36. David’s Exile

David thus killed the humongous, gigantic and well-armed Goliath with simple weapons like a sling and a few stones and more importantly, this he accomplished without letting his faith in God dwindle. But David did not have a sword to fulfill the oath of beheading Goliath and carrying his head back home that he had taken in the presence of Goliath. Hence he drew Goliath’s sword. Though extremely heavy, David drew it from its sheath with complete ease and slashed at Goliath with it. Beheading Goliath in one go, he carried his head back to the Israelite camp.

David beheads Goliath

The Philistines learnt about the manner in which Goliath was killed and their heart sank. After all, their hopes were pinned on Goliath and solely on Goliath. With Goliath now dead, the Philistines began to flee. Saul’s army followed them till the boundaries of Canaan and killed several Philistines during the pursuit.

David’s valour and his strong faith in God had become the ‘talk of the town’ among the Jews. The increasing popularity of David among the Israelites made Saul jealous of him. His jealousy kept surging to the extent that he made two attempts on David’s life. Once when David was, as usual, playing the harp to lift Saul out of his depressed state, Saul, maddened by jealousy, hurled a spear towards David. The incident happened not once but twice. But God’s grace had saved David on both the occasions. David left Saul’s chamber thinking it advisable to stay out of Saul’s sight given his state of mind at the time.

Philistines, David, Exile, Goliath, sling, weapons, valour, Adullam, Samuel
Saul attempts to kill David

But surprisingly, David had started developing a beautiful bond of friendship with Saul’s son, Jonathan. In fact, Jonathan had started following David. He was aware of the enmity that Saul, his father bore in his mind for David and made it a point to warn David whenever he got a whiff of any plot against him (David).

However, Saul was forced to marry his younger daughter, Michal to David in compliance with his proclamation. But after two failed attempts on the life of David, his son-in-law, it dawned on Saul that David was indeed blessed and so had to come to terms with the fact that it was not ever going to be possible to kill David. Hence, though David was his son-in-law, Saul kept him away from home, entrusting him with responsibilities of various campaigns hoping against hope that some fierce battle would consume David. But that never came to be and David emerged victorious with every new campaign, fetching him more pride, which in turn fetched him more respect and praise among the Israelites. This kept fuelling Saul’s jealousy.

David, Exile, Goliath, sling, weapons, valour, Adullam, Samuel
David and Jonathan

But not seeing an end to it, David left the capital city to reach his home. Here too David was not left in peace. Saul sent his soldier to have him arrested and bring him back. It was David’s wife who helped him to escape. From there, David went straight to Samuel but hardly spent any time there. He even gave a miss to the traditional annual royal feast. Saul turned this into an opportunity to release an arrest-cum-death warrant for David.

To save himself, David now ran further towards the east. He hopped from one place to another moving on the sly, across the land of the tribe of Judah. David reached the pilgrimage town of Nob where he asked the local chief priest for food and a sword. The priest had no sword. But the sword that David had used to kill Goliath had been preserved at that very place. David took it along but a local former priest, who was envious and grudged David his acclaim, informed Saul about it. Furious at the news, Saul ordered the killing of all the priests in the town of Nob, accusing them of having helped David, despite his subordinates advising Saul against it.

Philistines, David, Exile, Goliath, sling, weapons, valour, Adullam, Samuel
Priest of Nob giving the sword of Goliath to David

The fear of falling in the hands Saul’s men disconcerted David to such an extent that he inadvertently reached the city of Gath controlled by the Philistines, the arch-enemies of Israelites. Here in Gath, suspecting that a few Philistines had recognized him, he gathered himself and pretending to be a lunatic, escaped from the place.

David then arrived in town of Adullam and found a safe place in the hills to hide. His home was quite near from here which allowed his family members to visit him. But the news that David, the brave war-hero of the Israelites, was in town, gradually began to leak and spread. Many Israelites who had grown weary of Saul’s whimsical governance then came and rallied in support of David. The number of Israelites who came and pledged their loyalty to him, steadily increased to about four hundred and kept on increasing.

In the meantime, David got a whiff of the Philistines gathering forces to attack the land of Judah. David, who was then in the city of Keilah, attacked the Philistines along with his loyal companions and displaying exemplary valour, compelled the enemy forces to flee. Saul became aware of David’s whereabouts on hearing of the news and tried to track him. But David became aware of Saul’s plan before he apprehended him. David escaped from Keilah and hid himself in the desert of Ziph.

Though Saul chased him all the way with a murderous intent, David never had enmity in his mind for Saul; all he had done, was save himself. Once despite having an easy opportunity to kill Saul, he had, in fact, spared his life and let him go.

It was during this time that Samuel passed away. David had lost a strong support. Samuel, a High Priest of the Israelites, who had been the medium for the selection of the first two kings of Israel, was highly respected by all the Israelites. Hence his death drowned them in a sea of sorrow.

David, who had by now grown weary of Saul’s bloodthirst and was tired of constantly being on the run, took an extreme step. He took along with him six hundred of his loyalists and went in exile in the land of the Philistines. Here, Achish, the king of the Philistine city of Gath, not only gave David and his men refuge but also made arrangements for their livelihood.

This way, due to a tragic irony of fate, the king-designate of Israel on the run, went into exile by taking refuge of the Philistines, the arch-foes of the Israelites! (To be continued…)

– Shulamith Penkar-Nigrekar

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