Archive for the ‘Achish of Gath’ Tag

The Burning of Ziklag and David’s Pursuit of the Amalekites   Leave a comment

Above:  Ziklag

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XXVI

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1 Samuel 30:1-11

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Have mercy on me, O God,

for my enemies are hounding me;

all day long they assault and oppress me.

–Psalm 56:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Consistent chronology is not the organizing principle of 1 Samuel.  Chronologically, the correct order at the end of the book is:

  1. 27:1-28:2
  2. 29:1-11
  3. 30:1-11
  4. 28:3-25
  5. 31:1-13

King Achish of Gath had granted Ziklag to David in 1 Samuel 27:5-7.

David, recently liberated from being a vassal of the Philistine king, returned to Ziklag, his base of operations.  David found Ziklag burned, and the women, sons, and daughters gone.  Amalekites had raided the town and taken captives.  David, facing a revolt by his armed men, sought strength in God.  God answered.  David and most of his forces attacked and defeated the Amalekites, rescued all the captives, and took booty–stolen livestock.  Those troops no longer wanted to rebel against David.  The other troops, guarding supplies at Wadi Beson, also received a share of the booty, spoils of war. They were also on David’s side, of course.

This story supports the legitimacy of David’s claim to kingship.  The narrative depicts his legislating as a king did.

1 Samuel 30:6b-8, in which David consulted God and God replied, contrasts with 28:6, in which King Saul consulted God and God did not answer.  Again this passage supports the legitimacy of David’s kingship.

The following may seem heterodox; so be it.  Saul, according to my reading of the germane Biblical texts, comes across as being better than most of his successors.  In some ways, I prefer Saul to David.  I read of David’s excesses and errors, as well as of Saul’s excesses and errors.  David causes me to cringe morally more than Saul does.  The relevant texts depict Saul as a flawed man who was in over his head and was frequently tentative when he needed to be decisive.  I suspect that Saul may also have had psychiatric problems.  The germane texts emphasize David, I know.  The reputation of Saul, therefore, suffers because of that agenda.

I set off on this tangent because I noticed that both Saul and David consulted God at about the same time, but that God answered only David.  My parents taught me that God answers prayers, sometimes with “no.”  Yet, in 1 Samuel 28:6, Saul got the divine cold shoulder–not even an active “no.”

I do not know what to make of that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 16:  THE TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARTIN DE PORRES AND JUAN MACIAS, HUMANITARIANS AND DOMINICAN LAY BROTHERS; SAINT ROSE OF LIMA, HUMANITARIAN AND DOMINICAN SISTER; AND SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

THE FEAST OF THEODORE O. WEDEL, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND CYNTHIA CLARK WEDEL, U.S. PSYCHOLOGIST AND EPISCOPAL ECUMENIST

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David as a Vassal of King Achish of Gath   Leave a comment

Above:  David Returns to Achish, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XXV

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1 Samuel 27:1-28:2

1 Samuel 29:1-11

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Let them be ashamed and altogether dismayed

who seek after my life to destroy it;

let them draw back and be disgraced

who take pleasure in my misfortune.

–Psalm 40:15, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The editing of 1 Samuel 27-29 is interesting.  1 Samuel 28:3-25 (Saul and the Witch of Endor) interrupts the narrative that spans 1 Samuel 27:1-28:2 and 29:1-11.  Based on geography and troop movements, 29:1 precedes 28:4 chronologically.  Also 1 Samuel 28:3-25 properly precedes Chapter 31 by one day.

David, on the run from King Saul, found safety in Gath, under the authority of King Achish.  David had feigned insanity to flee Achish in Chapter 21.  In Chapters 27, 28, and 29, however, David served Achish (sort of) without fighting Israelite forces.  David lied to Achish about the purpose of his raids. David was a successful military leader who killed potential witnesses to his acts of seizing livestock and clothing.  Saul had seized flocks in Chapter 15, much to Samuel’s chagrin.  Yet David did the same, without (strong) condemnation in the text.  David’s motivations were clear:  survival and enrichment.  Achish’s motivation seemed to have been that the enemy of his enemy was his friend.  The Philistine king trusted David.  Achish’s lords, however, distrusted David.  Perhaps they were good judges of character.  They pressured Achish into giving David and his men the ancient equivalents of honorable discharges.  David, feigning offense, went on his way happily.

What are we supposed to make of David killing potential witnesses?  How should we evaluate that behavior morally.  I cannot justify that behavior morally.  And the more I read about David, the less I like him.  I understand that Saul had pushed him into serving Achish.  I also agree that so much killing was unnecessary.

The narrative depicts God as favoring and aiding David.  I do not know what to make of that.  I know that, according to Genesis, God, favored, adided, and worked via the trickster Jacob, too.  I remain unsure what to make of that.

Grace is not what we deserve.  That is the best I can do, and it feels unsatisfactory to me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 22, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACK LAYTON, CANADIAN ACTIVIST AND FEDERAL LEADER OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS HRYHORII KHOMSYSHYN, SYMEON LUKACH, AND IVAN SLEZYUK, UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC BISHOPS AND MARTYRS, 1947, 1964, AND 1973

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN KEMBLE AND JOHN WALL, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1679

THE FEAST OF SAINTS THOMAS PERCY, RICHARD KIRKMAN, AND WILLIAM LACEY, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1572 AND 1582

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David on the Run, Part I   1 comment

Above:  Ahimelech Giving the Sword of Goliath to David, by Aert de Gelder

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XX

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1 Samuel 21:1-22:23

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They go to and fro in the evening;

they snarl like dogs and run about the city.

They forage for good,

and if they are not filled, they howl.

For my part, I will sing of your strength;

I will celebrate your love in the morning;

For you have become my stronghold,

a refuge in the day of my trouble.

To you, O my Strength, will I sing;

for you, O God, are my stronghold and my merciful God.

–Psalm 59:16-20, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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David was in open rebellion against King Saul.  Why not?  King Saul had forced the issue by trying to kill David and to have David terminated with extreme prejudice.  There was no indication of David being disloyal to King Saul before the monarch forced fugitive-rebel status upon him.  David, therefore, remained alive the best ways he knew.  The future king, in mortal peril, lied to Ahimelich, great-grandson of Eli, and feigned insanity before Achish, the King of Gath.  According to the text, Achish knew who David, carrying the sword with which he had beheaded Goliath, was.  David’s lie to Ahimelech led to the execution of all but one of the priests at Nob.  Abiathar son of Ahimelech survived, though (1 Samuel 2:33).

The narrative emphasizes the contrast between the characters of Saul and David.  Saul ordered the deaths of innocents–priests, the inhabitants of Nob, and livestock.  When David realized the role he played leading up to those murders, he accepted personal responsibility.  Saul also passed the buck before finally admitting error in 1 Samuel 15.  But was he sincere when he confessed?

You, O reader, may know or know of someone who seldom or never accepts responsibility for his or her actions.  This person may be a neighbor, a boss, a relative, a politician, et cetera.  Such people blame others for their errors, frequently in the manner of projecting their failings onto others.

Those of us who have read the story of David know he was deeply flawed.  We may not like him.  That is fine.  But, if we are honest, we must admit that, according to the story, David admitted errors more than once.  David admitted errors more than once.  I count such honesty as a virtue.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 21, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRUNO ZEMBOL, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC FRIAR AND MARTYR, 1942

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CAMERIUS, CISELLUS, AND LUXORIUS OF SARDINIA, MARTYRS, 303

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF EDESSA, CIRCA 304

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN OF ANTIOCH; MARTYR, CIRCA 353; AND SAINTS BONOSUS AND MAXIMIANUS THE SOLDIER, MARTYRS, 362

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Psalms 32-34   2 comments

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POST XII OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 226

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Psalm 34 occurs in the context of 1 Samuel 21:12-15.  In that story, David, on the run from King Saul, also fears King Achish of Gath.  Our hero, therefore, acts like a lunatic, so that Achish will expel him.  Psalm 34 extols God for protecting the faithful, but one should not underestimate David’s acting abilities either.

That trust in God exists in Psalms 32 and 33 also.  God is the master of history in Psalm 33.  That text also affirms something previous Psalms have argued:  God, not the military alone, brings about victory in war.  Psalm 32 reflects the belief (contrary to the omniscient voice in the Book of Job) that illness necessarily results from sin.  Thus the text links confession and recovery.  Yes, many illnesses result from one’s bad conduct, but sometimes defects lurk in one’s DNA or we are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Or maybe one is simply in the presence of non-hygienic children who spread viruses and diseases.  Or, in the case of Job 1 and 2, one is an unwilling pawn in a heavenly wager.

In each of the three texts assigned we read affirmations of fidelity to and trust in God.  The advice of Psalm 34:15 is timeless:

Shun evil and do good,

seek peace and pursue it.

–Mitchell J. Dahood translation

The translation of that verse in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) reads:

Shun evil and do good,

seek amity and pursue it.

A note in TANAKH informs me that an alternative translation to “amity” is “integrity.”

Of course, many who shun evil commit it anyway, by accident.  Also, many people agree that we should seek and pursue peace/amity/integrity, but what does that mean in practical terms in various circumstances?  May we, by grace, discern that and act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 8, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MACKILLOP, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS

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