Category Archives: Samuel

Scratchpad: Exegesis of the Greek 2 Samuel 7.1-17

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Yep, the gift of Seminary. Personally, and don’t tell my wife I said this, but I am thinking that the only real reason that I am in Seminary is because it helps with blogging. Shhhhhh……

It is my position that the use of the Temple story has been contextualized by different authors during Israel’s history, and most notably by the authors/translators of the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament. While it may not always be safe to call a translator an author, the fact remains that the Old Greek differs greatly in place from the Hebrew vorlage so much so that we may place upon the translators the title of author, or at least a reauthor of sorts. In 2nd Samuel 7.1-17 in the Septuagint, we find a contextualization of the passage to allow for the imminent ‘Great David’s greater Son’ (Mark 12.35-37; Luke 1.32) as well as the negatively to be placed not on the intended Saul but perhaps all of Israelite royal history. In doing so, the Greek translators allowed, as they did for Isaiah 7.14, for continued recontextualization of the passage to be made by New Testament authors and later writers. In his essay on this passage which was delivered to the 2008 annual meeting of the SBL, Omer Sergi argues that the Hebrew passage underwent at least three different redactions according to the worldview of the authors. Along this same vein, the Greek translators are, according to their own worldview, reauthoring this passage[1].

Second Samuel 7.4-17 has long been used in connection to Messianic Expectation[2] in connection with Jesus Christ, rather, the periscope of verse 14-16 which speaks specifically to the future King. Ideally, however, the passage (both the Temple and the Dynastic Promise) should be taken as a whole given that promises once made to David by YHWH are now being removed from him and given to another, namely to that of Solomon. To blindly allow the passage to speak only in regards to Christ would be violently destructive to the text itself, to the intentions of the original author, and to the original application. No doubt that the original author(s) was writing in hope of something while attempting to misalign David as the ideal king, but it is doubtful that a future event some five centuries later was expected. While the text is prophetic, note that it is given from God to the Prophet Nathan and then to David in response to David’s prayer, prophecy was not about some long expected future event, but about the almost immediate present, although in this case, it would have been some decades later before Solomon was given the promises fully.

Two things are taken from David on this night, namely his goal of centralizing the cult via his service to God in building the Temple and the fact that his son’s throne will be the established Throne, or restored throne as the LXX[3] has it. What is interesting is that in 2nd Samuel, God refuses David’s offer of building the House of the Lord while in 1st Chronicles 22.9, David recounts a prophecy which as part of his punishment, God has removed from David the right to build the Temple while promising that in the future, Solomon would be given the honor and duty. Added to this is Solomon’s words in 1st Kings 8.14-21 which has God praising David’s desire to build the house, couching the refusal into a prophetic statement that Jerusalem, named by Solomon, would be chosen and that Solomon would build the Temple. I note the differences as well in where, and perhaps when, the son of David will come from, as given in the various statements mentioned above. In 2nd Samuel, the son comes from the belly (7.12, LXX), in 1st Kings 8.19, the son comes from the King’s side, while only in 1st Chronicles 22.9 is the son said to be born unto the King. While the language may all mean the same thing, I find it difficult to see it as such, especially given the translation, and oftentimes interpretation via translation, of the Septuagint. The Hebrew, at least preliminary, seems to all contain the same thought, that the son of David which will have the established throne will be an immediate descendent of David.

The Actors in 2nd Samuel 7.1-17

God is absent as David’s genesis of though in building the Temple, only to intervene later after God’s prophet had given what should have been divine permission for the construction of the Temple. What is of note here is that the God in this passage, at first a passive actor, does not live up to the God of Ezekiel 14.6-11, in which a prophet who speaks without divine permission and the inquirer will be punished and ‘annihilated’ (Eze 14.9 NETS). The Deuteronomist was equally clear in Deuteronomy 18.20 when YHWH says that ‘the prophet who acts impiously by speaking a word in my name that I have not ordered to speak…that prophet shall die (NETS).’ Here, God allows David to inquire of Nathan and Nathan simply gives David the answer, speaking, as Prophets were known to do, for God but without permission. God, at least in v1-3 is a passive actor who goes on to never admonish either David or Nathan for their wrong speech.

Both David and Nathan, however, are almost not existent in this scene, besides the initial dialogue. David, however, in the rest of the chapter, issues a Psalm in response to God’s new covenant with his house. The prompting of the request, however, is important. 7.1 tells us that David had been given a gift by YHWH. In the Hebrew, the word is nuach while the Greek, κατεκληρονόμησεν, means inheritance. The meaning is different in that with the Hebrew, I believe that it points to the immediacy of the situation. David was given rest from his enemies, although at the start of chapter 8 David can hardly to be said to be at rest, and wanted then to give God a place of rest[4]. The Greek speaks to the inheritance, perhaps the future dynastic house which the Greek translators saw in the passage. Further, we see that David was at ease in his own house, and only after that, began to think about the things of God. Nathan, otherwise only hinted at being heard (v17), makes only one statement in this passage, and that of speaking for YHWH without authorization, which as I discussed earlier, should have been both David and his death sentence.

Perhaps the only remaining actor to discuss is the one which is not mentioned but implied by later interpreters, the Son of David. This son, mentioned in v12-16, is the once future king. For David, it was Solomon, but for the Greek translators, it would have been the expected Messiah, the Greater Son. In the Hebrew, a son is called for after the death of David and will be given the throne of David while in the Greek, a seed (cf Romans 1.3) which is planted will be the new king. The future aspect of the Kingdom is found when God is said to ‘ἀνορθώσω his throne forever (v13, cf v16, LXX).’ Further, in the Hebrew, God says that he will become a father, while the Greek seems to imply a pre-existing parental relationship. Further, what is telling is in the Greek, the Son of David is the one given the dynasty unlike the Hebrew which explicitly states that it will be David’s dynasty which is made permanent (NET).

Significant Differences:

As I have mentioned earlier, the Greek translators were almost reauthoring this passage from the Hebrew vorlage. Further, I have briefly mentioned some of the differences between the Hebrew and the Greek. As is evident with the Temple Scroll and Deuteronomy, communities during this time were not above taking the Sacred Text and contextualizing it to fit their current needs, even rewriting sections to make it address their present needs. In this next section, I will explore more of those differences and what they might mean to the newly minted section of 2 Samuel 7.1-17. What comes about is not the soon-to-inaugurated Solomon as we see in the Hebrew, but an expectation of a restored Kingdom ripe for the Messianic contender.

In 7.5, God is asking a rhetorical question, where the Greek has YHWH firmly stating that David will not be the builder of God’s house. The idea of ‘house’ is here meaning the Temple, but as we will see, comes to mean the dynasty of David. In verse 6, the Greek Translators, showing that their Sitz im Leben is far removed from that of the original Hebrew authors, implied that the Wilderness Tabernacle was only supposed to be temporary. This is contrary to the Hebrew which has imagined a more permanent perspective. This may be a result of the time period in which the Greek translators were writing in that they had had time for theological reflection.

7.9-11 seems to imply that YHWH is speaking before Israel entering the Promised Land, with a future tense being applied to a future security in a future place. The Greek verse 9 solidifies the tenses. Whereas in the Hebrew, YHWY tells David that He has been with him in battle already and that He will make David a great name, in the Greek, David already has the great name, again, implying the date of the LXX translation. The tenth verse may, in fact, be the lead in understanding the ability of the Greek Translators to force of a future tense upon the text. This verse, rife with Deuteronomic thought, places this ideal relationship between Israel and God in the future[5]. If this is so, then the Greek Translators, noting that a place of security (Israel) had already been established when 2 Samuel was written may have seen this as an indication of a ‘now, but not yet’ futuristic view of this passage, which further allowed them to see the passage as speaking of a Son of David beyond that of Solomon[6]. 7.11 (Gr)  implies that there is hope for David making a house for God, whereas the Hebrew in the NASB has YHWH making a house (dynasty) God and the NRSV turns this a bit with YHWH making David into a dynasty. What is further interesting in verse 11 is that here, in both the Hebrew and the Greek, YHWH promises ‘rest’ to Israel. The Hebrew in verse 1 and verse 11 is unchanged, but the Greek in verse 11 (ἀναπαύσω) reflects the idea of rest, whereas the first verse speaks to an inheritance.

7.12 (Gr) has the future son coming from David’s belly (NETS; womb, my translation) whereas the Hebrew notes that the future son will come from David’s body. It may be that the Greek is looking forward to a yet unfulfilled expectation or is relying upon Psalm 131 (132 Eng) in which, having been written on David’s behalf, attempts to remind God of the promise made to David while the author sits in exile of some sort. Further, the same Greek word is used in 2nd Samuel 16.11 in which David laments after Absalom, the ‘son who came out of my belly’ (NETS) in what may an author’s trick and getting the audience to think that Absalom was the future son from chapter 7.

7.13-16 (Gr) has YHWH promising to ‘restore’ the throne of the future son, or perhaps restore the throne for the future son whereas the Hebrew have God establishing the throne for the future son, as I have briefly detailed earlier. In the Hebrew, Saul’s name is expressly mentioned in verse 15, whereas in the Greek, the singular becomes the plural, again revealing the Translator’s place in life. It may be that the Translator has in mind not only the kinds which God has removed (Saul, Ahab, Manassah) but also the exile of Israel. In 2nd Kings 23.27, we read,

The LORD said, “I will remove Judah also from My sight, as I have removed Israel. And I will cast off Jerusalem, this city which I have chosen, and the temple of which I said, ‘My name shall be there.'” (2Ki 23:27 NAU)

This passage calls to mind 2 Samuel 7.13 and verse 15, both with the mention of the Temple being for the name of YHWH and the remembrance of all those who God had removed. For the writer of the Kings, however, both Israel and Judah were removed as well. This is followed in verse 16 which again has YHWH promising to restore (build in the Hebrew) the House and the Throne of the Greater Son[7], whereas in the Hebrew, it is the David’s House.

Summary:

Regardless of the text used, Hebrew or Greek, the passage has played a part in the development of the Davidic theology present not just in the Jewish Canon, but so too the Christian canon. Sergi notes (Sergi, 2010, 262) that the Davidic monarchy  occupies a ‘major role in biblical historiography’, but even beyond canonical sources, such as the Psalms of Solomon, we find the idea that the promised Throne and House which is to last forever provides a hope for Jewish believers, regardless of their sect. It is this Covenant which many sought to see restored as they were weighted down under the boot of the Greeks and, later, the Romans (See 1st and 2nd Maccabees and the above mentioned work) and was the covenant which allowed the Messianic Expectation which Christians believe was fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. The Greek Translators were able to urge this suggestion along with their reauthoring of the text to reflect their present day hope of the soon coming King, the Greater Son of the Great David.

For the Greek translators, and thus readers, what was already once fulfilled may have just been a shadow of things to come. The Jews in Palestine were technically in exile, with no government of their own, the Temple was less than the first one, and the Land itself wasn’t secure. The ‘permanent’ dynasty was simply no more, and yet, the translators were able to show a ‘not yet, but soon’ mentality in their translation. While we have no evidence of the passage being used at Qumran, there is plenty of evidence of it being used in the Messianic Community which surrounded the followers of Jesus. It gave them verification of their own understanding of who Jesus was.


[1] Sergi Omer, “The Composition of Nathan’s Oracle to David (2 Samuel 7.1-17) as a Reflection of Royal Judahite Ideology,” Journal of Biblical Literature 129 (2010): 261-279.

[2] Although, the connection is rather weak in the New Testament. Paul uses it in 2nd Corinthians 6.18, not for Christ in particular, but for the Church corporately.

[3] I will be using the NETS: Pietersma, Albert, & Wright, Benjamin G. (2007). A New English Translation of the Septuagint. Oxford University Press, USA.

[4] I note Matthews, et al, who writes, ‘Here it is indicated that God has given David rest from his enemies, and throughout the Old Testament the Lord speaks of giving rest to his people. This is especially significant in this context where David wants to build a temple, because in the ancient Near East the temple of the deity was supposed to offer rest to the deity. Some of the temple names even suggest that as a primary function of the temple. This divine rest then often results in rest for the people in their land. In contrast the Bible says little about divine rest, and it is never the prerequisite for human rest except for the Sabbath. (Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary : Old Testament, electronic ed., 2 Sa 7:1 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000).)

[5] P. Kyle McCarter II Samuel (Garden City, 1984), 202-3 argues that the future tense refers to the Temple, although latter scholars note flaws in his argument.

[6] D.F. Murray (Vestus Testamentum XL, 3), in his 1990 essay, however, argues against this future as temple, and instead turns the meaning of the ‘place’ as land. I understand it to mean place, in regards to land, following David Qimhi’s lead. See David Vanderhoot (JBL 118.4 (1999( 625-633) for further discussion of Temple v. Land.

[7] Sergi notes that ‘setting the royal dynasty and the temple at the heart of royal ideaology was common practice in the ancient Near Eastern Kingdoms.’

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Scratchpad: Exegesis of 2nd Samuel 7.4-17 lxx – Suggestions?

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We are required to submit notes this go around. I wouldn’t mind some helpful suggestions…

2nd Samuel 7.4-17

Preliminary Observations:

Second Samuel 7.4-17 has long been used in connection to Messianic Expectation[1] in connection with Jesus Christ, rather, the periscope of verse 14-16 which speaks specifically to the future King. Ideally, however, the passage (both the Temple and the Dynastic Promise) should be taken as a whole given that promises once made to David by YHWH are now being removed from him and given to another, namely to that of Solomon. To blindly allow the passage to speak only in regards to Christ would be violently destructive to the text itself, to the intentions of the original author, and to the original application. No doubt that the original author(s) was writing in hope of something while attempting to misalign David as the ideal king, but it is doubtful that a future event some five centuries later was expected. While the text is prophetic, note that it is given from God to the Prophet Nathan and then to David in response to David’s prayer, prophecy was not about some long expected future event, but about the almost immediate present, although in this case, it would have been some decades later before Solomon was given the promises fully.

Two things are taken from David on this night, namely his goal of centralizing the cult via his service to God in building the Temple and the fact that his son’s throne will be the established Throne, or restored throne as the LXX[2] has it. What is interesting is that in 2nd Samuel, God refuses David’s offer of building the House of the Lord while in 1st Chronicles 22.9, David recounts a prophecy which has it that as part of his punishment, God has removed from David the right to build the Temple while promising that in the future, Solomon would be given the honor and duty. Added to this is Solomon’s words in 1st Kings 8.14-21 which has God praising David’s desire to build the house, couching the refusal into a prophetic statement that Jerusalem, named by Solomon, would be chosen and that Solomon would build the Temple. I note the differences as well in where, and perhaps when, the son of David will come from, as given in the various statements mentioned above. In 2nd Samuel, the son comes from the belly (7.12, LXX), in 1st Kings 8.19, the son comes from the King’s side, while only in 1st Chronicles 22.9 is the son said to be born unto the King. While the language may all mean the same thing, I find it difficult to see it as such, especially given the translation, and oftentimes interpretation via translation, of the Septuagint. The Hebrew, at least preliminary, seems to all contain the same thought, that the son of David which will have the established throne will be an immediate descendent of David.

Passage Comparisons:

New English Translation of the Septuagint New American Standard Version New Revised Standard Version
And it happened on that night that a word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying: Go, and say to my slave Dauid: This is what the Lord says: You shall not build me a house for me to live in; for I have not lived in a house from the day I brought up the sons of Israel from Egypt to this day, and I was moving about in a temporary abode and in a tent. In all places to which I have moved about among all Israel, speaking did I speak with one tribe of Israel whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why is it that you have not built me a house of cedar?” And now this is what you shall say to my salve Dauid: This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the sheepfold for you to be leader for my people, for Israel and was with you in all to which you went and destroyed all your enemies from before you and made you renowned like the name of the great ones who are upon the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, and they will encamp by themselves, and the will be distressed no more, and a son of injustice shall not add to afflict them as formerly from the days that I appointed judges over my people Israel, and I will give you rest from all your enemies,

and the Lord will tell you that you will make a house for him.

And it will be if your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, that I will raise up your offspring after you who shall be from your belly, and I will prepare his kingdom; he shall build me a house for my name, and I will restore his throne forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me, and if his injustice comes, then I will punish him with a rod of men and with attacks of sons of men,  but I will not remove my mercy from him, as I removed it from those whom I removed from before me. And his house and his kingdom shall be made sure forever before me, and his throne shall be restored forever.

According to all these words and according to all this vision, thus Nathan spoke to Dauid.

But in the same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying, “Go and say to My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Are you the one who should build Me a house to dwell in? For I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the sons of Israel from Egypt, even to this day; but I have been moving about in a tent, even in a tabernacle. Wherever I have gone with all the sons of Israel, did I speak a word with one of the tribes of Israel, which I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?'”‘

Now therefore, thus you shall say to My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make you a great name, like the names of the great men who are on the earth. I will also appoint a place for My people Israel and will plant them, that they may live in their own place and not be disturbed again, nor will the wicked afflict them any more as formerly, even from the day that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies.

The LORD also declares to you that the LORD will make a house for you.

When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.”‘

In accordance with all these words and all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David.

But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the LORD: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar? Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the LORD of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies.

Moreover the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. But I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.

In accordance with all these words and with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.

Significant Differences:

  • 7.5 affirms that David will not build a house in the Gr, but in translations made from the Hebrew, God is merely asking a question.
  • 7.6 (Gr) implies that the Wilderness Tabernacle was only supposed to be temporary, whereas the Hebrew has a more permanent perspective. This may be as a result of the time period in which the Greek translators were writing in.
  • 7.9-11 seems to imply that YHWH is speaking before Israel entering the Promised Land, with a future tense being applied to a future security in a future place.
  • 7.9 (Gr) solidifies the tenses. Whereas in the Hebrew, YHWY tells David that He has been with him in battle already and that He will make David a great name, in the Greek, David already has the great name, again, implying the date of the LXX translation.
  • 7.11 (Gr)  implies that there is hope for David making a house for God, whereas the Hebrew in the NASB has YHWH making a house (dynasty ) God and the NRSV turns this a bit with YHWH making David into a dynasty.
  • 7.12 (Gr) has the future son coming from David’s belly (NETS; womb, mine) whereas the Hebrew notes that the future son will come from David’s body. It may be that the Greek is looking forward to a yet unfulfilled expectation or is relying upon Psalm 131 (132 Eng) in which, having been written on David’s behalf, attempts to remind God of the promise made to David while the author sits in exile of some sort. Further, the same Greek word is used in 2nd Samuel 16.11 in which David laments after Absalom, the ‘son who came out of my belly’ (NETS) in what may an author’s trick and getting the audience to think that Absalom was the future son from chapter 7.
  • 7.15 (Gr) doesn’t mention Saul’s name, but leaves room for the assumption of plenty of kinds which God has removed. The Hebrew mentions Saul.
  • 7.13-16 (Gr) has YHWH promising to ‘restore’ the throne of the future son, or perhaps restore the throne for the future son whereas the Hebrew has God establishing the throne for the future son.

I will explore the meaning of the Greek text in comparison to that of the Hebrew text, along with intertextual readings from the Psalms, in hopes of understanding the sitz im leben of the translator(s) and how it might play into the rising Messianic Expectation of the times. The passage in particular seems to have enjoyed a rewrite during translation which allows for a more definitive answer to David’s question and a hope for a future king of Israel which would (re)build the Temple. Further, I will try to compare it to Psalm 131 lxx (132 Eng), especially for a source of the translator’s thought. I will also attempt to excess the Dead Sea Scrolls for any important information on the formation of the text as well as well as understanding how the communities at Qumran may have understood this passage.


[1] Although, the connection is rather weak in the New Testament. Paul uses it in 2nd Corinthians 6.18, not for Christ in particular, but for the Church corporately.

[2] I will be using the NETS: Pietersma, Albert, & Wright, Benjamin G. (2007). A New English Translation of the Septuagint. Oxford University Press, USA.

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Scratchpad: Intertextually speaking…

Psalm 121
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You know the drill:

The Question:

Read the essay by Vivian L. Johnson and discuss elements that an intertextual reading brings into the Samuel narrative.

The pseudo-attempt at a rough draft at an answer which may or may not in fact be the actual posted answer:

____________

I must admit that it is difficult to step out of the notion that the bylines we see ascribed to the Psalms may in fact be of a later date and ‘in the name of’, as indeed, many of the Psalms are without our modern notions of fiction coming into play; however, in doing so, we are able to gain a much more fuller picture by understanding the notion of Scripture arguing with Scripture. We see this exemplified with the pro-Davidic author(s) of the Chronicles as opposed to the anti-Davidic author(s) (Deuteronomists?) of the four books of Kings. We also see this implied in Ruth versus Ezra-Nehemiah as well, in which the xenophobic Prophet/Scribe is taken to task for expelling interracial couples when David himself is the product of a union between a Moabitess and a Judge of Israel. Scripture is not merely arguing within itself, but is enjoying a process of filling itself up with the conversation started by YHWH of what it means to be His people or perhaps His king.

The need to read David’s rise as King and his subsequent attempt to do everything humanly possible to displease God as found in the anti-Davidic works must be read alongside those works which seek to show that while David was human, he did everything divinely possible to be the person whom God had chosen him to be. Indeed, he failed many times, but for Christians, we must remember that in the end, his line was chosen as the royal line which would give the world the blessing of Abraham. By reading intertextually the historical psalms of David, a sometimes different, more humble person emerges from ancient Israelite tradition than what appears in either the Kings or the Chronicles. David is spiritual, weak, human and almost non-kingly. He isn’t politicized, but simply shown as what the receptive community held him to be. He was a prophet and a man made low by his own sins so he was able to show the exiled community hope while they sat by the rivers of Babylon.

For instance, Psalm 139, which is a personal favorite of mine, shows David seeking God’s presence and acknowledging YHWH’s active hand in every aspect of David’s life. Yet, in the Kings (the two books of Samuel and the two books of Kings in the English bible), David is seen as contemptuously brash and almost arrogant to God until God for some reason or another steps in to correct David. The Psalmist (of) David instead lives humbly before God who mediates upon the will of God in what is almost offensive to our modern sensibilities in that in everything God is there. The Royal David is presented as a wicked, deceitful, murderous man; the Psalmist (of) David in this Psalm comes through as one who is seeking constant reconciliation with God (139.23-24).

I note Psalm 51 which is mentioned in Dr. Johnson’s essay as a remedy for the brevity of David’s response to the prophetic rebuke (Johnson:2) . But in that psalm we find a connection to 1st Samuel 25 as well in which Abigail expressly states that her goal (1st Samuel 25.31) is to ensure David’s spotless record free from vengeance and bloodshed leaving David with a clean conscience. It would seem that Psalm 51 is connected, textually, to Abigail’s desire for her future husband – if only she had truly been her future husband’s desire. Mark Biddle[1] notes while Abigail is among the few women noted for their physical beauty in Scripture, it wasn’t this which attracted David unlike Bathsheba (noted for her physical appearance). In my opinion, Psalm 51 should be read between Abigail who prevented David’s bloodguilt and Bathsheba who caused it. If we don’t take the various texts as an independent’s view point which may in fact either be opposed to another Scriptural author or perhaps serves to expand the narrative, we may miss important textual clues and indeed, miss what the expanded passage is trying to communicate.


[1] Biddle, Ancetral Motif’s in 1 Samuel 25: Intertextuality and Characterization, JBL, vol 121, No 4, 2002, p617-638

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The Rise of the Israelite Monarchy, Rachel, and the Garden of Eden

The Tetragrammaton Yahweh intended to be prono...
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The question?

Discuss the issues surrounding Israel’s move to having a human king as their ruler. What role, if any, do women play role in ancient Israel’s transition to monarchy?

What may or may not be my answer:

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The tribal system which had long connected the Hebrew peoples together was coming to a finale quickly due to the paradigmic evolution then-current in the developing political structures of the Ancient Near East. Powerful kings were rising up with economic powerhouses and military machines at their command which were actively destroying the enemies of the State. The Semitic tribes which inhabited Canaan were at constant peril, not only from the outside forces, but so too the internal forces brought on by Near Eastern kinship structures which might find tribes renegotiating kinship based on these predator nations. Examining the book of Judges, we see the increasing moral depravity brought on by the anarchist mentality of the rulers of Israel, namely the people themselves, would become a factor in the eventual enthronement of the king of Israel. When in times of great desperation, a divinely appointed Judge would rule, in an almost Arthurian way[1], until the crisis had passed. Several times in the book of Judges, this rise and fall of decentralized leadership was criticized by the Deuteronomist who regularly noted that, ‘In those days, there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in their own eyes.’  But, it wasn’t until rapidly successive judges began to appear that the idea of hereditary Kingship over temporary kinship (i.e., temporary alliances which created kinship) began to develop as something desirable to offset the growing fear from the tribes’ neighbors.

Theologically speaking, the act of asking for a King was a sin, not merely for the fear which replaced the devotion and reliance upon YHWH, but for the denial of the basic humanity of and God’s divine mission for the Tribes. In Genesis 1.26, God is said to make humanity in the image of Himself (and his heavenly court). For the early reader of this tract, it would have been read as God declaring all of humanity as royalty, removing the socio-political structure which was separating out of the larger mass a select family which other peoples were developing as hereditary rule[2]. By creating an oligarchy, or at the very least, a ruling elite, they also created a division of those who could and could not represent the gods on earth. The king was the gods’ agent and only through him could divine edicts be issued or prayers made. Seth L. Sander’s 2010 book, The Invention of Hebrew, strongly argues that the central difference between the Scriptures and other religious works of the period (and indeed, any written works) is that for the first time, it wasn’t the king who was addressed by a god, but the people.

Ronald Hendel, notes that for the Ancient Near East, the image of the King and the image of God where nearly married in the mind of the people,

“The close relationship between the image of the god and the image of the king is an important part of the ideology of kingship in the ancient Near East. The king was regarded as the earthly representative of the gods, and as such the image of the god was a symbol of the legitimacy of the earthly king. The divine image was pictured and was treated as a king, therefore serving as a reminder of the divine authority of the king.”  He cites as the strongest evidence “a 13th-century Middle Assyrian text, the ‘Tukulti-Ninurta Epic,’ that described the king as the salarti Illil däru, ‘the eternal image of Enlil.’ The phrase salarti DN, ‘image of the god,’ is also used of the king in later neo-Assyrian and neo-Babylonian texts, but the meaning of the phrase reflects the common royal ideology of Mesopotamia—and, we might add, the common West-Semitic ideology as well. The ‘image of the god’ was the king himself.” (CBQ 1988)[3]

Hendel and others are correct. We must make the point that if the Tribes were now seeking to replace the transcendent YHWH which walked and spoke with His people directly with a King, they weren’t just asking for a ruler like the other nations, they also wanted a god like the other nations, with a direct representative on earth, a position which they were abdicating. They had asked for a forbidden knowledge: that they were no longer worthy to walk and talk with YHWH. No longer were temporary leaders to be made available when Israel had digressed into moral depravity, but now a king was desired to perhaps constantly remind them of YHWH and in doing so, they quite easily rejected the imago dei as they had abandoned their roles as God’s agents, abdicating it as an answer to fear[4]. The people had put up a wall between themselves as the Children of God and God; they had sinned.

For the feminine involvement in the transition to monarchy, it could be easily noted that Hannah’s dedication of Samuel provided God a man to lead the Israelites as both Judge and King. Or perhaps it was Abigail’s[5] prevention of David’s bloodguilt which allowed him to later become King; however I believe that such an easy view might take away from the woman who plays not only a very central part, but is mentioned only once and then as a memorial: Rachel. On the heels of the moral decay which came to fruition by the almost complete destruction of the Tribe of Benjamin, a king was selected from that tribe. Not only was this true, but the prophet who anointed the King was himself a resident of the Tribe of Benjamin. Further, as a signal to the future king, he was told that he would find the proof of his impending royalty at the Tomb of Rachel. To further bring to light Rachel’s background role in the matter was the fact that she, the most beloved of Jacob’s wives, died while giving birth to Benjamin (Genesis 35.16-21). Later in (chronological, not necessarily literary) history, YHWH would speak to Jeremiah, saying,

This is what the LORD says: “A cry is heard in Ramah– deep anguish and bitter weeping. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted– for her children are gone.” (Jeremiah 31:15 NLT)

Ramah is not only the prophet’s dwelling place, but so too the scene of the anointing of King Saul after the people of the tribes at met, at Ramah, to ask Samuel for a King. It may be that Rachel is seen in the historical background of the writers of 1st Samuel while Jeremiah has the denial of the imago dei in mind which fulfilled YHWH’s oracle in 1st Samuel 8.10-18. It was at Ramah that Rachel’s children died to the sin of knowledge.


[1] Or perhaps, akin to the Roman Dictatorships which would arise when times of troubles required it, and often times chosen by the two elected Consuls. Ironically, the story of the corruption of Samuel’s two sons preceding a time of trouble which required a King seems similar to the act which brought about the end of the Roman Republic.

[2] Collins notes in his book, King and Messiah as Son of God, two current scholars which have produced work to counter the notion that kings were seen as the incarnations of the gods.

1) Silverman: “A pharaoh might be: named as a god in a monumental historical text, called the son of a deity in an epithet on a statue in a temple, hailed as the living image of god in a secular inscriptions, described as a fallible mortal in a historical or literary text, or referred to simply his personal name in a letter”;

2) Leprohon: “The evidence shows that the living pharaoh was not, as was once thought, divine in nature or a god incarnate on earth. Rather, we should think of him as a human recipient of a divine office. Any individual king was a transitory figure, while kingship was eternal”.

In responding to these conclusions, Dr. Michael Bird, writes, “But since “image of god” was used quite often to describe ANE kings, it means perhaps no more than humanity is royal in God’s eyes and is charged with the delegated divine function of ruling over creation.”

[3] Source: Peter J. Leihart, November 2010.

[4] For further reading, Peter Enns, a senior fellow at the Biologos Institute has written multipart piece which explores the Image of God in ANE literature and how it applies to the biblical understanding.

[5] I believe that there may be more to the story between David and Abigail, but this is not the time to explore that arena. CF 1st Samuel 25.31 and v35 especially.

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Examining God’s Word – Davidic Covenant in 2nd Samuel 7.10-16

As this is important, and figures very prominently in the book I am currently reading, I thought that I might examine this passage,

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