Saturday, April 2, 2011

1 Samuel 15-18 Davey and Goliath

1 Samuel 15-18

Just for fun

The LORD commands Samuel/Saul to lay waste to the Amalaks
"lay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass."
But Saul once again proves to be a lousy king when he kills all of the humans but only most of the livestock, saving the best for an offering to the LORD. 
Samuel does have a great line here, saying "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.  Translation;  Be a good soldier and do what you're told.  Faith is better then action?
Samuel (once again) has to tell Saul he can't be king of the Israelites and sends him home to think about what he's done.  Saul of course feels horrible for not killing EVERYTHING and begs forgiveness.  It's not to come.

So now God wants Samuel to "choose" another king.  I found this amusing since God had obviously already chosen David, the youngest son of Jesse.  This is were things get very interesting and soap opera-ish!

Samuel meets with Jesse's six oldest son's but the LORD doesn't care for them.  They send for the young David and lo and behold, he's the one.  Samuel anoints him with oil and he is filled with the spirit of God, which means the spirit of God has departed from Saul, making him cranky.

Someone suggest that music will sooth him (is this where the saying 'music soothes the savage beast' comes from?) so they send for the best harp player in the land.  DAVID!  Saul loves David and asks him to stick around. David agrees.  Jonathan also loves David but that's a different story for a later time.

But, the Philistines come calling.  Their most bad-ass soldier, Goliath demands that the Israelites send out their best to face him in one on one combat.
David, who has since left Saul to feed his sheep, and who is now delivering food to his brothers, hears Goliath's taunts and decides he'll be the one to take the giant.  Laughter ensues.  

David, of course slays Goliath, cuts off his head and brings it back to Saul who doesn't seem to recognize him.  Some have pointed to this as an inconsistency in the story but  I think it's more an illustration that David has grown into his role as the future king and is ready to assume control.
The current king, Saul, is jealous and tries to bring David into the family by offering his daughters up for marriage.  Things will go down hill from there.

Another great parable.  Probably one of the best known to the common man.  How often has this story been retold in different forms?  What other civilizations have a version of this story?
The movie Achilles starts off with a David vs. Goliath moment but I don't know if that is actually in the Iliad or not.
Once again we get a humble man chosen by God and thrust into the leadership role.  Will David do better then Moses and Saul?

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  1. FINALLY! A biblical character with a name worthy of the title of King!

    Seriously though, there seems to be multiple accounts of David's discovery being woven together here. He's a simple shepherd boy discovered by YHWH, he's a talented lyre player employed in the King's service, he's the guy that defeats Goliath. Are these disparate stories being brought together by a later redactor?

    Some bible translations give the Goliath's particulars in more modern standards of measure. He was almost 10 feet tall, his armor weighed 125 lbs., his spearhead weighed 15 lbs. I'm sure these are exaggerated, but since we are dealing with the mythology surrounding my (very handsome) namesake - I'm inclined to give this author some leeway. ;)

  2. Oddly enough 1 Samuel 16:1-13 is in the Revised Common Lectionary for this Sunday. A lectionary is a cycle of readings, this particular one is a 3 year cycle of readings from the Bible used by Catholics and many mainline Protestant denominations in the US. Each Sunday 4 passages are read in church, 1 Old Testament, 1 Psalm, 1 Epistle, and 1 Gospel, and, normally, the preacher will preach on the passages.

  3. I was kind of excited in Mass today (which I attend with my Catholic boyfriend) when the reading was from this passage. And to think I almost put off catching up until today!

  4. @Bruce,

    Translation; Be a good soldier and do what you're told. Faith is better then action?

    I think it's better translated Obedience to God is better than in-action and disobedience. This touches on something i said the other day. Man fears man more than God. Saul in 15:24, said he feared the people, he had lost the respect and fear of God. I take it that in 25:17 Samuel says to Saul, while you were little in thine own sight was thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel,. I think by this time Saul had become prideful and arrogant. He was losing focus on who really was in charge. He is starting to violate Gods ways more and more it seems. Yet that could just be the way i read it.

    So now God wants Samuel to "choose" another king.
    God did choose David, however i take this as something of Samuel, you just got on Saul for not obeying me, now will you listen to what i have to say when you choose the new king? Will you listen to me in what you should look for in this king or will you rely on your own judgement?(16:17) I take it we can fall easily into the trap of pointing out the sins of others, and miss that we can fall in the same traps as well. And also to keep a repentant heart. I think of it as beware you may become that which you despise. Like some people despise their parents, believing they did a horrible job raising them. Yet they don't recognize that they are doing many of the same things. Or in traffic, someone cuts you off, so now i'm going to ride his tail. Doing something that you would not like done to you by others. From scripture it sounds like Samuel was obsessing on Saul and his behaviour, even God points it out to Samuel in 16:1. Well anyway.

    Saul who doesn't seem to recognize him.
    I think Saul recognized David, he just forgot or did not know who David's father was. Yes i know in 16:18 that one of the servants mentions Jesse, however the focus was not on Jesse, but David. And it's recorded in 16:22 that Saul sent to Jesse, yet this could have been more of Saul saying, "Send to David's father and say these things." Never knowing David's father by name. Also i think there was some time between David playing the harp for Saul, and this fight. Mentioning this fight with Goliath, do you know what was the last thing Goliath said?

    The current king, Saul, is jealous

    I think this touches on what i was saying earlier about Saul and his big head. In 18:7-8 Saul didn't like the lower number being given to him. His prideful heart was assaulted and he just would not tolerate it. So let's get David killed. Are we recognizing the downfall of Saul?

    Will David do better then Moses and Saul?

    David does not do that bad. It is said that David was a man after Gods own heart (Acts 13:22). No David was not perfect, there are things that he did that were shameful, however when the prophet of God confronts David with his sin, David confesses to it and does not come up with excuses. We will get to it. And because of David's bloody hands, God does not allow him to build the temple. Hopeful i will remember and we can talk more about that when we get to the passages.

    David was a good warrior. Wait till we read about the rest of his crew. Not the kind of guys you would want to go hand-to-hand combat with. Yet the kind of men that you would want around you.

    Also it is said that David took 5 smooth stones (17:40) because Goliath had 4 brothers. David probably was thinking that if i kill him, his brothers may come to avenge his death. One of Goliath's brothers is recorded to being killed by Elhanan (2 Samuel 21:19; 1 Chronicles 20:5)

    One answer could be: "Wow, that's the first time something like that's entered my mind!" I know cheesy joke. :-D

  5. @David,

    Are these disparate stories being brought together by a later redactor?

    No i don't think so, i think some people have more talents than others. I wish i would remember the reference, however i don't. What i vaguely remember is that some men during the founding era of the US of A had many different talents that i would think you would need to specialize in. I mean i work with some people that were soldiers in the military, they are now in computers writing software and doing high level administration, a good talent to have, and they also have some other talents.

    He was almost 10 feet tall, his armor weighed 125 lbs., his spearhead weighed 15 lbs. I'm sure these are exaggerated,

    I don't think these are exaggerations. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Some say Stephen Quayle is a authority in this area. I just have not read much about it. Just heard of stuff in different lectures and on the History/Discovery channels.

  6. Interesting how here Saul has episodes and needs David to sooth him; previously, Saul's charismatic possession was accepted as a sign of a good prophet.

    The David and Goliath story is adapted from, or very similar to, 2 Samuel 21:19, where Goliath is slain by David's men.

    2Sa 21:19 And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaareoregim, a Bethlehemite, slew [the brother of] Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear [was] like a weaver's beam.

    The parenthetical [the brother of] is an emendation concocted by the KJV translators, not attested in the Hebrew.

    Are these disparate stories being brought together by a later redactor?

    Maybe! (Or: yes.)

    In ch. 18, Jonathan and David appear to fall in love at first site. I mean, they just met! I really like how Saul approves of his son's love- he won't even let David leave!

    Oh but then he tries to kill him. Nevermind.

  7. Jonathan DOES seem to fall fast and hard for David. I mean, I have close, platonic friends whom I love very much, but it was never 'love at first sight' as is depicted here - that's romantic love in my book. Maybe that's why Saul turns against him so quickly.

    I'm sure the apologists can explain it all away - how straight guys (within 5 minutes of meeting) love each other more than themselves ALL THE TIME ..... then one of them gets naked.


  8. @David - Bluntly, it's a sad thing that you have never had a friendship like that.

    Regardless, it seems more logical to believe that they really were very good friends (knowing that such things exist, whether you've personally experienced them or not) than making them jump in bed together because of our own cultural perceptions 3,000 years after the fact. It's much more plausible that, just maybe, the text is talking about two friends. It would take a lot more (blind) faith to assume they were lovers.

    That's not really an official apology for it, because I don't think it needs one. Dudes can become very good friends very quickly, and you don't have to be a Christian to know that.

  9. @Christian

    I agree that men can become friends very quickly, but there is usually some period of time involved. Like I said, I don't necessarily remember the exact moment I met some of my (now) best friends. Some I do remember - but it wasn't a 'love at first sight' kinda moment for me. I also didn't strip naked and offer them my clothes, but, hey, customs change. This passage - as well as later passages seem to point to something more.

    I think if either David or Jonathan had been a woman, no one would think to question this story as a romantic one as it's portrayed over the next few chapters and into 2 Samuel.

    Since I'm gay - I am, admittedly, biased towards that conclusion though. Your angle might well be the correct one, but the way the story is posited makes me go 'hmmmmm'.

  10. @David,

    Hey, I'm all for putting our biases on the table! I certainly have all kinds of them. But I don't think that a bias is a bad thing per se; it just needs to be tested.

    "If either David or Jonathan had been a woman..."
    Well, of course! But, in fact, neither of them are women. If I were a woman, my wife would obviously be gay, what with our marriage, kids, etc. However, it doesn't make sense to assume that she is since, in reality, I'm a man; reading more into the situation doesn't make good sense of the facts at hand. In other words, the actual context has to guide our thinking more than a hypothetical one, right?

    As to the stripping, it seems fair (if not preferable) to understand it as a ceremonial thing - David, as the anointed king over Israel, deserves the honor and power represented by the prince's royal clothes and weaponry. As we continue to see throughout this book, Jonathan is a great foil to the pretty terrible figure of his dad.

  11. @Christian

    " In other words, the actual context has to guide our thinking more than a hypothetical one, right?"

    I agree. Like I said - you may well be right. The story still makes me go 'hmmm'. It raised an eyebrow for me on my first reading. I'd never even heard of this story before. David and Goliath - sure, but never this one. When I started googling it, I found out others that were struck with a similar response.

    " Jonathan is a great foil to the pretty terrible figure of his dad."

    I don't know - I feel sorta bad for Saul. I think the guy was bipolar or something. As we read on - he tries to kill David, then feels terrible about it, then seems to go over the edge again and tries to kill him again, then feels terrible about it again. For whatever reason, I think he had some personal demons he was dealing with. Like mental illness or alcoholism. He seems remorseful (a rarity in this book) after he's acted poorly and that makes me slightly more sympathetic to him.

  12. @Abbie,

    The parenthetical [the brother of] is an emendation concocted by the KJV translators, not attested in the Hebrew.

    You are correct there, the KJV translators added the brother of part, and they put it in italics so you would know they added it. They were making it obvious that they did add it.

    So is this the same Goliath? I think not. In 1 Chronicles 20:5 we get the history again and in this verse it gives us the name of that man that Elhanan slew, Lahmi. However something interesting is, first let me make a correction, i mentioned in an earlier comment that Goliath had 4 brothers, well i was wrong, he had 4 sons, which one of them was also his brother. Ya, you go figure that out. ;-)

    Anyway, the history recorded in 2 Samuel 21 about the giants being killed, is also recorded in 1 Chronicles 20 and they both record the sons/brother of Goliath.

    So the translators of the KJV were using their knowledge of scripture and added the "brother of" part for clarity to the reader. Also they did not hide it like many other translations when they add/subtract words, but italicized it so that the reader would know these words were not in the original. Something that the student of scripture, if so inclined, could go look up and study to understand why they added those words.

    What i see is that: 1 verse says David killed Goliath, 1 that says Elhanan killed Goliath, and another that says Elhanan killed the brother of Goliath. I take it that the absence of brother in the first account of Elhanan is clarified in the second and that i can know that David killed Goliath and Elhanan killed his brother/son.

  13. Touching on the whole Jonathan falls in love with David, i think it was more like two birds of a feather. I believe Jonathan was there during the stand-off between the Philistines and Israelites. Before this i think Jonathan knew David when he had played the harp for his father, and thought of him as a pretty boy. Then we get to this battle Jonathan with all the other men won't go out and fight Goliath, and here is pretty boy that goes out. I also think at first Jonathan doesn't believe that it is pretty boy, yet after he kills Goliath and is out chasing down the Philistines that at the end he comes to have a new found respect for David. Something like, this is one tough hombre, not the pretty boy i had thought of, some coward that won't fight.

    I just remember that Jonathan was at a time one that went up against huge odds(1 Samuel 14:1-14), and here he sees young David do the same thing. As a warrior would see this, i can suppose, he has bested their champion when others thought he was not in a position of training and stature to do such, and he even went after the rest of them with us. This is the kind of warrior i want to be around. If i had a son, i want it to be David. :-D

    Just my 2 cents.