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November 15, 2023

First Samuel Part 10

Today we conclude our study of First Samuel by doing a “broad stroke” of the last 5 chapters. Chapter 27 begins with these words: “Then David said in his heart…” David engages in self dialog.


First Samuel


First Samuel 27:1 to 31:13

Today we conclude our study of First Samuel by doing a “broad stroke” of the last 5 chapters. Chapter 27 begins with these words: “Then David said in his heart…” David engages in self dialog. He reasons with himself. You have to understand that David has been on the run from Saul for over 10 years now. So David is down. He’s depressed. As David talks to himself, he’s focused on his present circumstance, on what he’s going through right now. He’s in despair.

READ 1 Samuel 27:1.

David is quite depressed, which affects his mindset. He’s so focused on his present problems that he seems to have forgotten his past experiences. This is quite a contrast from the David of 1 Samuel Chapter 17 who was about to face Goliath. Back then, David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (17:37). This is also quite a contrast from the psalmist David who in Psalm 42:11 writes, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” We don’t hear any of this in this passage. It is so easy when we’re depressed to become forgetful. But that’s when we need to remember the most…remember what God has done for us in the past and what God has promised us in His word.

David comes to 2 wrong conclusions in this verse. (1) “I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul.” He has forgotten what Saul himself said at the end of Chapter 24: “I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand” (24:20). He has forgotten the words of Abigail in Chapter 25: “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” (25:29). He has forgotten the words that Saul just spoke to him at the end of Chapter 26: “Blessed be you, my son David! You will do many things and will succeed in them” (26:25). He had also forgot the words of Samuel (13:14) and Jonathan (23:17) who had both proclaimed that he would be the future king. So David is wrong in concluding that he will perish at the hand of Saul. (2) He also wrongly concludes that “There is nothing better for me than that I should escape to the land of the Philistines.” Oh really, David? You just got done complaining that being chased all over the place had a negative impact on you spiritually by forcing you out of the land of your inheritance to go live among pagans who worship other gods. And now all of a sudden you decide that this is your best option! No, David, you have another option. Stay in Israel! Head south into the Negev, just like you did before.

There’s no evidence in this passage that David seeks the Lord’s guidance in where to go next. Instead he reasons to himself that heading west to Philistia is his best option. It’s an impulsive decision and not a good one. David leads his men and moves their families to a godless land and there he allies himself with an enemy of Israel, King Achish, king of Gath. King Achish gives David the town of Ziklag in which to live and use as a base of operation. Ziklag is actually a town located in Judah which the Philistines had captured but never occupied. As we read on, David misleads King Achish into believing that he and his men are routinely raiding the cities of the Israelites. However, in reality he and his men are going against the enemies of both Israel and Philistia (namely, Amalekites, Geshurites, and Gerzites). David could have done that had he remained in the southern part of Judah. He did not have to go to Philistia and ally himself with King Achish. By doing this David places himself in a rather compromising situation. In an attempt to solve one problem, David actually creates another problem, which we see at the beginning of Chapter 28…

READ 1 Samuel 28:1-2

What a terrible position David has put himself and his 600 men in! Are they really going to go into battle against Israel and kill their own brothers?

The answer to that question will come in Chapters 29 and 30 which is where this story continues. But in the meantime the author interjects the story told in Chapter 28 of Saul visiting the witch of En-dor. Chronologically Chap 28 takes place after Chap 30. The reason the author places it here is that he once again wants to show a contrast between David and Saul. We were just told in Chapter 27 that David’s in deep despair, reasoning in his own heart, not seeking the Lord’s guidance. As a result he makes a poor decision. Now in Chapter 28 we’re told that King Saul is in deep despair.

READ 1 Samuel 28:4-7

What is Saul so afraid of? Death. It says here that Saul inquires of the Lord, but the Lord does not answer him. Why not? Remember back in Chapter 15 Saul had disobeyed the Lord and God had rejected Saul from being king. Then in Chapter 16 we’re told that “the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul” (16:14). As far as we know there are no prophets in Israel at this time. Samuel has died and God has not raised up any other prophets in Israel. Gad, the only other prophet we know about, is with David. There are no priests of God in Israel because Saul had all of them killed back in Chapter 22. Saul’s been doing things his way without any regard for God or God’s will or God’s servants and now, when crisis arises, Saul seeks spiritual guidance. But there’s no one to talk to! Saul has disobeyed God, ignored God for so long that God finally quit talking to him.

By the way, if you don’t think that can happen to us today, here in the church age, think again. In Revelation Chaps 2-3, the letters to the 7 churches, Jesus repeatedly says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” This implies that some believers aren’t listening to God. God by His grace continues to work in our lives, in an effort to reach us, but unfortunately, far too often, His people aren’t listening. In 1 Sam 26 (last week’s lesson) God tried to break thru Saul’s crusty heart one more time. And Saul did finally admit that he had sinned. As we read that we wonder, will Saul finally turn his life around? Will he repent? Then you come to Chapter 28 and read this and you realize that Saul has fallen so far spiritually that he is not going to. What a sad commentary on a man who started out so well!

And so it is that Saul desperately seeks alternative means to get spiritual direction. He goes to a medium, a witch, a spiritist, to the occult.

Verse 3 of this chapter informs us that when Samuel died, “Saul had put the mediums and the necromancers [those who contact the dead] out of the land.” That was a good thing. After all Exodus 22:18 forbids that a sorceress (witch, medium) should even live among God’s people. Lev 20:6 says, “If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.” Deuteronomy 18 lists those who practice the deeds of mediums and necromancers as an abomination to the Lord. So what does Saul do? He turns to the very thing that God has forbidden, that God hates.

Saul disguises himself and goes to En-dor and meets secretly with a woman who is a medium. He asks her to call up Samuel from the dead… which she does. Now the million dollar question is: was the spirit that this medium called up really Samuel? Some commentaries will argue “yes” because when the woman sees Samuel she is startled and cries out and, besides, the scripture says it was Samuel. Some will argue “no” because Satan is a master of deceit who can imitate and perform miraculous wonders. And in this passage Saul never actually sees Samuel.

I don’t really know either. But it doesn’t matter whether it was actually Samuel or a demon. God is sovereign and He is perfectly capable of putting His word, His message into even a demon’s mouth. The message Saul receives from God here thru Samuel or whoever or whatever it is, is the same message that he had received from Samuel back in 1 Sam 15:26-30.

READ 1 Samuel 28:17-19

These aren’t exactly the words Saul wants to hear (I’m not sure what he expected to hear). Saul is filled with dread but he ends up having a big meal with the witch and then heads off into the night. The next day, as predicted, Saul and 3 of his sons will die on the battlefield.

In Chapter 29 we continue our story about David and his men as they are allied with the Philistines and about to go into battle against Israel.

READ 1 Samuel 29:2-7

God intervenes. Due to the objections of the Philistine commanders, David and his men are released from the battlefront and sent home. As David and his men arrive back in Ziklag, something is not quite right.

READ 1 Samuel 30:1-5

Can you imagine getting home only to find that your town has been burned and all your family is gone? How devastating! At this point they have no idea who it was that did this. They don’t know where their loved ones have been taken. Things have just gone from bad to worse!

READ 1 Samuel 30:6

David is in great distress. He fears for his own life. He’s concerned for the welfare of his two wives and his family. What does David do in response to all this? He seeks spiritual guidance. He “strengthens himself in the Lord.” David turns to God and in the verses that follow David inquires of the Lord what to do. David seeks advice and direction from God. And God gives it to him. David and his men take up the pursuit of those who had raided Ziklag.

Do you see the contrast between David and Saul? Both David and Saul, in great distress and in fear of their own lives, seek spiritual advice. Saul gets his thru a medium. David gets his thru a priest of God (verse 7 says it came thru Abiathar the priest). The message Saul receives: “Tomorrow you’re going to be defeated and die.” David’s message: “Go, pursue, for you will be victorious.”

David and his 600 men head out. At this point they don’t know exactly who they’re going after. But they head southward toward the land of their enemies. David trusts that the Lord will guide them. Along the way we’re told that 200 of David’s men drop out. They’re exhausted and unable to keep going. David and the rest of his men continue the pursuit and eventually they run across this guy out in the middle of nowhere…

READ 1 Samuel 30:11-15

This is divine intervention. An Egyptian provides David the guidance he needs. He lets David know who’s responsible for taking his family (the Amalekites) and he promises to lead David to their location. David eventually overtakes the Amalekites. They are partying it up, eating, drinking and dancing. David and his men strike them all down. They successfully rescue their wives and children and recover all of their possessions. They even take additional spoils of flocks, herds and livestock.

On their way back to Ziklag they stop by the brook Besor where they had left their 200 buddies behind (too tired to continue the pursuit). Some of David’s men who had fought with him against the Amalekites, referred to in v 22 as “worthless fellows” say, “We will not share any of the spoil with these guys.” David shows tremendous leadership, wisdom and insight and he sets them straight…

READ 1 Samuel 30:23-24

David knows that it is the Lord God who has given them the victory over the Amalekites and not their own doing. He also acknowledges that these 200 men who had remained behind performed a valuable service by watching their baggage. David not only makes the decision to share the spoils with all 600 of his men but he gives some of the spoils to the elders of Judah, referred to in v 26 as “his friends.” With this great victory and his ever growing popularity the stage is now set for David to become the king of Judah.

Chapter 31 occurs chronologically about the same time that David is down in the south dealing with the Amalekites in Chapter 30. David fared pretty well against the Amalekites. We just saw that. But Saul does not fare so well in his battle with the Philistines.

READ 1 Samuel 31:1-6

The king is dead! Saul, the champion of Israel lays lifeless on Mount Gilboa. Of course, Saul’s death is good news to the Philistines. They cut off Saul’s head and strip off his armor. This is exactly what Israel had done years before to the Philistine’s champion, Goliath (17:51-54). In one final act of disrespect the Philistines take Saul’s and his son’s dead bodies and fasten them to the city wall of Beth-shan. It doesn’t end well for Saul. However, the writer of 1 Samuel doesn’t leave it there.

READ 1 Samuel 31:11-13.

The people of Jabesh-gilead in a final act of kindness, honor King Saul. They never forgot what Saul did for them 40 years before, back in Chap 11, when he saved them from the Ammonites. The writer of First Samuel reminds us here at the end that Saul had a good beginning as king of Israel. The tragic conclusion to this book actually ends on a positive note!

Following Saul’s death, David becomes the king of Judah. Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, is made king of Israel. It will be another 7 years before David, the Lord’s anointed, finally rules as king over a united Israel – 2 Samuel Chapter 5. All in God’s perfect timetable.

Epilogue (I have Liam Goligher a Scottish preacher to thank for this)

Saul and his sons are dead on the battlefield. But back in 1 Sam 2:6, Hannah’s song, she sang these words: “The LORD kills and brings to life…” So when are we going to see that? Well we’re not going to see it with Saul, the first anointed king of Israel. But we will see with the last anointed King of Israel (Acts 4:27, 10:38, John 1:49, 19:19). Jesus, the Christ, our Messiah, was crucified on a cross for our sins, laid in a tomb, but on the third day He arose triumphant over death! Colossians 2:15 says, “He disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.” When those Philistine soldiers were scavenging around the dead bodies on Mount Gilboa and discovered the dead body of King Saul they stripped him of his armor and then hung his body on the city wall. Colossians tells us that Jesus, the Lord’s anointed, strips the armor off the powers of darkness, strips them of all their power over humanity, takes their weapons from them, has authority over them and puts them to an open shame. He triumphs over them by His resurrection and by His ascension to the throne of God. “The king is dead! Long live the King! Long live THE KING!”    

First Samuel 27:1 to 31:13

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