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4. 1 Samuel

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I. Historical background to the Books of Samuel.2

The beginning date for the activity of the Books of Samuel is early in the eleventh century B.C. The Hittites, Mitanni and Babylon were kingdoms in decline or complete defeat during this time in the north. The Arameans or Syrians began to move into the northern area in large numbers but did not consolidate until after David’s time.

The Sea People (from the Aegean) had invaded the entire Levant in the preceding century. They were defeated by the Egyptians, but at great cost to the latter who were weak during the time of the judges. Some of the Sea People became the Philistines. They apparently brought with them the secret of iron smelting which they kept for themselves and dominated the Israelites.3

The Canaanites were subdued by the Israelites and the Philistines. Pockets of them were probably under Philistine control as they had previously been under Egyptian control. Some Canaanites moved to Tyre and Sidon and became great maritime people, establishing colonies along North Africa and in southern Spain. They were called Phoenicians.

There were small kingdoms on the eastern border called Ammon, Moab, and Edom. There were continual clashes between them and Israel. Israel, during the time of the Judges, was struggling to consolidate her power particularly in the central hill country. Her religious state as a whole was abysmal. She had adopted many of the practices of the Canaanites. There was a centrifugal force (tribal units) and a centripetal force (central worship). These forces obviously created constant tension. Israel moved rapidly under David and Solomon to become the most powerful nation in the Middle Eastern arena.4

II. The place of 1 and 2 Samuel in Israel’s history.

Judges is a period without a king, with much internecine conflict and considerable practice of paganism and accompanying immorality. Ruth is a delightful interlude to an otherwise tragic drama. There is a central sanctuary, but the pericope on the Danite migration (Judges 17‑18) may indicate little support for the priesthood and a typically independent approach to religion and rule.

1 and 2 Samuel form a transition between the judges who were raised up spontaneously by God to be charismatic defenders of his people and the monarchy, an inherited rule of one who was to represent, defend, and judge God’s people.

The man Samuel looms large in this transition. From his Nazirite youth to his recall after death, he was a man of deep convictions, impeccable conduct, and unrelenting commitment to the cause of right. Yet, his compassion for Saul is evident when Yahweh rebukes Samuel for continuing to mourn Saul after his rejection.

III. The authorship and composition of the Books of Samuel.

The name Samuel is attributed to the books because he dominates the history of the era. That he did not write them all is obvious from the fact that he was dead during the entire period of 2 Samuel. The books were originally one, which accounts for Samuel’s name being attached to both books. The LXX used 1‑4 Kingdoms to describe 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings.

Samuel and other prophets were involved in writing as indicated by 1 Chron 29:29f: “Now the acts of King David, from first to last, are written in the chronicles of Samuel the seer, in the chronicles of Nathan the prophet, and in the chronicles of Gad the seer.”5 Did the account of Nathan’s confrontation with David and the Davidic covenant come from that prophet’s hand? Samuel’s records of the kingship (1 Sam 10:25) probably are reflected in that section of the book. The final form of the book may have come about through court prophets, but we do not know who finally composed the book from the various sources.

IV. The text of Samuel.

The text of Samuel contains a number of corruptions. Haplography is one of the more common problems. Some help comes from LXX and Qumran, but all this material must be evaluated carefully before trying to correct the MT. It is unfortunate that Cross has not yet published the Samuel texts from Qumran after more than four decades. Some of the work appears in the critical apparatus of BHS.6

V. The purpose of Samuel.

These books were not written merely to present history. Their contents are historical, but the arrangement and emphases are to point up God’s work among His people through the judges (e.g., Samuel) and through the kings. Much of the book is to show God’s plan in rejecting Saul and selecting David with whom he makes his covenant and promises a dynasty (2 Samuel 7). The place of the sanctuary is also central to the book when one compares the loss and restoration of the ark (1 Samuel 4‑6) with David’s placement of it in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6) and the plan for the temple with the ensuing covenant (2 Samuel 7) and finally with the discovery of the place of the future temple (2 Samuel 24).

VI. Synthesis of Samuel.

The books of Samuel were composed after the death of David from court records, eyewitness accounts, and the writings of the prophets Samuel, Nathan and Gad. Though there are many sub themes running through the books (such as obedience and reward), the main purpose of the books seems to center on the concept that God is working out his divine purposes through the covenant kindness shown to David and his seed.

Few would question this thesis in 1 Samuel 16—2 Samuel, but even in 1 Samuel where Samuel is being contrasted to Eli’s house, this seems to be the case. Samuel will bring the word of judgment on Eli’s house, and David (via Solomon) will execute it over fifty years later (1 Kings 2:26-27). In the concluding verse of Hannah’s psalm (2:10), the king/anointed is mentioned. For Hannah this was a non-specific statement predicated on earlier statements about the coming monarchy (Gen 17:6); from the author’s viewpoint, this could only refer to David.

The “man of God” who brings a prophetic word against the house of Eli says, “But I will raise up for myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is in my heart and in my soul; and I will build him an enduring house, and he will walk before my anointed always.” This is the position Zadok will hold under David.

Thus, Samuel, the antithesis of the sons of Eli and the one who confirms the message of judgment on the dynasty of Eli (3:12-14), also anoints David. Both the Davidic dynasty and the Zadokite priesthood are established. The writer of 1-2 Samuel is showing his readers how God’s purposes through David were worked out decades before he came on the scene.

The place of Saul in the argument of the books seems to be transitional—not from judges to a monarchy, but from judges to David. Saul, as a member of the now insignificant tribe of Benjamin, was probably selected as the least threatening possible king of the tribes. His task was designated as attacking the Philistines (1 Sam 9:16), a task completed by David. A deliberate contrast is made between Saul and David from 1 Samuel 16 on (note the juxtaposition of the Spirit of the Lord on David and away from Saul in 1 Sam 16:13, 14). All of first Samuel is leading up to David becoming king in 2 Samuel.

The first eight chapters of 2 Samuel represent the apex of David’s reign. These events did not transpire in a short time; they occurred throughout David’s reign.7 Consequently, this unit is designed to show that God blessed David’s reign and fulfilled His promises to him. The first four chapters are devoted to showing how David, through patience and wisdom, came to rule over all twelve tribes of Israel. Two important events are listed in chapter 5: the selection of the Jebusite fortress for the capital and the defeat of the Philistines. Chapter 6 records the movement of the ark to Jerusalem making that the site of the central sanctuary. Chapter 7 gives the all-important Davidic covenant which will form the basis of God’s future dealings with the descendants of David. Finally, chapter 8 lists the many surrounding small states David defeated. This chapter closes with a list of David’s administrative cabinet showing that the kingdom is established (cf. the same type of list at the end of chapter 20 showing the reestablishment of the kingdom).8 The following chart shows how First Samuel is laying the groundwork for 2 Samuel 1-8.

Once the kingdom was established, the writer now wants to develop two themes: (1) the issue of the successor of David who will thus come under the Davidic covenant promises and (2) the development of the temple as the central sanctuary.

Most commentators speak of the succession narrative and identify it with 2 Samuel 9-20 and 1 Kings 1-2.9 From the author’s point of view, the issue of succession begins in chapter 10. Chapter 9 shows David’s kindness to Jonathan’s son (per their agreement) and is to be compared with chapter 21 where David turns seven of Saul’s family over to the Gibeonites for execution.

Chapters 10-12 form a unit designed to show that God has chosen Solomon to be the successor to David. The Ammonite war brackets the story (10:1—11:1 with 12:26-31). The Ammonites were dealt with in a summary fashion in chapter 8 along with the other surrounding peoples. They are reintroduced here in detail to provide the setting for the sin of David with Bathsheba and Uriah. While this unit gives us much information about several issues, the author draws attention to the fact that the child born from the union of David and Bathsheba was Solomon. Lest there be any question about the relation of Solomon to David, he is the second son born after Uriah’s death. 1 Sam 12:24 says of Solomon: “Now the Lord loved him.” This is the Hebrew way of saying; the Lord chose him. Furthermore, the Lord sends word through Nathan the prophet stating that the other name of Solomon is to be Jedidiah (Yahweh loves). Clearly, then, this unit is designed to show the next successor to David. Furthermore, chapter 7 has indicated that David’s son will build the temple. Thus, Solomon will build it.

The unit from chapter 13 to chapter 20 (1 Kings 1-2 is included in the whole narrative) shows how God judged David for his sin (negative part of Davidic covenant), but also how he eliminated the contenders for the throne who would threaten Solomon. Amnon, Absalom and Adonijah were all from David’s earlier marriages and therefore in line for the throne by birth. Amnon shows his unworthiness to rule and is killed by his brother. Absalom because of rebellion against his father is killed, and finally Adonijah, who decided to “buck the odds,” is killed in a foolish bid for the kingship. The way now is clear for Solomon to rule without opposition.

The final unit in 2 Samuel is chapters 21-24. The literary structure of this unit looks back on David’s victories and forward to the temple. As the chart below shows, there is a chiasm with the Famine in 21 paralleling the plague in 24; the defeat of the Philistines in 21b parallels the heroes of David (who defeated the Philistines). The two middle sections of praise tie the unit together: Chapter 22 praises God for victory over the house of Saul (21a) and over all his enemies (21b). Chapter 23 praises God for the establishment of the kingdom. Chapter 24 speaks of David’s sin in the census, but the outcome of that sin (the plague) is stopped at the very site that will later become the temple. There David builds an altar and sacrifices. Chronicles (1 Chron 21:18—22:2) ties the plague into the temple site. Given the Chronicler’s predilection for omitting David’s sins, the presence of the census/plague is singular and argues for its position in both Samuel and Chronicles as an indicator of the future site of the temple.

Thus, the purposes of God are being worked out through his ḥesed to David, his anointed. David’s seed will be blessed in obedience and disciplined in disobedience. The first “seed” of David will be Solomon whom God chose over his older brothers as David was chosen over his older brothers. To Solomon goes the task of building the temple, but David chose the city and the altar site for its location. Henceforth, the worship of Yahweh in Jerusalem at the temple will be a main issue to the author of Kings. Further the successors of David will be judged in light of the Davidic covenant.

VII. Notes on First Samuel.

A. Samuel, Prophet, Priest and Judge (1 Sam 1:1—7:17).

1. The Birth of Samuel (1:1—2:10).

a. Samuel’s tribal origins (1:1).

First Samuel clearly identifies Elkanah with the tribe of Ephraim while 1 Chron 6:28, 33 places him squarely in the Levitical family. The reason for this is that Levites often became identified with the tribe to which they were ministering. Samuel should be considered a member of the priestly family.10

b. Elkanah’s family struggle (1:2‑8).

Hannah (hypocoristic for “Yahweh is gracious”) was childless: a virtual curse for an Old Testament woman. Peninnah (probably a “precious stone”) had children. Elkanah carried out his responsibility as an Israelite man by going to the worship center at Shiloh annually to sacrifice (actually they were to appear before the Lord three times a year [Deut 16:16], but this was obviously not being obeyed). Shiloh was the place where the tabernacle was pitched after the tribes had settled in the land (Josh 18:1, 8‑10).

Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are mentioned here to prepare for their involvement later. Elkanah’s favoritism is shown by his giving to Hannah a double portion of the sacrificial feast. There was rivalry between the two women, with Peninnah practicing particular cruelty toward Hannah.

c. Hannah’s prayer and vow (1:9‑11).

Hannah resorted to prayer to alleviate her problem. Eli was sitting in his customary place where he could observe the worshippers. Hannah told the Lord that if he would answer her prayer and give her a son that she would devote him to the Lord “all the days of his life and a razor shall never come on his head.” This clearly was a dedication of her son as a Nazirite (Num 6:13‑21) though the text does not call him that. A fragment from Qumran (4QSama) has a phrase at 1:11 and 1:22 not found in either the MT or LXX that says, “And I will dedicate him as a Nazirite forever, all the days of his life.”the MT or LXX that says, ``And I will dedicate him as a Nazirite for ever, all the days of his life.’’11

d. Eli’s misunderstanding of Hannah (1:12‑18).

It is a sad commentary on the spiritual state of affairs that Eli would assume a worshipper to be drunk because she was moving her lips in prayer. It is to Eli’s credit that he rebuked her. Hannah’s defense was that she was not a worthless woman (Hebrew: בַּת בְּלִיַּעַל bath beliyy’al). This phrase will be used to describe the sons of Eli later (2:12). Recognizing the integrity of Hannah, Eli dismissed her with his blessing.

e. Hannah’s prayer answered (1:19‑20).

Yahweh remembered Hannah, and she bore a son and named him Samuel. The reason for the name, she said was “because I have asked him from the Lord.” The name Saul (Heb.: שָׁאוּל Ša’ul) means “asked one.” Samuel (Heb.: שְׁמוּאֵל Šemu’el) ought to mean “Name of God,” or something like that unless it is a reduction of שְׁמוּעְאֵל Šemu‘’el, i.e., “Heard of God.” The latter is probably correct, and she was saying, “I asked for him, and God heard.”

f. Dedication of Samuel (1:21‑28).

The time for the annual trek to the tabernacle arrived, but Hannah refused to go up until she had weaned Samuel, at which point, she promised, she would leave the child in the tabernacle. Elkanah may have been worried that she would not follow through on her vow, and so he said, “Only may the Lord confirm His word” (1:21‑23). The husband was responsible to approve or annul his wife’s vows (Num 30:1f) (1:21-23).

True to her vow, she brought Samuel to the tabernacle when she had weaned him. This was truly a festive occasion (cf. Gen 21:8). She may have nursed Samuel until he was about four (2 Macc 7:27: three years), but even so he was very young to leave at the tabernacle. KJV says she brought three bullocks; NASB says a three‑year‑old bull. Both LXX and Qumran (4QSama) have one three‑year‑old bull and this is probably the correct reading (1:24).

The phrase, “although the child was young” (Heb.: “The child was a child”) is very unusual in Hebrew and looks suspiciously like a form of haplography.12 The LXX has “and the child was with them and they brought [him] before the Lord, and his father killed the sacrifice which he was making annually to the Lord, and she brought the child. Unfortunately, Qumran has a break in the manuscript at this point, but there is room for this line in the break. Hertzberg, on the other hand, argues for the MT, comparing it with Judges 8:20 where a similar construction appears (1:25).13

This godly woman then surrendered her son to Eli and explained to him that she was the woman who had prayed for a son and who had vowed to give him to the Lord all the days of his life. What an example! (1:26-28).

g. Hannah’s psalm of thanksgiving and praise (2:1‑10).

One of the most beautiful psalms of the Old Testament is this prayer of Hannah. The psalm was probably already in circulation (the mention of the barren having children makes it so apropos to the circumstances); Hannah recited it, and thus it became a part of Scripture. Hannah’s psalm should be compared to Mary’s Magnificat, composed under similar circumstances.

The psalm eulogizes the Lord’s greatness and his graciousness. It shows that God does not always operate as people think he should. He exalts the lowly and humbles the mighty. He strengthens the weak and feeds the hungry. He searches the heart and knows all that each one thinks. He will ultimately set things right and vindicate those who put their trust in him. These themes of the psalm will be worked out in the lives of the characters of these books.

2. The Family of Eli (2:11—4:22).

a. The writer’s purpose.

The purpose of this section is to contrast the godly life of Samuel with the ungodly life of Eli’s two sons (Samuel now ministers at the altar) and to show why God removed the family of Eli from the priesthood.14 Eli seems to be a good man. He was concerned about the life of the people as evidenced in the way he dealt with Hannah. Yet, he was weak, lacking the fortitude to discipline his own sons. Therefore, he suffered the consequences personally, and the people nationally.

b. The practice of Eli’s sons (2:12‑17).

The character of Hophni and Phinehas is indicated by the fact that they “did not know the Lord.” This means that they had no regard for him. They were totally selfish in their thoughts and conduct (2:12).

They were also called “worthless” men. This is the same phrase (בְּנֵי בְלִיַּעַל bene beliyy’al) Hannah uses in denying Eli’s charge. The word in 2 Cor 6:15, Belial, is from this Hebrew word. It means first to be worthless and then it refers to the most worth-less of all creatures: Satan. The character of these men is demonstrated in the way they treated God’s people who came to sacrifice. They chose whatever meat they wanted, disregarding the normal practices decreed by the law of Moses (2:13-17).

c. The contrast of the boy Samuel (2:18‑21).

Samuel served as a little priest, and his mother provided for him annually. Whenever Elkanah and Hannah came to Shiloh, Eli would bless them. God’s blessing in their lives was evident in the birth of five children. God’s intervention in history to bring this little boy into the world was no little thing. He was raising up a very significant person to carry out his divine will for Israel. The boy Samuel grew before the Lord (as the sons of Eli failed to know or obey the Lord).

d. More on the wickedness of Eli’s sons (2:22‑26).

The women “who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting” seem to be housekeepers or some other such maintenance people (cf. Exod 38:8), (the word “served” is related to Sebaoth (צְבָאוֹת) which usually refers to an army or some other such organization). One can only wonder whether the conduct in 2:22 may involve Canaanite cult practices. Eli protests their wickedness to no avail (2:23‑25). God’s purpose is given in 2:25, but like the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, human responsibility should be seen prior to the judgment. The contrast of Samuel’s life to Eli’s sons is given in v. 26. The similarity of this statement to the one made of Jesus in Luke 2:52 is not accidental.

e. Prediction of judgment on Eli’s house through a prophet (2:27‑36).

God sent a man of God (a prophet) to tell Eli that in spite of the fact that he held an elect position as a member of Levi’s family, God was going to judge his house because of the crass disobedience of Hophni and Phinehas (2:27‑30). The destruction of the family would not be complete, but they would lose their privileged position. Furthermore, both Hophni and Phinehas would be killed on the same day. In addition, God promised to raise up a faithful priest who would walk before God’s king forever.

The implication of this message is that Samuel would take the place of Eli, as he indeed did, acting as priest‑judge. But Eli’s house was not to be totally destroyed, only demoted. Several years later, the tabernacle was at Nob and Ahimelech, a descendant of Eli, was ministering as high priest (1 Samuel 21, cf. 14:3 also). The entire family, with the exception of Abiathar, was wiped out. Later (1 Kings 2:26‑37), Solomon dismissed Abiathar to his village of Anathoth and replaced him with Zadok who became the “faithful priest.”

f. Prediction of judgment on Eli’s house through faithful Samuel (3:1-21).

The situation out of which the prophecy arose was that Samuel was ministering in the tabernacle (lighting lights, running errands). God’s word was rare, visions were infrequent (this means that there were few prophets). Eli was sleeping (in the adjoining buildings to the tabernacle?). He was old and going blind. The ceremonial lights were still burning. Samuel was also sleeping in the adjoining rooms. The Lord called to Samuel three times. Samuel assumed that it was Eli. Eli finally discerned that it was Yahweh calling and he instructed Samuel to respond: “Speak Lord for your servant hears.” Samuel and Eli’s sons are again contrasted. Eli’s sons did not “know the Lord” in the sense that they did not obey him. Samuel has not yet had such an opportunity, but it has now come, and he responds affirmatively.

The revelation is given (3:10‑14) because the servant responds in obedience. This message is that God will judge Eli’s house. It is an “ear tingling” word of judgment. All previous promises will be carried out. Eli is held responsible for his sons’ conduct. (“Brought a curse on themselves”—this is a correction of the scribes, Tiqun Sopherim, designed to prevent the text from saying, “they cursed God.” Cf. LXX: “Because his sons were cursing God.”).15) The issue of atonement is not personal atonement, but corporate, i.e., there is nothing that will prevent God from removing Eli’s house from the priesthood.

The revelation was communicated only at Eli’s insistence (3:15‑18). Samuel was afraid to tell the revelation, but Eli adjures him to tell all, and so he does. Eli as a man of God accepts the judgment of God as just. A crescendo of judgment was reached in Samuel (1) Eli rebukes his sons (2) a prophet rebukes Eli (3) Samuel relays God’s rebuke.

The prominence of Samuel is shown again by the statement that he grew spiritually and God blessed him (3:19‑21). All Israel knew that Samuel was a prophet.16

g. The Judgment of God against the house of Eli begins (4:1‑22).

Contrary to a number of scholars,17 this is not an independent story of the ark originating separately from chapters 1‑3. Though Samuel is not mentioned (he was too young to be involved in the war), it shows the fulfillment of the threat to Eli’s sons (predicted through Samuel) and God’s faithfulness to his covenant represented by the ark.

The Philistine threat, so prominent in the book of Judges rears its head again in Samuel. The chapter begins with the statement that Samuel’s word came to all Israel. That is in the capacity of judge, people from all over came to respect this man of God to whom God revealed himself. The Philistines gathered at Aphek which lies just north of Philistine territory. The Israelites mustered at Ebenezer (a proleptic name, since it will be called “stone of help” after the defeat of the Philistines in Chapter 7) (4:1-2).

The Israelites were soundly defeated in the first foray. About 4,000 were killed. The defeat called for self-examination. The elders concluded rightly that God had allowed the defeat, but they concluded wrongly that the ark of God could be used as sort of a talisman to ward off the enemy. Perhaps they thought they could replicate the battle of Jericho. Thus, the purposes of God were worked out in the judgment against Hophni and Phinehas. The ark was brought into the battle with Eli’s two sons in attendance (4:3‑4).18

Of course, this abuse of the ark only brought a second defeat by Philistines (4:5‑11). The Philistines were frightened at first when the ark entered but rallied to defeat the Israelites (4:5‑10). (Note: The Philistines knew how God delivered Israel from Egypt [4:8]. This makes the defeat doubly bitter and shows that God will not defend even His own people when they are disobedient.)

The ark of the covenant was captured, and the sons of Eli were killed as prophesied in 2:34. The report of the battle eventually came to Eli (4:12‑18). Eli’s great concern was for the ark. Eli was ninety-eight years old and virtually blind (cataracts?). At the news of his sons’ death, but especially at the news of the capture of the ark, Eli fell from his bench and broke his neck. This is a powerful lesson for anyone in spiritual leadership.

Phinehas’ wife went into labor at the news of her husband’s death. She called her new son Ichabod (אֵי כָּבוֹד ’ey kabod lit.: “Where is the glory”). The loss of the ark symbolized to her that God was absent from Israel since the shekinah glory represented his presence. This is the final commentary on the results of disobedience to the divine law (4:19-22).

3. The evidence of God’s continued grace in the protection of the ark of the covenant (5:1—7:2).

a. The vicissitudes of the ark are recounted in chapters 5 and 6.

The purpose in this section is to show that the ark of the covenant, a symbol of God’s presence among the people, cannot be abused by either the Israelites (talisman) or the Philistines (triumph over a national god). God shows them that a proper attitude toward him (represented by the ark) brings blessing (the men of Kiriath Jearim, 7:1).19

b. Confrontation between paganism and Jehovah (5:1‑12).

The ark was first brought to the temple at the ancient Philistine city of Ashdod and placed in the temple of Dagon. This deity was once thought to be a fish god (Heb.: דָּג dag = fish) worshipped by the Aegean Philistines. We now know that Dagon (Heb.: דָּגָן dagon = grain) was a deity in the Canaanite pantheon. The presence of the ark brought judgment on the pagan divinity Dagon (1‑5) 20 and on the people (6‑12). As a result, the ark was taken to three cities in the Philistine pentapolis (see atlas). The Ekronites insisted that the ark be returned to Israel (5:11‑12).

c. The restoration of the ark with recognition of the position of the God of Israel (6:1‑20).

The diviners suggested a return of the ark with a guilt offering (Heb.: אָשָׁם ’asham, Leviticus 5). This offering recognized a trespass against God (6:1‑3). The guilt offering was to consist of golden replicas of the tumors and mice—one for each lord/city of the Philistines. Lasor suggests that this act represents sympathetic magic, i.e., the same kind of thing that has caused the damage is made. The mention of mice may point to some kind of plague carried by rodents (6:4‑5).21 The diviners gave glory to the God who brought Israel from Egypt and advised action that would require a miracle (two cows taken away from their young) (6:7‑9). The miracle happened, indicating that Jehovah was working in the circumstances (6:10‑16).

The cows made their way to the border town of Beth Shemesh. The Beth Shemeshites were Israelites. They rejoiced when the ark was returned, and the Levites offered sacrifice. The offering is recounted (6:17‑18), and the statement is made that the stone on which the ark was placed was still there in the time of the author. The Beth Shemeshites profaned the ark by following idle curiosity and looking into the sacred box.22 God judged them by destroying 50,070 men.23 The Beth Shemeshites came under the same wrath as had the Philistines. Instead of acknowledging that they were responsible, they complained about the inapproach-ability of God (6:19‑20).

The men of Kiriath-jearim (Forestville) were not priests, nor was Kiriath-jearim a priestly city. This city was chosen probably because it was near Beth Shemesh. Aminadab was surely a Levite, or his son Eleazar would not have been consecrated to supervise the ark. A larger question is why the ark was not taken back to Shiloh. The answer may lie in the fact that the city was defeated and possibly the tabernacle destroyed (cf. Jer 7:12).24 The (rebuilt) tabernacle shows up later at Nob (1 Sam 21:6) and Gibeon (2 Chron 1:3), suggesting that it was removed in some way from Shiloh. The ark remained in Kiriathjearim for twenty years after which we should understand that the events of the rest of the chapter took place. Many years after that, David brought the ark to Jerusalem (6:21—7:2).

The relation of this unit to the structure of 1‑2 Samuel should not be missed (see Hertzberg). Here the ark is lost and returned. In 2 Samuel 6 David brings it to Jerusalem and in 2 Samuel 7 he plans to build the temple. 2 Samuel 24 provides the place for the sanctuary.25

d. Defeat of the Philistines (7:3‑17) (The right approach to battle).

There is no indication as to when this event took place. A contrast is being drawn between Samuel’s spiritual life and leadership with that of Hophni and Phinehas in chapter 4 (7:3‑4).

The first criterion to success is a repentant heart. (“Return to the Lord with all your heart.”) This will be evidenced by the renun-ciation of paganism: the removal of the Ashtoreth (fertility goddess) and Baal (storm god). Baal means “master” or “Lord” and was once used of Jehovah (cf. the word Beulah—married—in Isa 62:4). Because of the problem of syncretism, the name was dropped and Bosheth (shameful) was substituted (cf. Ishbosheth, Mephibosheth). Wondrously the Israelites repented and followed the first commandment of the covenant by “having no other gods before them.”

Samuel prepared Israel further by bringing them to Mizpah (watch point), one of his “circuit” cities and famous even in later times (Jeremiah 40; 1 Maccabees 3). They poured out water as a libation, fasted, repented, and Samuel judged them. Normally, “to judge” means to adjudicate disputes. Here it must mean that they confessed their wrongs. Samuel thus continued the tradition of judgeship so well-known already in Israel (7:5‑6).

The Philistines assumed that the Israelites were preparing for war and began to muster their troops. The Israelites were afraid and begged Samuel to pray for them. In response, Samuel offered up a whole burnt offering and prayed for God to deliver them. God’s response was to bring confusion to the Philistines allowing the Israelites to defeat them. Israel was poorly armed. Only prayer and the answer of God in direct intervention could save them. This was the war of Yahweh, not the war of his people. As such, he won decisively (7:7‑11).

After this great victory of Yahweh, Samuel erected a cairn to commemorate the victory. “Even” means “stone” and “Ezer” (as in Ezra) means “help” (אֶבֶן הָעֵזֶר eben ha’ezer). This battle was decisive: The Philistines were subdued, and many of the former Israelite cities were restored. (The Philistines were not finished, of course, for they still must be defeated by Saul and David) (7:12‑14).

This major section is concluded with a summary of Samuel’s ministry. He was a judge. This is proven by his work at Mizpah. He acted as one of the judges in the book of Judges, but he loomed larger than any of them. As a matter of fact, he was more like Moses, and was included with him in Jer 15:1 (where the stress is on intercession). He conducted his ministry in various cities of southern Israel much like a circuit preacher. Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah were the three chief centers. No further mention is made of Shiloh, nor is he connected with the ark at Kiriath-jearim. His home was in Ramah (7:15‑17).

B. Samuel and Saul, a time of transition (8:1—15:35B.Samuel and Saul, a time of transition (8:115:35).

1. The people’s choice: a monarchy rather than a theocracy (8:1‑22).

a. The Problem—Samuel’s sons (8:1‑3).

It is ironic that Samuel’s sons turn out to be unspiritual and un-worthy just like Eli’s sons. One would think that Samuel would have profited from the bad example of Hophni and Phinehas, but he apparently did not. Nothing provokes people like injustice. Because of the perversion of their office, (perhaps exacerbated by the Philistine threat) the sons of Samuel caused the people to look for a king.

b. The request of the people (8:4‑18).

The blunt request of the elders must have been a shock to Samuel. “You are old, your boys are bad, and so we need a king.” Samuel turned to the Lord who told him that it was not Samuel who was being rejected, but the Lord himself. Critics see in this section an ambivalent attitude toward the idea of a kingship which continues as a tension throughout the historical period. The “Deuteronomist,” they say, is opposed to the idea of a king and so inserts his theology into the narrative.26 But God often allows people to choose the second best (“He gave them the desires of their heart and sent leanness to their souls”). In the case of the monarchy, he even chose to bless it by selecting David as the predecessor of the Messiah. God told Samuel to listen to the people and select a king for them. Implicit in this statement is the divine sanction of the monarchy. However, he first told Samuel that he must warn them of the consequence. Israel wanted a king “like all the nations.” Israel was unique in her leadership. The other nations: Egypt, the Hittites, Mitanni, Assyria, Babylonia, Tyre, Sidon, Moab, and Philistia all had a highly developed office of king. Samuel rehearsed to the people all that this king would do to them. These practices were all followed by subsequent kings. Solomon especially overtaxed the resources of the people so that they finally revolted against his son Rehoboam. Samuel also told them that they must be prepared to suffer the consequences, for God would not listen to them in the day they cry out to Him for deliverance from an oppressive king.

c. The response of the people (8:19‑22).

The people, as is often the case, traded the present for the future. Perhaps their greatest fear was to go out to war without a proper leader. Their experience in battle against the Philistines under Eli left them worried, and even the victory under Samuel did not offset their fear. They wanted a king to lead them into battle.

The Lord yielded to their desire and permitted them to have a king. Samuel sent the people away in anticipation of a future appointment. Now the stage is set for the transition from a simple, ad hoc judgeship directly under God, to a complex monarchy that will bring much grief to the people. We are now ready to be introduced to the enigmatic Saul.

The importance of this unit cannot be overemphasized. Moving from the leadership of judges to a monarchy was as significant for Israel’s history as the destruction of the first temple. Not only would the political structure be forever altered, but God’s covenant also would soon be made with David, giving theological direction to the course of Israel’s history unthought-of before the monarchy.

2. The selection of Saul as King (9:1—10:27).

a. Background of the story (9:1‑4).

The genealogy. The tribe of Benjamin was involved in the civil war of Judges 19‑21 which resulted from the sordid affair of the Levite concubine. The Benjamites were virtually decimated. This may account for the choice by God of this tribe: it was less of a threat to the rest of the tribes. (Saul of Tarsus, of course, was from this tribe and was named after the first king.)27

Saul’s father was Kish of Abiel of Zeror of Becorath of Aphiah. Kish was a “mighty man of valor” (גִּבּוֹר חַיִל gibbor ḥayil) usually a Hebrew idiom for an outstanding soldier but used of Boaz (Ruth 2:1) to mean “sturdy” that is wealthy man. So, it should be understood here.

Saul ben Kish is described as a choice young man, very hand-some and tall. This may have led Samuel to look for a com-parable person to replace Saul (1 Samuel 16). However, God told Samuel not to look on the outward appearance.

The immediate circumstances leading up to the story were that some of Kish’s donkeys were lost and Saul and his servant had been looking for them without success.

b. The circumstances for the encounter with Samuel (9:5‑10).

Saul suggested that they return home because they had been gone so long that Kish would be worried about them. The servant suggested looking up the “man of God” in a nearby city to ask about the lost donkeys. The city was no doubt one of the circuit cities (1 Sam 7:16‑17). This indicates that in the popular concept, prophets were thought of almost as “crystal ball gazers.” As a matter of fact, the editor informs us that in earlier times the prophet was called a “see‑er.” (This editorial aside indicates that this part of the book is being written quite a bit later than the events in it.) Furthermore, the “seer” had to be paid for his services. Saul happily acceded to the servant’s advice, and they set out to the city to find the seer.

c. The arrival of Samuel at the city (9:11‑14).

Saul and his servant climbed the entrance slope to the city where they encountered girls leaving to draw water. The girls told them the seer had already arrived to carry out his priestly function in the “high place.” The high place was a cult center where either Jehovah or the pagan gods could be worshipped.28 Later, because of their identification with paganism, the high places were removed. Here it is legitimate as a center for the worship of the Lord.29 On the way to the high place, their paths crossed that of Samuel. All of these circumstances were being divinely engineered to bring about the anointing of Saul.

d. The amazing encounter with Samuel (9:15‑21).

God had already revealed to Samuel that the promised king of chap. 8 would appear on this particular day. This man would become a “prince” (נָגִיד nagid) over “my people Israel” (cf. David in 2 Sam 5:2). His task would be to deliver Israel from the Philistines. This deliverance was God’s response to the cry of the Israelites.

When Saul and his servant appeared, God told Samuel that this was the man of whom he had spoken. At Saul’s query on the location of the seer’s house, Samuel identified himself and invited Saul to join him at the feast connected with the sacrifice. He promised to release him the next day after telling him all that was on his mind. Samuel then gave to Saul a confirmatory sign authenticating his ministry by telling him about the donkeys even before Saul asked about them. (Cf. Jesus and Nathanael—John 1:47‑51.) Saul gave a very humble response, similar to that given by Gideon when God called him to a similar task in Judges 6.

e. Samuel and Saul at the sacrificial meal (9:22‑24).

Samuel took them to the feast and seated them in the place of honor and ordered the choice piece of meat he had asked the cook to set aside just for this occasion.30 The “appointed time” indicates that God was providentially working in this situation.

f. Preparation for the anointing of Saul (9:25‑27).

Samuel and Saul went down from the high place to the city to a house. (If the city were Ramah, the house would probably be Samuel’s. If it were some other, as it seems to be since Samuel was invited to the feast, the house would belong to someone else.) The Hebrew sequence of events is a little awkward:

He spoke with Saul on the roof top

They arose early

Daybreak came and Samuel called to Saul on the roof

The Greek text (B) has:

They spread (a bed) for Saul on the roof top

He lay down

Daybreak came, and Samuel called to Saul on the roof

The difference between “speak” dbr and “spread” rdb is a matter of inverted letters. The Hebrew words for “rise early” škm and “lie down” škb are very similar also.

MT וידבר עם שׁאול על הגג וישׁכמו wydbr ‘m šaul ‘l hgg wyškmu

LXX): וירבדו לשׁאול על הגג וישׁכב wyrbdu l šaul ‘l hgg wyškb (retroverted

Consequently, the LXX probably has the better reading. “And they spread for Saul [a bed] on the roof top, and he lay down.”

Samuel told Saul to send his servant ahead so that he might reveal to him the word of God (9:27).

g. The private anointing of Saul (10:1‑8).

The first anointing of Saul was done by Samuel with no one looking on (10:1). There was a public anointing later.31

So that there will be no question in Saul’s mind about the validity of this anointing, Samuel gave confirming signs (10:2‑7). (Can you imagine Saul’s bewilderment? There has never been a king in Israel; he had never met Samuel before; he was a simple country man looking for his donkeys—and he is told he is to be a king.)

The signs are: (1) Saul will meet two men near Rachel’s tomb (near Bethlehem) who will tell him about the donkeys. (2) Saul will meet three men going up to (worship) God in the cult center of Bethel. They will share their food with him. (3) Saul will meet a group of prophets whom he will join and begin to prophesy.32

Saul was then told to go to Gilgal where he was to wait seven days for Samuel who would come to offer sacrifices and give Saul more instruction (10:8).33

h. The fulfillment of the signs (10:9‑13).

Saul became a new man as he left Samuel. How are we to interpret this statement? Does it refer to salvation? It means at least that God performed a supernatural work on Saul so that he would be different in the future.

The most significant evidence of the change in Saul was the third sign, when Saul joined with the group of prophets in prophesying. Saul’s character apparently was so changed that the people were surprised to see him among the prophets, and his presence even created an aphorism: when someone acted in a way that was out of character, some wag would say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” The phrase “Now who is their father” probably means that each prophet received his own call and did not enter the prophetic office by birth. Hence, even Saul could join the group though his father was not a prophet. (Saul’s action in 19:22ff. called up the same aphorism.)

i. Saul’s reception at home (10:14‑16).

Saul explained only that they went to Samuel for help in finding the lost donkeys, refusing to satisfy his uncle’s curiosity by telling him more about Samuel.

j. The public anointing of Saul (10:17‑27).

Samuel had anointed Saul privately, but it was now necessary to present him to the people. Instead of simply saying that he had anointed Saul, Samuel used the lot as an evidence of divine choice of Saul. Samuel brought the people to Mizpah for the anointing of Saul as he had brought them there for judging in chap. 7 (10:17).

After delivering a rebuke to the people for asking for a king, Samuel used the lot to select the tribe, family and individual who would be king. Saul was chosen, but he shyly hid in the baggage from which the people took him after God told them he was there (10:18‑23).

Samuel then proudly presented Saul to the people. He took a fatherly interest in Saul from that time forward. The people excitedly accepted Saul as their king, and Samuel went home after giving the people a list of things to expect from the king (10:24‑25).

Saul also went to his home followed by a band of loyal adherents in whom the Lord had worked.34 Of this new king Wright says: “Saul was no wealthy, learned, cosmopolitan statesman. He was a warrior, primarily, who stood head and shoulders above the ordinary Israelite: that is, he was over six feet tall. He was a charismatic hero, just like a number of judges before him, and he owed his position to the fact that the people thought he possessed special gifts which had been given him by God, and indeed he did. He differed from judges like Othniel, Barak, and Gideon only by the fact he was a permanent leader, not a temporary one—chosen as such because of the Philistine crisis.”35 Seeds of discontent were already sown in the minds of certain worthless men (בְּנֵי בְלִיַּעַל bene beliyya’al). Saul was wise enough to keep quiet. (But for a different text regarding this phrase, see the next section.)

3. The first test of the new king (11:1‑15).

a. The provocation (11:1‑5).

Nahash, King of the Ammonites, besieged the Manassite city of Jabesh-gilead.36 Frank Cross tells us of a fragment of Samuel from Qumran which has a paragraph not in the MT nor in the LXX (though it is reflected in Josephus and the last phrase of chapter 10).37 “But he kept silent” [ וַיְּהִי כְמַחֲרִישׁ wayehi kemaḥrish] is translated in LXX as “And it came about after about a month” [ וַיְּהִי כַחדֶשׁ wayehi kaḥodesh]. Nahash had recaptured some of the cities taken by the Reubenites and Gadites and mutilated the inhabitants. When 7,000 men fled to Jabesh‑gilead, Nahash laid siege to the city. This data would help explain the reason for Nahash’s attack on Jabesh-gilead and his demand that they put out their right eyes. Some take this paragraph for a Midrashic addition, but Cross argues rather well for its genuineness. If it were lost, it would have been lost by haplography (Nahash . . . Nahash).

The Jabesh‑gileadites persuaded the Ammonites to give them time to seek help. Apparently Nahash was fully confident of his superiority and granted it. The elders sent to Saul for help.

b. The response of Saul (11:6‑11).

Saul came home from plowing (note what this indicates about the kingdom of that time) and heard the report. The Spirit of God “came upon Saul mightily.” The Hebrew word translated “came upon mightily” is tiṣlaḥ (תִּצְלַח). It normally means “to advance” and will most commonly be translated “to prosper.” In this instance it means to “move on someone strongly.” Used of the Holy Spirit coming on men, it is applied to Samson (3x’s), Saul (3x’s) and once to David. The same word is used of the evil spirit coming on Saul (once). Saul summoned the army of Israel with the dramatic act of cutting the oxen into pieces. He mustered 330,000 people, attacked, and devastated the Ammonites.

c. The new respect for Saul (11:12‑14).

The “worthless men” of chap. 10 were threatened, but Saul spared them. Samuel took Saul and the people to Gilgal to renew the kingdom. The people happily accepted Saul as the king over Israel.

4. Samuel’s testimonial (12:1‑25).

a. Samuel calls for a testimony of his pure life (12:1‑5).

The transition has now taken place. Samuel will continue to act as a prophet of God who is actually over the king. This precedent will be continued throughout the monarchy. The king may kill the prophet, but he can never destroy the prophetic office, and prophets will continue to challenge the king to do what is right before God. Samuel called the people to bear witness to his conduct.38 The corruption of public office included theft, fraud, oppression, and bribery. The people testified that Samuel’s life had been above reproach; what a testimony!

b. Samuel’s farewell message (12:6‑18).

Samuel rehearsed God’s acts in history to remind them that they had sinned in asking for a king and to challenge them to a life of obedience in the future. This practice is typical of the teachers in Israel—cf., e.g., Stephen’s sermon in Acts 7. The word “plead” in this form (v. 7) (Heb.: אִשָּׁפְטָה iššapetah) means to enter into a court case with someone.

Samuel recounted God’s deliverance of Israel from Jacob to the most recent situation with Nahash (12:6‑12).39 Samuel next turned their attention to the new and first king of Israel and admonished king and people to follow the Lord (12:13‑17). Samuel then called on the Lord for a miracle which was given to authenticate Samuel’s ministry (12:18).

c. Samuel prays for the people (12:19‑25).

The people, in fear, asked Samuel to entreat the Lord in their behalf. Samuel gave the people a warm and encouraging message, perhaps the most poignant in the book, promising to pray for them.

5. Saul battles the Philistines (13:1—14:52).

a. One of the purposes for which God raised up Saul was to drive out the Philistines (9:16). This he began to do. Samson had made a slight impact on them, and some victory had been won under Samuel, but their grip was not loosened from the Israelites. Now Saul, and more significantly, his valiant son Jonathan began to make inroads into them. It was David, however, who, once and for all, broke the back of Philistine control over the Israelites.

b. The chronology of 13:1 is very difficult.

The KJV has “Saul reigned one year and when he had reigned two years . . .” but this attempt to solve the problem is syntac-tically untenable. The normal reading would be “Saul was_____years old when he began to reign, and he reigned_____years over Israel.” NASB has “Saul was forty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty‑two years over Israel.” NIV has “Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty‑two years.” Acts 13:21 seems to indicate 40 years for Saul’s reign. Some would argue that the 40 years in Acts includes Samuel’s time. We will have to leave the matter unsolved.40

c. Saul decided to attack the Philistine garrison which was the reason he kept only 3,000 troops. The Philistines reacted strongly to the defeat of one of their garrisons, and Saul returned to Gilgal. The Philistines mustered a strong army and many of the Israelites began to flee the country (13:2‑7).

d. Saul violated the word of God which had been given by Samuel to Saul.41 The result is the promise that God will not allow the kingdom of Saul to endure (13:8‑14).

e. Samuel left, and Saul had only about 600 men, and the Philistines sent out raiders who were probably instrumental in disarming most of the Israelites (13:15‑18).

f. The statement in 13:19‑22 is difficult in light of the fact that Israel has won wars against the Philistines and against Ammon. The answer must be that Israel was probably not that well-armed to begin with, and the disarming in recent times had left them poorly armed (which is probably the significance of the phrase “neither was there sword or spear found in the hands of any of the people”).ther was there sword or spear found in the hands of any of the people’’).42

g. Jonathan performs a brave deed and defeats another Philistine garrison (14:1‑15).

This act of Jonathan was one of great faith and showed him to be a spiritual man, and like David later, in contrast with his father. God supernaturally intervened and caused consternation among the Philistines which later led to an Israelite victory.

h. There is a regrouping of the Israelites, and they pursue and defeat the Philistines (14:16‑23).

This unit contains some very strange things. First the watchmen saw the Philistines sneaking away, and this could not be ex-plained. Assuming that someone must have done something to cause this, Saul mustered the troops and found Jonathan missing. Then Saul asked Ahijah to bring the ark to help ascertain Yahweh’s will in this matter.43 While the priest was consulting the mind of Yahweh, the noise of the Philistine retreat grew, and they even began to kill one another. Saul, in haste, broke off efforts to communicate with God and began to fight (14:16‑19).

Jews who had apparently allied with the Philistines came over to Saul as well as those who had slunk away when the threat of war came.44 Consequently, the advantage shifted to the Israelites and they won the battle (14:20‑23).

i. Saul makes a rash vow, ordering the soldiers to not eat anything (14:24‑30).

This rash vow was a measure of Saul’s poor leadership. Men in the heat of battle need nourishment. Jonathan ironically fell under the curse; he was the one who caused the victory to begin with.

j. The victory goes to Israel, but the people are so hungry they begin to eat blood with the meat (14:31‑35).

The rash vow of Saul brought the people under a curse since they were so hungry. They fell on the slaughtered animals and were breaking God’s law by eating the flesh with the blood. Saul wisely saved the day by asking the people to bring the animals where they could be properly prepared for food. (Perhaps this offset his foolish act of depriving the people of food.)

k. Saul decides to pursue the Philistines into their own territory, but God does not answer him when he inquires, so he assumes it to be because of some fault (14:36‑46).

Did God withhold an answer to force Saul’s hand in the rash vow? It was Saul’s rashness that has caused the problem. The refusal of the Lord to answer Saul’s request will become a pattern as God’s rejection moves to a climax. The lot fell on Jonathan who answered his father derisively. Saul was determined to kill his son, but the people interceded, and Jonathan was saved.

l. Summary of the remainder of Saul’s reign (14:47‑52).

Saul as the military-judge-king, wars against the surrounding nations of Moab, Ammon, Edom, Zobah, and the Philistines. A roster is given of Saul’s family and administration:

  • Sons: Jonathan, Ishvi, and Malchi‑shua
  • Daughters: Merab and Michal
  • Wife: Ahinoam bath Ahimaaz
  • General of the army: Abner ben Ner, Saul’s cousin
  • Father: Kish (14:47-51).

A summary statement of the wars with the Philistines is given (14:52).

6. Saul’s second rejection comes with his failure in the ḥerem war against the Amalekites (15:1‑35).

a. God calls for a “total destruction” war (15:1‑3).

The Hebrew word for “totally destroy” in 15:3 is from ḥerem (חֶרֶם). It refers to something consecrated or dedicated to a particular use. It is somewhat similar to the word holy (קָדוֹשׁ qadosh). (In Arabic it refers to the sultan’s wives who are off limits to all other men.) Jericho was to be a “ḥerem” city when Joshua attacked it: its treasures were to be turned over to the sanctuary, and all men, women and children were to be killed (except for Rahab and her family). Achan’s sin was to take some of the spoil (in other cities that would not be a sin for it was not “banned”). Now God called upon Saul to carry out a “ḥerem” war against the Amalekites because of their implacable hatred of Israel.

b. Saul wins the battle but loses the “war” (15:4‑9).

Saul mustered the troops and won a decisive victory over these ancient enemies. However, he made a fatal mistake in capturing Agag alive and preserving a number of the finer animals instead of killing them as he had been instructed. Saul could (as he did) argue that the people were out of hand, but proper leadership could have dealt with the problem in such a way as to avoid God’s wrath. This is a classic example of partial obedience. When so much “good” is accomplished, the human propensity is to justify the “non-good.” In fact, it is disobedience and that to a direct command.

c. God confronts Saul with his sin through Samuel (15:10‑33).

Samuel’s distress over God’s judgment of Saul indicates the deep love he had for this man. From the time he anointed him until his own death, Samuel had a special place in his heart for Saul. He arose after a sleepless night of praying for Saul and searched for him in Carmel (this town is located in Judah). Someone told Samuel that Saul had set up a monument (apparently to commemorate his victory) and had gone on. Samuel finally caught up with him in Gilgal (15:10‑12).

Saul came out to meet Samuel in high spirits. He expected to receive a blessing for the battle he had won. Instead, Samuel asked him about the animals that had been left over. Immediately, Saul blamed the people for having kept them. Samuel proceeded to rebuke him (15:13‑16).

In words similar to Nathan’s rebuke of David, Samuel told Saul that he was king by the grace of God, but that he had violated God’s word by his disobedience. Saul again tried to blame the people for keeping out some of the animals for sacrifice, but Samuel told him that the Lord is interested in obedience far more than in sacrifice. As a result, said Samuel, Saul was rejected from being king over Israel (15:17‑23).

Saul made an effort at repentance, but Samuel refused to let it affect him. The torn mantle was a symbol of the dismemberment of Solomon’s kingdom also (1 Kings 11:30‑33). Samuel finally agreed to go back with Saul to the celebration and killed King Agag (15:24‑33).

d. Samuel left Saul and returned to Ramah (15:34-35).

Samuel went sorrowfully to his home in Ramah. In anthropocentric terms, the text says that God repented having made Saul king. This means, of course, that God was going to judge Saul for the way he was turning out.

What can we say about Saul? He seemed humble enough at the beginning. He seemed to have had a genuine religious desire to please God. He consulted Yahweh about the battle, he made a vow designed to please the Lord. One has the sense that Saul was struggling to please God but did not know how to go about it (“who being ignorant of God’s righteousness . . .”). The self-centeredness of his acts did not show up in Scripture until David came on the scene. David was all that Saul wanted to be but did not want to pay the price to be. Consequently, under divine judgment, Saul became paranoid about everyone. He is a tragic figure and no more so than when he consults the witch of Endor in a last futile effort to contact the God who has rejected him.

C. Saul and David—Struggle for Power (1 Samuel 16‑31).

1. The rise of David (16:1—17:58).

a. His anointing (16:1‑13).

The choice of this humble, talented, loving young man is one of the most heart-warming stories in the Bible. We must not lose sight of the fact that God was fulfilling his own purposes in selecting a man for the throne of Israel through whom he would install a dynasty culminating in the person of Jesus Christ. Samuel, influenced by the physical characteristics of Saul, looked for a similar type of person. God showed him that his choice went beyond the physical to the inner person. David had the spiritual characteristics God looks for in those who will lead his people.

David, probably to the chagrin of his brothers, is brought from the flock and anointed king over Israel. What an idyllic picture: the ruddy, fuzzy faced youth, chosen over his experienced, jealous brothers to be the prince over God’s flock.

The Holy Spirit came upon David from that point on. The same Holy Spirit who came upon the judges to carry out Yahweh’s purposes; the same Holy Spirit who came upon Saul, but later left him, now came upon David.45

b. His first contact with Saul (16:14‑23).

The evil spirit coming on Saul is very puzzling. Was it a fallen demon that God allowed to trouble Saul? Was it a good spirit whose punishment of Saul was evil (calamitous)? (1 Kings 22 records that in the heavenly scene, one of God’s spirits said he would go forth and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of the prophets). In either case, how did David’s playing affect it? There is no question that God was sovereignly bringing Saul to a point of judgment because of his disobedience. Assuming that this was a good spirit doing something calamitous, God allowed David’s harp playing to soothe Saul, and God was bringing David to the court where He wanted him to be. Saul was unwittingly fulfilling God’s purposes.

c. His second contact with Saul (17:1‑58).

David and Goliath: Gooding “‘Whose son is this youth?’ (17,55); ‘Inquire whose son the stripling is’ (17,56); ‘Whose son are you’ (17,58); I am the son of your servant Jesse . . .’ (17,58). Any but the slowest of readers would surely get the point: it is David’s father, not David, that Saul is wanting to inform himself about. And it is hardly surprising, Saul . . . has promised, that if any man can defeat the champion, he (Saul) will make his father’s house free in Israel (17,25). It is only natural, therefore, that as he sees David go out to battle, and even more as he sees him come in, he should be concerned to find out all he can about David’s father and family.” (p. 223; p. 60 in D. W. Gooding, et al. The Story of David and Goliath.)46

The battle scene was a confrontation between Saul’s men and the Philistine army. Saul had become militarily strong enough to cause this stand-off, otherwise the Philistines would have overrun the Israelites. The giant, Goliath is called a champion in NASB. The Hebrew calls him a “between” man (הַבֵּנַיִם habbenayim) that is, one to stand between the armies. Saul was scared47 (17:1‑11).

David met Saul again as he came from Bethlehem to bring food for his older brothers. Critics see in this section a first introduction of David. The nexus of the two encounters, however, is found in 17:15. He was Saul’s court musician and armor bearer in chapter 16, but he was going back and forth to his father’s place (17:12‑16).

David’s opportunity came because of his obedience to his father. As he came to the army camp, he heard the blasphemous challenge of Goliath and inquired as to its significance (17:17‑30).

Perhaps the best-known story in the Old Testament is that of this inexperienced youth taking on the oversized, experienced warrior of the Philistines. Linked with his anointing in the preceding chapter, this warm exciting account of the faith of the Hebrew stripling in the face of overwhelming odds and the cowardice of his own people creates one of the greatest and most endearing dramas of the Bible. David’s example should be encouraging and challenging to all of us. “God is able to do exceeding abundant above all we can ask or think” (17:31‑40).

David’s personal victory over Goliath, brought corporate victory over the Philistines.48 David was then identified as to his family lineage so that Saul could conscript him into his army (17:41‑58)

2. The conflict between David and Saul (18:1—27:12).

a. David and Jonathan (18:1‑5).

The beginning of a unique relationship came when Jonathan was so impressed with David that he identified completely with him. This loyalty never left even when it meant that Jonathan would not succeed to the throne. This unwavering loyalty caused David to say at Jonathan’s death “his love was greater than that of women” (2 Sam 1:26). This is an example of a high and proper relationship between two young men.49

b. Saul’s first jealousy (18:6‑9).

As the drama unfolds, the intense love and loyalty between David and Jonathan is contrasted with the beginning of an intense jealousy that led to paranoia on the part of Saul. This is a case study on the results of disobedience and defensiveness that leads to psychological problems of great magnitude.

c. Saul’s first attack (18:10‑16).

David was performing his customary task of trying to soothe Saul who was overcome by the “evil spirit.” Saul tried to kill David. The contrast between the two men is set forth by the author in 17:14‑16: David prospers, Saul becomes paranoid.

d. Saul’s subterfuge—Merab (18:17‑19).

Saul’s evil duplicity was shown in his treatment of David. By rights, David should have had Merab as his wife as soon as he defeated Goliath, for Saul had promised his oldest daughter to the one who would defeat him (17:25). Saul promised her again, but with the idea that David would try to show himself worthy and get himself killed. However, Saul gave Merab to someone else when the time came for the marriage. This was a terrible insult.

e. Saul’s second subterfuge—Michal (18:20‑30).

Saul used a concocted dowry as a means of getting David killed. For a hundred Philistine foreskins, David would be able to marry Saul’s second daughter (who loved David). David characteristically went to battle and brought two hundred foreskins to Saul. Saul was unable to thwart David’s marriage this time, and he and Michal were apparently happily married. Now two members of Saul’s house loved David. This isolated Saul even further and caused him to become even more of an enemy of David. In contrast, David behaved himself wisely and became highly respected.50

f. Jonathan’s defense of David (19:1‑7).

Jonathan made a valiant effort to reconcile his father to David. Saul responded emotionally (as he did in every instance where he was confronted with his sin) and vowed that David would not be killed. This brought a temporary cessation of hostilities.

g. Saul’s second attack (19:8‑17).

The occasion of the renewed paranoia was apparently the great victories over the Philistines brought about by David’s leader-ship. Saul threw his spear at David, trying to kill him. This time Michal protected him from her father as Jonathan was also to do.51 This is the last recorded contact between David and Michal until he forced her return from the man to whom Saul gave her after David’s flight. The story of David and Michal is a sad one indeed!

h. David’s flight (19:18‑24).

Hertzberg says correctly (for the wrong reasons): “This interest [in David’s departure from the court] is to be explained not just as an interest in David’s person, but also as an interest in the monarchy. We have already pointed out how important it seems to have been to the tradition to show that David’s path in succeeding to the throne was a legitimate one. . . . It is therefore important that one after another Saul’s daughter Michal, the prophetic leader Samuel, and now, too, the crown prince and heir to the throne, should all have helped David’s flight.”52

David sought refuge with the only man he could really trust: Samuel. He went to Samuel’s home in Ramah where Samuel was apparently carrying on a prophetic ministry with followers. It is a bit much to speak of this as a “school,” but 19:20 indicates a supervisory capacity of some kind. This seems to be the beginning of a movement called the “sons of the prophets” which was more developed in Elijah’s day.

God sovereignly protected David by causing the Spirit to overpower Saul as He did at the beginning of Saul’s public ministry. Saul thought he could destroy God’s choice to the throne, but God overpowered him and caused him to prophesy. Whether they were singing, praising or what is not clear; it is not likely that they were involved in ecstatic utterances of some kind.

i. Jonathan’s protection (20:1‑42).

David, taking the occasion of Saul’s prophetic state as his opportunity, fled to Jonathan to make one final investigation into Saul’s intentions. Jonathan assured him that he had his father’s confidence, and that he knew nothing of a plot to kill David. David developed a plan to determine Saul’s intentions. David would not play into Saul’s hands by coming to the feast, but Saul’s intentions would become known through David’s absence (20:1‑11).

They went out to the field where Jonathan devised a scheme to communicate his father’s intentions to David. They then made a covenant in which David promised to treat Jonathan’s seed properly. This is the ḥesed (חֶסֶד) covenant that will become so important later (20:12‑23).

The plan worked, in that it evoked Saul’s anger not only against David, but also against Jonathan for protecting David. Jonathan communicated the information to David who prepared to flee (20:24‑42).

j. David’s second flight (21:1‑10).

At Nob where the tabernacle was located and the priests were descendants of Eli, David received food and a sword. Doeg the Edomite was unfortunately there (21:1‑9).

At Gath David reached a low point by trying to join the traditional enemies of Israel—even those whom he had so successfully fought. Achish the Saran of Gath said that he had enough crazy men around him, and David left there (he had pretended madness to protect himself) (21:10‑15).

At Adullam David hid in caves where he was joined by about four hundred malcontents53 (22:1‑2).

At Moab David left his parents for the duration of his exile (22:3).

At the “Stronghold” (Masada?) David stayed until the prophet Gad warned him to leave (the Hebrew word for stronghold is Masada [מְצוּדָה]). From there he went to Hereth (22:4‑5).

k. The slaughter of the priests of Nob (22:6‑23).

Saul’s frustration at his inability to control David, his nemesis, led him to the most dastardly deed of his entire life. His paranoia led him to believe that everyone around him was conspiring against him. Doeg, the Edomite, to ingratiate himself with the king tells of David’s stop at the tabernacle. The priests who were located at Nob were all summoned to Saul’s courts and charged with treason. Reason could not prevail over an unreasonable king, and Saul ordered their death (22:6‑10).

When none of Saul’s men would lift a hand against Yahweh’s priests, Saul turned to the treacherous Doeg, who happily fell on the priests and slaughtered everyone connected with the tabernacle (22:11‑19).

Only one young priest, named Abiathar, escaped. He went to David and joined the dissident forces. He was David’s priest from that time on (22:20‑23).

l. David at Keilah (23:1‑13).

David defeated the Philistines when they attacked the Judahite city of Keilah. When the city welcomed them into its walls, Saul decided he would be able to take David there. Yahweh revealed to him that the Keilahites would surrender him and his men to Saul, and so they left the city and frustrated Saul’s plans.

m. David at Haresh (23:14‑29).

Saul continually looked for David, who moved from place to place in the Judean wilderness. While he was at Haresh, Jonathan came to David to encourage him. They renewed their covenant (23:14‑18).

Saul pursued David at Haresh when the Ziphites tried to betray him to Saul. Saul chased him from Haresh to Ziph, and they hid in Maon. There, David barely escaped with his life when Saul was summoned back to face a Philistine threat. David fled to En Gedi (23:19‑29).

n. David at En Gedi (24:1‑22).

En Gedi (goat fountain) was a town in the mountains overlooking the Dead Sea. It figured throughout Israel’s history and was significant to the Bar Kokhba revolt.54 David had his first opportunity to kill Saul, but graciously refused to put his hand on Yahweh’s anointed. David refused to come to the throne by assassinating the ruling king. How could he expect to be safe as a king if he came through illegitimate means? (24:1‑7).

David challenged Saul to give him a reason for his pursuit. The cloth in hand, cut from Saul’s garment, was proof that David could have killed him had he chosen to (24:8‑15).

Saul typically showed emotional remorse and promised David not to harm him. He admitted that David would be the next king and asked David to swear to take care of Saul’s descendants. David did, and they separated (24:16‑22).

o. David and Nabal (25:1‑44).

Two important events are recorded in this chapter: the death of Samuel and the acquisition of Abigail by David. The first event shows that David was officially alone and prepares for the scene with the witch of En Dor. The second one not only shows David’s activities while in exile, but also explains the presence of Abigail as a wise woman, who with all wise people, understood the divine place of David in Judah’s history.55

David’s practice was to protect the shepherds in the wilderness when they were pasturing the flock. This protection was necessary as the servants of Nabal later recount. David in this manner, provided food for his entourage, but he was also preparing the people for his rulership by acting as protector and judge. At the time of shearing, he sent to Nabal, a rich sheep owner in Carmel (of Judah), but he refused to help David (25:2‑13).

Abigail showed great wisdom in bypassing her husband and making direct contact with David. She brought him the food he had requested and begged his compassion on her foolish husband. David responded favorably and was impressed by her wise action (25:14‑35).56

Nabal awoke from his drunken sleep, and Abigail told him of how close he had come to being killed. The news shocked him so much that he apparently had a stroke and died as a result (25:36‑38).

David rejoiced when he heard the news of Nabal’s death because he recognized God’s hand in the matter. Remembering Abigail’s attractiveness as a wise woman, David sent a marriage proposal to her which she gladly accepted (25:39-42).

David by now had collected three wives: Ahinoam, Abigail and Michal, but Saul had treacherously given Michal to another man (25:43‑44).

p. David at Ziph (26:1‑25).

The Ziphites kept their word to watch for David and to inform Saul. They told him that David was in Hachilah, and Saul came after him. David observed Saul’s camp and was able to approach it unmolested because everyone was soundly sleeping. He now had his second opportunity to kill his adversary, and Abishai urged him to do so, but David refused (26:1‑12).

For the second time David challenged Saul, and for a second time Saul acted remorseful. They each went their way never to see one another again (26:13‑25).

q. David at Gath (27:1‑12).

David went to Achish once again and convinced Achish of his enmity to Saul and loyalty to Achish. Achish received him as one of his officers. As a result, Saul stopped looking for David (27:1‑4).

David asked permission to live in a remote Philistine town and permission was granted. This allowed him to raid Judah’s enemies and to claim that he was raiding Judah. Consequently, he was able to help Judah without the Philistines knowing it (27:5‑12).

3. Saul’s last days (28:1—31:13).

a. Preparation for the battle (28:1‑7).

Achish naively wanted to take David along, who avowed his complete loyalty to his overlord (28:1‑2).

The historical note about Samuel’s death and Saul’s removal of the mediums from the land is necessary to the story about to follow (28:3).

The ranks of the armies gathered and got set in the Valley of Jezreel. The Philistines camped at Shunem, and Saul was on Mount Gilboa (a fairly large mountain near Beth Shan [cf. 29:1]) (28:4).

The complete desertion of Saul by Yahweh is clearly set forth by the fact that He would not answer Saul when he consulted him in desperation. Saul then resorted to a medium as a last-ditch attempt to get some kind of guidance (28:5‑7).

b. Saul and the witch of Endor (28:8‑25).

Saul overcame the fears of the necromancer and asked her to contact someone for him. She then called up someone who turned out to be Samuel. Samuel told Saul the same thing he had told him before: Yahweh had rejected him and tomorrow he and his sons would be dead. This was Saul’s final rejection.57

c. The Final Battle (29:1—31:13).
(1) The Ziklag interlude (29:1—30:31).

The Philistine overlords adamantly refused to let David join in this important battle. David was thereby spared from an impossible situation that would surely have resulted in dire harm to him and his men. David and his men returned to Ziklag as the battle was joined (29:1‑11).

When David and his men got home, they discovered that their hometown had been attacked by the Amalekites, the city burned, the property all looted, and their wives and children taken captive. This created so much consternation that David’s men almost turned on him. (They may already have been unhappy at the prospects of joining the Philistines in war against Israel and may have argued that David should have stayed home) (30:1‑6).

David strengthened himself in the Lord and consulted the Lord for guidance through Abiathar the priest. Yahweh told him to pursue the Amalekites for he would overtake them and deliver the captives. So, David and his men took off after the Amalekites (30:7‑10).

An Egyptian slave, deserted by his master when he became sick, gave David all the intelligence he needed about the Amalekites (30:11‑15).

The Amalekites, thinking that David was preoccupied in the war, were enjoying the fruits of plunder when David overtook them and utterly defeated them. The spoils were divided, and David insisted that even those who had dropped out in weariness should share equally. This became a dictum in the future practices (30:16‑25).

David wisely sent gifts to the people of Judah, thus helping to cement his relationship with them (30:26‑31).

(2) Saul and Israel are defeated (31:1‑13).

The scene is a sad one. Saul’s armies, fighting on the slopes of Mt. Gilboa, are being pursued and slaughtered. The inexorable “fate” of Saul caught up with him, and wounded, he pled with his armor bearer to kill him. The latter refused, and Saul fell on his own sword ending his tragic life. Saul’s three sons were also killed (31:1-6).

The Philistines were completely triumphant. The once powerful lords of the Israelites were again dominant. They found Saul, removed his head to show in the cities of the Philistines and hung his and his sons’ bodies on the wall at Beth Shan (31:7‑10).

The Jabesh-gileadites, first to enjoy the benefits of Saul’s leadership (chapter 11) and perhaps his relatives, braved the Philistine defense to remove the bodies of the Saulides and gave them a decent burial (31:11‑13).


1See Heater, God Rules among Men, for an integrated harmony of these books.

2Ibid., A Theology of Samuel and Kings.

3There were Philistines in “Palestine” during the time of the patriarchs. This later wave joined and dominated an older group. See M. H. Segal, The Pentateuch, p. 34.

4See Wright, Biblical Archaeology, pp. 86ff.

5There are two different words for “seer” here.

6In this connection, Fokkelman’s seminal work (Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel), is instructive: “A concrete example: While the Bible de Jerusalem numbers 400 adjustments in I‑II Sam. in relation to the MT, the acceptance of the text which has been handed down brings one to the discovery that the number of alternations [sic] can be reduced considerably. In this way I see the necessity of only a dozen alternations [sic] in II Sam. 9‑20 and I Kings 1‑2,” p. 5. Kyle McCarter (First Samuel in AB, p. ix) says he had access to all the photographs of the Qumran texts.

7See Merrill, Kingdom of Priests, a History of Old Testament Israel, pp. 238-39, who argues for a time later in David’s rule for the movement of the ark to Jerusalem.

8Cf. H. Hertzberg, First and Second Samuel, p. 375.

9See, e.g., M. H. Segal, “The Composition of the Books of Samuel,” JQR 55 (1965): 319 and A. A. Anderson, 2 Samuel, pp. xxx-xxxv.

10Critical scholarship argues for a tribal identification with Ephraim that was turned into a Levitical identification by the Chronicler. Amerding concedes this to a point when he argues for a royal priesthood for David and Solomon and perhaps for Samuel, “Were David’s Sons really priests?”

11F. M. Cross, “A New Qumran Biblical Fragment Related to the Original Hebrew Underlying the Septuagint,” BASOR 132 (1953):15-26. McCarter, First Samuel, loc. cit., says that 1:22 is original.

12True haplography would have only one “child.”

13Hertzberg, First and Second Samuel, p. 27.

14Not only is 1 Samuel preparing the way for David, the recognition of the Zadokite priesthood in lieu of Eli’s is also a theme. The fulfillment is in 1 Kings 2:26-27. Samuel becomes the agent of judgment on the house of Eli and Saul. He will also select David as God’s chosen one.

15See Würthwein, The Text of the OT, pp. 14ff.

16The word prophet, נָבִיא nabi’, only appears about seventeen times prior to this book (two of these are feminine). Usually, “man of God” refers to a prophet, cf., e.g., 2:27. Samuel’s period marks the real beginning of the prophetic movement—see Young, My Servants the Prophets.

Samuel’s period marks the real beginning of the prophetic movement—see E. J. Young, My Servants the Prophets.

17See, e.g., Hertzberg, First and Second Samuel, loc. cit.

18The phrase “Lord of Hosts” (יהוה צְבָאוֹת Yahweh ṣeba’oth) begins to be used at this point. See M. Tsevat “Studies in the Book of Samuel,” HUCA 36 (1965): 49-58 who argues that “Hosts” is an appositional noun like “Elisha: Chariots and Horsemen of Israel.” Yahweh: the “army” of Israel.

19Note a similar teaching about the ark when David tries to bring it to Jerusalem improperly (2 Samuel 6), as a matter of fact, the author of Samuel may be relating these two incidents.

20See ANET p. 130.

21LaSor, et al., Old Testament Survey, p. 243. See also J. B. Geyer, “Mice and Rites in 1 Samuel 6:5,” VT 31 (1981): 293-304 who argues that it is not a plague of or from mice. The plague produced dysentery and piles came from the plague. עְפלִים epholim is used in the story, but עַכְבְּרִים ‘akberim in the offering to take away guilt (אָשָׁם asham).

22Syriac: “They defiled the ark.” Looking may imply more than mere gazing.

23The Hebrew construction is so unusual, the number so large for a small town, and the fact that some Hebrew manuscripts do not have the number 50,000, leads Keil and Delitzsch to assume a textual error: that only seventy were killed. They are surely right.

24See Shiloh, “Did the Philistines Destroy the Israelite Sanctuary at Shiloh?” BAR 1:2 (1975): 3‑5 for the archaeological evidence of Shiloh.

25See the structure of 1 Samuel on p. 153f.

26For a discussion of the issue that the two ideas (monarchy/theocracy) are antithetical concepts in later Israel see Cohen, “The Role of the Shilonite Priesthood in the United Monarchy of Ancient Israel” HUCA 36 (1965) 59-98; also I. Mendelssohn, “Samuel’s Denunciation of Kingship in the Light of the Akkadian Documents from Ugarit,” BASOR 143 (1956) 17-22.

27There were two forces at work in Israel’s history: one was centripetal and the other was centrifugal. The centripetal force was the central sanctuary. It was the rallying point for all the people of Israel. The centrifugal force was tribal independence. Each tribe wanted to go its own way and to ignore any central authority. The schismatic altar (Joshua 22 esp. v. 29), the Benjamite war (Judges 19-21), jealousy against Gideon and Abimelech as judges (Judges 9), anti‑Judah feelings after the Davidite civil war (2 Samuel 19), and finally the breech after Solomon’s death, show that the nation was always ripe for dissension and division.

28See A. Mazar, Archaeology and the Land of the Bible, pp. 350-51 for a description of a high place found in Samaria.

29The phrase “the place which Yahweh your God shall choose from all your tribes to put his name there” (Deut 12:5, 11, 14, 18, 21, 26; 14:23, 24, 25; 15:20; 16:2, 6, 7, 11, 15, 16; 17:8, 10; 18:6; 26:2; 31:11), or some variation thereof, has been the linchpin of the theory that Deuteronomy was composed in the seventh century during the time of Josiah to force all Israel to worship at Jerusalem. If this is a command to choose one site out of all Israel as the only place Yahweh can be legitimately worshiped, it conflicts with the obvious popularity of the high places (בָּמוֹת bamoth) and their use by Yahweh’s representatives throughout the monarchy as well as preceding it. M. H. Segal (The Pentateuch, pp. 87-89) argues (with predecessors) that the rule is not for one place only, but for pure, non-Canaanite places. “That place” in Deut 12:3 refers to all Canaan which is to become a holy place where God causes his name to dwell. Every altar in it is to be divinely sanctioned or destroyed. Woudstra, Joshua and Craigie, Deuteronomy, agree. Furthermore, it seems to me that the use of the word “to sacrifice” (זָבַח zabaḥ in the context of Deut 12:20‑23 argues that private sacrifice was allowed if the distance to the sanctuary was too great. This word always means to sacrifice, not simply to kill, with the possible exception of 1 Sam 28:24 where the witch of Endor prepared a calf, and I have to wonder if that does not refer to ritual killing. The history of the central sanctuary is uneven. It began at Shiloh (Josh 18:1) but was destroyed in the Philistine wars of Samuel’s day (Jeremiah 7). It was at Nob when David fled Saul (1 Sam 21:1) and was at Gibeon when Solomon became king (2 Chron 1:3). A permanent sanctuary did not come into existence until the tenth century. Many other “high places” and cult centers existed along with Shiloh and even with Solomon’s temple until reform under Hezekiah and Josiah forced their closing. These centers existed because of the lack of a clear-cut central city. Precedent was given for this in the erection of altars by Joshua (Josh 8:30‑35). Therefore, their use was considered legitimate until they became corrupted with syncretism. The similarity of Israelite faith with Canaanite religion made “crossover” very easy (names for God, common sacrifices, and the “high places”). Consequently, syncretism became the order of the day and absolutely required the closing down of these high places and priests connected with them (2 Kings 23:4‑9). (Cf. A. Mazar, “Bronze Bull Found in Israelite ‘High Place’ from the Time of the Judges,” BAR 9 [1983] 34-40.) However, the central sanctuary at Shiloh, Nob, Gibeon and eventually Jerusalem was a rallying point for the people of Israel. They chose their king, consulted about war and tribal matters as well as worshipped there. The books of Samuel are usually considered to be the product of the “Deuteronomist” who wrote Israel’s history with a particular viewpoint. This deuteronomistic philosophy is against high places. However, when we have a section like this one where Samuel is closely identified with a high place, McCarter, (1 Samuel, p. 177), e.g., says “The present passage with its unflinchingplaces. However, when we have a section like this one where Samuel is closely identified with a high place, McCarter, (I Samuel in Anchor Bible, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1980, p. 177), e.g., says “The present passage with its unflinching association of Samuel and a high place is pre-Deuteronomic in origin and has escaped editorial censorship.” This is argument in a circle. W. F. Albright (From Stone Age to Christianity, p. 282) says the theory of “progressive centralization of cult” has never been proved. He prefers to speak of “an oscillatory movement rather than unilateral evolution.”

30This is a good place to observe the way some of the sacrifice was carried out. The animal was killed, offered to God, and the people then shared in the meal of the cooked meat. Cf. 1 Samuel 2 where this was taking place at the tabernacle. Here it takes place on the “high place,” a substitute for the central sanctuary.

31The Hebrew word “to anoint” is mašacḥ. The passive form is mešiacḥ (מְשִׁיח). From this comes the word “Messiah” which can be applied to either a priest, king, or the Messiah. When David says that he will not touch the Lord’s anointed, this is the word he uses. The Greek counterpart is christos from which we get Christ. ḥ

32Only a word on prophets and prophesying can be given here. For an excellent discussion, see Young, My Servants the Prophets. The word prophet is the Hebrew nabi (נָבִיא). The etymology is obscure. Some argue for “to bubble forth,” more a reflection of their idea of a prophet than an etymology. Others (e.g., Albright, in From Stone Age to Christianity, p. 303) argue that it means “to be called.” It most certainly means to be a spokesman for God, but its precise etymology cannot be determined. The classic passage on the Old Testament prophet is Deuteronomy 18 where Moses was preparing the people to enter Canaan where they would encounter all kinds of occult practices. In contrast to this false activity, Israel is to listen to her prophets. Amos is told by Amaziah to go home and prophesy rather than in Israel. Likewise, Ezekiel is told to “prophesy to the bones and say . . .” This implies that the idea of prophesying means basically to communicate what God says. On the other hand, the references to prophesying in Samuel (chapter 10, 18 [an evil spirit causes it!], 20) indicate that sometimes, at least, bizarre behavior accompanied prophesying. Certainly, it means that God overpowered the prophet so that he was no longer acting of his own accord. Instead of simply going home, Saul prophesied. Instead of capturing David, Saul lay naked. God seizes upon men to carry out His divine purposes as he did the seventy elders working with Moses to help in judging.

33Critical scholars argue that chapter 13 originally followed chapter 10 (see Hertz-berg, First and Second Samuel, loc. cit., or McCarter, I Samuel, loc. cit., for a discussion.) In chapter 10, Samuel told Saul to go to Gilgal and wait seven days for him to come and offer sacrifices. In chapter 13 Saul waited seven days and forced himself to make the sacrifices. It is my opinion that the directions in chapter 10 were standing orders to be fulfilled as the occasion demanded. He could not have fulfilled it in chapter 10 because (1) No one knew who Saul was or that he had been anointed. How could he muster the troops of Israel against the Philistines? This is not insuperable, since an analogous situation is the story of Gideon where it is the Angel of Yahweh who speaks. Samuel’s statement to Saul (10:7) “And it shall be when these signs come to you, do for yourself what the occasion requires; for God is with you” sounds as though that might be the beginning of his charismatic ministry. The signs did indeed come to pass, but Saul merely went home. Furthermore, Gideon had to make his commission known by tearing down the altar of Baal in his back yard. (2) The more likely sequence is that presently in the MT: Saul went back home to farming, conscious that God was going to use him, but probably puzzled as to how that would come about. Samuel publicly anointed him at Mizpah, and Saul then mustered the troops for the Ammonite war in chapter 11. (3) The promise was made to Saul in chapter 13 that the kingdom would be removed from him. It would be strange if this were done the very same day that Saul’s delivering work began. See also Keil: God had told Samuel that Saul would deliver from the Philistines. He would go to Gilgal at the right time for preparation for war and wait seven days. After the intervening events, he went there, but despaired of Samuel’s coming.

34For Saul’s “palace” in Gibea see Wright, Biblical Archaeology, pp. 122‑123.

35Ibid.

36See Merrill, Kingdom of Priests, p. 181 who suggests that Saul’s ancestors were the Jabesh-gileadites who were brought in to marry the few men left in Benjamin (Judges 21). This would help to explain Saul’s interest in this city.

37F. M. Cross, “New Directions in Dead Sea Scroll Research,” Bible Review 1 (1985): 26-29.

38Cf. Paul’s testimony before the Ephesian elders in Acts 20.

39Bedan in v. 11 is not known in the Judges. It may be that he was a minor judge unmentioned in the book of Judges, but it is probably an old copyist error for Barak, corrected in the LXX.

40Cf. also Noth, History of Israel, p. 176.

41Keil argues that Saul was not acting as priest—the priests would have offered the sacrifice—but he failed to obey the word of the Lord spoken through Samuel, but see Cohen, “The Role of the Shilonite Priesthood in the United Monarchy of Ancient Israel,” HUCA 36 [1965] 153-160. He says it was the intrusion into the sacrifice, but he sees it as a powerite Priesthood in the United Monarchy of Ancient Israel,’’ HUCA 36 [1965] 153-160. He says it was the intrusion into the sacrifice, but he sees it as a power struggle between Samuel and Saul.

42See Schedl, History of the Old Testament, 3:88 for a discussion of the necessity of the supernatural in Old Testament history.

43LXX has “ephod” instead of ark which has led some scholars to argue that the LXX has the original reading. However, there was already a precedent for bringing the ark into battle (1 Samuel 4). Consequently, we should follow the hard reading of the MT. But see Merrill, Kingdom of Priests, pp. 202-3 who supports the reading “ephod.”

44Some argue that these “Hebrews” are really the old ‘apiru who are now Philistine mercenaries. See Merrill, Kingdom of Priests, p. 202.

45Some would question how David could be called a “mighty man of valor” (16:18) when he was such a youth, but Keil and Delitzsch argue that the feats with the bear and the lion were enough to allow him to be so described.

46I assume this is D. W. Gooding, but I can no longer find the reference.

47Sélincourt, The World of Herodotus, pp. 124-25, recounts a story of Greeks having 300 picked champions from each side to fight each other in lieu of the whole army.

4817:54 raises two problems: whose tent and why Jerusalem. J. K. Hoffmeier (“The Aftermath of David’s Triumph over Goliath,” ArchBW 1:1 [1991] 18-23) argues that the tent belongs to Goliath (David had seized it, a practice known from Egypt and Assyrian evidence). He threw the head in Jerusalem to serve notice on the Jebusites that this was what David did to his enemies. However, Merrill (Kingdom of Priests, p. 241) believes that Nob would have been considered part of greater Jerusalem, and this is where David probably took both the head and the sword.

49See Cohen, “The Role of the Shilonite Priesthood in the United Monarchy of Ancient Israel,” HUCA 36 [1965] 153-160, for a refutation of sexual relationship. The covenant was political.

50See my “Young David and the Practice of Wisdom.”

51The Hebrew word teraphim means in all other places an idol (household idol). Rachel, e.g., stole her father’s household idols which may have had economic significance as well as religious. The question here is whether David would have tolerated such pagan practice in his house even if one were to conclude that Saul’s daughter were the real culprit. There is no verbal root in Hebrew for this word, but in Aramaic, the root trp means to be soft, then to blaspheme. In Arabic it means to be soft, effeminate or luxurious. Is it possible that Michal folded up clothes so as to look like a man, and the Hebrew word for idol or image fits that activity? I would be inclined in that direction rather than to the idea of a man-sized idol in David’s home.

52Hertzberg, First and Second Samuel, p. 171.

53The limestone rock formations leave many caves in this area. Cf. the bell caves where the limestone was excavated.

54See Yadin, The Finds from the Bar Kokhba Period in the Cave of Letters.

55See my “Young David and the Practice of Wisdom,” pp. 56-57.

56Cf. Proverbs in its contrast between the fool and the wise person.

57The practice of consulting with the dead is a longstanding one in the middle east. It is condemned in the Scripture, but obviously continued to be popular in spite of its ban. The “witch” would be called a “medium” today. Literally she is referred to as a “woman possessing a (necromancing) spirit” (אֵשֶׁת בַּעֲלַת אוֹב eshet ba’alt ‘ob). The word ‘ob may refer to the chirping sounds made in the efforts to consult the dead. Presumably, then as now, most of this activity was charlatanism, although Satanic activity is always a possibility. It seems that this woman was surprised to see Samuel coming up as a “god” or a supernatural creature. I suspect she was surprised because it did not normally happen. In this case God brought Samuel back in spirit form to give the final message to Saul.

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines, Teaching the Bible

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