WHAT IS A “BOLSTER?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
Our Authorized Version uses this word on six occasions (interestingly, either with reference to King Saul or David).
- 1 Samuel chapter 19: “ And Michal took an image, and laid it in the bed, and put a pillow of goats’ hair for his bolster, and covered it with a cloth….  And when the messengers were come in, behold, there was an image in the bed, with a pillow of goats’ hair for his bolster.”
- 1 Samuel chapter 26: “ So David and Abishai came to the people by night: and, behold, Saul lay sleeping within the trench, and his spear stuck in the ground at his bolster: but Abner and the people lay round about him….  The LORD forbid that I should stretch forth mine hand against the LORD’S anointed: but, I pray thee, take thou now the spear that is at his bolster, and the cruse of water, and let us go.  So David took the spear and the cruse of water from Saul’s bolster; and they gat them away, and no man saw it, nor knew it, neither awaked: for they were all asleep; because a deep sleep from the LORD was fallen upon them….  This thing is not good that thou hast done. As the LORD liveth, ye are worthy to die, because ye have not kept your master, the LORD’S anointed. And now see where the king’s spear is, and the cruse of water that was at his bolster.”
In a non-literal sense, we speak of someone “bolstering” their claim when they present evidence to support their position. If you can understand that, then you can see how Bible uses the term in a physical or literal sense in the above passages. In other words, think of a pillow or other support for the head (see 1 Samuel 19:13,16 where it is defined as such). Michal—David’s wife—put a “bolster” with an idol resting on it so as to impersonate David lying down in bed, thereby tricking his potential murderers. As per the verses concerning King Saul, he was sleeping with a spear and a “cruse” (container) of water near his “bolster” (pillow, or head). David took these items, but he did not take Saul’s life (although it was in his power to do so, since Saul was poorly guarded).