The Empires of the Bible from the Confusion of Tongues to the Babylonian Captivity
CHAPTER IX. THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL—SAUL AND DAVID
ISRAEL had not only determined that they would have a king, but they had also decided in their own minds who their king should be. “All the desire of Israel” was already upon Saul, the son of Kish. 1 And as in the matter of the kingdom itself, so in this, the Lord let them have their own way—“I gave them a king in mine anger.” EB 158.1
2. Saul was given to them, and Samuel anointed him king over Israel. “And Samuel said unto all Israel, Behold, I have hearkened unto your voice in all that ye said unto me, and have made a king over you. And now, behold, the king walketh before you: and I am old and gray-headed; and, behold, my sons are with you: and I have walked before you from my childhood unto this day. Behold, here I am: witness against me before the Lord, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it to you. And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken aught of any man’s hand. And he said unto them, The Lord is witness against you, and His anointed is witness this day, that ye have not found aught in my hand. And they answered, He is witness. EB 158.2
3. “And Samuel said unto the people, It is the Lord that advanced Moses and Aaron, and that brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt. Now therefore stand still, that I may reason with you before the Lord of all the righteous acts of the Lord, which He did to you and to your fathers. When Jacob was come into Egypt, and your fathers cried unto the Lord, then the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, which brought forth your fathers out of Egypt, and made them dwell in this place. And when they forgot the Lord their God, He sold them into the hand of Sisera, captain of the host of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab, and they fought against them. And they cried unto the Lord, and said, We have sinned, because we have forsaken the Lord, and have served Baalim and Ashtaroth: but now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve thee. And the Lord sent Jerubbaal, and Bedan, and Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and ye dwelled safe. And when ye saw that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon came against you, ye said unto me, Nay; but a king shall reign over us: when the Lord your God was your King. Now therefore, behold the king whom ye have chosen, and whom ye have desired; and, behold, the Lord hath set a king over you. If ye will fear the Lord, and serve Him, and obey His voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord; then shall both ye and also the king that reigneth over you continue following the Lord your God: but if ye will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then shall the hand of the Lord be against you, as it was against your fathers. EB 158.3
4. “Now therefore stand and see this great thing, which the Lord will do before your eyes. Is it not wheat harvest to-day? I will call unto the Lord, and he shall send thunder and rain; that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which ye have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking you a king. So Samuel called unto the Lord; and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day: and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel. And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the Lord thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king. EB 159.1
5. “And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart; and turn ye not aside; for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain. For the Lord will not forsake His people for His great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the Lord to make you His people. Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way: only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you. But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king. 2 EB 159.2
6. Israel had rejected the Lord; yet the Lord would not forsake them. He still sought to guide the nation, communicating His will by prophets; but in the great majority of cases throughout their whole history, the kings persecuted the prophets, putting themselves between God and the people, and led the people away from God. All this was inevitably involved in their rejecting the government of God, and setting up one after their own hearts like all the nations. Yet for all this the Lord would not forsake them. He made even the kingship an additional element in teaching them His eternal purpose. He made it to them a reminder of the eternal kingdom which He would establish in the consummation of His purpose concerning the earth. EB 160.1
7. Saul failed to walk in the way of the Lord. He rejected the word of the Lord; and therefore the Lord rejected him from being king, and sent Samuel to anoint David king over Israel in his stead—about 1063 B. C. And David’s house, and David’s throne, God established forevermore—seeing him “As a type of the Man who is on high.” 3 And though David was king by divine right and sacred anointing, yet so long as Saul was in possession of the Kingship, he allowed himself to be outlawed and hunted for his life like a “flea,” or “a partridge in the mountains,” rather than to put himself forward one step toward taking the kingdom. Repeatedly also when Saul was completely in his power, he refused to lift a hand against him, and also restrained his guards from touching him. God had chosen him to be king without any aspiration on his own part; and he would allow God to bring him to the kingdom in His own time and in the same way. EB 160.2
8. As soon as Saul knew that David was destined to the kingship of Israel, he determined to compass his destruction. At first he tried to kill him with his own hand, and cast a javelin at him twice; but David was on the alert and dodged it both times. Then Saul thought to have the Philistines to kill him, and so sent him with a small force on perilous expeditions; but these became only opportunities for greater successes which, in turn, brought David more in favor with the people. To awaken in David an ambition for the kingship and so to obtain a plausible excuse for killing him, Saul offered to give his elder daughter to David for a wife. When he found that this scheme was also a failure, he gave the daughter to another man. After this Saul learned that his younger daughter—Michal—was in love with David, and his hope revived; but only again to be dashed—Michal was offered to David upon condition that he should accomplish an expedition which Saul supposed must surely cause his death. David not only lived through it, but he did twice as much as was required. Saul not daring to break his word the second time before all the people, was obliged to bestow on David the dignity of the position of “son-in-law to the king,” as the reward of valor, which only gave to David more influence than ever with the people. “And Saul was yet the more afraid of David; and Saul became David’s enemy continually.” 4 EB 161.1
9. Seeing all his subterfuges not only failing but working more and more the opposite of what he desired, Saul returned to his original purpose of compassing by his own hand the destruction of David. Again he launched a javelin at him; and again David dodged it; “and he smote the javelin into the wall: and David fled, and escaped that night. Saul also sent messengers unto David’s house, to watch him, and to slay him in the morning: and Michal David’s wife told him, saying, If thou save not thy life to-night, to-morrow thou shalt be slain.” While they were watching the house to kill him David committed himself to the Lord in what is now the fiftyninth psalm. 5 EB 161.2
“Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God:
Set me on high from them that rise up against me.
Deliver me from the workers of iniquity,
And save me from the bloodthirsty men.
For, lo, they lie in wait for my soul;
The mighty gather themselves together against me:
Not for my transgression, nor for my sin, O Lord.
They run and prepare themselves without my fault:
Awake thou to help me, and behold.
Even thou, O Lord God of Hosts, the God of Israel,
Arise to visit all the heathen:
Be not merciful to any wicked transgressors. Selah.
They return at evening, they make a noise like a dog,
And go round about the city.
Behold, they belch out with their mouth:
Swords are in their lips:
For who, say they, doth hear?
But thou, O Lord, shalt laugh at them;
Thou shalt have all the heathen in derision.
O my strength, I will wait upon thee:
For God is my high tower.
The God of my mercy shall prevent me:
God shall let me see my desire upon mine enemies.
Slay them not, lest my people forget:
Scatter them by thy power, and bring them down,
O Lord our shield.
For the sin of their mouth, and the words o their lips,
Let them even be taken in their pride,
And for cursing and lying which they speak.
Consume them in wrath, consume them, that they be no more:
And let them know that God ruleth in Jacob,
Unto the ends of the earth. Selah.
And at evening let them return, let them make a noise like a dog,
And go round about the city.
They shall wander up and down for meat,
And tarry all night if they be not satisfied.
But I will sing of thy strength;
Yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning:
For thou hast been my high tower,
And a refuge in the day of my distress.
Unto thee, O my strength, will I sing praises:
For God is my high tower, the God of my mercy.”
10. Then “Michal let David down through a window: and he went, and fled, and escaped,” “and came to Samuel to Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth.”
11. Not long after this, there came the feast of the new moon, and Saul’s commanders were expected to celebrate the feast at his table and with him. David, knowing Saul’s mind toward him, chose not to attend; but sent by Jonathan an excuse for his absence. When they were all seated at the table at the feast, Saul noticed that David’s place was empty; but said nothing to any one about it that day. The next day, however, Saul asked Jonathan why David was not yet come to the feast. Jonathan answered that upon David’s request, he had allowed him to be absent. At this Saul’s anger flamed against Jonathan: he denounced him as a “son of perverse rebellion,” and commanded him to send and fetch David, for he should surely die. Jonathan asked, “Wherefore shall he be slain? what hath he done? And Saul cast a javelin at him to smite him: whereby Jonathan knew that it was determined of his father to slay David.” Jonathan conveyed to David this information, and again David fled, and came “to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest.” From Ahimelech he got bread for himself and for the few men that were with him; and also the sword of Goliath, which had been laid up in the sanctuary as a trophy; and “fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. And the servants of Achish said unto him, Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands? And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath.” EB 163.1
12. Then in his fear he cried unto God, in what is now the fiftysixth psalm:— EB 164.1
“Be merciful unto me, O God; for man would swallow me up:
All the day long he fighting oppresseth me.
Mine enemies would swallow me up all the day long:
For they be many that fight proudly against me.
What time I am afraid,
I will put my trust in thee.
In God I will praise His word:
In God have I put my trust, I will not be afraid;
What can flesh do unto me?
All the day long they wrest my words:
All their thoughts are against me for evil.
They gather themselves together, they hide themselves,
They mark my steps,
Even as they have waited for my soul.
Shall they escape by iniquity?
In anger cast down the peoples, O God.
Thou tellest my wanderings:
Put thou my tears into thy bottle;
Are they not in thy book?
Then shall mine enemies turn back in the day that I call:
This I know, that God is for me.
In God will I praise His word:
In the Lord will I praise His word.
In God have I put my trust, I will not be afraid;
What can men do unto me?
Thy vows are upon me, O God:
I will render thank offerings unto thee.
For thou hast delivered my soul from death:
Hast thou not delivered my feet from failing,
That I may walk before God
In the light of the living?”
13. At Gath David “changed his behavior before them, and feigned himself mad.” And Achish thought that he was really mad, and said to those who had arrested him, “Lo, ye see the man is mad: wherefore then have ye brought him to me? Have I need of madmen, that ye have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?” EB 165.1
14. This gave David his opportunity, and he “escaped to the cave of Adullam:” and there he made the prayer that is now the fifty-seventh psalm:— EB 165.2
“Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me;
For my soul taketh refuge in thee:
Yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I take refuge,
Until these calamities be overpast.
I will cry unto God Most High;
Unto God that performeth all things for me.
He shall send from heaven, and save me,
When he that would swallow me up reproacheth; Selah.
God shall send forth His mercy and His truth.
My soul is among lions;
I life among them that are set on fire,
Even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
And their tongue a sharp sword.
Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens;
Let thy glory be above all the earth.
They have prepared a net for my steps;
My soul is bowed down:
They have digged a pit before me;
They are fallen into the midst thereof themselves Selah.
My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed:
I will sing, yea, I will sing praises
Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp;
I myself will awake right early.
I will give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the peoples:
I will sing praises unto thee among the nations.
For thy mercy is great unto the heavens,
And thy truth unto the skies.
Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens;
Let the glory be above all the earth.”
15. When David’s “brethren and all his father’s house heard” that he was at the cave of Adullam, “they went down thither to him,’ and yet others also gathered there to him till “there were with him four hundred men;” “and he became a captain over them.” “And David went thence to Mizpeh of Moab: and he said unto the king of Moab, Let my father and my mother, I pray thee, come forth, and be with you, till I know what God will do for me. And he brought them before the king of Moab: and they dwelt with him all the while that David was in the hold. And the prophet Gad said unto David, Abide not in the hold; depart, and get thee into the land of Judah. Then David departed, and came into the forest of Hareth.” EB 166.1
16. Saul, being unable to discover where David was, accused “all his servants that stood about him” of having conspired to keep him in the dark as to David’s movements. There was among these a certain “Doeg, an Edomite, the chiefest of the herdmen that belonged to Saul.” It had happened that his man was at the house of Ahimelech the priest, the day when David came there and received the bread and the sword of Goliath as he was fleeing from Saul to Achish of Gath. And now this Doeg, hoping to find yet greater favor with his master, told Saul not only what Ahimelech had done, but more; and told all in a way that made it appear that Ahimelech had intentionally aided and armed David against Saul. This made the whole story absolutely false; for all that Ahimelech had really done, was done in perfect innocency. Saul sent and called Ahimelech and “all his father’s house, the priests that were in Nob: and they came all of them to the king.” EB 166.2
17. Then Saul said to Ahimelech, “Why have ye conspired against me, thou and the son of Jesse, in that thou hast given him bread, and a sword, and hast inquired of God for him, that he should rise against me, to lie in wait, as at this day?” Ahimelech answered, “Who is so faithful among all thy servants as David, which is the king’s son-in-law, and goeth at thy bidding, and is honorable in thine house? Did I then begin to inquire of God for him? Be it far from me: let not the king impute anything unto his servant, nor to all the house of my father: for thy servant knew nothing of all this, less or more. And the king said, Thou shalt surely die, Ahimelech, thou, and all thy father’s house.” He commanded his guard to slay the priests; but they would not move a hand against them. Doeg was there, however, and Saul said to him, “Turn thou, and fall upon the priests. And Doeg the Edomite turned, and he fell upon the priests, and slew on that day fourscore and five persons that did wear a linen ephod. And Nob, the city of the priests, smote he with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and sucklings, and oxen, and asses, and sheep with the edge of the sword. EB 166.3
18. “And one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped, and fled after David. And Abiathar showed David that Saul had slain the Lord’s priests. And David said unto Abiathar, I knew it that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul: I have occasioned the death of all the persons of thy father’s house. Abide thou with me, fear not: for he that seeketh my life seeketh thy life: but with me thou shalt be in safeguard.” Then and there, with Doeg in mind, David said that which now comprises the fifty-second psalm:— EB 167.1
“Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, O mighty man?
The mercy of God endureth continually.
Thy tongue deviseth very wickedness;
Like a sharp razor, working deceitfully.
Thou lovest evil more than good;
And lying rather than to speak righteousness. Selah.
Thou lovest all devouring words,
O thou deceitful tongue.
God shall likewise destroy thee forever,
He shall take thee up, and pluck thee out of thy tent,
And root thee out of the land of the living. Selah.
The righteous also shall see it, and fear,
And shall laugh at him, saying,
Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength;
But trusted in the abundance of his riches,
And strengthened himself in his wickedness.
But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God;
I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever.
I will give thanks forever, because thou hast done it:
And I will wait on thy name, for it is good in the presence of
19. Then it was told David, “The Philistines fight against Keilah, and they rob the threshing-floors.” He went with his band of men, which now numbered about six hundred, and defeated the Philistines and “saved the inhabitants of Keilah.” It was then told Saul that David was at Keilah; and Saul said, “God hath delivered him into mine hand; for he is shut in by entering into a town that hath gates and bars.” David inquired of the Lord, and learned that the people would certainly deliver him into the hands of Saul. He therefore made his escape at once, and took refuge “in a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God delivered him not into his hand.” “And Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God. And he said unto him, Fear not: for the hand of Saul my father shall not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee; and that also Saul my father knoweth.” EB 168.1
20. Then the Ziphites sent and told Saul that David was hiding in the wood “in the hill of Hachilah, which is on the south of Jeshimon. Now therefore, O king, come down according to all the desire of thy soul to come down; and our part shall be to deliver him into the king’s hand. And Saul said, Blessed be ye of the Lord; for ye have compassion on me.” David knew of this betrayal of him by the Ziphites, and he called upon God in the words that now form the fifty-fourth psalm:— EB 168.2
“Save me, O God, by thy name,
And judge me in thy might.
Hear my prayer, O God;
Give ear to the words of my mouth.
For strangers are risen up against me,
And violent men have sought after my soul:
They have not set God before them. Selah.
Behold, God is mine helper:
The Lord is of them that uphold my soul.
He shall requite the evil unto mine enemies:
Destroy thou them in thy truth.
With a freewill offering will I sacrifice unto thee:
I will give thanks unto thy name, O Lord, for it is good.
For He hath delivered me out of all trouble;
And mine eye hath seen my desire upon mine enemies.”
21. By the time that Saul reached the place, David had gone from the hill of Hachilah to the wilderness of Maon “in the plain on the south of Jeshimon.” Saul went into the wilderness of Maon and found him. “And David made haste to get away for fear of Saul; for Saul and his men compassed David and his men round about to take them.” But just at that moment, when Saul had him surrounded and was ready to close in on him and capture him, there came a messenger to Saul, running with all his might and shouting at the top of his panting voice the alarming word, “Haste thee, and come; for the Philistines have spread themselves upon the land!” Saul was obliged to hurry away at once to save the land from the Philistine scourge; and David was delivered. EB 169.1
22. David went from there to the wilderness of En-gedi, and took refuge in a cave. “Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats.” At that time David prayed in the words that are now the one hundred and forty-second psalm:— EB 169.2
“I cry with my voice unto the Lord;
With my voice unto the Lord do I make supplication.
I pour out my complaint before Him;
I show before Him my trouble.
When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, thou knewest my
In the way wherein I walk have they hidden a snare for me.
Look on my right hand, and see; for there is no man that
Refuge hath failed me; no man careth for my soul.
I cried unto thee, O Lord;
I said, Thou art my refuge,
My portion in the land of living.
Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low:
Deliver me from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I.
Bring my soul out of prison, that I may give thanks unto thy
The righteous shall compass me about;
For thou shalt deal bountifully with me.”
23. While Saul was hunting David this time, he went alone into the very cave where David and his men were, and sat down there. Then David’s men said exultingly to him, Now is your time. The tide has turned at last. “Behold the day of which the Lord said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee.” Under the urging of the moment, David did go so far as to cut off a piece of Saul’s robe; but even for this “David’s heart smote him.” “And he said unto his men, The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord. So David stayed his servants with these words, and suffered them not to rise against Saul. But Saul rose up out of the cave, and went on his way.” According to the promise of the Lord, David had done to his enemy what seemed to him good. EB 170.1
24. After Saul had gone out and away from the cave, David went out and called after him, and holding up the piece of his robe that he had cut off, showed by it that Saul was never in danger of any kind of harm from him. And there, in the presence of such evidence of his innocence of any harmful thought concerning Saul, David appealed to the Lord against him: “The Lord judge between me and thee, and the Lord avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.... The Lord therefore be judge, and judge between me and thee, and see, and plead my cause, and deliver me out of thine hand.” “And Saul lifted up his voice, and wept. And he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil. And thou hast showed this day how that thou hast dealt well with me: forasmuch as when the Lord had delivered me into thine hand, thou killedst me not.... And now, behold, I know well that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand. Swear now therefore unto me by the Lord, that thou wilt not cut off my seed after me, and that thou wilt not destroy my name out of my father’s house. And David sware unto Saul. And Saul went home; but David and his men gat them up unto the hold.” EB 170.2
25. David knew well that Saul could not be trusted, even after what had just occurred and after what Saul had said, and therefore he kept himself in hiding as before. About a year seems to have passed before Saul began again to hunt him. And the Ziphites again betrayed to him the hiding-place of David; for he was again “in the hill of Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon. Then Saul arose, and went down to the wilderness of Ziph, having three thousand chosen men of Israel with him, to seek David in the wilderness of Ziph.” Instead of finding David, however, David found him. For David sent out spies and found where Saul was encamped, and David and one of his men went that night to where Saul lay. EB 171.1
26. Saul was sleeping in the midst of his camp, with his bodyguard in a circle round him. David and his man penetrated to where Saul lay with his spear stuck in the ground at his head. “Then said Abishai to David, God hath surrendered this day thy enemy into thy hand; and now let me strike him through, I pray thee, with the spear, even to the earth with one blow, and I will not give him a second one. But David said to Abishai, Destroy him not; for who hath stretched forth his hand against the Lord’s anointed and remained guiltless? David said furthermore, As the Lord liveth, the Lord alone shall strike him down: either the day shall come that he die; or he shall go down into battle and perish. Far be this from me for the sake of the Lord, that I should stretch forth my hand against the Lord’s anointed; but now I pray thee, take thou the spear that is by his head, and the cruse of water,and let us go our way.” So David took the spear and the cruse of water by the head of Saul, and they went their way.” 6 EB 171.2
27. After they had reached the top of a hill some distance away, David cried out to the men in the camp and addressed Abner and told him what they had just done. Saul recognized his voice, and asked, “Is this thy voice, my son David?” David answered, “It is my voice, my lord, O king.” He then appealed again to the Lord in the justice of his cause against Saul. “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 David went on his way, and Saul returned to his place.” EB 172.1
28. David knew that even yet he could not trust Saul. Therefore he “said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines; and Saul shall despair of me, to seek me any more in any coast of Israel: so shall I escape out of his hand. And David arose, and he passed over with the six hundred men that were with him unto Achish, the son of Maoch, the king of Gath.... And it was told Saul that David was fled to Gath: and he sought no more again for him.” Achish gave to David Ziklag for a dwelling-place; “and the time that David dwelt in the country of the Philistines was a full year and four months.” EB 172.2
29. At the end of that time occurred the battle with the Philistines at Mount Gilboa, in which Saul was slain. David sincerely lamented him; and was distressed at the death of Jonathan which occurred at the same time. After the days of mourning were ended, at the word of the Lord David went up to Hebron and there began his reign as king over Israel upon the throne to which the Lord had called him so many years before, and to which the Lord had now brought him in His own time and in His own way. And by his long and patient waiting upon the Lord, asking only His way and His time, leaving himself and his times constantly in the hand of the Lord—it was because of this spirit that the Lord said of David that he was a man after His own heart. This was but the simple truth concerning David through all these tedious years. Where has there ever been upon the earth, another man who would have gone through those years as did David? EB 172.3