Monday, March 1, 2010

1 Samuel 21-26: David on the Run

Now that David knows for sure Saul's out to kill him, he takes off.  First he comes to a place called Nob, and there's a priest there named Ahimelech.  David asks him for food, but all he has is the consecrated bread that only priests are allowed to eat.  David tells him Saul has sent him on a secret mission, which is not true, and also that he has a bunch of companions waiting just outside town, which I don't think is true.  But I'm not entirely sure because Jesus, in Matthew 12, makes a reference to this story and specifically says that David "and his companions" ate the bread.  I know that later on David has about 600 guys following him; maybe some of them are already with him?

Anyway, so one of Saul's servants, a guy named Doeg, overhears this whole conversation.  Remember that because we'll see him again shortly.  And David also asks for a weapon, and the only thing available is Goliath's sword - kind of ironic, eh?  So David takes that.

In the next chapter, David goes to a cave somewhere, and a bunch of people join him, including his family and people who are in debt or distressed circumstances.  I think it's pretty cool that David's brothers join him; the last time we saw one of David's brothers, he was telling David to go home because war is no place for little boys.  I guess the brothers realize that David is a grown-up now (and David probably is a grown-up now, being married and all; I don't know how many years have passed between when he killed Goliath and now).  Then David goes to Moab and the king lets his family stay there.  You might wonder, why is the king of Moab suddenly being nice to an Israelite?  The last time we heard from Moab, they were not on friendly terms with Israel.  Well, if we were reading the Bible chronologically, we would have seen already that David's father Jesse is the son of a guy named Obed, and Obed is the son of a man named Boaz, whose wife was named Ruth.  Ruth was from Moab.  Anyway, then David leaves because a prophet tells him to.

Meanwhile, Saul is trying to track David.  He asks people where David is, and who should volunteer information but Doeg, who happens to be around.  Doeg tells Saul about Ahimelech giving David food, so Saul summons him and tells his guards to kill him, but the guards are intelligent enough to see that it's a bad idea to kill a priest.  So Saul tells Doeg to do it, and Doeg kills not only Ahimelech, but 85 priests total in that one day, plus pretty much every living being in the city of Nob - men, women, children, babies, and animals.

What is up with this Doeg guy?  First he rats on David, then he kills priests?  Is he trying to get a raise or something and thinks that's the way to do it?  He seems pretty unscrupulous and shady to me.  I don't like him at all.

Now, while David's on the run, he's not so busy hiding that he doesn't have time to help people.  There's this town that's at war with the Philistines, and David consults God and then goes and helps them out.  Now what I love about David is that before he goes and fights someone, it always says that he inquires of God and asks him whether he should go or not, and then whatever God tells him to do is what he does.  I think that's a smart battle plan.

Now Saul is actually out following David's tracks, and he catches up to him.  Saul's men take a pit stop, and they don't know it, but they park outside the very cave where David and his men are hiding.  Saul thinks the cave is a bathroom so he goes inside, and all David's people tell David to kill him.  But David refuses because Saul is the Lord's anointed.  I find this really intriguing.  David knows that he is also God's anointed, and he probably knows that God has rejected Saul, or at least that His Spirit has left Saul.  David could probably convince any judge or jury that he was acting in self-defense if he killed Saul, and I bet nobody would think the worse of him for doing so.  I mean, the guy's already responsible for the deaths of 85 priests plus who knows how many hundreds or thousands of lives on top of that - all just because he was jealous.  But David refuses to harm Saul.  Why?

I think, honestly, that David likes Saul.  The guy is his father-in-law, after all, and before the Goliath thing it seemed like they had a really good relationship.  And David is best friends with Jonathan.  I'm sure that for Jonathan's sake alone he wouldn't do anything to hurt his dad.  David knows Saul will die someday, but he doesn't want it on his conscience.  David chooses to be above reproach.  And more than that, he tries to repair his relationship with Saul by showing him that he spared his life.  And Saul appears to have a moment of clarity.  It's like there's this dark cloud hovering around Saul, and for a moment the sun breaks through and he comes to his senses.  He goes back home.

Very briefly, the text says that Samuel dies and all Israel gathers together to mourn for him.  I wonder if Saul and David were there - especially if they were there together.  But the author doesn't want to dwell on this, probably so they can get back to the action of David, who moves again, this time to a place called Paran.

Next there's a story that I really like, about Nabal and Abigail.  They're a rich couple who live near a place called Carmel (not Caramel).  David and his people are staying out in the wilderness where Nabal's sheep graze, and apparently David's people are kind of watching out for Nabal's flocks and shepherds and stuff, making sure nothing bad happens to them while they're around.  So then David wants to move on, but first he wants to get some provisions, so he sends messengers to Nabal to ask him.  Nabal is a jerk; he basically thumbs his nose at David's messengers.  David gets really mad that his people were insulted, so he's about to go desecrate this guy's house.  But before he can, Nabal's wife gets wind of what happened, and she shows incredible domestic powers by somehow coming up with a ton of food and bringing it out to David and apologizing very gracefully for her husband.  So David doesn't go desecrate Nabal's house after all, and he's very grateful to Abigail for preventing him from doing something stupid.  A few days later, Nabal gets struck by God and dies.  David hears about it and proposes to Abigail, so she goes and joins him.  David already has another wife by this time named Ahinoam.  We don't really know anything about her.  We also find out that Saul has given David's first wife, Michal, to somebody else.  I didn't know that was allowed.

Remember Saul's moment of sun breaking through the clouds?  It's over now.  He hears where David is and goes out after him.  And almost the same thing happens that happened before: David has the opportunity to kill Saul, and he doesn't, and afterward he calls out to Saul - only this time he yells at the King's general for not guarding his king better.  Saul has another moment of clarity; he blesses David and goes home.

I think Saul is really troubled.  Whether it's this evil spirit or he's just really twisted his heart around, I don't know, but he is absolutely paranoid.  Even when he sees that David clearly does not want to kill him, he can't accept that; he is determined to think that David is against him and needs to be stopped.  Sometimes when we get a false perception of a situation or a person, we get obsessed with that idea, and it becomes really hard to let go of it even when it's proven to be false.   I think we should pray to see things through God's eyes so we will not misjudge situations or people so badly like Saul did.

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