Gleanings in 1 Samuel [20]

davidgoliathDavid Slays Golaith (1 Samuel 17)

I come with this entry to one of the most beloved stories of the Bible.  The events have been interpreted at least two ways by Christians. The story either becomes a westernized metaphor of a little guy, underdog overcoming insurmountable odds to gain victory over an otherwise invincible foe. Or, more spiritual-minded Christians interpret the story as David being a type of Christ who defeats Satan or sin on behalf of His people, thus establishing His right to rule over all the earth.

But the story has much more to do with undaunted courage or being a type. It is about God establishing His new king over Israel.

We have witnessed in the last couple of chapters of 1 Samuel the spiritual demise of Saul. His rebellion against God’s specific commands moved the LORD against him in judgment. His rebellion gets him removed from being king.  God, however, had another king prepared to take Saul’s place.

God had chosen for Himself a man after His own heart, and in 1 Samuel 17 we see God orchestrate an event to publicly display His newly chosen king.  Also notice how God raises up David to fight a foreign enemy in response to the request the people made in 1 Samuel 8:20 for a king who “will go out before us and fight our battles.”

Let us see how God establishes His new king in this familiar story.

I. The Setting (17:1-3)

The Philistines once again enter into the land of Israel and set up their army in the western frontiers of Judah about 8 miles east of Gath. Saul leads the army of Israel out to meet them and there they are encamped against the Philistines in the valley of Elah.

II. The Challenge (17:4-7)

A giant named Goliath went up every day to challenge Israel to send out just one man to fight him in a representative battle. The terms are simple: If the Israelite can beat him, the Philistines will serve Israel. However, if Goliath beats him, Israel will serve the Philistines.

Goliath is called a “champion,” literally meaning “A man between the two.” The idea being that he regularly fought as a representative from his government in this fashion.

His appearance was menacing. He stood at 9 1/2 feet tall, carried a 15 pound spear-head and wore massive armor. It should be noted that the LXX records Goliath’s height at 6 1/2 feet tall, which would still make him a big man, but not much larger than an average NBA basketball player by today’s standards. Even Abraham Lincoln was about that tall.

I take the Hebrew rendering of 9 1/2 feet tall because the Bible is filled with historical records of giant men.

The Nephilim as recorded in Genesis 6:5 and Numbers 13:13. Though the word can mean “mighty men,” as in hero like warriors, it can still convey the idea of physically large men. However, the Bible also mentions the Anakim who the Moabites called the Emim, in Deuteronomy 2:10,11 who were considered tall. Og of Bashan was considered a “remnant of the giants” whose bed was 9 cubits long and 4 cubits wide, Deuteronomy 3:10,11.

Whatever the case, Goliath was a physically imposing warrior with a reputation of being undefeated in battle.  The men of Israel respond with “fear and trembling.” (17:11). His challenge was blasphemous because he defied the God of heaven, mocking the Jews.

III. The Chosen One (17:12-39)

David was sent on a mission to deliver supplies to his elder brothers who were serving in Saul’s army.  The stand off made it difficult for men to get supplies, so the families more than likely helped with feeding their men serving on the front lines.

One important question is: Why isn’t David with Saul? We remember how Saul called him to play the harp for him at the end of chapter 16.  The likely explanation is that Saul only needed him when he was troubled by the distressing spirit. He would be sent home when there wasn’t that need. 1 Samuel 16:21 says David “became his armor-bearer” which is probably a commentary on the role David was yet to fulfill when he moved into being a part of Saul’s royal entourage.

While David is delivering his supplies, Goliath comes forth to offer his challenge to Israel.  David, as the spirit-anointed, future ruler of Israel, is greatly offended by an “uncircumcised Philistine” making such an arrogant, blasphemous statement against God and His holy people. His brothers and the men around him only scoffed at his suggestion that he would take on Goliath.

David responds to their mockery by pointing out that he had killed a lion and bear by himself, and his dogged determinism as a good shepherd, as well as the covenant promise God would be with him, more than prepared him to go forth to meet the champion.

Saul does attempt to talk David out of the battle; but David’s faith and courage motivated him. In an ironic twist, Saul dresses David in his own armor; yet David rejected it.

IV. The Battle (17:40-54)

Rather than meeting Goliath with the weapons of war, David used the weapons he knew as a shepherd: A sling and 5 stones. He then runs out to meet Goliath. There was no hesitancy at all in fighting this enemy of God.

Goliath, being the warrior that he was, is rightly offended that they would mock him by sending out a “child” to fight him. They were treating him with disdain as if he were a “dog.” He cursed David by his “gods” a stark reminder of Genesis 12:3 which has God saying that He will curse those who curse His people.

David then returns His pronouncement of judgment against the blasphemer. David proclaims how he trusted in the Lord of Hosts – not chariots or military ability – who will not only deliver Goliath into his hands, but he confidently states that he will cut off Goliath’s head.

V. The Victory (17:55-58)

We all know the story. David takes his sling, and with the skill he learned out in the field protecting His flock from the threat of wild beasts, he strikes down Goliath, this “wild beast” threatening God’s flock, with one hit. Goliath wasn’t killed immediately, so David went forth an cut off his head with his own sword.

The Philistines panic after they watch their champion get struck down. I appreciate the way the Bible says in 17:57 how David “returned from the slaughter of the Philistine.”

Yet this was not only a victory over a national enemy. David is brought forth by God to demonstrate that he has not only the ability to fight, but the passion and desire to lead God’s people. In the act of defeating Goliath, God was establishing the King after His own heart.

Gleanings in 1 Samuel [19]

davidThe Anointing of David [1 Samuel 16]

The last time I took up our study in 1 Samuel, we witnessed the wretched demise of Saul. God had specifically called him to lead Israel against a long time enemy, but he acted with rebellion against God’s explicit instructions, what the Bible referred to as the “sin of witchcraft/idolatry” (15:23)

As a result Saul’s disobedience, God removed him from being king over Israel. As we will come to see, the Spirit of the Lord departs from Saul.  He no longer had that special, theocratic anointing that provided him the ability to lead. Moreover, the Word of the Lord departs from Saul, meaning he no longer has any direct communication from God. This is seen with Samuel separating himself from Saul an no longer available to him as a mouthpiece for the LORD.

As Saul finishes out His life, he is alone and grows suspicious and bitter as he is given over to his sin.

Saul was originally the selection of the people. David, however, is God’s selection. Saul was a man after his own heart, where as David is a man after God’s heart.

Coming to chapter 16 we are introduced to David, the son of Jesse.  1 Samuel 16 records David’s calling and anointing to be king and can be broken down into three sections:

I. The Prophet’s Mission – 16:1-5

After Saul’s removal as king, Samuel mourns for him in grief. God reminds him that He had removed Saul from being king and tells Samuel to move on, to put the past behind him. God had provided Himself a king from among the sons of Jesse and Samuel is to rise up and anoint that one son.

Samuel, however, rightfully objects by pointing out how Saul could kill him. God tells Samuel to take a heifer for a sacrifice and call Jesse’s family to join in the sacrifice, thus keeping his intentions discreet.

II. The Presence of Jesse 16:6-13

After inviting Jesse and his family to the feast, Samuel made known his intentions of anointing a new king, because Jesse begins pointing out his sons and their so-called regal appearance. But as 16:7 states so clearly, God does not look on the outward appearance of a man, but upon a man’s heart.  Even though all of Jesse’s sons march in front of Samuel, it was clear the LORD hadn’t chosen any of them.

His remaining son, however, was not present–David.

Interestingly, whereas Saul was a man of great stature, David is described as the youngest and smallest, and whereas Saul was unable to locate his father’s lost livestock, David was faithfully tending the sheep.

David is eventually found and summed to the feast where God tells Samuel that he is the one He will anoint to be king. When Samuel anoints David, the spirit of the LORD comes in power upon David. He was experiencing a theocratic anointing to lead the people. That anointing is affirmed publicly by the people of Israel in the next chapter when David defeats Goliath.

III. The Providence of God – 16:14-23

The reader will notice the next verse, 16:14, where we are told the spirit departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from God troubled him. It is the record of the spirit leaving him and indicating that Saul no longer had the spiritual, theocratic anointing from God to lead Israel. That had all be transferred to David.

Upon recognizing Saul’s spiritual malady, a worship leader of sorts is located to play calming music for the king. One of the king’s servants just so happened to know that David was skilled in playing music, so he is summed to join Saul at the court so that he could play for the king.

So God not only anointed David as the next king, He providentially provided an opening for him in the king’s court, readying him to be the next king of Israel.

Gleanings in 1 Samuel [18]

agagIdentifying a Rebellious Heart [1 Samuel 15]

We come to the most tragic story of Saul’s rebellion and subsequent removal from his kingship by God.

We have observed that since chapter 10, Saul is an example of a person who does things his way rather than God’s way.

His appointment was made by people dissatisfied with God.  Though he had some victories as a military monarch, he marred them with his disobedience and his irrational behavior, particularly against his son Jonathan in chapter 14.

Chapter 15 records the worst of his rebellion against God.

Saul was given the privilege of fulfilling a prophecy made to Moses with bringing decisive, divine judgment against the Amalekites. It was as if the LORD was giving Saul one more opportunity to prove his character. The incident, rather than demonstrating his obedience, exposes his disobedient heart. It is what the Scripture calls a rebellion or a stubborness.

Our English definition of “rebellion” is “Open resistance to, or defiance of, any authority.” The Hebrew word from which “rebellion” is translated, marah, has the idea of being contentious. The word for “stubborn,” sarak, has the idea of “stiff-necked, an unwillingness to bend to authority.” Rebellion and stubborness are a serious matter with God as we will see.

Background:

Saul was ordered by God through the prophet Samuel to take Israel’s military and utterly destroy the Amalekites. Background to why can be found HERE.

Saul gathered the people and did what he was told to do but with the following exceptions: Saul spared Agag the king and the best of their flocks.

It wasn’t full obedience. Just a half-hearted obedience which really is full disobedience. In other words, rebellion and stubbornness.

His rebellion is marked by,

I. Spiritual Pride (15:8-9)

Saul spared Agag primarily to show him off as a war trophy. Parading one’s vanquished enemies before the other nations was a common practice. However, God wanted all Amalekites dead, not taken captive as war trophy.

II. Greed (15:9)

Not only does Saul spare Agag, he also spared the best of the oxen and sheep. The only possible reason for that is because he wanted the best ones for his own use.

III. Makes Excuses for Sin (15:15, 20-21)

God speaks to Samuel and tells Him of Saul’s disobedience. Samuel is grieved over the revelation and goes to confront Saul (10-11).  Samuel soon learns that Saul had moved on from where he expected to find him, because Saul left to make a monument to himself (12).  When Samuel finally catches up with Saul, the rebel tells Samuel that he had performed “all that the LORD had commanded,” which was a lie (13).

Samuel, swift to respond, says to Saul, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”

Rather than confessing his disobedience, Saul makes excuses. The reason the “best” of the flocks was spared, explained Saul, was that they could make sacrifices unto the LORD. Additionally, you will notice how he sort of shifts to blaming the people with him (15, 21).  It was they who took the plunder in order to make sacrifices, not himself. Moreover, he continues to insist that they did obey God because they utterly destroyed the Amalekites. It was only the best of the flocks and Agag that they spared; everything else was dealt with as God commanded.

But that was self-deception. He didn’t obey fully, for he didn’t utterly destroy all the Amalekites. It was as Samuel said, “to obey is better than sacrifice.”

IV. Marked by False Repentance (15:24-29)

Immediately after Samuel confronted Saul he feigns repentance. He even claims that he “sinned” by disobeying the commandment of the LORD because he “feared the people.” However, it wasn’t a legitimate repentance. There wasn’t brokenness of heart and humility. It’s as if he wanted to quickly get the confession part over with and go immediately back to what he was doing before. He had his self-interests in mind, because he wanted Samuel to publicly attend a worship service with him to give the people the impression all was well.

Samuel, however, rebukes him sharply and pronounces him finished as a king. God had rejected Saul from being king of Israel (26).

Saul comes apart emotionally and as Samuel turned to leave, he grabs his robe in haste and it tore. Samuel seizes upon the moment and speaks words of judgment: “the LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours.”

Observations

1) Sin grieves God but He will judge it none the less. He is not a man that he should relent, Samuel says (15:29).

2) Others can be led astray by our sin. Saul was the king. He led the people and his sin brought the people low.

3) Apparent “victories” do not prove spiritual blessing. Saul was victorious over the Amalekites, but he was disobedient to God’s Word.

4) God intentions do not please God.

5) Sin separates us from God and His fellowship (35). Saul no longer had fellowship with Samuel, who was the appointed mouth piece for God. In other words, Saul no longer had a man to speak to him from God or to himself back to the LORD.

Gleanings in 1 Samuel [17]

amalekitesThe Destruction of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:1-3)

I have been considering the life of Saul. He is Israel’s first king, but as I have been noting the last couple of studies, he is being exposed as a man who does not fear God. Though he has led Israel to some significant, military victories, when we saw him in chapters 13 and 14, his army had fled and they were powerless against the onslaught of the Philistines.

Even after Jonathan and his armor bearer acted heroically, because of a foolish vow, Saul was prepared to kill his son because he ignorantly acted against that vow.

When we come to 1 Samuel 15, Saul’s unfaithfulness is fully realized as he blatantly –  with a high-hand – disobeyed the LORD. It was the final nail in the coffin for Saul’s monarchy.

Background

Sometime after the events in chapters 13 and 14, perhaps anywhere from a few months or a couple of years, an aging Samuel comes to Saul and pronounces a word from God almighty.

We may recall that there was something of a “falling out” between Samuel and Saul from chapter 13. As far as the biblical record tells us, Saul had not seen Samuel for some time. We can’t be entirely sure of this, but Samuel is absence from the much of the narrative in Chapters 13 through 14.

In chapter 15:1,  Samuel pronounces a “Thus says the Lord of Hosts,” which translates Yahweh Sabbaoth.  It is an unique description of God.  The idea of “Hosts” is connected to Israel coming out of Egypt in Exodus 12:41 where it speaks of Israel as “all the armies of the LORD.” The expression further speaks to God being the sovereign of all and describes His move to exercise judgment. In the case of 1 Samuel 15, God says he will judge the Amalekites for what they did and Saul is to lead Israel to be that instrument of judgment.

The judgment is severe: All men, women, children, sucklings, and domesticated animals were considered herem, or “under the ban” and were to be destroyed.  The “ban” was practiced only against those who had come under the LORD’s severest judgment.  To exercise such a judgment was considered a solemn and holy one.

NOW

I want to pause here and consider this passage as an apologetic point, before moving into a study of it, which I will do next time.

Skeptics of Scripture are quick to point out what they perceived as an immoral implication.  We must confess that what we read here is staggering – All people of the Amalekites, no discrimination, is to be destroyed. Critics will say God is cruel and unjust with such a decree.  Some liberal commentators attempt to smooth over the severity of the proclamation by arguing that Israel did what they did because they were not “evolved” in their development as a nation.

Since 9-11, this passage, and others like it, is used by biblio-skeptics to demonstrate that the Bible is no different that the Quran, or that Jews and Christians are no different than Muslims and their jihad.

More mushy-minded Christians, typically from a Red-state, evangelical conservative ideology, will claim the problem is misguided “fundamentalism” that gives the Bible a bad name, not Christianity particularly, as if fundamentalism is the error.  Additionally, they will claim these events took place 1000 B.C., so we need to read the text in light of those events being so long ago.

In order to answer the critics, as well as get a handle upon what is going on here in 1 Samuel 15, it will be helpful to dig a little deeper into the background of these events.

Identifying the Amalekites

Though there is some debate among historians, the Amalekites were more than likely the descendants of Amalek, the grandson of Esau (Genesis 36:12, 16).  Throughout Israel’s history they were a constant threat.

They are first encountered in Exodus 17:8-16 when they attacked Israel as they traveled through the wilderness. God makes a prophetic pronouncement upon them in 17:14 when He states, Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.  In verse 16, God says, The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.

But that passage raises the question, what exactly did Amalek do that stirred God’s judgment against them? Deuteronomy 25:17-19 explains why God wished to judge Amalek,

Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt, how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God. Therefore when the LORD your God has given you rest from all your enemies around you, in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget.

Two things are noted in this passage. First, Amalek did not fear God, meaning they blatantly went out and attack God’s people Israel. Second, they specifically attacked the feeble and weak in the group killing them and plundering them. Later, in the book of Judges, they joined forces with the Midianites and raided Israel’s farm lands (Judges 6 and 7).

So, it is clear that they are not “innocent” people. Critics would like to think God is commanding the Jews to slaughter a hobbit like village of garden tending poetry lovers, but this is hardly the case.

The Question then Arises: Is God Just?

– God is the protector of His people. He comforts those who love Him and is a dread upon those who do not love Him.

– God must execute judgment against sinners. Psalm 94:1-11. For Him not to do so would make God unjust.

But what about the children? Were they not innocent?

There is a principle of headship here. The sin of the one will impact the entire whole.  They were identified with a nation that was under judgment.

God extended His mercy for a long time. For nearly 400 years from the time God pronounced judgment upon the Amalekites around 1440 BC to about 1050 BC, He postponed utterly blotting them out. But God-defying, unmerciful people who do nothing but practice cruelty deserve judgment, even their children.

God is sovereign and alone exercises divine prerogative to exercise judgment when He chooses.  We must remember that God has brought full scale judgment upon humanity without discrimination:

– The global flood (babies were killed)
– Death of the Egyptian firstborn
– At the coming of Christ, the entire world will be engulfed with divine fire.

As the Psalmist concludes in Psalm 83, a judgment Psalm,

Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever: let them perish in disgrace, that they may know that you alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth.

Gleanings in 1 Samuel [16]

michmashJonathan and Saul Contrasted (1 Samuel 14)

I had left off in my study of 1 Samuel with chapter 13. In that chapter we see Saul face a military crisis with the Philistines about 2 years or so after he had been anointed as king. The Philistines, in response to an attack by Saul’s son Jonathan, rallied against Israel to do battle.

As was the custom, before Saul was to lead the people in response to a national crisis, he was to wait at Gilgal for Samuel to come and offer a sacrifice before God. After 7 days, Saul was anxious and performed the sacrifice without Samuel present. However, the moment he finished, Samuel showed up and pronounced a severe rebuke against Saul for his actions.

Rather than trusting what God had promised His people in the past, that He would go to battle for Israel, Deuteronomy 20:1-4 and 28:7, the army with Saul panicked and fled from him. But his rashness in disobeying Samuel, and ultimately the Lord, only brought God’s judgment upon him as God, through Samuel, proclaims that his kingdom will be taken from him and given to a man who will be after the Lord’s own heart (13:14).

Coming to chapter 14, we have a sequel to those events. The primary character who rises before us is Saul’s own son, Jonathan. The story of his exploits against the Philistines and it presents a strong contrast to his weak, spiritually anemic father.

(14:1-3) First, we see Jonathan move to take action. While his father laid about under the pomegranate trees on the outskirts of Gibeah with his 600 men who remained with him, Jonathan takes the young man who was his armor-bearer and together they go out to stir up trouble with the Philistines.

One should notice that Jonathan did so secretly. In other words, he didn’t tell anyone, especially his father, of what he was planning.  Quite possibly he knew that Saul would attempt to stop him and thus ruin the opportunity for attack.

(14:4-14) Second, Jonathan exercised a profound faith in the Lord. When he and his assistant go out to Michmash to find the Philistine garrison, it is fairly obvious to assume those two would be woefully outnumbered. In fact, the garrison was on a hill top and required some work to get up to it.

Jonathan, however, was undeterred, showing his dependence upon the Lord to “work for us.” He expressed a strong confidence by knowing God would fight their battles for them. Moreover, he calls the Philistines “uncircumcised,” meaning they were outside the covenant and thus the enemies of God’s redeemed people.

One should also note the faith of his armor-bearer. He confirms to Jonathan that he was with him with all his heart. (7)

Next, notice how Jonathan’s plan of attack defies all military logic.

He basically give up the vantage of surprise by showing themselves to the Philistines. He then determines God’s will (see God’s “sign” for them) in these matters by suggesting that if the Philistines come down to them they would not fight. But, if the Philistines call them up to their position, they would go up and fight.

Jonathan and his young assistant show themselves to the Philistines who mock them for hiding in the holes. They challenge them to come up to their garrison where they would “show them something.” Both of them did, and they together killed 20 men of the garrison in a very small space of land.

(14:15-28) Third, Saul demonstrates a profound, spiritual insensitivity. Whereas Jonathan trusted God to work for him, Saul was more concerned with getting vengeance upon his enemies, not God’s enemies.

The Lord caused an earthquake to freak out the Philistines. Their massive army began running all over the place and the watchman for Israel noticed the army “melting” away. Saul has the roll called and it is soon discovered Jonathan is not there. He then calls for the ark to be brought and the priests to bless the occasion, but instead, interrupts them in order to secure his personal victory against the Philistines.

Additionally, as the people of Israel rallied to overcome the Philistines, Saul stupidly put the army under a curse saying that if anyone stops to eat before evening, that person will be killed.  The people were faint and needed to eat, but would for fear of the curse.

(14:29-35) Fourth, Saul troubles the people. Jonathan immediately knows that his father’s judgment was foolish. Especially after he himself (who had not heard Saul utter the curse) had eaten some honey.

Jonathan replies that his father has “troubled the land.” This particular phrase about troubling the land can be found in Jacob’s complaint to Simeon and Levi in Genesis 34:30 when they killed the family of the man who raped their sister. Joshua’s words to Achan in Joshua 7:25 after he stole from God and it resulted in Israel’s defeat. And Ahab’s misplaced use of the phrase against Elijah in 1 Kings 18:17-18.

The specific phrase seems to suggest that by the individual’s actions, he is not only incurring wrath and judgment upon himself, but also the nation. In the case of Saul, his foolish oath prevented the people from getting a greater victory.

Moreover, because of the rashness of his “curse,” Saul causes the army to sin. When they found the spoil the Philistines had left in their haste to retreat out of the area, the men of Israel ran upon the food, particularly the animals meant for eating. They were so famished from Saul’s foolish oath that they butchered the animals improperly and ate them “with the blood.” Saul, in an act of hypocrisy, builds an altar so the men could properly prepare the meat for consumption, but the editorial note in verse 35 which says, “this was the first altar that he built to the LORD” suggests the action was not pleasing to God. The next time Saul “builds an altar” he is severely judged (1 Samuel 15).

(14:36-46) Fifth, God abandons Saul. Whereas it is clear God helps Jonathan and his armor-bearer, this isn’t the case for Saul.

Saul moves to go after the Philistines at night and plunder them. The men agree to his plan, but the priests recommend seeking God’s counsel on the matter. But when Saul asks of the Lord His will, God does not answer Saul (37).

Saul takes this as a sign that sin was present in the camp and in a similar fashion that Joshua used to discover Achan’s sin in Joshua 7, Saul begins casting lots against his army. He even says he will offer up his own son Jonathan, assuming Jonathan didn’t do anything worthy of death.

But in God’s divine providence, the lot was cast against Jonathan. Saul, outraged by his own son being “taken” in the lot, demands to know what he did. Jonathan tells him of eating the honey while under Saul’s “curse.” In an attempt to demonstrate how foolish his “curse” was, Jonathan explains that he ate a bit of honey at the end of a stick and “now I must die.”

Thankfully, the men were stirred to protect Jonathan and rescue him from Saul’s outrageous demand. They recognized that Jonathan was the man God raised up to bring about a great deliverance for Israel that day.

Gleanings in 1 Samuel [15]

saulrebukedSaul’s First Rebuke (1 Samuel 13)

The secular world would view the first king of Israel as regal in appearance, popular with the people, and even successful in his military leadership.  However, Saul, was a spiritual rebel that disobeyed God.

First Samuel 13 is the chapter that exposes Saul as a self-centered man who was not a man after God’s own heart.

Now, before we even get into chapter 13, we are confronted with a textual difficulty. It concerns the length of Saul’s reign as noted in 13:1.  Various translations have that Saul reigned 40 years, or that he reigned 30 years, or that he reigned 42 years.  Commentators have stated that the Hebrew comes across as garbled in verse 1 and it is unsure what the text states. Thus, they turn to Paul’s words in Acts 13:21 where he says that Saul reigned for 40 years as king in order to find a bit of clarity.

The Hebrew literally says Saul was the son of a year and he reigned two years.

There are a number of solutions. The number “40” could have dropped out during the transmission of the book of Samuel. Most commentators go with that option.

The more plausible solution, and one that attempts to maintain the integrity of the biblical record as it is recorded in 13:1 is suggested by Eugene Merrill who says chapter 12 was the first anniversary of Saul’s coronation that took place in chapter 10. Thus, the events described in chapter 13 took place two years after his coronation, or perhaps his second year as king.  Leon Wood thinks along these lines as well.  In other words, 2 years or so after Saul was anointed king, these events in chapter 13 took place.

It is also possible that during these two years Saul began training a regular army to fight Israel’s battles. That is what is meant by 13:2 that Saul chose for himself 3,000 men of Israel. He had them stationed on the north and south side of a Philistine garrison in Geba.  This strategy was meant to prevent the Philistines from raiding in the land of Israel as well as keep this location protected from other military incursions.

Jonathan, Saul’s son, led an attack on the garrison at Geba. His attack was successful, but it also stirred up the Philistines against Israel. The Israelites became “an abomination to the Philistines.”  It was clear they were now going on the offensive, so Saul calls in reinforcements to meet the Philistine retaliation.

The Israelites seemed to have expected a response, but were utterly unprepared with what happened. 1 Samuel 13:5 says the Philistines “gathered together to fight with Israel 30,000 chariots and 6,000 horsemen.”

Here again with have a second “difficulty.”  This time it isn’t so much with the text itself as it is with what the text records. The idea of 30,000 chariots is just way too many chariots.  Classic Puritan commentator, Matthew Henry, suggests the 30,000 represents not only the fighting vehicles, but supply vehicles that would be used to carry additional weapons, food, and baggage. Possibly, but I am not convinced.

I’ve written up a longer post on this difficulty that goes into more detail, but in short, I believe the word rekeb, translated as “chariot,” can have a wide range of meaning, including the vehicle, the driver, and the fighting force with the vehicle. In other words, the “30,000” represents the total number of chariots, chariot drivers, and fighters who fought along side the vehicles.

Whatever the case, it was at this point that Saul’s character comes unraveled. His army basically goes into a panic at the sight of the Philistines and run for the hills. The troops go into mass desertions hiding in caves, in holes and among the rocks. Verse 7 says that a number of them crossed the Jordan into the land of Gad and Gilead. In other words, they basically left the promised land.

Saul did what Samuel established at his coronation in 10:8 regarding what he was to do during crisis situations.  That being, go to Gilgal the appointed meeting place, wait for Samuel to come within seven days and offer burnt offerings before the Lord, and trust that God is with the king and Israel. This ritual was a means to teach the people to trust God, not the king.

But being the spiritual rebel that he is, Saul takes the situation into his own hands.  When Samuel doesn’t appear as though he is going to show during the designated time period of 7 days, Saul makes the burnt offerings himself.

However, the moment after the sacrifices were made, Samuel arrives and immediately asks Saul what had happened.  Saul becomes an excuse maker.  He was compelled to make the offering he says (13:12), because 1) his army was scattering, 2) Samuel had dawdled getting to Gilgal, and 3) the Philistines were growing as a threat.

As a result, Saul is rebuked by Samuel.  He is shown that he does not have a heart to obey God. His kingdom, as it were, would be removed from him and given to a man who is after God’s heart.  In essence, Saul’s entire kingdom is judged within just a few years after he started as king.

Additionally, as chapter 13 closes, Israel loses a military advantage as the Philistines come into the area and occupy it.  In Micmash, they were able to establish a base of operation from where they could send raiders into the land of Israel as well as place a strangle hold upon the movement of Saul’s troops.  Moreover, the Jews were unable to make swords or any weapons for hand-to-hand combat.

The situation looks grim for Israel. A king who is exposed as a rebel by stirring up God’s judgment against him and the people, boxed in by their enemies, and with no way to attack them with functional weapons.  However, Saul’s son, Jonathan, rises to the occasion to become a hero.

Gleanings in 1 Samuel [14]

Samuel’s Ministry Comes to a Close [1 Samuel 12]

When I had left off on my study of 1 Samuel, Israel was at a monumental cross-roads. For nearly 300 plus years, Israel had been led by a generation of judges, raised up specifically by the LORD to deliver His people.

Samuel had served as the last judge who ushered in the monarchs.  According to 1 Samuel 8, the people turned from following Samuel and the Lord (perhaps because of Samuel’s rebellious sons) and requested a human king to like unto all the nations.  It was not sinful to have a king, but they sought human solutions, rather than what ought to be divine leading.  Wanting a king like unto all the nations was a rebuke to God, who had been the one to lead them and deliver them from their enemies.

Granting their request, the LORD had Samuel anoint for them a man to be king, and Saul, son of Kish, was like a worldly king. A rich kid, he certainly was not a spiritual man. However, God gave him a special anointing of His spirit to accomplish His theocratic calling.

Saul was reluctant to take up his new role as king, and in chapter 11, God used Nahash, a wicked, brutal thug, to rouse Saul to action as the appointed king of the people.

Now, coming to chapter 12, Saul, Samuel, and all the other people with them, are gathered at Gilgal in a post victory, worship celebration over the defeat of Nahash.  It was here that Samuel chose to close the book of his full time ministry.

Samuel takes the opportunity to do four things:

I) Recount to them of his integrity (12:1-5)

Before Samuel relinquishes his full-time ministry, he demands from the people to provide any examples where he had defrauded them, where he abused his authority, or took advantage of the poor with his role as prophet and judge.

His public career was long and well-known, from his youth to old age.  Everyone knew who he was, and if he had perverted justice or abused the people, someone would speak up. No one does.  That in turn establishes Samuel’s authority for the remainder of what he was going to tell them.

II) Reminds them of God’s dealings (12:6-11)

Samuel is preparing to admonish and warn Israel of their attitude of forgetting God in a crisis.  Before he does, he reminds them of their historical past and God’s righteous acts of deliverance. (Notice how Samuel speaks of these events as genuine and historical. Not as mythical, made-up morality tales).

He pulls from these historical events in order to teach a couple of theological truths regarding God’s care for His people:

A) It is God alone who has delivered His people, not armies or human kings.
B) God moves to rescue them in response to their prayers and repentance.

Moses: He reminds them of their beginnings under Moses’ leadership who led them out of Egypt, the worse of all oppressors. Israel was held as slaves and it was an act of God raising up Moses and Aaron who at the direction of God led the people to freedom (Exodus 14:13, 19-28). No human king could have accomplished that mass deliverance of an entire nation enslaved by the world’s foremost superpower at that time.

Gideon (Jerubbabel):  God used him and 300 men to defeat the massive invasion of the Midianites into Israel’s farm land (Judges 7:19-22).

Barak (Bedan)/Debrah: Raising up both Barak and Debrah, God delivered Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s armies, into the hands of the Israelites. In fact, God stirred up Sisera, at the news of Barak attempting to gather an army, and then sent a flash flood (Judges 5:20,21) to overwhelm Sisera’s army.  They were beaten by Barak’s forces and Sisera was executed by the hand of a woman (Judges 4:21).

Jepthah: An outcast from his people, God anointed him to lead a rag-tag party of pirates against the Ammonites (Judges 11:34,35).

Samuel: He recalls earlier in his ministry when God caused it to thundered from heaven, thus frightening the Philistines so that Israel could chase them down and subdue them (1 Samuel 7:10).

III) Samuel’s Rebuke (12:12-15)

Samuel reminded them of these historical events for a reason: To clearly show that God is powerful to save and faithful to deliver His people.

  • It was the people who had “forsaken the LORD” and broken covenant with Him.
  • They replaced the worship of the true God with the polytheistic fertility cult marked by devotion to male (Baals) and female (Astoreths) deities.
  • God brought oppressors- specific curses as prescribed by the covenant.
  • Those oppressors drove the people to repentance.
  • God alone delivered them.

This is a necessary rebuke, because as Samuel points out, the people he was addressing were guilty of the same response (12:12).  In response to another foreign threat (Nahash), rather than crying out to God for direction to meet this threat, they sought a worldly solution to their problem. They asked for a human king.

IV) Renew their commitment to God (16-25)

Samuel calls them back to a fear of the LORD and warns that intentional disobedience will lead to God’s hand against them.

In order to affirm the certainty of Samuel’s words, God sends thunder and rain that diminish the wheat harvest (16, 17). It had the desired effect. The people feared God and confessed their sin.

Samuel then comforts the people with words of wisdom. They need to obey God, stay focused on Him and not vain things like human armies and kings and of course, false gods, because they can’t deliver.  Moreover, they need to recall to mind God’s previous great acts and remember that turning aside from God will bring their destruction.

Gleanings in 1 Samuel [13]

God Stirs Saul to Action (1 Samuel 11)

It’s has been a while, but I’d like to return to my ongoing devotional overview of 1 Samuel.

The last time we saw the coronation of Saul as Israel’s first monarch.  He was a large, imposing man from a well-to-do family of the tribe of Benjamin.

Regrettably, he wasn’t a “man after God’s heart” as we will see.  He was also reluctant to take the office to which he was called and anointed. In fact, when we encounter him in chapter 11, he had returned to his house and is seen in the field plowing.  He certainly is a picture of a man who didn’t take his calling seriously, at least not yet.

However, God stirs up a national emergency arises that He uses to move Saul to take his throne. He does that with a military threat.

I. The Threat (11:1-3)

The emergency God uses to rouse Saul to action comes from an arrogant, vicious man named Nahash.  This is probably not his real name, because Nahash is Hebrew for the word “snake.”  He was the king of the Ammonites, who are the descendants of Lot’s incestuous relationship with his second daughter as recorded in Genesis 19.

He is a murderous thuggish character.  An extended description is found of him among the Dead Sea Scrolls which says,

“Now Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had been grievously oppressing the Gadites and the Reubenites.  He would gouge out the right eye of each of them and would not grant Israel a deliverer. No one was left of the Israelites across the Jordan whose right eye Nahash had not gouged out.  But 7,000 men, who had escaped from the Ammonites and entered Jabesh-Gilead.”

Though this paragraph is not found in the Bible, knowing what is recorded about Nahash in 1 Samuel 11, it could be somewhat accurate.  Nahash was not only content with conquering cities and people, he humiliated the fighting men by putting out their right eye, thus crippling their ability to fight effectively in a hand-to-hand battle.

Nahash besieges Jabesh-Gilead, a town about 20 miles east of the Sea of Galilee.  Whether or not it was to ferret out those 7,000 military escapees is uncertain.  We do know he was a powerful enough threat to the town that the leaders agreed to make a “covenant” with him.

This was a serious breach on the part of the leaders, for they were in covenant with only one person, God Almighty. Nahash agreed to spare their city and make a “covenant” with them if they allowed him to gouge out their right eye.  This not only served to instill fear and humiliation toward them as a people, but all of Israel as a nation.

Nahash is so certain the Israelites could do nothing to stop him, he further agreed to hold off for one week so they could “send messengers” to help them.  If no one came to their rescue, they would agree with his terms.

II. The Plea (11:4-7)

The elders went to the new king of Israel, Saul. They find him plowing in a field.  To put it bluntly, he doesn’t come across as a “king like all the other nations” who would go out and fight their battles.

In spite of that, the Spirit of God comes upon Saul. In essence, a theocratic anointing that stirs up not only the leader, but the people to follow him.  Five other men besides Saul are said to have had this experience in Scripture, Otheniel, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, and David. The anointing isn’t salvific, but it does give exceptional ability to lead.

Saul cuts up a yoke of oxen and has messengers immediately take the portions throughout the tribal territories.  It was a message that basically said, “If you don’t respond to Saul and Samuel’s request, I’m going to make all your oxen like these oxen.”  And the Bible says the “fear of the Lord” fell on the people.

III. The Rescue (11:8-11)

The oxen message worked: 300,000 men of the 11 tribes responded, 30,000 from Judah.  They gathered at Bezek, which is about 12 miles west of Jabesh-Gilead.

Upon hearing the news, the town was glad. The men of Jabesh-Gilead told Nahash that tomorrow they would come out to him, so they lured him into a false confidence that he had won another victory.  Saul divided his army into three companies.  The next day, thinking that he was going to gouge out the eyes of his enemies, Nahash was instead attacked and his people were killed and scattered by Israel.

IV. The Confirmation (11:12-15)

All the people were greatly encouraged by Saul’s leadership.  He had actually arisen to the occasion and led the people against a major military threat. God of course was the instigator that was moving Saul to fulfill his duties, but none the less, the people rallied behind Saul.  They even wanted to execute the men who cursed him at the end of chapter 10, but Saul spared them and Samuel led the people in worship to God.

Gleanings in 1 Samuel [12]

saulThe Anointing of Saul (1 Samuel 9:26-10:27)

First Samuel 8-12 are the transition chapters in Israel’s history. Israel moves from being governed directly by God through the instrument of judges to the direction by kings.

In chapter 8, the people confront Samuel and wanted him to appoint a king so that they could “be like all the other nations.”

Chapter 9 introduced us to Israel’s first king: Saul, the son of Kish.

Saul was from a well-to-do family. Kish was described in 9:1 as being a “mighty man of power” which speaks to his influence.

Saul, in spite of coming from an influential family, wasn’t spiritually astute. His father sent him and his servant out to look for some lost donkeys. After three days of searching, the servant suggested they go see a man of God, who was Samuel. The impression we get from Saul’s reaction to that suggestion is that he never heard of the guy. That is highly unusually seeing that Samuel was a nationally recognized prophet.

Saul’s encounter with him changes all of that.

I) The Private Confirmation (9:26-10:16)

God had told Samuel of His selection of Saul (9:15, 17), so when Saul encounters Samuel, he is invited to dine with him.

After they dine together and Samuel treats Saul with kindness and respect, he sends Saul’s servant a head of them and takes a flask of oil to anoint him (10:1). The act of pouring oil was an act reserved for anointing priests and sacred objects. So by Samuel’s act of pouring oil on Saul means that God was staking a divine claim upon him.

Samuel tells Saul that God has appointed him to be commander (king) over his inheritance (Israel). He is designated as a leader, not a king yet, which means he is a “king-to-be,” like a prince.

Now, in order to demonstrate that he wasn’t “crazy” and had chosen the wrong man, Samuel tells Saul he will see three confirmatory signs that will come to pass with specificity.

– He will be told by two men sitting at Rachel’s tomb at Zelzah that the donkeys had been found.

– He will then encounter three worshippers who will be carrying goats, bread, and wine. They will greet Saul and give him two loaves of bread.

– Then he will meet a group of prophets near where a Philistine garrison is located and the Spirit of God will come upon Saul and he will prophesy with them.

The last sign is unusual, but judges had experienced the Spirit of God rushing upon them. In this case, Saul would “prophesy” with the prophets. The idea is that a prophet is a mouthpiece for God. The king, in turn, was to obey His Word.

So. After Saul leaves Samuel, all the “signs” are confirmed beginning in 10:9. The writer chooses to center on the last one regarding Saul’s prophesying with the prophets.

He is described as receiving “another heart” from the Lord. The phrase can mean God “overturned” his heart. Saul became something different. It is not “salvation” because later we see how he did not obey God. However, it was a demonstration of the presence of God. The work of God was so surprising a proverb is created to describe the unexpected and the unexplained (10:12).

II) The Public Anointing (10:17-27)

All of these events in Saul’s life came rather rapidly and must have startled him because when he returned home he tells his uncle about meeting Samuel, but he did not tell him about being chosen as king over Israel (10:15, 16).

Later, Samuel calls the people together at Mizpah, a centrally located area where Israel had met for a major time of worship and public repentance in chapter 7.

Samuel begins by rebuking Israel’s rejection of God’s direction and governing (18, 19). He then tells God will present their king to them. In a public display of God’s hand, by casting lots that separates out Benjamin, then Saul’s tribe and family, and then Saul himself, Israel is presented their king.

When Saul is chosen he is not present, but is found “hiding among the equipment.” He was running from this calling God had placed on his life. In a way, his absence at his own coronation foreshadows a reign where he would vacate his spiritual responsibilities.

The people, however, bring him forward and hail him as their new king. A man who was “head and shoulders” above everyone else. A man who was physically impressive, but regrettably, spiritually weak.

God is gracious, though. He gives Saul a group of valiant men whose hearts the Lord touched and they unite themselves to him.

Gleanings in 1 Samuel [11]

samuelsaulSaul, The First King of Israel (9:1-17)

We’ve moved into the section of my study on 1 Samuel where we see the beginning of Israel’s monarchy.

In chapter 8, the elders demanded a human king to rule over them and in so rejecting Samuel and his corrupt sons, the elders (all Israel) were rejecting God as their king.

  • The wanted to have their government their way.
  • They wanted to trust a man to lead them into battle, not God.
  • They wanted to be absolved of being responsible to God.

Their request was granted by God and thus was set into motion the giving of a king who was like “all the other nations.”

Though he was from a well-to-do family, physically impressive, and eventually skillful in leading, he is revealed as being pastorally incompetent, spiritually ignorant, and willfully disobedient.

The genealogy of Saul begins in 9:1 similarly to that of Samuel. In fact, the author may had intentionally wanted the reader to notice the connection.

  • Both men came from the same area.
  • Both rose from obscurity to national prominence.
  • Both led against the Philistines.
  • However, Samuel was requested from God
  • Whereas, Saul was requested by men
  • Samuel’s life is marked by the presence of God
  • Whereas, Saul’s life was not.

Despite those similarities, Saul’s background was different. Whereas Samuel’s family was poor, Saul’s was wealthy. He is noted as being from a lineage described as “a mighty man of power.” This has the idea of wealth and prosperity. In other words, Saul was a rich boy who came from an influential family.

Additionally, as verse 2 states, he was physically bigger and was “good looking.”

However, even though he comes from a well to do family and being physically appealing, 9:3-10 describes a particular situation that arose which reveals Saul’s spiritual failing.

It begins with Saul’s father, Kish, asking his son to look for some run away donkey’s. There is something of an editorial comment upon Saul’s ability to “shepherd.” After three days of trying to find some big animals, he is unable to locate them.

Certainly the Lord is divinely leading the donkeys for Saul to hook up with Samuel, but there is something to say about his “shepherding” skills. If he is unable to locate large farm animals that ran away, how exactly is he going to “shepherd” a nation of people?

Compounding this conclusion about Saul’s spiritual abilities, when his servant tells him about a man of God, who is undoubtedly Samuel, Saul seems to be clueless about who he is. There is a profound ignorance regarding Samuel, especially seeing that he is supposed to be known to all Israel (3:20, 4:1). And there is the absolute failure of Saul to consider seeking divine help in the first place after three days of nothing.

The pair find Samuel and we are told the LORD had already revealed to Samuel that Saul would be coming the previous day (9:15, 16).

As Saul approached, the LORD tells Samuel that the one He told him about the previous day was coming. God describes Saul as “This one shall reign over my people.” (9:17) The core meaning for the word “reign” or “rule” has the idea of “to restrain” or “constrict.” Though it is only Samuel who knows this at the time, God may have been telling him that Saul was the means by which He is going to punish Israel for rejecting Him.