Blog for Day 75--Weary Reader--me!! "The Tapestry of Friendship" 2 Samuel 8: 1 - 10: 19
March 16, 2021, 7:10 AM

Blog for Day 75--Weary Reader--me!! "The Tapestry of Friendship" 2 Samuel 8: 1 - 10: 19

Daylight savings time has changed the mornings. I now look out the window in the nook, where I am studying, and see the beginning of the sunrise, bands of beautiful colors—light peach and orange- pink that deepens to purple against the sharp outline of a town not quite awake, and I sit here, under my ‘fig tree’, reading of wars and conquests, of relationships and battle plans.

David is called a just and equitable man who rules over all of Israel (2 Sam 8:15), but today’s readings have such strange elements of both extreme compassion and yet calculated strategy that it’s hard for me to feel at all connected to King David. I find myself suspicious of his actions—saving one man with disabilities, while killing thousands of others, and even hamstringing the horses, which strikes me as an offensive and torturous action. Why not just shoot them? Why leave them to suffer? I know, I know, I don’t live in those times, and I can’t really ‘see’ what is going on, but these verses take a toll on me. I can’t help but read them with my own (hopefully) compassionate heart.

This is hard reading. The situations are unfamiliar, the battles are terrible, and whether the numbers are reality-based or not, to hear that 18,000 soldiers died in a direct-contact conflict is NOT the way I want to start my morning. So I need to dig deeper to think more about what I know of David’s culture.

I know this: the entire culture was based in an honor-shame framework. The best example of this in today’s readings is the experience that David’s men had with the Ammonites. David, out of good will, sent his envoys to greet the new king, Hanun (to be gracious),  who succeeded his father who had died. Rather than welcome David’s men, Hanun shaved off half of their beards and send them home half-naked as well. Their shame could not be measured, and that was the intention. It was better for men to die than to be shamed because shame could not always be overcome. Honor, on the flip side, had to always be defended, which David then did when he sent his soldiers back to the territory to attack and conquer the people and the land.

And so what do we say about Mephibosheth(from the mouth of shame)? David clearly shows compassion to the lame son of his best friend, Jonathan when he invites him to live in the palace, including the invitation to share the king’s table for meals—HUGE privilege!! But listen to what Mephibosheth says to David when he is brought before him: “What is your servant, that you should look upon a dead dog such as I?” What incredibly harsh self-judgment, but it comes from the clean-unclean, honor-shame framework. We are not so far removed from Leviticus that we have forgotten all the things that make a person unclean, and physical disability would be among those things. In all likelihood, Mephibosheth had been marginalized for his entire life after the death of Jonathan (remember his disability occurred during the flight from soldiers as he was carried by his nurse) and David restores him to even greater honor than he would have received in his grandfather, Saul’s, court.

We may find compassion in David’s choice to honor a dishonorable person, to create space at the table for someone who was obviously ‘unclean’ and for David to restore lands and fortunes to Mephibosheth was generous beyond compare. But I still hold in my heart the verses from 2 Samuel 5: “let [them] get up the water shaft to attack the lame and the blind, those whom David hates,” and then “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house (meaning the Temple)”( v. 8).

So today is a mishmash for me, and I really have no admiration for David. I recognize that he is God’s chosen, that he unites the nations of Judah and Israel, a battlefield that continues to percolate today, but I am tired of the fighting and the conquering and the hamstringing and the insults. I am tired of the clear evidence of male superiority, and I am tired of the absence of women in our stories. I can give you all the reasons for these things, but it doesn’t make it any easier to read them today. Today I found it harder to see God in the words.

I look out the window now, and I see the sun is fully up, the day has begun, and I need to run and catch up with it. But I am left with an unsettled, dissatisfied heart. The bible has not been written for my personal happiness, and it tells stories of a history I did not live, of people who fought battles we no longer need to fight. I am grateful for the honesty of the stories, for the humanity of the people we read about, like David. But today…today David makes me feel tired before I even start my day.

Be blessed, and be a blessing to others,

ML

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