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Outlines Of Jewish History -Rev. Francis E. Gigot D.D.



              1. His Military Achievements and Rejection by God.




              2. His Character:

              A. Chief traits

              Before reaching the throne.


                                          Once on the throne.


                            B. Contrasted with that of Jonathan.




              3. His end at Gelboe.

              Condition of Israel at his death.






              1. Origin and Early Life: the chosen of God.




              2. Relations with Saul:

              A. The first introduction of David to Saul.




                            B. Saul treats David successively as a



                                          Dangerous rival.


                                          Deadly enemy.


                            C. David remains invariably and deeply attached to Saul; his lamentation over the death of Saul and Jonathan.




              3. His Wanderings:

              Principal places of refuge and chief incidents.


                            Effects of his wanderings.


§ 1. The Reign of Saul

1. Saul’s Military Achievements and Rejection by God. The history of the reign of Saul commences with the second inauguration of the monarchy at Galgal, after which Samuel ceased to be considered as a ruler together with the Jewish king (1 Kings 11:7, 12, 14). It is now impossible to determine the exact age of Saul at this time, for the figures which formerly indicated it in the sacred text (cfr. 1 Kings 13:1, with 2 Kings 2:10; 5:4, etc.) have been altered (cfr. HUMMELAUER, in Libros Samuel is, p. 132, sq.); but it is probable that this monarch was between thirty-five and forty years old at his accession, since immediately afterwards, Jonathan, his son, had the command of a part of the army, a position which the young prince would hardly have held if much less than twenty years of age (1 Kings 13:2).

Thus, then, the first King of Israel was in full possession of his physical and mental powers when, taking the reins of government, he assumed the hard task of liberating his subjects from their enemies (1 Kings 9:16, etc.), and, in point of fact, the sacred narrative tells us that he was victorious in all the wars he waged against them (1 Kings 14:46). Of these wars, however, only two are detailed in the Bible, because they illustrate what absolute obedience to His orders Jehovah expected of the Jewish kings, and because they show with what justice Saul having repeatedly denied this obedience, God selected another man, “a man according to His own heart,” that is, willing to rule over Israel in perfect dependence on the guidance of the invisible yet supreme King of the chosen people (cfr. 1 Kings 13:13, 14).

The first of these wars was conducted against the Philistines, the old oppressors of the land (1 Kings 9:16), and it began with a quick and successful attack against the garrison of Gabaa by Jonathan, to whom Saul had intrusted the command of 1,000 men. To avenge this defeat, the Philistines invaded the country with so large an army that its very sight struck with terror the Israelites who had gathered around Saul at Galgal. And now the time had come when the Jewish monarch should show himself perfectly obedient to Jehovah. It was his duty not to offer sacrifice before the arrival of Samuel, the authorized messenger of God near the King of Israel (1 Kings 10:8). Impatient and distrustful—he indeed saw the people gradually slipping from him—Saul did not wait until the actual coming of the prophet, but offered the holocaust to appease Jehovah before the battle. Scarcely was the sacrifice over, when Samuel appeared, and declared that in punishment of his disobedience Saul would not be the head of a dynasty in Israel, a severe but necessary sentence against the first Jewish king, who by his disobedience had set openly the example of a violation of that primary condition of Jewish national life and prosperity, which ever consisted in a perfect compliance with the directions of Jehovah (1 Kings 13). Despite this first disobedience of their king, the Israelites obtained a signal victory at Machmas, a place about eight miles north of Jerusalem; in fact, the loss of the Philistines would have been much greater had it not been for a rash and foolish curse under which Saul laid the people, and to which he would actually have made Jonathan a victim if the army had not strongly objected to the death of one “who had wrought this great salvation in Israel” (1 Kings 14:1–46).

The second war detailed in the Biblical narrative was directed against the Amalecites, that nomad race which formerly had “opposed the Israelites in their way when they came up out of Egypt,” and which but recently had made predatory raids on the southern districts of the Hebrews, whilst the latter were engaged in war against the Philistines (cfr. 1 Kings 15:2; 14:48). In the name of Jehovah, Samuel had put the Amalecites under the ban, and Saul was now commissioned by him to utterly destroy everything they possessed, and “slay both man and woman, child and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” Accordingly, placing himself at the head of a very large army, Saul undertook apparently to carry out strictly this frightful sentence; but when victorious, he reserved the best part of the spoil, and spared the life of Agag, the Amalecite king. This second violation of God’s command proved to evidence that Saul would never be a theocratic king, punctual in his conformity to Jehovah’s orders; and in consequence Samuel was directed by the God of Israel to proclaim Saul’s disqualification for being king over the chosen people. This the prophet did, despite his own attachment to a man whom he had himself anointed; and, notwithstanding the excuses alleged by the monarch, he announced to Saul the transfer of the royal dignity to one of a neighboring tribe. This was to be the last meeting between Samuel and Saul, and the unfortunate King of Israel, fearing the effects of this sentence of rejection upon his subjects, begged the prophet not to break openly from him, but to offer sacrifice together with him before parting. To this Samuel finally consented, and then he withdrew to mourn over the rejection of the first Jewish king by the Supreme Ruler of Israel (1 Kings 15). (For reasons tending to justify the sentence of extermination against Amalec, see DEANE, Samuel and Saul, p. 148).

2. The Character of Saul. The man whose posterity and person had thus been, the one after the other, excluded from the Jewish throne, had formerly displayed qualities which apparently rendered him worthy of being the first to wear the crown in Israel. Before reaching the throne, he had shown himself a model of delicate feelings (1 Kings 9:5); rare modesty and humility (9:21; 10:22); genuine docility (9:22, 25; 10:1, etc.); great self-restraint and wise forbearance (10:27; 11:12–15); great simplicity and disinterestedness (11:5, sq.); in a word, of all the virtues best calculated to make all hope that, once on the throne, he would prove himself a king ever ready to carry out faithfully all the directions which Jehovah would give him through Samuel, His accredited ambassador. Unfortunately it was not to be so, for soon after reaching the crown Saul actually showed himself a very different man. Worldly wisdom betrayed him into his first disobedience (1 Kings 13:7–13); preoccupation for his own satisfaction rather than for God’s glory caused him to utter oaths no less contrary to prudence than to justice and humanity (14:24, sq.); his self-will appeared so manifestly in his second disobedience when fighting against Amalec that Samuel himself could not help contrasting Saul’s inward dispositions before reaching the throne with those he displayed later on (15:17); his own excuses, on this same occasion, proved clearly that he had set popularity above duty (15:20, sq.), and finally, if he confessed his sin (15:24, 30) it was not so much because of his sorrow for his offence against God, as because of its political consequences present and future (15:25, 30). It is not even improbable that his lack of disinterestedness was not foreign to his saving Agag, and the best of the spoil under pretence of offering them to Jehovah, and it is well known that his disappointed ambition and base jealousy gradually led him to madness which bordered on demoniacal possession, and to a fierce and relentless persecution of David (1 Kings 16:14; 18:8, sq.; cfr. also HUMMELAUER, in Libros Samuelis, p. 168).

The character of Saul after his accession, stands also in striking contrast with that of his son, Jonathan. This young prince, a type of military valor (1 Kings 13:2, sq.; 14:1, sq.), was also a pattern of submission to the Almighty (14:10) and of noble self-sacrifice (14:43). “Jealousy and every mean or low feeling were strangers to the generous heart of this eldest son of Saul. Valiant and accomplished himself, none knew better how to acknowledge valor and accomplishments in others. In the intensity of his admiration and love for David, he not only risked his life to preserve him from harm, but even shrank not to think of him as his destined king and master, and of himself as one with him in friendship, but next to him in place and council” (KITTO, Cyclopædia of Biblical Knowledge, art. Jonathan).

3. The End of Saul at Gelboe. All his life Saul waged war against the Philistines (1 Kings 14:52), for naturally enough these inveterate enemies of Israel profited by the wretched condition of the Jewish king to invade repeatedly a country whose defence from foreign foes lay apparently much less close to the heart of Saul than the extermination of his personal opponents within. Furthermore, the land of Israel had gradually been deserted by some of its most valiant soldiers, who, despairing of the fortunes of Saul, had joined themselves to David (1 Paralip., or Chronicles, 12:1, sq.); so that it was with great hope of success that, some time after the death of Samuel, they marched northwards along the sea-coast, entered the plain of Esdrælon with numerous troops, and pitched their camp on the slope of the Little Hermon—now called Jebel Duhy—which bounds the Great Plain on the east, at a place called Sunam—the present Sulem—three and one-half miles north of Jezrahel. Saul, having gathered whatever troops he could collect, encamped on Mount Gelboe, which bounds the plain of Esdrælon on the south, that is, in an extremely perilous position, for he was in imminent danger of being surrounded by the Philistines who had also marched a strong body of troops to Aphec (1 Kings 29:1), in the rear of the Jewish army (DEANE, Samuel and Saul, p. 201).

Sorely afraid, and feeling forsaken by Jehovah, whom he consulted in vain about the future, the unfortunate king fell back upon one of those soothsayers he had formerly tried to banish from the Holy Land. At night and in disguise he made the seven miles which separate Gelboe from Endor, and there wished that the witch of the place would evoke the spirit of Samuel, the former guide of his life. It seems plain, from the wording of his narrative, that the sacred writer intends to describe a personal apparition of the old prophet, and to record his prediction of the awful fate which soon awaited Saul and his army (see on this question, CLAIR, Livres des Rois, p. 75, sq.; and HUMMELAUER, in Libros Samuelis, p. 248, sq.), and there is no doubt that this distinct knowledge of his ruin, now so near at hand, destroyed effectively every hope of escape which might still linger in the mind of the king. Soon afterwards the battle was fought; it ended with the rout of the Israelites, the death of Saul and of three of his sons (1 Kings 28; 31; cfr. also 2 Kings 1).

“This victory of the Philistines gave them possession of a long tract of country; the north submitted to them without a blow, and many of the Israelite cities between the plain of Esdrælon and the Jordan were deserted by the inhabitants and occupied by the enemy” (DEANE, David, p. 81). This was indeed a very sad condition of affairs for Israel, but God had long been preparing in David a truly theocratic king fully able to repair the fallen fortunes of the chosen people.

§ 2. The Youth of David

1. Origin and Early Life. David, the man chosen by Jehovah to be the successor of Saul on the Jewish throne, belonged to the tribe of Juda, and through some of his immediate ancestresses he was allied to the foreign races of Moab and Chanaan (cfr. Ruth 4:18, sq.; Matt. 1:5; Luke 3:32). He was the youngest son of Isai, a small proprietor of Bethlehem, concerning whom very little else is known.

The early life of the future king, poet and prophet of Israel was that of an humble shepherd in charge of the flocks of his father which were pastured on the neighboring hills. This was an arduous life in the unenclosed country around Bethlehem, but it proved a valuable training for his future destiny. “His bodily powers were exercised and braced by a hardy life in the open air; courage and self-reliance became habitual in the presence of constant danger and responsibility; dexterity in the use of rustic weapons, the bow and the sling, were acquired.… In his lonely hours, as he watched his father’s sheep, he attained that skill in minstrelsy which early attracted the notice of his contemporaries” (DEANE, David, pp. 4, 5).

One day as he was tending his flock, he was hurriedly summoned home before Samuel the great judge and prophet of Israel. This venerable old man, after weeping long over the rejection of Saul by God, had lately arrived in Bethlehem, there to anoint as king that one of the sons of Isai whom Jehovah would point out to him. In vain had he seen, one after the other, the seven brothers of David, who had remained at home. Jehovah had chosen none among them to be the successor of Saul, and now he was waiting for the youngest of the sons of Isai, for, had said the aged prophet, “We will not sit down [at the sacrificial meal] till he come hither.” When David appeared, “ruddy and beautiful to behold, and of a comely face,” Jehovah said to Samuel: “Arise, and anoint him, for this is he.” Then it was that the introducer of the monarchy into Israel carried out in favor of this new chosen of God the ceremony of the anointment which he had formerly performed in behalf of the first Jewish king (1 Kings 16:1–13).

2. Relations of David with Saul. It is indeed difficult at the present day to say on what exact occasion David was first introduced to Saul, for there seem to be two different representations of this event in the present Hebrew text (cfr. Kings 16:14–23, with 1 Kings 17:18), and several theories are still held to do away with the apparent discrepancies which are noticeable between the two representations. The core of the difficulty is briefly as follows: in chapter 16, the first introduction of David to Saul is connected with the sending of Saul to Isai for his youngest son, in order that by his musical skill David may appease the fits of madness to which the Jewish king is subject; in chapter 17, on the contrary, David seems to be introduced to Saul for the first time, in connection with his successful fight against Goliath. Of the many theories which have been advanced to meet this difficulty, only two appear to account fully for its presence in the Hebrew text. The first theory takes notice that the Septuagint, or oldest Greek translation of the Hebrew, does not contain in chapters 17 and 18 of the first book of Kings those verses the presence of which in the Hebrew text makes the whole difficulty, and then it suggests that these verses did not exist in the primitive Hebrew text of the first book of Kings, but are glosses of a later date, so that the first introduction of David to Saul would have really happened as it is recorded in 1 Kings, 16:14–23 (cfr. MARTIN, Critique de l’Ancien Testament, tome i. p. 62). The second theory holds that the first book of Kings being made up of earlier documents (cfr. HUMMELAUER, in Libros Samuelis, p. 184), the compiler of the book adopted various documents, some connected with the life of Saul, others with that of David, and containing already the discrepancy in question, and simply embodied them in his work without harmonizing their contents, so that, at the present day, it is impossible for us to tell which of the two representations is the correct one (cfr. LOISY, La Question Biblique et l’Inspiration des Ecritures, p. 14; cfr. also LAGRANGE, Revue Biblique, Octobre. 1896, p. 512; DRIVER, Notes on Hebrew Text of the Books of Samuel, p. 116, 117).

Be this as it may, it is unquestionable that either representation of this event pictures to us the early relations of Saul with David as very friendly, for we are told that he loved David exceedingly (1 Kings, 16:21; cfr. 18:9); kept him constantly near his person (16:22; 18:2); made him his armor-bearer, and perhaps also captain of his body-guard (16:21; 18:5); in a word, it was plain to all that David was the favorite of Saul, and this is why the courtiers of the latter exhibited towards the former a special respect and devotion (18:5). But this period of favor did not last long: the public rejoicings at the triumphant return of the army from the campaign against the Philistines provoked the jealousy of Saul, for the chief praise in the songs of the women was given to David (1 Kings 18:6–9); and twice in his madness the unfortunate king attempted to kill (18:11) one whose presence he could bear no longer (18:12) and whose conduct he watched as that of a dangerous rival (18:15). Not satisfied with removing David to a distant post of command, Saul went so far as to endanger his life in a conflict with the Philistines by a perfidious promise of the hand of his second daughter, named Michol (1 Kings 18:20–25); but, discomfited by the success of the valiant David, he henceforth considered him as a deadly enemy (18:29), sent to arrest him in his house (19), and began against him a relentless persecution which caused the shedding of much innocent blood (22).

While thus cruelly pursued with the hatred of Saul, David never exhibited in return any other feeling than that of faithfulness and compassion towards the unfortunate monarch, who was his father-in-law, and in whom he ever contemplated the anointed of Jehovah (1 Kings 24:7, 11). He knew, moreover, that however fierce and unjust was the persecution he had to suffer, only the invisible and supreme Master of the chosen people could dispose of the throne (24:13), and accordingly spared Saul’s life in several occurrences (24; 26). It is impossible to read the long chapters which detail this period of David’s life as an outlaw without feeling that he remained invariably and deeply attached to Saul, and that his touching lamentation over the death of the first king of Israel, and Jonathan the beloved friend of David, was the natural outpouring of the sincerest affection for both (2 Kings 1:18–27). (For a careful rendering of this beautiful elegy, see in The New World, the article “The Historical David,” by B. W. Bacon, vol. iv, p. 559).

3. The Wanderings of David. Unwilling to start a rebellion against Saul, although this would have been easy to one who, like him, had enjoyed so much favor with the army and people of Israel, David began that wandering life with which the Biblical narrative makes us acquainted, and for which his former shepherd life had well prepared him, notably by a perfect familiarity with all the glens and numerous caves of the limestone district around Bethlehem.

Having escaped from his own house—whither Saul had sent to arrest him—by a stratagem of his wife, Michol, he fled first to Samuel, at Naioth in Ramatha (1 Kings 19:11, sq.), who probably advised him to make sure by means of Jonathan whether a reconciliation with the king would not be possible. Convinced by a short interview with this young prince that Saul’s enmity was no mere transient passion (20), he withdrew to Nobe, a place which cannot be identified at the present day and where his duplicity cost the priest Achimelech his life (21:1–9; 22:6–19), and thence to the court of Achis, the King of Geth (some fifteen miles south of Ramleh), where he escaped the revengeful feelings of the Philistines by simulating madness (21:10–15).

Returning into the territory of Juda, he became the leader of a band of about 400 men with whom he maintained himself in different places, sometimes hiding in caves, as in that of Odollam, some miles south of Bethlehem (22:1); sometimes occupying a town, as that of Ceila (23), the modern Khurbet Kila, south of Odollam; sometimes in the wilderness (the deserts of Ziph (23:15), of Engaddi (24), etc.). It was probably during his stay in the cave of Odollam that occurred the memorable exploit of three of David’s men risking their lives to procure him some water from the well of Bethlehem (2 Kings 23:13–17; 1 Paralip. 11:15–19); and whilst at Celia he was joined by Abiathar, who had become high priest on the murder of Achimelech, his father (22:20; 23:4), and by various warriors (1 Paralip. 12:8–18). To this same period of David’s wanderings belong the adventure with Nabal and David’s marriage with Abigail, his sparing the life of Saul on two occasions (24; 26), and also his second residence with Achis, who gave him Siceleg, in the neighborhood of Bersabee. Many plausible reasons have indeed been advanced to justify the conduct of David at this time, when he laid waste the country of his allies, the Philistines, and gave Achis to understand that he simply fought against the tribes dependent on Juda (cfr. CLAIR, Livres des Rois, p. 399, sq.; and DEANE, David, p. 70, sq.), but all these reasons are hardly sufficient to exonerate him (27:6–12). He also followed the army of Achis when marching to the battle of Gelboe against the Jewish forces under the orders of Saul, but was dismissed from the expedition because of the loud complaints of the princes of the Philistines (28:1, sq.; 24).

Returning to Siceleg, he found it burnt by the Amalecites, but he soon recovered all plunder they had taken, and even obtained greater spoil, which he politicly sent to his friends in Juda (30), and very soon after the death of Saul he repaired into Juda, by which event David’s life as an outlaw was brought to a close (AYRE, Treasury of Bible Knowledge, art. David).

There is no doubt that this checkered period of his life produced a deep and lasting impression upon the successor of Saul. It was naturally calculated to increase his courage and self-reliance, to train him to public government and administration, especially whilst acting as the petty king of Siceleg, and to inspire him with many of those feelings and descriptions which we find in the canticles of “the excellent Psalmist of Israel” (2 Kings 23:1). This period of proscription had the further result of endearing him to the Jewish nation, who saw in him a skilful commander and faithful patriot, and a man whom Jehovah manifestly preserved to restore to pristine grandeur Israel, now so low under the rule of an impotent and maddened king (cfr. STANLEY, Jewish Church, lecture 32; DEANE, David, p. 82).

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