July 18, 2014

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Old Testament: Saul’s attempts to kill his rival David

John F. Fink(Twenty-eighth in a series of columns)

King Saul’s jealousy of David, his attempts to kill him, and David’s escapes fill 10 chapters in the First Book of Samuel, beginning with the middle of Chapter 18. David does nothing without first consulting the Lord.

The first attempt on David’s life was in Saul’s home, where David was playing the harp as at other times. Suddenly Saul threw his spear at David, hoping to nail him to the wall, but David escaped.

Saul then thought he could get the Philistines to kill David. He told David that he would give him his daughter, Michal, in marriage if he brought him the foreskins of 100 Philistines. David and his men slew 200 Philistines, and David counted out their foreskins before the king (as distasteful as that is). So David married Michal.

Saul planned to kill David the following day, but that night Michal let David down through a window and he escaped. Jonathan, Saul’s son, also helped David even after Saul told him that Jonathan would never succeed him as king as long as David lived.

David went to Ahimelech, the priest in the city of Nob, and asked for bread for his men, lying that he was on a mission for the king. Ahimelech gave him bread that had been offered as a sacrifice and also Goliath’s sword. When Saul learned about that, he sent his men to kill all the men, women, children and animals of the city of Nob.

David was then a fugitive. He took his parents to Moab for their protection, and they remained there while David was on the run. David, though, went back to Judah.

Twice, while Saul and his men were chasing David and his men, David had the opportunity to kill Saul, but he did not because Saul was God’s anointed one and David respected that. The first time was when Saul went into a cave “to ease nature” (1 Sm 24:4). David sneaked up and cut off the end of Saul’s mantle.

The second time was at night, when David entered Saul’s camp while everyone was sleeping and took Saul’s spear and water jug. After both episodes, Saul admitted his guilt and promised not to harm David.

In between those episodes is the story of Nabal and Abigail (Chapter 25). David sent servants to Nabal, asking for provisions for his people, but Nabal refused. This angered David, and he and 400 men started down to wipe out Nabal’s family. But Nabal’s servants told Abigail what had happened and she loaded up asses filled with provisions.

Meeting David, Abigail prostrated herself and begged for his mercy. David accepted the provisions and sent her back home. When she told Nabal what had happened, “he became like a stone” (1 Sm 25:37), and 10 days later God struck him and he died.

David then sent a proposal of marriage to Abigail, and she accepted. David also married Ahinoam. Meanwhile, Saul gave David’s first wife, Michal, to another man named Palti.

I’ll finish the stories of Saul and David next week. †

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