Lesson 23: 1 Samuel 18-20, 23-24
As you read these chapters, ask yourself why they are included in scripture. Do they testify of Christ? If so, how? Do they serve some other purpose? History is important in its own right, but it isn’t clear why this particular history is important as scripture. How would you explain its importance?
Though David has been anointed to be king, he does not become king immediately. A great deal happens before he is finally made king. (See the list of events at the end of these study questions.) These chapters are devoted to the events of that time. Do you think that this interval of about 10 years was necessary? If so, what for?
1 Samuel 18
Verses 1- 4: The language used here is the language of love, romantic language. It was common in the ancient Near East to use romantic language to describe the relation of a king to his subject. The verses may also have political connotations, as the covenant that Jonathan and David make suggests. After all, it is not only a covenant between the two of them. Jonathan makes a covenant with not only David, but also with the house of David (1 Samuel 20:16, 42). In these verses, when Jonathan gives David his clothing, including his robe, bow, and girdle, he is probably giving David the signs of his royal position, thereby recognizing Davidâ€™s right to the throne. What is the writer showing us about David and Jonathan at a personal level? What more is he showing us? (Compare 2 Samuel 1:26.)
Verse 17: Does David have any reason to suspect that Saul will break this promise? (Compare 1 Samuel 17:25).
Verses 20-25: Why does Saul offer Michal to be Davidâ€™s wife? Why does David say he cannot ask for Michal? Why does Saul ask for such a strange substitute for a dowry? If we ignore Saulâ€™s intentions, is there any symbolic significance to what he asks for? Is it comparable to anything we have seen before in the Old Testament?
Verse 27: Why doesnâ€™t Saul renege on his promise to give David Michal as a wife?
Verses 28-29: Notice that, from Saulâ€™s point of view, David has not only won the loyalty of the people, he has also won the loyalty of both his son and his daughter. David is not just a threat to Saulâ€™s seat on the throne. He is a threat to his status as a father. But, even worse, from Saulâ€™s point of view, David has also separated him from the Lord. We have seen Saul become more and more isolated; now he is alone.
1 Samuel 19
In this chapter, how many times does Saul try to kill David? Who saves him? So what?
Verses 20-24: What do you think is going on here? Compare the question â€œIs Saul also among the prophets?â€? in verse 24 to the same question in 1 Samuel 10:11. What is the difference in the two instances of the question? What is the writer of 1 Samuel trying to show us?
1 Samuel 20
Verses 1-23: What is David trying to find out by this elaborate stratagem? Why is it necessary?
Verses 24-29: How can David be hiding from Saul in a field one minute and, nevertheless, be expected to eat with the king at his feast the next?
Verses 30-34: Does the stratagem work? What does Saul try to do to his son, Jonathan?
1 Samuel 23
Verse 1: Why would the Philistines attack threshing floors?
Verse 3: Why are Davidâ€™s men afraid?
Verse 6: Read 1 Samuel 22:9-20 to understand who Abiathar is and why he is coming to David. Why do you think it is important that when Abiathar came to David he had an ephod in his hand? (If necessary, read about the ephod in your Bible dictionary.) What might have been attached to the ephod? See also verses 9 and 10.
Verses 12 and 19-20: Why might these people have been willing to betray David?
1 Samuel 24
Given what happens in this chapter and what Saul says in verses 16-22, why did Saul continue to chase David and try to kill him?
Verse 5: Is there a connection between David cutting Saul’s robe and 1 Samuel 15:27, where Saul tears Samuel’s robe? How does David use the piece of the robe he has cut off? (See verses 11-12.)
Verse 21: Notice the irony of what Saul asks. What does this suggest about his understanding of his sonâ€™s relation with David?
Book recommendation: If you are interested in understanding better how the writers of the Old Testament wrote and in seeing masterful analyses of some of the stories in these chapters, consider reading Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York: Basic Books, 1981). Alter has also published The David Story: A Translation with Commentary on 1 and 2 Samuel (New York: Norton, 2000).
Davidâ€™s Flight from Saul
Since David was in flight for about ten years (he was about 20 when he was forced to leave Saulâ€™s palace and he was 30 when he became kingâ€“2 Samuel 5:4), the list of events, below, is probably quite incomplete. Nevertheless, it gives a good idea of the Davidâ€™s wanderings and trials between the time that he left the palace and the time he became king.
1. 1 Samuel 9:12-18: Michal helps David escape from Saul at Gibeah. He flees to Ramah to see Samuel.
2. 1 Samuel 19:18-24: Saul and David meet at Ramah, Samuelâ€™s home town.
3. 1 Samuel 20: 1, 16: Jonathan and David make their covenant at Gibeah
4. 1 Samuel 20:6, 28: A family feast at Bethlehem
5. 1 Samuel 20:25-42: David and Jonathan part at Gibeah.
6. 1 Samuel 21:1-9: David flees to the priest Ahimelech in Nob, a priestly city on the Mount of Olives.
7. 1 Samuel 21:10-15: David visits Achish, king of Gath, a Philistine city. See Psalm 34.
8. 1 Samuel 22:1-2: David hides in the cave of Adullam. See Psalm 57.
9. 1 Samuel 22:3-4: David visits the king of Moab at Mizpeh (Kir-haraseth), where he leaves his parents for safekeeping.
10. 1 Samuel 22:5: Prompted by Gad, David returns to Judah. See Psalm 52.
11. 1 Samuel 23: 1-12: David saves the city of Keilah (near Adullam, to its south) from the Philistines.
12. 1 Samuel 23:14-23: David is betrayed to Saul by the Ziphites. (Ziph was just south east of Hebron.) See Psalms 11 and 54.
13. 1 Samuel 23: 24-26: David escapes into the wilderness of Maon. (Maon was a few miles due south of Ziph.)
14. 1 Samuel 24:1-15: David encounters Saul at En-gedi but spares Saulâ€™s life. See Psalm 142.
15. 1 Samuel 25:1: After Samuelâ€™s death, David flees to the wilderness of Paran (the Negeb). See Psalms 120 and 121.
16. 1 Samuel 25:2-42: David visits Nabal at Carmel (due south of Hebron, in the Negeb). Nabal turns David and his men away. Nabalâ€™s wife, Abigail, intercedes on her husbandâ€™s behalf.
17. 1 Samuel 26:1-15: David encounters Saul again and spares his life again.
18. 1 Samuel 27:2-5: David returns to Achish, the king of Gath. See Psalm 56.
19. 1 Samuel 27:6-12: Achish gives David the city of Ziklag to live in.
20. 1 Samuel 29: At Aphek, Achish dismisses David from his service.
21. 1 Samuel 30:1-8: On his return to Ziklag, David finds it burned and the women and children taken captive.
22. 1 Samuel 30: 9-19: David rescues the captives at the river Besor.
23. 1 Samuel 30:26-31: David returns to Ziklag and divides the spoil among the elders of Judah.
24. 2 Samuel 1:1-10: After two days in Ziklag, David learns of the deaths of Saul and Jonathan.
24. 2 Samuel 2:1-3: David moves to Hebron and is anointed king.