Note: these are completely unedited notes, and I give you no guarantee that they are fit for student consumption.  Ipost them on the chance that some students might find them useful in reviewing the material we discussed in class.

I/II Samuel—Discussion:

Generalization I/II Samuel tragedies: Eli, Saul, David/tragedy of nation of Israel.

Last time: looking at Saul

*What was so wrong with what Saul did?

 (7 days waiting for Samuel, army hiding and falling apart—wouldn’t you sacrifice?)

 Problem: using outward religion for secular purpose; thinking that getting outward forms right is going to lead to success.  Remember also that God is speaking through Samuel, and that, perhaps, makes a difference.  Samuel had seen sons of Eli/immorality: and yet making use of forms of priesthood.  Taking ark into battle: guarantees victory, right?  No—death of Eli, of his daughter-in-law, loss of Ark—Ichabod: glory has departed.

 And then there are Samuel’s own sons.  Saul following same path! No wonder Samuel is angry (cf. Tiresias and Oedipus/Tiresias and Creon).

 Note that Saul can’t seem to let go of this idea.  Note his fasting vow.  Good idea, right?  We fast, God will bless us!

 And then with the Amalekites.  *Why does Saul spare Agag and the oxen?  His own prestige/ also: religious forms again!  Look at the great sacrifice we make!  God will be on our side for sure!

 *What’s wrong with this policy?

 Note Saul’s excuse (16:24) “I feared the people and obeyed their voice.”  What’s wrong with that as a principle of leadership?

 Saul insists that Samuel stay and worship.  “Honor me before the people.”  And Samuel does!  Then he abandons Saul—but goes away mourning until the day of his death.  *Why?

 Now: tragedy of Saul unfolds.  Lord departs/evil spirit from the Lord troubles him.  *What’s this “evil spirit from the Lord”?

 David plays harp.  *Why does this help? David also helps Saul be defeating Goliath.  Great!  Jonathan and David are great friends.  *What should Saul’s reaction to David be?  Support him, and, eventually, step aside.  But Saul can’t.  *Why not?

 Note again chance Saul has.  Merab loves David.  And Saul starts to arrange a match.  His grandkids would be on the throne?  But he doesn’t follow through. *Why not?
 And then Michal, his other daughter, wants David.  Saul follows through this time: but then (18:28)  Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David, and that Michal Saul’s daughter loved him.  And Saul was yet more afraid of David, and Saul became David’s enemy.


 Throws javelin at his one son for siding with David!

 Kills priests for siding with David!

 Instead of fighting Philistines and Amalekites, wastes energy hunting David!

 Takes Michal from David and gives here to Phaltiel!

 Twice Saul spares David, and still he can’t quite let go…Although in the end he blesses David and realizes David will prevail (26: 25).

 But David despairs: deserts to Philistines.

 Saul left alone.  No voice of God.  Neither by umim or thumim.  Wants Samuel—turns to necromancy—which he had forbidden!  Note Samuel’s answer: why turn to me when the Lord is departed from you?  You’re doomed: and not only that, you’ve destroyed your people along with you.

 And Saul almost gets it right.  He won’t eat.  This time not doing things just for outward appearances.  Falls on his face to pray.  But he’s persuaded to get up and eat.  And once more he fights the Philistines.  Entirely under his own strength—and he loses.

 Any catharsis at all here?

Now David:

  Character of sufficient magnitude for tragedy?  *What are his strengths?

 *Tragic flaw?

The story of David at first reads much like a fairy tale.  David is a
 poor shepherd boy, youngest son of a large family.  He does many brave deeds and wins the love of a princess, Michal, daughter of King Saul.

          The king, however, is jealous of David and sets him an impossible task. You want to marry Michal?  Fine.  Bring me a hundred foreskins of the Philistines as a bride price.  David welcomes the challenge and soon produces the required foreskins.  Saul grudgingly consents to the marriage, and Michal and David live happily ever after.

                Well, not quite.  Saul, now even more jealous, tries again and again to kill David.  Michal, risking her father's displeasure and her own life, contrives to help David escape.  Then Saul does the cruelest thing he could possibly do to David.  He takes David's princess bride and gives her to someone else, Phalti the son of Laish.

                This is a crushing blow to a man's ego.  When the woman he loves ends up in bed with another man, something goes haywire in his mind, and while on the whole David is a good man, he cannot escape the consequences of this deep hurt.

                Notice that one of the first things David does while he is fleeing from Saul is to find another wife.  He chooses Abigail, a beautiful and clever woman, who should have been able to take Michal's place in David's life.  But David is clearly not content.  He soon takes another wife, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess.  Still not enough.  II Samuel 3 lists four more wives, Maacah, Haggith, Abital and Eglah.

                But are David's problems really the result of losing Michal? Absolutely.  Notice David's conduct during the civil war that followed Saul's death.  David little by little had gained the upper hand in this long war, but Saul's son Ishbosheth, backed by the very able commander Abner, was putting up a fierce and determined resistance to Davidian rule.  Finally, however, Abner had had enough of Ishbosheth and decided to make overtures to David.  David's reply to Abner's message is fascinating, "Thou shalt not see my face, except thou first bring Michal, Saul's daughter, when thou comest to see my face."  To Ishbosheth himself David is equally insistent, "Deliver me my wife Michal
which I espoused to me for a hundred foreskins of Philistines."

                There is a civil war going on.  David has a chance to end it and consolidate his rule.  But he won't even negotiate unless he gets his wife back first.  Poor diplomacy, but very much in accord with what lies deepest in a man's heart.

                David does finally get his wife back, but not to live happily ever after.  David's ego had been too badly wounded for the relationship to survive.  This is clear in the next exchange the Bible records between Michal and David.

                David has brought up the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Michal has seen him dancing joyfully at the head of the procession and for some reason finds David's display of emotion embarrassing.  She greets David with stinging words, "How glorious was the King of Israel to day who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamefully uncovers himself."  In other words, "David, you made a fool out of yourself."

                David, not surprisingly, is angry, and insists that his dancing was for the Lord.  The writer of II Samuel concludes this episode by telling us that because of this "Michal had no child unto the day of her death."

          Most infer from this that God punished her with childlessness as a result of her rebuke to her husband.  It seems to me more likely that it is really David who punished her by refusing ever to sleep with her again.  And yes, men are so touchy, and their egos are that fragile.

                But David was not finished with his cruelty to Michal.  On a later occasion, it was necessary for David to choose for execution some of Saul's descendants to settle a blood debt.  David could have chosen whomever he wanted, but five of the seven he chose were children Michal had been raising for one of her relatives.  Again, it's clear that David is going out of his way to hurt Michal.  And yes, men are so vindictive, and their egos are that fragile.

                And then there's the story everyone knows, the story of David and Bathsheba.  David, no doubt still hurting as a result of the problems with Michal, sees Bathsheba bathing.  He sends for her, gets her pregnant, tries to deceive her husband into thinking the child is his own, and then, failing in this, arranges the death of the husband.

Through all this, David doesn't even seem to realize he's doing anything wrong. Nathan the prophet drives it home.  He appears before David with a story.  There were two men, one rich, one poor.  The rich man had many flocks and herds, while the poor man had only one ewe lamb which he loved as a daughter.  A traveler arrived at the rich man's house, and since the rich man didn't want to kill any of his own animals to provide for the guest, he took the poor man's lamb and slaughtered it.

                As David heard the story, he became furious.  "The man who has done this thing ought to die!" he shouted.

                Nathan turned on him and simply said, "Thou art the man."

                Now David wakes up to the appalling thing that he has done.  Why did he do it?  It seems to me clear that the root cause is the bad bruise to his ego when he lost Michal.

 Now David differs from Saul here.  He (finally) recognizes his sin, and goes to God directly.  But can’t escape consequences!


 *A tragic figure?

Relatively minor characters, important to overall theme: