Fw: Monotheism was "admittedly syncretistic...

Jonathan D. Safren yon_saf at bezeqint.net
Mon Jan 28 06:46:04 EST 2002

What you call the "ambiguous" portrayal of David begins already in 1 Samuel. Michal wants to marry David because she loves him. David wants to marry Michal because, career-wise, it's a good idea to marry into the king;s family.
Michal, out of her love for David, saves him from death by lowering him from the window of their house when the king's soldiers come to kill him, thus betraying her own father; while David, during all the time of his flight from Saul, does nothing to return Michal to him. Instead he contracts some other political alliances, with Abigail, widow of Nabal, of one of the important Judahite clans; with Ahinoam the Jezre'elite - Jezre'el in Judah - to cement relations with Judah' with a Moabite princess, to further relations with Moab.
Only after Saul's death, when David wants to undermine Benjaminite and Northern Israelite support of Ishbaall son of Saul, does he "suddenly" remember Michal and send for her as a condition of making an alliance with Abner, and in doing so, he tears her out of the arms of her loving husband Paltiel, who accompanies her crying.
Michal never forgives David, and her bitterness and rancor come out in 2 Sam. 6, when the Ark is brought to Jerusalem.
In fact, in all of Samuel, David is never described as having loved a woman, either overtly or indirectly (Bathsheba was sexual desire) only his son Absalom. 
When I teach Samuel, as I did this past semester, I demolish his graven image, using what Samuel and 1Kings 1-2 themsaelves have to say about this opportunistic usurper.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Peter Kirk" <Peter_Kirk at sil.org>
To: "Biblical Hebrew" <b-hebrew at franklin.oit.unc.edu>
Sent: Monday, January 28, 2002 1:13 AM
Subject: RE: Monotheism was: "admittedly syncretistic..

> But, Jonathan, surely by default in a narrative of this type, all the
> actions of a "good" character are assumed to be good and those of a
> "bad" one bad. The author doesn't need to say this explicitly: the
> audience will already presuppose that your namesake, the hero, did the
> right thing 1 Samuel 14 and Saul was in the wrong. From 13:14 we already
> know that Saul was the bad guy and his successor would be good. Now
> things do get more ambiguous with that successor in 2 Samuel, but when
> David sins we are told this explicitly (11:27) and the message is
> reinforced by a quoted prophecy (12:1-12). I think we should assume that
> where there is no such indication the author approves of what David did,
> even where, as in 1 Samuel 25, it offends modern sensibilities.
> But, to defend Saul for a moment, what he proposes in 1 Samuel 14 is not
> human sacrifice but a judicial death penalty following a clearly
> described court procedure, yes, MOT YAMUT (14:39), for breaking a valid
> royal decree. Indeed one could even admire Saul over many modern rulers
> for upholding the principle that his own family is not above the law,
> all who break it are subject to the same penalty.
> Peter Kirk
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Jonathan D. Safren [mailto:yon_saf at bezeqint.net]
> > Sent: 27 January 2002 20:14
> > To: Peter Kirk; Biblical Hebrew
> > Subject: Re: Monotheism was: "admittedly syncretistic..
> >
> > Since we are dealing with theoligical narrative, and not childrens'
> > adventure stories, one would expect to find the authors' opinions
> implied,
> > even if not overtly stated, in these stories. And that is indeed often
> the
> > preferred method of the biblical narrators. The reader is left to draw
> his
> > own conclusions from the protagonists' words or deeds.*
> > So one can't regard the Jephthah narrative of Judges 11 or the Battle
> of
> > Michmas narrative of 1 Samuel 14 as objective reporting. Yes, both
> > Jephthah
> > and Saul are depicted as rash; Saul the more so in comparison with his
> > brave
> > son Jonathan (ahem!) and the soon-to-be-king David.
> > That is all the more reason to place weight on the absence of
> condemnation
> > in principle of human sacrifice in both these narratives (and the
> Binding
> > of
> > Isaac), in our assessment of the attitude towards human sacrifice in
> the
> > Bible.
> > Sincerely,
> > ---
> > Jonathan D. Safren
> > Dept. of Biblical Studies
> > Beit Berl College
> >
> > * Sometimes this is more difficult, sometimes less so. Is David the
> ideal
> > king he is portrayed to be in later tradition, or is he a rat, a
> ruthless,
> > cynical Macchiavellian despot?
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