Through the punishment of King Saul for discriminatory execution of judgment against the Amalekites, we learn that Equality Under the Law is important to God for human interactions and relationships. God terminated Saul as king of Israel because he did not execute judgment equally against the Amalekites as God directed him. Instead, Saul captured alive those he considered good but destroyed at sight those he considered despised and weak, in violation of his instructions and the principle of Equality Under the Law. God punished him swiftly for the violation, thereby providing a message of individual responsibility for Equality Under the Law as guiding principle for participation in society.
This bible study is the first of a two-part miniseries to understand the biblical basis for individual responsibility regarding civil rights. We discuss two events from the bible to understand their significance regarding relationships between individuals and society. The first event provides a message regarding the principle of Equality Under the Law, based on the punishment of first king of Israel Saul for discriminatory execution of judgment against the Amalekites. God had instructed Saul to destroy the Amalekites to implement his judgment against them but Saul applied a discriminatory criterion in executing the instruction.
Instead of destroying Amalek totally as God commanded, Saul captured alive whatever he considered good and destroyed at sight whatever he considered despised and worthless. Thus, he violated the principle of Equality Under the Law and disobeyed God’s instruction as a result. God terminated him swiftly as king of Israel, thereby conveying a message of individual responsibility regarding Equality Under the Law.
The second study will be based on a ruling by David, long before he became the second king of Israel, regarding the distribution of battle proceeds among his followers. The current study focuses on Equality Under the Law, based on 1 Samuel 15.
Discussion of Christ teaching regarding the temple tax continues with interactions among Saul, Jonathan, and people of Israel; to understand that an objection against lawful authority must conform to due process. The interactions provide two examples of an objection against an order of the king. One did not conform to due process and led to prosecution of the objector. The other, an objection by collective decision of the people, resulted in overruling the king and illustrates due process by collective decision. In modern-day societies, a collective decision could be channeled through the legislature, judiciary, specially authorized persons, referendum or ballot initiative, or public protest.
This study is the second of a three-part series on submission to lawful authority: based on Christ teaching regarding the temple tax. As we discuss in the first part, he chose to pay the tax despite recognizing possible grounds for objection. Our discussion in this study focuses on understanding that an objection must conform to due process in obedience to lawful authority. We discuss examples from interactions among King Saul, his son and second-in-command Jonathan, and the people of Israel. The interactions occurred during a military campaign.
The interactions provide two examples of an objection against an order of the king. One example did not conform to due process and led to prosecution of the objector. In contrast, the other example shows that an objection by a collective decision of the people resulted in overruling the king and, thus, illustrates that a collective decision of the people conforms to due process.
Also, we identify several forms of collective decision of the people in a modern-day society: such as a decision of the legislature, judiciary (or court system), specially authorized persons such as tax collectors, referendum or ballot initiative, or public protest.
Every person is individually accountable for their responsibility in any human relationship or event, independent and irrespective of others’ behavior. God’s expectation and judgment of every person in a relationship or event depend on his specific assignment for the person and are independent of his expectation and judgment of the other party. He holds each person accountable to fulfill their role. He rewards those that do and is displeased with those that don’t, irrespective of what others do or fail to do. We discuss Christ teaching in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard and an example from David: based on his reverence for Saul in life and honor at death, not minding that Saul considered him an enemy and sought relentlessly to take his life.
Every person is accountable for his/her responsibility in any human relationship, independent of the behavior of the other party. God’s expectations and judgment of an individual regarding conduct of a human relationship are independent of his expectations and judgment of the other party.
Apostle Paul describes the message in his letter to Romans [12:17–18], where he admonishes every person to perform their individual responsibility in any relationship irrespective of the other party performing or failing to perform theirs: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Paul used the phrase “…If it is possible, as far as it depends on you…” to emphasize you should explore all options to determine how it is possible, focus on the aspects that depend on you—the things you control, and leave the other party to handle the things they control. Therefore, Paul’s message emphasizes that God holds every person accountable to fulfill their individual responsibility in human relationship, independent and irrespective of the performance of the other party in the relationship.
We discuss Christ teaching in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard [Matthew 20:1–15], regarding a hypothetical landowner that hired different groups of workers at different times based on a separate wage and service agreement for each group. At the end of the day, he honored the wage and service agreement for each group independent of the agreement for the others. He expected those he hired in the morning to work for the entire day whereas those he hired late in the day he expected to work for the remaining time. He judged that each fulfilled his expectation and had them paid according to each individual agreement. The landowner’s expectation and judgment of each worker were independent of his expectation and judgment of other workers. Similar to God’s expectation and judgment of an individual regarding behavior in a human relationship.
Also, we discuss David’s response to the death of Saul as an example of a person focusing on his individual responsibility in a relationship without minding the behavior of the other party. For several years, Saul considered David an enemy and pursued him relentlessly to take his life but was unsuccessful. In contrast, David was respectful of Saul as the sitting God-anointed king of Israel, would not “lay a hand” on Saul even when he encountered enticing opportunities to kill him, and mourned Saul at death to honor him as a fallen God-anointed king of Israel. His reverence for Saul in life and honor at death illustrate individual responsibility in human relationship is unidirectional and independent.
Every person is created to represent God in interactions among people: to convey his presence and impact as if he was there physically in human form. Those that live according to this purpose will follow God’s schedule and receive fulfillment of his promise. In contrast, those that depart from the purpose will depart from God’s schedule. Examples from David illustrate his approach in interactions with Saul satisfy God’s mandate of keeping “the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just.” The approach contributed to his success on a path to kingship that lasted over ten years and included transition from Saul, training for David, and preparing Israel to accept David as king. Two encounters with Saul presented opportunities for David that could have been misinterpreted. Saul conceded the kingship to David on both occasions as David’s commitment to “right and just” prevailed over the temptation to clear his way to the kingship by killing Saul. The concession contributed to preparing Israel to accept David as king.
GOD’S AMBASSADOR God creates every person to represent him among others and wants us to fulfill the purpose in interactions among people and between people and other creations. To understand the biblical basis for this statement, we note that God is supernatural, created the universe (including the earth and its inhabitants) to work naturally, and wants to interact seamlessly with the universe and its constituents. Let’s focus on people and the earth. God creates people and other inhabitants of the earth to work naturally and wants to interact seamlessly with them. He can interact with people through the Holy Spirit but the interaction is supernatural and doesn’t fill the need for natural interaction with people.
To understand the importance of working naturally, imagine a person’s bank account suddenly swells with a large amount of money that is not traceable to any natural source. How would other people, including the regulatory authorities, respond to the change? It would be unacceptable to say that God gave the money. That is a supernatural explanation. The natural system requires a natural explanation. As a second example, how would people respond to a full-grown tree appearing suddenly in the middle of a highway? Or a person showing up one day to claim the presidency of a country saying God appointed him/her president? God can do any of these but chooses the natural way to do them.
The natural way requires interactions among people following certain rules and processes while God channels his participation in the interactions through the people. For example, if he wants to provide money to a person, he works with the person and others to provide the money naturally. He works through people in every situation to implement changes naturally to fulfill his purpose. He creates every person to represent him in interactions among people to fulfill his purpose in every situation.
The biblical basis for this understanding is in God’s declaration of his purpose for humans: “Let Us make man in Our image…” [Genesis 1:26], which we paraphrase as: let us create every person to represent God (his presence, desire, approach, methods, sensitivity, compassion, etc.) in interactions among people and between people and other inhabitants of the earth. The paraphrase helps us understand the declaration to mean that God creates every person to be his channel for natural interactions with other people.
An event may appear insignificant but could be a key step that triggers a sequence of events toward fulfillment of God’s promise. Irrespective of the apparent significance of the trigger event, how a person responds could determine whether they follow or depart from God’s Schedule. Respond in every event knowing your next step could be ordered to open doors and release your blessing. An example: David’s meeting with priest of Nob Ahimelek appeared insignificant initially but triggered an event sequence that exposed Saul’s disrespect for clergy independence and authority, fulfilled God’s promise of punishment to Eli, and provided David a benefit that endured through almost the remainder of his life. David’s interactions with Ahimelek in the meeting conveyed compassion that likely contributed to his blessing.
David’s meeting with Ahimelek the priest of Nob is important for its effect on subsequent events, though the meeting itself appears insignificant. The sequence of events triggered by the meeting include Saul’s massacre of the priests of Nob, which exposed his disrespect for clergy independence and authority while fulfilling God’s promise of punishment to Eli and his descendants. Also, the event sequence resulted in a blessing for David: through Abiathar, son of Ahimelek (descendant of Eli), who escaped the massacre and served David for more than forty years as companion and clergy. Abiathar was retired from the priesthood at the conclusion of his service to David.
David had met with Ahimelek at Nob to request short-term food supply and weapon. Ahimelek provided him with leftover consecrated bread and the “…sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah…” [1 Samuel 21:9]. However, a sequence of events triggered by the meeting was more important than the items David received from Ahimelek. Therefore, David-Ahimelek meeting at Nob illustrates an event of little significance that triggered an event sequence (or cascading events) of great consequences. Furthermore, David’s response in the trigger event conveyed compassion that likely contributed to his blessing from the event.
The importance of the meeting derives from two occurrences. First, the interactions were witnessed by Doeg the Edomite, a servant of Saul serving a detention under the priest. Second, David showed concern for Ahimelek’s safety by withholding information regarding his dispute with Saul so Ahimelek could interact with him normally without taking a side in the dispute. He recognized Ahimelek needed protection from potential accusations by Saul regarding the interactions and did what he could to protect him. Although his compassion was not effective in protecting Ahimelek from Saul, David benefited immensely from the interactions, not because of the material items he received but because of subsequent events triggered by the interactions.
To understand the importance of David-Ahimelek meeting, we recall an antecedent event: a prophecy for Eli and his household and descendants, whereby God declared punishment on Eli for honoring his sons more than God “by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel” [1 Samuel 2:29]. God declared to Eli as follows: “The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your priestly house, so that no one in it will reach old age” [1 Samuel 2:31]. Further in Verse 33, he added: “Every one of you that I do not cut off from serving at my altar I will spare only to destroy your sight and sap your strength, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life.”
We discuss the event sequence triggered by David-Ahimelek meeting, focusing on Saul’s disrespect for the independence and authority of the clergy, how Saul’s massacre of the priests of Nob fulfilled God’s promise of punishment to Eli, and David’s benefit from the massacre that endured with him through almost the remainder of his life. The study adds to understanding that an event may appear insignificant but could be important as the trigger for an event sequence that leads to fulfillment of God’s promise.
Through his reverence for Saul in life and response to the death of Saul, David illustrates individual responsibility in human relationship is unidirectional and independent. Every person is accountable for his/her responsibility in any relationship, independent of the other party’s behavior. David revered Saul in life and honored him in death to fulfill his responsibility to the God-anointed king, irrespective of whether Saul was good or bad to him. He was accountable to God for the way he related to Saul. Also, independently, Saul was accountable to God for the way he related to David. Their accountability to God was personal and independent, as was their individual responsibility to the relationship.
Individual responsibility in human relationship is well described by Apostle Paul in his letter to Romans [12:17–18]: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” As we discuss in a previous study under Sin Repentance and Forgiveness in Human Interaction, the phrase “as far as it depends on you” means focus on the aspects that depend on you—the things you control, and leave the other party to handle the things they control. Therefore, Paul’s message reminds every person to perform their individual responsibility in any relationship irrespective of the other party performing or failing to perform theirs.
We discuss David’s response to the death of Saul as an example of a person focusing on his individual responsibility in a relationship without minding the attitude of the other party. For several years prior to Saul’s death, he considered David an enemy and pursued him relentlessly to take his life but was unsuccessful. In contrast, as we discuss in a previous study under Guided by Right and Just—David Spares Saul, David remained respectful of Saul as the sitting God’s anointed king of Israel and would not “lay a hand” on him even when he encountered enticing opportunities to kill Saul. When he was informed of the defeat of Israel and death of Saul and Jonathan at the hand of Philistines, David mourned for Saul, Jonathan, and the nation and army of Israel. He mourned for Saul in fulfillment of his responsibility to respect and honor the God-anointed king of Israel. His mourning for Jonathan was an expression of sadness for losing a friend and warrior that represented a great promise for Israel. He mourned for the nation and army of Israel out of spiritual recognition of a need to lead Israel through repentance to regain God’s favor to restore her superiority against Philistines.
David would not “lay a hand” on Saul because he revered Saul as God’s anointed king of Israel. He was committed to “doing what is right and just” and understood the commitment to mean he would not “stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed.” Therefore, he spared Saul on two occasions despite potential strategic advantage of killing him. Saul expressed regret for seeking David’s life; conceded kingship to David in the first encounter; and, in the second, acknowledged David “will do great things and surely triumph.” Therefore, although David resisted the temptation of killing Saul to clear his way to kingship, he won Saul’s concession of the kingship in the presence of several Israeli witnesses. Thus, his commitment to “doing what is right and just” advanced him along the path to becoming king of Israel.
We discuss David’s interactions with Saul in the context of commitment to God’s mandate to “keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just” [Genesis 18:19] so that God will fulfill his promise. God declared the mandate as he spoke to angels about Abraham. He declared he chose Abraham to become the ancestral father of the Messiah lineage because Abraham will raise his offspring to live in the image of God by doing what is right and just “so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him” [Genesis 18:19]. Thus, God established “doing what is right and just” as the guiding principle for living in his image and necessary condition for receiving fulfillment of his promises.
He mandates every person to understand the meaning of “right and just” to guide their response in every situation and will guide understanding and response for those that are connected to him. We discuss David’s interactions with Saul as reflecting his understanding of the mandate. He would not “lay a hand” on Saul or get into battle against him, because “who can stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless” [1 Samuel 26:9]? David understood that reverence for Saul in awe of God was “right and just” and represented a purpose superior to any other. Therefore, he chose a strategy of avoiding Saul or any battle against him in order to avoid any chance of stretching out his hand against the Lord’s anointed, e.g., see previous study under Mentor Turns Mentee Enemy—in Saul vs David.
The strategy became David’s guiding principle in every interaction with Saul as Saul sought to take his life. Two occasions provide clear illustration of David’s commitment to the principle. On the two occasions, David had access to Saul unnoticed. Both situations appeared to present David with a strategic advantage of eliminating Saul as an obstacle to his becoming king of Israel. Some of his followers urged him to take the advantage. However, David chose instead to confront Saul verbally from a safe distance after leaving evidence of his access to Saul unnoticed by either Saul or his troops. Also, he used the occasions to explain to his followers that he could not stretch out his hand against Saul because Saul deserved reverence as God’s anointed king of Israel.
David had opportunity to kill Saul on both occasions but spared him because his understanding of “doing what is right and just” meant he would not “stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed.” However, although he resisted the temptation of killing Saul to clear his way to kingship, he was the winner on both occasions because Saul conceded the kingship to him in the presence of several Israeli witnesses. We discuss his interactions with Saul on both occasions to understand his commitment to “doing what is right and just” helped him to advance along the path to kingship.
We discuss Saul-David interactions in the context of a mentor vs mentee relationship that deteriorates and turns deadly against mentee. David tried containment of the threat initially but later chose avoidance of Saul, established safe distance from him, and moved quickly and frequently to maintain the distance. To implement the avoidance strategy, he setup elaborate network for sending and gathering information to predict Saul’s next move and stay ahead of him. His strategy did not include standing his ground, because he revered Saul as the sitting God-anointed king.
We discuss interactions between Saul and David in the context of a mentor vs mentee relationship that deteriorates and turns deadly against the mentee. Recall from our previous study under When Promising Path Terminates that David thrived as a high-ranking officer and commander in Saul’s army. He showed himself an effective leader and cherished the opportunities of his position as his positive reputation grew rapidly among the people. His service in Saul’s army appeared to define a clear path to kingship.
Saul’s relationship with David could be viewed as mentor vs mentee because David was learning from Saul’s experience as he grew in the service. Saul was the king, supreme commander, and an experienced fighting man when David joined the service. Their relationship started with Saul convincing David’s father Jesse to release David into his service: “Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him” [1 Samuel 16:22]. However, after David triumphed over Goliath and led Israel to victory against Philistines, his relationship with Saul deteriorated and evolved later into Saul seeking desperately to kill him, e.g., by hauling the spear at him: “I’ll pin David to the wall” [1 Samuel 18:11]. Therefore, we can consider Saul a mentor to David initially that became less comfortable with his mentee and eventually turned predator against him.
Initially, David apparently believed he could contain the threat. He intended to remain in Saul’s service, loyal to Saul, but vigilant to protect himself from Saul. Containment was adequate initially. He eluded Saul’s spear attack three times. However, the third time was different for two reasons. First, Saul violated an oath to his son Jonathan by throwing the spear at David the third time: “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be put to death” [1 Samuel 19:6]. Second, he threw the spear with decisive lethality such that it penetrated into the wall behind David. That night, David decided containment was inadequate and “made good his escape” [1 Samuel 19:10]. David’s strategy against the threat from Saul changed from containment to establishing and maintaining a safe distance from Saul.
The modern-day society presents several possibilities of a mentor vs mentee relationship deteriorating and turning deadly against the mentee. Examples could be found in business, politics, academia, or several other areas of living where a person (the mentee) tries to gain a foothold by learning from or understudying another (the mentor). The mentor often is accommodating initially and could remain so through the relationship. However, if the mentor is unable to accept potential competition from the mentee, the relationship could deteriorate and potentially turn deadly against the mentee. We seek better understanding of the mentee’s options through discussion of the example from David versus Saul after David became aware of Saul’s threat to his life. David survived because of his conduct of the relationship. Saul was determined to kill him and would have if given the opportunity. Similarly, a modern-day mentee faced with a deteriorating mentor-mentee relationship needs to assess the evolving behavior of the mentor and decide whether to contain the threat or pick up and run to save his/her life or career as the case may be.
Every person likely has experienced unexpected termination of events that appear initially to be progressing toward a glorious accomplishment but end without reaching the expected breakthrough. A similar situation occurred for David, when he had to depart abruptly from Saul’s army to escape a threat to his life. David evaluated his judgment by assessing how Saul felt about him. If Saul was determined to kill him, then his only option would be to depart. However, if Saul really didn’t want to kill him, then he should stay and continue his army service. He consulted with Samuel and then with Jonathan and concluded he was no longer safe within proximity of Saul. Therefore, he departed and ended a career that hitherto appeared to be his path to kingship.
Every person likely has experienced unexpected termination of events that appear initially to be progressing toward a glorious accomplishment but end without reaching the expected breakthrough. The termination could result in disappointment and confusion, making the person wonder if God was with him/her after all. Many people probably have personal examples to share. However, we forget personal examples for now and instead discuss an example from the life of David to understand how he responded in the situation and consider how the principles of his response could apply today.
Recall from our previous study under Growing Reputation and Pains for David that David’s position as a high-ranking officer and commander in Saul’s army provided him opportunities to demonstrate leadership and grow reputation as potential future king of Israel. He cherished the opportunities as his positive reputation grew rapidly among the people. His service in Saul’s army appeared to define a clear path to becoming king of Israel. However, the service ended abruptly without leading directly to David becoming king. The service ended because Saul sought to kill David. Realizing his life was in danger within any proximity of Saul, David left the service to keep away from Saul.
But he didn’t leave the service as soon as he suspected that Saul wanted to kill him. He verified his judgment to determine the risk better before he departed. His actions indicate he would have wanted to stay if he could but departed because he determined he had to leave. He had to leave to avoid being killed by Saul. We discuss David’s experience to understand better how a person should respond when a promising path terminates without the expected breakthrough.
Events following David’s encounter with Goliath caused growing recognition, admiration, and pains for him. His position as high-ranking officer and commander provided him opportunity to demonstrate leadership and grow reputation as potential future king of Israel. He cherished the opportunity and persevered despite growing enmity from Saul. He was loyal to Saul but vigilant to protect himself while faithfully providing Saul palliative care. However, he suffered an apparent misstep by marrying Saul’s daughter Michal despite indications that the marriage was not of God.
Several events that David encountered following his victory over Goliath caused changes important to his preparation to become king of Israel. Some of the changes were clearly positive whereas others appear negative. We discuss the events and the changes they caused: to understand the positive and apparently negative changes and David’s behavior as they developed. Through the discussion, we seek better understanding of how David waited for God’s time in his preparation for kingship and how the understanding could apply to a person’s day to day life in waiting for God’s intervention.