Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘1 samuel 17’

As I’ve taught through portions of 1-2 Samuel (I generally just refer to it as “Samuel”, indicating the unity of the 2 books), I’ve become more and more convinced of the need to read this book as a narrative.  I’m certainly not discounting the historical veracity of it; I’m simply trying to acknowledge that this book, and the stories that make up this book, uses literary and narrative techniques to make it’s point.

For instance, readers are often confused at the end of 1 Samuel 17.  We’ve just read the story of David killing Goliath, but we come across something that seems to contradict the previous chapter: Saul doesn’t know who David is.  Saul asks Abner, the army commander, “whose son is that young man?” (v55).  The problem is this: in chapter 16, Saul is comforted by David’s musical abilities and requests that David be allowed to remain in his service.  He seems to know who David is then, so how is it that only one chapter later he doesn’t have a clue who David is?

Now, some will suppose that the author/editor of the book is a buffoon and unknowingly included a contradiction.  That seems unlikely, since it’s so obvious that you would think that someone would have caught the “problem.”  So, it’s far more likely that the confusion is intentional. 

Is it possible that the author is wanting you to ask this question?  Perhaps you, the reader, are supposed to wonder, “why is Saul asking who David is?  Doesn’t he know already?”

I think this is exactly what is happening here.  You’re supposed to wonder why Saul doesn’t remember David.  And the answer is unraveled in the following chapters, especially in chapter 18: Saul is insane.  It’s not hard to notice, just look at the next chapter.  Saul tries to pin David to the wall with his spear (he tries again in chapter 19).  In fact, Saul tries to spear his own son, Jonathan, in chapter 20.

What I’m suggesting is that the author’s portrayal of Saul is intentionally confusing.  The narrative is inviting you to ask the question: why doesn’t Saul remember David, who just a chapter earlier is favored by Saul?  The narrative works in a way that we ought to expect a narrative to work.  It isn’t through an explicit statement (“then Saul lost his marbles and went nuts”) that we learn of his insanity.  It’s through the story itself that we learn that Saul went crazy.  The “problem” is really no problem at all; it’s neither a contradiciton nor an oversight.  It’s a literary technique used to craft a crazy king.

Read Full Post »