Thu, 8 November 2018
Bible Study #44: David the Vagabond
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 18. Saul hates David and tries to get him killed. It doesn't work.
St. John Chrysostom: Envy is bad. But now notice in this incident how much trouble the passion of envy caused: when the king saw this young man enjoying such popularity and the dancing crowds calling out, “Saul’s conquests ran into thousands, David’s into tens of thousands,” he didn’t take kindly to their words … but overwhelmed by envy, he now repaid his benefactor with the opposite treatment, and the one whom he should have recognized as his savior and benefactor he endeavored to do away with. What an extraordinary degree of frenzy! What excess of madness! The man who had won him the gift of life and had freed his whole army from the foreigner’s rage he now suspected as an enemy, and, instead of the man’s good deeds remaining fresh in his memory and prevailing over passion, the clarity of his thinking was dulled with envy as though by a kind of drunkenness, and he regarded his benefactor as his enemy. That is what the evil of this passion is like, you see: it first has a bad effect on the person giving birth to it.
1 Kingdoms/Samuel 19. Saul keeps trying to kill David, but he keeps failing (with help). Fun with prophets at Ramah.
St. John Chrysostom: Sometimes deceit really is best. And not in war only, but also in peace the need of deceit may be found, not merely in reference to the affairs of the state but also in private life, in the dealings of husband with wife and wife with husband, son with father, friend with friend, and also children with a parent. For the daughter of Saul would not have been able to rescue her husband out of Saul’s hands except by deceiving her father. And her brother, wishing to save him whom she had rescued when he was again in danger, made use of the same weapon as the wife.
St. Augustine: Giving prophecies isn't a sign of saintliness. When they delayed and what Saul had ordered wasn’t done, he came himself. Was he too innocent? Was he also sent by some authority, and not ill-intentioned of his own free will? Yet the Spirit of God leaped on him too, and he began to prophesy. There you are, Saul is prophesying, he has the gift of prophecy, but he has not got charity. He has become a kind of instrument to be touched by the Spirit, not one to be cleansed by the Spirit. The Spirit of God, you see, touches some hearts to set them prophesying, and yet does not cleanse them.… And so the Spirit of God did not cleanse Saul the persecutor, but all the same it touched him to make him prophesy. Caiaphas, the chief priest, was a persecutor of Christ; and yet he uttered a prophecy when he said, “It is right and proper that one man should die, and not the whole nation perish.” The Evangelist went on to explain this as a prophecy and said, “He did not, however, say this of himself, but being high priest, he prophesied.” Caiaphas prophesied, Saul prophesied; they had the gift of prophecy, but they didn’t have charity. Did Caiaphas have charity, considering he persecuted the Son of God, who was brought to us by charity? Did Saul have charity, who persecuted the one by whose hand he had been delivered from his enemies, so that he was guilty not only of envy but also of ingratitude? So we have proved that it is possible for you to have prophesy and not to have charity. But prophecy does you no good, according to the apostle: “If I do not have charity,” he says, “I am nothing.”He doesn’t say, “Prophesy is nothing,” or “Faith is nothing,” but “I myself am nothing, if I don’t have charity.”
1 Kingdoms/Samuel 20. Intrigue at the Palace; Jonathan is loyal to David.
St. Ambrose: good friendships are awesome. For that commendable friendship which maintains virtue is to be preferred most certainly to wealth or honors or power. It is not apt to be preferred to virtue indeed, but to follow after it. So it was with Jonathan, who for his affection’s sake avoided neither his father’s displeasure nor the danger to his own safety.
1 Kingdoms/Samuel 21. David and the showbread; David the lunatic.
St. John Chrysostom: God, not circumstances, provide security. In similar fashion, whenever we have God on our side, even if we are utterly alone, we will live more securely than those who dwell in the cities. After all, the grace of God is the greatest security and the most impregnable fortification. To prove to you how the person who, in fact, lives utterly alone turns out to be more secure and efficacious than a person living in the middle of cities and enjoying plenty of human assistance, let us see how David, though shifting from place to place and living like a nomad, was protected by the hand from above, whereas Saul, who in fact was in the middle of cities and had armies at his command, bodyguards and shieldbearers as well, still spent each day in fear and dread of enemy assaults. Whereas the one man, although alone and with no one else in his company, had no need of assistance from human beings, the other, by contrast, needed his help, despite wearing a diadem and being clad in purple. The king stood in need of the shepherd; the wearer of the crown had need of the peasant.
St. John Cassian: Just because it was okay for David doesn't make it okay for us.
No wonder that these dispensations were uprightly made use of in the Old Testament and that holy men sometimes lied in praiseworthy or at least in pardonable fashion, since we see that far greater things were permitted them because it was a time of beginnings. For what is there to wonder at that when the blessed David was fleeing Saul and Ahimelech the priest asked him, “Why are you alone, and no one is with you?” he replied and said, “The king gave me a commission and said, Let no one know the reason why you were sent, for I have also appointed my servants to such and such a place”? And again: “Do you have a spear or a sword at hand? For I did not bring my sword and my weapons with me because the king’s business was urgent”? Or what happened when he was brought to Achish, the king of Gath, and made believe that he was insane and raging, and “changed his countenance before them, and fell down between their hands, and dashed himself against the door of the gate, and his spittle ran down his beard”? For, after all, they lawfully enjoyed flocks of wives and concubines, and no sin was imputed to them on this account. Besides that, they also frequently spilled their enemies’ blood with their own hands, and this was held not only to be irreprehensible but even praiseworthy.
We see that, in the light of the gospel, these things have been utterly forbidden, such that none of them can be committed without very serious sin and sacrilege. Likewise we believe that no lie, in however pious a form, can be made use of by anyone in a pardonable way, to say nothing of praiseworthily, according to the words of the Lord: “Let your speech be yes, yes, no, no. Whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” The apostle also agrees with this: “Do not lie to one another.”
St Ambrose: But some laws really have been abrogated. If they accuse, yet Christ excuses, and he makes the souls that he wishes, that follow him, similar to David, who ate the loaves of proposition outside of the law—for even then he foresaw in his mind the prophetic mysteries of a new grace.
Christ Himself: I am Lord (St. Luke 6:1-5). On a sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath?” And Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?” And he said to them, “The Son of man is lord of the sabbath.”
Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel. IVP.