1 Samuel 8-18 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
The People of Israel Want a King
8 1-2 Samuel had two sons. The older one was Joel, and the younger one was Abijah. When Samuel was getting old, he let them be leaders[a] at Beersheba. 3 But they were not like their father. They were dishonest and accepted bribes to give unfair decisions.
4 One day the nation’s leaders came to Samuel at Ramah 5 and said, “You are an old man. You set a good example for your sons, but they haven’t followed it. Now we want a king to be our leader,[b] just like all the other nations. Choose one for us!”
6 Samuel was upset to hear the leaders say they wanted a king, so he prayed about it. 7 The Lord answered:
Samuel, do everything they want you to do. I am really the one they have rejected as their king. 8 Ever since the day I rescued my people from Egypt, they have turned from me to worship idols. Now they are turning away from you. 9 Do everything they ask, but warn them and tell them how a king will treat them.
10 Samuel told the people who were asking for a king what the Lord had said:
11 If you have a king, this is how he will treat you. He will force your sons to join his army. Some of them will ride in his chariots, some will serve in the cavalry, and others will run ahead of his own chariot.[c] 12 Some of them will be officers in charge of a thousand soldiers, and others will be in charge of fifty. Still others will have to farm the king’s land and harvest his crops, or make weapons and parts for his chariots. 13 Your daughters will have to make perfume or do his cooking and baking.
14 The king will take your best fields, as well as your vineyards, and olive orchards and give them to his own officials. 15 He will also take a tenth of your grain and grapes and give it to his officers and officials.
16 The king will take your slaves and your best young men and your donkeys and make them do his work. 17 He will also take a tenth of your sheep and goats. You will become the king’s slaves, 18 and you will finally cry out for the Lord to save you from the king you wanted. But the Lord won’t answer your prayers.
19-20 The people would not listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want to be like other nations. We want a king to rule us and lead us in battle.”
21 Samuel listened to them and then told the Lord exactly what they had said. 22 “Do what they want,” the Lord answered. “Give them a king.”
Samuel told the people to go back to their homes.
Saul Meets Samuel
9 Kish was a wealthy man who belonged to the tribe of Benjamin. His father was Abiel, his grandfather was Zeror, his great-grandfather was Becorath, and his great-great-grandfather was Aphiah. 2 Kish had a son named Saul, who was better looking and more than a head taller than anyone else in all Israel.
3 Kish owned some donkeys, but they had run off. So he told Saul, “Take one of the servants and go look for the donkeys.”
4 Saul and the servant went through the hill country of Ephraim and the territory of Shalishah, but they could not find the donkeys. Then they went through the territories of Shaalim and Benjamin, but still there was no sign of the donkeys. 5 Finally they came to the territory where the clan of Zuph[d] lived. “Let’s go back home,” Saul told his servant. “If we don’t go back soon, my father will stop worrying about the donkeys and start worrying about us!”
6 “Wait!” the servant answered. “There’s a man of God who lives in a town near here. He’s amazing! Everything he says comes true. Let’s talk to him. Maybe he can tell us where to look.”
7 Saul said, “How can we talk to the prophet when I don’t have anything to give him? We don’t even have any bread left in our sacks. What can we give him?”
8 “I have a small piece of silver,” the servant answered. “We can give him that, and then he will tell us where to look for the donkeys.”
9-10 “Great!” Saul replied. “Let’s go to the man who can see visions!” He said this because in those days God would answer questions by giving visions to prophets.
Saul and his servant went to the town where the prophet lived. 11 As they were going up the hill to the town, they met some young women coming out to get water,[e] and the two men said to them, “We’re looking for the man who can see visions. Is he in town?”
12 “Yes, he is,” they replied. “He’s in town today because there’s going to be a sacrifice and a sacred meal at the place of worship. In fact, he’s just ahead of you. Hurry 13 and you should find him right inside the town gate. He’s on his way out to the place of worship to eat with the invited guests. They can’t start eating until he blesses the sacrifice. If you go now, you should find him.”
14 They went to the town, and just as they were going through the gate, Samuel was coming out on his way to the place of worship.
15 The day before Saul came, the Lord had told Samuel, 16 “I’ve seen how my people are suffering, and I’ve heard their call for help. About this time tomorrow I’ll send you a man from the tribe of Benjamin, who will rescue my people from the Philistines. I want you to pour olive oil[f] on his head to show that he will be their leader.”
17 Samuel looked at Saul, and the Lord told Samuel, “This is the man I told you about. He’s the one who will rule Israel.”
18 Saul went over to Samuel in the gateway and said, “A man who can see visions lives here in town. Could you tell me the way to his house?”
19 “I am the one who sees visions!” Samuel answered. “Go on up to the place of worship. You will eat with me today, and in the morning I’ll answer your questions. 20 Don’t worry about your donkeys that ran off three days ago. They’ve already been found. Everything of value in Israel now belongs to you and your family.”[g]
21 “Why are you telling me this?” Saul asked. “I’m from Benjamin, the smallest tribe in Israel, and my clan is the least important in the tribe.”
Saul Eats with Samuel and Stays at His House
22 Samuel took Saul and his servant into the dining room at the place of worship. About thirty people were there for the dinner, but Samuel gave Saul and his servant the places of honor. 23-24 Then Samuel told the cook, “I gave you the best piece of meat and told you to set it aside. Bring it here now.”
The cook brought the meat over and set it down in front of Saul. “This is for you,” Samuel told him. “Go ahead and eat it. I had this piece saved especially for you, and I invited these guests to eat with you.”
After Saul and Samuel had finished eating, 25 they went down from the place of worship and back into town. A bed was set up for Saul on the flat roof[h] of Samuel’s house, 26 and Saul slept there.
About sunrise the next morning,[i] Samuel called up to Saul on the roof, “Time to get up! I’ll help you get started on your way.”
Saul got up. He and Samuel left together 27 and had almost reached the edge of town when Samuel stopped and said, “Have your servant go on. Stay here with me for a few minutes, and I’ll tell you what God has told me.”
Samuel Tells Saul He Will Be King
After the servant had gone, 10 1 Samuel took a small jar of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head. Then he kissed[j] Saul and told him:
The Lord has chosen you to be the leader and ruler of his people.[k] 2 When you leave me today, you’ll meet two men near Rachel’s tomb at Zelzah in the territory of Benjamin. They’ll tell you, “The donkeys you’ve been looking for have been found. Your father has forgotten about them, and now he’s worrying about you! He’s wondering how he can find you.”
3 Go on from there until you reach the big oak tree at Tabor, where you’ll meet three men on their way to worship God at Bethel. One of them will be leading three young goats, another will be carrying three round loaves of bread, and the last one will be carrying a clay jar of wine. 4 After they greet you, they’ll give you two loaves of bread.
5 Next, go to Gibeah,[l] where the Philistines have an army camp. As you’re going into the town, you’ll meet a group of prophets coming down from the place of worship. They’ll be going along prophesying while others are walking in front of them, playing small harps, small drums, and flutes.
6 The Spirit of the Lord will suddenly take control of you.[m] You’ll become a different person and start prophesying right along with them. 7 After these things happen, do whatever you think is right! God will help you.
8 Then you should go to Gilgal. I’ll come a little later, so wait for me. It may even take a week for me to get there, but when I come, I’ll offer sacrifices and offerings to the Lord. I’ll also tell you what to do next.
Saul Goes Back Home
9 As Saul turned around to leave Samuel, God made Saul feel like a different person. That same day, everything happened just as Samuel had said. 10 When Saul arrived at Gibeah, a group of prophets met him. The Spirit of God suddenly took control of him,[n] and right there in the middle of the group he began prophesying.
11 Some people who had known Saul for a long time saw that he was speaking and behaving like a prophet. They said to each other, “What’s happened? How can Saul be a prophet?”
12 “Why not?” one of them answered. “Saul has as much right to be a prophet as anyone else!”[o] That’s why everyone started saying, “How can Saul be a prophet?”
13 After Saul stopped prophesying, he went to the place of worship.
14 Later, Saul’s uncle asked him, “Where have you been?”
Saul answered, “Looking for the donkeys. We couldn’t find them, so we went to talk with Samuel.”
15 “And what did he tell you?” Saul’s uncle asked.
16 Saul answered, “He told us the donkeys had been found.” But Saul didn’t mention that Samuel had chosen him to be king.
The Lord Shows Israel that Saul Will Be King
17 Samuel sent messengers to tell the Israelites to come to Mizpah and meet with the Lord. 18 When everyone had arrived, Samuel said:
The Lord God of Israel told me to remind you that he had rescued you from the Egyptians and from the other nations that abused you.
19 God has rescued you from your troubles and hard times. But you have rejected your God and have asked for a king. Now each tribe and clan must come near the place of worship so the Lord can choose a king.
20 Samuel brought each tribe, one after the other, to the altar, and the Lord chose the Benjamin tribe. 21 Next, Samuel brought each clan of Benjamin there, and the Lord chose the Matri clan. Finally, Saul the son of Kish was chosen. But when they looked for him, he was nowhere to be found.
22 The people prayed, “Our Lord, is Saul here?”
“Yes,” the Lord answered, “he is hiding behind the baggage.”
23 The people ran and got Saul and brought him into the middle of the crowd. He was more than a head taller than anyone else. 24 “Look closely at the man the Lord has chosen!” Samuel told the crowd. “There is no one like him!”
The crowd shouted, “Long live the king!”
25 Samuel explained the rights and duties of a king and wrote them all in a book. He put the book in a temple building at one of the places where the Lord was worshiped. Then Samuel sent everyone home.
26 God had encouraged some young men to become followers of Saul, and when he returned to his hometown of Gibeah, they went with him. 27 But some worthless fools said, “How can someone like Saul rescue us from our enemies?” They did not want Saul to be their king, and so they didn’t bring him any gifts. But Saul kept calm.
Saul Rescues the Town of Jabesh in Gilead
11 About this time,[p] King Nahash of Ammon came with his army and surrounded the town of Jabesh in Gilead. The people who lived there told Nahash, “If you will sign a peace treaty with us, you can be our ruler, and we will pay taxes to you.”
2 Nahash answered, “Sure, I’ll sign a treaty! But not before I insult Israel by poking out the right eye of every man who lives in Jabesh.”
3 The town leaders said, “Give us seven days so we can send messengers everywhere in Israel to ask for help. If no one comes here to save us, we will surrender to you.”
4 Some of the messengers went to Gibeah, Saul’s hometown. They told what was happening at Jabesh, and everyone in Gibeah started crying. 5 Just then, Saul came in from the fields, walking behind his oxen.
“Why is everyone crying?” Saul asked.
They told him what the men from Jabesh had said. 6 Then the Spirit of God suddenly took control of Saul and made him furious. 7 Saul killed two of his oxen, cut them up in pieces, and gave the pieces to the[q] messengers. He told them to show the pieces to everyone in Israel and say, “Saul and Samuel are getting an army together. Come and join them. If you don’t, this is what will happen to your oxen!”
The Lord made the people of Israel terribly afraid. So all the men came together 8 at Bezek. Saul had them organized and counted. There were three hundred thousand from Israel and thirty thousand[r] from Judah.
9 Saul and his officers sent the messengers back to Jabesh with this promise: “We will rescue you tomorrow afternoon.” The messengers went back to the people at Jabesh and told them that they were going to be rescued.
Everyone was encouraged! 10 So they told the Ammonites, “We will surrender to you tomorrow, and then you can do whatever you want to.”
11 The next day, Saul divided his army into three groups and attacked before daylight. They started killing Ammonites and kept it up until afternoon. A few Ammonites managed to escape, but they were scattered far from each other.
12 The Israelite soldiers went to Samuel and demanded, “Where are the men who said they didn’t want Saul to be king? Bring them to us, and we will put them to death!”
13 “No you won’t!” Saul told them. “The Lord rescued Israel today, and no one will be put to death.”
Saul Is Accepted as King
14 “Come on!” Samuel said. “Let’s go to Gilgal and make an agreement that Saul will continue to be our king.”
15 Everyone went to the place of worship at Gilgal, where they agreed that Saul would be their king. Saul and the people sacrificed animals to ask for the Lord’s blessing,[s] and they had a big celebration.
Samuel’s Farewell Speech
12 Samuel told the Israelites:
I have given you a king, just as you asked. 2 You have seen how I have led you ever since I was a young man. I’m already old. My hair is gray, and my own sons are grown. Now you must see how well your king will lead you.
3 Let me ask this. Have I ever taken anyone’s ox or donkey or forced you to give me anything? Have I ever hurt anyone or taken a bribe to give an unfair decision? Answer me so the Lord and his chosen king can hear you. And if I have done any of these things, I will give it all back.
4 “No,” the Israelites answered. “You’ve never cheated us in any way!”
5 Samuel said, “The Lord and his chosen king are witnesses to what you have said.”
“That’s true,” they replied.
6 Then Samuel told them:
The Lord brought your ancestors out of Egypt and chose Moses and Aaron to be your leaders. 7 Now the Lord will be your judge. So stand here and listen, while I remind you how often the Lord has saved you and your ancestors from your enemies.
8 After Jacob went to Egypt, your ancestors cried out to the Lord for help, and he sent Moses and Aaron. They led your ancestors out of Egypt and had them settle in this land. 9 But your ancestors forgot the Lord, so he let them be defeated by the Philistines, the king of Moab, and Sisera, the commander of Hazor’s army.
10 Again your ancestors cried out to the Lord for help. They said, “We have sinned! We stopped worshiping you, our Lord, and started worshiping Baal and Astarte. But now, if you rescue us from our enemies, we will worship you.”
11 The Lord sent Gideon,[t] Bedan, Jephthah, and Samuel to rescue you from your enemies, and you didn’t have to worry about being attacked. 12 Then you saw that King Nahash of Ammon was going to attack you. And even though the Lord your God is your king, you told me, “This time it’s different. We want a king to rule us!”
13 You asked for a king, and you chose one. Now he stands here where all of you can see him. But it was really the Lord who made him your king. 14 If you and your king want to be followers of the Lord, you must worship him[u] and do what he says. Don’t be stubborn! 15 If you’re stubborn and refuse to obey the Lord, he will turn against you and your king.[v]
16 Just stand here and watch the Lord show his mighty power. 17 Isn’t this the dry season?[w] I’m going to ask the Lord to send a thunderstorm. When you see it, you will realize how wrong you were to ask for a king.
18 Samuel prayed, and that same day the Lord sent a thunderstorm. Everyone was afraid of the Lord and of Samuel. 19 They told Samuel, “Please, pray to the Lord your God for us! We don’t want to die. We have sinned many times in the past, and we were very wrong to ask for a king.”
20 Samuel answered:
Even though what you did was wrong, you don’t need to be afraid. But you must always follow the Lord and worship him with all your heart. 21 Don’t worship idols! They don’t have any power, and they can’t help you or save you when you’re in trouble. 22 But the Lord has chosen you to be his own people. He will always take care of you so that everyone will know how great he is.
23 I would be disobeying the Lord if I stopped praying for you! I will always teach you how to live right. 24 You also must obey the Lord—you must worship him with all your heart and remember the great things he has done for you. 25 But if you and your king do evil, the Lord will wipe you out.
Saul Disobeys the Lord
13 Saul was a young man[x] when he became king, and he ruled Israel for two years. 2 Then[y] he chose three thousand men from Israel to be full-time soldiers and sent everyone else[z] home. Two thousand of these troops stayed with him in the hills around Michmash and Bethel. The other thousand were stationed with Jonathan[aa] at Gibeah[ab] in the territory of Benjamin.
3 Jonathan led an attack on the Philistine army camp at Geba.[ac] The Philistine camp was destroyed, but[ad] the other Philistines heard what had happened. Then Saul told his messengers, “Go to every village in the country. Give a signal with the trumpet, and when the people come together, tell them what has happened.”
4 The messengers then said to the people of Israel, “Saul has destroyed the Philistine army camp at Geba.[ae] Now the Philistines really hate Israel, so every town and village must send men to join Saul’s army at Gilgal.”
5 The Philistines called their army together to fight Israel. They had three thousand[af] chariots, six thousand cavalry, and as many foot soldiers as there are grains of sand on the beach. They went to Michmash and set up camp there east of Beth-Aven.[ag]
6 The Israelite army realized that they were outnumbered and were going to lose the battle. Some of the Israelite men hid in caves or in clumps of bushes,[ah] and some ran to places where they could hide among large rocks. Others hid in tombs[ai] or in deep dry pits. 7 Still others[aj] went to Gad and Gilead on the other side of the Jordan River.
Saul stayed at Gilgal. His soldiers were shaking with fear, 8 and they were starting to run off and leave him. Saul waited there seven days, just as Samuel had ordered him to do,[ak] but Samuel did not come. 9 Finally, Saul commanded, “Bring me some animals, so we can offer sacrifices to please the Lord and ask for his help.”
Saul killed one of the animals, 10 and just as he was placing it on the altar, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to welcome him.
11 “What have you done?” Samuel asked.
Saul answered, “My soldiers were leaving in all directions, and you didn’t come when you were supposed to. The Philistines were gathering at Michmash, 12 and I was worried that they would attack me here at Gilgal. I hadn’t offered a sacrifice to ask for the Lord’s help, so I forced myself to offer a sacrifice on the altar fire.”
13 “That was stupid!” Samuel said. “You didn’t obey the Lord your God. If you had obeyed him, someone from your family would always have been king of Israel. 14 But no, you disobeyed, and so the Lord won’t choose anyone else from your family to be king. In fact, he has already chosen the one he wants to be the next leader of his people.” 15 Then Samuel left Gilgal.
Part of Saul’s army had not deserted him, and he led them to Gibeah in Benjamin to join his other troops. Then he counted them[al] and found that he still had six hundred men. 16 Saul, Jonathan, and their army set up camp at Geba in Benjamin.
Jonathan Attacks the Philistines
The Philistine army was camped at Michmash. 17 Each day they sent out patrols to attack and rob villages and then destroy them. One patrol would go north along the road to Ophrah in the region of Shual. 18 Another patrol would go west along the road to Beth-Horon. A third patrol would go east toward the desert on the road to the ridge that overlooks Zeboim Valley.
19 The Philistines would not allow any Israelites to learn how to make iron tools. “If we allowed that,” they said, “those worthless Israelites would make swords and spears.”
20-21 Whenever the Israelites wanted to get an iron point put on a cattle prod,[am] they had to go to the Philistines. Even if they wanted to sharpen plow-blades, picks, axes, sickles,[an] and pitchforks[ao] they still had to go to them. And the Philistines charged high prices. 22 So, whenever the Israelite soldiers had to go into battle, none of them had a sword or a spear except Saul and his son Jonathan. 23 The Philistines moved their camp to the pass at Michmash,
14 1-3 and Saul was in Geba[ap] with his six hundred men. Saul’s own tent was set up under a fruit tree[aq] by the threshing place[ar] at the edge of town. Ahijah was serving as priest, and one of his jobs was to get answers from the Lord for Saul. Ahijah’s father was Ahitub, and his father’s brother was Ichabod. Ahijah’s grandfather was Phinehas, and his great-grandfather Eli had been the Lord’s priest at Shiloh.
One day, Jonathan told the soldier who carried his weapons that he wanted to attack the Philistine camp on the other side of the valley. So they slipped out of the Israelite camp without anyone knowing it. Jonathan didn’t even tell his father he was leaving.
4-5 Jonathan decided to get to the Philistine camp by going through the pass that led between Shiny Cliff and Michmash to the north and Thornbush Cliff[as] and Geba to the south.
6 Jonathan and the soldier who carried his weapons talked as they went toward the Philistine camp. “It’s just the two of us against all those godless men,” Jonathan said. “But the Lord can help a few soldiers win a battle just as easily as he can help a whole army. Maybe the Lord will help us win this battle.”
7 “Do whatever you want,” the soldier answered. “I’ll be right there with you.”
8 “This is what we will do,” Jonathan said. “We will go across and let them see us. 9 If they agree to come down the hill and fight where we are, then we won’t climb up to their camp. 10 But we will go if they tell us to come up the hill and fight. That will mean the Lord is going to help us win.”
11-12 Jonathan and the soldier stood at the bottom of the hill where the Philistines could see them. The Philistines said, “Look! Those worthless Israelites have crawled out of the holes where they’ve been hiding.” Then they yelled down to Jonathan and the soldier, “Come up here, and we will teach you a thing or two!”
Jonathan turned to the soldier and said, “Follow me! The Lord is going to let us win.”
13 Jonathan crawled up the hillside with the soldier right behind him. When they got to the top, Jonathan killed the Philistines who attacked from the front, and the soldier killed those who attacked from behind.[at] 14 Before they had gone a hundred feet,[au] they had killed about twenty Philistines.
15 The whole Philistine army panicked—those in camp, those on guard duty, those in the fields, and those on raiding patrols. All of them were afraid and confused. Then God sent an earthquake, and the ground began to tremble.[av]
Israel Defeats the Philistines
16 Saul’s lookouts at Geba[aw] saw that the Philistine army was running in every direction, like melted wax. 17 Saul told his officers, “Call the roll and find out who left our camp.” When they had finished, they found out that Jonathan and the soldier who carried his weapons were missing.
18 At that time, Ahijah was serving as priest for the army of Israel, and Saul told him, “Come over here! Let’s ask God what we should do.”[ax] 19 Just as Saul finished saying this, he could see that the Philistine army camp was getting more and more confused, and he said, “Ahijah, never mind!”
20 Saul quickly called his army together, then led them to the Philistine camp. By this time the Philistines were so confused that they were killing each other.
21 There were also some hired soldiers[ay] in the Philistine camp, who now switched to Israel’s side and fought for Saul and Jonathan.
22 Many Israelites had been hiding in the hill country of Ephraim. And when they heard that the Philistines were running away, they came out of hiding and joined in chasing the Philistines.
23-24 So the Lord helped Israel win the battle that day.
Saul’s Curse on Anyone Who Eats
Saul had earlier told his soldiers, “I want to get even with those Philistines by sunset. If any of you eat before then, you will be under a curse!” So he made them swear not to eat.
By the time the fighting moved past Beth-Aven,[az] the Israelite troops were weak from hunger. 25-26 The army and the people who lived nearby had gone into a forest, and they came to a place where honey was dripping on the ground.[ba] But no one ate any of it, because they were afraid of being put under the curse.
27 Jonathan did not know about Saul’s warning to the soldiers. So he dipped the end of his walking stick in the honey and ate some with his fingers. He felt stronger and more alert. 28 Then a soldier told him, “Your father swore that anyone who ate food today would be put under a curse, and we agreed not to eat. That’s why we’re so weak.”
29 Jonathan said, “My father has caused you a lot of trouble. Look at me! I had only a little of this honey, but already I feel strong and alert. 30 I wish you had eaten some of the food the Philistines left behind. We would have been able to kill a lot more of them.”
31 By evening the Israelite army was exhausted from killing Philistines all the way from Michmash to Aijalon.[bb] 32 They grabbed the food they had captured from the Philistines and started eating. They even killed sheep and cows and calves right on the ground and ate the meat without draining the blood.[bc] 33 Someone told Saul, “Look! The army is disobeying the Lord by eating meat before the blood drains out.”
“You’re right,” Saul answered. “They are being unfaithful to the Lord! Hurry! Roll a big rock over here.[bd] 34 Then tell everyone in camp to bring their cattle and lambs to me. They can kill the animals on this rock,[be] then eat the meat. That way no one will disobey the Lord by eating meat with blood still in it.”
That night the soldiers brought their cattle over to the big rock and killed them there. 35 It was the first altar Saul had built for offering sacrifices to the Lord.[bf]
The Army Rescues Jonathan
36 Saul said, “Let’s attack the Philistines again while it’s still dark. We can fight them all night. Let’s kill them and take everything they own!”
The people answered, “We will do whatever you want.”
“Wait!” Ahijah the priest said. “Let’s ask God what we should do.”
37 Saul asked God, “Should I attack the Philistines? Will you help us win?”
This time God did not answer. 38 Saul called his army officers together and said, “We have to find out what sin has kept God from answering. 39 I swear by the living Lord that whoever sinned must die, even if it turns out to be my own son Jonathan.”
No one said a word.
40 Saul told his army, “You stand on that side of the priest, and Jonathan and I will stand on the other side.”
41 Then Saul prayed, “Our Lord, God of Israel, why haven’t you answered me today? Please show us who sinned. Was it my son Jonathan and I, or was it your people Israel?”[bg]
The answer came back that Jonathan or Saul had sinned, not the army. 42 Saul told Ahijah, “Now ask the Lord to decide between Jonathan and me.”
The answer came back that Jonathan had sinned. 43 “Jonathan,” Saul exclaimed, “tell me what you did!”
“I dipped the end of my walking stick in some honey and ate a little. Now you say I have to die!”
44 “Yes, Jonathan. I swear to God that you must die.”
45 “No!” the soldiers shouted. “God helped Jonathan win the battle for us. We won’t let you kill him. We swear to the Lord that we won’t let you kill him or even lay a hand on him!” So the army kept Saul from killing Jonathan.
46 Saul stopped hunting down the Philistines, and they went home.
Saul Fights His Enemies
47-48 When Saul became king, the Moabites, the Ammonites, the Edomites, the kings of Zobah, the Philistines, and the Amalekites had all been robbing the Israelites. Saul fought back against these enemies and stopped them from robbing Israel. He was a brave commander and always won his battles.[bh]
49-51 Saul’s wife was Ahinoam, the daughter of Ahimaaz. They had three sons: Jonathan, Ishvi,[bi] and Malchishua. They also had two daughters: The older one was Merab, and the younger one was Michal.
Abner, Saul’s cousin, was the commander of the army. Saul’s father Kish and Abner’s father Ner were sons of Abiel.
War with the Philistines
52 Saul was at war with the Philistines for as long as he lived. Whenever he found a good warrior or a brave man, Saul made him join his army.
Saul Disobeys the Lord
15 One day, Samuel told Saul:
The Lord had me choose you to be king of his people, Israel. Now listen to this message from the Lord: 2 “When the Israelites were on their way out of Egypt, the nation of Amalek attacked them. I am the Lord All-Powerful, and now I am going to make Amalek pay!
3 “Go and attack the Amalekites! Destroy them and all their possessions. Don’t have any pity. Kill their men, women, children, and even their babies. Slaughter their cattle, sheep, camels, and donkeys.”
4 Saul sent messengers who told every town and village to send men to join the army at Telaim. There were two hundred ten thousand troops in all, and ten thousand of these were from Judah. Saul organized them, 5 then led them to a valley near one of the towns in[bj] Amalek, where they got ready to make a surprise attack. 6 Some Kenites lived nearby, and Saul told them, “Your people were kind to our nation when we left Egypt, and I don’t want you to get killed when I wipe out the Amalekites. Leave here and stay away from them.”
The Kenites left, 7 and Saul attacked the Amalekites from Havilah[bk] to Shur, which is just east of Egypt. 8 Every Amalekite was killed except King Agag. 9 Saul and his army let Agag live, and they also spared the best sheep and cattle. They didn’t want to destroy anything of value, so they only killed the animals that were worthless or weak.[bl]
The Lord Rejects Saul
10 The Lord told Samuel, 11 “Saul has stopped obeying me, and I’m sorry that I made him king.”
Samuel was angry, and he cried out in prayer to the Lord all night. 12 Early the next morning he went to talk with Saul. Someone told him, “Saul went to Carmel, where he had a monument built so everyone would remember his victory. Then he left for Gilgal.”
13 Samuel finally caught up with Saul,[bm] and Saul told him, “I hope the Lord will bless you! I have done what the Lord told me.”
14 “Then why,” Samuel asked, “do I hear sheep and cattle?”
15 “The army took them from the Amalekites,” Saul explained. “They kept the best sheep and cattle, so they could sacrifice them to the Lord your God. But we destroyed everything else.”
16 “Stop!” Samuel said. “Let me tell you what the Lord told me last night.”
“All right,” Saul answered.
17 Samuel continued, “You may not think you’re very important, but the Lord chose you to be king, and you are in charge of the tribes of Israel. 18 When the Lord sent you on this mission, he told you to wipe out those worthless Amalekites. 19 Why didn’t you listen to the Lord? Why did you keep the animals and make him angry?”
20 “But I did listen to the Lord!” Saul answered. “He sent me on a mission, and I went. I captured King Agag and destroyed his nation. 21 All the animals were going to be destroyed[bn] anyway. That’s why the army brought the best sheep and cattle to Gilgal as sacrifices to the Lord your God.”
22 “Tell me,” Samuel said. “Does the Lord really want sacrifices and offerings? No! He doesn’t want your sacrifices. He wants you to obey him. 23 Rebelling against God or disobeying him because you are proud is just as bad as worshiping idols or asking them for advice. You refused to do what God told you, so God has decided that you can’t be king.”
24 “I have sinned,” Saul admitted. “I disobeyed both you and the Lord. I was afraid of the army, and I listened to them instead. 25 Please forgive me and come back with me so I can worship the Lord.”
26 “No!” Samuel replied, “You disobeyed the Lord, and I won’t go back with you. Now the Lord has said that you can’t be king of Israel any longer.”
27 As Samuel turned to go, Saul grabbed the edge of Samuel’s robe. It tore! 28 Samuel said, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel away from you today, and he will give it to someone who is better than you. 29 Besides, the eternal[bo] God of Israel isn’t a human being. He doesn’t tell lies or change his mind.”
30 Saul said, “I did sin, but please honor me in front of the leaders of the army and the people of Israel. Come back with me, so I can worship the Lord your God.”
31 Samuel followed Saul back, and Saul worshiped the Lord. 32 Then Samuel shouted, “Bring me King Agag of Amalek!”
33 But Samuel said, “Agag, you have snatched children from their mothers' arms and killed them. Now your mother will be without children.” Then Samuel chopped Agag to pieces at the place of worship in Gilgal.
34 Samuel went home to Ramah, and Saul returned to his home in Gibeah. 35 Even though Samuel felt sad about Saul, Samuel never saw him again.
The Lord Chooses David To Be King
The Lord was sorry he had made Saul the king of Israel. 16 1 One day he said, “Samuel, I’ve rejected Saul, and I refuse to let him be king any longer. Stop feeling sad about him. Put some olive oil[br] in a small container[bs] and go visit a man named Jesse, who lives in Bethlehem. I’ve chosen one of his sons to be my king.”
2 Samuel answered, “If I do that, Saul will find out and have me killed.”
“Take a calf with you,” the Lord replied. “Tell everyone that you’ve come to offer it as a sacrifice to me, 3 then invite Jesse to the sacrifice.[bt] When I show you which one of his sons I have chosen, pour the olive oil on his head.”
4 Samuel did what the Lord told him and went to Bethlehem. The town leaders went to meet him, but they were terribly afraid and asked, “Is this a friendly visit?”
5 “Yes, it is!” Samuel answered. “I’ve come to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. Get yourselves ready[bu] to take part in the sacrifice and come with me.” Samuel also invited Jesse and his sons to come to the sacrifice, and he got them ready to take part.
6 When Jesse and his sons arrived, Samuel noticed Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab. “He has to be the one the Lord has chosen,” Samuel said to himself.
7 But the Lord told him, “Samuel, don’t think Eliab is the one just because he’s tall and handsome. He isn’t the one I’ve chosen. People judge others by what they look like, but I judge people by what is in their hearts.”
8 Jesse told his son Abinadab to go over to Samuel, but Samuel said, “No, the Lord hasn’t chosen him.”
9 Next, Jesse sent his son Shammah to him, and Samuel said, “The Lord hasn’t chosen him either.”
10 Jesse had all seven of his sons go over to Samuel. Finally, Samuel said, “Jesse, the Lord hasn’t chosen any of these young men. 11 Do you have any more sons?”
“Yes,” Jesse answered. “My youngest son David is out taking care of the sheep.”
“Send for him!” Samuel said. “We won’t start the ceremony until he gets here.”
12 Jesse sent for David. He was a healthy, good-looking boy with a sparkle in his eyes. As soon as David came, the Lord told Samuel, “He’s the one! Get up and pour the olive oil on his head.”[bv]
13 Samuel poured the oil on David’s head while his brothers watched. At that moment, the Spirit of the Lord took control of David and stayed with him from then on.
Samuel returned home to Ramah.
David Plays the Harp for Saul
14 The Spirit of the Lord had left Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord was terrifying him. 15 “It’s an evil spirit from God that’s frightening you,” Saul’s officials told him. 16 “Your Majesty, let us go and look for someone who is good at playing the harp. He can play for you whenever the evil spirit from God bothers you, and you’ll feel better.”
17 “All right,” Saul answered. “Find me someone who is good at playing the harp and bring him here.”
18 “A man named Jesse who lives in Bethlehem has a son who can play the harp,” one official said. “He’s a brave warrior, he’s good-looking, he can speak well, and the Lord is with him.”
19 Saul sent a message to Jesse: “Tell your son David to leave your sheep and come here to me.”
20 Jesse loaded a donkey with bread and a goatskin full of wine,[bw] then he told David to take the donkey and a young goat to Saul. 21 David went to Saul and started working for him. Saul liked him so much that he put David in charge of carrying his weapons. 22 Not long after this, Saul sent another message to Jesse: “I really like David. Please let him stay with me.”
23 Whenever the evil spirit from God bothered Saul, David would play his harp. Saul would relax and feel better, and the evil spirit would go away.
Goliath Challenges Israel’s Army
17 The Philistines got ready for war and brought their troops together to attack the town of Socoh in Judah. They set up camp at Ephes-Dammim, between Socoh and Azekah.[bx] 2-3 King Saul and the Israelite army set up camp on a hill overlooking Elah Valley, and they got ready to fight the Philistine army that was on a hill on the other side of the valley.
4 The Philistine army had a hero named Goliath who was from the town of Gath and was over nine feet[by] tall. 5-6 He wore a bronze helmet and had bronze armor to protect his chest and legs. The chest armor alone weighed about one hundred twenty-five pounds. He carried a bronze sword strapped on his back, 7 and his spear was so big that the iron spearhead alone weighed more than fifteen pounds. A soldier always walked in front of Goliath to carry his shield.
8 Goliath went out and shouted to the army of Israel:
Why are you lining up for battle? I’m the best soldier in our army, and all of you are in Saul’s army. Choose your best soldier to come out and fight me! 9 If he can kill me, our people will be your slaves. But if I kill him, your people will be our slaves. 10 Here and now I challenge Israel’s whole army! Choose someone to fight me!
11 Saul and his men heard what Goliath said, but they were so frightened of Goliath that they couldn’t do a thing.
David Decides to Challenge Goliath
12 David’s father Jesse was an old man, who belonged to the Ephrath clan and lived in Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons: 13-14 the oldest was Eliab, the next was Abinadab, and Shammah was the third. The three of them had gone off to fight in Saul’s army.
David was Jesse’s youngest son. 15 He took care of his father’s sheep, and he went back and forth between Bethlehem and Saul’s camp.
16 Goliath came out and gave his challenge every morning and every evening for forty days.
17 One day, Jesse told David, “Hurry and take this sack of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread to your brothers at the army camp. 18 And here are ten large chunks of cheese to take to their commanding officer. Find out how your brothers are doing and bring back something that shows that they’re all right. 19 They’re with Saul’s army, fighting the Philistines in Elah Valley.”
20 David obeyed his father. He got up early the next morning and left someone else in charge of the sheep; then he loaded the supplies and started off. He reached the army camp just as the soldiers were taking their places and shouting the battle cry. 21 The army of Israel and the Philistine army stood there facing each other.
22 David left his things with the man in charge of supplies and ran up to the battle line to ask his brothers if they were well. 23 While David was talking with them, Goliath came out from the line of Philistines and started boasting as usual. David heard him.
24 When the Israelite soldiers saw Goliath, they were scared and ran off. 25 They said to each other, “Look how he keeps coming out to insult us. The king is offering a big reward to the man who kills Goliath. That man will even get to marry the king’s daughter, and no one in his family will ever have to pay taxes again.”
26 David asked some soldiers standing nearby, “What will a man get for killing this Philistine and stopping him from insulting our people? Who does that worthless Philistine think he is? He’s making fun of the army of the living God!”
27 The soldiers told David what the king would give the man who killed Goliath.
28 David’s oldest brother Eliab heard him talking with the soldiers. Eliab was angry at him and said, “What are you doing here, anyway? Who’s taking care of that little flock of sheep out in the desert? You spoiled brat! You came here just to watch the fighting, didn’t you?”
29 “Now what have I done?” David answered. “Can’t I even ask a question?” 30 Then he turned and asked another soldier the same thing he had asked the others, and he got the same answer.
31 Some soldiers overheard David talking, so they told Saul what David had said. Saul sent for David, and David came. 32 “Your Majesty,” he said, “this Philistine shouldn’t turn us into cowards. I’ll go out and fight him myself!”
33 “You don’t have a chance against him,” Saul replied. “You’re only a boy, and he’s been a soldier all his life.”
34 But David told him:
Your Majesty, I take care of my father’s sheep. And when one of them is dragged off by a lion or a bear, 35 I go after it and beat the wild animal until it lets the sheep go. If the wild animal turns and attacks me, I grab it by the throat and kill it.
36 Sir, I have killed lions and bears that way, and I can kill this worthless Philistine. He shouldn’t have made fun of the army of the living God! 37 The Lord has rescued me from the claws of lions and bears, and he will keep me safe from the hands of this Philistine.
“All right,” Saul answered, “go ahead and fight him. And I hope the Lord will help you.”
38 Saul had his own military clothes and armor put on David, and he gave David a bronze helmet to wear. 39 David strapped on a sword and tried to walk around, but he was not used to wearing those things.
“I can’t move with all this stuff on,” David said. “I’m just not used to it.”
David took off the armor 40 and picked up his shepherd’s stick. He went out to a stream and picked up five smooth rocks and put them in his leather bag. Then with his sling in his hand, he went straight toward Goliath.
David Kills Goliath
41 Goliath came toward David, walking behind the soldier who was carrying his shield. 42 When Goliath saw that David was just a healthy, good-looking boy, he made fun of him. 43 “Do you think I’m a dog?” Goliath asked. “Is that why you’ve come after me with a stick?” He cursed David in the name of the Philistine gods 44 and shouted, “Come on! When I’m finished with you, I’ll feed you to the birds and wild animals!”
45 David answered:
You’ve come out to fight me with a sword and a spear and a dagger. But I’ve come out to fight you in the name of the Lord All-Powerful. He is the God of Israel’s army, and you have insulted him too!
46 Today the Lord will help me defeat you. I’ll knock you down and cut off your head, and I’ll feed the bodies of the other Philistine soldiers to the birds and wild animals. Then the whole world will know that Israel has a real God. 47 Everybody here will see that the Lord doesn’t need swords or spears to save his people. The Lord always wins his battles, and he will help us defeat you.
48 When Goliath started forward, David ran toward him. 49 He put a rock in his sling and swung the sling around by its straps. When he let go of one strap, the rock flew out and hit Goliath on the forehead. It cracked his skull, and he fell facedown on the ground. 50 David defeated Goliath with a sling and a rock. He killed him without even using a sword.
51 David ran over and pulled out Goliath’s sword. Then he used it to cut off Goliath’s head.
When the Philistines saw what had happened to their hero, they started running away. 52 But the soldiers of Israel and Judah let out a battle cry and went after them as far as Gath[bz] and Ekron. The bodies of the Philistines were scattered all along the road from Shaaraim to Gath and Ekron.
53 When the Israelite army returned from chasing the Philistines, they took what they wanted from the enemy camp. 54 David took Goliath’s head to Jerusalem, but he kept Goliath’s weapons in his own tent.
David Becomes One of Saul’s Officers
55 After King Saul had watched David go out to fight Goliath, Saul turned to the commander of his army and said, “Abner, who is that young man?”
“Your Majesty,” Abner answered, “I swear by your life that I don’t know.”
56 “Then find out!” Saul told him.
57 When David came back from fighting Goliath, he was still carrying Goliath’s head.
Abner took David to Saul, 58 and Saul asked, “Who are you?”
“I am David the son of Jesse, a loyal Israelite from Bethlehem.”
18 David and Saul finished talking, and soon David and Jonathan[ca] became best friends. Jonathan thought as much of David as he did of himself. 2 From that time on, Saul kept David in his service and would not let David go back to his own family.
3 Jonathan liked David so much that they promised to always be loyal friends. 4 Jonathan took off the robe that he was wearing and gave it to David. He also gave him his military clothes,[cb] his sword, his bow and arrows, and his belt.
5 David was a success in everything that Saul sent him to do, and Saul made him a high officer in his army. That pleased everyone, including Saul’s other officers.
Saul Becomes David’s Enemy
6 David had killed Goliath, the battle was over, and the Israelite army set out for home. As the army went along, women came out of each Israelite town to welcome King Saul. They were singing happy songs and dancing to the music of tambourines and harps. 7 They sang:
Saul has killed
8 This song made Saul very angry, and he thought, “They are saying that David has killed ten times more enemies than I ever did. Next they will want to make him king.” 9 Saul never again trusted David.
10 The next day the Lord let an evil spirit take control of Saul, and he began acting like a crazy man inside his house. David came to play the harp for Saul as usual, but this time Saul had a spear in his hand. 11 Saul thought, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” He threw the spear at David twice, but David dodged and got away both times.
12 Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was helping David and was no longer helping him. 13 Saul put David in charge of a thousand soldiers and sent him out to fight. 14 The Lord helped David, and he and his soldiers always won their battles. 15 This made Saul even more afraid of David. 16 But everyone else in Judah and Israel was loyal to[cc] David, because he led the army in battle.
17 One day, Saul told David, “If you’ll be brave and fight the Lord’s battles for me, I’ll let you marry my oldest daughter Merab.” But Saul was really thinking, “I don’t want to kill David myself, so I’ll let the Philistines do it for me.”
18 David answered, “How could I possibly marry your daughter? I’m not very important, and neither is my family.”
19 But when the time came for David to marry Saul’s daughter Merab, Saul told her to marry Adriel from the town of Meholah.
20 Saul had another daughter. Her name was Michal, and Saul found out that she was in love with David. This made Saul happy, 21 and he thought, “I’ll tell David he can marry Michal, but I’ll set it up so that the Philistines will kill him.” He told David, “I’m going to give you a second chance to marry one of my daughters.”
22-23 Saul ordered his officials to speak to David in private, so they went to David and said, “Look, the king likes you, and all of his officials are loyal to you. Why not ask the king if you can marry his daughter Michal?”
“I’m not rich[cd] or famous enough to marry princess Michal!” David answered.
24 The officials went back to Saul and told him exactly what David had said. 25 Saul was hoping that the Philistines would kill David, and he told his officials to tell David, “The king doesn’t want any silver or gold. He only wants to get even with his enemies. All you have to do is to bring back proof that you have killed a hundred Philistines!”[ce] 26 The officials told David, and David wanted to marry the princess.
King Saul had set a time limit, and before it ran out, 27 David and his men left and killed two hundred Philistines. He brought back the proof and showed it to Saul, so he could marry Michal. Saul agreed to let David marry Michal. 28 Saul knew that she loved David,[cf] and he also realized that the Lord was helping David. 29 But knowing those things made Saul even more afraid of David, and he was David’s enemy for the rest of his life.
30 The Philistine rulers kept coming to fight Israel, but whenever David fought them, he won. He was famous because he won more battles against the Philistines than any of Saul’s other officers.
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