All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Saul’s Life Spared, Again
Based on 1 Samuel 25-27

Soon after David spares Saul’s life, an event happens in Israel that brings about great sorrow. Samuel dies, ending his valuable service as Israel’s judge, priest, and prophet. His death is a great loss that causes all Israel to mourn. Scripture says he is buried at his house in Ramah. “House” should not be understood as his residence, because that would indicate it is permanently defiled, according to Sinai law. It probably means a burial chamber to indicate where he has been buried.

The Hebrew text states that David goes to the Wilderness of Paran, while the ancient Greek translation gives it as the Desert of Maon, where he spends some time hiding from Saul. If the Wilderness of Paran is preferred, the location would be on the southern border of Judah and be the most isolated area within David’s homeland for hiding from Saul.

A Very Foolish Man

A very rich man lives in that region. Nabal owns 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats. He takes his sheep about a mile north to Carmel to shear them twice each year, in the spring and early fall. When David hears that Nabal is shearing sheep he remembers how his men have protected his sheepherders from marauding bands. Sheep shearing is a time of joy and feasting, because the wool brings a profit, so David sends ten men to Nabal to greet him in his name, and extend a blessing to him and his household. They are to remind Nabal that they’ve protected his servants and flocks, and request an appropriate gift of provisions in return.

Nabal, however, does not respond to their previous kindness. Instead, he insultingly answers, “Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants nowadays who break away each one from his master. Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers, and give it to men when I do not know where they are from?”

When the men tell David of Nabal’s response, he makes a serious mistake. He takes 400 men and tells them to immediately put on their swords to seek revenge for this rebuff.

In the meantime, one of the Nabal’s servants tell his wife Abrigail about how her husband has reviled them, and that David will surely do harm to Nabal and his household. Abrigail prepares a present of 200 loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep already dressed, five seahs (over a bushel) of roasted grain, 100 clusters of raisins, and 200 fig cakes. She sends these to David, without telling her husband, and follows after her servants, riding on a donkey.

David has vowed to destroy Nabal and his men before morning light, but when Abrigail meets him, she bows at his feet and begins the longest speech of a woman in the Old Testament (153 Hebrew words). She calls David her “lord” 14 times, and personally takes the blame for the incident with Nabal, saying that his name actually means “fool.”

In Israel, a name is linked with the person, often displaying their moral and spiritual imperfections. She adds that the Lord has kept David from bloodshed and avenging himself, and ends her presentation with the provisions she’s brought for him and his men. Through her speech, she accomplishes three important things: interceding successfully for her husband, prophetically revealing that David will be the next ruler, and showing that the Lord has prevented him from shedding blood.

David responds with a threefold blessing: “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! And blessed is your advice and blessed are you…” Then he accepts her present—and her advice.

Abrigail returns home and finds Nabal in the midst of a lavish feast that is said to be like the feast of a king. However, Nabal is very drunk, so she tells him nothing about what has happened until the next morning, when she relates what David was planning to do in revenge. Nabal’s heart is so filled with fear and horror that he “became like a stone,” and within about ten days, the Lord brings judgment upon him and he dies.

David is so impressed with Abrigail that he sends servants with a proposal of marriage. She reacts by bowing her face to the ground before David’s men—a typical manifestation of a favorable response to the proposal. This follows typical oriental humility in making herself available as his slave, who would assume the responsibility of washing his feet. Without delay, she prepares to go to David, riding a donkey and followed by five maids. She has clearly shown that she is intelligent, beautiful, and wealthy; and soon, she becomes his wife.

In the meantime, Saul has taken David’s first wife Michal and given her to Palti, the son of Laish. Scripture also says that David follows the custom of the kings of his day by marrying Ahinoam in a polygamous marriage. These two marriages strengthen his political and economic strength in Israel because of the different locations his wives come from.

Night Raid

David is fearful that he’ll ultimately die at the hand of Saul, so he again retires to the Wilderness of Ziph. However, Saul is told that he is hiding in the hill of Hachilah. Saul goes back on his word, and takes his best 3,000 soldiers to hunt him down.

By nighttime, Saul and his army have camped and retired nearby, so David sends out spies to see where they’re encamped. When the spies return, David asks Ahimelech the Hittite and Abishai, David’s nephew, if they will go with him and they agree. David uses a favored military tactic and makes a predawn raid on Saul’s camp. They enter the camp and go stealthily to its very center, where Saul sleeps, surrounded by his men. Saul’s nephew and commander, Abner, is asleep beside him.

The arrangement of the camp and its location on the top of the hill of Hachilah provide Saul with maximum protection, but the Lord has caused a deep sleep to fall upon them so no one awakens. David finds Saul’s spear, the symbol of his power and authority, stuck in the ground near his head, and Abishai interprets their extraordinary as being God who “has delivered” Saul into David’s hand. He wants to take Saul’s life by pinning him to the ground with one thrust of his spear, but David responds that no one “can stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless.”

Taking Saul’s spear and his jug of water, David goes to the top of the other side of the hill and calls out to Abner, taunting him with a series of questions.

“Are you not a man?” he shouts. “And who is like you in Israel? Why then have you not guarded your lord the king?”

Then he essentially pronounces judgment on Abner, saying, “As the Lord lives, you deserve to die, because you have not guarded your master, the Lord’s anointed.”

After Saul awakes, David asks him a series of questions. “Why does my lord thus pursue his servant? For what have I done, or what evil is in my hand?” Then he presents two possible reasons: either David has sinned and the Lord has stirred Saul to execute judgment, or evil men have lied to the king, claiming that David is trying to usurp his throne. David continues by saying that the King of Israel has spent great resources looking for something trivial as a flea, or as one who hunts a partridge in the mountains. (Partridge hunters chased the bird until it become exhausted, and then knocked it down with a stick.)

Then Saul says, “I have sinned. Return, my son David. For I will harm you no more, because my life was precious in your eyes this day. Indeed I have played the fool and erred exceedingly.”

David responds by asking Saul to send a young man to come over and get his spear. Saul then pronounces a blessing, “May you be blessed, my son David! You shall both do great things and also still prevail.” Saul and David then depart, never to see each other again. Saul returns to his palace, and David continues his life as a fugitive.

Deceiving the Philistines

David, still afraid of Saul, flees to king Achish in Gath, the land of the Philistines. He requests not to live in the royal city, but away in the country; so he is given the city of Ziklag, where he lives for one year and four months. This city was originally allotted to Simeon and Judah, but they never conquered it; so when David, his 600 men, and their families settled there, it brings the city into Israelite hands.

At this isolated city, David is not under the watchful eye of Achish, so he begins to secretly continue the mandate of the Torah to conquer the Promised Land. He and his men raid the Geshurites, Girzites, and the Amalekites, which are mostly in the area that belongs to Judah. He kills all the inhabitants, leaving no one that can be a potential witness to inform Achish of where he has been, or what he has done. When Achish asks him where he has raided, he will always give an area of Israel, rather than saying the name of the city, or its inhabitants. His deceitful answers seem credible to Achish, making him think that David is loyal to him, and is attacking the Israelite people. He concludes that David will always be his servant.

During this period, David seeks the Lord and follows His plans much of the time, but in at least two instances, he does not. He has determined to get revenge on Nabal for not giving provisions for his men; but the Lord uses Abrigail to keep him from committing this evil. Then, when he flees to the Philistines, he deceptively carries out the Lord’s plan to clear Canaan of its evil inhabitants without telling Achish the truth of what he is doing. In addition, he’s also left Israel to settle among the evil Philistines. In spite of these imperfections, the Lord has protected him, and hopes that he will do differently in the future by following the Lord’s plans, and not his own.

Was I spinning? It must have worked.

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