Blog Day 72--The Swan Song of a King--"Desperate Measures" 1 Samuel 29:1 - 31:13
March 13, 2021, 8:00 AM

Blog Day 72--The Swan Song of a King--"Desperate Measures" 1 Samuel 29:1 - 31:13

“Will David fight against the army of Israel?  Will David, even though he spared Saul’s life twice, be the one who kills him or at least be part of the army that defeats the King of Israel?”

Our guest blogger asked these questions yesterday, and while you may have already read the answers, let’s make sure we don’t ignore those questions and are left hanging on that cliff.

  1. No, David will not fight against his own people. He was tricking King Achish (angry) in order to hide from Saul. Remember that Goliath was a Philistine, so these are sworn enemies. Once David went into King Achish’s camp, it said that Saul left him alone. David was also able to conduct some clandestine battles against the Philistines while he was being sheltered by the Philistines. Even though David and Saul left on ‘good terms’ (1 Sam 26:25), David knows that his mood and his temperament will eventually cause him to chase after David again. Sheltering with the enemy was brilliant. Being trusted by the enemy was unbelievable. Everyone seems to like David even when they shouldn’t!
  2. Will David kill Saul? What an ironic end to Saul’s story. No, David does not kill Saul. The Philistines kill his sons, including David’s beloved friend Jonathan, but they leave Saul mortally wounded. Rather than let the enemy complete the job, Saul begs his armorbearer to kill him, which the young man refuses, so Saul falls on his own sword and dies by suicide, as does the young armorbearer.

A note about suicide: this remains an unbelievable scourge in our culture today. The pandemic, gender identity, mental illness, physical illness—all these contribute to what was once called ‘self-killing’. But it is not presented as a specific sin anywhere in the bible. Saul’s death by suicide, and even Samson’s, have more to do with the honor-shame culture in which these men lived. It was better to die honorably than to live in dishonor and shame. While we may not like Saul, his method of death should not be a reason to judge his entire life, and it would not have been considered ‘sinful’.

Nor should we carry the label of ‘sin’ into our own day regarding suicide. Yes, we are made in the image of God. Yes, God is the one who numbers our days. And yet suicide is most often the result of a depth of suffering that only God knows. In the book of Romans, chapter 8, we read that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Note also that suicide was removed from the list of mortal sins by the Catholic Church in 1983. So while old attitudes may persist, our response to those who die by suicide should be Christ-like—deep compassion, deep sadness and great love. Our job should be to reach out to those whom we sense are suffering in order to help prevent self-harm, or possibly suicide.

I hope that wasn’t too much of a digression, but I can’t let something as important as suicide sort of slip by our consciousness in the midst of these biblical narratives.

My second preoccupation today is that the ancient city of Ziklag (fortress) where David took refuge after fleeing from Saul. Ziklag was located in Philistine territory, and provided David with his own small town in which to shelter his family and his 600 soldiers and their families, flocks, and goods.

Recently, in 2019, the ancient city of Ziklag was discovered in an archeological dig. Pottery from the site determined the date of the site to be from the 10 Century BCE—David’s lifetime. Pottery found in the ruins, has been reconstructed and fits with the Hebrew style of pottery, which differed from the Philistine style of pottery because the Hebrews created plain pots without design. Philistine pottery typically incorporated spirals and other design work. The site was also determined to have been destroyed by fire—which is exactly what we read today (1 Sam 30: 1).

Why do I care about this so much? And why do I now want to visit the site when I go back to Israel? We read about these ancient cities, and ancient peoples as if they are cartoon characters, but they existed, they had wives and children, they ate legumes, olives, wheat--this is what was found at Ziklag. I want us to read our bibles less as ancient history that happened to someone else in another time, and to recognize the actual existence of Joshua, David, Ruth, Mary and all the others we learn about.

Walking in Israel, I remember the surreal experience of seeing sights that Jesus would have looked at. Standing on the Temple Mount, I was reminded of the difficult history that surrounded the Dome of the Rock, difficulties that still inform our attitudes, opinions and ideas today.

Don’t just read the bible—connect with it. Breathe the air, listen to the different personalities and the way they are presented to us in the narrative, look for the places where God becomes most present for you. Ask questions, get excited, get angry, feel bored (someone told me about the awfulness of reading the division of land between the twelve tribes in the book of Judges—just skim it—you have permission!), wrestle like Jacob, recognize the humanity, experience the suffering, note the differences between those times and ours, and keep going. This Big Story is part of YOUR story too.

Maybe when our pandemic fears and restrictions ease, we will be privileged to travel to Israel, to walk in the Holy Land, to have someone guide us through the ancient cities of Ziklag and Jericho, to stand in awe at the wonder and beauty in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and to recognize the age-old divisions that still exist there—6 different Christian denominations claim territory in that single church!!!

Forgive my wanderings today. I let my brain go where it wants to go, and today I had very divergent things happening: Suicide. Ziklag. Travel. Wonder.  Thanks for bearing with me.

Be blessed, and be a blessing to others,

ML



Comments

03-13-2021 at 11:55 AM
Linda Dow
There is a site on facebook called Jerusalem Dateline can join CBN news as they walk and video historical areas like a tour. So amazing.
03-13-2021 at 9:28 AM
Joyce Caputo
I so much want to travel to see with my own eyes snd stand in awe of this Holy Land
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