Day 109 (April 19): David takes revenge on Amalekites, Saul and sons die, David wrote a funeral song for Saul and Jonathan

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

1 Samuel 30:1-31

1 Chronicles 12:20-22

1 Samuel 31:1-13

1 Chronicles 10:1-14

1 Chronicles 9:40-44

2 Samuel 4:4

2 Samuel 1:1-16

2 Samuel 1:17-27

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Samuel 30:1,7): I am surprised that David and his men had left their town without protection.  The area is full of war, volatility and uncertainty.  Why would they leave their town unprotected?  I do understand that David had to leave or Saul would have captured him.

A.  Most likely because the king David was “working for” compelled him to take all of his men into battle.  I’m not saying it was a wise decision, just most likely the reason.

Q. (30:7) What ephod are we talking about here?  Is it the one way back from Moses’ days?

A. Yep.  That’s the one.  It is actually part of the reason Saul couldn’t consult God, because after he killed the priests, the one remaining priest escaped with the ephod.  Just one more way that God favored David over Saul in the midst of this story.

Q. (30:21-25): Giving to the lazy bones is always something I have had trouble with.  I don’t believe in the welfare program because of the stories like comedian Adam Carolla tells where his mom didn’t get a job so she could keep getting food stamps.  I do believe in helping those in need, but not sure if that should be a government function or just a service of churches and charities.  In this story, 200 men were fatigued.  We don’t know if that means they really were or just whining.  Regardless, what does the Bible say about giving to lazy bones?  Here, I do see that David recognized the victory and wanted to give the glory to God.  By following the suggestions of the sour-grape soldiers, he would have put a blemish on the celebration, and thus disrespected God.

A. We’re blurring some lines when we consider government assistance in a modern sense to making provision for soldiers who lived thousands of years ago.  I wouldn’t draw too many conclusions from this story and our modern welfare system.  In fact, one of the problems we run into as Christians is when we attempt to pigeonhole biblical concepts in a modern setting.  It just doesn’t work, and makes us look petty or foolish.  Be careful about that!  Now having said that, there’s two things I think the Bible has to say about laziness (we will see this described in Proverbs).  First, DON’T BE LAZY!  Second, be generous to all who have need — and don’t make consideration of motive, like someone mooching off of you.  When those two things are put together, you have yourself and your neighbor pretty much taken care of.

O. (1 Chronicles 12:20-22): This David-and-Saul story is a quite unusual.  Here you have Israel, God’s chosen people, led by King Saul, who was anointed but fell from God’s grace, yet still rules over his people.  Then, you have David, also anointed and in God’s favor, who now leads soldiers, referred to in verse 22 as “the army of God.”

Q. (1 Samuel 31:6): So, David promised to not kill Saul’s family (1 Samuel 24:21-22), a promise that he easily kept as we see here.  However, I am sad that Jonathan was killed.

A. Saul’s poor decisions got his heir (Jonathan) killed and his family line cut off.  It is tragic all around.

Q. (1 Chronicles 10:13-14): These two verses say that Saul disobeyed God by consulting a medium.  1 Samuel 28:6 says that Saul did ask God, but because he didn’t answer, Saul consulted a medium.

A. That’s not so hard to reconcile: rather than seeking to, for example, make peace with David and get the ephod back so that he could seek God’s will via the priest, or continue asking God for direction — just because God didn’t answer for a period of time doesn’t mean God would NEVER answer him again — Saul takes the easy and forbidden road of seeking a medium.  That would be my guess on how to reconcile these two versions.

Q. (2 Samuel 1:1-16): Rob, you’ve got this one. I’m not sure who’s right and who’s wrong here.  David has feared Saul, but also loves and respects him.  This dichotomy is hard to accept.  David seems to empathize with Saul and honors him with full respect.

A. I don’t think that David ever lost respect for Saul, and he greatly mourned his passing, especially since, though corrupt, he was God’s anointed king of Israel (as David alludes to).  David desired to make peace, but he would have been a fool to trust Saul very far.  I think a lot of the problems the two of them had were because of the evil spirit that tormented Saul: it appears that the king was never the same after this spirit began to torment him.

Q. (2 Sam 1:19-27): This song sounds like David is putting shame on the Israelites.

A. It certainly does.  David will begin working on turning that shame around in our next reading.

Day 108 (April 18): David declines second chance to kill Saul, David takes refuge from Saul with Philistines, Benjamin tribes join David, Saul talks to Samuel .. who is dead, Philistines think again about allowing David to fight, Manasseh men join David

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

1 Samuel 26

1 Chronicles 12:1-7

1 Samuel 27:8-12

1 Samuel 28-29

1 Chronicles 12:19

Psalm 56

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Samuel 26:1-25): Why is Saul after David when they’ve been through this cat-and-mouse chase and after David won, they made peace where Saul acknowledged David’s grace and David agreed to not harm Saul’s family.  Although, I didn’t mention it in yesterday’s reading, when I looked back, a verse stuck out.  1 Samuel 24:22 says that Saul went home, but David stayed in the wilderness.  If the fighting was truly over, why would David stay hidden?

A. Because he still didn’t trust Saul is the only reason I can give you.  It appears his instinct not to trust Saul was proven correct.

Q. (26:16): David keeps referring to Saul as “the Lord’s anointed” almost in jest.  So, does everyone know that David is anointed or is it to be revealed to all at a later time?

A. God has made David His king, but he will not become Israel’s king until Saul is dead.  It appears that God’s selection of David was not a secret at this point, so perhaps Samuel talked about it before he died.

Q. (27:8-12): Do I have this right that David and his soldiers and their families were living among the Philistines?  David would go on raids of whom and why?  David was aligning with King Achish, a Philistine.  I don’t get this.

A. He did so to move out of Saul’s territory, since this appears to be the only place where Saul would not pursue him — probably because he did not have the military strength.  That is probably your answer as to why he allied himself with the Philistines: because they were the only nation strong enough to protect David.  It seems to fit under the rule of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Q. (28:8-19): We haven’t seen anyone talk to anyone in heaven besides God.  I always thought that mediums, fortune tellers, witches, whatever they are called were a farce.  Apparently not?  Again, this is the OT.  Are these people just present in the OT times or are they really here now?  This reminds me of my questions when the Egyptian “magicians” replicated the staff-to-snake trick of Aaron and Moses (Exodus 7:8-13).  I have never believed that magic or possessions exist today.  Maybe they do?  But, in the staff-to-snake miracle, could God have made the magicians able to do this trick just so he could finish it off with his snake eating their snakes?  I was shocked to read Samuel talking again!

A. First, let’s clear something up: it does not appear that Samuel is in “heaven” in the sense that we would understand it.  Samuel is in the realm of the dead, Sheol, which is NEITHER heaven nor hell.  Much of the OT refers to it as a place of rest for the dead (akin to the Greek concept of Hades), while awaiting judgment at a future date — we will see this referred to as the Day of the Lord in future volumes, so watch for that term.  This is why Samuel tells Saul that he will be “with me” in 28:19.  Samuel is certainly NOT telling Saul that he is going to heaven when he dies “tomorrow.”  So, to get a clear picture of what is going on, you’ve got to remove the simple notion of heaven and hell: eternal judgment in the Bible is not cut and dry at this point in the story (though it will be later!)

In addition to your questions about Egyptian magic, back on Day 76 (when reading Deuteronomy 18), we discussed the issue of communication with the dead, and I mentioned then this story as a forthcoming example, so here’s your pay off.  The implication of the story, to me, is that in this era — I couldn’t tell you whether or not you can still do so today — it was possible for certain people to communicate with the dead.  They did so using what we would call occult practices today — and they surely still exist. We usually call them Wicca or similar names today.  The issue here is not whether or not one can communicate with the dead.  This story surely tells us that we COULD, if not can, but rather that God strictly forbids such an act.  The reason: consulting the dead, called necromancy, always involves an attempt to learn about or control the future, as Saul is doing here.  When we do that, we are no longer trusting God to provide for our future.  Now in Saul’s case you can understand his desperation: his prophet is dead, the priesthood has allied itself with David, or been killed by Saul himself, and he appears to have no way to communicate with God.  He has painted himself into this corner, but we can certainly sympathize with his plight.  It’s going to get bad for Saul and his family.

Q. (29:6): So, Achish acknowledges the Lord here.  Are the Philistines just fickle and go back and forth between following the true Lord and idols?  Or, was he just simply acknowledging the Lord’s power, even though the Lord is not his God?  Another question this brings up is swearing.  We may have talked about it before, but it’s worth exploring again.  We have read about many of God’s followers — most recently, Jonathan and David and Abigail — swear by God.  One of the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:7 says, “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.”  I certainly don’t think any of the three I mentioned are misusing God’s name.  But, I thought it was a great time to bring the subject up.  I have the feeling that whenever I mention the Lord, I have to make sure he would approve of it.  I don’t say He said something He didn’t, nor do I use his name casually in blame or whatever.  It jabs me when I hear someone say, “God this” or “Jesus that” or “Oh my God,” especially Christians.  As I pull the knife out of me, I would like to call the person on it, but never do.  What do you say about this, Rob?  I found a great paper on this subject.  See if you think it’s worth mentioning. http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2007/06/what-does-it-really-mean-to-take-the-lords-name-in-vein/

A. Okay, you went a bit stream of consciousness on me, but let’s see if we can untangle this.  I think the Philistines recognized David’s God, but they would not have acknowledged Him as the God of the whole world, merely Israel.  In this era, it was common thinking that the gods had what we might call territories: so the Philistine god watched over his kingdom, the God of Israel watched over Israel, etc.  They would have seen the battles between human kings and soldiers as acting out struggles between the various gods.  If your army won, it was because your nation’s god was more powerful than your enemies.  The Israelites speak of a radical departure for this: only their God exists, and He rules the whole world.  This concept would surely have been lost on the Philistine king, and he likely was speaking of the Lord out of his own understanding of gods.

I agree with you that David and the others are not misusing God’s name in the stories you mentioned, and it does come down to casual use of God’s name when His name ALWAYS deserves to be revered.  I read on someone’s blog where the writer warned that real danger of violating this commandment is not lightning, i.e. being struck dead, but lightening.  When we misuse a name — any name — we cause that name to lose significance: we take it lightly.  That might be okay with people, but if we begin to take God lightly — and surely we do that in our society today! — the entire fabric of our relationship with God begins to fall apart.  In the end, that only costs us — God does not need us, but we NEED Him.  Much that takes place in our world today — the glorification of sin, the loss of morality, etc. — can be traced to the fact that, ultimately, we take God lightly.  What better example can there be then in how we show a lack of reverence for the name of God!  It can be tricky to get people to see this point of view, but I think with people that we have relationship with; it would be a worthwhile endeavor.  Respect for God is surely worth our time.

O. (Psalm 56) This Psalm reminds me of when Jesus feels the doom of his enemies creeping up on Him.  David says God is protecting him.  He is his shield.  Yet, in verse 11, he says “I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?”  I know the feeling.  I know God is real — I have always felt it, but after seeing how undeniably true the Bible is — I have real proof of God’s existence.  Yet, there is always the doubt that if I ask God for something, I won’t get it … that it’s just an empty wish.  I’m working on it.  David admitting his fear and doubts helps me personalize this story.  Verses 12-13 give David’s reason for his faith.  This feels like when David ever has his fear, he can refer to this verse to bolster his faith.

Day 103 (April 13): Saul destroys Amalekites, Saul falls out of favor with God, Saul asks for forgiveness, Samuel kills King Agag, David anointed new king, David joins Saul’s court, Goliath taunts Israelites, David gives food to brothers in battle, David inquires about reward for defeating Goliath

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

1 Samuel 15

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Samuel 15:2): What does Heaven’s Armies mean?  I know this isn’t important.  The important note here is that God is commanding Saul.  I just always wonder who is all in heaven.  Do we get a glimpse of it later in the Bible?

A. It appears to refer to the angelic warriors that serve God.  We only get glimpses of them, so I’m afraid you’ll just have to wonder.  We are rarely given more than a glimpse at angelic beings.  There’s an important reason why: the Bible desires that God alone should be our focus!

Q. (15:4): Why list Judah separately?

A. Because the city where the armies are mustered is in Judah’s territory.  It is telling us how many “home team” members are serving Saul.

O. (15:7-23): This is such a great lesson for even today.  Go with what you are told, not what your brain tells you would be a better idea.  I see this in my kids.  I tell them to do one thing, but they don’t do it because they are caught up in something else.  Often times, that something else is a little handmade gift for me.  That makes me feel guilty for getting on them, but then, they were making an excuse — albeit a good one — for not doing what they are told.  Also, when you think that the little things don’t matter — sparing some livestock when God told you to destroy everything — they turn into big things.

Q. (15:33): What is this custom of cutting up beings into pieces?  We saw it with the Levite cutting his concubine, Saul cutting up his oxen, and now, Samuel cuts up the king of Agag.

A. It appears to be an act of emphasis, and may have involved a “display” of the parts in some form.  Other than that, I’m not entirely sure.

Q. (15:35): I think we have talked about this before, but why not again?  I have always thought the Lord was sure of everything he did.  But, after reading the Bible a while, it seems that he isn’t always so sure.  Here, he is sorry that he made Saul king.  Moses often talked God out of taking revenge on the Israelites.  But, there are many other things that he has been positive of: Moses, Job, Jacob over Esau, Ephraim over Manasseh, etc.  And, I feel like He already knows the big picture and outcome, so how could he not know the little things like Saul was a bad choice for king.  Looking around, I have no doubt in my mind how amazing our Creator is.  I just think it’s wonderful that we can see some human-like traits in Him.  It makes me feel closer to Him.

A. As a big believer in free will and human choice, my answer to your question is a little complicated, but basically it boils down to this: if we believe that God is ultimately sovereign over all things BUT allows for human choice, then He is certainly capable of being grieved or upset when human beings such as Saul do not follow in the path He desires.  I think this is what the story is attempting to tell us.  Just because God knows the path we will walk in an eternal sense does not mean He regrets any less the poor decisions we make.

If I can be metaphysical for just a moment, let’s examine an idea here.  In our story, we know that 1) God makes Saul king, 2) Saul turns away from God out of fear and a pattern of rash decisions, 3) on this basis, God rejects Saul as king.  But, if God had never made Saul king, He could not have had foreknowledge of what Saul would do.  God’s ability to see our paths is dependent upon the possibilities of our choices, not the other way around (at least in my Biblical worldview).  So, if I am never elected President of the United States (fat chance), God would not have foreknowledge of my administration or mistakes as President, or my re-election strategy, because there would be no administration, and that foreknowledge REQUIRES me to be President in the scenario.  I hope that sort of “big idea” makes sense and can help put passages such as this one and others where God is surprised, disappointed, etc. into proper perspesective.

Q. (16:14-23): So, Saul was no longer king of Israel according to God, but he still was to the people.  Why?  Why wasn’t David automatically king after he was anointed?

A. Well, for one thing, David was a young man when he is chosen, and not yet ready to rule.  For another, well, actually, the next few chapters, I think, will make this pretty clear why not (and I don’t want to spoil it).  But if its not clear in the next couple of chapters, as me again.

O. (16:4-7): I don’t recall ever reading this passage except for the children’s versions.  It’s humorous how the description in the “adult” Bible perfectly matches the pictures of Goliath in children’s Bibles.  The description paints a real clear picture of him except how tall he actually was — 9.75 feet or 6.75 feet.

Q. (17:16): Here we have a “40.”  Is it notifying us of a cleansing period, when you mentioned the meaning of “40” in Day 3’s reading?

A. It can also refer to a time of trial, and this certainly is a trying period for Israel.  Daily, Goliath is taunting the people and testing their faith in God, which is revealed to be quite poor.  But all that’s going to change when a certain shepherd shows up.

Q. (17:26): Why does David refer to God as the “living” God?

A. Living God is one of the most common titles used to refer to God throughout scripture.  It refers to the fact that the God it refers to is not an idol, a dead object made of wood, stone, or precious metal.  The God of the Bible is a living being and all things find their life in Him.

O. (13:31): That last paragraph makes me want to read on!

Thanks for inquiring about God’s message!  We welcome you to join us tomorrow and the next day and the next!