David Gathers His Mighty Men & By Words and Insults in the Ancient World

Finger Pointing UpSo You even made Saul’s son prefer David over him.  So is Saul going to kill Jonathan now, or what’s going to happen?

David Gathers His Mighty Men

David went to Nob to see Ahimelech the priest, and the priest was afraid when he saw David.  He asked David,

“Why art thou alone, and no man with thee? 

And David said…The king hath commanded me a business, and…Let no man know anything of the business where about I send thee, and what I have commanded thee: and I have appointed my servants to such and such a place. 

Now therefore what is under thine hand?  Give me five loaves of bread in mine hand, or what there is present. And the priest answered David…There is no common bread undermine hand, but there is hallowed bread; if the young men have kept themselves at least from women.

2. Nob map
Nob was a priestly town in ancient Israel in the vicinity of Jerusalem. It may have been located close to Bahurim, near the Mount of Olives or possibly further north at Tell Shuafat. It likely belonged to the Tribe of Benjamin, Jerusalem being at the border between the tribes of Benjamin and Judah.
The first biblical reference to the city of Nob is in Samuel I. During King Saul’s reign, after the destruction of Shiloh, priests from the house of Eli resided in Nob, and the tabernacle was located there. After Saul discovered that one of the priests, Ahimelech ben Ahituv, gave David Goliath’s sword, which was also kept in Nob, and that David had managed to escape, the king ordered all of Nob’s inhabitants killed. “And Nob, the city of the priests, smote he with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and sucklings, and oxen and asses and sheep, with the edge of the sword” (1 Sam 22:19).
Despite Saul’s vengeance, the city remained intact for hundreds of years. The prophet Isaiah mentions it in his description of a journey taken by King Ashur of Assyria in 701 BCE, when he attempted to conquer Jerusalem. Nob is referred to as the last city the Assyrian army passed through on its way to Jerusalem. “This very day shall he halt at Nob, shaking his hand at the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem” (Is 10:32).

And David answered…Of a truth women have been kept from us about these three days, since I came out, and the vessels of the young men are holy, and the bread is in a manner common, yea, though it were sanctified this day in the vessel. 

So the priest gave him hallowed bread: for there was no bread there but the shewbread, that was taken from before the LORD, to put hot bread in the day when it was taken away” (1 Sam 21:1-6).

Doeg, an Edomite and Saul’s chief herdsman was there, and God detained them.

“And David said unto Ahimelech, And is there not here under thine hand spear or sword?  For I have neither brought my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king’s business required haste. 

1. Nob
Nob is mentioned again, in Nehemiah’s description of the return to Zion, as one of the settlements in the region of Benjamin, located north of Jerusalem between Anathoth, identified with the modern village of Anata, and Ananiah, identified with the modern village of Azzariyeh, according to accepted theories.
During the last 100 years, however, none of these biblical references helped researchers locate remains of the ancient settlement. While the Old Testament clearly indicates that the city was located somewhere north of Jerusalem, no site was found that provided sufficient evidence to connect it with Nob. All that remains is speculation regarding the city’s location.
Archaeologist Professor Hanan Eshel, a senior lecturer at the Martin Szusz Department of Land of Israel Studies at Bar-lan University, suggests that Nob may have been located in the center of the present-day village of Shoafat. His colleague in the Martin Szusz Department, Dr. Gabi Barkai, proposes Jerusalem’s French Hill neighborhood as the location of Nob. Other geographic “candidates” competing for the title of the priestly city include the A-Tur neighborhood

And the priest said, The sword of Goliath…it is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod: if thou wilt take that, take it: for there is no other save that here. And David said, There is none like that; give it me.

And David arose, and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. 

And the servants of Achish said unto him, Is not this David the king of the land?  Did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands? 

And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath.

And he changed his behavior before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard. 

Then said Achish unto his servants, Lo, ye see the man is mad: wherefore then have ye brought him to me? 

Have I need of mad men, that ye have brought this fellow to play the mad man in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?”  (1 Sam 21:8-15).

David  left and went to the cave Adullam, and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard it they went there too, about 400.  And he became their captain.  Then David went to Mizpeh and asked the king to let his parents stay there until he knew what God wanted him to do, and the king allowed it. 

“The prophet Gad told David not to stay in the hold, but to go to the land of Judah, so he did and went into the forest of Hareth.

When Saul heard that David was discovered, and the men that were with him, (now Saul abode in Gibeah under a tree in Ramah, having his spear in his hand, and all his servants were standing about him;). 

Then Saul said unto his servants that stood about him, Hear now, ye Benjamites; will the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards, and make you all captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds;

That all of you have conspired against me, and there is none that sheweth me that my son hath made a league with the son of Jesse, and there is none of you that is sorry for me, or sheweth unto me that my son hath stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as at this day?” (1 Sam 22:6-8)

“Doeg told Saul that he saw David going to Nob, and he obtained food and Goliath’s sword from Ahimelech the priest.  Saul then had the priest brought to him and he asked him why he conspired against him by helping David.

Then Ahimelech answered the king, and said, And who is so faithful among all thy servants as David, which is the king’s son in law, and goeth at thy bidding, and is honorable in thine house? 

Did I then begin to enquire of God for him?  Be it far from me: let not the king impute anything unto his servant, nor to all the house of my father: for thy servant knew nothing of all this, less or more. 

3. Nob
Dr. Boaz Zissu believes the city was situated at the top of the hill overlooking the Eli branch of the Kidron Valley, called Wadi al-Joz in Arabic. However, since he lacks unequivocal proof to connect the remains he found with any specific settlement, including Nob, Zissu asks that his theory be approached with caution. Despite that, corroborating data indicates there is a good chance he is right.
This data began to accumulate in June 2001, when Zissu started excavations near the Kidron Valley, to salvage a site about 50 meters north of what is known as Ramban’s Cave. That dig, under the auspices of the Israel Antiquities Authority, began after work to lay a new sewage pipe revealed an ancient limestone quarry.
The boulders in this quarry are of the desirable Melekeh variety local builders treasured. Excavation marks at the site indicate the boulders were hewn into blocks for building. Similar quarries operated during the Late Israelite (Iron) Period (586-1000 BCE), when Israeli and Judean kings reigned, and they remained active until modern times in the area surrounding Jerusalem.
Zissu concludes that the quarries in the Kidron Valley operated until the end of the Hasmonean era, during the first century BCE. This conclusion is based on his discovery of vessel shards, including cooking pots and a pitcher, which masons left in the niches of the quarry’s walls. After operations ceased, the quarry area was covered in a thick layer of dust. The dust included building stone and shards from the final days of the Iron Age. These shards are remnants of pitchers, bowls, candleholders, and other ceramic vessels associated with the seventh and sixth centuries B.C.E. The dust did not include shards from other periods.
4. Nob
Where did the ceramic vessels found in the dust come from? That question will apparently never be answered, but it is reasonable to conclude that they belonged to residents of a settlement near the quarry: Either in the present-day American Colony neighborhood, south of the quarry, or in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, north of the quarry. Both neighborhoods are situated north of the Temple Mount, on the main road to Nablus, and, in either neighborhood, it is possible to see a man “shaking his hand (Is 10:32) at the hill.
Remnants of the ancient settlement were not found, and that is one reason for Zissu’s caution. He says it is possible that stones used to build in the settlement were dismantled to expand the quarry. An aqueduct, constructed in a style typically found in the area’s springs, was unearthed at the Western end of the excavation site, at a depth of about 3.5 meters. The aqueduct predates activities in the quarry, since the quarries run across the aqueduct’s trench. The discovery of an aqueduct of this type raises the possibility that a spring once flowed near the site.
Other evidence of an Iron Age settlement at the Kidron Valley is found in Ramban’s Cave. Signs that boulders were hewn into blocks of stone were found in the cave as well, and a system of four troughs, cut in the rocks, was found next to the hewn boulders. Water entered these troughs by means of a canal that came from a nearby spring. Zissu assumes that the spring was discovered during quarrying activities at the site, and associates this find with a settlement that was once located here – quite possibly the mysterious, priestly city.

And the king said, Thou shalt surely die, Ahimelech, thou, and all thy father’s house” (1 Sam 22:14-16).

Saul then told his men to kill the priest, but they wouldn’t.  Saul then told Doeg to do it and he killed the priest and 85 others that wore priestly garments.  Saul then turned to Nob, which is the city of the priests, where David was, and they killed men, women, children, ox, asses, and sheep.

Abiathar, one of Ahimelech’s sons, escaped and went and told David that Saul had killed all these priests.

And David said unto Abiathar, I knew it that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul: I have occasioned the death of all the persons of thy father’s house. 

Abide thou with me, fear not: for he that seeketh my life seeketh thy life: but with me thou shalt be in safeguard” (1 Sam 22:22-23).

Bywords and Insults
in the Ancient World

Nabal’s answer to David’s agents (1 Sam 25:10-11) was a flagrant insult; David had been serving him with honor, but Nabal responded by speaking of David in scurrilous terms as an outlaw.

In the ancient world men (and particularly warriors) placed an enormous premium on their personal reputations and thus took insults and perceived slights to their honor very seriously.

Examples of this abound in ancient literature; perhaps the most famous is the Greek hero Achilles, who sat in his tent and refused to fight against the Trojans when he felt that his fellow Greeks had failed to show due respect for his prestige (as described in Homer’s Iliad).

When the Phi­listine Goliath defied the ranks of Israel (ch. 17), the young David regarded this as reason enough to go out to fight the giant.

David was later willing to start a war with the Ammonites to avenge their humiliating treatment of his ambassadors (2 Sam 10).

Insults and slights required an appropri­ate response on behalf of the individual so affronted.

Ex 21:17 prescribes the death penalty for those who cursed (reviled or insulted) their parents, and the 42 young men making fun of Elisha were mauled by two bears (2 Kgs 2:23—25).

The New Testament calls upon Christians to be forbearing toward those who insult them (1 Pet 3:9), but in order to understand David and his responses to taunts we need to comprehend the warrior-culture in which he lived.

In addition, as in the above examples, when Yahweh’s people or his anointed are insulted the reputation of Yahweh himself has been affronted.

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