Monday, 4 June 2007

Samuel and Saul, Pt.1

If anyone ever got a rough deal in the Bible it was Saul.

You know the story. Saul is a young, tall dude from the tribe of Benjamin who sets off after some missing asses and has the misfortune to catch the jaundiced but roving eye of the prophet Samuel. Before he knows it, Samuel has him oiled up as king (1 Sam. 10:1). But Saul has a self esteem problem, clearly not your typical despot, and he hides! Too bad he didn't flee to Egypt, he'd have avoided a lot of strife.

Samuel was the Roderick C. Meredith of his age: he just didn't know when to retire. After crowning Saul he didn't go off on an extended vacation and let the young king settle in. Samuel had his hands locked on the steering wheel of state, and he wasn't about to let go.

Which brings us to 1 Samuel 13. The prophet has told Saul to gather his army and wait seven days, then the Presiding Evangelist will make a grand entrance, perform a sacrifice, and the Israelites will have a glorious victory at the expense of their enemies.

Time passes, seven days in fact. No sign of Samuel. The troops are starting to slip away. They know that you can't possibly go into battle without an auspicious sacrifice: no Samuel, no sacrifice, no victory. What's worse, the enemy has already gathered and they're ready to rumble. Saul is beside himself, what can he do?

Well obviously, he's the king, so he does what David will later do (2 Sam. 6:17), he gathers up the sacred steak knives and performs the sacrifice himself.

Uh oh, here comes Samuel, and he's definitely looking unhappy.

So now the tantrum. Why didn't you (Saul) obey the Eternal's commandment?

Why? Well actually I did. I waited seven days just like you asked bub, but you dragged your feet while the army started to desert. What would you have liked me to have done? And anyway, who says it was the Eternal's command? You gave me the instruction - you never said nuthin' about Yahweh back in chapter 10 verse 8.
Of course, that's not how Saul actually responds. He's too nice a guy, overawed by the haggard old seer and, frankly, not given to the level of smooth deceit or guile that his usurper, David, will be able to drool off at the drop of a tin dagger. Saul is no politician.

And this is the beginning of the end for Saul. He's rejected. Tough break. It doesn't seem to occur to him that Samuel might need to meet with a little accident (big funeral, nice tribute, problem solved.) Duplicity isn't in his nature.

Hey wait, you say, what about chapter 15?

That's the focus of Part 2.


Douglas Becker said...

No one should complain. After all, Samuel warned the people what would happen when they demanded a King.

What's missing here is a mystery: The reason that the people wanted a king in the first place was because Samuel was old and his sons were just TERRIBLE! I mean they were like GTA!

The mystery is that Samuel replaced the previous religious leader because he didn't do anything about his sons. It is difficult to understand the obvious cognitive dissonance here, and the abject inequity in justice.

But the people got what they wanted, which is why we should always "be careful what you wish for, because you might get it".

Not to put too fine a point on it, if not David, Saul's successor in the kingdom, weren't bad for the people, certainly David's progeny several generations down were just as bad or worse than, say, Jonathan's would have been.

But then we know of a certainty that the children must pay for the sins of their fathers in their innocence. In the case of Saul, the mental illness of depression took hold and there weren't any medical mental health professionals back in that day -- so the whole family had to be wiped.

One wonders what the rank and file Israelite at the time was supposed to learn from such events?

No wait.

The average person, not part of the power structure at the highest stratification of that society, actually mattered not one whit -- only the royals and their companions mattered, not unlike religions of today.

Douglas Becker said...

The prescient God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob knew in advance that Saul would fail to live up to His expectations. Saul was just a patsy, sacrificed to teach the people a lesson:

Never, ever, question Authority or you will be sorry, no matter how bad or wrong the Authority may be.

The same reasoning applies today in the church of gods and is fully embodied in The Calendar Controversy: We do it because Authority says to do it, never mind that the Authority is totally wrong.

Corky said...

It's all really very telling. Samuel picked a man he figured he could control so that he would still be the man in charge.

Surely Sammy knew from Deut. 17 that they would want a king, so it should have been expected and Sammy and YHVH shouldn't have had such a hissy fit about it.

Ole Sammy thought, "okay you want a king - I'll give you a 'king', one you can (cough cough) really be proud of."

So ole Sammy goes off and pretends to talk to God about it and sure enough, God appointed just the man Sam was looking for, a mental retard - with "problems".

Sammy made a mistake though, ole Saul had unforeseen "problems" that turned out to be really for real problems for Sammy. You see, ole Saul was a homocidal maniac with paranoia.

wolf_track said...

Gavin, like a good lawyer for the defense, presented this issue from Saul's perspective. After some cross examination, we might well arrive at a different conclusion.

But that aside, I believe that there is an undeniable clash between church and state here. And this lesson of history seems to have been lost on the evangelical community.

Evangelicals are actively trying to bring about a theocracy in the United States. Not just any theocracy but a conservative, rapture-oriented, evangelical theocracy. In their zeal for this, they have played into the hands of the neo-conservatives in the Republican Party. These neo-cons publicly adulate the Christian right and privately roll their eyes.

In a sense, George W has committed the sin of Saul. He has used the spiritual power of the church as just another political expediency. But the evangelicals, unlike Samuel, have invited him not only into the vestibule but the sanctuary itself. This is why I believe that evangelicals are neo-cons first and Christians somewhere down the line, if at all.

One does find these kind of people in Armstrongite organizations. One of the officials in the UCG was led to Armstrongism long ago by an article entitled "Who would Jeusus vote for" or something like that. He knew for sure that the answer was Goldwater and so sent for the article and got hooked.

The wholesale attempt of the evangelical community to usurp the US government under the banner of some thorny social issues like abortion, is to me appalling. After the lesson of the separation of church and state was learned painfully long ago, we have it once again knocking on our door with a grin and a tract. It is just as alarming as the resurgence of Naziism would be in Germany.

BambooBends said...

But why didn't Saul just use the "David Defense"? After all, great men of God were always men of passion! And as King of Israel and Pastor General of the Army, he can change the rules right?

Anyway, Samuel was late from airport customs because of that confusion over a little Lebanese herb...and those gold watches meant for the members of the Japanese Shogunate.

Er....David wasn't king yet was he?
So the David defense is not yet in force in God's plan of salvation? Now I understand! Saul was guilty of Diabolical Mimicry!

The Skeptic said...

Keep in mind that these stories were written by bronze age men, which is one step removed from the stone age. Hence the primitive conceptions of right and wrong.

How ironic that modern-day "preachers" try to teach lessons from such stories.

BambooBends said...

The Skeptic said...

Keep in mind that these stories were written by bronze age men, which is one step removed from the stone age. Hence the primitive conceptions of right and wrong.

How ironic that modern-day "preachers" try to teach lessons from such stories.

They were also written by the preachers (or their scribes), its not exactly like we have Saul's side of the story is it?

Saul should have known Sammuel would put that incident on his permanent record. You can take Saul out of the country, but you can't take the country out of Saul.

Jim Butler said...

So when can we expect the book, Gavin? Better yet, the movie? You could call it, History of the World II, starring Mel Brooks and Dom DeLuise.

I concluded, a long time ago, that we (none of us) cannot really understand why God does the things he does; or tells people to do certain things.

The Old Covenant is filled with stories like this. I think the book of Job makes the point best. Problem is most don't even get the main point of Job. They think it is mainly about the self-righteousness of good-old Job. It is not. Although it is related to the self-righteousness we all have.

I call it the God-complex we all have. We think we are God. We know best. We actually know better than God. This complex tends to be exaggerated with leaders. (actually "tends" is a kind word)

This point will be made, in spades,
during the Tribulation. God knew we would have this God-complex. Remember Adam and Eve?

The first point we need to understand. (and we still haven't gotten it yet----that includes the Church of God) is that God is smarter than we are. Much smarter. There is no comparison. None.

From time to time I will utter one of my favorite little sayings. It fits here.

Even if God created us morally perfect (which he did not obviously)-----life would still not work.

We are too stupid.


Charlie said...


Not sure if I understand you correctly...God did not create us morally perfect, so we are set up to fail from the word go, yet we are held eternally responsible for this flaw in our creation.

Am I interpreting your post correctly?

Corky said...

Jim Butler said...
"Even if God created us morally perfect (which he did not obviously)-----life would still not work.

We are too stupid."

Is life not working? "We are too stupid" as compared to what? Bronze age writings of barbaric men? The God of Job?

The same God who thinks the earth has foundations that were laid out by a plumb line and fastened to cornerstones (Job 38:4-6)?

The same God who thinks that light and darkness have houses that they dwell in (38:19-20)?

Job 38:18 Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? declare if thou knowest it all.

Job obviously didn't know the breadth of the earth but we do and we also know that the sky is not a glass dome.

Job 37:18 Hast thou with him spread out the sky, which is strong, and as a molten looking glass?

But, we are stupid because we have never found out where the sky is fastened to the edges of the earth.

Jim Butler said...


It would take a while to explain fully but I will attempt to briefly make my point.

I believe God created us to need his spirit. For many reasons, most of which are fully known only to him, he did not give us his spirit at creation, and most down through history have not had his spirit.

Without God's spirit we are very carnal; selfish, etc. Even with it (his spirit) we tend to be that way because our carnality does not go away.

God wants mankind to learn one big lesson before he begins to give his spirit to everyone. That one lesson is we (mankind) cannot live at peace with each other of our own power. We need his spirit to change our nature first,

I think there are deep reasons why he did it this way, and I don't claim to understand all these reasons. Actually, I don't think I understand his thinking on this well at all. His thinking is way beyond mine. No comparison.

Once mankind really gets this one lesson then he will move into the next stage of his plan. That is, giving his spirit to all, making it very clear what life is about and how to live it, and all that good stuff.(grin)

God is much more fair than we could ever begin to imagine.

Hope that makes it a little clearer.


Corky said...

Probably the hardest thing a person can try to do is to learn something about an entity that doesn't exist.

Where would one start? We could write about this entity and think of ways that this entity is so far above us that we can't possibly understand it and work our way into it's attributes. Then we could imagine that it thinks and is way smarter than we are.

Along with that we could surmise that it was also, then, more just and loving than we are etc. etc.

However, we still would be left with asking "what is it?" and since it is unknown we couldn't answer the question. We could call it "god" but "what is god?" would be the next question and still no answer.

The answer, of course, is in the first sentence.