Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Judge and Kings: Samuel's Selection of Saul and David

Nadene Goldfoot                                         
Samuel, judge and prophet in his farewell speech
Before Israel had kings, they had judges.  Deborah was an important judge and prophet who lived in 1150 BCE.  She had led a revolt which led to a fight against the Canaanite king Jabin of Hazor and Sisera, 2 towns fighting against the Hebrew tribes.  Samuel, born in the 11th century BCE, was their last one.  He not only was a judge but a prophet, too. 
Samuel was born into the tribe of Levi, one of the 12 tribes of Jacob from where the tribe of Judah came from.  From Judah and a smattering of a few of the others comes the Jewish people.  From the tribe of Levi came the Cohens, Aaron's descendants and leaders in the Temple who today bear the DNA of haplogroup of J1.  Many of them are still Cohens in the synagogues. Leah on the left had Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issahar and Zebulun and daughter, Dinah.  Leah's younger sister,, Rachel, had Joseph and Benjamin and then died.  Handmaid of each wife was Zilpah who had Gad and Asher; and Bilhah who had Dan and Naphtali.

According to the Bible, the Tribe of Ephraim is descended from a man named Ephraim, who is recorded as the son of Joseph, the son of Jacob, and Asenath, the daughter of Potiphar.[2] [3] The descendants of Joseph formed two of the tribes of Israel, whereas the other sons of Jacob were the founders of one tribe each. (Wikipedia) 
Maalei Ephraim in Jordan Valley of Israel 
Samuel's family lived  on Mt. Ephraim and at Ramah which was in the land of Zuph. " a district in which lay Samuel's city, Ramathaim-Zophim. It was probably so named after Zuph (1 Chr. 6:26). Zuph and the city of Ramathaim-Zophim are mentioned in the bible together with Mount Ephraim, suggesting that they shared a similar locality".  His mother had promised by consecrating him even before he was born as a Nazirite, people who would serve the sanctuary at Shiloh.  Shiloh was the first center of the Israelite religion after the conquest of Eretz Yisrael under Joshua.  It was 25 miles north of Jerusalem in the mountains of Ephraim.  The ark and Tabernacle were kept there during the period of the Judges, serving as the central national shrine and object of pilgrimage, especially during the long priesthood of Eli.

In the period of the judges, the tribe of Ephraim, the more northern of the two Israelite kingdoms, Ehraim included the hill-country in central Israel and was noted for its fertility.  Ephriam had claimed priority among the Israelite 12 tribes, partly because their religious center then was situated at Shiloh in their territory.  Much later in history, after King Solomon died,  the secession of the northern tribes centered on the tribe of Ephraim, to which Jeroboam, the 1st king of the northern kingdom of Israel, belonged.  Prophets later would talk about the House of Judah and the House of Ephraim, the 2 branches of the Hebrew people.
While there, he received a Divine call as a child and was later able to foretell the destruction of the House of Eli.  Eli was a high priest at the shrine of Shiloh and one of the last judges and had been the mentor of Samuel.  He had succeeded to the priesthood at the age of 58 and died 40 years later at 98 as a result of falling from his chair upon hearing of the Philistine capture of the Ark.  His family was then deprived of the high priesthood because of the immoral conduct of his sons, Hophni and Phinehas.  After Eli and his sons died and the Israelites were defeated by the Philistines at the battle of Aphek, Samuel tried to restore the traditional religious worship.

He lived in Ramah and judged Isralites in the sacred towns of Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpeh, and prepared the way for national unity.  With his own initiative, groups of prophets were formed to guide the people.
By the time he was an old man, external pressure on him became great for Israel to be governed by a king like other states and not judges.  He selected Saul for this role. Saul was the son of Kish of the tribe of Benjamin.  At the time, Israel was being threatened with a takeover from the Philistines.  Saul immediately was able to organize an army of men and trained them to fight.  They had a spectacular victory at Michmashl.  After that success they took on and won fights against other surrounding enemies that wanted their land; the Moabites, Ammonites and Arameans.

Saul disbanded such outgrowths of neighboring religions by eliminating witchcraft from Judaism.
At the same time, friction between Saul and Samuel had grown, and Saul appointed David as Saul's successor.  David was the son of Jesse, an Ephrathite man from Bethlehem in Judah who had 8 sons.  His first 3 sons were soldiers for Saul.   David had to travel back and forth between Saul's presence and his father's sheep in Bethlehem as he had befriended Saul in many ways.

David fighting the Ammonites
David's popularity with the people had been growing.  The crowds had sung out that though Saul had killed thousands of their enemies, David had slain tens of thousands.   Saul was terribly jealous about this and he in turn persecuted David, and drove him out of Israel.
 David when younger  had taken on the Philistine giant of a man, Goliath in a one on one combat.  Young David had slain him with his slingshot and a stone with a hit to his forehead. People had remembered this brave feat.

 At this point, Saul had David marry his daughter, Merab, but a change of heart cause her to be given to another.  But another daughter of Saul, Michal, was in love with David and so Saul gave her to David, hoping to snare David's talents to fight for him and not for himself.  It was a political move. 
Saul's fight with the Amalakites

"When Samuel found Saul the King said, ‘I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.’ Samuel replied, ‘What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?’" –
Saul had ignored G-ds word through Samuel to kill everything.
The Amalakites had come back in history as a chief antagonist of the Jewish people.  
 Tension arose between Saul and Samuel, however during his reign and they had a break in relations.  Finally, Saul went to Bethlehem and anointed David as Saul's successor. 

Then came a united attack on Israel from the Philistines, causing Saul and his 3 sons which included Jonathan, David's best friend,  to fight defensively only, the  4 dying in the attack on Mt. Gilboa.  A 4th son, Ishbosheath, became Saul's successor over part of Israel.  The Philistines had won a domination over part of the country which was only temporary.
David settled in Hebron and declared himself  king of Judah.  After Saul's son, Eshbaal was murdered, all the 12 tribes joined in wanting David King.   David was able to retrieve the Ark with 30,000 of his men when he had become king and it was brought to his city, Jerusalem, city of David.  Now, all along, G-d had reached the ears of the prophets and David, guiding them in their lives.
Beautiful Bath-Sheba was bathing one evening and David caught a glimpse of her and like all men, had thoughts of wanting her as his own.  The problem was that she was married to one of his soldiers, Uriah the Hittite,  who was away at battle.  They had an affair at any rate and Uriah's death in battle was caused by David's order of keeping him there on the front lines.  The result of this affair was a son that died.  Solomon was their 2nd son, being born and reigning as king from 961 to 920 BCE.  He was king before David had died because of Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan's manipulations.  They worked to anoint him over his older brother, Adonijah,  David's 4th son by another wife,  and others wanting the position.  David's 3rd son had been Absalom  who had killed his half brother, Ammon to revenge the rape of his sister, Tamar.  Absalom had led a rebellion against David, causing him to flee across the Jordan River.
Absalom killed by his long hair tangled in the tree branch
Moabites were into human sacrifice 
 In the end, Absalom's army was vanquished by David and he was killed by Moabites, on the east side of the Jordan,  after his long hair got entangled in a tree.  Moab much later was conquered by the Hashmoneans (Maccabees) who were persecuted by  Antiochus Epiphanes to the reign of John Hyrcanus, and later incorporated by the Romans into Arabia.  His life is remembered  with vanity and rebellion.
In David's old age, his son Absalom rebelled against him and was killed in the revolt which caused Solomon to become king.  He had some vices along with many virtues.  Sometimes, his passions ruled his decisions, especially with Bathsheba.  He did become a symbol in Judaism and the Jewish messianic hope was attached to his descendangts.  Jewish tradition respects him highly and will still say the King David still lives.  Perhaps not in body, but certainly in his spirit.  The book of Psalms is said to have been written by him. "Not as a great warrior or mighty king did David win the everlasting love of our people, and indeed of all peoples on earth, but as the author of the Book of Psalms (Tehillim), the sweetest poetry of Israel." Chabad   "For time immemorial, whenever Jews found themselves in difficult situations, whether individually or communally, they would open up the Book of Psalms and use King David's ageless poetic praises and supplications to beseech G‑d for mercy."

 May the Lord answer you on the day of distress; may the Name of the God of Jacob fortify you.
May He send your help from the Sanctuary, and support you from Zion.
  May He remember all your offerings, and always accept favorably your sacrifices.
May He grant you your heart's desire, and fulfill your every counsel.
  We will rejoice in your deliverance, and raise our banners in the name of our God; may the Lord fulfill all your wishes.

"Christianity and Islam have derived from Judaism their admiration for David."

The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
Tanach, the Stone Edition- (Old Testament), Bible

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