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Judea. On his way, not many miles from Gibeah, he came to Nob, which was the religious capital of the nation, where were the high priest and the tabernacle with its services. In his terror and distrust he told a falsehood to Ahimelech the high priest, and as a friend and relative of the king he was allowed to eat of the sacred shewbread (referred to by Christ in Matt. 12 : 3, 4), and to take with him the sword of Goliath. The fruit of this lie was the massacre by Saul of the high priest, and all his family except Abiathar, and the ministering priests, eighty-five in all (1 Sam. 22 : 9-23).
Psalm 52, according to the title, was composed by David in reference to this event.
2. The Flight to Gath, 1 Sam. 21:10–15. David hasted away from Nob, and fled southwesterly to Gath, a city of the Philistines, the old residence of Goliath. Concealing his name, he openly entered the town, hoping to make himself acceptable as a minstrel, or in some peaceful capacity.
But he was soon recognized as the famous general who had been celebrated in festive songs throughout the land. The king soon learned of his presence, and
A Cave in the Mountains Near Bethlehem. David was sore afraid, paratively new sensation to David.” “He changed his behavior before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled (made marks) on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard.” So Achish, the king of Gath, supposed him mad, “ Have I need of mad men ?” Madness being considered a possession of evil spirits, those afflicted with it were always sacred from injury. Similar stories told of Ulysses, Solon, Brutus, etc., are well known. In more modern times explorers have escaped from savage tribes by the same stratagem.
David therefore escaped safely to his own land, and took refuge in the cave of Adullam. “Even as a policy his flight to Gath was a blunder.” He seems to have lapsed from his accustomed trust in God, and counselled with his fears rather than his faith.
Psalm 34, an alphabetical Psalm, appears from the title to have been written in reference to this experience.
3. In the Cave of Adullam. Here there gathered around him a large band of discontented people, " mostly victims of Saul's oppression,” and of the growing discontent with his rule, on account of his recurring paroxysms of insanity, and consequent inability to rule his kingdom well. This “ was the beginning of a justifiable revolution. The discontented men that gathered around David were the true patriots of the time. .. This is evident from his message to Nabal in which he claims that he has performed all the duties of a government in protecting him from the incursions of the bordering tribes ; so that the tribute he asked was no more than the just taxation of established authority.” — Prof. G. F. Wright.
There were with him here about 400 men, gradually increasing to 600 (1 Sam. 22 : 2 ; 25: 13 ; 27: 2). Among them were his own parents and brothers whom Saul probably persecuted on account of David — the prophet Gad, the high priest Abiathar, the son of the high priest Ahimelech (1 Sam. 22 : 22, 23), and his nephew Abishai, afterwards a great general (1 Sam. 26 : 6), and eleven mighty men of valor of the tribe of Gad (named in i Chron. 12 : 8-14), and 23 Benjamite warriors who could use both hands equally well in shooting arrows out of a bow (1 Chron. 12 :1-7).
Soon, however, he placed his parents for safety, and better comfort, with the king of Moab, beyond Jordan, the native country of his great-grandmother Ruth (1 Sam.
22 : 3, 4). “Whatever his motives were in the choice of the place to which he guided them, we can but admire his filial thoughtfulness and devotion ; and we rejoice to
see that under the shield of the warrior there still beat the loving heart of a son.” — Dr. W. M. Taylor.
Psalm 57, a song, to the tune of
Destroy not," and 142, another cave song, a maschil, or “ choice ode,” were probably written at, or in memory of, this date.
4. The Well of Bethlehem, i Chron. 11:1519. This incident probably took place while David was living in the Cave of Adullam, as that was near to Bethlehem. Let us bring to mind the picture. The Philistines have
again come up against
From an old print. Israel, and had surDavid Pours out the Water of the Well of Bethlehem.
only a short distance away. David had been fighting bravely, against tremendous odds, — for he was always in the thick of the battle when the enemies of his country were attacking it, even though he was an outlaw. Tired out, his lips parched with thirst, perhaps somewhat homesick in his exile, he remembers the old well by the gate of his native town, and in a moment of longing says, “Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, that is at the gate !” At these words of their beloved captain, three of David's mightiest men, one of them Abishai his nephew, forced their way through the enemy, drew the coveted water, probably in a leather bottle, or a soldier's helmet, and returned, panting, and perhaps wounded, to their place, and presented the sparkling draught to their lord.
Then the greatness of David shines forth. Although his thirst is beyond description he pours the water on the ground as a libation before the Lord.' A deed like that showed that David was worthy of the devotion that they rendered to him. "So spake the hero king, and all the host
The mightiest of the thirty, felt their souls Looked on and wondered; and these noble three, Knit closer to King David and to God."
- E. II. Plumptre. 5. The Meeting with Jonathan, 'i Sam. 23 : 1–28. The Philistines came again, and were robbing the threshing-floors of Keilah. David fought and defeated them, and saved the town. But the people were ungrateful, and he learned that they were about to betray him
to Saul. Therefore he escaped into the wilderness of Ziph, near the hill Hachilah. But here also treachery followed him, and the Ziphites betrayed him to Saul. Saul came out against him with an army, and might have taken him, but a messenger came to him in haste with the word that the Philistines had invaded the land, and he took his army away to fight the Philistines, and David escaped.
But while Saul and his army were hunting for David Jonathan met David in the wood," and strengthened his hand in God.” They renewed the covenant of friendship which they had made, and parted for the last time.
a choice ode," set to stringed instruments, was written with reference to David's experiences at Ziph. And Psalm 63, “one of the most beautiful and touching Psalms in the whole Psalter," was written in the Wilderness of Judah, either at this time, or when he was driven from his throne by Absalom.
6. The Cave of Engedi, 1 Sam. 24. Saul again seeks for David, who is at Engedi, near the western shore of the Dead Sea. He enters the cave where David and his
7. So David and Abishai came to the people by night: and, behold, Saul lay sleeping within the trench, and his spear stuck in the ground at his bolster: but Abner and the people lay round about him.
8. Then said Abishai to David, God hath delivered thine enemy into thine hand this day: now therefore let me smite him, I pray thee, with the spear even to the earth at once, and I will not smite him the second time.
9. And David said to Abishai, Destroy him not: for who can stretch forth his hand against the LORD's anointed, and be guiltless ?
10. David said furthermore, As the LORD liveth, the LORD shall smite him; or his day shall come to die; or he shall descend into battle, and perish.
II. The Lord forbid that I should stretch forth mine hand against the LORD's anointed: but, I pray thee, take thou now the spear that is at his bolster, and the cruse of water, and let us go.
followers were concealed. But David refuses to kill the Lord's anointed, and simply cuts off the skirt of his robe to prove to him that he had been in David's power. Saul confesses that he is in the wrong, and returns home.
7. Nabal the Churl, 1 Sam. 25. This man lived at Carmel, in the south of Judah. He not only refused to provide David with provisions in return for the protection he had had from him, but returned deadly insult in his answer. David assembles his followers to avenge the insult. But Abigail, the wise and beautiful wife of Nabal, appeases David, and saves her husband and his followers from death. When Nabal hears of his narrow escape he has a stroke of apoplexy and dies within ten days. Abigail becomes the wife of David.
8. At Hachilah, a hill within sight of Ziph ; our specific lesson for to-day, 1 Sam. 26.
II. DAVID'S GREATEST VICTORY. Again the Ziphites betray to Saul the refuge of David, and Saul gathers three thousand chosen men of Israel to seek him.
David hears that Saul is again hunting for him. “ It seems as if David could scarcely believe that Saul would thus a second time pursue him,” but he sent out spies, and finds that it is really so. He therefore “ went in person to reconnoitre Saul's camp.”. “ From some neighboring rock they look down upon the camp. The beasts and their burdens and the camp luggage lie in a circle as a rampart, just like a 'corral 'on the western plains. In the centre can be seen a spear, stuck upright in the earth, showing where the king lies, just as an Arab sheik's tent is to-day distinguished.” Knox.
David decides to appeal to Saul's better nature, and plans a very dangerous act for that purpose. Taking with him Abishai, his nephew, and one of his very bravest men, he steals down from the hill in which is hiding, and into the very camp of Saul, where discovery would mean instant death to both. He finds all the people fast asleep, with the king in the middle of the company. Among the nomad people of the East, the encampments are usually made in a circular form, the circumference is lined by the baggage and the men, while the chief's station is in the centre, whether he occupies a tent or not." Jamieson. The weary soldiers, feeling safe, are sleeping soundly, as Orientals do.
David's captain, Abishai, suggests to David that he be permitted to slay Saul, their great enemy, now in their hands. He adds, I will not smite him the second time, that is, he can kill him without arousing the soldiers around, and the two can easily escape afterwards.
It was a severe temptation to David. The motives influencing him to consent were (1) self-preservation; (2) desire to escape the persecution which was destroying all comfort in life ; (3) revenge for what he had suffered ; (4) the chance to immediately take the throne ; (5) the pressure from his followers, who might not understand his scruples.
But David again refuses to allow any hand to be raised against his king, and gives his conviction that in His own good time Jehovah will release David from his danger, and give him the throne.
12. So David took the spear and the cruse of water from Saul's bolster; and they gat them away, and no man saw it, nor knew it, neither awaked: for they were all asleep; because a deep sleep from the LORD was fallen
13. Then David went over to the other side, and stood on the top of an hill afar off; a great space being between them:
14. And David cried to the people, and to Abner the son of Ner, saying, Answerest thou not, Abner? Then Abner answered and said, Who art thou that criest to the king ?
15. And David said to Abner, Art not thou a valiant man? and who is like to thee in Israel? wherefore then hast thou not kept thy lord the king? for there came one of the people in to destroy the king thy lord.
16. This thing is not good that thou hast done. As the LORD liveth, ye are worthy to die, because ye have not kept your master, the LORD'S anointed. And now see where the king's spear is, and the cruse of water that was at his bolster.
17. And Saul knew David's voice, and said, Is this thy voice, my son David? And David said, It is my voice, my lord, O king.
21. Then said Saul, I have sinned: return, my son David; for I will no more do thee harm, because my soul was precious in thine eyes this day: behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.
So the two heroes stole quietly into the camp and took away Saul's spear, probably of beautiful and costly workmanship, as became a king, and the cruse or pitcher of water“ which is usually, in warm climates, kept near a person's couch, as a draught in the night time is found very refreshing. Saul's cruse would probably be of superior materials, or more richly ornamented than common ones, and therefore by its size or form be easily distinguished.” — Cambridge Bible.
Then the two men went to another hill over against the one where Saul was encamped, and shouted to Saul's general, Abner, deriding him for his negligence, and charging him bitterly with lack of fidelity in caring for the king, saying that his faithlessness was worthy of death. In proof that some one had come close enough to Saul to slay him he bade Abner see the king's spear and water cruse in his hands. Abner, as chief officer, was responsible for the king's safety with his life, according to Eastern custom.
Saul recognized David's voice, and they talked together. David made a strong appeal to Saul, who repented of his pursuit, and promised to let him alone for the future. David accepted his profession of friendship, but he was too wise to put himself into Saul's power. He well knew that his changed opinion was like the early dew which soon passeth away. Feeling sure that Saul would again seek him, and that he was always in danger of capture, David went again into the land of the Philistines, and remained there until the death of Saul.
David's Greatest Victory was the victory over himself, as shown in this story. It was a greater victory than his famous victory over Goliath, for “ He that ruleth his own spirit is greater than he that taketh a city.” “Self-preservation is the first law of nature,' but it is not the first law of God, who is above nature. We may not in any wise transgress God's law in seeking our own safety.” “ David comes forth from the test with a crown upon his head. It is not the diadem of Saul, but the crown of justice which adorns him - it is not the royal purple which enwraps him, but a wisdom more than human, before which the most gorgeous robe becomes pale. Chrysostom.
JII. OVERCOMING EVIL WITH GOOD. David practised the divine rule given a thousand years later by St. Paul, “ If thine enemy hunger, feed him ; if he thirst, give him drink ; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.” But do not do it in order to heap the coals of fire !
“The true way to overcome evil'is to melt it by fiery coals of gentleness. That is God's way. An iceberg may be crushed to powder, but every fragment is still ice.
Only sunshine that melts it will turn it into water. Love is conqueror, and the only conqueror, and its conquest is to transform hate into love." Maclaren.
IV. HOW SHOULD WE TREAT THOSE WHO DO WRONG? There are two different answers to this question, dependent upon two great conditions : (1) those who do wrong against us, personally ; and (2) those who do wrong against others, the state or the country.
If there is wrong done to us, Christ's word is, Forgive. In the prayer he taught his disciples is the petition, “ Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." His word is “ Love your enemies," forgive“ until seventy times seven.” And the parable of forgiveness in Matt. 18:23–35, he concludes with the words, “ So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.' Even in the Old Testament the same lesson is taught, — “ Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord,” it is not our part. Our part is to feed, — do all possible good to, – our enemies. To overcome evil with good, so far as it is possible, and dependent on our actions.
“ Forgiveness, love — it is a queer thing. It works just like electricity. If it cannot get out of you, it cannot get into you.” — R. H. Porter.
«•It's easier to shriek protest against wrong than to do right. When every man does his duty toward himself and his neighbor there won't be any need of dynamiting the man on the next block — but that's a long way off, and the dynamite may help. It wasn't invented in Christ's time but crucifixes were popular then. I don't know. Nobody knows. Some try dynamite and some try brotherly love and some just howl and beat the air and try nothing. I'd like to be here in 500 years and see how things have worked out — only I'm afraid human nature'd be pretty much the same as it is now, and if it was, there'd still be brotherly lovers and dynamiters and howlers. I'm hoping though that I'd have grown a little in the 500 years. Even a sprout or two'd be a start. There's lots of growing time in eternity.'
“ The idea was old enough. It went back to the Ten Commandments, and Buddha, and Confucius, and the beginning of thought. It had been preached at her from the most fashionable pulpits in the land ; but some way or other, the little old man, with the thin, thoughtful face and the shabby clothes, and the quiet voice had made the thing sound different. Perhaps the howling and dynamiting had opened her eyes to the possibilities of brotherly love. Perhaps, after all, that was their part in the scheme of things. At any rate, here was a starting point. She would take herself in hand and her neighbor ; but who was her neighbor ? ” Eleanor Hoyt Brainerd, in How Could You, Jean.
The Treatment of Wrong, Doers by Society is not so easy a thing to settle. It includes all the question of the treatment of the criminals in our prisons. For fuller material for the discussion of this point write to the Massachusetts Prison Association, 39 Court St., Boston, Mass., or to similar associations in the other states.
One thing, however, is certain. Punishment of a criminal must not be for the purpose of revenge, but of reformation. There has been great progress in the view of the treatment of the criminal within the past few years. “The new view is attracting attention. It magnifies the manhood of the offender instead of his criminality. It emphasizes the obligation to prevent a boy or a man from becoming a criminal, by the personal work of individuals and the use of all the social agencies which keep men good. It tolerates no criminal-making forces.
“ It is held that, if, in spite of all that is done, an offender is produced, and comes into the hands of the court, the good citizen should coöperate in saving him. If he goes to prison, the good citizen will insist that a definite effort be made there to reform him, and when he is released, the individual and the state should coöperate for his restoration. Always, his future, rather than his past, should be the object of attention.
“ The offender will always be a part of society. He may go to court and to the prison, but, changed or unchanged, he returns to take his place in the community, like any other citizen, and every citizen has an interest in him. If he is ' overtaken in a fault' it is the business of good people to restore' him.
“ Only coöperation between individuals and the public authorities, and the use of all the conserving agencies of society, can solve this great social problem and reduce the volume of crime.” — Secretary Warren F. Spaulding, of the Prison Commission.