Archive for the ‘First Book of’ Tag

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.









Overconfidence and Misplaced Confidence   1 comment

Above:  Nazis and the Ark of the Covenant, in a screen capture from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)


1 Samuel 4:1c-11 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines; they encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek.  The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who slew about four thousand men on the field of battle.  And when the troops came to the camp, the elders of Israel said,

Why has the LORD put us to rout today before the Philistines?  Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD here from Shiloh, that he may come among us from the power of our enemies.

So the people sent to Shiloh, and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned upon the cherubim; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

When the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded.  And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said,

What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?

And when they learned that the ark of the LORD had come to the camp, the Philistines were afraid; for they said,

A god has come into the camp.

And they said,

Woe to us!  For nothing like this has happened before.  Woe to us!  Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods?  These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness.  Take courage, and acquit yourselves like men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; acquit yourselves like men and flight.

So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home; and there was a very great slaughter, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers.  And the ark of God was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.

Psalm 44:7-14, 23-26 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7  Surely, you gave us victory over our adversaries

and put those who hate us to shame.

8  Every day we gloried in God,

and we will praise your Name for ever.

9  Nevertheless, we have rejected and humbled us

and do not go forth with our armies.

10  You have made us fall back before our adversary,

and our enemies have plundered us.

11  You have made us like sheep to be eaten

and have scattered us among the nations.

12  You are selling your people for a trifle

and are making no profit on the sale of them.

13  You have made us the scorn of our neighbors,

a mockery and derision to those around us.

14  You have made us a byword among the nations,

a laughing-stock among the peoples.

23  Awake, O Lord!  why are you sleeping?

Arise!  do not reject us for ever.

24  Why have you hidden your face

and forgotten our affliction and oppression?

25  We sink down into the dust;

our body cleaves to the ground.

26  Rise up, and help us,

and save us, for the sake of your steadfast love.


The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.


1 Samuel 3:1b sets the stage for this day’s reading from Chapter 4.  Consider this short text:

And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

The Ark of the Covenant was powerful, mysterious, revered, and feared object.  Many Israelites believed that its presence at a battle made their army invincible, and the Philistines, who were accustomed to thinking in polytheistic terms, feared that this was true.  But the Philistines fought through their fear while the Israelites went into battle with misplaced confidence.

What happened next?

  1. The Philistines discovered the power of the ark for themselves, so they returned it.
  2. Eli died.
  3. Samuel succeeded him as priest, prophet, and judge.

That summarizes the portion of 1 Samuel we will skip over in the lectionary.

Back to the main idea now…

The narrative of much of the Old Testament, written in the historically-themed books with the benefit of hindsight, is that YHWH smiles upon worshiping him alone (not as part of a pantheon) and working for social justice, much of which is economic.  God, in the Bible, frowns upon polytheism and economic exploitation.  Consider the words of Hebrew prophets in relation to why a Hebrew nations rises or falls.  The Hebrews were supposed to be a light to the nations; they were not supposed to blend in with them.

Yet, as we read in 1 Samuel 3:1b,

And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

Many in the Confederate States of America believed honestly that God had ordained the institution of slavery.  So, they thought, those who argued from the Bible against the Peculiar Institution were heretics, and God would surely grant the Confederacy victory in the Civil War.  The Confederacy’s loss therefore left many of these partisans puzzled.  Surely, they told themselves, slavery was still ordained by God, so maybe they had carried it out in the wrong way.  They were not only overconfident; they also had misplaced confidence.

In my nation, the United States of America, income inequality has become much more pronounced in the last few decades.  Ironically, many of the most Social Darwinian defenders of those who have aided and abetted this transfer of wealth are would-be theocrats, self-appointed experts in morality.  Yes, they are quick to condemn sins of the flesh yet oblivious to the sin of economic exploitation.  These are false prophets.  When they speak, the word of the LORD is not heard in the land; their religion is one variety of what Karl Marx understood correctly as the opiate of the masses.  Yet there is a true religion, one which is a liberator, not an opiate, of the masses.  Eli, Samuel, John the Baptist, Jesus of Nazareth, Paul of Tarsus, Francis of Assisi, Menno Simons, and Walter Rauschenbusch were prophets of this religion.  May we hear, understand, and obey, for the common good.  May we neither place in confidence in the wrong places nor become complacent.  And may God save us from ourselves.





Adapted from this post:


Magnificat   1 comment

Above: The Magnificat in Latin


FIRST READING:  1 Samuel 1:19-28 (Revised English Bible):

(From the story of Hannah and Elkanah, parents of the prophet Samuel)

Next morning they were up early, after prostrating themselves before the LORD, returned to their home at Ramah.  Elkanah had intercourse with his wife, Hannah, and the LORD remembered her; she conceived, and in due time bore a son, whom she named Samuel,


she said,

I asked the LORD for him.

Elkanah with his whole household went up to make the annual sacrifice to the LORD and to keep his vow.  Hannah did not go; she said to her husband,

After the child is weaned I shall go up with him to present him before the LORD; then he is to stay there always.

Her husband Elkanah said to her,

Do what you think best; stay at home until you have weaned him.  Only, may the LORD indeed see your vow fulfilled.

So the woman stayed behind and nursed her son until she had weaned him.

When she had weaned him, she took him up with her.  She took also a bull three years old, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and she brought him, child as he was, into the house of the LORD at Shiloh.  When the bull had been slaughtered, Hannah brought the boy to Eli and said,

Sir, as sure as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD.  It was they boy that I prayed for and the LORD has granted what I asked.  Now I make him over to the LORD; for his whole life is lent to the LORD.

And they prostrated themselves there before the LORD.

RESPONSE, OPTION #1:  Canticle 9, from The Book of Common Prayer, page 86:

(Isaiah 12:2-6)

Surely, it is God who saves me;

I will trust in him and not be afraid.

For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense,

and he will be my Savior.

Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing

from the springs of salvation.

On that day you shall say,

Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name;

Make his deeds known among the peoples;

see that they remember that his Name is exalted.

Sing the praises of the Lord, for he has done great things,

and this is known in all the world.

Cry aloud, inhabitants of Zion, ring out your joy,

for the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

RESPONSE, OPTION #2:  Psalm 133 (Revised English Bible):

How good and pleasant it is

to live together as brothers in unity!

It is like fragrant oil poured on the head

and falling over the beard,

Aaron’s beard, when the oil runs down

over the collar of his vestments.

It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling

on the mountains of Zion.

There the LORD bestows his blessing,

life for evermore.

RESPONSE, OPTION #3:  Psalm 122 (Revised English Bible):

I rejoiced when they said to me,

Let us go to the house of the LORD.

Now we are standing

withing your gates, Jerusalem:

Jerusalem, a city built

compactly and solidly.

There the tribes went up, the tribes of the LORD,

to give thanks to the name of the LORD,

the duty laid on Israel.

For there the thrones of justice were set,

the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

May those who love you prosper;

peace be within your ramparts

and prosperity in your palaces.

For the sake of these my brothers and my friends,

I shall say,

Peace be within you.

For the sake of the house of the LORD our God

I shall pray for your well-being.

GOSPEL: Luke 1:46-56 (Revised English Bible):

And Mary said:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour;

for he has looked with favour on his servant,

lowly as she is.

From this day forward

all generations will count me blessed,

for the Mighty God has done great things for me.

His name is holy,

his mercy sure from generation to generation

toward those who fear him.

He has shown the might of his arm,

he has routed the proud and all their schemes;

he has brought down monarchs and their thrones,

and raised on high the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and sent the rich away empty.

He has come to the help of Israel his servant,

as he promised to our forefathers;

he has not forgotten to show mercy

to Abraham and his children’s children for ever.

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then returned home.

The Collect:

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


While typing these readings and copying and pasting the collect I have been listening to Charles Gound’s glorious St. Cecilia Mass (1855).  To read and type the text of the Magnificat while listening to the “Sanctus” from that great choral work is quite an experience, and one I recommend for anyone.  Now I am in the “Benedictus,” and think that listening to Gounod’s St. Cecilia Mass while writing devotional blog entries is the best possible way to have spent this evening.

Intertwined threads run through readings for this day.  God grants a child, a mother consecrates said offspring to the service of God, and this child grows up to serve God until the end.  Samuel became a great prophet, anointing David as King of Israel.  And we all know how Jesus turned out, do we not?

Grace is wonderful, and we are correct to thank God for it in our prayers.  We need to thank God for it with our lives, too.  Samuel was the most precious person in Hannah’s life, and she gave him to God.  I hear that parenthood is never easy, but imagine being the Mother of God.  Mary gave her best, too.  God wants the best we have to offer, not our leftovers.  So let us offer the best we have, whether tangible or intangible.

Now I am still in Heaven on Earth, for the beautiful final movement, “Domine Salvum,” is playing.  I savor this moment and thank God for the musical talents of Charles Gounod, the conductor, orchestra members, choir members, and soloists.






Adapted from this post: