Below is a continuation of the Bible According to George (I am now in Second Samuel)
Anyway, there is a distinct change in the text at the start of chapter seven. It becomes much more difficult to make sense of, and, seemingly, more David-promoting. In chapter seven David at first entertains the idea of building the Ark a house to live in, then decides against it, with Nathan’s blessing. Nathan was some sort of priest, initially called a prophet, who talked directly with God, or vice-versa. He also frequently talks with the Ark, which sometimes appears to be one and the same as God. But one gets the impression that Nathan is taking cues from David and telling him what he (Nathan) thinks he (David) really wants to hear. Maybe that’s a little unfair, but that’s how it seems to me. The feeling is somewhat reinforced by a lot of language that could be interpreted as saying that David is really cool and his kingdom will last forever.
Never mind the holocaust, or anything about the pogroms in a number of countries. But, if there is one thing which seems to be constant throughout the story as presented in the Old Testament, it is that God can rethink things and reverse prior decisions. Again, that’s how it looks to me.
Chapter Eight seems to be devoted entirely to how David keeps winning battles, beating enemies, gaining ground and reputation, and naming the leaders under David, including how Toi, king of Hamath, and Joram, apparently king of something, got off (i.e. away from David’s attacks) by bribing him directly.
Chapter Nine seems to be devoted to how David gives all the former possessions of Saul to Mephibosheth, one of Jonathan’s sons, who, incidentally, is crippled about the feet.
In Chapter Ten we we see David defeat the Syrians and enslave their people.
All in all, I’d have to say the message is pretty clear: David was very good at leading armies, everyone feared him, and he was capricious but consistent enough that many loved him.
Here we see the start of David’s affair, and later marriage, with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, which was to be David’s downfall. Or, at least, that’s how I used to understand it. Now, I’m not so sure.
David apparently stayed at home one campaign led by Joab. During his stay he noticed Bathsheba bathing in a river. Wanting her, he sets about to get her. He immediately sends messengers to fetch her, and beds her. She gets pregnant and tells him as soon as she knows. David summons Uriah to him, but Uriah is suspicious and uncooperative. Frustrated, David sends Uriah to serve with Joab, with a separate message to Joab to see to it that Uriah is killed in battle by being a front man in a losing assault. Joab does as asked, but loses a lot of good men in the effort.
David takes Bathsheba as his wife as soon as the appropriate mourning period is past.
God is not pleased.
God sends Nathan with a rebuke to David. The rebuke is in the form of a fable/parable. Nathan tells David there were two men in a town, one rich and the other poor. A traveler comes and the first, rich guy, steals the second, poor guy’s, only sheep to feed the guest, but will not touch his own riches to host the traveler. David gets all mad at the fictional rich guy. Then Nathan tells David that he (David) is the rich man.
In the next bit, I must admit to a little confusion. David’s son by Bathsheba is struck ill and dies in seven days. David fasts and sleeps on the ground while the child is ill, but does just the opposite once the child dies. He beds Bathsheba again afterwards, in fact, and fathers Solomon thereby. David, somehow, renames Nathan, the prophet, Jedediah, which Second Samuel attributes to Nathan’s role in all of this (which I also don’t fully understand). God seems pleased by all this, and reportedly loves Solomon. Joab drives the Rabbahites, I guess it is, to the point of defeat, then turns the whole thing over to David, hence David can reap all the praise and spoils of war that come with the victory.
Okay, I admit that I don’t get a lot of this. It makes most sense to me as the best David apologists could do with what must have been a pretty sordid bit of very public history. David strikes me as a very poor monarch in a very poor time. The best one can seem to say about him was that he was very good at killing people when a lot of people needed killing. No wonder that the people who seem to have survived this era are not people I would like too see us hold up as models for our children. Yet these are exactly the people we do hold up as models.
I just don’t get it.
Herein lies the story of Amnon, one of David’s many sons. Some would prefer to think of it more as the first part of the story of Absalom, who was another of David’s many sons, with a different mother–one of many of David’s romantic partners. It seems that Absalom had a full sister named Tamar that Amnon wanted. Being his half-sister, though, he was not supposed to sleep with her. This was forbidden even then, apparently.
To make a long story a bit shorter, Amnon rapes her through a bit of trickery involving lying to his father and then rejects her because, I assume, of her sluty-ness. Male self-justification also goes back a long way. Absalom, about two years later, takes revenge by killing Amnon at a function where all of David’s many sons are present. The exact circumstances are not entirely clear, but David apparently thinks Absalom has killed all the brothers. Absalom flees, spending a couple of years in someplace called Geshur. When David learns not all of his sons were slain, though, he apparently is not so upset. He seems to have not liked Amnon very much himself.
This chapter begins with Joab realizing that David was depressed over his relationship with Absalom. So Joab Sets up a meeting between David and a woman by the name of Tekoah, or maybe the woman was just a wise woman who lived in Tekoah, I’m not too sure on that. Anyway, Joab talks this woman into feigning a bereavement which King David can help her with. But the whole thing is a ruse in which her situation is meant to represent David and his relationship with Absalom. David figures out the ruse, and the woman and Joab grovel enough to assuage him of it. David lets it stand. The right thing for him to do, he decides, in this situation is to invite Absalom back to Jerusalem. He sends Joab to do just that. But David does not want to give Absalom an audience, and, at least initially, does not.
Absalom returns to Jerusalem, but is not happy without seeing the king. Absalom has, apparently, a lot of support amongst the Israelites. After two full years of not being allowed to see the king, Absalom apparently had enough. Not getting response from Joab, despite repeated requests for an audience, Absalom sets fire to Joab’s barley field. That seems to work, as he gets the audience immediately thereafter, wherein Absalom grovels a lot. That also seems to work, for David ends up kissing him.
Now, for a little more editorial comment: it seems to me that David can be seen a bit more harshly here. The guy strikes me as a petty monarch who is not only feared by all of his subjects, but easily manipulated by being groveled in front of. Where is the little shepherd boy with the sling? Translating has turned out to be a bit too eye-opening for my taste. I’d just as soon I didn’t know some of what I do now.
Absalom does not turn out to be as loyal to David as David would like, though. First he starts to travel in an entourage, having a group of fifty men, horses, and chariots part thereof. He begins to frequent the entry to the city, where he intercepts people wanting an audience with the king. He offers to judge their cases for them (according to the text, the goal of this subterfuse is to raise his approval rates amongst Israelites above that of David. But I am somewhat skeptical as to whether there wasn’t some financial implication as well.)
Finally, after a long time (denoted by the references to forty years) Absalom gets David’s blessing to go to Hebron, where he conspires with numerous tribal leaders to overthrow David. David is warned that the conspiracy is broadly based and he flees Jerusalem.
Now, here the story gets kind of confusing. Apparently David left ten concubines to tend the household in his absence, but where he went and who he took or why is not too too clear. It seems to have been a pretty good number, though.
Conspiracies are also not so clear. Ittai, the Gittite, Zadok, who may or may not have been a Lavite, Abiathar, Ahithophe, Hushai, Ahmaaz and Jonathan, the son of Abiathar, are all mentioned in chapter 15 in some context which may, or may not, involve this topic. Intertwined in all this is something involving the Ark. The lack of an editor is very clear here, and we are, I think, not served well by the many who pretend they really understand it in great detail. God save us from the experts!
My father, especially, was very skeptical of experts. Whether he had some specific experience on which he based his prejudice or not I never knew, but the prejudice was profound. Mother shared this bias, but from a less entrenched position. My parents were not entirely happy with my going to college. If it did not make a lot of economic sense for me to do so, I doubt they would have approved. My brother inherited a little of the family’s distrust of pseuido-expertese. To this day, he is inclined to think I’ve become one of the spoiled college kids who are foolishly liberal.
The fact the world is moving into a political crises unprecedented in modern times does nothing to assuage my fear of the general disdain the public holds for experts. The Trump presidential campaign is looking more and more like a possibly disruptive future world development, not because Trump is an expert on anything, but because people have lost faith in the concept of an expert of any kind.
Last week, I found an old piece that I had written when I was a teacher of mathematics. The most startling thing about the discovery was that I was unable to make sense of it. I have no question as to whether the math in those papers was good–at the time I thought it very good–but now it strikes me as nothing but large collections of two to the power of k’s connected by congruent modulo p symbols. Once upon a time those meant a lot to me. But those days are past. I no longer care whether 23 divides a big number or not–or even whether I have a test for that.
Now I am more interested in whether my penson check will arrive as expected each month. The answer to that may wind up depending more on the presidential election than we ever thought possible. The Brexit does nothing to reassure me. Times are becoming chaotic. The future is even less clear than we thought.