30 May 2013

King Saul in light of the end of the book of Judges

Although the book of Samuel follows shortly after the book of Judges, I somehow have always missed the connection between certain details.

When Saul is told that he will become king, he is surprised: How could someone from the tribe of Benjamin be fit to be king? I'd always assumed it was a bit of polite humility, a sort of residual shame from Benjamin being the youngest child in the family. However, it was the Benjamites who were the tribe that had been almost destroyed because of what happened to the Levite's concubine. They only reason they survived as a tribe was because they either had foreign wives or stole from the other Israelites. In light of these last chapters of Judges, it's now more obvious to me why both Saul, and the rest of Israel, was be a little less certain that Saul, a Benjaminite, should be king.

Furthermore, right before Saul actually becomes king, he calls up the rest of Israel to fight and save one of their own. To do so, he takes an oxen and cuts it up in twelve pieces and sends it to the twelve tribes. The message was that the same thing would happen to the oxen of whoever did not join the fight. It was an effective way of conveying the message, although I find the parallel to what happened with the concubine and how it began the near annihilation of the tribe of Benjamin to be a little disturbing.

Both of these connections to the book of Judges and its history of Israel's sinful past now colour my understanding of King Saul. I know the end of the story and how bad things turn out, but I had never really ever noticed at the beginning of the story all these subtle warnings on account of the intertextual parallels to Judges.

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