Completing Seow’s Myth, Drama, and the Politics of David’s Dance

I finished C.L. Seow’s Myth, Drama, and the Politics of David’s Dance.

David in II Samuel 6 brings the Ark to Jerusalem, after he had become king over Israel, conquered Jerusalem, and defeated the Philistines.  For Seow, David, in effect, was celebrating YHWH’s victory in battle and enthronement—the sort of myth that ancient Near Eastern literature presents regarding gods such as Baal, Marduk, Asshur, etc.  And, in II Samuel 5:20, David affirms that, as the waters break out, so the LORD broke out against David’s enemies.  The god’s defeat of chaotic waters plays a role in David’s perception of his experiences.  In a sense, David’s triumph is also YHWH’s triumph.

And, as Psalm 132 indicates, subsequent Davidids hearkened back to the procession of the Ark into Jerusalem.  According to Seow, Psalm 132 was composed after the split between Northern Israel and Judah, as Judahites asked God to remember David.  Yet, Psalm 132 clearly has archaic elements, and it appears to refer to the events of II Samuel 6: David wants for God to have a resting place, and Psalm 132:6 refers to Jaar, which is similar to Yearim, the location of the Ark before David moved it to Jerusalem.  Psalm 132 is about God’s choice of Zion for his dwelling, which is essential to Judah’s prosperity and security.

Seow offers some interesting interpretations of David’s dance in II Samuel 6, based on ancient Near Eastern literature.  David dances before the LORD, and perhaps is wearing only an ephod while he is doing so; Seow interprets this to be David imitating nature’s dance before the LORD (i.e., the mountains dancing like rams in Psalm 114:4), and he refers to ancient Near Eastern evidence of people dancing in ritual, while they are nude and disguised as rams.  Moreover, Seow refers to ancient Near Eastern stories in which dancing or uncovering a tent precedes a concern that the deity lacks a temple.  For example, El dances before Athirat, and she uncovers his tent and laments that Baal, even though triumphant, does not have a sanctuary to call his own.  Similarly, David in II Samuel 6 dances while uncovered, and, in II Samuel 7, he complains that the LORD does not have a temple.

Psalm 132 makes a big deal about David’s humility, right before it talks about David’s earnestness to find a resting place for YHWH.  According to Seow, something similar occurs in other ancient Near Eastern literature: a king is said to be humble, then he is praised for housing the god.  A king restoring a cult or finding a resting place for an idol was deemed praiseworthy in the ancient Near East.

One more thing to note: On page 126, Seow refers to a statue of a divine warrior that was found in a tenth century stratum of the City of David.  Was this when David supposedly possessed the city?  If so, it’s interesting that there was an idol in the Golden Age of David.  But, come to think of it, that shouldn’t be too surprising, for David had teraphim in his home, according to I Samuel 19:13.

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.
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