Thu, 29 November 2018
Bible Study #46: The Life of David III
Opening Prayer: Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (From the Prayer before the Gospel in the Divine Liturgy; see 2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)
1 Kingdoms/Samuel 22. David gathers an army; Saul has the prophets killed.
St. Ambrose. It's not great to run. For the just engage in many struggles. Does an athlete contend only once? How often, after he has won many victor’s crowns, is he overcome in another contest! How often it happens that one who has frequently gained the victory sometimes hesitates and is held fast in uncertainty! And it frequently comes to pass that a brave man is contending with brave men and greater struggles arise, where proofs of strength are greater. Thus, when David sought to flee to avoid the adversary, he also did not find his wings. He was driven here and there in an uncertain struggle.… But David is still in the cave—that is, in the flesh—in the cavern of his body, as it were, as he fights with King Saul, the son of hardness, and with the power of that spiritual prince who is not visible but is comprehensible.
St. Athanasius. But it is better than tyranny. For if it is a bad thing to flee, it is much worse to persecute. The one party hides himself to escape death, the other persecutes with a desire to kill. It is written in the Scriptures that we ought to flee; but he that seeks to destroy transgresses the law and also is himself the occasion of the other’s flight. If then they [the Arians] reproach me with my flight, let them be more ashamed of their own persecution. Let them cease to conspire, and those who flee will immediately cease to do so. But they, instead of giving up their wickedness, are employing every means to obtain possession of my person, not perceiving that the flight of those who are persecuted is a strong argument against those who persecute. For no one flees from the gentle and the humane, but from the cruel and the evil-minded. “Every one that was in distress and every one that was in debt” fled from Saul and took refuge with David. But this is the reason why these men [those persecuting Athanasius] desire to cut off those who are in concealment, that there may be no evidence forthcoming of their own wickedness. But in this their minds seem to be blinded with their usual error. For the more the flight of their enemies becomes known, so much the more notorious will be the destruction or the banishment which their treachery has brought upon them. So whether they kill them outright, their death will be the more loudly noised abroad against them, or whether they drive them into banishment, they will but be sending forth everywhere monuments of their own iniquity.
St. Ephraim the Syrian. David as a Christ, Saul as a Herod, the prophets as the babes.
Indeed, when Saul heard that the priests had helped David unwittingly, he had them brought to him, and he killed them. It was fitting for you too that innocent blood be hung about your neck, as was Saul’s case. But the Son of David escaped from your hands amid the Gentiles. David was persecuted by Saul, just as the Son was by Herod. The priests were slain because of David, and the infants because of our Lord. Abiathar escaped from the priests, as John did from the infants.7 In [the person of] Abiathar the priesthood of the house of Eli was brought to an end, and in John the prophecy of the sons of Jacob was terminated. =
1 Kingdoms/Samuel 23. David wins a battle, consults the Lord, then hides again
Note that David is confirmed as a type of priest (eating the show bread), prophet (consulting the ephod), and warrior-king (goliath's sword).
1 Kingdoms/Samuel 24. David spares Saul's life and Saul prophecies about David's future.
St. Jerome. Psalm 141 is the fruit of this persecution.
Saul, unaware of David’s hiding place, also entered the cave in order to take care of his needs, I presume.… Accordingly, this psalm of David is accepted for certain in the name of the Lord; Saul appears as the devil, and the cave becomes this world. The devil, furthermore, does not discharge any good into this world, but only dung and corruption. Then, too, the cave symbolizes this world because its light is very imperfect when compared with the light of the future world, albeit the Lord, on coming into this world as light, brightens it up considerably. That is why the apostle, in relation to the Father, speaks of him “who is the brightness of his glory.” (Hebrews 1:3) Now just as David entered the cave in his flight from Saul, the Lord, too, has come into this world and has suffered persecution.
St. Gregory of Nyssa. David is a model of self control.
This is why the coming together of Saul, who was in pursuit of murder, and of David, who was shunning murder, in the cave is described after many events which it had preceded. The authority to kill was reversed in this event, since the one who was being pursued for execution had authority over the slaughter of his killer, and although he had the right, so far as retribution against his enemy was concerned, he stayed his power so far as consisted with the right and killed his own anger in himself instead of his enemy.
St. Augustine. This self-control is out of respect for Saul's anointing.
The very oil with which he was anointed (the chrism by token of which he was called a “Christ”) must be understood symbolically as pointing to a profound mystery. David himself so religiously respected this anointed state that he was conscience-stricken when, in a dark cave where Saul had entered to ease himself, David came up, unseen, from behind and cut off a tiny piece of Saul’s robe. David did this merely to have evidence later how he had spared Saul when he could have killed him, thus hoping to disabuse Saul of the idea which drove him implacably to pursue David as his foe. Nevertheless, David quaked with fear that perhaps merely by so touching Saul’s garments he was guilty of sacrilege.… Such deep religious reverence was paid to this foreshadowing figure, not for what it was in itself but precisely because of the reality it typified.
St. Ambrose. What goes around comes around.
What a virtuous action that was, when David wished rather to spare the king his enemy, though he could have injured him! How useful, too, it was, for it helped him when he succeeded to the throne. For all learned to be faithful to their king and not to seize the kingdom but to fear and reverence him. Thus what is virtuous was preferred to what was useful, and then usefulness followed on what was virtuous.
St. Basil the Great. Even kindness cannot defeat envy.
Not even this act of benevolence moved Saul, however. Again he gathered an army and again he set out in pursuit, until he was a second time apprehended by David in the cave where he more clearly revealed his own iniquity and made the virtue of David even more resplendent. Envy is the most savage form of hatred. Favors render those who are hostile to us for any other reason more tractable, but kind treatment shown to an envious and spiteful person only aggravates his dislike. The greater the favors he receives, the more displeased and vexed and ill-disposed he becomes.
Next week: more hide and seek, evil deeds by Saul, and finally his death.
Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.