Archive for the ‘1 Samuel 13’ Category

David Spares King Saul’s Life: Two Versions   Leave a comment

Above:  Saul and David in the Cave of En-Gedi, by Willem de Poorter

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XXII

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1 Samuel 23:15-24:22

1 Samuel 26:1-25

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If the LORD had not come to my help,

I should have dwelt in the land of silence.

–Psalm 94:17, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The editing of different sources into a composite narrative created a unified story with chronological inconsistencies.  I have written of some of these contradictions in other posts in this series.  That cutting and pasting (to use an anachronism) also gave us doublets–two versions of the same story.  Careful reading of much of the Hebrew Bible has identified doublets, starting in Genesis.

The doublet on which I focus in this post pertains to David saving King Saul’s life, not taking it, while the monarch was trying to kill David.  The doublets wrap around 1 Samuel 25 in the composite narrative.

In 1 Samuel 23:15-24:22, King Saul and his forces were pursuing David and his forces.  Saul was eager to kill David.  The inhabitants of Ziph were ready to facilitate David’s death, as those of Keilah had been earlier in Chapter 23.  David spared Saul’s life and issued an order that nobody kill the monarch.  In this familiar story, David cut off a piece of Saul’s cloak, made his presence known, and spoke to Saul.  The king acknowledged that David would succeed him.

The editing of 1 Samuel 23, 24, and 26 is odd.  It seems that 26:1-25, with its reference to the Ziphites, originally flowed from the end of Chapter 23.

In 1 Samuel 26:1-25, David spared Saul’s life and forbade violence against the monarch.  However, David claimed Saul’s spear, the kingdom of his kingship.  (See 1 Samuel 13:22; 18:10; 19:9; 20:33; and 22:6.  Also see 2 Samuel 1:6.)  David also took the water jar at Saul’s head.  Saul and David also spoke, and the king admitted that David would win.

In both versions, Saul admitted to being in the wrong.  Yet he persisted in the wrong.  Saul did not repent.

I know what it is to be a wronged person.  I know the names of those who have wronged me, actively or passively.  I know their characters, objectively.  I also affirm that they are responsible before God for their characters and deeds, just as I am responsible before God for my character and deeds.  What kind of person am I?  The answer to that question is more important than the issue of what kind of people others are.  One cannot prevail against perfidy by falling into it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 21, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRUNO ZEMBOL, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC FRIAR AND MARTYR, 1942

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CAMERIUS, CISELLUS, AND LUXORIUS OF SARDINIA, MARTYRS, 303

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF EDESSA, CIRCA 304

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN OF ANTIOCH; MARTYR, CIRCA 353; AND SAINTS BONOSUS AND MAXIMIANUS THE SOLDIER, MARTYRS, 362

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David, Goliath, and Elhanan, Too   Leave a comment

Above:  David With the Head of Goliath, by Nicolas Tournier

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XVI

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1 Samuel 17:1-18:5

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I went out to meet the Philistine,

and he cursed me by his idols.

But I drew my own sword;

I beheaded him, and took away disgrace from the people of Israel.

–Psalm 151:6-7, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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One can learn much by consulting an unabridged concordance of the Bible.

2 Samuel 21:18-22, set during the reign of King David, begins:

After this, fighting broke out again with the Philistines, at Gob; that was when Sibbecai the Hushathite killed Saph, a descendant of the Raphah.  Again there was fighting with the Philistines at Gob; and Elhanan son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehmite killed Goliath the Gittite, whose spear had a shaft like a weaver’s bar.

–2 Samuel 21:18-19, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

1 Chronicles 20:15, also set during David’s reign, mentions Elhanan the Benjaminite, too.  The Chronicler altered 2 Samuel 21:19, though.

Again there was fighting with the Philistines, and Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi, the brother of Goliath the Gittite; his spear had a shaft like a weaver’s beam.

–1 Chronicles 20:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

One Elhanan son of Dodo the Bethlehemite receives a brief mention in 2 Samuel 23:24 and 1 Chronicles 11:26.  Whether Elhanan son of Jair/Jaare-oregim was Elhanan son of Dodo is uncertain.  According to Hans Wilhelm Herzberg, I and II Samuel:  A Commentary (1964), the son of Jair/Jaare-oregim being the son of Dodo is “questionable.”

According to 1 Samuel 17:7, the shaft of Goliath’s spear

was like a weaver’s bar,

just like the spear shaft in 2 Samuel 21:19 and 1 Chronicles 20:5.

If I were a Biblical literalist, the questions of who slew Goliath and who Elhanan killed would bother me.  I am not a Biblical literalist, though.  I agree with the scholarly opinion that Elhanan slew Goliath and that someone altered 1 Samuel 17 to relabel “the Philistine” occasionally as Goliath.  Besides, I know of the tendency to credit kings for the deeds of their warriors.  One may recall reading of Saul receiving credit in 1 Samuel 13:4 for what Jonathan had done in 13:3.

If I were a Biblical literalist, I would also seek to reconcile 1 Samuel 16:18-23 (in which Saul, having learned who Jesse and David were, took David into the royal court) with 1 Samuel 17, in which David had not yet entered royal service (verses 12-15) and Saul did not know who Jesse and David were (verses 55-58) until David told him in verse 58.  I would also try to reconcile 1 Samuel 16:18-23 with 1 Samuel 18:2, in which David entered royal service after slaying Goliath.

The Biblical stories one needs to read the most closely are the tales one thinks one knows.  One may not know those stories as well as one thinks.

“David and Goliath” has become shorthand for being an underdog.  That theme does exist in the story.  However, I choose to focus on another theme, that of the consequences of mocking God.  1 Samuel 17 drives home that the uncircumcised Philistines (verse 26) were mocking the “ranks of the living God.”  Some translations use “disgrace” instead of “mock.”  Everett Fox, in Volume II of The Schocken Bible, points to the Philistine champion falling face-down (verse 49) as if in a posture of worship after David found the Philistine warrior’s weak spot and killed him.  Fox also refers to another Biblical example of mocking God in the presence of Hebrew soldiers.  He mentions the Assyrian mocking of God in 2 Kings 18, during the reign of King Hezekiah.  One may remember that, in 2 Kings 19, an angel slew the Assyrian army.

Mocking God is a bad idea.  So is shutting down one’s critical faculties.  I refuse to check my brain at the threshold of a church building and at the cover of a Bible.  I also try not to mock God.

Anyway, for the rest of the story…

David went on to forge a friendship with crown prince Jonathan, win battles, and make a name for himself, according to 1 Samuel 18:1-5.  The author presented David as possessing excellent royal qualities.  David was becoming a political threat to King Saul, in that monarch’s unsettled mind.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH, MOTHER OF GOD

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David in the Court of King Saul   Leave a comment

Above: Saul and David, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XV

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1 Samuel 16:14-23

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My hands made a harp;

my fingers fashioned a lyre.

–Psalm 151:2, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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This story flows directly from 16:1-13.  Remember this detail, O reader, when we get to Chapter 17 (the familiar story of David Goliath), in which Saul supposedly met David for the first time.  The explanation for such inconsistencies in 1 Samuel is the editing of different sources into a composite narrative.  I have no idea what really happened, which version is accurate or closer to objective reality when these inconsistencies (plain when comparing texts) present themselves.  I focus, however, on spiritual lessons I can derive from the story.

Another matter I notice on this re-reading of 1 Samuel is the question of the passage of time.  In-universe, how long had Saul been the King of Israel by the time of 1 Samuel 16:14-23?  And how long had he reigned whenever (depending on the version of the rejection by God in which one chooses to place more trust–Chapter 13 or Chapter 15) God rejected him?  And how long did Saul reign after that?  Saul reigned for about two decades, study Bibles and other reference works tell me.  The Jewish Study Bible defines the reign of Saul as 1025-1005 B.C.E.  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible prefers 1020-c. 1000 B.C.E.

1 Samuel 16:14-23 flows directly from 16:1-13, which flows directly from the end of Chapter 15.  1 Samuel 16:14-23, therefore, comes from the same source as the second rejection story, the one in Chapter 15.  The Spirit of God gripped David in 16:13.  The Spirit departed from Saul in 16:14.  Saul seemed never to be comfortable as the King of Israel.  He became unhinged after 16:14.  Saul, aware of who David and Jesse were, made David a royal arms-bearer.  David’s main reason for being in the court was to make Saul feel better with music.  Saul, unaware of Samuel’s secret anointing of David, welcomed the former shepherd’s presence.

I wonder how we, using modern psychiatric and psychological categories, would define King Saul’s mental state after 16:14.  We have categories of which ancients knew nothing, after all.  The description in the text depends upon the traditional, spirit-based belief.  (Spirits are real, I affirm, but so are organic, genetic, and psychological causes.)  Keep in mind, O reader, that, according to the Bible, demonic possession causes epilepsy and mental illnesses.  Also consider that future generations may have different categories than we do.  I believe that Saul suffered from excessive stress, at least.  I also accept that he may have had some form of mental illness.  I suppose that, if Saul were alive today, a doctor would prescribe medication and a long vacation.  I also guess that Saul, if alive today, would undergo therapy.  These are only guesses.  I, as a student of history, know that reading the minds of dead people is difficult and frequently impossible.

Speculation about modern labels and the applicability to the mental state of the first King of Israel in interesting.  It is not, however, the territory into which the author of 1 Samuel 16:14-23 went.  No, the author’s point was that God had rejected Saul (who was suffering the consequences) and chosen David instead.  David was ascendant.  Saul was on the decline.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH, MOTHER OF GOD

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Posted August 15, 2020 by neatnik2009 in 1 Samuel 13, 1 Samuel 15, 1 Samuel 16, 1 Samuel 17, Psalm 151

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The War Against the Philistines Continues   Leave a comment

Above: King Saul

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XIII

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1 Samuel 13:15b-14:52

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Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered;

let those who hate him flee before him.

–Psalm 68:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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This story presents Saul negatively.

  1. Jonathan was a superior strategist.
  2. Saul was impulsive.  Jonathan understood the element of surprise.
  3. Jonathan, unlike his father, understood that an army marches on its stomach, to steal a line from Napoleon Bonaparte.
  4. Saul, not considering that he had not acted to inform Jonathan of the ban on eating honey, was willing to execute his son for unknowingly violating the order.
  5. Ironically, the crown prince (who had started the war in 13:3) was better at fulfilling one reason many people requested a king (1 Samuel 8) than his father was.

The story presents King Saul as a man who did not grow into his job.  The past is replete with people who have had power thrust upon them.  Historical records indicate that some of these individuals grew into their offices and performed their duties well.  Historical records also indicate that many others did not rise to the occasion and the office.

King Saul comes across as one in over his head.  He comes across as one who would have been happy remaining a farmer who occasionally chased runaway donkeys.

Jonathan comes across as one who knew Saul better than Saul.  His criticism of his father (14:29) follows one version of God’s rejection of Saul (13:8-15a).  Father-son tensions are on display in this story.  The story, in which the army overrules the monarch (14:44-45), reveals that Jonathan, in one way, had an advantage over his father.

But wait, was not Saul the chosen of God (Chapter 10) until he was not (13:8-15a and 15:1-35)?  The editing of different sources into a composite narrative complicated interpretation.  Furthemore, the interpretive lens of this material was pre-Davidic Dynastic.  Nevertheless, Saul may have been subpar.  (I have no good reason to reject that conclusion.)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH, MOTHER OF GOD

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God Rejects Saul: Two Versions   Leave a comment

Above: Saul Rejected as King

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XII

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1 Samuel 13:1-15a

1 Samuel 15:1-35

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[Samuel said,] “After that, you are to go down to Gilgal ahead of me, and I will come down to you to present burnt offerings and offer sacrifices of well-being.  Wait seven days until I come to you and instruct you what you are to do next.

–1 Samuel 10:8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The editing of different sources into a composite narrative created doublets–two versions of the same story–throughout parts of the Old Testament.  Therefore, in the composite narrative, God rejected Saul in Chapters 13 and 15–in chapter 15 as if the account from Chapter 13 had not occurred.

I will write about each version in turn.

1 Samuel 13:1-15a

Samuel the prophet was under the impression that Saul, as the King of Israel, was his subordinate.  Saul initially tried to obey the prophet’s instructions from 10:8, but Samuel was late.  The monarch cited military necessity to act in Samuel’s stead.  Samuel was not happy.

Saul was in this difficult, wartime situation because his son, Jonathan, had killed the Philistine prefect in Geba.  The crown prince apparently thought that God would grant great victory.  Saul, however, feared the superior Philistine forces.  The king may have been correct to fear them.  Anyway, he received credit for Jonathan’s deed and proceeded to lead the military campaign.

What else was Saul supposed to do at Gilgal?  He faced a superior force that had more men and better technology.  His army was about to desert.  So, he made the sacrifice.  Samuel deemed the monarch acting in the stead of the prophet improper.  Yet the army not only continued to exist but grew.

1 Samuel 13:8-15a offers the improper sacrifice version of God’s rejection of Saul.  The implication in the text is that Saul, perhaps still a reluctant monarch, lacked faith in God.

1 Samuel 15:1-35

The Amalekites were archenemies of the Jews.  They had attacked the Hebrews in Exodus 17:8-16 and Deuteronomy 25:17-18.   Saul, according to 1 Samuel 15, under a divine directive to

kill alike men and women, infants and sucklings, oxen and sheep, camels and asses,

to spare nobody, led an assault against the Amalekites.  The Israelite army did not, however, follow orders.  They spared the life of the Amalekite king (Agag), much livestock, and

all else that was of value.

Saul, complicit in this disobedience, blamed his soldiers.  The monarch refused to accept personal responsibility for his decision.  The spoils of war were supposed to be God alone.

I cannot reconcile that attitude with Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

 

Neither can I reconcile the two stories from different sources either.

There is a common theme, though.  Disobedience to God leads to dire consequences.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH, MOTHER OF GOD

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God Concepts and Violence   1 comment

Saul Consulting the Spirit of Samuel

Above:   Saul Consults the Spirit of Samuel

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you,

without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy.

Embrace us with your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide,

we may live through what is temporary without losing what is eternal,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 28:3-19 (Thursday)

2 Samuel 21:1-14 (Friday)

Psalm 98 (Both Days)

Romans 1:18-25 (Thursday)

2 Thessalonians 1:3-12 (Friday)

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In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

–Psalm 98:10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Judgment and mercy exist in balance (as a whole) in the Bible, but God seems bloodthirsty in 1 Samuel 15 and 28 and in 2 Samuel 21.

The divine rejection of Saul, first King of Israel, was due either to an improper sacrifice (1 Samuel 13:8-14) or his failure to kill all Amelikites (1 Samuel 15:2f), depending upon the source one prefers when reading 1-2 Samuel (originally one composite book copied and pasted from various documents and spread across two scrolls).  1 Samuel 28 favors the second story.  In 2 Samuel 21, as we read, David, as monarch, ended a three-year-long drought by appeasing God.  All the king had to do was hand seven members of the House of Saul over to Gibeonites, who “dismembered them before the LORD” on a mountain.

The readings from the New Testament are not peace and love either, but at least they are not bloody.  Their emphasis is on punishment in the afterlife.  In the full context of scripture the sense is that there will be justice–not revenge–in the afterlife.  Justice, for many, also includes mercy.  Furthermore, may we not ignore or forget the image of the Holy Spirit as our defense attorney in John 14:16.

I know an Episcopal priest who, when he encounters someone who professes not to believe in God, asks that person to describe the God in whom he or she does not believe.  Invariably the atheist describes a deity in whom the priest does not believe either.  I do not believe in the God of 1 Samuel 15 and 28 and 2 Samuel 21 in so far as I do not understand God in that way and trust in such a violent deity.  No, I believe–trust–in God as revealed in Jesus of Nazareth, who would not have ordered any genocide or handed anyone over for death and dismemberment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANKLIN CLARK FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA AND THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANCON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-28-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Excuses   1 comment

Saul Rejected as King

Above:  Saul Rejected as King

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful redeemer,

for the countless blessings and benefits you give.

May we know you more clearly,

love you more dearly,

and follow you more nearly,

day by day praising you, with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 9:27-10:8 (Monday)

1 Samuel 15:10-31 (Tuesday)

Psalm 86 (Both Days)

2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 (Monday)

Acts 5:1-11 (Tuesday)

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Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth;

knit my heart to you that I may fear your name.

–Psalm 86:11, Common Worship (2000)

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The assigned readings for these two days pertain to the theme of commitment to God.

The lessons from 1 Samuel tell us of King Saul of Israel.  We read first of God choosing him and Samuel anointing him.  In Chapter 15 we find one account of God and Samuel rejecting the monarch for violating the rules of holy war.   Saul’s army did not kill enough people and destroy enough property, apparently.  (1 Samuel 15 does not reflect my understanding of God.)  Two facts attract my attention:

  1. Saul simultaneously seeks forgiveness and shifts the blame.
  2.  1 Samuel 13 contains a different account of God and Samuel rejecting Saul.  There the monarch’s offense is to usurp the priest’s duty.  Making an offering to God properly was a major issue in the Old Testament, for some people died because they made offerings improperly.

When we turn to the New Testament readings we find fatal lack of commitment in Acts 5 and a stern Pauline warning regarding human relationships in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1.  The unified message of the pericopes is to commit to God–not to be content with half measures.  We should, I propose, feel free to ask questions about people dying because of deception in Acts 5 and why Saul’s offense in 1 Samuel 15 was such a bad thing to have done, for asking intelligent questions is not a faithless act.  Nevertheless, I recall the words of Jesus to a man who used an excuse to refuse our Lord and Savior’s call to discipleship.  Christ said:

Once the hand is laid on the plow, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.

–Luke 9:62, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

At that point in the Lukan narrative Jesus was en route to Jerusalem for the climactic week of Passover.  He was neither offering nor accepting excuses.  Who dares offer one?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD WATSON GILDER, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF HENRY FRANCIS LYTE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LEO TOLSTOY, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MECHTILD OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/20/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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1 Samuel and Acts, Part VI: Rejection and Violence   1 comment

antonius-felix

Above:  Antonius Felix

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 13:1-18 (July 28)

1 Samuel 14:47-15:9 (July 29)

1 Samuel 15:10-35 (July 30)

Psalm 67 (Morning–July 28)

Psalm 51 (Morning–July 29)

Psalm 54 (Morning–July 30)

Psalms 46 and 93 (Evening–July 28)

Psalms 85 and 47 (Evening–July 29)

Psalms 28 and 99 (Evening–July 30)

Acts 23:12-35 (July 28)

Acts 24:1-23 (July 29)

Acts 24:24-25:12 (July 30)

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A Related Post:

1 Samuel 13-15:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/week-of-2-epiphany-monday-year-2/

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In 1 Samuel we read two accounts of how Samuel and Saul fell out with each other. (These things happen in parts of the Hebrew Scriptures due to the editing together of different sources.)  The first story tells of Saul making an offering Samuel should have performed.  The other version entails Samuel and his soldiers not killing enough people and livestock.  How making an offering or not killing more people and livestock is supposed to offend God eludes me beyond a purely historical-literary critical level of understanding texts and traditions, for I am a liberal Christian and a generally peaceful person.  Violence offends me and ritual sacrifices are foreign to me.

But the rejection of Saul by God occupies the readings from 1 Samuel.  The story of Saul, which ended badly, began with Samuel warning the people that they really did not want a monarch.  Saul’s reign seems to have proven Samuel’s case.  And the reigns of subsequent kings did likewise.

Rejection and violence also figure prominently in the Acts lessons.  Paul evaded plots on his life yet remained in custody for two years.  His offense was, asThe New Jerusalem Bible translates part of 24:5, being

a perfect pest.

That did not justify such extreme measures, though.

Rejection and violence unify the sets of readings.  The God of these lessons is, in the words of Psalm 99:4 (The New Jerusalem Bible), one who

loves justice

and has

established honesty, justice and uprightness.

I recognize that description in Acts 23-25 but not in 1 Samuel 13-15.  That does not indicate a fault within me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF ASIA

THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, NORTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1972 

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/devotion-for-july-28-29-and-30-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Kings (2009)   4 comments

Above:  The Royal Family of Gilboa with Captain David Shepherd

Image Source = NBC

KINGS (2009)

Starring

The Royal Family and Close Relations:

Ian McShane as King Silas Benjamin

Susanna Thompson as Queen Rose Cross Benjamin

Allison Miller as Princess Michelle Benjamin

Sebastian Stan as Prince Jonathan “Jack” Benjamin

Dylan Baker as William Cross

Macaulay Culkin as Andrew Cross

Sarita Choudhury as Helen Pardis

Other Principal Characters:

Chris Egan as Captain David Shepherd

Becky Ann Baker as Jessie Shepherd

Eamonn Walker as Reverend Ephram Samuels

Wes Studi as General Linus Abner

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The Bible is full of excellent stories ripe for modern adaptations, not just costume dramas.  The former is frequently the best way to go, I am convinced, for such an approach makes the story in question fresher than it would be otherwise.  Consider, for example the power of Clarence Jordan’s Cotton Patch versions of New Testament books, including Gospels. Transplanting the world of first century CE Roman-occupied Palestine to the U.S. South of the twentieth century works well.

To that column we can add Kings (2009), a short-lived (a two-hour pilot plus eleven other episodes) series from NBC.  The writers and producers rearranged elements from 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel (mostly from the former) and set the series in the Kingdom of Gilboa, based on the Kingdom of Israel yet resembling the United States of America.  Gilboa, in its current form, is a new nation, just three decades old.  Its new capital city, a gleaming metropolis complete with skyscrapers, is the rebuilt Shiloh, which resembles a CGI-altered New York City.  (The series did film in the Big Apple.)  Silas Benjamin, once a general, united three kingdoms–Gilboa, Carmel, and Selah–via war.  He is now the absolute monarch.  Yet he is not all powerful.  His brother-in-law, industrialist William Cross, is a leader in the military-industrial complex and an ardent opponent for peace with the neighboring Republic of Gath.  Peace is bad for business.  Yes, this is the story of Saul and David updated and told with allusions to the Second Iraq War.  There are even allusions to the Israel-Palestine conflict, for a land-for-peace deal is a plot element throughout the series’ brief run.

In the pilot episode, Goliath, we meet David Shepherd, a farm boy whose father died in the Unification War.  David is in military uniform during a follow-up border war with Gath when he rescues the captured Prince Jonathan “Jack” Benjamin from the forces of Gath and destroys a Gath tank, a Goliath, with a well-thrown wrench.  This is a retelling of sorts of 1 Samuel 17.  David, now a national hero, goes to Shiloh and becomes an unwilling pawn in the hands of King Silas, whose glory, he is stealing.  And David falls in love with Princess Michelle (1 Samuel 18:17-30) and even plays the piano.  (The biblical David played the lyre in 1 Samuel 16:14-23.)  The troubled Silas-David relationship in the series ends with David having to flee to Gath (1 Samuel 27:1-28:2) for fear of his life.  The story would have continued had the network not cancelled the series.  (The ratings were low.)

Other interesting parallels occur in the series.  Silas makes an unlawful sacrifice, as in 1 Samuel 13:1-22, but in the show the sacrifice is allowing soldiers to die needlessly.  So the Reverend Ephram Samuels, who helped Silas forge the united Gilboa and install him in power, relates God’s rejection of the monarch.  And Silas has a mistress, Helen Pardis, as Saul had a concubine, Rizpah (2 Samuel 3:7).  Instead of the spirit of Samuel (1 Samuel 28:3-25) Silas consults the deposed King of Carmel, officially dead yet imprisoned at a location code-named Gehenna.  Furthermore, the head of the military is General Linus Abner, a warmonger who betrays Silas and dies by the monarch’s hand.  (Joab killed Abner in 2 Samuel 3:22-39).

There is a Jonathan analog, but Prince Jack in the series is more like Absalom than the biblical Jonathan in some ways.  This Jonathan, like his biblical counterpart, has a troubled relationship with his father.  In the series he resents his father, who dislikes the fact that the crown prince is a homosexual.  That would be acceptable in a second son, Silas says, but those who would have power must surrender what they want.  And Jack is not willing to do that.  The Prince Jack of the series is also a sulking, back-stabbing character who is willing to kill innocents and to frame David for treason–until he is not.  But the guiding rule for Prince Jack is his perceived best interest.

I encourage you, O reader, to find the series and watch it legally.  So I will not reveal all the plot lines.  I also urge you to think deeply about the moral implications of decisions the characters make.  The characters in Kings are flawed; David Shepherd is especially flawed while being very heroic.  These characters make bad decisions.  Sometimes they reap the consequences of these decisions; on other occasions other people do.  But God still acts through many of these same characters.

King Silas, in the pilot episode, tells Reverend Samuels, who has just announced God’s rejection of the monarch,

To hell with God.

In the last episode Silas informs the ghost of Samuels (Silas does not know that he is speaking to the Reverend’s spirit) that he (Silas) and God are at war.  Silas, the rejected chosen one of God, has embraced his rebellion against God.  He does not even labor under the illusion of being on God’s side.  And, with actor Ian McShane playing the part, the scenes are a pleasure to watch.  Yet that pleasure comes mixed with the knowledge that the monarch’s fate did not have to come down to this.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 17, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PASCHAL BAYLON, FRANCISCAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROSWELL DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ALBANY

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HOBART HARE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF SOUTH DAKOTA

THE FEAST OF WIREMU TE TAURI, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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