The United Kingdom of Israel:
Foreshadowing the Reign of Christ the King
Lesson 7 The Priest Ahimelech Helps David Flee from Saul
First Book of Samuel 20:1—22:23
This online supplemental material coordinates with the lesson on pages 43–47 of The United Kingdom of Israel: Foreshadowing the Reign of Christ the King.
Welcome to our study of the united kingdom of Israel. We invite groups and individuals doing this 28-lesson Turning to God’s Word Catholic Bible study to take advantage of our supplemental online study pages. The United Kingdom of Israel: Foreshadowing the Reign of Christ the King has been granted an imprimatur and can be purchased from our website shop. If you have a question for one of our authors, click on the “ask us your question” button on any supplemental page.
let’s review—First Book of Samuel 18:1—19:4
In Lesson 6, “David & Jonathan,” David and Saul’s son Jonathan become fast friends, but Saul is jealous of David. An evil spirit overtakes Saul, who now fears David. He makes David commander in his army, and David experiences great military success. As David’s reputation grows, so does Saul’s jealousy. Saul devises a plan to have David killed by promising David his daughter Merab as a wife, but Saul later reneges. Saul suggests that David can marry his second daughter, Michal, if he brings Saul the foreskins of 100 Philistines killed in battle. David delivers twice that number and the marriage to Michal takes place. Saul seeks to have David killed, but Jonathan warns David. Jonathan then speaks to Saul, who agrees not to harm David. More war breaks out, and David again is successful in battle. Saul again attempts to kill David, but David escapes with the help of Michal. David goes to Samuel at Ramah, and the two of them go to Naioth. Saul sends messengers to take David, but the messengers are overcome by religious fervor and enthusiasm when they arrive at Naioth. More messengers react the same way. Finally Saul himself goes, and he also is overcome.
map notes—Nob is not a Levitical city
Because Nob is a city of priests, it’s easy to mistake it as one of the 48 cities allotted to the Levites in lieu of other real estate in the land of Canaan. The book of Numbers 35:1–8 lists four Levitical cities taken from each of the 12 tribes receiving land. The Levites were dispersed in order to instruct all of the people regarding the law and worship. Levites also lived in such places as Nob that were not designated as Levitical cities. The Levites appear to have been regarded as attached to the tribe with which they resided. Elkanah, the father of Samuel, undoubtedly is a Levite. You can read about the relevant lineage in the First Book of the Chronicles 6:16–28. In the First Book of Samuel 1:1, however, Elkanah is called an Ephraimite. This is similar to the way we might say that there are many Irish people who are Bostonians. Everyone understands that by this is meant people of Irish descent now living in Boston. Because Elkanah is identified as an Ephraimite, present-day readers often assume this means that he belongs to the half-tribe of Ephraim. This then would suggest that his son Samuel is an Ephraimite, but Samuel is able to offer sacrifices because he’s a Levite and only living in territory allotted to the half-tribe of Ephraim. Click on the image to enlarge the map, which appears on page 48 of The United Kingdom of Israel: Foreshadowing the Reign of Christ the King.
Samuel’s protection of David is temporary
Although Samuel anointed David and was able to help him avoid capture when David came to him at Naioth at Ramah, Samuel’s ability to protect David from Saul appears to have run its course. The First Book of Samuel 20:1 records that David fled from Naioth in Ramah to consult with Jonathan.
biblical vocabulary—new moon festival
The new moon in the First Book of Samuel 20:5 was cause for the descendants of Jacob to celebrate the beginning of a new month on the lunar calendar. This practice, which was religious in nature, is first mentioned in the book of Numbers 28:11–15. It also shows up in Psalm 81:2–5: “Sing joyfully to God our strength, shout in triumph to the God of Jacob. Raise a song and sound the timbrel, the sweet-sounding harp and the lute; blow the trumpet at the new moon, when the moon is full, on our feast. For this is a statute of Israel, a command of the God of Jacob.”
Jonathan doesn’t trust his father
Although Jonathan expresses doubt about Saul’s intention to have David killed, in the First Book of Samuel 20:11, Jonathan takes David out into a field to avoid being overheard.
WHAT DO YOU THINK about David lying to the priest at Nob?
The picture of David that emerges from a close reading of the First and Second Books of Samuel can be somewhat shocking. Although David’s sin with Bathsheba is commonly known, he’s generally regarded as someone whose strong love for the LORD prevented him from committing other sins.
? In the twenty-first chapter of the First Book of Samuel, why do you think it is that the priest Ahimelech trembles when he meets David?
? David clearly lies to Ahimelech about why he has come to Nob. What is it that David tells Ahimelech?
? Consider whether you think that Ahimelech believes David’s story.
? What concern does Ahimelech express about giving David holy bread?
? What do you think might be underlying the priest’s concern?
? What does David tell Ahimelech that might ease the priest’s mind?
? Consider whether you think that David is telling the truth when he says that he and his men have kept themselves from women.
? Do you think it makes any difference whether David is being truthful?
? Why do you think it is that David appears to go unpunished for lying to the priest about what he’s doing at Nob?
read the Catechism—do David’s ends justify his means?
Consider whether you think that David’s actions described in the biblical text on which this lesson is based present a valid argument in favor of the popular notion that the ends justify the means. If necessary, refer to paragraph 1754 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to review Church-related teaching.
1754 The circumstances, including the consequences, are secondary elements of a moral act. They contribute to increasing or diminishing the moral goodness or evil of human acts (for example, the amount of a theft). They can also diminish or increase the agent’s responsibility (such as acting out of a fear of death). Circumstances of themselves cannot change the moral quality of acts themselves; they can make neither good nor right an action that is in itself evil.
pray the Psalms—God brings forth bread
Psalm 104:14–15 praises God for bringing forth bread from the earth for the purpose of strengthening
the heart of man. The twenty-first chapter of the First Book of Samuel recounts David’s reliance on the priests at Nob to provide him with food, emphasizing that David’s help is coming from the LORD. This echoes the theme of Psalm 104:27, which honors God for the loving care he provides for his creatures, all of whom look to the LORD “to give them their food in due season.” You can learn more about the Psalms by viewing a sample lesson from the Turning to God’s Word Catholic Bible study Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church.
safety concerns: all in the family
In the First Book of Samuel 22:3–4, David arranges for his parents to seek safety from Saul by staying in Moab. To learn the full story about how David’s family is related to the Moabites, read the Book of Ruth. That David focuses so much on seeking safety for his parents and himself suggests an underlying emphasis on salvation, a word that means safety. In the First Book of Samuel 22:5, David is advised by the prophet Gad to leave Adullam and seek protection instead in the territory of Judah, the land of his ancestors.
in league: conspiring together
In the First Book of Samuel 22:7–8, Saul complains that none of his servants warned him that his son Jonathan had joined in league with David. Although Saul considers such an alliance to be an offense, it appears that Jonathan and David instead are acting defensively to protect David.
Saul is delusional …
In the First Book of Samuel 22:8 and 22:13, Saul expresses his belief that David is lying in wait to harm him. Nothing else in the biblical text suggests that this is the case, and Saul’s unfounded fears instead reinforce the idea that he is becoming increasingly irrational. This viewpoint is borne out when Saul orders the slaughter of an entire city of priests.
… & there’s a reason why
When Saul deliberately ignored instructions from the LORD, he opened the door to evil passions that previously had been held in check when he was behaving in a righteous manner. Derangement is the consequence of Saul’s disobedience, and his changing moods can be seen as convulsions of spirit brought about by the disorder of sin.
you could look it up—vengeance belongs to the LORD
When Saul has priests murdered in the twenty-second chapter of the First Book of Samuel, he oversteps his royal authority. In the book of Deuteronomy 32:35–36, God claims the right to vengeance. You can learn more about vengeance by reading Lost in Translation, an online column in which Turning to God’s Word author Matthew Phelps helps readers connect with ancient ideas expressed in the original Scriptures. New entries are posted on Tuesdays. If you’d like to receive Matthew’s comments about biblical languages by email each week, there’s a sign-up form next to the searchable archives.
close with Bible-based prayer related to this lesson
Many of our Catholic study groups like to conclude their discussions with a prayer based on the scriptural focus of their lesson. If you’re uncomfortable composing your own Bible-based prayers, you can follow our four easy steps. If you prefer, you can use the following short prayer based on the First Book of Samuel 20:1—22:23.
O God, it is impossible for us to understand
all of the details of your divine plan
for the salvation of humanity.
Help us to trust in your goodness and wisdom
even when it appears that events
are conspiring against the establishment of your kingdom.
We ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus,
whose Crucifixion originally was viewed as a failure
but ultimately represents victory over sin and death. Amen.
our videos coordinate with the biblical text
The Scripture ranges for the videos that accompany this Catholic Bible study match the Scripture ranges for the sets of questions in The United Kingdom of Israel: Foreshadowing the Reign of Christ the King. You can follow along with the video as Matthew discusses Lesson 7, “The Priest Ahimelech Helps David Flee from Saul,” on pages 43–49 of the study book. (Some mobile devices may only open the video overview for Lesson 7 at the beginning.)
Question 1 First Book of Samuel 20:1–17
Question 2 First Book of Samuel 20:18–23
Question 3 First Book of Samuel 20:24–34
Question 4 First Book of Samuel 20:35–42
Question 5 First Book of Samuel 21:1–9
Question 6 First Book of Samuel 21:10–15
Question 7 First Book of Samuel 22:1–5
Question 8 First Book of Samuel 22:6–10
Question 9 First Book of Samuel 22:11–19
Question 10 First Book of Samuel 22:20–23
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Thank you for your interest in The United Kingdom of Israel: Foreshadowing the Reign of Christ the King. A wealth of information about beginning a Turning to God’s Word individual or group Bible study can be found on this website at start a Bible study. Tami, Matthew, and I are available to answer your questions about Turning to God’s Word and to offer support. You may use this email to contact us directly. —Jennifer