13 May 2010

May 13

Reference links:
Old Testament

Jonathan, son of Saul, an interesting character as we will see going forward. But that is getting ahead of ourselves. Today is our first substantial introduction to Jonathan. He takes on a Philistine outpost with only the help of his armor bearer, and they defeat twenty Philistines. This defeat causes panic, and that panic is only increased by an earthquake.

Now, you would think that it would be hard to tell this story badly, and the author of Samuel doesn't exactly do so, but he misses out on so much potential.

So they climbed up using both hands and feet, and the Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor bearer killed those who came behind them. They killed some twenty men in all, and their bodies were scattered over about half an acre.
Suddenly, panic broke out in the Philistine army, both in the camp and in the field, including even the outposts and raiding parties. And just then an earthquake struck, and everyone was terrified.
Between this and the fact that the two different sources for Samuel have been blended together more clumsily, I am quickly coming to the conclusion that the author of Samuel is not one of the better Biblical authors.

The rest of today's reading talks about the semi-successful pursuit of the Philistines and some mistakes made during that pursuit. Saul commanded his men not to eat anything until that evening, so the men did not eat. Jonathan, Saul's son, did hear this and did eat. Because of this, God stayed silent when Saul asked if they should pursue the Philistines. By lot it was determined that Jonathan was the source the trouble:
“I tasted a little honey,” Jonathan admitted. “It was only a little bit on the end of my stick. Does that deserve death?”
“Yes, Jonathan,” Saul said, “you must die! May God strike me and even kill me if you do not die for this.”
But the people broke in and said to Saul, “Jonathan has won this great victory for Israel. Should he die? Far from it! As surely as the Lord lives, not one hair on his head will be touched, for God helped him do a great deed today.” So the people rescued Jonathan, and he was not put to death.
If it were not for the fact that Jonathan was chosen by the casting of the lots, we might be able to interpret this as God's silence stemming from Saul's imprudent oath. Because the lots were cast, we know that blame is falling on Jonathan for eating in violation of an oath he was not aware of.

This reminds me of the story of Jephthat's daughter (although, fortunately, the killing did not occur this time). God seems perfectly happy to hold people to bad oaths and to punish people for the violation of them (even if they did not know they were violating those oaths). I find this behavior surprising coming from a God who is supposedly just. I would think that a just God would see that it is better to have people admit when they have made a mistake rather than punish them for not holding to a bad oath.


New Testament

The Pharisees try to arrest Jesus and fail. This provides an interesting contrast to the other gospels. When Jesus is arrested, Matthew, Mark, and Luke all report him asking why they did not arrest him publicly. Mark's version:
Jesus asked them, “Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there among you teaching every day. But these things are happening to fulfill what the Scriptures say about me.”
But today they did try to arrest Jesus publicly and failed. It is hard to reconcile these passages.

Psalms and Proverbs

Today's psalm is a long one. The psalmist talks about how his enemies unfairly accuse him and how they wish to heap all sorts of curses on him. The psalmist then wishes they these curses become the punishment given to his enemies. Not very nice.