A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible

A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible
Hunc tu caveto.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Samuel Shows Off (1 Samuel, Chapter 12)

Samuel, the guy who with the help of Yahweh crowned the Israelites' first king, goes out to the people and tells them what's up.

"I heard your voice and have made a king for you.  He walks among you today.  Tell me, is there any among you who can say I stole from them, lied to them, or received a bribe?  Anyone?," taunted Sam. (12:1)

Of course, I think that if this story is true there was probably quite a bit of deception going on, as this is basically Samuel playing politics.  He's going to make an argument saying that God (Yahweh) is on his side.  This is where religion meets politics. 

The Israelites, the Bronze Age superstitious tribesmen that they were, had no reason to think that Samuel was lying, so they reply, "No, you haven't lied to us or deceived us!"

I like to imagine Samuel doing flourishes with his hands, like a televangelist, when he recounts how Yahweh led their people out of Egypt, and the early history of the Israelites, with their various eras of slavery and liberation, and all the times that Yahweh killed even them when they chose not to believe.

He's essentially saying that Yahweh brought them to where they are today.

"Behold the king you have chosen, and whom you have desired!  Behold, God has given you a king!" exclaimed Samuel!" exclaimed Samuel, probably to the roar of a crowd.

"If you obey His (Yahweh's) commandments, then you and the king's reign shall continue.  But, if you don't ... you know what happens, and what has happened in the past!" (12:5-15)

Of course, it doesn't say it, and I'm not sure how historical this story is, but if it is indeed a historical account and some scribe was writing down everything Samuel was saying, this next part is pretty cool.

Storm clouds were probably coming their way, and any good shaman could use it as a way to emphasize their message.  "Now see this - today is harvest day, is it not?  I will call upon God, and He will send thunder and rain, so that you will see that by asking for a king, you've actually done a wicked thing."  (12:16)

Samuel "called" upon Yahweh and sure enough, thunder and rain happened; and the people were scared of both Yahweh and Samuel.

"Follow Yahweh, your God, and live; but if you should falter in your faith, both you AND your king will be consumed," concluded Samuel. (12:19-24)

These quotes attributed to Samuel aren't verbatim of course, I'm reading a King James version, but this is basically what is being said.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Slaughter of the Ammonites (1 Samuel, Chapter 11)

David Punishing the Ammonites. By Gustave Dore, created in the 1800s

Strange things start brewing when an Ammonite named Nahash meets up with the elders of Judah.  The elders offer a peace treaty and an alliance (i.e. a covenant), and Nahash essentially says, "We can have peace if you allow me to pluck out each of your right eyes."

The elders are taken aback, and said, "Hm, give us seven days.  If no one wants to save us, then we'll come to you."

The elders go back to the city and tell the inhabitants of their plight, to which they all cry.

The elders then run to King Saul, who gets angry (actually, God gets angry and that's why Saul gets angry) and thus Saul's first task as king will be dealing with the Ammonites.

Saul basically rounded up 30,000 Israelites from Judah and then laid waste to 300,000 Ammonites, "slaying the Ammonites until the heat of the day."  The Ammonites survivors were so few and scattered about that no two were left together.

Afterward, Saul enters Israel (where the Ammonites were), and renews the kingdom in Gilgal.  A celebration of the new king of Israel then ensued, with God knows how many sacrifices, and all the men had fun.  Presumably, the women had to clean up after them.  Wow, not much changed after so many thousands of years!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Coronotion of Saul (1 Samuel, Chapter 10)

Saul preaching at Ramah.    Credit: By David Martin (1639-1721).This painting is more than 100 years old.

The most interesting thing about reading the Bible is marveling how simple its authors are.  We really get a feel for what impresses them.  We come across obvious errors in the text, which are irreconcilable to the dogma that the Bible is "inerrant".

Chapter 10 is basically about Yahweh's plan to make Saul more credible as a candidate for king.  The fact that Yahweh picked Saul Himself seems to escape the Israelites, who like most people just want a credible person to be in charge.

Using Miracles to Affect Politics

First, Saul has to be convinced so a series of signs happen to help him.  First, he will meet "two men by Rachel's sepulchre" who will speculate on Saul's father, feeling bad for his sons loss of sheep.  Second, he will come across three men, who will give him two loaves and some wine. Then, a public sign is practically staged so that the people will see Saul as being worthy of the crown.  This involves Saul prophesying in the company of 100 prophets.

All these signs happen in order, and when he prophesies with the 100 prophets, the people are impressed.  They ask themselves, "Is Saul also among the prophets?"

Biblical Errancy

Right here is where I want to point out one of the inerrancies.  Later on, in 1 Samuel 19:24, is another story that is supposed to be the origin of the rumor that Saul is a prophet.  The story is completely different, and involves him lying around naked!

Anyways, later on the Israelite tribes vote for a king, and when Saul is selected he is nowhere to be found.  The Israelites asked Yahweh where Saul is, and Yahweh says, "Behold, he has hid himself among the stuff."

Read that again.  I thought that was kind of funny.

Finally, when Saul is found, he stands taller than the rest of the Israelites "from his shoulders upward."  Here, we can see how being tall is an impressive trait to the Israelites.  It still is today!  While the author seems to be using Saul's height as a justification for his kingship, no one can deny that tall height is a desirable characteristic.  

The only people who don't seem to dig Saul are the children of Belial, who grumble among themselves asking, "How will this man save us?"  Their feelings toward Saul were apparently strong enough for them to not give him a coronation gift.

Mention of a Possible Lost Book

Of particular interest is mention of a possible lost book; another Book of Samuel.  Chapter 10:25: "Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book."