Methods in biblical scholarship (Peter)

Ian Hutchesson mc2499 at
Thu Dec 30 17:18:24 EST 1999

Peter, Peter!

>I have reread 1 Samuel 31 and 2 Samuel 1, and I realise that it is 
>saying something rather different.
>31:4 The armour-bearer refuses to kill Saul, so Saul sticks his own 
>spear in the ground and impales himself on it.

Actually, the verse says it was here sword.

>31:5 The armour-bearer thinks Saul is dead and falls on his sword. 
>Both die. At this stage the author does not mention the Amalekite as 
>he is irrelevant.
>1:6-10 The Amalekite found Saul after he had impaled himself but not 
>yet quite dead. Presumably the armour-bearer was dead already, a sword 
>being more deadly than a spear. So the Amalekite kills Saul to put him 
>out of his misery, and walks off with his crown and armlet. David 
>believes the story as how else would the Amalekite have got the crown 
>and armlet?
>So where is the contradiction?

This is your second attempt at explaining away the conflict between the two
stories. This time it is based on the notion that not only the
armour-bearer but also the writer was mistaken in his first account. The
text reads:

4 ... So Saul took his own sword and fell upon it.
5 When his armour-bearer saw that Saul was dead...
6 So Saul... and all his men died...
7 ... Saul and his sons were dead...

Clearly both the armour-bearer and the writer, even 1Chr10, understand that
Saul was dead.

Your approach though is quite fruitful. The Amalekite instead may have been
mistaken. Seeing as the man he saw was leaning on a spear, not a sword, he
probably didn't finish off Saul at all, but someone else. Whenever anyone
has something inconvenient to say, we can simply take this approach: they
were mistaken.

Perhaps a third time you'll be lucky, or perhaps you might decide that
these are two irreconcilable accounts involving the death of Saul that,
taken together, indicate different sources.



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