Friday, June 20, 2008

Heil David! 2 Samuel 22-23

This post is part of a revolutionary Bible commentary by the Church of the Orange Sky.

Once again, my Men's Bible makes me want to cry, with a ridiculous devotional aside by Walter Trobisch encouraging us to celebrate our salvation because it makes us into "whole men," worthy and competent and secure and confident and all those other good things we can take pride in thanks to our penises.

King David has pretty much had his day, and he sings a long song to God followed by some last words. David isn't exactly going out with humility and grace, as it's hard to tell whether the song is more about God's glory or his own.

Here, for example, is a particularly implausible stanza in which David makes the most unlikely claim that he is blameless and without sin, perhaps forgetting the times when he was consorting with Philistines, throwing Israel into civil war, committing adultery, extorting money, and so on:

The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
For I have kept the ways of the Lord;
I have not done evil by turning from my God.
All his laws are before me; I have not turned away from his decrees.
I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin.
The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in his sight."

Uh huh. Sure, David. Later on, he arrogantly asserts that the God in question belongs only to him: God helped him destroy all of his enemies, including his own people (verse 22:44); he has so many subjects that he doesn't even know them all, thanks to God; God "avenges me, puts the nations under me, sets me free from my enemies."

David's last words continue on in much the same vein, claiming that he is "the man exalted by the most high, the man anoited by the God of Jacob." He claims that he is "like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning." Better yet, God has "made with me an everlasting covenant," and will "bring to fruition my salvation and grant me my every desire." I could go on but it gets kind of tedious and sickening.

Next, the Bible contains a long list of accolades for David's best soldiers, which it hilariously refers to as "David's mighty men." I think I almost fell off my chair upon reading that term. Some of these men look like they should have been back in Judges: for example, there's Josheb-Basshebeth, who killed eight hundred men in a single encounter using his magic spear; Eleazar, who fought the Philistines for so long that his hand "froze to the sword"; and Shammah, who single-handedly defended a lentil field from a company of Philistines (this feat seems somewhat less impressive, but apparently was enough to qualify him).

Better yet! These three men are especially remembered because, during one particular campaign against the Philistines, David offhandedly complained that there wasn't enough water to go around. So, "the Three" - as the Bible refers to them from here on - crossed the front lines and stole water from a Philistine well for David.

Then there's also Abishai, who killed three hundred men; Benaiah, who killed a lion in a snowstorm; and another thirty-odd men who are important enough to be remembered but not important enough to have their exploits recorded.

I include this section more because it's amusing then because it's theologically significant. Basically, whoever was responsible for finishing off 2 Samuel has changed it from religious scripture into meaningless propaganda. It would make me ill if it wasn't so amusing. Who mentioned God? Bah! We're talking about real human heroes now! It's a marked departure from the flawed heroes of most of the Old Testament.