Sunday, April 17, 2016

Reading in Samuel This Week #2 (Chapters 13-31)

Samuel coverThis week we complete the first book of Samuel reading along with the the commentary, 1 and 2 Samuel, The College Press NIV Commentary, by James E. Smith.  The second half of the book of 1st Samuel tells the story of the demise of “the people’s choice,” Saul, and the corresponding rise of God’s chosen king David. Though David was deeply flawed, he is set apart by his trust in God and devotion to His kingdom. The previous post on Samuel can be seen here. I am posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

Chapter 13 begins the story of King Saul which will continue through the rest of 1 Samuel. The first section shows that Samuel was right about how "the people's choice" would fail them. Saul quickly deteriorates from a man of great potential, to a foolish king, and finally, to a faithless, paranoid, power-hungry oppressor of his own people. In 13-15, Saul's foolish decisions and actions are contrasted with the wise decisions and heroic actions of his son, Jonathan. A cause of this foolishness seems to be that Saul desires to be the absolute ruler of the people and the center of their attention and allegiance rather than God. The foolish oath and the disobedience with the Amalekites show that he is not qualified to be to be king. Samuel announces that God will reject the dynasty of Saul chosen by the people and make his own choice for a king.

The important thing is that he needed the prayers and support of the old prophet of God. Furthermore, he needed Samuel’s advice (cf. 10:8). By proceeding with the sacrifice, Saul was indicating that he thought he could make war upon the enemies of his kingdom without the counsel and assistance of God through his prophet. He therefore had acted presumptuously. 1 Samuel 13.1-14, 179

In this chapter Saul is depicted, not so much as wicked as foolish and frustrated. His intentions were good, even pious, but he pursued them in self-defeating ways. On the other hand, Jonathan here receives “such marks of divine approval, and such acclaim of the people, as befits a king." 1 Samuel 14, 183

Samuel describes the essence of disobedience. Rebellion against God’s word and arrogance are here essentially synonymous in meaning. Saul presumptuously had arrogated to himself the right to decide how far he should fulfill the divine instructions...All conscious disobedience is actually idolatry, because it makes self-will into a deity with more authority than the Creator. Opposition to the word of God is like idolatry because the god of self has usurped God’s place. 1 Samuel 15.23, 207

It is precisely because God is unchangeable, that in His dealing with men He must seem to change His action as they change their conduct. This is one aspect of the great problem which runs through all religion, how human free-will can coexist with the Divine Sovereignty. Scripture is content to state both sides of the question, and leave conscience rather than reason to reconcile them. 1 Samuel 15.11, 29, 208–209

Since God has rejected Saul, the story now turns to God's choice for king, David. Samuel is told to anoint God's future king, but he must do it secretly because Saul is still in control and has already begun his sharp descent into madness and jealousy. David already has a reputation for bravery and godliness and is brought into Saul's service. God has begun the training of his choice for king. The confrontation with Goliath brings David into the public eye and begins his ascent to the throne. It also highlights the greatest difference between David and Saul: David centered his life on God and trusted wholeheartedly in Him. Saul in this section does not pray, seek God or refer to God in any way. David is thus the man to lead Israel because he trusts in God for victory, not his own abilities.

This anointing was a prophetic indication of the man whom God, in his own way and at his own time, would place upon Saul’s throne, without either scheming or action on the part of either Samuel or David. 1 Samuel 16.12, 214

(Goliath) cursed David in the name of his Philistine gods. This curse had the effect of turning the military encounter into a theological struggle..While the Philistine would not name his god, David did not hesitate. The mere name of Yahweh would be sufficient to topple this giant...If David appeared to be lacking in arms, it was because Yahweh had no need of them. 1 Samuel 17.41-47, 228–229

David, in his integrity, immediately becomes an irritant to Saul, who is concerned that David is trying to usurp his throne. Saul realizes that God has chosen him and tries to manipulate the situation to remove David. David refuses to compromise his integrity or loyalty to Saul by playing that game. However, everything Saul does to destroy David, God uses to enhance his reputation and prepare him for kingship. Saul's own children become allies to David against their father. David understands that God has called him to be king and that he must rely on God alone for this to happen.

Jonathan had taken little interest in David as a minstrel; but his heroism, modesty and manly bearing, his piety and enthusiasm kindled in Jonathan, not merely admiration, but affection for the son of Jesse. Jonathan became one in spirit with David...The thought is that Jonathan recognized in David a kindred spirit. 1 Samuel 18, 233

These verses are particularly damaging to the reputation of Saul. He had sworn a solemn oath that he would not kill David. Since the reconciliation, the only event which has been related is that David had been successful in fighting the national enemies. So the narrative is stressing just how mean-spirited and unjustified and even irreligious were Saul’s attacks on David. 1 Samuel 19.9-10, 245

At this point in the story David permanently leaves the court of Saul. Jonathan, though he has a hard time believing that his father wants to kill David, helps David escape. In return, Jonathan asks for a covenant between their two families. Jonathan emerges as a hero here, as he is willing to accept God's choice as king, even though it reduces the status of his own family. Throughout chapters 21-22 Saul shows his unfitness to be king and it begins to become obvious to the public. Saul loses the allegiance of both priests and prophets by his treatment of Samuel, and then, the murder of the priests and their families at Nob. David continues to grow in influence and honor as he trusts God and refuses to take action against Saul, while Saul continues to descend into madness and paranoia.

David became an outlaw when he was forced to flee from the court of Saul. Still God was blessing him. Gradually his power and influence increased even though Saul was doing everything within his power to track him down. 1 Samuel 21, 267

“Until I learn what God will do for me” points to David’s faith and piety. Even before this pagan king, David spoke as a man of God. His life was in the hands of God. 1 Samuel 22.3, 270

The main point of ch 22 is that David, though a fugitive, now has a prophet (Gad) and a priest (Abiathar) supporting his cause. He must in the end prevail over Saul because God is truly with him. 1 Samuel 22, 276

The contrast between David and Saul continues in the following chapters. David continues to act like a king (with the one little glimpse into David's dark violent side in his oath to destroy Nabal) by protecting Israelite cities from the Philistines, while Saul continues to put the nation in jeopardy with his vengeful, paranoid pursuit of David. God continues to speak to, lead and rescue David while Saul is reduced to making decisions based on what he sees. God has clearly chosen David as king and rejected Saul and this is becoming evident to the public. Even Saul's son, Jonathan, recognizes God's choice of David to be king.

Though Saul had all the resources of the kingdom at his disposal, he was powerless against David because the invisible King of Israel declined to permit Saul to touch him. 1 Samuel 23.14, 281

"A man’s character is known by his actions." To avenge oneself is wicked, and David’s deeds clearly prove that he was not evil. 1 Samuel 24.13, 289

The point of the whole verse is this: since David was one who would be greatly blessed, he could afford to be gracious. Abigail implies that killing a man out of personal revenge, unlike the killing of enemy soldiers in fighting the Lord’s battles, would be a blot on David’s clean record. Abigail is now the fourth person (along with Samuel, Jonathan and Saul) to forecast kingship for David. 1 Samuel 25.28, 301

1 Samuel 26-29 describes the last meeting between David and Saul and the subsequent faithless actions each man took after that meeting. After David demonstrates very graphically again to Saul that he will not take matters into his own hands and kill him, he realizes that there is nothing he can do to make Saul stop trying to find and kill him. So David leaves Israel, disobeying the commands of God, and goes over to God's enemy, the Philistines. Saul, desperate for guidance, seeks the supernatural guidance of Samuel through a spirit medium, also forbidden in scripture. God delivers David from his predicament, but the judgment of death is pronounced on Saul. The difference here seems to be that David, despite his fear, still basically has a submissive heart toward God's plan, while Saul has no desire to follow God. The ironic thing in this section is that the Philistine soldiers are the only ones who tell the truth.

The Lord had delivered Saul into David’s hands that day, but David would not lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. Just as he had valued the life of Saul, so he hoped the Lord would value his life and deliver him from all trouble. The events of the night once again assured David that he would be safe under the protection of the Lord. 1 Samuel 26, 310

Saul’s wickedness rendered him utterly unworthy to find favor with God. The tragedy here is that Saul did not cry out for divine forgiveness, but only for divine guidance. 1 Samuel 28, 319

The biblical Narrator is concerned in these verses to underscore three points: (1) that David retained the favor of a Philistine king under the most difficult circumstances, (2) that the duplicity of David while living in the land of the Philistines almost landed him in the awful predicament of having to go to war against his own people, and (3) that behind the scenes God so orchestrated events as to rescue David from this untenable situation. 1 Samuel 29, 328

In this section, God draws David back to Himself after 16 months in the land of the Philistines and away from God. After the Philistines reject his help, David finds Ziklag destroyed and the wives and children of his men taken. He now turns back to the Lord and the Lord gives him a great victory over Amalek, in contrast to Saul, and he is able to share the spoils of the battle with all Judah. Meanwhile, as David is winning a great victory, Saul is being destroyed by the Philistines, exactly as Samuel had predicted. God has now removed Saul from kingship, just as he said he would. David is now ready and prepared to take the role to which God had anointed him.

In ch 30 David appears as an admirable leader. He certainly is depicted as back on track with the Lord. He is energetic and decisive, compassionate and fair. Here he is generous with those who have been kind to him in his wanderings, and as a result he forms friendships which he retained and cherished long afterwards when he became the king of Israel. 1 Samuel 30, 334

While David was defeating the Amalekites in the desert, Saul was facing the judgment of God on Mt. Gilboa. 1 Samuel 31, 335

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