Looking back at Samuel

I had originally thought the book of Samuel would have a lot more to do with Samuel than it does. It begins with his mother and the first part ends after his death, but his death isn’t the last time he’s seen or heard from, as his ghost is summoned later on. There’s a whole lot more craziness in this particular book than I  saw coming, though I did know that it had the infamous “David and Goliath” story, which I also thought would be a bigger deal in the book itself than it was. It’s always told as if it was the climax of a story and not so much the inciting event that begins a story, which is what it really turned out to be.

Notable Women

  • Hannah, Samuel’s mother, is the first person we meet in this book.
  • Eli’s daughter who feels the presence of God leaving Israel even while in labor when the ark was taken by the Philistines
  • Michal, the daughter that Saul “gives” to David and who had, fortunately, already fallen in love with David but is later given to someone else after she helps him escape her father and he’s gone for what seems like ever.
  • Abigail also becomes one David’s wives, but she’s notable because of the actions that brought this on her. Her first husband erroneously sent David’s men away when he asked for the protection money that was due him and her quick actions to correct the slight saved the whole household.
  • the unnamed medium that summons Samuel from the dead to talk to Saul about his inevitable demise.
  • Michal, David’s first wife who he is finally reunited with.
  • Bathsheba, the romanticized woman who was bathing on the roof and attracted looks that I can only imagine were creepy by the king
  • Tamar, raped by one brother and avenged by the other
  • the unnamed wise woman who helps to convince David to bring Absalom home
  •  another unnamed wise woman who asks ensures that Amasa’s head gets thrown over the wall of Sheba and saves her city through a simple agreement with Joab

Major Themes

The first book really centered around sticking to God and the kings, Saul and David, but it does include how Samuel relates to them along the way. There was also doing what God tells you to and in the time that He tells you to do it. Saul gets into trouble by both disobeying at times and jumping the gun at other times.

To me, second book points out the stark difference between sin and sinning against God. Maybe I’m off the mark here, but that’s how I felt about the difference between Saul and David as their experiences are told. Saul had not listened to God in the prior book, but David always did what God wanted him to do. Sure, he did plenty of other stuff that was frowned upon too, but the book really explains what people mean by the saying that David was a man after God’s own heart. He wasn’t a perfect man, but he cared about what God wanted and seemed to understand Him in a way that is completely foreign to me. Other than that, the book has some serious family drama. Serious.

Strictly Feminist

The only real problem that I had with the first book was the “giving” of the daughters. It’s been addressed but that doesn’t make it any easier each time I see it. There is a problem with the way women are treated in the Old Testament, I make no apologies for that. To me, it’s history, not practice. God’s people evolve throughout the book and so do His laws and the treatment of women. I may have peaked ahead. It may not hold up as improvement by today’s standards, but remember how bad it gets before it gets better and the scale on which retribution for becoming an entire society with ill intentions. I mean, I know what it says in Deuteronomy about the penalty and way to determine rape vs consented sex and the problems associated, but we’ve seen whole towns and civilizations eradicated for rape or gang rape in these books too (see Genesis and Judges). Let me stop before I put this rant on the wrong place.

People also seem to want to talk about great or notable women in the Bible as if there are only a few, but I keep running into women who had done just as much as the men for both good and bad and they are women I’ve never heard of. There are some great women who show real moxie in this book. They don’t sit around and wait to be rescued and they certainly don’t appear to take it lightly when they have been transgressed against. They also seem to protect the men around them more often than the men protect them, at least in this book. Yet I had never heard the stories of Michal or Abigail.

The second book had some surprising unnamed wise women. The first one is just doing what’s she’s asked. She let’s Joab decide everything she’s going to say, but she still had to go in and perform it right, which she did. The second one had a cool head and just called over the leader of the seiging army and asked him what the whole thing was over. Like it was no big deal. Just, hey, what’s up? Why are you trying to kill everyone?

Then she promises that they can just throw the guy’s head over the wall. She just knows that she can convince everyone else to just give this guy up, this guy that David was so sure would be a bigger problem than Absalom had been. And his head just sails over the wall in a few minutes.

I went on for a while in the actual post that talked about Bathsheba and that I really think this story needs to not be romanticized anymore. I’ll spare us both the rant this time but click on her name above if you’re curious about it.

Then, of course, there is the rape. Again. Like with the others, there is no questioning the victim, so that’s good. There also seems to be a whole lot of avenging them, which I also appreciate. I get that maybe death isn’t the most appropriate way to atone for this, but maybe it is. I don’t know. The story just after the rape also proves that simply being opposed to rape doesn’t guarantee someone is a good person. Avenging Tamar turned out to be the only decent thing that brother ever did. The whole rest of his story is that guy doing awful things until he’s finally killed too.

The women of this book, like the others so far, continue to prove that the women of the Bible are not given their due by our modern society. We know the names of some, but not all. Even those who we are familiar with thus far are primarily talked about in relation to their husbands. But they are more than that and even the Bible itself shows that. It’s the reader that chooses to see or not see their agency or that they are made of more than the desire to please their husbands and children.  The Bible contains stories of many different kinds of women, not just the weak or the strong. Lots of women are represented. They may not be treated well or given much focus, society is not made for them, and they don’t get much help, if any, but their stories are here. They are not hidden. Not even their fates are consistent.

Chapter links go to the ESV translations at Biblehub.com but I’m reading from the ESV Global Study Bible, which is available for free on the Kindle Reading App.

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