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Posts Tagged ‘Samuel’

Israel’s King Saul was a tragic figure or a grave disappointment or, perhaps, some combination of the two. The young David had ample opportunity to consider the options as Saul pursued his doomed and jealous efforts to be done with this shepherd and poet warrior.

Yet when Saul was dead—and with him, his son Jonathan—David spared no effort to elevate the defunct monarch’s legacy. It is too easy to cite realpolitik as the sole explanation of David’s verbose generosity. By this explanation, David eulogized Saul because it was in his interests to curry favor with that king’s partisans now that death in battle had removed him from the scene. (more…)

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Mephiboseth, I was recently reminded by an elderly woman, lived half his life in terror. Dropped by his nurse at five years of age, we next find him crippled and living in Transjordan, far from power and—it would seem—from trouble. Though his life in Davidide circles will seldom prove simple, he becomes in 2 Samuel 9 the beneficiary of uncommon kindness. (more…)

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The biblical material assiduously undermines the logic of human achievement. When YHWH does his remarkable work, he nearly always uses badly flawed human agents.

The waning days of David’s rule read like an ‘I told you so’ anti-monarchical screed. The aged king commits the atrocity of numbering his people, a violation of the tribal traditions against a standing army and a centralized political-military apparatus. Then, while a beautiful young virgin warms him against the dark night, a palace farce unravels outside his door. Two of his sons line up behind their corresponding priestly advocates in what sounds like a shameless playground exercise of ‘Pick me! Pick me!’ (more…)

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In the face of his son Absalom’s insurrection, David’s flight to the desert is the stage upon which a colorful handful of characters display, respectively, deepest loyalty, most loathsome self-interest, and opportunistic vengeance. It seems that David’s prior sojourn in Gath has won him the loyalty of a considerable number of Gittites. One of them, Ittai by name, now articulates what love means when it links one warrior to another:

All his officials passed by him; and all the Cherethites, and all the Pelethites, and all the six hundred Gittites who had followed him from Gath, passed on before the king. Then the king said to Ittai the Gittite, ‘Why are you also coming with us? Go back, and stay with the king; for you are a foreigner, and also an exile from your home. You came only yesterday, and shall I today make you wander about with us, while I go wherever I can? Go back, and take your kinsfolk with you; and may the LORD show steadfast love and faithfulness to you.’ But Ittai answered the king, ‘As the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether for death or for life, there also your servant will be.’ David said to Ittai, ‘Go then, march on.’ So Ittai the Gittite marched on, with all his men and all the little ones who were with him.

Blind loyalty is perhaps always wrong. Yet there is a sighted fidelity that looks almost like it, and it is a very good thing indeed. Ittai’s unexplained solidarity with a deposed Israelite monarch puts even his own men and his ‘little ones’ at risk for the sake of its beloved object. It is the glue that makes history something nobler than iron filings duly lining up around the strongest magnetic force. When circumstance stretches men’s chesed to its breaking point, some find it thicker than blood, more enduring than the tribe, more compelling than all alternatives. The biblical anthology is capable of recognizing the nobility of this sentiment, indeed of elevating it among the virtues as the achievement of men and women under stress who might have acted more pragmatically and saved themselves hardship and calamity. (more…)

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Faith that is shaped and nourished by regular contact with Scripture learns to anticipate sudden turns in circumstances. More often than not a certain merciful lurching becomes our experience as what some call Providence directs our steps in ways that contain equal parts peril and mercy. (more…)

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Rarely does an ancient document explore the nuance and pathos of human experience as probingly as the so-called ‘History of David’s Rise’. This deep current in the Deuteronomistic History gives us not only the hero-in-waiting story of David’s encounter with the Philistine miscreant Goliath but also the deeply moving parting of David and Saul’s son Jonathan. (more…)

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The seer Samuel’s proximity to YHWH’s counsel makes him the pivotal figure in the Saul narrative. His gaze penetrates the smoky gray of events, illuminating in forboding sentences the direction that YHWH would have them go.

Samuel must have made unpleasant company, not the kind for smalltalk and hors d’oeuvres. One felt his presence as an interruption. Like the prophets of which he would become a prototype, Samuel was more often than not both late and unwelcome. (more…)

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