The picture above is the head of Michelangelo’s David.
February 9, 2008

The Good King David

I Samuel 20-31. The picture above is the head of Michelangelo’s David.

At 20 we have Jonathan helping David to return to court. A lot is made of the homoerotic nature of the relationship of David and Jonathan. If I recall Malachi Martin’s novel about David correctly, he was pretty explicit about postulating a homosexual relationship. This seems relatively unlikely, at least as far as expression goes, given the negative strictures against homosexuality. It may be that there was an intense love that was not expressed physically. It may be that it was simply a close friendship. It may have been a friendship that was perceived as homosexual, whether it was or not. In any case I don’t think you can get too much detail out of the texts about David and Jonathan. It should also be remembered that different ages have different modes of expression that might be perceived differently. Renaissance expression, for example, is sometimes much more florid and effusive than that of 20th or 21st centuries.

21 deals with David at Nob , and 22 deals with Sauls slaughter of the priests at Nob. 23 and 24 deal with more of David’s flight

25 begins with the death of Samuel, and then launches into the story of Nabal and Abigail. Nabal is fairly wealthy, and owns 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats. Nabal is conducting the sheep shearing, which a footnote says is a time of festival during which he is expected to be generous. David expects to impose a levy under what the footnote describes as “the law of brotherhood.” A more polite term seems to be extortion, and quite frankly David seems to be running a protection racket.

When David’s soldiers request a donation, Nabal refuses, the soldiers return, and tell David, and he orders everyone to arm. A messenger finds Abigail, and at 25:15 he begins telling her how good David has been, “Now these men were very good to us; they did not molest us and we did not find anything missing all the time we were out in the fields while we were in the neighborhood.” So Abigail takes 200 loaves, 2 wine skins, 5 sheep, 5 measures of grain, 100 bunches of raisin, and 200 fig cakes to David. Once David has the goods, he agrees to leave them alone. Nabal is at a feast when Abigail tells him about what happened, something happens that affects Nabal so that “his heart died inside him, and he became like a stone” (25:37). David then (25:40) proposes to Abigail, she accepts, and they get married. Apparently “the funeral baked meats did furnish forth the wedding feast” in 1000 BC as well.

Now this seems to me to be extortion, and possible murder, by Abigail, so at this point I start thinking of David as being more like Michael Corleone, whom I love in fiction though I’m not sure about real life, than a shepherd and singer of psalms.

In 26 he encounters Saul, and despite having an opportunity to kill him, spares his life. This repeats a theme from 24.

27 David takes refuge with Achish at Gath.

At 28 the Philistines go to war with Israel, and Saul consults the witch of Endor. Saul has driven necromancers out, and it is a capital offense to consult one, but he finds one, and raises the ghost of Samuel. Samuel tells him that he is doomed.

At 29 David is sent away by the Philistines.

At 30 David returns to his base at Ziklag, and finds the town burned and the women taken. He sets out to liberate the women, and kills all the soldiers except for 400 who escape on camels.

31 is the death of Saul by suicide (31:4). II Samuel gives a different version of the death of Saul, but that’s for next time.