Thursday, October 2, 2014 0 comments

Analyzing David and Jonathan’s Tight Friendship

1 And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.
2 And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father’s house.
3 Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.
4 And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle. (1 Sam. 18:1-4)
In the church we have a whole lesson on the friendship between David and Jonathan, and I think there is a lot to look at, so I want to spend some time on it.

The suddenness of this friendship is startling, as is the strength of it, which is one of the reasons why a certain segment of people think it was a homosexual relationship.  However, we can understand it better if we consider what we know of both David and Jonathan.
  • They both had done acts of military valor.  Jonathan had assaulted a Philistinegarrison with only one other person as backup.  David had faced and slain Goliath the giant.  They had both faced steep odds.
  • Their valor was on their own initiative.
  • They had both gone into those battles speaking the faith they had in God to deliver them and Israel.
  • They both had experienced miracles in the Lord’s help.
  • Their acts ultimately resulted in the Israelite army taking courage and fighting manfully, with a victorious outcome.
For both these men, their valor had arisen out of their character and their steadfast faith in God.  They were both men who would engage themselves in a good cause, even if it was personally dangerous to them, even if they hadn’t been commanded.

Now, something tells me that when a person has these character traits, they immediately recognize others who have these same traits….and they LOVE them.  Because here’s a person you don’t have to persuade into faith or push them to get involved or pep-talk them.  They are all ready and rarin’ to go.

Jonathan instantly recognizes this in David.  And because they both have strong faith and devotion to God, neither of them are going to want to do anything wrong, so they can have profound confidence in one another.  They can be a huge help to each other, and Jonathan really wants that.  So he and David enter into a covenant with each other. 

We don’t quite know the exact terms of the covenant they made, but we can see through the rest of 1 Samuel there was a protective element to it, that they would protect each other and warn each other of danger.  David even appeals to Jonathan at one point that Jonathan would be the one to kill him if David sinned in any way rather than taking him to King Saul for justice (see 1 Samuel 20:8), so there is an element of policing each other.  They also renew their covenant together on several occasions.

This is no idle thing to make this covenant.  It is tested in painful ways when Jonathan finds his father turning against David.  Jonathan has to find ways of honoring his father while still keeping his covenant to David.  At one point King Saul reproaches Jonathan, “do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion…?” (1 Samuel 20:30)  It would certainly cause some confusion and difficulty to Jonathan, but I think his covenant with David helps him escape being affected by his father’s jealousy and suspicion.  I think fulfilling his obligations to that covenant allowed him to do good at a dark time when his father was sinking further and further into sin and violence and murderousness.  Jonathan stood up for David to his father at least two separate times, warned David of danger at least once (and possibly maintained a network of messengers to continue to warn him), and visited him at least once to encourage him in the Lord.

What does Jonathan want from David in this covenant?  At the beginning it is hard to tell, but further into their story we see that Jonathan wants David to show him “the kindness of the Lord, that I die not” and also to spare Jonathan’s family when the Lord finally helps him triumph over his enemies.  The tradition of that time and the cultures around them was that the king of the new dynasty would kill all the family of the old dynasty to ensure there was no one left as a focus of rebellion, and Jonathan hoped to avoid that fate for his family.  And David does honor this covenant.

Do you have a friend that is close to you that you could imagine making this kind of covenant with?  I have a few that I could have trusted them so far.

I must point out that this kind of covenant is twisted for evil among secret combinations.  Only among those who are determined to serve the Lord at all hazards is it a good thing for society.  And even with David and Jonathan as good as they were, their road wasn’t smooth.

Much is made in commentaries of Jonathan stripping off his robe and garments to give to David along with his weapons.  People think that Jonathan and David both knew already that David was someday to be king.  However, I’m not so sure about this. Yes, Samuel the prophet knew he was anointing David to be king, but did it follow that he had to tell David?  Did David have to know in order to do all those brave things he did?   Maybe not.  In fact, if he was a man after the Lord’s heart, he was going to do what he did because that’s the kind of man he was, and the anointing would give him more of the Lord’s spirit.  The Lord could bring him to the throne without him knowing that was the plan.   Jonathan’s giving David his clothes and weapons could just as well have been blindly anticipatory.

At the moment, however, Jonathan probably gave up his robe and weapons to David as the first major act he could do to fulfill the covenant he had just made with David.  To protect David better, he gave him the clothes of authority and better weapons to defend himself.  This communicated to everyone that no one could mess with David without royalty getting involved… which of course would get the rest of Israel involved.  He was to be treated as if he were royalty himself. 

Yet another thing about this act of clothing David is that it demonstrates Jonathan’s humility.  He’s not so in love with his status as crown prince that he minds someone else wearing the tokens of authority and power, nor does he mind a friend wearing them.  It is like he wants to bring David up to his level, which is an awesome characteristic of a friend. 

I think in Jonathan’s friendship to David we can see a type of Christ’s friendship to us.  Christ wants to bring us up to His level.  When we follow Him and do the same things He does, He calls us His friends, rather than his servants.   He shares His power with His friends and He binds us to Him by covenants.  He clothes us in the temple with power and authority.   He hopes that someday in eternity we will get to sit with him on the throne with the Father.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014 2 comments

KJV versus JST about the anger of God

For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life:
weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
(Psalms 30:5)
For his anger kindleth against the wicked;
 they repent, and in a moment it is turned away,
and they are in his favor,
and he giveth them life;
therefore, weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
(JST Psalms 30:5)
The KJV makes it seem like God’s anger is a flash in the pan and without any change it is gone.  It also doesn’t say what He is angry about, making it seem like God is fickle and erratic and capricious.  (Of course, believers know this is not so, but it is good to mention that it is sin He’s angry about.)

The JST clarifies that God’s anger is directed at the wicked, but the moment they repent His anger is turned away.  It also expands upon the mercy of God, how not only does He immediately turn away His anger, but repentance brings people into His favor (a 180 degree change), and He gives them life, or spiritual blessings.

This also causes the second line about weeping in the night to make more sense.  While the KJV makes it seem like the weeping is generalized grief, with the previous clarifications in the JST it becomes clear that the weeping in the night is someone who is mourning over their sins with intent to repent and change.  This kind of grief over sins may endure for a night, but joy (given from God along with forgiveness) comes in the morning after.

I appreciate the JST because it better expresses the holy character of God, both His anger at sin and His approval of repentance.  It helps me want to repent quickly because it builds my trust that God will respond quickly and with great mercy. 

Do you get anything else from the JST?

Sunday, September 28, 2014 2 comments

Eliab versus David as choices for king

When Samuel went to anoint the person who was to be king after Saul, he first saw Jesse’s son Eliab and thought that surely the Lord had chosen Eliab.  But the Lord told Samuel to not judge by the countenance or height and that the Lord had refused Eliab.

I think it is interesting to see how Eliab treats David later when David comes to take supplies to his brothers in Saul’s army.  While David is offended for Israel’s sake that a Philistine has defied Israel and God for so long, Eliab seems to think David is an obnoxious pipsqueak.  Theirs is this interesting exchange between Eliab and David that reveals their character so well.

28 ¶And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.
29 And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause?
30 ¶And he turned from him toward another, and spake after the same manner: and the people answered him again after the former manner. (1 Samuel 17:28-30)

Based upon what Eliab says, you can see he doesn’t take very kindly to criticism, even indirectly.  David’s questioning why this Goliath thing has gone on for so long is taken by Eliab as a rebuke that he should at least have done something, since he was with the army.  (Not that David really meant that, but Eliab may have felt it that way.)

So Eliab tries to defend himself by attacking David and basically smearing him in front of the other men with this family dialogue that makes it seem like David is 1) irresponsible for leaving the sheep, 2) of no account (because he says there are only a few sheep), 3) proud 4) naughty (or disobedient) 5) nosy and 6) a risk-taker for coming down to see a battle that is none of his business and which could be dangerous to him.

What a list of false accusations!  And Eliab knows they are false too because we can read earlier in the chapter that David had time to talk to his brothers before the Goliath thing came up, so Eliab would have known that David came at the request of his father (and no doubt would have provided a substitute to take care of the sheep while he was gone), that he brought supplies (so there was a purpose for his coming), that he took care of getting the supplies to the right place before he found his brothers to talk (so he was responsible).  Eliab just said those things to try to make David look bad in front of everyone.

That’s mean old brother behavior, even when grown up!  Just from that, you can tell Eliab wouldn’t be a very nice king.  1) He made false accusations when he knows the real facts 2) he tried to discredit a younger brother, a family member 3) he tried to stamp out David’s faithful and intrepid perspective just because Eliab didn’t have it in him and 4) he got defensive from the most indirect of unintended criticisms.

On the other hand, David’s behavior is excellent.  Even when he’s made to look bad, all he says is, “What have I now done?  Is there not a cause?” (v29).  He pleads innocence, but doesn’t attack back.  He also doesn’t allow himself to be deterred from asking his questions.  He doesn’t let himself get shut up by his older brother.

As an oldest child, I learn from this that it is important to not shut down good and faithful suggestions from my younger siblings.   I also learn from David appropriate ways to respond if others are trying to shut me down.

Is there anything else in addition that you learn from this?
Friday, September 26, 2014 0 comments

Little missed detail about the state of the Tabernacle under Eli

There’s a little bit about how the furniture of the Tabernacle is positioned during Eli’s time that gives us an extra sense of the problem Eli was as a priest.

And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep;
That the Lord called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I. (1 Samuel 3:3-4)

The lamp of God is the seven-branched candlestick, and it was supposed to never be allowed to go out!  Yet we are told here about stuff that happened before the lamp went out as if it were a common occurrence for it to be allowed to go out.

It may be that Samuel was assigned to sleep there and light the lamp first thing in the morning in order to make it look like it had never gone out at all, in which case Eli was trying to conserve oil in a place where it was not meant to be conserved.

Also, notice that the lamp was where the ark of God was, and Samuel was sleeping there too!  The way Moses instructed Israel, the ark was to be in the holy of holies and the lamp was to be in the holy place, separated from the holy of holies by the veil.  But here, the lamp and the ark were together!  We don’t know whether that means they were both in the holy place or both in the holy of holies, but we should know that whichever it was, it was wrong. 

So Eli had moved things around such that the ark was commonly accessible. 

This is quite shocking.  The ark was supposed to be in the holy of holies and only be visited once a year on the day of atonement by the high priest, who would sprinkle sacrificial blood on the mercy seat.

So it seems that not only was Eli allowing his sons to take the fat of the sacrifices and not only was he not rebuking them for their immorality, but he had moved the Tabernacle furniture around in such a way as to effectively change the ordinances, he was neglecting the care of the lamp of God, he was making the ark commonly accessible, and he was making Samuel treat the holy place like a bedroom instead of a temple.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 0 comments

Jonathan and David as types of Christ

In this block of verses, Saul wanted to kill David, but Jonathan warns David and promises to advocate for him to his father the king.  The verses of Jonathan’s advocacy are unusual in that his advocacy makes him a type of Christ and the things he says about David make David a type of Christ as well.

1 And Saul spake to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, that they should kill David.
2 But Jonathan Saul’s son delighted much in David: and Jonathan told David, saying, Saul my father seeketh to kill thee: now therefore, I pray thee, take heed to thyself until the morning, and abide in a secret place, and hide thyself:
3 And I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where thou art, and I will commune with my father of thee; and what I see, that I will tell thee.
4 ¶And Jonathan spake good of David unto Saul his father, and said unto him, Let not the king sin against his servant, against David; because he hath not sinned against thee, and because his works have been to thee-ward very good:
5 For he did put his life in his hand, and slew the Philistine, and the Lord wrought a great salvation for all Israel: thou sawest it, and didst rejoice: wherefore then wilt thou sin against innocent blood, to slay David without a cause?
6 And Saul hearkened unto the voice of Jonathan: and Saul sware, As the Lord liveth, he shall not be slain.
7 And Jonathan called David, and Jonathan shewed him all those things. And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence, as in times past. (1 Sam 19:1-7)

Jonathan’s princely status and advocating to the king for someone makes Jonathan a type of Christ and how He advocates to the Father for us.

What Jonathan says about David is interesting:
A) David has not sinned against the king.
B) David’s works to the king have been very good.
C) David wrought a great salvation for Israel, which the king saw and rejoices for.
D) Saul should not shed innocent blood and slay David.

A, B, C are all characteristics of Christ’s life as well.  He did not sin against God, His works to God were very good, and He wrought a great salvation for Israel, which made God rejoice to see.  Because of this, it would be wrong for Heavenly Father to condemn Christ to spiritual death.

So it seems that this is a case where Jonathan’s advocacy for David, and David’s innocence capture how Jesus could advocate for Himself to the Father on the grounds of His sinlessness and be permitted back into the presence of God, the heavenly king (and then become advocates for us as well.

I also started to see that the friendship between David and Jonathan was meant to typify the dual nature of Jesus Christ.  Jonathan was a prince, so he represented the divine part of Jesus, the part that was Jehovah, the part that was the Only Begotten son of God.  David was a commoner, so he represented the human mortal part of Jesus.

So when 1 Samuel 18:1 tells us the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, we are also being taught about the divine and the mortal human natures united in the person of Jesus Christ.

It is interesting that when Jonathan first pleads for David to Saul, Saul says, “As the Lord liveth, he shall not be slain.” (1 Sam 19:6)  This expresses how Christ would not be killed by others. 

Later in 1 Sam. 20:31, Jonathan pleads again for David, asking what he has done to deserve death, and Saul is less compassionate, saying, “For as long as the son of Jesse liveth upon the ground, thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom.  Wherefore now send and fetch him unto me, for he shall surely die.”  This expresses that Christ had to die, and we get a veiled reference to how as long as Jesus lived as a mortal, He could not reign in the heavens and earth as Jehovah and His supremacy could not be established.  He had to die in order to reign.

I love that I’m finding types of Christ where I never noticed them before!  As I’ve been reading and studying the Old Testament, I’m seeing so many types of Christ! 

Monday, September 22, 2014 0 comments

Captain Moroni’s Impetus for Peace Covenants with the Lamanites

One of the things that is remarkable about Captain Moroni is how he frequently tries to bring battles with the Lamanites to a close by requiring the Lamanites to enter into a covenant that they won’t go to battle against the Nephites again.  This is very peculiar and refreshingly large-hearted and trusting.  How did he get the idea that he could do such a thing?

I suspect that he might have gotten the idea from the record of Zeniff and Limhi.  Zeniff is the first one that makes promises with Lamanites and we can see that at the beginning these promises did a pretty good job of allowing Lamanites and Nephites to live in fairly close proximity to each other without bloodshed.  Perhaps this was previously believed to be impossible.

Captain Moroni could have learned from Zeniff and Limhi’s records that the Lamanites had a culture that took their promises, oaths, and covenants very seriously, and this made him willing to try using that factor to build peace between the Nephites and Lamanites.

We can also make agreements requiring nonaggression from our enemies.  Conficts happen, but if there is a promise not to fight, then that keeps fighting from happening except in really serious conflicts.
Saturday, September 20, 2014 0 comments

Three signs the Lord gives Moses for the Israelites

After Moses was called by God to deliver Israel from bondage in Egypt, Moses has some doubts that Israel will believe that he is the one to do this great work.  The Lord gives him three signs to use to help convince the Israelites of his qualifications.

1 And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee.
2 And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.
3 And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it.
4 And the Lord said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand:
5 That they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.
6 ¶And the Lord said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow.
7 And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh.
8 And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign.
9 And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land. (Exodus 4:1-9)

The signs are interesting, not only for their miraculous nature, but because of the messages they send.  They have a teaching function, and it can tell us something about God and the power He gives to prophets if we understand them better.

The first sign is throwing down the rod and it becomes a snake, then taking it up again and it becomes a rod again.  The second sign is putting his hand in his bosom, and it becomes leprous, then repeating the gesture and his hand is healed.  The third sign is taking some water from the river and pouring it out on the land where it would become blood.

The question these signs were meant to answer was that of doubt that the Lord really had appeared to Moses.  How were these signs to dissolve those doubts?

At its most basic level, these signs communicate Moses has acquired a miraculous power to change things.  He can change things because he has been changed by his encounter with God.  If he has the power to change things, then he can certainly help change their situation.

Moses has gained through God the power of life.  This power can make a dead rod alive and change it into an animal.  And it can change it back the way it was before.  With our scientific knowledge, we know how profound this change is.  It happened on the molecular level, changing wood fibers into bones, flesh, blood, muscles, scales, and all the DNA change with that, the creation of a brain and maybe even putting a snake’s spirit into it, all in the time it took the rod to fall from Moses’ hand to the earth.  And then changing it back again in the time he picked it up by the tail.  It implies that Moses has been given keys to spiritual life as well.

The signs also teach that Moses can now do what God can do.  Or rather, he does what God tells him to do and then miracles happen.  This message is an important one for us to learn about our church leaders and to trust the Lord ourselves.  It teaches how important obedience is and how blessed we may be when we obey without hesitation. 

The miracle of the leprosy coming and going teaches about God’s power of healing and power over the human body.  In the time it took for Moses to put his hand into his bosom and pull it out again, God formed the virus or bacteria in Moses’ hand and caused it to multiply and spread in his skin until it was visible.  And then, in the time it took for Moses to repeat that motion, the Lord removed the disease or changed it into healthy tissue.  We should have no doubt that whatever our physical afflictions or handicaps or medical issues, the Lord has the power to fix them immediately.  It is also to suggest the Lord’s power to heal the wounded soul and remove sin.

The miracle of drawing some water from the river and pouring it out on land and having it turn into blood teaches about the Lord’s power to change what the Moses sets apart.  To take the water out of the river was to separate it from the other waters, essentially setting it apart.  By this, the Lord hoped to teach that He had given Moses the power to take the Israelites from among the people and set them apart, and that they would be changed by that. 

This can help us today as we consider that we members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are set apart from the world.  We are also called and set apart for different church callings and we are changed by that. 

It is neat to me to know that we have a prophet on the earth today who has the same priesthood power that Moses had.  If President Monson were commanded by the Lord, he could do the same miracles Moses did.  It is also neat to me that we have these stories preserved for us so that we can learn the lessons the Lord wanted to teach through the miracles he had Moses do.

How have miracles in your life taught you?
Thursday, September 18, 2014 0 comments

Out of Zion the Deliverer

Paul has some things to say about how Israel would eventually be brought to believe in the gospel after having rejected it in Paul’s day.

25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written,
There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer,
and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. (Romans 11:25-27)

I was really curious about this quotation Paul used.  I wanted to know where it came from.  The footnote pointed to Isaiah 59:20, and that’s where I discovered something really interesting—it looks like Paul was quoting Isaiah but there are some significant differences between Isaiah and Paul’s quotation.

20 ¶And the Redeemer shall come to Zion,
and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord.
21 As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever. (Isaiah 59:20-21)

In Isaiah, Zion and Jacob seem to be used parallelistically and meant to mean the same entity, although you could argue that mentioning them twice indicates the possibility that they are separate there.  At best it is ambiguous.

The way Paul renders Isaiah, Sion is considered a different entity from Jacob, such that the Deliverer comes to Sion first and then goes to Jacob!

Another difference between Paul and Isaiah is that Paul states the Deliverer will go from Sion to Jacob, implying a previous time when Jacob will not have this Deliverer and will need redemption.  Yet Isaiah says the Redeemer will come to Zion and Jacob, as if it happens at the same time (which adds to the sense of parallelism).

Another difference is Paul’s rendering making it known it is the Deliverer who turns away ungodliness from Jacob.  Isaiah makes it seem like the Redeemer is coing to those of Jacob who have already turned away from their transgressions, implying the visit is a reward for previous repentance.  Paul, on the other hand, makes the point that the visit is what brings the repentance.

What are we to make of this?  Usually Paul is very careful with his quotations.  It makes me think that there might have been a big change made to that part of Isaiah in order to try to bury the implications that there would be a time when Zion would be a separate entity from Jacob.

I also went looking to see if there were any other scriptures from the Old Testament that supported Paul’s rendering and I found Psalms 14:7:

Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion!
when the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people,
Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.

Here too we see the idea of salvation coming out of Zion then going to Jacob and Israel, implying Jacob/Israel is separate from Zion and that salvation in the latter days comes from Zion to Jacob/Israel.

This essentially prophesies of the restoration of the gospel that would come to the gentiles, create Zion, and then go from Zion to descendents of Jacob.  Paul knew the apostasy would occur even after the gospel had gone to the gentiles in his day.  He knew it would be restored and then spread to gather Israel.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 0 comments

On Wiping out the Amalekites

One of the controversial parts of the Old Testament is the Lord’s commandment to wipe out the Amalekites so that their memory is erased.

The impetus for this command is after an occasion when a group of Canaanites called Amalekites attack the part of the Israelite camp with the sick, weary, and slow.  The strictness and severity of the command to wipe out the memory of the Amalekites is often questioned because of our distance from the offense they committed, when it was essentially an atrocity against noncombatants and civilians who could not defend themselves, about on par with attacking a hospital and slaughtering all inside.

One of the puzzling things is that even though various successive generations of Israelites destroy what they claim is “all of the Amalekites,” somehow enough Amalekites manage to survive for later generations to have to wipe them out too.

Saul is commanded to destroy the Amalekites, and he does, except for their king Agag, and Samuel has to finish the job.  Yet in the Book of Esther, we run into Haman, who is labeled an Agagite, which makes us thing Agag’s posterity still survived.

David returns home from the battlefront to find the Amalekites have attacked his hometown and carried away captive everyone, and he has to go rescue them.  Earlier than that, he goes on a raid against Amalekites and wipes them all out, presumably following that ancient command of Moses.

Even more interesting, occasionally editors of papers in Israel call for people to take up arms against the Amalekites around them who threaten their families.

How can Amalekites be wiped out generation after generation and still spring up again? 

Another interesting part of that story of Saul killing the Amalekites is that before he attacks, he finds Kenites living among the Amalekites, and he warns them to get out from among them so they aren’t destroyed too.  So the Kenites leave.  How did Saul know who was Kenite and who was Amalekite then? 

For that matter, how did any Israelite know an Amalekite from any other people?  Did they inquire after their genealogy and then attack?   Or was there a characteristic that instantly identified a group as Amalekite?  

Another question that troubles us is: Why did successive generations of Amalekites deserve to die?  If they deserved it, why weren’t their crimes recorded so that future generations could be sure their deaths were merited?   We place much importance on justice being done and in order to mentally exonerate the ancient Israelites of the charge of genocide, we feel we have to put the Amalekites on trial and hear the evidence that they were worthy of death.  But since there is very little evidence in the Bible, we conclude that no such evidence existed and that the executions were unfair.

I finally came up with a theory that explains why Amalekites continued to exist and continued to require destruction.  It also explains why their crimes were not recorded after the first inciting atrocity. 

My theory is that the classification of “Amalekite” may have begun as a particular culture, but didn’t have to stay that way.  Instead, it lived on as a behavior profile and the characteristic that identified someone as an Amalekite were the same actions that got the Amalekites under holy death sentence from God in the first place—attacking the weak, the sick, and those unable to defend themselves.   This is extremely predatory behavior.  Thus, anyone who did such a thing was to be considered an Amalekite and worthy of being wiped out. 

This is why Samuel commanded Saul to kill the Amalekites.  It meant that some group of people was being called Amalekites because of the atrocities they had just committed, and their acts required a response.   For Saul to leave Agag alive was to fail to punish the instigator of those atrocities.

This is why David went on raids against the Amalekites.  We are merely told of those raids and are meant to understand and take for granted that they happened because some group of people (labeled Amalekites) had committed atrocities against the weakest citizens who were unable to defend themselves.    This is also why David, when he comes back to find the city Ziklag looted and his women and children kidnapped, has to go chasing down more Amalekites to rescue his people.

The man who claims he killed King Saul is identified as an Amalekite.  Coincidence?   No.  If you read the account, you start to see that the man was predatory and taking advantage of the weak.

Haman, by plotting the death of the entire Jewish people in such a way that they were not allowed to defend themselves, is easily identified as a predatory type.  You don’t have to look at his genealogy to see that he fits the Amalekite profile.

So what do we learn from this?  In the commandment to wipe the Amalekites from the earth, we start to see not irrational cruelty and genocide as many often suppose, but an ancient measure to moderate war before there was ever thought of such a thing as the Geneva Convention.   It also bit both ways.  It was a command to put an end to any other people who commit such atrocities as the Amalekites had once committed, and implicitly a strict command to confine military aggression to those who can actually fight back (lest one become an Amalekite oneself).

Now..  you make the call.

Can Hitler be called an Amalekite?
How about suicide bombers?
What about terrorists?
Sunday, September 14, 2014 4 comments

David & Goliath: Factors in Goliath’s Vulnerability

When I read the story of David slaying Goliath recently I started asking myself some questions that I hadn’t thought of before:

--Was David the only slinger in the Israelite army?
--Why didn’t Goliath have anything to shield him?
--Why does Goliath so underestimate David?

I’ve read different things that say how slingers were an important part of ancient armies.  Judges 20:16 tells of 700 chosen men who could sling stones at a hairsbreadth and not miss, so they were a common part of armies.  So there would be slingers among Saul’s army already.

So why hadn’t some slinger already hit Goliath before David came?

The problem was Goliath had a shield bearer who went before him with a big shield.  The shield bearer wasn’t a glorified coat rack; he was supposed to keep Goliath safe from incoming sling stones.  And he was evidently very good at it because Goliath defied Israel for quite a while.

So how does Goliath go so wrong with David?  Why, if David goes to Goliath with his sling in his hand, does Goliath seem to completely underestimate him?  1 Samuel 17:41 tells us that as Goliath begins to come close to David, the shield bearer went before him, so his guard was still up at the beginning.  But Goliath makes a comment in v43 -- “Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves?”  This tells us that all Goliath could see at first that David had was David’s staff.   It is possible David had his sling in his hand all rolled up or folded up, or even just held in his hand with his staff, so that Goliath could only see the staff and not the sling.  To Goliath’s eyes, David looked inadequately armed, and maybe this is what gets Goliath out from behind his shield bearer so that David can get a nice clear shot.

The risk to David was that he might not be able to bring his sling into play in time before the Philistine got to him.  Nevertheless, he starts running toward Goliath and as he runs, he prepares his sling for action.  It seems that not only was David excellent with the sling, he was good at the “quick draw” and that too while on the run, with a moving target.

Thus, we can see where David’s courage and faith were.  He knew it was risky to get close to Goliath, but he trusted in God that he would be delivered.  He had previous experience because of the time he trusted in God to help him deliver a lamb out of the mouth of a lion and a bear in a close-up struggle.

Sometimes in our fight against evil we have to get up-close-and-personal in situations with great risk.   David’s story shows us that when we have to, we can depend on God to protect us and then use the skills and training we have.