Archive for the ‘1 Samuel’ Category

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


Above:  Malta, July 29, 2001

Image Source = Jet Propulsion Laboratory



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


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)


Some Related Posts:

1 Samuel 19-20:

Acts 27-28:


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.







Adapted from this post:


Kings (2009)   4 comments

Above:  The Royal Family of Gilboa with Captain David Shepherd

Image Source = NBC

KINGS (2009)


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


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.









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


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.


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.


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.


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.





Adapted from this post: