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We’ve all heard the saying: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That’s come home to me anew in this week’s chapters of the Twible. How long does it take for political leaders to turn sour? Political leaders who start out with such promise and dedication and then slowly – or even quickly – succumb to the temptations of command?
These chapters of 1 Samuel are a study in contrasts. Saul has totally lost his grip. He keeps trying to kill David, of whom he’s insanely jealous. That’s kind of understandable for a biblical king. But where Saul really goes over the edge is in murdering the whole priesthood (ch 22). When his guards refuse to carry out the order, Saul sends a henchman to hack up the entire house of Ahimelech, 85 priests and their families. Only one priest escapes the massacre: Abiathar, who takes refuge with king-in-waiting David. It’s David who promises to keep Abiathar safe.
The pre-throne David is a pretty righteous guy, struggling to do good and to stay honorable. In these chapters we see him repeatedly resisting various opportunities to kill Saul, including one comic scene in which Saul is “relieving himself” in the very cave where David and his ragtag band happen to be hiding. It’s the perfect moment, but David refuses to do it – indeed, he chastises himself even for thinking about it.
Saint David believes that no matter how bizarrely or cruelly the king behaves, Saul is Yahweh’s chosen and nobody has the right to lay a finger on him.
Not to give too much away, but it’s not going to be long now before David, like Saul, gets to know his inner Darth Vader. The list of David’s sins as king will be long and even more shocking than Saul’s – adultery, murder, conspiracy, idol worship, and putting bad poetry to music. Not to mention the usual kingly stuff like oppressing the poor and annihilating one’s neighbors. And although David, unlike Saul, repents of some of this and turns his life over to God again, he never really recovers that innocence. When last we see him in the Old Testament, he’s advising his son Solomon, the new king, to obey Yahweh – but also to snuff out his enemies while he still can.
In one of the great footnotes of biblical history, one of those enemies is Abiathar, the very priest that David saved many years before. Abiathar didn’t look too kindly on Solomon’s imminent reign of terror, and was banished to the sticks because of it. Solomon didn’t want to risk killing a priest – after all, it didn’t end well when a demon did that in The Exorcist – but he sure didn’t want Abiathar breathing down his neck about morality and ethics and annoying stuff like that.
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
#Twible 1 Sam 22: Dav’s lost wknd. Hides out in cave writing songs, then gathers ragtag band w/400 rejects. You say you want a revolution?
#Twible 1 Sam 23: Wicked Saul plays hide-&-seek w David. Saul: Where r u, runt? Mwa-ha-ha. Dav: What is your DEAL, king? What’d I do to you?
#Twible 1 Sam 24: Dav has opp to kill when Saul’s, um, on commode. Dav’s too noble. Saul sees he’d be a better king, but wants a QE2 reign.
#Twible 1 Sam 25: Dav charms sox off Nabal’s wife Abigail, who risks all to help him. When hubby dies, Dav makes her wife #2. So it begins.
#Twible 1 Sam 26: Dav has 2nd chance to kill Saul (sleeping); again resists. Saul again swears not to hunt him: “Bless u, Dav!” Yeah, right.
#Twible 1 Sam 27: Dav takes jr year abroad w Philistines & goes native. Regularly uses wrong fork. Is he a sleeper agent … or a traitor?
#Twible 1 Sam 28: Saul, quaking in sandals abt Phil threat, conjures an irritated Sam from the dead. Sam says Saul’s wearing a red shirt.
Tune in to Flunking Sainthood every Friday for weekly Twible commentary.