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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Bible Reflections on 2 Samuel

The Daily Reading on 2 Samuel this week focus on David. Today we will overview the Monday through Wednesday readings.

Historical questions about "what really happened and when, where, why, etc" are the domain of 'scientific' and Modern historiography. The ancient world write 'history' differently. What happened mattered to them but there are other concerns, expectations and rules as well. Cultural differences matter.

It is easy to forget that King David ruled 3,000 years ago. That is a long time. The books of Samuel and Kings were written after the Fall of Jerusalem. They were compiled from documents and chronicles of the kings, but no doubt oral traditions also were at play. King David is known as the great king and some who write about him hold him up as 'The Model'. There are also different streams of sources: some from the north (Israel) which has a different take on the Davidic (Judah) reign, there are some which are hostile to human kings at all (God is king; recall the crisis in 1 Samuel 8---God says they were rejecting Him and Samuel warned the people of the danger/problem with a king!). If the purpose of Samuel/Kings is to explain how the Chosen People ended up in Exile (and hence this Jewish understanding that these are Prophetic Writings) then all we read about David should be seen in such terms.

The story of David is a story of grace--God's chosen one. For Christians (following Jewish interpretations which were Messianic) Jesus is the fulfillment of the David Kingship.

*So we can try to piece together the ancient of the rule of David (history)
*Or we can ask what message is being "unveiled" (revelation) by God in the stories
*Or we can find applications for our lives of the stories (ethical)
*Or we can find typology of Jesus
*Or we can approach it with a variety of other concerns or assumptions; there are many 'frames' or 'view points' from which to read the

Sunday 2 Sam 6:12-23 recounts David's joy when the Ark of the Covenant was returned to Jerusalem. We can not understate the horror among the Israelites when the Ark--the most precious national treasure and the direct bridge to their God--was lost in battle. This sacred artifact was connected to Moses and the desert trial. It was the glory of "God-With-Us", however, the ark was not magical--faith and obedience were required.

David dances (worship) with wild abandon, an insight into his love for God. Michal, identified not as his wife but as the daughter of Saul, looks on through a window. We are reminded that earlier when her father (Saul) had sought to kill David she implored her beloved husband to escape through a window. But much time has passed since then, including a time when she was wed to another. The language of the text signals their distance by the use of formal titles. The love is gone, her father and brother dead, other women in David's harem... One can imagine why she holds him in contempt. Yet, whatever her personal psychology, she fails to see "it is right and good" to worship the Lord. David empties himself of kingly status (image of Christ) and 'debases' (humbles) himself before God and the people. Failing to see the truth, she insults her husband and is cut off/cuts herself off. The result is she never has a child (without further explanation)

Monday and Tuesday 2 Sam 7:1-29 were read. Here lies the covenant story (consider Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob,  Moses before). David is at "rest from all his enemies" (ch 8 paints a different picture) and he desires to build a Temple for God. The story is rich and worthy of long meditation. Who is God? What is a sacred building? What does God dwelling among us really mean? We do well to remember that the close tie of religious cult and the king's dwelling were also related to political power--and David has proved adept at manipulating his way to the top. Suddenly, Nathan appears, identified as a prophet. He tells David to proceed (speaking on his own behalf. We do well to recall the fallibility of ministers!). However, God gives a message (Thus says the Lord) and Nathan the mouthpiece of God tells David he will not build a house for God, but God will build him (into) a house. The play of the word house (building vs dynasty) is typical of the Hebrew approach to language.

David's prayer is also explanatory. Describing God's saving acts (which is a common feature of Jewish prayer; first you remember, then you thank, then you ask!) we can assume that the writer wants the reader to understand what is taking place in this dialogue between God and this man. David asks, "Who am I?" Who indeed are any of us? Often times we complain that God has not dealt with us as we desire, but we forget, why should we be considered at all? Yet it is all grace, all the hesed [kindness, love, mercy, faithfulness, compassion, justice,etc.]  of God.

The promise of "forever" deepens our reflection on the text. What does God's promise to David mean? This book was written after the Fall of the dynasty, what did the authors think about the promise, and what is God saying "in and through" those authors to us?

2 Samuel 9:1-13 today we read that David wants to show kindness to the house of Saul (whom he served and replaced). The crippled (mentioned twice) son of Jonathan is brought to him, The kindness of the King leads the young man to react as David had to his blessing ["what is your servant, that you should look upon a dead dog such as I?"] . David responds to grace and blessing by being graceful and blessing.

Ironically, at the end of the "Kings" material a descendent of David will be welcomed to eat at the table of the conquerer who destroyed Israel. The good deed of the fathers falls upon the sons. The amazing connectedness of life (because God holds it all together) gives us each hope that our life choices might produce blessings in the future (through God's merciful agency).

Jesus tells us to be aware of how God treats us and to treat others in the same way. To forgive, to show mercy and kindness, to feed others--these are simple works of God. David, for all his flaws, loves God and he is God's man. Would that we all embrace our relationship with God with such energy and vitality!

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