Friday, November 28, 2008

And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines (1Sam 14)

Chapter 14 introduces us more formally to the character of Saul's son Jonathan, the man who would have succeeded Saul had there been a proper Saulide dynasty, and frankly someone who seems to have been far more suited to be king. This guy's smart, kind, and a good warrior, which is everything an ancient king really needed to be. Maybe I'm forgetting something, but I don't seem to recall the Bible having anything bad to say about Jonathan.

So the men of Israel are trying to figure out how to best wage a battle against the Philistines, and while Saul is busy making plans, Jonathan has leapt into action, saying "there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few." This is fascinating, reminding us perhaps of Gideon's tiny army that overcame much larger forces; Jonathan is actually entertaining the idea that, what with God supposedly being on their side, they might as well go up against the Philistines as an army of two people (namely Jonathan and his armor-bearer) as thousands. This is pretty amazing faith.

Jonathan essentially asks God for a sign, saying that if the Philistines of the garrison call him up to them, it means God intends victory. They do, and Jonathan and his armor-bearer team up to take out twenty Philistines. As usual, the SAB calls this violent, unjust and intolerant, and I reply that well, this is war, and the Philistines are invaders, what do you expect?

Now apparently, there immediately follows an earthquake, which so scares and confuses the Philistines that they commence fighting each other. Saul watches all of this from a distance in wonder, and the Israelite army, which had largely scattered out of fear, regroups. Now Saul is apparently not making the best of the situation. He's brought the ark with him to war (perhaps this was twenty years later?) although at least he doesn't bring it to the front lines. Even with the ark and a priest present, he seems hesitant to take action.

Also, there is an interesting story that finishes out the chapter, reflecting further Saul's lack of sound decision making and understanding of spiritual things. Saul charges all of his men not to eat until they have achieved victory, most likely in some misguided attempt to make his men "spiritually cleansed". The SAB calls it absurd, and I agree. Apparently so does Jonathan, who, not knowing his father has pronounced this "curse", eats some honey; when he is informed of the situation, he points out how much better he feels after having eaten, and essentially points out that the army would probably fight better on a full stomach than an empty one.

In fact, this leads to a big problem, as the men finally break down to eat, and they are so hungry that they don't bother to take the time to drain the blood out of the animals, a serious breach of dietary law.

Saul decides it's time to go and finish off the Philistine army, but decides to inquire of God, I assume through the priest. God gives him no answer. Saul assumes that God doesn't want to talk to him because somebody in the army ate when they were still under Saul's pronounced curse, and it turns out to be Jonathan, so Saul and Jonathan both agree that Jonathan must die for simply eating honey. The people however point out that Jonathan was the hero of the day, and it makes no sense to punish Jonathan for being successful, so Jonathan does not die at this time.

The Philistines escape, and Saul ends up fighting them, and others, throughout his entire reign.

8 comments:

Steve Wells said...

As usual, the SAB calls this violent, unjust and intolerant, and I reply that well, this is war, and the Philistines are invaders, what do you expect?

My concern here is both the Bible's glorification of slaughter and God's obvious delight and participation in it.

And that first slaughter, which Jonathan and his armourbearer made, was about twenty men, within as it were an half acre of land.

Not bad for a very first slaughter, eh Brucker? Of course it wasn't just Jonathan and his amourbearer. It was God. "The Lord delivered them into the hand of Israel."

I notice you didn't mention the really cool thing in the chapter. You know, the part where God forces the Philistines to kill each other. (14:20) Isn't that almost orgasmic to a true believer?

It seems to me that you are getting less and less honest as you go through the Bible, Brucker. But I guess you have to do that, if you're going to still believe in it.

Brucker said...

>>>My concern here is both the Bible's glorification of slaughter and God's obvious delight and participation in it.<<<

Understood, but I once again plead self-defense on the part of the Israelites.

>>>Not bad for a very first slaughter, eh Brucker? Of course it wasn't just Jonathan and his amourbearer. It was God. "The Lord delivered them into the hand of Israel."<<<

Fair enough.

>>>I notice you didn't mention the really cool thing in the chapter. You know, the part where God forces the Philistines to kill each other. (14:20) Isn't that almost orgasmic to a true believer?<<<

I mentioned it, and althoguh it might not have been obvious, I was also referring back in a more general sense to the similar incident with Gideon, which was also won through confusion. Here of course, God takes a more active role through the earthquake.

>>>It seems to me that you are getting less and less honest as you go through the Bible, Brucker. But I guess you have to do that, if you're going to still believe in it.<<<

Where have I been dishonest here? Have I missed something again? Am I getting sloppy?

Steve Wells said...

OK, I'm sorry, Brucker. I went too far with the honesty thing. I think you are trying to be honest. But it's hard to be honest when defending something that is so obviously false and evil.

The violence in this chapter is clearly inspired, approved, encouraged, and, at least in part, performed by God. God forced the Philistines to kill each other. And he's OK with that. Proud of it even. Are you?

Brucker said...

Okay, sure. I think it's pretty cool that when an invading force tried to kill God's chosen people, that they ended up destroying themselves. Is that answer sufficient?

Steve Wells said...

Okay, sure. I think it's pretty cool that when an invading force tried to kill God's chosen people, that they ended up destroying themselves. Is that answer sufficient?

You think it is "pretty cool" when God forces people to kill each other? Pretty cool?

And what's this about an "invading army"? It was Jonathan who attacked the Philistines. ("And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us." v.14:6)

Brucker said...

Yes, Jonathan attacked the Philistines, who were foreign invaders of the land.

(Yes, the Israelites were in a sense also foreign invaders, but at the ordering of God, for a higher purpose.)

brilliant said...

You think it is "pretty cool" when God forces people to kill each other? Pretty cool?

Come on now, isn't this a common device in comics and action films, especially comedies?

Example: "good guys" are brawling with "bad guys." One "bad guy" goes to punch (or shoot or throw a cream pie at) a "good guy." Uh oh! The "good guy" ducks and the "bad guy" punches (or shoots or throws a cream pie at) another "bad guy." HILARIOUS!

In fact, I don't think it even has to be the good guys for it to be cool. Isn't there a scene in Batman Returns where some gas makes everyone attack each other? I've heard this scene described as "cool" by a number of people, and it was even the bad guy who did it.

So Wells, perhaps even you can appreciate thwe coolnees of this trick on the part of the "pig God," as you called him in a previous post, giving me a good laugh.

Wait a second. Is this why Jews and Muslims aren't allowed to eat pigs?!

(Love your work, by the way, Wells, even though I'm a Theist.)

Brucker said...

It may be a classic, but I understand the point Steve's trying to make. It's cool in fiction, but would it be so cool if it were to happen in real life? I like it in this case because the Philistines are made out pretty clearly to be "the bad guys", but it's a question worth asking.