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David Must Die!
A Period Of Stalemate Is Followed By A Period In Which Saul Is Determined That David Must Definitely Die, Which Results In David Taking Refuge With Samuel.
Saul, obsessed with jealousy and fears for his throne could only view David’s continuing growth in popularity with suspicion. He was aware that he himself had been rejected by YHWH, and that YHWH already had his successor in sight, and he clearly thought that David was the one. He therefore began to scheme as to how he could get rid of David, before David got rid of him.
Initially this led to his discussing the need for David to die with his son Jonathan and his other advisers and courtiers (1 Samuel 19:1). We are given no details but presumably Saul must have been suggesting that he was guilty of treason. In the end, however, Jonathan managed to talk him round. But the problem was that David continued to be militarily successful, and this simply renewed Saul’s suspicions, for he was sick in mind. The result was that he made further attempts on David’s life, firstly when he was playing for him because he was having ‘one of his turns’, and then more systematically when he sought to have David arrested, presumably on a charge of treason. He had become obsessed with the thought that David must die.
Finally, recognising his parlous position, David sought help from his mentor Samuel, who was still a name in the land, for he was still the prophet of YHWH. And when Saul again sought to have him arrested, and finally went in order to do the job himself, God intervened and prevented all his attempts through irresistible acts of power.
Saul Is Determined That David Should Die, But Jonathan Intercedes For Him And His Father Alters His Position (1 Samuel 19:1-7 ).
While his followers did not fully appreciate how bad he was Saul was now a very sick man. He was seriously mentally unstable, an instability almost certainly brought on by his rejection by Samuel, even though there must have been a latent problem already there. Thus as he brooded on what in his view David was trying to do, he made it clear to his courtiers and advisers that it was becoming necessary for David to be called to account for his treasonable attitude towards the throne. No actual order appears to have been given. Indeed it would probably at this stage have been folly for him to issue one, because David was too popular. But he nevertheless made his view clearly enough known for Jonathan to be worried about it.
Stand-off situations like this between kings and powerful men are found throughout history in cases where a king wishes to get rid of a powerful noble but is unable to do it openly, because the noble has too much support. What the king therefore has to do is wait for the noble to put a foot wrong, or hope that someone will arrange for his assassination. But if the noble is wise he takes precautions and ensures that he is never in a position to be directly accused, and never lets himself be found in a situation where he is unprotected. This would appear to have been something like David’s position (he was now a powerful and influential man in Israel) with regard to Saul.
Meanwhile, seemingly at a time when he was thinking straight, Jonathan appealed to Saul on behalf of David, and brought about in him a change of mind. He declared in the strongest of terms that David should not die after all. In his medical innocence Jonathan no doubt thought that he had obtained from his father a rational decision that he would adhere to. What he, of course, did not realise was the nature of his father’s illness. He was not to know that from this time on no one could ever be sure what Saul would do next, because it all depended on his psychological state at the time, something especially affected by his excessive pride in his kingship and his paranoia about David.
a And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, indicating that they should slay David (1 Samuel 19:1 a).
b But Jonathan, Saul’s son, delighted much in David. And Jonathan told David, saying, “Saul my father seeks to slay you. Now therefore, I pray you, take heed to yourself in the morning, and remain in a secret place, and hide yourself, and I will go out and stand beside my father in the countryside where you are, and I will discuss you with my father, and if I see anything, I will tell you” (1 Samuel 19:1-3).
c And Jonathan spoke good of David to Saul his father, and said to him, “Do not let the king sin against his servant, against David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his works towards you have been very good, for he put his life in his hand, and smote the Philistine, and YHWH wrought a great victory for all Israel. You saw it, and you rejoiced. For what reason then will you sin against innocent blood, to slay David without a cause?” (1 Samuel 19:4-5).
b And Saul took note of the voice of Jonathan, and Saul swore, “As YHWH lives, he shall not be put to death.” And Jonathan called David, and Jonathan showed him all those things (1 Samuel 19:6-7 a).
a And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence, as previously (1 Samuel 19:7 b).
Note that in ‘a’ Saul speaks with Jonathan about the need for David to die, and in the parallel Jonathan brings about a reconciliation between Saul and David. In ‘b’ Jonathan tells David that he will plead with his father on his behalf, and will inform him of the result, and in the parallel, having pleaded successfully he informs David of the result. Central in ‘c’ is the argument that he puts before Saul which gives a clear summary of David’s virtues.
1 Samuel 19:1
‘ And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, indicating that they should slay David. But Jonathan, Saul’s son, delighted much in David.’
As we have suggested this was probably a statement made while Saul was in one of his ‘bad periods’, and was deluding himself. It may be that his servants (his courtiers) recognised this and therefore did little about it. Alternately it may have been that he called a council in which he put to his court the reasons why David needed to be dealt with. But Jonathan greatly loved David and he really could not understand his father’s attitude towards him. He had no idea of the intricacies of a deluded mind.
1 Samuel 19:2-3
‘ And Jonathan told David, saying, “Saul my father seeks to slay you. Now therefore, I pray you, take heed to yourself in the morning, and remain in a secret place, and hide yourself, and I will go out and stand beside my father in the countryside where you are, and I will discuss you with my father, and if I see anything, I will tell you.” ’
So when the opportunity came he took David on one side and warned him of what had been said. He was in fact also determined to speak to his father about it, but he wanted David to be aware of what was happening. Furthermore he wanted him to know about the outcome of his conversation with his father. So he told David to find somewhere where he could remain hidden, and then let him know where he was. Then he could take his father there and discuss the matter with his father, and pass on the result to David.
1 Samuel 19:4-5
‘ And Jonathan spoke good of David to Saul his father, and said to him, “Do not let the king sin against his servant, against David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his works towards you have been very good, for he put his life in his hand, and smote the Philistine, and YHWH wrought a great victory for all Israel. You saw it, and you rejoiced. For what reason then will you sin against innocent blood, to slay David without a cause?” ’
Following out his plan Jonathan spoke with Saul. He pleaded David’s innocence and begged his father not to commit an offence by acting against him. He pointed out all that David had done for Saul and for the people, especially with regard to the matter of Goliath, and how glad they had all been. Why then did his father seek to shed innocent blood without cause?
Note the fourfold defence:
“He has not sinned against you.”
“His works towards you have been very good” (for example in his playing of music for Saul even when it grew decidedly unpleasant).”
“He put his life in his hand and smote Goliath the Philistine.”
“Through him YHWH has wrought a great victory for all Israel.”
So David has not only not done Saul any harm, or even considered it, but has rather only done good to him, both in his personal life and in enabling the fulfilling of his responsibilities, and has indeed benefited all Israel.
1 Samuel 19:6
‘ And Saul took note of the voice of Jonathan, and Saul swore, “As YHWH lives, he shall not be put to death.” ’
On this occasion Saul took notice of Jonathan and was convinced sufficiently to swear that as YHWH lived David would not be put to death. David was thus safe until Saul had another bout of his illness.
1 Samuel 19:7
‘ And Jonathan called David, and Jonathan showed him all those things. And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence, as previously.’
Jonathan then called David and let him know the result of his conversation with Saul, after which he brought him to Saul in order that they might be reconciled, and David was thus once more able to take his place in the court, enjoying the king’s presence as before.
Saul Makes Further Attempts On David’s Life (1 Samuel 19:8-17 ).
David’s great success in the wars with the Philistines continued so that Israel continued to enjoy their freedom from oppression. And when battle was again joined Israel were victorious and slew many Philistines with the result that the Philistines, thoroughly defeated, fled from David. But this further success would raise David’s standing even more in the eyes of all Israel and it thus appears to have brought on another bout of Saul’s illness. (Of course we cannot just directly relate the illness with particular events. The illness was permanent and could affect Saul at any time. But bouts of such illness can certainly be triggered off by particular events). It was not, however, only his illness that caused the problems. Part of the blame rested on Saul’s obsession with the kingship and his extreme jealousy, both of which helped to trigger off the illness, and were then symptomatic of it. And the result was to be a determined and sustained attempt on David’s life.
Saul Seeks To Pin David To The Wall (1 Samuel 19:8-10 ).
The first attempt to kill David followed the pattern of previous wild attempts. It was probably not premeditated but occurred as passion was aroused in Saul, for as David played for him in order to soothe him his jealousy over the latest reports of David’s successes, no doubt accompanied by glowing praise of David, got the better of him. And he raised his ceremonial spear and tried to spit David with it.
a And there was war again, and David went out, and fought with the Philistines, and slew them with a great slaughter, and they fled before him (1 Samuel 19:8).
b And an evil spirit from YHWH was on Saul, as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand, and David was playing with his hand (1 Samuel 19:9).
a And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the spear, but he slipped away out of Saul’s presence, and he smote the spear into the wall, and David fled, and escaped that night (1 Samuel 19:10).
Note that in ‘a’ the Philistines flee from David, and in the parallel David flees from Saul. (The incongruity of the situation is quite clear). Central in ‘b’ is the fact that David is seeking to do good to Saul. Note how two of Jonathan’s four points in defence of David are being revealed here, his defeating of the Philistines and his doing of good towards Saul.
1 Samuel 19:8
‘ And there was war again, and David went out, and fought with the Philistines, and slew them with a great slaughter; and they fled before him.’
Once again the Philistines appear to have encroached on Israel, with the result that David went out and fought with them, and utterly routed them. With a general like David as his son-in-law Saul clearly did not see any need for himself or Jonathan to be involved. Besides the invading party may not have been a full-scale one. But whatever was the case it could only enhance David’s prestige.
We should note that the writer continually wants us to see that the Spirit of YHWH is still on David, and that that is why he is now the Deliverer of Israel, while Saul has been thrust into the background. Furthermore it emphasises the truth of Jonathan’s defence of David above. But one of the dangers of being a success is that it arouses the envy of lesser men, and that was what happened in this case.
1 Samuel 19:9
‘ And an evil spirit from YHWH was on Saul, as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand, and David was playing with his hand.’
The consequence of David’s success and Saul’s bitter jealousy was that it brought on a further heightening of Saul’s illness. A harmful spirit was aroused within him, and because all things are in God’s hands it could be described as ‘from God’. So suffering again from delusion and paranoia he sat in his palace with his spear of authority in his hand, calling on David to come and play for him. And as he played Saul eyed him and saw in him the great enemy. It is always difficult to know what people with Saul’s illness will do next, but David had already had experience of what a moody Saul could do, and was ready for what did happen next.
“Playing with his hand.” It was thus a harp like instrument. There may be intended the thought that David’s hand was acting innocently, while the hand that was gripping Saul’s spear had other intent.
1 Samuel 19:10
‘ And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the spear, but he slipped away out of Saul’s presence, and he smote the spear into the wall, and David fled, and escaped that night.’
Suddenly, probably with a mad and wild look in his eyes (a pattern common with such people), Saul raised his spear and sought to pin David to the wall. He would make no attempt to hide his intention or to act subtly. This was no carefully planned attempt at murder by an experienced warrior but rather a blatant and crude action from a perverted mind which would have been well advertised. Saul had once again decided that he wanted to see David’s blood, and he made no secret of it. And he also wanted to rid himself of this enemy. But David was able to see what was coming in plenty of time, avoid the blow and flee, thus escaping that night. This is the first major example of David fleeing before Saul (contrast 1 Samuel 7 c and see 1Sa 19:18 ; 1 Samuel 20:1. Note further 1 Samuel 19:12, but that is in the middle of a passage).
In fact 1 Samuel 20:33 suggests that this use by Saul of his ceremonial spear was a ‘normal’ practise when Saul was in this state and became angry. It had thus probably also been experienced by a number of his other courtiers, which would help to explain why David did not see it as indicating that Saul was particularly venomous towards him.
Saul Seeks To Have David Arrested With A View To Execution (1 Samuel 19:11-17 ).
This incident may well have occurred some time after the previous one. Saul has now determined that David must be got rid of. But the only problem that Saul had was that it had to be done legally. Thus his intention was presumably to bring him before a special court selected from David’s ill-wishers in order to pass sentence on him for treason in that by encouraging the people to exalt him above Saul he was fermenting revolt.
1 Samuel 19:11
‘ And Saul sent messengers to David’s house, to watch him, and to slay him in the morning, and Michal, David’s wife, told him, saying, “If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.” ’
Still gripped by his mania Saul continued to want David’s blood, and he sent messenger’s down to David’s house to keep watch for him and to slay him when he arose and came out next day. In view of David’s popularity he was hardly acting rationally. But that no longer concerned him. And meanwhile Michal, who was very familiar with her father’s behaviour patterns, and no doubt noticed the watchers, warned David that he should escape while he could, or else he would find himself a dead man.
No doubt as a Commander of Israel David’s house was well guarded, which probably explains Saul’s circumspection, but of course the guards would not be able to refuse entry to Saul’s messengers during the day time. Or alternatively the plan may have been to catch a hopefully unsuspecting David alone when he left his house in the morning.
1 Samuel 19:12
‘ So Michal let David down through the window, and he went, and fled, and escaped.’
The watchers would not be expecting an attempt to escape by the back windows, (they would not think that David suspected anything), and thus Michal was able to let David down from a window so that he could flee and escape.
1 Samuel 19:13
‘ And Michal took the teraphim, and laid it in the bed, and put a pillow of goats’ hair at its head, and covered it with the clothes.’
Then Michal took a teraphim, and laid it in the bed. A teraphim was a religious household image favoured by women and possibly associated with fertility or good luck. Note how Rachel took her father’s teraphim when she was pregnant (Genesis 31:19). This one was presumably Michal’s and kept in her own private apartment. Compare Judges 17:5; Judges 18:14 ff which demonstrate their use in Israel, probably by associating them with Yahwism. David may well not have known that she had it. It may not have been life size but needed to be sufficiently large to make an obvious lump under the bed covers. Additionally she used a pillow of goat’s hair to give the impression of a head. (Alternately the teraphim could have been propped against the bed as a kind of ‘protection’ against illness, while the pillow caused the lump in the bed)
1 Samuel 19:14
‘ And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, “He is sick.” ’
Thus when Saul’s messengers came to the house the next morning to arrest David she was able to say that David was ill and even possibly let them see the figure lying in the bed under the bed clothes. Her aim was to give David as much time as possible to make his escape.
1 Samuel 19:15
‘ And Saul sent the messengers to see David, saying, “Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may slay him.” ’
When the messengers reported back to Saul he immediately demanded that they go back and arrest David, and bring him as he was in his bed, so that he could be tried for treason and be put to death. Even Saul could not simply have David assassinated by his courtiers. His aim was presumably to allow David a summary trial and then have him executed for treason (otherwise why not have him killed in his bed).
1 Samuel 19:16
‘ And when the messengers came in, behold, the teraphim was in the bed, with the pillow of goats’ hair at its head.’
So the messengers arrived back at David’s house and demanded access to his bedroom. And once there they discovered the subterfuge perpetrated by Michal, and reported it back to Saul.
1 Samuel 19:17
‘ And Saul said to Michal, “Why have you deceived me in this way, and let my enemy go, so that he has escaped?” And Michal answered Saul, “He said to me, Let me go. Why should I kill you?” ’
Saul then summoned his daughter and asked her why she had deceived him with the effigy in the bed and had let his enemy escape. He no doubt felt that she owed first loyalty to him as her father and king. Michal simply replied that she had had to do what she did otherwise David might have killed her. This would actually tie in with Saul’s own obsessive view of David and he appears to have accepted that it was true.
That Michal lied at least twice is clear, and although the Scripture does not actually specifically approve of it, it does raise the question as to when, if ever, such a lie is justified. Similar examples can be found with Rahab at Jericho (Joshua 2:4 ff), Jael with Sisera (Judges 4:18) and the woman at Bahurim (2 Samuel 17:20). It is too large a question to be dealt with fully here. However, while Scripture undoubtedly does require us to be truthful (Leviticus 19:11; Matthew 5:37) there must certainly be cases where to tell the truth would be an even greater sin than the alternative, for example in such cases as these where lives were at stake. I must confess that if I was hiding someone I loved from a criminal gang, and could save his life by denying his presence, I would not hesitate. Nor would I feel guilty afterwards. (I would feel far more guilty if he died because I had given him away). T1sa about the whereabouts of others can only be expected when the questioner does not have murderous intentions. However, the question is so complicated that we must leave a full discussion of it to elsewhere.
David Takes Refuge With Samuel At Ramah And When Saul Tries To Take Him He Discovers That YHWH Has Other Means Of Preventing Him From Doing So (1 Samuel 19:18-24 ).
Recognising that Saul was seeking his life David turned to the only one with the power to help him, Samuel, the prophet of YHWH, who had earlier anointed him (1 Samuel 16:13), and who was still a power in Israel. Even Saul had to have regard to Samuel. And Samuel took him to live with him and the company of prophets in Naioth in Ramah.
But after some time, on learning of David’s whereabouts, Saul sent arresting parties to bring him back to Gibeah for trial. And each time the arresting parties were met by a large company of prophets worshipping and speaking out the praises of God, with the result that the Spirit of God came on them and they also began to worship and speak out the praises of God, losing any desire to fulfil the purpose for which they had been sent.
So in the end Saul decided that he must do the job himself, but he too was met by the prophets, with the result that the Spirit of God came on him, and he too began to worship and speak out the praises of God, and in his case he divested himself of his royal garments and lay down in his undergarments all day and all night, rendered powerless by the Spirit.
a Now David 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 (1 Samuel 19:18).
b And it was told Saul, saying, “Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah” (1 Samuel 19:19).
c And Saul sent messengers to take David, and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as head over them, the Spirit of God came on the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied (1 Samuel 19:20).
c And when it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they also prophesied (1 Samuel 19:21 a).
c And Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they also prophesied (1 Samuel 19:21 b).
b Then went he also to Ramah, and came to the great well that is in Secu, and he asked and said, “Where are Samuel and David?” And one said, “Behold, they are at Naioth in Ramah.” And he went there to Naioth in Ramah, and the Spirit of God came on him also, and he went on, and prophesied, until he came to Naioth in Ramah (1 Samuel 19:22-23).
a And he also stripped off his clothes, and he also prophesied before Samuel, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Which is why they say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” And David fled from Naioth (1 Samuel 19:24).
Note that in ‘a’ David goes to be with Samuel among the prophets in Naioth, and in the parallel Saul is also seen as among the prophets, at which point David flees from Naioth. In ‘b’ Saul is told that David is at Naioth in Ramah, and in the parallel he is told the same. Centrally in ‘c’ we have the threefold examples of men sent to arrest David who instead finish up praising and worshipping God under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
1 Samuel 19:18
‘ Now David 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.
Recognising that he would find refuge from Saul nowhere else David made for the only man whom he considered might be able to give him protection. Samuel was still a power in the land, and dwelt among a band of prophets who were presumably a consequence of his ministry. So David came to him at Ramah, and told Samuel all that Saul had done to him. And the result was that Samuel took David under his protection, and David went to live with him in Naioth. Naioth was where Samuel dwelt, along with a band of prophets. The word ‘Naioth’ means ‘dwellings’ and was probably the name of the compound or community in which the prophets had their dwellings. Both may well have thought that with David in such spiritual surroundings he would no longer be seen as a threat to Saul.
This idea of a company of prophets is a new one, and they were probably the fruit of Samuel’s labours as he sought to establish a spiritual core in Israel. We came across them previously in 1 Samuel 10:5-6; 1 Samuel 10:10-13. While there was no established Central Sanctuary to which the prophets could be attached as a group, a separate community was a necessity if their activities were to continue. Elijah and Elisha will similarly form a band of prophets in the Northern kingdom of Israel (there called ‘the sons of the prophets’), also unconnected with the Temple, but as there is no mention of them in between times there are no grounds for assuming that the one is the continuation of the other, except in the sense that both helped to maintain the prophetic tradition. Once David had re-established the Central Sanctuary this band of prophets presumably connected up with the Central Sanctuary, or with the Sanctuary in Jerusalem where the Ark was. Alternatively they may have spread throughout the land.
1 Samuel 19:19
‘ And it was told Saul, saying, Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah.’
It was inevitable that at some stage the news would reach Saul of where David was. Those who knew of Saul’s determination to get rid of David, and who were looking for political advancement would not hesitate to pass on to him the information once they received it, and Naioth was a place visited by many people as they sought prophetic help. It would therefore not be long before the word spread around of where David was. He was the kind of man concerning whose whereabouts people were interested.
1 Samuel 19:20
‘ And Saul sent messengers to take David: and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as head over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied.’
So Saul sent an arresting party to take David and bring him back to Gibeah, presumably for ‘trial’, a trial which could only have one conclusion in the view of the despotic nature of Saul’s kingship.
But when these men came to Naioth they were faced up with Samuel and the band of prophets. These were worshipping God and speaking out His praises (compare Acts 2:11). We must beware of reading into this the kind of ecstasy which was a feature of prophets elsewhere, in which the person was as one possessed, but nevertheless it was with a spirit that was effective, powerful and restraining. For as a result of meeting them the Spirit of God came on the arresting party and they too were caught up in praising and exalting God (one meaning of ‘prophesying’ - compare Acts 2:11 with Acts 19:6).
This must not be seen as too surprising. These men had nothing personal against David. When they came to arrest him they were simply obeying Saul’s orders. And as Israelites they certainly had a great reverence for Samuel and the prophets, and for YHWH. Thus when they were moved by the Spirit, and became involved with the prophets, they would feel it only right to participate in their worship. How far they found themselves unable to do anything else is a matter of conjecture, for history reveals that when God does choose to manifest His presence, men do find themselves unable to disobey Him (consider the remarkable happenings in the revivals in Wales and in the Hebrides in the last century). But this does not necessarily signify their being in such an ecstatic state that they were powerless to resist. It indicates rather what happens to men when they are made deeply aware that God is there among them. They do not want to resist. They want to participate in the far more important worship of YHWH. It would appear from verse 24 that in order to do so they divested themselves of their outer clothing which depicted their status as Saul’s men, recognising that they were now in the presence of One Who was greater than Saul, and that Saul’s authority meant nothing here. Here they had to be open before God.
“The prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as head over them.” They found the prophets gathered in worship under their leader and great teacher Samuel, to whose authority all yielded fully as they worshipped together. In days when the importance of God and his rights over men were fully acknowledged by most, such a gathering would have been seen as of prime importance, and as one that could not be disturbed, even on the king’s business. Rather than disturbing it, all spiritual men who came there would expect to have their part in it.
Having worshipped with the prophets these men would then no doubt be reluctant to reject Samuel’s plea for them to go and leave David with him (compare their similar reluctance later to kill the members of the High Priestly family (1 Samuel 22:17) even when they were not involved in a spiritual atmosphere). They may even have decided to spend some time in the prophetic circles, and have remained there. We must not overlook in all this both the importance of YHWH in their eyes and the powerful standing that Samuel still had in the land as His Prophet. To them Samuel was not a man to be trifled with, for he represented YHWH. It is in fact noteworthy that even Saul, with all his excesses, never retaliated against Samuel, so we can be sure that the people in general would have looked at him with awe.
1 Samuel 19:21
‘ And when it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they also prophesied. And Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they also prophesied.’
When his men failed to return with David, and he was told what had happened, Saul sent a further arresting party and then another. But in each case they had the same experience once they became involved with the prophets. God’s power and working were proving to be irresistible. And there were thus more and more men involved in praising YHWH and worshipping him, and speaking out about His wonderful works (compare Acts 2:11). We are not given the details of precisely what happened, but it is clear that YHWH’s power was being revealed as sufficient to protect David.
1 Samuel 19:22
‘ Then went he also to Ramah, and came to the great well that is in Secu: and he asked and said, “Where are Samuel and David?” And one said, “Behold, they are at Naioth in Ramah.”
In the end Saul recognised that it would be necessary to go himself and exert his own authority. He seemingly acknowledged that his men could not be blamed for becoming involved with the prophets in their worship. They were after all Yahwists. And if YHWH called on them to partake in a special period of worship then they could hardly be expected to refuse to do so. However, it would be a different matter when he went himself. He was not to be so easily swayed.
So he made his way to Ramah, and when he came to the great public water cystern in Secu, which was where people would gather to collect water, he enquired about the whereabouts of Samuel and David, and was informed that they were at the prophetic college at Naioth.
1 Samuel 19:23
‘ And he went there to Naioth in Ramah, and the Spirit of God came on him also, and he went on, and prophesied, until he came to Naioth in Ramah.’
Accordingly Saul approached Naioth, but then, even while he was on the way, he became aware of the power of YHWH working on him manifesting the presence of God, and he too began to speak out the praises of YHWH, and to worship him. God was clearly manifesting His presence among men in an unusual way. This may well have been genuine praise of YHWH in contrast to the situation in 18:10, constrained by a power that he did not understand and seeking to bring him to repentance.
1 Samuel 19:24
‘ And he also stripped off his clothes, and he also prophesied before Samuel, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?
On arrival at the prophetic college, and the worshipping group that he found there, Saul too felt impelled to divest himself of all his insignia, and his royal outer garments, being impelled by the sense of the presence of God to humble himself before YHWH and acknowledge Him as his Overlord. All clearly saw this as a holy place. And there before Samuel, moved by an irresistible power, he spoke out the praises of God, and fell on his face before God, where he remained all day and all night, prostrated by YHWH. It was a sad reflection on his reign, which had begun with a similar sign, that this time it was caused because of his murderous attitude towards David. And when the news got around of how he had been humbled before YHWH, so too would the standing joke, ‘is Saul also among the prophets?’ In 10:12 it had been asked in admiration. Now it would be asked with a snigger. But he had brought it all on himself by his own folly.
The remarkable situation described here, in which the sense of the presence of God had driven people to unexpected actions, has been reproduced at other times throughout history, in days when God has chosen to make known His power and presence in an unusual way. We have already mentioned the Welsh Revival and the Hebrides Revival. Other parallels include the time of the Great Awakening, when God moved in power through men like George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards, and people were moved to unusual behaviour At such times men find themselves powerless to resist God, (and often indeed do not want to do so), and were driven to actions that they would not normally have engaged in. Here at Naioth God thus gave this revelation of His protective power as a specific reminder of the importance of David in God’s future plans. The memory of it would certainly be a strength to David in the days of his exile and of his being hunted down, for he would remember that YHWH was indeed able to deliver, if necessary, in extraordinary ways. And it would help him to recognise that he was being equally protected then, even if not in such an obviously supernatural way.
“And David fled from Naioth.” This was David’s third major flight (compare 1 Samuel 19:10; 1 Samuel 19:18). He was no longer the despatcher of the Philistines but a fugitive from Saul. From now on he had nowhere to go.
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 19". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany