Lesson 10: Chapters 28-31
The Philistine War Resumes and
The Death of Saul

Almighty God,
In our defeats and in our victories we acknowledge Your divine plan directing our lives. Our hearts soar in our victories, but sometimes we forget to thank You as the author of those blessings. However, nature reminds us that it is not in the high mountain tops that the trees are green and the flowers grow but in the valleys. It is in the valleys of adversity in our lives where there is the opportunity for spiritual growth. It is in those times that we feel our need for You, turn humbly to You, and beseech You to sustain us in our difficulties. David praised You in his victories, but it was in the low times of his life that his psalms speak so eloquently of his love for You and his faith in Your sovereignty over his life. Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our last lesson of the Book of First Samuel as we see the unfolding of Your divine plan in the transition of kingship from Saul to David.

+ + +

For the choirmaster. Of David, the servant of Yahweh, who addressed the words of this song to Yahweh when Yahweh had delivered him from all his enemies and from the clutches of Saul. He said:
1 I love, you, Yahweh, my strength my Savior, you have saved me from violence. 2 Yahweh is my rock and my fortress, my deliverer is my God. I take refuge in him, my rock, my shield, my saving strength, my stronghold, my place of refuge... 20 Yahweh rewards me for my uprightness, as my hands are pure, so he repays me, 21 since I have kept the ways of Yahweh, and not fallen away from my God. 22 His judgments are all before me, his statutes I have not put away from me. 23 I am blameless before him; I keep myself clear of evil. 24 So Yahweh repaid me for acting uprightly because he could see I was pure. 25 You are faithful to the faithful, blameless with the blameless, 26 sincere to the sincere, but cunning to the crafty, 27you save a people that is humble and humiliate those with haughty looks.
Psalm 18:1-2, 20-27

Chapter 28: The Renewal of the Philistine War with Israel

If anyone has recourse to the spirits of the dead or to magicians, to prostitute himself by following them, I shall set my face against him and outlaw him from his people. Sanctify yourselves and be holy, for I am Yahweh your God.
Leviticus 20:6-7

When you have entered the country given you by Yahweh your God, you must not learn to imitate the detestable practices of the nations there already. There must never be anyone among you who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire of sacrifice, who practices divination, who is soothsayer, augur or sorcerer, weaver of spells, consulter of ghosts or mediums, or necromancer. For anyone who does these things is detestable to Yahweh your God; it is because of these detestable practices that Yahweh your God is driving out these nations before you.
Deuteronomy 18:9-12

1 Samuel 28:1-2 ~ David's Dilemma
1 It then happened that the Philistines mustered their forces for war, to fight Israel, and Achish said to David, "It is understood that you and your men go into battle with me." 2 David said to Achish, "In that case, you will soon see what your servant can do." Achish replied to David, "Right, I shall appoint you as my permanent bodyguard."

The Philistines' war with Israel for control of central and northern Israel has resumed. King Achish of Gath expressed his complete confidence in David and his men by informing them that they will not only accompany him into battle but that they will serve as his personal bodyguard.

Achish's announcement: "It is understood that you and your men go into battle with me" may express some lingering doubt as to whether David will actually take up arms against his Israelite kinsmen.
Question: David's response: "In that case, you will soon see what your servant can do" is meant to appease Achish, but his words could have what double meaning?
Answer: David could be affirming his willingness to fight the Israelites, or he could mean that Achish will soon see who he really is and what side he really supports.

Question: David responds with confidence, expressing what Achish believes is his willingness to serve his Philistine overlord, but what is the precarious position that the renewed war and his elevation to the commander of Achish's personal guard place on David and his men? What two choices face David and his warriors?
Answer: Thus far David and his men have been able to avoid any hostile actions against fellow Israelites. Now, however, if they follow Achish and the Gathites into battle, they have two choices:

  1. To attack their Israelite kinsmen with the Philistines.
  2. To turn and attack the Philistines.

David probably did not feel the confidence he displayed in his response to Achish. What he probably felt was dread and fear. This is the only answer he could give since he and his men are outnumbered by the Philistines. However, David and his men will never fight against their own people even if they risk annihilation by the Philistines.

1 Samuel 28:3-7 ~ Saul's Dilemma
3 Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had mourned him and buried him at Ramah, his own town. Saul had expelled the necromancers and wizards from the country. 4 Meanwhile the Philistines had mustered and had come and pitched camp at Shunem. Saul mustered all Israel and they camped at Gilboa. 5 When Saul saw the Philistine camp, he was afraid and his heart trembled violently. 6 Saul consulted Yahweh, but Yahweh gave him no answer, either by dream, divination [urim] or prophet. 7 Saul then said to his servants, "Find a necromancer [ghost-wife] for me, so that I can go and consult her." His servants replied, "There is a necromancer [ghost-wife] at En-Dor." [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 791.

The information that Samuel has died in 1 Samuel 28:3 is a repeat of the information in 25:1, but it sets the stage for what happens next in Saul's life. In verse 4 we learn that the Philistines are now threatening northern Israel. Saul and his army are encamped in the city of Jezreel at the foot of Mount Gilboa and Saul has deployed his warriors on the height of the mount. The Philistines have entered the Jezreel Valley and are encamped at Shunem just north of Jezreel. In between the two armies is the Harod Valley that will become the battleground for the two opposing armies. When Saul sees the Philistine camp from his vantage point on Mount Gilboa he is terrified.

Saul has expelled all the mediums and sorcerers from Israel in obedience to the Law of Yahweh. Now with Samuel's death and with the surviving priest of the family of Eli with David, he has no means of seeking out God for the answers to his problems.
Question: In what three ways did God's Spirit often communicate with humans and why is Saul lacking an answer from Yahweh?
Answer: In the Old Testament God communicates through dreams, prophets, and the priestly urim and thummim.

  1. Saul has no prophetic dreams from God.
  2. The priest Abiathar took the urim and thummim for divining God's will with him when he fled to David.
  3. Samuel is dead and no prophet of God has come forward to offer to cooperate with Saul.

Saul feels the only option open to him is to break the Law and consult a female necromancer. The Hebrew phrase is best translated as "ghost-wife" or "ghost-mistress" (Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel, page 621). Today we would call this woman a "medium": one who communicates with the dead.
Question: What has Sacred Scripture consistently taught about consulting people who claim such abilities and why? What is the penalty for making use of such services and the penalty for those who practice the occult? See Ex 22:18; Lev 18:23; 20:6-27; Dt 18:10-12 1 Sam 15:23; Gal 5:20 and also CCC 2111, 2113, 2115-2117.
Answer: Such practices are strictly forbidden. To consult someone who claims such abilities or to give credence to their activities or writings denies God's sovereignty over one's life by attempting to discern one's future apart from God. Such activities fall into the classification of idolatry because they consist of attempting to divine what is not of God. The penalty for the one who consults the occult is excommunication and the penalty is death for the practitioner. It was for these practices that the inhabitants were to be dispossessed of the land and to suffer the judgment of herem for these practices as well as human sacrifice.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that idolatry is anything that perverts man's innate religious sense (CCC 2114):
CCC 2113: "Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, Satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc. Jesus says, 'You cannot serve God and mammon.' Many martyrs died for not adoring the 'Beast' refusing even to simulate such worship. Idolatry rejects the unique Lordship of God; it is therefore incompatible with communion with God."

CCC 2115: "God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it ..."

His servants replied, "There is a necromancer [ghost-wife] at En-Dor."
It is interesting that Saul's servants know exactly where a medium can be found. En-Dor is mentioned in Joshua 17:11. Most Biblical archaeologists think En-Dor is modern Khirbet es-Safsafe, about 4.5 miles northeast of Shunem. Therefore, if this is the site, it was on the other side of the enemy's camp from Mount Gilboa where Saul and his army are camped. This is may be the reason Saul disguises himself and takes two servants with him at night to find the medium. He also would not want it to be known that he is seeking the services of the kind of person condemned by the Law that his government has driven out of the land.

1 Samuel 28:8-11 ~ Saul consults the Witch of En-Dor
8 And so Saul, disguising himself and changing his clothes, set out accompanied by two men; their visit to the woman took place at night. "Disclose the future to me," he said, "by means of a ghost. Conjure up the one I shall name to you." 9 The woman replied, "Look, you know what Saul has done, how he has outlawed necromancers [ghost-wives] and wizards from the country; why are you setting a trap for my life, then, to have me killed?" 10 But Saul swore to her by Yahweh, "As Yahweh lives," he said, "no blame shall attach to you for this business." 11 The woman asked, "Whom shall I conjure up for you?" He replied, "Conjure up Samuel [bring up Samuel]." [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 792.

Saul goes to visit the ghost-wife at night. Verse 8 and Isaiah 45:19 suggest necromantic rituals regularly took place in the "darkness" of night; "darkness" in Scripture is a metaphor for sin. Saul demands that the woman conjure up a ghost he will name to disclose his future. At first the woman does not recognize Saul and protests that he is setting a trap for her since necromancers and wizards have been outlawed from the country. It isn't until Saul swears in Yahweh's name that she will not be harmed that she asks for the name of the dead person.

Question: What ghost does Saul ask the woman to conjure for him?
Answer: Saul asks for the prophet Samuel.

In the literal Hebrew, Saul demands: "Bring up Samuel for me;" to "bring up" suggests bringing the ghost of Samuel up out of Sheol, the Hebrew word for the "abode of the dead" which is Hades in the Greek. Heaven was closed to mankind since the Fall of Adam and Eve and would not be opened to redeemed humanity until the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah. Since the Fall of Adam all the dead were consigned to Sheol. CCC 536: ... "At his [Jesus'] baptism the heavens were opened' (Mt 3:16); the heavens that Adam's sin had closed ..." Also see CCC 1026.
Question: What is the Biblical concept of Sheol? See Ps 6:5; 16:8-11; 49:16; 89:48; 115:17; 139:7-8; Prov 5:5; 7:27; 15:11; Job 26:6; Wis 3:1-10; 16:13; Ecc 9:10; Is 38:18; Lk 16:19-31; Acts 2:27; 13:35; 1 Pt 3:18-20; 4:6; CCC 632-35; Apostles' Creed.

1 Samuel 28:12-19 ~ The Vision of Samuel and his Message
12 The woman then saw Samuel and, giving a great cry, she said to Saul, "Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!" 13 The king said, "Do not be afraid! What do you see?" The woman replied to Saul, "I see a ghost [a spirit of gods] rising from the earth." 14 "What is he like?" he asked. She replied, "It is an old man coming up; he is wrapped in a cloak." Saul then knew that it was Samuel and, bowing to the ground, prostrated himself. 15 Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed my rest by conjuring me up?" Saul replied, "I am in great distress; the Philistines are waging war on me, and God has abandoned me and no longer answers me either by prophet or by dream; and so I have summoned you to tell me what I ought to do." 16 Samuel said, "Why consult me, when Yahweh has abandoned you and has become your enemy? 17Yahweh has treated you as he foretold through me; he has snatched [torn] the sovereignty from your hand and given it to your neighbor, David, 18 because you disobeyed Yahweh's voice and did not execute his fierce anger against Amalek. That is why Yahweh is treating you like this today. 19 What is more, Yahweh will deliver Israel and you too, into the power of the Philistines. Tomorrow you and your sons will be with me; and Yahweh will hand over the army of Israel into the power of the Philistines." [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 792-93.

When Samuel appears the woman seems truly surprised and immediately realizes that her visitor is King Saul. She screamed not because of Samuel's apparition, which she identifies as a "spirit of gods", but because she suddenly realizes the true identity of her visitor and fears for her life. In the Hebrew text the word "gods" is plural = elohim, but it is unclear if she is referring to pagan gods or the Yahweh who is often referred to in the plural but with a singular article or verb. In this case her meaning is not clear.

The usual procedure is that mediums are possessed by the spirits of the dead who then speak through the medium to the interested party. But in this case, Samuel appears as a distinctly defined image of the prophet wrapped in his prophet's cloak who addresses Saul directly. The witch/medium immediately realizes it is the king who has made the request because it is only for the king that the prophet would have risen from Sheol in his full image. When the witch/medium describes the image, which Saul cannot see, he knows the image is Samuel and he assures the woman she has nothing to fear, but the woman appears to flee from the encounter (see verse 21 where she seems to be returning to Saul).

The image of Samuel angrily demands why Saul has disturbed his "sleep"; it is a response that is typical of Samuel's character.
Question: What is Saul's response?
Answer: A very distraught Saul lists all the causes of his distress: The war with the Philistines, God has turned away and no longer answers him, and so now he has had to call on Samuel to tell him what he should do.

Question: What is Samuel's answer?
Answer: He tells Saul:

  1. God has turned away from him and has become his enemy.
  2. It shall be as Samuel foretold Saul: his sovereignty has been taken away and given to David because Saul disobeyed Yahweh's command to destroy the Amalekites.
  3. The Philistines will win the battle and Saul and his sons will die.

17Yahweh has treated you as he foretold through me; he has torn the sovereignty from your hand... Samuel's wording in the literal Hebrew that God has "torn the sovereignty from your hand" recalls Saul reaching out for Samuel's cloak when a piece of it tore off in Saul's hand and Samuel used the torn cloth as a metaphor for the loss of Saul's kingdom in 15:28.

1 Samuel 28:20-25 ~ Saul's response to the Vision
20 Immediately Saul fell full length on the ground. He was terrified by what Samuel had said and was also weak from having eaten nothing all that day and night. 21 The woman went [came] to Saul and, seeing his terror, said, "Look, your servant has obeyed your order; I have taken my life in my hands and obeyed the command which you gave me. 22 Now please, you in your turn listen to what your servant has to say [the voice of your servant]. Let me offer you a piece of bread. Eat something and get some strength for your journey." 23 But he refused. "I will not eat," he said. His servants however pressed him, and so did the woman. Allowing himself to be persuaded by them, he got up from the ground and sat on the bed. 24 The woman owned a fattened calf which she quickly slaughtered, and she took some flour and kneaded it and with it baked some unleavened cakes 25 which she served to Saul and his servants; they ate, and then set off and left the same night. [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 793.

As Samuel returns to Sheol, Saul collapses in despair. The woman, in an act of compassion, urges Saul to eat something and even slaughters a calf to feed her royal guest. It is ironic that David's life has been twice saved by listening to the "voice" of women:

But the witch of En-Dor cannot save Saul's life; she can only "voice" her counsel that he eat and then feed him so he can have the strength go and die as Samuel predicted (29:22).

Chapter 29: David and his Men are dismissed from the Battle

Pagan resistance to God's elect: As the Church among the Gentiles praises the faithfulness of Christ through which it is awarded eternal life, the philosophers and high priests of idols are angered and fear to entrust themselves to him. They grieve that their own civilization and wisdom was destroyed by his word. They see clearly that the choir of the Holy Church celebrates his great triumph over the ancient enemy; a triumph such as no one else has ever been able to accomplish. As they come to understand the faith, they refuse to unite themselves to the members of Christ and refuse to submit themselves to his authority.
St. Bede, Four Books on 1 Samuel, 4.29

1 Samuel 29:1-11 ~ The Other Philistine Commanders distrust David
1 The Philistines mustered all their forces at Aphek while the Israelites pitched camp near the spring in Jezreel. 2 The Philistine commanders marched past with their hundreds and their thousands, and David and his men brought up the rear with Achish. 3 The Philistine chiefs asked, "What are these Hebrews doing?" Achish replied to them, "Why, this is David the servant of Saul, king of Israel, who has been with me for the last year or two. I have had no fault to find with him from the day he gave himself up to me until the present time." 4 But the Philistine chiefs were angry with him. "Send the man back," they said, "make him go back to the place which you assigned to him. He cannot go into battle with us, in case he turns on us once battle is joined. Would there be a better way for the man to regain his master's favor than with the heads of these men here? 5 Is not this the David of whom they sang as they danced: Saul has killed his thousands and David his tens of thousands"? 6 So Achish called David and said, "As Yahweh lives, you are loyal, and I am quite content with all your doings in our campaigning together, since I have found no fault with you from the day you came to me until the present time. But you are not acceptable to the chiefs. 7 So go home, in peace, rather than antagonize them." 8 "But what have I done," David asked Achish, "what fault have you had to find with your servant from the day I entered your service to the present time, for me not to be allowed to go and fight the enemies of my lord the king?" 9 In reply Achish said to David, "In my opinion, it is true, you are as good as an angel of God; but the Philistine chiefs have said, 'He must not go into battle with us.' 10 So get up early tomorrow morning, with your master's servants who came with you, and go to the place which I assigned to you. Do not harbor resentment, since personally I have no fault to find with you. Get up early tomorrow morning and, as soon as it is light, be off." 11 So David and his men got up early to leave at dawn and go back to Philistine territory. And the Philistines marched on Jezreel.

While part of the Philistine army is encamped at Shunem (27:4) in the north, the rest of the Philistines from the five city-states gathered at Aphek, forty miles south of Shunem.
Question: What was significant about the city of Aphek earlier in Samuel's career? See 1 Sam 4:1-2, 10.
Answer: Aphek was the site of the first major battle with the Philistines in 1 Samuel when the Philistines defeated the Israelites (4:1-2, 10).

When the other Philistine chiefs see that David and his men are marching with Achish of Gath they are distressed. They are uncomfortable going into battle with David and his men in the rear of the army where they could turn and attack them. The chiefs call them "Hebrews," which is the disdainful way foreigners refer to the Israelites. It is probably a reasonable fear since David and his men would either have to kill fellow Israelites or do exactly what the Philistines fear they might do. Notice that in trying to impress upon the other Philistine chiefs David's loyalty to him that Achish stretches the time David has served him to "a year or two" in verse 3; whereas the actual time has been a year and four months (27:7).

St. Bede wrote that the resistance to David and fear of his presence among their ranks signifies the attitude of pagans toward Christians. The acknowledgement of David's mighty deeds (29:5), like the Church's praises of Christ's miracles and faithfulness, evoke anger and fear in the Church's enemies. Like Achish, there are those pagans who see the worthiness of the Church and admire her works and yet, because of cultural pressures, send the emissaries of the Church away and resist the goodness of Christ.

It appears that God has intervened to control the events so that David and his men are rescued from their awkward position by the decision of the other Philistine chiefs. David still, however, either pretends in verse 9 that his loyalty has been impugned to impress Achish by asking why he is being sent away, or he wants to be sure the other Philistines did not have information that they passed to Achish about his true military activities in the Negeb that might jeopardize the safety of his men and their families.

Question: How many times does the Gentile ruler, Achish, profess that he finds "no fault" with David?
Answer: He professes David's worthiness in that he has found "no fault" in him three times in 29:3, 6 and 10.

Question: What descendant of David's in the Gospel of John will also be pronounced to have "no fault" by a Gentile ruler (in the literal Greek text)? Some translations have "no guilt" or "without guilt/fault." What is the difference between the two men pronounced without "fault"?
Answer: The Gentile Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, will pronounce that Jesus has "no fault" three times during His trial in John 18:38; 19:4 and 6. The difference is, of course, that Jesus really was without "fault," while David has been lying to Achish to protect himself, his soldiers, and his countrymen.

11 So David and his men got up early to leave at dawn and go back to Philistine territory. And the Philistines marched on Jezreel.
The next morning, before the march to the battlefield in the Jezreel Valley begins, David and his men march south to return to their town of Ziklag.

Chapter 30: Reprisals against the Amalekites

1 Samuel 30:1-10 ~ The Amalekite Raid on David's town of Ziklag
1 Now by the time David and his men reached Ziklag three days later, the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag; they had sacked Ziklag and burnt it down. 2 They had taken the women prisoner, and everyone who was there, both small and great. They had not killed anyone, but had carried them off and gone away. 3 When David and his men arrived, they found the town burnt down and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. 4 Then David and the people with him wept aloud till they were too weak to weep any more. 5 David's two wives had been captured: Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail widow of Nabal of Carmel.
6 David was in great trouble, since the people were talking of stoning him; the people all felt very biter, each man for his own sons and daughters. But David took courage from Yahweh his God. 7 To the priest Abiathar son of Ahimelech, David said, "Bring me the ephod." Abiathar brought the ephod to David. 8 David then consulted Yahweh, "Shall I go in pursuit of these raiders? Will I overtake them?" The answer was, "Go in pursuit; you will certainly overtake them and rescue the captives." 9 David accordingly set off with the six hundred men who were with him and reached the torrent of Besor. 10 David then continued the pursuit with four hundred men, two hundred staying behind who were too exhausted to cross the torrent of Besor.

Ziklag had provided David and his men with a convenient base of operations against the Amalekites (27:8), but now the Amalekites have taken advantage of the absence of David and his men and have raided and burned the unguarded city. Fortunately this was a slave raid and not just a raid to gain plunder, so no one was killed. When David and his men discover what has happened, they are filled with grief and there is a public outpouring of uncontrolled weeping.
Question: What is the reaction of the grief stricken men?
Answer: They threaten David's life.

It is likely that David's decision to become a vassal of the Philistines had not been popular with many of the Israelites under David's command, and now they blame what has happened on David's decision that took them away to leave their wives and children unprotected. This is not the first time an Israelite leader has had his people threaten to turn against him when faced with disaster or hardship. Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb were threatened with stoning when they urged a reluctant and fearful people to begin the conquest of Canaan as God had commanded (Num 14:10). In that event, Yahweh intervened to save His faithful servants just as God now strengthens David's courage. David took charge of the situation by immediately turning to God for comfort and advice. He called for the priest Abiathar to bring the ocular devises so he could consult Yahweh.

Question: What message did David receive from God?
Answer: He was to go in pursuit of the raiders, and he was promised victory.

David and his men had been marching three days to return to their home in Ziklag, and now they must immediately set out to rescue their families without pausing to rest. Some of the older and less fit men become exhausted and unable to cross the Torrent of Besor, possibly one of the two major wadis of the western Negeb. David leaves these two hundred men behind to rest and to guard their rear flank.

1 Samuel 30:11-15 ~ David and his Men set out in pursuit of the Amalekites
11 Out in the country they found an Egyptian and brought him to David. They gave him some bread to eat and some water to drink; 12 they also gave him a piece of fig cake and two bunches of raisins; he ate these and his spirits revived. He had had nothing to eat or drink for three days and three nights. 13 David then said to him, "Whose man are you and where do you come from?" He replied, "I am a young Egyptian, the slave of an Amalekite; my master abandoned me because I fell sick three days ago. 14 We raided the Negeb of the Cherethites, and the Negeb of Judah, and the Negeb of Caleb too, and we burnt Ziklag down." 15 David said, "Will you guide me to these raiders?" He replied, "Swear to me by God not to kill me or hand me over to my master, and I will guide you to these raiders."

David and his men find a young Egyptian in the desert. David immediately has the youth given food and drink from their stores, demonstrating David's compassion for those in need.
Question: For how long had the young man been without food and water?
Answer: It has been three days and three nights.

This is the second mention of three days in the narrative; actually three days and three nights (verse 12) and he was sick three days ago (verse 13). David and his men had a three day journey in returning to Ziklag and know the young Egyptian was in the desert for three days. Later the young man will name three sites where the Amalekites raided. In Scripture, three of anything usually points to something important in God's divine plan. God is at work in all these events concerning David. Upon questioning the young man David discovers that he is an Egyptian slave of an Amalekite who left him to die in the desert when he became sick.

Question: How is David's treatment of the young man contrasted with the way the boy's Amalekite master treated him?
Answer: The despicable and heartless treatment of the young slave by his Amalekite master is contrasted with David's compassion. David is in a hurry to rescue his people, yet he stops to save an unknown Gentile from dying in the desert.

The Fathers of the Church interpreted the encounter with the Egyptian servant allegorically. They saw the encounter as signifying the conversion of an outcast who is renewed by Christ (St. Gregory the Great, Homilies, 36) or as the conversion of a person who has escaped from the desert of heretical teaching to come into the light of truth taught by the Church of Jesus Christ (St. Bede, Four Books of Samuel, 4.30).

Question: Where does the young man say the Amalekites raided before coming to Ziklag?
Answer: They raided three sites: the Negev of the Cherethites, the Negeb of Judah, and the Negeb of the Caleb.

The Negeb of Caleb refers to the desert area around Hebron that was the ancestral lands of the descendants of Caleb, the Gentile convert hero from the Exodus generation. Two of the groups mentioned by the young Egyptian were Judahites, but the Cherethites were associated with the Philistines (Ez 25:16; Zeph 2:5). Their name is related to the ethnic name "Cretans," inhabitants of the island of Crete, and they probably settled in Canaan with the other "Sea Peoples." The Negeb of the Cretans (nebeg hakkereti) refers to the southern, Philistine part of the Negeb and is perhaps the part of the Negeb where Ziklag is located.

Question: What request does David make of the young Egyptian and what is his request in return?
Answer: David asks him to guide them to the raiders and he agrees if David will swear not to kill him or return him to his Amalekite master.

Once again David gives sanctuary to a refugee like himself.

1 Samuel 30:16-20 ~ David and his Men rescue their Women and Children
16 He guided him to them, and there they were, scattered over the whole countryside, eating, drinking and celebrating, on account of the enormous booty which they had brought back from the territory of the Philistines and the territory of Judah. 17 David slaughtered them from dawn until the evening of the following day. No one escaped, except four hundred young men who mounted camels and fled. 17 He rescued everything that the Amalekites had taken. David also rescued his two wives. 19 Nothing of theirs was lost, whether small or great, from the booty or sons and daughters: everything that had been taken from them; David recovered everything. 20 They captured the flocks and herds as well and drove them in front of him. "This is David's booty," they shouted.

When David and his men caught up with the raiders, the Amalekites were worn out from celebrating the success of their raids. David waited until dawn to attack their camp and the fight lasted either until that evening (about 12 hours) or the evening of the following day. Verse 17 is confusing since the next day began at sunset.

Since David's men rescued all the people and the animals that had been taken in the raids, they also rescued the people from the other towns that were captured in by the Amalekites, including those captured from the town of the Gentile Cherethities. It may have been at this time that David formed a lasting friendship with the Cherethities. A contingent of Cherethite warriors will join David's army. Their loyalty to the Davidic dynasty will continue long after David's death (2 Sam 8:18; 1 Kng 1:38, 44; 1 Chr 18:17).

"This is David's booty," they shouted.
Question: What is the contrast between the attitude of David's men in 30:6 and verse 20?
Answer: David's men go from wanting to kill him when their families were captured to loving and praising him again as their fearless leader.

1 Samuel 30:21-25 ~ The Division of the Booty taken from the Amalekites
21 When David reached the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow him and whom he had left at the torrent of Besor, they came out to meet David and the party accompanying him; David approached with his party and greeted them. 22 But all the rouges and scoundrels among the men who had gone with David began saying, "Since they did not go with us, we shall not give them any of the booty which we have rescued, except that each of them can have his wife and children. Let them take them away and be off." 23 But David said, "Do not behave like this, brothers, with what Yahweh has given us; he has protected us and has handed over to us the raiders who attacked us. 24 Who would agree with you on this? No: As the share of the man who goes into battle, so is the share of the man who stays with the baggage. 25 They will share alike." And from that day on, he made that a rule and custom for Israel, which obtains to the present day.

Not all the men who are following David are patriots; some are men who are only out for themselves.
Question: What issue do these "rouges and scoundrels" raise when David's force is reunited with the men left behind? How does David settle the issue?
Answer: Some of the men who defeated the Amalekites do not want to share the booty with the men who stayed behind. David settles the dispute by insisting that they will share the booty as equals.

With this pronouncement David established precedence for Israelite warriors who capture booty in battle that was still observed at the time this account was written down by the inspired writer.

1 Samuel 30:26-31 ~ David's Gifts to certain Towns of Judah
26 When David reached Ziklag, he sent parts of the booty to the elders of Judah, town by town, with this message, "Here is a present for you, taken from the booty of Yahweh's enemies": 27 to those in Bethel, to those in Ramoth of the Negeb, 28 to those in Jattair, to those in Aroer, to those in Siphmoth, to those in Eshtemoa, 29 to those in Carmel, to those in the towns of Jerahmeel, to those in the towns of the Kenites, 30 to those in Hormah, to those in Borashan, to those in Athach, 31 to those in Hebron and to all the places which David and his men had frequented.

All the towns that are listed are in southern and southwestern Judah. Eleven of the towns are Judahite but two are not. The towns of Jerahmeel and the Kenites were Gentile communities in the extreme southern lands of Judah who had a relationship with the tribe of Judah (see Judg 1:16; 1 Sam 27:10).
Question: Why did David send gifts to these particular towns? See verse 31.
Answer: These were towns that were friendly to David and his men during their homeless period and shared their food with them. David is repaying their generosity.

This was unprecedented generosity and shows that David was not only grateful for also wise and politically astute. It is a gesture that will not be forgotten by the people of Judah.

Chapter 31: The Battle of Mount Gilboa and the death of Saul

Thus died Saul in the infidelity of which he had been guilty towards Yahweh, in that he had not obeyed the word of Yahweh and because he had consulted a necromancer for guidance. He had not consulted Yahweh, who therefore caused his death and transferred the monarchy to David son of Jesse.
1 Chronicles 10:13-14

1 Samuel 31:1-7 ~ Saul's last Battle
1 The Philistines gave battle to Israel, and the Israelites, fleeing from the Philistines, fell and were slaughtered on Mount Gilboa. 2 The Philistines bore down on Saul and his sons, and they killed Jonathan, Abinadab and Malchishua, Saul's sons. 3 The fighting grew fiercer round Saul; the archers came upon him and he was severely wounded 4 by the archers. Saul then said to his armor bearer, "Draw your sword and run me through with it; I do not want the uncircumcised men to come and make fun [sport/abuse] of me." But his armor bearer was very much afraid and would not do it. So Saul took his own sword and fell on it. 5 His armor bearer, seeing that Saul was dead, fell on his sword too and died with him. 6 Thus died Saul, his three sons and his armor bearer, together on the same day. 7 When the Israelites who were on the other side of the [valley and the other side of the] Jordan saw that they Israelites had been routed and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned their towns and fled. The Philistines then came and occupied them. [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 799.

The story now returns to the Israelite battle with the Philistines and the fulfillment of Samuel's prophecy concerning Saul and his sons.
Question: When Saul requests that his armor bearer kill him to prevent him from falling into the hands of the "uncircumcised" Philistines who will make sport of him, of what Israelite hero from the Book of Judges might he have been thinking? See Judg 16:13-31.
Answer: It is possible that Saul was thinking of Samson's fate at the hands of the Philistines.

Saul begs his armor bearer to kill him and when he refuses, Saul commits suicide. There are very few cases of suicide recorded in the Bible. For example:

  1. Ahimelech in Judges 9:54
  2. Samson in Judges 16:30
  3. Saul and his armor bearer in 1 Samuel 31:4-5
  4. Ahithophel in 2 Samuel 17:23
  5. Zimri in 1 Kings 16:18
  6. Judas Iscariot in Matthew 27:3-5

Saul had one surviving son who apparently was not in the battle or like Abner survived the battle. His name was Ishbaal ("[the] man is lord/master"), but he is called Ishvi in 1 Samuel 14:49 and also Ishboseth ("man of shame") in some Hebrew translations. Abner will make Ishbaal king of Israel, but Ishbaal is a weak man and Abner will be the real power behind the throne. Ishbaal will reign for only two years (2 Sam 2:8-10).

Saul had successfully halted Philistine expansion into the tribal lands of northern Israel and prevented the Philistines from crossing the river into Transjordan, but now that Saul is dead and his army defeated, the Israelites of the Jezreel valley towns and even Israelites across the Jordan River abandon their towns as the Philistines move in and take possession.

1 Samuel 31:8-13 ~ The People of Jabesh-Gilead rescue the Bodies of Saul and His Sons
8 When the Philistines came on the following day to strip the dead, they found Saul and his three sons lying on Mount Gilboa. 9 They cut off his head and stripping him of his armor, had these carried round the territory of the Philistines to proclaim the good news to their idols and their people. 10 They put his armor in the temple of Astarte; and his body they fastened to the walls of Beth-Shean.
11 When the inhabitants of Jabesh in Gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 the warriors all set out and, having marched all night, took the bodies of Saul and his sons off the walls of Beth-Shean; they brought them to Jabesh and burned them there. 13 They then took their bones and buried them under the tamarish of Jabesh, and fasted for seven days.

The abuse of enemy corpses by Gentile armies was common. It was a way of showing rage, hatred, and contempt towards the enemy. The impalement of corpses was intended to designate shame and demoralize the opposing army and the enemy's people. Saul was beheaded and his body and the bodies of his sons were desecrated and hung from the walls of Beth-Shean, a city located between the Jezreel Valley and the Jordan River Valley. The important walled town of Beth-Shean, now in the possession of the Philistines, was strategically located and protected the ancient primary trade route called the "Way of the Sea" which passed by the town and extended from Egypt, through the Levant and into Anatolia and Mesopotamia.

Question: What did the men of Jabesh-Gilead from across the Jordan River do when they heard what the Philistines had done to Saul? Why did they feel compelled to risk their lives to rescue the bodies of Saul and his sons from further desecration? See 1 Sam 11:1-11.
Answer: In the beginning of Saul's career, he rescued the town of Jabesh-Gilead from the Ammonites. Now, by their courageous deed, the people of Jabesh-Gilead have repaid their debt to Saul for rescuing their city.

they brought them to Jabesh and burned them there. 13 They then took their bones and buried them under the tamarish of Jabesh, and fasted for seven days.
Cremation of bodies was not the normal practice in Israel, but an exception may have been made in this case since the bodies were in such a state of decay. Only the bones were buried.
Question: Why is significant that Saul was buried under a tamarish tree in Jabesh? See 1 Sam 22:6.
Answer: The people of Jabesh are honoring Saul who sat in judgment, ruling the people of Israel under a tamarish tree in Gibeah.

The people of Jabesh then fasted for seven days as was the custom (see Gen 50:10; Job 2:13). This is still the custom in Judaism today. The mourning period is called shiv'ah, from the Hebrew word for seven.

Saul failed to be obedient to the commands of Yahweh and therefore he failed to produce a dynastic kingship. God gave the Israelites what they asked for in a human king even though He was their true, divine king. However, God used this turn in salvation history and His people's desire for a human king to rule over them in His plan to one day return mankind to the true divine kingship of the man-God Jesus of Nazareth; a descendant of David and the promised Redeemer-Messiah and King of kings. David's story continues in the study of the Second Book of Samuel.

Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Question: What does the Bible say about resorting to mediums, sorcerers and fortunetellers in Ex 22:18; Lev 19:26, 31; 20:6-7, 27; Dt 18:9-12; 1 Sam 15:23 and Gal 5:20? What are the modern equivalents of these services/professions and why are they strictly forbidden to Christians? Is it a sin for Christians to engage in such practices? See CCC 2116-17.

Question: What have you learned from David's story concerning how to face the trials and tribulations of life and the condition of your relationship with God during those hard times? Consider the content of the psalms whose titles suggest they were written during David's darkest days that were quoted in the last four lessons. How did David handle adversity and what is the concluding theme of every one of those psalms? How are we encouraged to handle adversity by St. Paul in Romans 5:1-5 and 2 Corinthians 12:9-10?

Catechism references:

28:19 (CCC 633)

28:11-19 (CCC 2113, 2115-17)

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2014 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.