Friday, November 21, 2008

What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? (1Sam 9)

Chapter 9 opens with yet another identity conflict, this one having to do with the family tree of Saul. Here we see the claim that Kish was the son of Abiel, but in 1Chronicles, we are twice told that Kish is the son of Ner. So which is it? Well, despite the fact that being told twice in 1Chronicles might lead you to go with the majority statement, reading elsewhere seems to suggest this minority reading is the correct one. Various other passages tell us that Ner is in fact Kish's uncle, suggesting that the passage in 1Chronicles is some sort of scribal error, and one that only appears twice because, as the SAB points out, for some reason the extended passage that it appears within is inexplicably written twice. We've seen this sort of discrepancy before, and we'll probably see it again, I expect. [Edit to add: See the comments for a suggestion that may resolve this problem; Kish may be the offspring of a Levirate marriage.]

So we are introduced to Saul who is apparently tall and handsome, which for some reason, the SAB finds absurd. I don't know what should be absurd about this. It's actually an important aspect of the story, I believe, because when the people get introduced to Saul, they will immediately say of a tall, good-looking guy, "Wow, that guy looks like a king!" The overarching lesson of the story of Saul is that people tend to prefer to look good than to be good, and that goes for their choice in politicians as well.

Right after introducing Saul as a physically impressive person, we are given a story about Saul in which we see perhaps a suggestion of his shortcomings. He's been sent out to find some donkeys, and he has no luck finding them, so he decides to give up. His servant tells him that they are near the home of Samuel, and Saul seems to know nothing about Samuel, not even recognizing him for who he is when he runs into him in the street. Samuel recognizes Saul is the new king-to-be, and invites him to his house to eat. Later, before sending him away, he has a few personal moments with Saul that we are told little about here.

6 comments:

Steve Wells said...

Okay, maybe it's not absurd. But don't you think it's funny?

Saul was the best looking guy in all of Israel and stood head and shoulders above everyone in all of Israel.

Do you really believe that Saul was a foot taller than anyone in his kingdom? And the best looking guy? An eight foot tall Brad Pitt, maybe?

Okay. So it's both absurd and funny.

Brucker said...

The claim that he was so very tall may have been hyperbolic, but I'm guesing he was tall nonetheless. Best-looking is rather subjective.

As I said, I think the main point of the story of Saul is that we tend to choose good-looking people rather than well-qualified people. I'm too young to even remember Nixon, but an older friend of mine (who is a liberal Democrat) told me that he could never figure out how Kennedy beat Nixon, but then, he didn't have a television during the election.

Steve Wells said...

If I told you that so and so is better looking and a foot taller than anyone else in the country, you wouldn't believe me and would think it a stupid thing to say. But when the Bible says it, you see nothing wrong, absurd, or funny about it. Strange, that.

It is true, as you say, that best-looking is subjective. It depends on who's looking. But in this case it was God. God thought that Saul was the best-looking guy in Israel.

And the main point point that you claim for this silly story seems pointless to me. God said Saul was the best-looking guy in Israel (and a foot taller than anyone else) and he chose Saul to be king. Yet you say that the point is that God doesn't choose people for their looks? As usual, God has a strange way of communicating.

Brucker said...

If I told you that so and so is better looking and a foot taller than anyone else in the country, you wouldn't believe me and would think it a stupid thing to say.

Tell me that Yao Ming is a foot taller than anyone else in China, and I'd be inclined to believe you, but would probably want to research it. It's certainly possible.

But when the Bible says it, you see nothing wrong, absurd, or funny about it. Strange, that.

Personally, I don't care who the tallest man in Israel is, or ever was, so I guess I don't really think about it so much.

It is true, as you say, that best-looking is subjective. It depends on who's looking. But in this case it was God. God thought that Saul was the best-looking guy in Israel.

I must have missed the verse reading "Thus saith the Lord of hosts: This Son of Kish is a real hottie!" It was simply the opinion of most of the people of his day as far as I read it.

And the main point point that you claim for this silly story seems pointless to me. God said Saul was the best-looking guy in Israel (and a foot taller than anyone else) and he chose Saul to be king. Yet you say that the point is that God doesn't choose people for their looks? As usual, God has a strange way of communicating.

I won't debate that. The point is, God chooses a guy that just about everyone immediately says, "Now THAT'S a king!" who then turns out to be a terrible ruler. Years later, he chooses a runty little shepherd boy that nobody believes in, and he turns out to be one of the best rulers in Israel's history. Why God wants to let things go the wrong way before He makes it the right way is honestly beyond me, so in part, I agree.

brilliant said...

The problem with Saul's family tree could be related to the custom in the Tamar/Onan story, where when a man died, and his brother impregnated his wife, the offspring then being legally the dead man's, but biologically the brother's.

Brucker said...

A excellent suggestion, and surely a possibility. Kish could very well have been the biological offspring of Ner, but the legal offspring of Abiel, or vice-versa, due to a Levirate marriage. If indeed this is the case, I'd guess that Ner was the biological father, based on the wording.