May 17, 2015

Scripture and Commentary, May 17-23

May 17

1 Sam. 28, Acts 3
1 Sam. 29, Rom 16


1 Samuel 28

The saddest thing about Saul is that he never repents. In this chapter, he asks God for information, but never confesses his sin, or returns to God in faith. No wonder God does not answer. So Saul goes to the witch. I cannot believe any mere human being has the power to bring someone else back from the dead. Even if given Satanic assistance, bringing Samuel back from the presence of God is impossible. But God can send Samuel back, just as he raised Lazarus, and others. It seems to have pleased God to send Samuel to Saul one last time. The message, straight from God, is that Israel will be defeated and Saul will die.

Here we see the problem with spiritism and magic. They attempt to manipulate, control, or gain information about current or future events rather than seeking God and trusting Him with the future. Saul’s appeal to the witch shows how far he has departed from God.

1 Samuel 29

The Philistine lords rightly do not trust David. They remember his wars against them, and fear he will turn against them in the battle against Israel. So David returns to Ziklag, apparently intending to remain neutral in the battle. This is a blessing in disguise, for it assures that David will have no part in the death of Saul. Nor will he be present to spare Saul’s life again

The valley of Jezreel is about 47 miles north of Jerusalem. It is a broad and a fertile plain, which leads from the coast to the interior of Israel's heartland. It's western side is guarded by the fortified to city of Megiddo.  There the great Sea Road, which stretches from Egypt to Israel, terms eastward into Israel.  It was a broad, well traveled road, often used by invading armies, marauders, And caravans. Most of them were going to or coming from the great cities of Egypt or the Tigris Euphrates Valley. The Philistines used it as a staging point to invade Israel. By amassing his troops there, Achish employs a new strategy. In the past the Philisties attempted to invade Israel from the south. This time he moves in from the north. With David out of the battle, and Israel in disarray due to Saul’s foolish obsession with capturing David, the Philistines anticipate and easy victory. They also seem to have a large and well equipped army, greatly outnumbering Israel’s.  If Achish can defeat Saul here, he can easily march north to conquer the small, isolated territories of Issachar, Zebulun, and Asher. Since these small tribes posed little threat to the Philistines, he probably intends to turn south following the main road through central Israel. One by one, he can destroy the cities of Shechem, Shiloh, Bethel, and Saul’s stronghold at Gibeah. From there he can go to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, and Beer-sheba. This will destroy the main cities and strongholds of Israel, leaving the rest of the people and country defenseless and easily conquered by short campaigns and raids. If this plan succeeds, Israel will be annihilated.

Again we see Saul neglecting his duty as king. Instead of chasing David, he should have been uniting and organizing the tribes of Israel into a strong and unified nation. Without diminishing  the tribes’ sovereignty, he could have organised an army of ready reserves that could easily have defeated the Philistines and any other local enemies. Instead, he left the tribes to fend for themselves, open to attack and oppression from any direction.

May 18

1 Samuel 30,  Acts 4:1-22
1 Samuel 31, 1 Corinthians 1

David and his men depart from the Philistine army by way of the Great Sea Road, which the Philistines also take north to Jezreel. When David reaches Ziklag, the home given to him by the Philistines, he finds the city destroyed and the people taken hostage by the Amalekites. David pursues the Amalekites with such intensity that fully half his army is unable to continue the chase. Leaving them behind, and acting on information given by an Egyptian, David surprises the Amalekites in a battle lasting all night and all the next day. All of the Amalekites, except 400 who escape on camels, are killed in the battle. The possessions of David and his people are recovered, along with much Amalekite spoil. David gives all his people back their own property, and even allows the 200 soldiers who did not fight to have a share of the spoils. The captured Amalekite property is even shared with others in Judah. Many of these people have helped David in the past, and this generosity could be seen as rewarding past hospitality. It is also a very wise political move. David surely realises King Saul has very little chance of surviving the battle with the Philistines. So he is moving to secure the friendship and loyalty of the people of Judah, which is the largest, richest, and most powerful tribe in Israel. Their friendship will be an enormous help when David finally seeks and ascends to the throne of Israel.   It is also true that a united Judah will be more than the Philistines want to fight, which will bring some sense of peace and security to Southern Israel.

1 Samuel 31

Chapter 31 turns to the plight of Saul.  His feeble army has marched to Jezreel to fight the Philistines.  Out numbered, and under armed, due to Saul’s neglect of duty, the Israelites are no match for the Philistine archers.  Decimated, Saul retreats to the high ground of Mount Gilboah on the south side of the valley.  Saul chooses suicide, rather than capture and torture.  His sons, apparently  do the same.  The king is dead.  The army flees in complete rout.  The Philistines now control central Israel, with no apparent way to prevent the total annihilation of Israel.

The people of Manasseh, on the eastern side of the Jordan, seem to have watched the battle.  What treachery to watch from safety when they could have joined forces with Saul to defeat the enemy.  When they see Saul’s army retreat, they also retreat, leaving their towns and properties to the Philistines, just as the Philistines hoped they would.  It now appears that all Israel is open to the Philistines, who can kill and plunder until Israel is eliminated and the entire are belongs to the Philistines.

A few valiant men burn the bodies of Saul and his sons.  But the book of First Samuel ends with the kind dead, the people in apostasy, and the nation in danger of being annihilated.

May 19

2 Samuel. 1,  Acts 4:23-37
2 Sam. 2,  1 Cor. 2


2 Samuel 1

Second Samuel gives an account of David’s life and reign up to the time of his census of Israel.  It begins with the news of Saul’s death.  Providentially, David was kept from the battle in which Saul died, so there can be no suspicion that he killed, or plotted to kill Saul.  The execution of the messenger seems to say David takes no pleasure in Saul’s death, and that his part in killing Saul was murder.  Verses 17-26 are a lament over the fall and death of Saul.

2 Samuel 2

The news of Saul’s death divides Israel into two factions, which are very soon at war with each other.  Judah, David’s tribe, where he has been living and which he has been protecting, is the largest and most powerful tribe.  Its people elect David as their king, probably expecting the other tribes to do the same. 

The central tribes, where Saul lived and kept his headquarters, elect Ishbosheth as king.  They are  joined by the smaller, northerns tribes.  Below are short sentences to help identify who is doing what in this, and following chapters.

David is the son of Jesse, anointed by Samuel as God’s choice for king of all Israel, he is elected king of Judah

Joab is a general in David’s army.
Asahel is Joab’s brother.  He is killed by Abner.

Ishbosheth is the last surviving son of Saul.  The northern tribes elect him as their king.

Abner is a skilled leader in Saul’s army.  He is able to convince the army to support Ishbosheth. and oppose David.

 Abner and Joab meet at Gibeon.  Joab thinks they are meeting to discuss peace, but Abner has brought Joab there to kill him and destroy his army.  Abner invites Joab and his soldiers to join him and his troops for a friendly evening of music, but Abner and his men kill the Judean musicians, and start a battle they hope will destroy David’s army and bring Judah into Ishbosheth’s kingdom.

Abner, who started the war, now calls for peace (vs. 26).   Since he killed the Judean musicians and started the war,  it seems foolish for Joab to believe Abner is not attempting to deceive him again in order to spring a new treacherous act upon the Judeans, especially since Abner’s army is being swiftly destroyed in the battle (vs. 31).  But Joab calls for his army to halt , and the battle ends. 

May 20

2 Sam. 3,  Acts 5:1-16
2 Sam. 4, 2 Cor. 3


2 Samuel 3

Sadly David, copying the pagan kings around him, builds a harem of wives.  They are probably the daughters of prominent Judean leaders, with whom David is making treaties in an attempt to unite them under him as king.  Rather than following the ways of the world, he should have simply trusted God.

The coldness that yet exists in David is seen in his demand for his former wife.  She is happily married to a loving husband,  But David cares nothing for her and nothing about her happiness.  His demand for her return is motivated by pure revenge.  As we shall see, David’s lustful heart will cause many, serious troubles for him.

Joab never forgives Abner for killing his brother, Asahel.  Nor does he believe the deceitful Abner intends to do anything but destroy Judah and kill David.  In verse 30 Joab and his brother, Abishai, kill Abner.

David makes a big show of mourning for Abner.  Whether his mourning is real or merely politically motivated, it moves the northern people to sympathy with him, and prepares the way for the fighting contingencies to unite again.

2 Samuel 4

Baaana and Rechab are the sons of Rimmon of the tribe of Benjamin.   They kill their king, Ishbosheth, and take his head to David.  Meanwhile, Saul’s grandson, Mephibosheth is taken into hiding by his nurse, to prevent him from being killed.

David does not consider the killing of Ishbosheth an act of valour.  To him it is treachery and murder, and he gives the killers a murderer’s reward.

Now David is king of Judah, and the northern tribes have no king.  David seems sympathetic about the deaths of Saul and Jonathan and Ishbosheth, so the northern tribes seem inclined to join with David and unite the nation again.
May 21

2 Sam. 5,  Acts 5:17-42
2 Sam. 6, 1 Cor. 4


2 Samuel 5

The northern tribes vote to join Judah with David as their king.  He wastes no time on grudges or punishment.  He welcomes the tribes and goes straight to work for the good of all Israel.  He attacks and captures the city of the Jebusites.  It will become his capitol city and will be called the City of David.  That name is soon replaced by the name Jerusalem.  Though still increasing his harem, probably attempting to unite Israel to him as family, David begins a series of campaigns against the Philistines.  So David is an able king who primarily concentrates of organising Israel into a defensible nation with an experienced and able army.  This finally gives Israel a time of relative peace and rest, which increases his popularity with all the people.

Second Samuel 6

In contrasts to Saul’s secretive, personal agenda to secure power and prosperity for himself and his family and cronies, David brings transparency to the government.  He unites the people under common goals of faith in God, national defence and a strong economy.  This is the government’s legitimate, God-given job.  It is to provide for the common defence, and ensure the rule of law.  This allows people the freedom to choose their own courses in life and enjoy the rewards of their just labour.  When David begins to put policies in place that conform to and promote these purposes, Israel begins to prosper again.  It is noteworthy that perfection in politicians and populace are not required for God’s principles to work.  Davis is far from perfect, and the people are generally no better.  Yet, following God’s pattern naturally produces good, even in a fallen and sinful world.  The more closely God’s principles are followed the better life in tis world is.

Instead of a secretive attack by his own guard, David unites all of Israel into one army to attack the Philistines and re-capture the Ark of the Covenant.  This means all Israel shares the danger, and all Israel shares the victory.

Yet Israel is the Church and family of God, and God has given pointed directions about how His worship is to be conducted.  David, and the people seem to forget this in their exuberance over re-capturing the Ark.  Verse 5 describes a procession more similar to a pagan festival than the humble adoration of God.  In their exuberance God’s commandments about the Ark are forgotten and Uzzah touches the Ark in an attempt to steady it.  His intention may be noble, but his action is clearly against the Law of God, which permits only priests to handle the Ark.

Uzzah’s death ends the party and plunges David into personal depression and anger against the Lord.  He was probably feeling very self-confident, and even proud of his accomplishments as the Ark made its way into Judah.  He was probably thinking how good this appears to the people, and how it will further unite them and secure his throne.  In short, this makes David look really good to Israel.  But God reminds the nation, including David, that He demands worship according to His directives, not man’s innovations; a lesson we are still trying to learn in the New Testament Israel.

It is a hard lesson, and David requires another humbling over it, this time from his wife Michal (vss. 20-23).  We remember that Michal was taken from David by Saul, and given to another man in marriage.  That marriage would have been an adulterous affair in the eyes of God,  but, David had already broken the marriage covenant by taking other wives to himself, so the issue of their marital status is murky.  But David took her from her new husband, against her will.  Michal probably hates David for taking her from the husband she loves and making her part of his growing harem.  In her hate, she rejoices to see David fall into pagan excitement.

David’s uncovering does not consist of immodesty of dress.  It refers to appearing in public without his kingly robes and in the common dress of everyday people.  While this probably exalted David in their eyes, it debased him in Miachal’s.  To her, it is unbecoming to a king. 

David’s defense (vss. 20-23) reveals that much of David’s excitement is not true spiritual joy.  It is actually the passion of the moment, such as comes over people at sporting events, rock concerts, and contemporary church services designed to move people’s animal feelings.  His conversation with Michal reveals a heart that still harbours anger and resentment toward Saul for taking Michal away from him, and toward Michal for loving her new husband.  He cares nothing about Michal’s opinion of him.  His intention is to cause her pain, and to prevent her from having children who could lay claim to Saul’s throne.  He does not intend to heal the marriage or be a real husband to Michal.

May 22

2 Sam. 7,  Acts 6
2 Sam 8, 1 Cor. 5


2 Samuel 7

Israel is now the major power in Canaan.  Even the empires of Egypt and Babylon are forced to acknowledge her growing military and economic might.  Trade caravans from Egypt to Babylon pass through her land, paying tolls for the privilege and bringing exotic goods to her people.  Local enemies are no match for her united army, and a growing identity as the people of the Covenant further unifies the nation.  Like all institutions with people in them, Israel is not perfect.  It will gradually allow the religions of Canaan, Egypt, and Babylon to influence its doctrines and practices, and it will pay dearly for this sin.  Its prosperity and security will serve to hide this fact from its people, but for now David, and Israel, want to build a symbol of its identity and faith.

There is no doubt that David’s desire to build a house for God is more than a mere political move to unify Israel.  He sincerely wants to honour God.  Yet God turns from being honoured to honouring David.  The same promises given to Saul are given to David, and it is David’s house that is being built by God, rather than God’s that is built by David.  In truth, God does not need David to build a house for Him.  Furthermore, any house of worship allowed by God is a symbol of God’s presence and grace, not a place for God to dwell.  Its exists for the benefit of the people, not the benefit of God.

So God gently puts David’s offer aside, as though telling David, “I have chosen you to receive my grace, and I will pour out my grace upon you for all time if you continue to love and serve Me.  But understand, you can give me nothing that I don’t already own.  In the end, all you can do is receive from Me, never give unto Me.”

2 Samuel 8

David spends his time and energy defending Israel from her from enemies and defending the people’s rights at home.  The result is a time of growth and prosperity, as free people work and invest and enjoy the fruit of their labour.

Starting at its southern border, the Davidic kingdom forms a rough triangle. Begining at Ezion Geber on the shore of the Gulf of Aqabah, it goes north west to the Mediterranean Sea with the River of Egypt (not the same as the Nile) as its border with Egypt.  From here it follows the Sea northward for almost 450 miles, though a small pocket of Philistines still hold the Gaza strip, and the Phoenicians hold a larger strip including Tyre and Sidon along the Sea.  From there it turns east and extends 50 to 60 miles beyond the  Jordan River Valley before turning south east along the Jordan River and Dead Sea to Ezion Geber again.

May 23

2 Sam. 9, Acts 7:1-29
2 Sam. 10, 1 Cor. 6

2 Samuel 9

Mephibosheth is the last remaining descendant of Saul.  He is the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul who made a covenant with David.  As Saul’s grandson, Meshibosheth is a threat to the security of David’s throne, for it is possible that a group of Saul loyalists could convince others Mephibosheth is the real king.  Such a group could infiltrate Jerusalem, arouse dissent, and even kill David and his family.  Such things are common in the area at that time.  But David prevents such events through a genuine act of kindness.  For the sake of his beloved friend, Jonathan, David receives Mephibosheth into his home as one of his own family.  Saul’s land and property are restored to Mehpibosheth, but he is allowed to live in the king’s house.  This serves two purposes.  First, it protects Mephibosheth from those who would kill him, blame David, and use his death to start a civil war in Israel.  Second, it prevents people from rallying around Mephibosheth to start a war against David.  How can they rally around a man who is generously treated, beloved, and protected by the king?

Here we see a major difference between the policies of wise leaders and foolish leaders.  Saul, the foolish leader, neglected to organise and defend Israel. Instead he used and abused the people and resources of Israel to accomplish his own agenda of murdering David. His policies produced civil disintegration, poverty, and military/moral weakness. David, the wise leader, defended the liberty and property of the people. He used his time and talents to organise Israel for the common defence. This allowed great freedom among the people, which produced great prosperity. Saul, the foolish leader, neglected God, set an example of ungodliness, and led Israel into moral and spiritual decay. David, the wise leader, though far from perfect, made a serious attempt to follow God and follow God's precepts in the daily affairs of  governing of Israel. The result of his efforts is a time of peace, prosperity, and justice founded upon a general, national Godliness.

2 Samuel 10

This chapter records other campaigns that extend to influence and political control of Israel under King David.  The point made is that God is with David blessing Israel as He promised.

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