THE FIRST BOOK OF KINGS
SOMETIMES CALLED THE BOOK OF SAMUEL
There was a man once called Elcana, that lived at Ramathaim-Sophim, in the hill-country of Ephraim; he was an Ephraimite born, descended from Suph through Jeroham, Eliu and Thohu. He had two wives, one called Anna, the other Phenenna, and this Phenenna had borne him sons, whereas Anna was childless. Never a feast-day would he keep in his own city; he must be at Silo, worshipping the Lord of hosts, and offering him sacrifice; there dwelt the Lord's priests, Ophni and Phinees, the two sons of Heli. When the time came for Elcana's sacrifice, Phenenna must have many portions, for a son here, a daughter there, and he was sad at heart as he gave Anna her single portion, for Anna he loved dearly. Why had the Lord denied her motherhood? And still she must endure bitter persecution from her rival, that did not scruple to make her childlessness a matter of reproach; year after year, when they went up to the Lord's temple for the feast, it was ever the same. In tears she sat, with no heart for eating, while her husband Elcana tried to comfort her. Anna, he said, what need to weep, what need to deny yourself food? What sorrow weighs on your heart? Is it not worth the love of ten sons, the love I bear you?
Once, on such a visit to Silo, when eating and drinking was done, Anna rose up from her place and went to the temple door, where the priest Heli was sitting. Sad at heart, she prayed to the Lord with many tears, and made a vow: Lord of hosts, if you will take good heed of this sorrow I bear, if you will keep this handmaid of yours ever in remembrance, and grant her a son, then he shall be my gift to the Lord all his life long, a Nazirite unshorn. Such was the prayer she went on repeating, there in the Lord's presence; and Heli saw her lips moving as she did so; her lips pronounced the secret petition, but with no sound. Heli thought her besotted with wine; Come, he said, will you always be at your cups? Give your stomach a rest from the wine that so bemuses you. Nay, my lord, said Anna, you see an unhappy woman, unburdening her heart in the Lord's presence; there was no wine or strong drink here. Do not think of your handmaid as a light woman; only sorrow and bitter anguish have wrung speech from me all this while. Go then, answered Heli, and peace go with you; may the Lord grant the prayer you have made. I am your handmaid, she said; your favour is all I ask. Then she went back, and took food, sad-faced no longer; and next morning, when they had paid their devotions in the Lord's presence, they went back home to Ramatha.
And the Lord bethought him of Anna, when next Elcana took her to his bed; so, in due time, she conceived and bore him a son. The name she gave him was Samuel, in token that he was a gift she had won from the Lord. When her husband Elcana went to offer the Lord due sacrifice, and pay his vow, taking all his household with him, Anna stayed at home. She would not go, she told her husband, until the boy was weaned; then she would herself bring him into the Lord's presence, and leave him there for ever. Do as you will, Elcana said; wait here till he is weaned, and may the Lord bring his own will to accomplishment.
So she waited at home, and nursed her child till he was weaned. And now that he needed her no longer, she took him with her to the Lord's house in Silo, still so young. Three bulls, and a bushel of flour, and a skin of wine, were the offerings she made. When they brought the boy to Heli, to offer a bull-calf for him, Anna cried out, Listen, my lord! As you are a living man, my lord, this is the same woman that stood here in your presence, praying so eagerly! And my prayer was for a son, the boy whom you see. I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord granted my request; and now, in my turn, I make a grant of him to the Lord, a grant that shall be long as his life. Then they offered the Lord worship, and Anna made this prayer which follows.
My heart thrills with joy in the Lord; pride in the God I worship lifts high my head; now can I flout my enemies, happy in your gift of redress! Who so holy as the Lord? None, there is none else; there is no stronghold can compare with our God. Boast no more, boast no more; those lips must talk in another strain; the Lord is God all-knowing, and overrules the devices of men. See how he breaks the great warrior's bow, girds the feeble with strength; how the rich, for very need, must work as hirelings, while the hungry eat to their heart's content! See how at last the barren womb bears many, and the fruitful mother is left to languish! Lord of death and life, he brings men to the grave and back from the grave; Lord of poverty and of wealth, he alone humbles, alone exalts, raising up the poor man out of the dust, the beggar from his dung-hill, to sit among princes and reach the honours of a throne. It is the Lord that poised the round world on its foundations, and holds them in his keeping; safely his friends journey, dumb sit his enemies in the darkness; there is no protection for man in man's strength. The Lord will strike terror into his adversaries; hark, how his thunders roll above them in heaven! The Lord will sit in judgement on the remotest people of earth, the Lord will grant dominion and a sceptre of majesty to the king he has anointed. And so Elcana went back to his home at Ramatha, while Samuel remained to minister, at the bidding of the priest Heli, in the Lord's presence.
This Heli had two sons that were men of little worth, recked nothing of the Lord's honour or the duty of his priests to the people. When a man was sacrificing some victim, the priest's servant used to come up, with a three-pronged fork in his hand, while the meat was still cooking; and this he thrust into pot or pan, great or small, carrying off all that came up with it for the priest's eating; not an Israelite came to Silo but went away so treated. The priest's servant, too, would come up before the fat was offered, and bid the worshipper give him some meat to cook for the priest; he would take it raw, not stewed already. In vain the worshipper protested, It is the custom for the fat to be burned at once; that done, you shall take meat to your heart's content. No, give it me now, the servant would answer, or I will take it by force. This was heinous sin the young men committed under the Lord's eye; must they turn away men's hearts from honouring him with sacrifice?
Meanwhile, Samuel had begun to minister in the Lord's presence, girded, though still a boy, with the linen mantle. Every year, his mother made him a little tunic, and brought it with her when she came up with her husband on feast-days for the yearly sacrifice. And Heli gave a blessing to Elcana and his wife, May the Lord grant you children by this woman, in return for what you have lent him! When they had gone home, the Lord shewed mercy to Anna, so that she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. And evermore, boy though he was, Samuel rose higher in the Lord's favour.
Heli was now a man of great age, but tales reached him of the exactions his sons made from the Israelites; how they mated, too, with the women that kept watch at the tabernacle door. What wickedness is this of yours, he said to them, that brings me the complaints of a whole people! Amend your ways; it is ill hearing, that you should lead the Lord's people into transgression. If man does wrong to man, God's justice may yet be satisfied; if man sins against the Lord, who shall plead his cause for him? But they paid no heed to their father's warning; the Lord was resolved to make an end of them. And Samuel's boyhood went on; still as he grew he advanced in favour both with God and with men.
And now a messenger from the Lord came to Heli, and this was the Lord's warning to him: It was to men of your clan that I revealed myself openly, when they still dwelt in Egypt as Pharao's servants; and I chose Levi among all the tribes of Israel to hold the priestly office, mounting up to my altar and burning incense before me, and wearing the sacred mantle in my presence; to this clan of yours I gave a part in every sacrifice Israel should offer. And now you spurn the due ordering of sacrifice and oblation in my sanctuary; the sons of Heli must have a privilege higher than my own; yours must be the first taste of every sacrifice my people Israel bring to me! Listen, then, to the Lord's decree. My purpose was that you and your clan should be my ministers for ever; but now never speak of that (the Lord says); honour is for those that honour me, for those that make light of me, only contempt. Behold, a time is coming when I mean to cripple you, cripple that clan of yours; no kinsman of yours shall reach old age. You shall see a rival in my sanctuary, and Israel all prosperity; but in your kindred no old man shall be left living. My altar shall still have descendants of yours to minister at it; but it shall be a sight to make your eyes fail and your heart faint, when so many of your race die in their early manhood. And for a token of this, your two sons, Ophni and Phinees, are destined to fall, both of them, in a single day. Afterwards, I will find myself a priest that shall be a faithful interpreter of my mind and will; I will endow him, too, with a faithful posterity, to enjoy the favour of the king I have anointed. To him your descendants, if any such are left, will come cringing for a silver piece and a crust of bread; Only the common portion of a priest, they will say; only a mouthful of bread, and I am content!
In those days, when Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Heli's care, a message from the Lord was a rare treasure; he would not openly reveal himself. One night, Heli lay down to rest where he was wont to lie, his eyes dim now with age and sightless, and Samuel was asleep, there in the divine presence, where God's ark was, with the sacred lamp still burning. And the Lord's call came to Samuel. I am coming, he answered; then ran to find Heli, and said, I am here at your summons. Nay, said he, I never summoned you; go back and lie down again. So back he went, and fell asleep. Then the Lord called Samuel again, and again he rose up and went to Heli, to answer his summons. But still no summons had been given, and he must go back to sleep again. Till then, Samuel was a stranger to the divine voice; the Lord had not made any revelation to him. But when a third time the persistent call came, and Samuel went to Heli, still ready at his command, Heli recognized at last whose voice it was the boy had heard. Go back to sleep, he told Samuel; and if the voice comes again, do you answer, Speak on, Lord; your servant is listening. And Samuel went back to his bed and fell asleep.
And the Lord came to his side, and stood there waiting. Then, as before, he called him twice by name; and Samuel answered, Speak on, Lord, your servant is listening. And this was the Lord's message to Samuel: Here is doom I mean to bring on Israel that shall ring in the ears of all that hear of it. For Heli it shall bring fulfilment of all the threats I have uttered against his clan; from first to last, they shall be accomplished. Warning enough I gave him, I would pass eternal sentence on that clan of his, for his sons wickedness that went ever unchecked; and now I have taken an oath against all his line, sacrifice nor offering shall ever atone for their sin.
Samuel slept on till morning, when it was time for him to open the doors of the Lord's house; and fear withheld him from telling Heli of his vision. Then he heard the voice of Heli calling, Samuel, my son Samuel! I am ready at your command, said he. And Heli asked him, What message is it the Lord has sent you? May the Lord give you your due of punishment, and more than your due, if you hide from me any word of the message that was given you. Thereupon Samuel told him all that was said, keeping nothing back from him. It is the Lord, answered he, that has spoken; let him do his will. Samuel grew up, still enjoying the Lord's favour, and no word he spoke went unfulfilled, so that he became known all over Israel, from Dan to Bersabee, as the Lord's true prophet. After this revelation made to Samuel in Silo, the Lord continued to reveal himself there, as he had promised; and when Samuel spoke, all Israel listened.
The Philistines, at this time, had mustered their forces for battle, and the Israelites went out to meet them in arms, encamping at the Rock of Deliverance; the Philistines were encamped at Aphec. So now the Philistines marshalled their forces, and when battle was joined, they put the Israelites to rout; four thousand men were killed in that fight, scattered through the countryside. So the army fell back upon its encampment; and now the elders of Israel were at a loss; why had the Lord so left them at the mercy of the Philistines? They would send to Silo for the ark that bore record of the Lord's covenant; surely he would come into their midst, and save them from the power of their enemies.
The ark of the Lord of hosts, who sits enthroned above the Cherubim! They brought it there all the way from Silo; and with the ark came the two sons of Heli, Ophni and Phinees. Loud was the cry all Israel raised when the ark reached their camp, so loud that the earth rang again; and the Philistines, hearing it, wondered what could have set the Hebrew camp in such an uproar. When they were told that the ark of the Lord had been brought there, they were in a great taking of fear; God himself, they said, has come into the camp! And they groaned aloud; An ill day for us! Such confidence has never been theirs till now; an ill day! What defence have we against such heavenly powers as these? These are the powers that brought great plagues on Egypt, out yonder in the desert. Philistines, you must summon up your courage, and play the man, or these Hebrew slaves are like to be your masters. Courage, then; to arms! And they fought so well that Israel was utterly defeated, every man making for his own home in flight; here was a great disaster, in which thirty thousand of Israel's warriors fell. The ark of God, too, was taken by the enemy, and Heli's sons, Ophni and Phinees, were killed.
There was a man of Benjamin that ran from the field, and reached Silo that same day, with torn garments, and dust scattered on his head. At the time when he reached it, Heli was sitting there waiting for news, on a seat by the wayside; his heart misgave him for the safety of God's ark. When the tidings so brought were made known publicly, the whole city fell to lamenting. The noise of it came to Heli's ears, and he asked what this tumult should mean. With all speed the messenger came up and told his news. (Heli was then ninety-eight years old; his eyes were dim with age now, and sightless.) I come with news of the battle, he said; this very day I have run back from the army. And the news, my son, asked Heli; what is the news? Israel has been routed by the Philistines, the messenger answered, and there is great havoc wrought among the people; and your two sons, Ophni and Phinees, are dead; and the ark of God was taken. And Hell, when he heard mention made of God's ark, fell backwards from his seat, there in the door-way, and broke his neck, and died; so old a man was he, so spent with age. For forty years he had ruled Israel.
His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinees, was then in her pregnancy, and near her time; she too heard that the ark of God had been taken, that her father-in-law was dead and her husband besides, whereupon her pangs bowed her down suddenly, and she gave birth. She was at the point of death when the women about her said, Take heart, you have borne a son; but she gave no answer, and took no heed. Only she gave her son the name of Ichabod, thinking how the divine presence had left Israel, now the ark was taken; thinking, too, of her father-in-law and her husband; but it was the loss of God's ark that made her say, The splendour has passed away from Israel.
Meanwhile the Philistines had carried off the ark of God, taking it from the Rock of Deliverance to Azotus; and when it reached Azotus it was carried into the temple of Dagon and set down there in front of Dagon's statue. Next morning, the men of Azotus woke to find Dagon lying face downwards in front of the ark; and although they put the statue back in its place, the second day shewed a worse sight still; Dagon was face downwards in front of the ark, and there in the doorway lay his head and both hands, severed from the trunk, that lay where it fell. That is why to this day the priests and the worshippers of Dagon never set foot on the threshold when they enter his temple in Azotus.
And now the Lord sent a heavy plague on the men of Azotus and its neighbourhood, to their undoing, a plague of swellings in the groin. All through their townships, all over the country-side, the infection spread; the mice, too, swarmed everywhere; in the city, the dead lay piled in heaps. The men of Azotus, finding themselves so plague-ridden, would not keep the ark of Israel's God among them any longer, to bring disaster upon themselves and their god Dagon; so they summoned a gathering of all the Philistine chiefs, and put the question what should be done with the ark. It must be carried about, the men of Geth told them, from place to place; and carry it about they did, but wherever it went, from city to city, the power of the Lord made itself felt in a grievous mortality; on high and low it fell everywhere, rotting away their inward parts, and the men of Geth could devise no better relief than to sit on seats of leather.
So now they sent the ark of God on to Accaron; but no sooner had it reached them than the men of Accaron began crying out, They have brought the ark of Israel's God here, for our ruin, our common ruin! And they summoned all the Philistine chiefs, who determined that the ark must be sent back from where it came, before it brought death on themselves and their people. No city was free from the fear of death, and God's heavy visitation; even those who survived had shameful sores to tend, and everywhere cries of anguish went up to heaven.
Thus, for seven months, the ark of the Lord remained in the country of the Philistines; and at the end of them the Philistines summoned their priests and diviners. What are we to do with the ark of the Lord? they said. How best can we send it back from where it came? And their answer was, Why, if you mean to send the ark of Israel's God home again, you must not send it back without a gift. An offering must be made in amends for the fault you have committed; and if, after that, you recover from your sickness, you will trace his hand in the calamities that now afflict you. What offering, then, must we make for our fault? they asked; and this was the answer given: You must make five little mounts of gold, and five golden mice, one for each of the Philistine provinces; it was the same divine punishment that afflicted all the provinces, all the chiefs alike. When they are ready, these emblems of your shame, these figures of the mice that have ravaged your land, make amends with them to the God of Israel, and ask relief for yourselves, and your gods, and your lands. What avails it, to harden your hearts against repentance? So Pharao and Egypt with him hardened their hearts, and would not let his people go till they had felt all his plagues, but in the end they went. A waggon, newly made, you must have in readiness, drawn by two heifers in milk such as never yet bore the yoke, and the calves of these must be left behind. Lift the ark of the Lord on to this waggon, and put in a casket, at the side of it, the golden offerings you would make in amends for your fault; then let it go on its way, and see what befalls. If it goes up towards Bethsames and its own land, then be sure this grievous plague of ours came from the Lord; if not, we shall know it was an evil chance, and no visitation of his.
This advice they followed, yoked to the to waggon two heifers that were in milk, and left their calves stalled at home; put the ark of God on the waggon, and the casket with the five golden mice and golden mounts beside it. And the heifers went straight along the road that leads to Bethsames, and kept ever the same course, without swerving to right or left; lowing for their calves, but going on still; with the Philistine chiefs following them all the way to Bethsames. The Bethsamites were out in the valley, reaping their wheat, when they looked round and saw the ark coming, and they were glad men at the sight. It reached the land of Josue the Bethsamite, and there came to a stand, close by where a great stone was. So they broke up the waggon for firewood, and laid the heifers on it as a burnt-sacrifice to the Lord. Levites set down the ark of God, and with it the casket that contained the golden emblems, on the great stone, while the men of Bethsames, that day, brought the Lord burnt-sacrifice and offered him victims.
So the five chiefs of the Philistines returned, reaching Accaron that same day. The golden mounts which the Philistines gave to the Lord in amends for their fault came from the five cities of Azotus, Gaza, Ascalon, Geth and Accaron; and there were golden mice to match the whole number of cities, walled or unwalled, in the five Philistine provinces, (right up to Abel the Great, where they put down the ark of the Lord, that had been till that day in the lands of Josue the Bethsamite).
And the Lord smote some of the Bethsamites themselves, for prying into the ark of the Lord. (And he smote seventy men out of the people, and fifty thousand of the common folk.) Over this visitation the Lord had brought on them there was great grief among the people; Who can stand his ground, the Bethsamites asked, before a God so holy as this? To whom can we pass it on? And they sent messengers to the men of Cariathiarim, telling them that the Philistines had brought back the Lord's ark, and bidding them come and take it into their charge.
So they came as they were bidden, the men of Cariathiarim, and brought back the ark with them, housing it with a certain Abinadab in Gabaa; and they set apart his son Eleazar to keep watch over the Lord's ark. Long time the ark remained in Cariathiarim; twenty years so passed, and now the whole race of Israel sought rest from its troubles in following the Lord. Why then, Samuel told the Israelites, if your hearts are honestly set on coming back to the Lord, you must rid yourselves of all alien gods; no Baal for you, no Astaroth; your hearts must wait in readiness on the Lord and serve him only; then he will deliver you from the Philistine's power. So Israel cast Baal and Astaroth aside, to serve none but the Lord. Then Samuel would have all Israel meet at Masphath, so that he might beg the Lord's mercy for them there; and at Masphath they assembled, and drew water which they poured out before the Lord, and fasted that day, and made confession there to the Lord of their sin. And Samuel sat in judgement over Israel at Masphath.
This assembly at Masphath came to the ears of the Philistines, and their chiefs came out to offer Israel battle. Whereupon the Israelites, in great dread of them, bade Samuel pray to the Lord their God yet, if they were to be rescued from the power of the Philistines. So Samuel chose out a lamb still unweaned, and offered it whole to the Lord in burnt-sacrifice, crying out to the Lord for Israel, and obtaining an answer to his prayer. It was at the very moment when Samuel was offering sacrifice that the Philistines went to the attack; and the Lord volleyed his thunders against the Philistines that day, crashing loud above them, so that they were overcome with terror, and fell before Israel's onslaught; from Masphath all the way to the slopes of Bethchar the Israelites pursued them, cutting them down. Thereupon Samuel chose out a stone and set it up between Masphath and Sen, calling the place, The Rock of Deliverance, in token that the Lord was still their protector. So cowed were the spirits of the Philistines, that they never crossed the frontiers of Israel again; the Lord kept the Philistines in check as long as Samuel lived. They must give back, too, all the cities they had wrested from Israel, right up to Accaron and Geth; thus the Israelites freed their territory from the Philistines power, and enjoyed peace with their neighbours.
To Samuel men came for judgement all his life long; year by year he would go round from Bethel to Galgala, from Galgala to Masphath, holding assize in each of these cities, and so returning to his home at Ramatha; there, too, he sat in judgement, and there he raised an altar to the Lord.
In his old age, Samuel appointed his sons to perform the judge's office in Israel; the elder was called Joel, and the younger Abia, and they held assize at Bersabee. But these sons of his did not follow in his footsteps; greed bent them to take bribes, and to pervert justice. So all the elders of Israel met Samuel at Ramatha; you have grown old, they said to him, and your sons do not follow in your footsteps. Give us a king, such as other nations have, to sit in judgement over us. It was little to Samuel's mind, this demand for a king to be their judge; but when he betook himself to the Lord in prayer, the Lord said to him, Grant the people all they ask of you. It is my rule over them they are casting off, not yours. It has ever been the same, since the day when I rescued them from Egypt; me they will ever be forsaking, to worship other gods; and now it is your turn. Grant their request, but put your protest on record; tell them what rights their king will claim, when they have a king to rule over them.
In answer, then, to their request for a king, Samuel told the people all the Lord had said to him. When you have a king to reign over you, he will claim the rights of a king. He will take away your sons from you, to drive his chariots; he will need horsemen, and outriders for his teams; regiments, too, with commanders and captains to marshal them, ploughmen and reapers, armourers and wheelwrights. It is your daughters that will make his perfumes, and cook for him, and bake for him. All the best of your lands and vineyards and olive-yards he will take away, and entrust to his own bailiffs; and he will tithe the revenues of such crop and vintage as is left you, to pay his own courtiers and his own retinue. He will take away servants and handmaids of yours, all the lustiest of the young men, all the asses that work for you, to work for him instead; of your herds, too, he will take tithe. You will be his slaves; and when you cry out for redress against the king you have chosen for yourselves, the Lord will not listen to you; you asked for a king.
But Samuel could not gain the ear of the people; That will not serve, they cried out; a king, we must have a king! We must be like other nations, with a king to decide our quarrels, to lead us and be our champion in battle. So he listened to all this outcry of theirs, and brought it to the Lord's hearing. Give them their will, the Lord answered; appoint a king to rule over them. And Samuel bade the Israelites disperse, and go back to their homes.
There was a Benjamite in those days called Cis, descended through Abiel, Seror and Bechorath from Aphia, strong and vigorous, as a man of Benjamin should be; and he had a son named Saul, a fine figure of a man, none finer in Israel; he was a head and shoulders taller than any of his fellow-countrymen. There were some asses belonging to Cis that had gone astray; and he bade Saul go out on his travels, taking one of the servants with him, and look for them. All through the hill-country of Ephraim they went, and all through Salisa, without finding them; through Salim, and still no trace of them; through the country of Benjamin itself, and still no news heard of them. When they reached the Suph country, Saul turned to his companion; Come, said he, let us go home; my father will have ceased to care about the asses, and be anxious over us instead. But he answered, There is a servant of God dwelling in this city, a man greatly honoured; no prophecy of his but manifestly comes true. Let us make our way there, and ask if he can give us news about this errand of ours. And if we make our way there, answered Saul, what then? What offering can we make to this servant of God? No bread left in our wallets, not even a basket of food to offer! We have no present to make. I have a quarter of a shekel by me here, the other answered; some return to make for God's guidance on our errand. (In those days, the Israelites used to speak of going to consult the seer, meaning by the seer what we now call a prophet.) And at that Saul agreed that his plan was best; Come, said he, let us be on our way.
So they made for the city where God's servant dwelt; and as they were climbing up the hill that led to it they met some maidens who were coming out to draw water, and asked whether the seer was to be found there. He is, they answered, and not far forward on the road. Hasten after him; a public sacrifice on the sacred hill has brought him here to-day, look for him as soon as you enter the city, before he goes up to take part in the feast. The people must await his coming before they can eat; he blesses the victim first, and then the guests will sit down. Up with you at once; this is the time when you will find him. So up they went into the city, and as they entered it, there was Samuel coming out towards them, on his way to the sacred hill.
The day before Saul's coming, the Lord warned Samuel privately, At this time of day to-morrow I am sending a man of Benjamin on an errand to you. He it is you must anoint to be the king of my people Israel; he is to deliver them from the power of the Philistines. Their plaints have not gone unheard, nor unheeded. And now, when Saul first met his eyes, the Lord told Samuel, This is the man of whom I spoke to you; this is to be the ruler of my people.
There, then, in the gateway Saul came up to Samuel, and said, Pray shew me where it is that the seer lives. I am the seer you speak of, was his answer; go up before me to the hill-top, where you shall eat at my side. To-morrow I will send you on your way, and tell you all you would know. As for the asses that were lost three days since, put your mind at ease, they have been found already. And here is all the best that Israel has to give, waiting for whom? For you, and for your father's kin. For me, answered Saul, a man of Benjamin, the smallest of Israel's tribes, sprung from a clan that is named last among the clans of Benjamin? What means this greeting you have given me?
But now Samuel took Saul and his companion with him, and led them into the dining-hall, where he gave them the highest place among the company that was bidden there, some thirty men; and told the cook, Bring out the portion I gave you, with orders to keep it by you separate from the rest. So the cook bore in a shoulder, and put it before Saul; Here, Samuel told him, is the provision we made for you; sit down to it and eat your fill; it was put aside for you on purpose, when I invited my company. Saul, then, was Samuel's guest that day; together they went down from the hill into the city, and together they held converse on the house-top. There, on the house-top, Saul lay down and slept; waking early, at the first coming of the light, Samuel called out to him, Rise up, it is time I sent you on your way. Rise up he did, and together he and Samuel went out; and when they reached the edge of the city on their downward journey, Samuel said, Bid your servant pass on before us, and do you wait here a little; I have a message to give you from the Lord.
And now Samuel took out his phial of oil, and poured it out over Saul's head; then he kissed him, and said, Hereby the Lord anoints you to be the leader of his chosen people; yours it shall be to deliver them from the enemies that hedge them round. Would you have proof that this unction comes from the Lord? Listen, then; When you leave me to-day, and have gone southward as far as Rachel's tomb, on the frontiers of Benjamin, you will meet two men bringing you news that the lost asses you are looking for have been found; that your father has forgotten them in his anxiety, and only asks how he is to find his son. Then, passing further on your way, you will reach the oak of Thabor, and fall in with three men on pilgrimage to Bethel; one with three goats, one with three loaves of bread, one with a flagon of wine; from these you will have greeting, and two of their loaves for a gift. So at last you will come to the Hill of God, where the Philistines have set a garrison; and here, upon entering the city, you will meet a company of prophets coming down from the sacred height. With harp and tambour, flute and zither at their head, they will be uttering words of prophecy; and with that the spirit of the Lord will fall upon you, making you prophesy with the rest, and turning you into a new man. When all these signs have been granted, go about the work that lies before you; the Lord is at your side. At need, betake yourself to Galgal, where I will come to meet you, to present there your burnt-sacrifice and your welcome-offering; wait for me seven days, till I come and give you your orders.
So parted Saul from Samuel, and as he went on his way, the Lord gave him a new heart. All the signs he looked for were fulfilled that day, and when at last he came to the Hill, there was a company of prophets on its way towards him; whereupon the spirit of the Lord fell on him, and he prophesied with the rest. None that had known him hitherto but marvelled, upon seeing him prophesy in the company of the others, what had befallen the son of Cis; Is Saul, too, they asked, among the prophets? Why, said one to another, who can tell the parentage of any of them? (This was how the saying grew up, Is Saul, too, among the prophets?) His trance over, Saul went on, back to the hill-country. There was an uncle of his, that asked where they had been, and was not content with their story of consulting Samuel about the strayed asses. Tell me, said he, what message did the prophet give you? Why, answered Saul, he told me the asses were found. But of the kingship promised him he said no word.
And now Samuel bade the whole people gather in the divine presence at Maspha, and this message he gave them from the Lord God of Israel: It was I that rescued you from Egypt, I that protected you from the clutches of these and of all your oppressors. And now you have cast away your God, your only shield against so many misfortunes and afflictions; A king, you say, appoint a king to reign over us! Come then, present yourselves before the Lord, tribe by tribe, clan by clan. Then Samuel brought forward all the tribes of Israel by name, and the lot fell on Benjamin; brought forward all the families of Benjamin by name, and the lot fell on Matri's; and in the end he reached Saul, the son of Cis. When they looked for him, he was nowhere to be found; was he on his way to Maspha? They asked the Lord, and the answer came that Saul was there, hiding in his tent. Whereupon they ran to fetch him, and before long he stood in their midst, a head and shoulders taller than any of them. The Lord's chosen! cried Samuel. Look at him, and see if he has his like in Israel! And all the people shouted, Long live the king!
And now Samuel proclaimed to the people what the king's rights were; wrote it down, too, in a book, which he laid up in the Lord's presence; then he bade them disperse to their homes. Saul went back to Gabaa, and with him went some of the fighting men, whom God so inspired. There were others, graceless folk, who asked contemptuously whether such a man as this could bring them victory; and no gift would they offer him. But Saul made as if he could not hear their mutterings.
It was a month later that Naas the Ammonite offered battle, and laid siege to Jabes-Galaad; whereupon the men of Jabes would have made a treaty with him, and become his subjects. But his terms were, that he should put out the right eye of each citizen, to the shame of all Israel. So the elders of Jabes asked for a truce of seven days, while they sent messengers out to every part of Israel; if none came forward to help them, they would open the gates to him.
When these messengers came to Gabaa, where Saul lived, and told the people their errand, the whole city made loud lament. And just then Saul came in from the country, driving his team of oxen; What ails the people, he asked, that they should weep? And he was told of the message from Jabes. When he heard it, the spirit of the Lord fell upon him, and his heart burned with rage; there and then he took both the oxen, and cut them into small pieces, which he sent round by messenger to every part of Israel; The man who does not rally, said he, to the cause of Saul and Samuel, will have his oxen treated like these. And the Lord put the whole people in such dread of him, that they answered his summons to a man; when he called the roll at Bezech, Israel had sent three hundred thousand, and there were thirty thousand besides from Juda.
Back went the messengers, carrying word to Jabes-Galaad that relief would come next day, with the heat of the sun. So the men of Jabes, overjoyed at the new the messengers brought, told Naas that they would open the gates on the morrow, and he should have them at his mercy. That next day, at the morning watch, Saul divided his army into three, and made his way into the heart of the Ammonite camp at the time of the morning watch. All morning, till the sun gained its heat, he smote the Ammonites down; and those who survived were so scattered that never a pair escaped together. After this, the people cried out to Samuel, Where are the men who protested they would not have Saul for their king? Bring them out, and let us slay them. But Saul answered, Nay, the Lord has given Israel a great victory; there shall be no slaughter this day. And now Samuel called on the people to come with him to Galgala, and renew the covenant of the kingship there; so all went to Galgala, and there, at Galgala, took Saul for their king in the Lord's presence, which they honoured with welcome-offerings. A glad man was Saul that day, and not a heart in Israel but rejoiced with him.
But Samuel protested before the whole assembly of Israel: I have granted all you asked, and given you a king, who marches, now, at your head. I am an old man, and grey-haired, and you have sons of mine among you, and I am ready to answer for all my behaviour among you ever since my youth. Tell me, here in the presence of the Lord, and of the king he has anointed, have I robbed any man of ox or ass? Have I wronged anyone, oppressed anyone? Have I allowed anyone to bribe me? I will make restitution, not counting the cost. Never, they answered; never were you guilty of wrong or oppression; never did you take anything for your own. The Lord is my witness, said he, and the king he has anointed is my witness as you stand before me this day, that you can find no charge to bring against me. The Lord is your witness, they said.
Then he said to the people, It was the Lord that gave you Moses and Aaron, and rescued your fathers from Egypt; stand there now, in his presence, while I confront you with all the mercy the Lord has shewn to you and to your fathers, from the time when Jacob removed to Egypt. When your fathers pleaded with the Lord, he sent Moses and Aaron to rescue them from Egypt, and gave them a home in the place where you stand. But they forgot the Lord their God, till he put them at the mercy of Sisara, captain of Hazor's army, and the Philistines, and the king of Moab, who waged war against them; then they cried out to the Lord, We have sinned! We have forsaken the Lord, enslaved ourselves here to Baal, there to Astaroth! Deliver us now from the power of our enemies, and we will serve you still. So the Lord sent Jerobaal, and Badan, and Jepthe, and Samuel, to deliver you from the power of the enemies that surrounded you, and you lived safe in your homes.
Then, when you saw Naas king of the Ammonites levying war on you, nothing would serve but that I should appoint a king to command you; as if the Lord your God were not reigning among you as your king! Here, then, at your pleasure is the king you asked for, the king you longed for; be content, the Lord has given you a king. But on this condition, that you are to fear the Lord your God, and worship him, and listen to him, instead of defying his commands; both you and the king who governs you are to follow the guidance of the Lord your God. If you rebel against him, if you defy his commands, the hand of the Lord will fall heavily on you and your race. In token of it, here where you stand, you shall see the Lord do a wondrous thing before your eyes. It is harvest-time for the wheat already; but when I call upon the Lord's name, he will send thunder and rain, to give you visible proof of the great wrong you have done by defying him and asking for a king.
With that, Samuel cried out to the Lord, and the Lord sent down both thunder and rain that day, till the whole people was smitten with a great fear of the Lord and of Samuel. The whole people cried out with one voice, Pray to the Lord your God for us your servants, that our lives may be spared! We had sinned enough already, and now we have done him further wrong, by asking for a king to rule us. Do not be afraid, Samuel told them; you see how great is the wrong you have done; but now follow close where the Lord leads you, and serve him with all your hearts. Do not desert him for false gods which will play you false, granting neither aid nor deliverance. For his own renown, the Lord will not forsake his own people, and his people he has sworn you shall be. Pray for you? Never may I offend the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and pointing you to the good paths, the right paths. Fear the Lord, and serve him loyally with all your hearts; you have seen what marvellous deeds he can do in your midst, and if you cling to wicked ways, you shall be swept away, you and your king.
Saul was (so many) years old when he began to reign, and he had reigned for two years over Israel when he picked an army of three thousand men. Of these, two thousand were under his own command, around Machmas and the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand under Jonathan at Gabaa in Benjamin. The rest of the people he sent back to their homes. But now Jonathan overpowered the Philistine garrison at Gabaa, and news of it was brought to the Philistines; whereupon Saul sounded an alarm all through the country, Hebrews, here is news for you! So the word went round that Saul had overpowered a Philistine garrison, and Israel was at war with the Philistines; and they raised their battle-cry under Saul's command at Galgala.
Meanwhile the Philistines mustered their forces to make war on Israel, their chariots thirty thousand, their horsemen six thousand strong, and the rest of their host countless as the sand by the sea. On they came, and encamped at Machmas, east of Bethaven. And now the Israelite folk found themselves hard pressed; and their evil plight drove them to take hiding in den and thicket, cave and cleft and pit; there were Hebrews, too, that fled across Jordan into Gad and Galaad. As for Saul, he stood his ground at Galgala, but it was a dispirited army that followed him.
For seven days he waited to keep tryst with Samuel, but still Samuel did not come; and meanwhile, men were deserting from his ranks; so at last he bade them bring the victims for burnt-sacrifice and welcome-offering, and performed the sacrifice himself. And now, when the burnt-sacrifice was over, he saw Samuel coming, and went out to greet him. What is this you have done? Samuel asked. And he answered, I found that men were deserting from my ranks; you had not kept the tryst, and already the Philistines had raised their standard at Machmas. Can I let the Philistines sweep down on me here in Galgala, thought I, without first winning the Lord's favour? So I offered the burnt-sacrifice; there was no other way. But Samuel told him, This was great folly in you, so to transgress the commands which the Lord your God had given you. But for this, the Lord would have destined you, here and now, to found a line of kings that should have ruled Israel for ever. Now your dynasty shall fall with you; the Lord has found a man to fulfil his purposes, and rule his people instead of you; such is the reward of disobedience.
With that, Samuel left him, returning from Galgala to Gabaa in Benjamin. From Galgala, too, Saul and the forces that remained with him went up to Gabaa and the hill-country of Benjamin, to meet the attack; when he counted the roll, there were only some six hundred men to be found in his company. There, at Gabaa Saul and his son Jonathan encamped with their followers, while the Philistines confronted them at Machmas. Meanwhile, there were three parties of the Philistine army that went out to find plunder; one of them to the Sual country, on the way to Ephra, one by the Bethoron road, and one by the frontier path that looks down on the valley of Seboim, going out towards the desert. (At this time, there were no workers in metal left in the whole of Israel; the Philistines had taken good care that the Hebrews should not be able to make sword or spear. When a man would sharpen share or spade, axe or hoe, in whatever part of the country he lived, he must go down into the Philistine lands to do it. Blunted were share and spade, fork and axe; even the goads needed to be straightened; and in times of battle Saul and his son Jonathan were the only men in the army that carried sword or lance.) There was, too, a detachment of the Philistines that guarded the pass to Machmas.
And one day, Saul's son Jonathan proposed to the lad who carried his armour for him, Let us attack the Philistine detachment over yonder; but he said no word of it to Saul. Saul was encamped on the outskirts of Gabaa, under the pomegranate tree at Magron, with some six hundred men under him; he had a priest with him, bearing the sacred mantle, Achias son of Achitob. (This Achitob was brother to Ichabod, and son of that Phinees whose father Heli was once the Lord's priest at Silo.) The men in the ranks, too, knew nothing of Jonathan's errand. Just where he planned his attack on the Philistines, between the paths that climbed the hill, a rock jutted out on either hand like a single tooth, sheer on every side. One was called Boses and the other Sene; one faced northwards towards Machmas, and the other southwards towards Gabaa. Here, then, Jonathan said to his squire, Let us attack the post these uncircumcised Philistines have set on guard, and see if the Lord will speed us. Many or few, if the Lord means to grant us victory, who shall prevent him? As you will, his squire answered; lead on, I will follow where you bid.
We approach them, then, said Jonathan, and shew ourselves. And now, if they bid us wait till they come down to fetch us, let us keep our ground, and abandon all thought of the ascent. But if they bid us come up to their side, then go up we will; it is a sign that the Lord means to give us the mastery. So both shewed themselves to the Philistine detachment; Why, said the Philistines, here are the Hebrews coming out of the pits where they lay in hiding! And they cried out from their post to Jonathan and his squire, Come up to our side; we have something to disclose to you. And at that, Jonathan said to his squire, Up, then, go we; follow me close; the Lord is giving Israel the mastery. So, crawling upon hands and knees, Jonathan climbed up, and his squire after him; and of the enemy, some fell to Jonathan himself, some to the squire as he came up behind him. This first slaughter that befell, when Jonathan and his squire assailed them, was but of twenty men, on a piece of ground that measured half an acre, a day's ploughing for a pair of oxen. But all through the camp, all through the countryside, came a sudden terror; the rest of the detachment, that were returning from a foray, stood there open-mouthed; the earth, too, shook, and it seemed as if a divine terror were abroad. Looking out from Gabaa, the watchmen of Saul's army wondered at the sight; so many men that lay slain, so many more in flight this way and that. And now Saul bade his men find out who it was that had left the ranks, and learned that Jonathan was not there, nor his squire. So he bade Achias consult the ark of God (it was there that day, God's ark, among the ranks of Israel); but even as he was talking with the priest, a great clamour arose in the Philistine camp, that gained force and grew louder with every moment. Stay your hand, he said to the priest, and so, with his whole army, raised the war-cry and went to the attack. They found that the Philistines had come to blows, friend turning his sword against friend, and the slaughter raged beyond all bounds. Those Hebrews who, till now, had taken part with the Philistines, and were fighting at their side, now went over to the camp of Israel, the camp of Saul and Jonathan; and all those others who were in hiding among the hills of Ephraim, when they heard of the Philistine rout, came out to aid their fellow-countrymen, till Saul found himself at the head of some ten thousand men. Thus the Lord gave Israel the victory that day, and the field of battle spread wider till it reached Bethaven.
The Israelites were fighting, that day, in a close body, and Saul put a ban on them, Cursed be the man that touches food before evening comes; I must take full vengeance on my enemies! So none of them took any food; even when the whole army passed through a glade where there was honey lying on the ground, and they saw the honey oozing from its combs as they entered the glade, not one in the ranks put his hand to his mouth, such was their terror of the ban. Jonathan had not heard his father bind the people so; and he, reaching forward and dipping the end of his staff into a honeycomb, took a mouthful from his hand; whereupon his eyesight grew clearer at once. And what of the ban your father laid on us, one of the men said to him, calling down a curse on anyone who should touch food to-day? But the Israelites were faint on their march, and Jonathan said, It is an ill turn my father has done to his country; why, could you not see for yourselves how my eyes grew brighter for a mouthful of yonder honey? Think what a blow we might have struck, if the men had eaten their fill when we came upon the plunder the enemy had left behind them!
That day's pursuit took the army all the way from Machmas to Aialon, and they were weary men indeed; falling on the plunder they had recovered, they carried off sheep and ox and calf and slaughtered them there on the ground, eating them blood and all. When complaint was made that his men had disobeyed the Lord's command by eating meat with the blood in it, Saul told them, You have broken the law; find a great stone, and roll it up to where I stand. Then he said, Go round and bid the folk bring ox and ram to me here, to slaughter their meat on this stone; sin no more by eating it with the blood in it. So, till late at night, each man brought his ox with him and slaughtered it there. And Saul built an altar to the Lord there, the first he ever raised to him.
And now, cried Saul, let us attack the Philistines in the darkness, and harry them till day dawns, so that none is left alive. Do as you see best, the people answered; but the priest said, God is present with us, let us have recourse to him. Saul, then, asked the Lord whether he should pursue the Philistines, whether Israel would be granted the victory; but that day no answer came. Summon all the chieftains, cried Saul; we must have clear proof who it is has brought guilt on us this day. As the Lord, Israel's protector, is a living God, though it were Jonathan, my own son, that is answerable for it, he shall die without hope of reprieve. And no voice among them all said him nay. Do you stand on one side, he told the men of Israel, I and my son Jonathan on the other. Do as you see best, the people answered. And Saul prayed to the Lord God of Israel, Lord God of Israel, send us right guidance; tell us why it is you will give me, your servant, no answer this day. If the guilt lies with me, or with my son Jonathan, let the sign be Revelation; if with your people, let the sign be Holiness. Thereupon Jonathan and Saul were convicted, and the people went clear. Then Saul bade them cast lots between himself and Jonathan, and the lot fell on Jonathan. Tell me, said Saul to Jonathan, what it is you have done. So Jonathan told him; Touch food I did, but what food? A little honey picked up on the end of the staff I carried, and for that I must die. And Saul answered, Due punishment the Lord give me, Jonathan, and more than due, if your life is not forfeited! But the people cried out to Saul, What, shall he die, Jonathan, who has won such a victory for Israel? As the Lord is a living God, that were great wrong. Never a hair shall fall from his head; this day he has done good service, God speeding him. So it was that the people, that day, saved Jonathan's life. And Saul halted, not continuing his pursuit of the Philistines, who now went back to their own country.
Once he was firmly established on the throne of Israel, Saul carried war into the territory of his enemies, Moab, Ammon, Edom, the kings of Soba, and the Philistines; and everywhere he won victories. He, too, it was that mustered an army and defeated Amalec, putting an end to their forays against Israel. Saul had three sons, Jonathan, Jessui and Melchisua, and two daughters, the elder called Merob and the younger Michol. His wife's name was Achinoam, daughter to Achimaas. And he put his army under the command of his cousin Abner, son of Ner; like Cis, Saul's father, Ner was son of Abiel. As long as Saul lived, there was bitter war against the Philistines, and wherever he found a brave man or a skilful fighter, Saul would attach him to his own person.
But Samuel reminded Saul, It was the Lord that gave me commission to anoint you king of his people Israel; to his voice you must needs listen. And this is the message that comes to you from the Lord of hosts: I have not forgotten how Amalec treated the Israelites, standing in their path when they were on the way here from Egypt. This, then is your errand, to destroy Amalec and all his domains, granting no pardon, coveting no plunder, but slaying man and woman, child and infant at the breast, camel and ass. Whereupon Saul summoned all his men to arms, and counted their muster as closely as a shepherd counts his lambs; two hundred thousand warriors, besides ten thousand from Juda. With these, Saul marched to Amalec's capital, and laid an ambush in the ravine there; but first of all he warned the Cinites, Up, move your camping ground clear of the Amalecites; I would not involve you in their ruin; the men of Israel, on their way here from Egypt, had nothing but kindness from you. So the Cinites separated from Amalec, and Saul routed the Amalecites, driving them before him all the way from Hevila to Sur, on the confines of Egypt. He captured Agag, the Amalecite king, but although he put all the common folk to the sword, he and his army spared Agag; spared, too, the best of the flocks and herds, the choicest garments, the fattest rams; they would not destroy anything that was precious. All that was mean and worthless they destroyed readily enough.
And the Lord's word came to Samuel, I repent, now, of having made Saul king of Israel; he has played me false, and left my command unfulfilled. At this, Samuel was greatly moved, and all night long he pleaded with the Lord. At early dawn he rose up, resolved to find Saul that same morning; Saul, he was told, upon reaching the town of Cannel, had set up a monument there in his own honour, but had passed on now and made his way to Galgala. When Samuel reached it, he found Saul offering the Lord burnt-sacrifice, out of the first-fruits of the plunder taken from Amalec. The Lord's blessing on you, was Saul's greeting to him; I have fulfilled the divine command.
And this bleating of sheep, Samuel asked, that comes to my ears, this lowing of oxen that I hear? Why, answered Saul, these are what they brought back from Amalec; my men saved the best out of flock and herd, to be offered in sacrifice to the Lord; all the rest we have destroyed. May I tell you, asked Samuel, the message the Lord has given me in the night? and when Saul bade him speak out, he went on, It was little conceit you had of yourself, when the tribes of Israel were committed to your leadership. And the Lord anointed you king of Israel, and sent you on an errand; Up, he said, destroy the sinful men of Amalec, smiting them down till none is left. How is it you did not obey the Lord's command? Why did you fall to plundering, in defiance of the Lord's will? Nay, protested Saul, obey the Lord I did; I went where the Lord's errand took me, and brought back Agag, king of Amalec, in chains, and destroyed Amalec utterly. If my men carried off sheep and oxen, these were but first-fruits that were saved from the slaughter of all the rest, to be offered up to the Lord their God here in Galgala. What, said Samuel, think you the Lord's favour can be won by offering him sacrifice and victim, instead of obeying his divine will? The Lord loves obedience better than any sacrifice, the attentive ear better than the fat of rams. Rebellion is sin as witchcraft is sin, all one with idolatry is the unsubmissive heart. you have revoked your loyalty to the Lord, and he your kingship.
Then Saul confessed to Samuel, I have sinned; I have transgressed the Lord's will and your command; I was afraid of my own people, and humoured their desire. Grant that sin forgiveness; let me have your company, while I go back to pay the Lord worship. Nay, answered Samuel, you shall have no company of mine; the Lord has revoked your kingship over Israel, since you have revoked your loyalty to him. With that, Samuel turned to go, and the other caught him by the border of his cloak, which tore in his hand. This day, Samuel told him, the Lord has torn away the kingship of Israel from you, and given it to another and a better man than yourself. He who wins victories for Israel does not spare, does not relent; not his to alter his purpose like mortal men. But Saul still pleaded with him, Guilty though I be, at least give me countenance before the elders of my people and before the men of Israel, by bearing me company as I go to worship. Thereupon Samuel turned back and went with him, and worship he did.
Then Samuel would have Agag, king of Amalec, brought into his presence; and he was brought in, gross of body and trembling with fear; A bitter parting, said he, is this of death. But Samuel told him, Many a woman that sword of yours has made childless, and now a childless woman your own mother shall be; and he cut Agag to pieces, there in the Lord's presence at Galgala. So Samuel went back to Ramatha, and Saul to his home at Gabaa, nor did Samuel, long as he lived, meet Saul again. But ever he lamented over him, that the Lord should have made him king of Israel, and afterwards revoked his kingship.
But now the Lord said to Samuel, What, still lamenting over Saul? I have cast him off; he is to be king of Israel no longer. Come, put oil in that phial of yours, and go on an errand for me to Jesse of Bethlehem; in one of his sons I have looked myself out a king. How can I undertake such a journey, asked Samuel, without Saul coming to hear of it, and killing me? Take a young bull with you, the Lord answered, and make it known, I have come to offer the Lord sacrifice. To this sacrifice Jesse must be bidden; then I will reveal my will to you, and you shall anoint the man I direct you to anoint. Thereupon Samuel did as the Lord bade him; and when he reached Bethlehem, the elders of the city greeted him in alarm, asking whether his coming boded well for them. Yes, he told them, I have come to offer the Lord sacrifice. Rid yourselves of defilement, and join with me in offering it. And with that he hallowed Jesse and his sons, and bade them come to the sacrifice with the rest. As soon as they entered the house, his eye fell on Eliab, and he said, Here stands the Lord's choice, in the Lord's presence! But the Lord warned Samuel, Have no eyes for noble mien or tall stature; I have passed this one by. Not where man's glance falls, falls the Lord's choice; men see but outward appearances, he reads the heart. Then Jesse called Abinadab, and brought him into Samuel's presence; but, No, said he, this is not the Lord's choice; then Samma, but he said, No, not this one either. Seven sons of his did Jesse thus present before Samuel, but none of these, he was told, had the Lord chosen. Then Samuel asked Jesse whether these were all, and he answered, One still remains, the youngest, herding the sheep. Send for him, answered Samuel; we must not sit down till he comes. And Jesse sent and fetched him, red-cheeked, fair of face, pleasant of mien. And now the Lord said, Up, anoint him; this is my choice. Whereupon Samuel took out the phial of oil and anointed him then and there in his brethren's presence; and on him, on David, the spirit of the Lord came down, ever after that day. As for Samuel, he rose up and went home to Ramatha.
Meanwhile the Lord's spirit passed away from Saul; instead, at the Lord's bidding, an evil mood came upon him that gave him no rest. God sends you an ill mood, his servants told him, to disquiet you. We are your servants, waiting on our lord's bidding; shall we go and find some skilful player on the harp, to relieve you, when God visits you with this evil mood, by his music? Yes, answered Saul, find one who can play the harp well, and bring him to me. And here one of his servants offered advice; Stay, I myself have met such a man, a skilful player indeed, a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite. He is sturdy besides, and a tried warrior, well-spoken and personable, and the Lord is with him. Thereupon a message went out from Saul to Jesse, There is a son of yours, David, that looks after your sheep; send him to me. And Jesse loaded an ass with bread, and a flagon of wine, and a kid, and sent these by David as a present to Saul. Thus it was that David met Saul and entered his service; and became his armour-bearer, so well Saul loved him. Let David remain here in attendance on me, Saul told Jesse; I like him well. And whenever Saul was taken with this evil mood of his, David would fetch his harp, and play; whereupon Saul was comforted and felt easier, till at last the evil mood left him.
And now the Philistines mustered their army for battle, and raised their standard at Socho, in Juda, encamping between Socho and Azeca, in the region of Dommim. Saul, too, mustered the Israelites, and they marched to the Valley of the Terebinth, where they drew up their array to meet the enemy; the Philistines held the mountain-slope on one side, and Israel on the other, with the valley between them. And the Philistines had a champion, a bastard born, that was called Goliath of Geth. His height was six cubits and a span; he wore a helmet of bronze and a breastplate of mail, this too made of bronze, and weighing five thousand sicles; greaves of bronze on his legs, and a shield of bronze to guard his shoulders. As for his spear, it had a shaft as big as a weaver's beam, with an iron head that weighed six hundred sicles; and a man went before to carry his armour for him.
Such a man confronted the ranks of Israel, crying out, What need to come here armed for battle? Here am I, a Philistine born; do you, that wear Saul's livery, choose out one of yourselves to meet me in single combat. If he is a match for me, and can strike me down, we will accept your rule; if I have the mastery, and he falls, you shall accept Philistine rule, and become our subjects instead. Here and now, I set the host of Israel at defiance (said the Philistine); let them put forward a champion that will fight hand to hand with me. Terror fell upon Saul and all the men of Israel as they listened to the challenge, and their hearts failed them.
Now turn we to David, son of that Ephrathite of whom we spoke but now. This man, Jesse of Bethlehem-Juda, was father of eight sons, and in Saul's reign he was well on in years, and passed for an old man. Three of his sons, the eldest, had gone to the wars with king Saul; three warrior sons, the first-born Eliab, and Abinadab, and Samma. David was the youngest; and when his three eldest brothers went into Saul's service, he left it, and must go home to tend his father's flock at Bethlehem. When the Philistine had already been coming out from the ranks and confronting the Israelites for forty days together, it chanced that Jesse sent his son David on an errand. Here is a bushel of flour, said he, and ten loaves; take them with all speed to your brethren in the camp; ay, and ten cheeses to be a present for their commander. Go and look for your brethren, to see that all is well with them, and find out what their place is in the ranks.
It was in the Valley of the Terebinth he must find them, where they were carrying arms with Saul and all the men of Israel; so David rose early, leaving a man in charge of the flock, and went off with his load, to do his father's bidding. When he reached Magala, the army had raised its war-cry and gone out to fight; Israel was now marshalled for battle, and the Philistines awaited them. So David left all the gifts he had brought with him in the care of the baggage-master, and ran to the field of battle, to ask how his brethren fared. Even as he spoke, out came the champion of the Philistine cause, Goliath, the bastard of Geth; and David heard him repeat his customary challenge. All the men of Israel were shrinking away in terror from the sight of him; and the talk went round among them, Saw you this warrior that went by? He has challenged Israel; and great good fortune awaits the man who overcomes him. The king has promised such a man great riches, and his daughter's hand in marriage, and for his father's house, freedom from every tax levied in Israel. And now here was David asking, What reward is there for saving Israel's honour, by overcoming the Philistines? What, shall an uncircumcised Philistine defy the armies of the living God? So they repeated to him the tale of what the reward should be.
When his elder brother Eliab overheard the talk, he turned upon David in anger; Why have you come here? he asked. Why must that sorry flock of yours go astray in the desert? This is your old self-conceit, your old cunning; you have come here only to watch the battle! Why, what wrong have I done? David asked. Is there not matter here for questioning? Then, passing on a little beyond him, he spoke to another man, using the same words, and folk gave him the same answer as before. What David had said was soon noised abroad, till it came to the ears of Saul; and he was summoned ere long into Saul's presence. There is nothing here, he said, to daunt any man's spirits; I, my lord, will go and do battle with the Philistine. What, answered Saul, you meet the Philistine and engage him in battle? Why, you are only a boy, and this is a man trained to arms from his youth. But David told Saul, My lord, I used to feed my father's flock; and if lion or bear came and carried off one of my rams, I would go in pursuit, and get the mastery, and snatch the prey from their jaws. Did they threaten me, I would catch them by the throat and strangle them; that was my way of killing them. Lion or bear, my lord, I would slay them, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall have no better lot than theirs. Let me go out and save the honour of Israel; shall an uncircumcised Philistine defy the army of the living God? The Lord, said David, who protected me against lion and bear, will protect me against this Philistine.
Why then, said Saul, go, and the Lord be with you. Then he made David wear his own armour, put a helmet of bronze on his head, and a breastplate round him; and David, as he girded on a sword over his armour, tried whether he had strength to walk in this unwonted array. Nay, he told Saul, I cannot walk, so clad; it was never my wont. So he disarmed, and took nothing but the staff he ever carried, and five smooth stones, which he picked out from the river-bed and put in his shepherd's wallet, and a sling in his hand; and so he went out to meet the Philistine.
The Philistine, with his armour-bearer going before him, came ever nearer on his way, and looked at David with contempt; here was a boy, red-cheeked and fair of face. What, he asked, do you take me for a dog, that you come to meet me with a staff? And he cursed David in the name of his gods. Come close, he said; let me give your carrion to bird and beast. Nay, said David, though you come with sword and spear and shield to meet me, meet you I will, in the name of the Lord of hosts; in the name of that God who fights for the armies of Israel. You have defied them this day, and this day the Lord will give me the mastery; I will strike you down, and cut off your head. I will feed bird and beast with the corpses of Philistine warriors, and prove to all the world that Israel has a God; prove to all who stand about us that the Lord sends victory without the help of sword or spear. God rules the battle; he will put you at our mercy.
By now, the Philistine had bestirred himself, and was coming on to attack David at close quarters; so, without more ado, David ran towards the enemy's lines, to meet him. He felt in his wallet, took out one of the stones, and shot it from his sling, with a whirl so dexterous that it struck Goliath on his forehead; deep in his forehead the stone buried itself, and he fell, face downwards, to the earth. Thus David overcame the Philistine with sling and stone, smote and slew him. No sword he bore of his own, but he ran up and took the Philistine's own sword from its sheath, where he lay, and with this slew him, cutting off his head. And now, seeing their champion dead, the Philistines betook themselves to flight; while the men of Israel and of Juda rose up with a cry, and gave chase till they reached the low ground, and the very gates of Accaron; all the way to Geth and Accaron, along the road to Saraim, Philistines lay dying of their wounds. At last the men of Israel returned from their pursuit, and fell to plundering the Philistine camp.
As for David, he brought Goliath's head back with him to Jerusalem, and laid up the armour in his tent. Saul, as he watched him going out to meet the Philistine, had asked the commander of his men, Abner, from what stock this boy came. On your life, my lord, said Abner, I cannot tell. So the king bade him find out who the boy's father was and David fresh from his victory, was taken by Abner into Saul's presence, still carrying the Philistine's head with him. And when Saul asked of his lineage, David told him, I am the son of your servant Jesse, the Bethlehemite.
By the time he had finished speaking with Saul, David's heart was knit to the heart of Jonathan by a close bond, and Jonathan loved David thenceforward as dearly as his own life. It was then that Saul took David into his service, and would not allow him to go back home; and Jonathan, loving him dearly as his own life, made a covenant of friendship with David, took off his robe and all his gear, even to sword and bow and belt, and gave them to David to wear. This way and that David went at Saul's bidding, and his skill never failed him; when Saul put him at the head of his army, he earned the good will of the whole people, and of Saul's servants above the rest. But when David returned from slaying the Philistine, the women who came out from every part of Israel to meet Saul, singing and dancing merrily with tambour and cymbal, matched their music with the refrain, By Saul's hand a thousand, by David's ten thousand fell. And at this Saul was much displeased; it was no song to win his favour. What, he said, ten thousand for David, and but a thousand for me? What lies now between him and the kingship? So ever after, Saul eyed him askance. Next day, the evil mood had come upon Saul, divinely sent, and a frenzy took him, there in his house; David was playing, as he ever did, upon the harp, and Saul, who had a lance in his hand, threw it at him, thinking to pin David to the wall. Twice David must needs flee from his presence, thus threatened.
Saul, then, began to fear David, as the heir to that divine favour he had lost; to remove him from his person, he gave him command of a thousand warriors, so that he must take the field at the head of his men. David's skill never failed him in his enterprises, and the Lord was ever at his side; and Saul, seeing how well he prospered, began to be afraid of him; he was in high favour, too, with the men of Israel and Juda, marching out to battle at their head. Saul, therefore, promised him the hand of his elder daughter, Merob, in marriage, if he would play a man's part in fighting the Lord's battles; No need for me to touch him, Saul thought to himself, let the Philistines rid me of him. Why, David answered, who am I, what rank have I, what place does my father's kindred hold in Israel, that I should become the king's son-in-law? And sure enough, when the time came that David should have wedded Saul's daughter Merob, her hand was given to Hadriel the Molathite instead. Meanwhile, David had fallen in love with his younger daughter, Michol; and Saul was well pleased when he heard of it. I will promise her, thought Saul, in such a way as to entrap him; the Philistines shall rid me of him. And he told David, I have a second condition for you to fulfil, and thereupon you shall have my daughter.
Meanwhile, Saul had bidden his servants encourage David, when he himself was not by, telling him what favour the king, what love the king's servants bore him; it was time he became the king's son-in-law. But when they whispered these hopes to him, David said, Think you such a prize is won easily, when a man has neither purse nor station? When his servants came back to him with the news that David had answered thus, Saul bade them tell David, The king claims no bridal gifts, if you will bring him the foreskins of a hundred Philistines, to give him a royal revenge on his enemies. In this way, Saul thought to betray David into the power of the Philistines; but when they told him what their master had said, David was well pleased to win the king's daughter so. A few days afterwards, he set out with the men under his command, slew two hundred Philistines, and brought back their foreskins, which he counted out before the king as the price of his bride. And now Saul must give David his daughter Michol's hand.
That the Lord was with David, Saul could tell beyond doubt, and here was his daughter Michol David's loving wife; more than ever Saul grew afraid of him, and remained thenceforward his enemy. Meanwhile, the Philistine chiefs came out to battle; David, from the time when their attacks began, shewed greater skill than all the rest of Saul's officers, and his name was in high renown.
Once, Saul gave the word to Jonathan and to all his servants that they must put David to death. But Saul's son Jonathan, who loved David well, told him of the design; My father Saul, he said, means your death; be on the watch tomorrow, keep apart, and hide yourself. Out in the open fields, close to your hiding-place, I will stand talking to my father and will speak to him of you; and afterwards I will tell you what I have learned. So Jonathan pleaded David's cause with his father Saul; Do no wrong he said, to your servant David, that has done you no wrong, but is much your benefactor. Did he not put his life in peril, that day when he slew the Philistine, and the Lord gave the whole army of Israel a great victory? You were there to see it, and rejoice at it; and will you bring on yourself the guilt of blood wrongfully shed, by slaying David, who is innocent of fault? Saul listened to the plea of Jonathan, and relented; As the Lord is a living God, said he, no harm shall befall him. So Jonathan called to David, and told him all that had passed; then he brought him back into Saul's presence, where he remained as he had been ever wont. And when war broke out afresh, a David went into battle against the Philistines, and won a great victory, putting them to rout.
One day, Saul was sitting in his house, lance in hand, with the evil spirit upon him, divinely sent; and David was playing the harp before him. He tried to pin David to the wall, and David escaped from his presence, while the lance stuck in the wall, baulked of its aim. That night, David fled for his life; Saul had sent armed men to his house to make sure of him, for on the morrow he must die. But Michol, David's wife, warned him that death awaited him next day if he did not escape then and there, and let him down from a window. So David made good his escape that night; meanwhile, Michol brought out a sacred image and laid it in his bed, with goat's hair at its head, and coverlets wrapped about it; when Saul's pursuivants came to fetch David, they were told that he lay sick. But now they were sent back again to find David and bring him with them, bed and all, to die in Saul's presence; so they found, when they came in, an image lying on the bed, with goat's hair at the head of it. What is this trick you have played on me, Saul asked, helping my enemy to escape? Why, answered Michol, he threatened to kill me if I did not let him go.
So David reached safety, and went to Ramatha to find Samuel, and tell him of Saul's doings; and they retired, both of them, to live at the Naioth. Saul, when he heard from common report that David was there at Ramatha, in the Naioth, sent pursuivants there to seize him. But all they found was a company of prophets standing there in ecstasy, with Samuel, their leader, at their head; and with that, the spirit of the Lord fell on the pursuivants, and they were carried away in ecstasy like the rest. When Saul heard the news, and sent fresh messengers, these too fell into ecstasy, and the like happened when he sent a third time; so, in high displeasure, Saul took the road for Ramatha himself. When he reached the Great Well at Socho, he asked where Samuel and David were, and was told they were at the Naioth in Ramatha, so to the Naioth in Ramatha he went; and on him, too, the spirit of the Lord fell as he journeyed. Still in ecstasy he made his way to the Naioth in Ramatha, where he stripped off his garments and stood before Samuel in ecstasy with the rest; all that day and that night he lay on the ground naked. And so the proverb went abroad, Has Saul, too, turned prophet?
David meanwhile escaped from the Naioth at Ramatha, and came back to have speech with Jonathan. What is it I have done? he asked. For what wrong, what fault of mine does your father threaten my life? Nay, said he, never that; your life is safe enough. My father does nothing, of much moment or of little, without telling me first; why should he have kept this one design dark? It cannot be. And once again he swore friendship. But David said, your father knows well enough what favour I enjoy with you, and he thinks to himself, Jonathan must not know; this were great grief to him. But, as the Lord is a living God, and your soul a living soul, there is but a step between me and death. Then, said Jonathan, make known your will, and I will perform it. To- morrow, David answered, is the first day of the month, and custom will have it that I should sit next to the king at table. Bear with me if I hide in the open fields, instead, till that day and the next are over; and if your father looks about him and misses me, tell him that David asked leave of you to go home on a sudden to Bethlehem, where all his clan are holding their yearly sacrifice. If he is content, all is well with me; if he falls into a rage, be sure that he is bent on doing me harm. I am your servant, and you have made me swear a covenant of friendship with you before the Lord; do me, then, this kindness. And if I am guilty of any fault, do you yourself slay me, without seeking to reconcile me with your father. God forbid! said Jonathan. If I find out that my father is bent on doing you harm, nothing shall prevent me from telling you of it.
And now, said David, if your father gives you a rough answer, who is to bring me news of it? Come out with me, said Jonathan; let us walk together in the open fields. And when they were together in the open, he said to David, Let the Lord God of Israel be my witness, if I sound my father to-morrow or next day, and hear good news of David, I will send a messenger to give you the news; if not, may the Lord punish Jonathan as he deserves, and more than he deserves! But if my father is still bent on your harm, then I myself will bring it to your ear, and send you on your way unharmed; and the Lord be with you, as he was once with my father. While I live, shew me friendship in the Lord's name, and when I die, let time never diminish your friendship for my race. May the Lord, as he roots out David's enemies, one by one, from the land that knew them, leave out Jonathan's name from the list of his kindred; only on David's enemies let his vengeance fall! Thus did Jonathan make a covenant with the line of David, and the Lord's vengeance fell only on David's enemies. And Jonathan swore a fresh oath to David, so dearly he loved him, dearly as his own life.
Then Jonathan said, Since it is the first day of the month to-morrow, you will be missed; your place will be empty then and the day after. Make quickly, then, for the valley, and hide yourself; you must needs be in hiding that third day, when men can go about their work again. Wait, then, near the rock called Ezel; and I will come and shoot three arrows close to it, letting fly as if I were shooting at a mark. Then I will send a servant after them, bidding him go and fetch my arrows. If I tell him the arrows are on the near side of him, he has only to go and pick them up, then do you come out to me; it means, as the Lord is a living God, that all is well and no harm is meant you. If I tell him the arrows are beyond him, then depart, and peace be with you; the Lord will have you go. And as for the promises we have exchanged, may the Lord be arbiter for ever between me and you.
So David went and hid, out in the fields, and the new month came, and the king sat down to meat. He sat, as was his wont, on a seat close to the wall; Jonathan was standing there, and Abner took his place next to Saul, but David's was seen to be empty. That day, Saul said nothing of it; perhaps David had incurred some defilement, and had not yet been cleansed. But when the next day dawned after the new moon, and David's place was empty still, Saul asked Jonathan why the son of Jesse had not sat down to meat that day or the day before. He urged me, answered Jonathan, to let him go to Bethlehem. Pray give me leave, said he; a yearly sacrifice is being offered in the city, and one of my brothers has summoned me there. Do me the favour, then, to let me go with all speed and visit my brethren. At this, Saul fell into a rage with Jonathan; What, cried he, you son of a lecherous wife, do you think I have not marked how you love this son of Jesse, to your own undoing and hers, the shameful mother that bore you? Never, while the son of Jesse is left alive on earth, will your right to the throne be established. Send and bring him to me, here and now; he is a dead man. And why must he die? Jonathan asked of his father. What wrong has he done? Thereupon Saul caught up a lance as if to kill him; and Jonathan saw his father was determined upon David's death; so he rose from table in hot anger, and that second day of the month no food crossed his lips, so grieved was he, for David's sake, by his father's insults.
When day dawned, Jonathan went afield to keep his tryst with David, taking with him a boy that was his servant. Go and pick up the arrows I shoot, he told him, and bring them back to me. Then, as the boy ran for the first, he shot a second arrow beyond him; and when he reached the place where the first fell, Jonathan cried out after him, There is an arrow there beyond you. And now he called out after him, Make haste, do not linger where you are. So the boy gathered up Jonathan's arrows, and brought them to his master; but of the business that was toward, he knew nothing; only Jonathan and David knew that. And now Jonathan handed the boy his weapons, and said, Take them back with you to the city.
When the servant had gone, David rose up from his hiding-place, that gave upon the south country; he bowed his face to the earth, and three times did reverence, and then they kissed one another and wept together; there was no staunching David's tears. Go, said Jonathan, and peace go with you. That, and the oath we have sworn in the Lord's name, making him the arbiter between me and you, between my posterity and yours, for ever! So David set out on his journey, and Jonathan made his way back to the city.
It was to the priest Achimelech, at Nobe, that David betook himself. Achimelech was dismayed at his coming; Why are you alone, he asked, with none to attend you? The king, David told him, has given me a task to perform, but errand and instructions are both secret; and he has given me a trysting-place where I am to meet my companions. Have you food for them ready to hand, though it were but five loaves? Let me have what you can afford. Why, answered the priest, never a loaf have I here for common uses; there is only the holy bread. Are they free from defilement, these followers of yours, from the touch of woman, at least? As to women, David told the priest, we are as clean as when we set out a day or two back; and the packs the men carry are as clean as themselves. This is no holy errand of ours, but it will not bring any defilement, to-day, upon aught we carry with us. So the priest gave him hallowed bread, since he had nothing but the loaves which had been set out in the Lord's presence, and must now be taken away to make room for a new batch.
One of Saul's servants was there that day, waiting in the Lord's precincts, a man of Edom called Doeg, chief of Saul's shepherds.
And now David said to Achimelech, have you a sword or spear here for me? My sword and all my weapons I left behind, so urgent was the royal command. Yes, answered the priest, there is the sword of the Philistine, Goliath, whom you did slay in the Valley of the Terebinth. Wrapped in a cloth it lies, behind the sacred mantle. If you will take that, take it; there is none other but that. And there is none other like that, said David; give it me.
David set out the same day, to find refuge from Saul's pursuit, and betook himself to Achis, king of Geth. And at the sight of him, Achis men said to their master, Why, is not this David, a king in his own land? Was it not in his honour their dancers used to sing, By Saul's hand a thousand, by David's ten thousand fell? David marked their words well, and now he went in fear of Achis king of Geth. So he changed his mien when they were by, swooning in their hands and clinging to the door-posts and letting the spittle fall on his beard, till Achis told his men, Why, this is a madman you have found; why must you bring him into my presence? Have we not fools enough, that you bring this fellow in to let me watch his antics? Is this the man you would have me take into my house?
Afterwards David moved on, and took refuge in the cave of Odollam. His brethren and all his father's kindred followed him there; and soon a band of men gathered about him, the ill-used, the debtors, the disaffected, and David became their leader, so that he had some four hundred men at his heels. From Odollam, he went on to Maspha, in the domains of Moab, and asked the king of Moab to let his father and mother dwell there, until they should find out what fortune the Lord meant to send him; under the protection of the Moabite king they were left there, and remained with him all the time David was in the hills. But the prophet Gad bade him leave his hill-fastness and make his way back to the domain of Juda; so he moved on, and betook himself to the forest of Haret.
When the news reached Saul that David and his followers had come into view, Saul was dwelling at Gabaa, and held his court, spear in hand, in the wood of Rama. Listen, men of Jemini, he said to his vassals who stood there at his side, do you think the son of Jesse is like to give all of you lands and vineyards, make all of you chiefs and captains under him? How is it that you are all in conspiracy against me, and none of you will tell me the truth, even when my own son is in league with the son of Jesse? Is there none of you that will feel my wrongs, and bring me news of it when my own son encourages my own servant in disaffection, a man that has ever plotted against me, and plots against me still? And the answer came from Doeg, the man of Edom, who was chief among Saul's servants. I was by, he said, at Nobe, when the son of Jesse was there with the priest Achimelech, son of Achitob, who consulted the Lord for him, and gave him food for his journey; armed him, too, with the sword of Goliath the Philistine.
Thereupon the king sent out his summons to the high priest Achimelech, son of Achitob, and all his priestly kindred at Nobe, and they all came into his presence. Listen, son of Achitob, Saul began, and Achimelech answered, I am here, my lord, at your command. Why have you conspired against me, asked Saul, with the son of Jesse? Why did you give him bread, and a sword, and consult the Lord in his behalf, to help him in his rebellion, a man that has ever plotted against me, and plots against me still? Why, my lord, answered Achimelech, what servant of yours was ever so trusted as David, a king's son-in-law; one who ever goes on your errands, and fills so high a place in your household? This was not the first time I had consulted the Lord for him. God forbid, my lord king, that either I, your servant, or any of my kindred should be brought under any such suspicion! Nay, I knew nothing of this business from first to last. And the king said, Achimelech, you must die for it; you and all your kindred; then he bade his retainers, that stood about him, set to and kill the Lord's priests, men who had helped David by being privy to his flight and giving no tidings of it. But the king's retainers were afraid to lay hands on the priests of the Lord; so the king bade Doeg set to, and fall upon the priests. Fall upon them he did, Doeg the man of Edom, and slew that day eighty men that wore the linen mantle. Nobe, too, the city of the priests, the king put to the sword; man and woman, child and infant, ox and ass and sheep, all put to the sword.
There was only one descendant of Achimelech, son of Achitob, that escaped; his name was Abiathar, and he took refuge with David, bringing him the news that Saul had killed all the Lord's priests. I knew well, David told him, when I found Doeg the Edomite there that day, that he would not fail to tell Saul of it. I am answerable for the slaughter of all your kinsmen. Stay with me here, and fear nothing; my enemies are yours, and here you will be in safety.
News was brought to David that the Philistines were attacking Ceila, and plundering its threshing-floors. So he consulted the Lord, asking whether he should go and attack these Philistines; and the Lord answered, attack them he should, and bring the townspeople relief. But David's followers protested, Here are we going in fear of our lives, even on the soil of Juda; and would you have us make our way to Ceila, and fight the army of the Philistines? So David consulted the Lord again, and still the Lord said, Up, and to Ceila betake you; I will give you victory over the Philistines. So David and his men marched there and made war on the Philistines, driving off their cattle; he defeated them with great loss, and the town was rid of them. (It was here that Abiathar, son of Achimelech, took refuge with David; and he came bringing the sacred mantle with him.)
When news reached Saul that David had gone to Ceila, he thought, The Lord has put him at my mercy; he is shut in, now, by the barred gates of a city. And he bade his whole army march down there and lay siege to David and his men; but David, hearing of the secret plans that were being made for his hurt, would have Abiathar consult the sacred mantle. Lord God of Israel, was David's prayer, news has reached me that Saul is on his way to Ceila, to destroy the city that shelters me; what if the townspeople should hand me over to him? Tell me, Lord God of Israel, is the report true that Saul is on his way down? It is true, the Lord answered. Then David asked, Will the townspeople betray me and my companions into Saul's hands? And the Lord answered, They will. So David and his men, about six hundred strong, left Ceila and went back to their wandering life; and Saul, hearing that David had made good his escape from the town, said no more about his purposed attack.
After this, David must keep to desert fastnesses, and he made his home among the wooded hills in the wilderness of Ziph; and evermore Saul made search for him, but the Lord disappointed him of his prey. David lay close in the woods of Ziph, well knowing that Saul was bent on taking his life. And now Saul's son Jonathan ventured out, and visited him there in the woods, to bid him God-speed; Have no fear, said he, my father Saul will never find you. You are destined to reign over Israel, and I to take the second place; my father Saul knows well that so it must be. So they made a covenant between them, there in the Lord's presence; and David lay close in the woods, while Jonathan went home again.
Meantime the men of Ziph betook themselves to Saul at Gabaa, and said to him, We have news of David for you; he lies hidden in a forest stronghold on the slopes of Hachila, south of the desert. Come, then, where you may have your dearest wish; we will undertake to hand him over to the royal custody. The Lord's blessing on you! answered Saul; here are men that feel for my wrongs. Go and make your preparations carefully; take good heed to enquire where he has halted on his march and who has seen him there; he knows well enough that a skilful hunter is on his track. Keep watch, and note all the lairs he lurks in; then come back to me with sure news, and I will go with you. Let him go to ground as he will, I will hunt him out among all the multitudes of Juda!
So they went back to Ziph to prepare the way for Saul, and found that David and his men were in the desert of Maon, on the low ground south of Jesimon. When Saul and his followers came in pursuit, David had news of it, and took refuge in a rock-fastness, haunting still the desert of Maon; and through the desert of Maon Saul went in pursuit of him, learning that he was to be found there. At last a time came when Saul was traversing one side of a mountain, while David and his men were on the opposite side. David had lost hope of slipping through Saul's hands, now that Saul's men had encircled his, ready to cut them off. But a message reached Saul, Come with all speed; the Philistines have invaded the land. Whereupon Saul must needs give up his pursuit of David, and go back to meet the Philistines. That is how the place came by the name it bears, the Sundering Rock.
Then David withdrew, and made the fastness of Engaddi his home. So, when Saul returned from driving the Philistines away, word was brought to him, David is over yonder, in the desert of Engaddi; and with three thousand picked men from the Israelite ranks he went to hunt out David and his followers, though it were among rocks so steep that only the wild goats could find a footing. Close by some sheep-folds that met him on his way, there was a cave, into which Saul went to ease himself; and in the inner part of this same cave, David and his men lay hidden. Now, David's servants told him, the time has come which the Lord foretold to you, when he promised he would put your enemy at your mercy. Whereupon David rose to his feet, and silently cut off the skirt of Saul's cloak. Then his heart smote him, that he had even mutilated Saul's cloak; God be merciful to me, said he to his men, never may I do such despite to the Lord's unction, as to lay hands on the king he has anointed! So, with a word, he checked his men, and would not let them do Saul any violence.
When Saul left the cave, to go forward on his march, David followed him; he too left the cave, crying out after him, My lord king! And when Saul looked behind him, there was David bowing to the earth in reverence. Why would you lend an ear, David asked him, to such as tell you David is your enemy? You can see with your own eyes that the Lord put you at my mercy, yonder in the cave, and the thought came to me that I might kill you. But no, I looked down and spared you; Never will I lift a hand, thought I, against the king the Lord has anointed. Do but look, my father, on what I hold in my hand; do you recognize the skirt of your cloak? The skirt of your cloak I cut off; kill you I would not. Think on this, and tell yourself that there was never despite or wrong on my part, never a fault committed against you; it is you that are plotting against me, ready to compass my death. The Lord pass sentence between us; it is for the Lord to avenge me on you; this hand shall never be lifted against you. (So the old proverb says, Leave wrong to the wrong-doer, my hand shall not touch you.) A fine quarry you hunt, king of Israel, a fine quarry indeed! A dead dog, a flea, is all your quest. The Lord give sentence between us; the Lord witness and redress my wrongs, and rescue me from your power.
All this David said to him, and then Saul asked, Is it your voice I hear, my son David? and wept aloud. You give better measure, he said, than I; you return good for evil, and I evil for good. And you have shewn yourself a true friend this day, sparing my life when the Lord had put it at your mercy; should a man meet his enemy, and let him go unharmed? The Lord reward you for this day's kindness. This I know past all doubt, that one day you will be king, and have this realm of Israel in your power; swear to me in the Lord's name that you will not destroy the posterity which survives me, will not leave my name forgotten in the record of my father's race. So David bound himself to Saul by oath, and Saul went home, while David and his followers returned to their hill-fastness.
And now the Israelites must bewail the death of Samuel; all gathered with one accord and gave him burial at Ramatha, his home. Afterwards, David betook himself to the wilderness of Pharan. There was a man who lived in the desert of Maon, and had lands at Carmel, a very rich man, owning three thousand sheep and a thousand goats; it happened just then that he was shearing his flocks at Carmel. Nabal was his name, and he had a wife called Abigail, that was a woman of good sense and of great beauty; but this husband of hers, descended from Caleb, was a churlish fellow, wicked and spiteful in all his dealings. When news came to David, there in the desert, that Nabal was at his shearing, he sent ten of his men to Carmel, to find Nabal and wish him well in David's name. And they were to bear this message: My brethren wish you well, and your kindred too, and all that is yours. News has come to me that they are shearing, those herdsmen of yours whom we met out in the desert; all the time we were at Carmel, we left them unmolested, and never a beast was missing from their herds; ask your men, and they will assure you of it. My servants come at an auspicious time; look kindly on their request, and send such a present as you can best afford to your servants here, and your son David.
So David's men went on their errand, gave him the message in David's name, and waited for his answer. From David? said he. From the son of Jesse? There is no lack, in these days, of slaves that run away from their masters. Tell him that bread of mine and water of mine and the meat I kill are for my shearers here, not for strangers that have sprung up I know not whence. So David's men must make their way home again, and bring him his answer. Whereupon he bade all his followers gird on their swords. Gird themselves they did, and so did he; some four hundred men went with him, and the other two hundred were left to guard the baggage.
Meanwhile Abigail, Nabal's wife, had been warned by one of the servants, Some messengers came here, sent by David from the desert to greet our master, and he has turned them away. And yet these men were good friends to us, leaving us ever unmolested; loss had we none all the time they were with us in the desert; nay, they were a protection to us, night and day, while we pastured our flocks among them. Take thought, then, and resolve what you will do; your husband and your house are marked down for vengeance, and he is so cross-grained a man that there is no reasoning with him. Abigail wasted no time; she brought out two hundred loaves, two skins of wine, five rams ready cooked, five pecks of flour, a hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of dried figs; all these she loaded on asses, and bade the drivers go on before; she herself would follow. But she said no word of this to her husband Nabal.
She had mounted her ass, and was now at the bottom of the valley, when she saw David and his men coming down towards her; and she went to meet them. And still, as he came, David uttered threats; It was a thankless care of mine to protect all this man's goods, out in the desert, so that he never felt loss; it is an ill return he makes me for such a service. God grant David's enemies all they desire and more than they desire, if I let any male in this man's house live till morning! But Abigail no sooner met David than she dismounted from her ass and fell down before him, her face bowed to earth, and said, kneeling at his feet, For this fault, my lord, let me bear the blame! Listen to your handmaid, that craves audience of you. My lord, pay no heed to this cross-grained fellow Nabal, a fool in nature as in name; I myself saw nothing of the men that came from you. Oh, then, as you are a living man, and the Lord is a living God, the Lord who has restrained you from deeds of blood and kept your hands clean, (may all my lord's enemies and ill-wishers be as ill-advised as Nabal!), I entreat you to accept this offering I have brought you, as a handmaid to her master; share it, my lord, with your followers. And so let the fault of your handmaid be forgiven! Sure it is the Lord means to grant you abiding posterity, so well, my lord, do you fight his battles; and never may ill fortune attend you, long as you live! Rise up who may wrong you and plot against you, yet shall that soul of yours be in safe keeping with the Lord your God, stored up in his casket of life; it is the souls of your enemies he shall cast away, as from the whirling heart of a sling. Why then, when the Lord has granted you all his promised blessings, and made you master of Israel, let there be no sigh of remorse in my lord's heart, at the memory of innocent blood shed, or vengeance cruelly taken! Rather, when the Lord has so blessed you, may you think gratefully of me, your handmaid.
And David said to her, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel! A blessing, too, on these words of yours, and on yourself, who have prevented me this day from going on a bloody errand, using violence to avenge my wrongs! Nay, as the Lord is a living God, the Lord who has preserved me from doing you hurt, if you had not come to meet me thus early, never a male in Nabal's house should have lived till morning. So David accepted all the gifts she brought him; Go home in peace, he said to her; your prayer is granted, your suit has prospered. So she went home to Nabal, and found him feasting royally. His heart was merry, for he had drunk deep; and she said no word to him, of little import, or great, till morning. But in the morning, when he had slept away his carouse, his wife told him of all that had passed, and his heart went dead within him, cold as a stone; and when ten days had passed, the Lord struck Nabal down, and he died. When David heard of his death, he said, Blessed be the Lord, that has given me redress for Nabal's ill usage of me, keeping his servant clear of wrong, and himself punishing Nabal's spite!
Then he sent a message to Abigail, offering her marriage. And when David's messengers reached her at Carmel, and told her David had sent them on this errand, she rose up, and bowed down to earth; Let your handmaid be a waiting-woman, she said, to wash the feet of my lord's retainers! Then, without more ado, Abigail mounted her ass, took five maidens with her to wait on her needs, and went with David's messengers; and so he made her his wife.
He wedded Achinoam, too, from Jezrahel; both of these were wives to David. But as for Michol, that had been his wife once, her father Saul gave her in marriage to Phalti, son of Lais, a man of Gallim.
When the men of Ziph brought news to Saul in Gabaa that David was in hiding on the slopes of Hachila, that look out towards the desert, he set out with three thousand picked men from the ranks of Israel, and made his way to the desert of Ziph, to search for David there. On the slopes of Hachila Saul encamped; David, meanwhile, who was out in the desert, knowing that Saul meant to follow him there, had sent men to watch his movements, and it was Hachila they reported as Saul's halting-place. Then David himself went on a secret journey, and made his way to the spot; looked down at the place where Saul lay, where Abner lay, the commander of his army, and the very tent in which Saul slept, with all the rest of his men camped about him.
Thereupon David said to his companions, Achimelech the man of Heth, and Abisai, Sarvia's son, that was brother to Joab, Which of you comes down with me to the camp where Saul lies? And Abisai said, I will bear you company. So, at dead of night, David and Abisai passed through into the Israelite lines, and found Saul asleep in his tent, with his spear driven into the ground by his pillow; all around him, Abner and the rest of his army lay sleeping too. Now, said Abisai, the Lord has left your enemy at your mercy! Let me pin him to the ground as he lies with one thrust of yonder spear; there will be no need for a second. Nay, answered David, kill him you must not; none can lay hands on the king whom the Lord has anointed but he incurs guilt. As the Lord is a living God, David said, I will wait for the Lord to smite him down, till death comes to him, or he falls on the field of battle. The Lord be merciful to me, never will I lay hands on the king he has anointed! Come, take up the spear that is by his head, and yonder pitcher of water, and let us begone. So David took away the spear, and the pitcher of water that was by Saul's head, and back they went; none saw, none knew of it, none stirred; all lay tranced in a deep sleep the Lord had sent down upon them.
When David had crossed to the further slope, he stood on a peak of the hill far away, parted from them by a long distance, and cried out to the army of Israel, cried out to Abner, son of Ner. What, Abner, he said, will you never answer? And answer he did, Who are you, that cry so, disturbing the king's sleep? You were ever a brave man, Abner, David said, none like you in Israel; what guard is this you keep over your lord the king? The life of your lord the king was in danger but now, from a subject of his that found his way into the camp. This was great fault in you; as the Lord is a living God, you are no better than dead men, you that watch so ill over your master, the king he has anointed. Look about you, and see what has become of the king's spear, and the pitcher of water that was by his head.
With that, Saul himself recognized David's voice; Is it your voice I hear, he asked, my son David? And David answered, It is mine, my lord king, no other. My lord, said he, why would you hunt down this poor servant of yours? What have I done amiss, what guilt lies at my door? My lord king, give your servant a hearing. If it is the Lord that inspires you with such hatred of me, then let him be appeased by sacrifice. But if it is the work of men, the Lord's curse be on them; they have exiled me this day from the Lord's domain, bidden me go and worship alien gods. Why must the earth be stained with my blood, under the Lord's eye? A fine quarry for the king of Israel! A flea, a partridge on the hills, were as well worth his chase. I have done you wrong, Saul answered; return, my son David, return. Never again will I do you hurt, after this day when you have spared my life. My folly, I see it now; my long blindness, I see it now. Here is the king's spear, said David; best that one of the king's men should come across and take it. The Lord will make every man the return his own faith and honour have deserved; this day the Lord put you at my mercy, and I would not lift a hand against the king he has anointed. I held your life precious; may the Lord hold mine precious, and deliver me at all time of peril. A blessing on you, my son David, Saul answered; much you shall achieve, much win. And with that, David passed on, and Saul went back whence he came.
The time must come, David thought to himself, when I shall fall into Saul's hands; were it not better to escape, and take refuge in the country of the Philistines? Then Saul will give up the hope of hunting me down within the borders of Israel, and I shall be safe from his power. So David removed, and betook himself, with six hundred men at his heels, to Achis, son of Maoch, that was king of Geth; there, in Geth, with Achis, he and his men settled down, each with his own household; David with his two wives, Achinoam from Jezrahel, and Abigail that had been wife to Nabal at Carmel. As for Saul, when he heard that David had taken refuge at Geth, he gave up the pursuit.
And now David said to Achis, Do me this favour; make me a grant of land in one of the townships here. No need that I, your servant, should make my dwelling with you in your capital city. Whereupon Achis granted him Siceleg, and it has belonged to the kings of Juda from that day to this. David's stay among the Philistines lasted for four months; he would lead his men out, and drive off plunder from Gessuri and Gersi and from the Amalecites; these were settlements belonging to the old inhabitants of the land, which reached as far as Sur, on the borders of Egypt. Wherever he went, he ravaged the country-side, leaving neither man nor woman alive; then he would carry off sheep and ox and ass and camel and garments as his spoil, and so return to Achis. Did Achis ask where he had made his foray that day, he would answer, On the south of Juda, or of Jerameel, or of Ceni. Neither man nor woman must be taken alive and brought to Geth, for fear they should betray him and his. So David did, of set purpose, all the time he lived in the Philistine country; and Achis believed what he said, and thought to himself, This man has brought great hurt on his own people of Israel; now he is bound to my service in perpetuity.
It happened at this time that the Philistines mustered all their array, to levy war on Israel. Be sure of this, said Achis to David, that you and your men shall march at my side to battle. Why then, David answered, you shall have proof, now, of your servant's worth. Prove it, said Achis, and it shall be yours to guard my person at all times.
This was after the time when Samuel died, and was buried at his home in Ramatha, with all Israel to mourn him; after the time when Saul purged the country of soothsayers and diviners. The Philistines had joined their forces and marched to Sunam, where they encamped; and Saul, with the whole muster of Israel, went out to mount Gelboe to meet them; but as he looked down on the Philistine camp he was dismayed, and sorely his heart misgave him. When he consulted the Lord, no answer was sent him, by dream or priest or prophet; and at last he bade his servants find him some woman that was an enchantress, so that he could go and question her. There is such a woman, they told him, living at Endor. So he disguised himself, and put on other garments, and, with two of his men in attendance, visited the woman at dead of night. Use your enchantments, said he, to bring up from the dead the man I name to you. Nay, said she, you know well how Saul has been at pains to rid the country of diviners and soothsayers; why would you entrap a poor soul, to bring her to her death? But Saul swore to her, As the Lord is a living God, no harm shall befall you. And when she asked whom he would have brought up from the dead, he said, Bring up Samuel for me.
No sooner did Samuel appear to her, than the woman cried aloud, What is this trick you have played on me? You yourself are Saul! But the king bade her have no fear, and asked what it was she had seen. It seemed, she told him, as if gods were coming up from beneath the earth. What form is it you see? he asked. And she said, An old main has come up, wrapped in a cloak. Then Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed his face to the earth, and did reverence. Why have you disturbed my rest, Samuel asked, and brought me to earth again? I am hard pressed, Saul told him; the Philistines are levying war on me, and the Lord has forsaken me, giving me no answer by prophet or by dream; and I have summoned you to tell me how I am to make shift. Nay, answered Samuel, what need to ask? The Lord has forsaken you, and gone over to one that is your rival. He means to make good the threat I uttered in his name, that he would snatch the kingdom from your hand, and give it to another; it was of David he spoke. And your plight this day is the punishment the Lord sends you for disobeying his command, instead of executing his vengeance on Amalec; over you and all Israel he will give the Philistines mastery. To-morrow, you and your sons will be with me, and the Lord will leave the camp of Israel at the mercy of the Philistines.
With that, Saul fell his full length on the ground, so daunted was he by Samuel's words, so weak from taking no food all that day. The woman went to his side, seeing him thus overcome; My lord, she said, I obeyed you at the peril of my life, and since I have so humoured you, will you not humour this handmaid of yours, by letting her set a mouthful of food before you, to give you strength for your journey by the eating of it? But he refused to take any food, until his servants and the woman together put constraint on him; then at last he rose from the ground and sat on the bed. The woman had a calf by her that she had fattened; this she killed without more ado, took flour and kneaded it and baked it without leaven, and so she gave Saul and his men their meal. When they had eaten it they rose to go, and on they journeyed the whole night through.
So the Philistines marshalled their whole forces in Aphec, while Israel encamped by the spring at Jezrahel; at the head of their hundreds and their thousands the chiefs of the Philistines marched by, and at the rear, with Achis, were David and his men. And now the chiefs of the Philistines began asking what these Hebrews did there; Why, said Achis, you have surely heard of David, that was in the service of Saul, king of Israel? He has been with me a long time, more than a year now, and to this day, from the day when he first took refuge with me I have had no fault to find with him. But the chiefs of the Philistines took it amiss; Let this fellow go home, they said, and remain at the post you have allotted to him. He must not march into battle at our side; who knows whether he will turn against us when once we are engaged? What other peace-offering can such a man bring to his old master but these heads of ours? It was of this David the dancers used to sing, By Saul's hand a thousand, by David's ten thousand fell.
So Achis sent for David, and said to him, As the Lord is a living God, I know you for a good man and true; your place is at my side in battle, and never to this day from the day when first you came to me have I had any fault to find with you. But the chiefs look askance at you; go home, then, and peace go with you; it were well you should not cross the chiefs of the Philistines. Why, said David, what harm have I done, what fault have you to find with your servant, ever since I first appeared in your presence, that I should be forbidden to come out and fight against the enemies of my lord the king? Nay, answered Achis, I can vouch for it that to myself you are welcome as an angel of God; but the chiefs of the Philistines have decreed, He shall not go to battle with us. Come then, march away to-morrow with all your company; rise up at dawn, and begone with the morning light. So David and his men rose up early on the morrow to march away and return to the Philistine country, while the Philistines went to the attack against Jezrahel.
When David and his men reached Siceleg, the next day but one, they found that the Amalecites from the south had attacked and overpowered it, and burnt it to the ground; the women, too, they had carried off. They did not put anyone to death, of high or low degree, but carried off all they found, and so went on their way. So David and his men, coming back to the city to find it burnt down, and their wives and sons and daughters taken prisoner, raised a great cry of lamentation, and wept till their tears would flow no more. David's two wives, Achinoam from Jezrahel and Abigail, Nabal's widow from Carmel, had been carried off like the rest, and his was a heavy lot to bear; his followers came near to stoning him, so sore were their hearts at the loss of son and daughter. But David found refuge in the Lord his God. Bring out the sacred mantle, he said to the priest Abiathar, Achimelech's son, and when Abiathar had brought it, he asked the Lord, Shall I give these freebooters chase? Is there hope of overtaking them? And the Lord said, Go in pursuit; past doubt you will overtake them, and rob them of their prey.
So David and his six hundred followers marched all the way to the ravine of Besor, where some, for very weariness, must halt; but David himself still gave chase, with four hundred men at his back, leaving the other two hundred to rest from their weariness in the ravine of Besor. Then they came upon an Egyptian, out there on the plain, and brought him to David; but first they must give him bread and water, and part of a cake of dried figs, and two bunches of raisins; he must be restored and revived, after three days and three nights without food or drink. When David asked who he was, from where he came and whither he was bound, he said, I am a serving-man from Egypt; my master is an Amalecite; three days ago I fell sick, and he left me behind here. We had been making a foray over the southern border of the Cherethites, against Juda, too, and the south of Caleb, and we burned Siceleg to the ground. Then David asked him, can you shew me where to find the company of which you speak? First, said he, you must needs swear to me in God's name that you will neither kill me nor give me up into my master's power; then I will shew you where this company is to be found. So David took the oath asked of him, and the Egyptian led him to where they lay, scattered pell-mell over the ground, eating and drinking and making holiday over their plunder, the spoils they had won from the Philistine country and from Juda. All the rest of that day and all the next David drove them before him, and not one man escaped, except four hundred drivers who mounted their camels and fled.
So David recovered all the Amalecites had carried off, and his two wives with the rest; never boy or girl or chattel was missing; all that had been carried away David brought back. And as he came home, driving before him all the sheep and cattle he had won, the cry rose, This is David's booty. So he reached the two hundred men that halted, too weary to follow, and were left behind in the ravine of Besor; and as they came out to meet him and his followers, David went up and gave them friendly greeting. But there were churlish, graceless fellows among his own following who reasoned thus: Here are men that did not bear us company; for them, then, no share in the booty we have recovered. Let each of them take his own wife and children, and with these go away content. Nay, brethren, David answered, that will not serve. All these gifts the Lord has given, besides protecting us and winning us the mastery over these marauding enemies. Over this you shall get no hearing; the man that stays behind with the baggage has the same rights as the man who went into battle, all must share alike. Ever since that day this rule has been recognized and established; it is the law still observed in Israel.
When David reached Siceleg, he sent presents to the elders of the neighbouring cities in Juda, bidding them accept his offering taken out of the spoil of the Lord's enemies. These were Bethel, Ramoth in the South, Jether, Aroer, Sephamoth, Esthamo, Rachal, the cities of Jerameel, the cities of Ceni, Arama, the Hollow of Asan, Athach, and Hebron; and other places besides, where David and his men had once made their home.
Meanwhile, the Philistines had engaged Israel; and the Israelites fled at their onslaught, and were cut down on mount Gelboe as they fled. Ever harder the Philistines pressed on the retreat of Saul and of his sons, till at last his sons, Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Melchisua had fallen, and he himself bore the whole weight of the attack. The archers were following close on his heels, and sorely the archers wounded him. Then Saul bade his own squire draw on him and kill him; he would not have uncircumcised foes kill him with outrage. And when the squire's heart failed him, so that he would not obey, Saul himself caught up a sword, and fell on it. Whereupon, seeing his master dead, the squire fell upon his own sword, and died with him. So perished Saul, and his three sons, and his squire, and all that army of his, in one day.
And now the Israelites who lived beyond the plain, beyond Jordan, when they saw Israel routed and Saul and his sons killed, abandoned their cities and took to flight, leaving the Philistines to come in and settle there. Next day, coming to plunder the slain, the Philistines found Saul and his three sons, where they lay on Mount Gelboe, and they cut off Saul's head, and stripped him of his armour, and sent these from place to place in the Philistine country, to publish the news in the temples of their gods, and among their people. His arms they dedicated in the temple of Astaroth, and hung up his body on the walls of Bethsan. But the folk of Jabes-Galaad came to hear of what the Philistines had done to Saul; whereupon all their fighting men went out, marching all through the night, and took down his body and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Bethsan; reaching Jabes-Galaad, they burned them there, and carried off their bones to burial in the wood of Jabes. And they fasted seven days to lament him.