Archaeology Of The Bible Essay

1734 words - 7 pages


Chapter 8 of 1 Samuel marks an important shift in Israelite governmental style. Up until this point, the not-yet-officially-named ‘Israelites’ were governed by a succession of divinely appointed judges, such as Samson and Gideon. These men were military leaders that arose from varying backgrounds in order to protect the 12 tribes from whoever wished to rob the Israelites of their land, produce or belongings (Chilton, 127). However, these tribes had not yet united under a single banner competently enough in order to make efficient use of their combined military power. So enters Saul, who is to be anointed King over all of Israel. Yet, the story of Saul’s election highlights ...view middle of the document...

(Chilton, 132). And there are even more peculiar narrative surrounding Samuel and his sons.
Firstly, there is the fact that Samuel appointed his sons, Joel and Abijah, to be Judges, even though God had not given him any command to do so (1 Samuel, 8:2). It stands as an odd example of Samuel’s power as a prophet. Further material for this odd characteristic arises in the excerpt, ““You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations”. But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us”” (1 Samuel, 8:5). We must note the Samuel is the one that expresses immediate displeasure, and not God, whereas in the cases of previous Judges such as Samson and Gideon, Yahweh was directly involved in the selection process, and thus directly and verbally expressed himself. Although it should be noted that once Samuel consults God, it is revealed that God also shares a similarly negative sentiment. Thus the reader (understandably) assumes that Samuel’s initial reaction of displeasure was, at most, a subtle jab of narrative foreboding. Whilst it could certainly function that way, his reaction, consultation, and conversation with God, followed by his subsequent retelling of God’s warnings against monarchial establishment, actually underline 2 more subtle purposes.
The first being, the Samuels similarity in reaction with Yahweh reaffirms, or strengthens his prophetic power, and repute. He expresses displeasure which seems selfish, but then turns out to be confluent with the will of Yahweh, thereby reaffirming faith in whatever subsequent thought or opinion Samuel could or would have following this event. It’s actually a display of both his prophetic power, and the alignment of his character with that of Yahweh, making him in a sense, God’s vessel on earth. But since the narrative already holds Samuel in high repute, why would this reaffirmation or strengthening be necessary? Well, because of Saul of course. Samuel, though opposed to the decision, anoints Saul as the first King of all the twelve tribes of Israel (1 Samuel, 10), and when the narrative shows Saul to be a deplorable King, it would naturally reflect badly on Samuel, simply by virtue of his association with Saul’s election. But with Samuel’s publically expressed negative reaction to kingship being backed up by Yahweh’s warnings, Samuel is allowed to hold onto his prophetic reputation, which thereby allows him to elect David- Saul’s political and literary opposite. Saul is clearly posited as David’s failed precursor and foil when he is described as “a handsome young man… [standing] head and shoulders above everyone else” (1 Samuel, 9), which is almost identical to how David is described in 1 Samuel, 16. Thus, the idea is set, that though of similar makeup, David possessed an advantage, or advantageous destiny, that Saul did not- which was his divine right to kingship. Saul was democratically elected at the behest...

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