Thursday, December 07, 2006

Was David Alone?

At my site, I mention many of the contradictions in the Bible. In one place the Bible says Judas hanged himself, but another place indicates he fell headfirst to his death. One passage claims Jacob was Joseph's father, but another says it was Eli. One passage says it is okay to divorce an unchaste partner, and another forbids it. (See Is the Bible Perfect?) Many of us have concluded that the Bible has errors.

On this blog Honey has chosen to challenge one of those contradictions: I Samuel says David was alone when he asked the priest for holy bread, but Matthew says he had companions. Honey has been trying to argue that I Samuel could be interpreted as saying that David was with companions. Let's read the passage and see what it says. The story begins after David flees his house in the middle of the night when he hears that King Saul's men are coming to kill him. Clearly David was alone when he fled, and we can see that he was alone leading up to his visit with the priest.

1And David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and came and said before Jonathan, What have I done? what is mine iniquity? and what is my sin before thy father, that he seeketh my life?
2And he said unto him, God forbid; thou shalt not die: behold, my father will do nothing either great or small, but that he will shew it me: and why should my father hide this thing from me? it is not so.
3And David sware moreover, and said, Thy father certainly knoweth that I have found grace in thine eyes; and he saith, Let not Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved: but truly as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death.
4Then said Jonathan unto David, Whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will even do it for thee.
5And David said unto Jonathan, Behold, to morrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king at meat: but let me go, that I may hide myself in the field unto the third day at even.
6If thy father at all miss me, then say, David earnestly asked leave of me that he might run to Bethlehem his city: for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the family.
7If he say thus, It is well; thy servant shall have peace: but if he be very wroth, then be sure that evil is determined by him.
8Therefore thou shalt deal kindly with thy servant; for thou hast brought thy servant into a covenant of the LORD with thee: notwithstanding, if there be in me iniquity, slay me thyself; for why shouldest thou bring me to thy father?
9And Jonathan said, Far be it from thee: for if I knew certainly that evil were determined by my father to come upon thee, then would not I tell it thee?
10Then said David to Jonathan, Who shall tell me? or what if thy father answer thee roughly?
11And Jonathan said unto David, Come, and let us [Jonathon and David only] go out into the field. And they went out both of them into the field.
12And Jonathan said unto David, O LORD God of Israel, when I have sounded my father about to morrow any time, or the third day, and, behold, if there be good toward David, and I then send not unto thee, and shew it thee;
13The LORD do so and much more to Jonathan: but if it please my father to do thee evil, then I will shew it thee, and send thee away, that thou mayest go in peace: and the LORD be with thee, as he hath been with my father.
14And thou shalt not only while yet I live shew me the kindness of the LORD, that I die not:
15But also thou shalt not cut off thy kindness from my house for ever: no, not when the LORD hath cut off the enemies of David every one from the face of the earth.
16So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, Let the LORD even require it at the hand of David's enemies.
17And Jonathan caused David to swear again, because he loved him: for he loved him as he loved his own soul.
18Then Jonathan said to David, To morrow is the new moon: and thou shalt be missed, because thy seat will be empty.
19And when thou hast stayed three days, then thou shalt go down quickly, and come to the place where thou didst hide thyself when the business was in hand, and shalt remain by the stone Ezel.
20And I will shoot three arrows on the side thereof, as though I shot at a mark.
21And, behold, I will send a lad, saying, Go, find out the arrows. If I expressly say unto the lad, Behold, the arrows are on this side of thee, take them; then come thou: for there is peace to thee, and no hurt; as the LORD liveth.
22But if I say thus unto the young man, Behold, the arrows are beyond thee; go thy way: for the LORD hath sent thee away.
23And as touching the matter which thou and I have spoken of, behold, the LORD be between thee and me for ever.
24So David hid himself in the field: and when the new moon was come, the king sat him down to eat meat.
25And the king sat upon his seat, as at other times, even upon a seat by the wall: and Jonathan arose, and Abner sat by Saul's side, and David's place was empty.
26Nevertheless Saul spake not any thing that day: for he thought, Something hath befallen him, he is not clean; surely he is not clean.
27And it came to pass on the morrow, which was the second day of the month, that David's place was empty: and Saul said unto Jonathan his son, Wherefore cometh not the son of Jesse to meat, neither yesterday, nor to day?
28And Jonathan answered Saul, David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem:
29And he said, Let me go, I pray thee; for our family hath a sacrifice in the city; and my brother, he hath commanded me to be there: and now, if I have found favour in thine eyes, let me get away, I pray thee, and see my brethren. Therefore he cometh not unto the king's table.
30Then Saul's anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him, Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, and unto the confusion of thy mother's nakedness?
31For as long as the son of Jesse liveth upon the ground, thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom. Wherefore now send and fetch him unto me, for he shall surely die.
32And Jonathan answered Saul his father, and said unto him, Wherefore shall he be slain? what hath he done?
33And Saul cast a javelin at him to smite him: whereby Jonathan knew that it was determined of his father to slay David.
34So Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger, and did eat no meat the second day of the month: for he was grieved for David, because his father had done him shame.
35And it came to pass in the morning, that Jonathan went out into the field at the time appointed with David, and a little lad with him.
36And he said unto his lad, Run, find out now the arrows which I shoot. And as the lad ran, he shot an arrow beyond him.
37And when the lad was come to the place of the arrow which Jonathan had shot, Jonathan cried after the lad, and said, Is not the arrow beyond thee?
38And Jonathan cried after the lad, Make speed, haste, stay not. And Jonathan's lad gathered up the arrows, and came to his master.
39But the lad knew not any thing: only Jonathan and David knew the matter.
40And Jonathan gave his artillery unto his lad, and said unto him, Go, carry them to the city.
41And as soon as the lad was gone, David arose out of a place toward the south, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times: and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded.
42And Jonathan said to David, Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of the LORD, saying, The LORD be between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed for ever. And he arose and departed: and Jonathan went into the city.
21:1Then came David to Nob to Ahimelech the priest: and Ahimelech was afraid at the meeting of David, and said unto him, Why art thou alone, and no man with thee?

How can it be more clear? David was alone. While he was in hiding he talked only with Jonathon. It was only David that was noticed to be missing, and not any of his men. The lad with Jonathon was not even allowed to see David, for David was hiding from everyone. I have heard this story many times in Sunday School, and never once was it said that there were other people hiding along with David. Never once was it suggested that all these men in hiding then came together and ran off together. Honey seems to think that those who do not agree with her interpretation of this passage are deceitful. Were all my Sunday School teachers deceitful?

Honey argues that David had to be with companions, for Saul would have known he was lying about the trip to Bethlehem if his companions weren't with him. But surely David would have been allowed to go to his own home--only 10 miles away--without requiring companions to be with him. And if David thought his lie about going to Bethlehem would raise too much suspician unless his men were missing, he could have had Jonathon ask some of his men to go into hiding to make the story more believable. The last thing he would have done is tell Jonathon to bring those people to him. After all, he was a fugitive from the king, and they were the king's men! If David wouldn't even trust the lad that was with his best friend, why would he trust the king's soldiers?

Nowhere does this passage say anything about men being in hiding with David, or meeting up with him to run away from Saul. Let's read on.

2 So David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has ordered me on some business, and said to me, ‘Do not let anyone know anything about the business on which I send you, or what I have commanded you.’ And I have directed my young men to such and such a place. 3 Now therefore, what have you on hand? Give me five loaves of bread in my hand, or whatever can be found.” 4 And the priest answered David and said, “There is no common bread on hand; but there is holy bread, if the young men have at least kept themselves from women.” 5 Then David answered the priest, and said to him, “Truly, women have been kept from us about three days since I came out. And the vessels of the young men are holy, and the bread is in effect common, even though it was consecrated in the vessel this day.” 6 So the priest gave him holy bread; for there was no bread there but the showbread which had been taken from before the LORD, in order to put hot bread in its place on the day when it was taken away.

Now clearly David was lying here. The King had not ordered him on any business. He was a fugitive, and was running from the King. Clearly this is a lie, and was said only to keep the priest from being suspicious.

7 Now a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the LORD. And his name was Doeg, an Edomite, the chief of the herdsmen who belonged to Saul. 8 And David said to Ahimelech, “Is there not here on hand a spear or a sword? For I have brought neither my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king’s business required haste.” 9 So the priest said, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, there it is, wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you will take that, take it. For there is no other except that one here.” And David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.”

Once more we find David alone, and he has no weapon. Now if he had a number of companions from the King's army, they would have brought along plenty of weapons. There would be no neead to rouse suspician with his ridiculous story that he left so hastily he didn't have time to get a weapon. But David knows he needs a weapon, for he is alone and unarmed.

10 Then David arose and fled that day from before Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. 11 And the servants of Achish said to him, “Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of him to one another in dances, saying: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands’?”12 Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. 13 So he changed his behavior before them, pretended madness in their hands, scratched on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva fall down on his beard. 14 Then Achish said to his servants, “Look, you see the man is insane. Why have you brought him to me? 15 Have I need of madmen, that you have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?”

This story makes no sense at all if David was surrounded by traveling companions from Saul's army. What did they all do when David pretended to be mad? Did they all put on an act? Were dozens of men dribbling saliva down their beards? Why didn't the Bible mention that group comedy? But if instead the others that were along were acting sanely, why didn't Achish address them? Why does Achish refer only to the madman, without noticing all the sane men around him? Surely David was alone.

22:1 David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. So when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. 2 And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him.

OK! We finally read of people joining up with David. But this is long after the incident with the priest. Why does the Bible mention these men joining David, but fail to mention the others that had joined David earlier? Once more, if there were people with David when these others joined, why doesn't this passage mention them?

Now let's contrast this with Mt.12:3-4:

But He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone?"

Now here Matthew says they can read that David and his companions ate the holy bread. But we cannot read that, at least not in the Old Testament we have today. Even if Honey tries to claim it is possible that somebody could have joined up with David to eat the bread, that does not solve the contradiction. For Mathew says people can read about these others eating the holy bread with David.

Now let's look at some of Honey's comments:

Actually Merle, it would be deceitful of you to just claim errors with no substantiation. Really the onus is on you to support your claim.

I have many pages of substantiation for my claims on the web. How can she pretend otherwise?

And God demonstrates and even states, that He does not write to be easily understood by the masses, but by those who lean on Him for understanding. Proverbs 25:2It is the glory of God to conceal a matter.Luke 8:10He said, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, " 'though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.

That's odd. One would think God would want to write for the masses to understand.

I find it odd that one would use parables for the specific purpose of making his point difficult to understand. Most people add illustrations to their speeches to make it easier for people to understand. Why would one add illustrations for the purpoes of confusing people?

David was a man after God’s own heart. 1 Samuel 13:14 Is it likely a man after God’s own heart would up and lie to the priest of God? I think not, so there must be another explanation.

Well, David lied when he said he went to Bethlehem, and he was surely lying here when he said that he was on the king's business. You may quote from the Psalms to prove David was honest, but, of course, there is no real proof that these psalms actually came from David, so that really doesn't tell us much. Even if David did write that lying is evil, that does not say he did not lie in this instance. Many people don't practice what they preach. And besides, even a person who thought lying was generally evil might see that lying was excusable in this case, when David was fleeing for his life from a wicked king. Most good people can see that a lie in such circumstances might be acceptable

Later David is reported to have sinned so horribly against God that God killed 70,000 men because of his sin. (2 Samuel 24). If David could do that, I can understand that he might also tell a lie.

Throughout David’s life the Bible records David as seeking out the Lord’s direction. So instead of his reply to the priest being a lie, he was in fact following the instructions of his ‘Supreme King.’, God.

Uh, if David, in direct response to a question about the King Saul's men, said that the king ordered him on some secret business, then in context that should clearly be understood as referring to King Saul. If he deliberately used the word "king" here but actually means it to refer to God, then David is deliberately wording his remarks to be deceptive. That is the same thing as lying.

The whole point is that David was a man who was expected to have men traveling with him at all times, which the text indicates. If he was not to alert his enemy that he was in hiding and had not gone to Bethlehem as was the claim, then his men would need to be missing from their base post. If Saul (the enemy) could see that all David’s entourage of men were accounted for and that none had traveled with David, then Saul would be alerted to the fact that David had not gone to Bethlehem as claimed but was on the run.

The whole idea that this proves others were hiding with David seems silly to me. For Saul to recongnize that none of David's 1000 men were with David, he would have had to gather them all together and count them. When he heard that David was gone, I doubt very much if he would have counted all David's men, and then concluded, that since none were found missing, that David must not have gone to Bethlehem. I can't see how anyone can use this argument to prove that David was not alone.

And if Saul was indeed in the habit of counting David's men when David said he was gone, then it would have been easy for some of those men to simply have hid from Saul without actually being with David. This in no way proves that these men were now with David.

Some explanation needs to be given as to how his family knew his whereabouts when he was hiding.

Very simple. People relied on word of mouth in those days. Travelers would share stories with everybody they met. (After all, they didn't have telephone or television, but they still had "telawoman", so messages still spread.) David was a very famous man. If he was known to be in Adullum, word soon spread to his family.

But look at 1 Samuel 19:8‘Once more war broke out, and David went out and fought the Philistines. He struck them with such force that they fled before him.’I guess that means he went out single handedly and fought them huh?

No, of course not. When a man is a general, and it is said that he fought a battle, it is universally understood that it means he and his men fought. But when a man runs away alone in the middle of the night, and is acting as a fugitive, and it is never mentioned that anybody joined up with him, then it is obvious this person is alone.

For more information, see What Men with David?


LorMar said...

Could the two of you mention how you determined the two passages in question are speaking of the same incident (during your debate)? I looked at Matthew 12 and I don't see anything about David fleeing. I only see a reference to what David did when he was hungry (and his companions).


Anonymous said...


Matthew 12
3He answered, "Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests.

Jesus says "Haven't you read", so the implication is that it must be contained somewhere in the Scriptures, and the text we are discussing is the only one that makes reference to David eating consecrated bread. Jesus use of the example demonstrates the spiritual significance of the matter, which virtually eliminates the possibility of an external literary reference.


My reply to Merle's post will be long, increasing the possibility that it may also be a long time in coming.


LorMar said...

Admittedly, I have not thoroughly studied the passage in Samuel. If a connection exists between Samuel and Matthew, then I won't deny that I see a problem between the two. Overall, I am careful about making connections between biblical passages unless it is absolutely clear to me. For me the problem is language rather than the Bible as a whole. Take your time with your response. Careful study says a lot; in a good way.


Anonymous said...

Holy Cow people, either he was alone or he was with his men. One verse says he was alone, one verse says he and his men came and ate the bread. Both cannot be correct.

Damn, how much more complicated could it be?

LorMar said...

On second thought, I don't see a problem after all if one wants to connect the two passages. However, I don't think its necessary to connect them...but that's just me.

Anonymous said...

I need to put this one on the shelf for a couple of weeks. I am very busy coming up to the holiday period, and need a block of time to think clearly on writing a reply.
I won't forget.


Anonymous said...


“some translations speak of the five sons of Saul's daughter Merab. Other translations translate it as the five sons of Michal. Why the difference? Some translations have a footnote. For instance, the English Standard Version tells us that two Hebrew manuscripts and the Greek Septuagint support the reading of Merab. But it also notes that most Hebrew manuscripts read Michal. That explains why this word is often translated "Michal." The difference is important. Why? Because II Samuel 6:23 tells us that "Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death." That contradicts this verse that says she had 5 children as recorded in most of the manuscripts. So, in many translations, there is a contradiction here. One verse says Michal never had any chidden; the other verse says she had five. Some translations suggest there was a reason for this discrepancy. They say the other translations selected the wrong manuscripts. If they select the manuscripts that say "Merab"--even though most manuscripts say "Michal"-- they eliminate the problem. (I disagree with that choice. I think the majority of the manuscripts are correct.)”

My first question to you Merle is, why do you think the majority of the manuscripts are correct in this regard? Clearly you have an opinion that one is correct over the other. We know that you wouldn’t let your opinion be swayed purely by a majority count, but by evidence, and as you say “the difference is important”, so what evidence do you have that led you to the opinion that in this case the majority had selected the correct translation, and that the minority were in the wrong?


Merle said...

Why yes, sure I think the majority of manuscripts is correct unless there is a good reason to think otherwise. After all, the ancient manuscripts are the only significant evidence of what was actual said in the Hebrew scriptures. Do you have a better method of determining what the ancient scriptures said?

Anonymous said...


“So, in many translations, there is a contradiction here. One verse says Michal never had any children; the other verse says she had five. Some translations suggest there was a reason for this discrepancy. They say the other translations selected the wrong manuscripts. If they select the manuscripts that say "Merab"--even though most manuscripts say "Michal"-- they eliminate the problem. (I disagree with that choice. I think the majority of the manuscripts are correct.)”

THEN I ASKED him why he disagreed with the choice that eliminated the problem, thinking that surely he has researched the matter and found justifiable reason to disagree with the logical choice over the illogical choice – yet he answers only “sure I think the majority of manuscripts is correct unless there is a good reason to think otherwise”. Um…well how about that the majority clearly perpetuate an error and the minority state the truth? Now common sense would suggest that if there are ancient manuscripts in existence that present the facts correctly, why on earth would you “disagree with that choice”? In the New International Version (the most widely used of the Bible translations, and being translated from the most reliable manuscripts), the translators selected ‘Merab’ as the correct name to be used in the text, and include ‘Michal’ in a footnote, so why would anyone disagree with their experienced opinion, basing that disagreement on apparently nothing? Oh that is right, they have an agenda that needs propping up.

An agenda such as that stated in the English Standard Version
“The stated intent of the translators was to produce a readable and accurate translation that stands in the tradition of Bible translations beginning with English religious reformer William Tyndale in 1525–26 and culminating in the King James Version of 1611.”

Setting out to stand in the “tradition” of translations from the 1500-1600’s would appear to me to be a problem from the outset – we can all read for ourselves what God says about the ‘traditions of men’.
The real problem with the decision to side with the contradiction is that the Bible itself is able to confirm for us which is the correct name for the text – a point that Merle conveniently neglects to share with his readers.

1 Samuel 18:19
So when the time came for Merab, Saul's daughter, to be given to David, she was given in marriage to Adriel of Meholah.

Ah…so we see here that Merab (not Michal), was married to Adriel

Let’s quickly look again at the original text in question

2 Samuel 21:8
But the king took Armoni and Mephibosheth, the two sons of Aiah's daughter Rizpah, whom she had borne to Saul, together with the five sons of Saul's daughter Merab, whom she had borne to Adriel son of Barzillai the Meholathite.

Right. So we see that in the text in question, the named daughter had borne the five sons to Adriel. Now I think David would have noticed if his wife Michal had borne five sons to her brother-in-law, and most certainly would have put an end to it before it reached five, so the only correct option is that Merab had borne her five sons to her husband Adriel, as is stated in two ancient manuscripts, and as is correctly included in both the NIV text and the NKJV.

As Merle correctly states, in some earlier translations, and those holding to the traditions of such, there is a contradiction. Certainly there is no contradiction for anyone using a NIV or NKJV, or for anyone else choosing to check the readily available facts.

Some may point at Biblical contradiction through the ages as a weakness of the text, but we read in Romans 8:28

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

I have personally found this translation issue to be very enlightening in demonstrating the motivation of men’s hearts.