously been married to Michal the daughter of Saul: but after falling out with David, Saul had given her to another man, Phalti the son of Laish.