Concentrating The Power: State And Religion – Recipe for an Empire By Vered Hollander-Goldfarb

Concentrating the Power: State and Religion

We will begin with the point at which David, from the tribe of Judah, becomes appointed as king over all of Israel. (A certain period of chaos followed Saul’s death. Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin, located to the north of Judah.) As the narrator of the book of Samuel has it, the conquest of Jerusalem and the ascent of the ark were among David’s first actions as a king. We will study these sections, keeping in mind the question ‘what was David trying to accomplish by these actions?’

Text: II Sam 5:1-12, II Sam 6:1-23

Section I: II Sam 5:1-12 state matters

1) Read the text in vv.1-3 carefully.

a) Who is it that approaches David to offer him the kingdom? There seem to be 2 answers to this question. Try to explain the relationship between the groups in v.1 and 3.

b) Use of names, titles and pronouns is very important in a concise biblical story, as it is often the narrator’s way of letting you know the character’s interests and view point. Compare the beginning of v.1 with the beginning of v.3. Explain the change.

c) What title is not mentioned in vv.1-2?

d) Now look at the whole unit. What is the difference between vv.1-2 and v.3? What might be the reason for the difference?

e) Read I Chronicles 11:3. What information did it add? Why?

2) Read II Sam 5:4-10.

a) Note David’s length of reign and how many years he lived.

b) In v.6, who heads out to conquer Jerusalem? Why is a title used here?

c) What will hinder David from conquering the city (or the fortress)?

d) Compare the conquest account in Samuel with that of I Chronicles 11:4-8. What are the glaring differences?

e) What could be the reason for the different accounts?

3) Read II Sam 5:11-12

a) What do the dealings with Hiram tell us?

b) How does David interpret his success?

c) Looking at the unit from a literary perspective, note the connection between the opening (vv.1-3) and the closing (v.13).

To get some idea of the layout of the land of Jerusalem in Davidic times, you may want to check the following website. While they have a political agenda, it will give you a more concrete idea of the area known as ‘city of David.’ Note that this area is lower than and outside of the current old city of Jerusalem.

Section II: II Sam 6:1-23 religious matters

1) Read II Sam 6:1-10

a) The story of the loss and return of the ark are told in I Sam 4-7:1. Our story picks up from there.

b) Where is David planning to take the ark? Who is helping him out?

c) What did Uzza do? Why? What is the reaction?

d) What is David’s reaction? What does it say about people’s relationship with God (in this story at least)?

2) Read II Sam 6:11-15

a) Where is the ark kept until David is willing to make another attempt at bringing it to the City of David?

b) What is ironic about this?

c) V.14 tells us that David is wearing an Efod. Consider a few other occasions on which the Efod appears and try to learn something about it: Ex. 28:4, Jud. 17:5, I Sam 2:18, 28, I Sam 22:18.

d) The ascent of the ark is a cultic event, including sacrifices. Who/what character(s) seem to be missing from the story?

e) What does this section tell us about religious life in the time of David? Does any of this differ from the image that you had in mind?

3) Read II Sam 6:16-19

a) Who is Michal daughter of Saul? (You can delve into her character using section 4 below.) Why is she, and her reaction, introduced here?

b) Where is the ark placed?

c) Note the popular involvement in the ascent of the ark. What is David’s relationship with the multitudes?

4) Read II Sam 6:20-23

a) Note that the king’s household is blessed by him after he has taken care of the people. Is that good or bad?

b) In this section we witness a conflict regarding the position of the king. How did Michal perceive it and what was David’s view of the event? (If you did section 4, what might have caused this change in Michal’s attitude to David?)

c) Who/what is responsible for Michal’s childlessness?

5) If you are interested in pursuing the story further, look at its parallel in I Chronicles 13, 15:26-16:4. Consider what was changed, added, and omitted. What might be the reasons?

Bringing it all together:

What insights did you get from this material regarding the steps David deemed necessary to lay the foundation for his empire? Have David’s methods been practice (in whole or parts of them) elsewhere in human history? How do you feel about theory behind his actions?

For Inquiring Minds…..

1) If you are interested, you may wish to read the coronation story of Saul.

a) I Sam 8:4-22. Samuel the prophet warns the people of the dangers inherit in the institution of kingship. Is he correct? How did the Torah, in Deut attempt to solve some of these potential problems?

b) I Sam 10:1, 17-27. This is the actual coronation by Samuel and in front of the people. What potential problem of Saul as king is being hinted to by his behavior here?

c) How does Saul’s coronation (including his behavior and the role of Samuel) compare to that of David that we studied above?

2) More about the ark:

a) If you are interested in exploring the ark’s qualities further, you may wish to read I Sam 4-7:1, and compare some of the incidents with our story.

b) What happened to the Tabernacle at Shilo which used to house the ark? The only biblical hint we have is in Ps. 78:60. What do you think happened?

3) The character of Michal deserves its own unit, but here is something to get you started. The marriage of David and Michal (part I) is told in I Sam 18:14-28.

a) What was Saul’s intention in marrying David, the charismatic warrior, into his family?

b) Is it possible that such a marriage gave David a possible claim to the throne?

c) What is Michal’s motivation for the marriage?

d) The story evolves in I Sam 19:11-17. What side is Michal on? You may consider comparing Michal with Rachel (Gen 29:6-30, 31:19-35) both thematically and linguistically.

e) I Sam 25:44. What does it tell us about Michal’s (impossible) position?

f) II Sam 3:12-16. Is this a happy ending? Why does David insist on getting her back?