Containing The Interval Of Thirty Two Years.
From The Death Of Eli To The Death Of Saul.
How Saul Upon God's Not Answering Him Concerning The Fight With The Philistines Desired A Necromantic Woman to Raise Up The Soul Of Samuel To Him; And How He Died, With His Sons Upon The Overthrow of The Hebrews In Battle.
1. ABOUT the same time the Philistines resolved to make war against the Israelites, and sent to all their confederates that they would go along with them to the war to Reggan, [near the city Shunem,] whence they might gather themselves together, and suddenly attack the Hebrews. Then did Achish, the king of Gath, desire David to assist them with his armed men against the Hebrews. This he readily promised; and said that the time was now come wherein he might requite him for his kindness and hospitality. So the king promised to make him the keeper of his body, after the victory, supposing that the battle with the enemy succeeded to their mind; which promise of honor and confidence he made on purpose to increase his zeal for his service.
2. Now Saul, the king of the Hebrews, had cast out of the country the fortune-tellers, and the necromancers, and all such as exercised the like arts, excepting the prophets. But when he heard that the Philistines were already come, and had pitched their camp near the city Shunem, situate in the plain, he made haste to oppose them with his forces; and when he was come to a certain mountain called Gilboa, he pitched his camp over-against the enemy; but when he saw the enemy's army he was greatly troubled, because it appeared to him to be numerous, and superior to his own; and he inquired of God by the prophets concerning the battle, that he might know beforehand what would be the event of it.
And when God did not answer him, Saul was under a still greater dread, and his courage fell, foreseeing, as was but reasonable to suppose, that mischief would befall him, now God was not there to assist him; yet did he bid his servants to inquire out for him some woman that was a necromancer and called up the souls of the dead, that So he might know whether his affairs would succeed to his mind; for this sort of necromantic women that bring up the souls of the dead, do by them foretell future events to such as desire them. And one of his servants told him that there was such a woman in the city Endor, but was known to nobody in the camp; hereupon Saul put off his royal apparel, and took two of those his servants with him, whom he knew to be most faithful to him, and came to Endor to the woman, and entreated her to act the part of a fortune-teller, and to bring up such a soul to him as he should name to her.
But when the woman opposed his motion, and said she did not despise the king, who had banished this sort of fortune-tellers, and that he did not do well himself, when she had done him no harm, to endeavor to lay a snare for her, and to discover that she exercised a forbidden art, in order to procure her to be punished, he sware that nobody should know what she did; and that he would not tell any one else what she foretold, but that she should incur no danger. As soon as he had induced her by this oath to fear no harm, he bid her bring up to him the soul of Samuel. She, not knowing who Samuel was, called him out of Hades. When he appeared, and the woman saw one that was venerable, and of a divine form, she was in disorder; and being astonished at the sight, she said,
"Art not thou king Saul?"
for Samuel had informed her who he was. When he had owned that to be true, and had asked her whence her disorder arose, she said that she saw a certain person ascend, who in his form was like to a god. And when he bid her tell him what he resembled, in what habit he appeared, and of what age he was, she told him he was an old man already, and of a glorious personage, and had on a sacerdotal mantle. So the king discovered by these signs that he was Samuel; and he fell down upon the ground, and saluted and worshipped him. And when the soul of Samuel asked him why he had disturbed him, and caused him to be brought up, he lamented the necessity he was under; for he said, that his enemies pressed heavily upon him; that he was in distress, what to do in his present circumstances; that he was forsaken of God, and could obtain no prediction of what was coming, neither by prophets nor by dreams; and that
"these were the reasons why I have recourse to time, who always took great care of me."
But (27) Samuel, seeing that the end of Saul's life was come, said,
"It is in vain for thee to desire to learn of me any thing future, when God hath forsaken thee: however, hear what I say, that David is to be king, and to finish this war with good success; and thou art to lose thy dominion and thy life, because thou didst not obey God in the war with the Amalekites, and hast not kept his commandments, as I foretold thee while I was alive. Know, therefore, that the people shall be made subject to their enemies, and that thou, with thy sons, shall fall in the battle tomorrow, and thou shalt then be with me [in Hades]."
3. When Saul heard this, he could not speak for grief, and fell down on the floor, whether it were from the sorrow that arose upon what Samuel had said, or from his emptiness, for he had taken no food the foregoing day nor night, he easily fell quite down: and when with difficulty he had recovered himself, the woman would force him to eat, begging this of him as a favor on account of her concern in that dangerous instance of fortune-telling, which it was not lawful for her to have done, because of the fear she was under of the king, while she knew not who he was,yet did she undertake it, and go through with it; on which account she entreated him to admit that a table and food might be set before him, that he might recover his strength, and so get safe to his own camp. And when he opposed her motion, and entirely rejected it, by reason of his anxiety, she forced him, and at last persuaded him to it. Now she had one calf that she was very fond of, and one that she took a great deal of care of, and fed it herself; for she was a woman that got her living by the labor of her own hands, and had no other possession but that one calf; this she killed, and made ready its flesh, and set it before his servants and himself. So Saul came to the camp while it was yet night.
4. Now it is but just to recommend the generosity of this woman, (28) because when the king had forbidden her to use that art whence her circumstances were bettered and improved, and when she had never seen the king before, she still did not remember to his disadvantage that he had condemned her sort of learning, and did not refuse him as a stranger, and one that she had had no acquaintance with; but she had compassion upon him, and comforted him, and exhorted him to do what he was greatly averse to, and offered him the only creature she had, as a poor woman, and that earnestly, and with great humanity, while she had no requital made her for her kindness, nor hunted after any future favor from him, for she knew he was to die; whereas men are naturally either ambitious to please those that bestow benefits upon them, or are very ready to serve those from whom they may receive some advantage.
It would be well therefore to imitate the example and to do kindnesses to all such as are in want and to think that nothing is better, nor more becoming mankind, than such a general beneficence, nor what will sooner render God favorable, and ready to bestow good things upon us. And so far may suffice to have spoken concerning this woman. But I shall speak further upon another subject, which will afford me all opportunity of discoursing on what is for the advantage of cities, and people, and nations, and suited to the taste of good men, and will encourage them all in the prosecution of virtue; and is capable of showing them the of acquiring glory, and an everlasting fame; and of imprinting in the kings of nations, and the rulers of cities, great inclination and diligence of doing well; as also of encouraging them to undergo dangers, and to die for their countries, and of instructing them how to despise all the most terrible adversities: and I have a fair occasion offered me to enter on such a discourse by Saul the king of the Hebrews; for although he knew what was coming upon him, and that he was to die immediately, by the prediction of the prophet, he did not resolve to fly from death, nor so far to indulge the love of life as to betray his own people to the enemy, or to bring a disgrace on his royal dignity; but exposing himself, as well as all his family and children, to dangers, he thought it a brave thing to fall together with them, as he was fighting for his subjects, and that it was better his sons should die thus, showing their courage, than to leave them to their uncertain conduct afterward, while, instead of succession and posterity, they gained commendation and a lasting name.
Such a one alone seems to me to be a just, a courageous, and a prudent man; and when any one has arrived at these dispositions, or shall hereafter arrive at them, he is the man that ought to be by all honored with the testimony of a virtuous or courageous man: for as to those that go out to war with hopes of success, and that they shall return safe, supposing they should have performed some glorious action, I think those do not do well who call these valiant men, as so many historians and other writers who treat of them are wont to do, although I confess those do justly deserve some commendation also; but those only may be styled courageous and bold in great undertakings, and despisers of adversities, who imitate Saul: for as for those that do not know what the event of war will be as to themselves, and though they do not faint in it, but deliver themselves up to uncertain futurity, and are tossed this way and that way, this is not so very eminent an instance of a generous mind, although they happen to perform many great exploits; but when men's minds expect no good event, but they know beforehand they must die, and that they must undergo that death in the battle also, after this neither to be affrighted, nor to be astonished at the terrible fate that is coming, but to go directly upon it, when they know it beforehand, this it is that I esteem the character of a man truly courageous.
Accordingly this Saul did, and thereby demonstrated that all men who desire fame after they are dead are so to act as they may obtain the same: this especially concerns kings, who ought not to think it enough in their high stations that they are not wicked in the government of their subjects, but to be no more than moderately good to them. I could say more than this about Saul and his courage, the subject affording matter sufficient; but that I may not appear to run out improperly in his commendation, I return again to that history from which I made this digression.
5. Now when the Philistines, as I said before, had pitched their camp, and had taken an account of their forces, according to their nations, and kingdoms, and governments, king Achish came last of all with his own army; after whom came David with his six hundred armed men. And when the commanders of the Philistines saw him, they asked the king whence these Hebrews came, and at whose invitation. He answered that it was David, who was fled away from his master Saul, and that he had entertained him when he came to him, and that now he was willing to make him this requital for his favors, and to avenge himself upon Saul, and so was become his confederate.
The commanders complained of this, that he had taken him for a confederate who was an enemy; and gave him counsel to send him away, lest he should unawares do his friends a great deal of mischief by entertaining him, for that he afforded him an opportunity of being reconciled to his master by doing a mischief to our army. They thereupon desired him, out of a prudent foresight of this, to send him away, with his six hundred armed men, to the place he had given him for his habitation; for that this was that David whom the virgins celebrated in their hymns, as having destroyed many ten thousands of the Philistines. When the king of Gath heard this, he thought they spake well; so he called David, and said to him,
"As for myself, I can bear witness that thou hast shown great diligence and kindness about me, and on that account it was that I took thee for my confederate; however, what I have done does not please the commanders of the Philistines; go therefore within a day's time to the place I have given thee, without suspecting any harm, and there keep my country, lest any of our enemies should make an incursion upon it, which will be one part of that assistance which I expect from thee."
So David came to Ziklag, as the king of Gath bade him; but it happened, that while he was gone to the assistance of the Philistines, the Amalekites had made an incursion, and taken Ziklag before, and had burnt it; and when they had taken a great deal of other prey out of that place, and out of the other parts of the Philistines' country, they departed.
6. Now when David found that Ziklag was laid waste, and that it was all spoiled, and that as well his own wives, who were two, as the wives of his companions, with their children, were made captives, he presently rent his clothes, weeping and lamenting, together with his friends; and indeed he was so cast down with these misfortunes, that at length tears themselves failed him. He was also in danger of being stoned to death by his companions, who were greatly afflicted at the captivity of their wives and children, for they laid the blame upon him of what had happened. But when he had recovered himself out of his grief, and had raised up his mind to God, he desired the high priest Abiathar to put on his sacerdotal garments, and to inquire of God, and to prophesy to him, whether God would grant; that if he pursued after the Amalekites, he should overtake them, and save their wives and their children, and avenge himself on the enemies.
And when the high priest bade him to pursue after them, he marched apace, with his four hundred men, after the enemy; and when he was come to a certain brook called Besor, and had lighted upon one that was wandering about, an Egyptian by birth, who was almost dead with want and famine, (for he had continued wandering about without food in the wilderness three days,) he first of all gave him sustenance, both meat and drink, and thereby refreshed him. He then asked him to whom he belonged, and whence he came. Whereupon the man told him he was an Egyptian by birth, and was left behind by his master, because he was so sick and weak that he could not follow him. He also informed him that he was one of those who had burnt and plundered, not only other parts of Judea, but Ziklag itself also.
So David made use of him as a guide to find oat the Amalekites; and when he had overtaken them, as they lay scattered about on the ground, some at dinner, some disordered, and entirely drunk with wine, and in the fruition of their spoils and their prey, he fell upon them on the sudden, and made a great slaughter among them; for they were naked, and expected no such thing, but had betaken themselves to drinking and feasting; and so they were all easily destroyed. Now some of them that were overtaken as they lay at the table were slain in that posture, and their blood brought up with it their meat and their drink. They slew others of them as they were drinking to one another in their cups, and some of them when their full bellies had made them fall asleep; and for so many as had time to put on their armor, they slew them with the sword, with no less case than they did those that were naked; and for the partisans of David, they continued also the slaughter from the first hour of the day to the evening, so that there were, not above four hundred of the Amalekites left; and they only escaped by getting upon their dromedaries and camels.
Accordingly David recovered not only all the other spoils which the enemy had carried away, but his wives also, and the wives of his companions. But when they were come to the place where they had left the two hundred men, which were not able to follow them, but were left to take care of the stuff, the four hundred men did not think fit to divide among them any other parts of what they had gotten, or of the prey, since they did not accompany them, but pretended to be feeble, and did not follow them in pursuit of the enemy, but said they should be contented to have safely recovered their wives; yet did David pronounce that this opinion of theirs was evil and unjust, and that when God had granted them such a favor, that they had avenged themselves on their enemies, and had recovered all that belonged to themselves, they should make an equal distribution of what they had gotten to all, because the rest had tarried behind to guard their stuff; and from that time this law obtained among them, that those who guarded the stuff, should receive an equal share with those that fought in the battle. Now when David was come to Ziklag, he sent portions of the spoils to all that had been familiar with him, and to his friends in the tribe of Judah. And thus ended the affairs of the plundering of Ziklag, and of the slaughter of the Amalekites.
7. Now upon the Philistines joining battle, there followed a sharp engagement, and the Philistine, became the conquerors, and slew a great number of their enemies; but Saul the king of Israel, and his sons, fought courageously, and with the utmost alacrity, as knowing that their entire glory lay in nothing else but dying honorably, and exposing themselves to the utmost danger from the enemy (for they had nothing else to hope for); so they brought upon themselves the whole power of the enemy, till they were encompassed round and slain, but not before they had killed many of the Philistines Now the sons of Saul were Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Malchisua; and when these were slain the multitude of the Hebrews were put to flight, and all was disorder, and confusion, and slaughter, upon the Philistines pressing in upon them. But Saul himself fled, having a strong body of soldiers about him; and upon the Philistines sending after them those that threw javelins and shot arrows, he lost all his company except a few.
As for himself, he fought with great bravery; and when he had received so many wounds, that he was not able to bear up nor to oppose any longer, and yet was not able to kill himself, he bade his armor-bearer draw his sword, and run him through, before the enemy should take him alive. But his armor-bearer not daring to kill his master, he drew his own sword, and placing himself over against its point, he threw himself upon it; and when he could neither run it through him, nor, by leaning against it, make the sword pass through him, he turned him round, and asked a certain young man that stood by who he was; and when he understood that he was an Amalekite, he desired him to force the sword through him, because he was not able to do it with his own hands, and thereby to procure him such a death as he desired.
This the young man did accordingly; and he took the golden bracelet that was on Saul's arm, and his royal crown that was on his head, and ran away. And when Saul's armor-bearer saw that he was slain, he killed himself; nor did any of the king's guards escape, but they all fell upon the mountain called Gilboa. But when those Hebrews that dwelt in the valley beyond Jordan, and those who had their cities in the plain, heard that Saul and his sons were fallen, and that the multitude about them were destroyed, they left their own cities, and fled to such as were the best fortified and fenced; and the Philistines, finding those cities deserted, came and dwelt in them.
8. On the next day, when the Philistines came to strip their enemies that were slain, they got the bodies of Saul and of his sons, and stripped them, and cut off their heads; and they sent messengers all about their country, to acquaint them that their enemies were fallen; and they dedicated their armor in the temple of Astarte, but hung their bodies on crosses at the walls of the city Bethshun, which is now called Scythepolls. But when the inhabitants of Jabesh-Gilead heard that they had dismembered the dead bodies of Saul and of his sons, they deemed it so horrid a thing to overlook this barbarity, and to suffer them to be without funeral rites, that the most courageous and hardy among them (and indeed that city had in it men that were very stout both in body and mind) journeyed all night, and came to Bethshun, and approached to the enemy's wall, and taking down the bodies of Saul and of his sons, they carried them to Jabesh, while the enemy were not able enough nor bold enough to hinder them, because of their great courage. So the people of Jabesh wept all in general, and buried their bodies in the best place of their country, which was named Areurn; and they observed a public mourning for them seven days, with their wives and children, beating their breasts, and lamenting the king and his sons, without either tasting meat or drink (29) [till the evening.]
9. To this his end did Saul come, according to the prophecy of Samuel, because he disobeyed the commands of God about the Amalekites, and on the account of his destroying the family of Ahimelech the high priest, with Ahimelech himself, and the city of the high priests. Now Saul, when he had reigned eighteen years while Samuel was alive, and after his death two [and twenty], ended his life in this manner.
(27) This history of Saul's consultation, not with a witch, as we render the Hebrew word here, but with a necromancer, as the whole history shows, is easily understood, especially if we consult the Recognitions of Clement, B. I. Ch. 5. at large, and more briefly, and nearer the days of Samuel Ecclus. 46:20,
"Samuel prophesied after his death, and showed the king his end, and lift up his voice from the earth in prophecy," to blot out "the wickedness of the people."
Nor does the exactness of the accomplishment of this prediction, the very next day, permit us to suppose any imposition upon Saul in the present history; for as to all modern hypotheses against the natural sense of such ancient and authentic histories, I take them to be of very small value or consideration.
(28) These great commendations of this necromantic woman of Endor, and of Saul's martial courage, when yet he knew he should die in the battle, are somewhat unusual digressions in Josephus. They seem to me extracted from some speeches or declamations of his composed formerly, in the way of oratory, that lay by him, and which he thought fit to insert upon this occasion. See before on Antiq. B. I. Ch. 6 Sect. 8.
(29) This way of speaking in Josephus, of fasting
"seven days without meat or drink,"
is almost like that of St. Paul,
"This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried, and continued fasting, having taken nothing:" (Acts 27:33),
and as the nature of the thing, and the impossibility of strictly fasting so long, require us here to understand both Josephus and the sacred author of this history, 1 Samuel 30:13, from whom he took it, of only fasting fill the evening; so must we understand St. Paul, either that this was really the fourteenth day that they had taken nothing till the evening, or else that this was the fourteenth day of their tempestuous weather in the Adriatic Sea, as ver. 27, and that on this fourteenth day alone they had continued fasting, and had taken nothing before that evening. The mention of their long abstinence, ver. 21, inclines me to believe the former explication to he the truth, and that the case was then for a fortnight what it was here for a week, that they kept all those days entirely as lasts till the evening, but not longer. See Judges 20:26; 21:2; 1 Samuel 14:24; 2 Samuel 1:12; Antiq. B. VII. Ch. 7. Sect. 4.