Literary critics, not least the one to whom I am married, remind me that a popular theory within literary criticism is the notion that all stories fall under the rubric of a group of larger meta-narratives. Several well-known genres include that of the journey (epitomized by The Odyssey), the coming of age or maturation, the tragedy, the romance, as well as several others depending on which school of thought you lean toward. In this week’s lesson Abiathar, one of the lesser-known biblical characters, is highlighted.
The narrative of 2 Samuel 11 is known traditionally as the Story of David and Bathsheba. Preachers, artists and musicians have exploited their encounter and used it to moralise about the dangers of sexual lust. Uriah, if mentioned at all, is seen as the victim of David’s desire for his wife, and his murder plays second fiddle to the adultery between Bathsheba and the king. In reality, however, Uriah plays a much more significant role than his wife in this story. She will perform on centre stage later, when she manoeuvres her son Solomon onto the throne.
David’s first encounter with Abigail is an archetypal male experience. By revealing this insight into politically incorrect and unfiltered male impulses, I am not wanting to fuel up the gender-debate. Just file it under spontaneous and honest first impressions upon reading a biblical text. The passage conjures a question often asked among men and much more often just pondered almost unconsciously: Why are the most beautiful and intelligent women married to complete morons (from Greek moros = stupid)?
Sometimes I ask my students to vote for the best candidate for king: Saul, Jonathan, or David. The results are mixed. At first glance, David gets all the good press. But the biblical perspective is much more nuanced. Admittedly, voting isn’t an Old Testament idea. God appointed the leaders; rebels were stoned. Israel would “hear and be afraid” and “not act presumptuously again” (Deut. 17:12-13, NRSV). Yet one senses the beginnings of democracy.
One of the most stalwart lines any Old Testament women speaks is when Hannah tells Eli: “Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time” (NIV 1 Samuel 1:16). Hannah’s tale is one of self worth; she is not useless. Rather, she is a woman with a grave problem that she has brought before God. Hannah’s problem which results in the birth of Samuel does not take up much room in the first two chapters of First Samuel. Indeed, the evil sons of Eli become the main topic in chapter two.
“Background characters”: now let’s be honest, didn’t your heart sink, even just a little, when you opened the Adult Bible Study Guide for the fourth quarter of 2010? Well, I’ve got good news if you haven’t gone further than the title page yet, because the authors, Gerald and Chantal Klingbeil are really to be commended for this concept, which has huge potential for affording rich insights into God’s Word and into the way He works in human lives.
The title of this week’s lesson is terribly misleading. To say, “all the rest is commentary” implies that we have now finished the important parts of Romans and what remains is of secondary significance at best. That would be like saying, “We’ve finished four quarters of the Super Bowl, the score is tied, and the rest doesn’t mean very much. It’s just sudden death overtime. No big deal.”
At first glance, the term “living sacrifice” seems like an oxymoron. To sacrifice means to surrender, to renounce, to “permit injury or disadvantage to for the sake of something else.” In biblical terms we generally think of a sacrifice as something that is dead—perhaps a bull or a sheep or a pair of pigeons. But in Romans 12, Paul envisions a new kind of sacrifice that models not death, but rejuvenation.
I appeal to you… present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.