Archive for the ‘1 Samuel 18’ Category

Possession, Physical Illness, Mental Illness, and Exorcism   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ Exorcising Demons

Image in the Public Domain

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The Roman Catholic Church has the proper attitude toward demonic possession.  That attitude is that demonic possession is real, but that not everything that looks like demonic possession is that.  This is why mental and psychological examinations precede exorcisms, and not every request for an exorcism results in one.  Sometimes, the problem is a matter for doctors and/or therapists, not exorcists and their assistants.  Someone may actually have a mental illness, for example.  

I have heard hints and stories of possessions.  I have heard them from people I know to be credible, lucid, grounded in reality, and not given to flights of fantastical thinking.  I am content to take their word for it when they have described what they witnessed.

I used to be in a relationship with a woman who suffered from mental illness.  I knew from my culture and education that her problems were treatable via medications.  Unfortunately, she did not always take her pills.  At the end, her figurative demons overpowered her, and she died violently.  Having been so close for a about decade to one afflicted with mental illness, I understand how someone whose education and culture do not contain the category of mental illness may misidentify it as demonic possession.

Other conditions, such as epilepsy, have allegedly been symptoms of demonic possession, in the Bible, folk belief, and historical documents.

A partial list of Biblical citations that include references to exorcism or possession follows:

  1. 1 Samuel 16:14-16; 18:10; 19:9;
  2. Tobit 6:7, 16-17; 8:3;
  3. Matthew 8:16; 10:1; 12:28
  4. Mark 1:25; 5:8; 6:7; 9:25, 38; 16:17;
  5. Acts 16:18; 19:13-14.

Sometimes I read one of these passages or another one that belongs on this list and quickly arrive at a non-demonic or non-ghostly explanation for the problem.  Someone may have been under too much stress, for example.  (In some cultures, ghostly possession is the understanding of what my culture calls too much stress.)   Or perhaps I just read a description of an epileptic seizure.  Maybe I read a description of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or multiple personalities disorder.  In Biblical times, of course, people ascribed these afflictions to possession, so the texts they wrote did, too.  

When I read such a text, I seek to understand what was really going on in that text.  I apply the cultural, medical, and psychiatric categories I have learned.  Doing so does not always yield a clear answer to my question, though.  I affirm that that the demonic exists.  I reject the label “supernatural” for it, for I reject that label, period.  That which we humans usually call “supernatural” is merely natural, but not in the same way as ponds, rocks, and kittens.  That which we mere mortals often label supernatural is part of God’s created order.  It is, therefore, natural.  That which is angelic or demonic is natural.  And I do not always know, when reading certain Biblical texts, what kind of natural phenomenon of which I read.  My categories are not those of the ancient authors of canonical books.  

However, sorting out what caused the predicament in a given Biblical story may not necessarily be the main point anyway.  If I read a story of Jesus exorcising/healing (whatever) someone, the main point may be that Christ restored him or her to health, wholeness, and his or her family and community.  Or the main point may be that the Kingdom of God was present in the activities of Jesus.  

So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 31, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FREDERICK MACKENZIE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF NYASALAND, AND MARTYR, 1862

THE FEAST OF ANTHONY BÉNÉZET, FRENCH-AMERICAN QUAKER ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF LANZA DEL VASTO, FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE ARK

THE FEAST OF MENNO SIMONS, MENNONITE LEADER

THE FEAST OF MARY EVELYN “MEV” PULEO, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PHOTOJOURNALIST AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

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King David and Mephibosheth   1 comment

Above:  Mephibosheth Kneels Before King David

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 XXXVI

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2 Samuel 21:1-14

2 Samuel 9:1-13

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David asked, “Is there anyone belonging to Saul’s family left, to whom I might show faithful love for Jonathan’s sake?”

–2 Samuel 9:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Consistent chronology is not the organizing principle in the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles.  Neither is it the organizing principle in this blogging project.  Thematic considerations override chronology sometimes.

Remnants of the House of Saul remained alive and constituted potential political threats to King David.  Mephibosheth, born Meribbaal, was a son of Jonathan.  (Recall, O reader, that “bosheth” means “shame.”)  David and Jonathan had made a pact (1 Samuel 18:3 and 23:18).  David honored that pact by keeping Mephibosheth alive, in the royal court, and at a place of honor, the king’s dining table.  Also, David could always watch Mephibosheth.

Mentions of Mephibosheth also occur in 2 Samuel 16 and 19.

Mephibosheth was not all that was left of the House of Saul.  There was Michal, of course.  And Saul had at least seven surviving sons.  Seven sons of Saul, despite being innocent of any offense other than being sons of Saul, died.  They died, Chapter 21 tells us, to satisfy Saul’s blood guilt and to end a three-year-long drought.  In an incident recorded nowhere else in the Bible, Saul had attempted the genocide of the Gibeonites.  Seven sons of Saul died horribly–via impaling–for their father’s sin.

I, citing Ezekiel 18, reject holding children accountable for the sins of their parents.

These two passages portray King David as a complicated figure.  We read of a man–a monarch–who kept faith/kindness/faithful love (hesed) with Jonathan’s son and simultaneously reined him in.  Mixed motives are old news; human nature is a constant factor.  One may also reasonable argue that David should have kept hesed with Michal and those seven unfortunate sons of Saul.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 17:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT JEANNE JUGAN, FOUNDRESS OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN LEARY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC SOCIAL ACTIVIST AND ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR AND THE MARGINALIZED

THE FEAST OF KARL OTTO EBERHARDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST, MUSIC, EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

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This is post #2300 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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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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King David’s Jealousy of David   Leave a comment

Above:  Princess Michelle Benjamin with David Shepherd, in Kings (2009)

A Screen Capture

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

PART XVII

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1 Samuel 18:6-30

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Rescue me from my enemies, O God;

protect me from those who rise up against me.

Rescue me from evildoers

and save me from those who thirst for my blood.

See how they lie in wait for my life,

how the mighty gather together against me;

not for any offense or fault of mine, O LORD.

–Psalm 59:1-3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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David had become a political threat to King Saul.  Usually, a monarch received credit for his warriors’ successes.  Yet David, not Saul, received credit for David’s successes.  The author understood divine favor to account for David’s successes.  Saul, already unhinged, became jealous.  He tried to arrange David’s death while luring the great warrior into false sense of comfort.  Saul’s plan to kill David by placing him at the head of the troops (verse 13) was like David’s plan (in 2 Samuel 11) to kill Uriah the Hittite.  Saul established a seemingly high bride price for his daughter Michal.  David paid double.

Michal loved David (verses 20 and 28).  In the Hebrew Bible, she was the only woman whom the text described as loving her man.

David, by marrying Michal, received the right of succession, behind Saul’s sons.  Again the promise passed through the younger child–in this case, Michal.

Saul’s strategy in this chapter reminds me of Don Vito Corleone’s advice in The Godfather (1972):

Keep you friends close and your enemies closer.

Even that plan failed, for, as the author wanted the audience to know, God favored David.  Saul, however, was not finished trying to kill David.  The unhinged monarch continued to attempt to terminate David with extreme prejudice in 1 Samuel 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, and 26,

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH, MOTHER OF GOD

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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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Regarding King Saul   1 comment

Above:  Saul and David, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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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 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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1 Samuel 17:57-18:16 or Jeremiah 32:36-41

Psalm 111

Romans 12:1-8

Luke 17:1-19

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The Books of Samuel, in the final form (probably edited by Ezra; this is an ancient theory with contemporary academic champions), consist of various sources.  If one knows this, one can notice many of the seams.  Inconsistencies become obvious.  For example, one may notice that King Saul knew that David was a son of Jesse in 1 Samuel 16:20 and that David played the lyre for the monarch in 16:23.  One may also notice that Saul did not recognize David in 17:33 or whose son he was in 17:56.  One may notice, furthermore, that David had to identify himself to Saul in 17:58.

I know too much to affirm spiritual inerrancy or infallibility.

I also know that King Saul was similar to many potentates in many lands and at many times.  I read in the composite text that Saul was a terrible public servant.  (So were almost all of his successors in Israel and Judah.)  Truth and justice should prosper under a good ruler.  A good ruler should try, at least.  A good ruler knows that he or she is a servant holding a temporary job.  A good ruler seeks to make responsible decisions and does not mistake events as being about himself or herself.  A good ruler thinks about the long-term common good.  Consequences of short-sighted leaders are frequently disastrous, as in Jeremiah 32:36-41.

What passes for a psychiatric or psychological diagnosis of King Saul comes from 1 Samuel 16:23–an evil spirit.  Cultural anthropology tells us that they, in modern times, can mean anything from severe stress to a mental illness.  Either way, the description of Saul is that of a man unfit to rule.  After all, those who govern are still servants.  God is really the king.

Despite all the bad press about King Saul, I feel somewhat sympathetic for him.  I read about him and remember that he never sought the job (1 Samuel 12).  I recall that Saul seems not so bad, compared to Solomon.  I think of Saul, doing his best yet failing.  I know the feeling of working hard yet failing.  I ask myself how Saul may have succeeded in life.  He seems to have needed counseling, at least.

Tragedy, in the Greek sense, has a particular definition.  A good person tries to make good decisions (most of the time, anyway) and fails spectacularly, dooming himself or herself.  The accounts of King Saul do not fit that definition exactly, but Greek tragedy does help me understand the first Israelite monarch.  I read stories while making a combination of good and bad decisions and often trying to decide wisely.  I read of a man with defective judgment.  I read of a man whose demise was not inevitable when he became the first King of Israel.

I, like David, mourn for Saul (2 Samuel 1).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC AND RELIGIOUS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS BOSA OF YORK, JOHN OF BEVERLEY, WILFRID THE YOUNGER, AND ACCA OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JAMES EDWARD WALSH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP AND POLITICAL PRISONER IN CHINA

THE FEAST OF SIMON B. PARKER, UNITED METHODIST BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY REES, WELSH ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND BISHOP OF LLANDAFF

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/29/devotion-for-proper-25-year-c-humes/

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1 Samuel and Acts, Part IX: If God is For Us…..   1 comment

malta_ast_2001210_lrg

Above:  Malta, July 29, 2001

Image Source = Jet Propulsion Laboratory

(http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=4933)

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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 18:10-30 (August 4)

1 Samuel 19:1-24 (August 5)

1 Samuel 20:1-23 (August 6)

Psalm 110 (Morning–August 4)

Psalm 62 (Morning–August 5)

Psalm 13 (Morning–August 6)

Psalms 66 and 23 (Evening–August 4)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening–August 5)

Psalms 36 and 5 (Evening–August 6)

Acts 27:27-44 (August 4)

Acts 28:1-15 (August 5)

Acts 28:16-31 (August 6)

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Some Related Posts:

1 Samuel 19-20:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/09/week-of-2-epiphany-thursday-year-2/

Acts 27-28:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/forty-ninth-day-of-easter/

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The readings from 1 Samuel and the Acts of the Apostles emphasize the positive.  Yes, Saul tries to kill David, but the younger man escapes.  David falls in love; surely that is positive.  And Paul and his fellow prisoners survive a shipwreck.  The story of Luke-Acts ends  before Paul’s beheading; he is in Rome, teaching.

The unifying element in each narrative is that God was with the heroic figure.  Yet bad things do happen to faithful people.  Accounts of Christian martyrs confirm this fact.  And August 6 is the Feast of the Transfiguration.  After the Transfiguration our Lord and Savior traveled to Jerusalem for the fateful, final Passover week of his earthly life.  But he emerged victorious on the other side, did he not?

I will not resolve the problem of why bad things happen to good people in this blog post.  But I can make one definitive statement:  It is better to suffer while on God’s side than to do so while not on God’s side.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

PROPER 23:  THE TWENTIETH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL ISAAC JOSEPH SCHERESCHEWSKY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF SHANGHAI

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/devotion-for-august-4-5-and-6-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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Friendship II: Jonathan, A Good Friend   1 comment

Above:  Saul Throws the Spear at David, by George Tinworth

Jonathan, a Good Friend

JANUARY 19, 2012

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Samuel 18:6-9; 19:1-7 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

As they were coming home, when David returned from slaying the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with timbrels, with songs of joy, and with instruments of music.  And the women sang to one another as they made merry,

Saul has slain his thousands,

and David his ten thousands.

And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him; he said,

They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?

And Saul eyed David from that day on.

…(Saul tried to kill David, who lives anyway and marries Michal, daughter of Saul.)…

And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David.  But Jonathan, Saul’s son, delighted much in David.  And Jonathan told David,

Saul my father seeks to kill you; therefore take heed to yourself in the morning, stay in a secret place and hide yourself; and I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak to my father about you; an if I learn anything I will tell you.

And Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father, and said to him,

Let not the king sin against his servant David; because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have been of good service to you; for he took his life in his hand and he slew the Philistine, and the LORD wrought a great victory for all Israel.  You saw it, and rejoiced; why then will you sin against innocent blood by killing David without cause?

And Saul listened to the voice of Jonathan; Saul swore,

As the LORD lives, he shall not be put to death.

And Jonathan called David, and Jonathan showed him all these things.  And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as before.

Psalm 56 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Have mercy on me, O God,

for my enemies are hounding me;

all day long they assault and oppress me.

2  They hound me all the day long;

truly there are many who fight against me, O Most High.

3  When I am afraid,

I will put my trust in you.

4  In God, whose word I praise,

in God I trust and will not be afraid,

for what can flesh do to me?

5  All day long they damage my cause;

their only thought is to do me evil.

6  They band together; they lie in wait;

they spy upon my footsteps;

because they seek my life.

7  Shall they escape despite their wickedness?

O God, in your anger, cast down the peoples.

8  You have noted my lamentation;

put my tears into your bottle;

are they not recorded in your book?

9  Whenever I call upon you, my enemies will be put to flight;

this I know, for God is on my side.

10  In God, the LORD, whose word I praise,

in God I trust and will not be afraid,

for what can mortals do to me?

11  I am bound by the vow I made to you, O God;

I will present to you thank-offerings;

12  For you have rescued my soul from death and my feet from stumbling,

that I may walk before God in the light of the living.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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I have been watching Bobby Fischer documentaries recently.  The brilliant chess master was not emotionally, mentally, and psychologically well for most of his life.  And his illness grew worse as he aged.

King Saul reminds of Bobby Fischer in some ways.  The Biblical authors understood the king’s mental disturbance as the result of possession by an evil spirit, but today professionals would offer a clinical diagnosis.  Nevertheless, one fact remains:  Saul had become dangerous to others, especially David.  Fortunately, David benefited (in the short term, at least) from the intercession his good friend, Jonathan, his brother-in-law and a son of Saul.

The lectionary I am following will skip to 1 Samuel 24 for tomorrow’s purposes, so I sense the imperative of explaining part of 1 Samuel 20.  Many translations of the Bible are overly polite in places.  Consider the Psalms, for example.  Whereas a literal translation of Hebrew text might be close to

Look, Yahweh!,

many translators have preferred something closer to “I beseech you, O Lord.”  Even the Hebrew texts use euphemisms for cursing, so many a modern version of the Bible does also.  Then there is The Living Bible (completed in 1971).  This is how Kenneth N. Taylor described a confrontation between Saul and Jonathan, per 1 Samuel 20:30-31:

Saul boiled with rage.  ”You son of a bitch!” he yelled at him.  ”Do you think I don’t know that you want this son of a nobody to be king in your place, shaming yourself and your mother?  As long as this fellow is alive, you’ll never be king.  Now go and get him, so I can kill him!”

A 1980s printing of The Living Bible in my library substitutes “fool” for “son of a bitch,” but Taylor captured the flavor of Saul’s outburst well the first time.

You son of a perverse and rebellious woman,

a standard English rendering, does not have the same power.

(Aside:  Pay attention.  This is probably the only time I will say or write anything nice about The Living Bible.  The best way to communicate my attitude toward that version is to tell a story.  A few years ago, in a Bible study of the Matthew Beatitudes, someone read them from The Living Bible.  The ethos of TLB, so evident in that particular text, inspired me to sing, “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony….”  I was, of course, echoing an early 1970s Christmas advertisement for Coca-Cola.)

In the short term, at least, Jonathan was able to shield David from his father’s violent rages.  Jonathan was in a difficult personal and political circumstance, but he did the right thing.  Sometimes doing the right thing is both hard and risky.  Yet mere human decency requires us to act properly.  Are you, O reader, in a difficult and risky situation with conflicting loyalties?  What does mere decency require of you?  And how much might it cost you?

Remember that what I do affects others, as does what you do.  What you do not do affects others, as does what I do not do.  Your circumstance might seem like a small and relatively insignificant one, but it might be more important than appearances indicate, for we are all connected to others.  So make the right decision and stand by it because it is the right thing to do, perhaps for more people than you can imagine.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY AND ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/09/week-of-2-epiphany-thursday-year-2/

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