David: Not the Anti-Saul!; Neusner on Foot Moore

1.  In my reading today of The Surprising Election and Confirmation of King David, Randall Short argues that the History of David’s Rise in I Samuel 16-II Samuel 5 is not court propaganda because it presents David as having flaws, even as it depicts Saul as a man with some virtues.  If it were court propaganda, Randall’s assumption seems to be, it would have presented David as virtuous and fit for the kingship, while depicting Saul as evil and incompetent. 

Randall points out that David actually has some of the same flaws that Saul does.  For Randall, David acts out of fear of man in the early sections of the History of David’s Rise, when he should have acted out of the fear of God.  David flees to Gath, when God wanted him to remain in Judah (Randall cites I Samuel 22:5 to support this).  Similarly, before David came on the scene, Saul disobeyed God and offered sacrifices rather than waiting for Samuel to return.  Why?  Saul feared the people.

David is “characterized as a lying, scheming, young rogue”.  He lies at Nob to get food from the priests.  He pretends to be a madman to dupe the Philistine king.  Similarly, Saul had his lying, cunning side to him.  He lies to Samuel when he says that he obeyed the command of the LORD regarding the Amalekites, and he schemes “to bring David down by the hand of the Philistines.”

I can think of another example.  Both Saul and David could be pretty rash.  Saul proclaims a fast during a battle, is about to kill his son Jonathan when he violates the fast, and slaughters the priests of Nob.  David is about to murder Nabal and his men because of their rudeness, but he is stopped by Abigail.  Is David better than Saul because David can be stopped from his rash act through persuasion?  Not necessarily.  Saul was stopped a few times from killing David.

Randall mentions some of Saul’s virtues in the History of David’s Rise.  Even after God has forsaken him, Saul fights the battles of the LORD.  He bans witches from the land.  He is remorseful before David.  Even when Saul consults the witch of Endor, he does not appear evil, but rather pitiful.

I think this is a strong argument on Randall’s part.  But I wonder: does court propaganda have to depict its characters in a flat manner?  Complex characters are the stuff of entertainment!

2.  I started Jacob Neusner’s Judaism: The Evidence of the Mishnah.  Neusner praises George Foot Moore’s books on Judaism because they encouraged the study of Judaism in a time when the culture was anti-Jewish.  But Neusner feels that Moore failed to distinguish among the different time periods and schools of Judaism in his work.  Rather, Moore lumped things together under the category of rabbinic thought.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
This entry was posted in Bible, Rabbinics, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.