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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Thursday, February 11, 2010
Did Saul See Samuel's Ghost or Not? Part -III-
We have shown in the first two posts that Saul, by the time he comes to the witch at Endor, has been rejected as king by God, but has refused to relinquish the throne.

In this installment, I hope to show exactly how committed Saul was to this rebellion.

The Character of Saul (continued)

At the point in our study David is introduced. We want to show that Saul's rebellion was not limited to disobedience (failing to obey), but swung right around into working intentionally against God's plan in that Saul sought to keep the throne by slaying the man God chose to replace him (David).

But the introduction of David into our study is not so easy, for we run into a bit of a problem in the narrative. You see, we like our narratives to be primarily chronological, but Hebrew narratives are often primarily thematic. I am reminded of how Luke introduces his gospel, saying that others have already set down the events recorded in his gospel, but that it seemed good to him to give an orderly account of them (c.f. Luke 1:1-3). That is, Luke wanted to pen a chronological account of these things, because that was the universal style of narrative employed by Greek writers. Someone unfamiliar with Hebrew thematic narratives would see contradiction and confusion in some of the other accounts, so Luke wrote out an account that put everything in chronological order for Gentile readers.

I am not expert on the Hebrew practice of placing emphasis on themes, but I do understand it enough to recognize it when I see it. In a nutshell, Hebrew narratives will sometimes interrupt the chronological path they are following to expand on a thematic point. The reader who doesn't understand what is going on can become easily confused when a writer begins to expand a point that has no place in the present chronological scheme. The way we read, we expect any deviation from the timeline we are on, to be well documented and entirely parenthetical, so that when the emphasis has been addressed, we resurface, as it were, where we left off. That isn't the way thematic emphasis plays out however, especially when there is overlap between one or more expansions.

When was the first time that David met Saul? How about Jonathan? Looking into 1 Samuel 15 - 18 as a chronological narrative, we run into trouble. The first mention in scripture, of David meeting Saul doesn't seem to jive with the account of David's meeting with Saul in the camp when David slew Goliath.

The thematic emphasis given in scripture is sufficient for almost every purpose; it is certainly sufficient for instruction in righteousness, and in the knowledge of God. While latter day readers are accustomed to, and no doubt would prefer a chronological account of all that happened, we don't actually need one. Notwithstanding, to avoid confusion, I am going to lay out what I think is the chronological path through David's meeting with Saul, so that as we move through the text, we can see Saul's character deteriorate chronologically.

There are a couple of sign posts, if I will use as "timeline" anchors. For instance, in 1 Samuel 14:52, we read, that when Saul saw any mighty man or any valiant man, he attached him to his staff. We can assume therefore that once a man was joined to Saul's staff, that man remained on Saul's staff.

Immediately after the encounter between David and Goliath, we read in 1 Samuel 18:2 that, "Saul took him [David] that day and did not let him return to his father's house." [NASB]. Given what we read in 14:52, I don't take that to mean that Saul simply kept David over night for a sleep over. I mean, if Saul attached mighty or valiant men to his staff, I can't imagine anyone doing anything more mighty or valiant than slaying someone like Goliath, especially given that he had gone unchallenged for what? Forty days? Surely, Saul recognized in David a valiant and mighty person, and attached him to his staff that very day.

It was on this same day, we read, that Jonathan likewise became attached to David - stripping off his own robes, bow, and sword, and putting them on David, and were that not enough, Jonathan makes a covenant with David at the same time.

The fact that Jonathan strapped his own sword on David is another signpost for me, as we read in 1 Samuel 13:22 that, "...neither sword nor spear was found in the hands of any of the people who were with Saul and Jonathan, but they were found with Saul and his son Jonathan." When scripture says that there were only two swords in all of Israel, and that Saul had the one, and Jonathan the other - I believe it. When scripture says that Jonathan gave the sword he wore to David, I conclude that Jonathan didn't just grab another sword from some convenient sword pile, but that (chronologically speaking) from this point on, at least until Israel could recoup some blades for their army, Jonathan didn't have a sword.

When the army of Israel is returning from this same battle (the one in which David slew Goliath), we read that the women from the towns and villages came out and sang that Saul has slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands.

Seriously, that really displeased Saul, and the text tells us that it was at this point - the return from the battle where David slew Goliath, that Saul began to have suspicions about David.

That isn't to say that Saul's suspicions were full blown right then and there - all it is doing is declaring where it all started, and it all started right there at the very beginning.

Having said that, I don't think that Saul suspected that David was personally bent on trying to usurp him from the throne - rather I think Saul suspected almost immediately that it was David of whom Samuel spoke when he declared that God had decided to give the Kingdom into the hands of one who was better than Saul.

It is perhaps a coincidental note, but an interesting note nonetheless: when Jonathan gave his sword to David, he was putting the only other sword in all of Israel into the hands of the only other person whom God had anointed king over Israel...

The problem we run into however is that prior to this narrative, specifically in 1 Samuel 16, Saul has apparently already met David, and already joined David to his staff, on the grounds that David was a warrior, a man of valor, a prudent speaker, and a skilled musician.

If David was already known to Saul, in fact, already joined to Saul's staff - why was David still living with his father Jesse, for one thing, and why didn't Saul recognize David?

Several solutions have been offered to answer this question, some involving presumptions about textual additions, some suggesting this thing or that thing - but the problem seems to be primarily a chronological one. Why didn't Saul recognize David either at the battle where Goliath was slain, or when David was set before Saul as a skilled musician?

I think the solution (as my introduction to this portion of this discussion betrays) lies in the fact that this is not, nor was it ever intended to be, a chronological telling of the events.

It seems to me that when David is introduced to Saul in 1 Samuel 16, the author then begins a thematic expansion. In 1 Samuel 16 David is made Saul's armor bearer, and notice is sent to Jesse, David's father that David is going to remain with Saul. I want to mention at this point, that you didn't become the king's personal armor-bearer on the grounds that you're a good musician. You became the king's armor bearer because the king had reason to believe that you were both capable and reliable in battle. David went from complete obscurity to being the king's right hand man, and made a part of his personal staff - all in a heart beat.

We are told in 1 Samuel 16 that Saul was oppressed by a calamitous spirit. Saul's advisors were somehow aware of David, the son of Jesse's skill as a musician, and suggested that Saul have David play for him when the distressing spirit came upon him. When we read that from a chronological perspective, we imagine it means that these things happened already, rather than from a thematic perspective, where we would understand these things as simply describing the flavor of David's tenure in Saul's staff.

Putting everything together, the impression I get is that David was joined to Saul's staff on the day that he slew Goliath, and recognized almost immediately as a man of several talents, was enlisted to likewise play music for Saul whenever the distressing spirit came upon him. It wasn't that David slew Goliath as a little boy, and Saul joined David to his own staff at that time, then sorta let him go and forgot about him, only to later meet him and not know who he was (like anyone could forget the battle between David and Goliath, or the fact that the house of Jesse enjoyed a tax free status, etc. etc.).

The point of this post isn't to sort all this out for you, I mention it in passing - David was joined to Saul's staff, and knit to Jonathan's heart right around the time that a distressing Spirit was plaguing him, and no sooner had David been joined to Saul's staff but Saul began regard David with suspicion.

Moving more quickly through the narrative now, we come to Saul's first efforts to snuff out the life of God's chosen king.

The first attempt on David's life comes in a fit of distemper as David is playing the harp for Saul. Here he casts a spear at David, who escapes being pinned to the wall. David escapes Saul's presence, and as a result of this incident, Saul has David removed from his presence by appointing him a commander of a thousand.

But Saul still wants David dead, though he isn't (yet) willing to kill him outright. So Saul devises a plan that he hopes will result in the Philistines conveniently killing David for him. If David had been killed by the Philistines it would have solved Saul's dilemma, first because he could keep the throne, and second, he wouldn't have to stand before God on judgment day and answer for having personally slain God's anointed.

So Saul offers his daughter Mereb to David, on the condition that David fights valiantly against the Philistines on Saul's behalf. David's answer is that he is not worthy of such an honor. Which while true in the sense of David's genuine humility, also may have meant that David did not have the means to give a wedding gift worthy of royalty. So Saul ends up giving his daughter to someone else.

Saul's younger daughter (Michal) loved David however, and when it was told to Saul, Saul renewed his plan. Saul offered Michal to David, but this time Saul solicited some help from his servants. He instructed them to tell David that all Saul wanted as a bridal price was 100 Philistinian foreskins. David goes out and gets 200; An hundred for the bridal price, and another hundred on top of that.

David wasn't conveniently slain in the getting of the foreskins, so Saul is forced to act more directly - though he himself does not face David (and really, having seen David kill Goliath with a sling, I can understand Saul's reluctance to openly come against David himself...) Having escalated matters, Saul commands Jonathan and his servants to put David to death, but Jonathan manages to talk some sense into Saul, arguing that David has done nothing against Saul. Saul relents and even invokes the Lord's name in making an oath to refrain from putting David to death. The fact that Saul almost immediately sets this oath aside speaks silent volumes to what is going in inside Saul.

So David is allowed back into Saul's presence, and is once again playing the harp, and once again Saul, in a fit of rage, tries to pin David to the wall. (so much for his oath!) David escapes, but Saul sends messengers after David to watch his house and to kill him in the morning.

Michal encourages David to flee, so David flees to Samuel at Ramah; meanwhile Michal tells the messengers that David is sick, even dressing up her household idol to make it look like David is still sleeping in his bed. The messengers tell Saul that David is sleeping, but Saul tells the messengers to bring David anyway, which is when they discover that David isn't really there and Saul is thwarted again.

Here we Saul stepping things up a bit, as he now is pursuing David himself. Yet when Saul arrives in Naioth in Ramah (where Samuel and the prophets are) Saul is overcome by the Spirit, and prophesies there, while David flees, going and finding Jonathan.

David lets Jonathan know that Saul is trying to kill him again, but this is news to Jonathan. Jonathan can't bleieve that his dad would do such a thing without telling him. So together Jonathan and David devise a plan to test Saul without giving Jonathan away. In the end however, Saul's intent to kill David (and to keep this intention from Jonathan) becomes apparent, so much so that Saul even lobs a spear at Jonathan to punctuate the moment. So Jonathan goes back to David, and tearfully sends him away.

David flees to Nob, where he is fed by the priest Ahimelech, and where he finds the sword of Goliath. David takes these and flees into the land of the Philistines, to Achish the king of Gath, hoping to sell his services as a mercenary to the Philistine, but becoming concerned for his life, he instead pretends to be "simple" and leaves there.

Meanwhile Saul finds out that David fled to Nob, and that Ahimelech aided David in his escape, and when his own soldiers refused to put all the priests of God from nob to death for Ahimilech's "crime" Doeg the Edomite stepped in and butchered them, and if that weren't sickening enough, Saul had the entire city of Nob put to death.

We pause here to consider again who Saul is. He has moved beyond simply obeying the voice of men over the voice of God, but has now become so bent on thwarting God's will concerning the taking away of the kingdom from himself, and giving it to David - that Saul butchers not only 85 innocent priests of God, but everyone in the city they came from.

Saul has not only seized the throne with no intention of giving it up but has completely lost all perspective in his bid to keep that throne - trying not only to slay the man God whom God chose to replace him, but going so far as to butcher anyone who gets in his way, or seems to have gotten in his way. Saul is not simply an enemy of David at this point, but being in the grip of denial, is acting as a powerful agent against God, and against God's people.

Meanwhile, David, even though he has become the number one enemy of the crown, continues to defend and deliver Israel. Saul continues to pursue David whenever David may be found in Israel, so David becomes a mercenary in Gath to the same king (Achish) whom David originally played the fool around. Several noteworthy events transpire, not the least of which are the two times when Saul was clearly delivered into the power of David's hands, and twice David refuses to put his hand out against the Lord's anointed, and twice Saul appears to reconcile himself to the fact that David is not his enemy - but both times Saul, while giving up the moment, maintains his deliberate course against David.

The Saul that we eventually find in 1 Samuel 28 is the OT equivalent of a Judas. Though Saul has every reason to support and love David, instead he seeks to have David put to death. Unlike Judas however, Saul has butchered a whack-load of innocent people in the pursuit of David's demise, and more specifically, in his fruitless effort to retain a kingdom that God has taken away.

Conclusion (re: Saul's character)

Saul was chosen by God as Israel's king then anointed by Samuel and given the kingdom. Instead of obeying God, Saul obeyed his own heart which itself was influenced by events and other people. Eventually the spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, as did God's loving kindness. By the time we come to the text we want to examine, Saul is occupying another man's throne, a throne that God personally took away from him long before, but one which he refused to relinquish.

That Saul has the audacity to inquire of the Lord at this point in his life, might seem bizarre in the light of our focus on the negative. But I think we are now ready to return to the text in 1 Samuel 28 in our next post.


posted by Daniel @ 11:19 AM  
  • At 11:49 AM, February 11, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    It would be easy to digress at this point into a prolonged discussion on whether or not Saul was "saved".

    To save anyone guessing at my opinion, I will tell everyone up front and plainly that it is my opinion that Saul -was- saved.

    Saul's downfall was spectacular, not because of the content of his sin, but because he prolonged it.

  • At 11:57 AM, February 11, 2010, Blogger Unknown said…

    Out-Standing posts ... I luv it!

  • At 5:20 PM, February 11, 2010, Blogger Jim said…

    Thanks Daniel, I enjoyed this post. I don't think I have ever considered the significance of Jonathan giving David his sword in the light of acknowledging kingship.

    Jonathan's death is a sad reminder that our children can suffer because of our sins.

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