The Story of David: Or why a Shepherd King turned Rapist is Relevant

Posted: June 11, 2011 by Ty in Spirituality
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Introduction

                Many modern commentators will get hung up on the historic accuracy of 1 & 2 Samuel, speak of how they were written pre-exile to Babylon which is why they give such an unauthorized version of the royal family as opposed to Chronicles which is the sanitized or authorized version post-exile. But this phenomenon of literalism is a recent 100 year invention and misses the point of the beauty of the inspired nature of the Biblical Text.  For years they were told and retold, read, not as literal black and white truth, but for the deeper meaning, the mythology, that is the eternal truth discovered within that lends itself to revisiting the text again and again. This short reflection is going to look at David, shepherd King of Israel and reflect on what this collection of stories means for our own spiritual journeys. There are five in the cycle of David and:

Each of these speaks to an eternal truth that may or may not aid our journeys today, but one day.

Goliath

                It was war, funny how that happens in the Hebrew Bible that which Christians refer to as the Old Testament. These are stories that I will not hide, are filled with blood, misogyny and hate. Yet again, we must dig deeper.

                Let us set the stage, the stories of Samuel opens with Hannah, a woman who is barren which pretty much renders her as a non-entity in her culture. She prays to God promising to dedicate the baby to God. Voila, Samuel is born, and handed over the priest to be raised and Samuel becomes a prophet. During this time the people feel that direct communion and leadership with God and want to be like everyone else (possibly a metaphor of peer pressure for today?) and that they want a king. God relents as most good parents will; the adolescent must grow up, and be given just enough rope to sample the world without being destroyed by it. So God locates what a typical King should be, that is the all powerful Saul.

                And enter the ongoing war dynamic. Israel is at war with the Philistines, it is a constant cycle, but the leader of the Philistines is a man named, Goliath, who quite possibly could be one of the left over Nephilim from Genesis 9 with how he is described. The die is cast as a challenge is laid down, any of you can defeat me, and the invading army will turn back, but if we beat your champion you are ours. Contrary to popular opinion there was no brave souls among the armies of Israel, but one shepherd boy was hearing voices. Yup, those fun voices, and the call of God, picking up five smooth stones he went to the battlefield and told the king his plan. Saul was a bit sheepish, but let’s face it, send the boy to his death or go and die yourself.

                David was provided with armour, and told the “proper” ways to conduct the battle, but what is the point of this story? Simple, that the proper or traditional ways are not always what is needed, David shucked the armour and weapontry away, and entered the field with his crook, slingshot, and five stones. How did it end?

                The boy one, and became a favourite of the king, but it was illuminated that this David was to replace Saul as a more righteous king.

Saul

                The Saul-David dynamic is a yin-yang story while it unfolds before Saul dies. It is two sides of the same coin, Saul the one in rebellion, David the one on the path to God. Running from the Holy, communing with the Holy. Where Saul felt he needed to jump through the hoops of tradition and the rules, but impose his own control on God and place God in the familiar box, David realized that the rules were created for man, not man for the rules, and as such there was flexibility, understanding and love within them.

                From my reading, this story is more about the self transformation of an individual as the king transitions from the selfish Saul to one focused on the selfless love of God, but the journey is not always that simple, for there are things that we bring alongside that twists a person.

Jonathan

                Soul Friend, or as we would say in the 21st century, Soul Mate, this is how Jonathan, Saul’s son, relationship with David was described. You can culturfy all the kissing and hugging to death that you want, but what you have within this story is a love story. Two souls becoming one, and a culture that would not accept it, mostly because Jonathan’s father was attempting to save his job and whack David the man who was his succession plan which doesn’t lend itself too well for an in-laws relationship.

                When Jonathan dies, it falls apart for David. This falling apart leads into polygamy, but also a viewpoint within David that sees his female romantic partners as property that are there only to pleasure the king.

Bathsheba

THIS IS NOT A STORY OF ADULTERY. For adultery to happen it takes two consenting parties choosing to break their vows of monogamy with another and inter into a sexual or intimate relationship with one another. What this is, is a predatory relationship of David wanting to step outside the norm for gratification of a power-sexual dynamic.

                Bathsheba was bathing on the roof most likely because her menstruation cycle had just ended and under “Levitical” law she was deemed unclean. It was due to the fear of the power of the women’s blood that led to laws around uncleanliness with menstruation, because tribal cultures of the period say the power of life and death within menstruation. So she was ritually cleaning (baptizing) herself to be able to enter the women’s segregated side of the tent of worship after her 7 day cleanse.

                David knew he would see naked women who were to be kept separate when he stood up on his roof to pleasure himself. It was like the original porno. But masturbation (wasting the male seed, which was seen as the source of life as well) was not enough. David needed more, and his concubines were not doing it, he was never allowed to actually fruitfully live his life with Jonathan. All this coalesced into the rape dynamic. Soldiers were dispatched to seize Bathsheba and bring her to the King’s chamber.

                Think about what she was feeling, humiliation and shame at this time of ritual and worship being told that she was to come to see the king, barely clothed led through the city at night by soldiers to David. Scared, humiliated, cold, and confused she stands before this aroused warrior. Smelling the sex off of him towards her, she had not way out, in fact this power dynamic would play out in later feudal systems where the first night of claiming virginity became the right of the sovereign to ensure a couple could wed, which is where the term F-U-C-K came from (Fornication Under Consent of the King).

                David raped Bathsheba, impregnating her. When this was discovered, wanting to continue to control her (the psychosis of a rapist), he plotted the revenge murder of her husband. Once that was accomplished and the son was delivered, David’s madness knew no bounds.

                Kyle Baker did an amazing graphic novel on the story of David that I would recommend to anyone, the closing scene is of David lost in his psychosis committing infanticide, killing the child born out of the rape. Sending a culminating message to Bathsheba, I own you, you have no power.

                Not a story of love, but rather a story of the depths a person can take corruption to and the hatred of self and sickness that can exist within a person.

Nathan

                Nathan is the agent of original restorative justice (okay not really, that was back in the garden) for he gives David the wake up call. The call, you are on thin ice, and God is seeking a regime change. David was hit where he lived. His power, and self-awareness came through the mentoring relationship with Nathan. The healing journey for the offender, and the victim begins.

                It also speaks to redemption and healing with the birth of Solomon, the one who would build the Temple, because it was through Solomon that Bathsheba was actualized as a human being, for David became less, and Bathsheba’s son redeemed the nation of Israel.

                Nathan was the change catalyst, an ancient Phoenix Project for sex offenders, that if the times allowed for it, I could see David releasing Bathsheba, unfortunately due to the culture dynamic releasing Bathsheba would have caused harm, as she would have had to turn to temple prostitution or the sex trade living rough in the city and dying in the gutter. David’s heart changed and it went from a power dynamic to a healing dynamic.

Conclusion

                The point of the David narrative is not to show the historical truth of Israel as a nation, and not just a tribal society. It is not to sing the praises of Mandom, or how wonderful a person David was. It is showing that no one is beyond redemption, that life is a struggle, as the Buddhist call it, Dukkha, that ambivalence of choice we are constantly living in and that are choices have consequences. These consequences depending on the choice are positive or negative, but not just for us. We live in interdependent communities in which our choices affect others as well.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s