Thursday, September 21, 2023

David did that which was right (2Samuel 22)

One important thing to say about 2Samuel chapter 22 is that it's out of chronological order. It's been a while since I read 2Samuel, but I seem to recall the last few chapters are a bit of a muddle, and while I don't know about the scholarly consensus on this, I've always suspected that they were added on later. This may make sense of a few issues in the text.

So this is pretty much a psalm. There's going to be some poetic license. There's a lot of flowery speech about God's nostrils and riding on cherubs. Has there ever been a righteous person? Yes, but there is some subjectivity in the term "righteous" that muddies the water here. Sometimes we're talking about being completely righteous and innocent before God, that is, a person has not personally sinned. Sometimes the word "righteous" is used to describe something that a person seeking righteousness will do. Also, the Jewish concept of being "righteous" was largely different than the Christian concept, although there is overlap. The Christian doctrine of "original Sin" suggested that being fully righteous could only be attained through a positional righteousness with respect to Christ, nonetheless Jewish understanding of righteousness was also in part about attempting to grow closer to God. That being said, there's something about being "righteous" that is largely about trying to do right in both religious traditions, although sometimes the term is used to refer to someone who is completely blameless. See? Clear as mud! So, as for the "No" verses: As I've said before, Job is not a theologian, and he's talking from a place of great despair throughout his book. Isaiah is probably talking about the current state of the people of Israel, although many people do interpret this verse to be a universal decree, which is not necessarily a problem; compared to God, humans' acts of righteousness are comparatively "filthy rags." The verse in Isaiah chapter 41 may be similar, but it's worth noting overall that Isaiah has verses on both sides here, so it's unlikely his intentions are contradictory, especially since it appears that even just earlier in chapter 41 Isaiah is talking about "the righteous man". Romans 3:10 is Paul quoting from Psalm 14, which is translated differently in the KJV, and I believe is hyperbole, but Paul is trying to make a point about the law, and the impossibility of man fulfilling it, therefore full righteousness is only truly possible through the grace of God.

Did David sin? Of course he did, but yes, this deserves some examining. Probably the number one thing to say about David is that generally, people don't consider killing people in the course of warfare to be a sin; it's pretty clear David didn't. That's not the source of the contradiction, however. Yes, David sinned in the matter of Uriah and Bathsheba, and he at least felt that he had sinned in performing a census, although the latter is less clear. I believe that this chapter was written before Bathsheba, so while realistically, it's unlikely David was perfect, he had no significant sins at the time this was written. On the other hand, 1Kings was definitely written after David sinned, so what can be said? Something that is very important with respect to sin in God's eyes is repentance, which David was genuinely very good at in all the instances where he was called out. In the Jewish Law, when one sins, if one then repents and gives the proper sacrifice, then one is following the Law. It's really for this reason that David is often brought up as an example of righteousness; not because he was perfect, but because he sought the will of God.

The SAB marks other matters in this psalm with a number of things that are subjective, except for violence, but once again, we're talking about warfare, and scientific issues, but as I've said many times before, in poetry, there's a lot of flowery speech that isn't necessarily meant to be taken literally.

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