1787.) 2 Samuel 5

March 8, 2016

2 Samuel 5   (NRSV)

David Anointed King of All Israel

Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, “Look, we are your bone and flesh. 2For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.”

3So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel.

Prior to this, only one of the tribes of Israel recognized David as king. The other tribes recognized the pretend king Ishbosheth, a son of Saul. Ishbosheth was murdered as recorded in 2 Samuel 4 – so now the tribes turned to David.

–David Guzik

4David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. 5At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

Jerusalem Made Capital of the Combined Kingdom

“Nighttime in Jerusalem” watercolor by Daniel Kimble

6The king and his men marched to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, “You will not come in here, even the blind and the lame will turn you back” —thinking, “David cannot come in here.” 7Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion, which is now the city of David.

The Jebusites were so sure they could protect their city that they claimed, “Even the blind and the lame can defend it!”

8David had said on that day, “Whoever would strike down the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack the lame and the blind, those whom David hates.” Therefore it is said, “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.”

9David occupied the stronghold, and named it the city of David. David built the city all around from the Millo inwards.

David conquers Jerusalem! Jerusalem was a wise choice for a national capital. It was on a main road; it was more centrally located than Hebron; the city itself had not been part of any particular tribe, thanks to the strong resistance of the Jebusites; and because of its geography (steep cliffs on three sides), it was easy to defend.

10And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.

God had spent a long time preparing David to be the king. His shepherding and slingshot skills, his anointing by Samuel, his patient serving to Saul, his military leadership, his trials that sent him to the Lord — all these were used by God to make him into “a man after my own heart.” Persons who have been chosen for great work must often endure long and difficult preparation.

11King Hiram of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar trees, and carpenters and masons who built David a house. 12David then perceived that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.

Here we see David’s stature among the leaders of near-by lands; David knew how to build political alliances. We also see that David clearly understands his position:

  1. God had called him and established him as the king of Israel
  2. The kingdom belonged to God
  3. David held that position in order to bless the people

13In Jerusalem, after he came from Hebron, David took more concubines and wives; and more sons and daughters were born to David. 14These are the names of those who were born to him in Jerusalem: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, 15Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, 16Elishama, Eliada, and Eliphelet.

Fatherhood for David — illustration by Barbara Griffiths

Certainly all these children were seen as blessings to the king!  But much of the trouble in David’s life will come on account of his wives and sons.

Philistine Attack Repulsed

17When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, all the Philistines went up in search of David; but David heard about it and went down to the stronghold. 18Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the valley of Rephaim. 19David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?”

The Lord said to David, “Go up; for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand.”

20So David came to Baal-perazim, and David defeated them there. He said, “The Lord has burst forth against my enemies before me, like a bursting flood.” Therefore that place is called Baal-perazim. 21The Philistines abandoned their idols there, and David and his men carried them away.

22Once again the Philistines came up, and were spread out in the valley of Rephaim. 23When David inquired of the Lord, he said, “You shall not go up; go around to their rear, and come upon them opposite the balsam trees. 24When you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then be on the alert; for then the Lord has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines.” 25David did just as the Lord had commanded him; and he struck down the Philistines from Geba all the way to Gezer.

. . . meaning he expelled the Philistines from Israelite territory!

The King James Version has “mulberry trees.”

“As the Rabbis have it, and it is a very pretty conceit if it be true, the footsteps of angels walking along the tops of the mulberry trees make them rustle; that was the sign for them to fight, when God’s cherubim were going with them, when they should come, who can walk through the clouds and fly through the air, led by the great Captain himself, walking along the mulberry trees, and so make a rustle by their celestial footsteps.”

— Charles Spurgeon



HERE  is messianic singer and songwriter Paul Wilbur singing “Crowned with many Crowns” to the King of Israel!


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
portrait of King David. (Alvarez?)    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/5-alvarez-king-david.jpg
Kimble.    http://pages.uoregon.edu/dpkimble/Watercolor/DistantPlaces.html
Griffiths.    http://www.barbaragriffiths.com/images/bod/griffiths_bod_08.jpg
mulberry tree.   http://mulberrytrees.co.uk/locations/graphics/more/old_rectory_wraxall_1.jpg

1786.) 2 Samuel 4

March 7, 2016

Off with his head!

2 Samuel 4   (NRSV)

Ishbaal Assassinated

Psalm 146:3 (New International Version)

Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortal men, who cannot save.

When Saul’s son Ishbaal heard that Abner had died at Hebron, his courage failed, and all Israel was dismayed. 2Saul’s son had two captains of raiding bands; the name of the one was Baanah, and the name of the other Rechab. They were sons of Rimmon a Benjaminite from Beeroth—for Beeroth is considered to belong to Benjamin. 3(Now the people of Beeroth had fled to Gittaim and are there as resident aliens to this day).

4Saul’s son Jonathan had a son who was crippled in his feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. His nurse picked him up and fled; and, in her haste to flee, it happened that he fell and became lame. His name was Mephibosheth.

Mephibosheth with the crippled legs:  the last of Saul’s line who could legitimately claim the throne.

5Now the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, set out, and about the heat of the day they came to the house of Ishbaal, while he was taking his noonday rest. 6They came inside the house as though to take wheat, and they struck him in the stomach; then Rechab and his brother Baanah escaped.

So Saul’s son is murdered by men of his own tribe, the Benjamanites. The ongoing story has made it clear that David had no hand in the deaths of any of Saul’s family.

7Now they had come into the house while he was lying on his couch in his bedchamber; they attacked him, killed him, and beheaded him. Then they took his head and traveled by way of the Arabah all night long. 8They brought the head of Ishbaal to David at Hebron and said to the king, “Here is the head of Ishbaal, son of Saul, your enemy, who sought your life; the Lord has avenged my lord the king this day on Saul and on his offspring.”

Ishbaal is dead — illustration by Barbara Griffiths

9David answered Rechab and his brother Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, “As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my life out of every adversity, 10when the one who told me, ‘See, Saul is dead,’ thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and killed him at Ziklag—this was the reward I gave him for his news. 11How much more then, when wicked men have killed a righteous man on his bed in his own house! And now shall I not require his blood at your hand, and destroy you from the earth?”

Remember that twice David had made a promise (to Jonathan, and to Saul) to be kind to their families. Here David keeps that promise. He will not condone the evil deed of the murder of Saul’s son, even though he benefits from it.

12So David commanded the young men, and they killed them; they cut off their hands and feet, and hung their bodies beside the pool at Hebron. But the head of Ishbaal they took and buried in the tomb of Abner at Hebron.

David orders respect to be shown to Ishbaal, but cutting off the hands and feet of the murderers was considered extremely humiliating.



David says in verse 11 how immoral it is, that “wicked men have killed a righteous man.”  And in the mind’s eye, the guillotine changes into a cross, the beheading becomes a crucifixion, and we see Jesus killed for our sins.

HERE  is “Beneath the Cross of Jesus”  sung by the Hastings College (Nebraska) choir.


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
guillotine.    http://www.arthursclipart.org/death/death/Guillotine%203.gif
boy with crutches.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/4-boy-crutches.jpg
Griffiths.    http://www.barbaragriffiths.com/images/bod/griffiths_bod_09.jpg

1785.) 2 Samuel 3

March 4, 2016

We are familiar with many of these towns from the stories we have read of David so far. Born in Bethlehem, a mercenary for the Philistines in Ziklag, crowned King of Judah in Hebron . . .

2 Samuel 3   (NRSV)

Abner Goes Over to David

There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David; David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker.

2Sons were born to David at Hebron:
his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam of Jezreel;
his second, Chileab, of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel;
the third, Absalom son of Maacah, daughter of King Talmai of Geshur;
the fourth, Adonijah son of Haggith;
the fifth, Shephatiah son of Abital;
and the sixth, Ithream, of David’s wife Eglah.
These were born to David in Hebron.

One year, six wives, six sons.

Wives:  Through his marriages David enters into relations with many families.  Numerous wives and children were considered a sign of status.

Sons:  Sadly, the sons turn out to be kind of a bad lot.  Three will be guilty of significant crimes:  murder, rape, political betrayal.

6While there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner was making himself strong in the house of Saul. 7Now Saul had a concubine whose name was Rizpah daughter of Aiah. And Ishbaal said to Abner, “Why have you gone in to my father’s concubine?”

This was a serious accusation. To take the wife or concubine of a king was to appropriate what belonged to the king alone. It was, in effect, seen as a bid for the throne.

8The words of Ishbaal made Abner very angry; he said, “Am I a dog’s head for Judah?

Comparison to a dog was a common way to express contempt. We are not talking about a family pet here — in ancient days, most dogs were scavengers.

Today I keep showing loyalty to the house of your father Saul, to his brothers, and to his friends, and have not given you into the hand of David; and yet you charge me now with a crime concerning this woman. 9So may God do to Abner and so may he add to it! For just what the Lord has sworn to David, that will I accomplish for him, 10to transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul, and set up the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan to Beer-sheba.” 11And Ishbaal could not answer Abner another word, because he feared him.

Abner is so angry at the accusation (because it was false? because he was found out?) that he says he will take his marbles and play at David’s house.

12Abner sent messengers to David at Hebron, saying, “To whom does the land belong? Make your covenant with me, and I will give you my support to bring all Israel over to you.”

13He said, “Good; I will make a covenant with you. But one thing I require of you: you shall never appear in my presence unless you bring Saul’s daughter Michal when you come to see me.” 14Then David sent messengers to Saul’s son Ishbaal, saying, “Give me my wife Michal, to whom I became engaged at the price of one hundred foreskins of the Philistines.”

15Ishbaal sent and took her from her husband Paltiel the son of Laish. 16But her husband went with her, weeping as he walked behind her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go back home!” So he went back.

Cherie Lunghi played the beautiful Michal in the 1985 movie “King David.”

David demands his first wife, Michal, be returned to him. Is it love? Or is it a political move to strengthen his hold on Saul’s throne? At any rate, Michal’s current husband seems heartbroken to lose her.

17Abner sent word to the elders of Israel, saying, “For some time past you have been seeking David as king over you. 18Now then bring it about; for the Lord has promised David: Through my servant David I will save my people Israel from the hand of the Philistines, and from all their enemies.”

19Abner also spoke directly to the Benjaminites; then Abner went to tell David at Hebron all that Israel and the whole house of Benjamin were ready to do.

Abner even gets the tribe of Benjamin on board for David — and Ishbaal is of the tribe of Benjamin!

20When Abner came with twenty men to David at Hebron, David made a feast for Abner and the men who were with him. 21Abner said to David, “Let me go and rally all Israel to my lord the king, in order that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may reign over all that your heart desires.” So David dismissed Abner, and he went away in peace.

So Abner gets together with some of the other tribes, to encourage them to support David as king.  David then shows his appreciation and his new friendship by hosting a feast for Abner and his men.

Abner Is Killed by Joab

22Just then the servants of David arrived with Joab from a raid, bringing much spoil with them. But Abner was not with David at Hebron, for David had dismissed him, and he had gone away in peace. 23When Joab and all the army that was with him came, it was told Joab, “Abner son of Ner came to the king, and he has dismissed him, and he has gone away in peace.”

24Then Joab went to the king and said, “What have you done? Abner came to you; why did you dismiss him, so that he got away? 25You know that Abner son of Ner came to deceive you, and to learn your comings and goings and to learn all that you are doing.”

Perhaps the weapon Joab had was not as nice as this Linder dagger, but it will prove effective enough for his task.

Perhaps the weapon Joab had was not as nice as this Linder dagger, but it will prove effective enough for his task.

Joab does not trust Abner or his motives. Remember that Abner killed Joab’s brother. And Abner has the kind of experience that could lead David to give Joab’s job to Abner. Distrust, fear, revenge — all may bubble in Joab’s heart.

26When Joab came out from David’s presence, he sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern of Sirah; but David did not know about it. 27When Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside in the gateway to speak with him privately, and there he stabbed him in the stomach. So he died for shedding the blood of Asahel, Joab’s brother.

Hebron was a city of refuge (Joshua 20:7) so Joab could not kill him inside the city.  Instead, he personally did the deed just outside the gate.

28Afterward, when David heard of it, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever guiltless before the Lord for the blood of Abner son of Ner. 29May the guilt fall on the head of Joab, and on all his father’s house; and may the house of Joab never be without one who has a discharge, or who is leprous, or who holds a spindle, or who falls by the sword, or who lacks food!”

30So Joab and his brother Abishai murdered Abner because he had killed their brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon.

31Then David said to Joab and to all the people who were with him, “Tear your clothes, and put on sackcloth, and mourn over Abner.” And King David followed the bier. 32They buried Abner at Hebron. The king lifted up his voice and wept at the grave of Abner, and all the people wept.

David mourns Abner –illustration by Barbara Griffiths

33The king lamented for Abner, saying, “Should Abner die as a fool dies?
Your hands were not bound,
your feet were not fettered;
as one falls before the wicked
you have fallen.”

And all the people wept over him again.

35Then all the people came to persuade David to eat something while it was still day; but David swore, saying, “So may God do to me, and more, if I taste bread or anything else before the sun goes down!”

Fasting until evening was an expression of mourning.

36All the people took notice of it, and it pleased them; just as everything the king did pleased all the people. 37So all the people and all Israel understood that day that the king had no part in the killing of Abner son of Ner.

38And the king said to his servants, “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel? 39Today I am powerless, even though anointed king; these men, the sons of Zeruiah, are too violent for me. The Lord pay back the one who does wickedly in accordance with his wickedness!”

But there will be much violence during David’s reign.



Abner made a wise choice to follow where King David would lead. David was fortunate to have Abner decide to follow him. Then Joab followed the leading of his own revengeful heart . . .

Time for some other blood, shed blood that brings healing rather than only death.  HERE  is “Lead Me to the Cross.”


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
map of David area.    http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism/history/images/davidmap.jpg
It’s a boy.    http://www.earthfittraining.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/its-a-boy.jpg
playing with marbles.   http://www.picturesof.net/_images_300/A_Little_Boy_Playing_With_Marbles_Royalty_Free_Clipart_Picture_091005-185982-314042.jpg
Cherie Lunghi.    http://www.wearysloth.com/Gallery/ActorsL/10704.gif
banner for the tribe of Benjamin.    http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/images/BenjaminTribalEmblem.jpg
dagger.   http://www.terapeak.com/worth/linder-made-in-germany-10-3-4-decorative-kris-dagger-fixed-blade-knife-mint/200961492982/
Griffiths.    http://www.barbaragriffiths.com/images/bod/griffiths_bod_07.jpg

1784.) 2 Samuel 2

March 3, 2016
Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed! He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals." --- Revelation 5:5

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed! He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” — Revelation 5:5

2 Samuel 2   (NRSV)

David Anointed King of Judah

After this David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go up (that is, shall I move back) into any of the cities of Judah?”

The Lord said to him, “Go up.”

David said, “To which shall I go up?”

He said, “To Hebron.”

David had fled to Philistine territory to escape Saul’s persecution. He asks God if now is the time for him to return to his homeland. Hebron is the principal city of Judah.

2So David went up there, along with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel, and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 3David brought up the men who were with him, every one with his household; and they settled in the towns of Hebron. 4Then the people of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah.

David shows himself to be wise politically. Both Jezreel and Carmel are close to Hebron, so David is, through his wives, related to the families of the region. And the gifts that David sent at the close of 1 Samuel to the elders of Judah are paying off, now that they have chosen him to be their king!

When they told David, “It was the people of Jabesh-gilead who buried Saul,” 5David sent messengers to the people of Jabesh-gilead, and said to them, “May you be blessed by the Lord, because you showed this loyalty to Saul your lord, and buried him! 6Now may the Lord show steadfast love and faithfulness to you! And I too will reward you because you have done this thing. 7Therefore let your hands be strong, and be valiant; for Saul your lord is dead, and the house of Judah has anointed me king over them.”

David showed appropriate gratitude to the men who risked their lives to honor the memory of Saul and Jonathan (1 Samuel 31:11-13). These men have the kind of character and courage that David will want among his own men.



David was anointed by Samuel years before, but that was a private affair. Now David is anointed as King of Judah publicly. (Remember, David is of the tribe of Judah, so these people are his family and friends.)  It will be several years before David has the support of all the tribes of Israel. Then he became their greatest king.

Years later, when Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey, the people hail him as “the son of David.” David as a temporal king points to Jesus, our eternal king.

HERE  is “A Song of Love,” written to Jesus, king of my heart.  Sung by Rebecca St. James.


Ishbaal King of Israel

8But Abner son of Ner, commander of Saul’s army,

Abner was Saul’s cousin. Remember David taunted Abner the night David stole Saul’s spear and water jug as Abner was sleeping nearby.

had taken Ishbaal son of Saul,

Saul and three of his sons were killed the same day in battle. Until now, a son named “Ishbaal” has not been mentioned. Perhaps he was the son of a concubine? . .

and brought him over to Mahanaim. 9He made him king over Gilead, the Ashurites, Jezreel, Ephraim, Benjamin, and over all Israel. 10Ishbaal, Saul’s son, was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and he reigned two years. But the house of Judah followed David. 11The time that David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months.

Abner made Ishbosheth king, probably so that he could be the real power behind the throne of a weak king.

The Battle of Gibeon

12Abner son of Ner, and the servants of Ishbaal son of Saul, went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon. 13Joab son of Zeruiah, and the servants of David, went out and met them at the pool of Gibeon.

Abner (the commander of Saul’s armies for many years) and Joab (David’s chief general) were each tough, mean, military men who were completely devoted to their cause.

One group sat on one side of the pool, while the other sat on the other side of the pool. 14Abner said to Joab, “Let the young men come forward and have a contest before us.”

Joab said, “Let them come forward.”

The Contest — illustrated by Barbara Griffiths

15So they came forward and were counted as they passed by, twelve for Benjamin and Ishbaal son of Saul, and twelve of the servants of David. 16Each grasped his opponent by the head, and thrust his sword in his opponent’s side; so they fell down together. Therefore that place was called Helkath-hazzurim, (that is, the Field of Sharp Swords) which is at Gibeon.

Saul’s man Abner suggests that 12 men from each side fight each other in hand to hand combat, and David’s man Joab agrees. Unfortunately, all 24 men die.

17The battle was very fierce that day; and Abner and the men of Israel were beaten by the servants of David.

18The three sons of Zeruiah were there, Joab, Abishai, and Asahel.

We learn in 1 Chronicles 2:16 that Zeruiah was David’s sister, so her three sons are David’s nephews. Remember that David was the youngest of 8 sons, so he may have had nephews his own age or older.

Now Asahel was as swift of foot as a wild gazelle. 19Asahel pursued Abner, turning neither to the right nor to the left as he followed him. 20Then Abner looked back and said, “Is it you, Asahel?”

He answered, “Yes, it is.”

21Abner said to him, “Turn to your right or to your left, and seize one of the young men, and take his spoil.” But Asahel would not turn away from following him.

22Abner said again to Asahel, “Turn away from following me; why should I strike you to the ground? How then could I show my face to your brother Joab?”

23But he refused to turn away. So Abner struck him in the stomach with the butt of his spear, so that the spear came out at his back. He fell there, and died where he lay. And all those who came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died, stood still.

One of the two men was going to die that day. Abner killed Asahel, who wanted to kill him. Joab will make it his passion to avenge his brother’s death.

24But Joab and Abishai pursued Abner. As the sun was going down they came to the hill of Ammah, which lies before Giah on the way to the wilderness of Gibeon. 25The Benjaminites rallied around Abner and formed a single band; they took their stand on the top of a hill.

26Then Abner called to Joab, “Is the sword to keep devouring forever? Do you not know that the end will be bitter? How long will it be before you order your people to turn from the pursuit of their kinsmen?”

27Joab said, “As God lives, if you had not spoken, the people would have continued to pursue their kinsmen, not stopping until morning.”

28Joab sounded the trumpet and all the people stopped; they no longer pursued Israel or engaged in battle any further.

29Abner and his men traveled all that night through the Arabah; they crossed the Jordan, and, marching the whole forenoon, they came to Mahanaim.

30Joab returned from the pursuit of Abner; and when he had gathered all the people together, there were missing of David’s servants nineteen men besides Asahel. 31But the servants of David had killed of Benjamin three hundred sixty of Abner’s men.

Clearly David’s men are better warriors; they lost 20 men, while Abner (the real power behind Ishbaal) lost 360.  But even though David won the battle, a long civil war is ahead until all the tribes recognize him as king.

32They took up Asahel and buried him in the tomb of his father, which was at Bethlehem.

As with many ancient cultures, the Hebrews placed great significance on the dead being buried in the family tomb. To remain unburied, vulnerable to wild animals, was considered a horrible fate.

Joab and his men marched all night, and the day broke upon them at Hebron.

There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David; David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker.


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
lion of Judah.    http://sammytippit.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/The-Lion-of-the-Tribe-of-Judahblog.png
Griffiths.    http://www.barbaragriffiths.com/images/bod/griffiths_bod_06.jpg

1783.) 2 Samuel 1

March 2, 2016
"Oh, how the mighty are fallen," cried David for Saul and Jonathan, war-time casualties. (Arlington National Cemetery)

“Oh, how the mighty are fallen,” cried David for Saul and Jonathan, war-time casualties. (Arlington National Cemetery)

2 Samuel 1   (NRSV)

The books of 1 and 2 Samuel were originally one book. In the Septuagint it was divided into two, owing to its length. 1 Samuel recounts the periods of Eli, Samuel, and Saul; 2 Samuel tells of the reign of David. Particularly the figure of King David has had a great impact on Western thought and art.

David is highly successful in his career. He conquers Jerusalem, makes it his administrative and religious center, liberates Israel definitively from Philistine domination, and even creates an empire. In his personal life, however, he makes serious mistakes, and consequently has to undergo great sufferings.

–Shimon Bar-Efrat

David Hears of Saul’s Death

After the death of Saul, when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag. 2On the third day, a man came from Saul’s camp, with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. When he came to David, he fell to the ground and did obeisance.

3David said to him, “Where have you come from?”

He said to him, “I have escaped from the camp of Israel.”

4David said to him, “How did things go? Tell me!”

David knows it is bad news, since the messenger comes with the trappings of mourning — torn clothes and dirt on his head.

He answered, “The army fled from the battle, but also many of the army fell and died; and Saul and his son Jonathan also died.”

5Then David asked the young man who was reporting to him, “How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan died?”

6The young man reporting to him said, “I happened to be on Mount Gilboa; and there was Saul leaning on his spear, while the chariots and the horsemen drew close to him. 7When he looked behind him, he saw me, and called to me. I answered, ‘Here sir.’

8“And he said to me, ‘Who are you?’

“I answered him, ‘I am an Amalekite.’

9“He said to me, ‘Come, stand over me and kill me; for convulsions have seized me, and yet my life still lingers.’

10“So I stood over him, and killed him, for I knew that he could not live after he had fallen. I took the crown that was on his head and the armlet that was on his arm, and I have brought them here to my lord.”

Something is a little fishy here. We have already been told that the armor bearer killed Saul. Perhaps this man came upon Saul’s dead body and grabbed the ornaments — then brought them to David, with this self-promoting story, thinking to get David’s approval and reward.

Or perhaps his story is true, and if so, what irony! God had told King Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15. Saul disobeyed — and then an Amalekite kills him.

11Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them; and all the men who were with him did the same. 12They mourned and wept, and fasted until evening for Saul and for his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.

David might have said, “Good riddance.  Now I finally get to be king!” But instead his heart is broken for the deaths of his king and his best friend, for all the soldiers who had died, and for the division of the country.

13David said to the young man who had reported to him, “Where do you come from?”

He answered, “I am the son of a resident alien, an Amalekite.”

14David said to him, “Were you not afraid to lift your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?”

15Then David called one of the young men and said, “Come here and strike him down.” So he struck him down and he died. 16David said to him, “Your blood be on your head; for your own mouth has testified against you, saying, ‘I have killed the Lord’s anointed.’”

David Disapproves —  illustrated by Barbara Griffiths

David Mourns for Saul and Jonathan

17David intoned this lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan. 18(He ordered that The Song of the Bow be taught to the people of Judah; it is written in the Book of Jashar.)

Laments, as poems or songs or pieces of music which express sorrow and grief, are among the oldest and most enduring of human compositions. They are found in both the Iliad and the Odyssey, in Beowulf, and of course, in the Old Testament.

He said:

19Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!

20Tell it not in Gath,
proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon;
or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice,
the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult.

21You mountains of Gilboa,
let there be no dew or rain upon you,
nor bounteous fields!
For there the shield of the mighty was defiled,
the shield of Saul, anointed with oil no more.

Shields were made of leather and had to be oiled regularly.

22From the blood of the slain,
from the fat of the mighty,
the bow of Jonathan did not turn back,
nor the sword of Saul return empty.

23Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!
In life and in death they were not divided;
they were swifter than eagles,
they were stronger than lions.

24O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,

Dirges were conventionally sung by women.

who clothed you with crimson, in luxury,
who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.

25How the mighty have fallen
in the midst of the battle!

Jonathan lies slain upon your high places.
I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
greatly beloved were you to me;
your love to me was wonderful,
passing the love of women.

27How the mighty have fallen,
and the weapons of war perished!



“Fire and Rain” was the song that propelled James Taylor into stardom in the early 1970’s. The storyline behind the song is autobiographical:  Taylor had battled depression, heroin addiction, a near-fatal motorcycle accident, and professional failure. Not quite David’s story. Even so, I can hear David singing this, thinking about his most recent losses . . .

HERE  is a recent recording, from an older James Taylor — very gentle and plaintive.


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Arlington.    http://www.1000lonelyplaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Arlington-National-Cemetery-during-Spring.jpg
Griffiths.    http://www.barbaragriffiths.com/images/bod/griffiths_bod_05.jpg
“David and Jonathan”  by Philip Ratner.    http://www.ratnermuseum.com/includes/images/photos/bible/bible-41.jpg

1782.) 1 Chronicles 10

March 1, 2016

A modern day marble sculpture of King Saul.

1 Chronicles 10 (New Living Translation)

The focus of the Chronicler’s particular interest is the kings. 1 Samuel lingers for twenty-three chapters (1 Sam. 9-31) over the story of Saul—and even then it is not quite finished.  Chronicles allows him only one. The tortured question as to the rightness of having a king in Israel at all (1 Sam. 8-12) is not even aired here. Nor do we read of the choice of Saul (1 Sam. 9), nor of his jealous pursuit of David, which occupied the greater part of his reign and absorbed so much of the energy which should have been directed against the Philistines.  

These things are passed over because the Chronicler accepts kingship as an admitted potential for the good of God’s people. The issue is not “whether kingship,” but rather how kings discharge their duties. Through the judgments that are made on the various kings, he aims to point his own community along the path of God’s will.

–J. G. McConville

The Death of King Saul

1 Now the Philistines attacked Israel, and the men of Israel fled before them. Many were slaughtered on the slopes of Mount Gilboa.

The Philistines were a sea-faring people, and traded with distant lands. Therefore they imported newer and better military technology from the Greeks and became a powerful enemy of the people of Israel. At that time, Israel could compete on more equal terms with Moab and Ammon, but Greek military equipment (helmets, shields, coats of mail, swords and spears) made the Philistines much more formidable opponents.

–David Guzik

2 The Philistines closed in on Saul and his sons, and they killed three of his sons—Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malkishua. 3The fighting grew very fierce around Saul, and the Philistine archers caught up with him and wounded him.

4 Saul groaned to his armor bearer, “Take your sword and kill me before these pagan Philistines come to taunt and torture me.”

But his armor bearer was afraid and would not do it. So Saul took his own sword and fell on it.

When his armor bearer realized that Saul was dead, he fell on his own sword and died. 6 So Saul and his three sons died there together, bringing his dynasty to an end.

7 When all the Israelites in the Jezreel Valley saw that their army had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned their towns and fled. So the Philistines moved in and occupied their towns.

8 The next day, when the Philistines went out to strip the dead, they found the bodies of Saul and his sons on Mount Gilboa. 9 So they stripped off Saul’s armor and cut off his head. Then they proclaimed the good news of Saul’s death before their idols and to the people throughout the land of Philistia. 10 They placed his armor in the temple of their gods, and they fastened his head to the temple of Dagon.

Dagon was a fertility god, the chief of the Philistine gods, and was often portrayed as a fish.

11 But when everyone in Jabesh-gilead heard about everything the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 all their mighty warriors brought the bodies of Saul and his sons back to Jabesh. Then they buried their bones beneath the great tree at Jabesh, and they fasted for seven days.

13 So Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord. He failed to obey the Lord’s command, and he even consulted a medium 14 instead of asking the Lord for guidance. So the Lord killed him and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.

Saul Throwing his Spear at David, by Constantin Hansen (1804-1880)

from Peculiar Treasures,
by Frederick Buechner


Saul, the first king of Israel, had three things going against him almost from the beginning. One of them was the prophet Samuel, another was a young man named David, and the third and worst was himself.

Samuel never thought Israel should have had a king in the first place and told him so at regular intervals. After Saul defeated the Amalekites, Samuel said the rules of the game were that he should take the whole pack of them plus their king and all their livestock and sacrifice them to Yahweh. When Saul decided to sacrifice only the sway-backs and runts of the litter, keeping the cream of the crop and the king for himself, Samuel said it was the last straw and that Yahweh was through with him for keeps. Samuel then snuck off and told a boy named David that he was to be the next king, and the sooner the better. In the meanwhile, however, they both kept the matter under their hats.

Saul was hit so hard by the news that Yahweh was through with him that his whole faith turned sour. The God he’d always loved became the God who seemed to have it in for him no matter what he did or failed to do, and he went into such a state of depression that he could hardly function. The only person who could bring him out of it was this same David. He was a good-looking young red-head with a nice voice and would come and play songs on his lyre till the king’s case of horrors was under at least temporary control. Saul lost his heart to him eventually, and when the boy knocked out the top Philistine heavyweight, Goliath, their relationship seemed permanently cinched.

It wasn’t. David could charm the birds out of the trees, and soon all Israel was half in love with him. “Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousands,” the ladies would dither every time he rounded the bend in his fancy uniform (1 Samuel 18:7), and Saul began to smolder. It was one day when David was trying to chase his blues away with some new songs that he burst into flame. He heaved his spear at him and just missed by a quarter of an inch. When his own son and heir, Jonathan, fell under David’s spell, too, that did it. It was love-hate from then on.

He hated him because he needed him, and he needed him because he loved him, and when he wasn’t out to kill him every chance he got, he was hating himself for his own evil disposition. One day he went into a cave to take a leak, not knowing that David was hiding out there, and while he was taking forty winks afterwards, David snipped off a piece of his cloak. When David produced the snippet later to prove he could have tried to kill him in return but hadn’t, Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” and wept as if his heart would break (1 Samuel 24). It was exactly what, in the end, his heart did.

He was told in advance that he was going to lose the battle of Gilboa and die in the process, but in spite of knowing that, or maybe because of it, he went ahead and fought it anyway.

There are two versions of what happened to him then. One is that after being badly wounded by arrows, he persuaded a young Amalekite to put him out of his misery. The other is that he took his own sword and fell on it. In either case, it is hard to hold it against him for tendering back to the God he had once loved a life that for years he had found unbearable.



I used to tell my children, “You can learn as much from a bad example as from a good one.” Saul certainly is a bad example; he did what was wrong and did not do what was right. Instead — let us take seriously our spiritual life, and strive, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to be faithful, to obey the commands of the Lord and to seek God for guidance. “Here am I, all of me, take my life, it’s all for thee.”

HERE  is Chris Tomlin and an updated “Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated.”


New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Saul.     https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/king-saul1.jpg
Saul’s death.    http://www.walk-by-faith.com/People/witchofendor/saul%27s%20death.jpg
Dagon.     http://www.bible-history.com/sketches/ancient/dagon-1.jp
Hansen.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/6a00e55043abd0883401347fd7bc20970c-320wi.jpg

1781.) 1 Samuel 31

February 29, 2016

A “word cloud” is a mixture of technology and art; it gives greater prominence and size to the words which appear more frequently in the text.  This is a word cloud for the book of 1 Samuel.

1 Samuel 31   (NRSV)

The Death of Saul and His Sons

For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings:
How some have been deposed; some slain in war;
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;
Some poison’d by their wives; some sleeping kill’d;
All murder’d: for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear’d and kill with looks,
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life
Were brass impregnable, and humour’d thus
Comes at the last and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!

–William Shakespeare
Richard II, Act Three



HERE  is “Dead March,” a funeral anthem for Saul and his son Jonathan, from Handel’s oratorio Saul. Arranged by Leopold Stokowski.


Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines, and many fell on Mount Gilboa.

Mount Gilboa is about 20 miles southwest of the Sea of Galilee.

Let’s review. The Philistines are well inside the land of Israel. Saul and the Israelite army are on Mount Gilboa (1 Samuel 28:4), and Saul is afraid; “terror filled his heart” (1 Samuel 28:5). Then he sneaked out to a witch to call up the prophet Samuel from the dead. Samuel told him that he and his sons would die in battle the next day. Meanwhile, David was all set to go with the Philistines against Saul (1 Samuel 29:2, 8). He was prevented by the Philistine commanders’ objection to a Hebrew (could he be trusted?) fighting with them; this was, of course, the Lord’s safe-keeping of David. This story could be quite the movie!

2The Philistines overtook Saul and his sons; and the Philistines killed Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchishua, the sons of Saul.

The old king and his heirs are now out of the way and will not trouble David as he takes the kingship.

3The battle pressed hard upon Saul; the archers found him, and he was badly wounded by them.

4Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and thrust me through with it, so that these uncircumcised may not come and thrust me through, and make sport of me.”

But his armor-bearer was unwilling; for he was terrified. So Saul took his own sword and fell upon it.

“Death of Saul” by Marc Chagall, 1956.

5When his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him. 6So Saul and his three sons and his armor-bearer and all his men died together on the same day.

7When the men of Israel who were on the other side of the valley and those beyond the Jordan saw that the men of Israel had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they forsook their towns and fled; and the Philistines came and occupied them.

How much of the Promised Land is now given up by the Israelites!

8The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the dead, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 9They cut off his head, stripped off his armor, and sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines to carry the good news to the houses of their idols and to the people. 10They put his armor in the temple of Astarte; and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan.

Saul’s tragic death gave opportunity for the enemies of the Lord to disgrace His name. Saul’s death was used to glorify pagan gods and to mock the living God.

–David Guzik

1Sam31 Beth Shan

The city of Beth Shan is now under a tel, and the Roman ruins of the Decapolis city of Scythopolis are now exposed at the base.

11But when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, 12all the valiant men set out, traveled all night long, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan. They came to Jabesh and burned them there. 13Then they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh, and fasted seven days.

Jabesh-gilead — does that name sound familiar? In chapter 11, Saul rescued that very city from the Ammonites. Now they repay Saul by rescuing his body and those of his sons from the disgrace the Philistines had inflicted on them.

The End of 1 Samuel



HERE!  Let’s take a quick, fun look back over the book of  1 Samuel!


I’d love to hear your thoughts now at the end of this book:

1)  How does DWELLING benefit you and your understanding of Scripture?

2)  What have you learned as you have been reading 1 Samuel?


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
word cloud.    http://identity33.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/1samuel2.gif
“Death comes even to kings.”    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/31-deathking.jpg
Mount Gilboa.    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/13/Gilboa_096.jpg/250px-Gilboa_096.jpg
Chagall.    http://www.artrev.com/art/imageprocess/detailview_v2/streamimage.asp?name=mc_death_of_saul_plate65.jpg
Beth Shan.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/959ca-bethshean-beitsheanfromtheatre5b2autocorrect5d.jpg


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