David Avoids Saul—while Waiting for God’s Time
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.