The Bible in a Year – 1 April

If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.

1 April. 1 Samuel chapters 21-24

Throughout these chapters, the paranoid King Saul is pursuing David and his followers from one desert place to another, with a view to killing him.  One person who supports David is the priest Ahimelech, who provides food for David’s troops and lets him take Goliath’s sword for his own protection.  When this angers Saul, Ahimelech pays for this generosity with not his own life but that of all his priests and the people and animals of their town. Standing up for justice is often costly.


But when eventually David and Saul end up (by chance, and unbeknown to Saul) in the same cave, David puts into practice the ‘golden rule’ of doing to others as you would have them do to you; or as Jesus put it, loving your enemies.  So he does not take revenge by killing Saul while there is an easy opportunity to do so, but merely cuts off part of his cloak as a trophy. He is then able to persuade Saul that he is no danger to him.  In this he proves himself to be a good leader.


These stories of David are perhaps in the same genre as folk stories of heroes such as Robin Hood, who was probably not as selfless as his reputation would suggest. It is very difficult to struggle against a corrupt or violent regime without committing violence, or to take a principled stand without compromising your principles somewhere.



The Bible in a Year – 31 March

If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.

31 March. 1 Samuel chapters 18-20

Today’s reading explores the complicated relationship between David, his patron King Saul, Saul’s daughter Michal who was given to David in marriage, and Saul’s son Jonathan who fell in love with David.  It could be the plot of a soap opera – the father-in-law with a mental illness and murderous intent, the (probably gay) brother-in-law, and the wife torn between loyalties to her biological family and her husband.  If God could be in this messiest of dysfunctional families, he can be with all our families, whatever their problems.


The person at the centre of all these relationships was David, and he seemed to be able to cope with all of them.    When Saul sent him into the heat of battle hoping that he would be killed (as David would later do with Uriah), David returned triumphant.  When Saul demanded as a dowry the foreskins of a hundred Philistine soldiers, David obliged. When he found himself loved by both Michal and her brother Jonathan, he took it in his stride (though his intimacy with Jonathan seems to have been restricted to embracing).

Finally, Saul’s threats become too much and Jonathan helps David to escape from a dangerous situation.  But this is not the last we will hear of these characters.

The Bible in a Year – 30 March

If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.

30 March. 1 Samuel 15-17

So far we have seen Saul proclaimed as King by God’s decree and filled with the Holy Spirit; but also learnt of his weaknesses, which were impatience and lack of foresight.  In chapter 15 he achieves his greatest military victory to date, but shows another weakness by failing to slaughter the animals as well as the people, as God commanded.  For this his kingship was rejected by God, and the Spirit of God left him.   Leaving aside for now the question of why God commanded the slaughter of innocent civilians and animals as well as soldiers, in this rejection by God we see perhaps the first statement in the Bible (15:22) that obedience to God is what God desires, more than obedience to religious laws.


The boy David from Bethlehem was anointed King in his place by Samuel, but secretly. David goes on to achieve the archetypal giant-slaying feat of killing the heavily armed Goliath with a simple sling and stone, turning the tide of battle against the Philistines.


Saul, we are told, became troubled by an “evil spirit” after his rejection by God, and the boy David – later known as a famous composer of many of religious songs that we call Psalms -plays the lyre to soothe him.  This “evil spirit” may have been depression; but at the end of Chapter 17 when David is brought before Saul after defeating Goliath, Saul appears not to recognise him.  So either the stories have got out of order, or maybe Saul was suffering from dementia? Playing familiar music is often a good way to calm the distress of people with this illness.