1 Samuel

Israelite Shrines and worship before the Temple of Solomon

1 SAMUEL 1 Following the conquest, Israelite worship was conducted at the tabernacle at Shiloh.This was in keeping with the laws of the sanctuary given in Deuteronomy 12:5,13-14. However, in the books of Joshua through 1 Chronicles at least 20 local shrines, altars or high places are mentioned as pre-Solomonic places of worship, with roughly one-third of these referred to in 1 Samuel.The Israelites did at times follow Canaanite, cultic practices,worshiping the local Baals and Ashtoreths (cf. Jdg 3:7).5 Canaanite worship at local shrines involved the erection of sacred pillars representing the deities; the planting of sacred trees; engagement in sacrifice, feasting and ritualized prostitution (cf. Ge 38:21; 1Ki 14:24);° and participation in pilgrimages to cult sites. Human sacrifice was practiced as well.' Did worship at Israelite high places differ? It often did, and it is important to realize that not all of the outlying shrines were illicit or pagan.

After the apparent destruction of Shiloh° the Israelites returned to traditional custom, worshiping God at local, open-air cult sites as the patriarchs had done (cf., e.g., Ge 12:6-8; 26:23-25; 28:10 —22).The Baals and Ashteroth were removed, God alone was worshiped (1Sa 7:3-4) and the grossly pagan features of Canaanite worship were absent. Israelite worship included pilgrimage, the offering of sacrifices and libations, feasting (cf. 9:12-24), musical praise (cf. 10:5) and prayer and fasting (cf. 7:5-6). Sites were probably chosen as places of worship on the basis of associations with the patriarchs or on their connection to great moments in Israel's history or prior appearances of the Lord. The presence of the ark of the covenant lent sanctity to some sites (cf. 2Sa 6:12ff.), as did the tabernacle to others (cf. 1Sa 21:4-6; 1Ch 16:39; 21:29).9 Common to all Israelite high places was an altar, but some sites had other associated structures as well (cf. 1Sa 9:22).10 Prior to the construction of the temple in Jerusalem, worship at local shrines was common practice among the Israelites.

The multiplicity of shrines in early Israel helps us to make sense of the apparently contradictory rules concerning worship that we find in the law. On the one hand, we see frequent reference to the central sanctuary as "the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name" (e.g., Dt 12:11). We also see clear indication that the line of Aaron was the only legitimate priestly line; all other Levites were subordinates who were entrusted with sanctuary duties but did not serve as priests (e.g., Nu 18:1-7,21-24).On the other hand, some texts seem to imply that all Levites had priestly authority (Jdg 17:13).

The solution lies in the fact that Israel did have one central shrine, the place where the ark of the covenant resided and where the priests of Aaron's line officiated. This shrine was first at Shiloh and later at Jerusalem. However, most people could not make frequent trips there, and thus there were numerous other sites throughout Israel where the people could worship routinely. Any Le-vite — but only a Levite—it appears, could serve as a priest at one of these outlying shrines. However, if a Levite came to the central shrine, he could perform only subordinate duties (could not wear the priestly vestments or assume the duties of the Aaronic priests).

The Ephod

1 SAMUEL 2 The ephod was a sacral garment, either a simple linen uniform worn by all priests in service to the Lord (1Sa 2:28) or the more elaborate apparel of the high priest (Ex 28:6). The ephod of ordinary priests was of white linen (1Sa 22:18), a material preferred by all priesthoods of the ancient world because of its association with ritual purity.] Ordination of the Israelite Old Testament priesthood involved investiture (a ceremony of installing someone to priestly office, often including the conferring of special garments; see Lev 8:30; Nu 20:26), and thus the privilege of wearing the ephod that was conferred upon the Levites carried a special significance (1Sa 2:28).When David donned a linen ephod to bring the ark to Jerusalem, he did so to emphasize his priestly role before the Lord (2Sa 6:14).

The high priestly ephod was a sleeveless garment similar to an apron, held up by the shoulders and fastened in the back by a belt. Its fabric was an intricate weave of gold, blue, purple and scarlet threads. Hammered gold leaf cords were worked into each individual colored thread so that gold was the predominant material of the ephod's fabrication (Ex 39:3).Yet it was the revelatory nature of this garment that rendered it the most important piece of priestly attire. Hanging from the ephod was the breastplate that contained the Urim and Thummim, oracle stones through which the high priest could determine the will of God.2 In the hope of receiving an oracle from the Lord, the ephod was often carried into battle (1Sa 23:9; 30:7-8).

The Tabernacle at Shiloh

1 SAMUEL 3 Shiloh is identifiable from the description in Judges 21:19 and by the name preserved in Arabic form at Khirbet Seilun, 18 miles (29 km) north of Jerusalem. It was the Israelite shrine at which the tabernacle was installed (Jos 18:1).1 At a yearly festival there the young virgins would dance (Jdg 21:19-21). Elkanah and his family visited Shiloh annually,and Hannah placed the boy Samuel in the care of the priest Eli there (1Sa 1-3). It appears that the Philistines destroyed Shiloh after capturing the ark of the covenant in battle at Ebenezer (4:1— 7:2).The city's only mention in later Biblical history is as the hometown of the prophet Ahijah during the reign of Jeroboam I (1Ki 14:4) and as an example of God's judgment on his sanctuary (Ps 78:60; Jer 7:12-14; 26:6).

Archaeological findings correspond quite well to the Biblical record. Work by Danish excavators (1926-1932) and by Bar Ilan University (1981 onward) demonstrate that Shiloh was used as a cultic center by pre-Israelite occupants during the Middle Bronze Age.3 Evidence suggests that its use as a sanctuary continued into the Late Bronze Age. This suggests some continuity between pre-Israelite and Israelite usage: A site that had been regarded as sacred prior to the Israelite arrival became the place where the tabernacle remained.

Archaeology can tell us nothing about worship at Shiloh, and no vestiges of the original tabernacle remain. We can only infer the type of worship practiced there from what we read in various Biblical texts, especially 1 Samuel 1 .Verse 3 of this chapter suggests that pious Israelites were expected to make at least one annual pilgrimage to the Shiloh shrine, and verse 11 demonstrates that they commonly went there to make a vow. This chapter also indicates that lay people, including women, were able to approach fairly close to the main shrine itself (vv. 9,12). Priests and others who ministered there apparently lived in the immediate vicinity, some even sleeping within its precincts (3:1-3).Women served there, but, tragically, some priests took advantage of their authority and committed immoral acts with them (2:22).

Izbet Sartah Ostracon

1 SAMUEL 4 In 1 Samuel 4 Israel is encamped at Ebenezer in order to face the Philistines at Aphek, approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) to the west. Although Ebenezer's size is debated, the site has been tentatively identified by some archaeologists as a moderate hill called lzbet Sartah.

In 1977 the lead archaeologist at lzbet Sartah, Moshe Kochavi, published an ostracon, an inscribed pottery sherd, that sheds new light upon the development of the Proto-Canaanite script used by the ancient Israelites. The ostracon was unearthed in a storage pit in stratum II, a short-lived (approximately 20-year) level at lzbet Sartah, probably destroyed due to Philistine encroachment. The inscription appears to have been a practice text used by someone learning the alphabet. Not all the letters are present, and those that are do not appear in a standard order. When compared with other inscriptions from roughly the same period, the shape and form of the letters place the ostracon in the early twelfth century B.C., approximately the time Israel was fighting the Philistines in this area. If indeed lzbet Sartah is the modern site for the Biblical Ebenezer, the ostracon may have been inscribed by an Israelite. If this is so, this pottery fragment provides a small but intriguing archaeological glimpse into the life of twelfth-century Is-rael.Additional finds like the lzbet Sartah ostracon may one day indicate the literacy rate among Israelites of the Late Bronze Age.


1 SAMUEL 5 Dagon was one of the most widely worshiped deities in the ancient Near East:

    • Sargon the Great (third millennium B.c.) worshiped Dagon after his military victories in Mesopotamia.

    • The cities of Mari, Tuttul and Teqra contained temples to Dagon, and he is well attested in the Mari' archives (second millennium B.C.).

    • Although Dagon is almost absent from Ugarit's mythology, he possibly had a temple there since he is mentioned in Ugarit's many offering lists.

    • In the Holy Land Dagon appears as a principal Philistine god, with temples at Gaza (Jdg 16:23), Beth Shan (1Ch 10:10) and Ashdod ("Map 4"), where his temple has possibly been identified by archaeologists.

    • Sadly, Dagon-worship even influenced Israel (Jos 15:41 mentions Beth Dagon).

Unfortunately, the meaning of Dagon's name and his specific function are unclear. Some connect his name with wheat, fish or cloudy, due to similarities between the name and these words in Semitic languages. Dagon is also at times associated with military power. In 1 Samuel 5 the Philistines credited Dagon with their military victory over Israel (and thus over Yahweh). Ironically, it was Dagon who was subsequently forced to submit before Yahweh's ark. Worship of Dagon died out during the intertestamental period (a temple of Dagon is mentioned in 1Mc 10:84).

Beth Shemesh

1 SAMUEL 6 The city to which the Philistines returned the ark of the covenant, Beth Shemesh, ("Map 4"), was a prominent site in the Shephelah near their border with Israel. Located at the modern village of Ain Shemesh (which preserves the ancient name),there are six major occupation levelS at this site. The earliest (stratum VI) is meager and dates to the Early Bronze Age.2 Stratum V is a fortified Canaanite settlement from Middle Bronze Age II that was completely destroyed sometime during the second half of the sixteenth century B.C. In the centuries following Israel's conquest of the land,3 Beth Shemesh's location along a major route as well as its proximity to the Philistine plain, made the city vulnerable to attack. Stratum IV dates roughly from the fifteenth through thirteenth centuries B.C. This would have been the city that was allotted to Judah and designated as

a Levitical city (Jos 15:10; 21:16).4 A few inscriptions in Ugaritic cuneiform and Hebrew-Phoenician, as well as a hoard of jewelry, were found there. This city was completely destroyed.The stratum that follows (stratum III) is a rather large but unplanned village that dates to Iron I (the late judges period). It, too, was violently destroyed, possibly by Philistines.

The next city, stratum II, lasted throughout the entire monarchic period until the fail of Judah in 586 B.C., although the city seems to have suffered in the invasion led by Pharaoh Sheshonk (Biblical Shishak; 1Ki 14:25)5 in the late tenth century B.C. The city suffered major destruction in Sennacherib's campaign in 701 B.C.,6 and little was left of it when it was finally

destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.

Recent excavations of stratum II have revealed a gate, a city square and a large public building. In addition, a huge underground reservoir was hewn inside the city, with a storage capacity sufficient to outlast a three-month siege. In about 800 B.C. Beth Shemesh was the scene of a battle between the armies of Israel and Judah, in which King Jehoash of Israel carried off King Amaziah as prisoner (2Ki 14:11-13; 2Ch 25:21-23). In the days of King Ahaz Judahite weakness allowed the Philistines to temporarily capture the city (2Ch 28:18). A large number of royal seal impressions from the time of King Hezekiah indicates that Beth Shemesh was an important supply center during his time.

The portrait of Beth Shemesh in 1 Samuel 6 accords well with archaeological finds. The city at that time bordered a powerful Philistine population but was itself Israelite. Excavation at stratum III, for example, reveals a city that was fundamentally Canaanite but used Philistine bichrome pottery (decorated in two colors), attesting to the influence of the neighboring Philistines.

Kiriath Jearim

1 SAMUEL 7 Originally Kiriath Jearim ("Map 4") was named Baalah (Jos 15:9) or Kiriath Baal, probably indicative of its religious significance when the city belonged to Canaanites who worshiped Baal.1 After the Israelites had entered Canaan under Joshua's command, the town was allotted to the tribe of Judah, very close to the southern border of Benjamin (Jos 18:14). Kiriath Jearim, which means "city of forests," was strategically situated along an important route leading from the coastal plain to the Benjamin plateau and on to Jerusalem.

Following the capture of the ark of the covenant by the Philistines and its subsequent return to Beth Shemesh, men from Kiriath Jearim retrieved the ark and brought it to the house of Abinadab. The ark remained in Kiriath Jearim for 20 years (1 Sa 7:2), until the nation repented at Mizpah. David conveyed it from Abinadab's house to Jerusalem during his reign (2Sa 6:2-4; 2Ch 1:4), and Solomon fortified the site (see 1Ki 9:18), but Pharaoh Shishak is thought to have destroyed it.3 The final references to Kiriath Jearim in the Biblical record are as the hometown of the prophet Uriah (Jer 26:20) and the destination of some of the returnees from exile (Ne 7:29). Kiriath Jearim has been identified with Deir el-Azhar, a hilltop that may preserve the name of Eleazar, the son of Abinadab, who was consecrated to guard the ark.An inscription found at the site indicates that the Tenth Roman Legion was later stationed there, and excavations in the early twentieth century have revealed a Byzantine church constructed there during the fifth century A.D.

Samuel and Saul

1 SAMUEL 9 Samuel and Saul were transitional leaders in Israel's history during the period dating from approximately 1070 — 1000 B.C., between the time of the judges and the united monarchy. "In those days the word of the LORD was rare" (1Sa 3:1), but the miraculous conception of Samuel to the barren Hannah (ch. 1), along with Samuel's unique prophetic call (3:4-14), denoted a special work of God on behalf of his people. Seemingly not of priestly stock (1Ch 6:49 — 53; cf. 1Sa 1:1), although his father was a Levite (1Ch 6:25-26), Samuel grew up at Shiloh ("Map 4"), Israel's primary worship center,' where he was trained under the high priest Eli (1:27 —28; 2:11; 3:1). Samuel's ministry, however, was not that of priest but of prophet (3:20-4:1a; 9:6-11). He spoke on God's behalf and called the nation to repentance (7:3; 8:10-18; 12:6-25; 13:13 - 14; 15:1-2,17-23). Samuel both appointed earthly kings (10:1,24; 16:12-13) and denounced them (13:13-14;15:22-23; 28:17-19), and he enforced God's covenant in Israel (7:15-17).

Saul was a tragic expression of Israel's waywardness. Under Philistine oppression the Israelites began to question God's presence and power among them (cf. 4:21-22) and to imagine that only a warrior-king could bring them deliverance (8:20). In so doing they rejected God as their king (8:7). Saul was tall, strong and courageous (9:2; 11:6-11), and the people chose him as king without hesitation (8:18; 9:16; 10:24; 12:13). Indeed, he embodied the human ideal of a king.2 God commissioned Saul to fight both the Philistines (9:17; 10:7; 17:11) and the Amalekites (15:2-3), but Israel's first king often failed to follow all of God's directives (e.g., 13:13; 15:17 — 19; cf. Dt 17:14 —20).Three confrontations with Samuel made clear Yahweh's verdict: Saul's kingship was rejected, and he would be replaced by an individual hand-picked by God (13:14; 15:28; 28:17). The remaining years of Saul's reign were scarred with fear, treachery and anger, as David rose to prominence in Israel.3 Saul's death at the hands of the Philistines ended his reign (31:1-4).

Rachel's Tomb

1 SAMUEL 10 Rachel died near Ephrath, which is another name for Bethlehem (Ge 35:19; 48:7).' Traditionally, her burial place has been located at a medieval building near the town, but 1 Samuel 10:2 indicates that the site was within the tribal territory of Benjamin.Jeremiah 31:15, in which Rachel's weeping voice is heard "in Ramah,"suggests that the site was actually in the vicinity of Benjamite Ramah, located a few miles north of Jerusalem. Some suggest that there was another Bethlehem nearby, a"Bethlehem of Benjamin," but evidence for this is slight, and most believe that the only Bethlehem/Ephrath of the Bible was in Judah, south of Jerusalem (according to Jos 19:15 there was another Bethlehem in Zebulun, but this has no bearing on the burial place of Rachel).

Where, then, was Rachel buried? One possible solution is that she was actually buried in Bethlehem of Judah but that her tomb in Benjamin was a cenotaph/an empty tomb intended to serve as a memorial to a deceased ancestor. Cenotaphs were common in the ancient world,and the Benjamites had a particular reason to so honor Rachel:The matriarch of the tribe, she had died giving birth to Benjamin. Matthew 2:18 cites Jeremiah 31:15, claiming that this prophecy was fulfilled in the slaughter of the innocents. It appears that Matthew was working from two different perspectives. First, Rachel's actual burial place was in Bethlehem, where the slaughter took place. Second, Jesus' suffering and the bloodshed around him echoed the suffering of Ephraim and Benjamin that Jeremiah 31:15 bewailed.

Technological Supremacy of the Philistines' Iron Weapons

1 SAMUEL 13 Iron weaponry placed the Philistines in a position of distinct advantage over their adversaries. Perhaps more than any other factor, iron weapons proved the decisive element in the Philistines' early domination of Israel. The Philistines were one of the Sea Peoples who had arrived on the Canaanite shores at the end of the Bronze Age.There is evidence of ironwork from the early Iron Age both in Egypt to the south and in the Hittite Empire in Asia Minor to the north. But both empires guarded their technological advancement. Still, during the second half of the second millennium B.c.,the Philistines defeated the Hittites and most likely took from them the technology of ironwork.

To protect this valuable commodity and their corresponding advantage, the Philistines guarded the technology from their neighbors, notably the Israelites. Within Palestine, facilities of iron smelting have been discovered in the ancient Philistine settlements at Ekron and Tell Qasile. In fact, the Philistines prohibited Israelites from engaging in the trade of iron smithing, lest the Israelites also gain iron weapons (1Sa 13:19-20). Goliath the Philistine had a spearhead made of iron. The Hebrew text describes this spear as a "weaver's beam"; it is possible that this term was used because the iron weapon was relatively new to the Israelite culture and no word had as yet been coined to describe it.

It was partially the threat of the Philistines and their superior weapons that motivated the tribes of Israel to demand a king. As the monarchy began under Saul, the Philistines continued to dominate Israel's armies in open battle, including the battle at Mount Gilboa where Saul and his sons died (ch. 31). To combat the weapon superiority of the Philistines, the Israelites relied upon superior knowledge of the landscape and on guerilla warfare. But it was not until David was crowned king that the Israelites began to experience victory over their traditional foe.2 As David's conquests expanded the borders of Israel, he was able to secure rich iron deposits to the south in Edom (2Sa 8).3 These proved an extremely valuable asset to Israel.

The pass at Micmash

1 SAMUEL 14 Reference to a specific geographic feature is not typical in Scripture, but the geographic details of the pass near Micmash and Geba are carefully described in 1 Samuel 14:5. Most north/south traffic in the hill country follows the watershed ridge, because of the deeply cutting ravines (wadis) on either side. The mile-wide break in the otherwise steep cliffs of the Wadi Suwenit allowed for the existence of a secondary route in the territory of Ben-jamin, which paralleled the watershed ridge route and came to be known simply as"the pass."

During the time of King Saul the Philistines guarded this pass, but Jonathan and his armor-bearer surprised the enemy garrison by circumventing it and climbing the steep cliffs of Bozez and Seneh (1Sa 13:23 —14:14). Isaiah prophesied of a terrifying army that would travel along this road, leaving baggage at Micmash and spending the night at Geba (isa 10:28.-29). Asa's earlier fortifications of Geba were also an apparent recognition of the importance of this route (1Ki 15:22).

Scholars routinely identify Micmash with the modern Arab village of Mukhmas, nearly 7 miles (11.2 km) northeast of Jerusalem in the West Bank. However, very few Iron Age' remains have been found there, and thus some suggest that Micmash may have been at Khirbet el-Nara el-Fawqa, less than 1 mile (1.6 km) farther north—a spot at which researchers have found both Iron I and II Age sherds.

Herem, Holy War

1 SAMUEL 15 The command given to Saul in 1 Samuel 15:3 to "totally destroy everything" that belonged to the Amalekites represents the translation of the Hebrew word haram.Th is 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 Deuteronomy 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 ninth-century B.C. Mesha Stele, an inscribed stone monument on which King Mesha of Moab claimed to have"totally destroyed"the people of Nebo for the god Chemosh.1 Mesha's use of this verb demonstrates a connection between Israel and her neighbors in the realm of warfare 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 (Dt 23:9-10), 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.

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. •5. The herem was intended to remove permanently the pagan influence from the Israelite vicinity. The harem 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 (1Sa 15:9).

Battle by Champions

1 SAMUEL 17 The story of David and Goliath stands within the tradition of "battle by champions" in the ancient Near East. Such battles differed from duels in that they had ramifications for entire armies or nations. The strongest member, or champion, of each party fought a similar representative of the opponent to the death, and the victory of one man vindicated the entire host. Similar battles are found in the Egyptian History of Sinuhe, in the encounter of Marduk and Tia-mat in the Babylonian epic Enuma Elish and in the conflict of Paris and Menelaus in Homer's Iliad,3.340-82.Second Samuel 2:12-16 also contains an account of a representative battle waged by 12 selected warriors.

Such "single combat" was practiced based upon the belief that the gods of each army actually fought or decided the battle.Therefore, only one "champion" was needed from each side. This concept is clear in 1 Samuel 17:43-45, as both David and the Philistine call upon their respective gods. David's victory over the Philistine giant indeed proves that, against either pagan armies or false gods,"the battle is the LORD'S" (v. 47). Unlike those who trusted in the stature, strength and skill of their best warriors, Israel sent an untrained, ill-equipped boy into battle as its only willing champion. David himself, however, trusted in God's might rather than his own.

The Ekron Inscription of Akhayus

1 SAMUEL 21 Sometimes evidence from proper names (onomastic evidence) helps us to reconstruct the history and racial identity of a people. In 1996 a dedicatory inscription was discovered in a Philistine temple at Ekron ("Map 4"), reading in part: "The temple that Achish, son of Padi, ... ruler of Ekron, built for PTGYH." Although PTGYH's identity is debated, Achish and Padi are known from Assyrian records as kings of Ekron. Achish appears by the name lkausu in Ashurbanipal's annals from the early seventh century B.C. But both appear to derive from a previous form of the name, Akhayus, which is similar to the Greek term Achaios (Achaean). The Achaeans were one of the archaic Greek peoples. In short, widespread evidence suggests that the Philistines were related to the Greeks.

According to 1 Samuel 21:11-16, 27:1 —29:9 and 1 Kings 2:39 —40, the ruler(s) of Gath ("Map 4") were named Achish from the time of Saul to the days of Solomon (tenth — ninth centuries B.c.). Similarly, an eighth-century Philistine ruler of Ashdod used the nickname Yamani, which seems to be a corruption of the word Ionian (another Greek people). Thus it appears that various Philistine rulers used their Greek ethnic identity as a title for themselves. This conclusion is supported by their material culture in the twelfth century B.C., which is Achaean. This evidence also fits well with the assertions of Jeremiah 47:4, Amos 9:7 and Zephaniah 2:4-6 that the Philistines were Kerethites (hailing from Crete [aka Caphtor])1 who came to Canaan along with the Greek Sea Peoples.

Bywords and Insults in the Ancient World

1 SAMUEL 25 Nabal's answer to David's agents (1Sa 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 (2Sa 10).

Insults and slights required an appropriate response on behalf of the individual so affronted. Exodus 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 (2Ki 2:23 —25).The New Testament calls upon Christians to be forbearing toward those who insult them (1 Pe 3:9), but in order to understand David and his responses to taunts we need to comprehend the warrior-culture in which he lived.2 In addition, as in the above examples, when Yahweh's people or his anointed are insulted the reputation of Yahweh himself has been affronted.

The Kenites

1 SAMUEL 27 The Kenites are listed among the nations of the land promised to Abraham (Ge 15:19-21; cf.Jdg 1:16).The root of "Kenite" ("smith") may indicate a connection to metalworking activities. The Kenites were generally located in the southeastern regions of Israel (Jdg 1:16; 1Sa 27:10; 30:29). However, being pastoral nomads, some Kenites could be found as far north as the Jezreel Valley' (Jdg 4:11,17) or as far south as the Sinai region (Ex 3:1; Jdg 1:16). A postexilic

source indicates that several Kenite households took on the scribal profession as well (1Ch 2:55).

The Kenites' kinship to Moses through his Midianite father-in-law (Jdg 1:16), appears to have set a positive tone in Israelite-Kenite relations. During the judges period, Jael's loyalty and her 'nailing" of Sisera were celebrated in the Song of Deborah (Jdg 5:24-27; cf. 4:17-22),The Kenites apparently avoided direct involvement in the conflicts between Israel and Midian (Nu 31;Jdg 6-7), although Balaam briefly mentioned them in a judgment oracle (Nu 24:21-22). The bond remained strong during the united monarchy, when both Saul and David went out of their way to spare the Kenites when attacking the Amalekites (cf. 1Sa 15:6;30:26-31)5. Attesting to their fluid connections, some Kenite families were also included in the Recabite family tree (1Ch 2:55; cf. Ne 3:14; Jer 35:1-11).

Ancient Necromancy

1 SAMUEL 28 Necromancy, the practice of divination through inquiring of the dead, was forbidden under Biblical law (Lev 19:31; 20:6). Saul himself had banned this activity from the land and yet, in his desperation to receive some instruction regarding the future, he himself turned to a necromancer. Such attempts to communicate with the dead are known throughout the ancient Near East. Mesopotamia provides a few examples of such behavior, the most famous of which is the Sumerian story of "Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the Netherworld," in which Nergal summons the ghost of Enkidu to rise from a hole in the ground in order that he might speak to Gilgamesh.' Other Mesopotamian examples attest to necromancers (both male and female) using skulls to house the spirits while they were being questioned. In Egypt, letters were written to the dead, most likely for purposes of necromancy.

In 1 Samuel 28:13, when the necromancer sees Samuel she asserts that she is seeing a"divine being" or gods"(elohim in Hebrew). This use of elohim to refer to a ghost is unique in the Bible and has given rise to numerous historical and theological questions. Is this an indication that the dead were deified in ancient Israel and could be sought out in order to provide an oracle? Other surrounding cultures had ceremonies to honor the dead in cultic fashion; in Mesopotamia such a ceremony was called the kispu ritual. The cities of Mari and Ugarit (both "Map 1") also practiced food offerings and libations for the dead.2 Laws against such activities in the Bible (Dt 26:14) suggest that a similar practice was well known, though forbidden, in Israel. Saul's willingness to contravene his own decree and engage in the heterodox practice of divining the dead demonstrates the desperation and degradation to which his unfaithfulness had brought him.


1 SAMUEL 29 In 1 Samuel 29:1 the Philistines used Aphek as a place to muster their troops against Israel. Previously they had gathered at this same location just before they had routed the army of Israel (ch.4).The precise location of Aphek is.somewhat problematic because of the numerous places that share this or a very similar name.

Aphek is mentioned eight times in the Old Testament (nine if we include the place called Aphekah in Jos 15:53), and the scholarly consensus is that there are four distinct locations so designated:

    • Joshua 19:29-30 refers to a town within the tribal allotment of Asher.

    • First Kings 20:26,30 and 2 Kings 13:17 speak of a town in Aram (Syria), north of Israel.

    • Joshua 13:4 speaks of another Aphek that most likely served as the northern border of the land of Canaan.

    • The fourth Aphek was located in the Sharon plain. This may be the Aphek of Joshua 12:18 and is most likely the Aphek of 1 Samuel 4 and 1 Samuel 29.

Tel Ras el-Ain, northeast of Joppa at the source of the Yarkon River, is assumed to be the modern location for the fourth Aphek. Its relative proximity to Philistine territory confirms the likelihood that this is the town in-tended in 1 Samuel 29,This Aphek is attested in Egyptian sources from the fifteenth century B.C. in a topographical listing of place names (possibly of the cities taken in a military campaign or in an itinerary) from Thutmose Ill, as well as in an account of Amenhotep ll's second military campaign to the region.

In 1 Samuel 28:4 the Philistine army was encamped at Shunem, near En Dor, the Valley of Jezreel ("Map 4") and Mount Gilboa (the location of Saul's death). It is most likely that the reference to Aphek in chapter 29 indicates that the events of this chapter actually preceded those of 28:3-25. Aphek would have been a natural staging area for the Philistine push northward to meet the Israelite forces at Jezreel.2 In addition to being the most logical reconstruction of Philistine troop movements, such a reading does no violence to the Biblical portrayal of events in chapters 28 —31. The author evidently used a thematic, rather than a strictly chronological, arrangement to structure this account.

The Beth Shan Temples

1 SAMUEL 31 Following their victory over the Israelites at Mount Gilboa, the Philistines cut off Saul's head and stripped his body of his weapons. First Samuel 31:10 informs us that they put his armor in the temple of the Ashtoreths and fastened his body to the wall of Beth Shan," suggesting that this temple was in the city of Beth Shan (also spelled "Beth Shean"; see "Map 4"), about five miles (eight km) east of Mount Gilboa. The account in 1 Chronicles 10:10 states that"they put his armor in the temple of their gods and hung up his head in the temple of Dagon." It appears that there were temples of both Dagon and Ashtoreth in Beth Shan.' Second Samuel 21:12 indicates that the bodies of Saul's sons also were put on display, being hung in"the public square at Beth Shan."

Beth Shan had a long history, with occupation periods from the Early Bronze to the Byzantine and Arab periods. At the beginning of the Iron Age (twelfth century B.c.), it was inhabited by peoples who were either heavily influenced by Egypt or were themselves Egyptian. (A large number of Egyptian style artifacts were found there. In addition,famous but grotesque"anthropoid coffins" were uncovered—see photograph accompanying the article"Deborah and Barak and the Destruction of Hazor"on page 350.)

After the decline of Egyptian influence, the site was occupied by Canaanites and Sea Peoples (primarily Philistines).Two adjacent temples have been found there at stratum V, with artifacts dating to the tenth century B.C. Oriented from west to east, the temples were unique in plan.The northernmost was 64 feet by 37 feet (19.5 x 11.3 m) in outside dimensions, with its roof supported by four pillars.The southernmost was much larger-79 feet by 60 feet (24 x 18.3 m),Inside was a central hall with six columns and auxiliary rooms on either side. Some researchers conjecture that the northern temple was that of Ashtoreth (31:10) and the southern temple that of Dagon (1 Ch 10:10).