1 Samuel: Powerlessness of a king

1 Samuel 19:1–24

Saul wants David dead. It’s not just a private, interior wish. It’s now a a public plot.

Jonathan has the most to lose if David succeeds Saul as king, yet here is Jonathan coming to David’s aid. That he does so—choosing his friend over and against his father the king—heightens the dramatic tension of the story. It shows us just how great this friendship is, and at the same time, illuminates the moral depravity of Saul that is own son does not support him.

Not just Saul’s son, either, but also his daughter, Michal, stands between David and Saul. In a scene straight from a movie, David escapes by cover of night, and his wife Michal puts a decoy in his bed, complete with goat’s hair coming out the top.

The final scene in this chapter is probably the one most mysterious to us. It’s just a weird picture. David is hiding out with Samuel, and Samuel seems to have a posse of prophets with him. Maybe it looks something like a monastic order. In the ancient world, prophets were the gatekeepers to God. If you had a question for or about God, you went to the local prophet. And prophecy in the ancient world, especially the surrounding pagan cultures, involved trances and just plain acting weird in an attempt to touch the transcendent.

Like the mysterious contagiousness of a Pentecostal service, three rounds of Saul’s messengers get sucked into this activity until Saul himself comes to get David. And when he arrives, he too find himself humiliated by a power beyond his control. In an honor-shame culture such as this, this activity is very unbecoming of a king.

So here is Saul, in story after story, powerless to eliminate David. History tells us that kings get what they want. But not this one.

Finally, it’s Samuel, and by extension ultimately God, standing in the way of Saul.


About peterjwhite

I am a pastor to college students in Tulsa, OK.
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