Friday, June 29, 2012

Introducing David (part 2 of 2)

After cursing David, what does Goliath say to him?  He said, “Come here to me, so I can give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the wild animals of the field” (1 Samuel 17:44).  Here we find the language of cursing in relation to covenant violations.  When Goliath speaks in this way, and when the author reports his words, the reader is artfully reminded, in a way that should not surprise us in the least, of God’s warnings from Deuteronomy.  For Israel at that time, Goliath had become the present embodiment of cursing and exile that stems from disobedience.  In Deuteronomy we read, that “The Lord will allow you to be struck down before your enemies; you will attack them from one direction but flee from them in seven directions and will become an object of terror to all the kingdoms of the earth” (28:25).  More specific to the present circumstance, we can go on to read, “Your carcasses will be food for every bird of the sky and wild animal of the earth, and there will be no one to chase them off” (28:26).  The connection between the words of Goliath and the words of God through Moses could not be more clear. 

David, however, does not fear Goliath.  He does not fear exile.  He knows that he has been anointed as the king, and as the deliverer of Israel as the king was supposed to be.  Therefore he responds with “This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand!  I will strike you down and cut off your head.  This day I will give the corpses of the Philistine army to the birds of the sky and the wild animals of the land.  Then all the land will realize that Israel has a God and all this assembly will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves!  For the battle is the Lord’s, and He will deliver you into our hand” (17:46-47).  David actually verbalizes a reversal of those curses, declaring that what Goliath had said (most likely in a mocking recitation of the curses that could potentially settle on Israel if they did not worship their God alone) would actually come to pass upon him and the Philistines.  At the same time, he exalts Israel’s God as the only God, in defiance of the Philistine gods that had been referenced by Goliath, thereby presenting a polemic against idolatry and idol worship.  Interestingly, he uses the language of exodus (deliverance) to present a coming exile for the Philistines (though the Deuteronomic/Levitical/exilic curses would naturally not apply to them). 

When David does eventually prevail over Goliath, we see a fulfillment of the blessings of Deuteronomy, as “When the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they ran away” (17:51b).  Indeed, Israel’s enemies fled before them (Deuteronomy 28:7), as the potential exile turned to glorious exodus at the hands of their faithful God.  After chasing after the Philistines, Israel returned to the Philistine encampment and looted it (17:53).  With this, we see another application of the curse towards the enemies of Israel, as the Lord has faithfully entered in to engage the enemies of His people. 

Following this, David was afforded great honor in Israel.  “Saul appointed him over the men of war.  This pleased not only all the army, but also Saul’s servants” (18:5b).  Eventually however, this presented a problem that would lead to ongoing difficulties for David.  After a successful engagement against the Philistines, “the women from all the cities of Israel came out singing and dancing to meet King Saul” (18:6b).  This would not have been a problem, as honoring the king for the success of his underlings is perfectly understandable and a historically common practice.  The problem arose because “The women who were playing the music sang, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, but David his ten thousands!’” (18:7)  As we might expect, “This made Saul very angry,” and indeed, “The statement displeased him,” (18:9a) as he now viewed David (quite rightly) as a rival and a threat to his throne.  The result was that “Saul was keeping an eye on David from that day onward” (18:9). 

This statement and song by the women would routinely haunt David, causing him problems on numerous occasions.  It would be the proximate cause for his personal experiences of exile before finally taking the throne for which he had been anointed.  One day, with Saul keeping an eye on David, “an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul” and “Saul threw the spear” at David (18:10-11).  This would happen on two occasions.  Yes, Saul attempted to bring death to David, but David was spared from that particular exile.  However, there would be two other times that David would experience trouble because of the song that the women sang.  When David was fleeing from Saul, and went to Gath, it was said of him to the king of Gath, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land?  Isn’t he the one that they sing about when they dance…?” (21:11b)  At that point, David had to feign madness to escape certain death.  Later, when David is in service to the king of Gath, and the Philistines are about to go battle with Israel, the Philistine generals complain about David going with them, repeating the words of the women’s song.  This, however, was a bit less of a problem, as it spared David from having to go to war against his own countrymen, which he obviously did not want to do.  Nevertheless, the words were only recounted because David found himself in exile from his home and his land, in subjugation and service to a foreign king, while awaiting his exodus and his throne.     

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