ON THE LAM 1Sam 21-24
ON THE LAM
1 Samuel 21-24
BREAD, SWORD, AND ANTICS 1 Samuel 21
CONTEXT: Verse 1 concludes chapter 20, where Sha’ul’s intention to kill him having been made clear, David separates from Y’honatan with pledges of loyalty. I repeat the verse here as segue.
Nov (sometimes written Nob) is referred to as a city of priests (22:19). Its location has not been definitely identified but it may have been in Benjamin territory, northeast of Jerusalem. Likely, it would have featured a contemporary version of a pre Yahhwistic sanctuary, where an out of favor political figure might find safety.
Golyat’s sword, may have been made of iron, new technology introduced to the area by the Philistines, thus opening the Iron Age of archaeology.
David hopes for protection from Achish the P’lishti king of Gat.
GLOSSARY: Kohen (v.2), “priest”, literally is “one who serves.” Qodesh(v.5), frequently translated “holy,” means “in a condition of specialness.” Bread offered at a sanctuary is designated qodesh q’doshim, “holy of holies,” to be consumed by the priest at the sanctuary. Soldiers, referred to here as “guys” or “lads,” prepared for battle by abstaining from sex with women. This made them qodesh. Their weapons, too, had to be qodesh. cleansed of blood.
Lechem hapanim(v.7), mentioned in the parenthesized gloss, is “face bread,” displayed on a table in the sanctuary. Leviticus 24:5-9 describes a process in which twelve loaves were specially baked and set out, and replaced with fresh loaves each Shabbat, when they were consumed by the kohanim. In the preceding verses, Achimelech simply calls the bread qodesh (holy, having been set before God). I suspect calling it lechem panim to be a late gloss and have edited it out of the story by enclosing it in parentheses.
Ephod (v.10) is a cultic object, probably fabric, sometimes a free standing as a statue and other times worn by the kohen as an apron. It functions in divination. Exodus 28: 6-14 is a late description.
1David rose and left. Jonathan returned to town. 2David went to Nov, to Achimelech the kohen. Achimelech trembled at meeting David: “Why are you alone? Not one with you?”
3David replied: “The king ordered me on a mission, ‘Let no man know a thing about the mission on which I am sending you, or the orders.’ As for my guys, I have assigned them to a place not to be named. 4Now, what do you have at hand? Can you give me five breads? Or whatever?”
5Said the kohen: “I have no ordinary bread at hand, only qodesh. Have the guys abstained from women?”
6“Women indeed are shut to us since the day before yesterday when I left. Their weapons were qodesh though it was an ordinary journey. They will be especially careful about their weapons today.”
7So the kohen gave him qodesh. (Because there was no bread there other than the lechem panim that had been removed from before Yahh to be replaced with warm bread on the day of its taking.) 8One of Sha’ul’s servants happened to be there that day, sequestered before Yahh. His name was Doeg the Edomi, chief shepherd to Sha’ul.
9David asked: “Do you have at hand, by any chance, a spear or sword? I was unable to take my sword and weapons, so urgent was the king’s mission.”
10“The sword of Golyat the Plishti whom you killed in the Elah valley! Here it is, wrapped in a garment behind the ephod. Take it if you wish. There is none but this here.”
“There is none like it. Give it to me.”
11That day David got up and fled from Sha’ul to Achish, king of Gat. 12The servants of Achish said to him: “Isn’t this David, king of the land? Isn’t this the one they sing about in the dances,
‘Sha’ul killed by the thousands but David by the myriads?”
13David took these words to heart and was very afraid of Achish, king of Gat. 14So he put on an antic disposition. In their hands he acted wild, marking up the doors of the gate, drooling into his beard.
15Achish said to his servants: “Hey, you see this is a crazy man. Why do you bring him to me? 16Do I lack crazies that you had to bring him here to go crazy on me? Does this one have to come to my house?”
INSURGENCY 1 Samuel 22
CONTEXT: Prophets and priests were thought to have direct access to the deity, priests through divination, prophets through inspiration or revelation. Their advice carried special weight. The prophet, Gad, first mentioned here, reappears at a fateful moment towards the end of the story of David. There he is called “David’s seer,” and comes to offer his client a choice between three punishments. (II Samuel 24:11) Evyatar the priest has an ephod, an apron like ritual garment associated with divination. In the Exodus description, a pocket in the ephod held the urim and tumim, the divination devices, whatever they were. Priestly divination delivered a yes/no answer.
The fortress in v.4 is not identified.
I have emended the position of 23:6, where it adds drama to the narrative. In its Masoretic position the line reads like a gloss, a prosaic explanation of events.
GLOSSARY: v14 Chatan=son-in-law. v 15 Chalilah is a negative interjection that deserves to be left in Hebrew. The usual translations, “God forbid” or “far be it from me” are inadequate and unjustified by the etymology. The root is chalal, חלל, meaning “profane, desecrate” with the addition of hey, ה, at the end, indicating direction. “To the profane” would be a correct translation, approximating the English usage, “to hell with it.” In modern Hebrew the expression chas v’chalilah adds a word for “pity” for an idiom that further eludes English translation.
v19 “Mouth of the sword” is a common idiom in descriptions of battle. Early Israelite weapons were adapted from agricultural implements.
SIGNIFICANT NAMES: B’neyY’mini is a variation of Benjamin, Sha’ul’s tribe (9:1). The king uses a form that can also signify: “my right hand men.”
BenYishai is David’s patronym.
1David left there and escaped to the cave of Adullam, [in the mountains west of BetLechem.] His brothers heard and his whole family went down to him there. 2And everyone in need or who had a creditor, everyone who was embittered gathered to him there. He became commander of about four hundred men.
3From there he went [beyond the Yarden] to Mitspeh in Moav and spoke to the king of Moav: “Let my father and mother stay with you till I know what God will do for me.” 4He left them with the king and they stayed with him all the days David was at the fortress.
5Gad the prophet said to David: “Don’t stay in the fortress. Leave for the land of Y’hudah.” So David left for the Cheret Forest.
6Meanwhile, Sha’ul sat at Giv’ah, beneath the tamarisk on the hill, his shield at hand and all his servants standing by. Having heard that David and his men had been discovered, 7he said to his servants: “Listen, my B’neyY’mini: Is BenYishai, too, giving all of you fields and vineyards and making all of you commanders of battalions and companies? 8Is that why you have all conspired against me? No one lets me know when my son cuts a deal with BenYishai? Not one of you suffers with me! And lets me know that my son has incited my servant against me in an ambush on just such a day as this.”
9Then Doeg the Edomi, standing among Sha’ul’s servants, responded: “I saw that BenYishai had come to Nov, to Achimelech benAchituv. 10Achimelech consulted Yahh for him and gave him provisions. He also gave him the sword of Golyat the P’lishti.”
11The king sent and summoned Achimelech benAchituv the kohen and his entire family of kohanim in Nov. They all came to the king.
12“Listen to me, BenAchituv!”
“Yes sir,” he replied.
13“Why did you plot against me, you and BenYishai, by your giving him bread and a sword and consulting god for him? To ambush me on just such a day as this?”
14Achimelech replied to the king: “Who of all your servants is as faithful as David? Chatan to the king! Would he desert your guard? Honored in your house! 15Did I just start today consulting god for him? Chalilah for me! Let the king not accuse his servant and his family, for your servant knew nothing of this. Not a thing big or small.”
16“You die, Achimelech! You and your whole family,” said the king.
17To his runners who were standing by he said: “Go around and kill the kohanim of Yahh, for their hand is with David. They knew he was a fugitive and they didn’t let me know.”
But the king’s servants did not want to lift a hand to kill the kohanim of Yahh. 18So the king said to Doeg: “You go around the kohanim and strike them dead!”
And so Doeg the Edomi went around and struck among the kohanim. That day he had eighty-five men who bore the linen ephod killed. 19As for Nov, city of kohanim, Sha’ul struck by the mouth of the sword men, women, children, even nursing babies, and ox, ass, and sheep, all put to the mouth of the sword.
20One son of Achimelech escaped, Evyatar, and he fled after David. 21Evyatar told David that Sha’ul had killed the kohanim of Yahh.
22David said to Evyatar: “I knew on that day that Doeg the Edomi was there, and that he would tell Sha’ul. I am responsible for all the lives of your father’s family. 23Stay with me. Don’t be afraid. Who seeks your life will have to seek mine first. You’ll be in safe keeping with me.”
23:6It happened that when Evyatar benAchimelech fled to David he brought with him an ephod.
NARROW ESCAPES 1 Samuel 23
CONTEXT v2 “Consulted Yahh” in this context, means using the ephod, perhaps with the aid of a kohen, to arrive at a yes/no answer to a question. v14 “Strongholds” generally understood to be natural formations in the mountains, easy to hide in and to defend. v28, a geographic interpolation, indicated by parentheses.
1They told David: “The P’lishtim are fighting at Q’ilah [in the foothills] and plundering the threshing floors.” 2David consulted Yahh: “Should I go, strike these P’lishtim?” The answer: “Go, strike among the P’lishtim and save Q’ilah.”
3But David’s men said to him: “Hey, we are afraid here in Y’hudah. How then if we go to Q’ilah? To the P’lishti lines?”
4David further consulted Yahh and Yahh answered: “Rise! Go down to Q’ilah for I am putting the P’lishitim into your hands.” 5So David and his men went to Q’ilah and fought with the P’lishtim. He rustled their livestock and struck a mighty blow, saving the residents of Q’ilah.
7It was reported to Sha’ul that David had arrived at Q’ilah. “God has sold him into my hand,” said Sha’ul. “He is trapped in a double gated and barred city.”
8Sha’ul called to war his whole people to descend on K’ilah and besieged David and his men. 9David knew that Sha’ul was plotting evil against him, so he said to the priest, Evyatar: “Bring the ephod.”
10David spoke: “Yahh, God of Yisrael. Your servant has clearly heard that Sha’ul seeks to come to K’ilah and to destroy the city on my account. 11Will Sha’ul descend as your servant has heard? O Yahh, God of Yisrael, tell your servant.”
“He shall descend.”
12“Will the burghers of K’ilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Sha’ul?”
“They will deliver.”
13So David rose, and, along with his men, about six hundred, exited K’ilah and went evasively here and there. Sha’ul was told that David had escaped from K’ilah so he called off the expedition.
14David stayed in the wilderness, in the strongholds, and in the wild mountainous area near Zif, [a town in the mountains a few miles southeast of Hevron.] Sha’ul sought him continuously but God did not give him up into his hand. 15David, in the Zif wilderness, in the woods, observed Sha’ul out to seek his life.
16Y’honatan rose and went to David in the woods. He strengthened his hand in God: 17“Fear not. My father Sha’ul’s hand will not find you. You will reign over Yisrael and I shall become second to you. Even my father knows it.”
18The two of them, David and Y’honatan, cut a covenant [took an oath] before Yahh. David stayed in the woods while Y’honatan went home.
19Some Zifim went up to Sha’ul in Giv’ah and reported: “Know that David hides near us in the strongholds, in the woods, on Chachilah Ridge, [five miles east of Zif,] south of the badlands. 20So whenever it pleases your majesty to descend, come and it shall be ours to deliver him into the hand of the king.”
21Sha’ul replied: “Yahh bless you. You have taken pity on me. 22Go. Prepare further, know precisely his place, wherever he sets his foot. Who has seen him there? For I am told that he is most cunning. 23See that you know all his hiding places. Return to me when the time is right and I shall go with you. And––if he is in the land–I shall search him out with all the battalions of Y’hudah.” 24The Zifim rose and left the presence of Sha’ul.
David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, [a town a few miles south of Zif.From there he went as far as the] Aravah plain, south of the badlands. 25When Sha’ul and his men went out in search, David was informed. He descended the rock but stayed in the Maon wilderness. Sha’ul heard and pursued David there. 26Sha’ul went to one side of the mountain while David and his men were at the other side. David was in a hurry to get away, for Sha’ul and his men had surrounded him and his men to capture them. 27Just then a messenger arrived to Sha’ul: “Move fast. P’lishtim have raided the land.” 28So Sha’ul returned from pursuing David and went to fight the P’lishtim.
(Thus they called that place Sela Hamachl’kot, “the dividing rock.”)
MAGNANIMITY? 1 Samuel 24
CONTEXT: v22 Swearing an oath involves words and gesture. The statement would be: If I do such and such, may something bad happen to me. The “If” clause is spoken. The consequence is indicated by the gesture, e.g. finger swipe across neck.
1From there David ascended and stayed at the strongholds of Ein Gedi. 2That was reported to Sha’ul when he returned from pursuing the P’lishtim. 3Sha’ul took three battalions of select men from all Yisrael and went in search of David and his men among the mountain goat rocks. 4He arrived at the sheep folds by the road. There was a cave nearby and Sha’ul entered to “cover his legs” while David and his men were sitting in the depths of the cave.
5David’s men said to him: “Here’s the day Yahh meant when He told you, ‘Behold, I give your enemy into your hand.’ Do him what you see as good.”
So David rose and stealthily cut a corner of Sha’ul’s robe. 6Immediately his conscience struck him for that cutting. 7He said to his men: “Chalilah for me by Yahh that I should do such a thing to my lord, the anointed of Yahh, to lift my hand against him. He is Yahh’s anointed!” 8David checked his men with these words for he did not allow them to stand against Sha’ul. And so Sha’ul rose from the cave and continued on the road.
9Afterwards David rose and left the cave and shouted to Sha’ul: “My lord the King!” Sha’ul looked back. David bowed face to the ground, prostrate. 10Then he said: “Why have you listened to people’s words that say, ‘David seeks your harm’? 11This very day your eyes have seen that Yahh gave you into my hand in the cave. They said to kill you but I felt mercy for you. I will not lift my hand against my lord for he is Yahh’s anointed. 12And, my father, look, see the corner of your robe in my hand. By my cutting the corner of your robe rather than killing you, see and know that there is in me no harm or crime. I have not sinned against you and yet you hunt my life to take it. 13Yahh judge between me and you. Yahh avenged me against you and so my hand will not be against you. 14As the old saying goes, ‘Wickedness from wicked ones.’ My hand shall not be against you.15Who is it that the king of Yisrael is after? Whom are you chasing? A dead dog? A single flea? 16As God be arbiter: judge between me and you. (Then he will see. He will advocate for me and defend me from your hand.”)
17Once David had finished this speech Sha’ul wept aloud: “Is that your voice, David. My son? 18You are a better man than I! You repaid me the good and I repaid you the bad. 19You’ve shown me now by doing me a good: Yahh delivered me into your hand and you didn’t kill me. 20Does a man find his enemy and send him a good way? May Yahh reward you with good for this day, for what you did me. 21Indeed, now I know that you shall reign. The kingdom of Yisrael will rise in your hand. 22Now swear to me by Yahh: If you cut off my descendents after me… If you annihilate my name from my family...”
23David swore the oath to Sha’ul. Sha’ul went home. David and his men ascended to the stronghold.
© Rabbi David L. Kline http://good-to-be-a-jew.blogspot.com/