1 Samuel 21-23

Good morning! Thank you for your reflections and feedback each day, particularly yesterday. It’s great to see how this group continues to inspire and encourage each other in our reading together. Today’s passage (1 Samuel 21-23) shows how the rivalry between Saul and David escalates into a near civil war, with deadly implications for other Israelites caught up in the conflict.

David is not altogether forthright in his approach to the priest Ahimelech in chapter 21, which proves to be the priest’s downfall. : David instead says that he’s on a secret mission for Saul and asks for the holy bread of the shrine. The “throwaway” line about Doeg the Edomite portends some future impact, but we’re not told what. David also takes with him from Ahimelech’s shrine the sword of Goliath. There’s no greater symbol of strength and power, for him especially. Ironically, David goes from there to find shelter in Gath, a Philistine city, where he pretends to be a madman so he’s not harassed, captured or killed. He then holes up in a cave at the start of 1 Samuel 22, and those who were troubled by poverty or discontent with Saul’s reign join him there (along with his family). David shelters his parents with the Moabite king, and goes into hiding in the forest with those who accompany him.

Meanwhile, Saul hears of David’s whereabouts and castigates his servants for not letting him know sooner. Doeg the Edomite reveals where he saw David last, so Saul summons Ahimelech and interrogates him. The priest does not know the enmity between David and Saul, yet this does not lead Saul to spare his life. When Saul’s own guards will not kill Abimelech and the other priests, Doeg the Edomite follow’s Saul’s command. Think of other places in the Hebrew Bible where the Edomites get a bad name (they’re presented as the distasteful descendants of Esau from Genesis), and here Doeg does the deed too dirty for honorable Israelite guards. He slays nearly a hundred prophets, plus all their family members and livestock. Ahimelech’s son survives and brings word of the slaughter to David.

Chapter 23 describes a series of cat-and-mouse maneuvers between David and Saul, with Philistine marauders acting as supporting characters in the drama. First, David hears of the Philistine attack against Keilah and he goes to defend the city. The bold move (refusing to stay hidden) wins David the battle and secures provisions for his followers. But Saul makes plans to besiege David’s forces in the city, and David hears from God that the townspeople will turn him over to Saul rather than defend the city with him. So David and his rebel forces escape into the wilderness, eluding Saul again. Jonathan joins David and starts to imagine a life together where David is king. Saul comes to chase David down in Ziph (with the help of local informants) and is very close to catching him, but then must go chase out the raiding Philistines again. It’s enough to be the second act in a melodrama, and we wonder what will come next. (I’m rather surprised that I’ve never seen a movie presentation of this biblical era—seems like it would make for great cinema.) Nevertheless, the curtain drops at the end of today’s passage with an implied sign: “To be continued…” Happy reading!

Read 1 Samuel 21-23.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is 1 Samuel 24-26. Thanks for reading!

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