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2 Samuel 1:1-16

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How Ambitious Are You?

In our passage we read of the events that have unfolded after the death of King Saul and his sons () and the return of David and his men back to Ziklag upon their successful campaign against the Amalekites ().
We have to remember that there is no book break between this section in the Old Testament Scriptures and the story continues on with the previous themes presented.
Our focus today will be on the Amalekite and how he sought to win favour with David by disclosing how he helped to usurp the authority of King Saul by killing him and taking his crown.
Pertaining to the Amalekite the events are as follows:
He came out of the camp from Saul/camp of Israel (v2,4)
His clothes were rent, and earth was upon his head (v2)
He found David and did obeisance (v2)
He tells David how the battle fared - people had fled, many fallen and dead; Saul and Jonathan his son are dead also. (v4)
By chance he happened to come across Saul who was leaning against his spear with the enemy bearing down quickly to him (v6)
Saul asked to be killed because his life was still in him (v9)
He slew king Saul and took the royal crown and the bracelet that was on his arm and have brought them hither unto David (v10)
He confesses that he is a son of a stranger, an Amalekite (v13)

Why did David ask the same question twice?

2 Samuel 1:3 KJV 1900
And David said unto him, From whence comest thou? And he said unto him, Out of the camp of Israel am I escaped.
2 Samuel 1:13 KJV 1900
And David said unto the young man that told him, Whence art thou? And he answered, I am the son of a stranger, an Amalekite.
The modern vernacular of “whence” is where - it’s a question regarding source. We would ask, “Where have you come from?”
The first response from the Amalekite is in regards to answering the nearest event - the battle against Israel and the Philistines; however the second question the Amalekite knew was deeper than a repetition of answering David a second time. He knew it was about where he had come from.
This second response from the Amalekite is in regards to his upbringing which he responds as being raised in Israel as a stranger because his father is an Amalekite.
Therefore, David knew what he knew that Saul had been anointed in Israel and therefore it was no excuse for the Amalekite to claim that he was ignorant of the customs and laws of the land.
This is why after David’s receives the reply from the Amalekite that David states:
2 Samuel 1:14 KJV 1900
And David said unto him, How wast thou not afraid to stretch forth thine hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?
:
You knew Saul was anointed, you’re a part of our team, you fought alongside Israel - and yet you didn’t bat an eyelid when it came to destroy the king? You didn’t defend your lord?
But notice there is something deeper going on. We see the whole story with the account given in Scripture and when we read the events of what happened this is what Scripture confirms in and , let’s compare both pieces of Scripture to see how comparable they are:
Philistines fought against Israel (, )
Israel fled and fell down slain in mount Gilboa (, )
Philistines followed hard after Saul and his sons (, )
Philistines slew Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Malchi-shua, Saul’s sons (, )
Battle went sore against Saul and the archers hit him and he was [sore] (excl ) wounded of the archers (, )
Saul asked his armourbearer to slay him, lest the Philistines kill him and abuse him. But the armourbearer would not because he was sore afraid. So Saul took a sword, and fell upon it (, )
When the armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise on his sword and died (, )
So Saul, his three sons died ( - adds his armourbearer, and all his men, that same day; - adds all his house died together)
When the men of Israel that were [on the other side - ] in the valley [and they that were on the other side Jordan - ] saw that they fled, and that Saul and his sons were dead, they forsook their cities and fled: and the Philistines came and dwelt in them (, )
On the morrow when the Philistines came to strip the slain that they found Saul and his three sons fallen in mount Gilboa (, )
When they had stripped him and [cut off - ; took - ] his head they sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to [publish it in the house - ; carry tidings unto - ] their idols and to the people (, )
And they put his armour in the house of [Ashtaroth - ; their gods - ] and they fastened his [body to the wall of Beth-shan - ; head in the temple of Dagon - ] (, )
And when the [inhabitants - ; all - ] of Jabesh-gilead heard [of that which - ; all - ] of that which the Philistines had done to Saul (, )
All the valiant men arose [and went all night - ] and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons [from the wall of Beth-shan - ] and came to Jabesh and burnt them and buried them under a [tree - ; oak - ] there and fasted seven days (, )
Then explains the reason as to why Saul died reflecting back on the times when he transgressed against the Lord, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit and not asking of the Lord. Therefore he slew him and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.
Besides the ending of both passages where expands a little further as to the reason - perhaps because the book of 1 Chronicles gives an overview since the beginning - we can see from both passages there is very little disagreement.
In fact both passages where they do disagree seem to help provide to just minor details.
Who had died specifically in
Those who fled on the other side Jordan -
And the purpose for detailing this fact is that we have two very consistent accounts regarding the one event, and then we have what the Amalekite has said happened:
Where does the account of the Amalekite agree and diverge from ?
Agreement:
People fled from the battle =
Many people are fallen and dead =
Saul and Jonathan his son are dead also =
Bodies were in mount Gilboa =
Philistines followed hard after him =
Disagreement:
Chariots and horsemen are not detailed in the story [contrast this to ]
Saul leaned upon his spear [contrast this to his armour bearer seeing that Saul was dead - ]
Saul called out to the Amalekite [contrast Saul speaking to his armourbearer - ]
Saul asked for the Amalekite to slay him because he was in anguish [agony] and his life was yet whole in him [contrast Saul’s reasons to be killed when he spoke with the armourbearer - ]
He (the Amalekite) slew Saul [contrast Saul killing himself which Scripture writes as confirmed by the armourbearer - ]
So was the Amalekite telling the truth or lying?
Josephus seems to think that we can harmonise the two accounts, inserting the Amalekite to come and help kill him as Saul’s armour bearer would not (probably why the Amalekite does not include the death of the armour bearer in his account):
The Works of Josephus: New Updated Edition Chapter 14: 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

(371) 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. (372) 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.

Josephus reports:
(371) 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. (372) 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.
Antiquities 6, 370–72 Flavius Josephus, The Works of Josephus : Complete and Unabridged, includes index., Ant VI, xiv 7 (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996, c1987).
Josephus, F. & Whiston, W., 1987. The works of Josephus: complete and unabridged, Peabody: Hendrickson.
Antiquities 6, 370–72 [xiv.7]
Flavius Josephus, The Works of Josephus : Complete and Unabridged, includes index., Ant VI, xiv 7 (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996, c1987).

What do we learn about the lie?

Urgency of the decision. The Amalekite is pressing upon David the urgency of the decision that was made - “Chariots and horsemen” were bearing upon Saul. This would denote that there was not an opportunity to outrun them.
Saul was seen because he was leaning upon his spear. He wasn’t hidden and was obviously spotted. They couldn’t hide.
2.
He was already in agony and pain.
It was his request. This was
I was just honouring his request as an obedient soldier.

How did the Amalekite get the crown?

If what the Amalekite was saying was a lie then it was likely he took the crown and bracelet from King Saul between the period when Saul had killed himself and when the Philistines went through all the bodies on the morrow ().

But if the Philistines were following hard after King Saul why did they not take his crown and bracelet?

It could very well have been that the Amalekite, being on the side of Israel in battle, upon seeing Saul kill himself was the one who quickly ran to the body before the Philistines did and who then took these items.
It may have also been night and dark, making it difficult to find bodies and could even endanger those walking through the battlefield.

Why did the Amalekite lie?

When the Amalekite first meets David he does him obeisance () and upon answering David’s questions he ends the purpose of his meeting by stating in that he has brought the crown and bracelet “unto my lord”.
How quick his allegiance changed!
And no doubt being the first to bring word to David about the battle and being the one who brought the regal crown and bracelet he thought he would win David’s immediate favour.
He did obeisance.
And how about you:
He answers David questions about the events.
At what lengths would you go to try and get a promotion?
He delivers unto David the crown and bracelet and “have brought them hither unto my lord
Is it wrong to be ambitious?
We know that lying is a sin, but what about seeking prestige and being the one who presents their achievements to the boss.

What does the Bible say about ambition?

In the KJV we do not have the exact word “ambition” but rather it’s old English derivative “strife”, hence we see it in the following passages:
Philippians 2:3 KJV 1900
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
The Greek word erithia translated “strife” here is defined by Vine’s:
denotes “ambition, self-seeking, rivalry,” self-will being an underlying idea in the word
Vine, W.E., Unger, M.F. & White, W., Jr., 1996. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 2, p.220.
Other passages speak more acutely about it:
James 3:13-
James 3:13–16 KJV 1900
Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
James 3:14 KJV 1900
But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
Galatians 5:19–21 KJV 1900
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Can we seem this same sinful nature in the Amalekite?
Galatians 5:19
Can we seem this same sinful nature in the Amalekite?
Notice that all these ambitions are selfish and it can be easy to think that what we are doing is selfless, so do we find in Scripture other passages that speak of being ambitious but not of a selfish kind?
Here are some references we find:
1 Corinthians 12:31 KJV 1900
But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
1 Corinthians 12:30–31 KJV 1900
Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
Philippians 3:13–14 KJV 1900
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Phil 3:
Romans 15:20 KJV 1900
Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation:
Notice here in the passage in Romans we have the past tense of “strife” with our English word “strived” which is the Greek word philotimeomai which we see defined in Vine’s as:

“to be fond of honor” (phileo, “to love,” time, “honor”), and so, actuated by this motive, “to strive to bring something to pass”; hence, “to be ambitious, to make it one’s aim,”

So in essence we see that selfish ambition at the heart causes sin because we use others to achieve what we want. Whereas godly ambition is when we achieve what God desires for us and is beneficial not only to our own personal and spiritual growth, but also others.
And this is why we need to be careful whenever we do set our hearts on something and are ambitious towards it.
Is there a difference between ambition and discontentment?
Are we really ambitious for something that is selfish or something that will help us grow spiritually?
God obviously wouldn’t agree to us labouring for something that would cause us harm or would cause us to move further away from Him, but here’s the problem:
How can I tell whether my ambition is driven by selfish motive or is pure?
It can be easy for us to mask our ambition as “godly” when in fact it’s far from it. And what if we start doing something that has a godly intent, but then as we progress it turns selfish?
Have a look at the Amalekite: he was quick to change his allegiance when he saw there was likely to be a benefit from providing the crown and bracelet to David.
And this is where we need to keep in check with our ambitions:
Who are you serving?
What is Lord in your life? Do you still have the same ambition you did when you first started? Or have you changed your ambition now that you’ve been promoted or have attained what you initially set out to do?
People can often start with good intentions in getting out of debt and can work hard in paying off loans, but then once they achieve that ambition they then use the money for selfish purposes - looking to get more and more of it. Their initial purpose was met, but now what?
It’s important therefore to always be considering the purpose for what you do. Be mindful of your actions and your ambitions. Have you achieved what you have set out to do - okay, so what would the Lord have you do next?
But I think our passage provides some insight in being able to discern our true intentions:
Keep your ambitions honourable and glorifying to God. He is your true Lord and King and He will guide you on the true path. Seek His will and His desires.
Who do you serve?
The Amalekite was quick to change his allegiance from King Saul to David when he had the loot.
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