1 Samuel 21 God sends David to Gath?

Discussion in 'OT Historical Books' started by Eoghan, Sep 9, 2013.

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  1. Eoghan

    Eoghan Puritan Board Junior

    It puzzles me why David went to Gath. It is a crazy thing to do, another Philistine city perhaps but Gath? Carrying Goliath's sword? Yet we learn that Ahimelech sought the Lord for David from Doeg the Edomite and from Ahimelech himself. Moreover Ahimelech had sought the Lord on David's behalf before.

    What then was the answer? If we take the actions of David to be in obedience to God then he was told to go to Gath. Once there however he was seized rather than feted and faith gave way to fear. In that moment David switched from offering his services to feigning madness. This I think is where David "failed" - his faith could not keep pace with God's protection.

    This all seems speculative and flies in the face of most commentators: until we read chapter 27 when David returns to Achish's court and is well received. Moreover in the providence of God David is able to fight the Philistines and pass off the captured booty as Hebrew in origin.

    Can you refute me from the text?
  2. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Gordon J. Keddie, "Dawn of a Kingdom" (EP) says that, "David's flight to Philistia .....was a failure of faith."

    "The events of his escape called him to stand his ground rather than run away. But oppression makes many a wise man mad (Ecclesisates 7:7). And David ran to Jonathan and then to Ahimelech, spraying his path with lies and deceptions that were later to stain his conscience with blood (22:22)."
  3. Eoghan

    Eoghan Puritan Board Junior

    I was interested in Walter Chantry's observation, "Was David not capable of double entendre?" The question was which "King" he was on a mission for? I just wonder if David went to Gath in response to the word of the Lord?

    Even if David did not go in obedience to the Lord's command - he went in chapter 27 in a manner consistent with faith.
  4. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    I take it as an interpretive maxim, that generally when we see one of the Israelites going out of the promised land (be it Abraham, or Elimelech, or David, etc.), it is a bad sign.

    I do not see ch.27 as intended to be viewed in a basically positive way, but in fact as fraught with peril. It sets David on a course that will ultimately bring near-disaster on him, his calling, and Israel, as he is boxed into a situation (ch.29) from which there is no honorable or good move (but God delivers him, through much fire).

    Yes, in ch.27 David operates partly "consistent with his faith" as he labors to deliver Israel in a "masked-crusader" manner. But he had finally left the land earlier because his faith faltered. Saul's oppression had finally worn down David's divine trust; he assumed he must have used up "eight-lives," or "two-strikes." He thought he couldn't survive another of Saul's assaults, while not forsaking his "goodly heritage," or the people of God who should (eventually) wholly trust in him.

    Perhaps, due to David's disappearance entirely from the land, and his shadow-defense of only a Judean flank--instead of (perhaps) finding a new shelter among the northern tribes--we witness a "lost opportunity" for the eventual king to forge a stronger allegiance with those northern tribes to his house. The happy union of the whole people under the reign of the house of David only lasted for one more generation; then the north broke away.
  5. Eoghan

    Eoghan Puritan Board Junior

    I beg to differ it can be to a place of safety -

    Elijah lodged with the widow of Zarapheth in Sidon
    Jacob went to Egypt
    Mary and Joseph lodged in Egypt
  6. Eoghan

    Eoghan Puritan Board Junior

    Living in Israel was "fraught with peril". As chapter 27 explains Saul stopped seeking David when he learned he was at Gath. Not only so but as the commentators observe David had responsibility for his men - 600 in number, their wives and children. His decision to move into Gath gave refuge to his men and their families. As such it was a responsible move.

    Moreover he removed the threat to any in Israel who helped him. Saul had already killed the priests at Nob for helping David - innocent of complicity. How much more would Saul's wrath be kindled against anyone knowingly helping the fugitive and outlaw.

    To dwell on what disaster might have befallen David in chapter 29 is speculative. Indeed one might be tempted to ask similar questions of Jonathans presumption in climbing up to the Philistine garrison. That could have ended badly for Jonathan - no?

    Given the historical events I am inclined to observe the providential care which God had for David. This finds expression in Psalm 34 and 56 neither of which are penitential and a confession of sin!

    David's trust in God's providential care was vindicated. His actions saved the lives of many in Israel who would otherwise have been held accountable for giving succor to Saul's enemies and shows concern for the family life of his followers. David's character as a shepherd is still there!
  7. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    All of these were sent out of the land on a particular mission, by the direction of God. We don't even have to guess about it, as if from the results. The directions are quoted in Holy Writ.

    I can add to the list begun in your post above:
    Elisha, 2Ki. 8:7.
    Joseph, involuntarily, but as was made plain, by divine design.

    And we can add to the list of those who left voluntarily, and had sorry experience,
    Those who fled Israel for the "safety" of Egypt, Jer.42-44.

    Compare with the people who were exiled--that is, sent out of the land for chastisement:
    Jacob (typological), on his way to Padan-Aram.
    Threats to return the people to Egypt, Hos.9:3.
    Assyrian (northern) and Babylonian (southern) exiles.

    Enemies and wicked men who took refuge among the Gentile nations:
    Hadad the Edomite and Rezon son of Eliadah, 1Ki.11:14-25.
    Jeroboam, 1Ki.11:40.

    The evidence is overwhelming, so far as I can see it. Israel, and individual Israelites belonged nowhere but in the Promised Land. The borders of the land might be extended, but that would be at the expense of those nations surrounding. The enemies of God's people would lose ground.

    A person might leave the land temporarily, as for business, diplomacy, etc., even for a very long time. But always with a return in view. And those who were sent forth by divine commission evidently went out of the land by faith, with expectation that he would come home again. It was culturally significant that the Israelite be buried "with his fathers" (cf.1Ki.13:22; 14:31 etc.).

    You're welcome to disagree, however I find this interpretive maxim to be one helpful inter-textual key underlying OT theology; which then finds its epochal asymptotic shift in the cross, as the NT age reveals no more a typological geographical kingdom on earth, but instead God sending his church en masse away from a geopolitical concentration. Now the church is back in Egypt/world, free-but-in-exile, journeying in the wilderness.
  8. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    You're free do differ. It's fine with me. I'm confident in the representatives of the history of interpretation with whom I side.

    God had promised David the throne. The only way Saul could have his life would be if God were not true to his word. Ergo, David's self-counsel ("David said in his heart, 'I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul," 1Ki.27:1) was deceitful above all things. There were other options besides running for the border. David does not "inquire of the Lord" on this occasion, as he had done in times past.

    And if (as I am) one is predisposed to at least question the wisdom of such a move on theological grounds, then the disturbing fallout of this choice can easily appear to be evidence of it's innate folly. So no, I cannot agree that remaining inside Israel's borders carried anything like the same degree of PERIL as leaving did.

    Premature judgment in praise of moving David's men and their families to Ziklag, 27:6, should be tempered by the grievous results that are reported in 30:1. That peril is what DID in fact overtake all those vulnerable people precisely BECAUSE they were in such a place. If it was improper for David to move himself and all his men and their chattels out of Israel, then David was culpable before God (though not men) for any harm that happened to them.

    Speculating about whether such a captivity or similar would have taken place also inside the land is true special pleading. Pointing at Nob doesn't justify David's self-counsel and his decision; nor does pointing at some "good" come about, when we likewise do not know if that good was less than what might have been accomplished had he stayed. Those are pragmatic judgments, not theological or ethical ones.

    And even if one possessed the divine-awareness of what should happen without intervention, one should always do as God has revealed (i.e. remain in the land), not as we think things will work out best. We might as well speculate that God could have made David king months or years earlier than he did, if he had remained, by removing Saul sooner. Perhaps David's departure left Saul to reign, and the people suffer him, for that much longer (all in God's providence).

    Simple fact: in 1Sam.29 I'm not speculating at all about what David is "really" thinking when he promises to assist the Philistines against Israel. We don't know, and the text leaves all of that in a bewildering fog of uncertainty. Would David take this moment to strike at Saul? Would he do as Achish's fellow princes feared, and strike the Philistines from behind? Any course David might follow would jeopardize some holy thing or person. That is the point of the text, and he is only extricated from the scene by God's moving Achish to reluctantly side with his peers against his (presumed) lieutenant.

    But the fire of David's ordeal is only just then begun, as he and his men return to the burned-out ruins of Ziklag, ch.30. You can't persuade me that with the stench of smoke in his nostrils, and stomach-churning loss, and fear for his own life at the hands of his own men, that David isn't seriously questioning his non-divinely-directed move to this foreign-soil outpost. Only now does he "inquire of the Lord," v8. Since 27:1, it's been all human wisdom, and spending his spiritual capital.

    But of course, David is never out of God's providential care. I don't need Pss. 34 (after his first flight) and 56 (in light of events of his second) to offer any explicit confession of sin, in order to validate my contention. God does, in fact, bring sufficient good out of this situation, showing how he is able to use even those acts of his servants that are mixed with errors small and great. He make deliverances. He brings the man after his own heart to the throne, after trying him sore.

    After all, David doesn't achieve the throne because he's never been sinful or foolish. Like all the other OT heroes, David is exalted in spite of his many flaws and failures. He's great because God makes him great.

  9. Eoghan

    Eoghan Puritan Board Junior

    There is a freedom we are given to act without divine revelation. This is the case today as it has been in the past (charismatics aside). The choices we make are not on the whole sinful missing God's perfect will. I take it as an established principle that God is as much in charge of providence as He is of the miraculous. By exercising ourselves in accord with God's revealed will we grow and demonstrate what motivates us.

    David had regard to those who followed him and sought respite from Saul's fury for them as much as for him. The death of the priests at Nob were on his conscience and he avoided making any Israelite complicit with him. In both these regards his character is exemplary. We are armchair quarterbacks who sit in judgment without ever having that experience of being fugitive from the authorities.

    Post Holocaust I think we can better judge the ethics of lying in extremis. My proposal is that David did not sin by leaving Israel, fleeing is not a sign of guilt (in most states). Did Joseph not flee Potiphars wife? David was not forbidden to enter Philistine territory, indeed such intelligence as he gathered would serve him well in later years. His duty was to survive Saul's wrath to succeed him, in so doing he was prudent in seeking sanctuary with the one power which would not extradite him.

    We fail to remember that the Spirit of God was with David. What this meant in practice we might speculate on but it is a factor. David wrote Psalms which are Messianic in their predictions. He was prophetic!

    Yes David gave way to fear and abandoned his plan of speaking up for himself and those who were with him. At the moment when he was seized his plan changed and in that moment he gave way to fear, forsaking faith. I would suggest that all other condemnation of David is speculative with armchair quarterbacks piling on in a scrum (UK rugby term, ruck in US?).

    Give David a break! He wrote amazing Psalms at this point in his life and was far from a backsliden wreck making shipwreck of his faith as some, nay most, speculate.
  10. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    As I have already argued, I think David is acting against the revealed will of God, which is one aspect of his sore trial. He must be corrected before he is elevated. Whom the Lord loves, he chastens.

    I also would argue that we have to take into account the difference in the epochs, now and then. We cannot map 1-to-1 all the freedoms we enjoy now onto the Moses-law-bound Israelites laboring under pedagogical discipline. Our relative "freedom of movement" is not transferable to an Israelite like Elimelech, who takes his family to Moab (all very reasonable, right? famine in Bethlehem and all that), and loses both his life and his inheritance. It takes a literal resurrection-type miracle of life-from-the-dead to bring that inheritance back to life through the persons of Ruth and Boaz. Another instance of Providence overcoming human failure. And it results in David's birth eventually.

    To which, I have to add that there are even greater constraints laid upon those whom God has chosen to be special types, and are public persons, who do not act only for themselves but as mediatorial agents in relation to God's people considered as the Church. These kinds of people (like David) are so far from having radical freedom; but we even recognize that today's men-of-state and royals (and other celebrities) are "imprisoned" in their powerful roles--which make their frequent "acting out" the more gauche.

    The silence of the text in regard to David's not inquiring of the Lord respecting his move, and the pains the text takes to tell us that David only took counsel with his own heart, are potent indicators of the error of his choice, the weakness of his faith at this time. It is not that any of us owe David a break. He is for us a beautiful example of the vicissitudes of our own temperamental faith, and how God does not let someone like David go, and in fact sets him up on high.

    Indeed, look at Ps.56! Consider how powerful that statement of faith is, when (as I believe, and have preached it thus) it comes forth out of the whole context of the mini-exile into Philistia, and the fearful prospect of the battle with Saul, and Ziklag. Ps.56 gives voice to the man who has suddenly been confronted with the fact that he is (by whatever course) brought into a place of utter helplessness, from which he now realizes he can only be helped by the Greatest Power. So much the stronger, for it being uttered by David "in a far country" when he "came to himself" (Lk.15:17).

    I am not offended if we disagree on this. Php.3:15, "...if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you," or if needful to me.
  11. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    1 Samuel 22:5 should settle the issue of whether David was supposed to stay in the land or not.
  12. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Thanks, Ruben, I appreciate the reference. I had thought about David's safe-keeping his parents for a while in Moab, but did not go back and read the passage.

    I agree, the sense of the prophetic Word is that while David may have a dispensation to hideaway his parents for a season among distant relatives (still a functional exile), HE on the other hand has no such authorization.
  13. Eoghan

    Eoghan Puritan Board Junior

    It does ... ...in the context of chapter 22. It also implies that David was "free" to choose prior to that. When the prophet was told to marry a prostitute (reference needed) from the marketplace it countermanded his freedom to choose a wife prior to that word of God.

    We are not Charismatics who do not get out of bed until we have (claim) direct revelation from God. We have general principles and the rest is up to us for the most part.

    I somehow think that the land of Israel is like those dog collars which are tied into a boundary wire. As someone approaches the boundary they receive a mild electric shock. Not so. When David settled his family in Moab that was "outside" Israel but he went on to add it to Israel later.
    Now tell me was David disobedient in visiting part of Israel-to-be?

    There are many things where we are free to act until we receive direct revelation - which is pretty infrequent these days. Ruth was not Jewish, Nineveh was Persian(?) and Melchizedek was... ...well we don't know; but he was not Jewish.
  14. Eoghan

    Eoghan Puritan Board Junior

    emphasis added
  15. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    I'm always glad to lend any small support to your own stimulating reflections, Bruce.
  16. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    It isn't clear to me just what you're demanding. All the discussion set forth so far is wholly reliant on Scripture. What "opinions of men" have been introduced into the thread? You yourself don't stick to ch.21 and Pss.34 & 56, but appeal to 1Sam.22 (Ahimelech) & ch.27 (David's second excursion to Gath) as validating your assessment of David's whole series of moves that leads him to Gath in ch.21. Why is it OK for you to pass the bounds you set, but not others? Scripture does not SAY that God commanded David to go to Gath, but it's an important conclusion that YOU have arrived at based on your macro-assessment of many textual, contextual, and broadly biblical factors.

    You may be saying that you're willing to entertain some kind of explicit statement from within so many verses of the incident (a narrow context-window), or from ONLY texts outside it that YOU deem relevant, that could overturn your interpretive conclusions. That's your prerogative, but it also more-or-less indicates that you've defined the issue so as to control (if you can) for possible refutation. 1Sam.22 is quite arguably close-context to ch.21, those divisions being human convention. The narrative is not a string of separate pearls.

    I think you recognize that your read of David's actions runs counter to one well-defined body of interpretation (I don't even know if I'll call it a "general consensus"). That's fine. I myself have dared to challenge "received opinion" on numerous points and passages. "Let each be fully convinced in his own mind," Rom.14:5. That's where you should leave it. Then you wait, and see if others see what you see in the text and support it, adopting your critique of the inadequacies of other views.

    It's poor form to ask for input, and then ignore--not silently, but with petulant reassertion--or dismiss as acontextual, the biblical argumentation given by the other side; and worse, to accuse those who disagree, and have argued to another end, of abandoning all fidelity to the text. To be biblically accurate is necessarily to agree with you?

    In case you hadn't noticed, you have brought to an OT text your own "interpretive maxim," namely that behaviors falling within acceptable norms for NT believers (as you reckon it) are the standard for judging the actions of OT characters. That's demonstrably false, in my estimation, because OT behavior was not constrained merely by timeless universal morality, but also by significant positive regulation peculiar to the Old Covenant era.

    Then too, there is the selective nature of the holy-record. These stories are not especially exemplaristic, i.e. for describing activity that is either moral or immoral, faithful or unfaithful human action; as if they were Aesop's Fables, but for Jews and Christians. Rather, the main purpose of the record is Christological. Thus, I seek to evaluate David's moves, behaviors, thoughts, and words throughout his career in terms of how well he typifies Christ. And conversely, how his stumblings expose him as still just an imperfect man (though God greatly exalted him) like the rest of us, in need of the Son of David who should redeem both him and all of us.

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