Now therefore, let not my blood fall to the earth before the face of the LORD: for the king of Israel is come out to seek a flea, as when one does hunt a partridge in the mountains.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Before the face of the Lord.—Better rendered, far from the presence of the Lord. The same thought dwelt upon in the last verse is here enlarged. “If this savage persecution continues,” David goes on to say, “sooner or later I shall fall a victim to one or other of the countless perils to which one in my situation, as leader of a band of outlaws, is daily exposed. Let not such hard, cruel fate be mine—to die a violent death far away from the land which Jehovah loves.” It was the same thought which inspires so touchingly this last prayer he made to Saul which, ever present in his heart, made the bringing up of the Ark to a permanent sanctuary, where the visible symbol of the Eternal Presence should dwell for ever, the dream of David’s life. It was the same holy thought which induced him to spend so much time and to lay up such vast stores for the building of a glorious sanctuary. The passionate longing of the “man after God’s own heart” to worship his Eternal Master in a fitting house devoted to His service, and in the company of men who loved and honoured the Name of names, is to be found in some of the most soul-searching of his psalms.
To seek a flea.—The same humiliating comparison he had made once before on a similar occasion again occurs to him. Such repetition is of ordinary occurrence, as we well know, both in speeches and writings. The LXX. here substitute for “a flea” “my soul,” probably with the view of avoiding the repetition of the simile of a flea, which David had made use of on the previous occasion of his sparing the king’s life at En-gedi.
A partridge in the mountains.—The LXX. needlessly alters “partridge” into “screech-owl,” and changes the sense: “as the screech-owl hunts on the mountains.” The meaning of the simile in the Hebrew original is well given by Erdmann, in Lange: “The isolated from God’s people, far from all association, a fugitive from their plots on the mountain heights, thou seekest at all cost to destroy, as one hunts a single fugitive partridge on the mountain, only to kill it at all costs, while otherwise, from its insignificance, it would not be hunted, since partridges are to be found in the field in coveys.” Conder (Tent Life in Palestine) especially tells us that partridges still tenant these wilds; and speaking of the precipitous cliffs overhanging the Dead Sea, he says: “Among the rocks of the wild goats the bands of ibex may be seen still bounding, and the partridge is still chased on the mountains, as David was followed by the stealthy hunter Saul.”1 Samuel 26:20. Before the face of the Lord — The Lord seeing it, and being the avenger. Remember, if thou dost it, God, the judge of all men, observes and will call thee to account for it, though I will not avenge myself. Is come out to seek a flea — Is come out for a purpose beneath him, and not of importance enough to deserve his trouble. As when one doth hunt a partridge — The Hebrew word קרא, kore, does not seem to be rightly translated partridge here. Rabbi Salomon renders it cuculus, cuckow, so called from its crying. It certainly must be the name of a bird of no value for food, or any other use; and therefore the pursuing it on the mountains, through difficult places, was a useless and insignificant labour.1 Samuel 16:1, 1 Samuel 16:14. If the continued persecution was merely the consequence of this evil spirit continuing to vex Saul, David advises Saul to seek God's pardon, and, as a consequence, the removal of the evil spirit, by offering a sacrifice. But if the persecution was the consequence of the false accusations of slanderers, then "cursed" be his enemies who, by their actions, drove David out from the only land where Yahweh was worshipped, and forced him to take refuge in the country of pagan and idolaters (compare Deuteronomy 4:27; Deuteronomy 28:36). Let not my blood fall to the earth; do not attempt to spill my innocent blood like water upon the ground.
Before the face of the Lord; remember, if thou dost it, God the judge of all men seeth it, and will avenge it of thee, though I will not avenge myself.
A flea; hard to be taken, and not worth catching; a mean and contemptible person.
In the mountains, where his advantage doth no way compensate his labour.
for the king of Israel is come out to seek a flea; which leaps from place to place and is not easily taken: or this may denote what a mean, poor, weak, insignificant person David was; and how much it was below Saul to come out with an army of chosen men in pursuit of him; so the Targum,"the king of Israel is come out to seek one that is weak or feeble:"
as when one doth hunt a partridge in the mountains; as kings for their delight used to do, as Abarbinel observes; but this being a business of pleasure, and this a bird of worth, some other is thought to be here intended. Indeed the is represented as worth no more than an "obolus", or five farthings, though fifty drachmas or drachms were ordered to be paid for one (s); the Septuagint renders the word an "owl": the word is "kore", and from the etymology of it one would think it was the raven or crow. Jarchi on Jeremiah 17:11 takes it to be the cuckoo, though here the partridge as others; Bochart (t) will have it to be the woodcock, snipe, or snite (u). Some choose to read the words,"as the kore or partridge on the mountains hunts;''which, it is said, hunts and seeks after the nests of other birds, and sits on their eggs (v): see Jeremiah 17:11; so Saul hunted after David, though he could not take him; several naturalists (w) observe, that the partridge is very difficult to be taken by the hunter.
(r) "non effundetur", Martyr. and to this sense are Syr. Ar. vers. (s) Laert. l. 2. in Vita Aristippi. (t) Hierozoic. par. 2. l. 1. c. 12. Colossians 81. (u) (A snite is like a snipe, yet a different species of lark-like bird. Oxford English Dictionary. Editor) (v) T. Bab. Cholin, fol. 140. 2. Jarchi & Abarbinel in loc. (w) Aristot. Hist. Animal. l. 9. c. 8. Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 10. c. 33. Aelian. Hist. Animal. l. 3. c. 16.Now therefore, let not my blood fall to the earth before the face of the LORD: for the king of Israel is come out to seek a flea, as when one doth hunt a partridge in the mountains.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)20. before the face of the Lord] Slay me not, lest Jehovah avenge my blood upon thee. But it is possible to render “far from the presence of Jehovah:” i.e. let me not die a violent death in a heathen land: and this suits the context better.
a flea] A single flea. Cp. 1 Samuel 24:14. The Sept. however reads instead, perhaps rightly, “my life.”
a partridge] “David alludes to the mode of chase practised now as of old, when the partridge continuously chased was at length, when fatigued, knocked down by sticks thrown along the ground. It must be remembered that both the species of partridge common in the Holy Land, unlike our bird, endeavour to save themselves by running in preference to flight, unless when suddenly started; that they are not inhabitants of plains or cornfields but of rocky hill-sides.” The Hebrew name means “caller,” from “its ringing call-note, which in early morning echoes from cliff to cliff alike amidst the barrenness of the wilderness of Judaea, and in the glens of the forest of Carmel.” Tristram, Natural History of the Bible, p. 225.
David means to say that the King of Israel’s pursuit of him is altogether unworthy of his dignity.Verse 20. - Let not my blood fall to the earth before the face of Jehovah. Hebrew, "far from the presence of Jehovah." The point of David's appeal is not that his life may be spared, but that he may not thus be driven far away from the land where Jehovah manifests himself; nor does he seem so much to contemplate Saul's putting him to death as the probability that sooner or later the life of an exile will be cut short by one or other of the many dangers by which he is surrounded. A flea. Hebrew, "a single flea," as in 1 Samuel 24:14. A partridge. Many emendations of the text have been proposed on the supposition that partridges are only to be found in plains. But Mr. Condor tells us that partridges are among the few living creatures which still tenant these wilds; and, speaking of the precipitous cliffs which overhang the Dead Sea, he says, Here, among "the rocks of the wild goats, the herds of ibex may be seen bounding, and the partridge is still chased on the mountains, as David was followed by the stealthy hunter Saul" ('Tent Work,' 2:90: see also 1 Samuel 23:19).
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