Sunday, March 27, 2011

New Year: 1 Sam 9-12 for Mar 22

The contrasts are palpable in these chapters (1 Sam 9-12) between the condemnation of the Israelite desire for a king and the way events march forward toward that end, including actions of God.

The reader might well ask, if God did not want Israel to have a human king (8:7), why did He not judge them for the choice, as He had for so many other things in which they rejected Him? We've seen so many instances of immediate judgment, especially in the wilderness wanderings under Moses, that the story deliberately provokes the question.

And yet it is the covenant itself that hints that God is capable of enacting His will among long periods of unfaithfulness on the nation's part (Dt 29; but not to forget Dt 30!). Here the scenario is eerily the same as in the desert, when God gives them what they wanted, when they didn't want the manna, but they were "greedy" (Nm 11:34).

Is then this turn of events something that is a permanent albatross that will take Israel out of the plan forever? If we've been reading along, we know better. If we read ahead, we know better. Is there not a resolution coming in 2 Sam 7? Let's elaborate then!

In the meantime, the narrative has its very characteristic ways of containing the situation. One is high mockery (10:22). The second is subtle mockery: Samuel tells Saul, way before Saul has a clue what's going on, "for whom is all that is desirable in Israel? Is it not for you and for all your father's household" (9:20)? And Saul's answer is basically, "huh?"

And God is not without His own celestial "sounds" during the outplay of all this (12:17-18).

Samuel's summary well expresses the tension: "You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside...." (12:20) ... "for the Lord will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the Lord has been pleased to make you a people for Himself." (12:22). The covenant is still intact. Go figure.

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