Sunday School Lesson #23

Lesson 23: 1 Samuel 18-20, 23-24

As you read these chapters, ask yourself why they are included in scripture. Do they testify of Christ? If so, how? Do they serve some other purpose? History is important in its own right, but it isn’t clear why this particular history is important as scripture. How would you explain its importance?

Though David has been anointed to be king, he does not become king immediately. A great deal happens before he is finally made king. (See the list of events at the end of these study questions.) These chapters are devoted to the events of that time. Do you think that this interval of about 10 years was necessary? If so, what for?

1 Samuel 18

Verses 1- 4: The language used here is the language of love, romantic language. It was common in the ancient Near East to use romantic language to describe the relation of a king to his subject. The verses may also have political connotations, as the covenant that Jonathan and David make suggests. After all, it is not only a covenant between the two of them. Jonathan makes a covenant with not only David, but also with the house of David (1 Samuel 20:16, 42). In these verses, when Jonathan gives David his clothing, including his robe, bow, and girdle, he is probably giving David the signs of his royal position, thereby recognizing 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 David Michal 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 both 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.

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 with the king at his feast the next?

Verses 30-34: Does the stratagem work? What does Saul try to do to his son, Jonathan?

1 Samuel 23

Verse 1: Why would the Philistines attack threshing floors?

Verse 3: Why are 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: If you are interested in understanding better how the writers of the Old Testament wrote and in seeing masterful analyses of some of the stories in these chapters, consider reading Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York: Basic Books, 1981). Alter has also published The David Story: A Translation with Commentary on 1 and 2 Samuel (New York: Norton, 2000).

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 probably quite 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. 1 Samuel 9:12-18: Michal helps David escape from Saul at Gibeah. He flees to Ramah to see Samuel.
2. 1 Samuel 19:18-24: Saul and David meet at Ramah, Samuel’s home town.
3. 1 Samuel 20: 1, 16: Jonathan and David make their covenant at Gibeah
4. 1 Samuel 20:6, 28: A family feast at Bethlehem
5. 1 Samuel 20:25-42: David and Jonathan part at Gibeah.
6. 1 Samuel 21:1-9: David flees to the priest Ahimelech in Nob, a priestly city on the Mount of Olives.
7. 1 Samuel 21:10-15: David visits Achish, king of Gath, a Philistine city. See Psalm 34.
8. 1 Samuel 22:1-2: David hides in the cave of Adullam. See Psalm 57.
9. 1 Samuel 22:3-4: David visits the king of Moab at Mizpeh (Kir-haraseth), where he leaves his parents for safekeeping.
10. 1 Samuel 22:5: Prompted by Gad, David returns to Judah. See Psalm 52.
11. 1 Samuel 23: 1-12: David saves the city of Keilah (near Adullam, to its south) from the Philistines.
12. 1 Samuel 23:14-23: David is betrayed to Saul by the Ziphites. (Ziph was just south east of Hebron.) See Psalms 11 and 54.
13. 1 Samuel 23: 24-26: David escapes into the wilderness of Maon. (Maon was a few miles due south of Ziph.)
14. 1 Samuel 24:1-15: David encounters Saul at En-gedi but spares Saul’s life. See Psalm 142.
15. 1 Samuel 25:1: After Samuel’s death, David flees to the wilderness of Paran (the Negeb). See Psalms 120 and 121.
16. 1 Samuel 25:2-42: David visits Nabal at Carmel (due south of Hebron, in the Negeb). Nabal turns David and his men away. Nabal’s wife, Abigail, intercedes on her husband’s behalf.
17. 1 Samuel 26:1-15: David encounters Saul again and spares his life again.
18. 1 Samuel 27:2-5: David returns to Achish, the king of Gath. See Psalm 56.
19. 1 Samuel 27:6-12: Achish gives David the city of Ziklag to live in.
20. 1 Samuel 29: At Aphek, Achish dismisses David from his service.
21. 1 Samuel 30:1-8: On his return to Ziklag, David finds it burned and the women and children taken captive.
22. 1 Samuel 30: 9-19: David rescues the captives at the river Besor.
23. 1 Samuel 30:26-31: David returns to Ziklag and divides the spoil among the elders of Judah.
24. 2 Samuel 1:1-10: After two days in Ziklag, David learns of the deaths of Saul and Jonathan.
24. 2 Samuel 2:1-3: David moves to Hebron and is anointed king.

12 comments for “Sunday School Lesson #23

  1. I\’m not looking forward to Sunday\’s lesson, where, in Vernal, the whole topic of David & Jonathan\’s love will be blatantly ignored. I\’m not saying that I believe they had a same sex union. I just like to hear it discussed, because there are some interesting reasons for believing that they did. One exchange points to 1 Samuel 18:21. Here Saul tells David that when he marries Michal he will become his son-in-law for the second time (Hebrew: \”bstym ttctn by hynm\”) or \”You will become my son-in-law through two.\” I have no problem with that verse referring to Saul\’s other daughter, Merab. However, it is true that she was never married to David.

    Also, I was very fascinated by your question on the symbolic significance of the Philistine foreskins, (1 Sam 18:25) and wish you would elaborate on that a little more.

  2. What SHOULD we make of the intimate relationship between these men? I can\’t imagine that we could send out a pro-gay marriage stance, but … perhaps … an encouragement that deep, lasting, meaningful, emotionally-engaged relationships between men is a good idea?

    Any thoughts on the delightfully Bored in Vernal\’s read of v.21 re: son-in-law x2?

  3. I don’t know if it’s appropriate to add my 2 cents here, this being J. Faulconer’s lesson. However, I’ve always found it interesting that David and Jonathan’s “romantic” language is couched in that of ancient near eastern royal speech between kings and their subjects and also between the “King” (the Lord) and his subjects (he is the husband, we are the wife. Particularly illuminating discussion/sign of this in the story of Hosea and Gomer). There are many allusions to the “romantic” relationship between God and his people. However, unlike us (or the Israelites), Jonathan/David never went “awhoring”, thereby breaking their covenant w/each other. I’m partial to the Harper-Collins study Bible for emendations and it states: “Therefore Saul said to David a second time, ‘You shall now be my son-in-law’.” Whereas in the Masoretic text includes “a second time” in the quotation from Saul, saying “a second time you shall be my son-in-law”. What led the editors of Harper-Collins to state it thus? And if they are wrong, and Saul really is saying David will be his son-in-law a second time, is he referring to the covenantal relationship between Jonathan/David and Michal/David or a conjugal one? If it is to be read as “a second time” (which interpretation I feel is only one of a few) I have always seen such a reading parallelled by kingly/Lordly language sprinkled liberally throughout scripture.
    And on that note, I guess I would say that hopefully men should have a “deep, lasting, meaningful, emotionally-engaged relationship” with the Lord. Having spent much time in France, I’ve found it refreshing to see men be close friends w/o such friendships necessarily being expected to turn into homosexuality. I haven’t found such relationships to be the norm here in the U.S.
    I apologize if any/all of this is old hat to “Bored in Vernal”. I’ve just always loved the poetic language of the Old Testament and Its sometime tricky opacity! Sorry for length.

  4. Bored in Vernal: I don’t have much to add to what others have already said. I think it is virtually impossible, given Old Testament culture, that the text is suggesting a homosexual relation between David and Jonathan. I think that to see it there is to do eisegesis rather than exegesis; it is to read things into the text. However, the possibility of strong male friendship that is not homo-erotic is, I think, important. In many places deep, non-erotic friendship between men and men and women and women is an important fact, something that too many Americans find fearsome. In addition, as John C point out, in the OT the language of love is used to show the relation of a king to his subjects. Jonathan is signalling his recognition of David as king.

    As John C also point outs, the phrase translated (in the KJV) “in the one of the twain” (1 Samuel 18:21b) is found only in the Masoretic text. That means that it is a late addition to the text, after the time of Christ. Word Biblical Commentary and the Anchor Bible volume on 1 Samuel both take the phrase to mean that Saul repeated his promise to David: he made the promise to David a second time rather than he said that David would be a son-in-law twice.

    John C.: Your two cents are more than welcome. This isn’t my lesson. Indeed, it isn’t even a lesson. I just try to provide study questions to help people prepare for Sunday School, teachers or not. And anyone who can add something to the material is welcome to do so.

  5. Another note on 18:21b — This part of the verse is absent in most LXX manuscripts. This bolsters Jim F.’s contention that it’s a late addition.

    Something interesting about 20:30 — the KJV literally translates Saul’s epithet “thou son of the perverse rebellious woman.” This was a hideous phrase in Hebrew, but the shock and force of his statement is lost on the modern reader. A modern rendering that better captures Saul’s meaning is “you son of a b*tch!”

  6. In some ways the lessons of David and Saul are key to the whole gospel plan, IN MY OPINION. We are all familiar with the phrase \”Power corrupts. Total Power corrupts totally.\”

    Our goal is to become like God. To progress to perfection to receive \”all that the Father hath.\” D&C 84. In the \”all that the Father hath\” will a fair degree of authority and power. How will we use that power? How do we use it in our families with our wives, husbands and children?

    In other words how often do we experience in our personal and familial lives the corruption of power. \”We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men that when they get a little authority as they suppose . . . .\” D&C 121:39

    I think we can find some pretty poignant warnings in the danger of power from the lives of Saul and David who at the commencement of their journey to power were stalwart, dedicated humble persons.

    Do you think this fits in with the lesson?


  7. Building on the criticisms of the Masoretic text, there is a crucial difference in 1 Sam 14:24. Based on the Masoretic text, many translations (KJV, NASB, ESV, NIV, RSV, JPS, NET) have “And the men of Israel were distressed that day.”

    However, translations based on Septuagint manuscripts (viz. NRSV, NAB as well as the Word Biblical Commentary and Anchor Bible) have a very different rendering: “Now Saul committed a very rash act on that day” (NRSV”).

    If we accept the Septuagint version, this suggests (at least to me) that Jonathan’s “complaint” in 1 Sam 14:29-30 should be taken as a fair indictment of Saul’s poor judgment in calling for a fast at this time. This of course has implications for how we understand Jonathan in later passages. For example, I take Jonathan’s declaration in 1 Sam 14:43 (“I did but taste a little honey with the end of the rod that was in mine hand, and, lo, I must die”) as a humble confession showing his willingness to own up to his actions (in contrast to Saul’s efforts to evade his culpability before Samuel in chapters 13 and 15). Furthermore, I think this significantly sets up the loyalty that Jonathan shows David (starting in ch. 18) which comes at the expense of loyalty to his father Saul. (Which raises questions of the type: “Is it possible to disobey our parents and honor them at the same time?”)

  8. Robert C: As always, excellent help and questions. I hadn’t looked at 1 Samuel 14:24 closely. Thanks for raising the textual issue. I think you are right about what the Septuagint suggests.

    A minor footnote: Some may not understand what you are saying when you speak of “translations based on Septuagint manuscripts.” I assume that Robert C means “Septuagint manuscripts for verse 24” rather than “Septuagint manuscripts for the Old Testament.”

    I am not an expert on Bible translations, but I believe that all Old Testament translations are based on the Masoretic text (a 7th-10th AD Hebrew edition of the Old Testament). Nevertheless, they take into account other texts, such as the Septuagint (a 3rd-century BC Greek translation of the Old Testament) or texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls, to clarify their translation of the Hebrew and to see where the Masoretic text may be mistaken.

  9. Jim F. (#9): Thanks for clarifying what I meant regarding Septuagint-based translations.

    Another textual tid-bit I found in the Word Biblical Commentary is regarding 1 Sam 25:9 in the confrontation of Nabal and David. Apparently, Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts suggest a translation that says that Nabal responded arrogantly to David (instead of the word “ceased” in the KJV). I think this is significant b/c David’s response to Nabal seems rather harsh and this “arrogant” editorial note would help justify David’s actions in this story.

    I didn’t find this “arrogant” translation in any standard translation: ESV, NASB, NRSV, NET and NAB all seem to follow the KJV (although they generally say “rested” instead of “ceased”). I can’t remember for sure, but I think at least a few of these translations use Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts, so I was surprised not to find the WBC view elsewhere….

  10. Rather, Nabal reacted arrogantly to David’s words as related by the young men. Here’s the WBC translation of 1 Sam 25:9:

    “When the young men came they spoke all these words to Nabal in the name of David, but he reacted arrogantly,”

  11. Robert C: Thanks for pointing out the material on Nabal. As you say, without something like that, David’s response to Nabal seems too strong.

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