A terrible disaster is about to befall Israel, and the people are none the wiser. King Saul has determined that the Priesthood (set-apart to serve Yehoveh) is going to be exterminated. That means that the Word of God, as well as all of the important ritual observances for cleansing and atonement, would no longer be available to them.
I have stated from the beginning of our study on Samuel that King Saul was not merely a poor choice for a king, nor does he represent a “failed” king.
King Saul is the anti-king; he is everything that humans desire and God hates in a government leader. King Saul was real, and what we read about him is true, and it happened; but he is also a type, a shadow, and he established a pattern for the great Anti-Christ who is about to appear in the present era.
King Saul was among the most beautiful of men. He was head and shoulders taller than any other man of his tribe, perhaps in all Israel. He was handsome, strong and charismatic with a natural bent for knowing how to manipulate and control. King Saul also quickly abandoned the ways of His Creator for the ways of the evil human inclination and the dark spiritual side.
Now it was to be expected that as long as King Saul had no rival and didn’t feel threatened, then his actions (while self-serving) wouldn’t be radical or seem suspicious to the Israelites at large. Saul’s behavior and decisions were no different than the behavior and choices of the neighboring nations and governments.
But as soon as David arrived on the scene Saul knew his time was near, and his reign threatened, and so his true nature was suddenly exposed.
Now, this is what we read about with the coming Anti-Christ who will rise to international prominence and receive the adulation of the world, and apparently even of the most significant portion of the institutional church. All deceived because they had gone so long without the light of God’s truth taught to them.
But it is when Yeshua’s messengers and then Yeshua Himself makes their appearance that all Hell breaks loose on planet Earth as Satan’s eternal rival is now finally here to challenge him.
The rhetorical question is a timeless one: how is it that Satan, who Scriptures tell us at one time lived in Heaven close to God and as the most beautiful and intelligent of all heavenly creatures, could not only rebel against His Master and Creator but also honestly believe that he could defeat God?
How could Satan not understand to his core that because of his choice to try and place himself on God’s throne, that the only possible ending for him was eternal destruction?
Well, we see that same scenario being played out in 1st Samuel as King Saul is fully aware that God has not only removed the throne of Israel from him but has also completely and permanently abandoned him. King Saul is now God’s eternal enemy.
- Did Saul honestly believe that he could defeat God’s will and hang on to his earthly throne?
- Did Saul seriously think that he could kill God’s Anointed One, David, to keep David from assuming his God-ordained destiny as king over God’s Kingdom?
The problem with Satan and the problem with Saul and the problem with all leaders of government who think they can supplant God’s justice and truth and morality with their own is a profound seeded spiritual irrationality.
For the world, and especially for the elitist intellectual capacity, these human leaders seem to be nearly infallible and undefeatable: men to be followed without question (if not outright worshipped).
So for us, as Believers to think of Satan as irrational is hard to do when we see what he has accomplished over the last 6000 years. It’s not as hard for us, though, to see Saul as irrational, and so perhaps that’s why such an extensive account of his life and reign has been preserved for us in the Bible. It is so we can know what signs to look for and how to prepare when the coming evil world leader springs onto the scene.
Therefore just as King Saul decided to eradicate opposition he had to eliminate the priesthood, so will the Anti-Christ determine that to eliminate opposition he must eradicate the priesthood of Believers?
Let’s Read 1st Samuel 22:16-23.
King Saul has ordered the end of the Levitical Priesthood. He tries to get some of his Benjamite government council to do the dirty job, but as corrupt as they are even they aren’t willing to go that far.
So Saul turns to a foreigner, an Edomite, to accomplish his evil will. Doeg is anxious and willing and begins with killing all 85 priests and then in a Machiavellian style he murders their families to send a message to anyone who might think to rise and oppose the king, even the infant children of the Levite Priests and their livestock are destroyed.
We covered this in my last blog post, but I want to reiterate that because the Bible presents us with continuous patterns, we ought to look carefully not just at Saul, but also his chief henchman Doeg.
Doeg was a descendant of Edom (Esau), and the Bible has much to say about the character and destiny of Edom. It is therefore not surprising to learn that when David’s descendant Yeshua was born 1000 years after King Saul, another Edomite sought to kill those who would follow him. That Edomite was King Herod.
Tom Bradford has proposed to us that it certainly seems possible, if not probable, that the so-called False Prophet (the chief henchman) of the coming Anti-Christ will be of Edomite descent. Tom Bradford is not claiming to be a prophecy teacher, but occasionally there is no bypassing it, and so he wants to take a brief detour to examine the significant Bible prophecy concerning Edom because it is entirely possible that some of us may still be living when this prediction occurs in all of its fullness.
Turn Your Bibles To The Book Of Obadiah And Let’s Read It All.
The famous place called Petra (now part of Jordan) was in Edom. Thus in the 1st few verses of Obadiah, we read of “you whose homes are caves in the cliffs”; this is referring to Petra and its surrounds.
Although Edom and Israel were related through Esau and Jacob, there was constant warfare between the two countries. David was the first Israelite King to conquer Edom. Edom revolted in the days of King Joram, installing its king. Years later, Amaziah re-conquered Edom, and it were not until the days of Ahaz that the country regained its independence. In the 6th century BC, the Babylonians conquered Edom.
Edom will play a significant role in the End Times, regardless of what modern name it might go by. And it seems clear that a very prominent Edomite will also play a significant role in trying to defeat the returning Messiah, just as it happened at least twice in the past (one of which we are reading about in 1st Samuel). It may just be that Doeg was the first of this type and shadow.
Now, this bears repeating: while on the surface this is all about King Saul committing personal retribution against Ahimelech (who Saul felt was siding with David), that was a ruse.
Saul was looking for an excuse to abolish the Priesthood. After all, what possible use could a man who is God’s enemy have for a group of men whose job it is to discern God’s will, teach it to Saul’s people, and carry out God’s ritual law? It has been the ways of men since time immemorial to create false crises or to come up with an excuse to carry out some governmental act that disguises a much broader and more sinister design and intent.
If King Saul were going to defeat God, he would have to begin by eradicating God’s servants. For those who have an ear, pay attention to what I just told you. Inevitably the most significant danger always comes from within, not without.
But God being God, He saved a remnant of one: Avyatar (Abiathar).
Abiathar was Ahimelech’s son, and likely in line to be the next High Priest.
Somehow he escaped the slaughter of the Priest of Nob and fled to David for protection.
I doubt that Abiathar realized it at the time, but what happened at Nob was merely a fulfillment of something that had been prophesied several years earlier.
Let’s recall that prediction by looking back at 1st Samuel 2:27-36.
Read 1 Samuel 2:27-37.
There are a couple of critical lessons and principles in this passage, the truth of which is now being made manifest in the later chapters of Samuel.
First is the principle contained in chapter 2 verses 30 and while it applied to Eli’s descendants it also applies to all Believers in every age:
CJB 1 Samuel 2:30
Therefore ADONAI the God of Israel says, ‘I did indeed say that your family and your father’s family would walk in my presence forever.’ But now ADONAI says, ‘Forget it! I respect those who respect me, but those who despise me will meet with contempt.
The number one requirement to receive God’s promised blessings is abiding trust and respect in Him. When that ends, the promised blessings end with it.
I cannot say it strongly enough; this is NOT about belief. Eli’s family did NOT stop BELIEVING in Yehoveh, God of Israel, but they did pervert their worship of Him and added sufficient paganism and humanmade traditions and personal wants and desires to their lives that God counted it as lack of trust and respect.
Where is that line, exactly, that we dare not cross over? No man knows. But when a man does cross over it, then expulsion from the Kingdom is the divine response.
CJB Romans 11:19-20
So you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” True, but so what? They were broken off because of their lack of trust. However, you keep your place only because of your trust. So don’t be arrogant; on the contrary, be terrified!
The second lesson is found in 1 Samuel 2:32:
CJB 1 Samuel 2:32
At a time when Israel is prospering, you will see a rival in my Dwelling; and never will anyone in your family live to old age.
Indeed Eli’s family had a rival. There was also another High Priest and priestly family in existence, the family of Zadok. Eli and his descendants were of the line of Ithamar (one of Aaron’s sons), but they were NOT supposed to be the High Priestly line. Instead, the descendants of Eleazar were to produce the High Priests. Zadok was the descendants of Eleazar.
Even though Zadok became the High Priest, David allowed Abiathar to continue to serve; so there were rival High Priests for a while (though apparently, Zadok held more power). Now, this would be remedied when Solomon, who followed David and felt no such loyalty to Abiathar, deposed him and then only Zadok remained in office.
So here we see how the Lord allowed a terrible evil, perpetrated by an alliance between a Hebrew and a foreigner, to be committed upon the Priesthood. This horrific wickedness not only punished what was technically an illegitimate line of Priests but by wiping them out (all but one), it now paved the way for the much smaller and lesser powerful line of Zadok to ascend back to their rightful, legitimate place. And in later chapters, we’ll see David appoint Zadok as High Priest to complete the circle.
The lesson: just because an institution that claims to be of God (and in some manner seems to follow His ways) is divinely allowed to exist and prosper for a long time doesn’t mean that it is legitimate or will it always thrive. It may just be a tool for the Lord to use to achieve His will, just as it was with Pharaoh. A religious veneer often hides a false core that will one day be exposed.
When Abiathar arrived at David’s encampment with the devastating news, David instantly knew that his lies and deceptions and lack of concern for the people of Nob led to their murder. He openly admitted it and pledged to guard and care for the only surviving priest from Nob, Abiathar.
Not only that, but David now had in his charge the sole remaining link to Yehoveh so that, along with the ritual vest that carried the precious Urim and Thummim, David now had a means to discern God’s will.
Let’s Read 1 Samuel 23.
David was probably still somewhere in or near an area called the Forest (or Woods) of Hereth located in the region of Judah called the Shephelah. Now, this is the long coastal plain that begins at the Mediterranean and spreads out eastward until the foothills of Judah.
Scholars have had a difficult time locating this area. In fact, some doubt that this area of woods ever existed because none was known there for the past several hundred years. But they don’t take two things into account:
- First, the land only prospers and remains fertile when God’s people are living there (this is the spiritual influence).
- And second, the trees were intentionally eradicated by men (the fleshy, physical impact).
Once Muslim rule over the area began (as early as the 8th century), one of the primary means of taxation to support the Caliphate was a tree tax. Every tree on a piece of land had a levy placed on it. Since absentee Muslim landlords who had no interest in the productivity of the land owned much of the area they owned or in contributing to the Caliphate’s coffers, they ordered all the trees cut down. No trees, no taxes.
Thus vast tracts of wooded areas disappeared. Now, this, of course, hastened soil erosion, and before long the Holy Land was as denuded of its vegetation as is modern day Haiti. They couldn’t grow any but the poorest of crops because the exposed topsoil was blown away in the seasonal dry eastern winds. But in a couple of decades, the land was useless; it was either swamps or desert, and it remained that way until the Jews returned, reforested the land, and turned it into the beautiful place we visit today.
David received word that the Philistines were attacking Keilah and plundering the threshing floors. The place of Keilah is well known and is the modern day town of Khirbet Qila, located about 8 miles southwest of Hebron. Technically Keilah was part of Judah, however, at this time it was under Philistine military control.
The city of Keilah was a walled city, but notice that it is not what was being attacked. The threshing floors were the target of the Philistines, not the city or its inhabitants. The threshing floors were always outside the cities and towns, next to the fields.
The Philistines weren’t interested in land acquisition and empire building. They also weren’t mindless barbarians that rather enjoyed destroying things and creating mayhem. Instead, their strategy was to lord over areas to control commerce and thus benefit economically. They were coming to Keilah to confiscate the grain. That means that harvesting was nearly complete and the threshing process had begun (it would have been pointless to attack while the grain was immature or still in the fields on the stock).
They wanted the grain because they could capture it without doing much work and sell it both to their people and abroad. The Philistines were in the shipping business, and they needed a ready supply of goods and commodities. Plundering it from their neighbors and then turning around and selling it was the standard method of that era. And to destroy cities, villages and fields would have been counter-productive.
Verse 2 seems straightforward enough, but there is a little-hidden gem in the first three words: “David consulted YHWH.” Immediately after that the question asked of God is recorded for us: “Should I go and attack these Philistines (meaning at Keilah)”
To inquire of God is most often to employ the two ritual stones called the Urim and Thummim. These were stored in a particular pocket sewn into the High Priest’s ritual vest. And sure enough, we’re told in verse 6 that Abiathar had brought his father’s (Ahimelech’s) ritual vest with him when he came to David.
Now one give-a-way in Scripture to help determine if an inquiry involved the Urim and Thummim is the format of the question; it has to be binary. In other words, only two answers are possible (yes or no, go or stay, left or right, up or down, etc.). The answer God gave using the two ritual stones was, yes, David should go and attack the Philistines who were plundering the grain from Keilah.
David had no doubts, but the refugees from Saul who were with him in the Woods of Hereth weren’t in the same frame of mind. Here they were trying to elude Saul and stay alive, and now they’re supposed to become a militia and go and fight the Philistines? For what? Why?
The resistance of the people sends David back to Abiathar and the two stones, and he asks the Lord a similar question about what the result of this excursion would be because the people are afraid. God says that He will hand the Philistines over to David.
Now let me caution you that the words with quotes around it in our bibles make it appear that these are the words that Yehoveh spoke to David are in fact what an editor wrote. The effect and meaning of the Lord’s response are entirely accurate, but remember the inquiry is through the Urim and Thummim. The stones certainly did not speak, and there is no evidence that God spoke to David’s face to face and audibly.
Instead, the stones answered a question that was structured to give a yes or no answer, perhaps by one glowing and the other not. So David must have asked something to the effect of “will we win,” with the answer being, “yes.”
David went back to the men, and they followed him to Keilah where a great victory achieved. It’s interesting that livestock (of the Philistines) is mentioned.
A good question would be why Philistine livestock is present here at a battle? The answer is that probably they brought the animals to graze in the fields that had already been harvested.
We have to not so much picture the Philistines as a hardened army coming to fight a war, but rather an armed contingent of men merely arriving in a show of force to confiscate the grain over several day periods, and during that time to let their cattle graze and fatten up on the leftovers.
I suspect there was a mixture of Philistine soldiers (to more or less act as guards and intimidators) to oversee a large contingent of Philistine civilian workers to gather the confiscated grain and prepare it for shipment.
There is also a result of this episode that although not spoken would have been well understood. David acted like a king; he led the people into battle and rescued a town of fellow Judahites from the enemy.
Verse 7 says that King Saul got word about Abiathar fleeing to David and David leading some men to rescue Keilah. Saul responded that this afforded him an excellent opportunity to capture David because David would have been trapped inside a walled city but there is even more here.
The delusional king believed that the God of Israel had actively handed David over to him. More literally, verse 7 has Saul saying: “God has alienated him (meaning David) from himself and into my hand….”. What chutzpah!
Saul thinks that the Lord has rejected His own anointed king in favor of the anti-king. From Saul’s viewpoint, all he had to do was to send a sizeable battalion of troops, surround the city, and demand that David is handed over. If the city closed the gates and refused, then Saul’s soldiers would put the city under siege. They probably wouldn’t attack it; instead, they’d just wait it out until the city folks ran out of food or water or both. Time was on Saul’s side.
For Saul, that David would be trapped inside Keilah was sufficient for now. Sooner or later David would have no choice but to surrender. David figured that Saul was going to do something because news of David rescuing Keilah and saving their food supply would have spread like wildfire.
So David (from inside the walled city of Keilah) summoned Abiathar, the priest and had him consult the Urim and Thummim with a couple of yes/no questions. The first question was if King Saul would bring troops and try to capture David there. God’s answer through the ritual stones was “yes.” The second question was if Saul and his troops showed up, would the people of Keilah turn David over to Saul? God’s answer was also “yes.”
With that information, David gathered his men, now numbering around 600, and left Keilah.
I wonder how David must have felt knowing that the citizens of Keilah would so readily give David up to Saul after he had risked his own life, and the lives of 600 men, to rescue them?
How quickly the people who benefited from David’s selfless act on their behalf were ready to turn their backs on him. But is this not typical of the way that both the type of Messiah (David) and the actual Messiah (Yeshua) would be treated by the very people that should have rallied around them in gratitude and love?
David and his 600 flee to the vast expanse of wilderness that is the Judean desert. We’ll follow him there on my next blog post.