Tag Archives: Philistines

David’s Wives: Hearts Devoted to a King {Part 3}

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“The Battle for the Throne – Trusting God’s Promise”

Abner, the commander of Saul’s army, was still very loyal to Saul and set Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth, over Israel. They decided to have a showdown to see who would be the king over all of Israel. If you read 2 Sam 2:12-32 it feels much the same as the earlier Israelite battle against the Philistines involving Goliath. They chose 12 men from each side to fight each other, but they all end up killing each other, so they end up having a war on a much larger scale – the men of Abner/Ish-bosheth against the men of Joab/David (which most scholars believe last about 2 years).

And let’s just say that Abner’s men got a pretty bad whooping. It’s so sad though because these men were brothers fighting brothers! Israelite against Israelite. A small civil war.

For 7 years David remained in Hebron, and in 2 Sam 3:1-5 it says there was:

a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. And David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker. And sons were born to David at Hebron: his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam of Jezreel; and his second, Chileab, of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; and the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream, of Eglah, David’s wife. These were born to David in Hebron.”

Even though David was king, he still had to fight for it. There was a long war. But what is repeated over and over is that David never had the bloodguilt of any person on his hands, but that his men fought for him!

During this time, David apparently collected more wives and also started building his legacy. Abigail gave him a son named, Chileab. Or if you’re reading 1 Chron 3:1, his name is Daniel. The name Chileab meant “like his father.” Did she ever wonder if her son would be the one who would reign after David? Did she speak those truths about God over her son just like she spoke truth over David all those years ago? Did she hope that he would be a man after God’s own heart, just like his father, David?

But I can’t help but remember what God had told the Israelites concerning the kings. Deut 17:17a says,

17 And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away,”

The wife count is now at 7. How many wives is too many? According to the Talmud, the limitation of wives was 18. But um, I think 2 is one too many!

The gathering of wives for kings in ancient times was like the gathering of power. The power of the wives was in the giving of sons. We certainly learned this in the study of the Wives of the Patriarchs. Sons ensured the continuation of the kingdom. But truly, you only needed one son to ensure the reign. Adding to that number would just result in favoritism, jealousy, sibling rivalry, and the lust for the power.

How did Abigail feel about all the extra wives? We’ve talked about how the culture back then is so vastly different from our own, so it is difficult for us to know how she would have felt.

Patriarchal society or not. Human nature is human nature. I can’t imagine there weren’t pangs of envy among the wives. Perhaps even the pitting of their sons against one another. My son is better than your son because

My son looks more like David.

My son is strong like David.

Well, my son can play the harp like David.

Who cares? My son is more kingly than all your sons!

I’d like to think that Abigail was above all of this, because she’s just so loveable! But did her heart ache for more affection from the king? And more importantly did she hope that it would be her son that would be crowned king, even though he was 2nd born?

Abner determines to give his loyalty to David because Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth accuses him of sleeping with one of Saul’s concubines (2 Sam 3:6-11) which would be seen as Abner trying to move in on the throne. In retaliation against Is-bosheth, Abner goes to David and asks him to make a covenant with him and in return he would bring Israel’s heart to David. David’s only term is that he brings his first wife, Michal, back to him. (v. 13) So in v. 15-16 it says,

15 And Ish-bosheth sent and took her from her husband Paltiel the son of Laish. 16 But her husband went with her, weeping after her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go, return.” And he returned.”

Many scholars believe this was a political move on David’s part to ensure his right to the throne. (Berlin, David’s Wives; Kessler, Sexuality and Polititcs; Levenson, The Political Import of David’s Marriages; White, Michal the Misinterpreted) Still others believed this was to gain the favor of the Saulide party (Brueggeman, p. 226).

Regardless of this, Michal’s second husband appears to have loved her very much, but she is taken from him. How is that heart looking now? The darkness begins to filter into that once very red, very much in love, heart.

Abner keeps his promise to persuade Israel to follow David by reminding them that God had promised David that it would be by David’s hand that he would save the people from the Philistines and all their enemies. (v. 18) His bold move to appeal to God’s will proved he wasn’t appointed as a diplomat and commander for nothing! Unfortunately for Abner, he dies at the hand of Joab, the commander of David’s army because he suspected foul play. And David is faultless. Then Ish-bosheth is murdered by two Israelite men from Saul’s own tribe. (2 Sam 4:5-8) Again, David is faultless.

“A King Arose”

The Third Anointing: 2 Sam 5:3-5 tells us,

So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over IsraelDavid was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years.At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.”

The shepherd boy became the shepherd of Israel. (The sheep language comes back with the parable of Bathsheba. Also note that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. – Idea in Brueggeman p. 238)

Abigail’s words come back in full power (1 Sam 25:30-31):

30 And when the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel31 my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for my lord working salvation himself.”

Just to clarify, the text emphasizes David’s pure rise to the throne by emphasizing that he never murdered anyone to gain the power of the throne. You might say that he trusted that God would make a name for him and that God would build him a house, establishing him a kingdom.

David takes the throne, a blameless man, just as Abigail predicted. And she stands next to him, Abigail the Wise. Behind every great man is a great woman!

It makes me wonder what the relationship between the two of them was like. She came to him, deferring as a servant, but did she find her place of honor as a wife? Did she, like the woman of virtue, continue to speak truth to him, being wise and discerning, doing good to him all the days of her life? Surely she was a priceless gem, one who continued to seek for his good. She was devoted to her King and her husband, the king. Her heart was one full of honor and was truly a heart of gold.

The very first thing the text says he does as king is go out and fight against the enemies (Jebusites) of Israel! Then 2 Sam 5:10 tells us,

10 And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.” All the land would hear of this great king and would bring gifts to him. And verse 12 tells us, “12 And David knew that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that He had exalted his kingdom for the sake of His people Israel.”

This king David brings a fresh hope to the people of Israel. The time of darkness when the judges ruled is now ancient history. With great anticipation the people watched as God’s kingdom was realized in the man, David.

Brueggeman writes, “In Israel’s theological tradition, the kingdom came to embody the approval and will of God. Whereas the ultimate kingdom hoped for by Christians is that the kingdoms of this age will become ‘the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ’ (Rev. 11:15), in ancient Israel the process is reversed. It is hoped that the kingdom of God will become the kingdom of this age and of his messiah (David). It is the passionate desire of Israel that Yahweh’s powerful rule should take real, effective, concrete form, so real and powerful that the nations will notice and take it into account.” (p. 243)

HOWEVER…v. 13 tells us:

“13 And David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he came from Hebron, and more sons and daughters were born to David.”

If we had red flags in our Bibles, I’m certain there would be one at the tail end of this verse. He keeps taking wives and now concubines.

Michal, Saul’s daughter

David had success after success against the Philistines, and he and all of Israel came celebrating before the Lord, with the ark of the covenant.

The ark had been captured during Eli’s time by the Philistines, and when they returned it, the ark ended up at Kiriath-jearim (a small town at the northern-most tip of Judah) where it sat for 20 years, seemingly forgotten.

David ark

“The ark embodies what is unifying among the tribes and clans of Israel. The ark articulates and embodies for old Israel the holy rule of Yahweh. They [had] forgotten the significance of the ark, which referred to the raw presence of Yahweh, the power of Yahweh, and the covenantal implications of Yahweh’s sovereignty.” (Brueggeman p. 248).

“The coming of the ark signified two things for the king. Looking back, it meant a reengagement with the taproot of Israel’s religious vitality. David here gets back in touch with the most elemental dimensions of Israel’s traditional faith; it is no wonder that the movement of the ark evoked such a stupendous celebration. Looking forward, it brought David royal legitimacy.” (Brueggeman, 249).

It meant that God approved of David’s reign as king, that it was God’s will.

2 Sam 6:14-15:

14 And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn.”

This word “dancing” is not used anywhere else in Scripture but seems to describe a whirling dance. I think we can assume he was expressing his joy!

A linen ephod was the robe worn by priests. It was a “sleeveless garment made from gold [with] blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen.” (Dict of Pentateuch) It had a waistband and two shoulder pieces that had onyx stones mounted in gold filigree with the names of the 12 tribes on them. The breastpiece would have been secured onto the ephod and held the Urim and Thummim. “The Urim and Thummim belonged to God (Deut 33:8) and was used for matters of national importance about which Yahweh had not yet made His will clearly known.” (Dict of OT Pentateuch)

It is the same thing David used two of the times he inquired of God. It was the ephod with the Urim and Thummim that one of the priests had brought to David way back when Saul was still chasing him and which he used to seek God’s direction.

  1. When he was with the people of Keilah and wanted to know if they would give David into Saul’s hands. 1 Sam 23:9-13
  2. When he asked if he should pursue the Amalekites who had taken off with his wives. 1 Sam 30:7-8

Here though, David, the king, not a priest, wears the ephod. Maybe the question is why was David wearing a priestly garment?

It is a picture of a truly godly man, one whose desire was to lead the people to worship their God, just as the priests were supposed to do. He doesn’t simply tell them what they ought to do, he shows them what to do – worshipping the Lord with all his might!

In addition, he appears to be in the role of a priest as they are bringing the ark of God to the “city of David” (v. 16). It shows him offering sacrifices to God as they carried the ark along so that God’s anger would not burn against them again after what happened earlier. Then in v. 17 after they arrive, he offered burnt and peace offerings to God.

After he had finished the offerings it says in v. 18b-20a,

he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts 19 and distributed among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed, each to his house. 20 And David returned to bless his household.”

David leads the people in gratefulness to their God who has very visibly (in the ark of God) taken up residence in the “city of David” to be among His people once again.

However Miss Michal was none too keen to observe her husband.

2 Sam 6:16 says,

16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.”

David Jerusalem Michal tower

This is the tower at the palace in Jerusalem. You can see how she could have easily watched him from any one of these windows!

As we try to understand her response to David, I want you to notice how she is identified in v. 16 – as the daughter of Saul not the wife of David. Sometimes a description like this speaks volumes. Her loyalty was with her father after those long years spent away from David. The text is silent about her psychological condition – whether or not she felt slighted or abandoned by her husband after all those years. What is most likely is that the writer, identifying her as Saul’s daughter, wanted to show the disdain of the old house of Saul in the midst of the celebration. (Brueggeman, 251).

Interestingly, Michal is only referred to as David’s wife 3 times – in 1 Sam 19:11 when she is saving him from her father, in 25:44 when Saul gives her to another man, and in 2 Sam 3:14 when David requests for “his wife” (but after he’s already referred to her as “Saul’s daughter”).

The word despise in the Hebrew is the word “bazah” (baw-zaw) and it meant to despise, hold in contempt, disdain.

  • As in Gen 25:34 of Esau: “Thus Esau despised his birthright.”
  • 1 Sam 17:42 of Goliath:  “When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, and ruddy, with a handsome appearance.”
  • Isaiah 53:3 prophecy fulfilled in Jesus: “He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”

She who had loved David so early on in her life had now come to despise him. The darkness had completely overtaken her heart, and she spews hateful words out of the darkness of her heart. 2 Sam 6:20-23 says,

How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” 21 And David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord—and I will celebrate before the Lord.22 I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.” 23 And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.”

Is she simply irritated that he doesn’t appear to be acting in the way a king should act – regal? Dignified? Honorable? The text already told us he was wearing a linen ephod, so why is she accusing him of uncovering himself?

When you look up the use of this word “uncover” it has at least 20 different meanings – some of which include being banished, betrayed, carried away into captivity, exiled, to be deported, laid bare, opened, removed, revealed, stripped, uncovered. The connotation seems to be in relation to exile, captivity, humiliation.

Why does Michal believe he acted shamefully? No one else seemed bothered by these events or by his behavior. None of the other wives take issue with his actions.

David doesn’t see anything wrong with his behavior either. He doesn’t address the “uncovering” and neither does the text. This conversation is set up in the form of a chiasm with the claim about God choosing David as the central feature:

Michal:                    honor

maids

shamelessly

David:                                         before Yahweh

                                                          chose me above….above prince over

                                                    before Yahweh

contemptible

maids

honor

“David refutes her judgment by saying he may be contemptible in her eyes, but in the eyes of the maidens (and therefore of political opinion) he is more honored.” (Brueggeman, 252). So the central feature is that God has chosen David “above and above” to be prince “over and over” Israel. This claim dismisses Michal and the entire Saulide claim to the throne. It is God who legitimizes David’s claim to the throne, not Michal or Saul.

This appears to be a heart issue for Michal alone. And the very last verse may be the most telling: v. 23

23 And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.”

She’s again referred to as the “daughter of Saul” but the most poignant message concerns her childlessness. Is the author telling us that she and David essentially had no relationship after this encounter? Or that God did not allow her to have children because of her heart issue? What this meant for Michael is the “she has no future, no claim on Israel, no prospect for life.” (252)

“God’s Covenant with David”

In the next chapter, we learn of God’s covenant with David. 2 Sam 7:8-16 says,

Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people IsraelAnd I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.”

David’s wives likely grew up learning about the covenant God had made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. They would have known that God had set the nation of Israel apart. They would have learned about the dark times of the Judges and how the people did evil in the sight of God. There would have been an anticipation among them of hope for a godly king who would lead the people to serve God wholeheartedly. What must it have been like for them to know that it was their David whom God had chosen as the godly king with whom He would establish His covenant forever?

Michal’s heart revealed that she despised him. But Abigail? Was she as delighted in God’s chosen man as God was? Did she dance with the people at the entrance of the ark of God? The presence of God visible for all to see and know?

As for David, he would know that God had chosen him, not because he was an amazing person but simply because God wanted to express His love to him. David wanted to make a house (temple) for God but God said he would make a house (dynasty) for David. God would make David’s name great. God would establish David’s kingdom. God. God. God.

David didn’t need to do anything to make a name for himself. David didn’t need to do anything to make himself a house. He didn’t need to establish his own kingdom. It would be by God’s hand that these things would take place.

12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men,15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”

And interestingly God tells David that He would also establish the throne of David’s son (yet to be named). God tells David that He would correct David’s son when he sinned but that His love and presence would never depart from David’s sons as He had done with Saul. God knew that David’s son would commit sins and yet He still promised to correct him and to love him.

This is an oracle of unconditional promise, unlike the conditional character of the Mosaic law. (Brueggeman, 259) Even those “sons” who came after him would be loved unconditionally.

What is more, God tells David his kingdom would be forever. He would not take away the kingdom from his house, even if those who came after stopped following God’s ways. God ensured that He would continue His covenant even if His chosen servants were unfaithful to Him. He promised. And God does not lie. God does not forsake His promises.

“Out of this oracle there emerges the hope held by Israel in every season that there is a coming David who will right wrong and establish a good governance. That coming one may be hidden [to them], may experience resistance…, but nevertheless there is one coming who will make things right.” (Brueggeman 257)

God knew exactly what He was getting Himself into. He knew even before He made Adam and Eve. He knew that just like Abraham and just like Moses, David and his sons after him would not be able to keep the covenant. They would fail. But God would remain faithful to His promise.

How could God possibly make this happen? How could sinful men ever hope to be a part of His plan? We read about king after king, who, no matter how godly they were, would not measure up to God’s standard. Even if God managed to keep a Davidic descendant on the throne, the people would continue to sin, fall away, cry out, repent, return, then continue in this cycle of sin. How could their hope ever be in the race of men?

Even as Israel would fall away after having evil king after evil king, still God would place a Davidic descendant on the throne in Judah. But God had a BIGGER plan.

When God made the covenant with Abraham in the days of old, He promised that even if Abraham broke the covenant, He would ensure Abraham’s side of the deal. He would take it upon Himself to hold up the covenant for both He AND Abraham.

Well God knew that none of us could keep the covenant. Not David, not Solomon, not any king of Judah, not anyone. He would send His Son, a descendant of David, who could hold up the covenant for both God AND for man. Jesus, the exact representation of God, came in the form of man, so that He fulfilled the requirements for both God AND man.

Our hope is in this God-man!

Those hoof beats get louder and louder…

If you read Matthew 1 and Luke 3, you can trace David’s descendants all the way to Christ. Luke 1:31-33 says

31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

How could God promise David a never-ending kingdom? By sending His Son, the eternal God!

We had no hope of ever overcoming the cycle of sin so Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice once and for all that was able to cancel the power and cycle of sin and death. Jesus OVERCAME. He is worthy! And He became sin who knew no sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ! This is His reckless, relentless love.

Bathsheba, the Beautiful

2 Sam 8:14 tells us that “the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went.” He had success on the battlefields and was a king who administered justice and equity to all his people (v. 15). This chapter and the next 2 chapters serve as a summary of David’s reign, so you can assume that many years pass between these chapters and the sin with Bathsheba.

We read of how great David was all those years, and then we get to chapter 11 and would rather just close our Bibles and go on our merry way, leaving our view of godly David still intact. Everyone is aware of the scandal in the palace. It is all too familiar that I fear we have forgotten to read this narrative with eyes to see the woman at the bath and the man on the roof.

Bathsheba was referred to as “the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite” (2 Sam 11:3). Her name meant “daughter of an oath.” Both Eliam and Uriah were two of David’s “mighty men” (listed in 2 Sam 23:34, 39). She was someone’s daughter, someone’s wife. And David most certainly would have recognized the men to whom she belonged!

Many scholars believe she was also the granddaughter of Ahithophel, who is said to be the father of Eliam. Ahithophel ends up becoming one of David’s counselors who later betrays him when David’s son, Absalom, tries to overthrow him as king (2 Sam 15-17 and 1 Chron. 27:33).

The text does not tell us whether or not her bathing was right or wrong. It also doesn’t tell us whether or not David walking around on his roof was right or wrong. Here is a picture showing the city of Jerusalem and where David’s palace would have been. During Solomon’s reign the Temple would have taken up the entire top portion of the city (shown in this picture as land).

David's city drawing

The main message is that David saw and then he took. He did what was right in his own eyes rather than averting his eyes. He took what was not his rather than being content with what was his.

I mean, how many wives did David have at this point??! He had the 7 wives, then in 2 Sam 5, he added more wives and also concubines. I’m pretty sure he didn’t need to take any other women for his own pleasure.

In v. 4-5 it says,

So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.” (2 Sam 11)

David’s “taking” would have hearkened back to what Samuel had warned the people about their kings. 1 Sam 8:11-19:

He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons…He will take your daughters…He will take the best of your fields…He will take the tenth of your grain…He will take your male servants and female servants…He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.”

Kings are “takers”, and David, who had started out as one who received from God’s hands, has now become a king like the kings of other nations – a taker. He had previously had everything gladly given to him by Yahweh and his followers, but here, we see his decline as he takes what was not his.

This is rather uncomfortable to talk about because it shows a side of David that we’d rather not believe of him. This is the part where we find the skeletons in David’s closet! The man after God’s own heart stumbled greatly in this one moment.

Unfortunately we can only guess what Bathsheba was thinking when one of David’s messengers called for her to come to the palace. Imagine the scene from Bathsheba’s perspective.

Who is at my door? Is Uriah home from battle already? The king? He sends for me? What exactly does he want? Why are you taking me to David?

King David, may you live forever, blessed be your kingdom. Did I just hear right? David wants to do what with me? How can I say no to the king? What am I to do? I’m a married woman! Uriah and my father are his loyal servants. This will not look good if word gets out. What will people think of me?

I cannot believe I’m pregnant! How am I going to tell Uriah? I can’t possibly tell him. What will he think of me? Of the king? I have to tell David. He’ll know what to do.

It’s utterly despicable. Then David definitely “takes care” of the problem. Only now, Bathsheba is pregnant but with no husband. She’d be viewed by all as the city whore. How could she be pregnant if her husband died in battle? She couldn’t tell anyone whose child it was. They wouldn’t believe her! David put her in the worst possible position. She had nowhere to go. She should be put to death according to the law.

In fact she might as well have had a big SCARLET LETTER A written on her heart.

Lev 20:10 states

10 “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”

And Deut 22:22 says,

22 “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.”

Have you ever been marked like Bathsheba? Have you felt like your heart had a big scarlet letter A written over it?

David, thinking he had covered his tracks, sends for Bathsheba to be his wife after the period of her mourning was over for her dead husband. Though David had taken her as his wife, she’s still referred to as Uriah’s wife until v. 24. Though it does not excuse his sin, he does not leave Bathsheba to die an adulterer’s death.

“God’s Presence Does Not Depart”

2 Sam 11:27b says,

But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.”

God does not give either David or Bathsheba the punishment they deserve. He shows them mercy and sends Nathan to David with the message from God.

Nathan tells David in 12:7-9

“I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much moreWhy have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight?”

Fortunately David immediately repents but it was not without consequences v. 10-12 say,

10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.

The fulfillment of this seems immediate because of how the text is laid out in our bibles, but it’s very possible that much time passed in between the statement and the actual fulfillment.

First fulfillment “The sword shall never depart…” –

  1. First, Amnon, the son of David’s wife Ahinoam, committed rape against his half-sister, Tamar. (2 Sam 13)
  2. In response to this egregious sin, Absalom, the son of David’s wife Maacah, kills Amnon to avenge his sister (2 Sam 13).
  3. Then Absalom tried to overthrow David, and thus David had to fight against Absalom and his forces to defend his kingdom (2 Sam 15-19).
  4. Joab later killed Absalom (2 Sam 19).
  5. Adonijah, (Adonai – jah) the son of David’s wife, Haggith, tried to establish himself as king in David’s place, and Solomon eventually had him executed (1 Kings 1 and 2).

Second fulfillment “He shall lie with your wives…” – Absalom laid with his father’s concubines in broad daylight for all to see as he was trying to usurp his father’s throne. (2 Sam 16:20-22

Third fulfillment “The child shall die…” 2 Sam 12:13-14 says,

13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die14 Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.”

The text relates how distraught David is but is silent concerning Bathsheba. This in no way means she was not distraught.  We know she was obviously upset (who wouldn’t be with the loss of a child?), because it says in v. 24-25,

24 “Then David comforted his wife, Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her, and she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. And the Lord loved him 25 and sent a message by Nathan the prophet. So he called his name Jedidiah, because of the Lord.”

Here is where Bathsheba is called David’s wife – after the death of this first child, conceived in sin. Perhaps we can assume God also wipes her heart clean. He put away the Big Scarlet Letter A. She had a heart restored to honor.

And the second son is indeed the son of Promise – Solomon (derived from salom or shalom). And he is loved and treasured by Yahweh. (Brueggeman, 284)

A little known fact about Bathsheba is that she actually had 4 sons with David: 1 Chron. 3:5 says,

5 “These were born to him in Jerusalem: Shimea, Shobab, Nathan and Solomon, four by Bath-shua, the daughter of Ammiel”

(Don’t be alarmed with the different spelling of her name and her father’s name. This is a very common occurrence between the historical books.)

“Solomon, Heir to the Throne – A Promise Fulfilled”

Please note that a long time has elapsed before Solomon is anointed as king.

So far, David’s firstborn and third born sons are dead, thus leaving room for Abigail’s son, Chileab/Daniel, to take the throne. The text is silent, however, about any attempts on his part or Abigail’s part to secure the throne. He either didn’t try to do this or another theory suggests he is no longer alive. That leaves the fourth born, Adonijah (pronounced Adonai-jah)!

However, we already learned that Adonijah, the son of David’s wife, Haggith, tried to take over the throne as well. He is David’s 4th son, born to him at Hebron. He would have been one of the “older” sons based on this information. Bathsheba’s 4 sons and the other 9 sons born at Jerusalem will be classified as “younger” sons.

Adonijah believed he had the right to the throne since his other brothers were dead or otherwise gone/indifferent. Because of his actions, Nathan goes to Bathsheba who then goes to David with this plea in 1 Kings 1:17-21:

17  “My lord, you swore to your servant by the Lord your God, saying, ‘Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne.’ 18 And now, behold, Adonijah is king, although you, my lord the king, do not know it. 19 He has sacrificed oxen, fattened cattle, and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the sons of the king, Abiathar the priest, and Joab the commander of the army, but Solomon your servant he has not invited. 20 And now, my lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, to tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. 21 Otherwise it will come to pass, when my lord the king sleeps with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon will be counted offenders.”

Bathsheba had every right to be afraid! We have read about what these men do when someone is in the way of their precious plans. But it’s interesting that she said David had sworn to her that Solomon would be king. The text does not reveal this conversation anywhere. We can learn more information if we go to:

1 Chron 22:9-10 where David tells Solomon what God had told him in a previous conversation,

Behold, a son shall be born to you who shall be a man of rest. I will give him rest from all his surrounding enemies. For his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. 10 He shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever.’

Now, David responds immediately, first reassuring Bathsheba that he will do this and has Zadok the priest anoint Solomon as king in 1 Kings 1:39-40

39 There Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, “Long live King Solomon!” 40 And all the people went up after him, playing on pipes, and rejoicing with great joy, so that the earth was split by their noise.”

The text does not specify how old he was when he began to reign nor how old he was when he died. Based on other events, scholars surmise he was between 12-25 years of age.

At the sound of the celebration, Adonijah and his cohorts are terrified. Adonijah tries to beg for mercy by taking hold of the horns on the altar. But he is still not an honorable man and later goes to Bathsheba to request to have David’s nurse as his wife in 1 Kings 2. Because this was seen as an attempt to take the throne from Solomon, Solomon sends Benaiah to execute his brother, Adonijah (v. 22-25).

God often chooses people who are the most unlikely candidates for the position. God chose Solomon to reign in his father’s place, but Solomon was one of the youngest sons born to David. He ousted his older brother Adonijah.

God chooses the foolish things in the world to shame the wise. He chose the son of Bathsheba, the woman taken by adultery, as the heir of the Messianic kingdom. He chose Isaac over Ishmael, He chose Jacob over Esau. God chose Joseph and gave him 2 portions for his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. He chose the unlikely Hebrew, Moses, to be his champion. He chose Rahab, the pagan prostitute, to be included in His people. He chose Deborah, a woman, to be a judge. He chose Samson to stir up trouble with the enemies of God. And He chose David, the youngest in his family to succeed the king He had already rejected.

Some finals thoughts about Bathsheba – she was a woman whose HONOR is restored. She becomes the queen mother. She had a royal, purple heart.

Solomon holds her in such high regard in 1 Kings 2:19

19 So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. And the king rose to meet her and bowed down to her. Then he sat on his throne and had a seat brought for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right.”

He bows to her and gives her the place of honor, to be seated at his right hand. Then in Song of Solomon 3:11, she is mentioned:

“11 Go out, O daughters of Zion,
and look upon King Solomon,
with the crown with which his mother crowned him
on the day of his wedding,
on the day of the gladness of his heart.”

Many scholars believe she is also the author of Proverbs 31. “the Stone Tanach says that it was “the prophecy with which his mother disciplined him” and states that the author Solomon was also called Lemuel. Strong’s Concordance states that “Lemuel” was the symbolic name for Solomon. New Ungers and Nelson Bible Dictionary says that many of the rabbis agree that Lemuel was Solomon.” (http://www.patriarchywebsite.com/bib-patriarchy/bathsheba-truthful-account.htm)

I kept trying to find a common thread for these women, and that thread was David! There’s also a thread of Honor that runs throughout the narratives in the lives of these women.

What I did see was how Michal had a heart devoted to David until life happened and she allowed a bitter root to creep in to her heart. She lacked a heart devoted to God. Michal speaks to me to guard my heart and be on the lookout for areas of hurt that could give the enemy an opportunity to strike. She was Michal: A Heart that Lost Honor.

For Abigail I saw a woman with a humble strength who knew and spoke truth about God, and though she had plenty of opportunities for bitterness or hate, she chose to trust her God. Her heart was first devoted to God, the King of Heaven. Abigail teaches me to trust my God and speak the truth. She urges me to be brave and wise in how I encounter relationships. She challenges me to be humble and to be a servant. She was Abigail: A Heart Full of Honor.

And Bathsheba is a tough mixture because of the scandal in the palace. But I saw a woman who was loved by the king, and whose child was loved by God. She was given a place of honor not only by her husband and her son, but by God, who places her in the lineage of the Messiah. Bathsheba whispers to me that God is the God who forgives. She encourages me to seek God in the most difficult of circumstances and to know that HE is the one who restores me to places of honor. She was Bathsheba: A Heart Whose Honor is Restored.

More importantly I saw how desperately we need God. That sin cycle would never end. Even the most highly esteemed king in all of Israel’s history fell prey to the allure of sin. It was a slow progression. And the sin with Bathsheba was not the last or only sin he would commit.

We have the joy of knowing there is hope for us because Jesus, the God-man, secured our redemption. He is Risen!

These are David’s wives – Hearts Devoted to a king.

 

You can view the video here:

 

David’s Wives: Hearts Devoted to a King {Part 2}

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Wise Abigail

In the meantime, David enters the wilderness of Paran and goes into the town of Maon (Maw-own) (near the region of Judah), with hopes to refresh himself and his men. 1 Samuel 25

Here’s a map showing Maon at the southern-most tip of Dead Sea.

David ot_israel-flat (Maon)

David and his men come to the home of a man named Nabal. 25:3 says,

Now the name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. The woman was discerning and beautiful, but the man was harsh and badly behaved; he was a Calebite.”

Discerning, beautiful Abigail! Her name meant “my father’s joy” or “my father is joy”. And she sure is a joy to read about!! How did she end up with foolish, boorish, Nabal?

A footnote in my ESV said “Sheepshearing was a time of festivity (v. 8) as well as work.” There would have been LOTS of food, and because this man was clearly wealthy, he would have been able to afford the food David and his men needed. In addition, David and his men had helped Nabal’s shepherds, so he was asking for a simple “thank you” for their protection.

This should have been a simple exchange of hospitality.

At this point in the narrative, David had at least 600 men with him (1 Sam 23:13). He started out with 400 men who had come to him at the Cave of Adullam (Ah-doo-lum), the location he escaped to after fleeing from the Philistine lord at Gath.

Cave of Adullam

Cave of Adullam

1 Sam 22:1-2 says,

David departed from there and escaped to the cave of  Adullam. And when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soulgathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men.”

I love the image of David with all these people in their desperation flocking to him. God presented him with a ministry to the distressed and bitter because he was a man on the run, distressed and fearing for his life. And God worked through his circumstances, providing David with a group of people who eventually become more-or-less his bodyguard! A mutually beneficial arrangement. More evidence of God’s presence in his life.

Needless to say, feeding 600 men would have been a huge task! But he doesn’t ask for anything but what he has “at hand” (v. 8). You read Nabal’s response, it was littered with disrespect and anything BUT hospitality. It’s no wonder one of the young men go to Abigail:

But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to greet our master, and he railed at them.” (v. 14)

He goes on to affirm that David and his men were good to them and that they were kept safe at their hands (v. 15-16).

Abigail got to work immediately, grabbing as much as she could, most likely from the feast tables. (v. 18) It says in v. 19 “But she did not tell her husband Nabal.”

She acted wisely to save the life of her husband whom everyone, including herself, believed was a “worthless” man (v. 17). He was not deserving of her gracious act, yet she does it anyway. What a loyal and honorable woman she was!

She sends the young men on ahead of her with all the food (a peace offering!) and as she comes to him, we see her get down off of her donkey very quickly to assume that position of humility, falling at his feet, bowing to the ground (v. 23). These are two distinct actions. The falling indicates the prostrating of oneself, but the bowing to the ground indicates that she would have gotten as low as she could, pressing her face into the ground. This would have been the most humble, most vulnerable position one could put herself into. How brave this woman must have been to approach the hopping mad David, surrounded by his 400 fighting men, all with swords strapped on their belts. YIKES!

As I thought about her response, I couldn’t help but wonder what’s the quickest way to dissolve someone’s anger? As you read Abigail’s response, you’re reading about the master of diffusing anger. What is more startling though is her opening dialogue in 1 Sam 25:24-25,

On me alone, my lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. 25Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him.”

This seems rather like how a person would approach a king, begging for mercy to even be allowed to speak to him. And SHE takes the blame for what happened!

What she says next is so remarkable to me as she seems to prophesy over him. For she says (1 Sam 25:28-31):

Please forgive the trespass of your servant. For the Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the Lord, and evil shall not be found in you so long as you live. 29 If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the Lord your God. And the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling. 30 And when the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel31 my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause…”

She then asks him to remember her, your servant.

She has predicted his coronation as king, yet the covenant that God makes with David DOES NOT HAPPEN until 2 Samuel 7:8-16!! It appears as though she is foretelling what is to come! And David being anointed as king (after God had rejected Saul) seemed to be a very private matter, something that took place at his home in front of his father, Jesse and his 7 older brothers! (1 Sam 16:1-13). Had David spread the word about his anointing? It doesn’t appear that he ever said anything about that first anointing, and besides he continues to refer to Saul as “the Lord’s anointed”. So how could she have known any of this?

God has surely revealed this privileged information to her. She was a woman with a heart first devoted to the King of Heaven. She had a heart of gold. She tells him that the Lord will make him a “sure house” which we see later that God promised to “make [David] a house.” She mentions that God will do good to him and has appointed him as a “prince of Israel”, and later God tells David he will be “prince over [His] people Israel”.

Not only does she make this prophecy, but she cunningly or rather diplomatically presents David with reasons why he WILL NOT shed blood. I can just imagine David standing there just nodding his head, “yes, you’re right. I’m not going to do that!” like she’d hypnotized him!

She tells him, look, you’re not going to do this thing because God has already promised you the kingship! God is with you, there’s no need to harm anyone. You will have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience because you’re not going to kill anyone today.

Abigail saves not only her worthless husband, but she saves David from bloodguilt that day!

David’s response is, of course, thanksgiving to God for Abigail and for keeping him from doing evil. Then v. 35 “David received from her hand what she had brought him. And he said to her, ‘Go up in peace to your house…”

Abigail, after all that hurrying and rushing and making haste, waits until morning to tell her husband and he has a heart attack or a stroke, but v. 38 tells us “the LORD struck Nabal, and he died.”

David hears the news and acknowledges God’s justice over the death of Nabal. Then v. 39 says, “David sent and spoke to Abigail, to take her as his wife.” It’s like he thought, “man, I’ve got to have this woman!” I love how he goes and speaks to her himself – it’s the same word used in Ruth when she said Boaz “spoke kindly” to her (Ruth 2:13). The tone of voice is gentle!

Her response, though, is classic. She bows to the ground and replies, “Behold, your handmaid is a servant to wash the feet of the servants of the lord.” (v. 41)

Do you remember what the text said about Nabal? He was a very wealthy man (v. 2 with 3,000 sheep, 1,000 goats), portrayed as a king (v. 36), so Abigail most certainly would have been a prominent woman, not a servant. She carries herself as one with great strength, virtue, and power. She takes FIVE handmaidens with her. This shows she is a woman of high social class or rank. She would have been nothing like a “servant”. But she goes humbly, and THIS is the type of woman David marries! A heart of gold!

Every woman in Israel would have wanted to be the WIFE of the king! What a privilege! And to possibly carry his child, giving him an heir to the throne, would have been seen as the highest honor. Did Abigail have to pinch herself as she mounted her donkey and set off with her new husband, the soon-to-be king?

What humility she has though! Not once in the text do you ever get a sense that she seems like an entitled bridezilla. She’s not whiny, like we’ll see about Michal later on, and she never tries to place herself in higher places of honor. She must have been a major blessing in his life from the moment he met her until the moment she passed.

(*Jews esteem Abigail as one of the most righteous women of Israel, a wise and practical woman, and one of the 4 most beautiful women who ever lived. They also count her among the 7 women prophets of Israel.) http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/abigail-midrash-and-aggadah

Interestingly David picks up another wife while he’s out, named Ahinoam of Jezreel. (1 Sam 25:43) The chapter ends with the information about Michal being given to another man. 1 Sam 25:44

Saul had given Michal his daughter, David’s wife, to Palti (Paul-tee) the son of Laish (Lay-sh), who was of Gallim (Gal-im).”

She who loved David has been given to another man. I wonder how that sat in her now stormy heart.

But David was still a hunted man! Saul continued to pursue him, and so what does that mean for Abigail? She’s on this dangerous journey with him! It really makes me wonder if it was Abigail’s influence in his life that helps him to restrain himself against Saul.

He had already spared Saul’s life once right before meeting Abigail.

1 Sam 26:10-11 David finds Saul and has the opportunity to strike him again, but he tells his man

Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless?…As the LORD lives, the LORD will strike him, or his day will come to die…The LORD forbid that I should put out my hand against the LORD’s anointed…”

Interesting that he now says with confidence, I don’t need to kill him, the Lord will take care of him. But I can remain guiltless. Those words from Abigail ringing in his ear:

evil shall not be found in you so long as you live. 29 If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the Lord your God. And the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling. 30 And when the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel, 31 my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause…”

After this, however, David actually flees to be with the Philistines because of his fear of Saul, and it says in 1 Sam 27:3

“David lived with Achish (pronounced Aw-keesh) at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, and David with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel, and Abigail of Carmel, Nabal’s widow.”

David, his 600 men, all of their families, and all of David’s family! IN THE LAND OF THE ENEMY! Talk about a test of God’s promise. It’s as crazy as Abram going to sacrifice the Son of Promise! However, God is with David and gives him favor with this king of Gath.

David asks for favor from king Achish who grants his request by giving him the city of Ziklag. He ends up staying here for 1 year and 4 months (v. 7). What does he do to pass his time? He makes raids on the enemies of Israel but tells the Philistine king that he’s been raiding his own people (Judah, Jerahmeelites, and Kenites). He’s secretly getting rid of the enemy even as he’s in the enemy territory!

This Philistine king trusted him so much that he actually asks David and his men to go to war WITH HIM against ISRAEL (1 Sam 28:1-2). HOWEVER, the other kings of the Philistines would have nothing to do with David (1 Sam 29:3-5)! (I wonder if they remembered another Israelite who brought trouble on their people?! *cough* Samson *cough*)

Achish had to tell David he must leave at the urging of the other lords, so he goes.

But while David was away (fighting with Philistines), the Amalekites had made a raid against David’s city, Ziklag, and had burned it with fire, taking captive all the people, including David’s 2 wives! (1 Sam 30:1-5)

What horror this must have been for Abigail! But based on what we know of her, I can just picture her staying level-headed, perhaps working her diplomatic magic on these men too. It says that the Amalekites took everyone captive and didn’t kill anyone. It makes me wonder if Abigail told them, “look, you don’t need to kill anyone today…there’s no need to shed blood…just take us with you.” Perhaps she also knew that because God was with David, that he would come to their rescue. (That heart of gold devoted to the King of Heaven!)

1 Sam 30:6 tells us

David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul…But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.”

For him to be “greatly distressed” literally meant he was “in a very tight place” (sar). The same language is used of Saul in 28:15 when he went to consult a spiritist. Unlike Saul, David’s response was to “strengthen himself in the LORD.” (Brueggeman, p. 201)

What did it mean for David to strengthen himself in the Lord?

The word is chazaq (khaw-zak) and means to strengthen, prevail, be strong, become strong, be courageous, be firm, grow firm, be resolute. (Strong’s Concordance at biblestudytools.com) The word is used in other places in Scripture: (295 times!)

  • Deut 3:28 ‘But charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he shall go over at the head of this people, and he shall put them in possession of the land that you shall see.’
  • Judges 16:28 Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.”
  • Psalm 27:14 Wait for the Lord; / be strong, and let your heart take courage; / wait for the Lord!
  • Nehemiah 6:9 For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands.

We know exactly how David strengthened himself because verses 7-10 tell us he inquired of the Lord with the ephod. He trusts God, knowing God will tell him what to do, and we can assume he is willing to listen and obey God.

Isn’t he refreshing?? Rather than acting brashly like Samson, he asks God what God would want him to do! Even though probably every fiber in his bones was aching to rescue his brides, he waits patiently to seek God.

When I am weak, then I am strong. How do I strengthen myself? By admitting my utter weakness and asking for God’s strength to take over!

2 Corinthians 12:9-10:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

We also have a clue what he was thinking because he writes Psalm 56 in response to what the Philistines did and what happened upon his return. 56:8-11:

You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise,
11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?

Again it sounds an awful lot like Abigail had become his inner voice. David, you know that God is for you! He has made you a sure house! If men rise up to pursue you, God will take care of you. He will make you prince of Israel. Do not be afraid.

Do you see why he was a man after God’s own heart? And do you also see how Abigail was the godly wife he needed??! GOLD!

But then we don’t sit around doing nothing, we act, just like David acted! (well not just like David. We aren’t going to kill a band of pagan enemies.) His actions reveal that he is aware God is acting on his behalf and will give him the victory. (Brueggeman, p. 202) This is faith and works working together.

Arnold writes, “The verb translated by the NIV as ‘found strength’ involves a reflexive element – ‘David strengthened himself. This expression emphasizes David’s personal faith…a faith that requires human response, though it is enabled by God (Eph. 2:8). Even though God graciously makes faith possible, it is up to us to respond to His grace.” (p. 389)

God did indeed strengthen David’s hand for it says in 1 Sam 30:17-18,

17 And David struck them down from twilight until the evening of the next day, and not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men, who mounted camels and fled. 18 David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and David rescued his two wives.”

He truly was their knight in shining armor!

This narrative serves to contrast David the kingly hero with Saul, the defeated king, who dies in the battle against the Philistines. It also underscores God’s presence and power displayed in David’s obedient life.

But there is no rest for the weary, because only 3 days pass before David gets news that both Saul and his dear friend Jonathan have been killed by the Philistines (the same band whom he was going to fight with earlier). (2 Sam 1)

Instead of celebrating, David laments the passing of the king and of his friend. The kingship is his for the taking! He could have ridden out in all of his glory, but he doesn’t do that. He could have taken the throne because it certainly belonged to him!

Instead, he inquires of the Lord again in 2 Sam 2:1. And God tells him to go to HEBRON. 2 Sam 2:2-4 says,

So David went up there, and his two wives also, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. And David brought up his men who were with him, everyone with his household, and they lived in the towns of Hebron. And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David  king over the house of Judah.”

This is the second anointing of David, this time a public one. I wonder if Abigail watched with tears in her eyes as her prophecy began to unfold!

30 And when the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel”

He’s not king over all Israel yet, but it’s a start!

Now anointing in the Hebrew culture was a major cause for celebration. It was a solemn and sacred event. In Exodus 30:22-25 God gave them a specific blend of oils and spices for anointing the priests and tabernacle. The idea was that “the recipe is unique, so that everything and everyone belonging to Yahweh [would] share the same distinctive scent.” When the kings were anointed, the oil they used was a “pungent and durable perfume.” The fragrance would have persisted long after the anointing and would have stained the garments worn. The anointing “marked [the kings] for the divine service [to God].” And it was bound to the idea of holiness. We learn that David was anointed 3 times (first with his family, then here at Judah, and finally when he becomes king over all of Israel). (All from Dict. of the OT Historical Books)

David was the anointed one of God, chosen by God to be the prince over Israel. The term Messiah literally means “anointed one”. David was anointed to signify that he belonged to God. He would be a fragrant aroma to God.

When the people offered appropriate sacrifices, they were said to be a “pleasing aroma” to God. The aroma was pleasing in that it satisfied God’s wrath over their sins.

Likewise, the Messiah was the Anointed One who offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sins, making Himself a pleasing aroma to God. Even now Christ makes us a fragrant aroma of God for others to breathe in and receive the knowledge of God (2 Cor 2:14-16).

 

Now, here’s a map of Hebron’s location, just south of Jerusalem.

David Hebron

This map shows David’s “flight” from Saul:

David flight from Saul

Hebron actually has some history behind it. The city of Hebron is actually associated with Abraham, the patriarch with the promise. In Genesis 13:18 it says,

18 So Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre (pronounced Mam-ray), which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.”

Hebron is also a Levitical city of refuge! Joshua 21:13

13 And to the descendants of Aaron the priest they gave Hebron, the city of refuge for the manslayer, with its pasturelands,”

After the loss of their homes in Ziklag, David moves his wives to the city of refuge where God had promised Abram he would allow him to settle and make his descendants as numerous as the dust! Oh if Abraham could have seen his promise coming true in his great great great great grandson David!

{Stay tuned for Part 2 about Wise Abigail}

David’s Wives – Hearts Devoted to a King

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As I read the narratives for this week, I found that as I dug, I sometimes encountered nice artifacts – a piece of pottery, some coins, maybe even a nice statue. But as I continued to dig, I felt like all I found were BONES. Sometimes you get nice artifacts, and sometimes you find the skeletons in the closet.

David was the “man after God’s own heart” but he was still just a man. He had a few skeletons in his closet, and unfortunately for him, they became public knowledge. After all, his story is in the most read book of all times!

We’ve set the stage for the period of the kings, having heard of Hannah’s son, Samuel, who was the prophet and judge to appoint Israel’s first king, Saul. There is a sense of anticipation and hope as the people of Israel look to their leader.

But leaders sometimes fall short, because as good or morally upright as they are, they are still human and make for poor gods.

Even as Saul was on the decline, God was raising up David, the man after His own heart, whom He would make the most impressive covenant with yet!

Within David’s story are SEVERAL (talk about an understatement) important narratives, each with their own teaching points. God’s Word is alive and active, and through the Spirit, God teaches us countless lessons from the life of David and his wives.

So what’s the big picture? How can we see the beauty of the forest and not get hung up on a low hanging limb?

For today we’re going to focus on the condition of these women’s hearts (if we can even know that) and also God’s promise and presence.

“God’s Presence Turned Away”

David didn’t start out as a king, no, he was a lowly shepherd who served under King Saul.

Over and over we read that God was with David and made him prosper in whatever he did. It was this favor from God that caused Saul to fear David the most. And it was this fear that drove Saul to madness, resulting in his pursuit of David’s life.

Here’s how it all began:

Saul had turned his eyes from the Lord and began to fear man and not God.

After disobeying God in his treatment of king Agag the Amalekite, Samuel confronts him and Saul says this in 1 Sam 15:24-28:

24 “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice25 Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me that I may bow before the Lord.” 26 And Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.”27 As Samuel turned to go away, Saul seized the skirt of his robe, and it tore. 28 And Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.”

“God’s Presence in David’s Life”

So even before we meet David’s wives, David has been chosen by God to be king of Israel. 1 Samuel 16:12b-13 says:

And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.”13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward.

You probably noticed as you read the text this week and in previous weeks that although God chooses a “king” for His people, He is still their King. The human king was to “serve as [God’s] viceroy. Yahweh was the real King, while the human king was his representative or regent, chosen by God to carry out His earthly tasks.” (Arnold, 461)

Saul was rejected by God because He had rejected the Word of God. He had been chosen to carry out God’s tasks, but he disobeyed. God chose a new king who would be obedient.

And David enters into service to Saul, fully knowing that he is the Lord’s anointed, yet still respecting Saul as king whom he often referred to as “God’s anointed”. He is contrasted with Saul who has no more Spirit of God with him but rather has an evil spirit who torments him from time to time.

What happens next is the showdown with Goliath, a major indication that God is with David, (1 Sam 17) and all of Israel goes crazy over this young David! All except Saul, that is. He goes crazy jealous over young David.

It was at this point that Saul, having had the Lord’s presence removed from him, begins to seek ways to kill David.

His first plan involved killing him with a spear. But that plan failed so he moved to Plan B: His daughters.

Adoring Michal

1 Samuel 18:20-21 is where we first meet Michal, Saul’s daughter. Pronounced “Me-kawl” (spelled Miykal). Her name meant “who is like God”.

 Now Saul’s daughter Michal loved David. And they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. 21 Saul thought, “Let me give her to him, that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” Therefore Saul said to David a second time, “You shall now be my son-in-law.”

This is the second time Saul had offered one of his daughters, but David, being the humble man he was, did not believe he was suitable to be the son-in-law to a king since he was a lowly shepherd from an insignificant family. (v. 18) A poor man with no reputation (v. 23).

He was trying to say, I can’t afford the bride price for a daughter of the king. I’m also not worthy to be called the son-in-law to the king.

But Saul’s Plan B backfires on him! Because not only was the LORD with David, but also Michal, his daughter, loved David (v. 28).

Have you ever been there before? In love? A heart blushing (or bursting) with love for someone? She had a very red heart – a heart devoted to young David.

He connects her being a “snare” with “the hand of the Philistines” being against him. Saul has in mind that the bride price he sets for his daughter’s hand in marriage will result in David’s demise. Verse 25 says that Saul hoped that David would “fall by the hand of the Philistines.”

Was Saul using his daughter as a trap/snare to kill her beloved David? You bet he was! Imagine his surprise when David drops a bag of 200 Philistine foreskins at his feet! Double the price that was requested. 200 more enemies dead at David’s hands. All for his daughter. All to be Saul’s son-in-law.

Oh and by the way, Saul’s son, Jonathan, loved David too (18:1, 19:1). God loved him. Israel loved him. Judah loved him. Michal loved him. Saul was NOT feeling the love.

And perhaps David was not feeling the love for Michal either for in verse 26 it says,

26 And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king’s son-in-law.

There is no mention of him being pleased to be “her husband.”

Have you ever been there before? A love not reciprocated? A heart broken? Michal’s heart is starting to look a bit broken.

As the narrative progresses, David continues to have more successes in battle against the Philistines (because of God) which meant Saul continued to try harder and harder to kill David. The text indicates that v. 23 David went from being lightly esteemed to v. 30 being highly esteemed.

But Michal stood in Saul’s way. Adoring Michal saved David’s life.

As much as she loved him, do you think she knew that David might not love her as she loved him? That she may not see him for a very long time since he father was chasing her beloved David?

She lies to save him. He’s sick. Sorry, come back later.

Finally daddy comes in and she lies again. He threatened me with my life!

Like Rahab, she lies to save someone’s life!

It makes me wonder what was at stake for her. Could her father, the king, have put her to death? Saul accuses his daughter of conspiring against him by letting his enemy go (v. 17).

Excuse me, Saul, but David is her husband AND your son-in-law! He’s not your enemy. Don’t put your daughter into such a precarious situation. You’re crazy, Saul!

This part of the narrative serves to express the impossibility of Saul’s attempts to keep David from the throne which God Himself has promised for him. God had also told Saul that He would no longer be with him, and even though Saul would desperately grasp and clamor to hold his power, his efforts would be fruitless. God’s plans always prevail.

After this the text goes silent about Michal until you read the last verse of the Abigail narrative in 1 Samuel 25.

Liz Curtis Higgs in her book Bad Girls of the Bible believed that 14 years passed between the time David escaped and when he saw her again.

1 Sam 21:10-15 says David even sought refuge among his enemy, the Philistine lord at Gath! And then in 22:3-4 with the king of Moab. And he continues to evade Saul’s grasp, even coming so close to cut a corner off of his robe.

The text does not indicate the time frame of David’s exile, but you get the impression that God’s protection is over him and that he learns to trust God during this time. After all, God had made a promise, and He never breaks a promise! So no matter how life-threatening the circumstance was, God would ensure his safety.

Poor adoring Michal. She’s pining away for her beloved David. It sounds like she was with her father, so you have to wonder what influence he had over her heart. Did his “crazy” take root in her heart? Did she believe her father’s lies about David? How’s that heart looking about now?

 

{Stay tuned for Part 2 about Wise Abigail}

Samson’s Wife & Delilah – Part 2

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The phrase “right in my eyes” (14:3) is significant because that same phrase (more or less) is repeated in Judges revealing that everyone was doing what was right in their eyes and not what was right in GOD’S eyes. Even Samson, who is one of the supposed Israelite leaders (appointed from inside his mother’s womb), had been doing whatever he wanted, seemingly without thought for God’s law, which clearly prohibited foreign marriages.

This foreign marriage, forbidden in the law, should have been a huge red flag for Samson, but the writer says it was of the Lord!! Judges 14:4:

…it was from the LORD, for He was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines.

Somehow God had allowed this to happen so that He would have more opportunities to strike the Philistines for the sake of His Covenant People. The same Covenant people who had strayed so far that they didn’t even bother crying out to their God when the oppressors came. Yet God pursued the faithless ones.

The Word Commentary asks, “why would this foreign marriage be ‘of God’? God retains freedom to accomplish His purposes through the people and means He chooses.” (p. 333)

Can you think of any other men of God whom the Lord determined would marry unsavory brides? Hosea! We’ll learn about his wife, Gomer, later on in our study.

It is good to remember that the Scriptures were not being written as the events were happening. The historian/writer has the advantage of hindsight to see how God was present in the situations that unfolded for Israel. Isn’t that how it seems for us sometimes? It feels like we can often see God more clearly after the difficult season is over. We can attribute God’s work in our lives more easily once we’ve passed through the trials. We see His work as protection or see His love in the way He withheld something we thought we wanted/needed. He is ALWAYS at work in our lives even though we may not always know how. And when we don’t understand His hands, we can always trust His heart.

This is one of those topics that is hard to address because it reveals how little we know about God’s sovereignty and our own will. I’m not going to get into free will and God’s sovereignty at this moment, because I don’t think anyone can fully understand how it all works. I am, however, absolutely certain that I need no help from God to commit sins. He is never responsible for my sin because He is perfectly holy. However, God is responsible for any good thing in me. He is the one who works in me, conforming me into the image of His Son.

Scholar R. G. Bowman describes this delicate theological issue: “The writer of Judges portrays God as a [god] who intervenes to punish the people for their sins and works with human leaders to deliver the people from their enemies, but refrains from using divine powers to prevent human failures. Bowman sees a fine balancing act between the divine exercise of power and the exercise of human freedom and will.” (More to the Eye Than Meets the Eye in Biblical Interpretation)

Although I have seen Samson painted as having a dull wit, not being too smart but completely driven by his own passions, I wonder if he didn’t make his choices, fully knowing the consequences. After all, perhaps he really was aware that his choices would cause trouble between Israel and Philistia, and maybe this is why he continues to make one “bad” choice after another. (The text doesn’t give any indication that he was aware at all, but I really want to give him the benefit of the doubt, because how could anyone be this bad??!)

Word Commentary notes, “Rather than gathering armies to fight the Philistines, Samson gathers girlfriends who create anger and violence between Samson and the [Philistines].” (p. 334)

John Milton writes in his poem about Samson (Samson Angonistes) that he takes personal responsibility for his actions: “Nothing of all these evils hath befall’n me / But justly; I myself have brought them on, / Sole Author I, sole cause. (375-76)

So was Samson an oblivious man of passions or a man in tune with God’s plans?

Then in verses 5-6 we have this weird story about Samson tearing apart a lion and they seem rather awkwardly and inappropriately placed in the middle of a wedding proposal and feast! (Not exactly a bride’s dream) But this story is important for understanding Samson’s riddle later on. It also represents something very important for Israel!

Back in Judges 13:5 it says of Samson,

for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.

I place emphasis on the word BEGIN for Samson did not finish Israel’s business with the Philistines. David is actually credited with ridding Israel of them (2 Sam 8:1).

So this scene with the lion is symbolic of the Philistines, coming out of nowhere, to attack Israel, but God had gifted Samson with great strength and he was able to tear the lion apart. Samson would begin to save Israel from the Lion Philistia. (The Symbolism of the Lion and the Bees by Martin Emmrich in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society)

Then in verse 8 it says

he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion, and behold, there was a swarm of bees in the body of the lion, and honey.

Again we have this image of a lion, but now it is a dead, rotten carcass with bees and their honey inside of it.

Samson eats the honey and gives some to his parents. You might have picked up on the fact that this would have broken his Nazirite vow, defiling himself by having contact with the dead. But something more is at play because nothing is mentioned about the broken vow.

This narrative is what I call a “teaching sandwich” in the sense that something happens (Samson rips the lion apart), the scene goes on to a seemingly disconnected point in the story, then something else happens to connect the events all together (carcass). It’s just like what Jesus did in Mark when He cursed the fig tree, then drove out the money changers, only to return to a withered fig tree in order to teach about who His true disciples were (as opposed to the money changers). Mmmm take a huge bite and taste the honey!

First of all, it would have been unheard of for bees to settle into the carcass of a dead lion. This in and of itself would have been as miraculous as the defeat of the lion.

Block writes, “In a world of decay and decomposition Samson discovers a “community” of bees not only existing but producing sweetness to the world around. The [writer’s] choice of [the Hebrew word] cedâ, (ay – daw) “community,” rather than seres, the common word for “swarm”, is deliberate. Except for Ps 68:30 [Hb. 31], ceda always refers to a company of people, usually the Israelites as a faith community, called to be agents of grace and light in the decadent world.” (Martin Emmrich) (Also mentioned in Word Commentary p. 335)

It appears as though the writer of Judges is revealing how God would, starting with Samson, destroy Israel’s enemies, giving Israel back their home where they could again be a community enjoying the fruits (HONEY) of the land.

Martin Emmrich writes, “the divine blessing connected with Israel’s peaceful existence in the land is often described in terms of the sweetness of honey: “For Yahweh your God is bringing you into a good land … a land of olives and honey“(Deut 8:7-8).”

Likewise, just as a lion’s carcass is an unlikely place for bees to settle, so too was Canaan an unlikely land for the Israelites to settle with its idolatrous people riddled with sin’s defilement. Like the bees in the carcass, Israel would settle into the idolatrous land after the death of their enemies.  (Emmrich)

Next we have the wedding feast in verse 10. The word feast (mishteh) can mean drinking feast. (footnote in ESV) Most scholars believe that Samson couldn’t have avoided the drinking that would have taken place at this feast.

All throughout these chapters, we have no sense that Samson is even aware of his Nazirite vow. That is, not until he tells Delilah his secret. So even though we’re jumping ahead a little bit, it helps us understand that Samson had the knowledge of the vow. However, this knowledge didn’t seem to stop him from breaking it twice now, seemingly showing no care or honor for God’s calling on his life.

“Rejection of Knowledge”

They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
    they walk about in darkness…. (Psalm 82:5)

 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you [JUDGES] have rejected knowledge… (Hosea 4:6)

The supposed leader of the Israelites had rejected the knowledge of his high calling. So isn’t it ironic that he decides to try his hand at a riddle.

“Riddles in the Ancient World”

The use of riddles at feasts was popular in the ancient world. You may recall the queen of Sheba asking Solomon “hard questions”, very likely riddles (1 Kings 10:1; 2 Chron 9:1). Solomon later became the famous author of proverbs and riddles. Ezekiel was instructed to speak a riddle to Israel in 17:2. To know dark sayings was considered a mark of wisdom (Prov. 1:6).

So what does this say about Samson? He had some degree of intelligence about him that he was able to come up with this clever riddle which, by the way, his companions tried and failed to solve! It says in verse 14 that they tried to solve it for 3 days until they asked Samson’s wife to entice him to give her the answer. Their motivation for her? We’ll burn you and your father if you don’t find out.

I almost feel sorry for Samson’s new wife. Verse 17 tells us she cries for the 7 days that the feast lasted, no doubt terrified at the thought of being burned alive with her father if she failed to discover his secret. So much for a fun wedding party! Poor poor Miss Philistine.

The phrase in verse 17 “she pressed him hard” is the same wording in Judges 16:16 when Delilah “pressed him hard day after day”. The word carries a note of distress and oppression, enough to cause Samson to break down and give in to her “pressing”.

Or did he? Did he know all along what was happening, allowing his new wife to badger him for those 7 days, and then gave her the answer at the very last moment, ready for another skilled retort to answer the Philistines?

The men answer Samson in the form of a riddle, and you can almost taste the irony in their answer. “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?” Who was it that simply ripped a lion in half? Samson. So it appears as though Samson is stronger than the lion. He didn’t keep that part a secret for nothing!

But the true answer may well have been LOVE or a woman’s allure. (NIVAC) Samson may have been referring to the irresistibility of love. J (by Philip Nel The Riddle of Samson in Biblica). Love is sweeter than honey, Love is stronger than a lion.  Perhaps now you can see the irony in his riddle as he is overcome with “love” for these women of Philistia!

Samson gives his retort, another riddle in the Hebrew (v. 18), as if he had already planned how to respond, knowing all along that his wife was going to betray him. And then they get to find out just how strong this man is! The Scripture says he went all the way to Ashkelon to strike down these 30 men. To give you an idea of the distance here is a map showing Timnah and Ashkelon: It was approximately 30 miles southwest of Timnah!

Samson map clear

Verse 19 is the third time the Spirit of the LORD is mentioned in Samson’s life. There are four times in this narrative in which the Spirit plays a part in his exploits.

The first time, I already mentioned, was at the beginning of his “career” in 13:25, with the Spirit “stirring” Samson. Then in 14:6 with the lion, here in 14:19 when he kills 30 men at Ashkelon (Philistine city), and also in 15:14-17 when he killed 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. In the last three verses, the text says the same phrase: “The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him”.

Here again we can assume that either Samson is aware that God is with him and this is one of those “opportunities against the Philistines” OR God uses this man’s hasty and violent actions to bring trouble on the Philistines.

Although his actions are violent, he makes good on his bargain by giving his 30 companions the promised clothing! There is absolutely no mention of Samson being angry with his new wife about giving him up. But he is definitely angry. Marching out in “hot anger” to be exact. Then verse 20 wraps up the passage with a little tid-bit of information about his wife who now belongs to his companion, or best man. This is beginning to sound like an episode of Jerry Springer.

Poor Miss Philistine gets shuffled around by her father, but perhaps she can look on the bright side, she didn’t die! And she still ended up with a husband! Taste the irony in our teaching sandwich.

Then we get to chapter 15. Here again we find a very strange story, that grabs our attention and leaves us with an empty pit in our stomachs. It’s the classic case of revenge and tragedy, resulting in our sympathy even for the enemy.

I want you to notice the description in verse 1 of the time of year. When you see descriptors like “wheat harvest” or other time references, they are almost always clues for understanding something else in the text. In this case we know that Samson dealt quite the blow to the Philistines when he burned up their ripe-for-harvest fields.

Beth Shemesh, Sorek Valley Area

To give you an idea of the importance of the grain crops in this region, here is an aerial view of the Sorek Valley. The Sorek River winds its way from left to right. The Sorek Valley continues to the left where it runs into Timnah. You can see the Judean Mountains at the top of the picture. The Israelite towns of Zorah and Eshtaol would be in the foothills of the mountains there (among the trees). Beth-Shemesh, which is also part of Israel, is on the right hand side of the valley.

You can see how fertile this area is and why both the Philistines and Israelites harvested their crops in the valley! To this present day the corn-fields in that part of the lowlands (known as the Shephelah) extend continuously for twenty or thirty miles.

Samson arrives to collect his bride but finds out she’s been given away to his best man and is then offered her younger, supposedly more beautiful, sister.

I pause now to ponder what Miss Philistine might have thought when her Israelite suiter came knocking for a second time. Did she have any affection for this man? Was she happy to see that he’d come back for her? Or did she only feel dread because she realized this man was reckless and bent on destroying her people? Was she happy to be with a man of her own people and bothered that Samson came back around? Was she afraid he might do something to put her life in jeopardy again?

Samson obviously refuses the second daughter and in verses 4-5 sets about with the task of trapping 300 foxes, tying torches to their tails, and setting them loose in the valley where their fields of wheat, corn, and olive groves are ready for harvest. Samson’s revenge with the foxes does not involve the Spirit of God this time. It seems to be all Samson. Another opportunity against the Philistines!

Block writes, “All [Samson’s] achievements are personal…Unlike the [other] deliverers, he never seeks to rid Israel of foreign oppressors, and he never calls out the Israelite troops. Samson is a man with a higher calling than any other deliverer in the book, [yet] he spends his whole life ‘doing his own thing.’” (p. 441 in NAC)

There are two interesting background stories at play in this account. First, him burning the fields would have been a violation of the Mosaic law according to Exodus 22:6:

If fire breaks out and catches in thorns so that the stacked grain or the standing grain or the field is consumed, he who started the fire shall make full restitution.

Secondly, the god of the Philistines was Dagon, and scholars now believe he was the god of grain!!! (NIVAC) So remember how God brought the plagues on Egypt? Each of those plagues was an affront against the Egyptian gods. (A big thanks to my friend Angela for sharing this chart with me!)

Samson plagues on Egypt

This time, God uses Samson’s actions to show that He is sovereign over Dagon, the god of grain. They would watch as the fire licked up the grain, vineyards, and olive groves – the 3 dietary and economic staples of ancient Palestine. (Word Commentary) And their god would be silent. You might even say He outfoxed them!

All joking aside, do you see God’s relentless pursuit of His people? He is unwilling to share His glory with anyone!

I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. Isaiah 42:8 (also in 48:11)

And He is jealous for His people.

Then the Lord became jealous for his land and had pity on his people. Joel 2:8 (also in Zech 1:14, 8:2)

The LORD our God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. Deut. 4:24

He pursues the enemy in wrath and judgment and yet will stop at nothing to pursue His beloved with His love and mercy, and yes even judgement. FEAR and LOVE mingled together.

But then one bad turn deserves another? And the Philistines burn Samson’s bride and her father just as Samson burned their fields. An eye for an eye, a bride for a field? (No, Philistines, a bride for a field is not a fair trade.)

I almost hate to say it but she appears as a mere pawn in their game of war. She was an untimely interruption of the heart, having no happy interruptions from God, but only tragic interruptions involving the destruction of her and her people. She was a Heart Devoted for Destruction.

We have one vengeful act stacked on top of another. The phrase “struck them hip and thigh” (v. 8) is meant to intensify the words “with a great blow”. One scholar writes that this could have been a “wrestling idiom [MEANING] total victory.” (Word Commentary p. 341; also in Tyndale “originating in the art of wrestling”).

Samson map large

Then Samson retreats like an animal as he hides in the rock at Etam, in Judah’s territory. The map above shows where scholars believe Etam might be (although they admit they’re not even sure where it really is). It’s almost humorous the way in which Judah handles their fellow countryman, like Samson is their enemy. It seems that they want to avoid confrontation with the Philistines at all costs, and so they send a delegation the size of a small army (3,000 men) to Samson (Block p. 444 NAC). Then they actually talk him into giving himself up the Philistines. What follows is the famous story of Samson killing 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey!

Unfortunately, our woman of Philistia meets a tragic end much too early in her life. Her people had been marked by God, devoted for destruction, because of their sins against Him and their cruel treatment of His people.

{Stay tuned for Part 3 of the story involving Miss Delilah!}

Samson’s Wife & Delilah (Hearts Devoted to Destruction) Part 1

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The period of the Judges was considered a very dark time for Israel. We learned about Moses and the period of the wanderings, with the Israelites finally reaching their Promised Land with Joshua. We know from reading Exodus and Leviticus that the tribes were a tight-knit group during this period, simply because they had to be! When God’s presence departed, they packed up camp and followed along.

Samson Israel encampment  

Here are 2 images of what the camp of Israel might have looked like as they wandered in the wilderness. The second picture into account the amount of people in each tribe. Also, notice the Pillar of Cloud? Or Smoke?

Samson Pillar of Fire Wilderness

Remember the imagery of God as a consuming fire? A Pillar of Fire? Well here is a depiction of the Pillar.

As they wandered, you get the impression that they were a unified group of people, following their God to the destination He promised them. Then as they reach Canaan, we read of the effort the tribes gave for one another as they took over the land. They went through the trial of the wanderings and then the trial of war. Finally, able to rest in their promised portions of land as individual tribes of Israel.

Trials have a way of bringing people together.

Comfort has a way of coaxing them into apathy.

And distance didn’t make their hearts grow fonder. It only brought disunity.

What I see as I scan the pages of Judges is a group of people who are scattered over a relatively small area, unable to grasp ahold of their identity in their Savior God because they had forgotten God’s Word and God’s Works.

“Setting for Judges”

After the death of Joshua, Judges 2:10 says:

10 And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.

From reading the book of Judges, it can be seen that there was “a lack of political, military, and religious centralization in the tribes.” (Dictionary of the Old Testament Historical Books) What is more, it seems like the writers were making a case for Israel to have a king. Yes, their leader and King was God, but they were doing a terrible job of following their Leader.

Think about why they’re in this mess. They had the knowledge of God’s law, what He instructed them to do, but during the conquest of Canaan, they failed to remove the inhabitants completely, thus allowing for their enemies to gain strength over the years. They also fell into temptations galore – the two greatest temptations being foreign women and foreign gods.

My husband made a great point concerning Israel’s faithlessness to God. In Jeremiah 3, God indicates that the other nations remain faithful to their gods, who aren’t really gods at all, while Israel, the chosen people of the One True God, are unfaithful to their God and go after the gods of the other nations.

Jael judges cycle

In fact, when you read through Judges, you’ll find that sin cycle, except in the Samson narrative, there is no reference to Israel crying out to God! Judges 13:1 says:

Israel did evil in the sight of God and He delivered them into the hands of the Philistines.

“In this cycle, the Israelites display little discomfort or evidence of even wanting to be delivered.” (Block p. 395 in New American Commentary) They were so apathetic this time around, that they didn’t even bother calling out to the God who had chosen them and who had set them in that Land.

“No Knowledge”

Perhaps Asaph, the psalmist, could have been hearkening back to this time when he wrote:

They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness…. (Psalm 82:5)

Their leadership was severely lacking:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you [priests] have rejected knowledge… (Hosea 4:6)

Remember what we learned from Zipporah:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)

The Israelites have lost the fear of God.

There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land. (Hosea 4:1)

God desired for them to know Him and to obey Him. But instead they were unfaithful to their God. They were unfaithful by going after those other, worthless gods, and by going after those foreign women. They were a people with the knowledge of God, acting in ways that discarded the knowledge they had.

In our current narrative, we learn about 2 of these FOREIGN women: One of them happens to be Samson’s wife! The other has been bestowed with the honor of being identified with promiscuity and deceit. A Delilah is a treacherous and seductive woman, especially a mistress or wife.

Jael Israel_time_of_Judges

Here is a map of Israel during the time of the Judges. Dan is the location in which Samson specifically served. You can see the arrows where Israel’s enemies came in to oppress them. You will also notice that the trouble for Israel occurred throughout the ENTIRE region, not just in the northern or southern kingdom. Because their enemies came at different times and from different regions, you can understand why there may have been an overlap in the service of the judges. It wasn’t like the Philistines hollered to the enemies of the north, requesting to fight Israel, and asking for them to back off. No, the enemies came when God sent them.

“Wife of Samson”

In Judges 14 we see Samson waltzing right into Philistine territory, as if it were his normal daily stroll to a neighbor’s house. It is as if the writer was pointing out the comfort or resignation Israel felt with the Philistines, even though, as the Judahites remind Samson, these Philistines were their “rulers.” (Judges 15:11). Everything that God had intended for the Israelites in their Promised Land was coming loose at the seams. Their lack of obedience to their King resulted in oppression in their own Promised Land.

Block postulates, “Israel would have been satisfied to co-exist with the Philistines but Yahweh [had other plans] to incite the Philistines and thereby disturb the comfortable status quo that existed between them and Israel.” (p. 424 NAC)

God used Samson to shake the Israelites out of their slumber and apathy.

We first hear of the Spirit of God “stirring” Samson in Judges 13:25. This word is not used anywhere else, but you get the idea after reading the narrative that this is the divine initiation. (Block p. 424 in NAC) Interestingly the stirring results in Samson entering the Philistine territory of Timnah which had originally been allotted to the tribe of Dan. God was getting ready to give the Promised Land back to the rightful owners. (Block p. 424 in NAC)

In verse 1 We meet our girl at Timnah. She doesn’t even get a name. She’s simply the “daughter of the Philistines”. And though her life was far from an example of a godly one, God includes her in His story of judgment on the enemy nation, her nation.

Block writes, “Yahweh was determined to shatter the status quo. Samson was his tool chosen to rile up the Philistines, and this woman offers the opportunity to make it happen. If the Israelites did not have the heart to take action against the Philistines, God would cause the Philistines to take action against them.” (p. 426 NAC)

While we are at least somewhat familiar with Delilah, I wonder how many of you were surprised to learn of Samson’s Philistine wife! She sounds much the same as her counterpart, Miss Delilah! I guess this is why God warned the Israelites to steer clear of the foreign women!

Who were these Philistines anyway? They certainly had no knowledge of the God of Israel. They were also people walking in darkness. But they were pagans, violent and odious to God. The more well-known stories about them involve David and Goliath.

Samson philistine warrior garb                   Samson map clear

The Philistines were considered Sea-Faring people who are believed to come from the Aegean region. An Egyptian source reveals that Pharaoh Ramessess II claimed defeat over them in the 5th year of his reign because they had tried and failed to invade Egypt. It was shortly after this that the Philistines ended up sailing slightly north to settle in the coastal strip of Canaan. From there they began filtering into the foothills of Dan and Judah. They plagued Israel all during the times of the Judges as well as into David’s lifetime. (footnote from Word Study Bible)

You’ll notice in the wall carving that the Philistines are distinguishable with their feathered headdress.

They were organized into a confederation of 5 city-states with coastal cities of Ashdod, Asheklon, and Gaza and 2 inland cities of Ekron and Gath.

Music stand

Music stand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excavations done in this coastal region have shown that the Philistines were musicians,

Wine jug with bowl

Wine jug with bowl

liked to drink wine (not beer), prized pork over sheep and goats for food,

Olive Press reconstructed with actual parts from the city of Ekron

Olive Press reconstructed with actual parts from the city of Ekron

Labeled Olive Press

Labeled Olive Press

were one of the largest producers of olive oil in the ancient Near-East,

Samson pottery

and used iron, ivory, and bronze, and of course made pottery.

Samson dagon fish man

Later on we learn of the Philistine god, Dagon (16:23) who makes another appearance in 1 Samuel 4:1-7 in the story about the ark of the covenant. In all the paintings, mosaics, or statues of him, he is usually portrayed as a fish-man god. The Hebrew word for fish is “dag”. So was he Dagon, the fish-man? Or was Dagon the god of grain? Dagan in Hebrew meant grain. Recent scholarship believes he was the god of grain. This is extremely important for understanding the text later on. He was also considered the father of Baal. (Block)

This daughter of the Philistines, a Dagon worshipper, was from Timnah – the land that was supposed to belong to Dan!

Samson Valley of Sorek        

Where was Timnah, you ask? It is in the Valley of Sorek, 20 miles west of Jerusalem, right on the border of Philistia and Israel. Timnah was just 4 miles from Samson’s town, Zorah.

The Valley of Sorek was likely a fertile area, well suited for vineyards. (http://www.bible-history.com/geography/maps/map_philistine_valley_sorek.html)

The Scripture (Judges 13:25) said that the Spirit of the LORD began to stir Samson at Mahaneh Dan, an area only 6 miles east of Timnah. Also when Samson “went down to Timnah” (v. 1), he literally went down as there is an 800 foot drop in elevation between these two areas.

{Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!}