1 Samuel 28-31

Chapter 28

Witch of Endor (William Blake)

The Witch of Endor (William Blake)

Well isn’t this karma! Saul is afraid of the Philistine army now that David has joined them, and Yahweh won’t tell him what to do, so he looks for a fortune-teller, even although god condemned fortune-tellers way back in Exodus 22, and Saul himself banned them a few verses earlier. (Do as I say, not as I do.) So the witch calls up the ghost of Samuel, but Samuel won’t help and only makes it worse by telling Saul he is about to die. Verse 20 is rather telling; Saul “was also faint with hunger, for he had eaten nothing all day and all night.” Uh, maybe that’s why he’s seeing ghosts?

Chapter 29

This doesn’t make much sense to me. The Philistine army suddenly decides they don’t trust David not to turn traitor because he’s a Hebrew, so they want him tossed from their ranks. But just back in chapter 27, David was helping the Philistines slaughter whole villages, so why the sudden distrust? King Achish trusts David, who has been with him for either days or years. (Seriously – the Hebrew reads: “who hath been with me these days or these years”.) But he’s outvoted (since when do the troops outvote the king?), so David has to go.

Chapter 30

David again shows his caginess by rescuing a sick Egyptian slave and using him to lead David to the band of thugs who trashed his hometown and stole his women (and it may be noted here that unlike the Hebrews, the Amalekites don’t always slaughter their captives). David slaughters all of HIS captives, and then shares the plunder with all his followers and admirers. Apologists are going to cite acts of humanity and generosity in this chapter, but I call David the consummate slimy politician.

Chapter 31

The big finale to 1 Samuel. The Philistines close in on the Israelites and the killing starts. Jonathan goes down early. Saul sees the writing on the wall and asks his armor-bearer to do him in, but the guy refuses, so Saul falls on his own sword (his final act of cowardice). But the people of Jabesh-gilead, whom Saul had rescued from eye-gouging way back in chapter 11, rescue his body and bury it.

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