David moves in with the Philistines
David moves in with the Philistines
King Saul finally stops hunting himDavid and his followers eventually find relief from King Saul's relentless pursuit by turning to the enemies Saul has been unable to defeat, the Philistines. Israelites had infantry, but Philistines had countless infantry and a chariot corps of 3,000 chariots and 6,000 horses. Saul decided not to follow David into the coastal plains of Philistine territory, and certainly not into the Philistine town of Gath, where David went. It seems odd David would go there for safety, to the hometown of the Philistine hero David killed in mortal combat, Goliath. But the city king, Achish, welcomed him as a powerful ally and a fellow enemy of Saul. That's what the king thought. He was mistaken.
David the raiderDavid and his men made a living as raiders. They raided enemies of Israel and friends of the Philistines. They raided enemies of Israel: people from Geshur, Gezer, and Amalek who had settled in the southern territory between Telam and Shur, near Egypt. When David and his men attacked a community, they killed all the people. But they kept the livestock and gave it to King Achish: sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels. They gave him stolen clothing as well. King Achish would respond to the gifts by asking, “Who’d you raid today?” David would lie and say he raided Israel or their allies: “We raided the Negev land in Judah.” “We raided the Jerahmeel families in the Negev.” “We raided Kenites in the Negev.” No victims could dispute David. He killed them all. David kept pitching his lies to the king, one raid after another. He did this for as long as he lived among the Philistines. Achish thought he had a solid ally in David—someone who would never move away. The king figured that after all those raids David made on his own people in Israel, they must hate his guts. The story is in 1 Samuel 27. To compare The Casual English Bible version with other translations, see Bible Gateway.
Map of David hiding in Maon Desert
Map of David hiding in the Maon Desert
Badlands of IsraelOn the run from King Saul in Gibeah, David moves his men south to the Maon wasteland. It's not wasted time. He meets and marries a widow, whose husband he almost murdered over an insult. David's men had been voluntarily looking after a team of shepherds caring for a huge flock owned by a rich man named Nabal. That's Hebrew for "fool," and he qualified.
Payday for the shepherdAt a shepherd's payday, which is the sheep-shearing season, David sent messengers to Nabal to ask for some food for the service they provided. Nabal, drunk from celebrating his good luck, essentially called David a runaway slave. When David's messengers returned with the insult, David told his men to arm themselves. They were going to kill Nabal's entire family. Nabal's wife, Abigail, intercepted David. She brought an apology and supplies:
- 200 loaves of bread,
- 2 large animal skins full of wine,
- 5 butchered sheep ready to cook,
- 1 50-pound (23-kg) sack of roasted grain 
- 100 clusters of raisins,
- 200 pressed cakes of dried figs.
I almost killed your familyDavid told Abigail, “Thank God, the LORD of Israel, for sending you to me today. Thanks for coming here and for bringing some common sense with you. You kept me from killing people so I could take revenge and save face. I’ll tell you something. As sure as the LORD lives, if you hadn’t come to meet me like this today, I would have killed every male in Nabal’s family by morning.” When Abigail returned home and told her husband he nearly died, he died. It sounds like he may have had a stroke, because he seemed to become paralyzed, dying so after. David married the widow, "beautiful and intelligent woman" (1 Samuel 25:3). For other Bible versions, see Bible Gateway.
David hides in Maon Desert
Map of Samuel's world
Map of Samuel's worldGod picks three longshot characters to star in the stories of 1 Samuel, which we track on 3D-style maps customized for each Bible chapter. Those three men—Samuel, Saul, and David—are longshots in the sense that if God ever bets on a horserace, he’ll pick the one with the worst odds. It seems God likes to win big. And he likes to make a splash that people will notice. These stories are action dramas about the morphing of Israel’s 12 tribes into one united nation under God.
Mapping Samuel's storyIt all begins with Samuel as a longshot baby born to an infertile woman. Once he’s able to eat solid food, his mother gives him back to God. She takes him to the worship center, where he’s raised by Eli, a priest who did a bad job raising his own two sons. They grew up to become corrupt priests. But somehow, Samuel grew into a wonderful priest and prophet.
Tracking SaulIsrael’s first king, Saul, was a shy donkey herder until Samuel anointed him king—a job Saul didn’t want. When Samuel called in Israel’s tribal leaders and announced Saul as king, Saul wasn’t there. He was hiding among the baggage of the travelers. It seems a fair guess he was hanging with the donkeys who had hauled the baggage. King Saul made two huge mistakes. He disobeyed God’s strict orders. And he got insanely jealous of David’s popularity. He seemed to devote more time to hunting David than to preparing for the threat of Philistines living next door, along the coastland. David never showed any desire to kill Saul. Philistines killed him and three of his sons.
Tracking DavidThe Goliath Killer was the last son of nine—the runt of a shepherd’s family at a time when shepherds had only one way to go on the social ladder. Up. When the famous prophet and priest Samuel came to meet the family so he could anoint a future king, David’s dad called in all his sons but David. The youngest stayed with the livestock until Samuel insisted on meeting him, too. By the last chapter in the book, Samuel and Saul are dead. So, David is no longer a refugee on the run from the king. He’s an experienced raider of non-Israelite towns. And he shares the livestock he takes with his friends and the leaders of his own tribe of Judah. That sets him up for the story that continues in 2 Samuel, when those friends will crown him king of Judah. Other tribes will follow later, to make him king of all Israel.
ONE BOOK SPLIT IN TWOFirst and Second Samuel were written as one book. But it was too long to fit on a single scroll. So, when Jewish scholars translated it into the international language of the day, Greek, in the decades before Jesus was born, they split it into two books. They did the same with the books of Kings and Chronicles. The story begins here, in 1 Samuel 1. So do the Bible maps of Samuel's world. To compare the story to other Bible versions, try Bible Gateway.
Map of Hosea's world
Map of Hosea's world of Israel and Judah and surrounding countries in the mid-700s BC.
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