Inductive Bible Studies,

[Copyright by W. R. HARPER, 1887.]

PREPARED BY PROFESSORS W. R. HARPER (Yale University), W. G. BALLANTINE (Oberlin Theol. Sem.), WILLIS J. BEECHER (Auburn Theol. Sem.), and G. S. BURROUGHS (Amherst College).


Ninth Study.—Civilization in Israel in the Times from Eli to David.

Reign of Saul.

[The material of this "study" is furnished by Prof. Beecher. It is edited by Prof. Harper.]



1. According to the statements of fact made in the Bible, the Israelitish nation suddenly blossomed out during the reign of David. For some centuries previously, during the times of the judges and of Saul, the tribes had existed east and west of the Jordan,

(a) without much national feeling,

(b) with frequent civil wars,

(c) much of the time the vassals of the neighboring peoples.

2. This state of things was unfavorable both to civilization and to national greatness. Under Samuel, influences were set at work which gradually changed all this; with the completion of David's conquests, the change became suddenly and grandly apparent.

3. We have reached, therefore, a crisis in the history, which makes it desirable that we pause and glance at a few of the leading facts of the civilization of the period. As the Bible is almost our only source of information concerning these, it is desirable that the student draw his information directly from the Bible. Of course, the following treatment is not exhaustive, but merely offers a few representative facts, on a few selected topics.


Review 1 and 2 Samuel and I Chron. 10-29. Perhaps some such plan as the following may be found helpful:

(1) Beginning with the account of Samuel's birth (1 Sam. ch. 1), think through the entire period of history which has thus far been studied. One ought to be able to take in the principal points of interest, and indeed many of the details, almost in a moment.

(2) Make from preceding " studies" a list of the topics cited under the "Biblical Lesson," and take them up one at a time, endeavoring to gather up all the details which are included under each.

(3) Select certain important characters, e. g., Samuel, Saul, and David, and certain important objects or events, e. g., the ark, wars with Philistines, necromancy, sins, and associate with each all that can be remembered.1


[The student is expected in the case of each topic (1) to verify every reference given, and (2) to add others which, in his opinion, bear upon the subject in hand.]

1. Political and Military Organization.

(1) Elders:

(a) popular power in Israel rested with the elders. These are spoken of indifferently as elders of Israel, or as elders of some particular tribe, or of some particular locality, 1 Sam. 4:3; 30:26; 11:3; 16:4, etc.

(b) How a man became an elder we are not informed-whether by age, or by inherited nobility, or by some kind of election, or simply by the fact of being a prominent citizen; the last supposition is perhaps most likely.

(c) The elders appear to have had charge of matters of local government, and, in consultation with the judge or king, acted upon affairs of national importance, 1 Sam. 11:3; 16:4; also 4:3; 15:30; 2 Sam. 17:4,15, etc. Subject to divine interference, the people and the elders even made and unmade the judges and kings, 1 Sam. 8:4; 10:17, and context; 2 Sam. 2:4; 3:17; 5:3; 19:9-11, etc.

(2) Civil Divisions: That into tribes and families is often mentioned in the history of this period, though not much emphasized (see (5) below). The different division into thousands, hundreds, and fifties is prominent from the beginning of the monarchy (see concordance); it is most frequently mentioned in connection with the army, 2 Sam. 18:1,4; I Sam. 17:18, etc.; but in part, at least, and perhaps throughout, it seems also to have been a division of the people as distinct from the army, 1 Sam. 10:19-21; 23:23.

(3) The Officer:

(a) The officer in charge of one of these divisions, whether a fifty, a hundred, a thousand, or some larger body, is called a captain, "săr" (look up the word in a Hebrew concordance, or, if you use an English concordance, remember that half the instances are disguised by variant translations).

(b) In a majority of instances, the "sar" is a military officer, I Sam. 12:9; 14:50; 17:18,55; 2 Sam. 2:8; 18:1,5,etc.; but the title is also applied to the men who had charge of the music, and of other matters connected with the public worship, of business affairs, and apparently of civil affairs; see 1 Chron.15:5,6, 22, etc.; 24:5,6; 27:22,31; 21:2; 22:17; 23:2, and many other places in Samuel and Chronicles; in many of these the word is translated "chief," "master," "governor," "prince," "ruler."

(c) Generally the captains differed from the elders in that they were either chiefs of free companies, who had been accepted by the king, or else were under appointment from the king, 2 Sam. 4:2 (cf. 1 Sam. 22:2); 1 Chron.12:21,28,34; also 1Chron. 11:6,21; 2 Sam. 23:19; also 1 Sam. 8:12; 18:13; 22:7,etc.

(4) Origin of the Divisions: According to the previous books of the Bible, the elders, and the division into tribes and families, were already in existence before Israel left Egypt; the division into thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, under "captains" ("sar," though translated "rulers "), for the purpose of enabling one chief magistrate conveniently to perform his functions, was made by Moses, and apparently continued in existence from his time; Deut. 1:13-15;Ex. 18:21,25; "captains" of Issachar, of Succoth, of Gilead, Jud. 5:15; 8:14; 10:18; "thousands," Num. 10:4,36; 31:14; Deut. 33:17;Josh. 22:14,21,30; Jud. 6:15; see also concordance.

(5) National Assembly:

(a) In the times before and after our period, prominence is given to the national assembly (qahal) in which the people-prominently the elders and the "princes" (n'siim) of the tribes-assembled for especially important national business, Num. 20:10; Josh. 8:35; Jud. 20:1,2; 21:5, 8; 1 Kgs. 8:14,22; 12:3, etc.

(b) This assembly is not mentioned by name in the Books of Samuel (strictly, at least, the gatherings, 2 Sam. 20:14, 1 Sam. 17:47, were not proper national assemblies); and the "princes" are not mentioned, by this title, in the history of the period in either Samuel or 1 Chronicles; but the men who are called "chieftains " and "captains" (nagidh, săr) of the tribes, 1 Chron. 27:16,22, may have been the tribal "princes," and there is no sufficient reason for disputing the testimony of the author of Chronicles, that the qahal was in existence in the times of David, 1 Chron. 13:2,4; 28:8; 29:1,10,20.

(c) One cannot help noticing, however, that the "captains" were very prominent in these assemblies; David took care, apparently, that the government should be represented there, as well as the people.

(6) Priests and Prophets: These have great though varying influence in public affairs, throughout the period.

2. Details in Military Affairs.

(1) Equipment of a Warrior: From a study of the story of David and Goliath, and from a Bible reading on such words as shield, helmet, coat of mail, sword, spear, bow, arrow, sling, gather the best account you can of the equipment of a warrior, in the times from Eli to David.

(2) Special Topics:

(a) the raising of large armies, 1 Sam. 11:7,8, etc.;

(b) David's national guard, 1 Chron. 27:1-15;

(c) David's roll of "heroes," (in the versions "mighty men "), 2 Sam. 23:8-39; 1 Chron. 11:10-47; by a concordance of proper names, trace the biographies of such of these "heroes " as are mentioned elsewhere; make the best conjecture you can as to the qualifications that entitled a warrior to be enrolled in this list;

(d) how were these " heads of the heroes " related to the " heroes," 1 Chron. 19: 8; 2 Sam. 10: 7; 16:6; 17:8; 20: 7; 1 Kgs. 1: 8,10; 1 Chron. 12:1,4,8,21,25,28, 30; 26:6,31; 28:1; 29:24?

(e) David's "Cherethites and Pelethites," 2 Sam. 8:18; 15:18; 20:7, 23; 1 Kgs. 1:38,44; 1 Chron. 18:17; cf. 1 Sam. 30:14; Zeph. 2:5; Ezek. 25:16.

3. Density of the Population.

(1) Instances:

(a) the 300,000 and the 30,000, 1 Sam. 11: 8;

(b) the 30,000, etc.,13: 5;

(c) the 210,000,15:4;

(d) the 800,000 and 500,000, with the 1,100,000 and 470,000,2 Sam. 24: 9; 1 Chron. 21:5. Are these numbers incredibly large? Are those in (d) incredible on account of the discrepancy between them?

(2) Points to be considered:

(a) these regions then had a larger area of good soil, and less of barren rock, than now;

(b) the Philistine force mentioned in 1 (b) may have been partly allies from great distances;

(c) though the census of David was " from Dan to Beer-sheba," it may yet have included the arms-bearing population of the entire empire, from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates, distributed in the enrollments of the several tribes;

(d) it is not absurd to suppose that the thousands, in these cases, may sometimes have been "thousands" of organization (see above), instead of being strictly numerical, and that a large proportion of the "thousands" counted may not have been full;

(e) this suggests the possibility of accounting for some discrepancies as the result of varying modes of enumeration, rather than of false numbers;

[(f) there are probably some cases of error in the transmission of numbers.—W. R. H.]

4. Arts of Common Life. Density of population, in such a country as Palestine, implies good agriculture.

(1) Good Living: As to what constituted good living among these people, examine 1 Sam. 16:20; 17:17,18; 25:11,18; 2 Sam. 16:1,2; 17:27-29, etc.

(2) Feasts: Doubtless the people generally lived on vegetable diet; but give some account of the following three classes of flesh-eating feasts:

(a) Apparently secular, 1 Sam. 25:11,36; 2 Sam. 13:23, 28;

(b) Local sacrificial feasts, 1 Sam. 9:12,13, 22-24; 16:2,3, etc.; 20:6, etc.;

(c) Jehovah's peace-offering: 1 Sam. 1:9, etc.; 2 Sam. 6:17-19; 1 Chron. 16:1-3; 29:21,22a.

(3) Wine: For the use of wine and strong drink during this period, see concordance.

(4) On the working of metals, 1 Sam. 13:1922; 2 Sam. 12:31; 23:7; 1 Chron. 22:3,14,16; 29:2,7, etc.

(5) On the accumulation of wealth, 1 Chron. 29:3-9, etc.

5. Customs and Manners.

(1) 2 Sam. 13:1-22, the arrangements of the royal household, employments of those belonging to the royal family, the general simplicity of the royal establishment;

(2) 2 Sam. 13:23-29, the character of the festivities of the princes (cf. 1 Sam. 25: 7 seq.);

(3) 2 Sam. 14:1-24, the possibility and manner of approach to the king;

(4) 2 Sam. 15: 1-6, the simplicity and details of the royal functions. Add any other passages and details filling out the picture of the day.

6. Administration of Justice.

(1) Much formality of procedure, in some civil cases, Ruth 4:1-12;

(2) Very summary treatment of offenders, sometimes, 1 Kgs. 2:25, 34,46, etc.;

(3) The law of blood revenge in force, 2 Sam. 3: 27; 14:6,7,11, etc.; these cases show that even the king was powerless before certain fixed customs.

(4) That appeals were made to the king appears from 2 Sam. 15:2-4.

(5) Where these various cases are covered by the Pentateuchal laws, there are decided points both of agreement and of disagreement with those laws.

7. Administration of the Government.

(1) Study 2 Sam. 8:15-18 (cf. 20:23-26; see also 1 Kgs. 4:1-6) as it bears upon the administration of the kingdom of Israel under David;

(2) meaning of host, recorder (cf. 2 Kgs. 18:18,37; 2 Chron. 34:8), scribe (cf. 2 Kgs. 12:10; 18:18 etc.), Cherethites and Pelethites (cf. 15:18; 20:7, 23, etc.), tribute or levy (20:24) (cf. 1 Kgs. 12:4). Why a double high priesthood, 8:17? David's friend, 15:37 (cf. 1 Chron. 27:33; 1 Kgs. 4:5)?

(3) Supplement from 1 Chron. 27:25-34.

8. Architecture and Commerce. Study these in 2 Sam. 5:9-12; 7:1,2; 11:2, etc., and the accounts of the preparations for building the temple; cf. I Sam. 22:6, illustrating the contrast, in these respects, between Saul and David.

9. Art of Poetry. What may be inferred as to the existence and character of the art of poetry in this period from

(1) 1 Sam. 2:1-10; 27-36; 2 Sam. 1:17-27; 3:33,34; 22; 23:1-7;

(2) The titles to the Psalms;

(3) The passages that mention music (see below);

(4) 1 Chron. 16:7-36; Luke 20:42-44; Acts 1: 16,20; 2:25-31,34; 4:25,26; 13:35-36; Rom. 4:6-8; Heb. 4:7?

10. Art of Music. What do you infer concerning the condition of this art from 1 Sam. 10:5; 18:68; 2 Sam. 23:1; 6:5; Amos 6:5; 1 Chron. 13:8; 15:16,19,22,24; 16:5,6,42, etc.; 23:5; 25:1-31; 2 Chron. 7:6; 29:27,30; Neh. 12:24,36,44-46,etc.?

11. Historical Research. Were these times, and especially the times of David, times when men studied history, and cited historical precedents? 2 Sam.8;16,17, etc.; 11:20,21 (cf. Jud. 9:53); 7:6,8-11; 1 Sam. 2:27, 28, 12:6-11: 4:8, etc.

12. Public Worship and Religious Teaching.

(1) See 1 Sam. 6, compared with 2 Sam. 6:3, etc.; also 2 Sam. 8:18 ("priests");

(2) with these contrast 2 Sam. 6:12-23; 7; 1 Chron. 15; 16; 22; 28; 29, etc.; also 2 Sam. 24:18-25; 1 Chron. 21:18-30. (3) As to the prophetic teaching, see 2 Sam. 7; 12; 24, etc., and the sixth of these " studies."

13. Art of Writing.

(1) Supposably, the poetic, musical, architectural, historical, priestly and prophetic activity of these times might have existed without the art of writing, and its results have been orally handed down; in view of the details we have been studying, is this supposition a probable one?

(2) How does it agree with 1 Sam. 21:13; 2 Sam. 11:14,15; 2 Chron. 2:11; 1 Chron. 27:24; 23:27; 24:6; 29:29; 1 Sam. 10:25, etc., and with the passages already cited in this study?

14. Critical Results.

(1) What bearing have these facts on the question whether the Psalms ascribed to David and his contemporaries are genuine?

(2) On the question whether the accounts in 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles are based on documents contemporaneous with the events ?

(3) On the question of the date of the writing of the books of Samuel?


1) With the exception of the preparation of the list of topics, this exercise demands nothing but thinking. It ought to be gone through with in a quite satisfactory manner inside of eight or ten minutes.