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Old Testament Lesson 23 Study Notes: 1 Samuel 18-20, 23-24

Posted by Jim F. on June 17, 2010

I apologize for the rough status of these study notes. They are not yet finished, but they are as good as they are going to get this week.

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? Perhaps the answer is “Ultimately this isn’t an important story,” but that ought to be our last conclusion rather than our first, the conclusion we come to only after the others fail. After all, people have found meaning in these passages for millennia. It would be brash, to say the least, to dismiss the collective judgment of millions of people without good reasons for doing so.

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 to David’s development? Was it necessary, instead, for some other reason? Was it, perhaps, unnecessary? Perhaps it happened but didn’t have to happen this way.

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 between his house and 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 David’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 David’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 Saul’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 doesn’t Saul renege on his promise to give Michal to David as a wife?

Verses 28-29: Notice that, from Saul’s point of view, David has not only won the loyalty of the people, he has also won the loyalty of his son and his daughter. David is not just a threat to Saul’s seat on the throne. He is a threat to his status as a father. But, even worse, from Saul’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. So what?

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 “Is Saul also among the prophets?” 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 at the king’s 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 David’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 son’s relation with David?

Book recommendation

David’s Flight from Saul

Since David was in flight for about ten years (he was about 20 when he was forced to leave Saul’s palace and he was 30 when he became king–2 Samuel 5:4), the list of events, below, is incomplete. Nevertheless, it gives a good idea of the David’s wanderings and trials between the time that he left the palace and the time he became king.

1 Samuel 9:12-18: Michal helps David escape from Saul at Gibeah. He flees to Ramah to see Samuel.

1 Samuel 19:18-24: Saul and David meet at Ramah, Samuel’s home town.

1 Samuel 20: 1, 16: Jonathan and David make their covenant at Gibeah

1 Samuel 20:6, 28: A family feast at Bethlehem

1 Samuel 20:25-42: David and Jonathan part at Gibeah.

1 Samuel 21:1-9: David flees to the priest Ahimelech in Nob, a priestly city on the Mount of Olives, the place of the primary religious sanctuary at the time.

1 Samuel 21:10-15: David visits Achish, king of Gath, a Philistine city and the home town of Goliath. He is carrying Goliath’s sword, and he is alone. When the young men of the city recognize him, he feigns madness and Achish casts him out of the city. See Psalm 34.

1 Samuel 22:1-2: David hides in the cave of Adullam. See Psalm 57.

1 Samuel 22:3-4: David visits the king of Moab at Mizpeh (Kir-haraseth), where he leaves his parents for safekeeping.

1 Samuel 22:5: Prompted by Gad, David returns to Judah. See Psalm 52.

1 Samuel 22-11-19: Angry with Ahimelech for providing sanctuary to David, Saul kills the priests and razes the city of Nob.

1 Samuel 23: 1-12: David saves the city of Keilah (near Adullam, to its south) from the Philistines.

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.

1 Samuel 23: 24-26: David escapes into the wilderness of Maon. (Maon was a few miles due south of Ziph.)

1 Samuel 24:1-15: David encounters Saul at En-gedi but spares Saul’s life. See Psalm 142.

1 Samuel 25:1: After Samuel’s death, David flees to the wilderness of Paran (the Negeb Desert). See Psalms 120 and 121.

1 Samuel 25:2-42: David visits the sheepherder Nabal at Carmel (due south of Hebron, in the Negeb). Nabal turns David and his men away. Nabal’s wife, Abigail, intercedes on her husband’s behalf. Nabal dies and David marries Abigail.

1 Samuel 26:1-15: David encounters Saul again and spares his life again.

1 Samuel 27:2-5: David returns to Achish, the king of Gath. See Psalm 56.

1 Samuel 27:6-12: Achish takes David and his men on as mercenaries and gives David the city of Ziklag to live in.

1 Samuel 29: At Aphek, Achish excuses David from his service because Achish’s men are suspicious of the Israelite mercenaries. Because of this, David is not present at the battle of Gilboa, where Saul and his sons, including Jonathan, are slain.

1 Samuel 30:1-8: On his return to Ziklag, David finds that the Amelikites have burned the city and taken the women and children captive.

1 Samuel 30: 9-19: David rescues the captives at the river Besor.

1 Samuel 30:26-31: David returns to Ziklag and divides the spoil among the elders of Judah.

2 Samuel 1:1-10: After two days in Ziklag, David learns of the deaths of Saul and Jonathan and Aphek.

2 Samuel 2:1-3: David moves to Hebron and is anointed king.

4 Responses to “Old Testament Lesson 23 Study Notes: 1 Samuel 18-20, 23-24”

  1. jonny wrathall said

    I really appreciated your thoughts on this lesson as I too struggled with the question of relevance of this aspect of the story. For me though, the relevance came when trying to understand the relationship between David and Jonathan. I tried to ask questions about the characters of both David and Jonathan and it seemed to me that David ultimately was an everyman for his repeated mistakes and desire for repentance, Saul represented “the world” in many ways through his petty and jealous treatment of David. Jonathan’s apparently unexplained regard for David left me puzzled, though his advocacy reflected an obvious messianic figure and Jonathan’s character was at least a reminder of Christ-like qualities. The story became more meaningful when I examined these two characters and what they might represent.

    • Jim F said

      Jonny Wrathall, thanks for your thoughts on how to think about David, Saul, and Jonathan. These kinds of things are helpful to other readers who come to the site.

  2. RuthS said

    I often find the study questions help to get my thoughts moving in more creative directions. Being a gestalt kind of person I am looking more for the big picture. I see these chapters as telling us about the Lord’s promises being fulfilled. It also shows us the contrast between persons acting with the holy spirit and those acting under some other influence. I don’t think there can be any question that part of Jonathan’s loyalty springs from his desire to secure his own position when David becomes king. The entire story is set up to let the reader know that David is the chosen one and the legitimate leader of his people. It is through his line that the Savior will come. For those reasons this history is necessary.

    • Jim F said

      RuthS, thanks for your comment. Suppose someone asked “How do you know that Jonathan is loyal to David because he wants to secure his position when David becomes king” How would you respond? It would be interesting to read your thoughts on that.

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