Archive for the ‘1 Samuel 19’ Category

Biblical "Contradictions" – Saul, David, and the Javelin

March 10, 2011

Skeptics love to find inconsistencies among the accounts in the synoptic gospels. If two accounts look similar, but have different details, it is alleged that they are inconsistent and that this is proof that they are contradictory – at least one of them being in error.

In this post, I’ll examine a particular situation that — if one found the accounts in different books — might easily mistaken for a single situation that has been reported inconsistently. However, since all the accounts are in the same book, we can be sure that it is not simply a difference of opinion amongst competing evangelists.

The situation I have in mind is the account of Saul trying to skewer David with a javelin.

Account 1 – Shortly After the Defeat of Goliath

1 Samuel 18:6-11

And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of musick. And the women answered one another as they played, and said, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, “They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom?”
And Saul eyed David from that day and forward. And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul’s hand. And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice.

As an aside, I think it is very interesting that the evil spirit from the Lord gave Saul the gift of prophecy. Nevertheless, in this case, David played for Saul on the harp to drive away the evil spirit. However, Saul threw a javelin at David, twice!

Account 2 – After Reconciliation with Saul

1 Samuel 19:8-10

And there was war again: and David went out, and fought with the Philistines, and slew them with a great slaughter; and they fled from him. And the evil spirit from the LORD was upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his javelin in his hand: and David played with his hand. And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin; but he slipped away out of Saul’s presence, and he smote the javelin into the wall: and David fled, and escaped that night.

Notice the similarities. The context is fairly similar (David comes back from fighting the Philistines), and even many of the details are similar (there is an evil spirit from the Lord on Saul, and David is playing to relieve him). And again, Saul tries to spear him with the javelin.

There are also differences. There is only one javelin thrown this time, and there is a detail that the javelin stuck into the wall. If these were in two different books, and the two books didn’t give both accounts, we might be tempted by the skeptics argument that there is an inconsistency over when Saul attempted to skewer David.

Account 3 – Jonathan as the Target

1 Samuel 20:27-34

And it came to pass on the morrow, which was the second day of the month, that David’s place was empty: and Saul said unto Jonathan his son, “Wherefore cometh not the son of Jesse to meat, neither yesterday, nor to day?”
And Jonathan answered Saul, “David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem: and he said, ‘Let me go, I pray thee; for our family hath a sacrifice in the city; and my brother, he hath commanded me to be there: and now, if I have found favour in thine eyes, let me get away, I pray thee, and see my brethren.’ Therefore he cometh not unto the king’s table.”
Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him, “Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, and unto the confusion of thy mother’s nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse liveth upon the ground, thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom. Wherefore now send and fetch him unto me, for he shall surely die.”
And Jonathan answered Saul his father, and said unto him, “Wherefore shall he be slain? what hath he done?”
And Saul cast a javelin at him to smite him: whereby Jonathan knew that it was determined of his father to slay David. So Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger, and did eat no meat the second day of the month: for he was grieved for David, because his father had done him shame.

In this third account, we have Saul yet again hurling his javelin – this time at his own son! This is not very similar to the first two accounts, but it involves Saul engaged in a domestic dispute in which he throws a javelin at someone. We would probably be confident in telling the skeptic that this account is separate from the first two, but surely a radical skeptic would say that the three accounts should be seen as progression of anti-Saul or pro-David prejudice (placing them in the order of Account 2, Account 1, and finally Account 3).

In fact, however, these are just three different, yet similar (in some details), situations. Saul had a propensity to hurl a javelin. Even so, Jesus had a propensity to cast out demons, heal the sick, and raise the dead. We should be careful when reading the synoptic gospels not to assume that two accounts are the same, simply because there is some similarities in the details.


Biblical "Contradictions" – Saul-Prophet Parable Origin

March 10, 2011

Skeptics love to identify similar passages in the synoptic gospels and point out the differences in them. They then try to allege that these differences amount to contradictions. The problem for the skeptics is that these alleged contradictions are often easily harmonized.

However, in this case, I want to focus on a specific example of a situation that (if it appeared in the gospels) would be identified by skeptics as a contradiction. In this case, however, it is presented in the same book, in quite close succession.

What I am referring to is the question of the origin of the expression, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” When we open 1 Samuel we find two accounts, separated by only a few chapters.

Account 1 – Saul Upon Being Anointed

1 Samuel 10:1-13

Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, “Is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance? When thou art departed from me to day, then thou shalt find two men by Rachel’s sepulchre in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah; and they will say unto thee, ‘The asses which thou wentest to seek are found: and, lo, thy father hath left the care of the asses, and sorroweth for you, saying, “What shall I do for my son?”‘ Then shalt thou go on forward from thence, and thou shalt come to the plain of Tabor, and there shall meet thee three men going up to God to Bethel, one carrying three kids, and another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a bottle of wine: and they will salute thee, and give thee two loaves of bread; which thou shalt receive of their hands. After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy: and the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man. And let it be, when these signs are come unto thee, that thou do as occasion serve thee; for God is with thee. And thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal; and, behold, I will come down unto thee, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings: seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come to thee, and shew thee what thou shalt do.”
And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart: and all those signs came to pass that day. And when they came thither to the hill, behold, a company of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them. And it came to pass, when all that knew him beforetime saw that, behold, he prophesied among the prophets, then the people said one to another, “What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” And one of the same place answered and said, “But who is their father?” Therefore it became a proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” And when he had made an end of prophesying, he came to the high place.

Account 2 – Saul On Attempting to Capture David

1 Samuel 19:18-24

So David fled, and escaped, and came to Samuel to Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth. And it was told Saul, saying, “Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah.”
And Saul sent messengers to take David: and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed over them, the Spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied.
And when it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they prophesied likewise. And Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they prophesied also.
Then went he also to Ramah, and came to a great well that is in Sechu: and he asked and said, “Where are Samuel and David?”
And one said, “Behold, they be at Naioth in Ramah.”
And he went thither to Naioth in Ramah: and the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on, and prophesied, until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

Notice that there are some similarities between the events. Both events involve Saul unexpectedly prophesying. Both events lead to someone saying “Is Saul also among the prophets.” Yet both accounts are in the same book. They are less than 10 chapters apart.

This isn’t a case of two contradictory reports of a single historical event – it is two different surprising prophesyings that each lead to Saul and his prophetic gift being proverbial. If these were in two different gospels, we might be falsely accused of unfairly harmonizing the text. However, hopefully here it can be seen that such a harmonization is completely proper, indeed perfectly acceptable.


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