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KING SAUL: THE TRUE HISTORY OF THE FIRST MESSIAH – ADAM GREEN

August 2, 2017

KSTHOTFTMThis book covers the same sort of ground as The Historical David: the real life of an invented hero – Joel Baden . The latter shows how the story of David was airbrushed to exaggerate his greatness. This book shows how Saul was eclipsed.

Jewish artist and author Adam Green takes up an outraged, impassioned defense for the figure of Saul, the underdog. However, Green unfortunately errs by identifying the story as unquestionably historical, which ultimately renders his defense as an alternate, extreme example as he attempts to equate Saul with messianic qualities, “David was a false king-messiah, a traitor, and usurper of the true king-messiah, Saul. The implications are sweeping, for all David’s supposed all royal-messianic descendants, however sincere, have to be false by association. Neither Jewish nor Christian beliefs can easily withstand such a blow.”

Spurred on by a childhood fascination with the Tanakh, which brought to his attention the discrepancy between the English rendering of Samuel 21:19 and the original Hebrew, Adam Green builds upon recent research to show that later authors revised 1 Samuel with the specific intention of defaming Saul. In the process, these revisionist authors glorified the character of David, significantly distorting the true nature of events.

Green systematically works through the Biblical text, highlighting its illogical chronology, and drawing attention to apocryphal incidents, before reconstructing a more plausible sequence for the story. a fresh analysis of a maligned figure and a comprehensive guide to the First Book of Samuel, Green’s interpretation returns Saul to his rightful place as the one genuine Messiah.

  • A thorough re-examination of the First Book of Samuel and its treatment of Saul
  • A systematic study of events and characters of the Old Testament

I was intrigued by the author’s quotation: `Saul was a year old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel for two years.’ (1 Sam. 13:1).

I looked it up in the RSV which I used as a teenager and discovered hat I had previous encountered and wondered about this verse. The new KJV prefaces it ‘when’ he had reigned two years.’ (and when he’s reigned a year). This fits the orthodox Jewish translation.

The author later suggests: Saul was captain of Israel for one year, King of Israel for two years, and King of All Israel for ten years.

I’m not sure how the bimah in a synagogue is remotely related to a ‘high place’ such as Shiloh.

Contents

Illustrations and Maps
Preface
Acknowledgements
Glossary
Key to Abbreviations
Dramatis Personae
Introduction

  1. Samuel: The Final Days of the Israelite Theocracy
    2. Saul: The Prince of Israel
    3. Saul: ‘The Hand of the Lord’
    4. King Saul: A Nation is Born
    5. King Saul the Saviour: The United Monarchy
    6. David: The Terrible Price of Unity
    7. David: ‘Enemy of the State’
    8. David: The ‘Servant’ of the Philistines
    9. ‘How’ the Mighty Fell: The Death of Saul
    10. ‘To the Victor . . .’: King David

List of Conclusions
Timelines: Comparative Orthodox and Revised Chronology
The Hypothetical Book of Saul
Afterword

Appendices:
A. Who Wrote Samuel?
B. Psalms of David?
C. Heterodoxy v. Orthodoxy
D. Methodology

Notes
Bibliography
Index

Quotations:

Around the time I was beginning this book, an article by an Israeli academic was published. It claimed that Goliath, the infamous nine-foot Philistine, suffered from a condition known as giantism.’ If true, he would have exhibited an assortment of physical handicaps, such as ‘shambling gait,’ back pain, and most particularly, myopia. The significance of this hypothesis is that the man from Gath may have been far less ferocious than previously believed, and young David’s slingshot victory over him was considerably less significant than legend would have it. To put it bluntly, the son of Jesse may have been not so much a hero as a persecutor of the disabled.

This book will demonstrate:

how the only person with a genuine claim to the title ‘king-messiah’ was traduced by the biblical chroniclers and consigned to an almost forgettable role in the national and spiritual history of the Jews;

how he was betrayed by David, a prince of Judah;

how he was pierced with arrows and then dispatched by a sword on the slopes of Gilboa;

how pagan warriors mutilated his body before nailing it to the walls of the city of Betshean;

how it was rescued by his adoring subjects and lovingly interred;

how his remains were later raised and moved to lie with those of his family;

and finally, how his own usurper resurrected and immortalized his spirit by writing an exquisite lament.

A sizeable Canaanite community, including Jebusites and Gibeonites, occupied a significant enclave in the heart of these three areas. It is even speculated that several of the northernmost Israelite tribes — Asher’2 in particular — were native peoples who had either converted or been absorbed into the body of Israel during the course of settlement. There seems little doubt that this is what also later happened to most of the indigenous Canaanite population and, some hundreds of years later, to the Philistines themselves.

In the Tanakh, ‘my anointed’ is a divine utterance used uniquely for describing Israelite kings, while the phrase ‘walk before’ is indicative of the relative importance of Samuel’s role as herald and proclaimer of the king-to-be, in the same way as the patriarch Abraham “walk [ed] before [God]” (Gen. 17:1). Thus, in the quoted statements — supposedly uttered by God when speaking to Eli — the Lord Himself was actively preparing for a monarchy even before Samuel was born.

In the same way that some commentators regard the scenes of Saul tearing the cloak of Samuel (1 Sam. 15: 27) and then later, David cutting off the corner of the cloak of Saul (1 Sam. 24:5), as power transference allegories the graphic image of an exhausted, battle-scarred warrior of Benjamin (possibly a clansman of the future king) delivering the fateful news to Eli is rich with symbolic drama. This would be one of the few pristine pro-Saul fragments to have survived the later editorial purges of the first book of Samuel.

There is much to learn from this double episode. By this time, the position of judge was hereditary, like the high priesthood.” But, this heritability presented the author with the challenge of explaining why the sons of two saintly men— Eli and Samuel —never succeeded their fathers. The premature deaths of Eli’s sons are passed off as direct punishment for their sins. Within a generation the ‘House of Zadok’ had superseded Eli’s priestly dynasty. This was explained as a consequence of the sin in which Eli himself was implicated.” This is a prime example of ‘pious’ redaction that embellishes, the narrative while at the same time obscuring the underlying history.

” The well-established ‘double Samuel’ hypothesis is cogent and almost credible, but is only required because of a perverse faith in the sequencing of events in the superficial narrative. Preoccupation with textual form forces commentators to postulate the existence of what are, in effect, two caricatured personalities. Stronger focus on the textual substance however, reveals a single, plausible, Samuel, rooted in history.

In the case of the Gibeonites, and possibly the Amorites (i.e. all other Canaanites), there was a shared interest with the Israelites in resisting the Philistines. These I were all fundamentally pastoral peoples whose lack of walled cities and i heavy weaponry made them especially vulnerable to massed chariots and ironclad phalanxes in open battle. Their main hope of resistance lay in a unified effort. Thus — so far as their fear of the Philistines was concerned — they were natural allies.

Many other tribes and peoples preferred to maintain neutrality vis-à-vis the Israelite kingdom. These were mainly urban Canaanites, such as the Jebusites and the inhabitants of Bet-shean, who dwelt in the relative safety of walled cities.” They were conscious that so long as the Israelites and the Philistines were preoccupied with each other, they had little to fear. They could postpone committing themselves to one side or another until an obvious victor became apparent.

It was as if all that mattered was the propagation of the David myth — even at the price of editorial chaos. Such reliance on pious gullibility has proven to be well founded. The scribes were precursors of our tabloid newspaper editors who know that, true or false, a good story will be believed and that glory — however undeserved — sticks just as well as mud.

The process of making Samuel into a ghost, which had already been started inadvertently by having him ‘die’ earlier in the narrative, was now advertently completed. This achieved three things for an author intent on establishing a central locus of worship for the single God of Israel Jerusalem: It disassociated Samuel from a pagan act by turning him from active participant into a passive and unwilling one;

It depicted Saul as a violator of his own law; It further discredited Saul by both portraying him as a pathetic broken man and confirming David’s divine right to the throne through the voice of Samuel

Saul may have believed that, in the event of his own death, Jonathan would yield at least part of the kingdom to David

Much earlier in the narrative of 1 Samuel, we may discern an allusion to the idea that Saul was prepared to sacrifice Jonathan. The highly apocryphal story of Jonathan tasting of the forbidden honey and falling under his father’s curse may be seen as a retrospective insertion alluding to sinful intimacies between Jonathan and David. The Bible is quite clear on what was to be done to such transgressors, and apparently so was Saul (1 Sam. 14:16-46).

Whatever the symbolism of the story, the honey episode offered laterredactors an explanation for why the noble Jonathan had to die before he was able to fulfil his alleged chosen path of serving David (1 Sam. 20:12-16; 23:16-18). In reality, the entire honey and curse episode may originally have been derived from the fact that Jonathan’s untimely death was engineered by Saul. The story of Jonathan’s death may then in fact represent a genuine example of Saul’s pragmatism, and almost David-like ruthlessness. While the desperate situation may have demanded the most awful measures of expediency, Saul’s sacrifice of Jonathan and his two remaining brothers at Gilboa would seem to be his least forgivable and most morally questionable historical deed. If however, our hypothesis is correct, one can immediately see the benefits to Saul if things had gone according to plan and he himself had survived the battle.

Thus, we have two contradictory accounts of Saul’s last moments, one possibly from the men of Jabesh and the other probably from the mouth of David. While the former paints a picture of a heroic death in which Saul takes on himself the full burden of a tragic destiny, the latter gives the king a relatively ignoble end as a supplicant to a passing teenager. In reality, both are myths; in the one case it is a confection that blends fact and rumour indiscriminately, and in the other, a screen behind which a criminal could conceal his guilt.

The relatively complex and abstract Israelite notion of deity, together with Samuel’s reluctance to anoint a king and Saul’s innate humility, produced a revolutionary royal creation: the man-king, divinely chosen and sometimes ‘divinely inspired’, but in and of himself a mere mortal. By accepting Samuel as his guide and conscience, Saul initiated a governmental style that nearly all his successors followed, to the word if not to the letter. His novel example of an answerable monarch — albeit answerable to a single holy man — was courageous in a world separated by over two thousand years from Magna Carta. The formal clergy, meanwhile, found themselves reduced to the role of ceremonially rubber-stamping the authority of the man-king.’

Unfortunately for Israel, for Judah, and for history, the ambitious David was not content with this inheritance of a balanced and workable form of governance. By centralizing the Israelite cult and by emulating the customs of his imperial contemporaries, such as the maintenance of a large harem and the building of opulent palaces, he sought — as proclaimed au various occasions and most explicitly in Psalm 2:6-7 — to raise himse and thereby his successors, to the level of son of God: “But, I h installed My king on Zion, My holy mountain!” Let me tell of the d the Lord said to me, “You are My son. I have fathered you this day. In so doing, he mutated the seed bequeathed to him by Saul and began process that led directly, sometimes gloriously but more often ign to the eventual destruction of the entire Israelite nation.

While David was aided by aspects of Saul’s legacy in his gradual and inexorable rise from Philistine vassal to Israel’s best known king, the loyalty Saul continued to inspire in his people from beyond the grave became a thorn in David’s side. In addition to the daring action of the men of Jabesh in rescuing Saul’s remains, the memory of the late king in the hearts and souls of Benjamin and Israel provoked unrest and reprisal well into David’s long reign and beyond. Despite David’s attempt to endear himself to the Saulides by his protection of Jonathan’s son, Mephiboshet (2 Sam. 9), the wounded sensibilities of his northern subjects were further lacerated by his purge of the house of Saul. The popular uprising, led by the Benjaminite rebel Sheba, late into his reign (2 Sam. 20) attests to the fact that David never succeeded in convincing Israel of his right to rule over them.’

. For Jews, struggling to maintain their identity within an alien environment, the iconography of David and his golden city was the guiding light through the murk of dispersion — it was the super magnet that ensured that the millions of scattered filings would one day re-coalesce.

With the foundation of the modern State of Israel, the magnet had done its job, and suddenly everything had changed.

Although there was and is still daily death and horror, uncertainty and insecurity, Jews are at last in a position to defend themselves and forge their own destiny.

As the situation has changed, so should our icons and our aspirations.

The historical David was by any standards, an awful man, a “murderer, a tyrant, and a traitor”. As for the demographic and geographical aspirations expressed by the mythical David, only the most intransigent and fanatical of his modern day followers believes or actually desires that they should or could be fulfilled. In other words, an ideal which acted as a guiding light to the Jews of the dispersion manifests as a blueprint for conquest and repression within the context of the modern State.

The historical Saul, by stark contrast, presents a picture of courageous pragmatism, which, for the most part, and to its eternal credit, modern Israel successfully demonstrates — even as I write these words — in its dealings with its troublesome and hostile neighbours.

My third and final dream reflects this aspiration and imagines a time in the future when the people of Israel sing songs, name magnificent hotels, main streets and town squares, and build monuments to the memory of

Saul. It imagines the Shield of David replaced with a symbol of Saul (perhaps the double crown of Israel and Judah) between the two blue bands — symbols of the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan — upon the flag of Israel.

The seemingly inevitable loathing, intransigence and unreasonableness of her neighbours notwithstanding, the people of modern Israel could do worse in their search for inner national harmony than revoke their age old allegiance to the ideals of David and re-unite under the banner of Saul, founder, redeemer and first and only true King of All-Israel.

 

To impart extra authority to the words of Samuel, special attention was drawn to his mythical reputation as a Moses-like miracle worker on intimate terms with God. Ezra would have been drawing on accepted tradition but giving that tradition a completely new purpose. His Samuel was not speaking to the elders and warriors of Israel assembled at Mizpah and Gilgal but to the people of Judah five hundred years later.

Thus, let us rename mood A `Ezra/Prophetic’.

B is Saul’s — monarchist — mood. It presents the new king as tall, handsome, and valiant; as the monarch who, with his knightly son Jonathan, began the liberation of Israel. It is the pre-David mood, in which Saul’s achievements are fully recognized. The portrait it draws is of a modest, dutiful son who becomes a reluctant and merciful king. B reveals Saul as the Lord’s anointed and Israel’s messiah (meshiach). The Samuel of this mood is first and foremost a kingmaker. He appears as a local holy man unknown to Saul who willingly anoints the young Benjaminite when required by God to do so. There is affection between the two men, and even friendship. Mood B depicts a man who turned a defeated rabble into an organised and formidable army with the explicit encouragement and cooperation of the prophet Samuel. The Saul of these passages is a rational man whose devotion to God is tempered by the exigencies of the moment. The tensions between king and judge, while no doubt based on a modicum of historicity, are in truth more a result of the uneasy fusion of two contrasting moods. The end product, however, is a Samuel apparently split down the middle.

C is the David — monarchist — mood, attributable to him and/or his successors. It can be divided into two parts. The first presents us with a mighty man of valour and beauty who is also a talented musician. The second brings forth the boy hero — slayer of giants, bears, and lions — and the new anointed of the Lord. Both are universally adored, beloved of Samuel and of God. Once David appears on the scene, Saul is metamorphosed into a doomed, depressed paranoiac. Although the influence of mood C can be detected in the pre-David narrative, it is with the very introduction of David into the drama that Saul, too, becomes an awkward amalgam of two disparate personalities. The fact that three underlying traditions inhabit the text is evidenced by the bizarre permutations of identity undergone by Saul, David, and Samuel. A worthy Saul becomes unworthy in order to justify David’s pretension to the throne. David is the dutiful servant of the Lord’s anointed while at the same time regarding that title as his own. Samuel is more confusing and confused than anyone. He apparently risks his life by going behind the back of the king he created and loved, to anoint someone else to be king instead, while all the time abhorring the very idea of monarchy. Even God comes across as muddled, petulant, and fickle. One moment He commands Samuel to make Saul king. The next moment He expresses His feelings of rejection with displays of thunder and lightning. Finally, He admits that He was mistaken in His initial choice and opts for somebody else. What we have learned to revere as a mythic religious drama is, in truth, barely distinguishable from farce.

‘OW – Heb: shemen (from which the English word ‘semen’ is derived) – alternative meanings include: ‘fertile’, ‘fecund’, ‘rich-oil’, ‘rich-liquid’ and rich-oil-of-fertility.

would seem to indicate that Saul of Tarsus’ Benjaminite identity was far more than incidental to him and his story. Indeed, those commentators who detect a virulent anti-Jewish/Judahite streak running through the words and teachings of St. Paul, might do well to investigate further his claim to Benjaminite heritage. In the light of this work, it would be tempting to see him possibly as being a proud and embittered descendent of King Saul of Israel, wreaking a brilliant revenge upon the House of Judah – in the form of a new religion whereby Zion is sidelined and the God of David is appropriated for the entire gentile world. It is an attractive construction:

King Saul is “martyred” by David;

King David mutates his Saulide inheritance;

‘David’ (i.e. Jesus) is “martyred” through the teachings of Saul of Tarsus;

Saul/Paul mutates his Davidic inheritance.

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