David’s Wanderings and Adventures & Herem, Holy War

Hands OutNow I see why You were sorry that You had anointed Saul to be king. 

Will he and people like him go to Hell?

1. Hradisko Monastery
Statuary David receives sacral bread from the priest Ahimelech in Ceremoniall Hall in Hradisko Monastery in Olomouc (Czech Republic). Winterhalder in 1734.

Ahimelech the son of Ahitub and father of Abiathar (1 Sam. 22:20-23), described in 2 Sam. 8:17 as the son of Abiathar and in four places in 1 Chr.

He descended from Aaron’s son Ithamar and the high priest Eli. In 1 Chr. 18:16 his name is Abimelech according to the Masoretic Text, and is probably the same as Ahiah (1 Sam. 14:3, 18).

He was the twelfth High Priest, and officiated at Nob, where he was visited by David (to whom and his companions he gave five loaves of the showbread) when David fled from Saul (1 Sam. 21:1-9).

He was summoned into Saul’s presence, and accused, on the information of Doeg the Edomite, of disloyalty because of his kindness to David; whereupon the king commanded that he, with the other priests who stood beside him, 86 in all, should be slain with his family.

This sentence was carried into execution by Doeg in the most cruel manner (1 Sam. 22:9-23).

Possibly Abiathar had a son also called Ahimelech, or the two names, as some think, may have been accidentally transposed in 2 Sam. 8:17; 1 Chr. 18:16.

“Then they told David, saying, Behold, the Philistines fight against Keilah, and they rob the threshing floors. 

Therefore David enquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go and smite these Philistines? And the LORD said unto David, Go, and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah.

And David’s men said unto him, Behold, we be afraid here in Judah: how much more than if we come to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines? 

Then David enquired of the LORD yet again.  And the LORD answered him and said, Arise, go down to Keilah; for I will deliver the Philistines into thine hand” (1 Sam 23:1-4).

David and his men went to Keilah, slaughtered the Philistines and walked away with their cattle, so the people of Keilah were saved.

“Saul was told that Abiathar had taken a ephod to David in Keilah, and he was happy because he thought, God hath delivered him into mine hand; for he is shut in, by entering into a town that hath gates and bars” (1 Sam 23:7).

Saul gathered his army to go down and destroy David.  But David knew that Saul would be coming so he told Abiathar to bring him the ephod.

“Then said David, O LORD God of Israel, thy servant hath certainly heard that Saul seeketh to come to Keilah, to destroy the city for my sake. 

Will the men of Keilah deliver me up into his hand?  Will Saul come down, as thy servant hath heard?  O LORD God of Israel, I beseech thee, tell thy servant.  And the LORD said, He will come down.

Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul?  And the LORD said, They will deliver thee up” (1 Sam 23:10-12). 

David and his 600 men took off and stayed on a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph.  Saul had found out that David had left and he searched for him, but God wouldn’t let him find him.

“Jonathan found David, which strengthened David’s faith in God, especially when he said, Fear not: for the hand of Saul my father shall not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee; and that also Saul my father knoweth.

And they two made a covenant before the LORD: and David abode in the wood, and Jonathan went to his house” (1 Sam 23:17-18).

2. Nob
An ancient priestly town to which David came on his way South when he fled from Saul at Gibeah (1 Sam 21:1).

Here he found refuge and succor with Ahimelech.

This was observed by Doeg the Edomite, who informed the king, and afterward became the instrument of Saul’s savage vengeance on the priests, and on all the inhabitants of the city (1 Sam 22).

The name occurs in Neh 11:32 in a list of cities, immediately after Anathoth.

In Isaiah’s ideal account of the Assyrians’ march against Jerusalem, Nob is clearly placed South of Anathoth.

Here, says the prophet, the Assyrian shall shake his hand at the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem.

It was a place, therefore, from which the Holy City and the temple were clearly visible.

The Ziphites came to Saul and suggested that David was hiding in the hill of Hachilaw, south of Jeshimon.  And they told him that if he would be look kindly upon them they would hand David over to him.

“And Saul said, Blessed be ye of the LORD; for ye have compassion on me. 

Go, I pray you, prepare yet, and know and see his place where his haunt is, and who hath seen him there: for it is told me that he dealeth very subtly. 

See therefore, and take knowledge of all the lurking places where he hideth himself, and come ye again to me with the certainty, and I will go with you: and it shall come to pass, if he be in the land, that I will search him out throughout all the thousands of Judah.

And they arose, and went to Ziph before Saul: but David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the plain on the south of Jeshimon. 

Saul also and his men went to seek him. And they told David: wherefore he came down into a rock, and abode in the wilderness of Maon.  And when Saul heard that, he pursued after David in the wilderness of Maon.

And Saul went on this side of the mountain, and David and his men on that side of the mountain: and David made haste to get away for fear of Saul; for Saul and his men compassed David and his men round about to take them. 

But there came a messenger unto Saul, saying, Haste thee, and come; for the Philistines have invaded the land. 

3. The Cave of Adullam
The Cave of Adullam was originally a stronghold referred to in the Old Testament, near the town of Adullam, in which David, already anointed to succeed Saul as king, sought refuge from the latter.

The word “cave” is usually used but “fortress”, which has a similar appearance in writing, is used as well.

Given that this was a bandits’ hideout, it would be reasonable to describe this as a fortified cave.

During this period, David passed up several opportunities to kill Saul, who in turn was attempting to kill his young rival, whose followers believed had been chosen by God to succeed King Saul.

David refused to fight unfairly, for instance by killing the bellicose Saul in his sleep.

According to the Old Testament God honored David’s high ethical standards, and soon King David and his Mighty Men who had once hidden in the Cave of Adullam, were renowned throughout Israel for their deeds of valor.

The term “Cave of Adullam” has been used by political commentators referring to any small group remote from power but planning to return.

Thus in Walter Scott’s 1814 novel Waverley when the Jacobite rising of 1745 marches south through England, the Jacobite Baron of Bradwardine welcomes scanty recruits while remarking that they closely resemble David’s followers at the Cave of Adullam; “videlicet, every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented.”

Remains of a Biblical city, located south of the valley of Elah.

This was the home village of the wives of Judah, the hiding place of future king David, and a city fortified by King Rehobam.

Remains of a Biblical city, located south of the valley of Elah.

This was the home village of the wives of Judah, the hiding place of future king David, and a city fortified by King Rehobam.

Wherefore Saul returned from pursuing after David, and went against the Philistines: therefore they called that place Selahammahlekoth. 

And David went up from thence, and dwelt in strong holds at En-gedi” (1 Sam 23:21-29).

After Saul was done with the Philistines he was told that David had travelled to En-gedi and hid in the rocky area where the goats lived.  He then took 3,000 men to find David, who was hiding out.

Saul found a cave and entered it and David and his men were there, but he didn’t see them.  And David’s men said to him,

“And the men of David said unto him, Behold the day of which the LORD said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee. Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe privily. 

And it came to pass afterward, that David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt” (1 Sam 23:4-5).

“David responded with, The LORD forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the LORD’S anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD” (1 Sam 24:6). 

So David’s men didn’t do anything.  Saul then walked out of the cave and David went out also and shouted to Saul, My lord the king.  And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed himself “(1 Sam 24:8).

David then told Saul that God had delivered him to David, but he chose not to kill him because he was the anointed one.  To prove to Saul that he could have killed him he showed him the skirt of his robe that he had cut off.  David went on to say that he would not sin against him or against God.  That he isn’t the evil one.

“As saith the proverb of the ancients, Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked: but mine hand shall not be upon thee. 

After whom is the king of Israel come out?  After whom dost thou pursue?  After a dead dog, after a flea. 

The LORD therefore be Judge, and Judge between me and thee, and see, and plead my cause, and deliver me out of thine hand.

And it came to pass, when David had made an end of speaking these words unto Saul, that Saul said, Is this thy voice, my son David?  And Saul lifted up his voice, and wept. 

And he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil. 

And thou hast shewed this day how that thou hast dealt well with me: forasmuch as when the LORD had delivered me into thine hand, thou killedst me not.

For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away?  Wherefore the LORD reward thee good for that thou hast done unto me this day. 

And now, behold, I know well that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand. 

Swear now therefore unto me by the LORD, that thou wilt not cut off my seed after me, and that thou wilt not destroy my name out of my father’s house. 

And David swore unto Saul. And Saul went home; but David and his men gat them up unto the hold” (1 Sam 24:13-22).

Herem, Holy War

4. Haram
Supplicating Pilgrim at Masjid al Haram. Mecca, Saudi Arabia.


Not to be confused with Harem or Herem.

Ḥarām is an Arabic term meaning sinful. In Islamic Jurisprudence, haram is used to refer to any act that is forbidden by Allah, and is one of five that define the morality of human action.

Acts that are haram are typically prohibited in the religious texts of the Quran and the Sunnah.

The category of haram is the highest status of prohibition.

Islam teaches that a haram (sinful) act is recorded by an angel on the person’s left shoulder.

If something is considered haram, it remains prohibited no matter how good the intention is or how honorable the purpose is.

A haram is converted into a gravitational force on the day of judgement and placed on mizan (weighing scales).

Views of different mad

The command given to Saul in Sam 15:3 to “totally destroy everything” belonged to the Amalekites represents the translation of the Hebrew word Haram.

This verb, which means to “ban” or “completely destroy,” has a related noun herem, meaning “absolute destruction.”

In keeping with its frequent use within the context of Old Testament Hebrew warfare, the verb is also found in Deut 20:16-18, where the Israelites were commanded to “completely destroy” all the peoples living within the land God had given them as an inheritance.

These verses in Deuteronomy indicate that this total destruction involved killing all the people and domestic animals belonging to a place.

The same verb appears in the Moabite language, as attested on the 9th century B.C.

Mesha Stele, an inscribed monument on which King Mesha of Moab claimed to have “totally destroyed” the people of Nebo for the god Chemosh.

5. Moabite Stone
Moabite Stone
Mesha was the king of the Moabites who was forced to pay tribute to his neighbor, the Nation of Israel.

The Bible tells us that this tribute suddenly stopped: “Mesha, king of Moab, rebelled against the king of Israel…” (2 Kgs 3:5).

Mesha’s account of his rebellion against Israel is found on a large stone monument known as the Moabite Stone (Mesha Stele).

The stone inscription was discovered by a German missionary in 1868 at Dibon (ancient Moab; present-day Jordan).

The Moabite Stone is a dark-colored, basalt monument about four feet high by two feet wide, dating to the reign of King Mesha in about 850 B.C.

This artifact is another important source that corroborates the biblical account of the early Israelites.

It currently resides in the Louvre Museum, Paris.

Mesha’s use verb demonstrates a connection between Israel and her neighbors in the realm ideology.

While the phrase “holy war” may be somewhat misleading, the Biblical idea of war is rooted in the notion that God led his people into battle and that certain Old Testa­ment battles were executed as religious acts.

Although it has been suggested that herem was an element of every Biblical holy war, this is most unlikely, since it was not decreed in every battle.

While it is not mentioned in 1 Samuel 15, the ark of the covenant served as the pal­ladium (a religious image or object thought to provide divine protection to a people or place) that signified Yahweh’s presence among the Israelite army in battle.

Yahweh was often portrayed as a warrior God who was victori­ous over the powers of chaos.

This ideology was prevalent throughout the ancient Near East, and, along with associated injunctions to purity among the warriors, it provided the essential elements of the holy war.

In the Bible this offers a powerful meta­phor for God’s mighty acts in salvation history that will culminate in the absolute destruc­tion of all who oppose him.

6. The Stela of Mesha
The Stela of Mesha: building inscription from ancient Moab, famous because it describes events from the history of Israel that are also described in the Bible.

In the first half of the ninth century B.C.

Israel was a mighty kingdom. Its king Omri (884-873) owned at least two thousand chariots and even king Šalmaneser of Assyria admitted that Israel was a powerful enemy.

Omri’s son Ahab (873-852) brought the kingdom to even greater prominence.

The herem in Israelite warfare strikes many readers as cruel, but it is helpful to keep three factors in mind:

* The Israelites were executing divine judg­ment on Canaan specifically, they were not called to wage holy war on the nations around them in order to create an empire.

+ The herem was intended to remove per­manently the pagan influence from the Israelite vicinity.

+ The herem was meant to remind the Israelites that their warfare was not for the purpose of acquiring slaves and booty but was meant to secure the land as their inher­itance. When the Israelites failed to carry out the herem, the reason was often not mercy on their part but greed.

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