A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible

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

Thursday, December 22, 2011

David Slays Goliath (1 Samuel, Chapter 17)

David slays Goliath.  From kingjamesbibleonline.org

Perhaps one of the most well-known stories of the Bible is about young David killing the giant Philistine champion named Goliath.  

Prior to David's encounter with Goliath, the Israelites and the Philistines have been battling it out for at least 40 days near the Valley of Elah, in a place called Ephesdammin. During each of those days, the 10-foot tall Goliath would start off the day taunting the Israelites, saying that if one of them can defeat him, then the Philistines will be their servants; and vice versa.  No one took him up on this offer.

David wanted to take him up on this opportunity, but he was young and he wasn't part of the Israelite army.  But after hearing about these taunts, David approached Saul (who still thinks he is king) and tells him that as a shepherd, he killed a lion AND a bear at the same time when they took one of his father's lambs.  He even saved the lamb by taking it out of the lion's mouth.  

This story deserves a little attention.  After all, it is highly unlikely that both a lion AND a bear would ever cooperate to take a lamb from a flock.

But this story was meant to convince Saul that he (David) can easily take on Goliath.  Apparently, Saul was convinced!  He offered David his sword and some armor, but David refused and instead chose five smooth stones by a nearby river and his sling.

When Goliath sees David approaching him, he laughs.  After all, David just a youth.   Goliath had a huge sword, a brass helmet, and some heavy mail.  So, Goliath was well armed and armored.  David, on the other hand, just had his robe, a wooden staff, a sling, and some rocks.  David was not put off at all, he said a few choice insults, calmly grabbed a stone from his bag, and then slung it at Goliath.  

Too bad this story is probably not real, because the one shot, one kill with a measly sling would make any sniper proud.  The stone embedded itself into Goliath's head, who then fell face down.  David took Goliath's sword and cut off his head.

The sight of this scared the bejesus out of the Philistines, who turned tail and ran.  The Israelites seized the opportunity and pursued the routing army.  

Needless to say, Saul was thoroughly impressed by David's performance.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Yahweh Chooses A New King (1 Samuel, Chapter 16)

Samuel anoints David.  Image from Wikipedia  

Chapter 16 is an interesting chapter.  It's about how Yahweh (God) chooses a new king, largely because the previous king (Saul) did not kill everyone and everything as he was commanded.  This chapter has some contradictions and just overall foolishness.

It starts with God asking Samuel how long he's going to mourn over the loss of Saul as king, because God has someone else in mind and would like to get moving on this new project.  God's idea is to get one of "Jesse's" sons.  I'm not sure who Jesse is.  The author of this chapter must be one of those people who brings up people's names in conversations whom the listener doesn't know but is expected to know.  

Samuel is worried because if he tells Saul that he is no longer king, then Saul might just kill Samuel.  So, God comes up with a clever plan.  First, the "spirit" of God left Saul, and God instead replaces this spirit with an "evil spirit."  The spirit of God had went into David after Samuel anointed him a little earlier in the chapter.

Later, Saul (who apparently hasn't been told yet that he's no longer king) is sitting around his court with an evil spirit inside him, and decides that he wants a musician.  He hears that Jesse's son David is a great harp player, and that God is with him too. Oh, the irony!  He doesn't realize that the God is LITERALLY with David!

So, David shows up and plays harp for Saul.  While David is playing the "evil spirit from God" LEAVES Saul because of David's astounding harp playing.  Saul absolutely loves David, and becomes an instant fan. 

The chapter ends here, but the contradiction is that here we see that Saul knows who David is.  But, in the next chapter, Saul completely forgets who David is!  It's things like this why scholars over the years think that each book of the Bible may have multiple authors, who were using other texts that said slightly different things.  In this case, it's like watching Metallica play and then falling in love with their music, but shortly afterward completely forgetting who they are.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Saul bumbles again (1 Samuel, Chapter 15)

Saul grabs Samuel's robe, and accidentally tears it (15:27).
Image from HTML Bible

Chapter 15 is pretty straight forward.  Basically, God (aka Yahweh) remembers that Amalekites did some pretty mean things to the Israelites a few hundred years ago, so He orders that they should be exterminated - elderly, men, women, children, infants, livestock, EVERYTHING).

Saul does a few things wrong however, he actually let a group of people called the Kenites go, because they were actually kind to the Israelites even though they were living with the Amalekites.  I don't think this is what got Yahweh pissed off, though.  What pissed Yahweh off was that Saul didn't kill everyone.

Saul had the gall to let the Amalekite king live (though all other Amalekites were slaughtered - men, women, children), and Saul decided to keep the best of the animals.

This pissed Yahweh off to no end, and He even said that He regretted making Saul a king.  Imagine that - God has regrets!

Now, to be honest, Saul did this because the people asked.  But, this is not what the Supreme Leader asked, via His spokesperson Samuel.

When Samuel learned that Saul had not followed the God's commands to the letter, He chewed out the king, in a display that showed who the real power was.  The power isn't the king, who is a secular authority of sorts, but through the priesthood and especially via Samuel.  In the picture above, Saul is shamed for his bad behavior and grabs the mantle of Samuel's cloak, accidentally tearing it.

After tearing the cloak, Samuel sees symbolism in it and says that God has torn the Kingdom of Israel away from you, Saul, and has given it to your neighbor.

The chapter ends in a final morbid scene.  Saul, who has been stripped of his kingship, approaches King Agag of the Amalekites - their last surviving member.  "Surely, the bitterness of death has passed," said Agag.

Saul replies, "As the sword has made women childless, so too will your mother (who is probably dead by now) be childless among women."  With that, Saul cut Agag into many pieces.