Welcome to another book of the Bible. 2 Samuel 1 starts off with David being informed about the death of Saul and Jonathan.
While there is certainly a lot to say about sorrow, I want to take you somewhere different today.
2Sa 1:18 (Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow: behold, it is written in the book of Jasher.)
I want to talk about what this book is referring to. Obviously, we know that there is not a book of Jasher in the Bible, but there are many people who wonder why it is not. After all, if it is mentioned in a text that we believe is divinely inspired, is it possible that this book is also divinely inspired?
First of all, when we’re talking about a book such as this that has only been translated by one person “accurately,” you have to be a little bit concerned. The only person who has apparently translated this text from the ancient Hebrew is the eighth century English scholar Alcuin. When we look at other biblical sources, we have multiple records of the same story being translated over and over. At the very least, that would reinforce the idea that this story is not entirely random. The same story was being told in different places. When you only have one translation, it is hard to do that type of cross checking.
Also, it is somewhat problematic that it was not translated until the eighth century. The Old Testament was already in place by the time of Jesus as he was obviously well read in the material. In fact, the entire canon was chosen before the year 400 AD. If this was available to Alcuin in the eighth century, it must have been available to people who were teaching what we accept as the Bible at that time.
Why then would they not accept it? We have to assume that these churches were trying to follow the will of God just like churches today, and if they had this document, wouldn’t it make sense that they would be using it?
Also, there is one more thing that is slightly questionable. As far as I can tell, no one has the manuscript that was translated by Alcuin in the eighth century. Do we even know if he really translated this document? It wasn’t published for approximately 800 years after he wrote it, and we have no idea what happened in that time. Is that not somewhat questionable? Maybe he did not even translate what some people want to attribute to him.
If you want more information on this book and what scholarship has to say about it, I would encourage you to check out Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures by Thomas Hartwell Horne available on Google Books. I found this book after I finished writing most of this, but he had some good reasons as well for doubting that Alcuin text.
As the result, I guess the most we can say about this book is the fact that the original was lost in history, and we don’t know more about it than what we know in the Bible.
1 Samuel 31 brings about the end of the reign of Saul. The Israelites were fighting against the Philistines again near Gilboa. First, Jonathan and Malchishua, Saul’s two sons, were killed, and then Saul was fatally wounded.
However, he did not want to be taken alive by the enemy, so he fell on his own sword. He wanted to die rather than have to deal with all of the atrocities that would probably come with his capture.
Unfortunately, when the Philistines found his dead body the next day, he still suffered a great indignity.
1Sa 31:8 And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen in mount Gilboa.
1Sa 31:9 And they cut off his head, and stripped off his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to publish it in the house of their idols, and among the people.
1Sa 31:10 And they put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth: and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan.
Obviously, the people in Israel saw this as a major problem. Many people were still loyal to Saul, and even if they were not, this was still kind of a slap in the face for Israel.
1Sa 31:11 And when the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead heard of that which the Philistines had done to Saul;
1Sa 31:12 All the valiant men arose, and went all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Bethshan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there.
1Sa 31:13 And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.
I think that is a picture of what human life is worth. Whether living or dead, we need to make sure that we respect other people. When something bad happens to them, like Saul passed away in battle, we really should not be celebrating it. If we are going to show the love of God to other people like we are commanded to, we need to start by respecting them.
1 Samuel 28 is a pretty weird passage to say the least. Saul was really concerned that he was not able to talk to God anymore. Without that source of advice, he had to reach out to someone else, so he went to a medium even though he had outlawed all people of that sort from Israel.
She asked him who he wanted to see, and he said Samuel. That’s kind of an odd choice, but here is what he heard.
1Sa 28:15 And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.
1Sa 28:16 Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?
1Sa 28:17 And the LORD hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the LORD hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David:
1Sa 28:18 Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the LORD, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the LORD done this thing unto thee this day.
1Sa 28:19 Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.
I am sure that that is not what Saul wanted to hear. However, I am not sure what else he would have expected. He must have had some realization that he was doing something wrong, but if you read verse 15, it seems that he really had no idea. He knew all of the consequences, but he did not understand the source.
On one level, I know that if he would have simply repented and demonstrated that he wanted to work for God, God would have taken him back since God is the God of forgiveness. He could have had it on a personal level.
However, given the tone that Samuel used, it seemed as if the consequences were inevitable. Sometimes, it seems that sin creates consequences that we have to live with. For instance, when Samson repented and asked for the strength of God one more time, God gave it to him, but it did not prevent his own death. Certain earthly consequences were already in place.
I hope that none of us ever get to that point. By avoiding this sin, we can then avoid the consequences.
I find the beginning of 1 Samuel 27 to be somewhat problematic.
1Sa 27:1 And David said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines; and Saul shall despair of me, to seek me any more in any coast of Israel: so shall I escape out of his hand.
1Sa 27:2 And David arose, and he passed over with the six hundred men that were with him unto Achish, the son of Maoch, king of Gath.
The reason that this worries me a little bit is because it seems like it was a decision made out of his own fear. There is no indication that he talked to God. The decision was made within his own heart.
The problem with that is that maybe it was not the will of God. When we act on our own, how can we be sure that we are doing God wants us to be doing?
What then could have been a better approach?
Maybe it would be a little bit better to be like Gideon. He was constantly asking God if he was doing the right thing. While that might sound kind of submissive, that is kind of the point. We have a responsibility to listen to what God says because we call ourselves children of God. Because of that relationship, there is also respect that comes along with that.
Of course, we always need to keep in mind that David was called a man after God’s own heart. It is possible that he was talking to God during this whole time and was perfectly in line with His will. The Bible never says that he was not doing what God would want.
However, I think that what I wrote today is still relevant regardless of what David did. We need to make sure that we are doing what God would have us do.
1 Samuel 26 feels an awful lot like what we read two days ago.
Let me give you a very abridged recap.
Saul went to sleep in a trench with his spear right beside him. David and his men saw this. One of David’s men wanted him to go over and kill Saul because this good of an opportunity must be from God. David still would not murder him, but he did take his spear and a cruse that was lying nearby. Then, just like before, he called over and asked why Saul was pursuing him. Saul said that he was sorry.
1Sa 26:21 Then said Saul, I have sinned: return, my son David: for I will no more do thee harm, because my soul was precious in thine eyes this day: behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.
1Sa 26:22 And David answered and said, Behold the king’s spear! and let one of the young men come over and fetch it.
1Sa 26:23 The LORD render to every man his righteousness and his faithfulness: for the LORD delivered thee into my hand to day, but I would not stretch forth mine hand against the LORD’S anointed.
1Sa 26:24 And, behold, as thy life was much set by this day in mine eyes, so let my life be much set by in the eyes of the LORD, and let him deliver me out of all tribulation.
1Sa 26:25 Then Saul said to David, Blessed be thou, my son David: thou shalt both do great things, and also shalt still prevail. So David went on his way, and Saul returned to his place.
You know, it is difficult when we get burned. Personally, if I was David, I would have felt pretty good at the end of chapter 24. After all, Saul sounded sincere. It seemed as if all of this running was over. Perhaps David would finally get to settle down.
Then, Saul went on the offensive again.
Again, you would think that David would be mad and would want to get revenge.
However, he didn’t, and I think that this is a very good illustration of something that Jesus taught many years later.
Mat 5:38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
Mat 5:39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Some people have taken this to mean that Christians ought to be wimps. However, that is not absolutely true. David had all of the power in this situation, and he held himself back. He never did anything unjust to Saul, but I do not think that any of us would call him weak. That is the difference. He stood strongly for what God would want, but he held back his power.
Even though Jesus had not obviously said this yet, I think it can help us understand a little bit more why David did what he did.
I am convinced that mercy is one of the strongest forces in the universe. Because God has shown us such amazing mercy, I guess there are times when we pass it on when all of the world would say that we really shouldn’t.
In 1 Samuel 24, David was hiding in a cave, and it just happened to be that Saul and his men decided to spend the night in that cave. Obviously, this would have been the perfect opportunity for David to kill Saul and be done with this entire business.
However, that isn’t what he did. He went to Saul and cut off a piece of his shirt, but he did not harm him in any way.
After Saul left in the morning, David yelled out to him and told him that he had every opportunity to kill him the night before, but he refrained.
Here is how Saul responded.
1Sa 24:16 And it came to pass, when David had made an end of speaking these words unto Saul, that Saul said, Is this thy voice, my son David? And Saul lifted up his voice, and wept.
1Sa 24:17 And he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil.
1Sa 24:18 And thou hast shewed this day how that thou hast dealt well with me: forasmuch as when the LORD had delivered me into thine hand, thou killedst me not.
1Sa 24:19 For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away? wherefore the LORD reward thee good for that thou hast done unto me this day.
1Sa 24:20 And now, behold, I know well that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand.
I have to imagine what might have happened if David had killed Saul right then. There probably would have been a civil war, and the people who still loved Saul as ruler would have been incredibly upset.
In the way that David operated, he was able to diffuse the situation, protect his own life and not take Saul’s life. His mercy made it better than vengeance would have.
We are called to do the same thing. We are not supposed to lash out at people.
Luk 6:35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
Luk 6:36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
Mercy will always triumph over vengeance, and since vengeance is not supposed to be ours anyway, I hope that we all can be a little bit more merciful today.
Although I don’t really know all of the details, I wonder if David kind of anticipated what was going to happen in 1 Samuel 23.
1Sa 23:1 Then they told David, saying, Behold, the Philistines fight against Keilah, and they rob the threshingfloors.
1Sa 23:2 Therefore David enquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go and smite these Philistines? And the LORD said unto David, Go, and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah.
1Sa 23:3 And David’s men said unto him, Behold, we be afraid here in Judah: how much more then if we come to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?
1Sa 23:4 Then David enquired of the LORD yet again. And the LORD answered him and said, Arise, go down to Keilah; for I will deliver the Philistines into thine hand.
1Sa 23:5 So David and his men went to Keilah, and fought with the Philistines, and brought away their cattle, and smote them with a great slaughter. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah.
David apparently really wanted to make sure that God wanted him to go down to save the city of Keilah. Generally, if people doublecheck something, perhaps there are some reservations there. Again, it never really says that David himself doubted anything, but his men were afraid, and maybe David asked God again just to reaffirm the affirmative message for the men.
However, part of me also wonders if David knew how Saul would react when he saw where David had gone.
1Sa 23:7 And it was told Saul that David was come to Keilah. And Saul said, God hath delivered him into mine hand; for he is shut in, by entering into a town that hath gates and bars.
1Sa 23:8 And Saul called all the people together to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men.
I have to imagine on some level that David knew he was walking into a city that would be really hard to escape from. He must at least thought about this idea, and perhaps that was some of his initial reservation to attack.
However, he did attack. That is the important part. He went because God told him to. That is what he ultimately needed to do, and that is what we ultimately need to do.
Anger causes people to make many bad decisions. In 1 Samuel 22, Saul was incredibly angry that he wasn’t able to catch David. He could not believe that everyone was trying to help David out.
1Sa 22:7 Then Saul said unto his servants that stood about him, Hear now, ye Benjamites; will the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards, and make you all captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds;
1Sa 22:8 That all of you have conspired against me, and there is none that sheweth me that my son hath made a league with the son of Jesse, and there is none of you that is sorry for me, or sheweth unto me that my son hath stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as at this day?
Now, in other parts of the Bible, people have been angry. Jesus himself was incredibly angry at the money changers in the temple, and he absolutely demolishes their display.
The emotion is not wrong, but the results that come about because of that emotion can certainly have major consequences.
1Sa 22:17 And the king said unto the footmen that stood about him, Turn, and slay the priests of the LORD; because their hand also is with David, and because they knew when he fled, and did not shew it to me. But the servants of the king would not put forth their hand to fall upon the priests of the LORD.
1Sa 22:18 And the king said to Doeg, Turn thou, and fall upon the priests. And Doeg the Edomite turned, and he fell upon the priests, and slew on that day fourscore and five persons that did wear a linen ephod.
Saul ordered a mass murder because he thought that all the priests were in conspiracy with David and were not loyal enough to him anymore. Obviously, this is not a good action to follow the emotion of anger.
In fact, I even find this murder somewhat symbolic beyond just the fact that he killed a lot of priests.
At the beginning of his career, Saul tried to do what God wanted. However, as soon as he started sliding downhill after performing the sacrifice by himself, he also started falling away from God. Killing the people who needed to perform the sacrifices that would bring people closer to God was another sign that he was moving farther away.
While there are times when anger is certainly appropriate and called for, we also need to be careful that it does not lead us to do things that would be contrary to what God would want.
In 1 Samuel 20, we see the collateral damage of sin. As you remember from the past few days, Saul was really not happy that David was going to take his throne eventually, so he decided that he needed to terminate David.
Unfortunately, an awkward situation was bound to arise because Saul’s son Jonathan and David were best friends. As we saw yesterday, there were moments where Jonathan decided to help David because he understood that his father was doing evil.
Today, we see the end of that friendship. It was not because they got mad at each other, but this is the last we hear about any significant contact with Jonathan.
1Sa 20:42 And Jonathan said to David, Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of the LORD, saying, The LORD be between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed for ever. And he arose and departed: and Jonathan went into the city.
I think that what we can learn from this passage is that sin has real consequences on other people as well. David and Jonathan were friends, and we really have no record that either of them had done anything that offended God. God did not force them to never talk again because of what they had done.
However, because Saul was acting badly, their friendship pretty much needed to come to an end at least in the sense that they could not see each other or talk. They were forced by their circumstances.
I hope that we think carefully in our lives. Sometimes, we don’t think that we are hurting people that we love by our actions, but just like this story, it certainly can happen.