April 11, 2022
The account at 1 Samuel 10:1-16 and 1 Samuel 19:19-24 on the goings on of prophets—both of these are weird. It isn’t easy to find material that explains it well….
unless we enter Bonzo territory.
Bonzo is an elder who follows me on social media so I try to make it worth his while by occasionally referring to him as “the worst speaker in the circuit, possibly the world.” Not to worry. He is actually a pretty good speaker and, as to my playful jabs, he says ‘keep them coming.’ He is not otherwise a large consumer of social media. Mostly he chimes in about golf.
Bonzo offered the best take on the golden piles from 1 Samual 6 that I have heard yet. Making the axis lords send golden images of their piles is just the ultimate example of Jehovah doing something “in style”—the ultimate humiliation of those who resolutely put their trust in false gods:
“So they asked: “What guilt offering should we send to him?” They said… ‘You should make images of your piles and images of your mice that are bringing the land to ruin, and you should honor the God of Israel. Perhaps he will lighten the weight of his hand that is on you and your god and your land.” (6:4-5)
With that as complementary backdrop, I posed: “The question is whether he, with such a grasp of biblical realism, will begin ‘behaving as a prophet’ after consideration of 1 Samuel 19:24”. That’s the verse about Saul taking off all his clothes. I watched Bonzo carefully during that Zoom meeting and he commendably refrained from that course, unless it happened when he turned his video off.
It is he, too, who framed David and Saul’s little spat as a function of currying favor with the ladies. “The women would come out from all the cities of Israel [all the women—“not just his mom and sisters,” he said] with song and dances to meet King Saul with tambourines, with rejoicing, and with lutes. [They] would sing: “Saul has struck down his thousands, And David his tens of thousands.” Saul became very angry, and this song displeased him…. (1 Samuel 18:7-8)
This is why every time I see a Philistine, I beat him up. I do it only to impress the ladies. If it worked then it should work now—just like it did for Will Smith.
And Bonzo showed proper appreciation for this gem I tweeted about, a verse that I’d love to see featured, rather than some superfluous thing about fitting angels on a pinhead:
At that Saul said…‘The king does not want any bride price except 100 foreskins of the Phi·lisʹtines, to take revenge on the enemies of the king.’ (1 Samuel 18:25) WHAT?!…..1/3
Not to be too crude here, but this was a common way of verifying kills during battle, so as not to be suckered by tall tales of braggarts and to safeguard against ‘cheating’ by killing women. (not recommended today. Just snap a battlefield photo with your smartphone).. 2/3
No, I didn’t say this at the meeting……3/3
This verse led to some discussion, someone posing the question of just what would you do with such a gift. I assigned that topic to him as personal research. To another who carried on about the bother of circumcising a dead man, I said I suspected taking the foreskin was a colloquialism for taking their whole you-know-what, a derisive reference to how none of them were circumscised, something very important to a Jew. The Egyptians used to lop off right hands to verify their kills. Easier to get at, I suppose, but taking more space, and maybe after they rot in the sack for a few days it becomes hard to distinguish the right from a left hand (allowing someone to report two kills when there was only one) or making it hard to distinguish from that of a woman.
I then lovingly and considerately added: “I hope you’re not eating lunch just now.”
I’m not really sure about the purpose of the 100 foreskins. I’m extrapolating from Bob Brier’s lecture series on Egyptology in which he points out that Egypt was “a nation of accountants” that kept track of everything, including kills of the enemy which they verified by collecting right hands.
Charles Israel, who wrote the book Rizpah, misses that nuance entirely, and just writes about the obscenity of Saul’s request. Rizpah was one of Saul’s concubines. She is mentioned only twice in scripture, but because I had previously read that work of historical fiction, I knew all about her when she came up in the rotation, much to the surprise of my offspring. That book works from the same set of facts as the Bible, yet manages to paint Saul as the wronged hero and David the ambitious upstart, his “treachery” covered up by “lying scribes.” I was surprised at how easy it was to do, and by extension, how any tale can be told from a different point of view. Rizpah being Saul’s concubine, she is not overly disposed to be kind towards David.
Alas, the way we insist upon sanitizing everything, when she came up in the Bible gems she was lauded for her great love of God’s law, beating away the birds and critters so they wouldn’t devour the corpses of her dead impaled sons, as though absent God’s law, she wouldn’t have batted an eyelash.
Then [Saul] handed them over to the Gibʹe·on·ites, and they hung their dead bodies on the mountain before Jehovah. All seven of them died together; they were put to death in the first days of harvest, at the start of the barley harvest. Then Rizʹpah the daughter of Aʹiah took sackcloth and spread it out on the rock from the start of harvest until rain poured down from the heavens on the bodies; she did not allow the birds of the heavens to land on them by day nor the wild beasts of the field to come near by night. (2 Samuel 21:9-10)
They were her sons. She probably went mad.