The Spirit of Prophecy, Volume 1, Chapter 33
Samuel and Saul
Based on 1 Samuel
The children of Israel were a highly-favored people. God had brought them from Egyptian bondage, and acknowledged them as his own peculiar treasure. Moses said, "What nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for?"
Samuel had judged Israel from his youth. He had been a righteous and impartial judge, faithful in all his work. He was becoming old; and the people saw that his sons did not follow his footsteps. Although they were not vile, like the children of Eli, yet they were dishonest and double-minded. While they aided their father in his laborious work, their love of reward led them to favor the cause of the unrighteous.
The Hebrews demanded a king of Samuel, like the nations around them. By preferring a despotic monarchy to the wise and mild government of God himself, by the jurisdiction of his prophets, they showed a great want of faith in God, and confidence in his providence to raise them up rulers to lead and govern them. The children of Israel being peculiarly the people of God, their form of government was essentially different from all the nations around them. God had given them statutes and laws, and had chosen their rulers for them; and these leaders the people were to obey in the Lord. In all cases of difficulty and great perplexity, God was to be inquired of. Their demand for a king was a rebellious departure from God, their special leader. He knew that a king would not be best for his chosen people. They would render to an earthly monarch that honor which was due to God alone. And if they had a king whose heart was lifted up and not right with God, he would lead them away from him, and cause them to rebel against him. The Lord knew that no one could occupy the position of king, and receive the honors usually given to a king, without becoming exalted, and his ways seeming right in his own eyes, while at the same time he was sinning against God. At the word of a king, innocent persons would be made to suffer, while the most unworthy would be exalted, unless he continually trusted in God, and received wisdom from him.
If the Hebrews had continued to obey God after they left Egypt, and had kept his righteous law, he would have gone before them and prospered them, and made them always a terror to the heathen nations around them. But they so often followed their own rebellious hearts, and departed from God, and went into idolatry, that he suffered them to be overcome by other nations, to humble and punish them. When in their affliction they cried unto God, he always heard them, and raised them up a ruler to deliver them from their enemies. They were so blinded that they did not acknowledge that it was their sins which had caused God to depart from them, and to leave them weak and a prey to their enemies; but they reasoned that it was because they had no one invested with kingly authority to command the armies of Israel. They had not kept in grateful remembrance the many instances God had given them of his care and great love, but often distrusted his goodness and mercy.
God had raised up Samuel to judge Israel. He was honored by all the people. God was to be acknowledged as their great head; yet he designated their rulers, and imbued them with his Spirit, and communicated his will to them through his angels, that they might instruct the people. God also gave special evidences to the people, by his mighty works performed through the agency of his chosen rulers, that they might have confidence that he had invested them with authority which could not be lightly set aside.
God was angry with his people because they demanded a king. He gave them a king in his wrath. Yet he bade Samuel to tell the people faithfully the manner of the kings of the nations around them: that they would not be as a judge of difficulties of church and state, to instruct them in the ways of the Lord, like their rulers; that their king would be exalted, and would require kingly honors, and would exact a heavy tax or tribute; that they would be oppressed; and that God would not manifest to them his mighty power to deliver them, as he had in Egypt, but when they should cry unto him in their distress, he would not hear them.
But the people would not receive the advice of Samuel, and continued to demand a king. "And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee; for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them." Here, God granted to rebellious Israel that which would prove a heavy curse to them, because they would not submit to have the Lord rule over them. They thought that it would be more honorable in the sight of other nations to have it said, The Hebrews have a king. The Lord directed Samuel to anoint Saul as king of Israel. His appearance was noble, such as would suit the pride of the children of Israel. But God gave them an exhibition of his displeasure. It was not a season of the year when they were visited with heavy rains accompanied with thunder. "So Samuel called unto the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day. And all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel. And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the Lord thy God, that we die not; for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king." Samuel sought to encourage the people, that although they had sinned, yet if they from that time followed the Lord, he would not forsake them, for his great name's sake. "Moreover, as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way; only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart; for consider how great things he hath done for you. But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king."
When the Philistines, with their large army, prepared to make war with Israel, then the people were afraid. They had not that confidence that God would appear for them, as before they had wickedly demanded a king. They knew that they were but a handful, compared with the armies of the Philistines, and to go out to battle with them seemed to be certain death. They did not feel as secure as they thought they should in possession of their king. In their perplexity, they dared not call upon God whom they had slighted. The Lord said to Samuel, They have not rejected you, but me, by desiring a king.
Now these men, who had been valiant and a terror to their numerous enemies, were afraid to go out against the Philistines to battle. They had their king, but did not dare to trust in him; and they felt that they had chosen him before the Strength of Israel. When they were brought into this perplexing condition, their hearts fainted. In their distress, the people scattered, and hid themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in high places, and in pits, as though escaping from captivity. Those who ventured to go with Saul, followed him trembling. He was in great perplexity as he saw that the people were scattered from him. He anxiously awaited the promised coming of Samuel; but the time expired, and he came not. God had designedly detained Samuel, that his people might be proved, and might realize their sin, and how small was their strength, and how weak their judgment and wisdom, without God.
In their calamity, they repented that they had chosen a king. They had possessed greater courage and confidence while they had God-fearing rulers to instruct and lead them; for they obtained counsel direct from God, and it was like being led by God himself. Now, they realized that they were commanded by an erring king, who could not save them in their distress. Saul had not a high and exalted sense of the excellence and terrible majesty of God. He had not a sacred regard for his appointed ordinances. With an impetuous spirit because Samuel did not appear at the appointed time, he rushed before God presumptuously, and undertook the sacred work of sacrifice. While equipped for war, he built the altar and officiated for himself and the people. This work was sacredly given to those appointed for the purpose. This act was a crime in Saul, and such an example would lead the people to have a low estimate of the religious ceremonies and ordinances sanctified and appointed of God, prefiguring the sinless offering of his dear Son. God would have his people have a holy regard and sacred reverence for the sacrificial work of the priests, which pointed to the sacrifice of his Son.
As soon as Saul had finished his presumptuous work, Samuel appears, and, beholding the evidences of Saul's sin, cries out in grief to him, "What hast thou done?" Saul explains the matter to Samuel, justifying himself, setting before Samuel his perplexity and distress, and his delay, as an excuse. Samuel reproves Saul, and tells him that he has done foolishly in not keeping the commandments of the Lord, which if he had obeyed, the Lord would have established his kingdom forever. "But now thy kingdom shall not continue. The Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee."
Because of the sin of Saul in his presumptuous offering, the Lord would not give to him the honor of commanding the armies of Israel in battle with the Philistines. The Lord would have his name alone magnified, lest the armies of Israel should exalt themselves as though it were on account of their righteousness, valor, or wisdom, that their enemies were overcome. He moved upon the heart of Jonathan, a righteous man, and his armor-bearer, to go over to the garrison of the Philistines. Jonathan believed that God was able to work for them, and to save by many or by few. He did not rush up presumptuously. He asked counsel of God, and then, with a fearless heart, trusting in him alone, moved forward. Through these two men, the Lord accomplished his work of subduing the Philistines. He sent angels to protect Jonathan and his armor-bearer, and to shield them from the instruments of death in the hands of their enemies.
Angels of God fought by the side of Jonathan, and the Philistines fell all around him. Great fear seized the host of the Philistines in the field and in the garrison; and the spoilers that had been divided into separate companies, and sent in different directions, ready for their work of slaughter, were terribly afraid. The earth trembled beneath them, as though a great multitude with horsemen and chariots were upon the ground, prepared for battle. Jonathan and his armor-bearer, and even the Philistine host, knew that the Lord was working for the deliverance of the Hebrews. The Philistines became perplexed. It seemed to them that there were men of Israel among them, fighting against them; and they fought against one another, and slaughtered their own armies.
The battle had progressed quite a length of time before Saul and his men were aware that deliverance was being wrought for Israel. The watchmen of Saul perceived great confusion among the Philistines, and saw their numbers decreasing, and yet no one was missed from the armies of Israel. After numbering the men of war, Jonathan and his armor-bearer were reported missing. Saul and the people were perplexed. He had the ark of God brought; and while the priest was inquiring of God, the noise among the Philistines increased. It sounded like two great armies in close battle. When Saul and the people of Israel perceived that God was fighting for them, those who had fled and hid in their terror, and those who had joined the Philistines through fear, united with Saul and Jonathan, and pursued the Philistines. The Lord wrought for Israel, and delivered them for his own name's glory, lest the heathen army should triumph over his people, and exalt themselves proudly against God.
Again, Saul erred in his rash vow that no man should eat until the evening. There was a great lack of wisdom in Saul's zeal in making such a vow. It was a great day's labor for the people, and they suffered much through faintness; and when the time of the vow expired, the people were so faint that they transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and ate meat with the blood, which had been forbidden of God. Saul was determined to slay his son Jonathan, because in his faintness he had tasted of a little honey, being ignorant of his father's vow.
Here was seen Saul's blind zeal, and failure to judge righteously and wisely in difficult matters. He should have reasoned thus: God has been pleased to work in a special manner through Jonathan, thus choosing him among the children of Israel to deliver them; and it would be a crime to destroy his life, which God has miraculously preserved. He knew that if he spared his life, he must acknowledge that he had committed an error in making such a vow. This would humble his pride before the people. Saul should have respected the ones whom God had honored by choosing them to deliver Israel. In putting Jonathan to death, he would slay one whom God loved, while those whose hearts were not right with God, he would preserve alive. God would not suffer Jonathan to die, but led the people to oppose Saul's judgment, although he were a ruling monarch, that he might be convinced that he sinned in making so rash a vow. "And the people said unto Saul, Shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel? God forbid; as the Lord liveth, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground; for he hath wrought with God this day. So the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not."
Saul was an impulsive man, and the people of Israel were soon made to feel their sin in demanding a king. The Lord directed Samuel to go unto Saul with a special command from him. Before he related to him the words of the Lord, he said to him, "The Lord sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel; now, therefore, hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the Lord."
Samuel had lost confidence in Saul's religious character, because he had been so regardless of following the word of the Lord. He had sinned in his presumptuous offering, and greatly erred in his rash vow. Therefore, Samuel gave him a special charge to heed the words of the Lord. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not."
Many years before, God had appointed Amalek to utter destruction. They had lifted up their hands against God and his throne, and had taken oath by their gods that Israel should be utterly consumed, and the God of Israel brought down so that he would not be able to deliver them out of their hands.
Amalek had made derision of the fears of his people, and made sport of God's wonderful works for the deliverance of Israel performed by the hand of Moses before the Egyptians. They had boasted that their wise men and magicians could perform all those wonders; and that if the children of Israel had been their captives, in their power as they were in Pharaoh's, the God of Israel himself would not have been able to deliver them out of their hands. They despised Israel, and vowed to plague them until there should not be one left.
God marked their boastful words against him, and appointed them to be utterly destroyed by the very people they had despised, that all nations might mark the end of that most proud and powerful people.
God proved Saul by intrusting him with the important commission to execute his threatened wrath upon Amalek. But he disobeyed God, and spared the wicked, blasphemous king Agag, whom God had appointed unto death, and spared the best of the cattle. He destroyed utterly all the refuse that would not profit them. Saul thought it would add to his greatness to spare Agag, a noble monarch splendidly attired; and that to return from battle with him captive, with great spoil of oxen, sheep, and much cattle, would get to himself much renown, and cause the nations to fear him, and tremble before him. And the people united with him in this. They excused their sin among themselves in not destroying the cattle, because they could reserve them to sacrifice to God, and spare their own cattle to themselves.
Samuel visits Saul with a curse from the Lord for his disobedience, for thus exalting himself before the Lord, to choose his own course, and follow his own reasoning, instead of strictly following the Lord. Saul goes forth to meet Samuel, like an innocent man, greeting him with these words: "Blessed be thou of the Lord. I have performed the commandment of the Lord. And Samuel said, What meaneth, then, this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear? And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed."
Samuel relates to Saul what God had said unto him the night before, which night Samuel spent in sorrowful prayer because of Saul's sin. "When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel?" He reminds Saul of the commands of God which he had wickedly transgressed, and inquires, "Wherefore, then, didst thou not obey the voice of the Lord, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the Lord?"
"And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag, the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things, which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal."
Saul here uttered a falsehood. The people had obeyed his directions; but in order to shield himself, he was willing the people should bear the sin of his disobedience.
"And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken, than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king. And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned; for I have transgressed the commandments of the Lord, and thy words; because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice."
God did not wish his people to possess anything which belonged to the Amalekites, for his curse rested upon them and their possessions. He designed that they should have an end, and that his people should not preserve anything for themselves which he had cursed. He also wished the nations to see the end of that people who had defied him, and to mark that they were destroyed by the very people they had despised. They were not to destroy them to add to their own possessions, or to get glory to themselves, but to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken in regard to Amalek.
The Lord had said unto Moses, "Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua; for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven." "Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; how he met thee by the way, and smote the hindermost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary, and he feared not God. Therefore it shall be, when the Lord thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it."
And yet Saul had ventured to disobey God, and reserve that which he had cursed and appointed unto death, to offer before God as a sacrifice for sin.
Samuel presented before Saul his wicked course, and then inquired, "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?" It would have been better had he obeyed God, than to make such provisions for sacrifices and offerings for their sins of disobedience.
God did not have as great delight in their shedding the blood of beasts, as in obedience to his commandments. The offerings were divinely appointed to remind sinful man that sin brought death, and that the blood of the innocent beast could atone for the guilt of the transgressor, by virtue of the great sacrifice yet to be offered. God required of his people obedience rather than sacrifice. All the riches of the earth were his. The cattle upon a thousand hills belonged to him. He did not require the spoil of a corrupt people, upon whom his curse rested, even to their utter extinction, to be presented to him to prefigure the holy Saviour, as a lamb without blemish.
Samuel informed Saul that his rebellion was as the sin of witchcraft. That is, when one commences to travel in the path of rebellion, he yields himself to be controlled by an influence that is in opposition to the will of God. Satan controls the rebellious mind. Those who are thus controlled lose a calm trust in God, and have less and less disposition to yield loving obedience to his will. Satan becomes more and more familiar with them, until they seem to have no power to cease to rebel. In this respect, rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.
Saul's stubbornness in persisting before Samuel that he had obeyed God, was an iniquity and idolatry. His love to carry out his own will was more desirable to him than to obtain the favor of God, or the approbation of a clear conscience. And when his sin was opened clearly before him, and his wrong definitely pointed out, his pride of opinion, his excessive self-love, led him to justify himself in his wrong course, in defiance of the reproof of Samuel, and the word of the Lord by the mouth of his prophet. Such obstinacy in a known transgression, separated him forever from God.
He knew that he had gone contrary to God's express command; yet when reproved by God through Samuel, he would not humbly acknowledge his sin, but in a determined manner uttered a falsehood in self-justification. If he had humbly repented, and received the reproof, the Lord would have had mercy and forgiven Saul of his great sin. But the Lord left Saul for his stubbornly refusing to be corrected, and for uttering falsehoods to Samuel, his messenger. Samuel told Saul that, as he had rejected the word of the Lord, God had rejected him from being king.
This last startling denunciation from Samuel gave Saul a sense of his true condition, and, through fear, he acknowledged that he had sinned, and had transgressed the commandment of the Lord, which he had before firmly denied. He entreated Samuel to pardon his sin, and to worship with him before the Lord. Samuel refused, and told Saul that God had rent the kingdom from him; and lest he should be deceived, he told him that the Strength of Israel would not lie, nor be as changeable as he was.
Again Saul earnestly entreated that Samuel would honor him with his presence once more before the elders of Israel and all the people. Samuel yielded to his request, and called for the cruel king Agag; and he came to him very politely. "And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal."
And the Lord no more communicated with Saul, or instructed him through Samuel. He had chosen to follow his own will, and had rejected the word of the Lord. God left him to be guided by his own judgment, which he had chosen to follow rather than to obey God. Saul had no true repentance. He had become exalted because he was made king. He manifested greater anxiety to be honored by Samuel before the people, than to obtain forgiveness and the favor of God.
Samuel came no more to Saul with directions from God. The Lord could not employ him to carry out his purposes. But he sent Samuel to the house of Jesse, to anoint David, whom he had selected to be ruler in the place of Saul, whom he had rejected.
As the sons of Jesse passed before Samuel, he would have selected Eliab, who was of high stature and dignified appearance, but the angel of God stood by him to guide him in the important decision, and instructed him that he should not judge from appearances. Eliab did not fear the Lord. His heart was not right with God. He would make a proud, exacting ruler. None was found among the sons of Jesse, but David, the youngest, whose humble occupation was that of tending sheep. He had filled the humble office of shepherd with such faithfulness and courage that God selected him to be captain of his people. In course of time, he was to change his shepherd's crook for the scepter.
David was not of lofty stature; but his countenance was beautiful, expressive of humility, honesty, and true courage. The angel of God signified to Samuel that David was the one for him to anoint, for he was God's chosen. From that time the Lord gave David a prudent and understanding heart.
When Saul saw that Samuel came no more to instruct him, he knew that the Lord had rejected him for his wicked course, and his character seemed ever after to be marked with extremes. His servants, whom he directed in regard to things connected with the kingdom, at times dared not approach him, for he seemed like an insane man, violent and abusive. He often seemed filled with remorse. He was melancholy, and often afraid when there was no danger. This disqualified him for being ruler. He was always full of anxiety; and when in his gloomy moods, he wished not to be disturbed, and at times would suffer none to approach him. He would speak prophetically of his being dethroned, and another's occupying his position as ruler, and that his posterity would never be exalted to the throne, and receive kingly honors, but that they would all perish because of his sins. He would repeat, prophetically, sayings against himself with distracted energy, even in the presence of his lords, and of the people.
Those who witnessed these strange exhibitions in Saul recommended to him music, as calculated to have a soothing influence upon his mind when thus distracted. In the providence of God, David was brought to his notice as a skillful musician. He was also recommended for being a valiant man of war, prudent and faithful in all matters, because he was especially guided by the Lord. Saul felt humbled at times, and was even anxious that one should take charge of the government of the kingdom, who should know from the Lord how to move in accordance with his will. While in a favorable state of mind, he sent messengers for David. He soon loved him, and gave him the position of armor-bearer, making him his attendant. He thought that if David was favored of God, he would be a safeguard to him, and perhaps save his life, when he should be exposed to his enemies. David's skillful playing upon the harp soothed the troubled spirit of Saul. As he listened to the enchanting strains of music, it had an influence to dispel the gloom which had settled upon him, and to bring his excited mind into a more rational, happy state.
Especially was the heart of Jonathan knit with David's; and there was a most sacred bond of union established between them, which remained unbroken till the death of Saul and Jonathan. This was the Lord's doings, that Jonathan might be the means of preserving the life of David when Saul would try to kill him. God's providence connected David with Saul, that by his wise behaviour he might obtain the confidence of the people, and by a long course of hardships and vicissitudes, be led to put his entire trust in God, while he was preparing him to become ruler of his people.
When the Philistines renewed war with Israel, David was permitted to go to his father's house to resume the occupation of shepherd, which he loved. The Philistines dare not venture their large armies against Israel, as they had heretofore done, fearing they would be overcome, and fall before Israel. They are ignorant of the weakness of Israel. They know not that Saul and his people have great anxiety, and they dare not commence the battle with them, fearing that Israel will be overcome. But the Philistines propose their own manner of warfare, in selecting a man of great size and strength, whose height is about twelve feet; and they send this champion forth to provoke a combat with Israel, requesting them to send out a man to fight with him. He was terrible in appearance, and spoke proudly, and defied the armies of Israel and their God.
For forty days this proud boaster filled Israel with terror, and made Saul greatly afraid; for no one dared to combat with the mighty giant. Israel, on account of their transgressions, had not that sacred trust in God which would lead them to battle in his name. But God would not suffer an idolatrous nation to lift their heads proudly against the Ruler of the universe. He saved Israel, not by the hand of Saul, but by the hand of David, whom he had raised up to rule his people.
Saul knows not what to do. He imagines Israel as Philistine slaves. He can see no way of escape. In his trouble, he offers great reward to any one who will slay the proud boaster. But all feel their weakness. They have a king whom God does not instruct, who dares not engage in any perilous enterprise, for he expects no special interposition from God to save his life. As Israel had been partakers with him in transgression, he had no hope that God would work specially for them, and deliver them out of the hands of the Philistines. The armies of Israel seemed paralyzed with terror. They could not trust in their king, whom they had demanded of God. Saul's mind was changeable. He would for a short time direct the armies, and then fear and discouragement would seize him, and he would countermand his orders.
As David is performing a humble errand from his father to his brethren, he hears the proud boaster defying Israel, and his spirit is stirred within him. He is jealous for the armies of the living God, whom the blasphemous boaster has defied. He expresses his indignation that a heathen, who has no fear of God, and no power from him, should be left to thus hold all Israel in fear, and triumph over them.
David's eldest brother, Eliab, whom God would not choose to be king, was jealous of David, because he was honored before him. He despised David, and looked upon him as inferior to himself. He accused him before others of stealing away unknown to his father to see the battle. He taunts him with the small business in which he is engaged, in tending a few sheep in the wilderness. David repels the unjust charge, and says, "What have I now done? Is there not a cause?" David is not careful to explain to his brother that he had come to the help of Israel; that God had sent him to slay Goliath. God had chosen him to be a ruler of Israel; and as the armies of the living God were in such peril, he had been directed by an angel to save Israel.
David is brought before Saul, and tells him that Israel need not fear: "Thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine." Saul objects, because of his youth. David refers to the perils he had experienced in the wilderness, to save the sheep under his care. He humbly ascribes his deliverance to God. "The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine." Saul gives David permission to go. He places upon David his own kingly armor; but David laid it off, and merely chose him five smooth stones from the brook, a sling, and a staff. As the proud defier of Israel saw the young man of beautiful countenance approaching him with this equipment, he inquired, " Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves?" He cursed David by his gods, and boastingly invited him to come to him, that he might give his flesh to the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field. "Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield;" but I come to thee, not in display of armor, nor with powerful weapons, but "in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied." David makes no boast of superior skill. His boast is in the Lord. "This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand, . . . that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hands. And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth."
David cut off the head of the proud boaster with his own powerful sword, of which he had boasted. And when the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they were confused, and fled in every direction, Israel pursuing them.
When Saul and David were returning from the slaughter of the Philistines, the women of the cities came out to meet them with demonstrations of joy, and with singing. One company sang, "Saul hath slain his thousands." Another company responded to the first, "And David his ten thousands." This made Saul very angry. Instead of manifesting humble gratitude to God that Israel had been saved out of the hand of their enemies by the hand of David, a cruel spirit of jealousy comes upon him, and, as in times past, he yields himself to its control. "And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands; and what can he have more but the kingdom?" His fears were aroused that this was indeed the man who would take his place as ruler. Yet because the people all esteemed and loved David, Saul was afraid to harm him openly.
Through the influence of the people, David was promoted to take charge of the business connected with warfare. He was leader in all their important enterprises. As Saul saw that David had won the love and confidence of the people, he hated him; for he thought that he was preferred before him. He watched an opportunity to slay him; and when the evil spirit was upon him, and David played before him as usual to soothe his troubled mind, he tried to kill him, by throwing with force a sharp-pointed instrument at his heart. Angels of God preserved the life of David. They made him understand what was the purpose of Saul; and as the instrument was hurled at him, he sprang to one side, and received no harm, while the instrument was driven deep into the wall where David had been sitting.
The people of Israel were now made to feel their peculiar position. They had daily evidence that God had left Saul to his own guilty course, and that they were commanded by a ruler who dared to commit murder, and slay a righteous person whom the Lord had chosen to save them. And by the cruel acts of Saul they were having living evidences to what extremes of guilt and crime a king might go who rebelled against God, and was governed by his own passions.
David had obeyed Saul as a servant, and his conduct was humble. His life was irreproachable. His faithfulness in doing the will of God was a constant rebuke to Saul's extravagant, rebellious course. Saul determined to leave no means untried, that David might be slain. As long as Saul lived, this was the great object of his life, notwithstanding he was compelled to ascribe to the providence of God the escape of David from his hands. Yet his heart was destitute of the love of God, and he was a self-idolater. True honor, justice, and humanity, were sacrificed to his pride and ambition. He hunted David as a wild beast. David often had Saul in his power, and was urged by the men whom he commanded to slay him. Although David knew that he was chosen of God as ruler in Israel, yet he would not lift his hand against Saul, whom God had anointed. He chose to find an asylum among the Philistines. He made even his enemies to be at peace with him, by his prudent, humble course, with whom he remained until the death of Saul.
When the Philistines again make war with Israel, Saul is afraid. He has no rest in any season of peril, and the people are divided. Some go with Saul in all his wickedness. Others cannot trust to his judgment, and wish a righteous ruler. Saul's last acts have been so cruel, presumptuous and daring, that his conscience is as a scourge, continually upbraiding him. Yet he does not repent of his wickedness, but pursues his relentless course with despairing desperation, and at the prospect of a battle, he is distracted and melancholy. He presumes, with his load of guilt upon him, to inquire of God; but God answers him not. He has barbarously massacred the priests of the Lord, because they suffered David to escape. He destroyed the city where the priests lived, and put a multitude of righteous persons to death, to satisfy his envious rage. Yet in his peril he dares to approach God, to inquire whether he shall make war with the Philistines. But as God has left him, he seeks a woman with a familiar spirit, who is in communion with Satan. He has forsaken God, and at length seeks one who has made a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell, for knowledge. The witch of Endor had made agreement with Satan to follow his directions in all things; and he would perform wonders and miracles for her, and would reveal to her the most secret things, if she would yield herself unreservedly to be controlled by his satanic majesty. This she had done.
When Saul inquired for Samuel, the Lord did not cause Samuel to appear to Saul. He saw nothing. Satan was not allowed to disturb the rest of Samuel in the grave, and bring him up in reality to the witch of Endor. God does not give Satan power to resurrect the dead. But Satan's angels assume the form of dead friends, and speak and act like them, that through professed dead friends he can the better carry on his work of deception. Satan knew Samuel well, and he knew how to represent him before the witch of Endor, and to utter correctly the fate of Saul and his sons.
Satan will come in a very plausible manner to such as he can deceive, and will insinuate himself into their favor, and lead them almost imperceptibly from God. He wins them under his control, cautiously at first, until their perceptibilities become blunted. Then he will make bolder suggestions, until he can lead them to commit almost any degree of crime. When he has led them fully into his snare, he is then willing that they should see where they are, and he exults in their confusion, as in the case of Saul. He had suffered Satan to lead him a willing captive, and now Satan spreads before Saul a correct description of his fate. By giving Saul a correct statement of his end, through the woman of Endor, Satan opens a way for Israel to be instructed by his satanic cunning, that they may, in their rebellion against God, learn of him, and by thus doing, sever the last link which would hold them to God.
Saul knew that in this last act, of consulting the witch of Endor, he cut the last shred which held him to God. He knew that if he had not before willfully separated himself from God, this act sealed that separation, and made it final. He had made an agreement with death, and a covenant with hell. The cup of his iniquity was full.