This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
Millionnaire Minister says benefit cuts are good for the poor
1 Samuel 18:5-27
New English Translation (NET)
5 On every mission on which Saul sent him, David achieved success. So Saul appointed him over the men of war. This pleased not only all the army, but also Saul’s servants.
6 When the men arrived after David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women from all the cities of Israel came out singing and dancing to meet King Saul. They were happy as they played their tambourines and three-stringed instruments. 7 The women who were playing the music sang,
“Saul has struck down his thousands,
but David his tens of thousands!”
8 This made Saul very angry. The statement displeased him and he thought, “They have attributed to David tens of thousands, but to me they have attributed only thousands. What does he lack, except the kingdom?” 9 So Saul was keeping an eye on David from that day onward.
10 The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul and he prophesied within his house. Now David was playing the lyre that day. There was a spear in Saul’s hand, 11 and Saul threw the spear, thinking, “I’ll nail David to the wall!” But David escaped from him on two different occasions.
12 So Saul feared David, because the Lord was with him but had departed from Saul. 13 Saul removed David from his presence and made him a commanding officer. David led the army out to battle and back. 14 Now David achieved success in all he did, for the Lord was with him. 15 When Saul saw how very successful he was, he was afraid of him. 16 But all Israel and Judah loved David, for he was the one leading them out to battle and back.
17 Then Saul said to David, “Here’s my oldest daughter, Merab. I want to give her to you in marriage. Only be a brave warrior for me and fight the battles of the Lord.” For Saul thought, “There’s no need for me to raise my hand against him. Let it be the hand of the Philistines!”
18 David said to Saul, “Who am I? Who are my relatives or the clan of my father in Israel that I should become the king’s son-in-law?” 19 When the time came for Merab, Saul’s daughter, to be given to David, she instead was given in marriage to Adriel, who was from Meholah.
20 Now Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved David. When they told Saul about this, it pleased him. 21 Saul said, “I will give her to him so that she may become a snare to him and the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” So Saul said to David, “Today is the second time for you to become my son-in-law.”
22 Then Saul instructed his servants, “Tell David secretly, ‘The king is pleased with you, and all his servants like you. So now become the king’s son-in-law.” 23 So Saul’s servants spoke these words privately to David. David replied, “Is becoming the king’s son-in-law something insignificant to you? I’m just a poor and lightly-esteemed man!”
24 When Saul’s servants reported what David had said, 25 Saul replied, “Here is what you should say to David: ‘There is nothing that the king wants as a price for the bride except a hundred Philistine foreskins, so that he can be avenged of his enemies.’” (Now Saul was thinking that he could kill David by the hand of the Philistines.)
26 So his servants told David these things and David agreed to become the king’s son-in-law. Now the specified time had not yet expired 27 when David, along with his men, went out and struck down two hundred Philistine men. David brought their foreskins and presented all of them to the king so he could become the king’s son-in-law. Saul then gave him his daughter Michal in marriage.
We don’t need to be monarchs to recognise the truthfulness of this characterisation. Jealousy and fear can destroy our lives as well as those of powerful figures in commerce and politics. The hole I’m digging for myself can become my grave unless I learn to stop digging.
As for the 200 foreskins…. this is a folk-tale element that the author has adopted. There’s a hint of a virility test-the bridegroom’s manhood is more powerful than two hundred others; there’s an element of racial pride-one Israeli is better than two hundred Philistines who are reduced to no more than two-hundred forcibly circumcised pr**ks; and there’s an element of abomination-surely this is not what the Lord requires?
As I’ve noted before in dealing with the books of Samuel, we find here a theology that sees God’s acting in and through the often unprepossessing actions of human beings. The author tells us that God has rejected Saul but the evidence for this is Saul’s rejection of the God’s law and his plunge into evil. There is no supernatural compulsion but the presence or absence of God in a human life determines whether it shall flourish or not.